Friday, December 29, 2006

Druckz Wors

A former cop plans to market a video demonstrating how to fool drug officers.

New anti-meth law snags first innocent victim. Many more will follow in this guy's shoes. Criminal intent need not be necessary. Eventually sanity will return, but it will take a long time.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Laura Veirs

Laura Veirs posted a new video for her song Secret Someones off her latest album, Year of Meteors, one of my favorites of 2006. Here it is:

Monday, December 25, 2006


James Brown.

WFMU's Beware of the Blog says
Here is Douglas Wolk's James Brown Christmas Special from exactly five years ago - six straight hours of classic, rare, insane and magnificent recordings of the Godfather and his funk revue - guaranteed to include stuff you've never heard before.
Check out their streaming real audio feed. The effect of James Brown on popular music cannot be underestimated. From The Residents:

To Snoop Dogg:

But nothing tops the man himself:

Friday, December 22, 2006

Testing out a new antivirus

I bit the bullet and decided to try an antivirus other than Norton AV. From the Symantec site, I downloaded a program that they claimed would remove all of Norton's products from my machine. This lightweight program ran for several minutes and I got comforting messages such as "cleaning registry". All seemed good when it was done. No desktop icons. Nothing in Add/Remove. No processes seemed to be running. I did a reboot and Systemworks seemed to be gone.

Next, I installed NOD32. After poking around on the web, I found recommendations for 4 programs. In the free category, Avast and AVG seemed to be favored. In the pay category, Kaspersky 6 and NOD32 seemed to be favored. Looking at various test results around the web, the pay ones outperformed the free ones (though some people seemed to disagree, but couldn't name their test result sites). Kaspersky rated slightly higher on more test sites and had a faster scanning time, BUT - and this was an issue for me - it seemed to have a fair amount of compatibility problems with other programs (something I think the Firefox programmers are running into these days - it's hard to predict the operating environment of a program which makes debugging a challenge). Given that and the fact that NOD32 seemed only of slightly lesser quality (some tests rated it higher than Kaspersky), I decided to give NOD32 a go.

I downloaded the trial program (before removing Norton) and installed it (after removing Norton). The install went easy. The major complaint about NOD32 is that it's interface isn't user friendly. Really, I've been haunting PCs and the web long enough to think that the interface isn't that hard either. In fact, the I used the custom install, answered a bunch of questions, and it went pretty well. I did some reading on a forum regarding the settings (a primer for setting it up, if you will) and it seemed pretty straight forward to me. It does offer a lot of flexibility and it would probably confuse novices. I even set up a scheduled deep scan (once a week, like I did with Norton) using command line triggers for options to run.

One minor disconcerting issue was that Zone Alarm does not recognize the NOD32 antivirus. After reading about it online, I found out that ZA only recognizes Symantec, MacAfee, and TrustEZ products for antivirus. None of the choices I had narrowed down to would have performed differently in ZA than NOD32.

Results: Deep scans took as long as one from Norton AV. This can translate into an hour or more on my hard drive. That's a long time. The good news is that NOD32 seemed to take up less system resources when performing that scan, so I was able to access other programs more easily and run them while the process was occurring. To give you an idea, I could do the same with Norton, but it would take a much longer time to open email or navigate the web.

Updates for NOD32 were easy, but the initial updates took a longish time. I guess this improves once a license is purchased (they provide faster update servers and automatic updates to subscribers).

It was easy to set up NOD32 to work with Internet Download Manager to scan my downloaded files. Individual file scans are easy to implement and take about as long as Norton. NOD32 does scan the memory each time it scans new files in order to see if the downloaded file has begun infiltrating the PC surreptitiously. That's a nice comfort. It also scans for rootkits, like the Sony debacle from last year, which Norton did not do.

Finally, and this was nice to see, during the initial deep scan, NOD32 found several suspicious files - trojans - that were on my PC. The good news is that in 2 cases, the files were already found by other programs (Ad-Aware, Spybot) and quarantined. NOD32 merely found them in the archived, quarantined harmless state. In one instance, however, it found an infected Word document (trojan, again) in my Thunderbird email as well as backups of that email. I was able to delete those using the program and clean the PC. Norton NEVER found those files and it was set to the most paranoid settings, including scanning archive files. So, while it may have taken as long to scan as Norton, NOD32 seemed to outperform Norton AV and used fewer system resources.

Also noted during that first deep scan: Norton's removal program DID NOT remove everything. In fact, it left files and folders in the Program files section of my PC. Sure, they weren't loaded anymore and weren't registered anymore, but they were still taking up disk space.

As you can imagine from the tone of my report, I'm leaning towards switching to NOD32. My main concern about switching were some of the utilities that I'd be losing with Systemworks. As it turns out, though, I've already replaced a few of them. I use Acronis True Image for backups (better than Ghost), Acronis Disk Director for partition analysis and disk management (equivalent and surpasses Partition Magic), and Diskeeper for defragging (surpasses Speedisk). The people who make Diskeeper also make Undelete (equivalent for Norton's protected recycle bin) and I found a free undelete program. At this point, I think I'm finally saying goodbye to Norton. They've become too large, too bloated for my tastes. I can see the advantages for some people to keep their products: easy interface, decent quality. But, the Sony rootkit debacle soured me, the system resource hog soured me, the removal hooks turned me off, and the fact that, like a bad OS it kept getting larger and larger with nominal benefits and not remaining on top in quality...well, I'm ready to move on.

Watch out Zone Alarm - you may be next...and your subscription is up in 47 days.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Gulf Coast still a mess

I rarely do a thing like this, but it is a worthy cause. Over a year since hurricane Katrina hit the U.S., we still have a LOT of people suffering in the areas affected. Politicians made the photo-op trips and offered comforting speeches, but ultimately provided little more in the way of assistance. State and federal officials continue to fall short of the efforts needed to provide food, clothes, shelter, and health care to our citizens. As the second Christmas since the hurricane struck ashore comes upon us, Nicole Brodeur of the Seattle Times and Pastor Patrinell Wright of the Total Experience Gospel Choir and the Oneness Christian Center remind us of how we need to step in when governments fail:

Last year, the area was "inundated" with toys. This year, when Ringdahl called Toys for Tots, looking for something for 150 kids the camp serves, the news was hard: There was only one toy.

"We have a long road ahead of us," Ringdahl said.

I recount all this for Wright, who listens, then turns to me.

"We need a truck," she said. "We need a truck, some toys, some clothing and some money to fill it. I have a driver."

I know better than to argue. So with time pressing against us, we're giving it all we've got.

So I'm begging. If you'd like to donate a toy or a check made out to Wright's nonprofit group, Seattle Artists, you can drop it by the Oneness Christian Center, 2716 E. Cherry St. in Seattle, starting at 10 a.m. today.

Wright will see to it that your help gets there. And if you stay for the 11 a.m. service, she will lift your spirit like she did for all she met in the South.

Please, give what you can to the charity of your choice.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The three disgraces

Britney, Lindsay, and Paris. Based on Botticelli's "The Three Graces".

More art mixed with pop culture here.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Christian Right Propaganda Posters

More here. My favorite above.

For information about the veracity of the claim above, see this article and note that Senator Leahy, as many Democrats have done when such issues arise, doesn't discuss dismantling the program, but merely demanding oversight. Similar programs have cropped up in the past and whenever they do, Democrats demand oversight, Bush balks, then the program is renamed and/or moved to another division. Reminder that this is but one example of many such Democratic complicities. Others include RFID in passports, passport requirements for the Canadian border, lack of challenges to Presidential signature notes on bills, particularly those that mention torture of prisoners, passage of the first Patriot Act, and many more.

Quiet lately

Sorry for all of the silence lately. The co-signer came home with a cold last week. Eventually, I got it and between struggling in to work and being sick, I didn't want to move for 5 days. I finally began feeling better on Tuesday and I tried publishing something to the blog. However, Blogger Beta is having one of it's problems. I'm not the only one to experience it either.

