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Friday, July 30, 2004
 
Like Clockwork

I haven't watched much of the Democratic Convention this week.
I've been too busy, and nothing about it seems spontaneous or
newsworthy enough to care much about. I've criticized the upcoming
Republican Convention as little more than a coronation in the past;
but really, that's all the Democrats are up to in Boston, either.


The last real exciting convention, if you ask me, was the
Democrats in 1980 — and even then, everyone pretty much knew
that Ted
Kennedy's little insurrection
was never gonna fly.


Today, it's a truism that the Conventions are all just ceremony.
But truisms are, of course, true. Even the protesters are largely
just going through the
motions
:


A policeman outside Faneuil Hall
tells me gleefully that they are rioting outside the FleetCenter. By
the time I arrive at Canal Street at 4 p.m., I'm too late to see the
guys who were burning John Kerry in effigy. I am not too late to see
row upon row of riot police, in helmets and shields, blocking the
entrance to the FleetCenter. I count about 150 of them, glowering
like Imperial Stormtroopers. The street is still clogged with war
protesters, IMF protesters, and people protesting the conditions
under which the protestors are being forced to protest.


...


The man who's leading the
protestors is goading the riot cops. He's got a long gray beard and
he reassures the mostly young kids around him: “Whenever I feel
intimidated by a row of riot cops, I just picture all of them naked.”
Nobody laughs. The protesters decide to turn around and march back
the way they came. “Bye bye, coppers!” crows Graybeard.
The kids look embarrassed.


What? No puppets?


I'm not mocking the idea of protesting, mind you. It's just that
these people obviously have lost touch with what a real protest is
all about.


Protesting is an act, not a self-absorbed performance art.
You have to be mad about something — something real and
resonant — and you have to be mad about it in large enough
numbers to count.


And you have to have a sense of utilitarianism about it. All these
hippy-dippy, face-painted, washed-up puppet people are completely
missing the point of what a protest is all about. It's work,
dammit, working for change.


Otherwise, you're just putting on a show for the cameras; and the
more you do that, the less seriously people with a real
grievance will be taken, when the time comes for the Reeboks to truly
hit the road.


 
The Dark Side Of The Moon

“Doonesbury” creator Garry
Trudeau
is interviewed in the current issue of Rolling Stone
magazine. He spends a considerable amount of time in it discussing
his relationship with fellow Yalie George W. Bush.


It seems the two came to loggerheads quite early in each others'
careers, too. The Rolling Stone article itself is not
available in its entirety online, so an article referencing
the interview
will have to do for the moment:


Trudeau said he penned his very
first cartoon to illustrate an article in the Yale Daily News
on Bush and allegations that his fraternity, DKE, had hazed incoming
pledges by branding them with an iron.


The article in the campus paper
prompted The New York Times to interview Bush, who was a
senior that year
[1967].
Trudeau recalled that Bush told the Times “it was just a
coat hanger, and ... it didn't hurt any more than a cigarette burn.”


I suppose Dubya speaks from experience? Is it safe to assume that
he, too, bears this Scarlet Deke somewhere upon his person, to this
very day?


During the (unlinkable) Rolling Stone conversation, Trudeau
rather offhandedly reveals the physical location of those branding
scars. None of the articles about the interview includes this point;
in fact, if my memory serves me right, it's the particular part of
his statement (above) that is obscured by the ellipsis.


Perhaps that's because Trudeau describes the brand as having been
placed on the “backside.”


The backside? As in ... the (ahem) “arse?” Could it be
that the physical perfection of our Dear Leader's body has been
marred by a cruel blot upon the Presidential Ass?


As tantalizing as this would be, it is not quite the case. The
original 1967 New York Times article describes the location of
the conjectural burn as the “small
of the back.
” Another, later article goes into even
more detail
:


Bill Katz, now a community college
teacher in northern New Jersey, told STAR that the branding
was done with “a wire coat hanger twisted into a triangle and
heated up” in the fireplace.


They touched you just
above the buttocks, in the small of the back,” he says.


Well, that would still place it in pretty close proximity to the
Presidential Ass. Perhaps Trudeau was just a little mistaken with his
lunar geography.


Or perhaps not. According to this old Guardian article,
Trudeau's comment was spot on — and back in 1999, he took
the time to prove it, too
:


On Tuesday [September 21, 1999]
Doonesbury interrupted its normal cartoon format with a photograph,
taken circa 67, of a flesh burn in the shape of the Greek letter
Delta on an unidentified undergraduate Yale buttock.
The photo,
which shows the DKE brand, was taken by Martin Oppenheimer, now a
Washington investment manager, who snapped it when he was working for
the Yale Daily News and Mr Bush was president of the “Deke”
fraternity.


Shows you how often I read “Doonesbury.” I had no idea
such an episode of the strip existed.


The STAR article also mentions that the upperclassmen beat the
living crap out of their pledges while all this was going on. That's
not surprising; such hijinks were standard
operating procedure
in your average mid-twentieth century
fraternity. It regrettably
still is
, in some of the more retrograde
sections
of the country.


And no — before anybody mentions it on the comment board —
not in my house. If anybody had tried any crap like that on me
when I was a pledge, I would've walked in a heartbeat. And if anybody
would've tried to pull it on a pledge when I (like Dubya) was
President, I would've perp-walked them in a heartbeat, too.


But, y'know, or Dear Leader is cut from a heartier cloth than I,
it would seem. Reportedly, he was an enthusiastic participant in his
house's goings-on.


Judging by what we know of his character, I think there can be no
doubt he gave
out as good as he got
, if not more.


Thursday, July 29, 2004
 
An Introductory Course In Newton's Third Law Of Counterterrorism

One of my pet theories about the 9/11 tragedy is that the feds
were in fact closing in hard on the hijackers when the whole thing
went off.


In other words, the scandal might not be that Our Boys did nothing
in the weeks leading up to the tragedy; but rather that they did too
much — that they may have triggered the event by showing
their hand too early in the game.


Consider this
news item
, released just the other day:


A Muslim charity shut down by the
U.S. government in the aftermath of Sept. 11 was charged along with
seven men Tuesday with supporting terrorists by funneling money to
Hamas, the extremist group responsible for suicide bombings in
Israel.


The Holy Land Foundation for Relief
and Development, its president, executive director, chairman and four
other men were named in the federal indictment. The seven men were
expected to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.


Ashcroft held
a press conference
on it later. Being that this is the Bush
Administration that we're talking about, some have broached the
entirely reasonable possibility that all this was timed to take some
thunder away from the festivities in Boston.


Maybe. But one could look at it the other way around, too. Perhaps
it was the Democrats who were the distraction in this case.


Not that anyone in the media would look too closely anyway, but
there's a bit more to this story than meets the eye. Let's go back to
that article for a minute:


Holy Land had close ties to
InfoCom Corp.
, a computer and Internet-hosting company in
suburban Dallas that was raided a few days before the Sept. 11
attacks.


That raid occurred on September
5, 2001
, and was anything but a minor affair. An 80-member
unit
known as the “North
Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force
” stormed the offices of
InfoCom that day, seized their equipment, and spent the next several
days pouring over every detail they could unlock from the company's
hard drives.


