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Friday, April 23, 2004

Let the Stalinist Scum Suffer! 


Red-faced nuke-monger North Korea has the audacity to ask the freedom-loving world for emergency relief after a train wreck yesterday killed hundreds of Stalinists and injured thousands more. As if!
"We need the help of the international community -- emergency relief," envoy Pak Gil Yon told Reuters Television.

North Korea's media have made no mention of Thursday's blast but the reclusive and impoverished communist state has accepted offers of help from international aid and relief agencies.

Pyongyang rarely reports on accidents and only belatedly sought outside aid after floods and a famine in the 1990s.

The United States, which labeled North Korea part of an "axis of evil" with Iran and prewar Iraq, said it was willing to help despite a standoff over Pyongyang's suspected nuclear arms program.

Sacrilege! Blasphemy! Ignorance! We are dealing with evil here. If we extend even one fig leaf they will use it to extract a deadly toxin, pack it into a ballistic missile, and shoot it to Los Angeles! Why should we spend any money saving hopeless idealogues? Don't they eat dogs over there?! Dogs, people, dogs. What kind of person eats man's best friend? Certainly no one I would want to save. But isn't it always the way: everyone complains about the US but as soon as there's a problem they look to us for help. Just because we're the richest and the most powerful and we prop ourselves up on claims of humanism and freedom. So what?! We have our own problems. If we turn a blind eye and a flip of the bird this time, maybe it will make the lesser nations think twice next time before disagreeing with us. And maybe they'll make better trains. I don't care. All I know is we don't owe them nothin'.

And as for their trains, They must have been running on corn oil or something because that could never happen here. So inefficient. And the "fuel" the train was transporting: spent uranium is my guess. In fact, this could be a brilliant ploy to draw Americans into ground zero of a large-scale bio-nuclear event! Not so brilliant as to escape my probing mind, however.

Nay, I say. Let those Stalinist pigs rot in their ideological pens. Why show weakness when we need to be firm? Why show compassion when they have offered us none? Again, if they weren't so busy sharing everything they could have built better trains.

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UN and Oil 


This has been a story for a little while, and Liberty Soul is right that it doesn't seem to be getting anough attention. Basically, UN officials probably took bribes from Saddam Hussein.
Most prominent among those accused in the scandal is Benon Sevan, the Cyprus-born U.N. undersecretary general who ran the program for six years.

In an interview with ABCNEWS last year, Sevan denied any wrongdoing.

But documents have surfaced in Baghdad, in the files of the former Iraqi Oil Ministry, allegedly linking Sevan to a pay-off scheme in which some 270 prominent foreign officials received the right to trade in Iraqi oil at cut-rate prices.

"It's almost like having coupons of bonds or shares. You can sell those coupons to other people who are normal oil traders," said Claude Hankes-Drielsma, a British adviser to the Iraq Governing Council.

It's awful, but not completely surprising. These are generally political appointments and people are greedy. There was millions of dollars involved and it looks like some of the very people who were given responsibility to take care of the Iraqi people were abusing the system. There's no doubt that the UN needs a reorganization -- in many ways -- and this, if true, only goes to affirm that. It's disgusting.

Let's not forget that the sanctions the Oil for Food program was designed to combat, were put in place by the US; we have some responsibility here, too. We would expect a tyrant to take money for himself, but the world is not supposed to expect the home of democracy to willfully allow the suffering of a nation's people. Is it?

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Atrios 


has a nice post on that pesky $700 M the White House moved from column A to column B, possibly shredding the Constitution (again) in the process.
After 9/11, we went to war in Afghanistan to punish those responsible as well as to remove support for the al Qaeda network more generally. We didn't put enough troops on the ground either finish the job of rounding up the terrorists or to rebuild and install a stable governmenment. The consequence of this is that Bin Laden and many other al Qaeda members were allowed to escape, and much of Afghanistan has reverted to their Taliban-era existence. We know now that part of the reason was that the Bush administration was diverting resources allocated to that purpose in order to attack a country which posed no threat to us or its neighbors. They stole money allocated to make us safer, and used it to make us less safe.

