Friday, February 29, 2008

A Star Called Sun

The 1980s Kino КИНО original by Viktor Tsoi: Zvezda Po Imeni Solntse

and the Brazzaville live and video versions

Dengue Fever archives

Here is a decent set (Bumbershoot 2006 on KEXP) of over 30 minutes that is clearly in the public domain and another (SXSW 2006) which is more interview than music.

REJECT AND DENOUNCE '08 and the McCain ineligibility

Today, Hill-Rod used the three words "reject and denounce" in reference to one of her race-baiting supporters (not Bill). These were the exact three words Barack Obama had used just a day or two earlier to denounce his own racist backer.

This 3-word plagiarism from her competing candidate clearly out-shocks the two-word plagiarism "Just words?" Barack borrowed from his colleague and appended to his 3 famous quotations from American history.

Hill-Rod stopped saying "That's straight out of the Republican playbook!" for a few hours and said "That's straight out of Karl Rove's playbook!" instead. She sounds like she has Alzheimers at times. Give it a rest, Hill-Rod. The 90s are over. Being busy with the campaign and all, you may not have heard, but even Karl Rove is over, so substituting "Karl Rove" for "Republican" is not an update. It's the McCain, stupid!

In other McCain news, have you noticed that McCain was born in Panama? Panama is not part of the United States and makes him ineligible to stand as a candidate for the presidency. Oops. Didn't he ever hear of "A man, a plan, a canal, Panama"? Think about theese things before you go and run for president! D'oh!

It seems like somebody already has been thinking about it. At the same time I heard that news, James Baker III was seen endorsing McCain. You may recall with horror how JB3 also appeared out of the woodwork in 2000 (when Florida went to Chad) to fix the election with his supreme court homies, so he may feel it is time for another supreme court coup d'etat.

Someone noted how that (natural-born qualification) just couldn't be right, that would be telling all of the gallant American warriors stationed in the empire's bases scattered around the world that their babies born abroad could never grow up to be the President of the United States!

That's just the way it is until you amend the US Constitution.
What would Ron Paul say?
Hey… shit… that would be good news for the…
Huckster! You're the Republican saviour now! :-o

Chomsky on Iraq and 2008 via Democracy Now

You must read or listen to:
Noam Chomsky: Why is Iraq Missing from 2008 Presidential Race?

In a major address, Noam Chomsky says there has been little change in the conventional debate over a US invasion abroad: from Vietnam to Iraq, the two main political parties and political pundits differ only on the tactics of US goals, which are assumed to be legitimate. On the other hand, public opposition to war has also remained consistent, Chomsky says, but, whether Iraqi or American, ignored.

Since the presidential race began well over a year ago, Iraq has been one of many topics of debate. However, the war has not been the central issue of the campaign as it was in the midterm elections in 2006, and there are still more than 160,000 US troops deployed in Iraq. Why is this?

