Sunday, August 31, 2008

In Product Marketing, We Call It Differentiation

"LET'S RUN through this again. Vladimir Putin is not a nice man. The KGB,
with whom the young Vlad earned his reputation as a people person, was not
Russia's answer to the Rotary Club. As a direct consequence, Russian traditions
of democracy remain wafer thin, a cracked veneer that fails utterly to conceal
thuggery, rigged votes, oligarchic mafias, corruption, and the corpses of
journalists. Are we clear? Russia's current identity is composed, meanwhile, of
a volatile mixture of intense nationalism and paranoia. Its rulers, whatever
their labels, take it as read that their country exists under permanent threat
of encirclement by its enemies."
Ian Bell on "the new cold war", Sunday Herald, August 25, 2008

Wait! Here's what another professional writer can do with the same boiler plate:

"Let's run through this again. George H.W. Bush Sr. is not a nice man. The
CIA, with whom the young Bush earned his reputation as a people person, was not
exactly the Rotary Club. He and his cronies have created a political dynasty,
and as a direct consequence, U.S. traditions of democracy remain wafer thin, a
cracked veneer that fails utterly to conceal thuggery, rigged votes, oligarchic
mafias, corruption, and the corpses of journalists. Are we clear? The United
State's current identity is composed, meanwhile, of a volatile mixture of
intense nationalism and paranoia. Its rulers, whatever their labels, take it as
read that their country exists under permanent threat of terrorist attacks by
its enemies."
--Bruce on "the new cold war," The River Blog, August 26th, 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Coldplay's 'Viva la Vida' & Lyrics

Myth prefigures art, art prefigures physics, and physics prefigure the unthinking efficiencies of resulting orthodoxies. I've heard this song quite a few times this summer, not least because it has climbed to #1 on the charts. Like all their other work, Coldplay's trademark poppy-flows lull you into swaying trances, and as the overwhelmed words wash over you, the song becomes something like a holograph. Beautiful, rotating, floating just beyond your grasp, you never quite get at what they're about by just listening.

The band's music in general and this song in particular are vessels, it seems, for world music and for an entirely different commercial model, bearing other artists and styles away from nearly a century of American dominance, ostensibly from what has become a usurious, hyper-vigilant Industry, a rusting monolith thoroughly ill-suited to digital distribution. The album 'Viva la Vida, or Death and All His Friends' is themed around guerillas and insurgencies, around love in all its diversely and promiscuously international forms, around the global cycles of war and peace. Song and album were both produced by Brian Eno and released exclusively on iTunes on May 5th, with Europe having to wait quite a while for production of a physical CD. By the 30th of June, the album had sold more digital downloads than any in history.

The clearly audible first line, "I used to rule the world," is a tip-off to greater depths and possible endurance, as is its title from the Frida Kahlo painting of watermelons; the album's cover art is from the 1830 painting by Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People. I dawdled a while before searching out the lyrics, but sure enough, frontman Chris Martin, better known in the US as Gwyneth Paltrow's husband (for whom he wrote the intimately disclosing song 'Yellow'), penned a title-track meditation on imperial strivings and deceits: "Revolutionaries wait...for my head on a silver plate. Just a puppet on a lonely string...oh who would ever want to be king?"

Martin thinks Saint Peter will never call his name. Not sure about that, but funny enough, the song and album's release are an artist's crowning achievements, ones which surely demanded an intense devotion to craft, which surely plant new guidons for others to follow. The viddy is of them playing to an adoring, seemingly thrown-together crowd at the BBC Centre. Here are the lyrics:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing:
"Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
Once you knew there was never, never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

It was the wicked and wild wind
Blew down the doors to let me in.
Shattered windows and the sound of drums
People could not believe what I'd become
Revolutionaries wait
For my head on a silver plate
Just a puppet on a lonely string
Oh who would ever want to be king?

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing
Roman Cavalry choirs are singing
Be my mirror my sword and shield
My missionaries in a foreign field
For some reason I can not explain
I know Saint Peter won't call my name
Never an honest word
And that was when I ruled the world

"The Arc of The Moral Universe Is Long, But It Bends Toward Justice"
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hats Off To You, America!

I thought that an African-American would be nominated by his party to run for President. Just that I'd be in a retirement home eating oatmeal through a straw, and that he'd be a former CEO who talked like Thurston Howell the Third. But barring Denver's Invesco Field blowing up in the next 90 minutes (which I admit remains a slight possibility) it's going to happen. Wow! Sometimes we really are a better America. Here's what the Jane Austen of the Right, Peggy Noonan, has to say about the Democratic Convention so far:

As for Bill Clinton's speech, halfway through I thought: The Master has arrived. Crazy Bill, the red-faced Rageaholic, was somewhere else. This was Deft Political Pro Bill doing what no one had been able to do up to this point at the convention, and that is make the case for Barack Obama. He lambasted the foe, asserted Obama's growth on the trail, argued that he was the right man for the job and did that as a man who once held that job and is remembered, at least in terms of domestic policy and at least by half the country, as having done it pretty darn well. He gave his full imprimatur to a crowd that believes he has an imprimatur to give. As Clinton spoke a friend IM'd, "What is this, the Clinton convention?" The fact is, until both Clintons spoke, it was. Now oddly enough it isn't. Now eyes turn, and finally, to Obama. This was one of the great tee-ups.

The Hillary speech was the best of her career. Toward Obama she was exactly as gracious as she is capable of being. Mrs. Clinton's speeches are rarely notable for great lines but this one had a number of them. "It makes sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities, because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart." KAPOW. We'll be hearing more of that one. "Sisterhood of the travelling pantsuits" – funny and self aware.

She normally doesn't use the teleprompter – actually it's rare for her to use one -- but last night she did, and she proved herself the most gifted pol on the prompter in current political history. Her statement from the floor during the rollcall? Fabulous. The decision to put Obama over the top and ask for acclamation? Masterly. Mrs. Clinton's actions this week have been pivotal not only for Obama, but for her. She showed herself capable of appearing to put party first. I also believe she has come to appreciate both emotionally and intellectually The Importance of Being Teddy.

She will not be the president of the United States the next four years, but she can ease herself into the role of Teddy Kennedy-esque fighter for her issues in the Senate. And that I think is exactly where she means to go, and what she means to be. And that, for her, is a brilliant move. Really: brilliant. Here's one reason: Teddy is, throughout his party, beloved. Beloved would be something very new for Hillary.

