For whatever reason, the President has announced that the United States will be doing the right thing, and he has increased American pledges of tsunami disaster relief some ten-fold, to $350 million, and sending a delegation led by lame duck SecState Colin Powell and presumed dynastic heir apparent JEB Bush. On the bad news side, those dollars are worth less than they have been before, as the dollar sinks to a nine-year low against a "basket" of other currencies, especially the euro. Well, no matter. The year is at an end.
And so, we come to another new year's eve. Countless millions enter the new year fighting for their survival, for any number of reasons, from the wars raging in Darfur, Congo, Eritrea. West Africa, Iraq, Chechnya, and God knows where else, to those currently fighting for survival in the wake of the Indian Ocean tsunami. We hope and pray that these people will somehow make it through-- that in the face of calamity, some good...
And we in the fat and happy first world, especially this richest and most profligate of first world countries, might actually go back to one of the meaningless catchphrases of the 2000 campaign: prosperity with a purpose. Right now, we remain prosperous (a relative term, though few in the world are anywhere near at our national income or wealth levels, and our GDP, of course, blows away everyone else's) because of (1) people working harder, and for lower wages and fewer benefits and less security than they have since we adopted the modern labor standards of "the forty hour week" (which is really not all that long ago); (2) borrowing, borrowing, and more borrowing, whether its consumers propping up the economy by borrowing against home equity, or credit cards, or whoever will lend, or the nation, borrowing to pay its bills at the rate of over a billion dollars a day and counting; (3) centuries of accumulated wealth from our industrial and economic might...
While (as a liberal) I'm naturally inclined to whine about the calamitous dangers we face (because of "them", of course), everything is relative. I simply think we are accelerating a day of reckoning, when even our best creditors will simply be unable to prop us up with debt, rather than unwilling... and a series of unfortunate (financial) events will follow. I think this is easily, and relatively painlessly corrected, and our current government is unwilling to do so out of short term expediency and misguided ideology. Unfortunately, as I've also pointed out, it's not like our opposition party has anything much to say beyond, perhaps, some isolated policies likely to make things worse.
On the foreign policy front, the future threat really comes from not so much Al Qaeda itself, which, if you ask me, has largely, though obviously not completely, shot its wad, so much as other small scale, rapidly evolving guerrilla/terrorist groups, who realize that our military, designed as it is to fight the Red Army in Central Europe with heavy bombers, aircraft carriers, slow tanks, etc., is no match for their fast moving, rapidly deployed hit and run maneuvers. The fact is, I could cut the military budget, right now, by about 80%, and, by spending money more intelligently, give us a more effective defense from our future threats. Of course, no one is asking me, and the Pentagon, defense industries and Congress have a nice sweetheart deal set up to make sure that nothing of the kind happens. Prediction for '05: look for more of the same of this year. Iraq will mire on, we'll still be there after the elections, Afghanistan may get better (or not), we'll posture as Iran and North Korea get closer to their nuclear weapons (or get them), Israel will pull out of Gaza... a little... and not much else... the opportunity presented by Arafat's death will be wasted (that's my prediction; I do get pleasantly surprised sometimes, though.)
In short, inertia is a very powerful force. I don't look for significant changes in the nation, in the world, or in much of anything. On this blog, I'll be trying to focus more on what we can do, rather than on bitching about what we'd wish "they" do. "They" really do have a mandate: they have the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches of government. Margins and approval ratings mean nothing. They will govern at the limits of what they can politically get away with. If they go too far, or if we have that economic collapse I fear we will, they'll likely be shown the door commencing in the 2006 mid-terms, regardless of much else. Otherwise, our bitching about "we wuz robbed" or anything else will be... bitching.
I suggest we don't do that. I suggest we develop a rather simple understanding of what liberalism is, what the Democratic Party is, and simple explanations of why it is better than its alternatives. Or we can enjoy our minority status (as, btw, I am convinced our so-called Democratic Congressional leaders do, as minority status precludes that irritating "accountability".)
Well, let's be careful out there... let's try to make this a better and nicer world in our own little ways, or bigger ways if the opportunities present. Happy new year, everybody.
I understand that this is actually a mistranslation of the famous cliche that the Chinese character for "crisis" is an overlay of the characters for "danger" and "opportunity". Let's play that out.
Right now, we have a massive humanitarian crisis where rapid fire logistical, monetary and other support would doubtless do a world of good (if delivered quickly enough). We have an American government with little will to do anything beyond a token showing (for which it has duly-- and rightly-- been criticized). But... we have other immense resources...
Once again, I'm going to go back to my theme: where are Democrats on this? Maybe they're out there, and I'm just not hearing them. Or maybe, as usual, the silence is deafening.
We can start, of course, with the revolution in Democratic politics: the internet fundraising list. I realize that our perverse election laws are such that the use of such tools for mundane purposes like raising money to save hundreds of thousands or millions of lives and probably staving off worldwide pandemic is probably illegal, but I'm sure high priced legal talent can find away around that. Among other things, John Kerry is sitting on millions and millions of dollars in unspent campaign money (and he is a multi-millionaire anyway, as is his wife).
Certainly, he can seize the bully pulpit right now, and urge the nation (red states and blue) to come together in a massive creative effort to raise money, logistical support and expertise to be brought to bear on the South Asian/East African humanitarian crisis right now. He can urge the hundreds of thousands of Americans who generously gave to his (pathetic and awful) Presidential campaign to give what they can to the humanitarian effort-- right now-- at internet speed, to save as many lives as we can, and to take American leadership to the forefront of something good for a change, even as our sitting government is content to have us be portrayed as (and, really, BE) a stingy, self-centered, ill-mannered, pariah state, more interested in spreading instability and chaos than in doing good.
It's long been stipulated that George W. Bush is a dickhead, and we don't expect much, if any good to come out of that end. But we're still a free people, with immense resources of money, time, and we would hope, good will. This is an opportunity to do so something constructive-- not just because it will score political points (it may, it may not), but for that most fundamental of reasons we used to think Democrats did things: because it's right..
While waiting for Senator Kerry or other Democrats to act on this (I suspect we'll be waiting a while), you might want to consider supporting some decent relief organizations, such as Save the Children or CARE or Oxfam or the charity or vehicle of your choice.
Words are pretty much inadequate to describe the after effects of the monstrous earthquake and tsunami that has killed over 80,000 people across Indonesia and on into Southern Asia, the Indian Ocean and over to East Africa. Given that thousands of Americans are among the missing (though only a dozen are confirmed dead), and the President has apparently taken umbrage about being called "stingy", perhaps this event will raise our consciousness of that part of the world where most of its people live.
In the meantime, ironically, the two hardest hit areas in terms of death toll, Sumatra's Aceh province, and Sri Lanka, are also host to two of the world's most active separatist insurgencies. While one would hope that this devastation might, perhaps, lead to a rapid coming together, one fears (well, I do anyway), that the insurgencies will get round to interfering with relief and rebuilding operations (Banda Aceh is already one of the remotest places there is, not helped by the insurgency).
Just a little reminder that death is always just over our shoulder, and you never know from one minute to the next, and maybe, just maybe, those petty little disputes that seem to define our lives weren't so important after all.
