Putting it in two words: Wrong fire.
Actually, it comes back to my original reaction to Fahrenheit 9/11. When I saw the movie, I felt like asking "Is that all? What's the fuss about?" From the loud screaming and bitter noisy crying of the Bushevik children, I was really expecting a monumental epic.
Michael Moore made no secret that the movie was supposed to be a very negative attack on Dubya's qualifications for and handling of his "job". However, there was nothing extremely negative there. The background facts were old and well known to anyone who has been paying attention. A lot of the footage was just the end bits that regular media sources had snipped out of their broadcasts. Yes, Moore's perspective certainly didn't match the official propaganda very well, but the tone was basically light, even humorous. I certainly dislike Dubya and am receptive to criticism of BushCo, and I certainly would have been sensitized to notice any reasons to hate Dubya on some kind of personal level, but the movie didn't offer them. In conclusion, only a rather ignorant person could have a strong reaction to that movie--but the many strong reactions suggested that there were lots of such Americans...
Contrast it to the anti-Clinton rhetoric and the endless witch hunt. Maybe I was fooled, but they sure had me convinced that their hatred was real, very sincere, and very intense. Contrast it with the anti-Michael-Moore books and movies that were made in "response" to Fahrenheit 9/11. No way I could be mistaken about the palpable hatred there. Compare it with the attack ads from Nixon's revived swift boat vets and you can feel the purity and intensity of their rightwing hatred. Not just limited to politics, by the way. It's the same kind of irrational hatred that fanatically argues that 3,000 innocent American deaths (caused by Saudi terrorists with funding that originally came from BushCo) completely justify 100,000 innocent Iraqi deaths (even though Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and posed no significant threat).
In conclusion, Michael Moore obviously recognizes how negative American politics has become, and he wanted to fight that fire with fire, but he didn't have the right fire--the fire of wrongness. A bit of humor is no match for the pure, distilled hatred that drives so many of Dubya's supporters.
Well, I finally got to see the movie yesterday, and I have a number of personal impressions to report. These are really just preliminary notes while the event is fresh in my mind.
At 11 a.m. there was a long line extending several hundred meters from the ticket lobby in Ebisu Garden Cinema. My friend had arrived when the ticket window first opened at 9 to validate the pre-purchased tickets. He thought he would be able to waltz through to the front, but there were already a lot of people ahead of him and he had to wait, and his tickets were eventually validated around number 130 for the 12:30 (third) showing. They had changed the schedule to use both of their screens for Fahrenheit 9/11, but the second screen is only about 100 seats. At that time there were a lot of media people taking pictures of the line (and I took some). Some people were also setting up for a little straw vote presidential election for people coming out of the first showing.
When we came back for the showing itself, they let the first 10 validated tickets go in first, then the next 10, etc. We still had plenty of good seats to choose from when we got in, and we got a block pretty near the front. The theatre was soon full, and I could see no empty seats anywhere, so I believe it was sold out. The advertisements were mostly for French movies, so I felt like it's an "arts" theatre.
I had three main impressions of the movie itself:
There didn't seem to any real justification for the R rating. Though there were some gruesome images, they were the kind of thing regular TV news could include and they flashed by quickly enough. I think I'm rather squeamish about these things, but I was able to watch all of it.
There were no material errors of fact. I was listening very closely for ANY mistakes. This was not naive searching, but based on various reported criticisms of the movie, mostly from devout Busheviks who certainly seem to be quite sincere about wanting to find flaws in the movie. Having read their claims, I was listening very closely at those points--and I could not spot anything that supported their criticisms. The closest thing was in the section about the post-9/11 evacuation of the Bin Ladins, where Michael Moore juxtaposed the closed air space very closely--but the movie did not actually say when the Saudis first received their special permissions to get out of the US--and of course the REAL issue there and the REAL focus of the movie was on whether or not the Saudis should have been allowed special treatment in comparison to the other "suspicious" "Arabic" people who were rounded up and interrogated. Around 1/4 of the way into the movie, I actually thought I did hear a one-word mistake that I had never read about, but it was a minor item. Not sure if that's sufficient justification to go again next week when it opens in my local theater. Kind of expensive just to try to catch a one-word glitch. (However, I'm at least going to visit the theater to see how big the "pure" Japanese crowd is.)
Notwithstanding all of the noisy criticisms, it was a very balanced and even moderate documentary. It certainly mentioned a lot of the smoke around BushCo, and even showed a few of the fires, but it stuck quite ploddingly to the facts. It did ask a lot of really rude and pointed questions, but they all seemed to be questions for legitimate public discussion. Especially as regards the questions about the real justification or lack of justification for the Saddam-removal war, these are life-and-death questions that should have been answered much more definitively before anyone died. It's really hard for me to understand what all the violent criticism is about. Well, actually I think I sort of understand some of it, but it's a complicated question of push propaganda. When you ask questions and show the available evidence, some people will leap to conclusions--and in this case most of those conclusions are NOT favorable to Bush.
I did see a LOT of examples where the critics were willfully misinterpreting scenes from the movie. For example, there were a few pre-war scenes of life in Iraq, but nothing suggesting that there was any sort of Iraqi paradise under Saddam. It showed normal human beings living their normal lives--and they just happened to be Iraqi human beings. Michael Moore's obvious goal was to juxtapose those images against what ALWAYS happens in REAL war, which is that some innocent people also die.
After the movie, there was no big reaction from the crowd, though I've heard of reports of standing ovations and such. I should have looked to see what percentage of the audience were foreigners. The Japanese in our group liked the movie, but had no strong reaction to it. There was one pro-Bush American in our group, and he wasn't particularly offended or upset, though he wanted to defend Dubya by diffusing the responsibility, especially for the seven minutes of sitting. (By the way, I'm now sure the movie did say My Pet Goat as the title of the book, which is a known mistake, but obviously irrelevant to the significant question of Dubya's inaction and lack of leadership.) We did stand around talking about the movie for a while afterwards, but it wasn't a big long discussion.
My overall conclusion is that the movie was pretty good, but not really great--but maybe that's just because Michael Moore knows his target audience very well and I'm not in the target. My initial reaction to Dubya was to see him as a kind of sick political joke, not a REAL politician who could possibly wind up in the White House. Michael Moore wants this movie to reach the people who have initial doubts about Bush, but my doubts are WAY past that stage. I can see where someone who had never heard about any of this stuff would be surprised--but to me it seemed that Michael Moore was only showing the tip of the iceberg. For example, he only scratched the surface of the material covered in House of Bush, House of Saud, even though he spent a fair bit of the movie interviewing Craig Unger, the author of that book.
From the amount of crying and screaming from the BushCo side and the sheer number of violent ad-hominem criticisms directed against Michael Moore, I really expected the movie to be MUCH stronger. I think Michael Moore did what he could with the editing of the pre-existing stock film that was available, but that kind of documentary footage is fundamentally limited. The specially produced footage (like the ice cream truck) was not really that compelling or powerful. I think it would be a legitimate candidate for best documentary, but I have trouble seeing how it could win in the best picture category. Also, if it were nominated in the best director category, I don't see how the judges could make fair comparisons, because it would be like comparing apples and oranges.
On the other hand, Michael Moore's criterion for the success of this movie is simple. If it helps remove Dubya from the White House, then he (and I) will be happy. The question of Dubya-removal will soon be resolved, but it may never be absolutely clear what part this movie played in real life.
I'm feeling increasingly optimistic about disposing of Dubya. He really is getting heavy fire from both sides these days, the funny side and the unfunny side.
Of course, the humor-based attack is Michael Moore's primary angle in the Fahrenheit 9/11 movie. Is he just reacting to the BushCo propaganda? Or is he just that politically shrewd? Perhaps both? Of course, it's obvious that Rove has tried to recast Dubya as presidential since 9/11. From the reviews I've seen, it appears the main point of the film is that Dubya is a laughingstock, at least as far as fighting terrorism goes. I'm really looking forward to seeing the film as soon as possible. I'm sure it makes Dubya look stupid, but how stupid? Fire-the-loser stupid?
Don't forget that before 9/11, and especially in the 2000 campaign, Dubya sang a different song. He was supposed to be just a regular guy who just accidentally happened to be the stinking rich son of a president, and who was just lucky to have so many stinking rich friends eager to invest in his campaigns. I think the case for Dubya as a cunning and vicious fool is quite strong, but I keep remembering that a lot of people thought that's some flavor of what they were voting for in 2000. However, they either thought the fool would hire smart assistants (like Rumsfailed?), or they were persuaded by the crazy rightwing propaganda that Gore was some sort of dangerous monster. (Too bad the American presidency is no longer suitable for nice guys like Gore or Jimmy Carter.) Is Dubya the fool he originally pretended to be? The new and improved presidential fool? And what will the voters want in November?
Meanwhile, the anti-humor attack is mostly blowback from Iraq. Now we have a movie aspect there, too, with new films of the prisoner abuse. Honor and integrity? Sure thing, coming right up--as soon as BushCo can find some gaps in the unending streams of lies. Restore America's dignity? Is that anything like the human dignity we took from the Iraqi prisoners? Iraq is almost certainly the biggest and most impressive failure of all of Dubya's miserable failures. There are just so many ways to slice the failure in Iraq... American deaths? Loss of all international influence except for the old gun in your face method? Extreme abuse of power to the point of systematic war crimes? All that money flushed away? (Except that BushCo got kickbacks, so they don't regard that part as wasted.) Building a "new and improved" Al Qaeda? Dead Iraqis? Oh, I keep forgetting. Dead Iraqis don't count. They're just untermenschen.
Actually, I think BushCo's failure in education policy is also a strong contender as the most miserable failure, but it may take decades for that damage to become fully apparent, and even longer to assess it. Every other BushCo policy has failed, too, except maybe the environmental policy. Trick question! BushCo doesn't even have any environmental policy, so those failures have to re-filed in other categories.
You'd think that someone should be held accountable. Punish someone significant like Rumsfailed? Perish the thought. (Saddam doesn't count--the reason he's been punished is only because he quit the team.) It reminds me of some comedian's joke about Dubya admitting that there was a security failure on 9/11 and punishing someone, even if he had to retroactively fire someone from the Truman administration. Guess it depends on what you remember. Most people remember Truman for "The Buck Stops Here", but BushCo only remembers the bit about "Never apologize."
So let's see what the voter's remember in November.
I'm currently increasingly convinced there is no direction in Iraq but out, and the only question is whether it's before or after the election. Before, and it would be a politically fatal admission of his blunderhood, so we can basically rest assured that Dubya will not bring the troops home by Christmas. Doesn't matter how many soldiers and Iraqis do the resting, as in RIP.
The context that got me thinking about this involved considering the Israeli policies towards the Palestinians as models of the American policies in Iraq. However, I think this is only peripherally relevant to the situation in Iraq, and mostly it only serves as another bad example of how to handle such situations. As an American I'd actually prefer to use the American Revolution as the bad example. At least it's a "bad example" from the perspective of King George III. The bottom line is that all such examples show that lots of people are willing to fight very hard when they believe they are fighting for their freedom. Sometimes that's religious freedom, but the exact nature of "freedom" doesn't seem to matter much. Yes, there have been many historical cases when the "freedom fighters" or "terrorists" or "patriots" or "criminals" (depending on who won and who's speaking) do lose in their struggles, but people have a tendency to persist in such struggles, and in the end, I think they usually win--unless they are exterminated as a people. Freedom is a really powerful motivation.
Right now it certainly seems like a large number of Iraqis have decided they are fighting for their political freedom (or national identity). The alternative is remaining in (or returning to) the status of being an American client or puppet state. Other Iraqis apparently believe they are fighting for their religious freedom--and one can scarcely blame them with lunatics like Ann Coulter on BushCo's side. Probably Dubya, too, though he hasn't actually publicly said their leaders should be slaughtered and the masses forcibly converted to Christianity the way Coulter did. I actually doubt that these "freedom fighting" groups are a majority of Iraqis, but there are two funny aspects there.
First, if you took a poll of Americans at the time of the Revolution, I bet that most of them would have said it was a bad or crazy idea. Completely nuts to fight the British supreme-superpower-of-that-day. Actually, it was kind of amazing we did win, and the war would have dragged on if the French navy hadn't helped out at just that moment.
Second, Dubya is not and never has been worried about acting for the majority of Americans--only about dragging or suckering enough of them along. Obviously Dubya's only real interests were in getting into power, and then in using that power to do what he wanted to do anyway. King George II?
Returning to the latest screwups in Iraq, apparently BushCo has changed their minds again on the Falluja mess. We don't actually like THAT general, but we want one of Saddam's OTHER generals to take over the mess. We'll trade that popular general for another general to be named later? Crazy.
My guess on the REAL situation is that BushCo realized this guy was too popular. They actually managed to talk to some Iraqis, and they discovered that they regarded this "solution" as an Iraqi victory. Allowing the Americans to be defeated would be a BIG mistake. If the Americans get "whipped" anywhere in Iraq, the whole country is liable to go nuts, and we can't allow any more of that, can we? So now the Marines have stopped withdrawing and are preparing to counterattack again. Or maybe not. Or maybe...
There have been a number of comments about the significance of the prisoner abuses, but so far not much light has been shed. For now, I still believe those sorts of problems are inevitable in these sorts of situations, but on some reflection, I'm kind of surprised we got our American hands dirty there. I actually thought that handling these sorts of things was part of our secret understandings with the Kurds. Very difficult to speculate when BushCo is so big on secrecy, but if there was such a clause, then the actual problem is probably much larger than revealed so far, since most of it would have been passed along to the Kurds for discreet "handling". (An additional reason to read Dean's new book? Apparently argues that BushCo is even more abusive of power than the Nixon gang. It would be interesting to compare the chronology of abuses in Vietnam.)