That's from someone who despises the Clintons. And the rest.

(Update: just back from a 'babies for barack' nomination house party. Invesco field blew up, yes, but only from cheers and a beyond-capacity crowd. America has its first ever black presidential nominee, and he's someone who could've written his own ticket to anywhere on Wall Street after graduating from Harvard Law, but instead went to try and lift people up. I was on the phone with a business owner in London this morning, who said, "We were all up late last night watching the live coverage of Obama's Convention." He said Biden spoke at 2AM Greenwich Mean Time. Tell me how it's all tarnished and hollow in the morning, but tonight just tell me, "How cool is that?")

The Russians Are Conspiracy Theorists, Too

And they would know a thing or two about conspiracies. Vladimir Putin accused the Bush Administration of provoking the Georgia Conflict to help John McCain win the presidential election:
"The suspicion arises that someone in the United States especially created this conflict with the aim of making the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of US President.”

Mr Putin said that his defence officials had told him that Americans were operating in the conflict zone in Georgia during the fighting.

He added: “It should be admitted that they would do so only following direct orders from their leaders. Therefore, they were acting in implementing those orders, doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader.”

A White House flack responded, of course, by calling Putin a Conspiracy Theorist, adding that his intelligence apparatus must be as bad as the CIA:
“To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate – it sounds not rational.

Those claims first and foremost are patently false, but it also sounds like his defence officials who said they believed this to be true are giving him really bad advice.”

Yep, no 21st century political party would ever use an international crisis to try and wag the d-- I mean win an election. Not like they used to do during the olden days. Despite that fact, I had thought of, heard co-workers speculate, and read of that possibility almost every day, so it's good to know we're not the only ones to think of it. At least one world leader is on the same wavelength. Kinda sad when the Enemy of the Month seems more with it than your own.

Far Side Cartoon: Superman's Wife Sews On His Logo

"After many years of marital bliss, tension enters the Kent household."
McCain Ad: Does This Look Like Change To You?

Finally, an effective attack ad comes out of the Obama campaign. Even die-hard Republicans will be unsettled by this one, and appropriately enough, these posters are first going up around the Republican Convention site in Minneapolis-St. Paul. The stark use of simple colors, graying the image of the McCain and Bush Embrace casts a wonderful pall of doom over what will be the main attack tagline from here to the election. They will (or should) just hammer on McSame, McSame, McSame, with occasional side condiments of "Win A McCain Vacation Home" and "Iraq Is So Safe, We Send Our Children There!"

(Research creds to MikeVotes.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dennis Kucinich: The "Wake Up America" Speech

Holy cow. Dennis Kucinich isn't a name you associate with rabble-rousing. But that's what the wonky congressman from Ohio did when he gave a barn-burner of a speech at the Democratic Convention. As he went through his familiar talking points, he kept getting hotter, and by the halfway point he was looking and sounding like Tony Clifton (comedian Andy Kaufman's alter ego) chewing through raw sirloins. Half of the audience had gotten to their feet by then and were egging him on. He was tossing out lines like, "This Administration can open our mail, but they can't open our economic opportunities." Then he completely wins over the crowd by 2/3rds through and audience close-ups showed mystified looks on their faces which said, "Is this for real? Where the hell has this guy been?" From there on out, he turns into a jumping pentecostal preacher.

Seriously, it's like he's tripping on acid or something. He was absolutely on fire, it was a dynamite speech, and whether you're familiar with Kucinich or not, it has to be seen to be believed.

(Research creds to HopeSpringsATurtle.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Damn You, Hillary, For Making Me Like You!

I listened to Hillary Clinton's post-keynote speech while Lord Wife and her staff of loyal servants watched it. La Clintonessa belted out a rejuvenated, unshackled voice, gleefully throwing combination shots at McCain and the Republicans while claiming her propers for being the most successful female candidate for President in United States history, finally throwing her full weight behind Obama.

In my office corner, I was looking at how she formulated. She pulled out all the stops in her preparation, calling back at least two former White House speech writers from their day jobs, one from a production executive position at Sony Pictures, then working on it non-stop for six weeks. It made the back-room context start to mesh. Biden's good history with Hillary, his sponsorship of the Violence Against Women Act (which could have been more kindly named), and his roundtable participations with women at the convention indicate that the Obama advisors figured it was more Electorally Important to capture her supporters than reach for the Redneck Vote. VP candidates Warner, Kaine, Webb and Sebelious would've helped in that regard, but they may not have been able to deliver a single state, so I hereby yield my populist, non-arcane revulsions to Biden as VP; we don't elect Presidents as a nation, we elect them state by state, and the Obama campaign is well-organized enough to have made the correct calculations. (By the way, hello, Florida! Thanks for Bush in 2000. Now meet Global Warming.)

What I've always liked about Hillary Rodham Clinton is how she's willing to work her butt off. I can carp about that trait being common enough amongst narcissistic megalomaniacs, but it's not typical in that group, far from it.
She's not the best manager, but by the force of her will is a formidable individual achiever, and she only lost her party's nomination because she was out-foxed and ran out of states. She's smart, she hustles, and she has the required cram-it-down studiousness of a great future Secretary of State, a position I wholeheartedly advocate. My gut tells me she's the equal of Kissinger, maybe even a Talleyrand. She's the potential Meryl Streep of diplomacy, and for our sakes I hope she fills that Cabinet role. American corporate interests aren't going to change soon, but who you have at the negotiating table matters a great deal, matters crucially. We need someone of her caliber there, compared to the one-track-mind mediocrity we're suffering from now.

Her speech immediately garnered praise from Keith Olbermann as a Grand Slam for Democratic unity, a verdict which reverberated through Old Media and ran completely opposite to the previously dominant narrative arc of tension between the camps. The construction, content, and delivery of her performance seemed to come from deep press management Kung Fu, first to last. It was savvy, pushed all the right buttons, filling media maws deliciously and giving them much to chew on, anticipating reactions and setting the tone for a party finding its purpose.

The weakness of the Republican Party now is that they're slow. They're may be experts at going negative, and Karl Rove's deputy smear-meister Steve Schmidt has shaved 6 points off Obama's Gallup Poll leads since he took over as McCain's campaign manager in July, but they're media, not internet. They understand the old electorate, not the new. McCain himself is like an old boxer. Never a champion, always a contender, he's formulaic, loose on the message, slow to react. Punch-drunk. Schmidt has tried to limit these liabilities by taking McCain out of the campaign, protecting him, exposing him to only 38 minutes of total reporter time last week. McCain should be town-halled, debated in various cities, bewildered, and peppered with detail questions out of left field. He can't be prepped to react appropriately and will tire quickly. For example, he can't extemporaneously say anything sensible on health care, the big Moose On the Table campaign issue.