Thanks Bob Woodward, for bringing up another example of how BushCo continues to play Charmin with our country's most important document. Is this an impeachable offense? Depends on whether you have a Republican Congress, I suppose. And it would be pretty cool to have two presidents impeached in a row!


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Football Star Dead in Afghanistan 


This guy was amazing. Now they say he's dead. Pat Tillman, former strong safety for the Arizona Cardinals, was reportedly killed in Afghanistan. Tillman turned down a $3.6 million-dollar contract after 9-11 to join the Special Forces. You don't often see heroism like that. Not even personal heroism.
Elaine Dalbo, a spokeswoman for Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that committee was able to confirm Tillman's death this morning.

The Army this morning was not officially announcing the death, or providing details. A representative said it does not officially comment on soldiers' deaths until all the next of kin are contacted.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., in an interview just last week on National Public Radio last week, pointed to Tillman as an example of bravery — the topic of McCain's new book.

"He gave up over a million dollars as a safety for the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army as a ranger after 9/11, and fought in Iraq," said McCain. "And it wasn't a moment of crisis or strife that motivated Pat Tillman. It was the recognition that the United States was under attack and he volunteered to defend it."

Whether or not I agree with what's going on in Afghanistan, I find his dedication to be moving. He and I would probably argue about man things, but he believed so strongly in this idea of protecting America, of preserving it, that he could walk away from comfort and fortune to do so. He made $18,000 as an Army Ranger. And it is that dedication, that belief in the American idea which BuchCo is abusing and desecrating right now. Playing up people's patriotism, their pride, their fear. It's a disgrace, and the Pat Tillmans of the world deserve better.

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Awesome 


I'd heard of Karen Kwiatkowski before, but had never actually read anything she has to say in length. That was silly of me. This retired Air Force Lt. Colonel offers an inside account of how the Neocons went to war, the climate inside the Pentagon, and the mechanisms of power. The latest comes from the Toronto Star.
While the people were very much alive, I saw a dead philosophy -- Cold War anti-communism and neo-imperialism -- walking the corridors of the Pentagon. It wore the clothing of counterterrorism and spoke the language of a holy war between good and evil.

The evil was recognized by the leadership to be resident mainly in the Middle East and articulated by Islamic clerics and radicals. But there were other enemies within: anyone who dared voice any skepticism about their grand plans, including Secretary of State Colin Powell.

I witnessed neo-conservative agenda bearers within the OSP [Office of Special Plans] usurp carefully considered assessments and, through suppression and distortion of intelligence analysis, promulgate falsehoods to both Congress and the executive office of the president.

She names names and does it with vigor. This is a great piece to add to the heap -- but it appears in a Canadian newspaper. She truly ought to be on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. But we all know that. (And maybe she is on these stations -- I don't get cable...) I just mean that I haven't come across her name much; maybe now that Dick Clarke and Woodward and Paul O'Neil have chimed in, breaking the ice with their heft, the littler birds can sing, too. (Talk about mixing metaphors!)

She essentially calls the neocon web out on their lies. It's interesting, too, that most of the people who were instantly drawn to her tale and supportive of her coming out were military and ex-military. I would imagine that they know something about conflict. So what happened to Colin Powell?

PS. You can find Karen Kwiatkowski's reglar column at military week.)

PPS. I knew there was a reason I liked her so much. In this week's colum for military week, she offers this explanation for why the US is in Iraq. Ahem:
Here's a hint: It isn't liberation, democracy, counter-terrorism, a search for weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian concerns, or even oil or Israel's security interests. It is simple geo-strategic military positioning, a classic Cold War model, aimed at punishing future enemies and rewarding allies by leveraging regional oil flow, water allocations, and weapons development. This, and nothing else, explains why the EU is nervous, the Russian President antsy, and the Chinese Prime Minister coy.

