Saturday, July 5, 2008

Blog #43: A Creative Juices Overflow

Our creative juices have been overflowing of late, and to give them a proper direction we have created the following television commercial which we hereby donate without asking compensation to the John McCain presidential campaign.

Scene: Fully armed American soldiers storming a residence in Iraq.

Narrator: We here at the Bush administration know that wars can get quite boring after four or five years, even the ones we start, and especially those we are not winning. (Don’t you dare translate not winning to losing. The American military does not lose!) You will be interested to know that our president feels the pain of your boredom, night after night seeing the same old soldiers storming the same old buildings.

Scene: More soldiers storming more Iraqi residences.

Narrator: Now we’re not altogether dumb here in the Bush administration, in spite of what some of you nasty bloggers out there might infer. We know we sold you a bill of goods back in 2003, a bill of goods which allowed us to invade the independent nation of Iraq without causing John and Suzy Q. Public to get their entrails tied up in knots. And we also know that as of now most of you know that what we sold you back then was a fictitious bill of goods.

Scene: Soldiers storming building dissolves into a tranquil nighttime scene. A pastoral scene of peace and beauty, palm trees gently shimmering in the breeze, their swaying illuminated by moonlight.

Narrator: However, that was then, and this is now. Our new warnings come from very special intelligence we have obtained from deep in the heart of Iran. Intelligence which is true and accurate, honest injun! Did you know that Iran is working night and day to develop nuclear weapons? I realize that they have given testimony that they are pursuing only peaceful uses of atomic energy, and our government’s own intelligence sources reported that Iran had given up nuclear weapon development back in 2003. Well, if you believe that my friends I have an administration in Washington which I would be happy to sell you. Cheap.

Scene: The darkness of the night is suddenly lit up by a gigantic flash, the ensuing firestorm creating a gigantic mushroom cloud which fills the screen.

Narrator: However, you must take claims like Iran is only developing atomic energy for peaceful purposes with the gigantic grain of salt it deserves. For in the Iranian language of “death to all Americans and Israelites”, do most certainly means don’t, and won’t of course really means will. Our president knows this, and he is most anxious for you to join him in this knowledge, so that he might spice up your evening news with nightly freshly taken Pentagon footage of myriad streams of bombs leaving the gaping bomb-bays of our noble flying machines on their way to their new home in Iran.

Scene: Gaping bomb-bays show streams of bombs in perfect alignment as they fall to the land below. Far below the series of resulting explosions looks tiny in the great distance as they strike the ground.

Narrator: That’s all there is to it, my friends. Not one word out of any of you is guaranteed to bring nightly scenes of destruction like this to your high definition television screens like you won’t believe, and it will also help ensure John McCain’s election to the presidency, which will mean the enthusiastic continuation of all of those mid east policies you have grown to know and love during the Bush years.

Scene: shifts to an Iranian road lined with women and children shedding tears of joy and holding flowers and waving to the unending line of oncoming hunvee vehicles bearing the troops of the American occupation.

Narrator: And there in a nutshell you have the story of president Bush’s Iranian invasion, the victory of which we can assure you will come a lot quicker than our Iraqi victory has. And ladies and gentlemen, if you can believe this we have a John McCain presidency for your consideration.
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Well friends, I really hate to bring this up at a time like this, so soon after our country’s birthday, but I am afraid that as a nation we are in what a classical mind might term DEEP EXCRETA! We’re talking mile high stools here, if you get my drift. Just be careful not to stand downwind from it.

As I see it our problem is that we happen to have this president who has the absolute lowest rating in the entire history of presidential popularity polling, and who from all appearances could care less. However as he nears the blessed end of his highly delusional reign word is that he is finally becoming concerned with his legacy. It's about goddam time! Now it’s a damn shame he didn’t think about this when he needlessly invaded Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003. Or in the ensuing five years as our troops’ monthly losses have continued to pile up. Just like most of the rest of us W. seems to prefer waiting until the last minute to worry about his legacy, and now that it is finally creeping up on him he has evidently acquired a brand new fixation. It seems Iraq and Afghanistan are no longer enough, his newest crusade is to prevent Iran’s dabbling in nuclear weapons by militarily engaging Iran, thereby saving Israel and the free world from extinction. He views that as his legacy. Yes, you read that right. Two’s not enough, three’s company, right?

