Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Monday, July 30, 2007
It's the sound of the Pentagon acting as a collections agency. Here's a real tonic for the troops. Even I don't know what to make of it. It makes no sense, I've never heard of anything similar, ever, and the only thing to do is pass it on. It's totally over the top:
CBS) NEW YORK
ARMY'S 'DEBT OF SERVICE' LEAVES VETS PERPLEXED
Servicemen and women who made huge sacrifices fighting in the war and now paying yet another price, even after coming home.
One soldier in particular is currently battling against a new "debt of service."
Brian Rodriguez is a fighter, an honorably discharged soldier who'd been deployed in Iraq.
"I was a combat engineer," Rodriguez said. "We deal with land mines, explosives."
He fought for his nation, only to return to his homeland and wage a fresh battle.
Former Army Specialist Rodriguez started getting bills for $700 for lost or damaged government property this summer. Although he was discharged some four years ago, bills recently arrived demanding payment, but giving no details on what or why -- nor do they offer a way to dispute the charges.
"For doing my job you're going to bill me?" Rodriguez said.
And he's not alone. A 2006 government report found more than 1,000 soldiers being billed a total of $1.5 million. And while fighting overseas put their lives on the line, this battle on paper could cost them their future by ruining their credit. Rodriguez will be reported to credit agencies next month.
"It makes a terrible point about the nature of military service today," citizen soldier Tod Ensign said.
Ensign is a veteran's advocate. He says this is all part of the military’s push to be run more like a business.
"They'll just pound him and call him, call his employers, and make his life as miserable as they can until he pays up," Ensign said.
Testimony before Congress detailed in a report found that "although unit commanders and finance offices are authorized to write off debts for lost and damaged equipment ... they have not always done so."
"It happens too often and it's just disgraceful," Sen. Charles Schumer said. "Here are people who are risking their lives for us and they come home and they're being treated as if they're criminals instead of heroes."
Because it's been four years since he left the Middle East, Rodriguez's battalion was dissolved and his commanders are long gone. And despite repeated requests, the Army never could tell us what piece of equipment Rodriguez was billed for, nor would they get rid of the debt.
"I did my time, I served my country and this is the thanks I get," Rodriguez said.
Their suggestion? Call your Congressman. Schumer said he'll reach out to the Army to intervene on Brian's behalf.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Paul Kelly. Odds are, you've never heard of him. I never had. He was a weird-looking, polite guy in a weird-looking polite hat who I met in the VIP lounge at a concert venue while the main attractions, friends of a former rock star who invited me back there, were tuning up and planning out their set. The polite guy, standing in the corner and planning nothing, aimed his uneven eyes at us, nodded his head and said in a thick accent, "Heya. You mates look like you could use a drink." He served us, we had a drink together, and that was about it with the man of few words. Then he picked up his guitar and left, and one of the younger guys in the room grabbed me and said, "Do you know who that was?? [I arched my eyebrows, and shook my head no.] It's Paul Kelly! He's a legend. You've gotta c'mon on down and hear him!"
Paul Kelly's set, before the main attractions played, knocked us for a loop. There were a lot of folks from Oz in the audience, and every time Paul Kelly sang, they went wild. He played 5 or 6 songs, maybe, and because it was before Christmas, he closed out the set with 'How to Make Gravy.' Here are the words to the last song Paul Kelly sang:
Hello Dan, it's Joe here, I hope you're keeping well
It's the 21st of December, and now they're ringing the last bells
If I get good behaviour, I'll be out of here by July
Won't you kiss my kids on Christmas Day, please don't let 'em cry for me
I guess the brothers are driving down from Queensland and Stella's flying in from the coast
They say it's gonna be a hundred degrees, even more maybe, but that won't stop the roast
Who's gonna make the gravy now? I bet it won't taste the same
Just add flour, salt, a little red wine and don't forget a dollop of tomato sauce for sweetness and that extra tang
And give my love to Angus and to Frank and Dolly,
Tell 'em all I'm sorry I screwed up this time
And look after Rita, I'll be thinking of her early Christmas morning
When I'm standing in line
I hear Mary's got a new boyfriend, I hope he can hold his own
Do you remember the last one? What was his name again?
(Just a little too much cologne)
And Roger, you know I'm even gonna miss Roger
'Cause there's sure as hell no one in here I want to fight
Oh praise the Baby Jesus, have a Merry Christmas,
I'm really gonna miss it, all the treasure and the trash
And later in the evening, I can just imagine,
You'll put on Junior Murvin and push the tables back
And you'll dance with Rita, I know you really like her,
Just don't hold her too close, oh brother please don't stab me in the back
I didn't mean to say that, it's just my mind it plays up,
Multiplies each matter, turns imagination into fact
You know I love her badly, she's the one to save me,
I'm gonna make some gravy, I'm gonna taste the fat
Tell her that I'm sorry, yeah I love her badly, tell 'em all I'm sorry,
And kiss the sleepy children for me
You know one of these days, I'll be making gravy,
I'll be making plenty, I'm gonna pay 'em all back.
Congress issued subpoenas to White House insiders Harriet Miers and Karl Rove last week. In an apparent response, the Federal Government subpoenaed Michael Moore for bringing members of the World Trade Center rescue crew to Havana for medical treatment.
Let's think about this for a minute. Miers and Rove had it coming, and can handle themselves. But the White House must be losing it. Calling Michael Moore to give testimony under oath is like giving Robin Williams a race car, a full tank of gas, tapping Johnny Knoxville as his co-driver, and telling them to race across the country documenting the Cannonball Run. Issuing a subpoena to Michael Moore alone is tantamount to the Catholic church giving Joan of Arc a syndicated talk show.
Nothing could please Moore more. He's the Oprah of the white, pissed-off middle class. This should be interesting, and it will give "Sicko" some legs:
The "Department of Justice" wouldn't confirm to CNN that an investigation is underway. But harassing Moore on the basis that he's not a journalist (being a journalist is the only way for a US citizen to legally enter Cuba) is a great idea. I wanna party with you cowboys! And I hope Karl Rove, Alberto Gonzales, and Harriet Miers, should they appear in front of Congress (although I hope they refuse) have as wonderful a time as Michael Moore will in front of his inquisitors.
LENO: I was asking you about them in the dressing room. And this is like one of these dramatic moments. We were backstage, and I said, “Hey, what happened with them? I know you took them to Cuba, and I know a couple of months ago the government went after you for going to Cuba” –
MOORE: Took them to Guantanamo Bay.
LENO: Yeah. And everybody to get their health care.
MOORE: Because I heard the al Qaeda terrorists that we have in the camps there detained are receiving free dental, medical, eye care, the whole deal, and our own 9/11 rescue workers can’t get that in New York City. And I just thought there was something completely crazy about that, so we sailed into Guantanamo Bay and filmed it, to try to get them the same care we’re giving al Qaeda. The Bush administration became upset at that, and it informed me at the same — when I was on the show last — that they were investigating me for doing this.
LENO: Well, investigating you for going to Cuba.
MOORE: Yeah, because Guantanamo Bay is in Cuba, and once we’re there in Cuba, we couldn’t get any help, so we went and got help from the Cuban doctors.
LENO: But a lot of celebrities go to Cuba.
MOORE: Yeah, oh yeah. Leonardo DiCaprio has been there, Cameron Diaz.
LENO: Sure, a lot of people go. But what happened just an hour ago —
MOORE: You want me to tell what happened –
LENO: Sure, go ahead.
MOORE: Ok, well, I haven’t even told my own family this yet, so you’re asking me to do this on national television.
LENO: Yeah, but it’s NBC, so not that many people are watching.
MOORE: Alright. Well, I was just informed while I was back there with Jay that the Bush administration has now issued a subpoena for me, going after me for helping these 9/11 rescue workers.
LENO: Well, no, for going to Cuba, it wasn’t for helping them –
MOORE: Well, that’s why I went there. I didn’t go there like Cameron Diaz to get a tan. No offense, I’m all for her tan. I’m just sailing around on a pontoon there in Cuba, but that’s not why I was there. I was there to help them and now I’m going to face this further harrassment from the Bush people. Aren’t they busy with something else?
LENO: What does the subpoena involve? Is it because you went to Cuba, is that why?
MOORE: Yeah, because as free citizens in a free country we’re not allowed to travel to Cuba, but journalists can go, and this was a work of journalism. But frankly, the larger point’s being missed here. The point is that first of all, can we all agree that we should take care of 9/11 rescue workers? You know? And you know, actually, Harvey Weinstein who owns the company that’s distributing the film — the Weinstein Company — they have said that on Aug. 11 this year, they’re going to donate 11 percent of the box office of SiCKO to help these workers and the other workers who need some help.
