Archives up to 2002/03

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* Includes special focus on off-the-newswire stuff from living in Japan.

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Just as the Bushies' are hoping, most people, even including me, are more or less getting used to the post-coup situation in Amerika. Life goes on, at least for most people. As usual, no complaints from such dead folks as the victims of 9/11 and some large but never-to-be-discussed number of Afghanis. There are various changes, just like ever, and even though lots of the changes are for the worse, people just keep on trying to get by. Dubya's main concern are unchanged:

  1. enriching himself and his cronies,
  2. blaming others for the bad changes, and
  3. working to tighten his grip on power.

I'd say that the third one is the worst, and actually the one that led to Nixon's downfall. More illegal and immoral shenanigans in Florida would be an especially bad sign. They obviously got away with it in 2000, and a repeat performance would be pretty convincing evidence that democracy is dead in the States... But we'll see what we shall see. Hard to stay motivated to keep fighting, eh?

First a continuation of a minor item from the previous entry, the Stevie Wonder wave. I suppose the most amazing aspect is how hard the Bushies have to work to defend the myth of Bushal Infallibility. They obviously can't just admit that Dubya is still the same rude idiot he's always been. One spin is to say that the wave never happened, mostly based on the testimony of a high honcho who was sitting NEXT to Dubya and who therefore mostly wasn't looking AT Dubya. The other spin is to say that they studied the video (before it was 'cleaned up') and could clearly see that Dubya was actually waving at someone else who just happened to be near Stevie Wonder. No good explanation offered for the timing, especially since Dubya had already greeted that person. Really confusing when both spins are presented at the same time, as I read them in a couple of places.

Another continuation, but not so minor, is the Cliff Baxter murder. Up to now, I'd been able to consider suicide possible, whether or not it involved external pressure, but the latest news convinces me that it was a killing, and not an especially skillful job at that. The most persuasive evidence was seeing a photocopy of the suicide note. It was written in capital letters, including the signature. I am not a forger of any kind, but given a sample of his printing, in about 30 minutes I could produce a note about as good as that one. Though the official reason for not releasing it was that it contained sensitive personal information, there was absolutely nothing surprising or even interesting in the note. Minor new evidence was his Catholicism, since devout Catholics are very much against suicide. Haven't really seen it in an authoritative source, but too many reports say he was left-handed, even though he was shot in the right temple. Not sure if they'll ever unravel it, but putting together all of the bits and pieces, it seems quite likely that the wife was involved. Her strong and almost successful efforts to suppress any kind of investigation are too suspicious, and there were several aspects of the fake suicide where she could have been very helpful. It's even conceivable she did it, though I think it more likely that she was persuaded or forced to help. Actually, I expect her to crack under the pressure or to have a fatal accident. There was apparently too much time pressure to arrange for Baxter to have a proper accident, so they had to fake the suicide. Even with the rush, Baxter apparently got a warning and told someone he was thinking of getting a bodyguard. My pick for the killers would be the ex-CIA semi-spooks who were employed by Enron for corporate security.

Kind of getting a lot of press, though I didn't think it was such a big thing was the Alaska oil drilling thing. Dubya was pushing hard for that, but it's apparently dead and buried now. I regard it is a kind of minor distraction, but the political pundits seem to regard it is a significant loss for the Bushies.

So much for domestic news. Is the world situation getting any better? Nope. In particular the situation in Israel and Palestine keeps finding new if unsurprising ways to get worse. Basically, the Israelis are getting quite desperate to crush the Palestinians, and the more violent they get, the more violent the Palestinians get, and the moderates on both sides are losing what little influence they had. At this point it's really hard for me to imagine what's keeping the Palestinians from declaring independence. Certainly doesn't seem like they are going to get any better deal by 'cooperating' with the Israelis. Dubya obviously wants to stabilize the situation so he can attack Iraq in peace. He was even willing to dust off the old Powell and send him, but to no avail. The simplistic Saudi solution to the complicated problems hasn't gotten much mention lately, even though Dubya liked it.

Afghanistan is showing signs of instability, but maybe they'll be lucky enough to avoid yet another civil war. India and Pakistan seem to be getting used to remaining on the verge of war, but so far no one has blinked. Dubya's good anti-terrorist buddy Musharraf is having a little referendum that is supposed to validate his long-term dictatorship, but I'm not sure if anyone is paying much attention.

In Japan, the economic situation doesn't seem to be improving, especially as regards the banks. Not really any direct relation to Dubya, but just part of the general gloomy economic picture. Mostly reminds me of a Japanese friend of mine who had delusions that Dubya would be more helpful to Japan's bleak situation than Gore. Actually, the banks thing affects me a bit. I do most of my business with two particular banks, both of which have been involved in major mergers as a result of the ongoing perpetual banking crisis. One of the mergers was at the beginning of this month, and apparently they're still having troubles with their newly merged computer systems, and expecting more troubles in the busy Golden Week holiday season.

