Friday, April 27, 2007

It's Not A Meritocracy, Morons

I know, I know. You can't say that to a Randroid or Charles Murray or even a 'normal' libertarian, but it's true:

Intelligence not linked to wealth, according to US study

Wed Apr 25, 8:15 AM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Intelligence has nothing to do with wealth, according to a US study published Tuesday which found that people with below average smarts were just as wealthy as those with higher IQ scores.

"People don't become rich because they are smart," said Jay Zagorsky, research scientist at Ohio State University whose study appears in the Journal Intelligence.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics survey included 7,403 Americans who have been interviewed repeatedly since 1979. Based on 2004 answers, people who are now in their mid-40s showed no link between brain- and earning-power.

"Your IQ has really no relationship to your wealth. And being very smart does not protect you from getting into financial difficulty," Zagorsky said.

The study confirmed previous research which has shown that smarter people tend to earn more money, but pointed out there is a difference between high pay and overall wealth.

"The average income difference between a person with an IQ score in the normal range (100) and someone in the top two percent of society (130) is currently between 6,000 and 18,500 dollars per year," it said.

"But when it came to total wealth and the likelihood of financial difficulties, people of below average and average intelligence did just fine when compared to the super-intelligent."

An irregular pattern of total wealth as well as financial distress levels -- such as maxed out credit cards, bankruptcy and missing bill payments -- emerged among the various degrees of intelligence, the study said.

The study measured intelligence based on scores from the US Armed Services Qualification Test, a general aptitude test used by the
Department of Defense.

For the hundredth time, the libertarian dream society of pure social darwinism will not reward the fittest according to intelligence; rather, it will reward the fittest hucksters and sociopaths, which is, deep down, exactly what they want but doesn't sound as nice as what they like to rationalize to themselves. Yes, I hate them. I wish there were a biblical hell because 98 percent of self-identified libertarians would roast there after shuffling off their mortal coil -- fate that is exactly what they, like all sociopaths, deserve. But, alas, I can say that there's no such thing as hell with almost as much certainty as a libertarian says 'there's no such thing as society'.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Looking For An Exorcism Kit

[Originally for Sadly, No!]

What's that sound I keep hearing amongst the stream-gurgle of projectile vomit the WingNet spews with such regularity? It's a familiar, yet otherworldly voice.. Oh, I have it now: It's recently deceased Jeane Kirkpatrick, who now functions as neoconservatism's more hectoring and slightly more melodiously-voiced Captain Howdy, speaking through so many head-spinning wingnuts.

The voice is saying to and through its minions: 1984 is Forever!

The key phrase in that speech, made when she was at the peak of her powers as international menace, is "San Francisco Democrats", cleverly repeated so the listening hordes of Republican dullards on the floor there in Dallas (the most Wingnut City Evar: tacky concrete & glass, nouvelle riche, Southern Baptist, JFK, lynch mob after poor Adlai Stevenson) would be sure to get the point -- which was: Yes, the Democratic National Convention of that year was held in San Fran, but double entendre absolutely intended!

Kirkpatrick: Satanic

See (or, rather, hear)? Captain Howdy Fucking Gaybaiting Doody, fer sure! Less Tourette's-spastic, of course, but the gist is still the same: "Cocksuckers!!!!"

But are the wingnuts (Re[a]gan's children, all) hearing what they're saying? How possessed are they? Blargh! Possessed enough!:

Uh-huh. Oooh look -- randomly, here's another:

"We're concerned about a leadership that now appears to be out of the mainstream," he said. "We think Nancy Pelosi would be proud of this selection, and San Francisco Democrats are now in control of one chamber of the General Assembly." Pelosi, a Democrat from San Francisco, became speaker of the U.S. House earlier this week.

[Max Von Sydow voice]: "Be silent!"

What else is the demon up to? Hmm, let's see. Oh, it's still shilling for Scooter's Defense. Well, whatever.

At this point I'm wondering how strong a demon we're dealing with here. Now of course many evil spirits -- Belial, Azazel, Richard Nixon -- are capable of multitasking even while possessing a great horde of wingnuts, but then noxious supernatural beings can easily have a strong influence on the weak-minded.

A case in point: Pamela Oshry. First, here's Kirkpatrick:
Q: Why is John Bolton the right choice for the job of U.N. ambassador?
A: Well, because Bolton has a lot of determination. He has a lot of energy. He’s smart. And he’s more likely to do the job well than anybody else I could think of.

And here's a famous Pam post, Ms. Shrieking Harpy as, simultaneously, a willing and supine vessel for Bolton's moustache-of-love (incubus) as well as of Captain Howdy's U.N/Bolton batshit opinion (succubus).

Above: "There is no Dana Pammy, only Zhoul Jeane!"

Yeah, that's a pretty awful case of demonic possession, almost certainly by the spirit of Kirkpatrick (though we can't discount the power of the Unholy Moustache), but I'm half-expecting worse; like, say, some wingnut to eat a Sandinista's liver with a bowl of fava beans and a nice Chianti as indisputable proof that we are dealing with Pazuzu/Captain Howdy/Mean Jeane here, but so far it ain't happened yet. (Or has it?!?!)

And maybe that's because, in life, this particular demon had already tried to exorcise herself? Maybe?:

In its obituary, the New York Times buried a surprising scoop about her last act of diplomacy, when she was sent by President Bush on a secret mission to Geneva in March 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq to Arab foreign ministers. "The marching orders we received were to argue that pre-emptive war is legitimate", Allan Gerson, her former general counsel, recalled. "She said: 'No one will buy it. If that's the position, count me out'." Instead, she argued that Saddam Hussein was in violation of United Nations resolutions. Her hitherto unknown rejection of Bush's unilateralism and extolling of international order apparently was her final commentary on neo-conservatism.