And, incidentally, they blacked out a significant chunk of the
“Islamic” side of the internet in the process. InfoCom,
you see, was a major
player in that arena
:


Among the more than 1,000 Web sites
shut down as a result of the raid were a number of popular Islamic
portals and news services that serve as important forums for Muslims
in the United States and around the world, Awad said.


Sites shut down in the raid
included Aljazeera.net (which Awad called the “CNN”
of the Islamic world), as well as sites operated by the U.S. and
Canadian Muslim Student Association and the Islamic Society of North
America.


According to the article, the Al Jezeera website was down
for ten hours before the feds let InfoCom fire it back up; other
organizations were offline for days. At the time, the FBI denied that
their actions had anything to do with terrorism, or even the Middle
East
.


The indictments coming out now, of course, contradict
all that
; and even back in 2001 it was whispered that the raid on
InfoCom was all about the Holy
Land Foundation
and its connections
with Middle Eastern terrorists — in this case, Hamas.


Speaking of terrorists, it was the very
next day
after all this stuff went down (September 6, 2001) that
Osama bin Laden reportedly gave his final go-ahead for the September
11 operation to commence.


I'm not discounting the possibility that the two events may be
aligned only by chance. Yet, there has been plenty of speculation in
the intervening years pointing to the idea that the September 11 plot
was supposed
to be much bigger than it turned out to be — and that it had
been truncated and “moved
up
” in response
to pressure
from advancing US authorities.


While the 9/11 Commission recently put forth a contrary notion
that the attacks were in fact postponed,
this does not appear to be an hypothesis that sits well within the
rank-and-file at the FBI. Investigators at the agency seemed
genuinely bemused by the commission's assertion, since their line of
speculation had always been towards the opposite tack.


In that sense, then, my pet theory is hardly radical; there are
plenty of investigators who are willing to believe that the 9/11
attacks were, in essence, a rush job. The conventional wisdom,
however, is that if the operation was sped up, it was in response to
the arrest of
Zacharias Moussaoui
in Minneapolis. The InfoCom raid is never
mentioned in this context.


Which does seem a little odd. According to the 9/11 Commission
report, al Qaeda wasn't
even aware
that Moussaoui was stewing away in federal custody until after the attacks were over; while on the other hand, the FBI's knockout blow to InfoCom must have been known to
Islamists around the world within hours, if not immediately. A
circumstantial link between the InfoCom raid and a speeded-up
September 11 operation can be placed much closer together than any
such Moussaoui arrest/September 11 combination.


That ought to be worth at least a debunking or two by the Powers
that Be, rather than the dead silence we've received on the subject.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004
 
The Boy Who Was Never Good Enough

From the way Bill
Saletan at Slate describes it
, one would come away with
the impression that Jimmy
Carter
spent most of his time
on the podium
at the Democratic National Convention yesterday
mumbling incoherently, complaining about his hip, and hollerin' at
the neighborhood kids to get the Hell off his lawn.


I didn't catch Carter's
speech
, but it seems to me that if anyone would have the right to
spout
a little bile
in the direction of the Republicans, it would be
the
guy
who spent the last quarter of the twentieth century as their
favorite
chew-toy
. Considering how they've whacked
him around
down through the years, Ol' Jimmy would be forgiven if
he'd dolled himself up in warpaint for the occasion, brandished his
favorite musket, and shook the rafters with a howl to the faithful
for many, many scalps.


But unlike our current president, people always had high
expectations for Jimmy. Consider how Saletan even uses Carter's
impressive military career against
him
:


When Carter was president, his
early career as a Navy submarine officer was treated as an
afterthought. But in the year of Kerry, no opportunity to centralize
military service is left unexploited. Both Harry Truman and Dwight
Eisenhower, the presidents under whom Carter served, “faced
their active military responsibilities with honor,” the man
from Plains recalls. Because they knew the horrors of war, they
exercised “restraint and judgment” in the White House, he
says. Kerry, who “showed up” for duty in Vietnam, would
resume that tradition, Carter adds.


Ouch. This is Mr. Nice Guy?


No. That was Mr.
Military Guy
talking, Bill. As in Lieutenant James Earl
Carter, USN (Ret.) ... Annapolis, class of 1946.


And doing submarine
duty
by 1949:


Detached from [USS]
Pomfret
[a submarine]
on 1 February 1951, Carter was assigned as Engineering Officer for
the precommissioning detail for USS K-1 (SSK 1). K-1,
the first postwar submarine built, was under construction by Electric
Boat Division, General Dynamics Corporation, Groton, Connecticut.
After K-1's commissioning on 10 November 1951, Carter served
as Executive Officer, Engineering Officer, and Electronics Repair
Officer. During this tour he also qualified for command of a
submarine.


When Admiral Hyman G. Rickover
(then a captain) started his program to create nuclear powered
submarines, Carter wanted to join the program and was interviewed by
Rickover. On 1 June 1952, Carter was promoted to Lieutenant. Selected
by Rickover, Carter was detached on 16 October 1952 from K-1
for duty with the U. S. Atomic Energy Commission
, Division of
Reactor Development in Schenectady, New York. From 3 November 1952 to
1 March 1953, he served on temporary duty with the Naval Reactors
Branch, U. S. Atomic Energy Commission, Washington, DC to assist “in
the design and development of nuclear propulsion plants for naval
vessels.”


Unfortunately, Carter had to cut his obviously promising career
short in '53 when his father died; thus did Jimmy begin his more widely-known
career as a Georgia peanut farmer.


But don't forget, the man was a nu-cu-lar engineer, too.
Dubya may quack all he wants about God wanting him to be president,
but can you imagine anything more Providential than having Carter
sitting in the White House when Three
Mile Island busted up
?


Behind the scenes he [Carter] had
been taking an active part in the management of the crisis. No sooner
had the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Harold R. Denton arrived at
the plant site than he was pulled from his initial briefing there to
take a call from the president. Carter had questioned him at
length and often, asking specific and technical questions,
and
finally they had made it a matter of routine that Denton would call
Carter at 7:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. each day to brief him on the
technical state of the reactor.


During one of the earliest
briefings, when several of Carter's technical questions could not be
answered, the president asked one official dryly, “Do you think
there is anyone there [at the site] who knows what's going on?”


My, how history goes in circles; I'm pretty sure that's the same
question
Jimmy asked last night.


Monday, July 26, 2004
 
The Bohemian Confab Is On

Ever since I'd written my post on that annual
Bacchanal of weird elitism
known as Bohemian Grove, I'd intended
to keep tabs on it as soon as it revved up again for the summer. Being
that this is an election year, and The Grove is where a lot of
right-wing
machinations
are often hatched, I wondered who of our president's
men would try to sneak in the trip.


Last year, you may recall, Karl
Rove
was there ... hangin' tough with (then)
soon-to-be-Governator
Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Silly me, this year's festivities have already
started up
... the thing's been going on now for over a week, and
I hadn't bothered to check up on it one bit.


I always knew that it starts up around
late July
; but late July, to be honest, is perhaps the most
difficult time of year for me to keep a focus on. Chalk it up to the
fact that it's the exact same time as my birthday, and I really have
never liked to think about birthdays very much.




Past is Past: The Gipper and Tricky Dick engaging in
boozy machination at the Grove, circa 1967.


