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Saturday, December 18, 2004

Holiday Spirit 


Wondering what to get for the besieged Mesopotamian who has it all? Riverbend has some suggestions.
When Santa delivers please make sure he is wearing a bullet-proof vest and helmet. He should also politely ring the doorbell or knock, as a more subtle entry might bring him face to face with an AK-47. With the current fuel shortage, reindeer and a sleigh are highly practical- but Rudolph should be left behind as the flashing red nose might create a bomb scare (we're all a little jumpy lately).

PS. In that Saturday morning fog, I originally typed the first word of this post "winderbug," which may be one of the finest phonics I've found in forever.

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Axes 


Good old Asia Times, forever providing superior analysis and reportage on the state of things in the world. They do not disappoint with this terrific article on Iran and how the third prong in the Axis of Evil is preparing for the Holy American Wrath.
[A]ny US attack on Iran will likely be met first and foremost by missile counter-attacks engulfing the southern Persian Gulf states playing host to US forces, as well as any other country, e.g., Azerbaijan, Iraq or Turkey, allowing their territory or airspace to be used against Iran. The rationale for this strategy is precisely to pre-warn Iran's neighbors of the dire consequences, with potential debilitating impacts on their economies for a long time, should they become accomplices of foreign invaders of Iran.

Another key element of Iran's strategy is to "increase the arch of crisis" in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, where it has considerable influence, to undermine the United States' foothold in the region, hoping to create a counter-domino effect wherein instead of gaining inside Iran, the US would actually lose territory partly as a result of thinning its forces and military "overstretch".

[T]here is a growing sentiment in Iran that no matter how compliant Iran is with the demands of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency , much like Iraq in 2002-03, the US, which has lumped Iran into a self-declared "axis of evil", is cleverly sowing the seeds of its next Middle East war, in part by leveling old accusations of terrorism and Iran's complicity in the 1996 Ghobar bombing in Saudi Arabia, irrespective of the Saudi officials' rejection of such allegations...

Thus there is an emerging "proto-nuclear deterrence" according to which Iran's mastery of the nuclear fuel cycle would make it "nuclear weapon capable" in a relatively short time, as a sort of pre-weapon "threshold capability" that must be taken into account by Iran's enemies contemplating attacks on its nuclear installations. Such attacks would be met by stiff resistance, born of Iran's historic sense of nationalism and patriotism, as well as by a counter-weaponization based on quick conversation of the nuclear technology. Hence the longer the US, and Israel, keep up the military threat, the more powerful and appealing the Iranian yearning for a "proto-nuclear deterrence" will grow.

In a disturbed way one can almost find oneself "rooting" for the Iranians: in text and cursors it sounds all right that the underdog is producing long-range missiles and planning counter-psy-ops and strategizing and plotting and ploying; how else can such a small sovereign nation hope to defend itself against a Big Power like us?

But if one takes a moment to sit in it all, one also wants to shed a tear or two: Iran knows that the only way to kill the beast is to tire it out and stretch it, to pepper it with pin pricks and the occasional spectacular explosion, to turn all its friends against it and capitalize on the rage of its enemies; Iran would drag any US aggression into Turkey and Azerbaijan and Israel, making it a regional war, intractable, perhaps, to the point that nuclear warfare is seriously considered. That is a lot of death. And yet...

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Add Cents 


What do you guys think of blogs with ads by the banner? I have a few friends who have added them to their sites, earning a few cents whenever anyone clicks on them. It seems like an easy enough service, with ads tailored to the content of your site. At first I thought, oh, good for them and maybe I should get in on this, but then changed my mind. Would it not be giving in to the very thing I so often rail against: the ever-permeating gloop of commodity? Everything for sale? The great dulling of the human soul? Corporate monstrosity? Advertising run amok, filling the spaces in every corner of our lives, destroying meaning and replacing it with transactions?

Or is it less severe than that? Is it more a matter of hey, it's only a few bucks here and there, and maybe those who read my site would actually be interested in what's for sale? Harmless, for the most part, and a little bit helpful to me. And it's a far cry from Nestle getting malnourished African mothers and their babies hooked on formula, or Coca Cola supporting death squads, or even from McDonald's marketing so feverishly to young children. These ads would be books about Bush and politics and comedy. And I am sort of interested to see what Google thinks my readers -- my five patient friends and family members -- would like to buy.