Hillary can be a big asset in forcing them to play to weakness and react in real time. The Pugs need eight hours or so to counter-punch, they're up all night right now, and tomorrow morning Steve Schmidt's talking points will probably be: "She was too good. The Dims are so screwed up, they've got the wrong nominee."

In For A Penny, In For An Armageddon

As a Russian carrier task force bobbed through the Med on its way to the Levant, Syrian president Bashar Assad (who before the NeoCon Surprise in Georgia and the Polish Missile Crisis had been working on a peace treaty with Israel) was in Russia. Assad assented to hosting a "defensive missile shield" and a Russian base in his country. Let's see now, for Fundies waiting on the Rapture, is it Gog who will play Russia, and was it Magog who'll be China, or was it the other way around? Saddam Hussein, Babylon the Great, the Anti-Christ, numerology, the King of the North et cetera, you just can't tell the players without a program:
The Russian aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov” is heading from Murmansk towards the Mediterranean and the Syrian port of Tartus. The mission comes after Syrian President Bashar Assad said he is open for a Russian base in the area. The “Admiral Kuznetsov”, part of the Northern Fleet and Russia’s only aircraft carrier, will head a Navy mission to the area. The mission will also include the missile cruiser “Moskva” and several submarines, reports.

President Assad in meetings in Moscow this week expressed support to Russia’s intervention in South Ossetia and Georgia. He also expressed interest in the establishment of Russian missile air defense facilities on his land.

The “Admiral Kuznetsov” also last year headed a navy mission to the Mediterranean. Then, on the way from the Kola Peninsula and south, it stopped in the North Sea where it conducted a navy training exercise in the immediate vicinity of Norwegian offshore oil installations.
Alternative energy is lovely stuff, but oil is the hottest source there is, and civilizations have shown a pronounced preference to pursue the #1 option; plus, as Phil of Perils of Caffeine in the Evening once observed, "We're humans. We burn shit." Less sagely, Condi Rice said last week, "The Cold War is over," and I sure hope she's wrong again. Because if she's right, she's too right. Give us a Cold War again, give us Nikita Kruschev in Manhattan banging his shoe on a table at Maxim's demanding service, hell, bring on a caviar embargo. It's better than the same old Bush Administration "who, me?" looks after another botch-n-blot on the escutcheon, wiser than the harsh retaliations of signing a missile deal with Poland, suspending NATO's ties with Moscow, and launching more meetings on Georgia joining NATO.

Living off the tampered hydroponic
s fed to us in the Media Hothouse, its easy for anyone, Big People included, to miss the primary facts. Modern armies are the most enthusiastic users of oil that ever existed. The Russians have a much-improved army, and do not need to back down. They can beat the US and its proxies on the ground in Poland, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Ukraine without breaking a sweat, and all are areas they have controlled for most of the past three thousand years. As the Russian President remarked today,
"We're not afraid of anything (including) the prospect of a Cold War..."If they want to preserve good relations with Russia, they will understand the reason for taking such a decision (for parliament to recognize independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia) and the situation will be calm."
Now they are about to have an aircraft carrier parked just off "America's strongest ally," and they have no intention of allowing control of an area's hydrocarbons to pass to Western oligarchies, i.e., Dick and Dubya's friends. On the map above, two little countries separate Russia from Iran, each with a new pipeline running oil out through them to the west. As a demonstration of intentions, Russian forces cut the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline which passes through Georgia carrying 4% of western supply, and then, when Georgia tried to get the oil shipments out by rail, they cut the tracks.

It'ss unclear whether Russia will let either resume, but they can throttle them at will, and this changes the power calculus in the entire region if not the world. The Ukraine must keep Russia happy. Azerbaijan must keep Russia happy. Israel must keep Russia happy. For Georgia, it would be wise for its president, the one who listened to American admonitions to attack Russia, to step down; his own people, the ones who gave him 96% of the vote in a free and fair election, know he's a liability.

As it happens, Dick Cheney has gone on a diplomatic mission to Georgia, the Ukraine, and Azerbaijan. If anyone is disturbed by finding the words "Dick Cheney" and "diplomatic mission" in the same sentence, why yes, you should be. (Welcome to Club Paying Attention, and here is your complimentary Xanax.) Unfortunately, he's back on the stage after an all-too-short internal exile. Cheney's prime directive is to suck oil and gas out from the Caucasus and Caspian Basins in order to slow the long-term growth rates of Russia, India, and China. That's about where the analysis ends in his cost-benefit equation, because the benefits of getting those resources to him easily outweigh the costs of millions of dead, and it's not like higher energy costs are a deterrent.

As a Pumphead, Cheney cannot back off from the finite prizes he covets, believes them to be in our civilization's long-term best interests, and doesn't recognize how bad his position, or rather our position, has gotten relative to Russia. He is horribly prone to further over-reach even as Israel, precious Israel wavers. As the pipelines go, so go they, and it was Panglossian hubris, a willful denial of Russia's military capabilities and interests, to install a major new line 70-80 miles away from its southern border.

While an American Maniac plays out his part, we will be very lucky indeed if he doesn't promise a military response to Georgia. They'll ask for one, although Bush would first send troops to Atlanta (h/t to reader Jon for that quip). A good outcome is one in which Ossetia and Abkhazia break away from Georgia in return for the pipeline flowing again. In that case, the bell rings, and we can go back to our corners, take a breather before the next round and try to figure out how to win on points. The bad outcome, which should not, must definitely not happen is for a US Carrier Battle Group to deploy to the Med. That's the signal for when the Pipeline Wars start going very, very bad.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What I Did On My Summer Globalization

When Adam Smith wrote An Inquiry into the Nature and the Causes of The Wealth of Nations in 1776, he was prescient, his timing was perfect. Yet having a mortal view and lifespan, he did not live to write The Wealth of Corporations. Smith's philosophical opus anticipated the rise of richer nation-states, sentiment-based revolutions, the democratic impulses and industrial interests which would take progressive consequences and sweep them across a chastened and unequal world.