That was the subject of a recent talk by Noam Chomsky. A professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for over a half-century, Noam Chomsky is the author of scores of books on US foreign policy. His most recent is called Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy. We spend the rest of the hour with Noam Chomsky. He recently spoke before a packed audience in Massachussetts at an event sponsored by Bikes Not Bombs.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Not very long ago, as you all recall, it was taken for granted that the Iraq war would be the central issue in the 2008 election, as it was in the midterm election two years ago. However, it’s virtually disappeared off the radar screen, which has solicited some puzzlement among the punditry.
Actually, the reason is not very obscure. It was cogently explained forty years ago, when the US invasion of South Vietnam was in its fourth year and the surge of that day was about to add another 100,000 troops to the 175,000 already there, while South Vietnam was being bombed to shreds at triple the level of the bombing of the north and the war was expanding to the rest of Indochina. However, the war was not going very well, so the former hawks were shifting towards doubts, among them the distinguished historian Arthur Schlesinger, maybe the most distinguished historian of his generation, a Kennedy adviser, who—when he and Kennedy, other Kennedy liberals were beginning to—reluctantly beginning to shift from a dedication to victory to a more dovish position.
And Schlesinger explained the reasons. He explained that—I’ll quote him now—“Of course, we all pray that the hawks are right in thinking that the surge of that day will work. And if it does, we may all be saluting the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a victory in a land that we have turned,” he said, “to wreck and ruin. But the surge probably won’t work, at an acceptable cost to us, so perhaps strategy should be rethought.”
Well, the reasoning and the underlying attitudes carry over with almost no change to the critical commentary on the US invasion of Iraq today. And it is a land of wreck and ruin. You’ve already heard a few words; I don’t have to review the facts. The highly regarded British polling agency, Oxford Research Bureau, has just updated its estimate of deaths. Their new estimate a couple of days ago is 1.3 million. That’s excluding two of the most violent provinces, Karbala and Anbar. On the side, it’s kind of intriguing to observe the ferocity of the debate over the actual number of deaths. There’s an assumption on the part of the hawks that if we only killed a couple hundred thousand people, it would be OK, so we shouldn’t accept the higher estimates. You can go along with that if you like.
Uncontroversially, there are over two million displaced within Iraq. Thanks to the generosity of Jordan and Syria, the millions of refugees who have fled the wreckage of Iraq aren’t totally wiped out. That includes most of the professional classes. But that welcome is fading, because Jordan and Syria receive no support from the perpetrators of the crimes in Washington and London, and therefore they cannot accept that huge burden for very long. It’s going to leave those two-and-a-half million refugees who fled in even more desperate straits.
The sectarian warfare that was created by the invasion never—nothing like that had ever existed before. That has devastated the country, as you know. Much of the country has been subjected to quite brutal ethnic cleansing and left in the hands of warlords and militias. That’s the primary thrust of the current counterinsurgency strategy that’s developed by the revered “Lord Petraeus,” I guess we should describe him, considering the way he’s treated. He won his fame by pacifying Mosul a couple of years ago. It’s now the scene of some of the most extreme violence in the country.
One of the most dedicated and informed journalists who has been immersed in the ongoing tragedy, Nir Rosen, has just written an epitaph entitled “The Death of Iraq” in the very mainstream and quite important journal Current History. He writes that “Iraq has been killed, never to rise again. The American occupation has been more disastrous than that of the Mongols, who sacked Baghdad in the thirteenth century,” which has been the perception of many Iraqis, as well. “Only fools talk of ‘solutions’ now,” he went on. “There is no solution. The only hope is that perhaps the damage can be contained.”
But Iraq is, in fact, the marginal issue, and the reasons are the traditional ones, the traditional reasoning and attitudes of the liberal doves who all pray now, as they did forty years ago, that the hawks will be right and that the US will win a victory in this land of wreck and ruin. And they’re either encouraged or silenced by the good news about Iraq.
And there is good news. The US occupying army in Iraq—euphemistically it’s called the Multi-National Force–Iraq, because they have, I think, three Poles there somewhere—that the occupying army carries out extensive studies of popular attitudes. It’s an important part of counterinsurgency or any form of domination. You want to know what your subjects are thinking. And it released a report last December. It was a study of focus groups, and it was uncharacteristically upbeat. The report concluded—I’ll quote it—that the survey of focus groups “provides very strong evidence” that national reconciliation is possible and anticipated, contrary to what’s being claimed. The survey found that a sense of “optimistic possibility permeated all focus groups…and far more commonalities than differences are found among these seemingly diverse groups of Iraqis” from all over the country and all walks of life. This discovery of “shared beliefs” among Iraqis throughout the country is “good news, according to a military analysis of the results," Karen de Young reported in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago.
Well, the “shared beliefs” are identified in the report. I’ll quote de Young: "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the US military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of [what they call] ‘occupying forces’ as the key to national reconciliation.” So those are the “shared beliefs.” According to the Iraqis then, there’s hope of national reconciliation if the invaders, who are responsible for the internal violence and the other atrocities, if they withdraw and leave Iraq to Iraqis. That’s pretty much the same as what’s been found in earlier polls, so it’s not all that surprising. Well, that’s the good news: “shared beliefs.”
The report didn’t mention some other good news, so I’ll add it. Iraqis, it appears, accept the highest values of Americans. That ought to be good news. Specifically, they accept the principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal that sentenced Nazi war criminals to hanging for such crimes as supporting aggression and preemptive war. It was the main charge against von Ribbentrop, for example, whose position was—in the Nazi regime was that of Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. The Tribunal defined aggression very straightforwardly: aggression, in its words, is the “invasion of its armed forces” by one state “of the territory of another state.” That’s simple. Obviously, the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan are textbook examples of aggression. And the Tribunal, as I’m sure you know, went on to characterize aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself all the accumulated evil of the whole.” So everything that follows from the aggression is part of the evil of the aggression.
Well, the good news from the US military survey of focus groups is that Iraqis do accept the Nuremberg principles. They understand that sectarian violence and the other postwar horrors are contained within the supreme international crime committed by the invaders. I think they were not asked whether their acceptance of American values extends to the conclusion of Justice Robert Jackson, chief prosecutor for the United States at Nuremberg. He forcefully insisted that the Tribunal would be mere farce if we do not apply the principles to ourselves.
Well, needless to say, US opinion, shared with the West generally, flatly rejects the lofty American values that were professed at Nuremberg, indeed regards them as bordering on obscene, as you could quickly discover if you try experimenting by suggesting that these values should be observed, as Iraqis insist. It’s an interesting illustration of the reality, some of the reality, that lies behind the famous “clash of civilizations.” Maybe not exactly the way we like to look at it.
There was a poll a few days ago, a really major poll, just released, which found that 75 percent of Americans believe that US foreign policy is driving the dissatisfaction with America abroad, and more than 60 percent believe that dislike of American values and of the American people are also to blame. Dissatisfaction is a kind of an understatement. The United States has become increasingly the most feared and often hated country in the world. Well, that perception is in fact incorrect. It’s fed by propaganda. There’s very little dislike of Americans in the world, shown by repeated polls, and the dissatisfaction—that is, the hatred and the anger—they come from acceptance of American values, not a rejection of them, and recognition that they’re rejected by the US government and by US elites, which does lead to hatred and anger.
There’s other “good news” that’s been reported by General Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker that was during the extravaganza that was staged last September 11th. September 11th, you might ask why the timing? Well, a cynic might imagine that the timing was intended to insinuate the Bush-Cheney claims of links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. They can’t come out and say it straight out, so therefore you sort of insinuate it by devices like this. It’s intended to indicate, as they used to say outright but are now too embarrassed to say, except maybe Cheney, that by committing the supreme international crime, they were defending the world against terror, which, in fact, increased sevenfold as a result of the invasion, according to a recent analysis by terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank.
Petraeus and Crocker provided figures to explain the good news. The figures they provided on September 11th showed that the Iraqi government was greatly accelerating spending on reconstruction, which is good news indeed and remained so until it was investigated by the Government Accountability Office, which found that the actual figure was one-sixth of what Petraeus and Crocker reported and, in fact, a 50 percent decline from the previous year.
Well, more good news is the decline in sectarian violence, that’s attributable in part to the murderous ethnic cleansing that Iraqis blame on the invasion. The result of it is there are simply fewer people to kill, so sectarian violence declines. It’s also attributable to the new counterinsurgency doctrine, Washington’s decision to support the tribal groups that had already organized to drive out Iraqi al-Qaeda, to an increase in US troops, and to the decision of the Sadr’s Mahdi army to consolidate its gains to stop direct fighting. And politically, that’s what the press calls “halting aggression” by the Mahdi army. Notice that only Iraqis can commit aggression in Iraq, or Iranians, of course, but no one else.
Well, it’s possible that Petraeus’s strategy may approach the success of the Russians in Chechnya, where—I’ll quote the New York Times a couple of weeks ago—Chechnya, the fighting is now “limited and sporadic, and Grozny is in the midst of a building boom” after having been reduced to rubble by the Russian attack. Well, maybe some day Baghdad and Fallujah also will enjoy, to continue the quote, “electricity restored in many neighborhoods, new businesses opening and the city’s main streets repaved,” as in booming Grozny. Possible, but dubious, in the light of the likely consequence of creating warlord armies that may be the seeds of even greater sectarian violence, adding to the “accumulated evil” of the aggression. Well, if Russians share the beliefs and attitudes of elite liberal intellectuals in the West, then they must be praising Putin’s “wisdom and statesmanship” for his achievements in Chechnya, formerly that they had turned into a land of wreck and ruin and are now rebuilding. Great achievement.
A few days ago, the New York Times—the military and Iraq expert of the New York Times, Michael Gordon, wrote a comprehensive review, first-page comprehensive review, of the options for Iraq that are being faced by the candidates. And he went through them in detail, described the pluses and minuses and so on, interviewing political leaders, the candidates, experts, etc. There was one voice missing: Iraqis. Their preference is not rejected; rather, it’s not mentioned. And it seems that there was no notice of that fact, which makes sense, because it’s typical. It makes sense on the tacit assumption that underlies almost all discourse on international affairs. The tacit assumption, without which none of it makes any sense, is that we own the world. So, what does it matter what others think? They’re “unpeople,” nice term invented by British diplomatic historian [Mark] Curtis, based on a series of outstanding volumes on Britain’s crimes of empire—outstanding work, therefore deeply hidden. So there are the “unpeople” out there, and then there are the owners—that’s us—and we don’t have to listen to the “unpeople.”