As I traversed a midtown Manhattan subway corridor, in the space of perhaps 50 yards I was accosted by no less than four equal, yet important groups: the Scientologists, the Jews for Jesus, the Evangelical Protestants, and finally, the Jehovah's Witnesses. Note that now that Sun Yung Moon is a "legitimate business" (owning UPI and the Washington Times), his people haven't been seen for eons.
Previous record for that corridor: two. Was I tempted to use the straight-arm and knock these people down in the manner of Robert Hayes in Airplane!? Surely, I must be joking. I'm not joking, and my name isn't Shirley.
Does this mean that the end is nigh? Or, possibly worse, a return to the sensibilities of the 1970's?
Ending over a month of massive street protests and the so-called Orange Revolution, opposition candidate Viktor Yuschenko claimed victory in the Ukrainian presidential election, capturing over 52% of Sunday's vote. Naturally, his opponent, Victor Yanokovich, cried fraud, and vowed to fight on and take a challenge of his own to Ukraine's Supreme Court.
International observers concluded that this round of elections was relatively clean (compared to the last one), and it appears most Ukrainians are accepting the results (as did the nearby authoritarian regime in Minsk... or is it Pinsk... Byelorusse... no, I think its Minsk... ancestral home of a branch of Familia-TD).
Yuschenko will now have his hands full (aside from dealing with Yanukovich and his Kremlin cronies, who more than likely, tried to murder him with dioxin poison), will have to keep Ukraine's eastern ethnically Russian region in line, lest it try to secede or foment revolt. And Pooty Poot... can't be happy.
Amazing outcome, assuming its finished (many protestors have vowed to stay in their tent cities until Yuschenko is safely sworn in and takes power). But at least somewhere, power to the people means something,, and crooks stealing elections are not brooked. Not here, of course. Somewhere else...
Ho hum. Stories about "Christmas miracles" of long lost family reunions or seeming generosity that, really, aren't anything other than a seasonal excuse to sell tabloids or get zombies to watch the local news, will crowd out consciousness of what should probably be the largest story of the new millenium... the humongous 8.9 Krakatoa-magnitude earthquake near Sumatra and resultant tsunami-- in death toll, certainly, way beyond 9-11 (a tragedy which people from the victim nations were doubtless concerned over, something which will not likely be reciprocated from here).
The fact is, this is an unfortunate harbinger of how natural tragedies, because of heavy population density in low, coastal areas, overdevelopment in said areas, poverty, and the like, which once might have killed dozens or hundreds will likely kill tens of thousands. This may well be a progressively bigger story as global warming exacerbates and our oceans rise (even as oblivious fat cats-- and American zombies-- pretend that science is something can be debated like the merits of football draft choices.)
I guess its Christmas weekend, and the usual stories of airline delays and American weather and what not are more important and all. At this point, its hard to say who is responsible for what amounts to the dumming down (and self-absorption) of reporting of the news. But it infects our political coverage (75% of those who voted for the President, for example, believed that Saddam Hussein was personally responsible for 9-11 and had nucular weapons-- both of which have long been conceded-- by the President himself-- as not true).
Well, my sympathies and prayers go out to the people of Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, and all others effected. Even if, I suspect, few Americans will give it a second thought.
While I'm still waiting to hear Democratic outrage over continuing to engage American volunteers into needless death and dismemberment in the Iraqi desert (I'm still waiting... and waiting...), I have little doubt we will NOT hear similar silence in response to the clear implications of Dubya's (W as in wield-the-ax) likely budgetary priorities as set forth in this La-La Times (registration required, damn them) piece. (Thanks, and saints be praised, to Bruce-the-veep for the always timely assist; Bruce also sends along this Grey Lady piece on nucular proliferation where we can expect a defeaning silence from boths sides of the aisle-- as they said in the Blues Brothers, country and western).
Anyway, back to budgetary matters. Cliffnotes version: doctors (via malpractice suits) generate too much money that is recycled to Democratic candidates, and even though the AMA and many doctors are loyal Republicans, they preside over a system that, on net, helps Democrats, and hence, they (doctors) will have to single-handedly bear the brunt of Bush's budget axe via Medicaid/Medicare reductions (more the latter), and hence, elderly people will have fewer medical care options as more and more doctors just cut off new patients rather than risk measlier and measlier reimbursement rates.
Think of it this way (as the LaLa Times Piece suggests): the budget has around 5 roughtly even fiscal components: (1) interest on debt payable to our Chinese and Japanese overlords-- untouchable unless we want to default and trigger the end of foreign credit; (2) "defense" and "homeland security", billions and billions spent on missile systems that don't work against enemies that no longer exist, and maybe-- MAYBE-- a few hundred bucks for body armor and armored vehicles for, you know, our troops... or not, as the case may be..., which the President has declared untouchable; (3) social security, which the President has declared untouchable; (4) medicare/medicaid (two separate Great Society programs, the former for the elderly, the latter for the poor); and (5) everything else (so-called "discretionary spending", from NASA, SEC, Interior, Commerce, Justice, courts, science and disease research... you name it...).
Ordinarily, one balances the budget via... taxes. This President tells us that doctrinally, he will not do that. Because he is a true believer (believer that his father lost reelection by being fiscally responsible, that is), he will not, under any circumstances, do anything remotely responsible. Hence, all he has left is budgetary matters. However-- in sheer numbers, even cutting category 5 in its entirety would not bring us a balanced budget. Oh-- he won't raise taxes to cover either his increased Iraq "off-budget" spending, or the trillions of dollars in social security privatization transition costs.
That's right, boys and girls: if all our federal government did was pay for the Pentagon (and the new Homeland Security Department), interest on the debt, social security and medicare AND NOTHING ELSE, thanks to the St. Alan Greenspan blessed tax cuts and resultant massive deficits, our budget would STILL be unbalanced.
Now-- John Kerry's answer to this debacle was twofold: spend more money on categories four and five, which, of course, is "the problem", and increase taxes (wheewww... the solution... except...) on... the... rich... only. While this is the sort of nonsense that Democrats are forced to spout in order to win primaries, it is precisely the same nonsense that costs them (time after time) in general elections. You see: Americans value and cherish our rich. Its our poor and middle class, of course, who can go to hell. But if you ask our rich to bear any form of sacrifice, its only fair that said sacrifice be matched (and preferably exceeded) by the burden you ask the poor to bear. Worse still, Kerry's super-pandering envisioned yet more and more complicated "middle class" tax dodges.
Only Howard Dean (who, as a result, is the enemy of all organized Democratic Party insiders, and the blocking of whom is the only thing they can agree on-- besides legalizing abortion on demand under any and all circumstances, of course) had the honest answer: Bush's tax cuts were the problem-- and hence, they had to be repealed in their entirety. No "fine tuning", no pandering-- just take us back to the "incentive killing" 39.5% top marginal rate that governed during the economic expansion of the '90's.
Don't look for any other Democrat to spout any such nonsense. Won't happen. Democrats (probably even led by John Kerry himself) will now rail against Bush's "heartless" budgetary cuts, and they will,, of course, rail about his "tax cuts for the rich", while if one accepted their proposed solutions (if they have any), budgetary imbalance would even be worse still.
