Ten Best Reader Comments of the Week!

This week, AlterNet readers took on war and peace, an unraveling debt crisis, poverty and wealth, Bratz dolls and cave-man diets, and they responded with the usual blend of keen insight, wit and that little soupçon of raving madness that makes internet discussion boards so zesty.

So, without further ado, onto the comments of the week. First up this week is guybjones, who responded to Michael Klare's piece, "The End of Easy Oil," with a lament about short-term thinking:

The U.S. is in a bad position here, and no amount of good ol' fashioned can-do optimism is going to get us out of it. A fatal combination of hubris, indifference to environmental concerns, arrogance, sense of entitlement, lack of foresight, laser-like focus on short-term corporate profit, and the election of a craven and blindly pro-corporate political leadership over the last 30 years means that the country is amazingly ill-prepared to face the realty of peak oil.

Instead of investing in high-tech rail systems to serve the busiest national travel routes, promoting local mass transit efforts, and raising gasoline taxes to encourage conservation and fund alt-energy initiatives, the U.S. has been sitting on its ass, pouring billions into highways and continuing the national obsession with the automobile - 17,000,000 new ones bought each year, roughly. […]

We should have commenced planning for this right after the '73 Arab oil embargo, or, at the latest, during the '79 energy crisis. Pres. Carter sort of attempted to get the ball moving in some way, but was stifled by industry in his efforts to do so. Once Reagan came into office, the game was over.

The incandescent light bulb is still around - why? Why the hell hasn't it been banned? Why are plastic bags still in use? How much effort would it take to fix these problems, if we had true leadership and a committed will in the Oval Office? I don't think it would be that hard.

Speaking of bad energy policy, we ran an op-ed written by seven vets fresh from Iraq, describing what they say is a futile situation. SDogood responded like this:

Damn this administration for putting us in the middle of a situation that has existed for centuries. And for what? Oil interests that want to milk every drop from the existing infrastructure before investing in other energy sources.

This leadership, elected by an easily bought populace, will be vilified by future Americans for having been unwilling to rule with foresight. Short term profit has superceded logic and reason, and yet they have the nerve to label as 'un-patriotic' anyone who points out their destruction of American ideals.

We were Iraqi oil customers. We do not belong in Iraq as occupiers, and we do not need to risk OUR sons in a battle that is not ours. How we handle the problems we created in Iraq? One way is not to let the people who CAUSED the new problems by their incompetence, do anything else. No matter what, this administration should not be allowed to propose or adjust anything. The 'imperial' President must be stopped by the Senate, for the sake of the country. We are beyond Democratic and Republican labels, our nation is at risk.

Iraq was also the subject of Penny Coleman's article on military training, "War Psychiatry and Iraq Atrocities: How Killing Becomes a Reflex." It struck a cord with readers, including fearlessflower:

If we are going to turn soldiers into killing machines, we better make damn sure their training includes understanding the definition of legal warfare, as set forth in our Constitution and International Law. Our Constitution demands we abide by the "Supreme Law of the Land" that includes honoring any foreign treaties we have signed. In case anyone has forgotten, that includes the Geneva Convention banning torture and the use of weapons like depleted uranium and cluster bombs, both of which have been used in Iraq, not to mention the targeting of civilians.

War is a horrible thing and our Founding Fathers knew this. That's why they made it a laborious process to go to war, involving debate and evidence-gathering so that all the circumstances and consequences and alternatives could be thoroughly considered first. The evidence is indisputable now that our President personally manipulated and fabricated the justification to go to war in Iraq, deceiving Congress and interfering with their responsibility to come to a decision based on reliable evidence. George Bush's "Macho-ization" of the presidency has had disastrous consequences and turned our once respected Republic into the equivalent of a diabolical out-of-control Lone Ranger. A sign I saw at a rally lays things out very well: "Impeachment: The Cure for Mad Cowboy Disease!"

From Bush's war to Bush's crack-down on illegal immigration, here's what JoshuaLudd had to say after reading the piece "With Fewer Migrant Workers, Farmers Turn to Prison Labor":

Yep... Yet another program to shift the money away from the poor (migrants) and shift it over to corporate concerns (the privatized prison system).

And now... if we do something silly like decriminalize drugs, we lose a large part of our workforce yet again.

And nevermind that all the border security will still fail to stop the flow of drugs... and the huge increases in violent cartel activities that are now seen in both Mexico and the US.

Dostoevsky once said, "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons" (no, it wasn't Churchill -- he just seems to get credit for saying everything).

The strength of American civilization was the subject of Dilip Hiro's "The World's Sole Superpower in Fast Decline." Sojourner took issue with Hiro's characterization of Americans' views of the international system, saying that "only a jingoist" would see a multi-polar world as a threat:

What this article seems to suggest is that the US cannot build alliances when it wants to. Hogwash. We went into Iraq thinking we did not need to build alliances. That does not mean that we could not have then and cannot in the future. We made a terrible mistake, and the fact that Bush has not learned a lesson does not mean that the US has not learned a lesson.

The notion that the US could dominate the globe, with impunity, is a Hollywood fantasy fed by our own homegrown strain of fascist sympathies. The fact that the media can stir up a war comes as no surprise. It sells, since the media mantra remains "If it bleeds, it leads." Nothing bleeds more than world war. Every reporter wants to be Eric Sevareid during the London Blitz. (Or to write an article prophesying gloom and doom, like this one.)