The developments Adam Smith documented ushered in a time we know as Colonialism, when royal power in the West was obliged, bought off, and eclipsed. By business, which became richer than monarchies, and took control of law. Going forward into a post-Colonial age, the full outcomes are not yet sorted out, not yet clear. What is clear? Corporations reign supreme, are more important than old nation-state structures, and the citizens of those nations who have not sworn fealty to corporations are getting bad deals. They're unarmed and unhappy.

Conflicts are spilling out into wars with competing, resistant but unorganized social structures, and the wars will be most difficult to contain. Most of us have more in common with families in Iraq, Georgia, or the Pakistan than we do with our leaders. We stand on a defining, self-interested precipice, and it's anybody's guess who will end up controlling the heavy weapons. A recent timeline:

July 1-2: Georgia-Ukraine-Azerbaijan-Moldova (
GUAM) Summit in Batumi, Georgia.

July 1: "US-GUAM Summit" on the sideline of the official GUAM venue.

July 5 -12: Russian Defense Ministry hold War Games in the North Caucasus region under the codename "Caucasus Frontier 2008".

July 9: China and Kazakhstan announce the commencement of construction of the Kazakhstan-China natural gas pipeline (KCP).

July 15-31: The US and Georgia hold War Games under the codename Operation "Immediate Response". One thousand US servicemen participate in the joint exercise.

August 7: Georgian Ground Forces and Air Force Attack South Ossetia.

August 8: Russian Forces Intervene in South Ossetia.

August 14: Signing of US-Polish Agreement on the stationing of "US Interceptor Missiles" on Polish Territory.

August 16, Pakistan: the military has stayed in those defensive positions but aerial bombing and artillery barrages have been used to literally depopulate Bajaur and areas of the adjoining agency of Mohmand. After more than two weeks of indiscriminate attacks against alleged militant positions, it is estimated that 300,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes—a significant proportion of the population in the areas not under government control.

August 18, Pakistan: Musharaf resigns

Welcome, Rich White Oligarchs!

The Daily Show has this billboard up on the route from the airport to the Republican convention site in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sweet!

Friday, August 22, 2008

A Charter Flight From Chicago To Delaware

Senator Joseph Biden looks to be Obama's pick for Vice President, and sentient points of the internet have picked up on this jet, which flew out of Chicago's Midway Airport to New Castle, Delaware. The unwashed blogosphere out-hustles Publicly Traded Media to the scoop again.

Be that as it may, "disappointed" is close to the reaction word I'm looking for. A foreign policy expert might be the logical choice given the immediate environment of up-ratcheted rhetoric, proxy conflicts with Russia, and conflated experience gap, but the more Obama goes to the center, the more air goes out of his poll numbers. If it's really Biden, his electoral balloon will start making "pffffffft" sounds, just like the one my mouth is making now, especially in all the red-swing states where people go deer hunting with Jesus. Places like where I'm from.

Biden is smart, well-liked and respected in Congress, and has top-notch foreign policy credentials. To tens of millions of Americans for the past 20 years, however, his face has been one of the main logos for the "East-Coast Tax and Spend Liberal" brand. They're going to take one look at him and collectively say, "Oh, right. I remember him. The Asshole." He dilutes the Change brand immediately, could better plug Obama's "experience gap" as a Secretary of Defense, plus he's a sitting 30-year Senator from a Congress which currently clocks in at an 8% approval rating. Change my reaction word to "depressed."

Good-to-great governors in Tennessee, Kansas, and Virginia, not to mention new Virginian Democratic Senator Jim Webb (Asst. Sec-State under Reagan), were all to be had. Big, big mistake not getting one of them.

Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Someday Never Comes" Lyrics & Music

If someone were to ask, "What's the most American music?," a whirlwind of sound and images would jam through my mind, Robert Johnson playing his guitar and poisoned with lye, Roseanne Cash singing her high lonesomes, Louis Armstrong dealing effortless masteries, Julia Ward Howe getting martial. Flat and Scruggs, Wynonie Harris, Bruce Springsteen, Buddy Holly, Blondie, and Led Zeppelin dwell co-equal in the pantheon. Even if those last guys were Brits they did it right, and they did it good.

If someone says, "No, you can only choose one artist," the first one I'd think of is Creedence Clearwater Revival, the roots-rock band formed in El Cerrito High School, California. Most of the rhythms and chords they use are 200 years old if they're a day, their music is simple as grass and non-Americans simply would never have put it together. Americans are always going to listen to Creedence, and would always have loved John Fogerty's songs at first listen. His songs contain our core, and come from the geographies which define us.

Strong statement, I suppose. Yet you can imagine Revolutionary war minutemen absent-mindedly singing "Suzie Q" together as they trudge along a dirt road; you can see chain gangs cutting sugar cane, singing "Long as I Can See the Light," families would have fun around log cabin firesides singing "Looking Out My Back Door,"and lonely
muleskinners hauling their loads west would no doubt sing "Molina" to empty plains. "Proud Mary" might just as well have been sung on the steamboats going up rivers and around the bends. In a Simpsons cartoon episode, Homer Simpson hears a panicked Marge ask if anyone knows how to perform CPR, so he looks up into the distance and sings, "I see a Bad Moon a-risin'--I see troubles on the way." I rest my case.

CCR remains popular in the YouTube age, with most of the tunes mentioned above having been downloaded millions of times. In their hay day, the band was so popular and prolific they released four Top Ten albums in 18 months. "Someday Never Comes" was one of the last songs they wrote before breaking up. Here are the lyrics:

First thing I remember
Was askin Papa, "Why!? "
For there were many things I didn't know.

And Daddy always smiled,
He took me by the hand
Sayin, ''ll understand."

Well, I'm here to tell you now
each and every mother's son
you better learn it fast
you better learn it young
'cause someday never comes.

Well, time and tears went by
and I collected dust,
there were many things I didn't know
and when daddy went away
he said, "Try to be a man,
and'll understand."

And then, one day in April
I wasn't even there
there were many things I didn't know:
a son was born to me,
and his mama held his hand
saying "Someday, you'll understand."

Well, I'm here to tell you now
each and every mother's son
you better learn it fast
you better learn it young
'cause someday never comes.

Think it was September, the year I went away
for there were many things I didn't know
and I still see him standing, trying to be a man;
I said, "Someday, you'll understand."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Condi "War Is Not The Answer" Rice
"Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century."