Blogger beta is having difficulties publishing photos. In my case, I'm getting no error message. I see network traffic going on in the upload mode via my router. The screen changes to the "You must sign in before proceeding screen" and then loops back to the upload photo screen with none of my previous data contained in it. No error and no results. I cannot upload with Picasa (latest version) either. This new problem crept in some time last week.

Right now, all one gets from the Google Help Group for Blogger is the standard (unhelpful) replies: try a different browser (same results in IE7 and FF2), try clearing your cache, cookies, and/or history (do that each time I close FF2 and did it in IE). And no one can explain the problem with Picasa which shows me the upload bar which then goes away with no results.

All and all, very frustrating. So, there's my long winded explanation. This is my last day off until the 24th. Hard to say how much blogging time I'll have in the next week, but I'll try to get back here more often.

In the meantime, read the Fight the Goodfight Ministries site and learn about the evils of rock and roll. Read their screed about Madonna and check their other exposes. Yep, they are nuts.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Weak dollar

The Bush Administration has championed a weak dollar since it took power. This was one of his typical knee jerk reactions to be against anything Bill Clinton stood for. We now stand on a potential economic precipice and there's nary a discussion in the U.S. media about it. Instead, we turn to the UK's Independent Online. As the Independent notes, Brits are enjoying a strong advantage with the pound equating to almost $2 U.S. However, there are troubling issues:

But the fact is that the sharp rise in the pound - up 14 per cent against the dollar this year - is not a vote of approval for the UK economy but a damning verdict on the outlook of the world's largest economy by experts in the financial markets.

The dollar has been falling for much of this year but has taken a nosedive in the past few weeks, losing 4 per cent against the euro in the past month alone.

Experts have been warning that the US and the dollar have been living on borrowed time. Non-stop spending by US households has delivered a record trade and current account deficits. The dollar has held up because overseas investors, especially the Chinese and other Asians governments are keen to buy dollar assets.

But recent comments by the Chinese central bank about the need to move into other currencies helped trigger the start of the dollar's recent slump a week ago. Private investors have also be keen to buy into US Inc but the prospect of further falls in the dollar could encourage them to cash in their chips now, pushing the dollar down further and creating a vicious cycle.

In its most recent forecast the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that if that happened there would be a "disorderly unwinding" that would see a rapid fall in the dollar, volatile movements in the financial markets and a "significant hit" to the world economy. A weak dollar would put up the prices of imports, discouraging Americans from spending. It would ALSO drive up inflation and force the US Federal Reserve to raise interest rates. That could transform its stagnant housing market into a financial disaster zone. A consumer-led recession would hit those countries that have done well by selling to Americans.

According to the old adage, if the US sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold; if the US succumbs to a cold then the rest of the world will get the flu.

Yesterday stock markets fell across the world as fears of a US slowdown stoked worries over the economic outlook.

While on Wall Street the Dow Jones index was down 40 points or 0.35 per cent, stock markets in Germany, France and Spain were all down more than 1 per cent and in London the FTSE 100 dropped 0.5 per cent

"The strong sterling will strengthen the headwinds for the UK economy as UK exporters take a direct hit and the consumer spending, the main driver of the UK economy, will come under further pressure," said Ted Scott, a UK equities fund manager at F&C.

The IMF yesterday declined to comment further. However after five years of issuing warnings over the dollar and the global imbalances, the IMF is taking action. It has launched multilateral talks to allow big players such as the US and China to talk frankly in private about the possible ways to reduce these imbalances without triggering the market reaction they dread.

Friday, November 24, 2006


What a day! It began with me waking at 3AM and thinking about the cooking that I had to do. I got up and went downstairs to finish the bread recipe. This was a long rising No Knead Bread recipe culled from the NY Times. Unfortunately, I didn't have the time to properly attend to the recipe and so when I finally pulled it out of the oven, it had fallen flat - considerably flat. The flavor was fine and the texture was pretty good. I had used Whole Wheat Flour instead of All-Purpose Flour. I also substituted some active yeast instead of instant yeast (increasing the amount of the former as one normally does). Coupled with a long rising time and my inability to monitor it, these changes resulted in one fairly flat loaf. I was saddened, but it was nothing that a trip to the store couldn't cure (assuming that we wanted a loaf bread instead of a quick roll). The co-signer had made up some flavored butter for the occasion. I decided that we'd wait and decide together once we got to our friend's house where the meal was to take place.

Next up was a chocolate pecan pie. I had made the pie dough on Wednesday and had it chilling in the refrigerator. It rolled out well. I toasted up the pecans, then preheated the oven. The directions call for making the chocolate sauce while the crust was pre-baking. I threw the crust into the over with foil on the bottom, holes punched into the bottom, and chickpeas acting as pie weights. While the crust cooked, I prepared the chocolate sauce using butter, bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao), corn syrup (light, organic from Whole Foods - flavored with vanilla), brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, and rum. Once that was done, I checked in on the pie crust. Despite my efforts, a bubble had formed on one side of the crust. I quickly poked through it, but having risen with that bubble, the crust fell on all sides a little. Damn, one failure (bread) and one not as nice as I'd like (pie crust). The crust finished and I through the pecans and chocolate sauce into the pie and baked it.

By this point I was really tired. My sinuses had been acting up all week. I had a hard day at work the day before. Even though I normally rise early, 3AM is a little too early for me, my cooking day wasn't going well, and I suddenly felt as if all I really wanted to do with my day was to stay at home, have someone cook for me, and relax. In other words, I was in a bit of a pissy mood. Time for my audio recording of William S. Burroughs' "A Thanksgiving Prayer" (see video link in the post below). While that cheered me up a little, I was still a bit crestfallen.

The co-signer finished making another flavored butter. Her dishes and mine were strewn throughout the kitchen. I had one more task which was to make some mushroom powder from ground porcini mushrooms. It would only require the use of the spice grinder, but as I looked at the dishes, I realized that I didn't want to face them when I got home. *sigh* I grunted and dove into the task of cleaning them up. By the time I finished, the co-signer had gone upstairs to take a shower. I made the mushroom powder and followed her up. I fell onto the bed, closed my eyes, and curled up with a cat. Though I didn't sleep, the rest did me some good.

Through some miscommunication, we got out of the house a little late. I had taken a pill for the sinuses before we left. We grabbed a coffee and headed out of town. About 10 miles down the road, the co-signer realized that she forgot to pack the flavored butters. Too late, we were going to our friend's place.

Arriving at our friend's home, I dropped off the co-signer and then went to find parking. Luckily, I got a spot just around the corner. Our friend was calm and collected. I gave her the sad news about the bread and we decided bread (and therefore butter) were not necessary as there was plenty to eat. Our friend had asparagus with a mustard sauce prepared already. She also had stuffed mushrooms and stuffed tomatoes prepared (stuffing made with whole wheat crumbs and topped with a small amount of cheese). Now, what wine to choose? We settled on a French Rose. It was a lovely match. While we ate and talked, the rain stopped falling and I actually saw the sun poke up. We finished the wine and decided to take a walk to a nearby park. It was a lovely time. The walk took about 45 minutes. By doing this, it really went a long way towards righting my slightly sour mood.

When we got back we began organizing the main meal. This called for more appetizers and more wine. The co-signer and our hostess put together a plate of goat cheese topped with a fig glaze and toasted hazelnuts. The co-signer made some seared scallops, using the mushroom powder as a topping. The hostess brought out a bottle of Eroica Riesling. The pairing of the goat cheese with the wine was to die for! The wine was good with the scallops, but a Chardonnay might have been a better choice for them. Still, it was incredible.

The main meal was planned. We dove into prep work. The co-signer sliced truffles and peeled potatoes. I prepared green beans. Our hostess prepared ginger and garlic for the beans. The hostess and I prepared Salmon Wellington. We took smallish salmon fillets (cut to 1/2 inch thickness), buttered some whole wheat phyllo sheets, placed a salmon fillet on each square of phyllo, butter the salmon, topped the salmon with truffle slices, then wrapped the phyllo around the salmon fillets. Place the wrapped salmon into a baking dish and place the dish in a 500 degree oven.

