Friday, August 06, 2004

Five Questions

Well, it was actually four questions, but this Christian Science Monitor article made me think about the time the present Ribbon Cutter in Chief gave this answer to the question ''Can you name the general who is in charge of Pakistan?"

''The new Pakistani general, he's just been elected - not elected, this guy took over office. It appears this guy is going to bring stability to the country and I think that's good news for the subcontinent.''

Think about this answer in light of the last three years. Certainly, Bush now knows Musharraf's name. The question is whether or not the General is genuinely willing--and able--to assist the US in tracking down fugitives like, say, Osama bin Laden. And the next time Bush crows about our "ally" in the region, remember that bin Laden and a number of others are likely ensconced in our "ally's" western provinces, the so-called "Tribal Belt," which might as well be the picture next to a definition of the term "nominal control."

The Monitor article suggests that the recent arrest of Ahmed Khalfan Ghaliani and Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan (the former, interestingly, during the week of the Democratic National Convention) will perhaps "turn the tide" if they can be coerced into providing more intelligence. That might be true, and, if so, all the better. Bin Laden and his ilk are true kooks. But I wouldn't count on it, nor do I count on Musharraf to do anything that would threaten his position. A large scale assault on his western provinces would do exactly that. Instead, I expect that certain low-level operatives will be picked up and displayed for our approval, which Bush will then latch onto in a desperate attempt to prove that he has the wherewithall to focus on something not related directly to campaigning for more than, say, five minutes (even as the entire press contingent KNOWS that it's all for show).

So, will they capture the Number 1 Wanted Fugitive? I'm beginning to doubt that will happen. Bush himself is on record saying that he doesn't care about "one man." If Osama turns himself in, sure, they'll make the arrest (and the crow about it ad nauseum). But I'm beginning to think that the Bush team is going to rely on something far more sinister for their "October Surprise." Last night on Nightline, George Stephanopolus spent the half hour consciously or subconsciously trying to scare the shit out of people (the only thing I found frightening was the bloated-ogre visage of Tony Blankley). But one person on the panel, a former Israeli military officer, security specialist, and now author, expressed a point I've heard with distressing regularity over the last month or so--that the US should expect a major terrorist attack within the next 90 days or so, i.e., prior to the election.

How do they know that?

Fun With Classified Documents

I was way too busy at work yesterday to comment on this, but now that I've got the time, I'll note this article about Senator Richard Shelby doing his best impersonation of a sieve. Wingnuts were all put out a week or so ago about Sandy Berger's supposed pilfering of classified material from the 9/11 Commission Reading Room--except that, it turns out, he didn't do after all.

But didn't a certain Bill Frist engage in some loose and fast rule playing and rule breaking when it came to classified material and Richard Clarke? Gosh, if I recall...

Anyway, 90 percent--if not 99 percent--of material that is stamped "classified" is done so not for genuine purposes of national security, but for one reason only: politics. And it's been a bipartisan effort over the years, although FOIA and some of the 1970's reforms did in fact open government to an extent. But--one George W. Bush has, in his effort to "raise the tone," I guess, done his level best to close citizen access to government documents. Fitting.

Note: both the Shelby and Berger links are from George W. Bush Will You Please Go Now?
Survivor: Illegal Immigrant Edition

Here's a novel idea for a reality show: the winner gets legal assistance for a year in the hopes of obtaining a Green Card.

Steve Gilliard has more, incliding a link to a subscription or view an ad site.

Gana la Verde--Win the Green--is what they're calling the show, which airs on Spanish language television in the Southern California and parts of Texas.

I'm reminded of a similar show that ran in Argentina, where the "winner" was given a job (IIRC, in a shoe store).
How to Spend Your Tax Break...and Then Some

Reuters reports on the price of oil futures--almost $45 dollars a barrel. Right now the spin is "blame it on Yukos," the Russian oil conglomerate, but if anyone doesn't think Middle East instability doesn't factor in, well--I've got bridges AND reclaimed swampland you might be interested in...

Yesterday NPR reported on this, and noted that China is now becoming a major non-US market for crude oil producers. Hmmm. Interestingly, China now holds more than just a bit of leverage on us, being a major new source of loans for the country. I wonder if they will use this to their advantage...
Why Can't the Media Focus on the Good News?