Condi Rice, US Secretary of State & Peace Activist
Violence is, like, so 20th century! Presidential candidate John McCain, with the sagacity of the Prophet Isaiah, may have inspired this meme a few days ago when he observed, "Countries don't invade other countries in the 21st century." By ushering in the Golden Age of Peace to which Condi and John allude, a.k.a. Pax Dubyana, the Bush Administration has steadfastly refrained from resorting to military power, except of course when the United States is directly attacked, such as by Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Iran, Syria, parts of the Phillipines, Indonesia, much of West Africa, and those Costa Ricans who don't want Hilton beach resorts.

Any nation or group refusing to accept the Golden Age of Peace wishes to stay in the Dark Ages and is lending support to the Axis of Exil. We will therefore send our armies of foreign primordial dwarves led by Columbia Law School graduates to destroy you. (And why was Russia left out of the original Axis of Evil, anyway? What expendable minion is responsible for this inexcusable oversight?) For example, here is
the kind of violent psychopath Condi has to deal with:
"Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here's the independence of Kosovo for you. Here's the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defenses in neighboring countries. Here's the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade?"

Mikhail Gorbachev, former President of the Soviet Union & Nobel Prize Winner for Peace
This aggression will not stand, man! Here is yet another example of unwarranted bellicosity from Russia's version of the Washington Post (state newspaper "Pravda"):
“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? In your statement on Monday regarding the legitimate actions of the Russian Federation in Georgia, you failed to mention the war crimes perpetrated by Georgian military forces, which American advisors support, against Russian and Ossetian civilians.

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Your faithful ally, Mikhail Saakashvili, was announcing a ceasefire deal while his troops, with your advisors, were massing on Ossetia’s border, which they crossed under cover of night and destroyed Tskhinvali, targeting civilian structures just like your forces did in Iraq.

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Your American transport aircraft gave a ride home to thousands of Georgian soldiers from Iraq directly into the combat zone.

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? How do you account for the fact that among the Georgian soldiers fleeing the fighting yesterday you could clearly hear officers using American English giving orders to “Get back inside” and how do you account for the fact that there are reports of American soldiers among the Georgian casualties?

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Do you really think anyone gives any importance whatsoever to your words after 8 years of your criminal and murderous regime and policies? Do you really believe you have any moral ground whatsoever and do you really imagine there is a single human being anywhere on this planet who does not stick up his middle finger every time you appear on a TV screen?

Do you really believe you have the right to give any opinion or advice after Abu Ghraib? After Guantanamo? After the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens? After the torture by CIA operatives?

Do you really believe you have any right to make a statement on any point of international law after your trumped-up charges against Iraq and the subsequent criminal invasion?

“President Bush,

Why don’t you shut up? Suppose Russia for instance declares that Georgia has weapons of mass destruction? And that Russia knows where these WMD are, namely in Tblisi and Poti and north, south, east and west of there? And that it must be true because there is “magnificent foreign intelligence” such as satellite photos of milk powder factories and baby cereals producing chemical weapons and which are currently being “driven around the country in vehicles”? Suppose Russia declares for instance that “Saakashvili stiffed the world” and it is “time for regime change”?
Today, Condi glued the Golden Age of Peace into the pages of history today by signing a mutual security treaty with Poland. A little nervous after having seen what happened to Georgia, or as we call it, "Rosebud," the Poles demanded written guarantees they will be defended against any massively paranoid evil-doing country which happens to maul them to death over the vigorous protests of an impotent NATO for installing US missile arrays 100 miles away.

I'm sure Russian officials were just making a little joke when they talked about nuking Poland, and will come to see the Wisdom of Dubya--especially after we send them more McDonald's franchises. Hello, Mr. Kremlin General, war is not the answer, so put down that vodka bottle and enjoy a delicious Happy Meal! And while we're at it, have a brand-new Chrysler!

(Research credits to Bruce, Brother Tim, MikeVotes, and to The Daily Show, which will surely plagiarize this post in an upcoming episode.)

Monday, August 18, 2008

US Calls NATO To Back Georgia

Mental note: I don't think the Bush Administration will escalate Project Georgia into WW3, 4, etc by directly attacking Russia. They don't attack countries which can effectively fight back, preferring in such cases to rely on hapless proxies to spend their fates. Rather, incompetence and bluster are the vehicles putting forces in harm's way and destabilizing a low-intensity conflict into more torrid diplomatic temperatures. That has already happened, as US and Israeli arms, munitions, and trainer-advisors were on the ground with Georgian forces during the conflict. It seems likely they took some casualties we're not hearing about.

Exhibit Z: the picture above is of a medicated sociopath drawing a world leader into an involuntary hug last Friday, while said leader's armies were kicking Proxy Ass. It's like something out of the Godfather II, only Fredo is developmentally disabled,
was mistakenly tapped by Vito Corleone to run the family, imagines himself to be Genghis Khan, and likes guys. Seriously, looking at that picture makes me afraid, not to mention ashamed, for my country and the world. Putin appears to be grabbing for something, and Sister Laura is making the "It's Happening Again" signal, so the Humping Intervention Team jumped in before the nasties went down.

Calling an emergency NATO meeting now (just after consummating a mutual security treaty with Poland in exchange for "missile shield" deployment, aimed against kielbasa-coveting Iran) is a clueless attempt to draw Europe into the conflict. NATO will probably waver, possibly even splinter, in the face of that demand; given the energy supply consequences for them, it's a tough sell. If they conduct a fool's parade onto the borders of disputed states to save face, as the US compels them to do, it greatly increases Russian ire and the likelihood of accidents. Maybe they could just vote to bestow non-binding "honorary memberships" on Georgia and the Ukraine:

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO ministers will pledge support for Georgia and reiterate a promise of future membership on Tuesday while criticising Russian intervention in the country and urging Moscow to respect a peace deal, a spokeswoman said.

Washington called an emergency meeting of the 26 NATO foreign ministers to review ties with Moscow and discuss help to Georgia, a former part of the Soviet Union which won its pledge of eventual alliance membership at an April summit in Bucharest.

Months of tension between Georgia and Russia erupted on August 7, when Tbilisi launched an assault to regain control of the Russian-backed breakaway South Ossetia region. Russia launched a massive counter-offensive including into the Georgian heartland.

U.S. envoy to NATO Kurt Volker told Reuters on Saturday no specific response had yet been decided, but regular meetings of foreign and defence ministers, and of NATO ambassadors with their Russian counterpart would be part of the review.

