Duck! and Gather

Archive for September 2006

Just read an article in the New York Times Magazine entitled “The Inside Agitator.” The story is about how Howard Dean, the chaiman of the Democratic National Committee, is working to decentralize the concentrated power structure of the Democratic Party. The article describes the powerful forces inside the party agitating against Dean in this effort of his.

Should the Democrats fail to take back either the House or Senate this November, the article says that party insiders will blame Dean. I read this, and together with a couple of other things I recently read, now can see the sudden way in which the Democratic Party could implode.

First, before this NYT Magazine piece, I read a 1992 paper by Dan Sullivan entitled “Greens and Libertarians: The yin and yang of our political future.” It’s a well written, thought-provoking piece on a topic that, as you can probably tell, piques my interest.

One thing Sullivan describes is the way that the Whig Party collapsed in the mid-1800s, and found itself replaced by the new Republican Party. Sullivan writes:

It should be noted that the Republicans were a coalition of several minor parties with seemingly differing agendas, including the Abolitionist Party, the Free-Soil Party, the American (or Know-Nothing) Party, disaffected northern Democrats, and most of the members of the dying Whig Party.

“A colation of several minor parties …”. Hmmm. Interesting. Maybe the same thing could play out with a Democrat Demise. Perhaps it will play out something like this:

Come November, the Democrats fail to take back the House and fail on the Senate as well. The party insiders blame Dean for the losses and take action to remove him. This infuriates the local small-guy Democratic party officials who love Dean (read the NYT article), as well as the young-ish “netroots” Democrats and the Boomer version of netroots known as Progressive Democrats of America. These disaffected Democrats bolt the party and join with Greens and Libertarians, and maybe even some paleocon Republicans, to form a powerful new Long Tail-championing political party, thus eviscerating the moribund and useless Democratic Party.

Hey, an analogous thing happened over the course of five or so years in the 1850s to the Whigs. Today, with life moving at Internet speed, this could all happen in a matter of months, well in advance of the 2008 elections.

Unlikely scenario, to be sure. But not impossible either.

My last two blog postings discuss the pathetic Democrats and the soon-to-be-loser Republicans. Each of those postings referred to a specific prediction I am making about each of those parties. This posting finishes up with my political predictions by addressing the Far Left Meets Far Right prediction.

Now, on pages 43-48 of my essay Long Tail Rising, I indicate that Far Left in America is represented politically by the Greens; Far Right, by the Libertarians. So I was going to use this posting to report on increased chatter around the Internet about a possible Green-Libertarian merger.

But tonight, while looking for that, I stumbled across Wikipedia’s page for Green libertarianism. That page includes a link to a site called “Green-Libertarian Philosophy.” Aside from some philosophy, that site includes a “support” page indicating that these people are scouting out the idea of a new American political party based on a merger between the Greens and Libertarians. They want to hear what people think of the idea.

Here’s what I think: Sign me up!

Well, odds are that these are some pretty weird people. But hey, since my friends think I’m weird anyway, where’s the conflict?

I was listening to NPR yesterday morning. The show was going on about the midterm elections, how the Democrats were doing, and what their “strategy” was for gaining seats in Congress. The discussion came around to the absence of any sort of positive or affirmative policy or stance or position coming from the Democrats.

This is nothing new. The Democrats have been without purpose for the past 20 years. So why this lack of purpose was even a topic for discussion on NPR yesterday was a little puzzling. Maybe its because even Democrats retain a niggling suspicion that at least one core purpose of a political party is to promote an affirmative political vision.

Anyway, after a bit, everybody on the show seemed to agree that the best approach for the Democrats for these coming midterm elections would be to keep the focus on Mr. Bush, and otherwise keep their heads down. Basically, the thought is that Mr. Bush is sure to shoot himself in the foot some more, and the Democrats could only make their case worse if they started talking about their visions or purposes when they don’t even have any.

