Sunday, May 25, 2008

Yeast Shall Overcome: Wingnut Reactions To A Dunkin Donuts Ad

I happened to see an ad on TV while trying to watch the History Channel this morning. (Mental note: Lord Running Boy loves World War II air battle analysis, and was particularly enthused about F6F gun camera footage. Where, oh where do the children get this aggression from?) I realized about halfway through the ad that the pitch-person was Rachel Ray, a populist-leaning chef with her very own show on cable which I've surfed past a few times; I say populist because her food theme seems to be "easy-to-cook dishes that won't trigger diabetes until you're 60."

Not being a current Dunkin customer, the imagery took a few moments longer to leech into the recesses of my brain: "Hey! that a kaffiyeh Rachel is wearing?? Oh, yes. Oh yes, it was, and woe be it unto the PR people at Dunkin Donuts come Tuesday morning. Now, direct oppo research doesn't hold much appeal for me, and I normally prefer to rely on my hand-picked, undetectable HUMINT team moles, since they're better at it and are usually family. But this one was tempting. So I Googled 'Rachel Ray, terrorist' and got 116,000 hits. Scrolling past the usual froth-mouthed dancing bears of the mainstream media, I went to a destination we'll call 'Little Green Footworshippers,' a paranoid DSMR-IV virulent-patriotism blog. I was not disappointed:

I didn’t believe this story when people first started emailing about it; but sure enough, its true. Dunkin Donuts, the venerable old fried dough seller, is the latest American firm to casually promote the symbol of Palestinian terrorism and the intifada, the kaffiyeh, via Rachael Ray: Dunkin’ Breakfast Choices.

Here’s an LGF search with many previous examples of the mainstreaming of the kaffiyeh. I’m actually getting hate mail from Rachael Ray supporters (!) but this isn’t happening in a vacuum, and Ray is not the first celebrity to show up wearing one of these.

UPDATE at 5/23/08 12:35:54 pm:

This isn’t just my lonely opinion; for more on the kaffiyeh as the symbol of Palestinian terrorism (they don’t call it that, of course), see the “Magazine of the Party for Socialism and Liberation:” The Palestinian kaffiyeh: a symbol of solidarity [S&L Magazine].

A survey of some of the thread comments:

  • I'm going to Krispy Kreme!
  • Not that I've been to a DD in years, but I think that maybe I should never go back.
  • Crap. I literally just took a sip of a Dunks coffee.
  • Who owns Dunkin Donuts? It's going to be hard to get my wife and daughter to stop going there.
  • Is that hack Rachel Ray gonna whip us up some dunkin donut falafels to go along with PLO cafe latte?
  • It's not just DD in this case. Rachel Ray has an empire. Her Food Network shows, her talk show, her magazine, her line of cookware.... All should be boycotted.
  • That is Rachel Ray. I'm not sure that she actually understands the significance of what she is wearing; at least I have never heard anything of her politics. She doesn't strike me as a moonbat, but she may be.
  • What is the building in the background? Can anyone tell? Rachel Ray . . . I wonder if she might be of Muslim heritage . . .
  • She should be ashamed, but I'd bet dollars to donuts (sorry!) she has no idea the significance of what she's wearing... That does not excuse DD for running an ad w/ her wearing it, tho... What's next, swastikas? Ron Paul T-shirts?
  • Their shareholders must be made aware this is offensive and undermines our war effort.
I'll watch the ad closer if I see it again, and will update you if Rachel is observed performing any goose-stepping islamofascist choreography, advocates fried-dough suicide bombs, or starts singing "Yeast Shall Overcome."

P.S.--I think the building in the background might be a Mormon Temple, possibly the one in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Will They Kill Obama?

Hillary Clinton has wistfully stated at least five times in the past three months that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June after winning the 1968 California primary, citing it as another reason for not dropping out. We could parse nuances of the word "assassinate" or compare Florida to the plight of Zimbabwe, but let's cut the crap. Let's head straight for the cerebellum, and to the oldest of superstitions, which is this: naming calls. Speak of the devil, and he appears.

Despite not withstanding the temptations of power well and wielding it to precious little good, the Bushes and the Clintons still have it. Yes, the gate-crasher has a movement, sure, he's tapped into a longing, has foot soldiers and 2 million donors. Still, he doesn't have the power yet, and all that stands between whom the Clintons serve and their maintenance of the White House is one man's life. If you think these people haven't killed before, maybe playing "See No Evil" is more fun than it looks.

Bobby Kennedy was killed because he threatened a long-established system of political, corporate, and racial fealty. He wanted to get America out of a stupid war, a change of direction many thought to be both traitorous and bad business. Same with Barack Obama now, but with crucial differences.

Obama is much better organized, much less frictional, far better at assembling stakeholders. It's what he does. He has ameliorated his radical roots well enough to get the endorsements of Paul Volcker and Warren Buffett, the most significant he's ever won, as they bring Wall Street with them. Even rich investors have come to long for something different, something which doesn't throw empires down imprudent hellholes. This isn't about morals for them, it's about results. They think we need an entirely new practical and philosophical basis on which to float a country, and they see the Clintons as just another part of the problem.

They're not going to kill Barack Obama. Even if a desperate woman's dark wish-craft wants triggers to be pulled, a transformation in our national psyche has already occurred. At this point, the people who should be most worried about the powers that be are Bill and Hillary Clinton. They're burying themselves.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thumbs Up From The Other Side

A son is coming down like a cosmonaut from Nirvana. His sonogram is titled 'OPEN HAND.' I am inexpressably happy, scared again, and I'm filled with all the hopes and greeds and fears containable by animal revetments.

If you see him there above, he's thumbing his nose with his left hand and giving a thumbs-up with his right. He looks for all the world like Evelyn Waugh waving to me and my girl from the far corner of the dark-wood-panelled Connaught in London. Behind coke-bottle glasses, his eyes send out babyphores: "Hallo, there. There's a big line outside, but I've got the table! Come on and join me."

Mon p'tit panier blanc, mon joli coeur et encore, quand y'a l'ascenseur.
Yes we will join you. Where we live, my son, we open worlds and give the waters back to skies. We all begin and end in dreams, and await you.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Saudis Spite The Bush Administration

Meant to mention earlier; the Bush family may once have had a special relationship with the Saudis. If they did, it is over. A significance occurred on Bush's current debouch through the Mid-East, and I'm searching for the right English word to describe the Saudi response to his viagric exhortations to raise oil production; let's see, here...objurgate is too open; fustigate is getting better, but still too blunt; and I'm thinking animadvert is about right. It's a rare word, the verb form of animadversion, that most well-placed censorious or unfavorable comment. It approaches the oblique, aristocratic, Parthian-shottish elegance of their efficient insults.

