Saturday, July 29, 2006

The war of our time and forgetting it exists.

Glenn Greenwald has a great post about how the neo-cons, after making huge, sweeping statements about how critical the war with Iraq is/was/will be, now want to ignore the whole thing, let the country collapse, and move on to the next phase in our grandious phase of remaking the world in our own image.

"It is the proponents of this invasion who have insisted that Iraq is the centerpiece of American national security, that it is the primary front in the war on terror, that failure is not an option, etc. etc. They used their militaristic posture in Iraq -- and the "appeasing weakness" of opponents of the invasion -- to win two consecutive national elections. And now that the extent of the damage they created is too glaring to be denied, they want to walk away from it all, insist that it's unfair to hold them accountable for it, and hope that the media moves on to more interesting and exciting adventures than the plodding, depressing collapse of Iraq.

"But along with the assault being waged on the rule of law domestically, Iraq is the political issue of our time. Our preemptive, disastrous invasion of that country has fundamentally changed not just the perception of America's character around the world, but America's national character itself. We spawned chaos, militia rule, and a sectarian civil war in the middle of the most inflammable region on the planet, and did so while knowing that chaos and lawlessness are exactly the conditions in which terrorists groups thrive.

"And we have no idea of how far things will unravel, of how far and wide this violence and instability will spread. But there is no greater danger to American national security -- no more potent ally of terrorism -- than the implosion of Iraq that our invasion created. And to know that, one can simply look at what the war proponents have been saying for the last four years.

"What rationale exists for not holding accountable the architects and authors and advocates of this debacle? It is not irrational that political challenges are being made against war proponents. What would be irrational is if there were no such challenges. Those who advocated this invasion -- and, worse, those who continued to insist that things were going well long past the time when it was clear that such claims were false -- have revealed themselves to be completely lacking in judgment if not integrity and honesty. It is self-evident that removing that faction from political power is a critical goal, arguably the most critical.

"It really seems as though the "plan" now in Iraq is just to step back and allow the whole country to collapse. That impression is strongly bolstered by the fact that war proponents seem eager to ignore Iraq and focus on other matters just as the civil war and destruction of that country seems to be reaching the point of no return. War proponents continuously argued that chaos, violence and instability in Iraq would be a grave threat to American security and a great ally of Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. And yet exactly that situation has resulted from our invasion, and now the proponents of the war -- and apparently much of the media -- want to just forget about all of that."

Dead on. Impeccable logic, impossible to ignore, except for the fact that it is being ignored by a large percentage of the population of this country, a larger percentage of our politicians, and pretty much the entire population of the corporate media.

Shooting at a Seattle Jewish Center and thoughts about a war with Iran.

I am just sick of this. My stomach has just been tied in knots for days, and I am unable to enjoy anything right now.

There was one bright spot to all of this, was the horrified reaction to the shooting of six young women, one pregnant, by some lone, pissed off American Arab. Everyone, including the Arab community here, immediately condemned this insanity.

I don't care if you are pro-Israel, pro-Arab, or think both sides are acting insanely, this kind of violence cannot be allowed to spill into American communities. If that begins to happen, all is lost. I doubt we will see the (mostly) peaceful protests that occurred during the Vietnam war. If we start having Israeli vs. Arab protests, things are going to get ugly here in our nice "safe and secure" country.

The drumbeat for war with Iran seems to be getting louder. Everyone is talking about it now. This reminds me so much of what happened in the run up to the war with Iraq. When I first heard of the subject, I was incredulous. They CAN'T be serious, can they? But, we saw how serious they were. Same thing here. We are still in the incredulity stage, but I think we are beginning to move out of that phase of planning. That seems to be the modus operandi of the neo-cons. Drive the conversation so far to the extremes that what now becomes the supposed “middle” position is far right of what the American people ever would have accepted if the subject had been introduced in a single speech. Many people are now not only accepting the idea of going to war with Iraq, they are now openly advocating it and saying that is the only logical thing we can do at this point.

The only solace I can take in this discussion is that it is so far removed from the reality of the situation on the ground is that the military people in charge cannot accept it. I think Bush and his war-mongering crowd will get quite a lot of push back. Not only have the civilians in control of the Pentagon totally screwed up the two wars we are in now, and the State Dept. is making trash out of the current situation in Lebanon, we don’t have enough men to do anything somewhere else, much less invade a country twice as large and much more advanced than the ones we are currently bogged down in. I just don’t see it as possible. Now, it is possible that the U.S. could possibly just go drop some bombs in, a’la Israel, and hope it all works out. But I don’t see how anyone with any sort of military background could accept that as a viable strategy. I’m not a military person, never professed to be one and hope to never have to be one, but even I can see that just sending over a bunch of B-2’s and B-52’s to drop several hundred tons of bombs on Iran isn’t going to accomplish much. It would be like walking up to a live hornet’s nest and whacking it with a stick repeatedly. This is NOT going to work.