Also under scrutiny would be dialogue in counter-terrorism, counter narcotics and missile defence, he said.

A NATO spokeswoman played down reports of divisions among NATO allies on the response to Russia, saying ministers would deliver "a very clear message of solidarity to Georgia".

"We will reaffirm the commitment in Bucharest and the meeting is also expected to approve a package of measures to support Georgia," Carmen Romero said.

NATO states were expected to agree to send experts to assess damage to Georgia's military infrastructure, including radar installations damaged by Russian action, she said.

Romero said there was expected to be a "strong message" to Russia calling for implementation of a ceasefire, its commitment to withdraw troops and an international peace mechanism.

"I think the allies are going to be firm that this was a violation of Georgia's territorial integrity," she said.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned that Moscow's actions had set back its efforts to integrate into the global community and vowed the United States would rebuild Georgia.

A six-point peace plan foresees a prompt withdrawal of Russian forces from 'core Georgia' -- areas outside South Ossetia and a second Russian-backed separatist province of Abkhazia -- but the West will also be looking for Russian troops to cut back their numbers quickly in South Ossetia itself.

It also wants international observers on the ground quickly to monitor the pullout but no arrangements have yet been made.

NATO has already barred a Russian ship from joining a multinational anti-terrorism exercise in the Mediterranean, and Russia is still waiting on its request for an emergency meeting with alliance ambassadors to discuss the crisis in the Caucasus.

Washington has excluded Moscow from discussions among the Group of Eight industrial nations over Georgia and Rice and President George W. Bush have made clear Moscow's membership of bodies like the World Trade Organisation could be in jeopardy.

However analysts say isolating Moscow does not seem to be a viable option for Bush as Russia is just too important. If ties were to deteriorate to Cold War level, a lot is at stake, from U.N. cooperation on curbing Iran and North Korea's nuclear ambitions to U.S. access to Asia and Afghanistan.

Russia is also a key energy supplier that some big European NATO members like France and Germany are loath to antagonise.

Russia was incensed by NATO's promise of membership to Georgia. This would take NATO right up to Russia's southern border and many analysts believe that and a similar promise of membership for Ukraine was behind this month's fighting.

Butch And Sundance: Reel Heroes, And Real

News came out last month that Paul Newman has lung cancer, and probably has only weeks to live. Famous for his film acting, such as his smash hit with Robert Redford, "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," most people don't know he was just as successful in car racing over the past three decades--in 1979 he came in second at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and incredibly, he more recently placed third in an SCCA Trans-Am race at the age of 78. Yet it's his work as a philanthropist which is likely to endure--all profits from Newman's Own food products go to charities, most of them anonymous, so far generating over $220 million, and his family will continue taking that forward.

Newman and writer A.E. Hotchner founded Newman's Own in 1982 as a hare-brained scheme, selling olive oil and vinegar dressing. In 1988, they started the Hole in the Wall Gang summer camps for terminally ill children. In 1993, they started the PEN/Newman's Own First Amendment Award, for courage in the face of adversity to defend freedom of speech; amongst other winners was Sibel Edmonds, the FBI employee who tried to bring government-sponsored sale of nuclear secrets to light. He was no slouch when it came to personally facing up to bad guys, having once been #19 on Nixon's Enemies List for his effective support of Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 Presidential Campaign.

As a person, Newman always played it very close to the vest, and he's not the type to explain things. It's hard to figure out his motivations in any detail. As an actor, however, they're all written out on his face: a stubborn, competitive-as-hell guy with a quirky sense of humor who believes in giving people a fair shake.

One could speculate further. Newman was a World War Two veteran, serving as a torpedo bomber's tailgunner on the USS Bunker Hill. He was at the battle for Okinawa, and the pilot of his plane had an ear infection, so he didn't take part in an attack from which none of his flight-mates returned. He would not be the first veteran who, thankful for his good fortune, vowed to give back to people. Whatever drove him, Newman appreciated life, took its full measure, and did a tremendous amount of good on the way. May his pains be brief.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Pakistan Minus Musharraf = Al-Qaedistan
The sourced rumors seem to be that Musharraf is set to quit. (WaPo, Reuters, AFP) His spokesman came out with a denial this morning, but resignation seems to be the direction it's going. (Via MikeVotes)
What's surprising is how long Musharraf has been able to hold on as America's advocate and ride herd on internally conflicting sets of stakeholders. As a measure of what "conflicting" means, he survived 6 known assassination attempts and uncounted plots. He finally ran out of magic, and sometime earlier this year Pakistan simply ceased to play its role as a payrolled ally in the Global War on Terror.

Even with an exceptional talent like Musharraf, Pakistan's value against al-Qaeda has always been precarious, and latent support for that movement is about to be expressed with much greater openness.
Musharraf could feel the incoming tide, and was just buying time; he already was estate-shopping on the Chesapeake Bay last year. The reasons Pakistan implicitly supported AQ are quite simple: Pakistan exists because it won a war of self-determination, it is an Islamic-moderate nation, and, after a Mid-east fashion, it is a democracy.

Members of its intelligence service (the ISI) have long worked with al-Qaeda (the Islamic Foreign Legion), and while they maintain cordial relations with counterparts in Saudi Arabian services and the CIA, there is an emotional component missing in the latter relationships. The ISI is practiced at playing multiple ends against the middle, as their only enemy of real concern is India. But when the ISI sees al-Qaeda, they see people like they once were, people who are fighting for self-determination, who are trying to overthrow oppressive regimes and replace them with more equitable systems. They believe that if AQ succeeds, particularly against the Arabian regimes, that good will have been achieved.

The only way to guard against that fondness was to give them massive amounts of money. Now they see the milk has gone out of the cow, so they realize how tired they are of keeping the capricious, volatile idiots in the US happy, with the long subterfuge and denial of better selves that entailed. Indeed, many of the smartest ISI people already felt that way for quite some time, and although it is commonly accepted that the planning, staffing, and financing for 9/11 occurred in Afghanistan, it was happening in a far more powerful way in Islamabad.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fear of Russia Ends Israeli Support For Georgia

First off, if you're an English speaker, every story proffered on the Russia-Georgia conflict is 100-proof propaganda. Next, the most important story you haven't heard is that Israel is betting against US success vs. Russia. Paradoxically, and despite Israel's typically overweening, convoluted conceits, this is very heartening, since it means they think the US won't go to the mat and start launching its nuclear arsenal. Apparently, they also believe the Russians can handle US Navy, Air Force, and Army units going into Project Georgia in the names of "humanitarian aid" and "peacekeeping." Israel understandably wants the output of the BP-sponsored Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan whoever controls it, yet until now they've been neck-deep in arming and training the Georgian military. How deep? Georgia's minister of defense, for example, is a citizen of Israel.