LENO: That’s good.
We live in a nation facing dark times. I'm referring, of course, to Lindsay Lohan's most recent troubles. Her assistant, who had the audacity and poor judgement to quit last week, prompted an adrenaline-fueled chase of first her and then her mother across Malibu while Lindsay's hapless pick-up for that night, Dante Nigro (proper spelling and name), held on for his dear trembling life while she kept threatening to kill the former employee. Apart from her subsequent arrest for Driving Under the Influence, the performance was a testimonial to the powers of Red Bull for its ability to stimulate reflex function while staving off drunken unconsciousness. I was reading all about it at TMZ, an important, socially redeeming web site devoted to celebrity analysis, when somehow I wound up on a page there which suggested that Art Linkletter is not only alive, but happy and well. This is nearly impossible, since he was born the year the Titanic sank. If true, it's encouraging.
For those of you who don't know Art Linkletter, he was the master of ceremonies when Disney World first opened in 1955. He is senior to Mickey Mouse by 16 years. One of the wealthiest men in Hollywood, he was the long-running host of two shows which transitioned from radio to TV, and he made part of his fortune by investing in the Hula Hoop. Noted for his ability to project positivity, he was an orphan raised by a protestant minister in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, naturally going from there to become an innovator in the development of TV programming and the originator of the show, "Kids Say the Darndest Things." The latter was a short-format feel-good precursor to today's YouTube and "Me Can Has Cheezburger?" content. He just published his 28th book, and has been married to his wife for 72 years. And he's still alive.
When I was 6 years old, Art Linkletter warned me of the dangers of LSD on a black and white TV because his daughter had jumped to her death from a window, flashbacks being a suspected culprit. To me, looked like a retiree back then with a few good years left on him. Now he's cracking wise, tanned, wearing a tweed jacket in his air conditioned mansion, and having his birthday party covered by TMZ.
Happy Birthday, Art! Glad you're still here. Maybe you can do a public service announcement for Lindsay Lohan. She needs one. Remember, the older you get, the younger we'll feel! =)
Have you ever noticed how the the things least repeated tend to be the most interesting? Science, as a religion, is not allowed to truck with them. True, whole worlds often do things almost exactly the same way twice and thrice and three million times. Yet even the Law of Gravity is not an absolute. Newton's apples will always fall from their trees, unless they're subjected to a tornado. Then they'll be sucked up into a vortex, and fail to hit our waiting heads. This isn't to say gravity has not attained the status of physical law. Just that science has simplified it, failed to understand its source, and downplayed anomalous conditions which can supercede it. And I can't see how that is helpful.
For the last fifty years, public school science teachers have taught that gravity makes all objects fall at the same speed, obscuring or expunging the notion that their maxim is only true in a theoretical vacuum. A feather, with its low specific density and high aerodynamic drag, falls slower through an atmosphere than a cannonball. The Newtonian experiment in which a feather reached the ground as quickly as a cannonball from the leaning tower of Pisa, quoted to my class when I was 17 as gospel, was pure scientific superstition. A functioning adult with a PhD in Physics once insisted in all seriousness to me that all objects fall at the same rate, and he would brook no disagreement. Hmm. And what scientists have measured the differential rate of terminal velocities between falling feathers and cannonballs? Some, hopefully. Perhaps eccentric hermeticists, or heretics who desperately needed practical answers. Engineers, not scientists. People who had no time for fear or dogma, but needed to solve practical problems, tending to keep their data as private knowledge.
Philosophies, seeking practical solutions, provide less absolutist windows into the soul of man than religions. Philosophers may have much baggage we can disagree with, but at least they don't claim to be chosen of God. Their quest by and large has been to point ways out of the closed mazes of religion, to get people to think of the universe less like an ongoing game of cut-and-dried angles and DNA strand tic-tac-toe, rather more like dimensions in which a particle can be in two places at the same time. Which, I admit, is a concept borne of practical science. The continuum on which science and religion dwell blurs into interesting nether-worlds of philosophy, just as communism and capitalism have their demi-states. In preparation for more, here's a whirlwind distillation of a few influential historians and philosophies as provided by Church and Empire in his post on Historiography:
* Plutarch--Great Men and their Character. His thesis is that the very character of men changes history. His study of Mark Antony suggests that his love for Cleopatra blinded him to his duties in Rome and was destroyed by Augustus; who, it turned out, was not a lightweight.That the Radicals currently amongst us would manufacture history via synthetic reactions under a Diocletian bubble is clear; to them, the Outside Threat is a sulphuric acid which melts away all restraints to their ambitions, and the barbarians outside the gates are more useful than the artisans within them. There's no arguing with the short-term effectiveness of what they do, only with its unpredictable, undesireable side effects. I side with Boorstin against them, who is saying right along with the high-energy particle jockeys and the message sent from the fictional character John Connor in Terminator 2: "The future is not set. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves."
* Historical Forces. This is the assertion that certain ideas, movements, etc., become irresistible forces that will have their way. An example is Christianity being such a force that would eventually not only survive persecution, but emerge victorious over the Roman Empire. Another is the dominance of Science in the West over Theology and Philosophy as the authority for determining Truth.
* Toynbee--Challenge and response. Toynbee's theory is that all civilizations are faced with a crisis which is either one of ideas, or one of technology. How they respond determines whether they will survive. An example is the Fall of Rome. Many blame Christianity for sapping the Pagan strength of Rome and causing her downfall. Toynbee points out that the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire) used Christianity to revitalize and reform the Roman Empire for another thousand years.
* Hegel--Dialectic. Hegel's Theory of History says that for every old idea, there is a new one which conflicts with it. Out of the struggle a new idea is created (Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis). He felt that this was how God led us to perfection and revealed new truth. History is just the product of conflict
* Darwin--Not a historian, but he took Hegel's idea and applied them to science. His biological application led to the Origin of Species. Herbert Spencer and others then used his biological ideas to support their ideas that a struggle among races of people and differing nations led to the strongest and most able nations ruling the world. Victory in combat meant the superiority of a nation or people.
* Marx--Material Dialectic. Marx used Hegel's ideas and applied them to classes of people throughout history. Any ruling class controlled the "means of production" which gave them wealth and power to rule. Whenever a new method of production occurred, there was conflict between the older ruling class and a newer class using the newer and superior means of production. An example is how the Businessman and his money destroyed the power of the old Aristocracy based on land and hereditary ownership
* Turner--Geography and the Frontier. Turner's thesis said that geography determines the character of a people and, depending on the situation, gave them certain advantages and disadvantages. An example is that the English and Japanese, being Island Nations, would naturally have an advantage at sea combat. And, in an age of sea-trade they would, tend to be powerful. His thesis explicitly stated how the Frontier shaped the American mind to be open to new things and to strive for what was new. In our modern technological age, Americans are very open to new technologies.
* Radicals--History is the story of who won. This thesis says that history is little more than mythmaking. "History is the history of winners." Those who win, write the history books. Those who have lost are excluded or demonized. History is determined by who has the political power to write the books. But, for some, reading a restaurant menu is as important as reading "history."
* Boorstin--The unexpected. Daniel J. Boorstin's books suggest a thesis that ideas and practices simply come together in various places and time and can hardly be predicted. What has mattered, is that the great Creators and Discoverers have been open to the challenge and took previously unrelated ideas and put them together in a way that was entirely new. They thus change the world. An example is how an anonymous optician in Belgium created the first telescope to be used in combat. It found its way to Italy where Galileo began to look at stars with it. His findings undermined the Ptolemaic system. However, the Church used his information to create the modern Gregorian Calendar we use today. But sixteen years later in the firestorm of the Reformation, Galileo was ordered to remain silent. Boorstin is hostile to the Hegelian-Marxist-Darwinian school as it can only tell what the future is like based on the past. The Hegelians could never have predicted the impact of the telescope. Boorstin makes considerable money showing that no one can predict; you can only remain open to change. Change cannot be managed.
Friday, July 27, 2007
Lucretius said it was fears which first made the gods. Now as when we first appeared, there are still forces hidden in the earth on which we stand, and only dimly understand. The rivers swallow us in their swirling currents, the vagabond tides of the oceans decide the climes of continents, the winds and skies remain recalcitrant, trees fall and clouds lower upon our houses as they always have. We're actors in eternal tug-of-wars which carry on between rich and poor, religion and philosophy, socialism and capitalism, research and engineering. As Will and Ariel Durant noted in Pt. I of this post, the lung of our striving meta-organism acts as a flexing systole and diastole, propelling us through a cycle of conflict with each strenuous breath, propelling us we know not where.
