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busy, busy, busy

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Remember Me?

The primary reason for my recent extended blog-absence is simply exhaustion; it is far too tiring to keep up with and process the doublethink and the cognitive dissonance that passes for routine social and political discourse in this country. For the time being, this site is probably going to be more of a "blahg" than a blog, at least for the next couple months. I hope the five people who read this site don't get upset. In the absence of my superbly trenchant and brilliant political commentary and insight, please visit the following sites; they actually know what they are talking about.
This Modern World | Bush Wars | Cursor.org | Alternet | Spinsanity | Altercation | Tom Paine | In These Times

Movin' to Larrytown

Maggie & I are moving to Lawrence, Kansas, exactly two weeks from today. We've been offered live-in jobs with a non-profit organization that runs an impressive system of group homes for developmentally disabled folks. Needless to say, we are quite excited.


Music Rambling

If you like music--any kind of music--I highly suggest you leave your home or place of work this very moment and pick up the new Radiohead album. It is beyond good; it's not quite OK Computer (nothing ever will be, though), but it does blow away everything they have done since that record (even Kid A, which until Hail to the Thief was my #2 Radiohead record). I'm not going to try to review it or anything, I'm just going to tell you to get it. In fact, you had better already be on your way to your corner record store by now.

I haven't been listening to any other "new" music; probably the most recent release besides the Radiohead I've had on constant rotation (and my second-most-favorite-album-of-the-moment) is Pig Lib by Steven Malkmus and The Jicks. You may want to pick that one up when you go to get the Radiohead. Seriously. I've also been listening to Pavement non-stop. And The Dismemberment Plan.

Speaking of The Plan, Maggie & I caught them in Lawrence a couple weeks ago, along with Gold Chains, Lake Trout, and Paris, TX. The Plan rocked the joint to the ground, naturally, playing a set largely consisting of audience requests. It was somewhat of a bittersweet performance, since it was their "farewell tour." If only they turn out to be like Ozzy... Anyway, as for the other bands: Paris, TX was completely awful. They were your standard "garage rock of the moment" band, complete with tight jeans, vintage tank-tops, and white-boy Afros (which I like to call Caucs). If our ticket price had been refunded a dollar for every time the singer jumped off the drumset while doing the splits and making the International Sign of Rock--\m/--we would have been able to see the show for free and get more than a few drinks from the bar. They were bad. Gold Chains was good. They have a rap/hip-hop thing going on, infused with electronica and rock. Very fun, very catchy. Of course, since they were Band #1 of the night, they played to a largely unimpressed crowd. (In Lawrence, a band made up of John Lennon, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Kurt Cobain would play to the turned, disinterested backs of an audience, if they were Band #1.) Lake Trout Blew me away. I can't really describe them. They were just fucking awesome. Imagine if Sigur Ros was also a "jam band" of the Phish variety. So, minus one band it was a terrific show.


I've also been reading. A lot.

Since I don't currently have a job (and as of last week I have no need to continue with the job hunting), and since I rarely bolg anymore, I have spent most of my time reading. So, simply because I have nothing else to do at the moment, here is what I have been reading over the past few weeks (with or without commentary):
The Lord of the Rings: Yeah I'm a geek. I also read The Book of Lost Tales Volume I, which is the literary and historical predecessor to The Silmarillion. I found it to be very strange.

I've been getting my Philip K. Dick on in a big way lately, thanks to the arrival of a book club introductory shipment containing The Man in the High Castle, The Uncollected Stories... (which I ripped through in a day and a half; great, great stuff), and a "special bookclub omnibus edition" called Counterfeit Unrealities, which contains the novels The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (which I'm reading right now), Ubik, A Scanner Darkly, and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Prior to the Dick, I read The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of and Apocalypse Pretty Soon (for some reason I cannot remember the authors' names), To Afghanistan and Back by Ted Rall.

I'm sure there were a few more but I can't recall them at the moment. I think I might try to write some reviews of the more current books in that list... or maybe not. I'm not very good at reviewing books. Anyway...


Under Attack?

For the past five days a World War II-era B-17 bomber plane has been repeatedly flying at a very low altitude over my neighborhood. Should I be worried? I'm afraid the thing may just break down in the sky and crash on top of my house. It doesn't sound too healthy. Maybe it's a bomber on its way to a target over Germany in 1944 and got trapped in some sort of temporal disburbance, and now the pilot is wondering what the fuck happened to the Krauts. Maybe I should contact the Department of Homeland Security? I should call somebody, it's getting really annoying. Thing is flying literally 50 feet over my roof. Those planes are loud. What an asshole.