According to the government website it was pulled from, the above
picture is entitled
“Breakfast at Owl's Nest Camp.” “Owl's Nest” is the name of one of the many sub-camps that make up The Grove, and the one to which Ronald Reagan is reported to have been a member.


Speaking about The Grove, a related page on the website includes this pithy little comment:


In accordance with popular American
mythology, Dr.
[Glenn] Seaborg [the man sitting at Nixon's left in the photograph] likes to describe the exclusively elite
campground and club, The Bohemian Grove, as a place, “where all
the important people in the United States decide the agenda for our
country the following year.
” In this photgraph
[sic]
they are doing it early in the morning over a Gin Fizz breakfast.


Yes, and as I recall from my previous research, the topic for the
morning was something to the effect of: “please,
please, please don't run for president this year, Ronny.

According to that same San Francisco Chronicle source, by the by,
Bohemian Grove was also where Dubya unofficially asked Dick Cheney to
be his running mate, back in 2000.


Dubya, you may recall, just recently took
off for vacation
. According to all sources, he
will be spending it
at his fabled ranch in Crawford, Texas.


Of course, even if he were going to The Grove this year, no one
would write about it now. As far as I can tell, that's never done —
at least until after the fact is safely established as history.


It is telling, however, that out of the only two weeks he'll be
spending on official vacation this summer, half
of it is scheduled to coincide
with this year's Grove gathering.


Saturday, July 24, 2004
 
America The Burlesque

I first realized what an ironic country twenty-first century
America was sizing up to be when I heard, a few years ago, about the
arrest of Dmitry Sklyarov
:


Mr. Sklyarov was arrested at Def
Con, a conference for hackers, on July 16
[2001],
the day after he had given a presentation on electronic book security
to an audience of several hundred. As he was preparing to check out
of the Alexis Park Hotel to go to the airport, F.B.I. agents told him
and a co- worker to put their hands on the wall. According to a
statement by the co-worker, Mr. Sklyarov laughed, thinking the
F.B.I. agents were part of a bad joke
, because the presence of
federal agents is a longrunning theme at the counterculture Def Con
convention.


Sklyarov (who was visiting this country
from Russia) was nabbed
by the feds because
...


... his company ElcomSoft sold
(and he worked on) a product that converted said eBook format to
ordinary PDF. This violates the DMCA's circumvention provision, which
prohibits circumventing any encryption that serves as a form of copy
protection. Never mind that the program was built and sold in
Russia, which has no such law.
(Neither do Canada or Europe, at
least not yet.) Never mind that there are legitimate uses for
ElcomSoft's product, such as exercising your Fair Use rights or
having a speech synthesizer read you the book if you are blind.


Twenty-first
century America
... where a Russian national can get
arrested for being the author
of a document
that is considered illegal
under American law
.


But not under Russian law. You know — where it was actually
written.


Sklyarov, at the time a 26-year-old computer programmer with a
wife and two small children waiting for him back in Russia, was held
in this country
against his will for several months before the
inherent contradictions of the US government's actions against him
became too embarrassing for them to keep
him around
any longer. Elcomsoft was ultimately
acquitted
of all charges by a jury one year later, in December of
2002.


But that doesn't end twenty-first America's ceaseless quest to
turn itself into a cartoonish parody of itself. There's another
instance of red, white and blue irony just come down the
turnpike — this time involving that purely twenty-first century
American institution, the Department
of Homeland Security
:


A Homeland Security inspector was
charged Friday with violating a Chinese tourist's civil rights
following an altercation that left the innocent woman's eyes nearly
swollen shut and bumps and bruises on her face and head.


The incident occurred late
Wednesday at the Rainbow Bridge on the U.S.-Canadian border in
Niagara Falls, after Customs and Border Protection officers
confiscated marijuana from a male pedestrian.


Officer Robert Rhodes,
mistakenly believing the Chinese woman standing nearby was involved,
allegedly sprayed her with pepper spray, threw her against a wall,
kneed her in the head as she knelt on the ground and struck her head
on the ground while holding her hair, according to witnesses.


Needless to say, she had nothing to do with it; but at least
she'll have an interesting story to tell all her friends and
coworkers when she gets back home.


To China.


Y'know, we really ought to change the name of that “Rainbow
Bridge” setup. In this scary,
post-9/11, so
very dangerous world
that we
live in
, it just seems kinda out of touch with reality, don't you
think?


I hear “Checkpoint
Charlie
” is available.


Friday, July 23, 2004
 
Santayana Smiles

The truth is cruel, but it
can be loved, and it makes free those who have loved it.”



Count America's historians out of the pro-Bush crowd.


I'm not going to pretend that this is a terribly remarkable or
surprising development. Historians are, after all, academics; and a
pro-Bush academic makes about as much sense in this day and age as a
termite at Stonehenge.


Still, these here historians went through all this trouble to come
up with a neat graph, and it details with such amazing precision the
whys and wherefores of their loathing for ol' Chimpy
McWhistleass,
that it's well worth wasting a post just
to reproduce it here
:



I think even Dubya would get this one.


Since proto-neocon Leo
Strauss
was an historian, I think it's safe to say that those 19%
suffering under the delusion of Bush's grandeur are undoubtedly those
damned fool neocon friends of his. And knowing how
the neocons operate
, it would be equally safe to guess that they
each of them voted as early and often as they could just to jack
Dubya's numbers up that high.


Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”



I wonder if the votes were electronically
tallied
?


 
Goof Gas

The Republican-controlled Congress made another attempt to pick at
the national gay-marriage scab yesterday. Coming on the heels of the
Senate's undeniably limp attempt to throw the issue in the Democrats'
faces, this time it was the House
of Representatives
acting all red-faced and frothy for the
cameras.


The House's “Marriage
Protection Act
” passed comfortably; but of course the
Senate won't be touching it any time soon, meaning that it's yet
again another empty
gesture of defiant prejudice
flaring out over the capitol.


Frankly, the whole thing is getting just plain boring —
goddamn boring, in fact — and I wouldn't be bringing it
up at all if it weren't for one unintentionally hilarious quote that
caught my eye.


It comes to us straight from the gomer side of the aisle, of
course
:


[Representative
Steve]
Pearce [R-NM]
said the bill didn't deny gay rights, but upheld “natural law.”


Gays and lesbians should
be allowed to marry, but if they want to marry they will have to
marry men and women,”
he said. “This bill does not
eliminate any group from the Constitution.”


I'm right with you on this one, Representative
Pearce
. Gays and lesbians should only be allowed to marry
men and women — as opposed to, say, farm
animals
, pets,
houseplants, kitchen appliances, minor
deities
, et cetera.


Marriage requires consent; and as such, simple logic dictates that
it should only be arranged between sentient and mutually
comprehensible beings. That would seem to be the small-government,
libertarian
take
on the whole matter; I'm glad to see the Republicans are
finally tuning in to their claimed heritage on the issue.


Unless, of course, Representative Pearce is just too stupid to
arrange his comparatives correctly. In which case, the debate is
still on.


Although one wonders how such a debate can continue, with one side
showing such a flawed capacity for basic reasoning ability.


Thursday, July 22, 2004
 
The Great White Wacky North

We in the United States may think of ourselves as the most
entertaining
people in the world
; and, to be truthful about it, we sure give
it the good
ol' college try
.