Nice thought, but no: Even if Kirkpatrick had wanted to exorcise herself, or just to generally atone, she was just too ate up with wickedness to succeed at the task:

If this crew felt a compulsion to topple Saddam Hussein from power, it’s understandable. Since the early 1980s, these same individuals conspired to break and circumvent a passel of laws in order to keep Saddam as armed and dangerous as he could be. When Saddam was using chemical weapons to kill not just the Iranians, on whom he declared war, but the Kurds living in Iraq, we not only looked the other way, we provided him the military coordinates telling him where best to bomb. When the Senate passed a resolution condemning the gassing, then-president Ronald Reagan vetoed it. When the UN Security Council voted to condemn, U.S. Ambassador Kirkpatrick voted against it. Back then, Saddam was still one of our “good�? dictators.

Right. Now we are getting somewhere, and I suggest everyone have their crucifixes ready because here's where we begin to deal with the spectacular evil that was and is Kirkpatrick's ideology, her persona, her spirit, her legacy which wholly possesses Greater Wingnuttia. Back to Sidney Blumenthal:

Jeane Kirkpatrick first came to public attention when her article "Dictatorships and Double Standards" was published in Commentary in November 1979. The Georgetown University professor's slashing attack on the Carter administration, appearing just as the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and the Iranian hostage crisis began, became one of the principal theoretical documents of neo-conservatism and platforms for the Reagan campaign. In this seminal piece, which immediately vaulted her to prominence, Kirkpatrick argued that Carter's adherence to human rights undermined traditional authoritarian regimes allied with the United States in the cold war. "Authoritarian" states, she posited, could slowly change into democratic ones, unlike "totalitarian" ones. "The history of this century provides no grounds for expecting that radical totalitarian regimes will transform themselves", she wrote.

History has not been kind to most of her ideas...

No shit. But before I get to that, just savor those lines, then think of the idiot wingnuts who insist the neocon-engineered War on Irak Is Ab0ut FREEDOM!! and DEMOCRAcY!!!1! Oh how we had to hear in those mad early days of the war how idealist the neocons were, how they wanted to rescue those poor Iraqis from Saddam, and how the eeevil anti-war leftists wanted to protect the tyrant!

All of which, of course, was self-evidently stupid and mendacious even by wingnut standards. Still, they kept (and continue to keep) the charade; neocon pundits tossed old Kirkpatrickian pieces down the memory hole, remember that? And in the memory hole those pieces remain, but the wingnuts never stopped being Kirkpatrickian even if the demon herself sometimes stepped back from her own vile formulations.

Timothy Garton Ash, who is usually better than the half-right he is here, says:

I'm waiting for someone to pen a new version of the late Jeane Kirkpatrick's famous article of 1979, "Dictatorships and double standards", in which she argued that friendly, anti-Soviet, rightwing autocracies should be treated differently from pro-Soviet, leftwing totalitarian regimes. Double standards? Yes, please. Today, a friendly autocracy will be defined partly by its positioning in the struggle with jihadist terrorism and partly by its readiness to sell its energy and natural resources to the west.

That is exactly the political situation, but a new 'Dictatorships and Double Standards' cannot be written because for one thing, the neocons & sundry wingnuts are commited to the Great Lie that their Iraq War is about a crusade for Freedom and Democracy (a Hitlerian lie so huge it has knocked the truth -- and often the very lives -- out of its Iraqi victims who have no fucking hope for real soveriegnty, the requisite of both F and D), and for another, because it would be pointless in the face of such frothingly demonised wingnuttery, as even the great demon could attest: even as wingnuts pretend idealism, they are more Kirkpatrickian than Kirkpatrick.

Which leads me back to Blumenthal's point about history opining that Kirkpatrick's ideas were for shit. Here's Hitchens, back when he was a human being, relating how wingnuts possessed by Kirkpatrickism blew-up like a trick cigar in her own face:

I can now claim to have lived long enough to hear Ronald Reagan's chief foriegn policy theorist, Jeane Kirkpatrick, defend a gradualist (read Gorbachevian) approach to independence for Lithuania, and this in the very week, late in April, when her former cheerleaders on Capitol Hill and the op-ed pages were crying 'Munich' and accusing President [G.H.W.] Bush of 'appeasement'. The place was Washington's Omni Shoreham Hotel, the occasion a week-long conference of the Committee for the Free World, the modestly titled parapluie of the movement styling itself neo-conservative. The advertised purpose of the gathering was to recast the long twilight struggle against the 'totalitarian' foe, but what actually transpired was a two-day confrontation between neo-conservatism and itself.

Words are watched and weighed carefully in this crowd, which makes them a pleasure to monitor... It is not unfair to say that their politics have mainly consisted of key words and phrases, uttered with the proper sneer... This scrabble of terms has suddenly tipped in chaos to the floor. And it has done so because of the demise of the neo-con Ur-word, the echt word: 'totalitarian'. What, in the wake of 1989, can it possibly mean? And, if it is deprived of its totemic power, how can one divine who, politically, is who?