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Well, obviously behind the news tempo of last year, but getting jaded and kind of busy, too. I suppose the major new international problem is Venezuela. Actually, it's had minor problem status for a long time, but recently the situation has gotten rather worse. There's a controversial leftist who was actually elected to run the country, and many of the Bushies are unhappy with this situation. There was an abortive coup, a period of relative calm, and now the unrest is continuing and maybe accelerating.

There's no doubt the Bushies approved of the right-wing takeover, and they quickly acted to try to recognize that government as legitimate. Actually, quite a bit of evidence has already emerged that the Bushies knew just what was going on, and may have even been working behind the scenes to help it out. These are doubtless the same kind of CIA people who were supposed to be keeping tabs on Bin Ladin before 9/11. Anyway, the first coup d'etat flopped, but it seems likely that they are still hoping their buddies will take over and trash the Venezuelan laws and democracy and all that tripe. Doesn't seem to be any big Japanese aspect to this story, and they're pretty much ignoring it locally. I saw another anti-war protest today, but I think it was for the next paragraph topic:

No real news continues to be bad news in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. They did finally manage to clear some of the Palestinian 'terrorists' out of Bethlehem. Some were deported and wound up in various European countries and the rest were released in Gaza. The planned invasion of Gaza was supposedly postponed. Besides that, can't think of much else to comment on.

Back in the States, there is more smokeless fire coming from Enron. Main stuff was a bunch of information about Enron's profit-motivated price manipulations in California. Some heat coming down on White, Dubya's point man at the Pentagon, but it doesn't yet seem to be linked to his days managing one of Enron's most fraudulent divisions. Dick Cheney seems to be using a cane in his increasingly rare public appearances, which makes me suspect he's too sick to function, but the Bushies still can't admit he was a mistake. Stock market is under 10,000 again, and they just keep saying the fundamentals are sound even though all the economic news is bad. These days it seems like the only thing that passes for good news is an announcement that the latest bad news is not as bad as the previous bad news, or not quite as bad as expected.

Recently tried to register for my absentee ballot for the November election. Actually had quite a lot of hassles over a couple of months, and not sure I made the deadline, which wasn't mentioned anywhere I could find it.

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Main item I noticed this week was the report of the Bushies' 'impartial' investigation showing that Dubya is in no way to blame for 9/11. What a relief. I was really worried there. Jokes aside, this is a lose-lose investigation, though they have chosen the option that, predictably, makes them look best in the bleakness. No one's fault, it could have happened to anyone (and what a shame it never happened to to that despicable-but-properly-elected President Clinton)--and the between-the-lines conclusion is that it could happen again, and there is really not much we can do to prevent it, and it won't be our fault next time, either. The multi-billion dollar missile defense system is just completely unrelated to the suitcase bomb that will probably soon destroy some American city. Remember there's an election coming, and if Dubya can't actually wrap himself in the flag, Bin Ladin's dirty turban will have to do.

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Not sure if last week's thing was some sort of pre-emptive disinformation attack, but since then the question has become a major issue. What did Dubya know? And why has it taken so long to raise the question? Anyway, the answers are as obvious as they've always been. Several pieces of the puzzle HAD been discovered before 9/11, and smarter leadership or stronger efforts might have put the pieces together in time to prevent the tragedy. The race between the terrorists and the good guys continues same as it ever was, but the coach was a lazy fool. Yes, he did get an intelligence briefing during his vacation, but it obviously wasn't sufficient. Two possibilities:

  1. Dubya wasn't smart enough to see the pattern. Not just Dubya, but also all of his appointees with the related responsibilities. Apparently several of them also saw the same briefings.
  2. The particular briefing was insufficient. After all, Dubya was supposed to be on vacation that August. Can't blame them for feeling a bit of pressure to keep it short so Dubya could go clear some more brush.

Does it matter which? The bottom line is that the disaster of 9/11 happened. I doubt I'm the only person who thinks we should try to find out why, but the Bushies obviously don't want to accept any responsibility, no matter how tenuous. Though some of the Bushies' less intelligent supporters are still trying to blame President Clinton, the Bushies themselves have apparently realized that one isn't working with the voters.

Recently got a link to this very interesting discussion of Cheney, secrecy, and the growth and abuse of presidential power by John Dean. In spite of his strong and loyal service to Nixon, I'm having to conclude that he isn't such a bad sort after all. Maybe like Clifford Baxter over at Enron? No matter how rotten the barrel of apples, a few good ones may still be in there? The part from the 1952 Supreme Court decision is especially durable.