Well, not that he gives a tinker’s damn, but how would you grade the George W. Bush administration? Would you grade it high, in the middle, or down the tubes? And what one word would you pick that sums up the Bush legacy? My own personal grade of the Bush 7 years and counting would be less than one grade point out of ten. Maybe 50% of a point, 75% at best. And the one word I would choose to characterize the Bush years would be incompetence. Massive unrepentant incompetence. No matter what they tried, the war in Iraq, pursuing Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, or reacting to Hurricane Katrina, this administration has managed to consistently fail in truly spectacular fashion. In fact the only thing they have succeeded in doing is running up what is undoubtedly the largest debt in our nation’s history. In my eighty plus years of life I have yet to observe a government attempt to reach higher and fail more miserably than this one. Even Richard Nixon was able to attempt to somewhat balance his negatives with a level of competence that saw him through until the Watergate thing opened its toxic can of worms.

Republicans tried to impeach Bill Clinton over a small, personal moral failing (a failing which I strongly believe just about any breathing male of our species would fall prey to), but in the case of Bush there is a wealth of real impeachable material. Manipulation of intelligence reporting on Iraq weaponry, implying there were WMD where there were none, pulling the inspectors out of Iraq before they could ascertain that Iraq was indeed free of WMD (they didn’t want the inspectors to succeed in not finding WMD because they wanted to invade), the push to invade in spite of the United States long standing reluctance to invading a country that was of absolutely no threat to us, the stacking of the Justice Department with Bush political loyalists, the torture and mistreatment of prisoners of war ignoring the Geneva Conventions, and finally the hitherto unprecedented indifference to the suffering of our own American citizens who were the victims of the fury of Hurricane Katrina. The list is a long one, and these are true crimes and misdemeanors against our citizenry, but as we said the Democratic spine is lamentably weak. Unlike their Republican counterparts Democrats seem to have no stomach for the negatives of impeachment. However, as the curtain is pulled back on the remaining days of the administration of the Bush the late Molly Ivins liked to refer to as Shrub, one wonders whether Democrats should be ingesting some spine enhancing beverage. For there seems to be a dark cloud hovering over our immediate horizon.

In spite of the intelligence reports that Iran had quit pursuing atomic weaponry back in 2003, our dear, thrice blessed George W. seems to be currently fixated on Iran’s possible interest in the development of nuclear weapons. If you have the money rush right out and buy the current issue of The New Yorker magazine. If you don’t have the money you can google the article on your computer. It is essential reading, and pasting the URL below into your browser’s destination window will bring it to your waiting eyeballs:

According to author Seymour M. Hersch, “Bush and others in the White House view him (Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) as a potential Adolf Hitler,” a former senior intelligence official said. “That’s the name they’re using. They say, ‘Will Iran get a strategic weapon and threaten another world war?’ ”

“One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

“This is much more than a nuclear issue,” one high-ranking diplomat told me in Vienna,” reports Hersch in the article. “That’s just a rallying point, and there is still time to fix it. But the Administration believes it cannot be fixed unless they control the hearts and minds of Iran. The real issue is who is going to control the Middle East and its oil in the next ten years.”

Also according to Hersch’s piece, “A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

OMG! What in god’s name are they smoking in the west wing? Does Bush really think his legacy is going to depend on his starting up of yet a third middle east conflagration? I wonder where he got that notion? It sounds like some of that wonderful old Karl Rove pipe dreaming shining forth. Could it be that because Rove managed to get Bush reelected in 2004 by the skin of his teefy-teeth-teeth, under the premise of the nation should not change horses midstream in a war, that Bush is still clinging to the fiction that war somehow strengthens his position? And therefore his legacy? Is it really true that because Americans are getting tired of the news from Iraq, that maybe they would respond more favorably to news of a brand new inferno across the border in Iran?

Would some denizen of the west wing please step forward and inform his most delusional excellency that his legacy is not hanging on the opening of yet another front in the middle east. Is our military is not stretched more than enough being engaged on two fronts? The fact is they are so stretched that they require civilians to drive their trucks and prepare their meals, and all of that of course at many times the expense of what those same services would be costing if the military was handling them for themselves.

Now you’re talking a corporate dream war. Taxpayers taxed to the utmost for the benefit of corporate America, and most particularly its military industrial complex. That’s a war made in Dick Cheney heaven. And now our soon (but alas not soon enough) to be erstwhile leader wants to broaden the fighting front. How does the thought of George W. Bush rescuing the middle east from Iranian nuclear weapons strike you? Does that thought make you rest easy, sleep well, and calm your nerves better than half a dozen valiums? Or what?
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Speaking of interesting revellations, guess where both the CIA and military inquisitors at Guantánamo Bay got those clever ideas for the unorthodox interrogation techniques which have subsequently brought the shame of much of the world upon our government? Methods that have long been considered torture by most of the civilized world, but which were just what the doctor ordered in the world of Bush/Cheney. Where did all of those hot ideas for prying information out of captives come from anyway? Well, the trainers who came to the base on the island of Cuba may or may not have known the origins of the techniques they taught. What the trainers did not say, and may not have known, was that their chart had been copied verbatim from a 1957 Air Force study of Chinese Communist techniques used during the Korean War to obtain confessions, many of them later proving to be false, from American prisoners.