Not that I came up with that analysis on my own or anything remotely close. It just makes the most sense to me, and I think people are now seeing just how much these neocons -- or corporatists or imperialists or whatever you call them -- are locked in this way of thinking. And part of this way of thinking involves the idea that you do anything to win, looking over the people who's backs you'll later stab, creating new enemies to fight later, and trading old friends. They seem not to understand that their actions now will have ramifications later. A la mujahideen in the 1980s Afghanistan. This war is not like Vietnam. It is much more dangerous. Every day the American flag files in Baghdad, the more likely we are to have atrocity visited on our own soil.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Rummy, Rummy, Rummy... 


I was listening to Bob Woodward talk about his new book on Fresh Air this afternoon, and I found it quite extraordinary. The fact that we can be having this discussion, so openly, about such sensitive and likely illegal activities, literally history in the making is truly incredible. Most of what Woodward is talking about happened a year ago, though it doesn't feel that long. (In a strange way, however, it feels impossibly long, too. Like since 9-11: it's still fresh, but difficult to imagine the world before it happened.) Woodward is taking much of the little webs we've all been stuck to for a couple years, and weaving them together, and he does it with credibility. He has had tremendous access to all the players, and he's a legend in his own time. What's more, he's building on the foundation set by Joseph Wilson, Paul O'Neil and Dick Clarke.

But getting to the point: one of the things he was talking about was how the Saudi government had first hand and secret knowledge of the White House's plans to invade Iraq. Saudi Arabia. Home to 95 percent of the alleged hijackers of 9-11. The same royalty and wealthy elites who were flown out of the country, while the rest of us lay stranded. Them. Those guys. The originators of Wahabiism. While we Americans could only wager a guess as to whether we'd go to war (though I think most people knew from the summer of 2002 that it was a certainty) the Saudis were filled in on every detail. Rummy even made a personal guarantee.
The Pentagon deleted from a public transcript a statement Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld made to author Bob Woodward suggesting that the administration gave Saudi Arabia a two-month heads-up that President Bush had decided to invade Iraq.

The comment came in a key moment in the run-up to the war, when Rumsfeld and other officials were briefing Bandar on a military plan to attack and invade Iraq, and pointing to a top-secret map that showed how the war plan would unfold. The book reports that the meeting with Bandar was held on Jan. 11, 2003, in Vice President Cheney's West Wing office. Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also attended.

"To my knowledge, a decision had not been taken by the president to go to war at that meeting," Rumsfeld said. "There was certainly nothing I said that should have suggested that, and any suggestion to the contrary would not be accurate.

Woodward supplied his own transcript showing that Rumsfeld told him on Oct. 23, 2003: "I remember meeting with the vice president and I think Dick Myers and I met with a foreign dignitary at one point and looked him in the eye and said you can count on this. In other words, at some point we had had enough of a signal from the president that we were able to look a foreign dignitary in the eye and say you can take that to the bank this is going to happen."

I always think it's funny when they remove stuff from web sites after it's already a story. Then the fact that they removed it makes it a bigger story. What do they think, no one would notice? There are 5 million lefty news dorks, most of whom lost their tech jobs under this president, scouring the Internet every second for inconsitencies, tid bits, and information. Come on, Pentagon. You're no match for us!

It is amazing that none of these guys get fired. I guess the idea is that they're all equal criminals, so bett to insulate and deny than to cart out a goat in a pentagram -- at least not until they have to.

Also in Saudi Arabia today, we hear this terrible news:
At least eight people, including a senior security officer and an 11-year-old Sudanese girl, were killed and 113 injured when a car bomb devastated a building of the Saudi security services in Riyadh, police and hospital sources said.

n a brief statement, an interior ministry official said the driver of a car blew up the vehicle when he was stopped from going into the headquarters of the traffic department.

So they're definitely feeling the heat in Riyadh, too. And more strife in Iraq.
At least 68 people died in a string of car bomb attacks against police in southern Iraq as deadly battles raged in the Sunni Muslim hot spot of Fallujah, creating more headaches for the United States as it tries to keep its occupation force together.
In northern Iraq four insurgents were killed and a US soldier was wounded in a gun battle, according to an officer of the US-backed paramilitary Iraqi Civil Defence Corps.