The difficulty presented itself acutely at the first day's lunchtime session when Kirkpatrick uttered her Baltic heresies. Norman Podhoretz, who first published Kirkpatrick's 'Dictatorships and Double Standards' in Commentary, and who thus applied the forceps of the birth of Kirkpatrick as a public nuisance, was joining with Jean-Francois revel, author of the soothingly pessimistic How Democracies Perish, to arraign the West for its shameful cowardice over the captive Lithuanian nation. But the movement's one-time Jeane d'Arc was having none of it. Quiet diplomacy, she averred, was the stuff. Realpolitik, not anti-Bolshevik outrage, was the method by which the people of Lithuania would win their place in the sun. Now, in the old days of, say, midsummer 1989, that is how Kirkpatrick might have responded to events in an 'authoritarian' part of the world (South Africa, for example) but never in the 'totalitarian' Soviet Bloc. (Kirkpatrick won her post as Reagan's UN ambassador on the strength of this 'authoritarian-totalitarian' distinction.) Either the Soviet Union has metamorphosed from a 'totalitarian' to an 'authoritarian' state, impossible according to Kirkpatrick's theory -- but earning it a right to a Kirkpatrick defence -- or 'totalitarianism' had never been what it was thought to be; either way, the neo-conservative movement was now robbed of its theoretical undergirding; was an intellectual and moral shambles.

But even before then, Kirkpatrickism as a historically relevant ideology was obliterated by what happened to Marcos's regime in the Philippines, yet few could recognise the fact at the time. When Reagan reluctantly did not prop-up the decrepit dictatorship (and crush Aquino's democratic reformers) as Kirkpatrick advocated, this was not evidence that certain wingnuts within and without Reagan's administration were sudden admirers of democracy (as Paul Wolfowitz's sycophants like to claim) and won the senile old Teleprompter reader's ear, but rather that for realpolitik reasons -- the US got to keep what it wanted, control; not a sadsack marionette operation like it has in Iraq now, but control all the same -- a less-gruesome pragmatism won the day. Democracy was allowed in the Philippines not for its own sake -- which would be an idealist position, and the right one -- but because it was percieved to be less-threatening to the United States than if Marcos had been allowed further depravites eventually inspiring, the fear must have been, a revolutionary reaction against him and the government across the sea which long functioned as his patron. If Kirkpatrick had had her way, the US would have taken the chance on such a reaction -- anything to prop up a dictator!

Anyway, back to Garton Ash's anticipation. There can't be a new universalist match to 'Dictatorships and Double Standards' for reasons I've already given above, but there can be, and has been, specific arguments, however weaselly, demonstrating the same Kirkpatrickian logic. Timothy Garton Ash, meet the fantastically wicked Stephen Schwartz, who has his cake and eats it too. Here he is touting the new (Big Lie/Good riddance to Dictators!) neocon position, and here he is caught in the Kirkpatrick ('old') position in the service of the world's most famous dissident-boiler, Islom Karimov, Uzbek 'authoritarian' dictator and proud friend of the GWOT.

Incidentally, the example of Schwartz illustrates a larger truth than mere garden-variety wingnut hypocrisy. It shows why neoconservative foreign policy -- by which I mean, ruthless imperial power-flexing for the sake of both 'hyperpower' prestige and good ol' resource-looting, because that is exactly what neocons are and have always been about -- must be eliminated conclusively and forever lest more Iraqs happen. Kirkpatrick and the neocons actively supported Saddam Hussein before they were against him; they helped make the monster then created another monster in taking him out. When Hitchens became a neocon fellow-traveller, one of his better points addressed the fact of past US responsibilty for Hussein's regime. Fair enough, I thought -- at least he wasn't, Daniel Pipes-like, trying to sweep that under the rug. But then the counterpoint was better: fine, but the very people who fucked-up in creating him can't be trusted to correctly remove him (much less be trusted in their newly-found idealist, humanitarian rhetoric, so obviously depraved were they in coddling him in the first place); wouldn't be better if we just stopped this shit-cycle now? And so the counterpoint has proven correct.

Not that that's been any fun for anybody, save the most stridently batshit tribalists, sectarians, and ideologues among the wingnuts, who delight for reasons of ethnicity (Jews), religion (Christians), and ideology (Zionists of many stripes, true believers of 'American Exceptionalism', 'Clash of Civilizations' nutcases) in seeing as many Muslims perish as possible, whatever the cost. Many Iraqis have perished, but then for far too many enthusiasts of the war, the heart and truth of their dark advocacy can be summed with the phrase, "exterminate the brutes wogs."

No, I'm afraid Blumenthal's wrong. Though Kirkpatrick may have thought pre-emptive war was a sure no-sale, the Iraq War is still very much Rosemary's Jeane's Baby. Because the war sprang wholly from neoconservative agitation, it is absolutely the responsibility of that demonic woman whose cleverly mendacious, abominable formulations gave the movement such (literally) lethal force. And since I feel this way I can be tickled in a 'I totally expected it' way when I read such hilarious comments as this from the WSJ:

Jeane Kirkpatrick was born in Duncan, Oklahoma, in 1926. She was an ideologue, and her ideas would have come from Duncan. Their tenet was freedom for the human spirit. She dedicated a public life to protecting that freedom.

this from Emmett Tyrrell, a real laff-riot:

It was at Jeane Kirkpatrick's funeral this week that I finally heard of some good achieved by the United Nations amidst all its dithering and graft. According to Jeane's pastor, during her momentous tenure as our U.N. ambassador, Jeane was so wobbled by the international body's cynicism and moral emptiness that she forsook years of atheism and became a person of faith.

Mind you, she had always had an abundance of secular faith before President Reagan tapped her for the United Nations. Her faith in the American way of life, its freedom, democracy, and equality, was as ardent as it was intelligently conceived. But after leaving the house of hustlers on the East River, she became deeply Christian, and religion gently informed all she thought and did thereafter.

Jeane has been the paradigmatic 20th-century intellectual of the good sort. She began her intellectual life as a socialist and an atheist. As those two sacred cows revealed their barnyard primitivism she reassessed the evidence.