Can't remember where to credit this, but it definitely belongs in the humor category. It was supposed to be an analysis of possible political solutions to the mess. Remember Colin Powell? No? Well, anyway, if you could remember him, he's supposed to be involved in that sort of diplomatic stuff. But the hilarious part was saying that a "broader political solution" could have made it possible to use Indian troops to get the numbers needed for the occupation of Iraq. Riiiiiiiight. Anyone else remember that the whole idea of India was to get the Muslims out of there? Not even BushCo could claim that the Iraqis would greet the Indian troops with flowers.
In the tragedy category, I was reading about an entire outfit who got their chain yanked real hard. They'd finished their long hitch in Iraq, turned their heavy equipment over to their replacements, and even shipped their personal effects home. And then they got new orders to stay in Iraq. Shock and awe big time. The shock was the orders, but the awesome part is that Rumsfeld thinks they'll be happy about it. All 'dem soldiers be lil' Colin Powells, right?
"Elected dictatorship" be damned, there is a reality out there, and there are limits to how far you can stretch it. Go too far from reality, and reality is going to bite back. And hard. Reality is NOT going to just sit there and take it forever. (Just too bad so many relatively innocent people get squished in the process. Heck, even many of the fanatics are sort of innocent. At least they are innocent of any understanding of reality.)
The latest report from Iraq has one of our military spokesman saying we need to make sure that Sadr understands we're not going anywhere. The "we" is the Americans, and the anywhere is apparently out of Iraq.
Wait just a minute here. What is the reality here? Who is invading who? Who exactly belongs where?
I hate to break the news to you, but Sadr is the guy who lives there. He's the one who isn't going anywhere. The Americans are the invaders in Iraq, and even the BushCo claims that the goal is to leave--as soon as they can declare a "suitable victory" and find appropriate puppets to leave in charge of BushCo's latest mess.
Remember this is an ideologically purged army, and this is one of the best spokesman they can come up with. Well, at least it's as purged as they can manage and still keep some boots on the dirt. When they start talking so stupidly... Time for "We have to destroy the village to save it." Anyone remember that witticism? Little place called Vietnam. Remember? (Dubya sure doesn't. He was too busy dodging paper cuts in Alabama.)
Dubya is toast. Roasting slowly on his cross of oil.
Call it BushCo's lunatic fringe strategery (sic) and Nader worship. Yeah, it's hard to believe, but Nader announced he's running again. In the American system, it's hard to buy votes directly, but lunatic fringes are the easiest to buy or divert. In terms of election strategy, it works quite well for BushCo. Dubya is perfectly willing to accept the votes of various lunatic fringes, and BushCo has the money to persuade their pet troublemakers NOT to run separately and suck off any of their votes. Meanwhile, the votes you can siphon off from your REAL opponents are just as useful as the votes you capture with lies or bribes.
In the current example, BushCo can covertly encourage fringe candidates like Nader to run on the other (progressive/liberal) side, thereby sucking off the lunatic fringes that might help offset the lunatic fringe votes they've collected for BushCo. I'm not saying that all Nader supporters are lunatics, but that's becoming his strongest base of support. Without him as an escape hole to toss their votes into, some of those fanatics would be willing to accept reality. Don't forget that Dubya's entire claim to legitimacy for his tyrannical redirection of America, his entire "mandate for change", comes down to 500 votes in Florida in 2000, as justified 5-4 by SCOTUS. (Never forget: "Our considerations are limited to the present circumstances." That's where history will file Scalia et al.)
You might want to cite Buchanan as some sort of exception, but he had no significant negative effect on Dubya in 2000, but, in a less-than-amusing twist of fate, purely by accident managed to have a significant negative effect on Gore in the crucial Palm Beach situation. Not the only crucial situation in 2000--but almost all of them broke against Gore.
Principles are important, but when your principles prevent you from seeing reality, you are insane. Gore is NOT equal to Bush. But even if the fanatical Nader worshippers wanted to say both of them were evil, Gore was VERY clearly the lesser of the evils--and one of them was going to live in the White House. Nader is serving NO constructive purpose now. In the three years since seizing power BushCo has already done more harm than all of the good Nader ever accomplished in his entire lifetime. Only insanity can explain Nader's divisive new campaign. It can only have two possible outcomes: it will assist BushCo in clinging to power or it will discredit Nader's beliefs and causes as far as the new Democratic president is concerned. President Nader is NOT a possible outcome.
I've been thinking about Dubya's famous gaffe on the old saying "Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me." You may recall that Dubya stumbled all over this, and his version wound up something like "Fool me once.... Fool me... You can't get fooled again."
I'm increasingly convinced that this was a deeply Freudian slip and reflects a deep form of insanity. I think Dubya really can't conceive of the idea that he could be fooled or make any sort of mistake. When he tried to imagine it as a part of a speech, he just fell apart. If it was just a minor slip... Well, you'd think he'd have corrected himself by now and they'd be publicizing that version. However, as far as I know, BushCo wants to pretend it never happened, and Dubya doesn't want to stand up and admit that he was ever fooled--not even by 9/11. (Or maybe he expects to be "fooled" again by terrorists, and just couldn't stomach the "shame on me" part?)
None of us is perfect, and all of us make mistakes--but normal folks get held accountable for them. That's never happened to Dubya, though he's caused plenty of big foul-ups. In spite of his "personal responsibility" rhetoric, he's always slid away from his own mistakes, or hid them, or often enough just let "friends" take the rap (as in his current efforts to throw the blame for the Iraq fiasco onto his "friends" at the CIA).
Actually, BushCo is full of really strange people with strange mental processes. Maybe Dubya can't imagine making a mistake, so he can project that to assume the legal system never makes mistakes. That would explain how easy it was for him to set the record for executions when he was governor. No mistakes possible. And don't apologize, either, even if later evidence shows a couple of innocent guys got executed. How about Rumsfeld, who still wants to believe in those mythical WMD? Just too bad his delusions direct the spending of billions of YOUR tax dollars. And guys like Cheney who get pleasure out of killing just for the sake of inflicting pain and death. Sorry, but I just think good people should not enjoy that sort of thing. When actual good people use violence, it should be truly necessary, based on reality, and without the pleasure--and accepting the possibility of error.
Back to Dubya and his "Bushal Infallibility". Maybe it isn't insanity. Maybe it's just a sincere belief that Dubya has that he's so specially chosen and blessed by God that he can't go astray. As long as he says his prayers, God won't let him be fooled. Of course, that's exactly what Bin Ladin thinks. Does that mean 9/11 was a good thing? After all, using this line of "reasoning", someone's god must have approved.
This week's rant is on the real significance of the political attack on the BBC. I'm not claiming that I'm part of the "true majority" (whatever Dubya claims that is today), but this is a big one and apparently very few people are much interested. Actually, to me it looks like it's just another example of exploiting other people's misfortunes for BushCo's political advantage. Remember 9/11?
In this case, the misfortune was relatively small, but BushCo has exploited it big time, with lots of prominent heads already rolling at the BBC. Remember that the BBC is (but soon to be "was") the antithesis of the journalistic black jokes such as FOX news and CBS. Even if this was a real and major mistake (and not just the pure scapegoating for political advantage that it seems to be), the BBC has never been a purely reliable propaganda mouthpiece for the Iraq war, etc.
So... Any speculations on the new direction of the BBC? I'd wager that those British headhunters are all over at FAUX news and CBS right now. CBS gets special mention this week for refusing to broadcast a prize-winning anti-Bush ad during the Superbowl. They said it was "advocacy" to remind people about Dubya's deficit. Truth is no excuse, sir!
However, back in jolly old England, they aren't going to reward the BBC for telling so much of the truth that opposes BushCo, but they sure are going to punish the organization for making a mistake. The hilarious part (in the "best" tradition of really black British humor) is that the underlying truth here, even in this case, was that BushCo WAS lying about the WMD, and that was the main point of the BBC reports. For messing about with that truth, the BBC shall be recast in a new mold, using "journalistic integrity" as the WMD.
Hey, if they administered a "journalistic integrity" test at FAUX news they'd have to fire each and every one of them. At CBS they might be able to retain a couple of the interns and the woman who makes the coffee.
Just to complete the picture, here's a recent example of "real news" from CBS:
"Yes, we believed in Iraq's WMD without any real evidence, but we invaded the country and killed a bunch of people anyway. We just wanted to do this, and lying about WMD was a convenient excuse. Dick Cheney assured us that Haliburton will 'donate' a good chunk of the profits back to us. Only fair considering all the business we are giving them," Condoleezza Rice told CBS on Thursday.
Ha, ha!! Fooled you, didn't I! Oh? You weren't fooled. Okay, so here's the actual story:
"I think that what we have is evidence that there are differences between what we knew going in and what we found on the ground," Condoleezza Rice told CBS on Thursday. [Reuters reports that] CBS simply broadcast this, apparently with a straight face.
It all depends on what "knew" means, right? Remember how much good clean fun the rightwing loonies had with Clinton over the definition of a word? Well, "knew" means you knew something. Past tense of "know", because she's describing a prior state here. If you really and actually know something, it is not false. When you "know" something, you don't find "differences" "on the ground". If BushCo-token spokes-fool Rice could move her lips without lying, she might have said the first version. Of course, in the case of President Clinton, I can't recall anyone dying for the confusion on the word.
Hey, how about defining "honor and integrity"? That should be worth a few thousand more deaths, right?
Today's rant is coming from a discussion of the Saddam trial in the newsgroups, where OJ Simpson's murder trial was brought in as an example of strange legal defenses. I basically do regard Saddam's defenses as ridiculous and weaker than OJ's. However, for a "fair" trial, even weak defenses must be considered "fairly". I don't really feel the American court system is "too fair" just because OJ's weak defenses succeeded. My concern there is simply that money should not be the deciding factor. The situation in Iraq is different. The deciding factor in Iraq is force, and right now it's mostly American force. Ergo, right now I think it would be impossible for Saddam to get any semblance of a "fair trial" in Iraq, any more so than an opponent of Saddam could have expected to get a fair trial in Iraq last year. The balance of force has shifted.
There is a bigger problem with a Saddam trial from BushCo's perspective, and that's the reason they wanted him dead rather than captured alive. (On review of the evidence, I'm pretty much convinced that the capture was a mistake, and quite possibly even a violation of orders.) That is the problem that Saddam's defenses, no matter how ridiculous, are very similar to the defenses OTHER "national leaders" would have to use for their actions. To the people who died, it makes little difference if Saddam killed them to cling to power, or if BushCo killed them to remove Saddam from power. They were still innocent victims and in a "fair" world, someone might be held accountable for their deaths.
I'm not a fan of black humor, but someone who was would probably focus on the black aspects. In particular, America probably killed more Iraqis through economic sanctions than we killed in the recent war. The difference was that the rest of the world was willing to agree to those sanctions. Back then, President Clinton was also building up the military, so he effectively weakened Iraq's military and effectively created the military instrument that ultimately destroyed Saddam--and now BushCo is claiming all of the credit and dreams of establishing a new worldwide empire. Not the first dreamers, but like Rocky told Bullwinkle, "That trick never works!"
BushCo is very persistent in ignoring the lessons of history. For example, they also dream of establishing a new age of the Robber Barons, and they've actually made great progress towards their evil goal. They want the peasants (even including those foolish dittoheads) to be controlled ever more reliably (by ever stronger police) with ever growing profits and and ever growing power increasingly concentrated in the hands of BushCo. Sorry, but "ever growing" is not possible in a finite world. Period
From our perspective, the BushCo dream is just wage slavery par excellence, but BushCo will use the power to drive the wages as low as possible--for the few jobs that can't be done cheaper in India. The historical lesson that SHOULD have been learned here is that "Slavery doesn't work." Doesn't matter how you disguise it, it just isn't a competitive economic system. Here, I'll just limit it to two of the more glaring examples, the Confederacy and the Soviet Union. There is strong evidence that the real cause of the Civil War was simply that the Confederacy was bankrupt and determined to default on the Yankee bankers. The Yankee bankers were not willing to accept that, and they therefore insisted on a very bloody war to prevent it. (By the way, some of those Yankee bankers' descendents are still important parts of BushCo.) In the case of the Soviet Union, they didn't call it slavery, but it effectively was a slave system with the people owned by the Communists, and it also went bankrupt. Remember, "Slavery doesn't work." Given the Soviet nuclear arsenal, we are quite fortunate that no one was able to start a war over that bankruptcy. Perhaps we were just lucky that BushCo didn't have their fingers very deep into that pie--no one wanted to loan much money to the Soviets.
This weeks topic is the lies themselves. There are some lies that actually DO get a lot of consideration because they come from people with the power to act on those lies. That's BushCo, right now, but after observing their antics for a couple of years, I've realized that you have to read them like old Pravda back in days of the USSR. In particular, the more loudly and aggressively they are accusing someone else, the more you should suspect they are doing whatever it is that they are accusing the other guy of.