So, I am currently hoping that our military people will act as some sort of check to these civilians whose grip on reality seems to be getting less and less every day.

I’m going to go get some Pepto-Bismol.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Old GOP vs. the New GOP

Wow. An "old guard" Republican saying that we should elect Democrats because the current crop of "Tom Delay" Rethugs are too corrupt.

I was wondering if this were ever going to happen. Now, I just wonder if it will get any traction, or be ignored like everything else the major media outlets ignore.

The Stupidest Thing I Have Heard This Week.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) compared people who believed in global warming to Nazis. Yeah, we regularly gas millions of people to death while trying to convince our politicians and corporations that they are harming the human race’s chances for maintaining a somewhat pleasant existence on this planet.

This isn’t the first time this guy has said something completely “out there”. From Wikipedia:

Inhofe is one of the most conservative members of either house of Congress; among other political stances, he strongly opposes abortion and gay rights. As a member of the Armed Services Committee, he was among the panelists questioning witnesses about the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. There he made news by claiming he was "outraged by the outrage" over the revelations of abuse, suggesting that shock at the crimes was more offensive than the crimes themselves. He has also criticized the Red Cross as a "bleeding heart." Against the wishes of the Bush administration, the Pentagon, and the American Petroleum Institute, Inhofe has persistently blocked American ratification of the international Convention on the Law of the Sea, claiming that the treaty would infringe on American sovereignty.

Here’s some more, courtesy of David Corn of AlterNet.

"One of the reason I believe the spiritual door was opened for an attack against the United States of America," Inhofe huffed, "is that the policy of our government has been to ask the Israelis, and demand it with pressure, not to retaliate in a significant way against the terrorist strikes that have been launched against them."

"In other words, on Sept. 11, God allowed airliners to be piloted into the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon because U.S. actions related to Israel were not to His/Her liking. How else to interpret Inhofe's words? A "spiritual door opened" for the attack? Well, who's in charge of spiritual doors -- and opening and closing them?"

Shouldn’t there be some sort of test for sanity before someone is allowed to run for office in Oklahoma?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Movie Review: Lady In The Water

WARNING: May or may not contain spoilers. Proceed at your own risk....

Since this blog is supposed to be about movies as well as bitching about the entire frickin' world falling apart, I better get in a movie post now and then.

O.K., well, I saw this one over the weekend. By the way, I didn't realize it was possible for my town to close some pretty nice, relatively new movie theaters with nine screens and move across the street to the newly revamped mall and put in a 16 screen movie place, and me not even know about it. That shows how often I go out to see new movies these days. Most of the ones that I see lately are of the cartoon variety, suited for a 10 year old girl. Actually, OVER THE HEDGE was pretty funny in places. William Shatner cast in the role of a hammy, over-the-top possum was a very nice touch.

But I digress. This latest effort by M. Night Shyamalan seemed somewhat interesting. The prospect of a water nymph was rather appealing, even after I scanned a review that said the film started out with some promise but faded after that. Not terrible. O.K., I'll check it out. I have liked his other films (aside from BROKEN) for perhaps nothing more than the tone and mood they set. A lot of people seem to hate SIGNS. I wasn't pleased with the ending, but I really liked the foreboding mood it set, and it had some lighthearted moments that I thought clicked. Didn't like the end, don't like being preached to by a film. But, all in all, not bad. Same with THE VILLAGE, although I saw that ending coming from a mile away. So, perhaps some film about a water nymph seemed like a good way to kill a Sunday afternoon while the family is still out of town. Besides, this new movie house has much cheaper matinees than the old theater had. Wonder how long that will last?

Well, LADY IN THE WATER started out pretty silly and progessed nicely downhill from there. I can see making a film about what is essentially a fairy tale for kids, but Mr. M. Night should really make up his mind if he is trying to be serious about it or not. The story was really amaturish, some of the acting really didn't work, and some of the supposedly lighter "comedic" moments didn't work at all. What is with the guy who lifts weights only on one side of his body? Where did that come from, and what possible bearing did it have on anything?

It was pretty bad, but then, I don't mind bad films at times. My video collection is full of them. But bad films trumpeting themselves as good films rub me the wrong way. Still, I stayed put until the end. It was sort of like watching how bad a 20 car pile up on the freeway can be, all in slow motion. "Oh, my God.... That is REALLY going to happen, isn't it?"