[Really? I'll have to ask Al Franken, the real authority on Kirkpatrick's intimate beliefs -- you might even say he knew her biblically!]

and this, even better, from one of Horowitz's creeps:

At no time, however, did her endorsement of unilateral action, her rejection of the World Court, or her seeming willingness to work with authoritarians stem from an amoral outlook. She recognized the fine distinctions between advancing liberty via unsavory alliances and retarding freedom through self-righteously castigating those allies.

She was, in her own words, “a serious Christian.�?

It's a demonic cacaphony! [Holding my ears] The mass-possession is outta control; quick, some person pull the whole Kirkpatrickian spirit into yourself then jump out the window! Because the noise, the vomit, the rancidity, the pervasive stench of evil and death is too much to bear! Oh, here now is Father Zizek of the Lacanian Parish to, if not volunteer for defenestration, at least isolate, with a crucifix of irony and rosaries of righteous socialist critique, what Captain Howdy has wrought:

Back in 1979, in her essay “Dictatorship and Double Standards,�? published in Commentary, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick elaborated the distinction between “authoritarian�? and “totalitarian�? regimes. This concept served as the justification of the American policy of collaborating with right-wing dictators while treating Communist regimes much more harshly: authoritarian dictators are pragmatic rulers who care about their power and wealth and are indifferent toward ideological issues, even if they pay lip service to some big cause; in contrast, totalitarian leaders are selfless fanatics who believe in their ideology and are ready to put everything at stake for their ideals.

Her point was that, while one can deal with authoritarian rulers who react rationally and predictably to material and military threats, totalitarian leaders are much more dangerous and have to be directly confronted.

The irony is that this distinction encapsulates perfectly what went wrong with the United States occupation of Iraq: Saddam Hussein was a corrupt authoritarian dictator striving to keep his hold on power and guided by brutal pragmatic considerations (which led him to collaborate with the United States in the 1980s).


One outcome of the American invasion is that it has generated a much more uncompromising “fundamentalist�? politico-ideological constellation in Iraq. This has led to a predominance of the pro-Iranian political forces there — the intervention basically delivered Iraq to Iranian influence...

Recall the old story about the factory worker suspected of stealing: every evening, when he was leaving work, the wheelbarrow he rolled in front of him was carefully inspected, but the guards could not find anything, it was always empty. Finally, they got the point: what the worker was stealing were the wheelbarrows themselves.

This is the trick being attempted by those who claim today, “But the world is nonetheless better off without Saddam!�? They forget to factor into the account the effects of the very military intervention against him. Yes, the world is better without Saddam Hussein — but is it better if we include into the overall picture the ideological and political effects of this very occupation?

The United States as a global policeman — why not? The post-cold-war situation effectively called for some global power to fill the void. The problem resides elsewhere: recall the common perception of the United States as a new Roman Empire. The problem with today’s America is not that it is a new global empire, but that it is not one. That is, while pretending to be an empire, it continues to act like a nation-state, ruthlessly pursuing its interests. It is as if the guiding vision of recent American politics is a weird reversal of the well-known motto of the ecologists — act globally, think locally.

After 9/11, the United States was given the opportunity to realize what kind of world it was part of. It might have used the opportunity — but it did not, instead opting to reassert its traditional ideological commitments: out with the responsibility and guilt with respect to the impoverished third world — we are the victims now!


Saddam Hussein’s regime was an abominable authoritarian state, guilty of many crimes, mostly toward its own people. However, one should note the strange but key fact that, when the United States representatives and the Iraqi prosecutors were enumerating his evil deeds, they systematically omitted what was undoubtedly his greatest crime in terms of human suffering and of violating international justice: his invasion of Iran. Why? Because the United States and the majority of foreign states were actively helping Iraq in this aggression.

And now the United States is continuing, through other means, this greatest crime of Saddam Hussein: his never-ending attempt to topple the Iranian government. This is the price you have to pay when the struggle against the enemies is the struggle against the evil ghosts in your own closet: you don’t even control yourself.

Gah! The old demon from hell's legacy has truly made the world into an inverse proof of the old occult law: 'as below, so above'.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Frum & Perle: Twenty-Six

Supply-side solutions to war's expenses, or the neocon wartime economy manifesto. AETE, pg 143:

It sometimes seems as if many people in the media object to everything about the war on terror except for the higher taxes they insist are necessary to pay for the war.

If it turns out that the costs of victory in the war on terror require temporary tax increases, then temporary tax increases we must have. But that's not what this argument is about [...]

[W]e do not have to weaken the economy to pay for the war. We can pay for it by holding the line on federal spending, setting tax rates at levels that promote economic growth, and borrowing the remainder. We borrowed to win the Civil War, borrowed more to win World War I and World War II, borrowed again to win the cold war. Victory triggers economic prosperity -- which in turn repays the debt we incurred to achieve victory. How to pay for the war? The same steady answer that yields growth and prosperity in more normal times: keep taxes low, keep domestic spending under control, and borrow responsibly.