While the fish baked, I got the green beans started. I had parboiled the beans and put them into ice water. To finish them off, I put some oil in a hot skillet. Into the skillet went a couple of cloves of minced garlic and a tablespoon and a half of grated ginger. Swirl once, then add the green beans. Stir to coat the beans with the ginger and garlic oil. Heat through and remove to serving plate. The skillet work took all of about 3 minutes.

The hostess then prepared a sauteed cabbage dish. It was really simple as she sauteed the cabbage in a little apple juice and oil. She cooked it down so that it was just wilted, but still crisp. As she finished this, the potatoes she had started were done boiling. The cabbage was removed to a serving dish. The Salmon Wellington came out of the oven and was placed on the table. Our hostess finished the potatoes with a slight mashing, cream, and a little butter and salt. By "slight mashing" I mean that there were still nice chunks of potato left in the pan.

By the time the hostess came to the table, we had the food dished up. The cabbage was laid down first and topped with a Salmon Wellington. Green beans, potatoes, and cranberry sauce (homemade by the co-signer the night before using orange peel and Grand Marnier along with fresh cranberries) rounded out the plates. To drink with dinner, I had brought a bottle of Ken Wright Pinot Noir, Abbey Ridge Vineyard, 1999 (Oregon, decanted an hour and a half before dinner). The flavors were astounding. The truffle flavors really shined through and the salmon was cooked to perfection. The Pinot melded with these earthy flavors adding a bit of herbaceous fruit to the meal. (I don't think I would have enjoyed this wine on it's own as much as I did with the food). The green beans were crisp, but cooked. The ginger and garlic were nice, light touches to the flavor. The cranberry sauce was, as usual, as marvel. The potatoes were delish. They added an extraordinary earthy tone to the flavors. Oh, and the cabbage nicely complimented the salmon fillets, adding a bright note to the fish, phyllo, and truffles. The whole wheat phyllo was perfect for this meal.

Drinking, eating, and conversation ensued. A good time was had. We rested a bit and then pulled out the chocolate pecan pie for dessert. Our hostess made some decaf coffee to go with the pie. The pie turned out well. The pecans were a little tough (I'll roast them a minute longer next time), but the chocolate filling was tasty. The crust turned out to taste well, even though it was a tad off on it's shape. The hostess had a second helping as did the co-signer (small slivers, each).

This was a very nice Thanksgiving. No fuss. No weird family issues. The courses were tasty and easily thrown together. No laborious calculating of timing of the dishes to make certain everything was cooked and ready to go on the table warm. The food was fantastic. The company and conversations were wonderful. The wine pairings were especially delicious and rewarding.

A little over 7 hours and 3 bottles of wine after we arrived, we took leave of our hostess and came home. The co-signer and I ended our evening together (for she stayed up a little longer than I, as is usual) by watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special on DVD. We each slept in today. Practically perfect.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving Day Prayer

It's a tradition in my home to listen to this every year around this time. It's essential to my "soul", for lack of a better phrase. Now, thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I share it with you.

Saturday, November 18, 2006


What is THAT, you might be asking. Relax. It's a new kid's toy. Of course it is, you might be sighing with mock relief...

RIP Ruth Brown. I came to her music late, but I'm so glad that I got to it at all. A Million Miles Away has 3 samples.

Al Jazeera English has it's first scoop: Blair admits that Iraq has been a disaster.

After seeing Borat last night, it's probably not surprising that this story of US troops seizing Iraqi homes for months at a time (a successful technique for winning wars and friends, no doubt learned from many other occupying forces throughout the ages) has not gotten much play here.

Taylor Marsh has a guest poster on her blog who delivers a caustic analysis of what the Baker Commission Report is likely to say (hint: the poster suspects a political cover-up that will allow the President to "stay the course" in all of the important ways). A quote:

The next six months will be critical (Where have we heard that before? As we have been in Iraq for over 42 months, there have been at least 7 inflexion points where "the next six months will be critical." These are Fabian tactics).

The Iraq government needs to get its act together (Do tell. But how can the dummy solve problems created by the ventriloquist?).

The Iraq government must be given a timetable/benchmarks/some other euphemism (This finding will challenge the creative writing skills of the commission staff).

Not even "white rednecks" voted for us, says Republican Adam Putnam, who wants to chair the GOP conference.

A man used an mp3 player to tap into ATM records and bilk customers for over 200,000 pounds. Genius! Or, um, horrible security.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Supertelevangelistic Sex-and-drugs Psychosis

Lyrics and the mp3 file for Pastor Ted here.


Japan's lower parliament passed an education reform bill that would require teachers to instill patriotism in their students. I thought that's what Godzilla movies were for.

The U.S. predicts increased violence in Afghanistan (remember them?). They expect it will double over the next year. Double is the new "quadruple" for the military.

Afghan women are increasingly turning to self immolation to avoid their harsh lives.

Read about the plight of Brazil's Guarani Indian population. Apparently they have one of the highest suicide rates in the world. The story is not really much different than other native populations in the Americas, which is to say that it's tragic and should be a crime.

Laura Rozen is putting together the pieces of what the Bush administration is considering for it's new Iraq policy: letting the Shiites have the country.

Hezbollah's leader is predicting the collapse of the Lebanese government. Israel is much safer today, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

How bad can it be?

Very bad: Tom Delay's staff quit - en masse - when his temporary replacement showed up and pitched a fit. I predict an American remake of Absolutely Fabulous featuring Sekula-Gibbs and Katherine Harris.

Trent Lott, Minority Whip

Anyone else find that redundant? Ah, the zeitgeist in it all.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


The reason Republicans lost the election? Mistresses whining about being throttled. The lesson? Don't throttle mistresses. Karl Rove? Still a genius according to at least one nut. (Yea, he and James Carville, Democratic "genius").

Why is illegal immigration happening? Too many abortions, according to folks from Missouri.

The greatest threat to Israel's right to exist, with the prospect of devastating violence, now comes from Iran. For too long, leaders of both political parties in the United States have not done nearly enough to confront the Russians and the Chinese, who have supplied Iran as it has plowed ahead with its nuclear and missile technology.

Proliferation represents a clear threat to Israel and to America. It must be confronted by an international coalition against proliferation, with a commitment and a coalition every bit as strong as our commitment to the war against terror.

Quick - who said the quote above? Nancy Pelosi, May 24, 2005 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Is she implying military strikes against Iran? Maybe she'll be invited, along with Cheney to the Iran Enterprise Institute. It would bode well for bipartisanship in Washington.

President Bush falls back on foreign policy. Trouble is, he has no interest in the subject nor is he any good at it. But as a lame duck president, he is following a time honored tradition paved by Clinton and Reagan. Worse, it's one of the few areas that presidents can actually have an effect without consulting Congress.

TPMmuckraker picks out it's top 4 corrupt Democrats: Allan Mollohan, Jack Murtha, Alcee Hastings, and Steny Hoyer. While none of them have throttled their mistress, 2 are running for House Majority Leader and two appear in line to gain a committee chairs. Bonus coverage on Murtha.

We'll end today with something that's not political: cool watches from Tokyo.

Iraq Study Group

Does anyone else think that this name is rather lame? It sounds like a bunch of people getting together to discuss art, history, biblical significance, music, food, and literature of the country. Or a bunch of frat boys getting together to cram for the final exam. Note to Bush: You've already failed the final exam and it's unlikely that your Daddy can buy you better grades this time around.

Monday, November 13, 2006


Bruce Schneier has an excellent essay on the pitfalls of electronic voting.

From the comments section below, a DIY to Impeaching the President.