Yet I don't think that's the way it works. Acquiessence on values, even in the slightest degree, will tend to kill you by inches. Or so I believe. Not that I don't acquiese every day, but this seems different. I have no problem with anyone else putting ads up (they don't even have to do anything but keep posting), really, but for me I think it would betray something and I guess I don't want to do that.

Am I being foolish, though?

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Oops 


In a post below, I accidentally credited Capitol Banter with PSoTD's work. So, so sorry to all parties...

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Pedro 


Deserves what he gets with the Mets. (Unless, of course, they win the World Series.) We've been waiting for an excuse to dislike the big crybaby, and now we shall pour out our wrath like fiery rain from on high. Big baby.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

He Did It His Way 


More mind-bending greed and arrogance from BushCo. Their royal inaguaration is shamelessly expensive and exclusive, so much so it makes Louis XIV and all those playas at Versaille look like chumps. Go PSoTD, go!
Those prepared to pay will get a four nights in the Jefferson hotel, four blocks from the White House, return travel from any city in the US, chauffeur and butler on 24-hour call for the duration, tickets for two to an unspecified inaugural event attended by Mr Bush, his-and-her diamond watches and designer outfits, spa treatment and monogrammed bath robes...

The inaugural committee chaired by Senator Trent Lott says the celebrations will be on an epic scale and is seeking to raise more than $40m.

Those hankering for maximum face time - an exclusive lunch with Mr Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney, and two tables for 19 friends at an eve-of inauguration banquet - will have to find $250,000.


And PSoTD's nice suggestion:
I want the names published of everyone that ponies a quarter of a million dollars to eat with Bush and Cheney...

I want these people treated as fools with their money, and I want every flimflammer from here to Madagascar to have that list. I want people who spend money like this on such an event to be recognized as such forever.

Ill get my producer friend at Fox News to get right on that.

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Something Wicked 


Radical Georgia Democrat has the goods on this very respectable and tasteful image from a Peach State Republican's newsletter. The kind of thing that proves just how much they really do care about values, and just how morally grotesque us liberals are.




Truly the kind of thing you want your children to be exposed to and laugh at. As always, I have to remind myself, it's okay when they do it.


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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More Good News 


All signs point to depression. Especially this one. With the treasury looted, spending out of control and a dull job market, how far off can it be?
America's trade deficit swelled to an all-time high of $55.5 billion in October as imports — including those from China — surged to the loftiest levels on record. Skyrocketing crude-oil prices also contributed to the yawning trade gap.

The latest snapshot of trade activity, reported by the Commerce Department on Tuesday, showed the country's trade imbalance widening by a sizable 8.9 percent in October from the previous month — despite the fact that U.S. exports registered their best month on record.

"The shortfall with China grew for the eighth month in a row ... as Americans start to fill up stockings with Chinese-made toys, games, sporting goods, electronics and computer accessories," said Sherry Cooper, chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns.

The Bush administration has been pressing China to let its currency, the yuan, be set in open markets. U.S. manufacturers claims Beijing's currency policies give Chinese companies a big competitive advantage over U.S. companies.

I wish I was smart and I could understand economics and stuff. But it seems to me that China is the growing giant, both in consumption and export. They're making good products now, durable goods to compete with Japan and Germany and America. They're on the rise, and all we have to counteract it is the most deadly and awesome military in the history of time and space. But how long can that last? When does deterrant become hollow? When does theory become practice? And as we become more economically and intellectually irrelevent, we have fewer alternatives.

But make no mistake that China is the prize in this New World Order, the only country (with some light competition from Russia) to threaten total global hegemony. This is why we are so concerned with North Korea, why we have troops in the Philippines, why we love Taiwan, why we invaded Iraq and Central Asia. Those forward-thinking imperialists in our government are engaging in a much more dangerous preemption than the kind Americans read about.

And now we see this.
China and Russia will hold their first joint military exercise next year, the Chinese government has announced, and President Hu Jintao is calling for further expansion of the rapidly growing alliance between the former Cold War rivals.

The announcement came during a visit this week to Beijing by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who was expected to discuss expanding Russia's multibillion-dollar annual arms sales to China.

The exercises were to take place on Chinese territory, the official China News Service (CNS) said Monday.

"We want ... to promote the development of the two countries' strategic collaborative relationship in order to safeguard and promote regional and world peace," CNS quoted Hu as telling Ivanov.

Read: We're scared shitless of the US, and we want to do something about it. And it makes sense. This kind of power cannot go unchecked. It never has, it never will. The question is how far our emperors will go to prove their dominance.