But when it comes to pure weirdness — I mean the kind that
comes from plain, unscripted eccentricity — you have to go
north. No doubt about it, my fellow Americans, Canada's where all the
high-grade
wackiness
is at these days:


Two Toronto women who were among
the first same-sex couples to marry in Canada are now seeking what
may be the first Canadian same-sex divorce.


No, no ... that's not the wacky part. Trust me, it gets better.


The women married on June 18, 2003,
a week after a landmark court decision legalized same-sex marriage in
Ontario, Canada's most populous province. They had been together for
nearly 10 years, but separated after five days of marriage.


Amusing, yes; but wacky? I don't think so. Keep the line moving,
people. Others want to see this exhibit, too.


While more than 3,000 same-sex
couples married in the last year in Canada, the Canadian Divorce Act
had not been amended to reflect the new reality of gay marriage.


These people were legally
married, but under the law of our land cannot be divorced until the
Divorce Act is changed,” said Julie K. Hannaford, a lawyer for
one of the women.


To divorce, the couple must have a
judge with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice rule that the
current Divorce Act is unconstitutional. The case is to be heard on
Sept. 13.


Wackiness ahoy!


And the brilliance of it! The slack-jawing, tongue-lolling, eye-dazzling brilliance of it! Canada, by your sacrifice, you've saved the North American Nuclear Family Unit.


If Canadian law won't allow for gay marriages to be dissolved,
then that drives one great big, rusty, railroad spike right through
the forehead of that whole gay-marriage-as-family-atomic-bomb
canard. Think of it: if close
to 50% of all heterosexual marriages
break up in divorce, but
100% of all homosexual ones last a lifetime, then not a soul
in Christendom could ever
accuse gays
of being the anti-family subculture.


Plus, with all of them ho-mo-sexuals securely boarded up in
their monogamous marriages, the rest of us can finally feel safe from
the siren call of those “recruiting”
expeditions
you churchified
fundos
are always quacking
off
about.


Still, it's a virtual certainty that the Ontario Superior Court
will rule in favor of the divorce. Canadians may be an eccentric
people, but they're nothing if not pragmatic.


Though if they had any imagination, they'd do it my way.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004
 
The Dearborn Kite-Flying Festival

Ford Motor Company announced huge profits for its most recent
quarter yesterday, and still its stock went down for the day.
Investors were unhappy with the disturbing
images darting back and forth
in their crystal balls:


Profit at Ford Motor nearly tripled
in the second quarter to $1.2 billion, but its shares fell Tuesday on
concern the No. 2 U.S. automaker had relied too heavily on its
lending division during the quarter while losing money in its core
business, manufacturing cars and trucks.


Ford's net income of $1.2 billion,
or 57 cents per share, was up from $417 million a year earlier. Ford
Credit contributed $897 million, more than doubling its results from
a year earlier.


But automotive operations posted
a pretax loss of $57 million.


But many analysts said the earnings
level was not sustainable.


So Ford loses money making cars, but makes it back in spades by
lending money out to people. Presumably so they can buy more cars
from Ford.


At thousands
of dollars
in cash-back financing, and 0%
interest
.


Yeah, that doesn't sound like a terribly
sustainable
business plan to me, either.


 
The Butler Did It

I hadn't been paying much attention to the new and sudden
imbroglio over the old Niger/Iraq “yellowcake” chestnut.
Frankly, it wasn't popping up on my personal radar screen because I'd
been scanning for news about Valerie Plame,
rather than Joseph
Wilson
.


Silly me, I thought Ambassador Joe was old
news
by now. Wasn't the more ominous part of the story the fact
that an entire CIA
intelligence-gathering
operation
had been trashed in an attempt to get back at him? You know ... with
the hundreds of lives at stake, contacts compromised, blown leads ...
that sort of thing?


Apparently not. Near as I can tell it, the Big Narrative in
Washington is suddenly that because Wilson may
have lied
about two
peripheral points
in his story, it's suddenly
unimportant
as to whether or not national security was
compromised:


... we suggested that if Mr. Bush
had indeed falsified the case for war, his offense would be a grave
one — but we cautioned that all the facts were not known. We
still don't have all those facts — and some of the
investigations of them, unfortunately, will not be completed before
the November election
. But over the past 10 days two major
official reports, by the Senate intelligence committee and a special
British commission, have concluded that the claim in the “sixteen
words” may, after all, have been justified. Britain's Butler
report called it “well-founded;”
the bipartisan
Senate investigation said the conclusion was a reasonable one at
least until October 2002 — and that Mr. Wilson's report to the
CIA had not changed its analysts' assessment.


Yeah. It's too bad that we won't be able to finish up on those
troublesome “facts” before the November elections come
along.


As for Wilson not changing any analysts' minds at the CIA, I
always got the impression that was because the agency agreed
with him
in the first place. It's kinda hard to have any discord
when you're both singing off the same sheet music.


What is to be learned from these
findings? Not necessarily that Mr. Bush and his top aides are
innocent of distorting the facts on Iraq. As we have said, we believe
the record shows that they sometimes exaggerated intelligence reports
that were themselves flawed. A case against Saddam Hussein could have
been made without such hyperbole; by indulging in it, the Bush
administration damaged its credibility and undermined support for the
Iraq mission. But, as both the new reports underlined, no evidence
has been presented that intelligence on Iraq was deliberately
falsified for political purposes ...


Sure, OK ... I'll give you that; but, that's what they're going
to talk about in November!
Why would there be any “evidence”
presented of administration pressure in the reports, if the 9/11
Committee hasn't even been allowed to debate that point yet?


As for the Butler
report
, it decided that Tony Blair's statements about the
Niger/Iraq connection before the Commons (i.e. Great Britain's
version of the “sixteen words” debate) as being
“well-founded,” because the information he based it on
was deemed to be “credible.”


That's it — credible ... as in, “believable”
or “plausible.”


That same report, it should be pointed out, also came to the
conclusion that British assertions regarding Iraq's (still
undiscovered) mobile bioweapons labs were “reasonable,”
and that it's still possible for coalition forces to uncover evidence
of clandestine Iraqi WMD programs lurking somewhere in the country.


What the report can't find evidence of, however, is that any such
uranium transaction between Iraq and Niger was carried out, nor even
that the alleged contacts went beyond the feeler stage.


What do they have, then? Near as I can tell, the whole case
is based on the following circumstantial proof:



  1. Iraqi officials contacted Niger officials about “trade”
    back in the late
    nineties
    (a fact that has
    never been disputed
    by Ambassador Wilson) ...


  2. Yellowcake uranium makes up about three-quarters
    of Niger's exports
    , and ...


  3. There were these forged
    documents
    back in 2002 that ... uhhh ... never mind. Go back to
    point #1; unless you're British, in which case ...


  4. We have other
    evidence
    , but it's secret. Go back to point #1 and try again.



That's what they've got. It's a flimsy, circular argument; and,
gratifyingly, there is at least one
newspaper
in the country that recognizes this as so.