The Saddam case is a rather interesting example. In particular, the main accusation against Saddam was that he had lots of weapons of mass destruction and might use them against America. Even though BushCo has full control over the largest and supposedly best intelligence agencies in the world, they tossed out all the actual evidence and continued to accuse Saddam of stockpiling WMD. However, the simple truth is we know that the US does have large stocks of WMD. If we were right to invade Iraq because of an imaginary threat of WMD, wouldn't it be proper for other nations to invade the US because of our actual WMD? "Look at Saddam's WMD, don't look at our WMD!"
Another important accusation against Saddam was that he had actually used WMD, both against his own people and against other nations. Ever heard of smallpox? Americans used smallpox as a WMD against the American Indians, who are now regarded as part of America's own people. Ever hear of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Americans used WMD against other people. We insist that these were proper actions and justified by the circumstances at the time, but that's just what Saddam would say. "Look at Saddam's history, don't look at our history!"
Saddam is accused of assassinating his political opponents. Israel is accused of assassinating its political opponents. America has used political assassination in the past and is taking lessons from the Israelis right now. Actually, killing political opponents is popular with LOTS of governments. Everyone who is killing their political opponents of course claims they are really executing criminals and terrorists. The political opponents who are getting killed always claim they are patriots and freedom fighters struggling for the liberation of their people. If George Washington had been captured by King George III, he would have been handled as a traitor and executed after a suitable "fair trail" as King George III defined it. Now that Saddam has been captured by "King George II" (AKA Dubya Bush), why should we expect anything different? "Saddam murdered patriotic freedom fighters, don't look at our killing of patriotic freedom fighters!"
The bottom line is that no one needs laws to protect them from someone who is weaker than they are. We need laws to protect the weak from the strong. That can, at least in theory, raise us above the beasts and their law of the jungle. However, this is an area where BushCo lies really shine. Actually, if you're like most Americans, you probably don't even know about this topic, though it's one of BushCo's highest priorities. It's called tort reform. If you listen to BushCo's lies, it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. The reality is different. The whole grand design is to make it harder for weak (poor) people to use the law against strong (rich) people. Did you really believe that a bunch of lawyers would do anything to reduce the need for lawyers? No, of course not. The REAL idea is only to limit access to the courts for certain kinds of people--the poor peasants like you and me. That way the lawyers can spend more time helping rich companies sue each other, with lovely high fees, the fees get passed down to the customers and taxpayers (remember those peasants), and the lawyers will be very happy. The American legal system already favors rich defendants like OJ Simpson over the paupers who receive all the executions. Right NOW BushCo is using YOUR tax dollars to make the laws even better for BushCo and the lawyers, NOT for you. "Saddam will get a fair trial, don't look at America's unfair legal system!"
You want REAL "legal", you should go look at Marshall's decision in Marbury v. Madison. Talk about the wisdom of Solomon! Damned if he did, and damned if he didn't, but he somehow found a TRUTHFUL way out that actually strengthened the rule of law. But those wise men understood that abuse of power is the great danger.
BushCo loves power, and now that they have it, they are going to USE it. "Laws are for crushing peasants!"
Time for another little rant on Dubya's latest lie--claiming he wants a "fair" trial before killing Saddam. The chance of a "fair" trial on any terms remotely acceptable to BushCo is zilch. No, I'm absolutely NOT defending Saddam as ANY kind of nice guy--though he's certainly no worse than dozens of other recognized "national leaders". However, for each possible crime, Saddam really has rational and legal defenses. Therefore, BushCo cannot permit a fair trial.
So let's pretend anyway, and lets consider the possible charges and the obvious defenses, and it will quickly become clear how flawed and distorted the "legal" situation is. Then we can consider the kangaroo court procedures that will actually be used.
First and quite unfortunately, we have to discard any charges based on violations of Iraqi national laws. Sure, lots of national laws are bad and even immoral--at least people in other countries think so. But Iraqi law is still the Iraqi law, and that's what national sovereignty is all about. At each stage, Saddam was acting in accord with Iraqi law. Even though Saddam was steadily changing that law to increase his own dictatorial powers, he was playing by the "rule of law", and there is no "fair" legal system that permits redefining crimes after the fact. No, we can't even weasel out by citing examples of negative defaults, where certain not precisely specified behaviors are illegal unless they are explicitly permitted, because in Saddam's case he could create a properly legal law to explicitly permit whatever he wanted to do. Even though most of his victims were Iraqis, the Iraqi law was permitting them to be victimized.
So if Iraqi national laws won't work, what about international laws. Actually, on first glance, this seems very promising, because some of Saddam's crimes do fit into categories where there is broad international consensus about right and wrong. There are two major areas here--wars of aggression and human rights violations. On top of that, the International Criminal Court was created to deal with exactly these sorts of situations. Even the United States accepts the ideals and originally agreed to support their pursuit--until Dubya personally decided to cancel America's participation. I guess some folks might think that BushCo could still refer this Saddam problem to that court and leave America out of it, but it won't work once you consider the kinds of charges that would need to be part of that mythical "fair trial".
For wars of aggression, there are two counts against Saddam--Iran and Kuwait. Historically bent people will already suspect there's a problem here, since the international responses were completely different. The war with Iran was internationally ignored, while the second provoked widespread reaction, with an immediate international response and ultimately led to Saddam's fall.
Actually, it's not perfectly accurate to say the war with Iran was "internationally ignored", because BushCo was NOT ignoring it, but rather actively encouraging the carnage and profiting by selling weapons to both sides. This would be a crucial part of Saddam's defense in that fair trial everyone keeps mumbling about. Saddam will say Iraq was truly threatened by Iran, which was (and still is) run by religious fanatics. In those years, Iran's leaders were even more fanatical, and quite eager to encourage their co-religionists in Iraq to rebel, and Saddam will say he was only defending his nation. His BushCo allies assured him of "America's" support, even though Iran was much stronger than Iraq and he was "forced" to use "extraordinary military weapons" for "defensive purposes". That's Bush-speak for the chemical weapons that were supplied by BushCo in the first place. Saddam would use basically the same defense as regards gassing the Kurds, though the defensive claims are weaker there. Unfortunately, those claims of "performing his presidential duty to defend Iraq" are mostly going to come back to questions of "national security" and "intelligence", and that's going to be really hard to convict Saddam for. After all, look at Dubya's defective intelligence reports claiming that Iraqi weapons were a threat. The actual aggressive invasion has since shown that no such "WMD justification" existed, which is certainly awkward, to say the least. Or a war crime, to say the most.
Time to return to Kuwait and consider the opposite international reaction to that Iraqi aggression. This one seems like it ought to be taken as a fine example of international response fully justified by the highest principles. However, if principle was the main concern, there were worse situations elsewhere in the world at the same time. No, the big difference in Kuwait was that America got upset and was willing to lead a strong response. Saddam had gotten out of hand, and something had to be done, though not quite so thoroughly done as to remove Saddam from power. However, the big question here is whether there is any defense that Saddam could put up for that fair trial thing, and it turns out that there probably is. Saddam would probably claim that it was an internal matter, not international aggression--and he would even call the US to testify on that point. The muddy truth was that our ambassador was probably officially lying to Saddam to set him up for the fall, but it's still enough to muddle the issue and drag BushCo farther into the mess. I actually do believe this count of aggressive war against Kuwait really would stick, and even though parts of it are quite embarrassing to BushCo, at least there would be little risk of becoming co-defendants there. The risky part from BushCo's perspective is that Dubya would want the trial to be strictly limited to Kuwait, while Saddam would try to expand the scope.
So if the waters have been muddied for the charges of aggressive war, what about human rights violations. Things like torture and murder of his own citizens. No question but that Saddam was up to his ears in this sort of stuff--but still awkward for that fair trial that keeps dogging us. Hard to guess exactly what tactics sharp lawyers would use, but I can think of several without too much effort. Legal acts within Iraqi law as it existed? Subordinates acting without Saddam's knowledge or approval? Required actions to prevent the kind of anarchy that now prevails in Iraq? Citing comparable or worse examples elsewhere, but which aren't being prosecuted? And last, but most importantly, that the worst crimes were with the knowledge and even encouragement of his former friends and allies, especially that selfsame United States.
The current suggestions of a fair trial in Iraq are just too ridiculous to take seriously. Sort of like the idea of Kenny Boy Lay getting a fair trial in Houston, but worse (assuming anyone ever gets tried for stealing all those billions of dollars). There were no laws on the Iraqi books, and they are just going to make them up on the fly, with the goal of executing Saddam already stated by the supreme "military" commander. Anyone who suggests there might be any merit in any defense offered by Saddam would expect to be arrested and disappeared by the occupying troops. No rational person can pretend that a American-military-sponsored trial in Iraq will be anything but a kangaroo court of victor's justice, even knowing that Saddam is a great criminal deserving the most severe penalties.
All in all, it seems there are a number of conclusions to be offered. The most obvious one is that a fair trial can NOT be one of the REAL priorities, and BushCo would have been much happier if Saddam hadn't been quick enough to manage to surrender. The original idea was clearly to get the grenade in the hole, kill Saddam immediately, and avoid any "legal" problems. They didn't really care if those soldiers got blown up in a boobytrap as long as Saddam died, too. They didn't really want to capture Saddam any more than they wanted to capture his sons--even though their live captures and interrogations might well have saved American lives.
Another conclusion is that we ALL know that many of Saddam's acts were wrong and indefensible, but we're talking about higher standards here--and what makes those higher standards important is because good people can and MUST apply them even to bad people who don't understand them and who violated those standards. Kind of the problem with being good, eh? This is a job for the International Criminal Court. No, still not a perfect solution, but the best we could do in a situation like this. Unfortunately impossible since that would include accepting the possibility that the justification for punishing Saddam is no better than the rationale for punishing Dubya and various other national leaders. Not just morally upstanding and ethical people, but even BushCo supporters should (in theory) be able to understand that situation.
It all comes back to BushCo's legal system, the "Law of the Jungle" and BushCo's golden rule, "He who has the gold makes the rules!"
A few days ago I actually sent a little email message to BushCo. Talk about pissing into the wind. However, I was wondering why there was no reply. Back when the White House belonged to the people they at least acknowledged email with a polite FAQish reply. One could even fantasize about President Clinton reading a few pieces at random, what with him being such an avid reader. Not likely in Dubya's case, since he hates reading the way his dad hates broccoli. The lack of broccoli in Poppy's White House was mostly harmless, though it upset a few farmers. To the contrary, Dubya's willful ignorance kills people.
The following is a new email message:
Well, well, well. What a surprise. You mean the technical staff of the White House is not capable of handling email? Could be. Let's consider some possibilities.
1. Projected incompetence from the top is certainly one possibility. Selecting the sysops for their political views rather than technical competence. Nothing wrong at my end. I send LOTS of email without bounce messages.
2. Policy of refusing email from foreign SMTP servers. Remarkable hypocrisy given the handling of foreign absentee votes in the selection of 2000--since those votes were expected to favor Dubya. However, it would make sense if foreign email has become very negative and given BushCo's aversion to bad news--especially ugly truths.
3. Propaganda purpose. Most likely. Most probably a cunning and technically sophisticated strategy to discourage negative communications so the White House can claim the email supports Dubya. Incoming email is automatically analyzed. Favorable email receives warm and kind responses intended to encourage additional messages. Negative email receives rude and mysterious bounce messages. Of course fake bounce messages violate the courtesy that makes the Internet work--but given BushCo's track record for violating domestic laws and international treaties, and even abusing the Constitution when it gets it their way, why would they worry about courtesy?
By the way, I'm going to circulate this exchange on the Web.
Here is what I finally got in response to my original email:
Mail Delivery System wrote:
> This is the Postfix program at host mail.asahi-net.or.jp.
> I'm sorry to have to inform you that the message returned
> below could not be delivered to one or more destinations.
> For further assistance, please send mail to
> If you do so, please include this problem report. You can
> delete your own text from the message returned below.
> The Postfix program
> server dropped connection
> wh.eop.gov[22.214.171.124]: server dropped connection
Here is the original email:
Shannon Jacobs wrote:
> Just read about the British reporter asking you the question you
> answered "I don't know that they do." You remember, the one about why
> so many free people hate and fear you. Well, pretending you actually
> want to know the ugly truth, I can easily give you the answers. I'm a
> free person and I hate you for the harm you do, and I fear you for
> your chronic and perpetual abuse of power.
> There really is a difference between good and bad people. Good people
> do not enjoy using force. They use it when it is necessary, but
> unlike you, they use it without pleasure. In addition, good people
> are not so incredibly greedy, vindictive, selfish, and hypocritical
> as you are. Good people are even sincerely sorry when they cause
> other people to die, whereas you can't even be bothered to attend any
> of the funerals of the American soldiers you've sent to their deaths.
> By the way, you also disgust me for your inability to recognize the
> truths about yourself. You also shame me to be taken as some sort of
> representative of my nation.
> P.S. All of this goes double for Cheney, except that I don't think he
> is any more conniving and cunning than you are.
> P.P.S. Totally pointless email, but it made me feel a tiny bit better.
This has to be the lead story for a major spleen rant. "BushCo Pleads Guilty!" Try to imagine a criminal telling the court "The law was wrong, but my act was right." Well, no wonder the Bushies reject all courts (except for the 5-4 SCOTUS). The speaker in this case was Perle, one of the top neo-cons. He's already eaten his foot a couple of times, but Dubya still has him in a very prominent position directly under Rumsfeld, who's also an expert at sticking his foot in his mouth.