Frum & Perle: Twenty-Five

AETE, pg 141 and on. Only neocon hacks can complain about relationships between those in the U.S. Government and Saudi Arabia without once mentioning the House of Saud's great and dear friend George W. Bush. Frum and Perle do just that:

There is one more thing to say that must be said, and it is a hard thing to say. The reason our policy toward Saudi Arabia has been so abject for so long is not mere error. Our policy has been abject because so many of those who make the policy have been bought and paid for by the Saudis -- or else are looking forward to the day when they will be bought and paid for. The Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar, "has told associates that he makes a point of staying close to officials who have worked with Saudi Arabia after they leave government service. 'If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office,' Bandar once observed, according to a knowledgeable source, 'you'd be surprised how much better friends you have who are just coming into office.'" With honorable exceptions like Hume Horan, who served Ronald Reagan, too many of our recent ambassadors to Saudi Arabia have served as shills for Saudi Arabia the instant they returned home. Daniel Pipes has proposed that former ambassadors be banned for ten years after their departure from accepting any funds from public or private interests in the country to which they've been accredited. That seems too legalistic to us. We would not have a problem with a former ambassador to Mexico joining the board of a Mexican company two or three years later or a former ambassador to Britain taking a teaching post at Oxford. Saudi Arabia presents a unique problem: Unlike Mexico and unlike Britain, it has over a quarter century spent hundreds of millions of dollars to corrupt the American political system. One picturesque example: Within a month of Bill Clinton's winning the Democratic presidential nomination in 1992, the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce donated $3.5 million to the University of Arkansas to create a "King Fahd Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies." One month after Clinton's inauguration, the University of Arkansas got $20 million more from the Saudis. When journalists follow policy debates over tobacco or health care or any domestic policy issue, they identify which people are expressing their conscientious beliefs and which are paid lobbyists. The American public should expect equal information when the topic is national security -- and they are especially entitled to it when the lobbyist is lobbying for an unfriendly power.

Where the fuck to begin?

First, Teh Clenis, which they can't resist: They want you to think Clinton was bought by the Saudis, but they don't mention Dear Leader, who is famously close to the Saudi royal family and Prince Bandar in particular.

They reject Pipes's (!) recommendation because a) they don't want to prevent former ambassadors cashing in corporate-whore style on old quid pro quos and b)it's too consistent; all countries would be subject to the rules, not just Saudi Arabia, which Frum and Perle want you to think is the only foriegn power corrupting our politics.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Externalities of Ethanol Production

Because the Post-Dispatch's links remain good only for a few days, here's a paste of the whole thing:

Ethanol plants come with hidden cost: Water
By Bill Lambrecht
Sunday, Apr. 15 2007

ROGERSVILLE, Mo. — David Pitts doesn't begrudge the farmers and investors who
see a new ethanol plant as a way to make some good money.

He's just worried he won't have any water to drink when they're through.

The former state conservation official was horrified by news that a thirsty
ethanol plant might rise up near his home in southwestern Missouri. The plant
would draw 1.3 million gallons of water from the ground every day to produce
the corn-based fuel.

Then there's the 400,000 gallons per day of contaminated water from the plant —
water that would be sprayed on land around the plant by irrigation equipment
and then seep back into the ground.

Pitts, 63, is soft-spoken — except at the thought of somebody sticking a giant
straw into the region's storehouse of precious water. His well already has
dropped 60 feet in the last 10 years due to drought and development.

"The people who are investing in ethanol plants are the only ones who get
anything out of it, and it stinks," he said.

It remains uncertain whether the company proposing the $165 million plant,
Gulfstream Bioflex Energy LLC, will succeed. Neighbors have battled the company
to a standstill in Webster County Circuit Court over water.

The case, which could be decided in the next several weeks, has implications
for the fast-growing Springfield, Mo., region and potentially elsewhere as
citizens groups challenge the ethanol industry.

Water hogs

The Great Ethanol Boom rumbling across the Midwest is a positive force in many
ways, bringing farmers extra cash for their crops, offering the potential to
stem decay in tiny towns, and providing the nation with an alternative to
foreign oil. The United States already has 115 ethanol plants in operation,
including four in Missouri and seven in Illinois. Another 80 or so are under
construction around the country, and many more are planned.

But all the costs of ethanol don't get tallied until later. And one of the
biggest of those costs, one now generating tension throughout the Midwest and
elsewhere, is water.

The ethanol industry says it takes about 3 gallons of water on average to
produce a gallon of ethanol and that recycling and other water-saving
innovations will reduce that amount.

Sometimes that consumption is understated: In Minnesota, one of the few states
that require reporting of water use, a state study in 2005 found that ethanol
plants used an average of 4.5 gallons for every gallon of ethanol.

The water drawn for ethanol is a cost borne by communities — or whole regions —
and a price sometimes ignored in the planning stages for new plants, experts

In St. Louis, National Corn Growers Association CEO Rick Tolman said his
organization has advised ethanol plant builders about the limitations of water.
"The water question will not be an impediment to ethanol expansion overall, but
it certainly will limit expansion in certain locations," he said.

The subject has special currency in Iowa, which produces about 30 percent of
the nation's ethanol.

Richard Cruse, director of the Iowa Water Center at Iowa State University,
pointed to potential conflicts when the ethanol industry seeks to use the same
pure water that people drink and give to their livestock.

"I'm not suggesting they're maniacs running wild not thinking about water,"
Cruse said. "But with the industry growing so fast and drawing so much water,
it can become a risk issue. When we go for three, four or five months with
shallow aquifers being drawn down to the point where we have to limit or ration
high-quality water, who has the priority?"

'Best place to build'

Water for an ethanol plant might come from a river, from wells drilled into
underground aquifers or from lakes. For the Rogersville plant, the several
hundred million gallons of water that would be needed to produce 100 million
gallons of ethanol annually would be drawn from the Ozark aquifer, part of a
sprawling underground system that provides water from rock formations hundreds
of feet under ground.

Southwest Missouri differs from many locales selected for ethanol plants
because little or no corn grows in the Ozarks' thin soils. Nonetheless, the
site near Rogersville, 20 miles east of Springfield, appealed to promoters for
other strategic reasons: It is tucked between a busy four-lane highway, U.S.
60, and a railroad line, perfect for hauling in corn and dispatching tank cars
full of ethanol. There's a natural gas pipeline nearby to power the plant.

Promoters point to a state report a decade ago that estimated that more than 12
trillion gallons of water lay beneath Webster County. That would be enough,
they say, to operate the plant for thousands of years.