Last month, Panama declared a Day of Mourning to commemorate the US invasion—that’s under George Bush no. 1—that killed thousands of poor Panamanians when the US bombed the El Chorillo slums and other poor areas, so Panamanian human rights organizations claim. We don’t actually know, because we never count our crimes. Victors don’t do that; only the defeated. It aroused no interest here; there’s barely a mention of the Day of Mourning. And there’s also no interest in the fact that Bush 1’s invasion of Panama was a clear case of aggression, to which the Nuremberg principles apply, and it was apparently more deadly, in fact possibly much more deadly, than Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, happened a few months later. But it makes sense that there would be no interest in that, because we own the world, and Saddam didn’t, so the acts are quite different.
It’s also of no interest that, at that time of the time of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait, the greatest fear in Washington was that Saddam would imitate what the United States had just done in Panama, namely install a client government and then leave. That’s the main reason why Washington blocked diplomacy in quite interesting ways, with almost complete media cooperation. There’s actually one exception in the US media. But none of this gets any commentary. However, it does merit a lead story a few days later, when the Panamanian National Assembly was opened by President Pedro Gonzalez, who’s charged by Washington with killing two American soldiers during a protest against President Bush no.1, against his visit two years after the invasion. The charges were dismissed by Panamanian courts, but they’re upheld by the owner of the world, so he can’t travel, and that got a story.
Well, to take just one last illustration of the depth of the imperial mentality, New York Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino, veteran correspondent, writes that “Iran’s intransigence [about nuclear enrichment] appears to be defeating attempts by the rest of the world to curtail Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.” Well, the phrase “the rest of the world” is an interesting one. The rest of the world happens to exclude the vast majority of the world, namely the non-aligned movement, which forcefully endorses Iran’s right to enrich uranium in accordance with the rights granted by its being a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But they’re not part of the world, even though they’re the large majority, because they don’t reflexively accept US orders, and commentary like that is unremarkable and unnoticed. You’re part of the world if you do what we say, obviously. Otherwise, you’re “unpeople.”
Well, we might, since we’re on Iran, might tarry for a moment and ask whether there’s any solution to the US-Iran confrontation over nuclear weapons, which is extremely dangerous. Here’s one idea. First point, Iran should be permitted to develop nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons, as the Non-Proliferation Treaty determines.
Second point is that there should be a nuclear weapons-free zone in the entire region, Iran to Israel, including any US forces that are present there. Actually, though it’s never reported, the United States is committed to that position. When the US invaded Iraq in 2003, it appealed to a UN resolution, Resolution 687, which called upon Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. That was the flimsy legal principle invoked to justify the invasion. And if you look at Resolution 687, you discover that one of its provisions is that the US and other powers must work to develop a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East, including that entire region. So we’re committed to it, and that’s the second element of this proposal.
The third element of the proposal is that the United States should accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a position which happens to be supported by 82 percent of Americans, namely that it should accept the requirement, in fact the legal requirement, as the World Court determined, to move to make good-faith efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether.
And a fourth proposal is that the US should turn to diplomacy, and it should end any threats against Iran. The threats are themselves crimes. They’re in violation of the UN Charter, which bars the threat or use of force.
Well, of course, these four proposals—again, Iran should have nuclear energy, but not nuclear weapons; there should be a weapons-free zone throughout the region; the US should accept the Non-Proliferation Treaty; there should be a turn to diplomacy and an end to threats—these are almost unmentionable in the United States. Not a single candidate would endorse any part of them, and they’re never discussed, and so on.
However, the proposals are not original. They happen to be the position of the overwhelming majority of the American population. And interestingly, that’s also true in Iran; roughly the same overwhelming majority accepts all of these proposals. But that’s—the results come from the world’s most prestigious polling agency, but not reported, as far as I could discover, and certainly not considered. If they were ever mentioned, they would be dismissed with the phrase “politically impossible,” which is probably correct. It’s only the position of the large majority of the population, kind of like national healthcare, but not of the people that count. So there are plenty of “unpeople” here, too—in fact, the large majority. Americans share this property of being “unpeople” with most of the rest of the world. In fact, if the United States and Iran were functioning, not merely formal, democracies, then this dangerous crisis might be readily resolved by a functioning democracy—I mean, one in which public opinion plays some role in determining policy, rather than being excluded—in fact, unmentioned, because, after all, they’re “unpeople.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