Mr. M. Night is taking quite a lot of hits for this one, I see. I suppose he deserves it. For one thing, if you are going to make what is essentially a fairy tale for kids, it shouldn't be set in a run down apartment complex outside Philly. That just doesn't really cut it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Glenn Greenwald on John Dean

I have long been mulling over what is behind the approach of the current brand of the Republican party. I had an earlier post called “Enemies” (Friday, June 23) about how Republicans/conservatives/whatever we call them now need to have an enemy and then they go out and attack that enemy.

Not that I am a terribly insightful person. It’s just very hard to ignore that those kinds of tactics that have become the weapon of choice for Republicans. But I just had all my scattershot thoughts and feelings coalesce when I read a piece by Glenn Greenwald on his blog titled “John Dean and Authoritarian Cultism - a Review”, where he reviews and excerpts John Dean’s book, and then adds some thoughts of his own. It’s all the stuff that I had been thinking about, but these guys add something that I never had before. “Why”.

I won’t go into trying to summarize. I suggest you read Glenn’s blog or by Dean’s book. I haven’t yet, but I plan on it.

Here is the ultimate scary thing for me, tho.

"Ultimately, as Dean convincingly demonstrates, the characteristic which defines the Bush movement, the glue which binds it together and enables and fuels all of the abuses, is the vicious, limitless methods used to attack and demonize the "Enemy," which encompasses anyone -- foreign or domestic -- threatening to their movement. What defines and motivates this movement are not any political ideas or strategic objectives, but instead, it is the bloodthirsty, ritualistic attacks on the Enemy de jour -- the Terrorist, the Communist, the Illegal Immigrant, the Secularist, and most of all, the "Liberal."

"What excites, enlivens, and drives Bush followers is the identification of the Enemy followed by swarming, rabid attacks on it. It is a movement that defines itself not by identifiable ideas but by that which it is not. Its foreign policy objectives are identifiable by one overriding goal -- destroy and kill the Enemy, potential or suspected enemies, and everyone nearby. And it increasingly views its domestic goals through the same lens. It is a movement in a permanent state of war, which views all matters, foreign and domestic, only in terms of this permanent war.

"Supreme Court justices who rule against the President on national security matters are tyrants, traitors and pro-terrorist. Journalists who uncover legally dubious government conduct carried out in secret are criminals who should be imprisoned for life or hanged. Virtually every political opponent of the administration's of any significance -- Howard Dean, Al Gore, John Kerry, the Clintons -- is relentlessly branded as a liar, mentally unstable, corrupt, seditious, and sympathetic to the Enemy.

"And even those who devoted much of their adult lives to military service to their country (often in ways far more courageous and impressive than most Bush supporters), or even those who have been longtime Republicans and conservatives, have their characters relentlessly smeared and motives and integrity impugned as soon as they criticize the administration in any way that could embarrass the President -- Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, the war critic Generals, Joe Wilson, Scott Ritter, Wesley Clark, John Murtha, John Paul Stevens, and on and on and on.

"It is a movement devoted to the destruction of its enemies wherever they might be found. And it finds new ones, in every corner and seemingly on a daily basis, because it must. That is the food which sustains it."

What Dean and Greenwald are saying that the people who are currently masquerading as Republicans are really large clusters of different groups whose only common, binding value is a pyschological need to identify an enemy and destroy them. That’s what they do. Past that, they have no real discernable agenda other than what occurs to them as they make crap up as they go along, and then cry “traitor” when people point out to them that what they are proposing is either obviously misguided or conflicting with their earlier stances.

This is one of the more frightening things that I have read. This now isn’t a clash of ideas, concepts, or philosophies. This is a battle between those on the left, who (in a very clumsy, rambing, and conflicted manner) would like to make this world better, and those on the right, whose sole concern seems to be the destruction of whoever they designate as their enemy.

All one has to do is look at the rantings of Ann Coulter, Mike Savage, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc. These people make a living, in fact, a fortune, by demonizing and dehumanizing liberals, Democrats, feminists, gays, etc., anyone they see who "isn't us". Orwell’s Two Minute Hate is becoming reality as we speak.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Best Line I Have Heard All Week.

Maybe I'll alternate between "The Best Line" and "The Stupidest Thing" posts. A little more variety never hurt anyone.

Micheal Kinsley, who writes for Time Magazine, recently had brain surgery. It was to implant some electrical probes. I guess the current they run through the brain (brrrr!!!) is supposed to reduce the effects of Parkinson's, which Mr. Kinsley is apparently suffering from. I would have never known anything like that, based on the quality of his writing.

