Attack of the Killer Tomatoes/Robots?

For those of you who remember, the Killer Tomatoes were a hoot.

Now let’s see how funny you find this article on robots, by Paul Craig Roberts.

Military training and the spreading militarization of many police departments has a basic goal: teach your troops to regard their targets as objects rather than human beings deserving of concern, mercy or even common decency. The cost of that indoctrination is horrendous to both the victims and the practitioners. By denying the humanity of the enemy or the supposed-enemy, the criminal or assumed criminal, the annoying and troublesome protester, the soldier and policeman are free to inflict anything up to and including death on their targets. In doing so, they forfeit their own humanity Those in control of the process are themselves inhumane, else they would not install, sustain, exercise, project and protect the process. Those soldiers and police whose personal integrity and sense of humanity prevents the indoctrination are marginalized or booted out. Those less strong end up doing things that haunt them the rest of their lives and leave them psychologically crippled.
How much worse when the killers have no conscience?

And we voted for them or the people who appointed them.

The US government no longer pays any attention to the Geneva Conventions and the international laws once supported by the United States until “the war on terror” took over the government. The Bush and Obama regimes have eliminated morality from the picture. Any combatant who surrenders or is captured is likely to be illegally tortured, as all available evidence shows. Paul Craig Roberts

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The Cockleburs of Culture

Fortuitously or otherwise, events public and private have combined recently to focus my attention ever more closely on downsizing, reducing and simplifying my life, making it more satisfying, more useful to myself and others, eliminating the unnecessary, distinguishing between what I merely want and what I need.

Having spent the last 50 years doing high-profile IT work, much of it ‘bleeding edge’, having worked 140-hour weeks for months at a time, having been on-call 24×7 most of those years, the artificiality of that work was never questioned, certainly not by me. Yet the work and the life it consumed were essentially ‘virtual’ compared to the reality of making cheese, building furniture or houses, knitting scarves, raising children, tending the ill and elderly. Manipulating bits and bytes was interesting, challenging and financially rewarding but ultimately unsatifying.

I’d call it a mid-life crisis, except that that phase came and went decades ago. What’s happening now is deeper, more basic to the experience of modern America. In the process of reconstructing my world, I began to realize how plugged in I am – how plugged in we all are – to the Zeitgeist.

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Family Matters

English spelling has changed a lot over the centuries and there were often several acceptable spellings of many words.
‘Potatoe’ was one such alternate spelling, circa 1600s, so when Dan Quayle spelled it that way in 1992, I just figured he learned his spelling where he learned his politics.

Similarly, when I hear the blather of the Family Values crowd, it reminds me very much of the 1600s in New England:

In theory, the seventeenth-century family was a hierarchical unit, in which the father was invested with patriarchal authority. He alone sat in an armed chair, his symbolic throne, while other household members sat on benches or stools. He taught children to write, led household prayers, and carried on the bulk of correspondence with family members. Domestic conduct manuals were addressed to him, not to his wife. Legally, the father was the primary parent. Fathers, not mothers, received custody of children after divorce or separation. In colonial New England, a father was authorized to correct and punish insubordinate wives, disruptive children, and unruly servants. He was also responsible for placing his children in a lawful calling and for consenting to his children’s marriages. His control over inheritance kept his grown sons dependent upon him for years, while they waited for the landed property they needed to establish an independent household.

I think ‘authority’ is the key word here. And they too pretended their rights were God-given, didn’t they?
Sound familiar?
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Downsides and Upsides

Interesting post from Ian Welsh.
The upside is that catastrophe brings out the best in people.
The downside is that it takes a catastrophe to bring out the best in people.


The great problem we have today in improving our society, in fixing our economy, is that so many people don’t want to give up what they have.

But what the past 40 years have proven is this: if you lose your job, you’re on your own. If you’re in your 40s and 50s and you lose a good job, you’ll probably never, ever, have a good job ever again. People who are displaced by economic change, good or bad, aren’t taken care of. We have reduced retraining, made welfare and unemployment insurance harder to get, increased university tuition, not made efforts to find or create new, good jobs. We hire foreigners to take over the job of older techies, since they cost too much.