If Democrats want to have any credibility whatsoever, they (we?) will have to come up with a reasonable alternative. Seems to me that the only governor who didn't have a state constitutional requirement of a balanced budget who balanced his budget anyway (that would be Howard Dean), is somebody Democrats ought to be listening to-- instead of portraying him as a mad man-- to get some street creds on fiscal responsibility.
I'm waiting... Look for much carping about the heartlessness of the President's budgetary priorities from Democrats. Do NOT look out for solutions (by Democrats, anyway), that won't actually make things worse from a fiscal perspective. I can always be pleasantly surprised, but... we won't hold our breath... Again-- even without a coherent response to what he'd do on Iraq, had Kerry even been disciplined with respect to domestic policy and fiscal matters (besides "I'll spend more money and pander to the middle class"), he might have picked up, say, Iowa and West Virginia and New Mexico and eked out a win...
No matter. Look for Democrats to do what they always do: carp, to win support from "the base", without actually proposing to solve anything. It may be the day after Christmas, but Americans want Santa Claus to come from Washington all year. Democrats have yet to figure out how to play this, while Republicans have seemed to have figured it out with a vengeance... Somebody's got to be the damned grown-up... but no one wants to be... Well, enough incoherence from me... Just keep all of this in mind as "the budget debate" plays out. You can take it to the bank (assuming the dollar is still worth anything...)
Well, after careful tabulation by our team of auditors from Arthur Andersen, we have determined a winner in the talking dog's guess the electoral college outcome contest. In plain "closest" terms to the winning margin, the winner would be m'self, who predicted that the winner would have 282 e.v.'s (actual number was 283).
However, your TD got carried away with himself, and predicted that it would be John Kerry with that number instead of... the other guy.
Next closest was a guess of 293 e.v.'s (with some insane overguessing in the popular total, though contest rules provided that popular vote was a tiebreaker only, as opposed to the actual election, where the popular vote of nine people is the tie breaker), for... the guy who won.
And hence, your talking dog announces that the winner of the "guess the electoral tally" game is none other than the former co-blogger of this very site, the blogger now known as The Raving Atheist.
Raving will get lunch at New York's Bouley restaurant, care of your talking dog. Congratulations, RA, and bon appetit.
Oh-- Peace on Earth, Good Will towards Man, yada yada yada... And as Spike Lee and the Raving Atheist both might say, let's keep the "X" in "X-mas".
Just another one of those depressing things you see in the Washington Post, in this case, a photo-compendium of "the fallen" service men and women who have perished amidst the Mesopotamian Abatoir known as "Operation Iraqi Freedom". You see, we won't talk of the abomination that all but 21 Democrats valued political expedience (and in John Kerry's unique case, not being burned by voting against the potentially popular Gulf War II, as he was for voting against the more "successful" Gulf War I) over these people's lives (and yes-- it IS that crass; btw, Republican In Name Only Linc Chafee and by then pissed off Independent Jim Jeffords also had the decency to vote no to the blank check for aggression-- something neither the presidentially ambitious but chronically unprincipled John Kerry, and yes, sadly, my man John Edwards-- did not either. Interestingly, current majority leader Harry Reid ALSO voted "yea", while deservedly ousted Tom Daschle voted "yea". Well... (pro-life Mormon) Reid's ridiculous remarks re: Clarence Thomas already have us off to an auspicious start with him...
But their cowardice (and yes, that's the word) was understandable: Iraq might well prove to be a successful cakewalk, like Gulf War I, where the principle job of our soldiers was to shoot at sitting ducks and then accept surrenders.
But its now well over two years later, and Iraq is clearly in a cocked hat. We have around 1,300 dead Americans in the Iraq adventure, which has no end in site. And yet Democrats still fantasize about "winning" or "stabilizing Iraq" or "bringing in our allies" or "training Iraqis", or at times, unbelievably, sending more American troops who will all have targets drawn on them (as if we had any, given that our reserve system has been largely decimated thanks to this adventure that 58% of Democratic senators gave their imprimatur to.)
Who (besides Howard Dean, of course, and the sainted Al Gore, and maybe the likes of Kucinich and some very low profile Congressmen and women) on the Democratic side are stating the obvious opinion of nearly ALL ACTUAL DEMOCRATS: this war was a mistake. This war IS an unmitigated fucking disaster, that Americans should be screaming to bring the boys and girls home from faster than humanly possible-- indeed, BEFORE Bush's politically ass covering Iraqi "elections" (which, if we're VERY lucky, won't trigger an all out civil war when the Sunnis finally realize how fucked they are going to be by their soon to be Shiite overlords).
But we're not hearing it. Other than the 21 Democrats (fewer now, as that number included the late Paul Wellstone and the retired Bob Graham and others) who voted against this atrocity-carr-ed-out-in-our-name, and the likes of Gore and Dean... and me (who, other than you, dear readers, no one pays any attention to)... what... Democratic... leaders... are... screaming... to end this war... and get our people HOME... NOW?
Let me go a little further: I'm not debating the merits of the war, anymore. It is conceivable that contrary to all planning, contrary to everything we have seen, somehow the election or some other unforeseen event turns the Iraq situation into anything resembling "a good outcome" (if you're not related to any of the 1,300 or so American or tens of thousands of Iraqi dead)... but that does not mean that, by and large, Democrats, the people who are allegedly represented by Democratic representatives... think this war is anything but a fucking disaster.
So... I'm going to say that we should have a hit list. Anyone on this list who voted "Yea"
(and sadly, that includes the sainted John McCain... although he at least, unlike Kerry and Edwards was probably sincere in casting the vote) should be targeted for defeat by people of good will. And yes-- that includes both of
my own state's Democratic senators (to whom a hearty good riddance would feel oh so good), and senators from other states who I kind of like (such as Evan Bayh or Joe Biden). But the Republicans have no truck with sentiment-- just the program. And you're with it... or against it... period. SO...
You're with us, or you're against us. And when 28 of our own senators (fewer now, as the likes of Daschle and others who have retired or been defeated) vote against US, then I say, who needs them. That means (seriously) we should support primary challengers, and, assuming they are of like mind with our values, liberal or moderate Republican opposition.
LOOKIT: either we are serious enough to purge our own party of people who support what we find evil (and I have no other word to describe the Iraq war of aggression at this point) or we do not. And if we start wimping out with "but we can't afford to lose the seat", then we deserve to have every last Democratic seat occupied by clones of Zell Miller; because, God damn it, that's pretty much where we'll be anyway. SO...
Who's with me?
In my never-ending commission of ongoing liberal apostasy, I give you this link I received from "Democrats for America's Future" via e-mail, which asks the musical question "Why does Don Rumsfeld still have a job?"
And the answer is, because John Kerry ran a horrible campaign flying in the face of the overwhelming majority of Democrats, and the Democrats who abandoned what little principle they stood for (which this cycle, meant one thing: "NO WAR") in the interest of "winning", and achieved... neither. Now, we can't even take solace in defeat. We advanced NOTHING. Oh-- did I mention we lost because the Democrats are unprincipled cowards (or worse; speaking of the Democrats' unbelievable backstabbing of putative standard-bearer Howard Dean in exchange for milquetoast "war hero" John Kerry, no less than Ann Coulter suggested "the Democrats aren't even man enough to nominate a genuine coward".