"Webster County is the best place to build the ethanol plant, based on those
figures," Bryan Wade, a lawyer for the Gulfstream partners, argued last month
in court.

Promoters have not identified principal funding sources other than to say they
have been working with investors in New York. One of the Gulfstream founders is
Greg Wilmoth, a trucking company executive from Mount Vernon, Mo., who has
drawn extra attention because of family connections: He is a cousin, once
removed, of the state's most prominent ethanol booster, Gov. Matt Blunt.

On the witness stand last month, Wilmoth described one significant benefit of
the plant: 40 to 50 jobs paying between $30,000 and $35,000 a year. Later, he
was asked by the lawyer for those suing to stop the ethanol plant what would
happen if it gets built and the groundwater system fails.

"I've got a $165 million white elephant," he replied, a predicament that the
company does not expect to confront.

Relying on rain

The Rogersville plant is one of three in Missouri that Gulfstream Bioflex says
it wants to build. Another would be in Monroe County, near Hannibal, where
water is not an issue because it would draw from an aquifer replenished
regularly by the Mississippi River. A location for the third has yet to be

James Kaiman, a St. Louisan and former chemical company executive who recently
joined the Gulfstream Bioflex enterprise as its president, asserted that people
in southwest Missouri who oppose the plant — about 400 or so neighbors and
other opponents have signed petitions — constitute only a fraction of the
county's 33,000 inhabitants.

"They look at it and say, 'I don't want this in my backyard.' It's a little
surprising," he said in an interview.

Landowners near the site of the proposed plant say they have ponied up $100,000
since last fall to fight the plant. In December, they won a temporary
restraining order on construction after arguing in court that water consumption
and plant pollution would constitute a public nuisance.

Now, after the two-day trial last month in Webster County Circuit Court, a
decision is expected soon. Both sides brought paid experts to court to buttress
their opinions about the sufficiency of water in the Ozark aquifer.

Some underground aquifers, particularly those near rivers and streams, readily
refill after depletion. By contrast, the Ozark aquifer is classified as a
confined aquifer, which means that it has little connection to other
underground water sources and must rely on rain and snow to become recharged.

Nobody can say for sure what will happen deep underground with such continuous
pumping and how readily the Ozark aquifer can recharge itself. The two sides in
the debate offer competing perspectives on whether there will be enough water
to go around.

But trends are already troubling.

Dropping water tables

As a result of over-pumping in the region, a "cone of depression" — a lowered
water table from pumping — began forming in the 1970s and has continued to
grow, according to a groundwater study two years ago at Missouri State

In response to declining water levels in the early 1990s, Springfield completed
construction of a 40-mile pipeline and pumping station in 1996 to deliver water
from Stockton Lake in Cedar County. But other towns, among them Nixa, Ozark,
Republic and Battlefield, continue to rely on water from the Ozark aquifer.

According to the Missouri State study, the aquifer outside of Springfield
dropped as much as 140 feet in places from 1987-2004 — but in some places water
levels remained constant or even rose.

Meanwhile, rural dwellers have reported well problems that began showing up a
few years ago. More than half of nearly 300 well owners in northern Greene
County reported problems with their wells in a survey five years ago by the
Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, a nonprofit dedicated to preserving water
supplies in the region. Local landowners and well-diggers say the problems have

Bob Schulteis, a water specialist at the University of Missouri Extension, was
the chairman of a Webster County-appointed committee that concluded that the
plant could harm both the quantity and quality of local waters.

"Already we're seeing the water tables in that location dropping, so adding an
additional high-demand well or two at the location would likely accelerate
that," he said.

Nathan Jones, whose business sells solar-powered pumps, said his Greene County
water well situated above the Ozark aquifer had dropped at least 140 feet in
nine years.

'Our dreams all exploded'

Gulfstream Bioflex says it would drill wells deeper into the aquifer or supply
better pumps if landowners around the plant have problems. New wells cost about
$10,000 in Webster County.

James Kaiman, the company's new president, said he's confident it won't come to

"We wouldn't be doing this if we felt that we were going to be impacting
neighbors," he said.

William McDonald, who is representing opponents of the plant, argued that water
uncertainties also threaten the plant. "There is no Plan B," he said. "If the
groundwater system fails, not only will it be catastrophic for people in the
area, it will be catastrophic for Gulfstream Bioflex."

Besides blocking the plant thus far, the resistance by neighbors also has
prevented closing on the company's purchase of the 252-acre Porter family farm,
for $12,000 an acre in a county where the typical price for an acre of land is
$2,500 to $3,000. Larry Porter, who has been shunned by some of his neighbors
since plans for the plant were announced last fall, declined to be interviewed.

Opponents are nervous about what comes next if Gulfstream Bioflex wins the
court case: The company would be dealing with the Missouri Department of
Natural Resources, which handles permits for ethanol plants in the Blunt

Wilmoth, Gulfstream's vice president, is not the only Blunt relative to plunge
into the ethanol business. Andy Blunt, the governor's younger brother, was
identified last year as an investor in another Missouri ethanol venture.

Matt Blunt, like other Midwestern governors, has championed biofuels expansion.
He backed the state law requiring 10 percent ethanol in fuels starting next
year, supported paying off unfulfilled state financial commitments to ethanol
producers, and lobbied for a pending federal government rules change that would
relax air pollution standards for ethanol plants.

Blunt spokeswoman Jessica Robinson said his administration would not stint on
regulating the industry in Missouri. Family ties have nothing to do with his
ethanol policies, she said.

"His support of ethanol is nothing new to anyone, whether they be Missourians
or relatives," she said.

