Saturday, August 23, 2008

Just Because you're Paranoid (Part II)

Who in his right mind would broker a highly-publicized arms deal that is so obviously an about-face from our 17-year long policy of diplomacy with Russia?

Following their PR disaster in Georgia, Russia is finally ready to pull back their forces. This all comes on the heels of Condoleeza Rice's diplomatic mission to Poland and the Czech Republic, in which she secured Poland's agreement to host American intercepter missiles, as well as other American arms. Russia has warned the United States that such a step will retard Washington's relationship with Moscow.

While Western press sources have reported that the Georgian army was equipped and trained by the United States, there has been no report about the weapons and training provided by Israel. Though Tel Aviv has denied direct government sponsorship of the Georgian Military, it has admitted to approval by the Ministry of Defense for private businesses to sell arms and provide training to the Georgian military. This makes Syria's offer to buy Russian arms and sponsor Russian defense missiles particularly tempting for Moscow. And Syria isn't alone. Venezuela is also courting Russia for arms and Putin would like nothing better than a prime Western-hemisphere real estate upon which to station defense missiles: welcome to the Cuban Missile Crises, Part Deux.

It is, sadly, deja vu all over again.

That George Walker Bush's presidency has been characterized by his patent unwilling-ness to learn from history should come as news to no one who has read William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich; we have been able to do little more than stand on the sidelines, shaking our heads, as the Bushies led us down the same, horrifying path of extreme nationalistism that Hitler took Germany. What no one needs book reference to understand is the idea that, with the Presidential elections rapidly approaching, America now runs the risk of repeating the Cuban Missile Crisis - this time with George W. Bush and (arguably) Vladimir Putin at the helm instead of Kennedy and Khruzchev.

It is important to remember that, while Kennedy is remembered a hero in the U.S. because of his actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was a nail in the coffin of Khruzchev's political carreer. Agreeing to pull the missiles out of Cuba, only to find out later that the missiles America pulled out of Turkey were obsolete, made a fool of Russia. While it is clear that America under George Walker Bush seems incapable of learning from its history, isn't it too much to hope that Vladimir Putin, former KGB chief, did not learn from the fall of Nikita Khruzchev?

It is unthinkable that, with the clock ticking on his Presidency, George W. Bush would begin an escalation against a newly-elected Dmitri Medvedev and a politically-entrenched Putin. Does he really mean to place the new American President in the type of position that Kennedy was in, or is this simply the latest move in the Bush "Permanent Campain," having seized on means for the GOP - or himself - to stay in power?

Yes, I'm afraid I am raising the phantom of a Bush dictatorship. It is not the first time in our history that a leader has used a crisis, such as the one that appears to be eminent with Russia, to stay in power. And though it is possible that the purpose of this escalation with Russia is to strengthen John McCain's appeal, it is unlikely that McCain's inability to manage the press has been lost on Mr. Bush. Senator McCain often becomes flustered when asked difficult questions by the press (e.g. how many houses he has, which side of an issue he is on, etc.). As foolish as Bush has been throughout his tenure in the White House, would he honestly put THE BUTTON the hands of someone who needs "to consult [his] staff" to find out how many houses he owns?

The escalation toward a new arms-race with Russia, therefore, is evidence of one of two things: either Bush aims to be the first American dictator or he's even dumber than we thought.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A Letter to Prime Minister Kaczinski of Poland

Dear Prime Minister Kazcinski,

I understand that the meeting between yourself and Dr. Rice was productive - in a manner of speaking.

About that; Dr. Rice is currently serving a President that won't be in office for much longer (we hope). You see, a lot of us are happy to see Mr. Bush's backside - and it's not because he's wearing sweatpants with the word "juicy" stitched on the seat. After stripping us of most of our civil rights, failing to provide any kind of aid to the city of New Orleans and getting us entrenched in Iraq, there's not many of us willing to give him a favorable job reference.