The Saudi elites are the most polite of men, and they can afford to be. No one dares to mention, much less decry, their polygamy, their servants, nor their slaves except in praise. These men are proud men, they are rich and blood-connected, they run a feudal society; they are princes and know the locations of their thrones. So when the King and his family ministers pointedly and publicly say to their long-accustomed arms and security supplier who has begged twice, "We see no need to raise oil production," it should be noted.

The fact that they invoked rank and privilege on a loyal servant was completely lost on the Western Media. The New York Times byline said, Saudis Rebuff Bush, Politely, on Pumping More Oil. Politely? These people now control Citibank. Politely was running a poacher over the fence undead. Here, they showed Bush the unwashed soles of their feet at the feast, a no-no on par with pooping into someone's indoor potted fern, as I was once tempted to do so in a certain Senator's dining room and refrained out of pity for his intelligent, hip-to-his-tricks wife. She was human, and so kind to extend me his distant hospitality.

George W. Bush opened his trip to the Mid-East in a kneeling homage to the Israeli Knesset; Democrats and the media focused on his anti-appeasement remarks, choosing to flock like geese to Obama's needless defense. Diversion alert: Yo! Am I the only person trapped in these topographies, self-banished from my gods, who realizes what occurred? Teeth should have gnashed, clothing should have rent. George Bush's grandfathers financed the Nazis and armed their glabrous fingers from Brownshirt beginnings right on into the unspelunkable hellholes of WWII, and they got filthy rich.

The trusted executor of the resulting Bush estate, once grandpap died, was the former CEO of Standard Oil who confessed a no-contest-peccavi to the Trading With the Enemies Act in 1942. It was that man, their financial advisor, who had built the cracking station in 1940 at Auschwitz. (You in the Knesset, were some of you not there?? Did your fathers and mothers not have tattoos of blue? Did someone, anywhere, anyone who dwells amongst the drooling gollum-wallahs of our media do any homework, have any memory? No. So here it is proven, and I am so profoundly sorry: the value of history is negative.) I wish I had a river I could skate away on. I wish I had a river so long that I could teach my feet to glide.

The greater substance of what our Fetal Alchohol First Son read in his halting rote was mercifully more general than specific, unconditionally expressing infinite support for Israel against its enemies, now Myrmidon. I could never have enumerated every missile, tank, drone and jet, pick me up with sterile hands. In all probability every one of you, the brave readers who've made it this far, you're not terribly interested in the details, the ins and outs of the troublesome keystones of the Jewish-Arabic curtains and contentions. Or by extension, our jittering American-Muslim affairs.

I'm not neither. To summarize Palestine, the odds are long, the proposed scenarios are all shams, the negotiations are charades as satirical as 'Blazing Saddle' in the original Mel Brookish. (Stage, scene, intro: "If you don't get back right now, I'll kill the nigger! Now sing songs of joy and peace!") Imagine how the Arabs, the Iranians, the Iraqis, the Lebanse, the Pakistanis, the Malaysians and the Detroitians took in the actions, the speaking, and the words of our developmentally disabled envoy. While prostituting his office at the seat of imperial project Judah, it even offended the Israelis.

It didn't end there, and it's not going to. He travels to offend elsewhere. Probably my biggest regret is that I never had a classical education to better deal with the winds whistling down from these intellectual heights. George Bush absorbed more classics while he doodled, stamped his feet and closed his ears at Andover by twelve years old than I've breathed in my whole life. Those classics would've told me to be open, and learn to love what I don't know. The test is now, the test is mine and the sap is rising. And I still don't know why that son of a bitch chose to not stay home

Obama Breaks Over 50, Clinton Dives Under 40 In Gallup Poll

Edwards announced his support for Obama on the 15th, he was already going up the day before, leading up to a 55-39 result yesterday. The photo above of Portland's waterfront park speaks 75,000 words. Washington's Democratic Campaign Chair, Dwight Pelz, announced his Obama endorsement today, as did former KKK member Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and investor Warren Buffett.

Buffett is not a super-delegate, he's someone far more influential. Following endorsements by two former SEC chairmen and Federal Reserve legend Paul Volcker, this signifies a crack right to the core in Wall Street's traditional knee-jerk support for Republicans. Buffett's announcement come after a day when the Illinois candidate for democratic nominee openly spoke about tougher anti-trust regulations, particularly in regards to media cross-ownership in local markets.

Arianna Huffington has an eloquent summary of Hillary Clinton's accomplishment for women called Hillary Clinton's Defeat: A Historic Triumph. It manages to be both accurate in its praise and conciliatory in its aim, giving an impression of how she can bow out on the best terms and re-build her political capital, not to mention become part of American legend:
"Once the disappointment fades and the cuts and bruises heal, the lasting impression will be one of glory, accomplishment, and profound impact."
Crude Awakening: Barrels Of Oil Per Ounce Of Gold

As we teeter off the tipping point of a non-negotiable way of life, we collectively suffer from multiple illusions, these still shored up by past observations logged by our inductive social brains. We're like Bertrand Russell's examplary thought-chickens, so convinced of our keepers' benevolence by continued feedings that we say, "See, these humans ain't so bad, look how good they been to us lot! Worth trading a few eggs for, I'd say. Hey what's that sharp metal thing Farmer John's carryin'?" The past lulls us into thinking it's always prologue. It's not, and having been outside this box, my thinking is unorthodox.

I say Farmer John is bent on murder. To wit, the diverging lines in the graph above. The blue and red lines ascending skywards on Jacob's ladder represent the Dollars and Euros required to buy a barrel of oil. The purple line snailing its flat path across the chart is the number of barrels of oil an ounce of gold will buy. Oil and gold are commodities, so they have intrinsic value; dollars and euros are pieces of paper, so they do not. The price relationship between oil and gold has been remarkably stable for the past 70 years. Therefore it's not so much the price of oil which is going up; it's the value of currencies which is going down. That's the key to understanding what is happening to the US place in the world economy, and its likely implications, and whether or not the Eagle is become as paper, as the Bear once was.

