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My Name is Captain Future

by Captain Future Sun Jul 9th, 2006 at 12:32:23 AM EST

When I chose the Internet ID of Captain Future, I didn't realize that right wing bloggers often used "captain" in their names. I was paying playful homage to heroes of my childhood who often seemed to have that rank and title, like Captain Video, Captain Midnight and of course Captain Kirk (though I tended to identify more with Mr. Spock), and the captain who brought these figures and what they represented into the adult world: Captain Jean-Luc Picard.

These childhood heroes--which also included Superman, Robin Hood, Lancelot, the Cisco Kid and the Lone Ranger, as well as Saturday morning space opera commanders---championed the weak against the tyranny of the strong. They stood for social justice as well as the rule of law, and personal qualities of integrity, honesty, intelligence, courage and loyalty.

I've been re-evaluating my own identity, on the net and otherwise, politically and otherwise, as I passed a personal milestone--one that the Boomer generation faces, ready or not. Some words about my journey, which may have something to do with yours, if you make the jump.  

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Nuking Iran: End of America and Beginning of What for Europe?

by Captain Future Wed May 24th, 2006 at 08:50:12 AM EST

In an interview with CNN, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that Iran is months away from developing a nuclear weapon, not the five to ten years that most experts estimate.  He said that while Israel is not contemplating unilateral military action, he "expressed confidence" that President Bush "will lead other nations in taking the necessary measures to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power."  

We don't know if Olmert urged military action when he met with Bush Tuesday, but the spectre of U.S. bombing of Iran in the near future must again be faced. Presumably, planners are anticipating possible military and geopolitical responses to bombing targets in Iran.  But is anyone thinking about the geopolitical consequences of one possible aspect of such an attack--the use of nuclear weapons?

 Because this act is in itself highly consequential.  If it were to happen, it could well mark the beginning of the end of the U.S. as a world power, and certainly change how this country is viewed in the world, forever.   This in turn raises issues for Europe, which I will address briefly at the end of this long but (I hope) fascinating essay.

From the diaries - whataboutbob

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TIME Cover Today: Amazing Climate Crisis Poll

by Captain Future Mon Mar 27th, 2006 at 03:45:37 AM EST

Using a variation on a line from a science fiction movie ("Be Worried. Be Very Worried") TIME Magazine's cover story is about the reality of the Climate Crisis.

The story is currently on pay-per-view, but maybe the most interesting aspect of it is public: the Time/ABC/Stanford poll which is likely to lead ABC news broadcasts today (Monday.)

It starts out with this interesting little fact: almost 90% of Americans say global warming is probably happening, and nearly 70% say their government ought to be doing something about it.

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Science experts: Isn't this a Problem?

by Captain Future Thu Mar 9th, 2006 at 10:54:24 PM EST

It seems to me this is an important story, even if Keay Davidson at the San Francisco Chronicle is one of the few who noticed it. There are solar storm clouds on the horizon, and I'd be interested to know if those more versed in the applicable sciences share my concern.

Because we could be in for a near-term future that  challenges how our global society and economy currently functions.  And that's on top of Everything Else.

We've had solar storms before, but scientists said this week we haven't seen anything since the 1950s, and before that the 1700s, like what's approaching. Why is that a problem?  It affects radio waves, satellites and electrical grids.  And we happen to be more dependent on all of these than ever before.  

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Climate Crisis Leads 2 Top U.S. Papers Sunday

by Captain Future Sun Jan 29th, 2006 at 04:10:59 AM EST

In the midst of Mideast uncertainty and violence, with Democrats feverishly involved in a possible Senate fillibuster attempt on a Supreme Court nominee, and on the weekend before a limping and defiant president's State of the Union address, the lead story in the Sunday editions of two of the top newspapers in the U.S. is about the Climate Crisis.

In a sense, this fact is even more significant than the stories themselves. Could the Climate Crisis be coming of age?  Could it finally get the serious coverage that a clear and present danger to the earth as we know it deserves?  In the country where it most counts?

Here's what the stories in Sunday's Washington Post and New York Times are about:


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Things of Shapes to Come: Books for Holiday Giving

by Captain Future Fri Dec 9th, 2005 at 07:05:17 AM EST

I've been doing a series of "best-of" reviews for my books blog, Books In Heat, and after posting these it occured to me that some folks on this site might be interested.

These are three books on design and the future, two of them by European authors--the compendium especially is full of material about Europe.

You can read the shortened reviews on the extended, or go to Books in Heat and see them whole.  

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How to Talk About the Climate Crisis

by Captain Future Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:44:24 AM EST

International climate talks have begun in Montreal, while a disconnect, a gap, grows ever larger and more tragic.