Anyway, according to the essay at the back of the July 24 edition, the editor says "Kinsley's surgery took place on July 12 and went fine. His first words were, "Well, of course, when you cut taxes, government revenues go up. Why couldn't I see that before?"

Classic line, that. That's right up there with "Dying is easy, comedy is hard."

And it's very good that the surgery went well. I hope that he continues to publish his columns.

USAirways to sell advertising space on barf bags.

I suppose that if one of the purposes of this blog is to make fun and/or dissect the intent behind advertising, I should really take this on. It isn't much fun, though, as the joke has already pretty much written itself. I don't suppose USAirways is fooling themselves into thinking that people are really going to be comprehending an ad for, say, Pepto-Bismol, while puking their guts out, probably due to being bounced around the sky in some severe turbulence. That just wouldn’t happen for me. I don’t suppose these folks who devise and pay for advertising campaigns are that stupid. So, I suppose the alternative is that they hope that people will come across them while digging around in the seat back pocket in front of them while, I dunno, not looking at the safety briefing card that the flight attendant you are ignoring is holding up while you are looking at the box scores in the newspaper.

I just am not sure I see the connection between the ad and the viewer, in this case. With TV ads, they pretty much have a captive audience, unless said audience goes out to the kitchen to get a Bud Lite and a ham sandwich during the commercial break. Maybe they are banking on the complete and utter boredom that often sinks in with long flights, people will start rummaging around in the frantic hope they will find something to occupy their attention for a few minutes of the four and a half hour flight, stuck inside a large flying aluminum tube crowded with all sorts of people you don’t know and probably don’t wish to.

I am not sure I have seen such a weird ad campaign since the “Just Say No To Drugs!” slogan printed on the rubber mats inside urinals in men’s restrooms. (What, women don’t do drugs?) Yes, I could see how seeing that message, staring up at you while you have your willie in your hand, all strung out with your drug-of-choice, would really have an affect on your life. “Of course! Why didn’t I think of that!?! Just say No!”

Anyway, it will be an interesting experiment to see how long this proposed vehicle for advertising will work. Why do companies pay for this stupid stuff, anyway? I guess they are so desperate to saturate (Hmmm, unintentional pun there) the potential customer with their particular brand name, they don’t really care what in what form that ad comes in.

Some companies have more money than they really need, if they decide to spend it on stupid stuff like this.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Five dollar a gallon gas?

A commenter over at FireDogLake posted a link regarding recent trading activity on oil. This person who wrote this, purportedly a oil trader, says that the only time he has seen these trading patterns in the past has been preceeded by a jump of at least 10 dollars a barrel. He also makes a statement that someone is making a very large bet that there is something like a 70% chance of 90 dollars a barrel.

That's pretty damn scary. I can afford that, but I doubt a majority of the families in America can. At what point does our economy grind to a halt because no one can buy anything because it's too expensive, even if they weren't using all their discretionary cash to put gas in the car?

The Stupidest Thing I Have Heard This Week

Holy Joe Lieberman is saying of his opponent Ned Lamont (via FireDogLake):

"What my opponent is saying, and some of the hotheads who support him, is that if you’re not 100%, you’re not with us. When any political party begins to apply that kind of test, I think it’s already on the way to being a minority party."

I am actually in awe of how many different stupid things are actually contained in that one statement. Way to go, Joe!

Blogging for Godot.

I suppose I haven't had the correct mindset about blogging here. I thought it might be fun and a way to let off some steam. But mostly, it has been more of an exercise of trying to decide what would be worthwhile to write about and trying to find some inspiration to produce something that won't sound like exactly what this is, just some musing on issues that are covered in much greater detail and with much better insight than anything I could ever produce. "Lame" is perhaps the word I am looking for.

Maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe I should just post whatever crap comes into my mind for whatever reason. It ultimately doesn't matter anyway.

I do need something for my Stupidest Thing I Have Heard This Week post, tho. I suppose I should try to find something for that. It isn't like there is a dearth of such material out there.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

So, let me get this straight.....

The CIA has closed their Osama bin Laden unit, apparently some time ago. You know, the guy who helped mastermind and funded 9/11, the guy who Preznit Bush declared that we would get "dead or alive". And now we find that the Bush Adminstration was pushing for more freedom in pursuing wiretaps against Americans even BEFORE Sept. 11, 2001.

I am just at a loss here. American citizens are that much more of a threat than the guy who killed 3000 plus Americans?

Kafka meets Orwell.

For the last two years, I have been in a position of thinking that things couldn’t get worse than they are now. I am not now referring to the physical war in Iraq, or our sluggish economy where the workers are the ones who are suffering at the hands of the powerful. I am thinking more in terms of our society and how we address issues. Hypocrisy is rampant, opinions matter much more than facts, “attack the messenger” is the only response many people know, and the pursuit of power is the only game that matters. There no longer is anything resembling “for the common good”.