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

That's our President

Imagine a two-wheeled device specifically designed so that any idiot could maintain his or her balance in virtually any situation; now imagine the unelected leader of the "free" world perfoming a first-class face-plant after losing his balance on such a machine. I guess any idiot was too much of a generalization.


Observation

It absolutely amazes me that people are so easily fooled into believing the warped reality issuing from the White House and Pentagon, especially since evidence to the contrary is as abundant as the air we breathe. The fact that I can turn on the evening news and hear the reporter say "more US troops died today in Iraq in the heaviest fighting since the end of the war" with a straight face, without any trace of irony or contempt, completely baffles (and disgusts) me. How can anyone honestly believe the war is over? It's actually simple: the administration has successfully convinced its subjects that we are not fighting soldiers, we are fighting terrorists and extremists; that way, we can feel good that the war is all over and at the same time justify why there is still fighting going on--it's not warfare, it's self-defense against terrorists. Never mind the fact that our government defines terrorism as something directed against civilians. Now that the war is "over," soldiers who get themselves killed are just victims of terrorism, not soldiers doing what they are trained and paid to do--die.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Weapons of Mass Convenience

"We" absolutely knew Iraq had banned weapons prior to our invasion. There were satellite images and aerial photographs, witness testimony, and gathered intelligence that indicated without a doubt that Saddam Hussein was harboring and creating weapons of mass destructions, and that he planned to use them against the United States or pass them along to those who would. None of this information was released to the public (which ultimately provides the cannon fodder for the war machine), and we were told to trust our leaders; We have the information to make the right decision, so don't question us. Besides, you don't want to die in a terrorist attack, do you? It will happen if you ask questions and lengthen weapons inspections. Only open war can save you...

The war is "over" and US forces are crawling all over Iraq. Of all those banned weapons that definitely posed a grave and imminent threat prior to the war--weapons which, we were led to believe, virtually littered the Iraqi desert in their abundance--searchers have found nary a trace. People started asking questions, making accusations; Bush & Co. blew them off, though not without appearing caught, and FoxNews pundits were starting to worry they would have to make good on all their "We'll admit we're wrong if no weapons are found" routines. Things were looking bad indeed. Then, all of a sudden, redemption: The Two Trailers.

Bush is using his current globe-trotting tour to gloat over the discovery of Iraqi Trailers of Mass Destruction and, therefore, the post-facto legitimacy of his recent foray. So, after months of being presented with threats of Iraqs murderous intent, the "smoking gun" presented to the people turns out to be only two rusted-out mobile trailers for which "experts" can find no practical explanation or purpose. So, despite no traces of actual chemical or biological weapons were found within the trailers (indicating that they had either never been used or were not weapons labs) or anywhere else in Iraq, warhawks and FoxNews anchors everywhere are nyah-nyah-nyahing the naysayers and pointing to the two abandoned "mobile weapons labs" as justification for killing hundreds, probably thousands of people. USA, USA USA!

But wait, there's more!

While Bush and O'Reilly both take a sigh of relief, Paul Wolfowitz pops up and tells an interviewer that banned weapons weren't the sole reason for the war--it was just the only one that everyone could agree upon. He chalked it up to bureaucracy, as well as a desire to get out of Saudi Arabia. Here's the except:
Q: Was that one of the arguments that was raised early on by you and others that Iraq actually does connect, not to connect the dots too much, but the relationship between Saudi Arabia, our troops being there, and bin Laden's rage about that, which he's built on so many years, also connects the World Trade Center attacks, that there's a logic of motive or something like that? Or does that read too much into --

Wolfowitz: No, I think it happens to be correct. The truth is that for reasons that have a lot to do with the U.S. government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason, but -- Hold on one second.

(Pause) ...

For the entire interview, go here. It's actually fairly interesting. Even more interesting is a recent speech by Wolfowitz in which he states:
"Let's look at it simply. The most important difference between North Korea and Iraq is that economically, we just had no choice in Iraq. The country swims on a sea of oil."

There you have it folks. Bush says it was all about the WMDs and the safety of United Statesians, but the people who make his decisions state it was a war for economic and strategic interests. Who are you going to believe?

Monday, June 02, 2003

Looking forward to my new job

I have felt nothing but relief over the past few days. I think my tension and overwhelming frustration ended the exact second I found out that Resident Bush finally signed his $350 billion tax cut into law. While I won't get a penny in the form of a government refund, I'm not the least bit upset since I understand that the money is much better off in the hands of the already-wealthy. I mean, some poverty-ridden mother of five who can't even feed her children isn't likely to offer me a job, right? So why give her the money that will eventually help me? All I have to do now is sit back, relax, and wait for the want-ads to start filling up with four million new jobs. It's going to be great... going to be great... going to be great... going to be great...