Our forebears sought to placate the giants in the earth through offerings, ritual, and prayer. When priests channeled our desires and our fears,with answers revealed to them by the most high gods, their prescriptions became morals, ethics, laws, which in turn became convenient to statecraft. Shamash gave laws to Hammurabi, Thoth gave them to Menes, Egeria to Pompilius, Yahweh to Moses, Jesus to the Gentiles. Priests and paupers proved symbiotically precious to kings and states, yet as their orthodoxies became more successful, then inexorably more ridiculous and rigid, they sent increasingly ripe invitations to the reliefs of comedy and blasphemy, and each regime receded in relevance. But when first coming down from Gilgamesh, a holy man with hair standing up on end charged with the electrons of divine righteousness akimbo, bearing simple solutions, he was no easy thing to dismiss.
The effigy to burn now is science, which has attained the status of religion. I don't seek to restore mere Christianity in its place, and nought else. I know not what I seek, only that as a roadmap or religion, science is incomplete. While advancing our understanding bit by bit, and better than many other formerly discredited superstitions, science remains a fragmentary and unsatisfying religion. Obviously it has been useful, bringing us our electricity, piloting our airwaves, crafting our pharmaceuticals, powering our vehicles. But it is important to out "science" itself as a ritual-based religion, one which indoctrinates and amplifies a reflexive, barren fear of non-replication. It tears matter down into building blocks well, but is horrible at understanding how to integrate them into heuristics.
In short: the deepest lie of Science is that life and its attendant forces must consistently repeat in order to be valid; if not infinitely repeatable, an action isn't true. Whereas in fact, basic impulses seek what they will, are not repeatable, and go off the charts. All anecdotal evidence richly illustrates that life seeks to novelty. The universe is a novelty-seeking organism, not a Xerox copier. Matter seeks to assemble itself across different dimensions in ever-more appealing ways. It resists extruding the same thing twice, it is reluctant to allow even a glimpse of uniformity, and this resistance is a natural law. Matter is meant to mutate, to subvert, to transmigrate, and seek the undiscovered eddies of existence.
The "Obama-Clinton Flap"
Why is this unsurprising? Oh, I dunno. Maybe because the Clinton campaign is paying its long-time operatives Chris Lehane and his partner Mark Fabiani to dig up dirt on its opponents, most specifically on Barak Obama. If they didn't have a hand in writing the less-than-renowned Steve Holland's article, they weren't doing their jobs. Here's what they dished:
Gee. Isn't that the most outrageous political attack ad you've ever seen? He really rolling Hillary in the hog pen there. Obama must apologize forthwith, or a duel will be demanded to protect Ms. Clinton's honor. Yeah. And here's what pros from both parties have to say about Chris Lehane:
The Obama camp, looking for an opening to use the feud to cut into Clinton's lead in the polls, put up an advertisement on news sites in the early U.S. voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
The ad criticizes the New York senator and former first lady for her initial vote in support of the Iraq war and asks the question, "Ready for a New Direction?"
"It's time to abandon the short-sighted, naive idea that we punish our enemies by not talking to them. It's time to let go of the thinking that got us into Iraq without a plan in the first place," the ad said.
"Chris is the best in the business. If you have damage that needs to be controlled, he's the guy to bring in," said veteran Republican campaign and public affairs consultant Dan Schnur.
Democratic consultant Roger Salazar worked with Lehane in Gore's office and on the 2000 presidential campaign. He called Lehane and his partner, Mark Fabiani, also formerly of the White House, "the masters of crisis communications — they know how to manage an issue and look at it from every conceivable angle, find all of the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities."
I've worked with PR professionals doing damage control on some hot potatoes for one of the world's most recognized companies. They knew their art well, were intelligent and devious in the extreme, but they were Queens of the May compared to Mssrs. Lehane et Fabiani. These political assassins' fingerprints are on some of the nastiest leaks and crisis creation schemes of the past 15 years. If a gussied-up difference of opinion over a needed change of direction is all "the best in the business" are coming up with, it's a great sign for Obama.
I despised the Clintons from the first day they took office. I despised Bill. And I still despise Hillary. Now Bill almost reduces me to teary-eyed nostalgia for small-scale corruption and merely routine incompetence. I despised them not because they were from Arkansas, or for having what one could sense was a political marriage, along with some fairly obvious but normal human foibles. I despised them because they quickly proved themselves to be naive and corrupt. On their very first day in office, Good Leaders do not pick "Gays In The Military" as their opening issue to fix, as the Clintons did. And they do not try to change a completely broken health care system, one which pays for the vacation homes of Congress, by waving a magic 800-page document. As the Clintons did. They squandered the political capital entrusted to them, and if Hillary becomes President, they will do it again.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Why is impeachment repeatedly said to be "off the table?" If professional handicappers were making odds at Vegas between Dick Cheney's impeachment and his dying in office, the odds would be posted up on the board in lime-green lights. They would look something like this:
Impeachment: 85 : 1 againstDespite his hypothermic approval rating, Cheney has full control over the most expensive, extensive security apparatus in the world. If a move in Congress begins to gather steam for his ouster, which has already happened a few times, all D.C. has to do is reach into his special files and peruse the unmentionable sins of his political enemies (and especially his wavering friends) and make a catalog of stained undies to throw into a briefcase. Few politicians can withstand such scrutiny. Few of us regular folks could. This is the biggest reason Congress wilts every time the pressure is on.
Dying in Office: 2.5 : 1 against
What kind of scrutiny are we talking, here? OK. Cheney has access to every conversation over a phone, every email and SMS message which passes between Congressional staffers and more, all back-doored, all illegal. That's the truth the hubbub with warrantless wiretapping skirted. Technically, it's all just data, and is not covered by outdated laws which pertain to unencoded/decoded phone conversations. J. Edgar Hoover stayed in power at the FBI for almost 40 years on a less powerful exercise of this technique, and Beria (Stalin's head of security) did the same in Russia.
Cheney recently ducked his office being de-funded. The vote was 15-14. Like Hoover, he can find goods on his enemies, and already has them on his friends. I state these things not as speculation. Every word you spake, every keystroke you make is subject to the core technologies and systems I've worked with. It is automatically stored on optical disk, word-spotted, then if triggers are hit it is automatically transcribed, linked to other transaction records databases, threat-graded, and if necessary, passed up the line for review. This Total Information Awareness tool isn't known to have caught any terrorists, but it is ideal for controlling political resistance.
It's critical for we the people to press for Darth Cheney's ouster by traditional procedures, those which have not yet been officially negated. Why? Sooner or later, the will of the people becomes the law of the land. Cheney is a bad-ass trembling stalwart set about by offended inimicals, about to fall. Who wants him? Who loves him? Sonny in the Godfather is riding in a car on the turnpike in New Jersey, a car which is slowing down for a toll booth on a Sunday afternoon. And almost everybody wants to get him gone. Even the establishment crime families who run this country. Leave the gun, take the cannoli.
Queens and Kings knew they had to keep the People happy. Smile and wave. Wave and smile, all the while concealing matters better left unexamined. It's not too different now, and why should it be? Even if he were to die in office, his security apparatus, all $40 Billion per year of it, will remain in place and loyal, resisting a Purge and with the old lines in place. There are matters we don't want to hear about, and it's why we keep hearing impeachment is "off the table." Probably true, but the pressure has to go somewhere, and there's only one thing sure: some rough beast even stronger lies in waiting.
Monday, July 23, 2007
40% Obama (6,464)
14% Clinton (2,236)
11% Biden (1,729)
10% Kucinich (1,629)
8% Richardson (1,274)
8% Gravel (1,227)
5% Dodd ( 732 )
5% Edwards ( 722 )
Matt Drudge is not an idiot. He's a homosexual who wants to stay chained, leashed, or otherwise restrained in the closet, a determination which may have something to do with why he still carries Pug Press slop buckets on a daily basis. For anyone unaware of the Drudge Report, which used to be the #1 private site on the internet, it is a sensationalist news aggregator, and was the first conduit chosen by the "Department of Justice"to leak the salacious details of the Monica Lewinsky scandal which Newsweek initially declined to publish. That the Drudge Report conducted an apparently straight poll on the historic YouTube debates was something of a surprise, as were its results. The significance of holding the poll rather than the customary hit-piece would tend to mean Drudge is leaning Dem, and wants to signal Matt's servility to future masters.
The poll, for its part, confirms the impression that Obama did much better than the other candidates. He's really the only one who can hold up to questions from real people in a live forum and come off as capable of transforming a political dynamic. Most of the candidates at this gathering are politicians who can set clear directions and engineer deft compromises. But Barak Obama brings something special. He can do it on the fly, while gaining insights into complex problems as he hears them while he draws a bead on a productive approach. It's what used to be called generalship.