Most analysts would probably point to Peak Oil as the cause of oil's price increases, but US demand for oil fell year-on-year by 4% this January, world oil production went up by 2.5%, and world consumption increased by only 2% over the same period. Refiners such as Valero have cut production, called off expansion, and laid off workers because of low margins, yet gasoline reserves are at the highest level in the past 16 years. In this case, Peak Oil or the gas and oil "shortage" touted by the US President and his Secretary of Energy are illusions, and ungloving their hidden hands is easy.

Investment in speculation probably accounts for more than 50% of oil's price increase. Not surprising, since price volatility attracts speculation, and sustained price movements build their own momentum to create price bubbles. The total market in oil futures was worth $9 billion in 2001. It's now worth $250 billion. As the speculation extends, the more it attracts new entrants, and there's little reason to think oil speculation is in a late stage.

But there's something deeper going on than extraordinary oomph in one commodity. Across the board, commodities are up by more than double their year-prior price. Copper, rice, bauxite, silver, chicken feed, flour, you name it. Wheat futures went up by 70% on one Friday a couple of months back. Such broad-based sustained buying is consistent with a flight from currency into alternative values, and it's never happened to this extent in my lifetime. Granted, oil is a special case due to heightened global political risk and to clear domestic policy intentions to work up price--with both POTUS and VPOTUS being influential oil men, they've rewarded their own.

But two causal roots are anchored still further in the earth, and both are tolling knells to continued American leadership in the world. Each is a clear signal of lost fiscal confidence, at least in US tender. Primo, foreign banks want to unload gigantic dollar holdings, and they've been doing so. China alone has a $1.5 trillion reserve and has been hoarding commodities for years now. Secondo, the dollar monopoly on oil exchange is now broken, and it's why current US leadership is still considering an attack on Iran.

Suffocating Iran's anti-dollar initiative is critical to maintaining dollar hegemony. If that cannot be done, a day will come when the US government can't print up paper and buy all-you-can-eat energy with it. That means no operational military might, no further capacity to borrow. Government actions would have to be earned by building foreign exchange reserves. I'll turn to Brother Tim (who runs the always-principled, oft-provocative Blog of Revelation) and surface his comment on a previous post (What's That Got To Do With The Price Of Rice?):
The Iranians have now opened up their oil bourse, accepting mainly petro-euros and yen, and a few lesser hard currencies. Absolutely no petro-dollars accepted.

Last September Iran started accepting only yen from the Japanese. The Japanese and the Chinese account for a large part of Iranian oil exports, around 20% each.

Iranian production is capable of 6 million barrels/day, as witnessed in the 70s and 80s. Iranian consumption is just over 1 million barrels/day. They're now producing around 4 million barrels/day, exporting 3. So, roughly 3 million barrels/day has been pulled off the open market (NYMEX & IPE).

Add to that 'Private Oil'. This is backroom dealing between producers and consumers, effectively eliminating the middle-man (NYMEX & IPE). An example of this is the Chinese deal with Sudan to get 200,000 barrels/day @ $60.00/barrel for 10 years, in exchange for investment capital for infrastructure and exploration. Russia and Venezuela have made similar deals with China. Every barrel that is sold or traded in this way is one more barrel taken off the open market. THIS is a big part of the rising oil prices, and will surely get worse as time goes by.

Many think the New York Mercantile Exchange and London's International Petroleum Exchange are invincible. They believe that since the two largest Exchanges are basing oil on the dollar, that the dollar cannot fail. However, when those two Exchanges collapse (and they will) the dollar will go belly-up with them. Every barrel bought with yen, euro, or renminbi, is a barrel lost to the dollar.
Every barrel bought with yen, euro, or renminbi is a barrel lost to the dollar. Because it weaken's the dollar's liquidity. The economic conflict is broken down the old capitalist/communist fault line, except now the capitalists owe the communists huge sums of money. That chart above explains much about how the war is going, and nearly everything about the United States' choice of enemies. Tim, you seem to have an excellent grasp here, and I'd appreciate it if you could expand as you see fit.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


"The rich have become so unsocial that those who own property had rather throw their possessions into the sea than lend aid to the needy, while those who are in poorer circumstances would less gladly find a treasure than seize the possessions of the rich."

Isocrates, Greece following the Pelopennesian War, 366 B.C.

"The rich organized themselves into oligarchies for protection against the poor, who schemed to despoil them by legislation, taxation, or revolution. Their members took a solemn oath: 'I will be an adversary of the people, and in the Council I will do them all the evil that I can.'"

Aristotle, Greece, Politics, Section 1310, ca. 335 B.C.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Republicans On The Run II

Reader, sane person, and fellow Seattleite Isabelita expresses doubts that McCain will stumble in the Fall, feeling that maybe he'll somehow eke out another Pug-stolen election. I share your doubts, Iz--is it really possible that this politically sewn-up society of vicious, limitless, corpse-gnawing swine will simply file back into their sties? Constantly bitten, forever shy.

But then I think, how weird is this already? Imagine that it's September 12th again, and you're sitting at home watching the news, on the verge of a seizure from the shock therapy of seeing Islam-powered jets slam into the World Trade Centers over and ka-blinka and over. Then this bright little hole appears in your living room wall, it gets bigger, and out pops a magical time-traveling dwarf who intones the following:
"Hear me, oh mortal, and be not afraid! I come from the future and bear a message for your people. Seven years from now, your next President's middle name will be Hussein, and his last name will rhyme with Osama. Oh, yeah--he'll be black and from Kenya. Thou must go now, and tell thy people."
Personally, I would have said to the dwarf, "Look, you're obviously a time traveler, probably from a different planet, maybe even an angel. But I'm not going anywhere and you're completely crazy. So let's just keep this between you and me for now, ok?"

But that dwarf was probably right. Republicans are more frightened than they were after Watergate. The RNC chair, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) called President Bush "absolutely radioactive" on TV last night, predicting that "if Senator John McCain is seen by voters as "Bush III" he will lose by 20 percentage points." It's Davis's job to be the party's optimist.

Then, Peggy Noonan, the Catholic conservative speech writer and seer of the Republicans talks to the old-time hands, and she had this to say in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
The Democrats aren't the ones falling apart, the Republicans are. The Democrats can see daylight ahead. For all their fractious fighting, they're finally resolving their central drama. Hillary Clinton will leave, and Barack Obama will deliver a stirring acceptance speech. Then hand-to-hand in the general, where they see their guy triumphing. You see it when you talk to them: They're busy being born.