In other words, in these dire days of the new milleneum, with all of the forces of chaos and despair gathering at the gates of this nation, with the historically malevolent Bush junta in dire need of being taken out behind the shed and given a good whacking, the primary reason to vote Democrat this November is that …

… we, um, have no other choice. They’re the only other warm body around.

Look, I realize that America is the fattest nation in the History of Mankind. I’m fully aware that intelligence is not particularly widespread in this Great Nation of ours.

But I just find it hard to believe that the Democrats will be handed power, and everything will keep on going as it always has, simply because our political system is anachronistic. Call me crazy, but I just have a bad feeling in my gut about those pathetic Democrats. As I’ve predicted, they just seem to be demising.

  • In: predictions
  • Comments Off on Republicans in Decline

With the 2006 midterm elections coming up a little over a month from now, even the Red Wall Street Journal says the Republicans seem to be in decline. Well, it’s too soon to tell. But, you know, I did predict that Americans would “throw the bums out” by the end of Mr. Bush’s second term. Perhaps these midterm election will give a preview into whether that prediction will prove out.

I just came in after an hour of chopping wood. Pretty boring, right? Like you should care or something.

But perhaps I’m not your typical wood chopper. For example, I did this wood chopping at roughly solar noon, in the full sun, shirtless. I could have worn a shirt, but that would have defeated one of my purposes. That purpose was to allow my body — with its Mediterranean olive skin — to receive maximum UVB sun rays, and thereby maximize my body’s production of Vitamin D. In another month, with the declination of the sun, I’ll need to start supplementing with Vitamin D throughout the winter because my body won’t be able to synthesize it from the sun during these months. This is all part of my self-reliant health practices. Why I think this aids my health is discussed at

Second, I could have just hired a laborer to do the chopping, or, like a neighbor of mine, rented an electric wood splitter, and finished my whole pile in a day or two. But I did neither. Instead, I use a simple maul, and just whack away at the rounds in rhythmic motion. This is a form of exercise that strengthens my upper body and increases my heart rate to around 100 beats per minute, give or take. I believe 100 is near my maximal fat buring heart rate. Again, this is part of my self-reliant health practices.

Third, the wood I am splitting comprises rounds from our own land. Our house is in a clearing in a forest. Part of our land is forest. The forest has lots of trees — e.g. oak, poplar, maple, black walnut, madrone, douglas fir — that fall or lose branches in the winter. Moreover, when we bought the place, the forest was taking the house back over, and we felled some of the trees that were too close to the house. So right now, I have backlog of rounds waiting to be split.

One reason we bought this place was because we love forests — the look of them, their smell, their function as habitat for wildlife, and the peacefulness inside them. And in addition, they’re bloody convenient fuel sources. So one of the key changes we made to the house was to replace the wasteful fireplaces with high efficiency wood inserts. Now, between the two fireplace inserts, we can heat the whole house simply using the firewood from our land that I split with my maul. This is part of my self-reliant energy practices.

Here’s why this boring story is interesting to me. It’s interesting because it runs counter to convention. Convention tells us to wear clothing and sunscreen in the noonday sun in order to avoid skin cancer. Convention doesn’t have a whole lot to say about Vitamin D. Convention tells us that if there’s a quicker, easier, automated way to do something, then do it that way. Convention tells us that if we want exercise, we should pay money to a health club where “no pain, no gain” is the rule. Convention tells us that if we want our homes heated, we should depend on multinational corporations to provide us the fuel.

In splitting this wood today, was I being ultra-liberal or hyper-conservative? Or do these tired labels have any meaning anymore?

  • In: Uncategorized
  • Comments Off on 9/11 Wrapup: Duck! and Gather

The first entry of this 9/11 Wrapup trilogy reasoned that 9/11 was and is ambiguous (ie. between the set of Conventional explanations, and set of Conspiracy explanations). The second concluded that 9/11 was and is universally interesting. As I mentioned in the last entry, the normal human brain seems more less incapable of resting peacefully at a place that is ambiguous yet quite interesting. Instead, normal human brains will keep searching for an answer. Since I believe social dynamics (ie. “groupthink”) parallel individual ones, I fully expect society to keep pressing for a firmer answer on 9/11.