Ah, but Ann the Man is wrong: we DID nominate a coward. Just about the worst coward we've EVER nominated, actually. Why? Because all John Kerry has EVER stood for is covering his own ass politically: how else can you justify voting FOR Gulf War II while voting AGAINST Gulf War I? I mean, the other way, both or neither... sure. But THAT WAY? AND ONLY HE VOTED THAT WAY, no less. That alone should have been a disqualifying factor for Democrats, instead of somehow something desirable...
But Kerry was a one-man manifestation of what is wrong with the Democratic Party, and has been wrong for a long time. We have no positive agenda (in Kerry's case, it was "I have a plan for this, and a plan for that...") which usually meant "spend more money". Howard Dean (the genuine coward) said "we'll restore the lost revenues from the ridiculous tax cuts by reversing them-- ALL OF THEM-- not just politically ass covering ones that somehow cover the middle class." Result: Dean had to be portrayed as a madman... by Democrats. (BTW-- Edwards also had the stuff: trying to restore the party of the American dream, by noting that the Republicans CHEAT-- only the Democrats can assure the fair rules of play that can permit Americans the opportunities to grow prosperous.... and Edwards was a Southerner-- the only kind of Democrat who can be elected President, to boot... although, pro-gun rural state Dean had a damned good chance.)
But what did Kerry do? He dissembled. I'm against abortion m'self, but favor its unlimited legality on demand; I'm against gay marriage... except... God... fucking... damn... it!!!
You're going to be tarred for this shit anyway-- have the God damned balls to stand for something. You know what? I don't really like the idea of two men getting married-- but our laws have so many benefits applicable to married couples at this point, that its UNFAIR to deny a same sex couple similar benefits, and if gay marriage is the only way to do it... well, then God damn it, SO BE IT. And you know what? I AM going to raise your God damned taxes-- because I'm not going to put our economy into a cocked hat next year, or the year after that, or saddle our children and grandchildren with debt, because WE ARE IRRESPONSIBLE. AND TAXES AREN'T SOME GOD DAMNED FANTASY: THEY PAY FOR THE GOVERNMENT. You don't like it-- you tell me which spending I can cut, o.k.?
Anyway-- it may come as a surprise (or not) to most of you that I am far, far madder at Democrats for nominating a zero (or worse, a less than zero) like John Kerry, than I am at the country for reelecting the worst President in living memory. Really. Because this one was easy: all we had to do was nominate a zero. And we couldn't even do it. We had to go out of our way to find someone who could EASILY portrayed as less principled than Bush. And we achieved it.
Democrats, heal thyselves. We can whine about Bush cheating all we want... this election ain't gettin' undone. We can whine all we want about the stupidity of our countrymen; it ain't gonna make 'em any smarter, and it ain't gonna make 'em like us or our party. OR... we can burn down our own party structure which has given us nothing but losers for decades (and Bill Clinton, who owes his presidency to Ross Perot, this most ESPECIALLY means you and your wife, my senator), and start over with something that resembles a party with cojones-- a party that, when it controlled the senate, wouldn't dream of letting the President get away with an ass covering vote to commit this country to aggression, or roll over on tax cuts (and just about everything else, except, of course, heaven help us lower court judges who might oppose abortion... like what they think matters on that issue.)
Alrightie then... whose with me...?
The President observed that American troops, many of whom were among the at least 24 dead at an attack on a mess tent at an American encampment in Mosul, Iraq were on "a mission of peace."
Well, that's the first time the already Orwellian named "Operation Iraqi Freedom" has been called "a mission of peace." I'm reminded of the former New York Jet receiver, Abdul Salam (Soldier of Peace).
I mean, say what you will, but our little adventure of aggression against the Iraqi people was (1) a misguided attempt at American self-defense, (2) a misguided effort at altering the strategic balance in the Middle East, (3) a cynical move for domestic political reasons to remove a longstanding Bush family irritant, (4) a land grab for American basing and oil rights, (5) a Saudi sponsored plot to keep Iraqi oil off-line... or any number of other plausible things... but a mission of peace?
The speechwriters have outdone themselves this time. Calling Winston Smith. My God: 56% of Americans now think the war was a bad thing. And yet, even with that poll, why do I think John "Only a War Hero Can Beat Bush" Kerry would STILL tell us about how his vote to authorize war wasn't a mistake (he, like the President, is and was incapable of them, you see...)
Well, no matter. In e-mail exchanges with the Unseen Editor, he implores me to blog more about myself and my own life, and less about standard issue Democratic the sky is falling kind of gripes. He's probably right. Unfortunately, those in positions of influence in my party are more interested in feathering their own nests than in anything constructive; and my bitching will just fall on deaf ears.
So I'm just about ready to stop. Honestly. I do feel we're heading off an economic cliff (household debt at a record 85% of household income, record national current account trade deficits, budget deficits appear to be worsening, President hell-bent on borrowing MORE, etc., etc.) but, hey-- the American people would rather not listen to such talk.
So, you know what? I have a pretty nice life-- nice house, nice wife, nice daughter, nice government job.... what am I bitching about? Maybe I'll just pretend to go back to sleep with everyone else, and quietly prepare myself and my own family for what I see as an inevitable disaster... quietly. You all can do what you like... party on, right? That seems to be what win elections and all...
And worse than that: I'll enumerate it further, but I fear that our newest immigrants-- the essence of the American spirit-- probably feel that it is Bush and the Republicans that more reflect their hopes and dreams than do the Democrats. (I observed numerous pictures of George and Laura Bush in the office of such an immigrant, from West Africa, no less, a middle manager I encounter in the course of my nice government job...) My late grandparents worshipped at the altar of FDR, even as his actions arguably cost some of their relatives their lives in Eastern Europe. But it didn't matter: he saved this country from its own excesses. Or so they felt.
But it seems that FDR may be fading rapidly... and so what he wrought seems eminently disposable, and disposing of it seems more popular than keeping it.
So what can I say? Maybe, as the song from Cabaret goes, Bush can rightly say "The Future Belongs to Me". It just seems such a grim and empty future... but no one seems to want to hear me say it.
So maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just tell you'all about my day, and not bother with the liberal agitprop, which no one really wants anyway. BTW, any entrants in the "Guess the Electoral College"`contest who think you won, just direct me to the link with your winning guess, and we'll tote them up...
And then... on with the opera... in some form or other...
Nothing like taking advantage of the cover of the longest night of the year to unveil the President's plans for his second term: decreasing the deficit by half by lowering taxes on those most able to pay them, massive borrowing for social security "privatization", increased spending on "defense" and "homeland security", and, of course, higher debt service payments as massive trade and budget deficits cause interest rates to rise.
Your talking dog has seen this sort of thing, many times in the course of his professional career. As a bankruptcy attorney. Admittedly, it tends to be the exception: most bankruptcies are the result of one of three main kinds of personal misfortune: job loss, divorce, or illness. (This is why the Republicans, such as Hillary Clinton, have been so hell-bent on voting for "bankruptcy reform"-- their word for repeal of existing laws-- which bizarrely seems to have been trapped in a brilliant move by New York's other Senator Chuck Schumer who attached provisions pertaining to anti-abortion protest to the measure, thus trapping it in legislative limbo)
But the President's plans fall into a special category of "structural debtor" who need bankruptcy relief even without one (or frequently more) of the aforementioned personal calamities. Such a structural debtor feels a sense of accomplishment when the months' American Express charges are paid with a Visa check advance, and total debt levels have long since become disconnected to total income (let alone disposable or available income) levels, and yet, some genius continues to issue new credit cards... until the ultimate calamity is that someone refuses to issue a new credit card... and then, being unable to pay Mastercard with Visa for a month, the defaults commence... slowly at first, but in almost no time, as the late payment penalties pile on, and previously un-maxed out lines are cut-off or maxed out... the game unravels...
credit is cut-off, judgments roll in, wages are attached, car repossessed, house foreclosed upon... Until, hat in hand, one goes into bankruptcy court and surrenders all of value, in exchange for a long, long debt moratorium...
