Last Sunday night, the CBS News program 60 Minutes interviewed Afghan President Mohammed Karzai, installed in his position largely with the help of the United States. Karzai is a man who radiates dignity and self control, but in this CBS interview , he seemed trying to keep his temper from boiling over.
His complaint: That U.S. air strikes, aimed at Al Quaida bigwigs, are killing innocent civilians instead.
Civilian dead: 270.
High value targets: 0
Indeed, in further interviews with Air Force Colonel Gary Crowder, and a former Pentagon official, CBS uncovered that we’ve managed to kill 270 civilians with these air strikes, but not a single “high value target.”
Col. Crowder tut-tutted that while the civilians 270, Al Quaida 0 statistics are correct, “we have come a very long way in getting that intelligence to be more accurate. We will collect human intelligence, signals intelligence, overhead full-motion video, all of that tied together, very often in real time. That gives us a better understanding and a significantly higher confidence that the targets we're engaging are in fact valid military targets."
All very nice, one supposes, but Col. Crowder still didn’t offer any evidence that our new, improved techniques have netted us so much as one high value target either. Which leads one to wonder how much gas this Air Force brass gas bag can hold.
Meanwhile, we’re convincing more and more Afghans – neighbors, relatives, friends of the innocent bystander civilians killed by our “better understanding” – that they want to kill us in return. Can you blame them?
Imagine that a foreign power came to the United States, chasing people that none of us like – such as drug dealers and gang leaders. You might or might not like it, depending how much you mind a bunch of foreigners with weapons running around your home town. But suppose, that without killing a single thug, they managed to kill hundreds of Americans, destroy your home, and ruin your business. How would you feel then?
How do others hate us?
Let us count the ways.
Okay, that’s why now we’ve got the citizens of Afghanistan wanting to kill us. I don’t need to tell you about Iraq. They’re not putting out those IED’s because they really, really love us. So that’s two countries that would see us in hell.
How about Turkey? While trying to run interference for a group of Iraqui Kurds that’s creating hostile action on the other side of the Iraq-Turkey border, we’ve managed to alienate this once-strong NATO ally. That’s three nations that would see us in hell.
How about Iran? We’re threatening sanctions, and we’re barely veiling a threat to bomb them. Judging by the Presidential mumbo-jumbo that got us into Iraq, President Bush and his crowd seem to want to go beyond the threat, ASAP.
Okay, that’s four nations that want to see us all in hell. But wait, there’s more!
While we’re stretched out in the Middle East
why not go pick some fights in Latin America?
We’ve made it perfectly clear to Cuba that we’re not budging on our embargo there. Since the Cuban Missile Crises in 1962, we’ve been embargoing them, but quietly. Now, with Fidel Castro evidently dying and his younger brother Raul running things, we seem determined to poke a sharp stick into the Raul Castro’s eye. What will we get for this effort – unless it’s another invitation from Cuba to Russia to re-install those guided missiles pointed at the U.S. – you know, the ones that Jack Kennedy negotiated out of there more than 40 years ago?
That’s five countries whose citizens, for the most part, might be inclined to see us in hell, protestation of the Cuban career refugees in Miami notwithstanding.
Then there’s Vladimir Putin. Not a nice guy, which may be why George Bush seems to consider Putin something of a pal.
But with “friends” like Vladimir, you don’t need World War III. Which makes it puzzling why George Bush is now poking a finger in Putin’s eye by trying to ring Russia’s western flank with missiles, purportedly to shoot down missiles from Iran that actually don’t exist.
Synergy for a nuclear firestorm
That’s six countries that would like to see us in hell. And now we’ve got some synergy going. For example, instead of negotiating with Iran to cut out the nuclear stuff we keep threatening them, thus providing the irrityation that makes them work faster on developing a nuclear bomb and nuclear ICBMS, neither of which they have just now.
This makes us rush to get those missiles installed in Poland and Czechoslovakia, which infuriates the Russians enough to retaliate by installing missiles pointed at us in Cuba. So, lacking troops which are bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, we nuke Cuba, which causes Russia to nuke us back.
Oh yes, did I mention North Korea and its own nukes?
How about Pakistan, which is unquestionably armed nukes and in peril of being taken over by Muslim extremists who hate our guts?