Come to think of it, we probably should have guessed that a C-student from Yale with two failed businesses under his belt might not be the safest bet for POTUS. Then there was all of that time he spent on vacation his first year in office. You might have heard we're at war on two fronts, and, well . . . he's taken a sum-total of a year off during that time. I don't want to speak ill of him or anything, but Mr. Bush is what we here in the States call lazy.

I'll say this for him though: he does tend to get his way. With three simple letters (WMD) he managed to convince the House, the Senate and the American People to take complete leave of their senses. It's my understanding that one of your contemporaries, one Mr. Mikheil Saakashvili, took pot-shots at South Ossetia with assurances that if Mr. Medvedev shoved, Mr. Bush would give him sound thrashing he deserved. Only it didn't quite work out that way.

What happened was that Mevedev gave Saakashvili what amounted to a political wedgie; and not just any political wedgie: to put things in perspective, he had Saakashvili's briefs over the poor bastard's head, yelling at him, "Govorish' dyadya, Misha! Govorish' dyadya!" After the proctologist was finished picking the last of the double-weave cotton from Mr. Saakashvili's rectum, your Georgian associate called Mr. Bush and his good friend Senator McCain out on their promises for that "sound thrashing" of Russia.

Long story short, their response was to send a woman. Now, Dr. Rice is a smart woman, she's an expert on Russia . . . and this where I have to ask you, Prime Minister Kazcinski, do you have a good sense of humor? See, over here in America, sometimes when bullies are bored, they convince guys who normally get sand kicked in their faces to pick a fight with a rival bully. I have to tell you, having done this myself, it's a hoot. Hey . . . yeah you. You see that jerk over there? He thinks he's tough. You should go mess with him. Hurt you? Oh, no. He won't hurt you. Besides, if he does start thumping on you, don't worry: I have your back.

I gotta tell you, it just never gets old.

Anyway, we were talking about Dr. Rice. Yeah . . . um, as a smart woman who knows Russia, she kind of left a few things out. First, there's that whole, he thinks he's tough thing: the guy we're talking about is Russia; the bear doesn't have to think he's tough, he just is. If you want to find out just how tough, be my guest - it's your anus. Then there's that whole missile defense system: see, that's kinda like the you should go mess with him thing; It's gonna piss Russia off, and Russia's not exactly known for pulling their punches. Finally, there's that don't worry, I have your back thing: come on, dude! You don't actually believe that, right? Not after they left ol' Mikey's butt flapping in the wind (I mean, 'cause if you do, there's this bridge in New York - a so-weet investment for a nation like yours that needs a little extra income).

Anyway, good luck with Russia.

You're going to need it.

Update: (8-23-08) I don't mean to say I told you so, Prime minister, but . . . you get the idea. Following your highly publicized deal with Dr. Rice, Russia began talks of its own with Syria. The Western Media is, of course, trying to spin this (or simply not report it) so that Russia winds up being the bad guy. But can we possibly expect them to "lie supinely upon [their] backs, clinging to the delusive phantom of hope" that the U.S, with the aid of you hosting these interceptor missiles, might not achieve nuclear hegemony over them for the first time since Russia detonation its own atomic bomb?

Congratulations, sir. You may go down in history one day as the stooge who helped America start World War III.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The West's Side Story: an Analysis of how Russia was Blamed for Georgia's Invasion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

When I first heard the news, I tried to make sense of it. Why would Russia just invade Georgia out of the blue? Georgia is energy rich, but a the contest of petrobucks between Russia and Georgia, it's Megarubles to millikopeks, far in Russia's favor. And just as the Russian Army had overwhelmed Georgia to the point where a belicose President Saakashvili and his security detail were literally jumping at shadows, Medvedev offered his Southern neighbor terms for a cease fire.