Sorry, I dozed off and was having a surreal dream. Pardon me.


Human rights and international law: Historical relics?

United Statesians are one precious step closer to a hard-fought victory in the perilous War on Human Rights and International Law.

...US Attorney General John Ashcroft has asked a federal appeals court in effect to nullify a 214-year-old law that has provided foreign victims of serious abuses access to US courts for redress.

Ashcroft's Justice Department has filed a "friend of the court" (amicus curiae) on behalf of California-based oil giant Unocal in a civil case brought by Myanmese villagers who claimed that the company was responsible for serious abuses committed by army troops who provided security for a company project.

But the department's brief was not limited to defending the company against the plaintiffs. Instead, the document, which was submitted last week to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California, asked the court to reinterpret the 1789 Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) in a way that would deny victims the right to sue in US courts for abuses committed overseas.

...

ATCA, which was enacted by the first US Congress as a tool for piracy on the high seas, permits non-citizens to sue foreign and domestic individuals or companies in the United States for abuses "committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States".

Since 1980, the act has been used successfully by victims of abuses committed by foreign governments and militaries overseas against individual defendants who were served with notice while living or visiting in the United States.

...

"Although [ATCA] is somewhat of a historical relic today, that is no basis for transforming it into an untethered grant of authority to the courts to establish and enforce (through money damage actions) precepts of international law regarding disputes arising in foreign countries," the brief said.

Moreover, it warned, the use of the act "bears serious implications for our current war against terrorism, and permits [ATCA] claims to be easily asserted against our allies in that war". In that respect, it "raises significant potential for serious interference with important foreign-policy interests".

...

"I don't think this has anything to do with the war on terror," said Malinowski. "I think this is motivated by a very hardcore ideological resistance within the Justice Department to the whole concept of international law being enforced. The notion that international norms are enforceable by anyone is repugnant to some in the Justice Department."

Collingsworth agreed that the move contradicted the avowed aim of the administration of President George W Bush to end terrorism. "Particularly today, with all this talk of the war on terror, to remove one of the few tools we have to address human-rights violations is the epitome of hypocrisy," he said, adding that he thought the Ninth Circuit Court would reject Ashcroft's arguments. "The Department of Justice filed the almost identical brief in the Marcos case in the late 1980s, and it was rejected."

Article.


Sunday, June 01, 2003

Ideas: Gotta Kill 'em All

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been part of a larger war, the War on Terror. They haven't been too successful to date; there is no less terror and no fewer people living under conditions that breed terrorists (indeed, now their numbers are increased). The world at large is less safe, and the United States is seen as much a rogue power as is North Korea or the former Iraq. Why the failure? Could it be that the United States has started a crusade not against a state, not against a specific group, but against an idea? It doesn't take much book learnin' to discover what history proves: an idea cannot be destroyed by force alone. Ask George III. Ask Nicholas II. The more force that is applied, the more the idea grows. Sure, we might kill or capture some people who spread the idea, and we may even get the guy who started the idea, but in the end it means nothing. It will still be there, passing from person to person, not ever going away.

Our leaders know this, of course; they depend on it. The War on Terror is a perpetual war, and our leaders have said as much. The US already dominates much of the world through its influence, but that is not enough anymore. We need to dominate the world in fact, and a perpetual war against something that cannot be defeated is the simplest, if not easiest, means of doing so. Our Great Leaders can tell their own people that they only wish to keep them safe and secure, while providing freedom to oppressed peoples across the globe. Most of us will believe it, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, while our leaders make a big show of "wiping out" terrorism abroad, they brazenly take away from us what they say they are giving to the rest of the world. Our liberty is apparently a small price to pay for security, whatever that is.

Perhaps the Bush administration will be successful, after all, in winning the war against the idea of liberty, finally prevailing after countless others have failed. Indeed, it appears that the only thing autocrats and monarchs of old were lacking in their Wars on Liberty and Liberalism was the perfect weapon: liberty itself. We now have the perfect method to wipe out freedom--convince the people they will lose all their freedoms and liberties unless they willingly sacrifice just a few, and not any that are particularly "important," in order to be "safe" and to assist in defeating the "enemy." As the "threat" to our freedom increases, the people will give away more and more just to feel safe. It's a simple strategy that serves the elites well. Bismarck would be proud.