Isn’t that lovely? How proud must we be of those astute Bush/Cheneyites who managed to cop such neat interrogation ideas from such a truly historic source, Chinese Communist wartime interrogation techniques. After all they were time tested, right? By our own troops back in the Korean War? Positively ingenious! Makes us proud enough to bust a gut, don’t it? Well, somebody’s gut, anyway. Now that, my friends, is real leadership! Real Republican leadership!
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If our past is any indication presidential candidates who run against a running war have not fared at all well. In my lifetime the two cases which instantly come to mind are John F. Kennedy, who as president had discussed pulling our advisers out of Vietnam just before his assassination in Dallas, Texas. (Just five days after taking office Lyndon Johnson was persuaded to change the status of our involvement from employing advisors to full offensive participation, better known as out and out war.) Four years later John Kennedy’s younger brother Bobby, who had picked up Eugene McCarthy’s peace mantle and was running full speed ahead with it, was assassinated on the very night he won the Democratic primary race in California in what many feel was a real life case of the Manchurian Candidate syndrome.

What are we implying here? Just what Hillary Clinton was musing about when she was explaining why she was staying in the presidential race for longer than Barrack Obama supporters wished her too. She made reference to Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, then backed off of it when people began to realize just what she was inferring. What she was inferring of course was that the prowar faction runs very deep in our national collective unconscious, and just as John F. and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated for their opposition of the Vietnam War, so someone among this anonymous group of gun worshippers might attempt to remove Obama from the presidential mix if he continues to come down so strongly on removing our troops from Iraq. But JFK and Bobby K. had Secret Service protection, didn’t they? They certainly did, for all the good it did them. And my friends, I hate to say this in print but an assassination attempt against Obama does loom as a distinct possibility. Perhaps this is why in the past day or two Senator Obama has softened his positions somewhat, explaining that he would not remove troops without first consulting with commanders in the field, and would certainly not do so if such a move would endanger the lives of the remaining troops.

Although people are beginning to tag Obama with the term “flip flopper” the truth is that John McCain has flipped flopped all over the place, making his “straight talk express” claims a mockery when contrasted to his 2000 bus talk. McCain has learned a telling lesson in the ensuing seven years. You cannot win the Republican nomination by talking straight to people, you have to fictionalize your offerings, telling each diverse Republican constituency what it wants to hear. Then once you secure the nomination you must reverse your far right course as much as you can by moving yourself towards the center where the bulk of the American people live. The same is roughly true for Obama and the left. Both men are moving front and center as fast as their would-be presidential legs will take them.

But make no mistake about it, those two centers are light years apart. If McCain is elected Bush’s misguided war in Iraq will go on in perpetuity. And if Bush manages to strike a blow in Iran before leaving office, you can bet McCain will happily see that one through to the bitter end also. And as for the economy, it will again be guided by the Republican rule of thumb, everything-for-the-wealthy (and as little as possible for the rest of us). And as for the Supreme Court, you can bet your sweet bippy (which is probably all you’ll have left) that under a McCain reign you will see the end of legalized abortion, with abortions once again relegated to back alleys.

Senator Obama’s campaign on the other hand sports a more progressive attitude. He will consult experts who in the spirit of Franklin D. Roosevelt will not be afraid to tinker with our nation’s economy to help it through its bumpy periods, and he will once again propagate the tax codes favorable to the middle classes and the poor, instead of continuing the Republican system which blesses benefits to the wealthy who have already proven their ability to do quite alright by themselves, without the government’s help, thank you very much. What is even more important, the Supreme Court will once again be substantially tilted to the center. No more close votes on important, life altering decisions.