Abusing the wax Bush may feel like a good outlet, but it accomplishes nothing. On the other hand, at $25,000 in damage, it may be the first case of a replica being worth much more than the original.

Rummy has been in denial about the war...wasn't that a newsflash from 2003?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

My dour pills - email excerpt

A friend and I were conversing about this week's election results via email. I wrote a reply to her about some stuff that was bouncing around in my head this week. The reply is pretty good and was written this morning around 4AM. I reprint it here with some changes made to protect the innocent. I do so in part because I want to get it off my mind and because I'm too tired right now to change it into a different format for publication:
Funny thing this past week. After the election, while a great number of friends were celebrating (and, I admit, there was a part of me celebrating as well), I was accused by one or two of "taking my dour pills" (as one of them put it). Now, this was beyond the "B.D.'s typical cynicism" chant. See, many of them wanted to just bask in the glow of finally having a Congress that would be in opposition of the Commander and Thief, but I was not having it. Sure, the morning afterwards, I was basking in the same showers of light. But then I got to thinking about the Democrats and how they have voted as part of the minority of this country and suddenly, those showers seemed more golden than light. As I recall, the Democrats authorized the spending for the war in Iraq and gave Bush the power to invade (passed House: 296 - 133; Senate: 77 - 23). Some Democrats have renounced that decision (Kerry, for instance, but only after his 2004 run) while others have not (Cantwell, from Washington, for instance which became one of the reasons that I did not vote for her during this election - I voted Libertarian). Democrats voted overwhelmingly for the Patriot Act (passed House: 357 - 66; Senate: 98 - 1). Democrats voted with Republicans in high numbers for the Patriot Act renewal (passed House: 280 - 138; Senate: 89 - 11). Democrats, albeit in smaller numbers, voted to support faith based initiatives (passed House: 233 - 198; Senate: 58 - 33). And while Democrats have opposed the President significantly on some legislation (torture resolutions, for instance), they haven't exactly pursued the President about those signing statements everyone whines about. More so, Democrats have done this with a large support of the American public.

Many of my progressive friends see this election as a rebuke of the most egregious policies of the Bush administration, but I doubt it. I wish that it were so, but there's no evidence of that. Sure, support of the Patriot Act and the War are waning, but not necessarily because they were bad policies as much as the feeling is that the administration has been incompetent in handling those policies and Congress has been at least as incompetent and corrupt when overseeing the policies. Do any of my progressive friends really think that the vote would have gone this way if King George and his Humpty Dumptys had been able to achieve a less volatile outcome in Iraq? Say, for instance, that a semi-stable government held and that much less chaos ensued. The policy would have been the wrong one in the first place, but the American public would still have been much happier with it. That didn't happen, of course, and onto it was piled the corruption, the torture, the continued lies, and the lack of oversight which eventually weighed heavily against Republicans.

And, I ask my progressive friends, exactly how do they think the new Democratic Congress is going to respond in Iraq? Near as I can tell, it's 1972 all over again: no one wants to admit defeat and no one is sure where to go. A draw down of troops seems inevitable to most of us, but many Democrats are hedging their bets almost ensuring that more people will die as we draw this out for months and maybe years to come. Bush is still saying that the next President will be the one to make that decision.

Impeach? Ha! That's a good one. I'd LOVE to see it happen. We'd have to get Bush and Cheney, though, to make me feel good about it. The Democrats have only a slim majority in the Senate, making it even that much more difficult. Plus, as noted above, the Democrats were complicit with some of the worst decisions (hell, they've even papered over the torture rules with the latest version of the so-called Patriot Act).

So, yea, I may have taken my dour pills, but I remind my progressive friends of the votes taken. I remind them that Democrats achieved this election success in part due to new, conservative Democrats joining their ranks. And I remind them of the slim lead in the Senate. Then, I ask the difficult questions: Sure things will be different, but given the past, exactly how different and where are we headed? Will the American public support it? Will Bush be dumb enough to make the mistakes it will take to sway the public to demand a trial (or will his father's people: James Baker, Bob Gates, and Kindasleazy Rice - she's always been more of a supporter of BushCo, than W - prevent such missteps)? Has the country really changed all that much? I don't think so, but I'd love to be proved wrong.
As I've often said, the country tends not to vote on issues, but rather on gut feelings. There was a lot for America to feel bad about by the time they began to look at the election (usually about September). There was incompetence, a feeling that we were being ripped off in Katrina and the War by corporations padding their bills, corruption in Congress via Jack Abramoff as well as the Foley scandal, incompetence in managing the war in Iraq, lack of oversight by Congress, a Congress that met fewer days than any other since 1950, a Congress that accomplished little and bickered more rather than work to resolve issues for America, and a feeling that the economic gains were not trickling down to the average American while health care costs were rising and pensions were being cut. America did not feel good about itself, so it voted out the leadership of Congress, speaking in the only way it can in this election year.

Democrats will crow about the "meaning" behind this election. Some will say our ideas won over the Republican ideas. Some will claim that the Democratic party has regained the mantel of moral values from the Republicans. Some will claim single issues like the war in Iraq were the focus. Like the Republicans of 1994, 2000, and 2004 (remember when Bush declared that he and the Republican Congress had a mandate? - should that have been "man-date"?), the Democrats will be caught in the delusion of their own self importance.

The people who debate such issues are like many of my friends (some are my friends) in that we care about issues. We keep up on the current topics. We follow politics, culture, and their intersection. We also tend to think that everyone shares these same interests, even fleetingly, and tends to keep up in the ways we do. The fact of the matter is that in America, we're in the minority. People don't follow along. That's why they have a representative government. They vote their instinct about who is a good leader, agree to disagree on one or many issues, but trust that the person they send to Washington will, along with the others, do a good job of keeping America safe and prosperous. In these people's minds, representatives are sent to become experts and vote and that's why we put our trust in them every 2 years. In that mindset, we don't have to follow or understand the issues.

Some argue that this opinion is cynical. Some argue that my view portrays Americans as dumb or lazy. It's an old argument. Sure, I think people should be involved in the issues and follow them as much as possible. I'm a political and cultural junkie, though. People should be willing to take the time for democracy to work as efficiently as possible. But, my view is not the only one and it is outvoted time and again. That's OK...I'm grown up and can take it.

I also don't see that Americans are dumb and lazy is a sound summary of my point. There is wisdom in the collective. For all of it's faults, this is the way America has functioned for quite some time and while there have been pitfalls, we've steadily moved forward as a society. We've become wealthier. We've become more liberal (not nearly as far or as fast as I would like, but it's happened). We wrestle with policy and our role in the world and generally rebuke drastic changes. It may not always be this way and my opinion of how democracy works may one day win out. However, that doesn't lead to Americans being dumb and lazy as a portion of my argument because the evidence clearly points to the contrary.

We've got a great country. At the moment a portion of it is run by the Democrats. If they set aside their egos and attempt to run it well, then we're going to be well served by this election. Unfortunately, it is just as likely that they'll be Republican-Lite which will provide some modest gains in certain areas, but will continue down into the morass of foreign policy and economic failures of the past Congress.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

That classic scene from the Clint Eastwood film, the one where they have the triple gunfight, is a fitting metaphor for the election results. It appears to be a stalemate - a deadlocked government. That's the good news for America this morning. A divided government is the best we could have hoped for in this election since the executive branch was not up for a change. Therefore we end up with the Republicans controlling the Executive branch while the Democrats will control at least one half of the Legislative branch. Each side will work to keep in check the worst initiatives proposed by the other.