I'm not exactly sure why this scenario can't be repeated-- exactly-- on a national scale... especially when the nation behaves in exactly the same way...
Well, with exactly 49 months to go... happy winter solstice, everybody...
For those who, like Senators Kerry and Edwards, were cowed by George W. Bush's asinine question "Would you rather Saddam Hussein were still in power?", we give you further evidence (in the form of multiple killings and kidnappings that left at least 67 iraqis dead today in Karbala and Najaf) that only around 51% of the American electorate, and seemingly no one else on the planet, would sincerely answer that question in the negative.
While Saddam's regime was clearly brutal, it was orderly and staunchly opposed to, say, the theocrats of Iran, and hence, useful to us (at one time, of course). By Middle Eastern standards, it was a secular state, women had rights, gas was cheap, and people didn't routinely get blown up while attending funerals.
Well, they do now.
What is ironic, of course, is that replacing the orderly Iraq with chaos, from which, the likeliest winner will be a form of Iran-aligned Shiite theocracy (after a predictably brutal all out civil war, which will be in full swing by the spring, as we redeploy after having declared victory and commencing draw down around Ground Hog Day) does us no good-- no good whatsoever. Obviously, the principal threat to lives and well-beings Americans will face will be from the social collapse that will inevitably follow the economic collapse that our "make the tax cuts and unsusutainable deficits permanent" government is about to bring upon us (while those responsible retreat to the comfort of their gated communities and armed chauffeurs, leaving the rest of us to deal...) The real, though in probability terms comparatively small, existential threat from terrorists with bad-shit-weapons comes not from orderly tyrannies like Iraq (or even Iran or North Korea), but from failed-states/terrorist-vacuums like the former (and future) Afghanistan, seemingly large parts of (nuclear armed) Pakistan, and vast pockets of Africa (everywhere from the Sudan to Burundi to Sierra Leone to Congo), or even a place like narcocratic Colombia.
Hence... Iraq it was... Well, four more years, one more month and one more day... not that I'm counting, or anything...
That would be the Chinese government, of course, which announced (via this week's visit to our friends at Beijing's People's Daily) that measures are under way to weed out incompetence and corruption among the cadres in China's vast government bureaucracy.
Very interesting, of course, in an authoritarian one party state; but as China's vast middle class becomes more vast, its ability to demand responsive government services will only grow. Does that mean people become somewhat less demanding as their economic and social plights... worsen?
Hmmmm... Let's just say that here in America, of course, we will not be bullied by much of anything. The people have shown in our most recent election that Americans do not tolerate corruption and incompetence. We demand them.
Steve Darnell, writing to Pravda and thereby constituting this week's visit, has to go all the way back to the winter of 1777 as the basis for this piece lauding Secretarissimo Rumsfeld and his catty response to PFC Wilson's inquiry as to why American vehicles in Iraq aren't properly armored (one fact which accounts for around, oh, half of American combat deaths in that theater).
General George Washington, you see, had to endure privations at Valley Forge, and American infantry men always bitch.
No point in noting that the American military, at Rummy and Dubya's directions, geared up for an uncontested cakewalk because actually preparing for an actual war and occupation would have involved sufficient expenditures and deployment that make the war a tad less politically palatable.
But hey: you go into the discretionary wars on the cheap you can't objectively justify with what you have.
Welcome to the Republic of Gideon, baby. Yes, your Social Security Administration refuses to accept proof of marriages performed in New Paltz, New York (thanks to the village's Mayor West performing, heaven help us. same sex marriages...) The SSA won't accept proof of any marriages performed in New Paltz-- straight or otherwise. Via No Capital.
It just so happens that Mrs. TD and I were married some thirteen years ago... in... New Paltz... New York...
We're filing for our tax refunds immediately... We'll try to break the news to the Loquacious Pup gently...
After having lived through 9-11-01 from a block away, and its aftermath from a mile downwind, having my nation join the ranks of international pariah states, and now having my marriage unceremoniously annulled, I'm sure you all understand why I am simply not amused by the clowns in charge of our government since 21 January 2001.
Indeed, I am angry. VERY angry. Very angry, indeed.
UPDATE: No More Mr. Nice Blog vouchsafes us the actual SSA regulation involved. Regardless of just how retroactive this ridiculous regulation is, we realy are being governed by meanspirited morons.
Big Pharma superstar Pfizer's arthritis pain drug, the heavily advertised Celebrex, was found responsible for a signficant increase in heart problems, according to a Pfizer study of other applications for the drug.
Well, well, well. What we have is just part of the vicious cycle now operating in America's so-called health care apparatus: big pharma develops a drug for some use, then advertises the &^%$ out of it, people go to their doctors demanding the neat new drug they saw on t.v., doctors are under pressure to satisfy their patients (and as an added benefit, the insurance companies are much more likely to pay for the wonder drug than they are just about any other treatment), and voila, we have heavy demand for the new wonder drug (which, not coincidentally, will drive up the stock price of the drug manufacturer; of course, when the drug goes to hell, as so many seem to, the stock price will come crashing down, as Pfizer lost nearly a fifth of its value today. )
We live in interesting times. We continue to spend over $1.4 trillion annually on health care (of which something around 1/200 of which is attributable to costs of malpractice suits, by the way, including all defense, administrative and judgments and settlements), while still not even being in the top ten in life expectancy, infant mortality and similar measures of national health despite spending by far the most in the world on health care.
Obviously, we are now able to treat a great many conditions more successfully these days than ever before, and we are on the cusp of ever more medical breakthroughs from treating everything from advanced cancer to obesity.
There is, however, a dark side to all of this. Pushing the use of potentially dangerous drugs for more than the specific maladies for which the drugs were invented (particularly by the uniquely irresponsible vehicle of television advertising of prescription drugs, something only this country and for some reason New Zealand engage in) presents serious peril.
And, as Granny, everybody's favorite blogger/granny/pharmacy technician vouchsafed, we are really only seeing the beginning of this trend; no one is even talking about multi-drug interactions, for example. Well, stick around...
Contracts to develop a couple of minor Iraqi oil fields were let to Canadian and Turkish bidders. The contracts, totalling under $500 million, were notable for their smallness, i.e., no major oil companies (or Bechtel, Halliburton or the usual favored suspects) seemed to have an interest in them. The contracts are of note because they are, of course, the first "post-war" contracts let by "the sovereign" (albeit illegitimate) government of Iraq.
The announcement of these contracts comes just as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was allowed to meet with his defense lawyers (for the first time). Relationship between the two? Probably a coincidence, though do note that in roughly seven weeks, after either an American backed kleptocracy or Iranian backed theocracy prevails in "Iraqi elections", look for the American physical presence in Iraq to commence draw-down (with victory duly declared).