US electorate shuns soldiers

There is an old belief in the United States that a military career helps a political career.

Who knows why? Experience killing foreigners may have been thought to give one the intestinal fortitude to attack and kill on a larger scale as commander-in-chief. The suspicions of post-traumatic stress disorder may have been thought to give one an advantage in negotiations (e.g. Cuban Missile Crisis). Or perhaps it may have seemed that a person who had experienced war would understand war better and consequently be less likely to allow war to occur.

But, in fact, Americans have a long record, in the last 3 decades, of choosing the candidate who has NOT served (who?) in the military.

1980 Carter (Navy) lost to Reagan (film set, imaginary wars)

1984 Reagan beat Walter Mondale (US Army)

1988 *GHW Bush (Navy pilot) over Dukakis (US Army, Korea, 1955-57)

1992 Clinton beat GHW Bush (58 combat missions in the Pacific)

1996 Clinton beat Dole (US Army, right arm paralyzed by German machine gun fire)

2000 GW Bush (National Guard slacker/cokehead/drunk) beat Al Gore Jr (US Army journalist in Vietnam)

2004 GW Bush beat John Kerry (US Navy, Silver Star, Bronze Star, 3 Purple Hearts)

That is 6 times out of 7 where the person with LESS military experience won, and one election where both candidates had military experience, and the one with more experience won.

Perhaps government has come to be seen as a profession for which mass killing is inadequate preparation. Yes, these days, there is more to government than just killing, (my friends).

On that basis alone, John McCain has over an 85% chance of losing.

John McCain: Bob Dole warmed over.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Deportation and immigration

Buried lead: They're not just arresting, but arresting, imprisoning and deporting American citizens as illegal aliens.

Feb. 14, 2008, 12:35AM
Feds admit mistakenly jailing citizens as illegal immigrants


WASHINGTON — A top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official acknowledged Wednesday that his agency has mistakenly detained U.S. citizens as illegal immigrants, but he denied that his agency has widespread problems with deporting the wrong people.

Gary Mead, ICE's deputy director of detention and removal operations, testified during a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing that U.S. citizens have been detained on "extremely" rare occasions, but he blamed the mix-ups on conflicting information from the detainees.

Nonetheless, Mead said his agency is reviewing its handling of people who claim to be U.S. citizens "to determine if even greater safeguards can be put in place."

The testimony before the House Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law came after immigration advocates told McClatchy that they'd seen a small but growing number of cases of U.S. citizens who've been mistakenly detained and sometimes deported by ICE. They accuse agents of ignoring valid assertions of citizenship in the rush to deport more illegal immigrants.

Unlike suspects charged in criminal courts, detainees accused of immigration violations don't have a right to an attorney, and three-quarters of them represent themselves.