The Republicans? Busy dying. The brightest of them see no immediate light. They're frozen, not like a deer in the headlights but a deer in the darkness, his ears stiff at the sound. Crunch. Twig. Hunting party.
There's a long way to go, and those quotes are there to make me feel better, too. But here's a happy thought: at least the right people are scared for once.

Transmigration Of Trolls

Senile psychopath "Maverick" John McCain was all set to negotiate with Hamas in 2006, but it's taboo for Barack Obama to dish that crazy talk now, because, because, ahh--oh, dammit--Neville Chamberlain! [ABC News]

Friday, May 16, 2008

Torkham Choke Point: Pakistan To Stop Supporting US Operations In Afghanistan

Torkham is just 5 klicks east of the summit of the Khyber Pass, right on what masquerades as a border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Some clever chappie drew the Durand Line, more commonly known as the 'Zero Line,' on a map in 1893 as an attempt to keep the Khan's influence out of what was then British India. It never really worked. Jalalabad is to the west, Peshawar is to the east, and in between is al-Qaeda.

The 50,000 US & NATO troops in Afghanistan need about 700,000 gallons of fuel per day to maintain operations. 500,000 of that goes through Torkham, where 36 tankers were blown up in a customs parking lot one night in March. The Afghan National Army has difficulty securing supply columns from attack once past the gate, and the efforts of Pakistan's forces have become increasingly token since recent elections which effectively deposed the US-bankrolled Musharraf. The Taliban was able to close the supply route for at least 8 days in April, prompting an increasing number of Predator drone missile strikes inside Pakistan. "Truckers wanted, must have a love for adventure."

Soon, Pakistan will conclude a new treaty with its tribes to heal enmities over past US support; losses through the Torkham line will likely steepen dramatically. Russia has been watching this devolving situation closely, and Vladimir Putin offered a supply line through Russia at the last NATO meeting, but certainly not for free. They didn't take him up on it (yet). US supplies going through Russia to fight al-Qaeda packs enough irony to prostrate intelligence services with howls of helpless laughter. The only people keeping straight faces are the grunts and the Bush Administration. Here's what the Pakis have to say about it:
Adm. Eric T. Olson, the commander of United States Special Operations Command, held a round-table discussion with a group of civilian Pakistani leaders to sound them out on the possibility of cross-border raids by American forces. He was told in no uncertain terms that from the Pakistani point of view it was a bad idea, said one of the participants.

Instead, Pakistani officials are trying to restore calm to their country, which was rattled by a record number of suicide attacks last year. Within days, they are expected to strike a peace accord with Pakistan’s own militants that makes no mention of stopping the infiltrations. In fact, Pakistani counterinsurgency operations have stopped during the new government’s negotiations with the militants.

“Pakistan will take care of its own problems, you take care of Afghanistan on your side,” said Owari Ghani, the governor of North-West Frontier Province, who is also President Pervez Musharraf’s representative in charge of the neighboring tribal areas.

Mr. Ghani, a key architect of the pending peace accord, believes along with many other Pakistani leaders that the United States is floundering in the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan, he said, should not be saddled with America’s mistakes, especially if a solution involved breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty, a delicate matter in a nation where sentiment against the Bush administration runs high.

Pakistan is a sovereign state,” he said. “NATO is in Afghanistan; it’s time they did some soldiering.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Endorses Obama; Now For Some VP Speculation

The timing of the endorsement was either fortuitous or great planning, a maul used to blunt momentum from the Clinton victory, their largest margin yet, in West Virginia last night. (Where Edwards got 7% of the vote.) Edwards supplies 18 regular delegates to the Obama numbers, which would put him over 1,900 total and within ten of a simple regular-delegate majority of 1,627. The important psychological delegate number is 2,000, not 2,026, and Obama now only has to get 30% of the remaining uncommitted pool. You always have to wonder what price was paid, and the VP slot would seem a little steep. A Cabinet position would be reasonable, and Edwards would be the most progressive Attorney General imaginable.

Now the winnowing process begins for the running mate. Senator Jim Webb of Virginia (retired Navy Commander, son served two tours in Iraq, took seat away from a Republican incumbent) offers a great suite of gap-fillers. But he's a first-termer from Congress. Ohio's governor Ted Strickland has been bandied about because he closes all the obvious gaps--he now runs a key state that has trended Republican, is moderate, well-respected, over 60, white and got an 'A' rating from the National Rifle Association. But he's a Clinton supporter, which may discount him, and also a first-termer, which doesn't help the inexperience angle.

So, looking down the list of Democratic state governors, there aren't many that fit the bill as nicely as Tennessee's Phil Bredeson. He brings everything Strickland does and a boatload more: he started Health America, which became a 6,000-employee publicly traded health care management company; he is noted for spending wisely on education programs; he's a Presbyterian from smack dab in the demographic and region Obama has struggled in; he won his last gubernatorial election 69-30; and he does not draw his gubernatorial salary. He's a small-town boy from Appalachia made good with the credibility, physics degree, contacts, and drive to take on the health care mess.

Republicans On The Run

Here's the follow-up to last night's post on the Mississippi miracle, a memo sent out this morning by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Cole (R-Okla.). His message is a simple "To the lifeboats!" advisory. This clearly gives the lie to the congressional field trip to the White House last week to hug each other and display "solidarity."

“We are disappointed in tonight’s election results. Though the NRCC, RNC and Mississippi Republicans made a major effort to retain this seat, we came up short.

“Tonight’s election highlights two significant challenges Republicans must overcome this November. First, Republicans must be prepared to campaign against Democrat challengers who are running as conservatives, even as they try to join a liberal Democrat majority. Though the Democrats’ task will be more difficult in a November election, the fact is they have pulled off two special election victories with this strategy, and it should be a concern to all Republicans.

“Second, the political environment is such that voters remain pessimistic about the direction of the country and the Republican Party in general. Therefore, Republicans must undertake bold efforts to define a forward looking agenda that offers the kind of positive change voters are looking for. This is something we can do in cooperation with our Presidential nominee, but time is short.