Actually, you have to put this in context. Perle couldn't actually say anything as honest as "Waging a war of aggression is a war crime" or even "We're guilty imperialists and we just wanted the oil." Like Dubya, he apparently can't conceive of being in the wrong. He actually said that international law was preventing the US (falsely equated with BushCo) from doing what was "right", so attacking Iraq was okay, even though it violated international law. Every criminal would like to define his crime as right, but that would kind of defeat the purpose of having laws, wouldn't it?
So now look at it in light of the results--which Perle certainly must be aware of. Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, which was the main justifying claim (AKA "selling point") for the war. International law insisted on concrete evidence, and post-invasion searches have shown there was no evidence to be found. Funny. Looks to me like international law was right.
The main secondary claim was about Al Qaeda and fighting terrorism, but again the awkward truth is that Bin Ladin's monsters had no significant presence in Saddam's secular Iraq, though now they are clearly growing much stronger throughout the region. Lot of awkward truthtellers also said that would happen. (And this reminds me of that convenient treason directed against Valerie Plame, the wife of one of those nasty old truthtellers. Remember that Dubya said that particular "evildoer" whe revealed she was a CIA agent would probably never be found. (But everyone already knows it was Karl Rove.) Treason? As defined by law? BushCo don't need no stinking laws.)
Various other claims and rationales for the invasion have all fallen apart. The unavoidable conclusion is that the "war" with Iraq was unprovoked aggression. Closest comparison in my mind is to a schoolyard bully collecting lunch money.
Big difference from the schoolyard bully is the corpses. Today's extremely conservative estimate is 7,898 Iraqi civilians have died because of BushCo's invasion. Probably more like 10,000, but there's no official number because BushCo is good at propaganda and labels bad (or even awkward) truths as "unpatriotic". Still, we can't avoid saying that just in Iraq, America is already responsible for killing about 3 times as many civilians as Al Qaeda killed on 9/11. Also some large number of conscripted Iraqi soldiers, but who cares? Also some large number of civilians in Afghanistan in the previous war, but who cares? Also a few hundred Americans, and apparently BushCo doesn't even care about them.
Actually, that last bit angers me quite a bit. Hiding the coffins. Bad publicity, you know. Bad publicity be damned, this is wrong. I admit that the timing of my birth was lucky--when I went into the service there was no actual war and not much chance I was going to get killed in combat. Long time ago, but I was 18 or 19 years old. No big reason, but I just felt I should do a hitch to serve my country. JFK jet lag? However, if I had died in the service of my country, I would have thought it appropriate for that fact to be publicly recognized and acknowledged, not hidden and covered up. If our men are dying for a "good cause" in Iraq, then we should be honoring them in public, not hiding them like they're some sort of terrible failures for getting themselves killed.
Don't forget that Perle is another one of those chickenhawks who avoided combat when he had the chance. War is fine with him as long as other people do the dying.
Me, I always felt that war was a bad thing, but sometimes you just had to do it, and you always have to be ready to use force, just in case. However you should never enjoy the fighting or killing. I think that's the real difference between good and evil. When a good person uses force, it is without pleasure, but only because there is really and truly no other option. I think these Bushies LIKE using force. Of course the extreme example is Dubya himself joking about a woman who was being put to death with his "blessing". Like his black trifecta joke? Bad things are good for him, so Dubya isn't going to lose any sleep just because he causes other people to die.
Not sure why, but that reminds me to mention the recent report on the Wellstone crash. I have trouble with conspiracy theories. I believe that conspiracies have to unravel. On the other hand, that report was not very convincing. Pilot error? Only if the pilots were transmuted into chimps and distracted by a banana. I was a lousy pilot, but I could not have allowed my airspeed to drop like that, and I certainly would have responded with corrective action. The stun grenade explanation makes more sense.
Meanwhile, in the latest conquered territory, California, the Governator has announced his solution to the budget problems he rode into office. Borrow LOTS of money. Gee, has anyone told all those bankrupt people yet? When you go broke, all you need to do is borrow more money! What a brilliant solution!
For legal entertainment, we have Ashcroft announcing the arrest of a few Internet scammers. If that's all there are, then the Internet was amazingly law abiding. Of course the more likely truth is that Ashcroft is playing another political game with a few "show trials", quite likely hoping to discredit the Internet. After all, the Web is a place where you can read such TERRIBLE stuff as this blog. At least you can read it for now, but I'm sure Ashcroft has bigger plans than nailing a few scammers.
Rather desperately fishing for a few glimmers of good news. Two do come to mind. One is the requirement for printed ballots in California, though the schedule is so slow it may not matter. These BushCo crooks are much worse than the Teapot Dome gang and Nixon's Plumbers combined, and I'm sure they plan to "conquer" this next election by ANY means necessary. Just like 2000. (Actually, I think the main reason that Teapot Dome finally unraveled was only because the shallow but "popular" front man up and died. That's Dubya's role this time around, but he looks healthy enough, in physical if not in moral terms.)
The other nice bit is Michael Moore's latest book, Dude, Where's My Country? Interesting read, well targeted, and, as a best-seller, reaching a lot of people, to boot. Lots of strong aspects, though the questions in the first chapter are especially poignant. Letting Bin Ladin's family escape was VERY wrong. Family members know a lot about each other, and no matter how innocent, what they knew was important. Remember that 3,000 people had just died and Bin Ladin's family almost surely knew something to help make sure he got properly nailed for it--which STILL hasn't happened. However, it was apparently most important to BushCo to protect the Bin Ladins and their friends--who turn out to be those selfsame Bushes. Plato would not be amused: "But who shall guard those selfsame guardians?"
In closing, someone's new Ductator Dubya-speak words of the day:
Qwagmire: Dubya's latest mess in Iraq.
Sqwander: What Dubya did with the budget surplus.
Back in the hypocrisy can't explode heads category, I just read the South Dakota story. Amazingly, the liberal media has apparently been ignoring this one for the most part. Hypocrisy just isn't news anymore. (New strategy is slanting the twisted words. I think it beats scare quotes--this piece one was getting full of them.)
Remember that compassionate conservative stuff? Well, the basic philosophic angle is that government shouldn't help people. People should just be held responsible for their own mistakes. Well, this staunch Dubya supporter Janklow made a big mistake and killed someone a couple of weeks ago. Speeding and running a stop sign. However, now he's doing everything he can to stay out of jail. Just like Janklow has beaten all of his previous speeding raps. Even wants to stay in Congress. Working from jail might be awkward, but his good lawyers will probably beat this rap, too. We can't hold HIM responsible for HIS mistakes! Such a fine flag-wrapped Republican and Bush friend, after all.
In his entry for the quote of the week category, Janklow complains that he understands mortality better than most of us. Yeah, you get a special understanding when you kill someone, and most of us just haven't had that enlightening experience.
No, Janklow's head hasn't exploded, though he's complaining about headaches. If there's anyone in charge up there, he, she, or it sure has a funny sense of humor. However, it doesn't seem likely that Janklow can really threaten Rumsfeld or Dubya for the hypocrisy championship.
The other day Rumsfeld was saying how we can't leave Iraq now just because we're getting a bloody nose. As though any of his own precious blood was at risk? Mostly made me think of a bully who was whipping up on some little weakling, only the weakling took a wild swing and managed to bloody the bully's nose. So now the bully is complaining that the weakling doesn't have enough lunch money to pay for a proper bandage? He wants old UNcle Kofi and friends to come to the rescue? Is that the same UNcle Kofi you've been alternately ignoring and badmouthing?
Sorry, Rummy boy, but the bottom line remains that the nosebleed is not life threatening, and you Bushies were asking for it, to boot. Figuratively speaking, of course, since it's already obvious what chickenhawks you really are. Too bad your OWN blood gets the best protection available (especially greedy Chicken Cheney in his undisclosed locations). The only real risk is that Saddam might crawl back out from under a rock somewhere. Talk about embarrassing. What, at least $75 billion spent so far, and we haven't even gotten Saddam's t-shirt yet? (That's a very official and conservative estimate. Really ought to include the $60-$80 billion from last time around, plus the latest allocation of $75 billion, and who knows how much more in secret funding.)
You don't have to take my word for it. Dubya himself has now waffled the other way and is publicly stating that Iraq never attacked us and had no connection to 9/11 and he can't imagine how the public came to believe such a preposterous thing. Like he hasn't spent the last couple of years trying to paint that picture? Excuse me, but clearly Dubya is still winner and undisputed World Hypocrisy Champion.
Explode his head? Dubya isn't even having the headaches!
To close on a general philosophic note, I really do believe in Occam's Razor, and there's no reason for complicated conspiracy theories to explain most of the greed and stupidity in the world. However, there ARE conspiracies, and sometimes even complicated conspiracies which would obviously prefer to look like something else. In those cases, the simplest explanation that accounts for all of the historical facts actually will be the explanation that includes the conspiracy... And the BIG problem with history is that you can't change it--you can only try to hide it.
New Dubya research proves that hypocrisy cannot make your head explode!
At least not Dubya's head, such as it is. Just look at California for the latest evidence. Remember that Dubya is the guy who crawled into the White House as the moral liberator (with the secret "irresponsible" past), and now the Bushies are eagerly endorsing Arnold the Terminator as a "fine" governor for California under the new campaign slogan that he never planned to go into politics. Hypocrisy squared? Cubed? How about hypocrisy^n where n is a really large number?
Not just the endorsements, but the money, too. Obviously the only REAL problem in California is that the Bushies didn't spend enough moola on the election they just lost, and what a "fine" thing that California law has this great loophole for a backdoor into the governor's mansion. What's Arnold's real qualification? Well, at least he's good at following directions. That's why Arnold is a much bigger star than Reagan ever was--but it's also the reason that the Governator would be a sock puppet for scammers who the California voters have already rejected.
It's all about men, you know, and screw the law. Yeah, another area of amazing hypocrisy. The least amusing recent examples there involve the never-ending Palestinian conflict. In our latest episodes, the leader the Palestinians want is the "wrong man", so we (the US and our shadows, the Israelis) need to get rid of him. On the other hand, the blessed "right man" is demanding the laws be changed to give him more powers--not because he has any legal claims to more power, but ultimately only because the Americans will apply more pressure if he doesn't get what he wants. Raw, naked power is the only law!
But isn't that what all the terrorists say?
(Inspired by Krugman's excellent "Exploiting the Atrocity" column. If you missed it, you should seek it out.)
Lots of typically bad news with links to Dubya, but I think the summary should just be that Dubya has the anti-Midas touch. Everything Dubya touches automatically turns to sh*t, but now he's touching the entire country, and even the world. The problem is that the Bushies work hard and mostly effectively to disguise the causal links while working to exploit the public damage for their personal political and financial advantage.
On the west end of the country, California is sinking into some sort of bizarre anarchy. Dubya is pretending to be above the fray, though he's already "unofficially" endorsed his good buddy Arnold ("The Terminator") Schwarzenegger for the job. Years of public service as a qualification for public office? Ha. You need to be a movie actor. Name recognition is the only important criteria--but that "electability" guarantees the support of rich and greedy oligarchs who plan to continue raiding the public till. However, I think the causal link to Dubya is more direct. The selection of 2000 in Florida has convinced the Bushies that democracy is dead, and they're just rendering the corpse for soap. Amusingly enough, a lot of the dissatisfaction with Davis that the GOP is exploiting to drive this special election is apparently due to the electricity problems that those great GOP supporters at Enron helped create. You'd think that the voters should get the message and reject the GOP, but now they apparently want the Terminator. What's in a "pretty" name? Everything, apparently.
Meanwhile, on the east end of the country, there were massive power outages. Exact causes are not clear, but already quite obvious that the electric infrastructure is in bad shape. How did that happen? Anyone remember that old deregulation stuff from the '80s? Guess what happens when you adjust the balance away from the public's interests and in favor of increasing profits? Twenty years is just about enough time for the declining infrastructure to start showing--but don't expect the Bushies to make this connection, since their goal is to push for more deregulation. They don't want to get confused with "stupid" and complicated facts. They know where the money is, and the only "fact" they're concerned with is how to get more money. Rich utility companies donate more money to the GOP. That's the only causal relationship they care about.
Good side of not having electric power is that with their computers shut off the east end of the country wasn't as badly afflicted by the latest nasty computer worm that's been going around. Fortunately, the writer of the worm was a lousy programmer, and rather stupid, too, so there were both implementation flaws in the worm and design flaws in the payload, or things would have been much worse.
I don't think it's purely deification to blame Dubya for contributing to that damage, too, though of course it's hard to pin down the real blame without knowing what really motivated the moron who wrote it. The apparent motivation was to express anger at Microsoft, and that anger might well have been aggravated by knowing Dubya will never bother his rich friends. I certainly felt my normal annoyance at Microsoft increased by struggles to download the patch from Microsoft before a friend's computer got attacked. Lost that race, too, but Microsoft is completely free from liability. Gosh, I'd love to bill them for my time wasted because of their incompetence. Not just in creating the original bug. Anyone can make a mistake, even such a huge one. However, having made the mistake, Microsoft's remedial efforts were just SO pitiful. I actually took the patch with me, but I'd taken the wrong language, so it refused to accept it. There is NO good reason for a language dependency in this patch, and every reason to allow a language override. After that, the best option seemed to be to connect to the Web so I could stumble around the Microsoft "security" pages trying to find the patch, but meanwhile the worm struck. If the anger at Microsoft really was the motivation, I'd regard it as a form of insane anarchism--the same sort of thing that began to afflict oligarchic Czarist Russia a few years before the end. On the other hand, that visible motive may well be a disguise for something more sinister, like a North Korean cyberattack.