Last month, Thomas Warziniack, a U.S. citizen who was born in Minnesota and grew up in Georgia, was mistakenly detained for weeks in an Arizona immigration facility and told that he was going to be deported to Russia.

Warziniack, 40, was released after his family, who learned about his predicament from a McClatchy Newspapers reporter, produced his birth certificate.

In another high-profile example, ICE agents in California mistakenly deported Pedro Guzman, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen, to Mexico. Guzman was found months later when he tried to return to the United States.
These are just the cases where they realized they had made a mistake. There are probably dozens of other Americans sent to places who we will never hear of again.

They should stop harassing immigrants and Americans who they suspect of looking like immigrants.

North America has a long and historic tradition of being colonized by immigrants who did not obtain the consent of the former residents. That continues, but could change. Rather than letting millions of people cross the border every year, and then trying to pick them out of a crowd, how about just securing the border first? Homeland Security has absolutely no reason to exist and should be abolished if they cannot at least do that. The "Security" of the "Homeland" against another 20 hijackers is meaningless if there are 2,000,000 illegal border crossings a year. There is no point patching microholes in the side of a bucket if the bucket has no bottom. A reasonable goal might be to cut illegal border crossings 90% a year for five years, to 200,000 in the first year, 20,000 the next, and onwards down to the goal of 20. It should be possible to image every rabbit, coyote, road-runner, and chupacabra crossing the border and distinguish them from the people, who should be restrained without violencia.

One hundred thousand soldiers repatriated from Iraq on the two thousand mile southern border would provide an additional 50 lookouts per mile. The Canadian border is wide open, too.

Use a biometric for legal crossings, not passports. Just show your palm, match that to an identity.

For the people who have already crossed over, it is too late to try to stop them now. (Thanks in part to "conservatives" like Ronald Reagan.) Their status is confused. Some were born in the US to illegals decades ago, or have family members of varying status. If not citizenship, these people will at least have to be offered residency, though on terms that are not as attractive as the legal path. They need to make the legal path run more effectively, too. When I applied for permanent residency in Japan, it took about 3 weeks. I got a postcard and went to get the stamp in my passport. According to some reports, it is much more of a third-world, half-assed, shit-for-brains operation to deal with the authorities in the US. Americans seem to think government is not supposed to work, and do not fund it or demand that it work properly or humanely. It's an embarrassment for Americans.

Once they get control of illegal immigration, the US could begin to debate how much immigration it wants, of what kind of people, from where. Should the United States attempt to stop any slight population decline and aim for zero population growth by admitting immigrants to make up for it, or aim for a certain rate of population growth? Should the country favor illiterate, uneducated, undocumented or criminals from Mexico, or admit educated English-speaking professionals instead, for example? If a country like Bangladesh loses 50% of its land due to global warming, shouldn't the United States accept refugees from its carbon dioxide induced warming? How many millions of people a year does the United States want to take?

McCopycain creep-out

I thought it was just a little odd when McCain made Hillary Clinton's slogan the slogan on his campaign website. Ready to Lead on Day One! Is he mocking her? Completely lacking any positive ideas of his own? Well, now, my friends, he is lifting lines from Obama's speeches and making them his own. Mocking again? He seriously creeps me out.

“John McCain is an American hero,” Mr. Obama said before a huge, cheering crowd. “We honor his service to our nation. But his priorities don’t address the real problems of the American people, because they are bound to the failed policies of the past.”

Mr. McCain picked up the challenge. While not mentioning Mr. Obama by name, he offered an unmistakable put-down of the theme that has become so closely identified with Mr. Obama.

“To encourage a country with only rhetoric rather than sound and proven ideas that trust in the strength and courage of free people is not a promise of hope,” he said. “It is a platitude.”

To make sure no one had missed the message, Mr. McCain appropriated Mr. Obama’s signature line with a sly farewell to his own audience in Alexandria, Va. “My friends,” he said. “I promise you, I am fired up and ready to go.”
Via NYT.
If that is going to be his campaign, just repeating his opponents' words in his spooky, mocking voice, I don't think he will do even as well as Dole/Kemp in 1996. It just makes him look like a war-traumatized veteran great-uncle who sits in the corner watching TV and mockingly repeating everything he hears. The comedy shows will love it. Is this a psychological warfare technique he learned from years of torture by the Viet Cong, George Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Back on Top

Oops. World-renowned mental patient Britney Spears has returned to a position of dominance in Google search frequency over other prominent American intellectuals competing for the nomination of the Republican party, signaling the end of the political season and a return to business as usual. Only Mike Huckabee (Dammit, Jim, I majored in miracles, not mathematics!) did not surpass the Britney levels at some point in the past 30 days.

Monday, February 11, 2008

National Popular Vote

I hadn't thought of this -- or heard of it. It isn't necessary to amend the US Constitution to abolish the Electoral College choose the President by direct national vote, since each state already has the power to direct its electors to vote as it sees fit. If enough states have their electors vote for the national popular vote winner, the meltdown of 2000 won't happen again. Via AP/Yahoo News.