“I encourage all Republican candidates, whether incumbents or challengers, to take stock of their campaigns and position themselves for challenging campaigns this fall by building the financial resources and grassroots networks that offer them the opportunity and ability to communicate, energize and turn out voters this election."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Travis Childers Delivers Big Democratic Win In Mississippi

In a district which went 62-38 for Bush in 2004, the AP calls a tight race for Democrat Travis Childers in Mississippi. It's a win for the DCCC and a symbolic win for Obama in the staunchly conservative Mississippi 1st district. This is big; by comparison, Hillary Clinton's thumping victory in West Virginia is a sideshow. Tonight's Mississippi miracle will shake the Republican Party to its core, because it recently lost two other "lock" races and the RNC pulled out all the stops to firewall this one. Haley "Where's My Dinnah?" Barbour is also the Republican governor. His famed appetite must be suffering, and he's probably wearing a plus-size adult diaper right about now.

In race-baiting beamed forward in time from the Reconstruction era, Obama was used as a boogeyman by the Pugs; Childers had aligned himself with the new sheriff in town, counting on new voter turnout to win. It worked. This is what the RNC leadership had to say about this race, coming on the heels of special-elections defeats in stronghold seats in Louisiana and Illinois, including the one held by former Speaker of the House Denny Hastert:

"When you connect three dots in anything, that's a bad thing. This connects the dots. At that point, everybody's got to come together and have a come-to-Jesus meeting," said Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), a retiring centrist who will help form a new advisory panel at the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"It's a time of sober reflection and, to some extent, resolve. I hope these special elections are a wake-up call," said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), the leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee.

"The Republicans would be ignoring reality if they try to explain away this race," said Nathan Gonzales, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

Note to the NRCC: Jesus will kick your butt through the goalposts of life. Increasingly it looks to this political late bloomer that the Republicans may be facing a historic landslide with Barack Obama at the head of a ticket which mobilizes and enfranchises a new, post-baby boom generation of voters. It's also a clear indication of how far the Global War on Terra has eroded the pylons of the so-called conservative Base. In a way I almost wish this "connect the dots" win hadn't happened just yet. Because if they lost here, Republican strategists know they can lose anywhere. Everywhere. They're a smart, professional group adeptly fond of rigging elections, they're out of excuses, and the unequivocal outcome forms an urgent new question to keep them up at night: "How are we going to suppress that much more vote?"

Fill In The Blank

The map above plots all the individual counties in the United States that the Clintons won by 20% or more in this Democratic primary. It closely resembles the migration path of settlers southward and westward circa 1830-1860. Fascinating, some very deep-rooted Americana at work here, but I won't go there. It'd be great to hear a demographer like Joel Garreau (who wrote The Nine Nations of North America) take a crack at an explanation.

War's Desolation Finally Hits Home

To all the US soldiers killed, shot, blown apart, incinerated, amputated, decapitated, divorced, disembowelled, drained of blood, concussed, castrated, rendered insane, unemployable, or otherwise messed up by the war in Iraq, all 600,000 of you according to a recent RAND (i.e. Pentagon) study, you can feel better now. In your honor, President Bush announced today that he was giving up (no I really can't believe this either stand back my head's going to pop but it's totally true) GOLF!

Why John McCain Is Doomed

The United States has been at war in the Mid-East for almost 7 years. That war was always enormously misguided, craven, and expensive, always was going to be. Just as predictably, we've lost that romp of incompetence although few seem prepared to admit it yet. Six years ago, very few people, and far fewer politicians, were mentally "with it" enough to point at the Big Picture. Even now, for fun and profit the tatterdemalion media prefer to focus on tactics, which factors to multiply which way: "Candidate X does better with bowlers, Candidate Y does well with eaters of seaweed. In other news, Occupied Country Z is opening an amusement park." Ad captandum vulgus, ad infinitum. It's like reading the titles of books as they're driven off their shelves by an earthquake.

Of course the longing for (some say the manufacture of) a new lion can be traced back to the disasters of the old. Yet perhaps it's more the Moment itself which calls new lions forth. Who we elect will, amongst other things, determine whether we can cut the atmosphere's CO2 levels enough to stop playing "The Ghosts of Mars" with Mother Earth, or whether we end up getting nuked or not. Little decisions, big outcomes.

Hillary Clinton supported the war, and her big backers support the war. John McCain supported the war, and his big backers support the war. That's why they will lose. They'll lose because they've been bought and paid for, they'll lose to someone we've bought and paid for. They'll lose because they'll never give this speech:

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.I don’t oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. I don’t oppose all wars.

And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him. But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military is a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the President today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Psyche's News Roundup

Obama camp: Clinton not looking for a deal -

Party Like Its 2008 - New York Times (Frank Rich)

AAA Reports That Cost of Owning & Operating a New Vehicle Is Now 54.1 Cents per Mile - American soldier exposes US policy in Iraq

TPM Election Central | Talking Points Memo | Lieberman: Obama's Alleged Endorsement By Hamas Shows "Difference" With McCain (talking toad yaps again)

Hullabaloo: Show Us Your Papers (Missouri goes for voter-ID)

Ron Paul's forces quietly plot GOP convention revolt against McCain : Top of the Ticket : Los Angeles Times

Larry Di Rita's evasions about the "military analyst" program - Glenn Greenwald -

How Actual Journalism Works - Swampland - TIME (ummm...or not)

Growing Deficits Threaten Pensions - Accounting Tactics Conceal a Crisis For Public Workers

What The Platypus Genome Is and Isn't | Scientific Blogging

The 6 Most Frequently Quoted Bullsh*t Statistics |

Broadband: other countries do it better, but how? (socialism?)

Particle physicists plumb the depths for Roman lead - 13 July 1991 - New Scientist

Walk Score - Helping homebuyers, renters, and real estate agents find houses and apartments in great neighborhoods (try it)

Election Guide 2008 - Presidential Election - Politics - Electoral Map - The New York Times

Guantanamo Ruling Bodes Ill for System - New York Times (sleazy, lying military)

The Upside of Being Knocked Around - Barack Obama - New York Times (Leibovich)

Vote Like Thy Neighbor - New York Times ideological differences between the political parties are growing but also that they have become embedded in American society itself.

Booman Tribune ~ Dear Villagers: It's Change and the War, Stupid (Without the war, there wouldn't have been any space for anyone to run against Clinton-Atrios)

Cognitive Dissonance | Free exchange | (mouths wide shut)

Crooks and Liars If an Iranian Weapon Bust Turns Out Not To Be Iranian - Does Anyone Hear A Sound?