The bad news for America may be in the area of foreign policy. For one thing, that's the area that is primarily affected by the Executive branch. The Bush administration has proven so inept at foreign policy that this does not bode well for the next 2 years. To make matters worse, a lot of what the Bush administration has proposed during the previous 6 years has been supported by Democrats. The current line of reasoning from both parties is that we do need to pull out of Iraq, but on our own time line and in an orderly fashion to an Iraqi government that is stable. The translation in that is we're going to attempt the same failed strategy that we tried in the 70s in Vietnam. Very few Democrats stepped forward to demand that we bring troops home right away. Murtha has suggested a year. Kerry has said it may take a year. That's as far as most Democrats have stretched. Others have suggested that it may take longer (could they want to keep a campaign issue open for 2008?). In other words, more Americans will die in a conflict that does not hold any national policy interest for us, costs us a LOT of money that would be better spent at home, was based on lies and misinformation, and has become a recruiting tool for our enemies in the Middle East. All of which is terrible.

So what could the ugly be? Try this: watching Nancy Pelosi attempt to control an agenda with a Democratic Party that features a larger conservative block than in recent memory. Democrats won, but they did so by running conservatives in races where a liberal would not have stood a chance. Working with those conservatives can be done gracefully (as Democrats did in the 40s, 50s, and early 60s) or it can be handled poorly (as Republicans did when they locked out moderates in their party). Plus, Pelosi will need to balance that concern with ultimate negotiations with a divided Senate. On top of that, Democrats, even if they take the Senate, will not have a veto proof majority, meaning Bush can veto bills and they don't have the override votes. Looking towards 2008, it would be wise for Pelosi to focus on issues that she can work with the Bush Administration on in order to show that Democrats can govern and get things done (a major complaint of the current Congress). She can still point out differences, but the overall impression should be one of cooperation while providing oversight.

Note: It appears as if my prediction that the Senate would remain in the GOP's control appears to be shaky at the moment. It could go either way, but no matter how it swings, the margin is going to be so tight that the leaders will need to seriously negotiate in order to accomplish anything.

Suggested media headline: "Democrats celebrate, Republicans hibernate, Media salivates!"

Rumsfeld resigns

CNN has the story. Bob Gates is nominated by Bush, presumably so he can revive Iran/Contra against Ortega. Seriously, Rumsfeld - a figure in the Nixon Administration towards the end of the Vietnam War - resigns and Bush nominates Gates who had a peripheral role in the Iran/Contra scandal right after Daniel Ortega is re-elected in Nicaragua?!!? Let's do the Time Warp agaaaaaaiiiiinnnnn!

Fuck, this man is living in the past. His election result? Update by 15 years, but still living in the past...and we gotta listen to the asshat for 2 more years.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Killing Time

Ladies and gents, this blog is not all politics all the time. Rather than consider politicians on this voting day, might I invite you to spend some time considering their more honest cousins with the magazine Killing Time: The Bilingual Journal of Murderers, Monsters, and Maniacs. Via PCILinkDump.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Worthwhile video

Estate tax

In Washington, we're being asked to vote on an initiative that would repeal the state Estate tax law. The tax, under current census, will be paid by a total of just 300 individuals in our state, including Bill Gates, Sr. who supports the tax.

To qualify, your estate must be worth more than $4 million. Up to that point and it's all written off. Only monies above that high mark are taxed. So, any heirs will get at least $4 million. And I'm supposed to feel sorry about the burden and alleged unfairness of this tax? That's what proponents say in their ads and editorials.

A common argument made by proponents is that the Estate Tax is unfair because it taxes income twice. This deception is designed to further the notion implied by misleadingly referring to the tax as the "Death Tax". The inference being that the state is taxing the money of the dead individual. Seen from that view point it would seem pretty grim to be taxing a corpse.

However, that is a lie and it completely distorts what is happening. The Estate Tax does not affect the corpse which, we can safely assume, has no more use of money. Rather what it does is it taxes the income of the heirs - unearned income, mind you. In other words, say you inherit $10 million from your wealthy uncle. That's $10 million in income to your pocket. You are being taxed on your income. And, you're only being taxed on $6 million of that $10 million total. You're still getting a helluva income. You're just not getting the whole shebang. It's like winning the Lotto and taking the cash payoff in a lump sum rather than over 20 years. Sure, your original jackpot was $10 million, but because you want it all now, you get around $6 million.

To say that the state is being unfair when it taxes an heir's income is ridiculous. The claim that the money is being taxed twice is completely specious because the person being taxed is not the corpse, but rather the heir. Once that is realized, then the argument falls apart. Where's the unfairness? Hey, my income is taxed twice and I bet most people's income is taxed at least twice. For instance, a newspaper company pays taxes on it's income, right? And it uses it's income to pay employees, right? Then the employee pays an income tax as well, right? Is that money taxed twice then? And what happens when that employee makes purchases and pays a sales tax? Is that money taxed a third time?

See the ridiculousness of that argument? After dispensing with that position, there is no further argument for repealing the Estate tax other than "I'm a rich person or an heir to a rich person and I want to keep my money." In essence, that's what Seattle Times editor Frank Blethen is saying when he argues to repeal the tax. Blethen's family is only worth a fraction of what the Gates family is worth and his won't pay as much in Estate taxes, yet he whines about fairness while Gates views it as paying a debt to a society that allowed him to achieve.

To make matters worse, the money from Estate taxes in Washington is earmarked for education. At a time when Washington school districts are scratching for funding, Blethen wants to cut one source of that funding. He says it's about "fairness" but how fair is it to shift the burden of that lost funding onto the backs of people who are less fortunate than his family? The money has to be made up somehow and his paper is forever and a day claiming that the education system is under funded and in trouble.

For shame, sir, for shame.


I've been disgusted with the Republicans for ages, now. Every time I think they've stooped as low as they can go, they make that extra effort to drill even deeper in the scum of politics. It's not that I think Democrats are more virtuous or scandal free, but the Republicans sink to tactics that are truly revealing of their real character and how much they revile process, the rule of law, and fair game. Take the ad above. It's from NY and it clearly sends the subliminal message that Democrats are child rapists. How fucking despicable is that?

Or, how about the fact that Republicans are violating FCC regulations and campaign rules by using a new automated phoning tactic. The system is called "robo calls". Basically, these are automated calls with recorded messages. Under FCC regulations, such calls must begin by telling the receiver who sponsored the calls. Instead, they lead with something like, "Hi, I'm calling with an important message about" and then insert Democratic politician's name. It leads the receiver to believe that s/he is getting a call from the candidate and then it goes on to slam the candidate as being of the sort that sprinkles their Wheaties with dead babies...or rapes children. The calls are very similar to push polling, which was supposed to not be in play this year. To make the matters even dirtier, the calls are being made multiple times to the same number so that the answerer might think that the Democratic candidate is the one annoying him/her. How many times? One person reports 21 calls since October 24th.

Or, comes the case of the Saddam verdict being read on Sunday (a real yawner because we knew what the conclusion would be as it was poorly staged theater and we also know that it won't stop bodies piling up in Iraq and may indeed have the exact opposite effect). Many people were cynically stating that the verdict was timed for the U.S. elections. In an unusual move for me, I was not inclined towards that opinion and was willing to give the government a pass on it. Perhaps there was a reason such as Iraqis announce all verdicts on the first Sunday of the month or some such. Then, this morning I read that, while the verdict was announced, the reasoning behind the verdict was not announced. Nor was the written copy available and it won't be until Thursday. Surely they could have waited another week to have all the materials available. What's a few more days for Saddam and his cohorts anyhow? Now, I am cynical...fuckers.

I voted several days ago. My county has all mail in voting. I'm content, if not always happy, with my choices. People who employ tactics such as the ones above will never get my vote - Democrat or Republican. They are a disgusting, scum sucking, cynical, democracy-hating approach to the world. People who use them are scared, unethical. sorry cowards who don't deserve to serve as my ass wiper, let alone represent myself or my country. Don't vote for such fuckwads.


In 1999, when Clinton was President (that's for the wing nuts who insist that Bush's problems are the previous president's fault), the Pentagon had a secret war game over Iraq. Some of their conclusions match exactly with what happened when we finally invaded. So much for Ms. Rice's consistent claims that "No one could ever have foreseen..." (fill in the blank). Among the conclusions: it would take 400,000 troops and the place still may fall into chaos.