Meanwhile, people who live near the proposed plant in Rogersville envision
drying times — and perhaps crying times.

"Our dreams all exploded at one time," Dean Alberty remarked while driving to
his family's Red Oak Bed & Breakfast near the proposed plant. Alberty, whose
family is among those who sued to stop the plant, has put off building a new
home until the case is decided.

Added his wife, Maja: "Ethanol is not a bad thing. But you can't put it where
it will take our water."

For the Sheer Fuck-offness Of It

[I posted this at S,N! for about 3 minutes then thought better of it. Too personal.]

There’s so much to write about, but I’m just not up to it. So many deserving targets, yet I can’t turn a phrase well enough right now to mete them justice.

And it’s not that I’m angry — hell, I’m always angry in this context; there’s a lot to be angry about. There’s something wrong with me (tumor? dain brammage? burn out?) that prevents me from executing my job. But there’s something else that prevents me from going ahead and slogging through it anyway (because, after all, it’s not like I haven’t written utter crap before, just to get through the phase and hope something better turns up).

I think I know what it is: I’m annoyed — which is a lot more of a debilitating thing for me than generic anger, outrage, ranting from an offended sense of justice. Indeed, these three things usually give me energy; annoyance just makes me fatigued, confused, withdrawn.

I felt like this often in 2003: an overwhelming annoyance with appoximately half of those who are allegedly on my side. The feeling’s back; and I’m sure it’ll only get worse as we drift to the primary season. Centrists, Sensible Liberals, those hideously overinvested in Identity Politics, speech police, bandwagon-jumpers, self-revisionists, hacks, cliquetards…. BLARGH!!!

Have you stopped reading? Good. Cuz I’m thinking maybe disjointed, semi-coherent venting might help the phase pass:

Lord knows there’s no accountability in journalism — after all, if there were no professional wingnut would still be employed. But I’d always hoped the blogosphere would be more meritocratic. Oh, don’t worry — I’m not saying I’ve earned any merit. I suck and I know it, thank you very much. As a writer and comedian, that is. But my political judgement is fuckin’ sound. The Iraq War was an easy one, yet so many flunked it. I do not understand how anyone could take any pundit seriously who was for the Iraq War. Ever again. Ever. If you fell for it, you’re a fucking moron, you should never be allowed to forget it, you should be taken with the hugest grain of salt for the rest of your career, your foriegn policy pronouncements ever forth should be subject to ridicule and contempt.

This isn’t vindictiveness; it’s applying a standard. Ironically, it’s the PC warriors who do this sort of application right, but in the wrong context. Offend their identity politics unrepentantly and they shun you forever, consider you unenlightened and equivalent to a wingnut, blah blah blah. Yeah, well ours is a sectarian society and all, but shit. Yet for the ground zero of political issues of our time, it seems to me that no one is willing to be so judicious. I trust a repentant, formerly pro-Iraq War wingnut more than I trust a lifelong liberal who abetted the sorry fucking disaster with his support. Which is to say, the difference between a tiny tiny bit, based on humanist principles of redemption for the honestly misguided and fucking zero, based on the principle that the latter should have known better to begin with. This stuff matters, not for keeping score but for the future: if they were fooled once they’ll be fooled again. Maybe not by Bush, but by the next wingnut, or by the next…

President, Democratic president. The primaries are gonna suck. Already when a Democratic candidate says something stupid and wingnutty, the hacks and spin doctors are coming out in force — and they aren’t even the professionals! No, the hacks are volunteers, random commenters (not here, thank god, but then we have the best commenters ever), bloggers. And the hacks aren’t even the worst lot: hacks do what they do because of personal gain, but the True Believers — those convinced of a candidate’s vision, swooned by a candidate’s charm — are the real menaces to the movement’s health. There are worse things than to be than an ideologue — like, say, one who joins a Cult of Personality. We need (in order of importance) ideologues and partisans now, unaffiliated with (or, at least, open-minded about) any particular candidate. Instead, what we have — or to be scrupulous, what I percieve that we have — are people who care way too fucking much about their candidate. We should steer all the candidates Left, bust them when they ’speak wingnut’ or whore themselves out to the unsavory. …and that’s quite enough.

Want to prevent another Iraq? Think big. We don’t need a fucking uniter, and we don’t need to just win. We need to wipe wingnuttery from the political map. Already I see some people squirming in their seats, waiting to get back to business as usual with ‘normal Republicans’ (as if Bushies aren’t normal Republicans). The coming crest to our wave is the closest chance we’ll have maybe ever to getting social democracy, to re-establishing the New Deal mentality in our culture and society, to effecting Left-Populist policies. We’d better seize it. Wingnuts need to be confined to the fringes of the polity, as were their John Birch Society ancestors; there’s no need to compromise with wingnuttery or with the ‘centrists’ who are objectively right-wing — the ‘centrists’ can swim with us or sink with the wingnuts, their choice but they can’t be allowed to call our shots anymore. Triangulation is as dead as fried chicken, but many a ‘centrist’ Sensible Liberal Dr. Frankenstein slaves away on a monster fryer. Beware the scary.

But, I know, since we are Americans and therefore tragic fuck-ups, that a great reformation won’t happen, not because it couldn’t or due to (the usual cause) apathy but because of strategic error caused by idiots our mushy-headed ‘inclusive’ Liberalism demanded we let into management positions.

The same idiots and idiocy — maybe not the same individuals in all cases but the same mentality — will fuck it all up just as with Iraq.