And again, none of the obfuscation and nit-picking going on
changes the fact that a CIA
agent's cover
was blown out of the water over this, the network
she was a part of
has been fatally compromised ... and that
someone
in the administration
has powder burns on his fingers.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004
 
Cheap Channel In Retreat

I gave up listening to radio a long time ago (sorry, Uncle Mike).
Between the MP3 explosion, the proliferation of excellent online
streaming sources (yes, Uncle Mike, MPR
too), and the generally ghastly state of modern commercial radio,
sometimes it's a struggle to even remember that the medium exists.


I do have this one radio in my home, a quaint little faux-antique
“cathedral” style thing that mostly just decorates my
fireplace mantle and gets turned on — oh, I don't know —
about once a month or so, mainly just to make sure that it still
works. Maybe — if I get that miniature USB
FM broadcaster
for my computer that I've been dreaming about —
maybe then I'll keep that radio warmed up on a more regular
basis.


So that I can ... uhhh ... use it to play all that fine
streaming internet audio
.


It isn't coincidental that I cooled off to regular radio at about
the same time that Clear
Channel Communications
began to emerge as boss
of bosses
in the airwave turf wars. It wasn't a philosophical or
political reaction — I barely even knew that Clear Channel
existed at the time — but rather a recognition that the quality
of radio was dropping, precipitously and rapidly.


And the commercials. Wow! One of the benefits of having been
sealed in a radio time capsule circa 1996 is the ability to recognize
just how obviously overrun the commercial medium is with ... well ...
commercials. Throw in the inane DJ chatter, and it's a wonder
anything informative or entertaining goes on at any of these
stations.


It's gotten so bad, in fact, that even Clear Channel has figured
out something
has to be done about it
:


John Hogan, president and chief
executive officer of Clear
Channel Radio
, announced Monday that strict limits will be placed
on the number of commercials that will air per hour and on the length
of spot breaks on all 1,200 stations owned by the Texas-based
operator.


Commercial clutter, which has
exploded in the past decade to more than 20 minutes an hour at some
stations
, has become radio's Achilles' heel. The new limits,
effective Jan. 1, will vary by station format.


Even if it means a short-term loss
of revenue, Hogan acknowledged during a recent visit to Chicago, he
is determined to lead the way in improving the value of radio
relative to other media.


According to other sources, Clear
Channel's own “promotional” inserts
are also a part
of this reduction. Dare we hope this means a reduction in all that
twitch-inducing DJ chatter I was talking about?


Hogan's reference to the “value” of radio should not
be confused with actual broadcast quality, however, except in the
broadest sense. Remember: this is “Cheap
Channel
” we're talking
about
:


Hogan now [2003] claims that
ratings have nothing to do with a station's revenue and that market
share does not automatically equal more profits. “One of the
things long important to and characteristic about radio has been
market share," said Hogan in a recent statement. "But while
we want to be focused on competing against other radio stations, we
want to be even more focused on profitability than market share now.


...


Clear Channel corporate CEO Lowry
Mays probably didn't read Halberstam's book
[“The
Reckoning
” — a devastating critique of the Detroit
auto industry in the 1970's]. Earlier this year [2003], he
told Fortune Magazine, “We're not in the business of
providing news and information. We're not in the business of
providing well-researched music. We're simply in the business of
selling our customers' products.”


What a difference a year makes. What suddenly concerns them this
year is the fact that the proliferation of ad space has cheapened the
value of their advertising — and with it, the value of the
company.


It's a supply-and-demand
thing:


U.S. radio broadcasters have been
grappling with excess advertising time at lower prices after cranking
up the level of ad minutes per hour in the late 1990s. The sector has
lagged an advertising rebound this year for other media, particularly
cable television and the Internet.


Last month, a number of investment
banks downgraded leading radio owners such as Clear Channel
Communications, Westwood One Inc. and Citadel Broadcasting Corp.,
saying no end was in sight for slow sales and weak prices.


Still, no matter what the reason, the result has to be some
increase in quality.


On country music stations, for
example, peak morning broadcasts would be limited to 12 minutes of ad
time per hour, and fewer minutes than that during other day-parts, he
said. Commercial breaks will be no longer than four minutes, or six
ads, on such stations, he said.


News, talk and information formats
will have a slightly higher threshold than music stations of several
more minutes for ad time.


It's probably not enough to give me a reason to fire up that radio
on the mantle (I'm afraid they'll have to break
up the oligopolies
for that), but it's a start. I'll give 'em
that.


Monday, July 19, 2004
 
Letters Of Transit

My first reaction was, 'We
need to get the fuck out of this place.' I had lived in Prague. I had
lived in Berlin. I'd seen this movie before. We were in a pot. And
that water was getting hotter. But my wife said, 'I'm staying.' And I
said, 'If we're staying, I'm going to stay and fight.'”



  • Bill
    Scannell
    , former Army intelligence officer and “online
    agitator,” describing his initial reaction upon hearing about
    CAPPS II.



When Charles Green was told he would be placed on some kind of
Homeland Security “watch
list
” for a harmless phrase he scribbled on an in-flight
crossword puzzle, I assumed the guard-monkey who told him this was
talking
about CAPPS II
(i.e. “Computer Assisted Passenger
Pre-Screening System II”), the yet-to-be implemented nationwide
traveler database.


Make that never-to-be implemented. Homeland Security
Director Tom Ridge announced last week that CAPPS II was “dead,”
even going so far as to symbolically
drive a stake through its heart
.


Meaning our Mr. Green can rest
easily now
, right?


Of
course not
:


The name CAPPS II may be
dead, but the process of creating an automated passenger
pre-screening system to replace the current CAPPS will continue.

What form that takes, that's what we will continue to focus on. Due
to operational factors (such) as public comments on CAPPS II
proposal, we are now redesigning the program itself.”



  • Suzanne Luber, Homeland Security
    spokesperson



So basically they're changing the name, and maybe tweaking the
code a little. They'll get back to us when they've got that kinder, gentler passenger screening system all whipped up for us.


The whole process should take at least until the end of the year —
certainly not before the November
elections
. Or another terrorist
attack
. Or both.


At any rate, Mr. Green and Mr. Scannell, don't cancel your tickets
out of the country just yet.


 
2006 Or Bust

Tony Blair may not have to face the music just yet, but there are
certainly some ominous
tuning noises
coming from out of the orchestra pit:


Of rather more importance is
how the public feel about the revelations in the Butler report. I am
sure the prime minister will come to realise that the people of this
country will not make a distinction between being lied to and being
misled by omission. All that will concern them is that they have been
deceived and they will be rightly angry about it.


I believe the prime minister is
fatally damaged. The time has come for his friends to advise him to
go with honour and dignity at a time of his choosing. The alternative
is to wait until his enemies drag him down or the electorate makes
the decision for him.”



There was a significant minority of Labour
dissent
against the war back in spring of 2003; all told, nearly
a third
of all Labour backbenchers voted against the war. Had the
main opposition party (i.e. The Tories) not been at least as gung-ho
as Labour leadership was for the fight, the vote could never have
been pulled off.


Significantly, MP Smith was not a part of that rebellion; hers is
a loyal worm that's turning.


Faced with this distant
but distinct rumbling
, the Blairites
have come up with a truly
novel
defense strategy — a
move to the right
!