And for good measure, have you notice we have no good friends in Venezuela any more? That’s pretty important, because each time we offend someone in the Middle East, the price of oil goes through the rough again, driving our economy deeper into a hole. $10 a gallon gas, anyone?
Death Wish Infinity – The Ultimate Finale
What it boils down to – on the questionable assumption that he isn’t a total imbecile – is that George Bush is in the thrall of a powerful death wish. He wishes to die in a nuclear firestorm. Or to see the U.S. economy die in a financial firestorm. Or both. And he wishes for the rest of us Americans to die with him.
When people are dangerous to themselves or others, they are usually deemed insane, taken off the streets and confined to a mental institution where they can't do any harm. In this case, the body with power to get George Bush off the streets is Congress. Think they'll do it in time? Think they'll ever do it?
Oh, forget about it. Just pass the Kool-Aid.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Who wants to see us roasting in hell? Thanks to the Bush Administration, bigger questions are 1) who doesn’t? And 2) who will nuke us first?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Please excuse The New York Crank for this short and late post. He was walking behind a slow dog.
And if you think that's outrageous, check out this
Monday, October 22, 2007
The Kurds have no friends. But wait, there’s more! More tragedy. More pitfalls for America. And more danger for the world.
There’s an old Kurdish saying that, “The Kurds have no friends.”
They say this because they are a people and a nation divided into territories of other nations (see red areas of the map above) who have never been helped by anyone in their quest for independent nationhood. Parts of Iran are Kurdish. Parts of Iraq are Kurdish. Parts of Turkey are Kurdish. Parts of Syria are Kurdish. Part of what’s left of the Russian empire is Kurdish.
The enemy of my enemy is
the friend of my...oh nevermind!
Until recently, the Kurdish territory in Iraq was reportedly the least hostile to American troops of all Iraqui territory. After all, the Kurds were the people who got bombed with poison gas by the late Saddam Hussein. Watching Baghdad get busted up was something they must have enjoyed. I don’t imagine a single Kurd shed a single tear when Saddam met his end at the end of the rope. Moreover, chaos in Baghdad meant more autonomy in Iraqi Kurdistan.
But there a few small problems with Kurdistan’s good news. First of all, a Kurdistan that's feeling its oats makes various other nations – none of them friends of the Kurds – nervous. That includes the United States which doesn't want an independent Kurdistan either. Or so we say. We still take the position that Iraqi Kurdistan is part of Iraq. Just like our old pal Saddam Hussein used to say.
A big passel of "what ifs...?"
What if Iraqui Kurdistan somehow actually won its independence? Would Turkish Kurdistan want to join them? What about Iranian Kurdistan? What about a Syrian Kurdistan? Did I mention Armenian Kurdistan, the Kurdistan located in the Soviet Union? This could raise hell with the internal management of the entire area.
When Kurds on the Turkish border get, uh, a bit frisky, as they seem to have been doing, ambushing, killing and kidnapping Turkish troops, Turkey gets highly peeved, as it has just done. So Turkey is massing troops in the Iraq border, not as part of a “coalition of the willing” but more likely as an expedition of the pissed off.
That in turn has led to frantic negotiations between the U.S. State Department and the Turks. Condi Rice herself is trying to hold this tiger by the tail.
But if Condi fails to mollify the Turks, they may cut off American military access via their country to Northern Iraq. And they may invade.
On the other hand, if the Iraqui Kurds somehow actually prevail, this may somehow give Iranian Kurds inspiration to rebel, which I speculate could provide Iran with a causus belli to get disagreeable about their nuclear weapons enterprises and blow something up. As for Syria – who knows?
Cold war and nuclear standoffs, anyone?
Or perhaps we could do World War III
I can’t even imagine where the Russians will come out on this one, given what else is going on. At the very least it’s more kindling for a cold war revival. Or for some hapless American troops to get caught in the crossfire between Kurds and Turks. Or Iranians and Kurds. Or Russians and Kurds. Or Iranians and Iraqis. Or Iranians and Russians. Or any strange combination of the above.