Until this week, I had only heard one side of the story - the West's side. The story of how this conflict started was slow to ooze out. On the BBC Radio World Service's World Have Your Say, Chloe Tilly and Co. dedicated a progamme on Friday, August 8 (On Air: Can Anyone Stand up to Russia?) to blaming the entire event on Russia. Tilly didn't mention one word in the blog accompanying the radio programme about Georgia's aggression toward Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Nonetheless, she did indulge a National Enquirer-worthy narrative about Russian-backed gas supply disruptions and political assassinations.

It wasn't until Tuesday, August 12 that The Los Angeles Times dedicated an entire story to Saakashvili's role in the conflict. Marjorie Miller and Geraldine Baum broke a story which was not, by that time, news to anyone with a brain: "Brash Georgian President May have Gambled and Lost" (print title), finally revealed Saakashvili's plot to invade the breakaway republics while the world's eyes were on Beijing. Later that same day (August 13, Russia/Georgia time) beside French President Nicholas Sarkozy, a soft-spoken Medvedev made public his terms for a cease fire. Russia Today reported that President Sarkozy stated that Russia had acted appropriately under the circumstances. A humiliated Saakashvili accepted the terms, but defiantly vowed that "one day Georgia would beat Russia."

Not letting the facts get in the way of politics, the U.S. President and even the Presidential candidates weighed in against Russia, calling their defense of Russian nationals in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as " . . . a brutal escalation" (Bush), "Moscow's violent path of aggression" (McCain) and just plain "aggressive" (Obama). And indeed, Russia is aggressive and was clearly ready for trouble the moment Georgia moved to invade the breakaway republics. They didn't spend six months building up to it like George Herbert Walker Bush did in Desert Storm in 1991, nor did they use it as a distraction from a sex scandal as Bill Clinton did in 1998, nor did they make false claims of WMDs like George Walker Bush did to invade Iraq in 2002. They simply secured the borders of the republics who asked them for help, sacking a military base in Gori, not destroying a civilian airport, as John McCain has claimed That's called strategy, and as with the naval blockade the Russians employed, it wins wars and gets soldiers home to their families. Bush, McCain and Obama may consider taking note of this.

So to answer Chloe Tilly's question, after eight years of usurpations of our civil liberties under the guise of "security" and outright lies by the Bush Administration, not to mention complicity to these high crimes by the UK and the Western press in general (including the BBC), why on earth would we concern ourselves with Russia? Don't we in the West have enough of our own despots to contend with?

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Russian Phoenix

Their economy was in tatters. Proud soldiers of the once mighty Russian Army were forced to beg in the streets because the emerging democratic State could not pay them. But the sleeping giant has awakened. Mother Russia, thought to be in a permanently weakened state following the fall of the Soviet Empire, has risen dangerously from the ashes of communism, its military having regained much of its cold war potency.

But what of South Ossetia? Discussion turns away from whether or not the breakaway republic might have a moral right to secede from the Georgian State. Indeed, under Soviet rule, South Ossetia enjoyed a great deal of autonomy. Having suffered at the hands of Czarist Russia, is it any better that the Caucasus should now be at the mercy of Georgia? And what of the West's role in the unfolding epic in the East?

After the US's unjustifiable invasion of Iraq - with Tony Blair's blessing - the West has neither the moral high-ground, nor the military resources to keep the re-emerging Russian State in check. It's not a matter of right or wrong, but as with the US invasion of Iraq, might becomes the criterion for what is right. Sadly, having exhausted both diplomatic and military capital in trade for Iraqi oil, the US and its allies have painted themselves into a corner. Beyond public denouncements, the West has little choice but to abandon its Eastern friends to their fate, leaving them to the mercy of a reinvigorated and increasingly belligerent Russia.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Just Because You're Paranoid . . .

As the Justice Department tries to sell us the late Bruce Ivins as the sole perpetrator of the Anthrax scare that rocked the Nation immediately following 9-11, another, more clearly evident conspiracy theory looms on the horizon: is George Walker Bush going to leave The Oval Office on January 19, 2009?

