Saturday, December 17, 2005

Saturday Ramble

today, president bush addressed the nation via radio and defended his 30 times renewed policy of secretly spying on americans, stating that it was vital in protecting us from terrorists. tomorrow, he will speak to us via television and probably not bring this up (because many more people watch tv than listen to radio). there is much debate over the legality of this surveillance. the NSA can read my emails, tap my phone, search my purchase history, demand access to my employment personnel file, track my library visits, and walk through my home without a warrant of any kind when i'm not there. every 45 days bush must re-authorize this and he has done so more than 30 times. in a row. no time off for good behavior for us (with no assurance that this works other than bush's tired "trust me" ticket like he tried to use with harriet meirs). and it wasn't until recently that anyone other than a very select few at the highest levels of government knew about this. a top secret memo was leaked to the media last week, i think, and it immediately created an uproar. sen. arlen spector has called for an investigation into the policy's legality. at first, bush said that confirming its authenticity would put the program and its operatives at risk and expressed deep concern that someone would leak this type of intelligence (evidently, bush has a very short memory or he would have noted the irony in relation to valerie plame's outing and his statement at the time that anyone involved in this would be fired). one quote to make one think:
"our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country."
but the crux of this post is to remind people that this is not a one-off by our "elected" administration. in case you have forgotten, a while back we bugged UN secretary general kofi annan's office in order to get a leg up on anyone who might oppose our dirty little war. you can read alternet's article from the archives here. we spied on the UN in flagrant violation of international and domestic law. and our so-called newspeople wouldn't touch it. why? dunno. maybe because at that time no one was standing up to the government. objective press then meant no future access. and, as bob woodward so eloquently put it when he finally admitted he'd sold his journalistic integrity to the highest bidder, access is all that matters.

Also, i did not know this until recently, but evidently it is a crime punishable by prison time in many european countries to deny that the holocaust happened. and, as has been proven of late, this law has teeth. two men have been arrested and accused in the past month. one of them was convicted in absentia by germany and extradited by us. now, iran's bigwig has stepped into this by calling the holocaust a myth. and our administration is talking about economic sanctions in order to punish iran. now, as dumb as i think someone would have to be to claim that a whole shitload of jews weren't killed by the nazis, i have to wonder about this being a crime. it's an opinion. it's a thought. and it lends real credence to george orwell's fictional thought crimes. europeans are very reluctant to discuss racism (and denying the holocaust does fall into that category). it's a very, very sensitive subject. polls have shown that they admire america for the fact that (at least) our racism is out in the open and is debated publicly and often. in europe, it's different. perhaps because of the holocaust no one wants to talk about the fact that some countries didn't learn their lesson when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. perhaps in their rush after WWII to bring in immigrants for the workforce they overreached. perhaps being seen as a rolemodel for tolerance was more diplomatically important than monitoring the potential fallouts to the native populations. france just experienced what can happen when non-natives are allowed in and then ignored for great lengths of time.
but anyway. i was wondering what will happen to the people of iran if international sanctions (i.e. economic, military, agricultural, medical) are placed on them. history has proved that over 500,000 iraqi children died as a result of sanctions we placed on them after the first war back in 1991. we put the sanctions in place to purportedly force the iraqi government into heeling. it didn't and as a result we helped cause our own little holocaust. is this what we're willing to live with in iran? no sane westerner would want iran to have nuclear bombs. but will that same sane westerner be willing to relive a recent historical failure of grave consequence? we've done the same thing to north korea. while our sanctions haven't produced one iota of governmental difference there many hundreds of thousands of innocent people have died from starvation and freezing. and that's the thing about sanctions: if we get to the point where we are forced to impose them, then we've already failed. the threat of sanctions can work on weaker regimes. most of them rely on foreign investment if only to prop an unpopular figurehead or group of cronies. but when dealing with strong (and you can read that as totally despotic with the backing of the military) governments that refuse to yield it's somewhat inevitable that war will ensue.
so, i'm done wandering. see you later.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Just Not Gonna Do it