Blairites have been quick to put
their gloss on last Thursday's polls to wavering MPs, arguing that
the results suggest that
[Gordon]
Brown
[Tony Blair's chief
opponent within his party]
— as a more left-wing
leader, untarnished by the war — would not help marginal MPs to
keep their seats. In Birmingham, they argue, a New Labourite IT
entrepreneur who fought a right-wing campaign on crime and asylum
narrowly won; in Leicester South, an anti-war councillor, who fought
an old-fashioned contest on service cuts, lost.


Running a pretty hard New
Labour campaign with a New Labour candidate delivered, when the other
one didn't,” says one ally bluntly. Blairites are coming out
fighting.


Yes, it's true. Labour actually went all law-and-order in the
recent by-election. Riffing off an old
standby
from America's Republican
party playbook
, Labour
actually accused the LibDems of being soft
on crime
!


Even so, it is awfully specious of Labour to contend that this
strategy is working
, considering that Birmingham was always
considered a LibDem longshot, and yet Labour only won it by a few
hundred votes.


It was — and is — all really about
the war
, and everybody knows it:


Tomorrow's [July 20] debate
on Iraq will bring the parliamentary year to a dramatic end, and it
could have a profound effect on the mood of MPs as they depart for
their summer break.


Labour backbenchers, demoralised by
the Government's failure to kill off the controversy, will be
desperate for Tony Blair to help them shake off the issue. They
expect him to begin regaining the trust ebbing from the Government
among voters over the past year.


Meanwhile, back in the orchestra pit, the players are starting to
compare each others' sheet music.


Michael Howard, the Tory leader, is now honking in the key
of an American Democrat
, tearing
at his clothes and swearing
that he never
would have gone along
with those duplicitous Labourites had he
known how crumby the pre-war intelligence had been. Charles Kennedy
and the Liberal Democrats are tootling out much the same thing —
adding truth to their power by the reminding all who will listen of
the fact that they never
wanted any part of this damned war
in the first place:


Sir Menzies Campbell, Liberal
Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said Mr Blair should use the
[July 20] debate to apologise for taking the country to war.
He said the prime minister's future could hinge on his performance.


The prime minister's
position will depend on the extent to which he is able to defend
himself credibly in front of the House of Commons,” he said.


Indeed. The prime
minister's
position ... or his
party's
. Labour may seem to hold a commanding majority in
parliament, but flush out just a hundred or so angry
enough backbenchers
, and couple it with a plain vanilla
party-line vote from the opposition forces, and you've got yourself a
dissolved
parliament
.


Such drastic developments may
seem unlikely
at this juncture; however, Blair's only got until
June
of 2006
before he has to call for a general election no matter
what. At the rate
things are going
, his party is never going to be able to regain
enough confidence with the electorate to call
them out
any earlier than that.


Does Tony Blair have the skill and fortitude to white-knuckle
it all the way to 2006
?


Does his party?


Saturday, July 17, 2004
 
Blairly Legal

When Tony Blair says his prayers every night before going to bed,
he'd better be praising his Almighty from the carpet to the rafters
of 10 Downing Street for the 159
seat majority
that his party holds in the Commons.


I imagine tonight he has a little extra thankful bit of prayer reserved
for the fact that this
story
, if it had to come out, at least didn't break until the day
after that critical by-election:


Downing Street admitted
yesterday that MI6 embarked on an unprecedented cover-up
after it
withdrew intelligence supporting the Government's dossier on Saddam
Hussein's weapons of mass destruction because it was unreliable.


In an astonishing admission after
the disclosure of the cover-up in yesterday's Independent, Tony
Blair's official spokesman said MI6 decided not to tell the Hutton
inquiry — set up to investigate the death of the government
scientist David Kelly — that crucial intelligence on
Saddam's chemical and biological weapons was unsound.
The
security services, he said, felt it was “too sensitive”
to be made public. The head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, also
decided not to tell Mr Blair. The Prime Minister's spokesman said
Mr Blair only became aware of the withdrawal of the intelligence as a
result of the inquiry by Lord Butler of Brockwell, which was
delivered three days ago.


This plausible denial garbage is really getting old. We're now
supposed to believe that intelligence agencies on both
sides of the Atlantic
conspired (independently of each other? In
collusion?) to withhold critical, war-related information from their
respective elected governments.


And that said governments were made up of such dewy-eyed,
trembling fawns that no one in them ever called the spooks out on
their rigged-up claims.


All the while they were gamboling about their meadows last year, the whole of hoi polloi Britannia was abuzz with the
news that the government's Iraq dossier had relied on unsound
intelligence — that it had been “sexed
up
” — in order to make a better case for war. Amd yet it was a situation about
which Prime Minister Tony
Blair, apparently, had no more information to ruminate over with his
Cabinet than what your average Pub Philosopher could get by cracking
open his Daily
Mail
.


And when the going got rough, and his government's
case
began to fall apart, who took
the hit
for this?


The
BBC
, of course. For reporting
it!


And let's not forget about Dr.
David Kelly
, the whistleblower who first clued Antie Beeb in on
that infamous “dodgy
dossier
.” What situation did this put him in?


The implication was that if
an invasion went ahead that would make him
[Dr.
David Kelly
]
a liar and he would have betrayed his
contacts, some of whom might be killed as a direct result of his
actions. I asked what would happen then and he replied in a throwaway
line he would probably be found dead in the woods.



And then — like some particularly nasty Coen
brothers movie
come to life — it
all went down
, exactly like he
said it would
:


The decision to withdraw the
intelligence was taken in July, last year, the same month that Mr
Blair was forced to call the Hutton inquiry into the circumstances
surrounding the death of Dr Kelly, who was named as the source for
reports that the dossier had been “sexed up” by Downing
Street.


Exactly a year ago, Dr Kelly
went for his fateful walk in the woods.
Mr Blair is finding it
impossible to draw a line under the events that his death set in
train.


Yeah, Tony. “Beware
MacDuff
” — to harken
back
to an earlier post.


There's
a lot of
shady
stuff
going
down
in
the world
these
days
, but this garbage has got to be some of the most
bull-shittingest of bullshit that ever fertilized a meadow; I mean,
how deep do you have to be wading in it before you realize
your feet are getting wet?


Friday, July 16, 2004
 
Get Thee To A Nunnery

Get thee to a nunnery: why
wouldst thou be a breeder of sinners?”



Barbara and Jenna Bush have been been granted extended leave from
their respective nunneries,
and have joined daddy on his campaign trail. Maureen Dowd kindly
points out the obvious
significance of this
:


The president and the first lady
said the twins weren't public figures, yet here are their figures in
public. The strapless sisters are helping a campaign that's
increasingly strapped. Barbara and Jenna, glamming like the Hilton
sisters, are in gowns in Vogue, and in vogue on the trail,
giving Dad some much-needed cover by uncovering their shoulders.


I really don't get Dowd's fascination with fashion
commentary
. Did she work her way up from the society pages?


That said, it was Dubya's right to try and maintain some sense of
privacy for his children — with the understanding that they
are, by
default
, very public figures. When they leave the nest, however,
and become willing
public figures
,
then it's time to reshuffle
the shoe
.


But Vogue! Gosh, that's quite a risk for the Bush Girls.
Isn't that basically just The
Nation
, only with perfume inserts?