One peripheral thought on this general topic is another aspect of blame for Microsoft, but again nothing that they'll ever be held liable for. However, it does very accurately reflect the anything-for-money-is-okay motivations of the Bushies. Microsoft's attitude has always been to use the control of the OS as a kind of weapon in their quest for ever larger piles of money, and it's natural to build your weapons as big and powerful as possible. This leads to the cancerous design philosophy of putting more and more functionality into the OS, creating more and more dangerous toys for the virus writers to play with. To be contrasted with the design philosophy of Linux, which is to make a clean and strong and safe skeleton, but one that you can use to build any functionality that you desire. Very unlikely that there'll ever be any similar attacks on Linux no matter how widespread Linux becomes. Too many variations hanging on the skeleton. However, no big money to be made from Linux, so who cares? Certainly not the Bushies.
Lots of typically bad news with links to Dubya, but I think the summary should just be that Dubya has the anti-Midas touch. Everything Dubya touches automatically turns to sh*t, but now he's touching the entire country, and even the world. The problem is that the Bushies work hard and mostly effectively to disguise the causal links while working to exploit the public damage for their personal political and financial advantage.
On the west end of the country, California is sinking into some sort of bizarre anarchy. Dubya is pretending to be above the fray, though he's already "unofficially" endorsed his good buddy Arnold ("The Terminator") Schwarzenegger for the job. Years of public service as a qualification for public office? Ha. You need to be a movie actor. Name recognition is the only important criteria--and the support of rich and greedy oligarchs who plan to continue raiding the public till. However, I think the causal link to Dubya is more direct. The selection of 2000 in Florida has convinced the Bushies that democracy is dead, and they're just rendering the corpse for soap. Amusingly enough, a lot of the dissatisfaction with Davis that the GOP is exploiting to drive this special election is due to the electricity problems that were created by those great GOP supporters at Enron. You'd think that the voters should get the message and reject the GOP, but now they apparently want the Terminator. What's in a name? Everything, apparently.
Meanwhile, on the east end of the country, there were massive power outages. Exact causes are not clear, but already quite obvious that the infrastructure is in bad shape. How did that happen? Anyone remember that old deregulation stuff from the '80s? Guess what happens when you adjust the balance away from the public's interests and in favor of increasing profits? Just about enough time for the declining infrastructure to start showing--but don't expect the Bushies to make this connection, since their goal is to push for more deregulation. They don't want to get confused with "stupid" and complicated facts. They know where the money is, and the only "fact" they're concerned with is how to get more of it. Rich utility companies donate more money to the GOP. That's the only causal relationship they care about.
Good side of not having power is that with their computers shut off the east end of the country wasn't as badly afflicted by the latest nasty computer worm that's been going around. Fortunately, the writer of the worm was a lousy programmer, and rather stupid, too, so there were both implementation flaws in the worm and design flaws in the payload, or things would have been much worse.
I don't think it's purely reification to blame Dubya for contributing to the damage, though of course it's hard to pin the real blame without knowing what really motivated the moron who wrote it. The apparent motivation was to express anger at Microsoft, and that anger might well have been aggravated by knowing Dubya will never bother his rich friends. I certainly felt my normal anger increased by struggles to download the patch from Microsoft before a friend's computer got attacked. Lost that race, too, but Microsoft is completely free from liability. Gosh, I'd love to bill them for my time wasted because of their incompetence. Not just in creating the original bug. Anyone can make a mistake, even such a huge one. However, having made the mistake, Microsoft's remedial efforts were just SO pitiful. I actually took the patch with me, but I'd taken the wrong language, so it refused to accept it. There is NO good reason for a language dependency in this patch, and every reason to allow a language override. After that, I had to stumble around the Microsoft "security" pages trying to find the patch, but meanwhile the worm struck. If the anger at Microsoft really was the motivation, I'd regard it as a form of insane anarchism--the same sort of thing that began to afflict oligarchic Czarist Russia from a few years before the end. On the other hand, that may well be a disguise for something more sinister, like a North Korean cyberattack.
One peripheral thought on this general topic is another aspect of blame for Microsoft, but again nothing that they'll ever be held liable for. However, it does very accurately reflect the anything-for-money motivations of the Bushies. Microsoft's attitude has always been to use the control of the OS as a kind of weapon in their quest for every larger piles of money, and it's natural to build your weapons as big and powerful as possible. This leads to the the cancerous design philosophy of putting more and more functionality into the OS, creating more and more dangerous toys for the virus writers. To be contrasted with the design philosophy of Linux, which is to make a clean and strong skeleton, but one that you can use to build any functionality that you desire. Very unlikely that there'll ever be any similar attacks on Linux no matter how widespread Linux becomes. Too many variations hanging on the skeleton. However, no big money to be made from Linux, so who cares?
From Jim Sagle, I found the joke of the day:
Bush's motto: Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Kick him in the teeth, and he'll forget he was ever hungry.
Actually, he published it somewhere on July 17th, and most of his stuff is just borrowed from somewhere else, but he's my source, and I only saw it today...
In today's episode of truth is stranger than fiction, I'll tell you how to make money on terrorism. You go to Poindexter's new Web site, and you place your bets on which terrorist acts will happen when. For example, if you bet that Pakistan's dictator Mubarrak will get assassinated this month, and it happens, then you collect all the money from the people who bet he'd be assassinated at some later date, like next month. And of course, after he's snuffed they'll just start betting on how long until the Muslim terrorists get some of Pakistan's nuclear weapons. Great idea, right!
Well, not right. Just about the craziest idea that I've ever heard of, though they had managed to sneak $3 million through the budget process to fund it. Supposed to be self-sustaining after that, with a percentage for the "house". They had actually finished designing the promotional Web site before it got into the open and of course the insane project was immediately canceled, along with various apologies and calls for heads. Maybe Poindexter will have to change his name next time? I've long suspected he'd be more comfortable with the name of Dr. Moriarty.
What will they think of next. I'm becoming afraid to speculate, since they continue to exceed my lowest expectations.
By the way, Dubya admits he was "technically" responsible for claiming that Iraq was buying uranium. But how can anyway expect intelligence when you have such a narrow-minded moron at the top of the entire intelligence apparatus? When has Bush ever allowed himself to be confused by stupid old facts?
Wow! Long gap there. Not that there's any good news I can think of. Well, I suppose the recent killing of Saddam's sons ought to count as good news of a sort. They definitely contributed to making the world a better place by leaving it. Still, even there, the way the "business" was handled manages to create fresh new evils. High tech heads on pikes--much easier to "share" with the masses, and less smelly, too. Of course I'm referring to their release of the graphic pictures of the mutilated corpses. The shallow pretense of "We have to prove they're really dead" is quite thin. The real point is obviously to show very graphically what happens to Dubya's enemies. If someone else does that sort of thing with American corpses Dubya screams and cries about savage, uncivilized, "criminal" behavior. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
All the big questions are supposed to go begging. Most obvious big question is why we were so determined to snuff them. No question that Dubya had overwhelming force--and (as usual) he used it with great enthusiasm. So why not capture them? What was the big rush to kill them so quickly? (Obvious answer: Precisely to make sure that they didn't talk. Additional strong evidence of a desire to destroy any evidence was the almost immediate bulldozing of the site. Sure the Bushies claimed they searched it first, but anything that the sons seriously wanted to hide has been safely destroyed by now. At least the Bushies must be hoping so.) Actually, even better than a secret siege, why not announce that Saddam's sons are under siege and hope that the alleged "loyalists" will expose themselves in desperate rescue attempts. Hah. If I had to bet on it, I'd actually bet that the supposed loyalists are really new Al Qaeda recruits proving their loyalty by killing Americans. Pretty hard for a mole to get into the club if he has to start out by committing a murder. Quite a loyalty test, and in terms of lifelong loyalty, there's no statute of limitations on murder. Anyway, the main point here is that the Americans were calling the shots, but the only shots we were apparently interested in calling were a few quick head shots.
Even the "proof" pretense begs the obvious question of why Dubya's boys have to prove anything, except for the ugly little fact that they've established such tarnished reputations as deliberate twisters of the truth. Actually, the truth twisting to support the "war" (pronounced "slaughter") in Iraq has become something of an issue recently, extending all the way to England with the ruckus over the recent "suicide" of an arms inspection expert who was talking too much about the pressures to slant the reports.
Anyway, who cares? The voters will forget all about it by 2004. And even if the voters remember, or if they're perhaps angry about something else (like the economy), what difference will it make? Didn't even need to count the votes in 2000, but in 2004 vote-rigging voting machines will make the process much smoother. Can't even pretend to check the ballots when the machines never even bother to print them! That's the way to end the long tradition of election fraud! Eliminate the evidence before it ever exists. Voila! No one will be able to prove anything, so no more election fraud, no matter how fraudulent the election!
One more somewhat lesser topic today is about Dubya-related books available in Japan. Recently I've been visiting some bookstores to see what they're stocking, and the results struck me as interesting. For example, in the English section of a large bookstore, they had a surprisingly large assortment of imported works on America and Dubya, etc. These must mostly be targeted at English speakers like me, and the lack of focus suggests we are quite curious and perhaps even confused. I'd say the ratio was about two anti-neocon books for each pro-neocon book, but the prices were reversed, so (assuming equal markups) the profits (= the motivation for the bookstore to import the books) appear to be about equal on each side. I didn't recognize any fence-sitting books. My largest surprise was actually the large number of books about President Carter.
In various (mostly smaller) Japanese bookstores (with very limited English sections), they also have many relevant titles. Mostly these were books translated into Japanese, though some were originals by Japanese authors. I only noticed one pro-Dubya book, a translation of Bush at War. Actually, I'm not even sure if that counts as pro-Dubya. Lots of leeway in the difficult art of translating, and I am sure that the literal back-translation of the Japanese title would be Bush's War. I can think of several possible ways to translate the phrase "Bush at War" while trying to maintain the more neutral flavor of the original "at". That title certainly seems slanted to the Dubya-as-warmonger side, and it makes me wonder if the entire translation might be slanted. Was the title just a marketing trick? Or is it a case of tit for tat, considering the earlier heads-on-pikes topic? Anyway, if the marketing reflects their attitudes, the locals appear quite skeptical. Michael Moore seems especially popular, whatever that means. I myself regard him as amusingly ineffectual.
Big surprise of the day was hearing that the Japanese government decided to send some SDF troops to help "keep the peace" in Iraq. I really can't even imagine the rationale behind this one, even allowing for the all-night debate and final vote at 4 in the morning. Maybe they were hoping the Japanese people wouldn't find out about it if they did it while they were asleep? Actually, I'm sure this one has to be based on some kind of secret deal or maybe even a secret threat delivered by Blair when he visited Japan a few days ago.
I have to call this one "How to rob a bank without even crying" and dedicate it to Dubya's little brother who helped out with the same kind of scam in Colorado. Still, I sort of like the innovative way it was reported in the local newspaper, in per capita terms. It worked out at 16,000 yen/head. Or was it 18,000? Anyway, over a $100, but it's part of the way the scam works, since the victims don't really feel it directly. The precise form? Yet another bank bailout, but still following the basic pattern of the Reagan years. However, you can't even give Reagan credit for the innovation. He was (as usual) asleep at the wheel, and variations of these scams have been going on for many years.
Just to clarify, a lot of people deposited various amounts of money in this bank. Me, too, though a very minor account, and way back when it was called Daiwa. The bankers lost it. The money is gone, the bank is kaput, and the bankers then begged the government to bail them out. The government moaned and cried a bit, then said they had to protect "public confidence" in the financial institutions, and they forked over the money. Our tax money, of course. In a sense, I actually come out ahead in this deal, since it's all of the other taxpayers who are making sure I can get my original money back, and I'm sure most of them use other banks.
A couple of high honchos at the bank resigned to take responsibility. Whoopee. No one has to go to jail or anything awkward or embarrassing like that. Just unlucky business decisions and a lot of "non-performing" loans. Sounds so much better than saying the bankers gambled the money away. All wonderfully legal, and the taxpayers will now foot the bill.
That's funny, I don't feel more confidence. I feel like I've been conned.
Isn't it a wonderful con game? If you try to rob a bank with a gun you'll get slam dunked big time, but if you "misplace" all of the bank's money (Well, about 98% in this case), then you have to retire early, and the public pays it back. (Actually simplifying the fancy numbers a bit. The actual state of insolvency involves reserve margins, but like Dubya says, it's just a bunch of complicated accounting stuff. Of course, he was alleged to be company president at that time...)
Ah, it must be so nice to be a rich banker like so many of Dubya's buddies. The rest of Dubya's buddies are the rich banker's customers--like the Enron boys who were so good at making the banks' money disappear. Of course that must be legal, too. None of them have gone to jail, either. Just like Neil Bush danced away.
Rats leaving the sinking ship? Ari, the Minister of Lies... Er, I mean the White House press secretary resigned this week. No overwhelming reason given, but his credibility had been getting weak anyway--too many reports of reporters breaking into laughter when he wasn't even pretending to be telling a joke. Also, Whitman, secretary of dismantling the environment decided to leave, again without any particular reason given. One or two other fairly major figures. Whitman was supposed to be one of the least objectionable Bushies. Must be getting lonely for semi-token Powell, the secretary of dismantling international diplomacy.