Turkey and Canada, of course, were notable for their lack of support of the war of American aggression against the people of Iraq; hence, those nations companies would likely have been shut out of any bidding actually controlled by our Pentagon, which does lead one to believe that the Iraqis themselves put out these contracts, and hence, have some degree of autonomy from Uncle Junior.
"Some", in this case, means just that: Being a portion or an unspecified number or quantity of a whole or group. Unspecified, yes. Although, understood to be... let's just leave it at "unspecified". Rest assured that had these been significant contracts, Ambassador (and Governor General) John Negroponte would have "corrected" the Iraqis' version...
And so it goes...
One of the funniest television shticks I've ever seen was but a moment: on an NBC television special hosted by Don Rickles in the early 1970's, the network decided to feature another of its stars, and asked Rickles to point him out. Rickles did so, as follows: "Ladies and gentlemen, its Mr. Bob Hope! I guess the war must be over!" [It wasn't.]
Fast forward to a less funny moment in what has now moved into the ranks of bloodiest American military adventures, and what now passes for "entertaining the troops", an event attended by around 1,000 service personnel (same number roughly as combat dead) at Camp Liberty, Iraq, where the "celebrities" were Robin "It's pronounced Ork" Williams, former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway and (wtf) "sportscaster" and model(?) Leeann Tweeden...
Well, in a world where Senator McCain can tell us he has no confidence (whatsoever) in Secretarissimo Rumsfeld and his handling of the Iraq fiasco, and His Holiness the President's response is that Rummy is doing a "tremendous job" (an upgrade from his previous "superb job"), I guess this is what our troops get (they're sure as hell not going to get decent armor for body or vehicles, or anything like an appropriate overall strategy, as we continue to merrily ensure our ultimate defeat with each "offensive" we "win").
Well, hey-- we're killing more of them than they are of us... so we're winning, right? Lessons seemingly not learned by Senator McCain. A lesson not learned, for that matter, by Senator Kerry (or the rubes in Iowa and New Hampshire who foist him on us as Democratic nominee because they valued "winning" over principle and thereby achieved neither). Had Kerry, of course, been willing to acknowledge that just one mistaken politically opportunistic vote for war was a gross mistake and that the only way to "support our troops" was to extricate them from the Mesopotamian killing fields ASAP, he would almost certainly now be the President-elect.
No matter. Shades of the last time we measured "winning" in this peculiar manner of "more of them than us"... Cheesy USO shows... Can helicopters from the embassy roof be far behind?
Amidst reports of successive attacks on gates leading to the protected American suburb in the center of Baghdad affectionately (and, interestingly, accurately so) called "the Green Zone", interim premier (and, I suppose, the front runner in next month's show elections in Iraq) Iyad Allawi has announced that starting next week, proceedings will commence vis a vis trials of former members of the Saddam Hussein Tikriti regime.
Now, those irritating defendants and their irritating attorneys are kvetching about things like not being able to have counsel present during interrogations and proceedings, or having, you know, formal charges and shit for like, a year or more. But, you know what guys: compared to the poor shlubs at Gitmo, or Abu Ghraib, or in our ghost prisons, Bagram Airbase or other gulags, you just have no idea how good you have it.
I guess the Allawi team needs... something... going into the elections; I hear the SCIRI (Iranian-oriented theocratic) parties are kind of, you know, well-positioned, so Allawi may need some decent bread and circuses of his own.
Well, what these puppets and quislings who are managing the occupation for us (albeit no longer in name, though in fact) need most is legitimacy among Iraqis, even as neither they nor their American protectors seem capable of protecting much of anything (including, evidently, even the Holy Green Zone.)
So... when all else fails... show trials!
This week's visit to our friends at Beijing's People's Daily gives us this account of the PRC having joined the big boys, with over one trillion U.S. dollars worth of annual international trade. That would put China up there with only the United States, Japan, and whoever is in third place (Germany, maybe... the EU as a whole?). To put this in perspective, the entire American annual GDP is in the ten trillion dollar range.
China holds over $500 billion in foreign exchange reserves (mostly yankee dollars, mostly in funny paper like T-bills).
Further, China observes that it employs around 80 million people in its foreign trade related sector... the entire American workforce is right around 100 million people.
In short, in economic terms, our fastest growing creditor is, by far, our fastest growing competitor. In liberal terms, of course, China has little or no worker protections, environmental protections or anything else we watch "liberals" whine about in the context free trade agreements like NAFTA, or without, of course, contract protections and protection of intellectual property rights, which many "conservatives" care about (or, of course, human rights protections, which no one seems to care about).
But, the Chinese are set to clean our clocks. Their slave labor is kicking our ass, and our reaction is to try to turn our own workforce more into theirs (fewer worker and environmental protections, fewer social safety net programs, etc., etc.)! Well, they are starting from a fourth world basket-case. We're starting from being the premier industrial power. My yuans would be on them... a rising work force will kick the ass of a declining, depressed work force. (I think so, anyway).
The other milestone is a tad more grim, though not wholly unrelated: the 1,000th American combat death in Iraq. While over 1,200 American service personnel have already died (needlessly) in Iraq (putting the Iraq adventure well within our top ten all time military adventures in human cost.) Combat casualties excludes total, of course, which would include vehicle and aviation accidents, suicides that managed to get reported and the like. Cakewalk indeed.
I say not wholly unrelated because, of course, it is Chinese economic might that is now paying for our Iraq adventure, because President Go Shopping insisted on cutting taxes for those most able to pay for this adventure. Which means (in case you haven't figured it out) that China (along with Saudi Arabia) has (ahem) the ability to... express interest in our foreign policy decisions (along with other things).
This week's visit to Pravda discusses this week's NATO-Russia summit at Brussels, and how both sides have no intention of returning to the Cold War, and how the Ukraine "disagreement" does not signify a return to prior rivalries, etc. and so forth. Hugs and kissees all around.
No mention, of course, is made of the poisoning of Ukrainian opposition candidate Victor Yuschenko, which has just been confirmed by doctors in Austria. I mean, just because an autocrat in the Kremlin really wanted the other guy to win, doesn't make you think that...
Almost on cue (commenter Miss Authoritiva questioned if "the corporatists" who run the world might want to knock the Bushmen down a notch or two lest they take the nation over the edge, and hence, be bad for business) Homeland Security Secretary nominee Bernard Kerik abruptly withdrew his name from nomination. The stated reason is that he was a middle class person who had children. Therefore, he had domestic help, and therefore, said domestic help was (1) off the books and (2) of "questionable" immigration status. And therefore, Kerik can't be a cabinet officer.
Kerik becomes the first man of whom I'm aware to have had this happen (Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood and Linda Chavez were previous nanny-no-no cabinet-dropouts).
In Kerik's case, of course, this is as transparent an excuse as Governor Jim McGreevy's outing himself as gay. There are more skeletons in Mr. Kerik's closet than in a mid-size catabomb, including his "service" as security director in a Saudi hospital, or his "service" as Corrections Commissioner of our fair city, where he evidently stood watch while over a million dollars "went missing" (for which a foundation director went to jail), or his "service" as police commissioner, where he used on-duty police homicide detectives to investigate the loss of his publisher's cell-phone or to perform research for his "autobiography", or his more recent "service" as police consultant for Iraq, where he abruptly left halfway through his 6 month term (declaring victory and leaving).