Plan would sidestep Electoral College

By NGUYEN HUY VU, Associated Press Writer Sun Feb 10, 2:16 PM ET

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - If John R. Koza gets his way, American voters will never again have to wonder about the workings of the Electoral College and why it decides who sits in the White House.

Koza is behind a push to have states circumvent the odd political math of the Electoral College and ensure that the presidency always goes to the winner of the popular vote.

Basically, states would promise to award their electoral votes to the candidate with the most support nationwide, regardless of who carries each particular state.

"We're just coming along and saying, 'Why not add up the votes of all 50 states and award the electoral votes to the 50-state winner?'" said Koza, chairman of National Popular Vote Inc. "I think that the candidate who gets the most votes should win the office."

So far, Maryland and New Jersey have signed up for the plan. Legislation that would include Illinois is on the governor's desk. But dozens more states would have to join before the plan could take effect.

The idea is a long shot. But it appears to be easier than the approach tried previously — amending the Constitution, which takes approval by Congress and then ratification by 38 states.
Additional information is available at

1-Sentence Description
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee that the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia will win the Presidency.

3-Sentence Description
Under the U.S. Constitution, the states have exclusive and plenary (complete) power to allocate their electoral votes, and may change their state laws concerning the awarding of their electoral votes at any time. Under the National Popular Vote bill, all of the state’s electoral votes would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538).
In less than two years, the National Popular Vote bill has been enacted into law in Maryland and New Jersey. The bill has passed 13 legislative houses (one house in Arkansas, Colorado, and North Carolina and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland).

The Founding Fathers gave the states exclusive and plenary control over the manner of awarding of their electoral votes. The winner-take-all rule is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was used by only 3 states in the nation’s first presidential election. Maine (since 1969) and Nebraska (since 1992) award electoral votes by congressional districts—another reminder that a federal constitutional amendment is not required to change the way the President is elected.

The bill has been endorsed by the New York Times, Chicago Sun Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Los Angeles Times, and Sacramento Bee, Common Cause and Fair Vote.

70% of the public has long supported nationwide election of the president.

Read or download the book Every Vote Equal.

15 Best Pages at

I spent an hour or two on this site about a week ago after someone sent me a link to their Engrish, which was not very good. I think they are not very critical, and have some hoax content. It's best regarded as entertainment with the occasional fact, much like the Discovery Channel. Still, I was able to read about Alex, Washoe, and shape-shifting reptilians on the same site. Formatting every post as a list seems constraining, but gives the authors a template to use, I suppose. I will follow that format in this (meta-)list of 15 of the Best Pages at

  1. 10 Signs you've spent all summer in Amsterdam Give the hotel staff 5 stars! :-)
  2. 15 Stupidest Warning labels Includes the proper use of screwdrivers and chainsaws. Viewer discretion advised. (Stick figures in peril)
  3. 12 Crazy old ads Baby needs soda!
  4. Propaganda Got brainwashed?
  5. 15 Badly placed ads Some of these are attributable to google ads and thus badly placed by robots, not by random.
  6. 9 Insane Weapons The gay bomb, bat bomb, cat bomb, dog bomb, and other little-known weapons that changed our world
  7. 1800s color photography :: ahead of their time
  8. Atomic Blast Photos The first milliseconds -- are these for real?
  9. Youngest Mother :: the future of human evolution in a planet chernobyl scenario
  10. 7 Super animals includes Alex and Washoe
  11. 10 Superhumans :: collected real-life superhumans
  12. 10 Strange Diseases including human zebra syndrome
  13. 10 Extinct Animals Add a few hundred more to the list -- or bring these back?
  14. 7 Craziest Conspiracies Reptilian shape-shifters -and- the alleged Israeli plot to make teenage Palestinian girls horny
  15. 7 Worst Killer Plagues Know your history!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Osama bin Sasquatch on Mars (or is it Cornelius?)

This disturbing image provides yet more evidence, if any were needed, of the threat posed to our robotic interplanetary spacecraft by suspected Islamofascist time-travelers from the thirty-third century, who take advantage of the low gravity and thin atmosphere of the Martian environment to hurl stones at our rovers from a distance, disabling the wheels, weakening our scientific efforts, and strengthening their own self-constructed timeline in which the world is united under Islam before that religion subsequently reforms and disappears as Earth civilization goes interplanetary.

Alternative explanations abound. The human mind has an amazing ability (pareidolia) to see visual forms where only random shapes exist, Dr Rorschach. One independent speculative investigator, employing highly-classified image enhancement techniques, found a closer resemblance to Cornelius, who time-shifted back to our time when the Earth was destroyed, and may have landed on Mars instead of Earth. For more information on this hypothesis, see the documentary film Escape from the Planet of the Apes. NASA pranksters may have released inflatable figures, which are now blowing around the red planet and popping up in the occasional photograph. The indigenous Martians may have emerged from their caves to see where the vibrations were coming from. Or, extraterrestrials may be visiting from their hexayurt hexagonal base on the north Saturnian pole to get a closer look to determine the origins of the spy probe.