Asia Times Online :: Asian news and current affairs

Daily Kos: UPDATED.Why Clinton Lost: The Reason Nobody is Talking About

Sahara made slow transition from green to desert: study

Second Largest US Physicians Group Endorses Medical Marijuana

The Associated Press: Bush: Feds: Teen use of pot can lead to dependency, mental illness

Refacing Government Tender - a set on Flickr

Hillary Clinton Campaign Mad-Lib, Starring Adolf Hitler

This send-up of the Clinton campaign was written by James Adomian, an L.A.-based comedian who has been on Comedy Central. Dennis Perrin, a writer for The Daily Show, exposed it on his blog over the weekend. Adomian, known for his Bush imitations, adapted the German-language film 'Der Untergang.' Do not watch this clip if you are an ardent Hillary supporter, creative profanity shocks you, your bronchitis is acting up, or if you're eating.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dracula's Lament & Lyrics, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, By Jason Segel

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a romantic comedy about a musician (Jason Segel, who also wrote the script) who has lived with a Crime Scene Investigator-style actress (Kristen Bell) for five years. Although it's about a painful break-up with lots of "uncomfortable" humor, much of the movie was set in Hawaii where we plan to go next month, and it was imbued with Moliere-level instincts for pop culture ironies. Not surprising, because the producer was Judd Apatow, of Freaks and Geeks, 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up, SuperBad, et al. It was great fun and we, all of us, laughed a lot.

The film's high water mark was the musician's quirky, crazy idea for a rock opera about a puppet Dracula hopelessly in love with a woman he can't have. In the movie, Segel plays "Dracula's Lament" in front of a bar full of incredulous locals for the girl who makes him soon forget Sarah Marshall, and he makes her forget a surfer-champion ex-boyfriend. It's completely perverse, not for everyone, and I loved it. Somehow, somebody already has the song up on YouTube, synched to the Sesame Street Dracula. The lyrics, in a Transylvanian accent:

It's getting kind of hard to believe
things are going to get better
I've been drowning too long to believe
that the tide's going to turn

And I've been living too hard to believe
that things are going to get easier now
I'm still trying to shake off the pain
from the lessons I've learned

And if I see van Helsing, I swear
to the Lord I will slay him!
A-ha-ha-haa! Take it from me
I swear I will let it be so! A-ha-ha-haa!!

Blood will run down his face
when he is decapitated...aah!
his head on my mantle is how
I will let this world know:

How much I love you--
I can't.

Bunker Hillary

I've tried not to go after Hillary Clinton too much, first because it would be tiresomely biased, and next because this isn't an anti-Clinton blog per se; in terms of political analysis, it's more an extended musing on whether or not I should move my family to Vancouver, Ireland, or Argentina. I do not wonder alone; last week, Lord Wife walked up to me out of the blue and said, "If he (John McCain) wins, we're leaving, right?" This would seem to be an extreme option, but it's only an inconvenient one requiring close attention to a barometer. At best, the US faces some daunting challenges over the next few years; metaphorically, there are hangovers, and there are liver diseases. This country faces both, and "moments of clarity" are shortly in order.

Deep-background articles like the one below by Michael Crowley, published in the wonkish New Republic last June, confirmed what vectors the country would steer for with the Clintons conning the helm again. It also explains much about reporters' motivations, first in handling that family with kid gloves, and now with dirks:
On June 1, The New York Times published a front-page article titled, ONE PLACE WHERE OBAMA GOES ELBOW TO ELBOW. The feature detailed Barack Obama's love for pickup basketball, his jersey-tugging style, even the time he hit a long game-winning shot after getting fouled.

The Obama camp clearly welcomed the humanizing glimpse at Obama's life; his rivals, probably not so much. In an ordinary campaign, that might have been it. But this is no ordinary campaign--not when Hillary Clinton is a candidate. And so, the Clinton team let Times reporter Patrick Healy, who covers the Hillary beat, know about their "annoyance" with the story, as Healy later put it.

If grumbling about a basketball story seems excessive, it's also typical of the Clinton media machine. Reporters who have covered the hyper-vigilant campaign say that no detail or editorial spin is too minor to draw a rebuke. Even seasoned political journalists describe reporting on Hillary as a torturous experience. Though few dare offer specifics for the record--"They're too smart," one furtively confides. "They'll figure out who I am"--privately, they recount excruciating battles to secure basic facts. Innocent queries are met with deep suspicion. Only surgically precise questioning yields relevant answers. Hillary's aides don't hesitate to use access as a blunt instrument, as when they killed off a negative GQ story on the campaign by threatening to stop cooperating with a separate Bill Clinton story the magazine had in the works. Reporters' jabs and errors are long remembered, and no hour is too odd for an angry phone call. Clinton aides are especially swift to bypass reporters and complain to top editors. "They're frightening!" says one reporter who has covered Clinton. "They don't see [reporting] as a healthy part of the process. They view this as a ruthless kill-or-be-killed game."

Despite all the grumbling, however, the press has showered Hillary with strikingly positive coverage. "It's one of the few times I've seen journalists respect someone for beating the hell out of them," says a veteran Democratic media operative. The media has paved a smooth road for signature campaign moments like Hillary's campaign launch and her health care plan rollout and has dutifully advanced campaign-promoted themes like Hillary's "experience" and expertise in military affairs. This is all the more striking in light of the press's past treatment of Clinton--particularly during her husband's White House years--including endless stories about her personal ethics, frostiness, and alleged Lady Macbeth persona.

It's enough to make you suspect that breeding fear and paranoia within the press corps is itself part of the Clinton campaign's strategy. And, if that sounds familiar, it may be because the Clinton machine, say reporters and pro-Hillary Democrats, is emulating nothing less than the model of the Bush White House, which has treated the press with thinly veiled contempt and minimal cooperation.
Continue reading here.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Seizures Of Lebanon

Although it has been almost completely ignored by the media, Dick Cheney has been touring the Mid-East lately, and I don't think it's for the excellent chummus.

Just as Israel's prime minister Olmert sends diplomatic signals to Turkey that it wants their top diplomat to seek a settlement with Syria, Mr. Shadow President shows up in Tel Aviv. Then rumors start flying about Israeli super-spies in Tehran who have "the real goods" on Iranian weapons programs, Cheney pronounces our last NIE on it (saying there is no immediate threat) completely off-base, and Olmert is suddenly on the political brink again, this time over corruption charges. All coincidences.

Then, Lebanon's minority government put pressure on Hezbollah, the unseated majority party in that country, in effect attempting to disarm them. This is like Pee Wee Herman challenging George Forman to a boxing match. Hezbollah's leader in Lebanon, Hassan Nasrallah, held a press conference to say, "The decisions (of the government) are tantamount to a declaration of war and the start of a war...on behalf of the United States and Israel. We have the right to confront he who starts a war with us by defending our rights and our weapons."