In that department, Hillary Clinton paints strictly by the numbers. She is a policy and procedures maven whose hard-charging approach is to be breathtakingly prepared on the issues she has targeted. Dennis Kucinich has great analytical leadership ability and insight (kudos to his response, which opens the clip above), and Bill Richardson makes the most of a bonhomie-based, Old-School, let's meet-in-the middle boardroom technique.
Obama, by comparison, is quite distinct. He is that rarest of birds, a politician who is first and foremost an effective, inclusive change agent without baggage. Sometimes they don't come along on a national or international stage more than once or twice per century, they tend to come from the political and geographic margins and hold an exceptionally burning passion which, albeit misunderstood, meshes well with a tectonic Zeitgeist. When such actors appear, all hell appears to break loose. Alexander was from Macedonia, Napoleon was from Corsica, Stalin was from Georgia, and Hitler was from Austria. These leaders correctly perceived that hell, rather than coming out of nowhere, had been breaking loose already, and they believed from a young age that destiny had put them on earth to channel and contain it.
Obama is on that level of thinking, only the Hell he sees is the abrogation and suppression of the United States Constitution. He sees the Constitution as the level required for a fair, thriving, and productive playing field. His view is higher than Hillary Clinton's, which while attentive to beneficent interests in the classic Democratic mold are laser-focused on status quo power calculus. Obama is a constitutional scholar who has taught wildly popular courses on that subject as a professor of law at the University of Chicago (don't let that get around), and if he somehow gains power, he will restore what has been burgled and turn the full lights of our rage upon the thieves. No one else on the stage can or will pull that off.
He is at his best in forums like the YouTube debates. No script. No net. Real people. The more time he gets to interact with Res Publica, the more converts he's going to win. He is going to have a 55% approval rating amongst Klan members before this campaign, or the Republic for which it stands, is over.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
"Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men."
Recently, I listed the film of this post's title as a favorite movie. It asks questions: what value have our selfish genes, and the cultures they sprang from? Is their enshrinement worth the price of the world?
Well before I saw it, Bruce at The River Blog gave fair warning. Here was his run-down:
Basically, the new dystopian sci-fi thriller is a documentary.Bruce's glowing review failed to completely dissuade Lord Wife and me from attending a showing as a comedic pick-me-up one Baby-Sitter Saturday night. Generically, Children of Men is a road movie spiced up by a spiritual quest welded into sci-fi and Grail sub-genres. My only sureties going in were that its Anti-Goodman, Clive Owen, had turned down the role of James Bond in Casino Royale to act in it, and that it would bring intellectual trouble. Verily, verily. It would try to suck the brains out of our heads. Which it did, and thus, it's hard to write about, forcing an examination of one's self as much as the movie.
For the battle scenes, substitute the urban warfare of Iraq.
For the scapegoating and caging of immigrants, substitute “terrorists” and Halliburton detention camps.
For the suicide drug Quietus, substitute Prozac.
For troops on the streets, substitute post-Katrina New Orleans or present-day Baghdad, or....
For The Uprising, substitute Hezbollah or Hamas.
For the infertility epidemic, substitute despair due to pollution, global warming, and the tyranny of elite scumbags.
For the pot-smoking, philosophizing Michael Caine, substitute you and me.
And for the birth, substitute the second coming, hope, and salvation, obviously.
The director of the Oscar-winning Y Tu Mama Tambien, Alfonso Cuaron, took a 1992 novel by the British writer P.D. James and turned it into a meditation on evolving United States and European Union foreign and domestic policies, and where they could lead. Cauron was the one doing the projecting, here, not me. He filmically considers the fate of his countrymen from Mexico in a North American future set in England which teems with refugee camps, sporadic resistance, general despair, rampant corporatism, blight, and horrifyingly sadistic Homeland Security. I would surmise Mr. Cauron is a highly intelligent and extremely well-read man, who has been searched in airports not a few. In his movie, immigration, racism, and salvation are not sub-plots. Rather, they serve as silver, holographic screens to catch and reflect the lights of his intended creation and give it full dimension.
The film was released on Christmas Day in North America, if that provides any clue, and is set in 2027 Britain after the world has undergone twenty years of complete infertility. Visually, the gritty, ground-breaking verisimilitudes provided by masterful 6 and 10-minute single-shot action scenes will influence film-makers everywhere. That brilliance is obvious, but the plot themes are too elusive and contemporary to easily codify. And if one thinks deeply about how the world might react to 20 straight years of infertility, his dystopic view is restrained, and simplified. It doesn't dwell on the Task Forces on Immortality such an occurrence would naturally call forth, to the breeding prizes, the international blame-storming, the superstitious potions quaffed and the rampant, reflexively irredentist violence which would ensue. Indeed, the movie begins by Clive Owen buying a latte in a Starbucks and narrowly missing its explosive demise by suicide bomber. If only Starbucks, absent new customers, could survive that long.
Practically, there are always pluses and minuses of high levels of immigration. People with no rights bring new blood, hoping to climb the ladder to a better life for their children, just as the forebears of almost all current US citizens did, just as immigrants into other countries. Many still carry the restless, adventurous gene denoted by the D4-7 allele, a perch on the genome which defines an exploratory, expansive, optimistic and sometimes transcending culture which successive waves of opportunist immigrants wrought. To quote the Bible again: "For Joseph is a fruitful bough, whose branches run over the wall." But what if this restless expansion, this heat sink of mania is stymied by suffocating foams of racism, and the optimistic expansion fizzles thereby? What if the doors of these migratory experiments are closed out of fear?
In Children of Men, the first woman to carry a child after 20 years of emptiness, Kee, is an illegal black immigrant from Africa. At the end of a heart-rending quest, the formerly privileged Clive Owens (Theo Faron) uses his body and soul to deliver and protect her baby, perhaps the savior of humanity. Having accomplished his task, Theo bleeds to death. He is glad, and it is no matter that Madonna and Son's skin tones are black as night. Having passed through roads of anarchy and cruelty, they bring hope of continuation and a chance for absolution the world has lacked.
Alfonso Cauron sees a brown future for America, a continuation of the melting pot with less and less emphasis on WASP rule. He recognizes that the transition will not go at all smoothly. Personally, being low on melatonin and easily freckled, I'm not sure how to feel about that. But my prejudices and preferences mean nothing, in the end. A mere continuance of our race should be enough for me. Human survival, should it be expressed in yellow, black, and brown, should give peaceful thoughts to even the denizens of die-off, the docents of www.savethewhitefolks.org, people like Dick and Lynne Cheney. After 20 years of barren wombs on this earth, no one would give a flying damn what skin color the first little baby had. It would be treated as a resurrected Savior, as is illustrated in the movie's final scenes, when the Baby is given safe passage and about to be picked up by a ship named Tomorrow.
Cauron's message is this: "Hey, gringos...survival should be enough for us all." At the very end of Children of Men, Kee the Black Madonna has the good grace to name her baby, her hours-old girl, after her dying Parsifal's son Dylan, who was long since lost. There are worse things than honor and memory.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Shhh! The President speaks: "Yeah. Gotta have one of them colon-oskerpies. Happens all the time down on the Ranch, so this one at Camp David'll be no big, ahh, deal. Yep. Not...big."
Hahaahaha! Colonoscopy. Routine. Haahaahahahaa! Whee-oo. That's a good one! ("Mr. President, you might experience some slight discomfort as we insert this three-foot long roto-rooter-like device with a camera strapped to it into your rectum so we can twist it around. It's all perfectly routine. Oh, no, no, I'm not a Democrat, sir. I'm just a good ol' country doctor."
Giving the keys of POTUS over to Cheney, even for a few hours, is a little too much like Frodo handing the Ring of Power over to Gollum. Guess we'll just have to sleep on it and see how things go in the morning. ;-)
Update: Great news, everybody! George Dubya Bush is still our President! Cardinal Cheney transferred The Power back! And this from the comments section by someone using the code name 'Laufenstrasse:'
I guess the promise of personally holding the power in his own hands is even a greater thrill than being the great puppetmaster. Ahhh, raw power.
And what is it about Bush's anus that makes this transfer of power seem so natural?