Still, it's tough to be sanguine, or resist going into seizures or duck-n-cover positions. The Bush Administration is about as dangerous as a badger on crystal meth, and as we've repeatedly seen, they're so dumb they can screw up a soda straw. If they send military personnel into a war zone, as they announced their intentions today, I don't see how some of them won't get zapped. While the Russians have already achieved their negotiating objectives vs. NATO-BushCo, it will be next to impossible for them to restrain the itchy trigger fingers of individual, low-level units flush with easy victories.

I'd love to be the bearer of good tidings, I'd love to regale with tales about how Water Engines, sunny pyrolysis and wave energy will save the earth and our asses, and that we'll all sing Joni Mitchell songs in harmony. Ice cream castles in the air, feather canyons everywhere, yep. Unfortunately, this is probably the closest we've been to nuclear conflagration since the Cuban Missile Crisis. This isn't pessimism, just a cold-around-the-heart look at the factors. On the happy side, having the Israelis bail out on arms sales to the Georgians, renouncing their military sponsorship and offering a no-confidence vote on the Bushies, well, that's a reason to not pack up the fam right now and head to Saskatchewan. If Israel is packing up to leave the the tattered hulk of America's security umbrella, much of which they've built, pay condo fees on, and effectively control, it's a high decibel, panic-button message.

On the other hand, look at the body language of Bush, SecState Condi Rice, and SecDef Gates in the above photo as they march out of a press conference after threatening Russia with reprisals. They look like a beaten football team, but still dangerously angry. They're not going to shake any hands and say, "what a great game." They were all called back from vacations, they're grim, resigned, resentful, and their collective arrogance, the long bearing of our national privilege, is steeped in all the rages and fears of failing Priam. It's life's illusions I recall, and will these people lay off the nitrous oxide and learn humility anytime soon? (Don't answer.) Meanwhile, blog-friend Naj reports that three new carrier groups, including the amphibious invasion carrier USS Iwo Jima, have arrived on station in the Persian Gulf. (Happy thoughts, Christmas songs, happy thoughts.) From Israel Today:

A top Georgian envoy in Israel on Sunday urged the Jewish state to use whatever leverage it has to put pressure on Russia to pull its forces out of the small Caucasus nation. But while voicing support for Georgian territorial integrity, Israel decided instead to appease Russia by halting all arms sales to Tbilisi.

Israel has sold some $500 million worth of military equipment to Georgia over the past few years, and top Israeli military experts have been involved in training Georgian armed forces.

Israeli soldiers who participated in training Georgian forces as recently as four months ago told Ha'aretz that they were not surprised when hostilities broke out. "There was an atmosphere of war about to break out. ...From my point of view, the battles of the past few days were to be expected," said one soldier.

As Russian forces invaded Georgia late last week and the two nations engaged in what is increasingly being called a full-scale war, Israel's leadership expressed concerns that Moscow could retaliate for continued Israeli military support of Georgia by selling advanced arms to Iran and Syria.

Defense officials cited by The Jerusalem Post later said that arms sales to Georgia had ceased several months back, after Israeli authorities became alarmed by urgent requests for large supplies of weapons by Georgian authorities apparently aware that they were about to go to war with Russia.

Said one Israeli official, "We have good relations with [Russia and Georgia], and don't want to back either in this conflict. We therefore made a decision to drastically minimize sales of weapons to Georgia."

Many Israelis expressed frustration with what they said amounted to abandoning Israel's allies in Georgia to appease Russia, even though advanced Russian weapons have been reaching Iran, Syria and their terrorist proxy Hizballah for years.

Israel is home to some 80,000 Georgian Jews who would also like to see Jerusalem provide outright backing to the small Christian nation.

Georgia's other major military backer, the United States, has said it will continue to provide support and training to the Georgian army, and warned Russia that its military escalations could severely damage relations between Moscow and Washington.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pictures, Photos, & So Much More: Beijing Olympics, Opening Ceremony

"Scintillating" doesn't begin to describe Beijing's opening ceremonies to the Olympics. You have to go deep in the well, and here's a try: it was pangyric, neophilic, rococo, it was guerdoning and lotus-eating, it was pukka, melitorious and corybantic, it was relentless, it was Stakhanovitic, it was nothing less than an artisanal hougmagandy, an empire's vesuvian palingenesis, a knowingly numinous exercise to not merely arrest our gazes away from a past century and detain them, but to avenge it and gouge out our eyes with daggers of dancing ambergris. I stayed up last Friday to watch China's coming-out party, and those are just words. Here are pictures:

A dancer performs during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing, China. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Drummers perform during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

An artist in a space suit performs during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/ Getty Images)

Fireworks explode over the National Stadium during the Opening Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium on August 8 in Beijing. (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games at the National Stadium, also known as the “Bird’s Nest”, on August 8, 2008. The three-hour show at Beijing’s iconic national stadium was set to see more than 15,000 performers showcase the nation’s ancient history and its rise as a modern power. (AFP PHOTO / Olivier Morin)

Percussionists take part in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 8, 2008. (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/ Getty Images)

Percussionists hit their Fou drums at the start of the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 8, 2008. (AFP PHOTO / Joe Klamar )

Percussionists with their Fou drums stand prior to the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 8, 2008. (AFP PHOTO / Jewel Samad)

Artists perform around an illuminated Globe during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Artists perform during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony on August 8, 2008 at the National Stadium in Beijing. Over 10,000 athletes from some 200 countries are going to compete in 38 differents disciplines during the event, between August 9 to 24. (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

The Olympic rings are illuminated during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

Artists underneath movable boxes perform during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Martial arts dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Lighted dancers perform during the opening ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Friday, Aug. 8, 2008. (AP Photo/David Phillip)

Drummers perform during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/ Getty Images)

Artists perform during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Performers cheer during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Fireworks light the sky over the National Aquatics Center (L) and the National Stadium during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Lars Baron/Bongarts/ Getty Images)

An artist performs, suspended by wires during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

A musician performs during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games opening ceremony on August 8, 2008 at the National Stadium in Beijing. (WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images)

Performers are pictured during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A dancer is silhouetted as she performs during the Opening Ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics at the National Stadium on August 8, 2008 in Beijing. (Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Children of migrant workers from outlying provinces look at themselves in the mirror as they use their hands to form the Olympic Rings after watching the TV live broadcast of the Olympic Games opening ceremony at their quarters August 8, 2008 on the outskirts of Beijing. (Andrew Wong/Getty Images)

Hillary Clinton Plays Fill In The Caption

Quickie post, just saw this over at the excellent Born at the Crest, which I've come to rely on for news compression. Actually, I don't know how the blog keeps up its always concise, precise analysis folded down into short, info-rich posts. Thanks for doing your thing, Mike, linked to in the right margin.