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps Times are calling for Rumsfeld to resign.

Army recruiters caught lying to get teens to enlist. That's not shocking, but telling the teens that the Iraq War is over and there's no chance that they'll end up there is bullshit. No wonder they are starting to meet their numbers again.

Maybe the teens should read counter stories like this one about an a soldier in Iraq who killed herself after objecting to interrogation techniques (euphemism for torture). Her death was subsequently covered up by the Pentagon.

Public Pension plans are collapsing. This is only the tip of the iceberg as the boomers begin to retire and the debts they've amassed come back to haunt them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

If only...

...Kerry had been this straight forward during his presidential bid. In response to Republicans attacking him for saying this:
Sen. Kerry said that: “You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t you get stuck in Iraq.”
Note: That's the exact quote as reported in a press release from the Washington State Republican Party. It seems pretty straight forward and innocuous to me. The Republicans (Bush, McCain, Tony Snow, et al) have tried to turn it into an implication that the troops serving in Iraq are stupid or uneducated. Oddly enough, I don't read that in Kerry's statement. To my mind, he says, you can do well through hard work and education, but if you're sent to Iraq, then there you might get stuck there and not do as well (and here I assume he means, financial, family, 2.5 kids, a dog, etc).In other words, it's a dig on Bush, but of course, Republicans tried to turn it into something else.

In Seattle yesterday campaigning for Maria Cantwell (Senator), Kerry responded to the attacks:
If anyone should apologize, Mr. Kerry said, it is President Bush and his administration officials who started the ill-conceived war. He said his remarks had been distorted and called the criticism directed at him the work of “assorted right-wing nut jobs and right-wing talk show hosts.

“If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy,” Mr. Kerry said in a statement. “I’m sick and tired of these despicable Republican attacks that always seem to come from those who never can be found to serve in war, but love to attack those who did.

I’m not going to be lectured by a stuffed-suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium, or doughy Rush Limbaugh, who no doubt today will take a break from belittling Michael J. Fox’s Parkinson’s disease to start lying about me just as they have lied about Iraq,” Mr. Kerry went on. “It disgusts me that these Republican hacks, who have never worn the uniform of our country lie and distort so blatantly and carelessly about those who have.”

Mr Cheney,

Baghdad is under siege and it has nothing to do with the U.S. elections. Sometimes, it's not all about you! Excerpt from link:

Amid all this, Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, has sought to turn the fiasco of Iraq into a vote-winner with his claim that the Iraqi insurgents have upped their attacks on US forces in a bid to influence the mid-term elections. There is little evidence to support this. In fact, the number of American dead has risen steadily this year from 353 in January to 847 in September and will be close to one thousand in October.

And there is growing confusion over the role of the US military. In Sadr City, the sprawling slum in the east of the capital that is home to 2.5 million people, American soldiers have been setting up barriers of cement blocks and sandbags after a US soldier was abducted, supposedly by the Mehdi Army. The US also closed several of the bridges across the Tigris river making it almost impossible to move between east and west Baghdad. Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, added to the sense of chaos yesterday when he ordered the US army to end its Sadr City siege.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


European Journalists go where no American journalist would dare:
The German intelligence report said US interrogators at the base had beaten a 70-year-old terrorist suspect with rifle butts and that "his injuries meant that he had to be given 20 stitches to the head wound he sustained". The report said the American interrogator responsible "appeared to be proud" of his actions.
Yep, they are talking of torture, folks. Not even water boarding, but plain old fashioned beatings with rifle butts. Something that we didn't need or tolerate when defeating the Japanese and assisting the Europeans in defeating the Russians in WWII, but for some reason everything has changed and we need it now. Nice. And now, other nations are saying that they are allowed to torture because the Americans do it.

American media have heard this charge before. They've even pursued the issue, but only up to a point. I heard an NPR report yesterday on a man in Pakistan who claimed he was tortured in Guantanamo, but I've heard very little from American media regarding bases used around the world, other than they reportedly exist. Perhaps that is why Reporters Sans Frontieres rates us number 53 on their latest ranking of worldwide press freedom.

Polls in England say that the people do not support Blair's poodle humping of Bush's policies. While elsewhere, an estimated 1.6 million Iraqis have fled their country since the war began.

Israel admits to using phosphorous bombs in Lebanon. That's chemical warfare and it's illegal.

In electoral shenanigans, some voting machines in Virginia are cutting off the "long" names of candidates on the summary page. This means that Democratic Senatorial candidate Jim Webb's last name won't appear on the last screen, possibly confusing voters. It's ridiculous to get to this point in an election year and discover the "error".

Friday, October 20, 2006

Oh boy

I wasn't going to blog today. There are too many things to do. I've got a long day at work - 2 shifts at 2 different stores - ahead and the co-signer has an infection and isn't feeling at all well. Still, some things come up and say "Hit me with your rhythm stick" and I must share.

The Raw Story uncovers the truth about the Republican representative on the House Page Board. When she was serving in New Mexico as Secretary of New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, Heather Wilson had a complaint that was filed against her husband removed. The complaint alleged that her husband approached a 16 year old boy for sex. Ms. Wilson initially denied the allegation, then admitted it and ran for Congress (natch!). She now serves also on the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's caucus. Most corrupt Congress, ever. Oh, and lazy, too. Word to Representative: as the NY Times pointed out this week, thanks to databases and the willingness of law enforcement officials to raise revenues by selling their data, it's becoming increasingly difficult to hide criminal records.

Republicans call Democrats pedophile friends (ignoring the hypocrisy) and begin rigging voter registration lists. I love the smell of desperation in the morning.

The Bush Administration moved quickly to snuff out Habeas Corpus for Guantanamo prisoners.

Baghdad residents are only getting 2+ hours of electricity per day. Lowest ever. In other "war" news, Bush took the bait and compared Iraq to Vietnam sending his minions scrambling to explain what he "really" meant. As if anyone really thinks he knew about the Tet offensive...In Britain, Reid admits that the war is fueling terror rather than snuffing it and a British general announces that his troops need to leave Iraq ASAP.

IRS is targeting "revenues" in Second Life and other on line games.

An natural conclusion of the Kelo decision: a developer in Florida is suing a city after being told by officials that they will not use eminent domain to steal land for the developer's proposed project. Just think...if coupled with property rights bills in Oregon (and proposed in Washington state), the developer, if it won it's case, could then offer not to build the project for billions of dollars.

In England, liberalization of cannabis possession has resulted in fewer people using the drug. Prohibition not only doesn't work, but it has the opposite effect. That's something William S. Burroughs used to preach.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Your words are lies, sir

Jon Amato has the transcript and the video of Keith Olbermann's words from last night. Snip:

"One of the terrorists believed to have planned the 9/11 attacks," …you told us yesterday… "said he hoped the attacks would be the beginning of the end of America."

That terrorist, sir, could only hope.

Not his actions, nor the actions of a ceaseless line of terrorists (real or imagined), could measure up to what you have wrought.

Habeas Corpus? Gone.

The Geneva Conventions? Optional.

The Moral Force we shined outwards to the world as an eternal beacon, and inwards at ourselves as an eternal protection? Snuffed out.

These things you have done, Mr. Bush… they would be "the beginning of the end of America."

And did it even occur to you once sir — somewhere in amidst those eight separate, gruesome, intentional, terroristic invocations of the horrors of 9/11 — that with only a little further shift in this world we now know — just a touch more repudiation of all of that for which our patriots died —

Did it ever occur to you once, that in just 27 months and two days from now when you leave office, some irresponsible future President and a "competent tribunal" of lackeys would be entitled, by the actions of your own hand, to declare the status of "Unlawful Enemy Combatant" for… and convene a Military Commission to try… not John Walker Lindh, but George Walker Bush?

For the most vital, the most urgent, the most inescapable of reasons.