Frankly, if you ask me, Kerik discovered that now that Dubya has been safely reelected, the teflon is beginning to wear, and those nearby will not get the same carte blanche they enjoyed in term I. Hence, Kerik grasped at anything that would permit him to withdraw before the really embarassing shit came to light.
And here we are. Obviously, this could just be a clever subterfuge by our Chinese overlords to veto a nominee suggested by our Saudi overlords (recall that Rosalind Chao, a cabinet retention, abruptly replaced Linda Chavez as Labor Secretary, for similar reasons to Kerik), and hence, a one-off, or this could be the state of things to come: the teflon is off, and Dubya's smirk will soon be wiped off his face.
Time will tell. The only thing we know for sure is that our national economics are heading off of a cliff.
The President continued his policy to destroy the financial underpinnings of this country (see "mandate") more or less unabated, today "taking payroll tax increases off the table" to fund his (insane) social security privatization scam... scheme.
Obviously, if we (1) won't raise payroll taxes and (2) won't reduce social security (or medicare) benefits, and (3) won't increase other federal taxes, then that pretty much leaves (4) massive borrowing as the only available option to fund proposed increased costs of social security administration envisioned by the private account gifts to Wall Street... er, younger workers.
The issue, of course (the real issue) is whether our financial overlords in Beijing (as opposed to our political overlords in Riyadh) are willing to buy another couple of trillion in funny paper. Frankly, fans as they are of a government that puts Mitch McConnell's wife in the amusing position of Secretary of Labor, there is a limit to the PRC's indulgence. And two trillion more dollars of unnecessary deficit is almost certainly going to take us to and past that limit.
And therein lies the problem: we have been on borrowed time and money for so long, we think there is no limit. Well, there is a limit. We're watching it now as the dollar is collapsing in every market in the world (except artificially pegged Beijing, and a few outliers like that). After a while, even though it encourages us to buy Chinese tchotchkes, Beijing will not be able to sustain a yuan at levels that are really several times what a floating or market rate would sustain: they'll literally be giving us the fruits of their slave labor... and they surely don't want to do that.
Interest rates, of course, must increase, to draw foreign capital here. This will, automatically and inexorably, reduce home values, and eventually, the vicious cycle of economic contraction will get going. And it won't be pretty.
The Bush Administration gives us its usual answer to the foreboding economic conditions: "bring it on".
My financial advice remains pretty much as you'd expect: invest generously in canned goods, bottled water and ammunition.
That would, of course, be the Bush Administration's announcement (along with the resignation of VA Secretary Anthony Principi) of the retention of Treasury Secretary John Snow. As you will recall, Snow replaced ousted SecTreas Paul O'Neill immediately after the mid-term elections. He did so not merely because O'Neill actually wanted to implement responsible economic policies whereas Snow prefers to adopt the "Sergeant Schultz" (I know NOTHING) attitude so desirable in a Bush cabinet officer. Far worse than that, O'Neill risked upstaging the President, by touring Africa with Bono. Hence, he had to go, and was promptly shown the door (the only cabinet secretary so treated, before last month's 51% mandate).
Anyway-- there was speculation that Snow, too, would be tossed, for an even more lockstep yes-man. Apparently, the Bush Administration discovered that it had placed all of those in cabinet posts already, and hence, the economic forecast looks like... Snow. He joins Don "Support our Troops" Rumsfeld as the only confirmed cabinet retentions. At this point, 9 of 15 first term cabinet members are now out, while the only two (we know of) asked to stay on are Rumsfeld-- architect of a disastrous defense policy and disastrous execution in Iraq that has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths, and Snow, if not the architect, at least the messenger of disastrous fiscal and overall economic policies that, if possible, are even more dangerous to our national security than Rumsfeld's insanely bad defense policy.
But wait: we forgot completely that there are more cabinet secretaries (4, methinks), and IIRC, one of them is one Gail Norton, Secretary of the Interior (and I believe the EPA Administrator whose name escapes me is around somewhere, too). You see-- while Rumsfeld is merrily making us vulnerable to foreign powers' militaries (not to mention terrorists), and while Snow is merrily taking us toward economic destruction, Norton is making sure that the very air we breathe and water we breathe may be fouled unabated. To be fair to Ms. Norton, the Bush Administration's infantile obstinance regarding global warming is a team affair.
In some ways, the new cabinet screams "party animals"; we have a Rummy, some Snow, and of course, Gonzales can bring the whips and chains while Condi plays the piano. But mostly, we have a cabinet that looks like America, at least the America that voted for a government where incompetence and mean-spiritedness are rewarded (not to mention blind loyalty of course, while all are pursuing suicidally insane policies).
The country wanted this. As I hinted a few months ago, the voting public might well decide it preferred clear and confident, though insanely bad policies, as opposed to John Kerry's far murkier "I have a plan" (read "I have no clue, but at least I'm not likely to be worse than these guys, the worst crew we've ever had in this role.") Not to worry, Senator Kerry: the Bush Administration seems to be doing its damndest to make sure that buyer's regret sets in before Inauguration Day.
This may all work out somehow in ways that aren't synonimous with "disaster". One is just hard-pressed to ascertain how.
That would be the latest damage inflicted on our nation by "the 9-11 families", a group that I kind of wish would shut up already, especially when they won't leave well enough alone and force the nation into crap like "the intelligence reform bill" that just (finally) passed the House of Representatives. For whatever reason, people like me, who only had the good fortune to have seen the events of September 11th from a block away, rather than to have lost a family member, have no standing whatsoever, whereas the now-millionaire-families of the 2,800 or so killed... get a disproportionate voice-- indeed, playing on emotional appeal that, frankly, is now being abused.
We had a 9-11 Commission that was, of course, "bi-partisan", and hence "buried the lede" (i.e., the events of September 11th were the result of human failures... and those humans were members of the Bush Administration); accordingly, any wooden post, including the worst candidate the Democrats had by far (John Kerry) should have trounced the sitting government, but of course, the lede was buried (thanks 9-11 families). Now, we have a "9-11 bill" that will do what Americans have (wisely) avoided doing since World War II: combining our various national intelligence gathering functions under one roof (in this case, a "National Intelligence Director"). Why? Because Americans always rightly believed that the greatest threat to our lives and liberties came from our own government, and no particular foreign adversary or threat. Until now, of course. (Thanks again, 9-11 families).
The problem with our intelligence gathering is simple: it's called human beings. With a craven government willing to manipulate data or deliberately misinterpret it for political ends, the "structure of the intelligence community" is irrelevant. Indeed, go ahead and try to get a job in our intelligence community. Watch our best and brightest be vetted from the system for teenage drug use, or perhaps a sexual dalliance somewhere, or maybe a girlfriend from some foreign venue... whose left after we vet out interesting people? Well, the people who gave us the Bay of Pigs, and told us about Iraqi WMDs, etc. (Hyperbole alert: I am well aware that there are many capable and competent people in our intelligence services. There are also people who are not so capable or competent, of course.)