Whatever the explanation, it may justify the deployment of the Hellfire (or whatever the hell it is called) missile to blow up suspected insurgents on our neighboring world before they pose a threat to the American way of hegemony. I urge Senator McCain (and Charlton Heston) to personally investigate and fulfull pResd'nt Bush's dream of manned exploration of Mars!

I think I first saw this news on Posthuman Blues. The pictures (not Roddy) are from NASA via the Times Online. In using Google's server farms as a substitute for my atrophied memory of the word "pareidolia" I found the topic was also covered by BoingBoing (-- it figures!).

Barry O'Bomber

Most people's "Naked Baby Photos" are interesting, even if they aren't really naked. They reveal something about them. Ever see Avril Lavigne in high school?

These are photographs of the Political Artist as a Young Man, as seen at the Chicago Tribune.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Rat Race: Babylon by (Campaign) Bus

February 6, the day after Super Tuesday, was Bob Marley's birthday. He would have been 63. Who knows what he might have done, had he lived. He may have been the Governor of California by now. Stranger things have happened. The year 1945 also gave birth to Brian Ferry, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Rod Stewart, Van Morrison, Steve Martin, and Wim Wenders.

I thought it was somehow fitting that on this day, as the primary and caucus results slowly sank in, that the political markets of Iowa and Rasmussen both flipped over and began to favor Obama over Clinton for the Democratic party nomination!!!

I was training around Saitama with headphones on and realizing that headphones really are a hell of a lot better than earbuds and that I am going to wear them until it gets miserably hot. I may even look for an anti-noise pair. I can hear Democracy Now much better -- somehow their recording volume is too low for the background decibels I get on the train. Reggae is also a nice way to chill and take the edge off of high-tension Japan when you are zipping around.

Best Super Tuesday Quote

All the psychic energy tied up in "Tsunami Tuesday" was released as atmospheric phenomena such as tornadoes, rather than tsunamis. I guess it is more of a hot air thing than something that would make the earth move. My favorite take-away of the day, overheard on CNN from Paul Begala, was…

BEGALA: Nobody is more conservative than Huckabee. He don't believe in evolution or gravity or photosynthesis or anything.
For a bit more context…
BEGALA: …Romney wants to be the conservative, and the conservative poobahs like Limbaugh and Coulter and Dr. Dobson of Focus on the Family, they've all anointed Romney to try to stop McCain, but the voters got in the way. I love it. Sometimes voters just don't listen to the big shots.

ROLAND MARTIN: But he's also not, McCain is more conservative than Romney.

BEGALA: Nobody is more conservative than Huckabee. He don't believe in evolution or gravity or photosynthesis or anything.
These comments may have been a bit too hyperbolic, and Begala didn't get much additional time on the air, it seems. However, it got me to wondering how many candidates could explain gravity, or photosynthesis. It might be instructive to have all of the candidates in a Jeopardy!-type situation where they would have to answer questions question(ize) answers in relevant categories such as American History, World History, Global Issues, Science, Civil Rights, and so on.
Alex, I'll take World Leaders for 3 delegates.

"Islam A. Karimov."

Who is the President of Uzbekistan?

That's correct!

In a perfect world, the parties would agree to award the delegates-in-limbo from Michigan and Florida to the winner of the Jeopardy!-formated debate. We would learn more about the candidates than in the current "debates". Wonkier candidates like Hill-Rod may have a slight advantage and sock puppets like Bush would have gone home with a consolation prize of tickets to Disneyland if this format had been used in the past. It is a bit late to play now, but the fallen players like Edwards, Richardson, Rudey, Kucinich, etc could all be invited back for a round and if awarded delegates, would be able to "throw" their delegates to whoever they think is a worthy candidate. Obama should resist calls from Hill-Rod to debate unless she agrees to a Nomination-Jeopardy!-format.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Carabao คาราบาว

Thai music tends to be a lot catchier than Japanese, although there are some Japanese bands that I like. Taiwanese rock is good, too, and the Chinese mainland has its own universe of music. Listening to Dengue Fever the other day made me miss Thai music. I lived in Thailand for a short time, about six months in total, in the early 90s. I have some Carabao cassette tapes from those days suitable for playing in an antique portable audio player known to old-timers as a Walkman. Carabao is like the Rolling Stones of Thailand. They are like the Southern All Stars in Japan. There is nothing quite like them in the United States, although if a large set of classic rocker American musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, the Grateful Dead, the Doors, Carlos Santana and Bob Dylan had been in one band that was still playing together today, that would be similar. Maybe Chicago? No. Their music has sometimes been described as country, but I would say rock, folk rock, and progressive rock are better descriptors. One cassette album I have is a solo one by Aed Carabao in which he sings a song called Ahn San Su Kyi.

I was very bad at learning Thai but I made a little progress when I started learning to read it. I was able to read words like คาราบาว and understand city names like Bangkok (or was it Krung Thep?), Hat Yai, and Phuket written across the fronts of buses.

So I found a few videos. First, Made in Thailand. I like this song.

Tsunami is obviously more recent.

This one, Gunja, is interesting musically (because I don't know what he is saying) and I like this video for Khon Lah Fhan, although the song sounds like the most generic of their songs (but who knows if the words make it great?).