Several candidates for the fatal torpedoes, actually. Two economic disasters in progress. One is the dollar, which seems to be losing out badly against the Euro. Perhaps the insiders know it's really on the verge of collapse? The other is the tax cuts for the rich they just rammed through Congress. Still, that one should be a rather slow torpedo, even though the economy is still reeling from the earlier tax cuts. However, I think the big torpedo may be political corruption. Don't forget that's what finally nailed Nixon's coffin. Turns out that they ordered the Texas DPS to erase all records related to the chase after the Texas Democrats last week, and it's already stinking to high heaven. It would be funny if Dubya got dragged down in such a piddling little whirlpool.
Hmm... That's not good, but worth noting. The times on the blog entries can't actually be relied on. Not a substantive change, but I realized that I missed bolding one of the references to the movie in the previous entry, but making that change didn't change the date of the entry.
Not really much news to report or comment on just now. More terrorist attacks. More SARS worries, this time in Japan. I'm increasingly worried about a terrorist attack using SARS, and I'm not the only one. Iraq continues to fester. The first round of commanders/rulers/whatever of the Iraq occupation have already been replaced, and in yesterday's paper there was a bit about the difficult decisions facing our new ruler of Iraq. He has to decide how much democracy to permit. I suppose that should be classified as an amazing black joke. As if the Bushies have any conception of what democracy actually is.
Actually, that reminds me of the funniest recent story, where a bunch of Texas Democrats lammed out of the state to block some partisan Republican gerrymandering. Without a quorum, the Texas legislature was effectively shut down. Dubya's legacy and orchestrated by his staunch supporters. So much for the Bushies' claims of bipartisan leadership. (Yet again.) However, even this joke turns ugly. Turns out they used the Homeland Security Agency to help track down the missing legislators. They didn't actually have the power to arrest them outside of Texas--yet--but the "promise" was that the HSA was not going to be used for domestic political purposes. Yo-ho-ho. Power corrupts. No joke.
First we have a minor joke. As usual these days, not very funny. Not even newsworthy, since continuous hypocrisy is the new standard state of the Union. One of the leading conservative "political philosophers" is a fellow named William Bennett. His big best seller was called The Book of Virtues, though he's written others, such as The Children's Book of Virtues. Recently outed as a big-time gambler to the tune of $8 million in losses. Needless to say, gambling didn't make the list of virtues. So how many people would have bought that book if they had actually known they were just funding his gambling addiction? Now for the punchline. He was Secretary of Education under Reagan, personally responsible for creating a whole new generation of conservative voters. Makes it rather hard to have much hope for America's future.
Now for the big one, possibly to be filed under "be careful what you wish for" or "remember Ed Wood". Dubya recently launched his reelection campaign as the hero of the Iraqi liberation/occupation/whatever. This was done with a staged photo-op and speech aboard the aircraft carrier Lincoln. It's sort of okay, since they were way out there somewhere, much too far away to worry about hearing ol' Abe spinning in his grave. However, it mostly reminds me of ol' Ed Wood and Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Required background is to know that Plan 9 from Outer Space is regarded by many people as the worst movie ever made. A cult classic--but it wasn't intended that way. Ed Wood was the director back in 1959, and he was just as serious about it as any of his other movies. He actually made many movies, and all of them were regarded as bad, but this one was the worst. One of his most famous quotes was made at the premiere of Plan 9 from Outer Space: "This is it! THIS is the one I'll be remembered for!" He was right, you know. But not the way he meant it. Ed Wood is more famous now than he ever was when he was alive, but it's sort of a good thing he died rather than finding out why.
From all reports, Ed Wood really and sincerely believed he was creating great works of art. Most reports say Dubya thinks he's doing okay as resident of the White House in spite of leading America to economic disaster and new depths of perpetual fear. (And let's not forget the international isolation and even hostility.) However, this new militaristic image is a new thing, and should backfire disastrously for two reasons: 1) America is not a military dictatorship, and 2) Dubya is personally a military embarrassment.
When they wrote the Constitution they wanted to make it very clear that the American military serves the civilian government and NOT vice versa. They very deliberately and quite explicitly made a civilian "commander in chief" of the armed services. Yes, most presidents have served in the military, and many of them were even high ranking officers, but no real president has ever gotten confused about who's in charge, and to the best of my knowledge, no real president has ever appeared in a military uniform the way Dubya was prancing around in his military flight suit. This is the sort of propagandistic imagery you expect from an impoverished banana republic after the latest coup.
As for Dubya's OWN military service, that's NOT something they want the voters to think too much about, though this escapade is quite likely to bring it to the voters' attention. The very best angle is to say Dubya chose to avoid any risk of service in Vietnam, even though he supported that war, and Dubya's military record is all downhill from there. There were LONG waiting lists for national guard service, but Dubya instantly bypassed them. Everyone knows he evaded the draft using his father's influence. Anyone who ever hoped to be a military pilot (even including me) has to be rather offended that Dubya also got that posh billet, in spite of having the lowest possible qualifications. Then it gets into the messy stuff and the reasons why Dubya's personal military records remain sealed, even though all other public figures release their military service records as a matter of course. Most of the available evidence suggests that after receiving all that expensive flight training at public expense, Dubya just blew off the last part of his military commitment. Rather than make a politically awkward issue of his dereliction of duty, they simply swept it all under the rug, and pretended he was penalized by having his service extended a few months--as a name listed in a paper reserve unit in Colorado. There are still lots of questions that could be answered if his records were made public, but that seems very unlikely. Me, I'd like to know whether he was removed from flight status for incompetence as a pilot, fear of drug testing during his "young and irresponsible" days, or for other reasons.
So Dubya's handlers want this to be the image he's remembered for? Well, let's not forget Ed Wood's hope of being remembered for Plan 9 from Outer Space. Just didn't turn out the way he wanted it to. Ed Wood didn't intend to be remembered as the worst movie director of all time. Dubya's track record of worsts is already rather impressive.
Back in the logical paradox arena, this one is so bad we practically have to pray Dubya was lying. The one that's been getting coverage so far is the paradox of claiming we have solid proof of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but it wasn't solid enough so we could actually find anything. At least in that case, we already know the Bushies were lying, and each day that goes by just makes it more likely that any evidence which does appear was faked--and there have already been too many attempts to use fake evidence for the Bushies to have any credibility to spare.
However, the new news is probably worse. Turns out that some of the leftover nuclear sites in Iraq have been looted and some of the nuclear material may have been taken. Some of this goes back to the days when Saddam was our friend and we were helping him "modernize" his country with American nuclear technology. The Israelis nipped most of that in the bud with their little bombing raid. However, if Dubya was actually telling the truth about Al Qaeda having organized connections with and operations in Iraq, then we know who has it now and what they're going to do with it. Unfortunately, there is no solid evidence here. The negative evidence is that Dubya didn't bother to give any detectable priority to securing these well-known and very dangerous sites, but what does that mean? Dubya knew that the Al Qaeda thing was a bogeyman? In that case he was just lying about a danger that didn't exist. Or maybe he actually hopes that Al Qaeda gets some of this stuff so he can justify more "defensive" power for himself? Lordy, who's minding the store?!
Lots of news items worthy of note, but mostly continuing to suffer from information malnutrition. Need a catchier description of that national malady. Mostly the news is tripe, but sometimes there are important hints revealed, sometimes just by the form of the misdirection.
The latest case in point is the political game playing with "homeland" security, which is supposed to be something we're all in favor of. The story was played for maximum headline coverage about how they were going to cut the number of airline security people. That's just another indirect subsidy where all of the taxpayers provide crucial security services for the airlines, with the primary beneficiaries being the same rich folks who do most of the flying. Can you imagine where ticket prices would be if the airlines actually had to absorb all of those costs, too?
This latest beauty was orchestrated by Dubya's appointee who heads the appropriate agency. The apparent point was to blame Congress for not coming up with more money. Even though the GOP has ostensible control of both houses of Congress, there's still a tiny risk of a couple of GOP defectors, so sometimes they have to compromise a tiny bit, and that's just unacceptable. After all, the airlines donated lots of money to Dubya and deserve to get "fair value" in return. Among the MANY other factors that weren't mentioned in considering the overall financial woes of the airline industry were declining tourism due to worries about SARS and massive federal deficits that are making it harder and harder to come up with money for anything, even though Dubya continues to press for more tax cuts for the wealthy (to make things worse for the rest of us serfs). The entire presentation was so twisted that I was amazed they could print it without putting all of it in italics. And of course they'll revive the story in a major way just as soon as there's another successful terrorist attack.
Gosh, just can't get away from the jokes in these busy days. Too bad they aren't trying to be funny. Just read that the US is effectively pulling out of Saudi Arabia, except for some instructors. That's the main thing Bin Ladin wanted. Remember him? The guy who actually supported the 9/11 massacre? Kind of fell out of the news, but now we're apparently doing all the things he wanted. Disposed of Saddam, and getting out of Saudi Arabia. What more could he ask for? Trying to figure out some way to interpret that as an American victory, especially when you add in all the billions of dollars spent and more thousands of innocent people killed. Sorry, but it just doesn't seem to add up. Blaming Saddam for 9/11 has to be another part of the joke, but it still ain't funny. More like insane.
Whoops, forgot the important issue of the day: SARS. That's the one we're not supposed to think about yet. Not sure why they're downplaying it so much, since it has the potential to become pandemic and in that case would do much more damage than the infamous Spanish Flu after WW I. More deaths than the war itself. In most ways this is much worse, but modern medicine is much better and no one knows what will happen. So far the Chinese are still trying to keep it under control, though they seem to be losing, and it's also in Canada, too. Not supposed to be any risk of spread from Canada, but it's very likely to escape from China at some point, and then things will probably become really bad--unless the rumors about it being an American bio-weapon test turn out to be true. In that case, as soon as it seems to be going pandemic, there will suddenly be a "miracle breakthrough" and a vaccine will suddenly be given to all the fine Americans and Brits--where "fine" probably means "loyal supporters of King George". However, for now I still think it's just a natural disaster, and hopefully real science will conquer it. Sure hope they don't need any of the copious resources under Dubya's control. He doesn't even believe in evolution, so why would he buy into their scientific explanations that the disease is evolving in a dangerous way? "It must be God's righteous wrath smiting those Chinese heathens!!"
Well, in retrospect it's hard to call it much of a war. How about "Slaughterhouse Iraq"? America officially spent $75 billion for the month, give or take a few billion. What's a few billion dollars among Dubya's friends? Iraq's related expenses were estimated around $1.5 billion equivalent. Not quite a cakewalk, but close enough. I think the biggest joke was American complaints about an "asymmetrical war", when virtually every aspect of the asymmetry was in our favor. Not yet clear if they actually killed Saddam or if he took a powder after an assassination attempt of opportunity, but if the whole point was to kill him, $75 billion certainly seems ridiculous. The Russian mafia could have handled the job for a few million. I'm sure they've hired some old KGB boys for just that sort of thing. Ongoing costs are unknown, but we should be delighted that Iraq is now able to follow our wonderful principles--at least the 2nd Amendment principles. Apparently an extremely large number of fully automatic weapons up and disappeared in the chaos, and it's quite safe to say that most of them will never be traced. Oh well. Everyone already knew it was a tough neighborhood.
WMD? You remember WMD, don't you? The reason we did all this, right? Well, turns out we still can't find anything, so the latest claims are that our wonderful intelligence just didn't discover that they'd all been destroyed or sent somewhere else before the "war" even started. Kind of outrageous propaganda insofar as we insisted we had solid proof and that was our rationale for killing all those Iraqis. They're still counting, but around 2,000 civilians certified dead so far. But who cares about such trivia as Iraq rapidly slides into various forms of anarchy? So far the only evidence of unification is that all the strong factions want the Americans to get out of their country.
Lots of details of various sorts in the news, but hard to keep track of all of it. Actually, I've realized the bigger picture is not just information overload, but outright "information malnutrition". The mass media is fully controlled by right-wing fanatics, and they eagerly provide a stream of information pabulum, mostly focusing on blood and gore that support the desired environment of fear, with an occasional juicy gossip story. A much broader spectrum of information on the Web, but who can find it? Especially significant that Google appears to be increasingly exercising their censorship powers, which is almost as good as deleting a Web server altogether. It's not that there is an absence of important information that should be reaching the voters, but that tiny trickle that would be vital for the nourishment of real democracy is being blocked up as effectively as possible. The most glaring example remains Cheney's national energy policy as forged by Enron and friends. That certainly should have been vigorously pursued and exposed by Congress, but instead those worthless Congressmen just sat back and let the GAO struggle futilely for a while, and now it's apparently a dead "non-issue" as to how Cheney and friends are robbing the nation.
Of course the media is full of more news of Czarist America's war on Iraq. I guess the only important detail is how many innocent people have died. I'd say that we've now passed Al Qaeda in that category. Very conservative estimates say we've already killed more than 300 Iraqi civilians. These estimates are conservative in the sense that they are carefully confirmed reports of cases where American weapons actually did the deed. More realistically, the numbers must be much higher, even vastly larger if we consider the long-term effects of the sanctions. However, Iraq is much smaller than America, less than 1/10 the population, so on a per capita basis, those 300 deaths are proportionately larger than the 3,000 deaths America suffered on 9/11.