Maybe the U.S. will decide to solve the problem and mollify the Turks, Iranians, Russians and possibly the Syrians by bombing the Kurds, just the way Saddam Hussein did. That would bring this insane war full circle. One of our excuses for invading Iraq was that Saddam Hussein “bombed his own people,” meaning Iraq's Kurdish people. Shucks, we may start to think that’s our job. Of course, when that happens we won’t call them Kurds. We’ll call them “terrorists.”
I see by your swagger
that you are a cowboy...
“Bring ‘em on!” said George Bush, some time ago, his voice full of cowboy swagger. Now look at the constantly expanding mess we've got.
Well George, here’s an old cowboy maxim for you, even if I just made it up:
Never stick your bare arm in a bagful of rattlesnakes.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Whacked out by the FCC? Whacked out by Rupert Murdoch? Whacked out by homogenized news? Whack this:
Just in case you missed it, the Federal Communications Commission is considering a rule that would allow one company to own the whole media shebang in your town – the newspaper, the TV station, the radio station and for all I know, the noon fire whistle.
Which means that one man – regardless of political stripe and living, say, in Australia – can decide pretty much what you can read. Or not read. Or hear. Or see.
Yeah yeah, I know, you can always go Internet surfing and find something your local news outlet didn't cover. Maybe.
One reason I say "maybe" is that the FCC commissioned a study revealing, not surprisingly, that locally-owned TV stations provide more local news than media conglomerates. You know, stuff like local politics and what's happening to your kids in school, instead of stuff like whether Brittney or K-Fed is gonna get custody of the kids.
So guess what the FCC did with the study? Right, they destroyed it, so that the public wouldn't get confused by the facts. (The facts about that dastardly FCC move came out last year when somebody leaked the report to Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat.)
So whaddya gonna do? Complain to your Congressperson? Umm, sorry. Most Congresspeople seem unable to multi-task. I'm not sure what they're focused on instead of media ownership. The war maybe? The budget? Getting re-elected? At any rate, not many of them will offend mega-media moguls.
And of you think the U.S. Supreme Court will attack this one on the basis of, oh, I dunno, violation of the anti-trust laws, you ain't been paying attention to Roberts, Alito, & Co.
So whaddya gonna do? Well, the only left to do is whack a Murdoch. Go ahead, you might as well play.
Monday, October 15, 2007
New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire turned Democrat, turned Republican to run for mayor, now turning Democrat-ish again for a possible run for the presidency is also turning out to be a major phony when it comes to matters of the environment.
The Mayor, who according to yesterday’s right-leaning New York Post, “has advocated everything from ditching incandescent light bulbs to taxing Midtown commuters to clean the air - produces 364 tons of smog-inducing carbon dioxide a year, according to a Post analysis of the billionaire's trans-Atlantic real estate portfolio and travel style.
“That's a carbon footprint larger than what's produced by 18 average Americans, 53 Europeans or 404 Guatemalans. It's equivalent to keeping 69 cars a year on the road or lighting the Empire State Building for 4 ½ days.”Well, the I’m glad the Post has finally come around to the left-leaning Crank’s point-of-view that the mayor’s environmental concerns are as phony as a $2 bill.
I said it here back in September. And I said it here in August. And I said it still earlier here in June. But it’s great that the Post came up with some fresh nitty-gritty details, including these shockers:
His homes, said the Post, “boast enough square footage to swallow two mansions like the 10,000-square-foot one owned by former Vice President Al Gore, one of several leading climate-change critics rapped lately for being voracious energy users themselves."
“Bloomberg's carbon footprint swells to epic proportions when you include his penchant for reaching his far-flung getaways by one of the handful of private jets owned by his financial information firm, Bloomberg LP.Meanwhile, the New York Times this morning reports another interesting assault by Bloombergian enviro-phony forces. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection is now busting people for picking up litter.
”In 2004 - before he took steps to conceal his weekend travel from the press - Bloomberg was averaging one four-hour round trip to Bermuda each month in his sleek Dassault Falcon 900.
“Twelve such flights in a year would spew 40 tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, roughly as much as two Americans would produce in a year.
Bloomberg's carbon footprint could actually be much larger. The Post did not have enough information to estimate pollution generated by Bloomberg's four personal cars, the propeller-driven airplane he owns, or the company helicopter he's said to use.”
Well, not any litter. If you want to make off with a rotten banana peel and a plastic bagful of doggy-doo, there’ll be no concerted effort to stop you.