The renewed violence flared as the United States was scrambling to hold its coalition together after Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic said they would pull out their troops from Iraq within the next few weeks.

One Danish hostage was found dead, though the fate of our American soldier, and a few Italians is still unknown.


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Bum Rap 


I have noticed a disturbing trend lately here in New York City, one that is only likely to worsen as the summer months fall upon us. It is a trend that challenges everything we hold dear about propriety and sense, humility, sexuality and fashion. Friends, I speak of the exposed ass crack, epidemic.

It began maybe two summers or so ago, when the low-rise hit its apex (or low point), from Vanity Fair to Mtv, and all hip-hopeful world, man and woman alike, was forced to wear their pants so far down that the convex V of their hip bones was completely exposed; so that onlookers could get the sense of the start of erogeny; so that the jeans became secondary to the form they accentuated.

This was okay, though mildly disturbing in that it meant anyone who wanted to partake had to be dangerously thin, and those who were not were, to say the least, unattractive with the look. Then children started dressing this way, girls in elementary school and, I imagine, some boys as well. Still, it was okay, it was sort of alien, perhaps a bit nouveau-70s-Swedish, and the oddity of it all did form a foundation for the sexiness of it with the understanding that the trend would fade.

But today, friends, it remains more vibrant than ever, even moving into a new territory, into a territory hitherto traveled only by plumbers and three-year-olds. The ass crack has become a fashion statement. I do not know if its exposure is borne out of the ever lower-riding pants or vice versa. I suspect, however, that those who do know, when they are bending over or squatting, that the top of their rears is out in the open. How could one not? Is it not drafty? Is it not sensitive? And to what are they challenging the innocent onlooker? To look closer? To ogle? To turn away in shame? Nay, I believe the dynamic that is set up is a tacit relationship, a pseudo-secret in which I pretend I didn't just see their ass crack, and they pretend they are unaware of its exposure. In a sense, this builds a kind of intimacy, between friends, coworkers, wait staff, shoe salespeople, potential clients, motorists. Nearly everyone I work with, when squatting, revelas a bit about themselves. The last several parties I've attended have been filled with stray ass cracks. All, it seems, but a few tried and true friends, the ones who still wear belts to hold their pants up, the ones with Asics sneakers, the ones who legitimately need haircuts. And me.



I feel left out of this whole affair. I suppose that deep down (but not too deep) part of me would love to strut and stride, with absolute confidence and comfort, ass crack to the wind. Liberating, I suppose. And yet, really, I resent this horrifying trend. Because now, they're telling me my ass crack better be presentable. As f there wasn't enough else to feel stressed about, enough competition, now, a significant part of our anatomy is to be primped and judged. There is no part of the body that escapes the constant and nagging eye of conformity. Is nothing sacred?! I do not want to scrub and trim my ass crack for its public debut; I do not want to buy little ass crack ribbons or sprinkle glitter on it; I do not want to compare ass cracks (which, sickly, I have already begun, gasp!). Is it not enough for me to have sensible clothes, a slight sense of personal style, wit, and a fully-covered ass crack? Doesn't this increase the allure? Will our children inherit this?

Where is our society going? In time it will go away, though I'm sure the hyper-sexuality and hyper-violence of the American culture has not yet reached its height, or depth, or whatever. In other words, it's only going to get hairier, and then we'll all be the butt of the joke. Ahem.


(There was actually a piece written on this in Slate last year.)

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Uncle Dick & W. 


White House TV is unveiling its newest hit sitcom, Uncle Dick and W., the hilarious, fish-out-of-water tale of a brand new smart aleck president and his stern Uncle Dick. W. just wants to go fishing, shoot squirrels and have fun, while Uncle Dick has full-scale global domination on his mind. Tune in to see what sort of hijinks and hilarity this unlikely pair will get into! The two will make their debut together in a closed taping April 29.
President Bush (news - web sites) and Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites) will answer questions together and in private before the commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on April 29, the White House said on Wednesday.

The two will not testify under oath.