Thursday, July 19, 2007
The spear of destiny is in Palestine, and so is the keystone of peace. Thanks to Fleming Lee at View From The Moon, a blogger worth visiting with any questions on "Zio-cons," we get a factual brief which he has graciously allowed me to cross-post here. He also took significant time to find the map above, the only example I've ever seen of it. He intends these, together, as an antidote to the extreme disinformation about the power relationship between Israel and Palestine. The real story is simple: Israelis are Cowboys. Palestinians are Indians. If you're comfy with that notion, and don't wish to comprehend what's happening in the Mid-East and its adverse effects, don't read this:
"1. Bush/Israel push for free elections in Palestine, thinking their pet Palestinians (Abbas/Fatah) will be elected.The map tells the truth. There is no peace process. Arabs know. Muslims know. Israelis know. Eyal Weizman just published a book called Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture Of Occupation which chronicles how an apartheid was enforced through a garrison state of roadblocks, checkpoints, strongpoints, security zones, sterile areas, summit settlements, mobile homes, bridgeheads, walls, and military bases. Here none dare call it Reservation. None dare whisper Concentration. To keep what it has taken, Israel must hold back many peoples, and many nations.
2. Oops . . . Palestinians elect wrong group to run their government. They elect candidates of honest and efficient Hamas instead of corrupt Fatah. (What is “wrong” with Hamas is that it represents Palestinian interests rather than the interests of Israel and refuses to accept the Israeli occupation as legitimate.)
3. Despite the free and fair elections and formation of a stable, popular government under Hamas, Bush/Israel move to cut off funds from the Palestinian government and people in order to undermine the elected government.
4. Bush/Israel aid an effort by Abbas/Fatah to overthrow the legitimate government by force, but Hamas beats back Fatah and continues to control Gaza, leaving Abbas/Fatah forming a Bush/Israel backed illegitimate “government’’ in the West Bank, contrary to the election results. (The US press reports this in reverse, indicating that Hamas “seized” control of Gaza.)
5. Bush/Israel seek to bolster the unpopular and illegitimate West Bank faction by resuming some funding, freeing some unlawfully withheld funds which were due to the Palestinians long ago, and making a show of cooperation and generosity . . . all directed exclusively at the phony West Bank “government” instead of the elected government.
(Latest bulletin on Israeli good will: ‘CAIRO, July 17 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli authorities have stopped a convoy of trucks carrying UN humanitarian aid to Gaza at Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing near Egypt. Under the United Nations World Food Program, vital humanitarian aid has been entering Gaza through the Karem Shalom crossing under an agreement between Israel, the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas to facilitate the movement of supplies. The small, crowded Gaza Strip is heavily dependent on outside aid, and has been increasingly isolated. Over 15 trucks carrying sacks with wheat flour destined for Gaza were diverted earlier Tuesday to a warehouse in Egypt.’)
6. Suddenly Israel is ready to release some of its 10,000 plus Palestinian political prisoners to the obedient Fatah. ‘A committee of Israeli Cabinet ministers has Tuesday approved a list of 250 Palestinian prisoners to be released this week as a gesture in support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.’ (Voice of America)
7. Recently booted British Prime Minister Tony Blair -- a loyal pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian, Bush lapdog – becomes European “envoy” to aid the mythical “peace process”.
8. Bush now announces a grand Mideast Conference in which Abbas/Fatah will negotiate the future of the Palestinian people who refused to elect them and are still loyal to Hamas. Of course all of the Palestinian representatives to the conference will be hailed as “respected”, while the uninvited elected officials will be styled “terrorists”. US media -- even habitual critics of Bush -- hail Bush’s announcement as a sign that Bush is finally going to do something about the “peace process”.
‘BUSH ANNOUNCES MIDEAST PEACE CONFERENCE
U.S. pledges $190 million in direct aid to Fatah government’
‘AP WASHINGTON - President Bush on Monday announced an international conference this fall to include Israel, the Palestinian Authority and some of their Arab neighbors to help restart Mideast peace talks and review progress in building democratic institutions. . .
‘Bush said the conference would include representatives from Israel, the Palestinians "and their neighbors in the region" and said participants would include just those governments that support creation of a Palestinian state. [Read: “those governments that support creation of a docile Palestinian entity conforming to Israel’s wishes”.]
‘He said Abbas and his new prime minister, Salam Fayyad, "are striving to build the institutions of a modern democracy."’
[That is probably the most outrageously hypocritical lie VIEW FROM THE MOON has ever quoted.
‘Bush also pledged increased U.S. aid to the Palestinian government of President Mahmoud Abbas and called for the convening of a meeting of "donor" nations to consider more international aid, including the Arab states of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.’
Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan are the “moderate” Arab states whose leadership has been bought by the US. They will obediently support Israel’s interests while performing a show of concern for the Palestinians. The idea that “just” those bribed governments support creation of a Palestinian state is a stomach-turning bit of verbal acrobatics meaning just the opposite: The Palestinians want a Palestinian state. Lebanon and Syria and other Muslim states (including Iraq, if the US had not destroyed it) want a Palestinian state. The qualification for attendance at Bush's conference isn’t to want a Palestinian state, but to approve a toothless Palestinian mock-state subservient to Israel."
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
"There's so much more to flying than just flapping around from place to place! A... a... mosquito does that! One little barrel roll around the Elder Gull, just for fun, and I'm Outcast! Are they blind? Can't they see? Can't they think of the glory that it'll be when we really learn to fly?"
"I don't care what they think. I'll show them what flying is! I'll be pure Outlaw, if that's the way they want it. And I'll make them so sorry..."
Jonathon Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach (h/t to Naj at Iran Facts, link on right)
While browsing through a Car & Driver magazine at the drug store on a prescription run, I saw a little filler-story about a triple amputee who led police on a chase through New Port Richey, Florida. Police claim thhey broke off pursuit of the white male's Ford Explorer after 8 minutes because "it could have put others in danger." Other sources say the chase ended because Wiley out-ran the chase vehicles. An arrest warrant is sought for one-legged, no-armed methamphetamine dealer Francis Wiley on charges of fleeing to elude. In 2006, he led police on a 120-mph chase down I-75 in a Corvette until one tire came off and the aluminum wheel rim began to burn. Here was the money quote:
"He is one of the best drivers I've ever seen in my life ," said Lee Michie, a longtime acquaintance. "But he's the worst person I've ever met."Now...you just know there has to be more to that story, right? I put down the Car and Driver, vowing to follow it up on The Google later, and sure enough. There's more. More than can be casually communicated. I can't allow an inability to communicate to stop me. So. Imagine a crazily unequal triangle. On one point is abhorrence. On another is pathos. On the last is breakthrough. That's a triangle of Michael Francis Wiley's personality.
It is a felony for him to merely sit in a driver's seat. According to court records, Wiley, aged 40, is a felon capable of physical violence. He repeatedly assaulted his wife, decked a state trooper twice, and tried to attack others. He has a steady string of violations, 47 of them (most involving driving) stemming back to 1984, when he stole his first car, drove for the first time with no license, and got into his first police chase. And first crash. He has spent at least 3 years in prison, where he was so good at provoking detention officers he was beaten and sprayed with mace like an unwanted pole-cat. After he got out, fellow ex-con murdered a woman in his living room while he and his family slept. His mother no longer morally supports him, and his wife has left him.
As a child, Wiley's father was a mechanic for the Transit Authority in his native New York City. His grandfather was a mechanic, too. His first sentence was "Daddy fix car." When he was 13, while playing with other truants, he fell off an elevated train platform onto power lines, and, searching for a foothold to get down by, found one made of metal. His body made a temporary circuit-breaker for 12,000 volts before it was blown dead to the pavement 25-30 feet below. The impact revived him. Three limbs were damaged too badly to save, and were removed at Bellevue hospital. One month later, he escaped the hospital by hopping through a utility tunnel. Here is a report by Stanley Portnow, the forensic psychiatrist who treated him in 1981:
. . . classic post-traumatic neurosis:After the accident, his parents moved to Florida. He stole the car, then later bought a black-on-black Monte Carlo SS with the injury settlement he got. He starts cars by gliding the key into the ignition with his mouth, then turns it with his toes. He shifts with his knee, and bites the headlight switch and turn signals. He turns by jamming his left arm stump into the wheel spokes and whipping it around. He put 50,000 miles onto the window-rattling V-8 in one year, traveling all over the country while dreaming of becoming a race car driver. Needing friends to pop the tops of beer cans, he became popular, and went to a Halloween party as a shark attack victim. He got married. Had a daughter. Drove like a burning wounded bat out of hell. He piled up speeding tickets until his license was taken away. He keeps driving, police see him, and he gets into more car chases. Both his lawyer and mother believe he needs regular access to a private race track.
. . . attempts to keep up a rather tough guy facade which is meant to say that nothing can really hurt him;
. . . not only out to prove that he is as good as but rather better than he was before the accident;
. . . his continued denial of his realistic state will produce more and more social adverse effects;
"I'm an excellent driver," he says. "If I could just get my license back, I'd never be in here again."That is unlikely. His license is suspended for a considerable period of time. When a dog is hit by a truck, when a bug gets stepped on, when a reptile loses its fore-limbs, when a seagull breaks a wing, they die or do the best they can. They compensate. If they can crawl away, they do so. But they'd probably greatly prefer to drive. Even to fly. Asked what he'd do to get his license back, Michael Francis Wiley said this:
"I'd give my right leg."