Hours later, Hezbollah militiamen took over the streets of Beirut, sacking and burning whatever they wanted--TV stations, government offices. Lebanon's titular leaders huddled in their apartment compounds behind army and police contingents, probably emptying their safes before issuing calls to their troops to retreat, and calls to Al Qaeda to send in Sunni fighters. The last part is funny, because the US is lavishly financing Saad Hariri's Beirut-based Future Movement, it is Sunni, is known to have passed money and fighters into Iraq and Afghanistan, and is for all intents and purposes part of Al-Qaeda.

The net outcome of yesterday's donnybrook is that Hezbollah, the lever of Tehran, will probably win a much larger place in Lebanon's government. Somehow, one doubts that was the intended effect, but these are the circumstances we've been reduced to. And this is apparently the best Dick Cheney can do.

Washington State's Super-Delegate Status

Representative Rick Larson (D-WA) announced Thursday he would cast his super-vote for Senator Obama. He said that early in the primary race he was leaning toward endorsing Clinton, and had also thought about endorsing New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

Still left uncommitted among Washington’s superdelegates are state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz and Vice Chairwoman Eileen Macoll; Democratic National Committee members Ed Cote, Sharon Mast and David McDonald; and Congressman Jim McDermott.

McDermott, our representative, is the last neutral superdelegate among the state’s elected Democrats. As recently as April 23, Larsen was saying he had no plans to choose sides before all states had a chance to vote in primaries or caucuses. He said then:

I haven't changed my view at all that we should let the states play themselves out.

Larsen said today that he, as well as other superdelegates, were impressed by Obama’s performance in the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. It was, he said using a Clinton phrase, a “game-changer” and it “put a lot of uncommitted delegates into head-scratching mode” about what to do.

He met with Obama today in D.C. about an hour before his 2 p.m. conference all began. Larsen, a vocal critic of the superdelegate system, had already decided to endorse Obama, but he wanted to talk to the candidate about the state of the race and to raise a few Washington state issues, including the Boeing tanker deal.

There are a total of 796 superdelegates, including 17 in Washington. The 6 superdelegates backing Clinton here are U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Congressmen Norm Dicks and Jay Inslee, former House Speaker Tom Foley, and King County Executive Ron Sims. Given that most of the above represent Western Washington, which caucused 75-25 for Obama, these reps can expect to be remembered with proportional malice at their next tries for re-election. Of these, Cantwell and Inslee seem most vulnerable.

With Larsen, the 5 superdelegates backing Obama include Congressmen Adam Smith and Brian Baird, Gov. Chris Gregoire, and DNC member Pat Notter. Gregoire faces another stiff test from Republican "family values" challenger Dino Rossi (who may have actually won the last election), so she made the right choice. The bottle stands by you, Jim McDermott.

(Much of the above adapted from David Postman's Seattle Times blog, Postman on Politics.)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Barack Obama Train: Climb Aboard

Although the Obama campaign has let people know there will be no dancing in the end zone over Tuesday's 15-delegate net victory in North Carolina and Indiana, cheering is allowed. "Presumptive Nominee" is now the operative phrase. In fact, the cheering was heard all the way down in the US House of Representatives yesterday. An impromptu, extraordinary, perhaps unprecedented event took place, one whose tea leaves provide excellent reads. In short, Congress acts as if Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States. Still hard to believe, isn't it? All you need to do is suspend its opposite. If we want to win, it's time to shift focus from one fight, and line up behind who's left standing for the next.

He was in the Senate when he cell-phoned undeclared Pennsylvania superdelegate Rep. Robert A. Brady, who asked him to stop by and say hello to him in the House chambers. Obama took him up on the offer, heading over to shake hands, saying, "See, Bob, I listen to you sometimes." Brady joked back, "You got to listen to me all the time," and then a full-on case of Obama-mania broke out, right there in the holy chamber. Representatives mobbed the candidate, with supporters and opponents alike jostling for some face time.

Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) had him autograph a copy of the NY Daily News, which had "It's His Party" on the cover. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y., a Clinton backer), and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) gave him bear hugs. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) later said she was escorting three elementary school students onto the House floor when Obama made his entrance. "It's Barack Obama!," they shouted out in unison, and Ros-Lehtinen took them over to meet the Senator from Illinois. “The kids were very excited,” said Ros-Lehtinen. “Like rock star excited.” Ros-Lehtinen has publicly advocated the assassination of elected Mid-East leaders, yet even she got caught up in the optimism. More Republicans crossed the aisle to greet and congratulate, all saying, "We're looking forward to working with you." (Suspending that disbelief yet?) More from Politico:
Obama posed for photos with giddy pages on the staircase leading up to the House gallery. The normally staid and deferential pages, who walk the halls quietly on their best behavior, returned the favor, giving Obama a rousing ovation. Security guards reprimanded reporters and tourists for snapping photos with their phones — something that is strictly forbidden in many parts of the chamber unless you are a credentialed photographer — but to little avail.
Barack Obama took the pledged superdelegate lead away from Hillary Clinton (as ABC was first to report), gaining 9 superdelegates today alone. 117 such delegates endorsed him since February 5th, a 6-1 margin over Clinton in that period. He was winning the fundamental fight for the heart of a party which had become known for its ineffectual cowardice, a quality seemingly impervious to an appealing but uncertain Morpheus. Yet it happened. People, many of whose political lives depended on the Clintons, kept reaching for the Red Pill.

As that shift took place, I could feel the sheer weight and tectonic rumbles of a much larger turning. I sometimes caught myself thinking back to when I was a kid of 10 or so, riding in the backseat of a Mercedes sedan when my stepfather said to my mother of me, "He's a nigger-lover." All sorts of emotions passed through then, confusion, sadness, fear, anger, doubt, and ultimately, disappointment and profound embarrassment. I said nothing, but one statement contains so much, and it felt just like I've felt about this country through much of the intervening years. So yes, Dad, wherever you are, I am what you accused, here is the future that you feared. And I've made a donation of $50 to Barack Obama in your name.