What all of this boils down to is that in the Republican sense, the word conservative has come to mean every man for himself, with the federal government only interested in assisting those very wealthy and poweful in gaining even greater wealth. You could define it also with the word selfish. Contrast this with the canons the Democratic party which believes: in the spirit of community, and the use of the government where appropriate in helping the nation’s citizens in times of turmoil and trouble. Democrats aren’t immune to delving in foreign policy to the detriment of our domestic fare, but hopefully Obama will firmly entrench himself in the problems of the poor and middle classes in hope of assisting them in their times of need.
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I am the possessor of odd and mostly meaningless accomplishments. For instance, I once talked on the telephone with Harpo Marx (who played the part of a deaf mute his entire professional career) as I reported on in Blog #1. I also managed to field strip two fifty calliber machine guns while in the air in a Sperry Ball Turret during training in World War II (Blog #4). More recently I was probably one of the few to have played George Carlin’s Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television on the radio. I was not the one at WBAI in New York who played it, which playing brought on the famous court trial. But some months later, after the lower court had upheld the station’s right to air the routine, (and before the Supreme Court was later to reverse the decision) I played the routine on my radio program Nightsong, heard on KPFT, Pacifica radio in Houston, between one and three am on a weeknight. Of course we got no complaints concerning the airing, which was perfectly legal free speech, it was the playing during daylight hours when children could hear it, which had brought on all the ire and vitriol.

At any rate I have just finished Nightsong #12, and had decided to call a halt until I get myself a website on which to make the programs available to the world, when what did I get the other day, but George Carlin’s record Class Clown, the disc that contained the historic bit. So much for quitting at twelve. I will be forced to make it a baker’s dozen, since I can’t resist reuniting Carlin’s historic routine with the new Nightsong podcasts. Incidentally, I got the idea and inspiration for Nightsong while living in New York City and listening to Alison Steele, the Nightbird on WNEW-FM. It was on her program that I first heard the haunting Tama, from the album TONTO’s Expanding Headband, which I took as Nightsong’s theme. This from her Wikipedia page: Alison didn't know much about progressive rock when she started at this, and neither, apparently did the management of WNEW-FM. She was basically left to her own devices and in this process, developed her persona, The Nightbird. She would start her show reciting poetry over Andean flute music, then introduce her show in her well-known sultry, smoky voice: “The flutter of wings, the shadow across the moon, the sounds of the night, as the Nightbird spreads her wings and soars, above the earth, into another level of comprehension, where we exist only to feel. Come, fly with me, Alison Steele, the Nightbird, at WNEW-FM, until dawn.” See what being sleepless in NYC can do for (to) you?
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"After three years of pursuing a home health aide in Brooklyn who has never even used a computer, the RIAA has announced it's ready to throw in the towel. Only thing; it wants the dismissal to be 'without prejudice' so it won't be liable for attorney's fees. The courts have been saying that where a copyright plaintiff gives up, the defendant is presumptively entitled to an attorney's fee award. So, Ms. Lindor says 'no way.' She wants the dismissal to be 'with prejudice,' and she wants her attorney's fees." Good for her, demanding compensation from the RIAA. It rankles me as until recently the RIAA didn’t even have to prove that anyone had ever downloaded a song, only that copyrighted material was in a so-called public folder where it could have been downloaded. When the courts finally got around to questioning this, the RIAA pleaded that it is way too difficult to prove anyone actually downloaded anything. Jammie Thomas, the mother of two who actually lost her case in the courts, whose story we reported on in Blog #10 (November 2007), was found guilty without the RIAA having to prove as much as one song was downloaded from her computer. Her case has not come up for appeal yet, but when it does hopefully the Appeals Court with reflect this new requirement for conviction.
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And there’s good news from the folks that have brought us Firefox #3. From the Mozilla Blog:

“The Firefox community is the proud new owner of a Guinness World Record — each and every one of you! Mozilla today received confirmation from Guinness World Records that we’ve officially achieved the record for the “largest number of software downloads in 24 hours.” From 18:16 UTC on June 17, 2008 to 18:16 UTC on June 18, 2008, 8,002,530 people downloaded Firefox 3!

“This is another wonderful accomplishment in a long line of them for our community! Ever since Firefox was launched in 2004 we’ve relied on our community to help us spread the word, and thanks to projects including crop circles, newspaper ads, giant stickers, videos, blogs and more we now have over 180 million users in more than 230 countries. Incredible work!”

Recent reports have indicated that Firefox is approaching 20% of active browsers.
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And finally news from the world of bit torrents. A report today over at TorrentFreak takes a look at the way that Google ranks Torrent sites and finds that Google’s information seems comparable to that reported by the sites themselves which hasn’t always been the case when looking at Alexa rankings for the sites. Using Google, it was determined that Mininova is the most popular Torrent site and The Pirate Bay comes in second. Rankings indicate that Torrentz and Isohunt compete closely for third place and then there are a handful of other torrent sites that also rank fairly high although the popularity of these sites varies between countries. The stats also indicate that Torrent sharing via all of these sites is on the rise.

News to feed the motion picture and the music industry's nightmares. And with that we call a halt to #43. We’re glad you came, and hope you’ll come back again next week. Meantime, so long now.

The Real Little Eddy

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