A national security director won't change any of this. Worse, read the fine print: there will be yet greater wiretap and surveillance authority against "suspected" terrorists; no rule says that can't be you or me. With the peculiarly craven government the 9-11 families have helped reelect (see above), the odds are almost certain that the new apparatus will be used to abuse citizens and innocent people, rather than to be effective in efforts to thwart terrorism.
Well, so much for the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm. The neo-millionaire families have intervened. And now, they have done harm. Serious harm. Thanks again, 9-11 familes.
(It's a damned good thing that after the coming economic debacle, most of this won't even seem that important.)
Gunmen linked to the Saudi chapter of Al Qaeda attacked the American consulate at Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, killing a number of Saudi staff members (and a Saudi police officer); all but two of the gunmen were killed, while two were captured, and will doubtless be executed long before American officials are permitted to investigate this attack on our sovereignty, and doubtless, the Bush Administration will merrily accept whatever bullshit excuse Governor General Bandar provides to cover this.
It's really too bad, of course, that we are tied up in Iraq , and therefore, will probably be unable to retaliate against Syria or Iran (both of which, of course, presumably had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack.)
But surely, if we don't inflict vicious, senseless revenge against some Arabs somewhere, the terrorists will see that we have no resolve to take them on, and will just be further emboldened to strike against us, no?
Oh wait... that only applies to Democrats. Mybad.
First, a cheery piece during this week's visit to our friends at Beijing's People's Daily, as we learn that the wild and crazy maniacs of North Korea are getting a little balky again about the prospects of the six-party talks the President has been so big on. This is all a big kabuki, of course: what the DPRK says it wants is basically a bit stronger non-aggression pact than the armistice we've been operating under since the early 1950's. Why? Exactly: because George W. Bush showed Axis of Evil TM member Iraq that he takes "regime change" seriously, thereby encouraging the other two members of the A of E with the words "we better get a bomb".
Speaking of the Axis of Evil TM's other currently active member (Iran), we give you this cheerful scenario laid out by William Lind in (dog run member) Defense and the National Interest. What cheery scenario? Picture an American military that is not promptly drawn down after the Iraqi elections. Picture a joint Israeli/American air strike at Iranian nuclear development facilities. Picture an Iranian military poised to roll across Iraq and capture American positions (with the help of insurgent Shia-- or even Sunni-- allies) during a period of bad weather when American air power is of no use...
Well, I'd rather not picture it, but at least Mr. Lind is doing some thinking that we sure as hell hope is being duplicated in the Pentagon and National Security Agency before anybody thinks of a major new move against, say, Iran... just sayin'...
Iraqi interim President Ghazi al-Nawar (I think) says "damn the torpedoes, January 30th Iraqi elections will go forward". Yes, he knows about all the violence, but supposes that things will be worse if a delay is in the offing... the delay might encourage yet further violence. (IMHO, its hard to see WHAT would encourage MORE violence than is already present in Iraq... just saying...) My American Street colleague Melanie, btw, gives us this nice summary of the Pentagon's assessment that we have lost the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. (Again... just sayin'... and thanks to Julia for the heads up).
This has been Axis of Evil TM roundup.
This week's visit to Pravda gives us an "up close and personal" on some of the all-important mob members, estimated at around 5,000, who are camping outside government buildings in Kiev, in support of challenger Viktor (or is it Victor) Yuschenko. Among the festivities are at least four engagements and one actual marriage, and of course, the "Miss Revolution" contest for the lovely young lady protestors who did not manage to pair up. Hard to say if the crowd will begin to dissipate now that they seem to have their wish: the Ukrainian Supreme Court has nullified the last round and directed a new presidential runoff the day after Christmas.
I wonder what Pravda regular commentator Timothy Bancroft Hinchey (especially after this wonderfully anti-western piece that hearkens back to Pravda's glory days as the CPSU house organ) now that Ukraine's own supreme court-- in defiance of the clear wishes of Vlad "the interferer" Putin-- has ordered a new election runoff.
We'll see how this plays out. Sitting here in the bluest blue state (and juiciest A.Q. target of all), I look over at the democracy loving Ukrainians willing to take to the streets and their honest supreme court willing to overturn a crooked election... enviously.
Amidst the announcements of the resignations of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson and U.N. Ambassador John Danforth (and of course Tom Ridge to be be replaced by Bernie Kerik who will put the Ho' in Homeland Security), the Bush Administration announces that the one guy who will stay is SecDef Rumsfeld.
Bruce-the-veep e-mails to suggest that perhaps President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld are, in fact, involved in a plot to soften up Earth for an invasion by their alien overlords. The more likely reason is that dumping Rumsfeld (for any reason, at any time) would be a tacit admission that Rumsfeld's performance has not defined the word "perfection" (the same rating that the President-- who evidently feared heckling by Canadians-- gives himself).
We'll see. These guys have done their damndest to undercut checks and balances throughout the government. One of the most basic checks and balances, is of course, that the President gets candid policy advice from competent officials in the first place.
Well, no point worrying about that one.
All hail former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, on his appoojntment as our second HOmeland Security Secretary.
When the nation (or at least, the Imperium) needs a man who knows how to say "Yes, Il Duce" without asking any questions, Bernie Kerik answered the call.
Out of nowhere, new unemployment claims jumped unexpectedly for last week, to around 350,000 (around 25,000 higher than expected). Certainly this is possibly explained as a statistical anomoly from a volatile holiday season... by next week, this could easily "correct".
If, on the other hand, this is evidence of a more persistent trend of economic weakness, then, coming as it does at the peak consumer spending season, this does not bode well...
Not to worry. Reality is no longer important; we'll just wait for the White House announcement to tell us the actual significance (or insignificance) of this event.
In a stunning reversal of an earlier announcement, jailed militant Palestinian Marwan Barghouti announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority. Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's official candidate, remains the favorite (and, unfortunately for his prospects, Israel's favorite), but the jailed Barghouti could complicate things in an already insanely complicated situation as the Palestinians seek an orderly transition to the post-Arafat kleptocracy..., er, order.
Meanwhile, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon dismissed his coalition partner, (Justice Minister) Tommy Lapid's secular Shinui Party (the big winner in early 2003's election), and has announced that he will approach Shimon Peres and the Labour Party for a national unity government; the proposed coalition would also include ultra-religious parties Shas and United Torah. The cause was a failure to pass the national budget, which, if not passed by March 31st, will result in mandatory early elections. Peres, a former prime minister who has, on occasion, served as a minister in national unity governments with Likud, has ostensibly said this is a done deal.
And we announced (whisper, whisper) at least another 1,500 additional American troops to Iraq and (cough, cough) "extending the tours" or another 10,000 or so... think of an assignment to Iraq as job security; some generals have recently been talking in terms of a massive American presence for at least a decade or so...
It's a mad, mad Middle East. Hope you like it America: it's ours now.
Amidst the same group of news that noted that the Jeopardy! champion got knocked off, and that "blog" was Merriam-Webster's "word of the year", we see that our beloved Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge joins the waves of departing Bush cabinet secretaries.
Ridge will now "spend more time with his family", one of the great political euphemisms for "the organization wants to make some changes". In this case, more close at hand loyalists, so that there is no cacophony... just a pure message coming from Washington (after all- reality is irrelevant... it's the message that matters.)
It's "code red" for Ridge's career as DHS Secretary. Good luck, Tom.