An anecdote about Chomsky: His wife noticed that on certain nights, Chomsky would grind his teeth in his sleep. Why only some times and not others? Finally, they traced the cause: it only happened on evenings after Chomsky had read that day’s New York Times. Stimulus, response. When I read self-identified non-wingnuts proselytize for interventionism, endorse free trade, bemoan the lack of ‘decent Republicans’ to compromise with, take Niall Ferguson and Max Boot seriously as historians, offer nasty opinions on Steyn-Pantload-Bobo-et al that directly contradict the glowing compliments they stupidly and roundmouthingly bestowed a few years prior, consign all Lefty (even fucking socialist!!!) white males to the wingnut heap, go batshit over a photoshopped sandwich, slag the grand old people of our movement (did a kitten rejoice somewhere last week at news of Vonnegut’s death? I bet it did), take up for Michelle Malkin, express the desire to form a coalition with Propertarians, make excuses for geopolitical wingnuttery if it’s for Israel’s alleged benefit, take what should be regarded as culturally-sealed Continental social theories and apply them here where they were not intended and cannot be ‘translated’*, etc., I… well, I don’t grind my teeth in my sleep, but I do begin to sympathize with postal workers.

Maybe this makes sense, maybe it doesn’t. I dunno. But I don’t feel renewed, just more exhausted. Anyway, I’m just a frustrated Dirty Fucking Hippie. Probably no one read this far anyway (plainly, those who didn’t are the smart ones). Who gives a shit? Anybody got any Percocets?

*The wholesale application of Foucault’s extremely French philosophy to other societies is less historically profound than the universal application, by Paul, of Jesus’ extremely Hebrew theology to ‘heathen’ societies, but every bit as misguided. French intellectual culture values digression and taking arguments to their most extreme conclusion (not necessarily because the French are congenital radicals; rather, perhaps because it often takes a beautiful creativity to get to those extremes; art for art’s sake in philosophy, too). Likewise, Christ’s message was meant for Jewish ears. Much value can be got from their work, but attempts at application of the whole on alien cultures are disastrous.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Frum & Perle: Twenty-Four

AETE, pgs 124-125 & 128, in which they argue that America -- and everyone-with-her-not-against-her -- must make war on terrorists who attack Israel:

[The officials of Canada and the EU] have quite another reason for their soft line on Hamas and Hezbollah: They seem to have adopted a scale of terrorist activity with different gradations of unacceptability. For them, terrorist attacks on Israel should not be compared to terrorist attacks in Paris or Toronto. Nor is it only foriegn governments that condemn some terrorists more forcefully than others. The U.S. State Department agains and again sends its spokesmen Richard Boucher out before the cameras of the world to draw distinctions between terror groups that murder Israelis and terror groups that attack Americans. Actually, Boucher does not so much draw distinctions as simply insist on them. Within the space of two weeks in September 2002, for example, Boucher was called on first to condemn an Israeli-targeted attack on a Hamas terrorist leader in the West Bank and then to defend an American-targeted attack on an al-Qaeda leader in Yemen. When queried on this seeming contradiction, he asserted that the justifications for American-targeted killings "do not necessarily apply in other circumstances." Why not? "We all understand..the situation with regard to Israeli-Palestinian issues and the prospects of peace and the prospects of negation and the prospects of the real need to create an atmosphere of progress." It's a very strange idea of "progress" that would grrant immunity to one of the world's deadliest terrorist movements.

The distinction between Islamic terrorism against Israel, on the one hand, and Islamic terrorism against the United States and Europe, on the other, cannot be sustained.

Hamas and al-Qaeda seem to raise their money from the same sources and are quietly assisted by many of the same influential people in Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah's South American infrastructure offers concealment to al-Qaeda operatives in this hemisphere. Likewise, European reluctance to act against European supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah protects Eureopean supporters of al-Qaeda as well.

Worse, the ideology that justifies the terrible crimes of Hamas and Hezbollah is the same ideology that justifies the crime of al-Qaeda. If it's okay to blow-up civilians in a holy war against Israel, it is equally okay to blow them up in a holy war against India, or Russia, or us. We would not have got very far against Nazism if we had said, " It's wrong to shove Poles, gypsies, and the mentally impaired intp gas chambers, but it's perfectly fine to do it to the Jews." Likewise, we won't get very far against the ideology of global jihad as long as we suggest that some terrorist jihads are acceptable forms of "resistance" while others are not.


Those who encourage the Arab and Muslim world in the idea that some jihad murders are permissable are tacitly aiding those who argue that all jihad murders are permissable.

We cannot always compel other nations to act against all terror groups. But we can do this:

1. Purge from our own institutionsal thinking the illusory distinction between the "political" and "military" wings of terrorist organizations. These distinctions are a fraud.
2. Cease criticizing Israel for taking actions against Hamas and Hezbollah analogous to those the United States is taking against al-Qaeda.
3. Focus public attention on those of our allies who permit Hamas and Hezbollah or similar groups to operate on their territory. There's a term for this kind of complaisance: "harboring terrorism." If France does it, the United States should not scruple to say so.
4. So long as Hamas and other terrorist groups operate uncontrolled inside the Palestinian Authority -- and as long as Hezbollah is permitted to occupy most of Southern Lebanon -- then the PA and Lebanon's effective ruler, Syria, should be deemed state sponsors of terrorism and thus vulnerable to all sanctions that U.S. law and policy mete out to those implicated in murder as an act of policy.

Should we make a war of terror on the ETA or Nepalese Maoists or the Shining Path or Chechnyan guerrillas or the IRA? All terrorists are equal, right? After all, terrorists by nature attack civilians for an ideological reason. But Frum and Perle don't say, because after all, who among neocons really cares about the targets of these other terrorists? They don't live in the 51st state; their foreign policy, unlike Israel's, hasn't been hijacked by crazed fundamentalists, as has the United States', as well. Finally, they aren't part of the tribe -- what do they matter then?