Apparently the war is not the cakewalk that Dubya and Rumsfeld had been selling. We're sending another 100,000 emergency reinforcements, and sandstorms and Iraqi resistance fighters and guerrilla tactics are all making things very awkward. Turns out the Iraqis don't love us after all. Even the many of the Iraqis that dislike Saddam apparently dislike the US even more. Cost estimates continue to skyrocket, but that's probably just making the secret bad news public. Bottom line is that there's absolutely no way for Dubya to get out of the mess now. Of course, from HIS special perspective, this is no mess at all. Though overall the war is a disaster, including a financial disaster, some people do manage to make large profits, and those people happen to be his special friends, and they'll gladly provide the money he needs to stay in power. Actually should be a bargain next time, since he's going to be the perpetual war president and the elections will be fully rigged.
Well, Dubya is finally getting his war on, but first, a forgotten word on the old topic of Al Qaeda. Yeah, remember them? The guys who actually attacked us? Wanted to add a few words of confusion about that recent arrest of the high Al Qaeda honcho. Still not even sure if he is actually alive, and pretty sure they haven't started any fancy show trials yet. No sign of the body, but he never qualified for habeus corpus, anyway. However, there was an official US Government announcement explaining the kinds of torture we were "allowed" to use. In quotes, because no one else gets to tell us Amerikans anything about what we are and are not allowed to do. Officially, the torture would be limited to "relatively minor" stuff like sleep and light and food deprivation, though they admitted they would exploit torture targets of opportunity. In that context, they mentioned another Al Qaeda leader who was shot a few times during his capture, and they thought it fitting and appropriate to deny him any pain relieving medications during his interrogations. With regards to the high Al Qaeda honcho who might or might not be alive and under torture somewhere, they definitely admitted to capturing his young children, and explained that they would be interrogated very humanely, using child psychologists and all that stuff. Nevertheless, remember that this is just the stuff they are officially admitting to, and it's pretty obvious that they are vigorously slanting things their way. Just look at some of the lies about Iraq. Pure and utter balderdash. On the torture topic, they didn't mention anything about adding drugs to the food, but that's because they're sure they can eliminate that evidence, and even the torturee can't prove anything about the drugs. Also nothing about the transfers of prisoners to less squeamish governments that are willing to take care of the "proper" tortures at arms length from the "good and moral" Amerikans.
Meanwhile, back to Dubya's war. Actually seems to be starting off relatively slowly, and apparently even with extreme concern about minimizing civilian casualties. Two most likely explanations are that Dubya has realized he is committing war crimes and wants to minimize the number of counts against him, or that he's hoping (and no doubt praying) to get lucky and drop one on Saddam's noodle. Assassination is such an ugly word! Let's just call it an act of god. (Yeah, I think it MUST be a little "g" god in Dubya's case. No way a just God could be involved in any of this.) The Bushies are calling it a decapitation strategy, but not much chance it's going to work. Quite obvious that Saddam's counterintelligence boys are going to flood the channels, and that's one of the places where the defense has a fundamental advantage.
I feel like adding some comments about the anti-war protests, but that's got nothing to do with Dubya: See no peace, hear no peace, speak no peace. Act war. However, seems more useful to comment on yet another Bushish moral inversion: Lawyers as better politicians? Yeah, you read it correctly. In general lawyers are the scum of the earth, greedy game players who exploit the rules and other people's problems, and I generally regard it as a big problem that almost all politicians come from that bad crowd. However, when push comes to shove, at least the lawyers have SOME respect for the rule of law. Dubya started his national career by riding roughshod over the election laws of Florida (and double roughshod over the will of the voters), and now he's doing the same to international law, only more so.
It's not that I think the UN is perfect or anything, but when you look at the bottom line, they did manage to avoid any really major wars for more than 50 years, which is probably the all-time record. I'm making allowances for technology there. Yes, far fewer people died in earlier wars, but those still were the most major wars they could manage in those times, given the available killing technologies. These days we can take out an entire city with one bomb. And the way Dubya is going, that's what's going to happen--but Dubya is sure that he'll be safe enough in his bunker, and in political terms, that will really consolidate his grip on power.
So what are the Bushies going to do with the power? Still not clear. They could still go down the Nazi road, but let's hope not. Certainly they can't be thinking of a Napoleonic empire. Try to compare Dubya with Napoleon without falling off of your chair. Actually, I think the model they are most likely following is Czarist Russia, with the extreme gap between the serfs and the ruling class.
Lots of things continue to happen, and STILL can't figure out what to say about them. I feel like digressing to a piece on the marks of a real journalist... As an outline:
Lots happening, but not much to say about it I guess. Even what news there is seems confusing and misleading. For example, recently they reported that the number two leader of Al Qaeda had been captured, but he apparently turned out to be dead. Still not clear if he was killed in the raid, or after the raid, or maybe before the raid, or what. Enough rumors flying around for him to turn up alive, actually. I hope not, but who knows? Anyway, it's unlikely they could have gotten anything out of him. At least not if they wanted enough pieces left for a show trial.
Yesterday there was a big anti-war demonstration in Hibya Park, and I went for a while. I didn't stay for the march to Ginza, but I sat in the theater for a while. One report said there were 40,000 participants, though with my own eyes I never saw more than about 15,000. However, I went to the library before the march actually began. I was wearing a "Dubya's political weather forecast: Moral inversion with a 100% chance of WAR" sign. Truly absurd situation that leaving Saddam alone appears to be the lesser evil now, but Dubya has specialized in messing things all of his life. Just bigger messes these days.
Two more thoughts about that Holocaust movie. First, while it is true that most of the German people in the 1930s would have been horrified by and strongly opposed to the crimes that their nation would ultimately commit, it is also true that many of them voted for the Nazis, for whatever reason. The elections that brought Hitler to power were basically fair and honest, and the government of Germany at the time was the most democratic and "safe" design that the allies could come up with. That was supposed to have been a lesson of what we now not amusingly call WW I. At that the time it was regarded as the ultimate war to end all wars.
Second, it is also true that there were many prominent Nazis who were extreme racists and who truly and passionately hated the Jews. There were people who regarded the Jews as subhuman monsters and who wanted to kill all of them. Many of them rose to prominent positions of power under the Nazis, even though most Germans would have dismissed them as a lunatic fringe. This very much reminds me of many of the current GOP supporters, even including some of Dubya's judicial nominees. Rush Limbaugh seems to attract many of the worst of them. Heck, he panders to them. I recently came across what was supposed to be one of their writings that explained why Amerika should attack and destroy the rest of the world. The vivid description was of their miserable and impoverished descendants peering fearfully out of their caves, in terror of the return of the 'Mercans. It would be nicer to believe it was written as some kind of reverse propaganda, but I just don't think so. I think that the author was quite sincere and the author is just a wannabe war criminal. However, the sad thing about war criminals is that the "best case" is that they are punished for their deeds, but in EVERY such case many innocent people have already suffered horribly from the war crimes.
Dubya's utter lack of moral clarity has so mucked up the situation that it now appears the least evil course of action is to leave Saddam alone. If that isn't a screw up, I can't imagine what would qualify. The Great Ductator, my eye.
So much for comedy... A friend wanted to see the movie "The Pianist" yesterday. Not funny at all, but many aspects reminded me of things which are happening in America right now. Or should that be Amerika? Yes, there are lots of differences, too, but history never repeats itself exactly. I'm quite certain that if you asked the German people of the '30s, at the time period that seems to correspond to where America is today, they certainly wouldn't have foreseen that they were headed to the outcome the movie shows... Even the Nazis themselves couldn't have seen where it was all heading.
This morning I came across a rather good explanation of how computerized voting can be used for fraud and to violate the electoral process. Most of the evidence was rather circumstantial, unfortunately, but the fundamental problem is that the power exists, and any power that exists tends to be used--and abused. There is NO good reason not to create a paper trail of the election process. There is NO good reason to eliminate independent information about how the voters actually voted. But there is a very clear and very BAD reason to do so, if the goal is to control the elections and ignore the voters' will.
Still in the humor column. Now it's the Great Ductator. I think that would be a really fitting nickname for Dubya as a capsule description of his reign of error. Dubya's homeland security boys told people to get some duct tape and plastic and tape up a room so it will be sealed against a terrorist attack. If it wasn't so utterly stupid it would be really laughable. However, considering the way Dubya is running the country into the ground, I just hope someone will be around to laugh at it.
In the humor column, we find that in Powell's recent UN presentation, he fondly praised a "recent" British government report on the threats from Iraq. Turned out that much of that report was blatantly plagiarized, and many years old, to boot. Can't see how this helps Powell's international credibility, but just shows again how strongly the Bushies believe what they want to believe.
Recently read a summary of an interesting criticism of the Total Information Awareness program. I think it was by someone at the University of Texas, but Dubya never did like the school that much. How dare they reject his law school application just because he was a dumb booby? Anyway, obvious enough that I can very easily reconstruct it from memory, so scarcely merits a detailed citation, though I'd have been glad to provide it.
He compared the terrorist detection problem to the medical diagnosis problem for rare diseases, and made the VERY generous assumption that TIA could somehow become 99.9% accurate in the diagnosis of "terrorist". He also made a rather optimistic assumption about the number of possible terrorists to be found, and showed that because of the false positive errors, you'd still wind up with 1,000 innocent people for each terrorist identified. In numeric terms, he estimated 250,000 false accusations. That's simply because there are LOTS of innocent people and relatively very few terrorists, so even a highly accurate test will fail in this way. The summary skipped over the next part, but filling in by guessing, I think he actually projected that the effect of those false accusations would be to create many new terrorists. That's because of the nature of this "disease" and because the diagnosis is not an statistically independent event here. We're already assuming that the system works well, so that means that those 250,000 candidates did share many characteristics with the actual terrorists. The false accusations are at a minimum going to result in investigations, and here is where the independence is violated. Being investigated as a possible terrorist when you actually are similar to a terrorist is quite likely to be the triggering event to push the candidate over the line. In too many cases they're going to find out that someone has been asking questions about them, or maybe in extreme cases they'll get fired or otherwise punished because of the suspicion itself. Since the system has presumably correctly identified them by their similarities, any perturbation is liable to shove them over the line. And heaven forbid that the actual terrorists should somehow get a copy of the list. Talk about your "golden" recruiting hot list!
Recently read something (on the Web) about the draft legislation referred to as Patriot II. This is obviously just a case of Dubya and Ashcroft (and their f
riends) being prepared. They really want this kind of evil legislation, and they know that these bills would not pass if there was careful scrutiny and thoughtful consideration of them. Therefore they want to have the legislation ready and waiting for any opportunity which will exempt it from such scrutiny and consideration.
The Bushies see national disasters as opportunities to advance their own political agendas with reduced interference.
When 9/11 happened, they were actually caught kind of off guard. While it remains obvious (in spite of their suppressing the investigation of 9/11) that they knew something VERY bad was coming, they did not know just how bad it would be. When it happened, they rushed a lot of VERY questionable legislation through the Congress, but it was kind of half-baked stuff. Yes, they had been quite seriously mulling some of this evil stuff over, but the drafts had been going nowhere and fast. Even a few of their Republican congressmen were insufficiently reliable to ram this stuff through--until 9/11 happened, when they suddenly found they had carte blanche. Lots of the legislation had no legitimate relationship to national security, but they were quite happy to tie it to the big, strong coat tails of "anti-terrorism" and drag it along for the ride.
Now they are getting some really draconian stuff all written up and waiting, and if the opportunity presents itself, they'll be READY to capitalize on it. Not very funny, but I'm reminded of Bullwinkle Moose saying "This time for sure" about pulling the rabbit out of the hat. Usually he pulled out some sort of monster, and this new Patriot II will be pretty monstrous, but sometimes he pulled out Rocky, and that makes me think of each of us, John Q. Public, dangling helplessly in the government's newly iron-clad fist.
"Next time for sure!"
Heard a little bit about the evidence Dubya sent to the UN. What I heard was apparently supposed to be presenting it in a favorable light, but it didn't sound very convincing. Telephone intercepts? Could be badly translated or faked. The faking is especially likely if they actually came from Iraq. That would mean they were done by Saddam's internal enemies, who also stand to gain if they can get Dubya to do their dirty work. A Kurdish link to Al Qaeda? What's that got to do with Saddam? The Kurds hate Saddam about as much as Bin Ladin does. There's only one real point, and they aren't saying anything about the oil. I guess the real analysis is that the Iraqis have no right of anything which could be interpreted as self-defense, since that might interfere with controlling the black gold...
A couple more tidbits about the shuttle, mostly from reading two different Japanese newspapers yesterday evening. One was the bit about what happened to the authors of a safety report that was submitted last year. There were nine engineers who concluded that the shuttles were getting kind of risky and that there should be some strengthening of the safety procedures. For their diligent efforts five of them were forced to leave NASA, and apparently one of the others quit in anger. It actually sounded like Dubya has been pushing NASA for the kind of "result-oriented" thinking that Reagan favored--which also resulted in a destroyed space shuttle. There was also some stuff about Dubya's proposals for the NASA budget. Kind of confusing, which rings the warning bells, but if I managed to figure it out, it actually said that though NASA's total budget was supposed to increase even before the disaster, the actuality was that the space shuttle program was actually losing money. Of course that's not a direct thing, since it's really the number of missions that controls the costs there. However, more important was the fact that half of NASA's budget is now controlled by the Pentagon, so it's only natural that NASA should get a little more money as a part of the general military buildup.
There is already some talk about scuttling the manned space program. So maybe that will be Dubya's actual legacy? [Well, that and national bankruptcy.] Even though I'm a big supporter of sending men into space, it's kind of hard to defend their performance on this particular mission. The whole point is that men are supposed to be more flexible and intuitive and capable of dealing with unforeseen problems. However, in this case the men acted like good little robots as they perfectly obeyed the orders leading to their doom. In the movie version, the captain would have decided the safety of his crew came first and insisted on crawling out there to examine the damage.