I mean, a wallet can be seen as half full OR half empty--unless it's completely empty, in which case, um, I guess you can discuss the, um, opportunities, yes, opportunities that come from not having to wake up every morning and get to the office. Of course, it's can be a little difficult to pay for food, rent, and other luxuries under those circumstances--but you could always hire on for big bucks in Iraq.

Speaking of Iraq, our military is reporting phenomenal success in killing--up to 300 in Najaf. That must be good news, right? Anyone who considers that this number is indicative of a large scale resistance just isn't focusing on the good news. For instance, Robert Fisk clearly isn't focusing on the good news when he writes this:

The war is a fraud. I’m not talking about the weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. Nor the links between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa’ida which didn’t exist. Nor all the other lies upon which we went to war. I’m talking about the new lies.

For just as, before the war, our governments warned us of threats that did not exist, now they hide from us the threats that do exist. Much of Iraq has fallen outside the control of America’s puppet government in Baghdad but we are not told. Hundreds of attacks are made against US troops every month. But unless an American dies, we are not told. This month’s death toll of Iraqis in Baghdad alone has now reached 700 - the worst month since the invasion ended. But we are not told...

Indeed, watching any Western television station in Baghdad these days is like tuning in to Planet Mars. Doesn’t Blair realise that Iraq is about to implode? Doesn’t Bush realise this? The American-appointed "government" controls only parts of Baghdad - and even there its ministers and civil servants are car-bombed and assassinated. Baquba, Samara, Kut, Mahmoudiya, Hilla, Fallujah, Ramadi, all are outside government authority. Iyad Allawi, the "Prime Minister", is little more than mayor of Baghdad. "Some journalists," Blair announces, "almost want there to be a disaster in Iraq." He doesn’t get it. The disaster exists now.

Today in Iraq isn't focusing on the good news when it points out that Algeria, Libya, Bangladesh, and Pakistan rejected a Saudi proposal for an international peacekeeping force in Iraq working alongside the US occupation. Apparently, these four countries also aren't focusing on the good news--they seem to think Iraq is a disaster in the making.

The media is no longer focusing on the good news either. Paul Krugman cites Matthew Yglesias's contention in American Prospect that Iraq since the "transfer" has been Afghanistanized--the media pretty much ignore it now (minus flareups like the glorious victory over the forces of darkness in Najaf--well, the soon-to-be-glorious-victory in Najaf. Sort of like the victory over Sadr last April).

Ah, if only the media would focus on the good news--whatever the good news is supposed to be...

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Following the Crowd

Library Chronicles and Huck Upchuck have me beat on this, but why not add a third voice (or a fourth, as I glanced quickly at Eschaton this morning before work commenced in earnest. Here's today's Bushism:

"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we."—Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004

The only really unique thing to mention about this is that for once Bush actually told the truth.
Q and A

With Barbara Ehrenreich--worth a look.

I'm gonna try to post something in a bit, but man has this day ever sucked...I almost feel like I'm back in the private sector...

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

We Regret to Inform You, George W. Bush, that...

Green Boy at Needlenose passes along an email "circulating around": The Outsourcing of the Presidency.

Gregory Mankiw would be proud.

Washington DC - Congress today announced that the Office of President of the United States will be outsourced to overseas interests as of June30th, the end of this fiscal year. The move is being made to save $400K a year in salary, a record $521 Billion in deficit expenditures and related overhead. "The cost savings will be quite significant" says Congressman Adam Smith (D -Wash) who, with the aid of the GAO (theGeneral Accounting Office) has studied outsourcing of American jobs extensively...

Mr. Bush was informed by email this morning of the termination of his position. He will receive health coverage, expenses and salary until hisfinal day of employment. After that, with a two week waiting period, he will then be eligible for $240 dollars a week from unemployment insurance for 13 weeks...

Sanji Gurvinder Singh of Indus Teleservices, Mumbai, India will be assuming the Office of President of the United States as of July 1. Mr. Singh was born in the United States while his parents were here on student visas, thus making him eligible for the position. He will receive a salary of $320 (USD) a month but with no health coverage or other benefits. Due tothe time difference between the US and India, Mr. Singh will be working primarily at night, when offices of the US Government will be open"I am excited to serve in this position," Mr. Singh stated in an exclusive interview. "Working nights will let me keep my day job at theAmerican Express call center. I always knew I could be President someday!"