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Sinai Surprise 


It's unsettling how much things seem to be moving forward with Israel and her Arab neighbors. Though Egypt is never to be trusted.
Egypt and Israel signed their first strategic partnership accord in trade and industry since their historic 1979 peace treaty.

The deal signed with the United States will lead to the establishment of joint industrial zones in Egypt from where goods will be exported to the United States duty free.

Egyptian Industry and Foreign Trade Minister Mohammed Rashid and Israeli deputy prime minister Ehud Olmert signed the agreement in the presence of Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick.

There's an old saying: When God gave out magic, Egypt took nine parts and the rest of the world took one.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

One of the Boys 


It's official. Sure we're building the world's largest embassy in Baghdad, and, yes, the US has installed the Black Death John Negroponte as the ambassador, and of course, the head of the interim government is a former CIA operative and it's true that the US technically owns all the oil and all the revenues there, but this, this really hammers it home.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreed on Monday to begin accession talks with Iraq and Afghanistan, but the United States again blocked any such negotiations with Iran, diplomats said.

The go-ahead for Iraq and Afghanistan came with no dissenting voice among the trade body's 148 member states, but Washington said it was still studying Iran's request -- the same answer it has given for the past three years.

The decision puts the U.S.-installed administration in Baghdad on a level with more than two dozen other nations who want to join or are in the process of doing so.
If they really wanted to integrate Iran into the fold, perhaps they'd offer them a spot in the WTO. But it doesn't work that way. It's an all boys' club, used to bully, isolate and embezzle the world's money.

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Encouraging? 


I admit that I've been a bit too pessimistic to follow the "recount" story with any fervor. But today on DU I see this little ditty, apparently not good enough for national attention.
Democrat John Kerry is asking county elections officials to allow his witnesses to visually inspect the 92,000 ballots cast in Ohio in which no vote for president was recorded, a Kerry lawyer said Sunday night.

The request is one of 11 items that Kerry is asking for as part of the recount that Ohio's 88 county boards of election will begin this week, according to a letter sent to the boards over the weekend.

Two minor presidential candidates who received 0.30 percent of the votes in last month's election requested the recount, claiming that the election was full of irregularities that need to be addressed.

Kerry's campaign supports the recount but says it won't change the election outcome
. Bush's campaign has criticized the recount effort, saying it won't change anything.

So probably not very encouraging. As you can see, it wasn't even Kerry who requested the recount, but a couple of pesky, arrogant, selfish third party candidates; and now that they have it, Kerry doesn't even want to pretend that he's putting up a fight. Good little doggy. Way to roll over for Democracy. Have a Milk Bone.


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Sunday, December 12, 2004

Personal Embargo 


We are consumers. That is what we are first in the national scheme of things. In the global scheme, perhaps even more pointedly. The consumer, not the citizen, is therefore the most powerful force in the world. We make it go round. Were it not for us, the consumers, (it's rather disgusting and telling, really, that term this is the sum total of the living, breathing, thinking, feeling humans that occupy this planet, mouths and hands that consume and waste, separate almost to the point of stylized relief from the rest of the planet) the people that BushCo supports would be nothing. It's a disconcerting fact, but one we ought not to fret over any more. There are movements to curb consumerism, but more and more I believe we need to embrace this power and not run from it. As a bloc, concerned consumers can cause far more damage to the powers that be than we can by winking at each other from across the blogosphere or even by voting. Money, as it always has, talks. We can scream and bellow and reclaim our country simply by being smart consumers.

Imagine groups of millions and millions of consumers who actively avoided buying certain products. Imagine the press that would come from Wal-Mart's lowest grossing sales day if those same millions stayed home. Imagine what the good people at Coca Cola would think if their market share dropped 10% in a year. Imagine a Christmas season where no one bought anything that couldn't be recycled. Imagine the power of the mighty consumer.

For this brandname slavery we seem to live in does not have to be so constraining. A few clever campaigns and a lot of genuinely concerned consumers can reek havoc on the people who try to rule us through our pocketbooks; their power is imaginary, but a bloc of personal embargoes would make their weakness and our strength all too real.

We are not Athens. We are not a nation of poets and warriors, tradesmen and apprentices. We buy shit. And we complain about the shit we buy. And we complain about our politicians and big business and greed. Well, as a consumer, you have the power to decide what you consume. Take advantage of the marketplace and start producing your own market forces. It's like collective bargaining for the 21st Century; syndicalism of the mall; auto-capitalism. Whatever you want to call it, this is where the power is. Think of the first thing Rudy Guiliani and George Bush said after 9-11 -- well, maybe the second or third thing, but not far off: "Okay, that was bad, but, you know, get out there and buy stuff!"