One sunny day last week was iPhone day. Because of my profession (speech technology) and the nefarious activities of a particular client involved in podcasting, having an iPhone is a necessity. Or, at least that's what my partner and I told ourselves after a few bouts of rationalization, guilt, and cover-up: then it went like this: "Debate has now concluded, and the floor is closed. We're getting them. Gentlemen, start your engines!" Of course, Lord Wife already knew of the decision well in advance.
Oh, yeah? Well I know things well in advance, too. For example, I know the battery to this fragile sucker is going to die, at best, 21 days after the one-year warranty lapses. That's only if someone doesn't steal it first, and if my son (Lord Running Boy) doesn't drop it into a sink full of water while playing on the sly with a camera so intuitive and slick, any toddler can use it to take great pictures. There's a good chance it could drop out of my pocket and shatter like a crystal chandelier on the floor of Whole Foods, or supernatural forces could get involved, like the time I saw our iPod fade and disappear into thin air, snatched by envious poltergeists who reached forth to envelop it in the sheltering bosom of their realm. (The echoes of distant laughter could be heard, along with a cry which sounded a lot like "Toonage!") Yes, a lot of things could befall this media equivalent of a sleek P-51 Mustang. It can do anything a flat-screen TV can do--but it can do it over Berlin. And I know that battery is screwed either WAY!
I also know that there's a YouTube button right on the screen. And Google Maps with directions and satellite imagery. Instant-on streaming video which works surprisingly well on the 200kbps EDGE network, delightfully well on Wi-Fi. Consider this single point of data for a moment: a whopping total of 17% of cell phone owners capable of playing YouTube have used them to do so. By comparison, here's the just-compiled research on the iPhone:
Despite owning their new iPhones for a short period of time, 63% of iPhone owners have already used the widescreen-enabled device to watch video.The graph above the post's title shows the number of news stories filed per day about this media device. Grown to over 20,000 per day, still going strong. Twice the number of stories yesterday as the day of the launch. What for? What's the rumpus? Because it's as good as they say, that's what for. It's so elegant it makes me want to download a free copy of Plato's 'Republic' from iTunes (yep, it's in there) and listen to it as an audiobook. There's been so much thought put into the interface functions that, unlike the Palm Treo sitting on my desk as a paperweight (make me an offer), it makes getting my emails and voice-mails a pleasure. It may even cure my non-violent but total resistance to text messaging.
Half of iPhone owners (51%) have watched a YouTube video on their phone.
46% have watched a music video.
34% have watched the news.
32% have watched a movie trailer.
A product development friend at T-Mobile says they've taken the little pony apart, sliced it, diced it, looked at it from every angle...and determined it's not a threat. To wit: 1) Communications functions aren't good; 2) Virtual keyboard a serious drawback to high wpm and interface integrity; 3) Worst of all, no one likes getting fingerprints on their screens. Summary: Not a serious communications device.
Guess what, muchachos? Denial! You're in dee. Nye. Ull. YouTube is the future of communication. I can go to Amazon, rent 'North By Northwest,' download it to my desktop, sync my phone, then watch it wide-screen. The screen resolution is so high and sharp I'll actually enjoy the movie. As for the virtual keyboard, it isn't any worse than the slippery, convex-shaped keys on the pad of my former (buh-bye!) Treo. For the first time in my life I have set wallpaper on my cell--it's the painting 'Sunday in The Park.' I just switched to that in 10 seconds from the peacock feather I tried out for the sheer hell of it. My ring tone is from a WWII-era Ma Bell. And smudges on the screen? Ha! I keep the touch-screen clean because it's beautiful. I just keep it that way. I've waxed it. All this, and I haven't even cracked the instruction manual yet. But then, there's this Teleport button on it that I haven't tried...
Just kidding about the Teleport. Apple says it plans to sell 10 million of these communications revolution devices during the first year. They're wrong. They're going to sell 20 million. More. It's not a niche phone. It's The Web 2.0 phone the world has been waiting for, and Apple has done a quadruple-lux and nailed the landing, first-try. This device will achieve a Halo Effect and vastly accelerate the pace of innovation and proliferation in mobile entertainment and services. By September, you're going to see octogenarian retirees cheerfully wearing these things on lanyards around their necks. Capice? It's that good. And just see what happens Google introduces Voice Search.
Update: my esteemed partner just called me to rave about the earbuds. Say you're listening to Sinatra and a call comes in. The song automatically lowers volume so you hear the phone ring. You answer the phone, the song mutes, and the bud system switches on the microphone. You talk, and you hear your phone conversation in stereo. You end the call, and the song comes back on. You reach down to the volume control, and turn it up. Steve Jobs was in Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, and just today in London signing distribution deals. This phone cost me $652 dollars. If I drop it the wrong way, there's no service plan, and no insurance. I would have to buy another. And I don't much care. Do I hear 30 million? And here's one final thought:
(Update: I forgot to link a heavy credit to Zoey and Me at Cat In The Bag for their post on the coming showdown over the upcoming children's health care veto. But for them, it would have escaped my notice.)
The next appropriations bill is for roughly $200 Billion, about $50 billion lower than the last one. When Congress complains it will have to cut programs, like the one it wants for only half of the 8 million children without health care insurance, the Wite Hows will veto a bill to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program, and simultaneously accuse its Parliament of Whores of budgetary excess and of "spending like there's no tomorrow." All while insisting on increased war allocations. Never mind the $1 Trillion+ already appropriated for The Yee Ha War, and the $2.5-3.5 Trillion it's going to eventually cost even if it were stopped today. Assuming we don't cut VA hospitals and don't do away with Veteran's Benefits. (Oh, right! That's part of the plan, too.)
I didn't bother posting about the Great Senate Sleepover, figuring they wouldn't accomplish anything other than to hold a presser and act dramatically sleep-deprived. Question: what would happen if Congress actually passed an Act demanding the withdrawal of the US from Iraq? (Don't answer.) So, I felt like hearing something a lot more inspirational, something a lot more true. Someone who's willing to say war's expenses lead to a lack of domestic investment. That killing abroad is directly connected to not caring at home.
MLK's full Vietnam speech is available at American Rhetoric, which has audio and transcripts available of its picks for the Top 100 Speeches. Here's but one excerpt:
"I wish not to speak with Hanoi and the National Liberation Front, but rather to my fellow Americans, who, with me, bear the greatest responsibility in ending a conflict that has exacted a heavy price on both continents. Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor -- both black and white -- through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."Speech delivered at The Riverside Church in New York City on April 4th, 1967.
As reported by Pravda on the Potomac, "Bush Aides See Failure in Fight with Al-Qaeda in Pakistan:"
WASHINGTON, July 17— President Bush’s top counterterrorism advisers acknowledged today that the strategy for fighting Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan had failed, as the White House released a grim new intelligence assessment that has forced the administration to consider more aggressive measures inside Pakistan.More aggressive? Yeah. Storming the Red Mosque and blowing it up was like the Marx Brothers were throwing custard pies. Time to get tough and bring in The Three Stooges. In secret:
In weighing how to deal with the Al Qaeda threat in Pakistan, American officials have been meeting in recent weeks to discuss what some said was emerging as an aggressive new strategy that would include both public and covert elements. They said that there was growing concern that pinprick attacks against Al Qaeda targets are not enough, but that some new American measures might have to remain secret to avoid embarrassing General Musharraf.Finding a world-famous, wealthy six-foot-six Muslim trailing his kidney dialysis machine from hovel to hovel in one the poorest, most mountainous regions of the world? Who's also the spitting image of the Shroud of Turin? No wonder they can't find him. I have a little suggestion for Ms. Townsend: try looking for him in Riyadh. Right under the declination of your mendacious nose.
Ms. Townsend declined to describe what may be alternative strategies for dealing with Al Qaeda’s threat in Pakistan, but acknowledged frustration that Al Qaeda had succeeding in rebuilding its infrastructure and its links to affiliates, while keeping Mr. bin Laden and his top lieutenants alive for nearly six years since the Sept. 11 attacks.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Dick Cheney was outed by the Guardian today as the chief proponent of attacking Iran (ok, no news yet), and the article claims he has won out over Condoleeza Rice and Undersecretary of State Nick Burns for procuring Bush's approval to Bring 'Em On (News. That would be news.). Cheney and The Nazgulettes have been fighting an internal tug-o-war over Dubya's wavering judgement against Condi, Bob Gates, Bush the Elder, and most of the planet. Cheney has reportedly won. On the bright side, this article will spur the sane people, and many marginally sane people, into working harder against another idiotic war, into re-doubling their efforts to block it and send Cheney yee-hawing like Bat Guano to crash harmlessly down into the earth on a disarmed bomb.