But what does any of this have to do with Duck! and Gather? The answer to this question is found in the tagline of this site: “People vs. Corporations, The Second Reformation, and The Age of Wisdom.”

On People vs. Corporations, 9/11 is interesting because if any of the Conspiracy stories emerges as true, I believe Corporations will prove to have played a non-trivial, and perhaps lead role in the emergent story. But even if none of the Conspiracy stories emerges as true, and instead the Conventional stories remain dominant, I believe Corporations will yet emerge in the evolving 9/11 story with a central role in creating the conditions that set the stage for 9/11, and in the American responses to 9/11. All of these roles, I’d argue, are contrary to the interests of People.

The Second Reformation refers to the emergence of the Internet as kryptonite to the all-powerful truth priesthood of Government, Academia, and Media. Five hundred years ago, the religious priesthood of Europe held the truth monopoly and waved it as a sword over the heads of the People. But the invention of the printing-press led to the Reformation — a process that witnessed the demise of this priesthood and its replacement with humble science.

Today, Government, Academia, and Media represent the unholy trinity that purports to define truth for us People. But in 1994, the Internet emerged, allowing us People to communicate directly with each other, rather than through the distorted self-interested channels of the unholy trinity.

Where is all of the 9/11 Conspiracy dialogue happening? The Internet. Absent the Internet, all would be quiet on 9/11.

But even if there is nothing to the Conspiracy stories, all of this Internet dialogue will eventually compel the trinity to answer the questions of the People, rather than “answer” the “strawman” questions that they posed to themselves. More likely, the People will eventually come to realize that they no longer need this trinity to define truth for them. Via the Internet, we People can resolve truth for ourselves. This is the essence of the Second Reformation.

Finally, The Age of Wisdom is about the marriage of intuition and reason as complementary paths for arriving at truth. 9/11, as an ambiguous yet terribly important event, illustrates this poignantly.

Although the vast majority of debate on the Internet between the “conspiracy” crowd and the “debunkers” claims to be based soley on reason, a closer reading reveals intuition informing both camps. For example, many debunkers seem to intuit that air-tight conspiracies of the magnitude necessary for 9/11 to play out as an “inside job” just don’t seem to find precedence in known history. Similarly, many of the conspiracy folks seem to intuit that the complete and utter, neat and tidy collapses of steel buildings like WTC 1, 2, and 7 just don’t seem to find precedence in known history outside of controlled demolition.

Over time, I believe that these opposing intuitions will “come out of the closet” and declare themselves to be what they are: namely, intuitions. In my view, both intuitions seem sound. That both seem sound yet contradictory explains, in my view, the seemingly bottomless energy fueling the ongoing debate.

Studying 9/11 seems to me to be a wonderful test case for the interplay between intuition and reason. For example, say we look at 9/11 for the first time. Our intuition will suggest a likely explanation. Then we resort to the techniques of reason to check out that explanation. That process leads to preliminary “dead-ends” which require another exercise in intuition. This is followed, in turn, by the techniques of reason. And so on.

9/11 is a wonderful test case because this dance between intuition and reason seems to go in circles. At least it does so for me. The beauty of that is that, while dancing, we are better able to notice the dance steps we are taking. And rather than pretending to be doing only the “science” and “reason” two-step, eventually we can see that we’re throwing in the odd “intuitive” side-step from time to time.

In my view, there is nothing wrong with this complex dance. On the contrary, it is the dance of seeking truth. Intuition and reason are complementary partners joined in a dance that seeks truth.

Five hundred years after the first Reformation, America doesn’t seem to know it is engaged in this dance on all topics, be they about politics, health, sports, or most anything else. 9/11 stands out because it is so beautifully ambiguous and so desperately interesting. Maybe it will be the event that hearkens the Age of Wisdom.

And thus, for the forseeable future, I am finally done with 9/11. 9/11 has reminded me that while I’m breathing, all of reality is simultaneously interesting to one level or another, and ambiguous to one degree or another. And that reality is OK with me.