See it's an amazing paradox: they pretend to serve us, but we know they want to control us, yet what we don't talk about is how much influence we can really have. They are at our command. Microsoft, Sears, NewsCorp, Goodyear, Philip Morris, McDonald's and Nestle. We own them. They rely on us. Who will they sell to if not us? Where will their profits come from? Whose campaigns will they contribute to if their sales are down? What will their high and mighty share holders and boards of trustees make dividends on if we block them out, cut them off, and tell them why. For it must be accompanied by an organized verbal campaign. They're not willing to listen to dreadlocked anti-globalists in George Bush masks, but they'll damn well listen to the thousands of silent cash registers and empty credit card bills. Like it or not, this is where we'll get the most tangible results. Undeniable results. Loud and uncompromising results.

So think about it. Think about your power and, in fact, your responsibility, to implement your personal embargoes. What matters to you? If it's fair wages, buy fair trade coffee and the like. If it's the environment, buy only green-friendly products. If it's companies that support Republicans, buy elsewhere. It will take a little more effort and it will cost you a little more and laziness is a dastardly devil, but if this is what we are, if this is all we are in the great big machine, why not clog some gears and make some noise? Sleeping giants, indeed. With debit cards.

To that end, check out the folks at Buy Blue. I'd heard about it, but PSoTD has the link. So buy, buy, buy, and do it wisely.

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Bloc 


I now recall reading about this possibility six months or more ago, but I sort of shook it off as fiction. The Monolith is trying to ban publication of foreign dissident writing that eminates from any country we consider unfriendly. This is na' good. Steve has the scoop.

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Good Stuff 


Handwringing is the new national pastime. Everyone glancing sullenly at walls, still, more than a month later, wondering what happened and what to do next. Do we move to Canada or New Zealand, or do we stay and fight. Do we move to the center or to the left. How do we build a good media aparatus to combat the right's propaganda machine and enjoin and disseminate progressive values. Howard Dean or that other guy. Paper or plastic.

Those good people at The Nation have some nice ideas and some nice thoughts on how to go about it; how to rise with broken bones and face the hoardes bravely. I especially like talk of prophets. (Found thru Steve.)
Major movements of social advancement in this country have spoken in the name of the prophets, not in the name of churches or religion. Martin Luther King Jr., for example, spoke as a prophet, not a priest or theologian, and in fact was regarded with suspicion by many religious leaders, including in the black church. "Let justice roll down like water, and righteouness as a mighty stream," the anthem of the civil rights movement, were the words of Amos (5:24).

We have to unmask the unholy passions that inspire the apocalyptic zeal of so many Christians, Muslims and Jews: the ressentiment that has been fostered by the right wing since the days of Governor George Wallace, and the loneliness that makes apocalyptic fantasies so appealing. Today, the prophets would once again see truth and justice shackled with chains, enslaved by selfishness and the lust for power and empire.

We need a new civil rights movement, a mobilization against the Bush regime, against its nascent totalitarianism, with marches on Washington that will stir the dormant American conscience. A movement can become powerful in America if it speaks in the voice of the prophets, insisting on our duty as citizens to resist a government that is subverting justice with its deadly policies.

This is where progressives get lost, when we start talking -- nay, thinking -- about religion, for it is supposed to be the province of the loony right. But the thing here, people, is that religion and spiritualism has been at the front of many a civil rights movement. Gandhi, MLK to name a couple exceptional examples. For it's not the vestements but what's underneath. In our snobbery and, in many cases justified, fear of organized religion, we may miss the best opportunity for change yet.

The message of religion, even after it's been distorted, remains one of peace, compassion, justice, love. Why forget all this just because it's been coopted by the bad guys? These traditions are hundreds of generations old, built on something truly human and transcendent beyond a mere thirty years of obfuscation and dementia from the Right. The real message of Christ (or, at least the good stuff...) is much bigger and more powerful than pathetic, clean-shaven, clueless George W. Bush. As long as people remain people I have to believe that what's inside can still be touched, and progressives, being on the side of humanity, must be the ones to do it.

I'm not speaking about tent revivals or crying on national television or sharing your faith or any of that pandering bullshit. I'm talking about a prophet. A man or a woman who can speak about the heart again, and, despite attempts from the right to obscure the message in blood and threats, to speak from the heart in clear, undistilled messages. Pragmatism, facts and logic don't work any more. What we need is the messiah.


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