But just you try to pick up an old bedspring that somebody tossed out! You’re gonna get a ticket and you’ll be liable for a $2,000 fine.
Is this nuts? Nah, Mayor Bloomberg, who early in his mayorship dismissed recycling as stupid and wasteful, has discovered there’s a market for scrap metal.
Now, if I discard something, there’s no law on the books I know of that says my trashed property automatically belongs to the city. But leave it to the Mayor to come down like a ton of bricks on some marginal scrap collector who’s just trying to clear the streets faster than the mayor’s sanitation trucks and scrape to up a living in the while he's at it.
We ought to be giving these guys a medal. Instead, Bloomberg gives them the finger.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Computer crash causes cranky shutdown, and anti-Mac rage
My Mac I-book, less than two years old and still on extended warrantee, has gone kerplooie.
I made an apppointment to take it into one of the Apple stores in Manhattan. I had to wait 22 hours for an appointment. When I showed up for my appointment I had to wait an hour to be seen. And what the Apple "Genius" at the repair bar saw was bad news.
"Looks like your hard drive," and said, "and there might even be more to it than that."
He took the computer and promised a new hard drive plus whatever else is needed, free, "in five days or so, or maybe two, or maybe sooner, or maybe longer than that."
Wow, thanks Apple. Love that specificity.
Meanwhile, a couple of other problems surfaced. Apple insists on retaining posession of the damaged hard drive. With all my data on it.
"But that's my data," I protested.
"But it's our hard drive, if you want a new one that works," said the "Genius."
So Apple has declared its private ownership of my personal information. The bastards.
Meanwhile, I can't keep sneaking into Staples and pretending to try out one of their computers in order to post here.
So this blog is on temporary hiatus, for five days, or maybe three, or maybe two, or maybe longer than that.
Got a gripe about Apple? You're welcome to post it here. However, there may be a delay between the time you send it in and the time it gets posted, because Apple is currently in full possession of my computer. Along with my bank account and brokerage codes, social security number, and other personal information.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Prosecutor and criminal investigator, discredited by various authors for outrageous prosecutions, decide to sue, sue, sue, sue, sue everybody
If you’ve read the best-selling non-fiction book “The Innocent Man” by John Grisham, you’re familiar with the tale of the prosecutor and the criminal investigator who nearly sent wrongly accused Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz to the death chamber for a murder they didn’t commit.
Undone by DNA evidence that exonerated the victims who’d been convicted on the basis of coerced confessions, coerced “witnesses” and sloppy investigation, prosecutor Bill Peterson nevertheless refused to retract the notion that Williamson and Fritz were guilty.
But wait, there’s more: three other books alleging prosecutorial – ah, shall we call them “errors” – not only in the Williamson and Fritz Trials but also in another murder case.
Man, if these guys – best-selling authors like John Grisham, attorneys of national stature like Barry Scheck, organizations like the Innocence Project, and publishers like Doubleday Dell, Random House, Broadway Books and Seven Locks Press all keep putting out books about the way you do your job, pretty soon somebody might start thinking that essentially you’re a conspirator in a pinstriped suit, willing to put innocent men to death for – well, who knows what reason, although I can imagine a few having to do with, oh, perhaps sheer ego, or career advancement and wanton disregard for the lives of innocent people.
So Prosecutor Peterson, along with former Oklahoma Bureau of Investigation gumshoe Gary Rogers are suing in an Oklahoma Federal court. According to the September 28th issue of the Tulsa, OK, World, their laundry-list of defendants against charges of libel and slander include:
•John Grisham, author of “The Innocent Man.”
•Robert Mayer, author of “The Dreams of Ada.”
•Dennis Fritz, the author of “Journey Toward Justice.”
•Barry Scheck, one of Fritz’s lawyers who helped exonerate him, and a co-author of “Actual Innocence,” that discusses the case of Williamson and Fritz.
•The Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, publisher of “The Innocent Man” and “Actual Innocence.”
•Random House Inc., which owns Doubleday Dell.
•Broadway Books, publisher of “The Dreams of Ada.”
•Seven Locks Press and/or James C. Riordan, publisher of “Journey Toward Justice.”