 On the one hand, this conference is the occasion for the latest research to be announced, which is telling us one story.  On the other, there is the diplomatic dithering, posturing and above all, the distance between what action is proposed---not only in degree but in kind---and what science is telling us about the problem.

In this space I'm going to summarize a very basic framework that I believe is emerging from the science and from the reporting on it by analysts with far more specific experience and better credentials in the field than me.  

The effects of global heating have been difficult for people to understand, as well as to face.  Global heating involves factors like time lag, feedback and tipping points, that are unfamiliar in political discourse and approaches to societal crises.

In the past year it has become increasingly clear that we are facing two basic problems, requiring two sets of actions.  They are:

1. The Climate Crisis: 2005 (the Year of Katrina) to 2055.

2. Earth=Mars: 2055-2355.

Much more to come, with links.

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JFK: Highlight of His Life on Anniversary of His Death

by Captain Future Tue Nov 22nd, 2005 at 05:51:36 PM EST

This is not about conspiracy theories, assassinations or JFK's death.  This is about his life---in particular, two days in his last year of life that I remember as the high points of his presidency, especially in terms of the future---our future, and beyond.

He is remembered by a single soundbite from his elegant Inaugural (that gets ever briefer each time---an entire generation may now believe that all he said was two words, "Ask not.")Historians may rightly point to the Berlin crisis in 1961 and especially the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

But on this anniversary of his death, I want to highlight two consecutive days in June 1963.  They stand out on this day in particular because it seems to me, if somehow JFK had learned he had one year to live, he would have done pretty much what he did throughout 1963, and these two summer days would be the summer of his life and legacy.

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Robert Kennedy Anniversary and A Message for Our Moment

by Captain Future Mon Nov 21st, 2005 at 04:35:26 PM EST

I posted a version of this at dkos and Booman Tribune, but a comment from the UK suggests that readers here might be also be interested, so if you missed it elsewhere, here it is today.

Sunday would have been Robert F. Kennedy's 80th birthday.  After a few thoughts of my own, the rest of this diary is a few paragraphs from one of his speeches in his spring of 1968 campaign for the presidential nomination, made shortly after Martin Luther King's assassination, and two short months before his own.

His birthday comes at a moment of intense political polarization, in a nation roiled by an unpopular war characterized by official deceit. Many of Robert Kennedy's words on Vietnam could be dropped into the newspaper today and they would be just as relevant.

If he were a politican today, there would be many in the blososphere ripping into him daily,charging him with opportunism, cynical and self-centered politics, and trading on his name and wealthy family.  

Kennedy was himself a polarizing figure, although his words were of reconcilation.  That in part was what made him polarizing.        

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In the U.S., It's Repudiation Day

by Captain Future Wed Nov 9th, 2005 at 05:04:39 AM EST

Tuesday was an "off-year" election day across the U.S., with mostly state and local offices involved.  But there was a pretty clear pattern of repudiation for Republicans, and specifically of G.W. Bush.

Beginning at the end, it's about 1:30a. on the West Coast, and about 90% of California's precincts have reported their votes on the Special Election initatives sponsored by Governor Schwarzenegger.  They all are on their way to resounding defeat.  None even has 48% of the vote, and they are all trending even lower.

As an additional indication of voter mood, it's not just the Terminator's propositions---they are all being defeated: a clear sign of disgust with a special election that cost this strapped state something like $60 million, and may have resulted in some $300 million spent by everyone involved.

Other elections and more specific Bush repudiations below.  

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The Better Part

by Captain Future Mon Oct 31st, 2005 at 04:05:18 AM EST

Thinking socially can result in economic competitiveness - a great article from front page (with a small edit) ~ whataboutbob

This is a kind of adjunct or continuation to the subject and general ideas of the post here a few days ago by Jerome a Paris, with the theme "wealth capture is not wealth creation."  The tone is different, as is perspective, coming from the U.S.  But that's what makes a community fun.

 Since the Reagan years, the reigning economic orthodoxy in the U.S. and therefore in the globalized economy has become that economies succeed when the wealthy and corporations are free from taxes, government is virtually nonexistent except to subsidize favored corporations, and businesses cut costs by shedding jobs to countries where living standards are poor and labor is therefore cheap, and by forcing employees in western nations to work harder and longer for less pay and smaller pensions and health care support that can be disappeared at any time, while businesses spend freely on lobbyists, legal and illicit graft, and executive pay and perks, all in response not to the longterm health of a company, an industry or a polity, but to keep stock prices going higher by means of favorable quarterly reports.

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On Fear of the Future

by Captain Future Sat Oct 15th, 2005 at 05:25:09 PM EST

My vision of the future is probably a little different from others you might read here.  Although I agree with many analyses of the political and economic forces at work, and on the future impact of declining energy and natural resources, I place them in a different framework.  I see a factor dominating that others see as contributory.