  • In: Uncategorized
  • Comments Off on 9/11 Wrapup: Universal Interest

Whatever the case with 9/11, that event seems to be of near universal, deep interest. I suspect the reason for that is that the event reminded almost all of us of our fragile mortality.

  • First, the 3000 victims could not be defined or limited by nationality, ethnicity, political ideology, gender, age, religion, sexual preference, or pretty much any other imaginary line that divides us humans. 9/11 left no safe harbor for anyone.
  • Second, for any of us who have flown as a commercial airline passenger (is there anyone reading this blog who hasn’t?), the event reminded us that every time we fly, we put our lives in the hands of strangers the motivations and skill of whom we have no choice but to trust.
  • Third, for any of us who have been in a skyscraper (is there anyone reading this blog who hasn’t?), the event reminded us that while up there looking out at the spectacular views, we are trapped sitting ducks, with fickle fate deciding whether we come back down via the stairs, or out the window head-first in a free fall.
  • Fourth, 9/11 scarred America the beautiful, the virginal, the all-powerful. As such, the event reminded everyone that there is no safe place on Earth.

I could go on. But the point here is that 9/11 was the universal horror movie. As such, it drew the rapt attention of all of us.

As humans, I’ve read that we naturally resolve phenoma rationally in our heads. No matter how ambiguous the event, if scary enough, our brains will settle on an explanation that seems rational to us — even if that explanation is false. I’ve read that we humans are confortable with false explanations that we believe, but not comfortable with no explanation at all. If that is true, in the year following 9/11, most of us settled on some version of a working rational explanation. And most of us stayed quiet.

But in the last year or so, the voices of those of us harboring a “Conspiracy” explanation have gotten louder and louder. So today, there is a lively, even caustic, debate going on between the advocates of opposing explanations. One thing common among all the conflicting shouting is that 9/11 was really interesting to just about everyone.

On this site, my interest in the 9/11 Conspiracy stories was piqued by commenter AndI. A little over a month ago, I wrote about how AndI had brought to my attention an unconventional therapy (colloidal silver) for treating viral and bacterial infection. Having researched the question, I concluded that AndI was on to something. Naturally, I figured if AndI seemed correct on that unconventional topic, then AndI’s continued insistence about the “fishiness” of 9/11 seemed worth looking into as well. So I did look into it.

Prior to doing so, it’s fair to say that my own 9/11 explanation rested firmly in the “Conventional” camp. But the closer I looked at 9/11, the more the “Conspiracy” stories seemed to hold water. So I thanked AndI for his insistence and started blogging and podcasting about 9/11 in earnest.

Unlike all else about which I’ve blogged and podcasted on this site, my discussions of 9/11 seemed to draw the most emotionally laden responses. Beyond the comments on this site, a good friend of mine with whom I had attended graduate school 15 years ago called me at home. He called me mostly to reconnect and catch up. But in addition, he felt compelled as a friend to warn me that my countenancing of 9/11 Conspiracy theories — of any flavor — might be evidence of early-onset senility. He said this with humor and good-will, but the point was made. Over a couple of days, the two of us had a wonderrful series of phone calls about truth and our own processes for trying to get there.

In addition, as I mentioned in another posting, my 9/11 commentary attracted the very first “flame” comment this site has received. I take this as further evidence that 9/11 was rather important to us.

So that’s the simple point of this entry. 9/11 — whatever you or I anyone else thinks it was about — was and remains really quite interesting to all of us.

Well, it’s time I let go of the ambiguity and, perhaps, unknowability, of 9/11. I recently finished a three-day Fall solstice fast. Usually, during these multi-day fasts, my mind is clear and demeanor quite calm. Yet this time, my conversations were animated, and my dreams were troubled and cyclical. All of this disturbance concerned the troubling ambiguity of 9/11.

As I’ve mentioned, I don’t “do” ambiguity well. At least, I haven’t done so in the past. But I believe that as adults, we need to learn to live with the ambiguity not merely of important things, but of all things. So it’s time I grew up.