We do have a strange bedfellows issue. I would rather pet a cobra than be in the presence of Condi Rice. Or hear her duplicitous tongue form words from the rush of air. And I do not want Bob Gates anywhere near my bed, my dinner table, my house, nor my state. But I appreciate that they and others will do everything they can to undermine Cheney, including leaking this information to The Guardian so a news story can be written. At least some commentators are starting to identify the Sauron's Eye of America's troubles. It was Cheney who ditched the ISG strategy and championed The Surge. It is Cheney who has been pushing for military action against Iran ever since the invasion of Iraq. A barely reported objective of "The Surge" logic is to reinforce Iraq's border garrisons before a strike on Iran. Based on a total of 6 (3 deep-sea, 3 amphibious support) carrier battle groups being massed in the Gulf earlier this year, and on Israeli signals, I believed an attack on Iran was slated to have commenced in April. It didn't happen, and I'm glad events proved me wrong. We enjoyed a nice respite as the Oil Wraiths argued with each other. Now the losers of that argument signal us they could not convince the Grand Decider, that the Lord of Political Logistics won the game of worm tongue.
People commonly assume, as I heard at a suburban steak dinner from fond former classmates last night, that Iran can be easily subdued. This view is strategically misinformed and tactically out of date. All the competent professionals who have analyzed attacks , as I noted to my old friends, think it would be disastrous for the United States' military and for its interests in the region. This blog has harped upon those facts in the past. All known wargame-simulated Iranian invasions or air bombing campaigns ended with the US losing miserably, featuring both strategic and tactical defeats.
The simulations were well-crafted. The terrain in the Persian Gulf greatly favors prepared short-range missile defenses, with rocky crennelations ideal for concealing the new Russian-made Sunburn and Moskito missiles, for which the US Navy has no effective counter-measures, especially in an area as constrained as the Gulf. Obviously I can't provide a source confirming the presence or location of such missiles, but you can safely assume they are part of a well-mapped killing field worthy of Cannae. It is backed by a lethal arsenal of small combined arms designed to overwhelm and eliminate large, vulnerable surface targets.
The United States has a total of 277 warships. Half of them are now near Iran, as the Guardian article states. If Dick Cheney has convinced President Bush to attack, and Grand Master Bozo lowers the checkered flag, expect the Straits of Hormuz to be closed for at least 6-12 weeks, for at least half the world's oil shipments to be bottled up into the Gulf for that time, thousands upon thousands of sailors and marines to sink to the bottom of the Gulf, and the relatively quiet parts of Iraq to erupt while the remaining lifelines to American troops are cut. I wonder how the stock market will keep setting record highs in such a confusion of coincidence. Think about the consequences of that for long, and you might start stocking up on toilet paper. Or even building a backyard outhouse, since it is oil which runs the pumps of so many municipal waterworks.
In the Lord of the Rings, Sauron is deceived by glimpses of the One Ring, erroneous reports of his Nazgul, and by the errant face of a defiant Hobbit into launching his all-out attack on the white city of Minas Tirith earlier than he would have preferred. This came immediately after he and his allies suffered unexpected defeats in neighboring lands they previously considered weak. The wizard Gandalf the Grey correctly sensed Sauron's desperation and fear, for Sauron has masters, too, who demand quick results. Gandalf took the lack of patience as a sign of hope.
I do not wish more bombs or dead upon anyone, particularly not delivered from my country. And I do not wish more dead Americans. Yet the analogy is clear. The threat is seen in the wrong place. The enemy is misunderstood.The all-seeing eye of the White House is now once again in a "Flucht nach Vorne" (retreat to the front) stance, Iran will be much tougher in a direct military conflict than it is in a stand-off, and the consequences for its attackers will be harsher than even most pessimists imagine. Bush is a very, very desperate man whose time is running out, as is his Chamber-master, Dick Cheney. If you have ideas for how best to delay the last ride of the Oil Wraiths, I'd like to hear them. Because many of us happen to be their orc-ish subjects.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Oh, my. It is with no small trepidation that I take this step, and an explanation is owed to the good readers of this blog. Many of you have stuck with me through thick and thin, through drug-addled but soaring prose I plagiarize imperfectly from elsewhere and through the boring rants I write all on my own. Now, you have to trust me just one more time. You promise not to freak out, ok? Alright. I'm linking to...the words won't form...a blog...with Fluffy Kitty Syndrome (FKS).
Zoey, a bona fide cat with enough hair to simultaneously clog more than one commercial-grade toilet, and a mysterious other person make up "Zoey & Me," the keepers of Cat in the Bag. They are members of the dangerously burgeoning, completely brazen Fluffy Kitty Kult, and they have linked to this blog. This was a baffling and entirely unexpected event. I am aware of no other people afflicted by Cat Insanity who come here at all other than Lord Mom, who has an advanced, late-onset form of that dread disease. Understandably, most people who link here to ABH require payment in advance, sums which are not subject to transparency. So Zoey and the Me-Person, I appreciate the free link very much. But.
It is difficult to describe how compellingly revolting, how jolting, how hauntingly Velvet-Feline-Elvis the disturbingly frequent and graphic, cat-focused posts are which appear on Cat In The Bag. The superimposed pink wigs, the Liberace piano poses, the unruly Mongolian furs and obscene props conspire to do irreparable violence to psyches unshielded or injudiciously prepared. While the political analysis provided by "Me" is undeniably brilliant, each post as short, as gracefully unsparing as a Muhammad Ali uppercut packed with the kind of content ABH is always looking to share, I have to warn you. Of possible consequences. I mean other than those which naturally come from being subjected to Animal Porn, the images of which no amount of Electro-Convulsive Therapy can completely erase.
What consequences? I'll tell you what consequences. Cat dander. Gross, strange-smelling food. Vet bills. Tumbleweeds of shedded hair across an otherwise spotless floor. Tufts which come from nowhere to glue themselves onto door casings. Possible pulmonary health effects akin to huffing asbestos. A litany of litter boxes steadily accumulating with the encrusted, unmentionable products of this takeover of humanity by a plague of feral beasts who incessantly nag and bully based upon the trivial dictates of their weirdest, wildest whims. I warn of watery eyes, sleepless nights, and fits of incapacitating sneezing. Of something in the dark trying to alight on your head with claws. If you do not own a cat, I warn that few are immune. You may become infected if you go to the new link not properly steeled against the fate of cat ownership, my real concern. Fair warned is fair armed, but proceed at your own risk.
If you take the risk and cautiously peruse Cat in the Bag, you'll notice the arrestingly garish visual aesthetic which is so horrifying in the pursuit of cat worship is transformed when once turned to political and social commentary. The graphics are sublime when constrained to matters which concern us as citizens of the world and the United States vicinity of it. In that context, I will gladly reciprocate (as I've been meaning) to prove my status as an open-minded Blogo Sapien, and to celebrate the presumed first-hand association of Zoey & Me with the newly-linked and much-appreciated View From The Moon.
So welcome, Zoey, and "Me". I'm taking my anti-allergens and have been diggin' your blog. And it must be disclosed that I am infected like you, but have apparently had access to better medical care, so the effects of FKS are not so far advanced. Nonetheless, I've allowed the impression to form in a certain cat that I am his chattel, and that my sole worthy pursuit in life is to please him. I also have been fighting the growing suspicion that I could successfully run for office in my feline-infested neighborhood on a platform of Equality for Cats. Is this how the sanity for which I've fought so hard will end?
Given that these creatures are collectively coddled like an emperor's offspring around here, I could go door to door and win enough votes (despite my manifold deficits) to get elected to the City Council of one of the most influential cities in the country on a platform consisting of little more than feline advocacy. Hey, single-issue campaigning worked for the gay marriage candidates. Why not for Cats' Rights? It's high time. Cats are natural progressives. They are the only animal in recorded human time to domesticate themselves. Was that smart, or what?? Annoying as they may be, these animals are geniuses. Consider: they are perfectly capable of feeding themselves, yet have trained us to do so. This single fact should call appropriate questions about who or what is actually running this planet to mind. Therefore, I submit that cats immediately deserve legal rights at least equal to those enjoyed by dogs. What could be more evident?