And doubtless, sir, all of them — as always — wrong.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Incompetent President abets N. Korea's nuclear ambitions

If this doesn't put an end to the lie of Clinton being blamed for the current problems with North Korea, then nothing will. Of course, the Bush zealots will dispute the story. There seems to be some truth in the reporting. For instance, why wasn't doctor Kahn (from Pakistan) ever prosecuted for selling nuclear information and materials to Libya and North Korea? Why, as has been previously reported, did the Saudis want Bush to spend more time on Iraq and Iran than on North Korea? We need more investigations and reporting. Given the current level of talk from the president about the grave danger North Korea now is, it seems his administrations lack of competency has led us into a worse space than we originally thought. I await Kindasleazy Rice's statement to the effect of "No one could have foreseen that North Korea would actually test a nuclear device."

Read the article here, excerpt below:

Why would Team Bush pull back our agents from nabbing North Korea’s bomb connection? The answer in two words: Saudi Arabia.

The agent on the line said, “There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis.” Khan is Pakistani, not Saudi, but, nevertheless, the investigation led back to Saudi Arabia. There was no way that the Dr. Strangelove of Pakistan could have found the billions to cook up his nukes within the budget of his poor nation.

We eventually discovered that agents knew the Saudis, who had secretly funded Saddam’s nuclear weapons ambitions in the eighties, apparently moved their bomb-for-Islam money from Iraq to Dr. Khan’s lab in Pakistan after Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1990.

But, said the insider, our agents had to let a hot trail grow cold because he and others “were told to back off the Saudis.” If you can’t follow the money, you can’t investigate. The weapons hunt was spiked.

November surprise

A verdict in Saddam Hussein's case is to be announced on November 5th. Word has it that there is an election being held somewhere on November 7th that this might have an effect on...

Sunday, October 15, 2006

For your Sunday morning kitsch fix

Got fake snake? Check
Got fake Indian Temple? Check
Got famous movie director? Check
Got exotica music? Check
Got 1950s production values? Check
Got enticing choreography? Check
Got dramatic ending? Check
Got nearly naked woman? Check

Via YouTube, a scene from Das Indische Grabmal, aka The Indian Tomb. Click the link and enjoy 3 minutes of fun. Yowza!

Friday, October 13, 2006

More on North Korea

From the International Edition of Newsweek which, apparently, Americans are not mature enough to read and therefore, like sex education, must be kept protected from:
Oct. 16, 2006 issue - On Sept. 19, 2005, North Korea signed a widely heralded denuclearization agreement with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. Pyongyang pledged to "abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs." In return, Washington agreed that the United States and North Korea would "respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations."

Four days later, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sweeping financial sanctions against North Korea designed to cut off the country's access to the international banking system, branding it a "criminal state" guilty of counterfeiting, money laundering and trafficking in weapons of mass destruction.

The Bush administration says that this sequence of events was a coincidence. Whatever the truth, I found on a recent trip to Pyongyang that North Korean leaders view the financial sanctions as the cutting edge of a calculated effort by dominant elements in the administration to undercut the Sept. 19 accord, squeeze the Kim Jong Il regime and eventually force its collapse. My conversations made clear that North Korea's missile tests in July and its threat last week to conduct a nuclear test explosion at an unspecified date "in the future" were directly provoked by the U.S. sanctions. In North Korean eyes, pressure must be met with pressure to maintain national honor and, hopefully, to jump-start new bilateral negotiations with Washington that could ease the financial squeeze. When I warned against a nuclear test, saying that it would only strengthen opponents of negotiations in Washington, several top officials replied that "soft" tactics had not worked and they had nothing to lose.

Yet another example of how warring factions within this administration have sought to undercut each other with regards to North Korean diplomacy (not to mention Iraq policy). Instead of proposing issues to a President (or Vice President) and having him set a direction of policy for a united front (something Republicans seem to do well at when presenting their case for the media), they spend time shooting each other in the foot and stabbing each other in the back. The result? A muddled, incompetent approach that sends mixed signals to our allies and our enemies. The White House has done this often enough that one has to ask, is it any wonder that other countries don't trust our government? This is not, I repeat, NOT to let North Korea off of the hook, but it does bolster a more complete understanding of the complexities of our current position which may offer a better resolution than just saying, "It's ____'s fault."

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pet Peeve

"I discovered _____"

While I suppose this has a long history such as "Christopher Columbus discovered the new world", it doesn't make me very happy. It's like scientists who "discover" a new species of primate - a species known about by the locals for eons. The only thing the scientist "discovered" was that it hadn't been observed by trained scientists, cataloged, and dissected yet.

It particularly irks me when someone says that they "discovered" a restaurant or a new band. Are we all so insecure about ourselves that we have to walk around acting like modern day Magellans? When surveys consistently show that a large number of Americans don't believe in the theory of evolution, why do so many of us insist like sounding as if we're the Darwins of The New Pornographers?

I recall hearing someone tell me that they discovered a new food, "Thai food", years ago and I thought, "Boy I'm sure the people from Siam are going to be happy to hear this! Guess those people in Bangkok had no idea that they could eat local peppers - good thing that you went bravely where no one else had gone! You've opened up a whole new age not to mention a new source of sustenance for the starving masses. Rice, what a concept!"

Here's a thought, try not discovering something. Try learning about things. Try eating a little humble pie.

I realize that this is just a language definition issue and I'm being a purist about the word, hence it is my pet peeve. Now, I enter my Andy Rooney years...

FWIW, and full disclosure, this is one of the co-signer's favorite phrases. I've learned not to pick on it too often. She's long since tired of hearing my outrage about it, I've discovered.

Word of the day

I learned a new word today: flensing. According to it means "To strip the skin of blubber from (a whale, for example). Now, apply that word to Jabba the Hastert:

Who is that with Jabba? Why that's K.A. Paul! He's a minister who held a reported 90 minute meeting with the Speaker during which he claims that he urged Hastert to resign. Who is K.A. Paul? Why, he's a Republican who has allegedly led prayer meetings with the likes of Yugoslavia's Slobodon Milosovec, Liberia's Charles Taylor, and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. He's also allegedly used photos taken of himself at a leper colony headed by another minister and claimed it was his own in order to raise money! He is the spiritual adviser to the scum of the earth. He even claims to have met several Al Quaida people and preached to them. He also claims to have met with Tom Delay several times and even prayed with President Bush.

Jabba the Hastert says that he was "duped" into meeting with Mr. Paul. If that were true, then why did he have a 90 minute meeting? How stupid is the Speaker of the House to be "duped" by such a charlatan? Why do they look so cozy in his office? Why did he allow this picture to be taken?

Now, I'm not sure if Mr. Paul has anything to do with the infamous fish stick woman (Mrs. Paul), but if I were Jabba the Hastert, I'd be wondering right now if I had been flensed!

(There, I used it in a sentence).

Orhan Pamuk

Orhan Pamuk has won the Nobel Prize for literature. He is well deserving of the prize. When his name was floated last year, the committee didn't go near him and I believe that was so as not to appear too political. At the time Pamuk was facing trial in Turkey for "insulting Turkishness". He was freed from that charge. This year he wins the prize.

Good for him and good for literature. His body of work is well deserving of the prize. My Name Is Red, The Black Book, and Snow are my favorites. Pamuk's command of language and it's lyricism are coupled in his books with themes both personal and large. In My Name Is Red, he mixes mystery and romance with discussions of Western and Eastern perspectives in the arts and philosophy. In The Black Book, Pamuk mixes a mystery with a meditation on identity in a way that recalls similar explorations by Kafka. Snow is Pamuk's only explicitly political novel in which a poet, exiled in Germany, returns to Turkey and through a series of events finds himself in a snow-bound city as a political coup takes place to stem the tide of local religious/political fundamentalists. It weaves romance and mystery into it's tale as well as it discusses the various factions which make up and tear at the social fabric of Turkish life.