Another item that got a lot of play in the Japanese press was Dubya's bald-faced lies during his meetings with the German leadership. He brazenly told them that he didn't have any war plans for Iraq on his desk. Perhaps he thought he was playing some kind of clever word game? He put the plans back in the safe before leaving? Or they aren't called war plans, but rather something like "Special Contingency Military Responses for Iraq"? Anyway, everyone, INCLUDING the Germans, knows that Iraq is a problem and that military responses have to be considered. I can't see how such bald-faced lying contributes to a good working relationship.

Apart from this Web site, I've been participating in some public discussions of related issues. A bit on the newsgroups, though the low-to-negative signal-to-noise ratio has mostly caused me to abandon that old standby. For a while, I was participating in Salon's TableTalk, but didn't like it enough to stay when they started requiring payment. After that I was visiting the forums hosted by The American Prospect, but they couldn't keep them running, possibly due to right-wing DoS attacks. However just for the sake of old times, I copied some of one of the threads I actively participated in over there, and I'm including it here. (I tried to get the entire thread, but it apparently didn't work as expected.) This thread was mostly about political bumper stickers. Maybe you'll find some of them amusing. The WebX CGIs have been removed since they are killing their WebX server, and all of those links just point back to their Web site, though some have message numbers attached that will produce 404s if clicked. Didn't worry about the JavaScript and some other details. Can't imagine they'd complain about the copyright, but if so, I claim fair use as a contextual review of the kind of material they presented at one point. Plus I wrote a fair bit of it. However, to summarize, I think there are a lot of deliberate attempts to stifle public discussion and criticism of Dubya.

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The ruckus about what Dubya knew and when he knew it is apparently continuing. I'm beginning to understand why this is such bitter poison for the Bushies. They can't claim it's just an unfortunate accident, since there was nothing accidental in Bin Ladin's horrendous actions. On the other hand, they certainly don't want to admit that they had any share of the blame for failing to detect the plot, and it is increasingly but VERY belatedly evident that the plot could have been detected. Initially, some of the Bushies apparently dreamed of blaming Clinton, but those nasty little voters are obviously refusing to buy that. The Bushies had plenty to time to decide that the domestic security situation needed to be addressed. They can't even say they weren't warned, given the airline security report that Gore sponsored and which the Bushies carefully and deliberately chose to ignore. So what did they know? Originally, I felt the question should be conditioned on the nuclear threat, but on reflection, it's clear that they were aware of that danger. The extremely pointed question that I'd like to ask Dubya and Cheney is:

"Before the 9/11 attacks, did the threat of a nuclear attack play any part in your sudden decisions to take month-long vacations away from Washington in August?"

That's the kind of cowardice that many voters would not approve of, but I can well imagine such a discussion. Something along the general lines of Dubya and Cheney talking:

"Well, there sure is a lot of terrorist buzz just now, and it looks like they'll attack sometime soon. In political terms, that won't be such a bad thing. We've got all this nifty ultra-conservative legislation ready to go, and the Dems won't dare say a word against it after a good solid attack. Just imagine if they hit in the States?"
"But what about the worst case scenarios? For example, maybe they've finally gotten an atomic bomb?"
"Umm... That could be bad. Maybe we should get out of town for a while and just wait for the sh*t to hit the fan?"
"Good idea. Pretty hard to sneak up on us in Wyoming and central Texas."
"Say, do you think we should alert someone? Or warn someone, or something?"
"Why? We don't really KNOW anything solid yet. And whatever those terrorists do, it's political hay for us. Don't worry, be happy."

Yeah, the last bit is a wisecrack on the GOP national convention a while back, but it meshes nicely with Dubya's incredible "it's been a fabulous year" comment. However, there's no chance of the above conversation being revealed. The Bushies have been trying to bury the evidence since Day 1 of their coup. Heck, Cheney wouldn't reveal his own birthday to his mother without a subpoena.

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Not that there is no news, but too much, and mostly bad, except for the Indian item. I'm reminded about the "banality of evil" comments, and it's hard to avoid being bored by such banality. Until it hits you in the belly when your turn comes up. That's when they disappear you.

Obviously, I haven't been disappeared yet, but one of the interesting recent bad news items was that an American citizen has already been getting that treatment. Held in secret without charges or trial or any chance to speak with an attorney. I haven't heard anyone saying that he's a nice guy, or anything like that, but he was born an American citizen, and American citizens are supposed to have certain "inalienable rights". Due process and habeus corpus and all that jazz. Dubya's definition of "inalienable rights" is apparently "whatever I say is right". It gets worse, but that will be under the Bush Doctrine topic below.