With both cats and politics, there is much which is emphatically not evident. Much is hidden, and will remain so. Perhaps cats have been the purring the Lao Tzus of progressive politics all along, controlling us far more than we know, too amused, polite, and content to end the charade.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
I have been remiss of late in checking for updates over at the Smeatsonian Institution, but much has been afoot. There is a new song out by Mick Merch above, put into a well-done music video by Swinestein Productions. The snappy, straightforward lyrics and catchy song are a fitting tribute to the Smeatonator, who continues to maintain a modestly low profile. Lest ye can't bring yourself to click on the vid and bask in the aural waves of Scottish schlag-metal, here are a couple of choice lines:
I don't care
if there's fire burning in your hair!
We are ScotsThe curator of the Institution, Mark Tortolano, who has visited Adored By Hordes, met with John Smeats personally and discussed beer, ferrets, how to have a fitting bash, and charities. Mark deserves big kudos for promoting Mr. Smeaton's cause, and for doing so with a great deal of integrity. Apart from the beers I'm sure he plans on sniping. Here is the picture of the fateful pow-wow, the "Big Nite Oot" between the phenom and his loyal Web Admin, complete with signing the PayPal password to 1,400 pints of beer in fresh web-admin blood to match the "unintentionally ironic" T-Shirt:
We won't worry
We'll smash you up
in a f&**in' hurry!
Viva Smeaton! Viva Scotland! Viva Tortolano!
I, along with much of the rest of the world, have been subjected to a shower of slimy Republican Talking Points which are losing their powers of supplication in inverse proportion to the strenghtening reek of decaying entrails, re: Iraq and dangers of pulling out thereof. But there's no escape from the blitz of the Mighty Wurlitzer that keeps blaring these dusty old 45s they keep on steady rotation. We at Casa Lord don't even watch grown-up TV, and still they found us. Here is the most-repeated play, which went to #1 with a bullet and has stayed for 128 weeks at the top of the charts:
"If we pull out of Iraq, there will be a civil war!"It's time for an emetic and a bath. It's also time I got around to calling a BCA (Bullshit Curtain Alert): umm, Iraq is already in a civil war. The T.P.'s crazy logic is reminescent of the famous Cleavon Little scene in "Blazing Saddles" where he holds himself hostage to escape a hostile crowd. Using this phrase as an occupation's justificatioin is every bit as surreal as the scene in Blazing Saddles, and up until now it was just as effective. It's getting a little old for even the most respectable members of the crowd, such as eminent War-Whores like Senators Lugar and Warner, who are introducing a bill to start pulling troops back. The difference with this bill is the authors claim to be from the same party as the President. Which is a matter of fair conjecture, at this point. Who can be sure what to call what occupies the White House now. (The Vietnam Re-enactment Society? The Non-Veterans of Foreign Wars?)
Many professionals would disagree with my analysis below, believing that if the US pulls out of Iraq, conditions there will worsen. That's fine if they disagree, because they're wrong, so wrong their skulls seem to be permanently stuck in their pelvic cavities. How they've kept breathing so long through those straws is plum amazin'.
A former wargaming partner with real tactical talents asked me three years ago how Iran (the real M.-E. objective) could be beaten. Since Iran had already won, this was a tough question, but there might've once been a last-ditch way to get them. Pull out as fast as possible, and create a surprise power vacuum. In other words, get them to invade Iraq, which would make our problems their problems and rally the countries in the region against them to create dynamic, albeit bloody, stability. The idea was to fast-forward what's likely to happen anyway, skipping over a few steps, possibly decades, of regional conflict to achieve "Blood Borders." The flaw in my plan was that even three years ago, Iran probably wasn't dumb enough to get trapped. Their mistakes had not been exploitable and they continued to play brilliantly. Still, they would get drawn into the vacuum by proxy, naturally so: through SCIRI, a porous mutual border, and via a number of other Shiite parties with close Iranian ties.
The US, by contrast, has been not only dumb, but desperate. Israel has already gotten its tail sucked into a humiliating defeat because of it. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli soldiers have been doing show-and-tells on "Why I Got My Ass Kicked in Lebanon Last Summer." Now the US-Israeli-UK axis is trying to execute the last part of the Surround and Starve Iran Plan. The current BushCo-Cheney idea, evocative of the Leonard Cohen song of similar cadence, boils down to: "First we take Damascus. Then we take Tehran!" Neutralizing Syria ostensibly cuts off Iran. And Lebanon from Iran. Neat, huh? Slight problems: 1) it doesn't really cut off Iran, but drives them further into Russian, Chinese, even Indian arms; 2) there is a Russian naval base in Syria; 3) Russia is Israel's primary petro-products supplier.
Even with relatively easy military victories in Syria and Lebanon, which are very doubtful, it's hard to see how Israel can come out ahead. Hezbollah's cohesion in Lebanon isn't breakable, and attacking it again may even result in serious incursions into Israel itself, loss of position in the Bekaa Valley, and loss of controlling much-needed river waters in that area. Syrian forces have entered 3km into Lebanon, and have been building defensive positions there for at least the past month. Whether Israel's gambit succeeds or not, the US can pull back and stay in Balad, Basra, the Green Zone, and the super-base going up in Kirkuk for the next 10 years, like crusaders retreating to castles to stave off the Saracens. But so what? That's not victory. It's a lease on defeat with a four-year warranty.
It's much easier to see how a detente between the Saudis, Yemenis, Iranians, Syrians, Emirates, and Kuwaitis could form around the extraction of the huge oil reserves in Western Iraq. Doing so would open up a revenue stream that would benefit everybody and have profound effects on the region. Even the West would benefit. While Western oil companies would lose majority control over their beloved sludge and its profits, they could still participate as minorities. Iran would be mollified, able to get enough refined gasoline (which they don't produce much of, so they must import it), and happy with direct influence in a new Southern-Shia Rump of Iraq, with the Tigris a natural border and limit between Persians and Arabs. As I previously wrote in "Turkey Masses 150,000 on Northern Iraq Border...And Much, Much More!" Turkey could grab Kurdistan, or exert increased control over it, getting oil in exchange for being wracked by an indefinite ethnic insurgency.
The federation which would result from a near-complete US retreat from Iraq, a Mid-East Council for Cooperation and Assistance (MECCA, if you're into acronyms) is the vehicle for bringing peace to Iraq and the entire Mid-East conflict. It could easily make a truce with Israel, because it can offer Israel much closer access to oil and gas, granting it the energy security the US has failed to provide. In other words, Israel would get a direct pipeline to the relatively close-by Iraqi fields, and could even become an international oil player by building refineries. Israel's quid pro quo to the pan-Arab federation would be to end the Palestinian apartheid and finally grant Palestine national autonomy. Thus the required keystone to Peace's unfinished archway in the Mid-East can be fitted. This is what Jim Baker saw as the political solution. It is expressed in veiled language in his Iraq Study Groups 79 points. Like him, I know that given the staggering amounts of money and liquid security involved, it would work. There is lot of bad blood to get over, but money, new partnerships, and intermarriage have been the historical means of the atonements which secure peace. Women may be wreakers of all manner of domestic strife, but on tribal to national scales they have long been called "the vessels of peace."
There are a number of personally unattractive consequences to the above approach and consequences. To whom are they most unattractive?
Not The Bin Laden Group. It would be quite content, and would largely push its competitor Halliburton out of regional oil services. As a result of its central position of power and utility, that family might quickly become the titular as well as de facto rulers of Saudi Arabia. Even if the facade of the current Saudi Royal Family is maintained, an oil sinecure for the Sunnis in Iraq is thereby ensured, which is what they're fighting hardest over. They won't stop until they get it or all die. Official Bin Laden control of Saudi Arabia would bring stability to the wahabist Saudis, who generally desire to see the Saudi royal family roasted like luau-ed like pigs. And once the Bin Ladens gain full control at home, they would set about forming a United States of Pan-Arabia. Hopefully they will choose a different name. (I still like MECCA.)
Western oil companies would come up on the short end of the stick, as they would neither be wanted or much needed. Russian and Chinese capital are fully capable of financing development in the region, and their hoards of foreign exchange beg to be put to this use. Their arms industries would be winners, too. Cheaper, effective Russian and Chicom weapons would provide the non-political means of the region's security. Another big winner would be Iran (oh, the humiliation), and the Great Game would be effectively over, those with the natural advantages in geography, proximity, logistics, and intelligence having, unsurprisingly and finally, won after 150 years of continuous struggle over Tehran and Baghdad.
The big losers would be the Carlyle Group, the US/Western Miltary Industry, a few huge neo-colonial Western oil companies, and Halliburton. This, of course, cannot be allowed to happen. One must think Cheney and others would rather see the whole region burnt to brimstone and treacle. So, professional or not, it's anybody's guess how this will play out.