In all of these books, Pamuk puts at the forefront his Turkish identity. As he notes in his book Istanbul (by turns a description of the city he loves and lives in as well as an autobiography) his books and his view has a certain hüzün, or "romantic melancholy" to them. His characters are infused with it. At one moment they are filled with excitement and joy and the next they are drowning their sorrows in alcohol at a cafe and eating desserts. A certain detachments in their views of the world can be suddenly turned around with a joyful emotion filling their own hearts. In other words, they are thoroughly human and normal and just like you and I, if we're to be honest about ourselves.

Seek out his books and read them. You will not be disappointed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Bush, Clinton, Korea

So, John McCain thinks that Bill Clinton's policies are to blame for the recent North Korean nuclear tests. I think his memory is a little short and a lot thin. Perhaps he should seek treatment before Alzheimer's is diagnosed?

U.S. policy towards North Korea has headed down this path for decades. It was the Reagan/Bush administrations that were in charge while North Korea worked on building it's first nuclear plants. Bill Clinton in 1994 negotiated an agreement to have UN inspectors in the country making certain that it's plants were not being used for enriching plutonium for weapons. It was the first such negotiated military agreement between the U.S. and North Korea. As this time line shows, the U.S. never fulfilled completely it's end of the agreement:

After a tense standoff, the two sides reached an agreement. North Korea would allow UN inspectors and cameras into the Yongbyon complex and would cease work on a nuclear plant that could make weapons-grade nuclear material. In return, the U.S. and Japan would provide North Korea with food aid, fuel oil to run its power plants, and would help it build two commercial-grade nuclear power plants, which would generate electricity, but not be capable of producing weapons-grade nuclear material.

North Korea held up its end of the deal, and so did Japan. But the Clinton administration had a tougher time selling this deal to Congress. Congress okayed the fuel oil, but refused to approve the two commercial nuclear plants. Providing any kind of nuclear materials to North Korea was verboten. Indeed, it's possible that Clinton knew he didn't have the votes in Congress to approve the two plants; he may have agreed to that part of the deal simply for expediency's sake. (In other words, he struck a deal that made him look tough and statesman-like while probably knowing that he couldn't deliver on his end and thinking that he could stall long enough to leave the problem to a future president.)

In the meantime, North Korea got tired of waiting for construction to begin on its two promised plants. The fuel oil helped a lot, but they decided to give the Clinton administration a little scare, just to prod Bill Clinton's memory about his unfulfilled promise. In 1999, they fired a prototype long-range missile over the north of Japan, sparking another round of diplomatic talks.

Now, that's not a very flattering portrayal of Clinton's negotiations. He may have promised on something that he didn't expect to be able to deliver and he may have just wanted to stall long enough to leave that problem to the next president. However, that is speculation. What we do know is that the reason Clinton could never deliver on those promises is that the Republican Congress would not let him deliver on it. Even if the speculation about Clinton's motives is true, he was complicit in his actions with the Republican Congress. Further from the article:
By that time the Clinton administration was on its way out, unable to make any firm promises. Clinton managed to extract a promise from North Korea, however, to halt testing of long-range missiles, although no one really believed that North Korea has completely stopped work on its long-range missile program. After all, missiles are one of North Korea's main exports.

Then, in 2000, George W. Bush was elected president of the United States. The first thing the Bush administration did was cut off all negotiations and all contact with North Korea.
Clinton became a lame duck and the Republican Congress along with election concerns effectively tied his hands in negotiations. This sort of thing happens with our government and Mr. Bush is about to discover it himself. But let's look at that last line. The article and most media coverage like to immediately jump to September 11, 2001 and the following State of the Union address during which Bush made his infamous "Axis of Evil" remark that infuriated North Korea. However, Bush had already raised the ire of that country:
Bush then elaborated on his concerns. "Part of the problem in dealing with North Korea," he said, "there's not very much transparency. We're not certain as to whether or not they're keeping all terms of all agreements."
That quote is from March, 2001. Long before September 11th the Bush administration had cut off negotiations with North Korea and accused it of breaking the 1994 agreement - an agreement that, as noted above, we never fulfilled either. At the time this was one of the first Bush foreign policy steps. The President was widely criticized for this statement. No one in the administration had any sort of proof that North Korea was not fulfilling the agreements. Aides scrambled to cover for the President's words:

So which "agreements" were the president referring to? White House spokesmen told reporters that Bush was speaking about possible future agreements.

"That's how the president speaks," one told the New York Times.

That was bullshit and everyone knew it. It would be two years before the administration would come up with any sort of evidence of a weapons grade enrichment program. Two years lost with the U.S. not fulfilling the 1994 agreements and no negotiations. During that time, after the Bush saber rattling, North Korea kicked out U.N. inspectors and began pursuing it's nuclear ambitions at a more rapid pace. South Korea and China tried to negotiate and intervene, but the U.S. was having none of it. Attempts to reach a solution were ratcheted up following the U.S. disclosure of the North Korean secret plants. The Chinese thought that they had an agreement in place in late 2003, but this administration continued to refuse to negotiate:

US State Department negotiators had submitted a reworked version of the Chinese plan to a high-level meeting in Washington on December 12, but Mr Cheney had insisted that the document require North Korea to agree to "irreversible" dismantling of its nuclear weapons programs and international verification.

The Knight-Ridder newspaper chain said a senior official had quoted Mr Cheney as telling the meeting: "I have been charged by the President with making sure that none of the tyrannies in the world are negotiated with. We don't negotiate with evil; we defeat it."

The re-emergence of the word "evil" and talk of defeat - recalling Mr Bush's January 2002 speech linking North Korea with Iraq and Iran in an axis of evil - is likely to make the North Koreans even more distrustful of promising anything ahead of firm guarantees from the US and its allies.

Emphasis, mine. Tough talk and look where it's gotten us. Cheney single handedly ended the negotiations with this statement. He didn't like the negotiations in the first place and he knew that his words would re-open the animosity created by the Axis of Evil remarks. He chose his words carefully and pissed off the North Koreans even further. They had once again come to the table - reluctantly, and maybe not completely open - and Cheney belittled their efforts with his words. Not that North Korea really had much hope of achieving anything in negotiations with the U.S. It may have been a stall tactic on their own part. As we see later in the article, the U.S. was not really interested in negotiations as much as they wanted to dictate the terms to the North Koreans:
Even without Mr Cheney's words, the US stance was proving hard for the North Koreans to swallow, insisting the Pyongyang government move to dismantle its nuclear weapons without the formal security treaty it had demanded, and well before any economic aid was even discussed. After its draft was rejected, China called on Washington to be more "flexible" and "realistic".
A recap: Reagan/Bush were presidents when the first North Korean nuclear reactor experiments began. By the end of Bush I's administration, reactors were spotted and acknowledged. Clinton negotiated an agreement with North Korea that included inspections and civilian grade nuclear power plants, but a Republican Congress never delivered on that agreement. In response, it is believed that in 1997 North Korea secretly began a restart of it's nuclear weapons program ("believed" because we have no hard evidence to support this...all we have is "intelligence" from the CIA insinuating this and this administration, given it's propensity to invent intelligence to further it's agenda has called into question any such speculation). In 2001, Bush takes office and immediately goes on the attack with North Korea. He cuts off negotiations, demands to dictate terms, and refuses to fulfill the U.S. government's agreement obligations while accusing the North Koreans of doing the same without any evidence to support him.

And now McCain and the other Republicans are attempting to blame Clinton when he had the only marginal success in the region and whose policy was undermined by the Republican Congress as well as the next administration. It seems that there is plenty of blame to spread on this humble sandwich.

After years of attempting to talk tough and dictate the terms of surrender to North Korea, James Baker suggests that the Bush administration may now be open to negotiations/discussions. The bottom line is that the policy has failed. Bush has held the reigns for 6 years and failed miserably. Clinton's policy, even if it wasn't hamstrung by the Republicans, may also have failed eventually, but we never got the chance to find out. In any case, at least his policy seemed constructive while the current one has been completely destructive - in the most dangerous way.