Sure ... I could pick up a Vogue and check that out for
myself; but then, I'm too lazy for fact-checking this morning, and
I'm afraid those perfume slips will give me a headache if I sniff
them before I've had my coffee.


So I'll just let good ol' USA Today do all the heavy
lifting for me. Here are some of the highlights
of the interview
, courtesy of the “nation's newspaper:”


The girls call each other “Sister”
and say they are best friends.


Now that's unimaginative. You'd think they'd come up with
something more befitting their twinship, like “Thing One”
and “Thing Two.”


They love Mexican food, Starbucks
soy lattes and sushi.


Must ... resist urge ... to ... punch ... them. Must ... resist
urge ...


Jenna is dating and Barbara has a
serious boyfriend. They don't name names. Their father “is very
funny with boyfriends,” says Jenna. “He's the
joking-around-to-the-point-where-he-scares-the-heck-out-of-them
type.


Yeah, he's jokey that way with me too. Does this mean I'm dating
one of the Bush twins?


Jenna says her parents have the
“best marriage” because “my dad thinks my mom's
funny even though she's really not.” First lady Laura Bush is
“cute; she has funny quirks,”
including an obsession with cleanliness, Jenna says.


Uhhh ... Jenna, did your dad mean funny: “ha ha,” or
funny: “hmmm ....?”


I think flustering about the house muttering about spots
that never fully come out
might fall squarely under the “hmmm
...” category, but that's just me. I could see how your father
might think that's a hoot, though.


'Cuz, y'know, Condi
does exactly the same thing ...


Thursday, July 15, 2004
 
A Domino Wobbles ...

The results are in, and the only way the Liberal Democrats could
have done better would be if they had won both seats.


And for that matter, they came pretty close to doing
just that
:


The Liberal Democrats just missed a
spectacular by-election double early today when they won Leicester
South and came within a few hundred votes of defeating Labour in
Birmingham Hodge Hill.


Labour squeaked home in Hodge Hill
as their candidate, Liam Byrne, saw the party's general election
majority of 11,618 slashed to 460.


In Leicester South, the Liberal
Democrat candidate, Parmjit Singh Gill, overturned a Labour majority
of 13,243 to take the Midlands seat on a tide of anti-war sentiment
by 1,654 votes.


The Conservatives were pushed into
third place in both seats on a dismal night for Michael Howard.


It's true that by-elections (with their attendant lowered voter
turnout) generally favor the opposition. Still, Labour has nothing
to celebrate
in these developments, other than the fact that at
least they're not the Tories
.


As for the Liberal Democrats, however ... well, for a political
party that has spent the last eighty years or so as barely
relevant footnotes
, this has got to be some kind of nirvana.


A little history lesson here: The Liberal Democrats are to
all intents and purposes
a continuation of the old British
Liberal
Party
. Prior to being supplanted by Labour early in the last
century, the Liberals were the chief party of the left in British
politics.


Back in the 1920's, Labour ran
the Liberals
into the ground with a stunning series of fast
and hard electoral raids
from the left. Now it appears as if the
LibDems are sizing themselves up to see about a return of the favor.


More irony: it was another war (in this case, World War I) which
fractured the
Liberals
, and sent them trudging off into their long exile.


They've come a long way in recent years, however. In the most
recent general elections (2001) for South Leicester and Hodge Hill,
the LibDems came in a distant
third
, behind even the Tories. In fact, the LibDems were almost
invisible in the Hodge Hill district the last time around, garnering
barely 8% of the vote.


To put that in perspective, even the freakish
British National Party
got almost half what the LibDems got from Hodge Hill back then —
and like I said ... they're freaks.


 
Still Hating After All These Years

This is a public service message from the People of Ireland, who
want to remind you that they were engaging in acts of religious
stupidity long before Osama even lit
off his first firecracker
:


Catholic hard-liners attacked
British soldiers and police Monday after daylong parades across
Northern Ireland by the Orange Order, the province's major Protestant
brotherhood. No serious injuries were reported.


In north Belfast, rows of troops
and riot police prevented direct clashes between passing Orangemen
and the Catholic residents of Ardoyne, a power base for the outlawed
Irish Republican Army.


...


The holiday, observed each July 12,
commemorates the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. On that day the forces of
the newly crowned Protestant king of England, William of Orange,
defeated a rival army loyal to James II, William's deposed Catholic
rival.


The annual parades feature
Orangemen in suits and bowler hats, teenagers and young men playing
fife and drum in so-called “kick
the pope
” bands. Thousands of Orangemen also travel from
nearby Scotland to participate.


What a special way to commemorate a dubious
moment
in Irish history. Guys gettin' all dressed up like extras
from “A Clockwork Orange,” marching around to old-timey
dorkmusic
, and symbolically whacking on a Parkinson's-afflicted,
hunched-up, 84-year-old
man
with their flutes.


With any luck, however, such goofiness may be rendered moot in a
generation or two. Both England
and Ireland
are in the EU; assuming that the proto-nation
of Europe
continues its inexorable
formation
into a true
federation
, Fenians
and Ulstermen will
find themselves sharing the same bathwater, no matter what.


 
Rue Britannia

I may not know enough about British politics as I would like; but
I do know that Prime
Minister Tony Blair's
government is wading deeper and deeper into
electoral trouble. Intelligence review whitewashes may carry some
water on our side of the Atlantic Ocean, but I suspect the
non-colonials
will be a bit more suspicious of what
lies under all that paint
:


Prime Minister Tony Blair says the
case is settled: a new intelligence review that clears his government
of intentionally exaggerating the threat posed by Iraq shows his
government joined the war against Saddam Hussein in good faith.


His opponents are not convinced.
They hope to capitalize on widespread public opposition to the war
not to mention the review's finding that British intelligence about
the Iraqi threat was flawed during elections Thursday to fill two
vacant parliamentary seats.


It certainly can't help any that Blair's whitewash is coming so
quickly on the heels
of our whitewash. If there's anything worse
than an unbelievable
alibi
, it's a copycat
unbelievable alibi
.


The by-elections going on today are in two seats that are ordinarily considered
to be safe for Labour. British politics, however, are hardly
ordinary
these days.


Were they more like us staid Americans — with only
one viable opposition party
to deal with — there would be
no real problem for Labour. The Tories aren't any threat in
either district, and don't appear to be getting anywhere nationally.


Besides, there's not a soul in Avalon dippy enough to consider
leaning on the party of Maggie Thatcher as an antiwar crutch. If
anything, the Tories were hemmed in from the start by their
longstanding tradition as the pro-war party, no matter what the
cause.


But like I said, British politics aren't ordinary; and the Tories
aren't
the real threat
here:


The polls, seen by many as a
referendum on Mr Blair's leadership, are expected to see the Labour
vote collapse in protest at the Government's decision to go to war in
Iraq.


As all three parties prepared a
final push to win voters, Labour and the Liberal Democrats were
predicting that the results would be extremely close. In Leicester
South, where the Liberal Democrats are trying to overturn a 13,000
Labour majority, a “photo finish” between the Liberal
Democrats and Labour was being forecast.


The Liberal Democrats believe they
can gain the seat if Tory voters, and those supporting the anti-war
coalition Respect, back them. But Labour said it was “quietly
confident” of victory in both constituencies. In Birmingham
Hodge Hill and Leicester South, the publication of the Butler report,
and the fresh focus on the Iraq war it brings, will harm Labour's
chances.