You’ll find more complete details here, with a link to the Tulsa World article:
I would fervently wish that the jury will decide to assign court and legal costs to the loser, except for one little problem:
Oklahoma juries seem to have a bad habit of regularly deciding against the wrong people. (See any of the books listed above.)
Monday, October 01, 2007
Guess what your dollar is good for abroad? Good guess!
Well, gang, it happened again. The dollar sank against the Euro this morning to a new low. It sank against the Euro several times last week. And currency traders are betting the dollar will continue to sink. The ship is going down.
What’s that mean? Well, once upon a time we called it “The Almighty Dollar.” Back in 1959, a crummy five bucks in Paris could get you a clean hotel room, three squares a day, and still leave you some loose change for tootling-around money. There was even a guidebook called “Europe on $5 a Day.”
Today five bucks in Paris will get you a thimble-sized cup of espresso. Maybe. If you’re careful about the café where you order it. Or anyway, you could pull it off when I was there last month. Today, who knows?
This is a consequence of Bush Administration’s Dumbo-nomics. If you cut taxes, export all your industry to places where slave labor works cheap so that US companies can turn bigger profits, and then focus your government’s spending on a trillion dollar war about – oh right, we keep changing what it’s supposed to be about– your dollar turns to toilet paper.
So if you're the Bush Administration you can try to disguise what you’re doing by making money cheap – essentially running the printing presses overtime and lowering interest rates – and then pouring the less-valuable cash into the economy, enabling people to buy houses at outrageously inflated prices with cheap mortgage money.
Except, you know all about the housing bubble. That’s what happens when you borrow, borrow, borrow your way into so-called prosperity.
Now we’ve got inflation, plus a threat of recession, plus an increasingly-worthless dollar. If an Al Qaida saboteur had come to the US to do us in by deliberately manipulating the economy to our national detriment, he couldn’t have done a better job than the current administration.
But, but, but, but….!
What about American exports?
Conservative apologists for the Bush Administration will say, “But wait a second! A cheap dollar cheapens American exports, and that’s good for the American economy.”
Yeah, it would be, if the United States hadn’t exported virtually all of its industry.There's almost nothing left. We hardly make anything here any more, except for American cars that even lots of Americans don’t seem to want, high fructose corn syrup and partly hydrogenated corn oil.
So what do we do here? Well, our biggest and most prosperous industry seems to be moving money around. You know, brokerage, investment banking, mortgage lending, hedge-funding, that sort of thing. You can’t export that stuff since it's so much more intangible than say, steel or Barbie dolls when they still were made here.
Then we trade houses. Can’t export those, either. Although increasingly, some European can outbid you if you're out to buy, even with cheap mortgage money.
Meanwhile, China is making everything from poisonous toys, to poisonous fish, to poisonous dog food – and who knows what else Chinese melamine got into besides wheat gluten that went into dog food – and selling it to us, the former bread basket of the world.
Well, uh, then what about
the boost to tourism here?
Yes, the cheap dollar attracts tourists. That’s good for the hotel business, much of which is owned by foreign investors and therefore not so helpful to us. But it’s going to make your own vacations start feeling mighty expensive.
Think about it. You can’t afford Euro-based Europe any more. Not if you’re sane. But if you’re planning to go to New York, San Francisco, Miami or even the Grand Tetons, to name just a few places tourists like, be warned. You’ll be competing for hotel room space with folks who are flush with Euros. They can outbid you, out pay you, and crowd you out. And once the hoteliers see the Euros coming, they’ll raise prices accordingly. So eventually you’ll priced out, too.
Oh, eventually that will even have an impact on domestic airlines. Why cater to bargain-seeking Americans when you can charge Europeans more for the same seats? So unless your idea of a really cool vacation is piling into the family jalopy and sleeping in Cousin Hector’s basement on the other coast, you’re screwed again, pal.
Oh, I forgot. If you want to replace the family jalopy that’ll cost you more too, and not only if it’s a foreign car paid for in dollars. When American cars start looking cheap in comparison, guess what American carmakers will do.
Did I mention the price of gasoline? Oh, right. You already know about that.
P.S. Like the toilet paper in the photograph above? Get it here for only $7.95 a roll. http://www.justtoiletpaper.com/currencynew.shtmlOr just use the money directly.