(okay, it ain't the most interesting read in the world, but dana carvey shows up at the end of this interview and i about shit my pants. the emphasis way down there is mine. enjoy)
President Bush on 'NYT' Spying Scoop: Not Main Story of Day By E&P Staff Published: December 16, 2005 2:30 PM ET
In another lengthy interview with a TV news anchor, following his sit-down with NBC's Brian Williams earlier this week, President Bush has taped an interview with PBS's Jim Lehrer, to air tonight. As part of the interview, Lehrer tried to press the president on the major scoop in The New York Times, and now other newspapers, today on the White House approval for the secretly spying on Americans by the National Security Agency. Here is that portion of the transcript.*
MR. LEHRER: First, the New York Times story this morning that says that you authorized secret wiretaps by the National Security Agency of thousands of Americans. Is that true?PRESIDENT BUSH: Jim, we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country, and the reason why is that there's an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we're trying to do to stop them. I will make this point. That whatever I do to protect the American people, and I have an obligation to do so, that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people.
MR. LEHRER: So if, in fact, these things did occur, they were done legally and properly?PRESIDENT BUSH: So you're trying to get me to talk about a program--
PRESIDENT BUSH: --that's important not to talk about, and the reason why is that we're at a war with an enemy that still wants to attack. I, uh--after 9/11, I told the American people I would do everything in my power to protect the country, within the law, and that's exactly how I conduct my presidency.
MR. LEHRER: Well, Mr. President, with all due respect, wouldn't you think--don't you believe that answer is going to lead people to believe that you're confirming that in fact you did this?PRESIDENT BUSH: We don't talk about sources and methods. Don't talk about ongoing intelligence operations. I know there's speculation. But it's important for the American people to understand that we will do--or I will use my powers to protect us, and I will do so under the law, and that's important for our citizens to understand.
MR. LEHRER: I don't want to "beat a dead horse" here, Mr. President--
MR. LEHRER: --but the story is now all over the world.
MR. LEHRER: I mean, it's on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington post, every newspaper in America today, and it's going--it's the main story of the day. So--PRESIDENT BUSH: It's not the main story of the day.
MR. LEHRER: Well, but I mean in terms of the way it's being covered--
[Simultaneous conversation.]
PRESIDENT BUSH: The main story of the day is the Iraqi election.MR. LEHRER: Right, and I'm going to get to that.
MR. LEHRER: But I mean, is it correct to say that the National Security Agency is normally told to do surveillance only on international calls rather than domestic calls, without reference to this specific thing?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I--Jim, I know that people are anxious to know the details of operations, they--people want me to comment about the veracity of the story. It's the policy of this government, just not gonna do it, and the reason why is is that because it would compromise our ability to protect the people. I think the point that Americans really want to know is twofold. One, are we doing everything we can to protect the people? And two, are we protecting civil liberties as we do so? And my answer to both is yes, we are. ...