Yep. The Tories aren't even in the picture.


I always wondered if Bush and his neocon freakshow regarded
hauling Britain into their quagmire with them as a win-win: put
Labour in an impossible position, and watch the Tories score!


If so, then they (typically, for them) forgot to include
just one critical factor
while hashing out their complex,
neo-Straussian algorithms:


We did not support the
war.
We do not like the occupation. We would like to see the UN
put in charge not the US. That clearly will influence people but so
will a lot of other things”



Britain has a very
real
, and increasingly
valid
, third political party. If anyone's going to be the big
winner out of this, either now or in the long run (or both), it's
them: those antiwar, left-leaning LibDems.
They may not be strong enough to build a government of their own
anytime soon, but the
odds are getting increasingly good
of them becoming the
deal-breakers in a future coalition government.


It would be especially so if they were to win even one of the
districts up for grabs. Remember: these are Labour
strongholds
; a significant LibDem presence in either
one would be a
major indication of roiling electorate disfavo(u)r. And they don't
even have to take a swing to the right to do it!



“WHAT?
WHAT?! I CAN'T HEAR YOU! ... WHAT?!


By the way, Charles Kennedy's statement (see above) was
issued
during a speech at Masjid
E Umar Mosque
, in the heart of the contested Leicester South
district. Both seats up for grabs have significant
Muslim populations
.


I wish I could wish
you good luck
, Tony; but ... well ... you know ... I'm still
smarting from that strange
bedfellow
that you let in.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004
 
The Ugly America

Messages from a future America continue to leach over to us here
in the present one. This is seldom a good sign; prophetic
circumstances rarely emerge because the people are doing right by
Providence, do
they
?


... the inquisitor must have liked
my story, because he let me off the hook. Or at least that's how he
made sure I felt: that he was letting me skip ... this time.


Maybe he sensed that I
white-knuckle on airplanes unless I have three shots of vodka.
Perhaps my background check told him that I'm a secular Jew or that
ex-girlfriends contend that my fear of commitment surpasses that of
any Hugh Grant movie character. In other words, I don't exactly fit
the profile of someone who would align with a radical cause to bring
down an airplane he's already afraid he'll crash in. Even so, the
honcho gravely warned me that while I hadn't crossed the line, I had
walked right up to it. And for that I would be on Homeland
Security's watch list.


What did this poor schmo do to get himself on Homeland Security's
bad side? Read the full article and find out; it's supremely creepy,
I assure you.


Unless you're Gladys
Kravitz
. In which case, huzzahs all around for the New Order!


Nevertheless, the “honcho” who made the threat was
exaggerating a little. Homeland Security (which, I feel the need to
point out, is a title that just makes my flesh crawl) does not have
such a watch list available.


Not
available yet
, that is:


The government established the
Terrorist Screening Center last year to consolidate 12 existing
government databases on suspects into a unified watch list that
local, state and federal law enforcement authorities can access.

For example, officials who screen visa applications or individuals at
U.S. ports of entry would be able to get information from the center.


Located at the FBI, the center
became operational in December, but has not yet developed a
consolidated watch list for authorities to use. DHS Secretary Tom
Ridge told the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in early
February that the merger of watch lists would be accomplished by this
summer.


The department's 2004 strategic
plan released this week however, states that a fully integrated watch
list database will not be available until the end of 2004 at TSC,
said Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., ranking member of the Senate
Governmental Affairs Committee.


So Mr. Green (the
guy
in the original article) can relax; he wasn't actually put on
any such “Homeland Security watch list.”


Oh no, no, no, no, no ... not at all. More than likely, he was
just plugged into one
of those
twelve other databases — the ones that are
going to be integrated into the watch list.


And the national watch list won't even go online until the end of
the year. That gets Green at least six months get out of the country
before the
harassing begins
.


That's plenty of time. More than enough time, in fact, for a
goddamn trouble-maker like him.


[Insert patriotic anti-France message here]


 
Tom Cruise Just Woke Up In A Cold Sweat

A future superpower recently held a mock exercise with the current
reigning superpower ... and the emerging power came out on top.


No, we're not talking about the Chinese (thank God!), but rather a
friendlier future competitor, the
Indians
:


Gen. Hal Hornburg, head of U.S. Air
Combat Command, said a U.S. air-to-air exercise with the Indian Air
Force in February, in which India used Russian jets to defeat aging
American F-15Cs, revealed “that we may not be as far ahead of
the rest of the world as we once thought we were.”


...


U.S. defense officials have said
Indian SU-30, Mig-27 and older MiG-21 jets, some armed with
Russian-made AA-10 air-to-air missiles, got the best of F-15s based
in Alaska in exercise “Cope India” high over northern
India.


An initial impression of this story would be that the US is
beginning to lose its technical edge when it comes to war-fighting,
and indeed that appears to be part of the picture. The “aging”
F-15C is still considered to be the Air Force's top-of-the-line jet
fighter, despite the fact that it's been a part
of our arsenal since 1978
.


The dulling
of our technical
edge
is a big
issue
, even if it will take the general
population
a long
time to realize
it is at hand. But in this case, it's only part
of the story.


In this case, there may be a reason beyond mere
technological complacency for the stagnation of our fighter
development. There may not even need to be a replacement for the
F-15C, whether it becomes obsolete or not.


Why? Because the age
of the Top Gun may be over
:


One thing that happened in the war
in Afghanistan, and another thing that didn't, have military experts
like Bacevich doubting that the Air Force needs the F-22 or the F-35
[i.e. the next generation of
fighters]
— at least not in the quantities the Air
Force is seeking.


What happened was that thanks to
the accuracy of satellite-guided bombs, the venerable B-52 bomber
could provide close air support to ground troops from high in the
sky. Bombers are now superior to fighters in that role because
they can carry a larger amount and a greater variety of ordnance, and
can stay on station longer.


What didn't happen was Air Force
fighters playing a major role in the Afghan war.
There were no
air bases close enough to Afghanistan from which they could operate,
and no Afghan planes capable of challenging U.S. air superiority.


With the new technologies available, even those
ancient B-52's
may have more relevance in modern warfare than the
standard fighter. We're probably moving into an era when advances in
missile, drone, and robotics technologies will make such front-line
aircraft obsolete.


Not that there won't be new models of fighters coming into play.
According to the article, the first of those spankin'-new
F-22's
will start entering the squadrons in 2005, and the F-35's
a few years
after that
:


The Air Force has a “minimum
requirement” for 381 F-22s at an estimated cost of $72 billion.
The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps plan to spend $200 billion more
on the F-35, which won't be fielded before 2007. In addition, the
Navy plans to spend $51 billion to acquire 460 F/A -18 Super Hornets,
an upgraded version of a fighter bomber designed in the 1970s.


[Air Force Col. (retired) John]
Warden said the Air Force should cancel the F-35, buy only 100 F-22s
and challenge the aerospace industry to develop within five years a
hypersonic bomber that could strike targets anywhere in the world
from bases in the United States.


Colonel Warden was the person who planned the First Gulf War, so
he knows a thing or two about air power. Still, nothing short of an
Act of God will stop that
money being spent.


We could really
use
that $272 billion, though.



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