When people look back, they'll say how obvious it all was, how latently etched it was in the marble of our country's monuments. So often, right when things happen in the now, their eventual impacts and echoes are not so obvious, and must be incrementally processed, extruded like ores recovered from the diaphanous parts of ourselves, the parts which live outside time, to smelt down encircling spirits into hard mortal symbols which make sense.
Walk in enough cemeteries, and you'll see a virgin Mary. Yet historical impact can be as obvious as a rock upside the head, as noisy as a Civil War cannonade, nonsensical as a sermon on a mount, expansive as the day an African-American man walked out through the Capitol Building in the whitest country in the world trailing a throng of reporters, and visitors broke the muttering, whispering, sepulchral silence of its high white dome to yell across it, "Barack! Go get 'em, Barack!!"

"America has hardly even begun to repay its debt to Iraq. This is an immoral request because we didn't ask them to come to Iraq, and before they came in 2003 we didn't have all these needs."
Abdul Basit, the head of Iraq's Supreme Board of Audit, an independent body that oversees Iraqi governmental expenditures, after being asked why US forces in Iraq are charged an average of $3.23 and citizens buy it for $1.36 per gallon. Last year, the US spent over $5 billion on petroleum products in Iraq. The Iraqi government is expected to capture $70 billion from oil sales in 2008, with the majority of that windfall being sent to foreign shelters.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Empire Strikes Back

This very funny video about a pretty serious topic has been watched almost a million times by Youtubers. Fun stuff sent on by Still Life Living.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

China's Coming-Out Party

The summer Olympics are coming to Beijing. Having gone there for work, it's a no-brainer to say, "This is going to be interesting." How interesting is more difficult to say, but here are some culinary previews: donkey is the most popular meat in China, all of the donkey, and deep-fried ducks' heads are their pork rinds. It is considered polite to blow your nose by placing your finger over one nostril and expelling the contents of the other runny chamber onto the ground, and a campaign to end the practice of spitting on classroom floors continues.

By merely driving through Beijing one sunny day, I knew the United States had met its geopolitical match, and was being bent under by superior leverage. Lao Tzu said the best victory was the one not fought for, and an immense faith in that notion filled all my vision. The skyline of the city was crowded with brand-new skyscrapers, beautifully built, new and straight as shining nails, at least 20% of them still empty. The scale of construction which had gone on was massive. I would estimate that, by 2001, Beijing was closing in on Manhattan as an office capitol. Not necessarily in square meter volume, since the buildings were only 20-40 stories on average, but in endless density. Perhaps it amounted to 7 or 8 square million meters, a significant bite in the Big Apple. The drive through the new office honeycombs took 30-40 minutes without pause, and not one tall building had been there 10 years before.

Foreign corporations could come, form an enterprise and own up to 49% of it. The ultimate arbitrage: come take advantage of our labor, cheapest in the world, we'll make it easy for you, and you'll keep half the money. What capitalist could resist? None did, the skyscrapers filled, and China and its new princes can build memorials like Beijing airport's opulent new airport terminal. Terminal 3, pictured above, just opened this week.

Their Olympic stadium is jaw-dropping, bold, and gleaming. Yet I have petted the heads of kittens being raised for roasting on spits, have seen coolies shoveling coal dust into wheelbarrows to dump them into a glass furnace which may have been operating for the past 400 years--the back end of which abuts the eastern wall of the Forbidden City--and I have been attended by servants of their government. It was all very innocent--at the time, I worked for Kai-Fu Lee, who had been called in to settle the diplomatic dispute over a crashed American spy plane, a cause celebre for him, with some small reflected glory on me. He now heads Google's efforts in China.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Lamont Williams Calling: Gotta Pry The Nomination Away From Da Bitch's Cold Dead Fingers

There were a flood of robo-calls to North Carolina by Women's Voices, Women's Votes (WVWV), a non-profit get-out-the-vote organization. The call featured a man named Lamont Williams giving out instructions on how to register to vote. The instructions, if followed by new registrants, would disqualify them from voting. WVWV's director, Page Gardner, claimed it was all an innocent mistake and apologized for any inadvertent confusion her organization may have caused. Yet every person on her board is a core Clinton supporter and donor; her Executive Director is Bill Clinton's former pollster, all are long-time loyalists and donors, and one is the top Clinton campaign manager. The quality of incredulity is not strained, it droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven.

If you Google "Lamont Williams," the first hit is description of a felon. If you hit the "Image" button on Google, you get the mugshot of the felon pictured above. Coincidence? If you honestly seek the truth, there are no coincidences. There are just leads. And if these calls generating "confusion" were an anomaly, it would be one thing. But the same confused calls have already happened in Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. Those are just the ones I've heard about. The difference in this case is that ABC published what someone had traced: the calls were coming from WVWV, and finally a reporter read their public records. This organization, its officers and its directors, can be sued for felony and indicted for a repeated pattern of election tampering. Voter suppression, fraud across state lines. Most juries would convict.

Ever since Maggie Williams (formerly chief of Bill Clinton's Harlem-based operations) replaced Patti Solis Doyle as the Clintons' campaign manager, they have been increasingly using "Fear of a Brown Planet" tactics to good effect. Despite the occasional Atticus Finch "To Kill A Mockingbird" successes, few people in America have come out behind in America when using race-baiting, and Maggie Williams knows exactly what raw nerves to rasp. Atticus Finch, a competent lawyer willing to defend a young (black) man accused of raping a (white) girl in a Southern town, do not grow on trees. Thugs like Maggie Williams do. She knows how to divide and confuse the black voter base, 90% of which has heretofore gone Obama, and this is straight out of the Rove playbook: if you're losing, attack the enemy at their strength. It's your best chance.

I freely admit the tactic is working--the Clintons have gained nicely in the polls, put Obama on the defensive; although the Clintonian super-delegate lead has dropped to only 17 today, they're succeeding down in the emotions of the people, where elections are won and lost. They know how to win now, or at least get to a brokered convention, and it won't be pretty if they do. For any of us who live in this Land O'Goshen. As of today, Obama will probably lose Indiana. How he responds will determine much; the election "ain'd jes" about delegates, it's about emotions. He has it within his power to turn public opinion against race-baiting once again by soaring above; but even if calls on his power, it will cost him.
Like Barry Goldwater's new voice in the wilderness in the 1960s, he has twin destinies: one is to lead a new America, and the other is to lead to a new America. To do the former right now, he has to give a closing argument worthy of Atticus Finch, when the emotional smoke and fog is at maxim, and few indeed could cut through its sticky fug. Oh, for benign ataraxy. To respect our country for the long term, we honestly should ask ourselves: which candidate is most likely to effect beneficial change?