It is unusual for such investigations to hear from two officials at one time, which could eliminate the possibility of contradictory testimony and allow the two to defer to each other in the questioning. But the panel chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, a Republican, said the commission accepted the unusual arrangement to hear from the president, noting that sitting presidents rarely appear before investigative panels or congressional committees.




I say it's good the two of them have to testify together. It will make them look like fools, and if anything new comes out of this investigation, then they'll have to appear under oath anyway, so this will have made little difference. It would be nice, though, to be able to watch their testimony; I don't even know how much of it, if any, will be available to the press.


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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Lawless Enclave, Y'all 


The Supreme Court, preparing for yet another 5-4 monumental decision, heard arguments on the status of prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay. Basically, the lawyer for the prisoners says Camp X-Ray is lawless, and that the place to remedy the lawlessness is in the Courts, meaning President Bush and his decrees should be checked in the other branches. The White House, as argued by the craggy Theodore Olson, says the President can do whatever he wants. Oslon also argued, either briliantly or preposterously, and certainly in the grand tradition of postmodernism, that, because Cuba ultimately has sovereignty over the prisoners, the US courts have no jurisdiction. Okay?
Justice David Souter asked whether bringing people from Afghanistan to Guantanamo was "the same thing in functional terms" as if they had been brought to the U.S. capital.

Olson pointed to a 1950 Supreme Court ruling that held U.S. courts lacked jurisdiction to consider challenges by German prisoners captured by U.S. forces during World War II while fighting with Japanese troops in China.

But Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the Germans had been tried and convicted by a military commission, unlike the Guantanamo detainees.

Justice John Paul Stevens also seemed skeptical that the 1950 ruling applied.

And Justice Stephen Breyer cited a number of problems with Olson's argument, including that the government's power would be unchecked and its interpretation of the habeas law contrary to "several hundred years of British history."

It's certainly no accident that the US chose Camp X-Ray as the place to throw all the undesirables from their invasion of Afghanistan. It's very special status makes it a difficult fish to fry, and I imagine they figure decisions would lead their way, being in the middle of a major conflict. But John Gibbons, the man working on behalf of the prisoners, says this case gets down to the very basics of the Constitution, and directly affects the Courts' ability to uphold and interpret the law. Olson, as is to be expected, says things are different in times of war.
Mr. Olson noted that "over 10,000 American troops are in Afghanistan today in response to a virtually unanimous Congressional declaration of an unusual and extraordinary threat to our national security and an authorization to the president to use all necessary and appropriate force to deter and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States."

Mr. Olson said the people represented by Mr. Gibbons were asking the court "to assert jurisdiction that is not authorized by Congress, does not arise from the Constitution, has never been exercised by this court."

But Mr. Gibbons asserted that the government's actions, no matter how dire the emergency, must not be totally immune from scrutiny in the courts.

"Under this theory, neither the length of the detention, the conditions of their confinement, nor the fact that they have been wrongfully detained makes the slightest difference," Mr. Gibbons said. "Respondents would create a lawless enclave, insulating the executive branch from any judicial scrutiny, now or in the future."

This War thing has gotten them a long way. First Bush declares a state of war against the idea of terrorism, therefore, all of America needs to fall in line because we are at war -- a war declared by the President in the first place. Then we go to war in Iraq, and again, the whole country is expected to completely support it, the courts are asked not to interfere, and the war was started under false pretenses, at best -- outright lies at worst. It's beautiful.



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Sunday, April 18, 2004

I Wish Bush Still Drank 


This is a very funny clip of our leader at a 1992 wedding, after he gave up drinking -- though he seems a bit off it. It should be viewed by all good Americans. Viewed and cherished.

After watching it, seeing another side of this now-evil man, I couldn't help but wonder if America -- and George himself -- wouldn't be better off if he still hit the bottle. He'd be a lot more entertaining, that's for sure. And he probably wouldn't have made as many stupid decisions, ironically enough.

Drink, America.

In other multimedia, the good Swedes at Atmo have given us this brilliantly edited duet with Bush and Blair. It's touching. Mmm.

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