Hillary's expression fits with some lyrics in that old Judy Collins hit song, "Send in the clowns. There ought to be clowns. Don't bother, they're here..."

Isn't it rich?
Isn't it queer,
Losing my timing this late
In my career?
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Well, maybe next year.

That, and she seems to be saying the F-bomb to herself, or to the crowd in general. But she's an old political trouper, she will survive, and I hear she's slated to give the keynote at the Democratic Convention.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Georgia, And Pipeline Wars, Ain't On Our Minds

As Russian air and ground forces routed Georgian troops, a multinational, extended-leader party in Beijing recalled the opening of Barbara Tuchman's 'Guns of August 'a century ago, when a memorial for Queen Victoria called potentates and their courtiers together. Vladimir Putin and George W. Bush sat next to each other at the Beijing Olympic ceremonies, watching the marvelous, jaw-dropping festivities. Before the Great War, boyhood friends, relatives, and classmates like Nicky (Tsar Nicholas of Russia) and Willy (Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany) tried desperately to avert cataclysm while overestimating their own capacities, in denial of the powerful new political bodies their privileged heads were connected to. They were schooled in King's English, and their telegraphs to each other in late July and early August of 1914 hint at the tangled disconnects they failed to bridge.

War has come to Georgia, and Russia is being demonized in our press. To understand the backdrop, you'd have to hear about the Rose Revolution, one of the many color-coded efforts soft-financed by the CIA. It succeeded in Georgia five years ago, and former Russian ambassador to the US, Georgian prime minister Eduard Shevardnadze, was deposed and replaced with Mikhail Shakaashvili. There were a number of destabilizing factors. Well before, two of its northern provinces had seceded by vote, and those citizens had been receiving Russian passports and aid but were still claimed by Georgia as territories. A major pipeline, the BTC, was built to cut through southern Georgia to carry oil to Ceyhan in Turkey and then on to Israel. Meanwhile, the US was forcing a vote to include Georgia and the Ukraine as members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a provocative equivalent of Russia arming Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic with nuclear missiles and having them join the old Warsaw Pact.

The US was trying like hell to bring the former Soviet satellites into its orbit and capture the energy resources around the Black and Caspian Seas. A year and more ago, I predicted that the BTC pipeline, financed by a consortium led by British Petroleum, could be taken whenever Russia wanted it. There was nothing in the conventional arsenal to stop them from doing so;, Georgia has been a Russian province since the time of the Tsars; Josef Stalin was born there; and putting a Western pipeline through it was an act of idiotic hubris. Only a bunch of greedy, incontinent, knee-biting poltroons would have tempted an effective ruler, one occupying a superior position, with such effrontery.

If Georgia had already been a member of NATO when Russia attacked, it would have precipitated a World War, one fought with nuclear ballistic missiles. NATO's other option would have been to back down and cease to be an effective actor on the world stage, a fate which it may now weigh in lengthy, commodius privacy. Putin chose to forestall the worst consequences of NATO's continued expansion, waiting until the US-led tide began to recede, and took the break-away Georgian provinces by force. He had the optimal time and ground. In all probability, Russia will control the new pipeline, and not only that, but all the oil and gas in the Caspian Basin which Condi Rice was our expert on. Apart from nuclear options, from upending and throwing the board to the ground, this is checkmate. Russia wins, and Iran falls into its economic orbit.

I'm not sure "thankful" is quite the right word, and "relieved" isn't either, but it's nice to know some world leader might know what they're doing, even if they're not on our side.
Watchers like me have seen the buried coals and embers of the Cold War stirred, unsooted, and doused by smelly Match-Light.The fires are burning, the energy wars have proliferated, but this isn't a conflict worth contesting, and I pray the doctors heavily sedate Dick Cheney.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Two Iraqi officials say the U.S. and Iraq are close to a deal under which all American combat troops would leave by October 2010 with remaining U.S. forces gone about three years later.
Two Iraqi officials say the U.S. and Iraq are close to a deal under which all American combat troops would leave by October 2010 with remaining U.S. forces gone about three years later.
Almost exactly 16 months after the next President takes the oath of office. Obama, now you need to start talking about a balanced budget, reduced trade deficit, and national health care. And oh, yeah--could you throw in 20 paid vacation days per year, like them Yerpeens get?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Paris Hilton: Future President Of The United States

I have, amongst annoyed friends, non-plussed relatives, and on this very blog, predicted that Paris Hilton would one day occupy the White House. In a sadistic sort of way, I was dead serious, but certainly didn't expect to see hints of my eventual vindication come this soon.

C'est arrive, me hearties. Paris's response to a John McCain ad which used footage of her to lampoon Barack's celebrity appeal has made me look like Nostradamus after downing 6 lattes. It wasn't that hard, really, just a matter of sticking with the basics. This woman consciously understands how to craft images, promote herself, stay on top as a taste-maker and manipulate the masses at will, and she can turn those talents to any purpose she wants. She's got what it takes, and would make a fine President or a top-notch dictator.

If you watch the video, you'll see how she successfully articulates a compromise position on energy and the environment that everyone would actually vote for, one which would probably work. Politics is now more about style than policy detail or machine loyalties, and fortunately or not, this 'Funny or Die' video provides one glimpse into the future. I forgive you in advance for self-protective mechanisms such as calling me an imbecile, since for most healthy people such a future is simply too terrifying to contemplate. (Whatever you do, don't think of a Pink White House.)

(Update: Lord Wife, who first pointed out the video, reacted to this post with the raised eyebrows of incredulity. To which I rejoined, "People give this girl $50,000 to show up at parties for a couple of hours. By that measure, is she not the smartest person alive?")