In my view, the future will be shaped and dominated by climate.  Not just the tepid background of "global warming," not some distant and neutral-sounding "climate change." I mean what I've been calling--and others (like Al Gore) are beginning to call--the climate crisis.  I'll explain what I mean by this, which is perhaps different as well.

But first let me preview what I mean by fear of the future

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August Wilson 1945-2005

by Captain Future Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 05:43:10 PM EST

August Wilson, one of the great playwrights in American theatre history, died on Sunday. He had been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer in late summer, and began telling friends that he'd been told to expect only a few months left of life. He died in his home city of Seattle, surrounded by family.

By his example and by his insistent voice, August Wilson did more to bring African American culture into the precincts dominated by ruling class and upper middle class white culture than anyone else in the past 30 years, and more than any other playwright in the 20th century.

And of course he provided wonderful moments of drama, laughter and song for those of us who experienced those plays, mostly as audience in the theatre, but also as readers.

 He worked with the rich rhythms of speech, capturing the cadence of black American talk and infusing it with a magical lyricism. He transformed the emphatic repetitions and insistences of people who had to use every device to be heard into incantations with the power of memory, tragedy and soaring spirit.

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US and World Aid: Exploiting Katrina for Political and Financial Gain?

by Captain Future Fri Sep 9th, 2005 at 07:00:39 PM EST

As the extent of the Katrina crisis became clear, U.S. officials ignored Cuba's offer of 1100 specially trained doctors with equipment designed for medical needs of hurricane victims, and they've spurned  doctors and cheap gasoline and heating fuel for victims from Venezuela.  

They at first refused trained personnel from Canada, have dragged their feet on UN aid, and didn't respond in a timely way to the offer of a plane load of water purification equipment and a ready-to-go cellular phone system from Sweden.

But they have accepted a one million dollar donation from Bangladesh, among the poorest nations in the world, and $25,000US from  the tsunami-ravaged country of Sri Lanka.

What's going on?

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Katrina: Perception Is Not Always Reality

by Captain Future Wed Sep 7th, 2005 at 07:16:03 PM EST

"Perception is reality" is the mantra of imagery advisors like Frank Luntz, and the bread and butter of political operatives like Karl Rove.  They've prospered by their fidelity to this guiding principle.

It is in a sense a corollary of their major guiding principle which can be expressed as "Politics is real, governing is illusion."

But Katrina has created realities that cannot be managed.  This is one of its sobering lessons for us all.

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New Orleans: The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned

by Captain Future Thu Sep 1st, 2005 at 08:24:50 PM EST

(This is substantively a cross post with Booman Tribune, though with some differences.)

The immensity of what is happening in New Orleans goes beyond what we can can calculate.  Here in America, the images are flooding into homes and offices, of children starving on camera.  Gasoline prices are going up daily and hourly in some places, so there is an acute awareness of what's going on.

Most people are stunned that this could happen in an American city in the 21st century---not the hurricane itself, but the response by the people in charge.    

These are the stark headlines:

Bodies, gunfire and chaos in New Orleans' streets
By Mark Babineck
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Rotting bodies littered New Orleans' streets on Thursday and troops headed in to control looting and violence, as thousands of desperate survivors of Hurricane Katrina pleaded to be evacuated from the flooded city, or even just fed.


And this is one of the failures behind them:

No plan ever made to help New Orleans' most vulnerable
Published on: 09/01/05 Atlanta Constitution

"Each time you hear a federal, state or city official explain what he or she is doing to help New Orleans, consider the opening paragraphs of a July 24 story in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

"City, state and federal emergency officials are preparing to give the poorest of New Orleans' poor a historically blunt message: In the event of a major hurricane, you're on your own."


This is an apocalyptic moment, a revelation.  But of what?  

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Is it Time for the US to Wake Up to the European Dream?

by Captain Future Thu Aug 18th, 2005 at 06:35:49 AM EST

promoted by Jerome. We need the outside view once in a while, to take us out of our disputes on very small issues...especially when it is flattering!

Americans as a rule know little about Europe, possibly even less than Europeans knew about America a half century ago, when Europeans seemed to think Al Capone was still running Chicago and cowboys roamed the West.   Then again, maybe they were on to something.

Today's American ignorance is less innocent. Along with the smug complacency and disbelief that we Americans could possibly learn anything from foreign lands, our ignorance of today's Europe consists of holdover imagery carefully nurtured by big business Repubs, neocons who don't want their delusions of empire spoiled by the hard-earned insights of Europe, and rabid rightists who certainly don't want Americans to see European economic successes, particularly the vibrant manufacturing coupled with strong labor unions, universal health care and other social support---and workers with greater job security, shorter work week and more vacations.

Then there's this: the nation with the world's highest labor costs is also the world champion exporter, and it's in Europe.

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