Monday, December 12, 2005

They Call Me Ashmael

so, here's what i'm noticing about washington so far. the liberals are becoming the puritanical fiends they claim to abhor on the other side of the fence. as of last thursday, smoking is not only not allowed in any public building but it is now the most repressive anti-smoking state in the country. a person may not smoke within 25 feet of a public building or air vent or any other conduit which may transmit residue to those inside said building or air vent.
now, before you non-smokers fling stones at me let me just say that i am and have been fine with not being allowed to smoke inside. i'm used to it since i come from california. and, in general, i approve of it. i don't smoke in my own house...unless required to. but the level of "god smite them down" rhetoric i've been hearing and reading since thursday is disturbing, to say the least. one person quoted on a local news show went so far as to compare me to a child molester. okay. i only have one thing to say about that. i'm willing to smoke in the middle of the street if that's what you want, but i will not sodomize juveniles while dodging traffic. that's just rude and inconsiderate.
as for the extremely high taxes on cigarettes i have to wonder who is making out here. the northwest is a designated smoking area. always has been. will smokers quit, because the cost is high? will children not start, because the cost is high? probably not. and when the out-of-pocket cost of quitting aids is just as ridicuously high and the addiction is so strong it seems sensible to presume that the state is in the business of lining its coffers at the expense of smokers and has no real interest in helping them to quit.
i'll tell you this: the medical community and pharmaceutical companies don't want me to quit. somewhere down the line i may become a cashcow for them. lung cancer puts me at the top of the money i.v. and repeated "attempts" to quit with no solid backing by the very people who make the quitting aids makes me a repeat customer for their very overpriced comestibles. have any of you read the instruction booklets? all of the steps, that if followed, ensure success, but it's still up to me to be strong. no talk about nicotine being one of the 3 or 4 most addictive substances known to humans. a couple of websites to go to (including phillip morris).
i'm not whining...much. i am responsible for my life. if i really want to, i can be strong. but all of this really is large companies' attempts to make money off of the weak.

also, the seattle city council will be voting on whether to outlaw sales of single beers and strong wine (fortified) at stores in certain parts of the city in order to "cut down on public drunkeness". as bad as this may sound, mostly it's only the poor, homeless and marginal segments of our society who purchase alcohol in this fashion. most of them aren't driving. they're walking or using public transportation. or sleeping in the alley. the serial drunks tend to buy a pint and park it in their back pockets.
and remember, it was the seattle city council (maybe not all of the same people as now) who swept ALL of the homeless out of the business district downtown when the WTO came in for a conference on the late 90's. they did so, as well, when clinto came through on a campaign stop before his second term. the funny thing about the WTO incident is that it just allowed protesters that much more room to shut everything down and, of course, massive riots and carnage ensued (i stayed at home with a twelve pack and watched it on tv, laughing my ass off).

so, i guess all that i'm saying is that it's funny and kind of sad when those who throw stones and epithats at those they abhor begin to resemble them. and it weren't for beer and cigarettes i would take over the world.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

$6 A Flipping Pack!?!

so, my first week here is done and the second looms. i have to admit that this move hasn't been without regrets. i miss my friends even though i tended to not answer the phone or door when i was there. i miss the local watering hole within walking distance. i miss the coffee shop and its familiarity. i miss going into work and knowing exactly what my responsibilities were and not having to worry about the intangibles. i miss not having to think; everything was so rote that i didn't need to wake up.
this new adventure is an anxious time. i don't know what my new work responsibilities entail. i don't have a new bank account. my company vehicle is nowhere to be seen. everything about my new house that must be paid for i have to pay. my new tombraider games won't load on my computer. i have yet to get renter's insurance on my belongings or have a walkthrough done on the house by my landlord. i haven't repaired the window airconditioner i broke (when i was forced to) after i locked myself out of the house my first night here. my kitchen things are still mostly in their boxes, because it's easier to hang out on the computer and drink beer. i'm down to my last traveller's check, because safeway wouldn't cash my payroll check. and the car is low on gas.
certain solutions are in order. as for the company car, i think that the company will be paying for my personal car's gas and mileage. i mean, the offer letter i signed said i would be provided these things and it's been a week. so, my opinion is that i am covered one way or the other.
i will give the finger to "being on salary" and go open a bank account tomorrow. (my manager let me know on my second day that leaving early or arriving late could make a bad impression on the hourly employees...duh. so, according to him, if i need to address moving issues i should come in early or stay late to make up for time lost).
but it's beautiful here. i can see the cascade mountains from my front porch and part of mt. rainier. i get a glimpse of the olympic mountains on the way to work. and i see water, water everywhere. it's always green here. the temps aren't too bad so long as that biting little breeze stays away. the cat is having a blast now that she found an easy way onto the roof. and, except for the asshole amount of taxes on cigarettes, life seems affordable.
but don't get me started on paying over $6 at safeway for one lousy pack of smokes. lecram, we need to talk.