Forgot to note the difference between real life and the movies. In the movies, they would have discovered the damage in time and the heroes would have survived one way or another. In real life, some committee of engineers said it seemed safe enough, and all of the astronauts were blasted to smithereens. Assuming this latest disaster was due to the tile damage on takeoff, and if the damage had been assessed properly, there were lots of options that at least would have saved their lives. They probably couldn't have launched another space shuttle, but the Russians were about to launch something, and that probably could have been diverted as a rescue mission. Alternately, they say they could have actually crabbed the shuttle in a way that would have reduced the heat stress on the damaged tiles, and that might have been enough to make a safe landing. Maybe in the future they won't launch until a second shuttle is ready on the pad?
Kind of awesomely disgusting development, but I already saw some newsgroup posts trying to blame President Clinton for this disaster. According to these loonies, the REAL cause was the NASA budget cuts that Clinton forced down the throats of the GOP-controlled Congress. Makes you wonder when Dubya will actually be responsible for something? I guess as soon as there is some good news, except that evidently won't be until after Dubya is out of the White House. Talk about a colossal run of bad luck! Anyway, my take on it is that Dubya has supposedly been in charge for over two years now, and he's had plenty of time to get around to fixing any problems Clinton might have left behind. Or maybe they think Clinton was such a Superman that he could do 100 years of damage in 8 years in spite of having that Republican Congressional albatross around his neck. Nothing like a little witch hunt to keep everyone distracted, right? Remember how Dubya campaigned on "personal responsibility" and "honor and integrity". That's a laugh and a half.
Well, my original intention was to write a fair bit about a Saturday meeting with a bunch of medical technicians I ran into on the train. They were from various countries around the world, in Tokyo for a conference. The point was the humiliation I feel due to Dubya being the most visible American these days. We're not all pompous moronic hypocrites. However, that little item got pretty well eclipsed by...
Another space shuttle was destroyed with the loss of all aboard. Kind of frightening that I recently read a bunch of posts predicting that something terrible was about to happen--because Dubya was slumping in the polls again. I really don't know what to make of it. If this is God's will, one has to wonder. Or maybe Dubya really has made a deal with the devil. Killing a bunch of fine people seems more like Satan's style. Anyway, the whole thing is obviously nothing to get thrilled about. I suppose one aspect of living in Japan is that I didn't even find out about it for a couple of days. I think if people were talking about it on the trains and in the restaurants I would have heard something, but I completely missed it. This morning I noticed a reference on the Web, and so I surfed over to a newspaper site and found out some of the sordid details.
Back in America, they're celebrating in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., tomorrow, and the Bushies' version of celebrating was to renominate Pickering a few days ago. He was the worst of the judges that Dubya nominated for a federal judgeship, and one of the ones who was not confirmed. This was mostly for his racist views, but now that the GOPpies have control of the Senate, he reappeared on the first list of candidates. Just goes to better reveal the hypocrisy of the Lott 'anti-racist' business. The GOP is still the favored party of the racist bigots, in spite of the pious mumblings about Lott. Obviously impossible to knew the truth when dealing with such a pack of chronic and pathological liars, but my guess is that the real reason Lott was dumped was probably for his incompetence in the handling of Jeffords a couple of years ago. Probably some desire to boost Frist into more prominence, too, mostly to reward his monetary services. Frist is a great little campaign fundraiser these days.
One of the more peculiar Web sites I saw recently was a Bushie conspiracy Web site. Unlike most of them, it didn't really claim to believe any particular theory or have access to amazing evidence of anything. This site was just listing the various and numerous theories and basically asking what it means when there are so many floating around out there. I'm not really sure what conclusion to draw. Perhaps there is some fire where there is SO much smoke, but I tend to think the excessive conspiracy theorizing is just the natural result of the excessive secrecy of the Bushies. They do not act like honest and open public trustees, but rather like criminals with lots of dangerous evidence to hide. Becoming suspicious is a natural response to such behavior. I don't really know if they are actually criminals, though they are surely sailing close to the legal lines. However they've certainly convinced me they have SOMETHING to hide. Actually, many things. Is it just embarrassing stuff that would weaken their political support? Or have they already crossed the lines into solid crimes? As a historian, I have to believe the truth will eventually come out, but even in cases where it has, as in the felony conviction of Admiral Poindexter, it hasn't prevented him from rising from his political grave and becoming a major player for the Bushies.
Now for the 'deep philosophical thought' of the day. "Sure, I'd like to see the world become a better place, but it's not my responsibility." Nor Dubya's. In my own case, it's just the reality thing, of course. I don't have any significant power over the world at large, and even if I somehow felt I was responsible for the state of the world, there's nothing much I could do about it. But more importantly, it isn't my responsibility in any moral sense--it's just not for me to tell ALL other people what to do, even in terms of making the world a better place. On the surface, it's rather different in the case of Dubya. In reality, he's just another human being, as weak and fallible as the rest. (Well, actually rather more fallible than most, but that's not a crucial point for the discussion.) However, he's ostensibly in charge of a very powerful organization, the United States government, which is certainly capable of exerting significant influence over the world at large. It's the deification thing again. People think that because Dubya apparently has so much power at his disposal, he should and therefore MUST be some sort of godlike being, and surely he could cure all of their personal and worldly problems if he'd only get around to it. Of course this peculiar rationalization works best when you sort of agree with or at least voted for him. However, the underlying reality is that it isn't Dubya's job to change the world. It's something ALL of us have to do. Dubya's actual constituency might be as much as 4% of the world's population. (And that's with the increasingly unlikely assumption that he has a significant number of international supporters to offset his large number of American critics.) Even if the Bushies' intentions were good and honorable, 4% can't dictate all things to 96%.
However, the increasingly clear evidence is that their intentions are anything but "good and honorable". For example, the latest plans for Iraq reveal that the Bushies are really invading simply because they plan to loot the country and charge Iraq (in oil) for the costs of the invasion and occupation. If there is ANY lesson to be learned from history, it is that wars are no longer profitable--these days the disruption of complex economic systems has to cause more economic damage than can be recovered from seizing the lands and assets of the conquered nations. Seems pretty obvious when you observe that most economic value is no longer coming from the ownership of land, eh? However, in the case of Iraq, it's obviously a shell game. If we're selling the oil to ourselves and paying ourselves with our own money, where is the "new wealth" supposed to be coming from? Quite clear that the only real beneficiaries will be the oil companies.
Mechanically, maybe what I should do is try to make entries after I've been reading the Japanese newspapers... I really want that focus on the outside perspective, and the Web doesn't provide it. The big news just now is the North Korean withdrawal from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Pact. From what I can see from here, it appears that the Bushies want to play it down as much as possible, but it's not so minor from the Japanese perspective. The Japanese can too well imagine North Korea being provoked enough to nuke someone, and Japan happens to right there in harm's way.
The essential and incredible hypocrisy of Dubya continues to astound me. You'd think I'd be used to it by now? Of course the North Koreans are being criticized for breaking international treaties and trying to get nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, Dubya is breaking and withdrawing from numerous international treaties and pursuing vast new weapons programs. How can he possibly pretend to be surprised when other countries do the same things he's doing? Even allowing for his essential stupidity, how is it possible for anyone to be so unwise? And wind up in the White House, too? Astounding.
Really like the spontaneity and configurability of this system, but don't like the security aspects... However pretty sure I'll go ahead and use this as the primary interface for this "historical impressions" part of the Web site. However, not really much to report in terms of historical impressions. Preparations for the "war" with Iraq seem to be continuing, though the pretext is getting weaker and weaker as the inspections continue to discover nothing. Lots of black jokes flying around, and one of the better ones had Dubya saying "Of course we have proof that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction. We have the receipts!"
Is the Bushies' house of cards beginning to crumble? There have been a number of minor stumbles recently, but the image that keeps coming back to mind is of the new Senate Majority Leader Frist performing diabolical and fatal medical experiments on stray cats that he pretended to adopt. This really creates one of those vivid images that ought not to be associated with one of the main figures of "compassionate conservatism". Frist has "apologized" for his "young and irresponsible" mistakes, but it still creates a very strong afterimage that is quite distinctly different from the afterimage Clinton's apology left behind. I think this is quite capable of haunting him, of becoming a rallying cry that will greatly hinder the Bushies. The kind of problem that casts long shadows, and puts a different perspective on everything else. Was Frist really trying to help Africans when he did surgery there? Or were these just more learning experiments with reduced liability risks? Or maybe they were just acts of contrition for his old stray-cat-killing days? All sorts of unpleasant questions arise.
Really hard to believe that the Bushies would have picked Frist to replace Lott if they had been aware of this skeleton. This isn't like Dubya's own AWOL record which can mostly be controlled and manipulated in the media. This is something that Frist has publicly acknowledged, confessed to, and apologized for. Apologies notwithstanding, how many Americans really want the Senate to be led by someone who was EVER capable of such acts?
Losing two Senate Majority Leader's would be hard to regard as a victory, though of course all electoral politics is just a matter of timing, and plenty of time to recover before the next elections, sham though they may be. Was recently reading about how widespread the no-paper-trail electronic balloting has already become. It's already quite common enough to have influenced the last elections. Any power will eventually be abused, and right now the power of these electronic voting machines is controlled by the Bushies. Looks like the last major safeguard, the exit polling, will be permanently eliminated, too, according to the latest reports.
The usual problem is that I feel I should distinguish between what comes in from the Japanese press and which therefore has some immediate currency in Japan and what I get from the Web, which has no special relation to any place or time. At least this blogger software addresses the time relation part. Right now I have two kinds of primary Japanese news sources, but the English-language newspapers published in Japan are far more accessible to me than true Japanese media (usually television). My favorite is The Daily Yomiuri, which has the advantage of being tightly linked to the largest Japanese newspaper, but there is still a slant in their sources and priorities. The most obvious aspect is that Japanese TV news generally tends to give lower priority and less coverage to international news.
From the last entry, I mentioned that I wanted to say more about the drug topic, but it's so appalling that I really can't see what to say about it. From memory, there were 143 countries involved in negotiating an agreement to allow the production of certain medicines for use in poor countries. Since those countries are poor and can't afford the regular prices, the core of the agreement was to allow them to produce and sell these life-saving drugs more cheaply. Finally, 142 countries were agreed on the terms and conditions, and the U.S. said "No." This effectively blocks the agreement, and the decision is reported to have come directly from Dick Cheney. I already thought he was an evil fellow, basically serving his own interests first and then the interests of the oil companies. So now we add in the pharmaceutical companies, too. There's no way to squeeze blood from these turnips, so this is not a matter of additional profits. It's just a matter of we Americans (insofar as the Bushies speak for us) don't care a fig about how many of those impoverished non-Americans die from diseases that could be easily cured.
I've been reading various summaries of the last year and predictions of the year just started, but the only adjective that seems to apply is "bleak". Unless you're extremely rich, in which case you can probably afford it, and may even turn some extra profit at public expense.
This is just my first test effort using the blogspot system. Basically realized that this part of my Web site was very much like what blogs sound like (even though I've never seen more than excerpts of a blog), so I decided to try out this tool.
So I guess I'll start with a summary of some recent events that I hadn't written up...
The election was a debacle for non-conservative candidates. Dubya summed it up best with one of his not-funny jokes. He said that you can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones he's focusing on. Unfortunately, in a voting system which has been fairly evenly balanced between the two parties, that focus is sufficient leverage to twist the outcomes. I also suspect some voter fraud in a few key contests, but with the new electronic voting systems the GOPpies rammed through, there's not even the possibility of asking for a recount. No paper trail at all. On top of that, the exit polling system mysteriously broke down at the last minute, so that resource disappeared, too. There were also a few critical races that were decided by fairly blatant appeals to racism, which is pretty hilarious given what happened to Lott a few weeks later.
Now for the Lott story itself. He basically made a little mistake at Strom Thurmond's going away party (and good riddance, too). Somehow the racist remarks got enough attention that the Bushies decided to jettison Lott as Senate Majority Leader. Only took about a week to pressure him into resigning, and there's even some talk he'll eventually be forced completely out of the Senate. He was replaced with another racist, but one who has mostly been more circumspect about it. New fellow is named Frist, but his main traits are being rich, as usual, and profiting from a family-owned hospital system that has specialized in taking over hospitals and getting rid of those nasty low-income patients. This should be funny, except that Frist is a physician. Can't recall anything in the doctors' oath about only helping sick rich people.
On the resignation topic, Kissinger made a brief appearance. This was kind of a bizarre one. Many people have been calling for an impartial, open, and honest investigation into the 9/11 tragedy, focusing on what made it possible and how another such tragedy could be prevented. Dubya has fought quite hard against such an investigation, but finally someone, probably Cheney, hit on the very twisted inspiration of using Kissinger to bury the truth. Pretty bizarre to nominate such a biased, secretive, and dishonest investigator for the job, but what the heck. I guess they figure the voters will buy anything these days. A few days later Kissinger resigned. Optimistically, he made a few calls, found out the smelly truth, and decided it was going to come out eventually and he didn't want any part of the resulting stink. However, with Kissinger, who knows? Please to compare with the Warren Commission, which LBJ ordered to begin work about one week after the assassination.
Guess that's enough for today, but want to be sure to mention the drug topics in more detail...