I cannot state which particular events are causing me so much concern. Rather, it is just the buildup of all of these various and differing events. All these different issues like the graft and deceit of companies like Enron and Global Crossings, the rationalizations for going to war in Iraq, the attack on science because it doesn’t support some people’s beliefs, the whole messy, interconnected Duke Cunningham/Wade Mitchell/Tom Delay/K Street Lobbying affair, the outing of Valerie Plame to discredit her husband Joe Wilson thing, Karl Rove’s game plan of eviscerating the opposition while keeping the country’s attention off of the dirty dealings going on, legal arguments in support of torture, the president breaking the law whenever he feels like it just because he is the president… The list is almost endless.

I get extremely depressed when I think about the direction our country is going. It’s hard to write about a single subject without going off on a tangent on a different subject. It’s overwhelming. And I find it impossible to write about a trivial subject and be funny and snarky about it, like I had really wanted this blog to be. I used to be very good at the trivial. I delighted in it. But now, it is very hard to pretend all these things aren’t going on.

One thing that bothers me in the extreme is what all this means for the future. All of the things I mentioned above are setting more and more precedents that unscrupulous people can use to their advantage in the future. It is the normalization of things that would be unheard of just 10 years ago. It is the nature of things in general to never remain static. Things only look static to us because our attention span is not long enough to actually see the changes going on underneath our collective noses. And because things never remain static, I see our society going in one of two directions. One, sanity can prevail and we can return to a more sane, logic drive approach to solving the immense problems our society currently faces. Or, the second option is that things can continue to spiral lower and lower and get further out of control. Yes, I see some aspects of society trying to put the brakes on the descent into a very disturbing future, but I am not sure it is enough. Enough segments of our population are either out of control or oblivious to what is going on that I don’t see a reversal happening any time soon.

Dictatorships and fascism don’t happen overnight. They need to grow and get strong first. Only a small percentage of the population of a society needs to support those changes at first. When everyone becomes aware of what is really going on, it is too late to stop it. That is what I fear going on with this country right now. Are we to be the next Roman Empire under Caligula? Or perhaps the next Italy under Mussolini?

Being able to see something developing through the lens of history is easy. It is extremely difficult to see something that is going on now and conclude where it might end up in the future. I think that is where we, as a society, are now.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

What are we doing in Iraq?

I mean, really! What are we doing? This is freakin’ incredible. We invade a sovereign country that wasn’t immediately threatening us, we don’t find the WMD that we based our entire argument for the invasion, there was not a connection with Bin Laden or any terrorist organization before the war (but there sure as hell is now!), we say we are “fighting the terrorists” but all I see is about 75% of the violence is Sunni vs. Shia and the other 25% is real terrorists just waiting around to strike at targets of opportunity. We cannot be seen as coming down on one side or the other in the civil sectarian strife, or else we will never accomplish anything until we are out of there because at least one of the powerful sections of Iraqi society will be aligned against us (if they aren’t already). Our third hand justification that “Saddam was an evil despotic dictator who tortured his own people” would sound a heck of a lot more convincing if we didn’t torture Iraqi people as well, without trail, without consul, with nothing more than a suspicion.

Now, it comes out that squads of Marines may have gone out and slaughtered dozens of civilians as revenge for the killing of one of their people, another soldier is on trial for murder, and now, we have one and probably more involved in the stalking, raping, and murder of a 15 year old girl, along with the murder of the rest of her family.

I’ll tell you, I wouldn’t blame the rest of the world if they never believed anything the U.S. said ever again. We are such hypocrites, which maybe wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that we have absolutely no idea what the hell we are doing. All we do is justify, in very offended and offensive terms, whatever the heck happens.

I feel very sorry for the military people that are put in these situations. I truly hope that the people responsible for these atrocities are held accountable, so that perhaps our presence over there will become intolerable to everyone. Then everyone can come home and we can try to work on things that truly matter. Like working on better security for our ports and nuclear facilities.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The stupidest thing I have heard this week.

This week's entry is from Preznit Bush, who could qualify an entry every week if I felt so inclined. Bush telling the Prime Minster of Japan that "he looks like a man who likes Amuricun beef" is certainly a winner. Does this man have to bring everything down to frat boy level, even high level political public events? Of course, this is from a man who calls Vladimir Putin, the leader of still a major power in the world, "Pootie Poot".

This man clearly has no idea how to act presidential when it doesn't involve stage props like aircraft carriers and drowned cities.