Tony Kushner vs. Laura Bush

A friend of mine who is also acquainted with Mr. Kushner alerted me to this from Salon (note: my friend also reminded me not too long ago of a colloquial we used to identify Tony--it was like remembering a secret handshake). Anyway, before checking out the **Subscription or View an Ad for Powell's Books Required** article on Salon, you might want to look at the original referenced work here (from The Nation). In summary:

Tony wrote a short scene featuring Laura Bush as one of the main characters. She will be reading to a group of children accompanied by an Angel, who explains to Mrs. Bush that they are in fact dead Iraqi children, killed either by Bush the elder or the subsequent sanctions. Mrs. Bush chooses "The Grand Inquisitor," a passage from The Brothers Karamazov as her text of choice.

The Salon piece is a recent addition to the original scene, so I recommend looking over the original scene from The Nation first, then check out the addition, then, if you really are feeling it, go on to the review of Monday's performance here. The review even has the bonus of links to both the Boston Globe and the New York Post trashing the piece, as apparently in their opinion, Laura Bush must never be touched.

I'm casting my own vote for Kushner.
Once Upon a Time

Jesus' General has the perfect bedtime story for the modern era: Wolves at War: A Neocon Fairy Tale. Here are Parts One and Two.

Apparently it will be a trilogy, as the General promises Part Three will be published next week. I can hardly wait.
Maybe They Need a New Poetry Contest?

Link via Jeffrey at Library Chronicles. CNN reports on the "reopening" of the Statue of Liberty. Well, it's sort of reopening. You can go to Liberty Island, provided you successfully pass through a security screening at Battery Park. Additonal screenings take place at the island (and Ellis Island), including "device that blows air through clothing and tests for evidence of explosive particles."

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free citizens, your nationals from "friendly countries," your carefully and thoroughly vetted B-2 visa tourists that haven't overextended their stay, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore Cubans, Canadians, Europeans, (especially athletes and actors) some Mexicans and Central Americans (for hard labor that we don't want to do), BUT NOT YOUR HATIANS, and watch any Arabs like a hawk, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,--well, on second thought, nah, don't send them, I lift my lamp beside the golden door! Anyone without documentation is hereby under arrest! Have a nice day, and enjoy your freedom.

The Real Reason Why We Invaded Iraq Posted by Hello

Tuesday, August 03, 2004


The New York Times has more on the flight that scared the bejezus out of Annie Jacobsen. Ms. Jacobson was convinced that Syrian musicians were actually terrorists, and wrote an account of her "ordeal" for Women's Wall Street.

However, Federal Air Marshals on the flight offer a different account:

One of the major remaining questions about Northwest Airlines Flight 327 on June 29 from Detroit to Los Angeles - the flight that was met by federal agents and local police responding to a possible terrorist incident - is this:

Did, as a passenger reported, 7 of the 13 Syrian musicians whose behavior was terrifying some passengers stand up in unison and take strategic positions by the lavatories and the exit door during final approach to Los Angeles, an act that would have been a frighteningly overt and unambiguous provocation?

They did not, according to the Federal Air Marshal Service, which had previously left unchallenged assertions by Annie Jacobsen, a freelance writer on the flight, that they did.

"What happened was, they were already standing up in the aisle before the seat belt signs became illuminated," said Dave Adams, a spokesman for the agency, which represents air marshals who travel undercover on airplanes.

"The flight attendants asked them to sit down and the men respected the orders and sat in their seats. Two gentlemen asked why they had to, and a flight attendant told them 'Because, so please take your seats.' And they obeyed," he said.

The new information, he added, came from "subsequent interviews of flight attendants on this matter by our personnel."

So there was absolutely no sudden move by the men on final approach?

"None," Mr. Adams said.

Now, I don't want to bash Ms. Jacobson further; however, "overreaction" is certainly a diplomatic, if not charitable term to describe her reactions. But I think in light of Sunday's terror warning, now revealed to be three years old, we need to examine the kind of--um, I was going to say hysteria, but that can be construed as patronizing and sexist, so how about, well, "overreaction"--that results in people seeing bombs instead of musical instruments, and government officials ordering troops to patrol streets in full military gear and M-16's. I mean, jeez, what's next? Will Ridge come out and announce that Al Qaeda is thinking of using planes as weapons? That's three years old too...