It's a threat if our competition comes from dictators who get their power by military might and eventually cannot hold on to power without provoking their nation to enter a war. Except for that, it is in the US interest that all nations improve their economic conditions. Can we handle the competition? Gimme a break. Does a bear ... you know?

To lighten things up a bit, we have kepstein7777's take on body issues, a response to Abby West's "Bratz Dolls: Worse Than Barbie?":

Instead of getting boob jobs at 14, now our daughters will be getting their heads enlarged to look like those dolls.

Speaking of unattainable, how about the impossible standards set by He Man and GI Joe dolls? Real men aren't out saving the universe from evil. They're lying in front of the TV watching sports and working on their beer gut. Those steroid-pumped overachievers are making us look bad.

Sandra Kobrin's take on the Michael Vick story, "Beat a Woman? Play On! Beat a Dog? You're Gone," prompted pizzmoe to wonder why people can't "walk and chew gum at the same time?":

Are they saying that we shouldn't be outraged at the callous and inhumane torture and murder of defenseless animals? What does that have to do with other crimes? Why can't you judge them all individually? … Oh, and by the way, Mr. Vick pleaded guilty. (True he wasn't going to, but the evidence was too overwhelming.)

Speaking of vicious beasts that love the taste of blood, Ray McGovern's "Are Bush & Co. Gearing Up to Attack Iran?" got a nod from Bobsays:

I had contact with a B52 pilot back in 2005. And he was clear that they are ready to go, trained up and are clear what is the next mission: Iran. All else since then has been deception.

It will happen like this: we will go to sleep for another normal night. And we will wake up as usual and flip on some mind-numbing 24 hour news programme and there will be the following: "Major strikes against Iran occurred last night. At least 25 targets were hit by cruise missiles and US and British bombers. The President will give an address to the nation at nine this morning. Some reports say two bombers did not return to base."

And at nine: "My fellow Americans. Last night US and coalition pilots carried out strikes on Iran's nuclear production facilties. I took this decision with great pain, but our intelligence showed Iran was very close to developing nuclear weapons capability, and importantly, has on many occasions threatened to use this capability against other nations, including our good ally, Israel."

We know Bobsays won't be insulted when we say we sure hope he's proven a lousy prognosticator.

While we're on the topic of glum news, the unfolding debt crisis was the subject of four articles on AlterNet this week, including Barbara Ehrenreich's tongue-in-cheek take in "Smashing Capitalism!" After reading it, channing responded:

You might not think me a "Free Market, Capitalist" type of person when I note that Karl Marx predicted in the 1850's that capitalism would implode as the greedy upper-class slowly but surely gained the upper hand in all government and industry, and through insatiable gluttony and inequitable consumption lead the experiment of US capitalism into ruins, French Revolution Style RUINS! [...]

In reality, I am a "capitalist", because I believe people should not be deterred by equanimity of rewards for reaching out beyond the horizon to risk, venture, and toil to improve existing industries and services. However, if one looks at the capitalism of the early US society and compares it to today's, it is obvious where the problems are rooted.

1. Corporate Law began as cooperative solutions to major societal problems, well beyond the means of individuals. What few contemporary people realize is that the "corporation" was designed originally like today's Not for Profit 501c.3's, meaning, it was inconceivable to place such mammoth power in the hands of "for profit" persons or entities (Americans were still all too familiar with trusting concentrated wealth from the relatively recent revolutions of the English, French, Germans, etc.,.). In addition to the altruistic character of the Corporate Charter, ... [it contained a] "Revocation" clause, which subjected the entire corporate world to "public oversight," a continual requirement to justify their contributions and integrity and worth to the whole. [...]

2. Taxes on the wealthy and the corporations hovered around 50%. It was generally assumed that it was not in and of itself "evil" to be wealthy, but when you have that much more than your fellow man, you can be sure that you must pay more, lots more, to avoid precisely the kind of revolution we today face. Guess what? Though taxes were that high, the United States soon became the world leader in wealth, though a huge share went to a backbone middle class that has been virtually wiped out by the extremists who have dictated economics for the past quarter century.

Finally, we leave you with the musings of Cognitorex, who responded to John Gorenfeld's piece about Republican crimes by imagining a second GOP debate in which the candidates were asked if they believe in evolution:

The moderator says to the assembled Republican Presidential contenders, "This is an open question for the candidates."

"Evolution theory holds that man is a direct genetic descendant of hairy, arm swinging, tree climbing African apes who apparently survived despite having only crude rudimentary mental processing skills. The scientific process of carbon dating confirms the dates for such evolution and shows that man in this sense predates the Bible's time line by hundreds of thousands of years at a bare minimum. What is your opinion on the validity of carbon dating?"

Romney: "People will say there was a time that I embraced carbon dating but in my maturing process I have opened my eyes to how destructive liberal ideation can be to man's ascent. Junk science should not be employed to accelerate the decline of our moral virtues."

McCain: "I am a firm believer that the age of the earth is a matter of state's rights."

Thompson: "The media's obsession with my wife's youth has reached a new low. They're saying that she is in effect 'carbon dating' which I find offensive."

Brownie and Huckee (in unison): "Attacks on religious values are a staple of our opposition. Brothers and sisters, let us pray for God's hand to smite the ballot boxes of the heathen."

Giuliani: "Believing in evolution is weakness in the face of the enemy. It allows terrorist scum and their nine eleven democratic party appeasers amongst us to encircle our homes and maim our children… As I've said, nine or eleven times, I will only appoint judges that know the ramifications of using science in pursuit of weak kneed terrorist lovers."

Check out Cognitorex' blog here for more good snark, and we'll be back next week.

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