Before that, I want to mention the special Japanese item, which is the 2-year punishment of Tanaka-san. There is an official explanation, but it's pretty hard to buy, so I think the real explanation is that she's just too non-conservative for the current politicos, which is also closely linked to her strong and unconcealed dislike of Dubya. The ironic part is that she was the key political negotiator in the rise to power of the current prime minister (Koizumi), but he's pretty far to the right end of the spectrum, and they obviously have fallen out, and pretty far out. They didn't quite boot her all the way out of the party, but it's clear they aren't worried about the door hitting her in the @ss if she does decide to leave. Anyway, it was perhaps inevitable. She was very much the nail that stuck up, and the Japanese can't stand that sort of thing. Her reward for helping was the foreign ministry, but that was a bad fit from the git go. She is extremely non-diplomatic to be in charge of the diplomats. Probably even worse was that she knows political corruption--her father was one of the best at it. It's not that the foreign ministry is especially corrupt by Japanese standards, but there was plenty of dirt for her to dig up there, and squabbles with the bureaucrats backed up by exposures of their corruption had already forced her out of that position, a few months before this new punishment. She's still popular with the voters, especially in her own district, so it looks like a pretty stupid political move from that perspective. She isn't going to go away, and she's actually smart enough to play the payback card for more influence when Koizumi has to take the rap--and his popularity is declining pretty steadily. But now it's not her fault.

Time for the Bush Doctrine, AKA Dubya's US can do anything it wants to, to anyone, anywhere, for any "anti-terrorist" reason, and no one had better say anything. That's what it comes down to, and Dubya doesn't understand why anyone would find it strange or objectionable. This is pretty closely linked to his rejection of more international treaties, in particular rejecting the jurisdiction of the new World Court and insisting that American soldiers have special immunity before they can participate in UN peacekeeping operations. Every other nation in the world understands these things differently, and Dubya can't understand why there are NO supporting votes. Not even the Israelis or the British can support this latest zaniness. And meanwhile the rest of the world is supposed to be fully cooperative in the Bushies' unlimited and unspecified war on "terrorists", which as already clarified above simply means whoever the Bushies say is a terrorist.

The proximate target of the Bush Doctrine is obviously Iraq, and there are several parts of the doctrine that are clearly worded to justify the invasion. Lots of people are still saying it will happen before the election. Dubya has his priorities, and not losing Congress is high up. That's in spite of the ongoing chaos in Israel which could help the conflict spread out of control, and the fact that no other countries have suggested it would be a good idea. Also, there's the little problem that the Bush Doctrine as used by India would certainly appear to justify a nice little war against Pakistan. Fortunately, it appears like the Indians are too civilized for that, in spite of the political convenience all around. Just too civilized to pay the price of a few thousand casualties. I'm sure Dubya regards them as a bunch of sissies and wimps.

So much for international news. As it trickles to Japan, the American domestic news is also pretty bleak, from raging fires to a major stock market slide. However, Dubya still thinks he's popular. We'll see come Election Day.

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More bad business news is the main thing, but it's really hard to blame it on Dubya even with his example of the same kinds of slimy business practices. The difference is that they were never even approximately successful in his case, whereas the big bankruptcies of his reign were in many cases supposed to be very strong companies. The big news rattling the stock market this week was the company that swallowed MCI, but I always regarded MCI as a rather slimy operation. In the last two years, they really scaled up their fraudulent activities--along with Dubya's arrival on the national scene. Really hard to understand why, or even to guess. Did they feel they were under extra pressure to fake the earnings reports now that Dubya was there? Or did they think they could just get away with the same kind of slimy stuff he did when he was a "businessman"? Anyway, reality is rather ugly, and it looks like the market is stumbling lower in natural response.

On the Dubya Doctrine, the only thought to add is that it just doesn't generalize very well, but Dubya never did understand the original Golden Rule. This rule of the jungle is pretty convenient if you think you're the baddest beast, but isn't so nice when a nastier beast shows up. Imagine some aliens arriving now, and saying that according to our own doctrines, they've decided we have the potential to become terrorist threats, so they've decided to exterminate us now. That's just the natural extension of Dubya's deepest thinking. But it isn't even working as well as Dubya is fantasizing. The RoI line still says the terrorists spent a little money and cost the US much more, both in immediate damage and in the ongoing costs trying to get revenge and prevent it from happening again. The latest variation is Dubya's decision that he should have veto over the Palestinians on their leader--they may prefer Arafat, but Dubya (and the Israelis) don't. It would be nice to dismiss this entire Bush Doctrine as Dubya's personal delusion, but the polls say that most Americans support him for whatever reason. Given my own feelings, it makes me wonder about the polls... Especially knowing how polls are done and how they can be rigged.

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