Essentially, I see 9/11 in the following way: Roughly speaking, there are two sets of explanatory stories: (1) “Conventional”; and (2) “Conspiracy”. The Conventional stories have it that legal culpability for 9/11 rests solely with Bin Laden, his followers, and his supporting Islamic jihadists, and none of “us”. In contrast, the Conspiracy stories say that some of “us” are culpable for 9/11. Among both sets of stories, there is great variability. Still, this dividing line seems apt.

Having looked closely at both sets of stories, I’m left with the belief that each suffers from certain serious weaknesses in reasoned explanation. In my view, the weakness of the Conventional stories is scientific in nature. In particular, in my view, the biggest weakness concerns the absence of a sound, scientific explanation for the collapse of WTC Building 7. This absence is especially troubling because among all of the events of 9/11, the collapse of WTC 7 seems most discrete, limited, recorded, and amenable to rigorous scientific analysis.

For the various Conspiracy stories, the biggest weakness, in my view, concerns human nature. 9/11 was mass murder on an epic scale. Thus far, it seems fair to say that 9/11 was the defining event of the new milleneum. In my view of human nature, it is especially troubling to the Conspiracy case that no “Deep Throat” has as yet emerged revealing the hidden “inside” aspects of 9/11.

At the end of the day, almost everything I’ve read about both sides of the argument is circumstantial in nature. The only non-testimonial “direct” evidence I’ve seen comprises the raw footage of the video “911 Eyewitness“, and the story about Professor Jones finding thermate in molten steel allegedly from the WTC ruins. But the problem with the raw video footage is that it is too fuzzy for certainty. The problem with the second story is that the evidentiary trail of Professor Jones’ thermate samples depends upon our blind trust.

So for me, there it is. 9/11 remains purely ambiguous. But as such, that fact alone is interesting enough to me to merit a few blog entries.

Read this article on what Pakistani President Musharraf said in his memoir: Musharraf saw fighting US as suicidal. Basically, he said that, in the wake of 9/11, it would have been suicidal for Pakistan to choose to fight the US. So instead, he flipped Pakistan 180 degrees with respect to Islamic radicalism.

Now read this article from the New York Times: Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat. More than three years after the start of the war, the spy agencies now say something that was completely obvious in early 2003 before the bombing even started.

Now, I’m someone who believes that intelligence is more or less evenly distributed around the globe. So I find it hard to believe that the reason the US started bombing Iraq in 2003, and claimed this bombing would reduce Islamic radical terrorism, was due to mere stupidity.

If not stupidity, then what? Recall that both American political parties supported this false “reasoning” in 2003.

I guess what surprises me most is not the uselessness of the US government. Rather, it is the blinding burst of honesty — ie. stating the painfully obvious — coming from the Pakistani leader.

Could it be that the political leaders of other countries are actually real humans, whereas those of our country are simply Corporate proxies?

  • In: admin
  • Comments Off on It’s not a real site until the first flame

Nearly three years to the day I started this blog, it has finally crossed the chasm. Let’s look at a little history of this blog:

But since February, there this blog had stood. Month after month, unique users continued to grow. A handful of commenters (particularly AndI, Sean, and Tom) engaged me in some pleasant back and forth. But otherwise, all was quiet on the blog front.

Just this instant, I checked my site stats and it tells me the site has received 937 unique users thus far this month. But even with nearly 1000 unique users, this site has felt sort of like a child to me. That is, it has felt like a site living in a false dreamworld of quiet readers, plus a handful of polite, highly reasonable commenters. I wondered: would this site be forever consigned to the fantasy world of a 19th century English library?

Today, we have our answer. Thankfully, it is a resounding “no!”. For today, this site finally grew up, and entered the real world. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you America, in these salad days of the new milleneum.

That’s right. Today, this site received its first “flame” comment.

The gates are now wide open, people! There’s nothing stopping you anymore. Post that comment!

Sure, it took nearly three years. But make no mistake. Today, Duck! and Gather became a real site.

for the money has gone too far

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September 2006