No Pain, No McCain

As the February 5 Super-Tuesday 22-state primary approaches, Republicans appear to have converged upon John McCain as their candidate. America needs a white man who is older, stubborner, and speaks English better than the current decider. At the moment, polls show McCain beating both Clinton and Obama in match-ups. However, the public also says they would prefer a generic Democrat over a generic Republican. That polling contradiction is sure to resolve itself as American familiarize themselves with Mr McCain.

McCain is famous for his temper and weakness at fielding questions from the public. He may be advised to avoid the public, answer only planted question(er)s, or he may improve with better advisers, higher-quality pharmaceuticals, and cranial implants.

Let's look back for a minute at McCain's macaca moment, where he sang, "Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb Bomb Iran." Here's the raw footage from two sources. (ask a stupid question…)

Asked if he was embarrassed or proud or his undignified little joke, McCain asserts, "I'm proud!" (of my casual disregard for human life), and urges anyone who was offended to "Lighten up, get a life," (and bomb Iran).

MoveOn responded.

In another campaign event (macaca), when asked about how he could "Beat the Bitch", McCain showed bad judgment, again, choosing to call it an "Excellent question".

For less raw and more processed footage, Robert Greenwald (Brave New Films) seems to be on the case with the site The Real McCain.

A rough attempt at the anti-McCain theme song we are sure to hear more improved versions of in the future is here:

In an appearance on The Daily Show, McCain joked about having an IED for Jon Stewart's desk. When John Mutha gave him a tongue-lashing, he laughed and told Murtha to "Lighten up and get a life."

Friday, February 01, 2008

Democratic Debate in California

It's about to begin, and promises all the excitement and intellectualism of female mud-wrestling or an underground dogfight.

A number of factors seemed to conspire to create the expectation of "fireworks": the last debate, the overexcited crowd, the candidate's chairs set too close together in each other's personal space, and provocative questions from the moderator-provocateur, Wolfblitzer. Clinton kept her claws retracted, and despite the horror-movie scary-clown face stare she aimed at Obama too often, peace was kept, with Obama throwing more snowballs and the occasional compliment rather than stones at the House of Clinton.

It was a victory for civility, and out-did the Republicans' Debate at the Reagan Bunker yesterday. Bad show-business, though.

Republican Debate at the Reagan Mountain Bunker

There was a creepy backdrop for this event: Air Force One of the Reagan era, looming behind the candidates like a triumphalist emblem of state power, half Nazi/museum, half Disneyland/Hollywood.

I was glad to see Ron Paul make it there whereas Rudey could not. When megadeath McCain and moneybags Romney got bogged down in bickering over who was more a bigger booster for a new Hundred-Years War, Ron Paul attempted to represent the adult wing of the Republican party, John Edwards-style. Unfortunately, Ron Paul seemed to be an adult from the 18th or 19th centuries. At this point, in the Republican Party, defending the US Constitution has become comparable to defending the gold standard, another Ron Paul talking point. Ron Paul could be said to represent the traditional, constitutional, libertarian wing of the Republican party, a Lincoln contemporary time-transported directly from the 1800s. Of course, no such wing exists, but it would be a good idea to crack the two-party system from within.

Huckabee, on the few occasions he was allowed to speak, was a witty and charismatic representative of the christo-fascist zombie american taliban wing of the Republican party. He appears to have not yet been zombified himself -- or perhaps he just wanted to ride that 20% of the American population, 40% + of the Republican party, who are reborn and re-animated, to the nomination. He stayed away from proposals to re-write the US Constitution to match "God's Word" and, instead, proposed new infrastructure such as highways, to appeal to the practical side of his growing trucker base. Keep on truckin', Huckster!

John McCain was described quite accurately, I thought, by CNN's Jack Cafferty as "smug, condescending, and snarky." He didn't really debate at all but kept returning to one point, which was that Romney had at least implied that Iraq ought to not be an eternal, open-ended conflict. He seemed like a stubborn old man who didn't bring a lot of smarts to the campaign. I felt like he was channeling some early or mid-1960s Vietnam hawk like Robert McNamara from McCain's formative years. McCain clearly represents the military-industrial megadeath wing of the Republican party.

Romney seemed to represent the millionaire businessman wing of the Republican party. He was responsive and articulate as he explained his ethnocentric and paranoid worldview in which Russia and China are basically evil opponents and the United States is fundamentally good. He made feeble attempts to position himself as a military-industrial and religious-fundamentalist Republican as well as a millionaire Republican, but these categories are traditionally not open to negotiation by such tools as logic and argument.

Romney seems to be the best debater. I don't know what Daily Kos were thinking when they proposed that Democrats with free time on their hands enter open primaries to vote for Romney. First of all, he would be a strong candidate. Second, it is presuming a religious bias while there may just as well be a sexist or racist bias as well. That seems like a very negative strategy to me, and carried to its logical extreme, would lead to Clinton/Dukakis running against Cheney/Quayle.

As seen on YouTube: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

McCain later received the endorsements of Rudolf "9-11" Giuliani (who took no phone calls from #3 Judy during the event), escaped Austrian circus freak and Gubernator Arnold Schnauzerschnitzel, and the sun god Helios.