So they grasp tightly to what they have, and everyone fights to make sure that nothing really changes. Each person, with their little or big piece of the pie, fights viciously to keep it whether it’s good for society or not.

…only in extremis, [] people realize that everyone is in it together, will they be willing to take care of each other. And only in time of catastrophe, when so many have lost everything, will they be willing to change society.

Death of the dream
Consuming Democracy

Agonist Going Forward


Images: WTF?    Stay Cool    We’re all in the same boat

Now that the dust has been stirred up and most of it has settled, I would like to solicit ideas from the entire Agonist community, from the top to the bottom.
I am seeking thoughts on how best to administer the site, keep posts flowing and serve both our writers and our readers going forward.

If the thread gets too long it will be closed to comments and new thread started, so feel free to let your creative juices flow.

Thank you.

BTW: With a Nor’Easter headed my way, my access to the ‘Net might be interrupted, so don’t panic or be offended if a response is not immediate over the next couple of days.


Future of The Agonist

where play

The Agonist has always been a labor of love for those who contribute to it. We’re not looking for glory and we are certainly not making any money from it. The quality of our efforts have earned us a decent level of recognition and a good reputation on the ‘Net. We would like to see that continue.

In lieu of participation and management by the owners of The Agonist domain or their designate, the community seems to be continuing without editorial guidance or focus. While this provides a forum at least for now, the long-term viability of an undirected forum is unpredictable. The Internet is full of sites which degenerated into tiny communities preaching to their respective choirs, yet there are also communities which operate productively simply because of common interests and a tacit agreement of what constitutes appropriate postings and comments.

It may be that the inherent interests of the editors, authors and contributors will coalesce into a useful and productive whole and will thereby provide a focus for going forward. For that to happen, those who post (or comment) should bear in mind that without any central guidance, their actions are the only thing that define the site to our subscribers and the blogsphere. Please behave accordingly – keep your comments on-thread, argue politely, play nice.

Good luck to us all.


(Update from actor212: I’ve pinned this post to the front page so that we can continue a really good discussion more easily)

Protecting the Commons




Common: [kom-unhn] noun
belonging equally to, or shared alike by, two or more or all in question: common property; common interests.
pertaining or belonging equally to an entire community, nation, or culture; public: a common language or history; a common water-supply system.
joint; united: a common defense.

Interesting post by Thomas Hedges at Truthdig.

I wonder if-and-when along the road to disaster Capitalists will recognize they are also part of and dependent upon the Common.

as the basic needs of fresh water, energy and food are being overproduced or vanishing because of climate change, companies are finding that their only options are to draw from the scant resources of Third World communities to meet their profit margins. It is a test to see what, in the end, neoliberalism holds higher in value: money or life. [] that question has already been answered in the building of the coal-fired Medupi Power Station in South Africa.

[] water isn’t fungible. If I give you my gallon of water and you give me $1,000, I can’t drink the thousand dollars.

[The commons] is an intellectually coherent way of talking about inalienable value, which we don’t have a vocabulary for…,” >
It is a way [] of formally introducing the “political, public policy, cultural, social, personal, even spiritual” aspects of life into our economic system, which now can deal only with monetary value. The commons introduces a role for organized self-governance as opposed to government, [] although they can be made complimentary. The community manages the resource and has an involved interest in keeping others from decreasing its supply, he says, because the license belongs to the public.

Enclosure, [about patents and private ownership] is about dispossession. It’s a process by which the powerful convert a shared community resource into a market commodity. This is known as development. The strange thing about the commons is that it’s invisible because it’s outside of the market and the state[], It’s not seen as valuable and isn’t recognized because it has little to do with property rights for markets or geopolitical power … but there’s an estimated 2 billion people around the world whose lives depend upon commons like fisheries, forests, irrigation water and so forth. The neoliberal market does not, paradoxically, grasp the purpose behind the commons. Our current system is one-dimensional [] and is designed to attach a price to everything. This is the result of an economy based on the philosophies of Thomas Malthus and John Locke, whose models do not guarantee the right of existence.
To exist, one must have money.

It [money] becomes the defining characteristic of life.