There's quite a difference between "alert" and "absurd." And, considering the history of Bushrealpolitick--that EVERYTHING seems to be influenced by how it plays into electioneering--I think Kerry's spokesperson MaryBeth Cahill had just the right statement:

"We take the pResident at his word." (link apparently was originally in the San Jose Mercury News--which I haven't registered for--I found it at Billmon's Whiskey Bar).

Which, as Billmon notes, isn't necessarily an endorsement: "Considering what we know about Bush's word, I suppose you could interpret Cahill's comment more than one way."

All things considered, about the only thing that worries me is that, while we're busy getting all worked up about Syrian musicians on airplanes, or three year old terror warnings (a friend of mine told me last night that "We're letting Al Qaeda jerk our chain"), there is the very real possibility that plans are being made for something no one has yet considered (unlike the 9/11 attacks, in spite of the Bush spin). If we REALLY get caught unprepared, lord only knows how bad the damage could be...
Around the Bend

Riverbend, of Baghdad Burning fame, posted a couple of days ago, for the first time in two weeks. She explains why:

An insurmountable combination of heat and family issues has kept me from blogging...The heat is unbearable. It begins very early in the day and continues late into the night. You’d think that once the sun has set, the weather would cool appreciably- no such thing in Baghdad. Once the sun sets, the buildings and streets cease to absorb heat and instead begin to emanate it. If you stand a few centimeters away from any stucco or brick wall, you can feel the waves of heat coming at you from every crack and crevice.

The electricity has been quite bad. On some days, we’re lucky to get 12 hours- 3 hours of electricity for three hours of no electricity- but more often than not, it’s four hours of no electricity and two hours of electricity. A couple of weeks ago, there was a day when our area had only one hour of electricity out of 23 hours with no power. The hellish weather had everyone out in their gardens by sunset, trying to find a way to stay cool.

If you have the chance definitely read the entire post.
I Agree

With Josh Marshall's post regarding the benefits and pitfalls of using the internet for keeping up with newspapers. I've noticed the same issues as he does: yes, it's nice that you can browse THE WORLD'S newspapers with a click of the mouse button, but having a genuine paper copy of the paper gives you a much greater chance of reading more articles. With a real newspaper, I'll often find myself glancing at a headline, reading through the first paragraph before I'm able to stop, and continuing on out of plain curiosity. I plead guilty to not doing the same online, in spite of high speed connections both at home and at the office.

On the other hand, most papers on the internet are, well, essentially free. Yeah, I have to register for more and more sites, but they only get an email address I set up specifically for junkmail, which I'll go clean out periodically--a small price to pay. Marshall notes that the Times and the Post have electronic facsimiles of the paper online--for a price--but the price is almost as much as just subscribing. In other words, it's really useful only for people who, say, carry laptop computers around with them.

Note: I think Timshel has noted advantages to actually getting a copy of the newspaper in the past as well.
In Defense of C-Span

Bruce Jackson, in Counterpunch, compares and contrasts C-Span and Woof Blitzer of CNN, finding the latter as tiresome as Walt Whitman did the astronomer:

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

Better Late than...Nevermind

The New York Times and others are reporting that the information that caused Tom Ridge to breathlessly raise the terror code (in limited areas only) was--ahem--several years old.

The spinners in the Bush administration are pulling out all the stops to justify the timing, but the fact is that they're engaging in one of the oldest tactics in the book: the big lie. Rinse and repeat.

In that light, check this Esquire article out. Written by Ron Reagan, Jr., it follows up on his NPR interview a couple of weeks back, and reads much better than his stem-cell speech at the Democratic convention. In summary, Reagan makes the point that Bush is simply unqualified to hold the office.

And consider that few if any of the established media outlets are reporting that any number of non-evangelical conservatives are either not voting or casting a ballot for Kerry this fall. They see what sort of disaster awaits the country should it take the Bush path, which is a combination of irresponsible fiscal policies and lunatic wars. Business Week has an article that spells it out: the coming years will find the country in tough times thanks to the "charge it and forget it" philosophy of Team Bush.

(Both the Reagan and Business Week links are from Bad Attitudes).

Monday, August 02, 2004

Weekend Review

I took the weekend to get some much needed rest, although rest always involves reading newspapers and websites, watching the latest news on television, etc. For instance, yesterday I had just tuned into C-Span when it interrupted taped programming to bring us the stern visage of Tom Ridge. This time, the sky is not necessarily falling on the titans of finance, requiring a bump in the terror code--which, just by coincidence, matches the almost exact moment when initial polling data shows a small bump for Kerry.