Of course he will, you answer.


Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver was convicted by military tribunal yesterday of - enjoy the irony here - being Osama bin Laden's driver. He was sentenced to five and a half years and is expected to be released no later than January with time served.

Not so, says Bush II: we can hold him as an enemy combatant as long as this "war on terror" lags on. And since defeating terrorism is an impossibility, that could be a heckuva lot longer than Hamdan has left before dying of natural causes in Gitmo. What's so disturbing about this declaration by the Bush Administration, is that for all of their bluster, even they know that they have no authority to hold Mr. Hamdan beyond January 19, 2008. So why bother making such an immensely stupid statement?

It could be that Bush really is that dumb - at least, that is what we hope. Or perhaps he knows something that the rest of us do not. Will the despot who turned the 21st Century United States into a horrifying police regime that would make Machiavelli wince, actually try to stay in office? Or has he concocted yet another means of rigging the elections to make sure that John McCain picks up where he left off?

Add your comments.

Friday, August 1, 2008

200,000 Can Eat Cake; 10,000 Just Can't Eat

The 31st of July came and went without the California legislature passing a budget. Good to his word, the Governator pulled the trigger: 10,000 workers were pink slipped and another 200,000 are staring down the barrel of $6.55 an hour, with no overtime, in California. As much as I would love to blame this on Schwarzenegger's penchant for drama, he is not soleley, nor is he even mostly responsible for the current crisis the State of California finds itself in.

July-August budget crises are an annual event. Certain circumstances plot to make this time of year the perfect storm, such as a tanking economy, a struggling Republican executive, and a pork-hungry Democratic majority in the legislature. It one of many factors in the perfect storm that helped George H. W. Bush's pronouncement, "Read my lips: no new taxes!" go down in history beside Dan Quayle's Book of "Stupid S*** I Said as the Veep." Love him or hate him, Arnold Schwarzenegger is about to be the latest victim of pork-barrel legislation.

It's not that it bothers me; the GOP "swiftboats" its Democratic victims; the liberals . . . "pork" the conservatives to death (I know, I know, they must feel so violated). And it wouldn't be so funny if, in either case, it didn't work every time! What isn't funny - no matter how you spin it - is that 10,000 Californians were pink-slipped on July 31st and right now, a further 200,000 are looking at having their pay cut dramatically until the legislature churns out a budget.

The legislature does have motive to git'r'done: elected officials and their appointees won't be paid at all until the budget is passed. But unlike the state workers that fall into that unfortunate group the legislators qualify for low-interest or no-interest bank loans to keep their personal budgets solvent. But the promise to reimburse workers after the budget is passed - whenever that is - doesn't repay them the penalties and late fees that will inevitably result from "taking one for the team." And it won't end forclosure proceedings against those who were barely hanging on before their elected officials decided to play Monopoly with their livelihoods.

Seriously, Dems: why go to all this trouble to "bring home the bacon" when your base starves, waiting for you to do your jobs?

The Beijing Olympics: Can we Separate Sport from Politics?

The BBC World Service programme, World Have your Say, asks, Are we Turning a Blind Eye to China. I responded with the following blog entry:

The games date back to warring tribes of Greece. "Citizens" of the Athenian City-State were exclusively male property owners. Slavery was legal throughout Greece, and the concept of human rights was virtually non-existent at that time. The games, in which athletes from a variety of military states competed, were about Greek solidarity.

The Olympic games are a worldwide event. There are terrible human rights violations that happen all over the world. The United States, for example, has held alleged terrorists for years without trial, subjecting them to what Geneva defines as torture. Yet I doubt that there would be this kind of human rights discussion if the games were being held in New York this year. While it is true that China is guilty of human rights violations, this travesty of justice is outside the scope of the games. The Chinese deserve our criticism, but if we want to take political action for their policies in Tibet, we need to hit them where it hurts - in the pocketbook: we simply boycott companies that manufacture their products in China.