To go off topic for just a second: something tells me the shrill drone of the wingnut swarm will be bleating like crazy about how a "five point bounce" is the lowest ever for a candidate coming out of a convention. What they won't mention are the numerous reports detailing the level of political division in this country. Minds are pretty much made up for everyone except those who, in Billmon's words, "prefer their politics with a side order of Valium." But this sort of tiresome ranting--just like the pathological, almost psychotic hatred of France that now defines wingnuttery (I picture them stretching their arms wider and wider, like three year olds, to show the range of their hate), is to be expected--just as their complete ignorance of laws both domestic and international is also to be expected, not to mention their disregard for anything remotely approaching civil liberties--well, minus their insistance that everyone carry a gun. Wait, strike that too--they only want guns in the hands of those they agree with.

So, I can't say I was all that surprised to see Bush proudly trampling on all this and more at a Pennsylvania rally (which reaired on C-Span last night). I'm also not that surprised to see a cheering throng--I wonder if they too were required to sign political loyalty oaths--gleefully adding a few stomps of their own.

I was surprised, though, to see Bush suggest that "results matter," given his record. Now, if you read the speech linked to in the preceeding paragraph, you'll see that it's entirely possible to feed chicken-shit to people while calling it chicken salad--and that some folks will apparently eat it up and ask for four more years of servings. Fortunately, I believe most folks will see the Bush menu for what it is, and go somewhere else.

Also, as I'm sure you've heard by now, Team Bush made yet another losing choice when it came to sloganeering: We're "turning the corner" is remarkably similar to one used by Herbert Hoover way back in the late 20's/early 30's. About the only thing you can say in their favor is that Hoover is off the radar screen for a good number of Americans who've essentially given up on history (for that matter, so is Harry Truman, although Truman's ghost tends to get more play as he now is the 'patron saint for the soon-to-be-losers').

So Bush says "results matter." Indeed, they do. And if you look at Bush's results, you'll see a pattern that would be familiar to, say, an LSU football fan during the coaching tenure of Gerry DiNardo. Now, I'm not really a college football fan, but if Bush was a coach instead of commander in chief, I think we would have already seen the sober press conferences discussing the need to "assess the situation," followed by other press conferences with announcements about "changes in the direction of the program." I mean, c'mon. Losing in Iraq and Afghanistan is like a major college football program dropping games to pick-up teams.

With this in mind, I looked at this weekend's Counterpunch, which featured a couple of pieces that were must reads for me. Editor Alexander Cockburn and contributor John Chuckman slam Kerry and Edwards respectively. Cockburn offers the thesis that four more years of Bush could well crack the foundations of empire, while Chuckman, oddly, takes the conservative position on trial lawyers (that they're basically smarmy, greedy ambulance chasers).

Both writers push the point that the end of the American empire would be a good thing, and I can't say that I disagree entirely with that assessment. However, whatever positive would come out of four more years would be more than offset by the damage. Chuckman, by the way, has the advantage of being Canadian; I'm not entirely sure as to Cockburn's citizenship, but regardless, he likely won't suffer much either. Folks like myself, though, would pay the price of an encore performance of Bush's follies.

I don't think people realize the degree to which the US is dependent not only on the banana republics and sweatshop economies of the Far East, but also on the interlocking financial relationships among the 'developed' countries, as a source of long term wealth. Each time Bush takes a dump on this relationship, there's a cost. Combine this with the fact that we will soon be playing whatever tune our bankers in China request, and it's clear that the Bush program is simply unsustainable. Yes, that will generate the kind of waves that could cause massive disruption down the financial line, culminating in a much chastened USA down the road. But, god only knows what the Bush/neo-con response would be. And I don't want to find out it involves a religious desire to see just how close to reality the Book of Revelations could be.

To close with something off topic: my boss loves days like today--we've got many things that were scheduled to be done today, and we've also got some stuff that just came up requiring immediate attention. Said boss is a former high school teacher, and I have the strong feeling that her classes got used to having lots of busy work. Hell, half of what was scheduled today WAS busy work. The stuff that came up involves security updates that have to be done. So, I'll be running around here like crazy until quitting time. I'll try to be back in a bit, but I haven't even had a chance to catch up on reading ANYTHING today....grrrr.