Friday, February 24, 2006

The Arabs are coming!

American anti-Arab hysteria reached a new peak this week with the revelation that the United Arab Emirates-based Dubai Ports World may soon be managing some U.S. ports. Americans, who typically have no problem selling anything to anyone, (particularly weapons) have suddenly gone all weak in the knees at the thought of foreigners running a U.S. port. As one of the always-literate commenters at the international capital of hating the Arabs, Little Green Footballs writes, "UAE is no friend of the USA and the Civilzed (sic) World."

I'll tell you, if the UAE made cars, I'm sure we'd be seeing people out smashing them up like they did in the good old days of hating the Japanese. Remember when they tried to buy the Seattle Mariners? You would have thought the Japanese were sending over another fleet to screw up another attack on Pearl Harbor.

The only thing that surprises me about this situation is that the preznit is actually on the side of making the deal. Then again, he never has been one to let anything get in the way of money exchanging hands between consenting adults -- just as long as one or both of them is a crook.

Everyone else seems to think that the UAE is dumb enough to send saboteurs over to incinerate Newark or something. People always say that the business of America is business, but I say that catch-phrase should belong to the Emirates, the global center of anything-goes capitalism. My friends, we're talking about people who are building a $500 million underwater hotel. This is clearly not a country that wants to jeopardize it's insane oil wealth for the sake of murdering Americans. It's a country that wants to keep the party going for every last minute until the oil runs out.

It is also a country that has been very cooperative in the war that will never end until Republicans leave office The War on Terruh. They have been Very Well-Behaved Arabs who eat their broccoli and lima beans and never speak to Uncle Sam unless spoken to. They have also been such good partners because, you know, they don't respect the Geneva Conventions either. You can see why George W. Bush -- who has never met an international treaty he wouldn't like to flush down the toilet after setting in on fire, would get along with these folks.

Dubai Ports World actually has a very good reputation. Now, I'm open to the argument that the U.S. government should be running U.S. ports, instead of for-profit corporations. That's the kind of reasoning that might appeal to me. But can you imagine that there would be an instinctive reaction if a Swiss company had done this? Even the French could probably get away with running our ports, despite the fact that a number of Republican public intellectuals seem to want to refight the battle of the Somme with American soldiers playing the part of the Germans.

The most pernicious manifestation of this syndrome is the tendency to define any Arab-majority country as "the enemy." New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez said "This sale is especially troubling because of the UAE's questionable track record. Two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE." According to such third-grade logic, we shouldn't sell to an American firm either because Timothy McVeigh pulled off the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995.

If we truly want to help change attitudes about the United States in the Arab world, we can't do things like this. We can't say, "We'd really love for you to like us and to eat nachos with us while we watch Monday Night Football, but the truth is that we don't like you either and you definitely can't buy our stuff." This is a public relations strategy brought to you straight from the creators of Pajamas Media.

In other words, it sucks. And for once, I have to say that (gulp) I agree with George W. Bush about something. Kind of. With addenda. And my fingers crossed.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

My Secret Garden -- State.

New Jersey, you know how I know you’re gay?

There’s Jim McGreevey, James Dale and Walt Whitman. But more than that, there’s a legacy, actually. You have a papertrail of pro-homo support that makes you the perfect battleground for the current gay marriage civil rights case.

Against a Trenton backdrop, the left-leaning New Jersey Supreme Court is currently hearing testimony from advocates for gay marriage as well as the state of New Jersey that wants to send the matter to the legislature. Interestingly, the argument isn’t whether gay New Jersey will become the second state in the nation to legalize gay marriage. Instead, at least at this point, the question is whether an activist Supreme Court should be the mechanism legalizing the gay marriage. Advocates for the practice fear it could be rerouted through the cumbersome – and less likely to watch Will & Grace -- state legislature.

New Jersey is among the more progressive states when it comes to gay civil rights. State workers, for example, get same-sex partner benefits. And, unlike other states, New Jeresey has a civil union law that gives gay partners exactly the same legal rights as a married couple. These are but a few of the litany of reasons New Jersey serves as the perfect setting for the gayest storm in years.

New Jersey’s warm same-sex embrace has a time-tested and well-entrenched history. One good place to start is with Camden’s own Walt Whitman. The caber-rattling war monger also liked to frolic in the Garden State’s bucolic fields with the finest specimen of fieldhand. He was the star in his own Brokeback Pine Barrens. Check out my favorite Whitman poem, “O, Tan-Face Prarie Boy:”
Before you came to camp, came many a welcome gift;
Praises and presents came, and nourishing food—till at last, among the recruits,
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give—we but look’d on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world, you gave me.

Not enough yet? Move on to Newark-born Allen Ginsberg, the beat-generation guru whose homosexuality played a crucial role in shaping America’s fascination with and aversion to gays. Check out Howl if you don’t believe me:
who howled on their knees in the subway and were
dragged off the roof waving genitals and manuscripts,
who let themselves be fuded in the ass by saintly
motorcyclists, and screamed with joy, who blew and were blown by those human seraphim, the sailor, caresses of
Altantic and Caribbean love,of Atlantic

But poets aren’t your only gay export. New Jersey has a Supreme history of gayness. Recall, for example, James Dale, the Boy Scout who outted [SP?] himself in a Star-Ledger newspaper story about gay advocacy. When the Scouts caught wind of the Dale’s homo vibe, they tried to eliminate the Eagle Scout from their membership roster. Enter New Jersey’s Supreme Court, which slapped the Scoutmaster’s wrists and resumed Dale’s slot in the scouting ranks.

In politics, we have the iconic McGreevey – the first gay governor. Well, maybe he’s not the first, but he was definitely the first to out himself in a press conference to thrwart an effort at blackmail. Now that’s gay.

And in the arts: Drag’s best friend Flip Wilson was born in Jersey City, N.J. Queen Latifah hasn’t come out yet, but really Queeney … like we don’t know already. And how gay was Bon Jovi in the 80s? Even I didn’t wear that much spandex – and I was like eight.

So New Jersey, don’t hide your rainbow flag. March in the pride parade. Be who you truly are. And don’t be afraid to invite anger and controversy. Blaze your well-groomed, pedicured trail. Allow your cities, towns and schools to be the carnation pink battleground it was meant to be. Don’t deny your nature. It just wouldn’t be in proper character. It wouldn’t be the first time you took a step in the gay direction. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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Shooting straight just isn't their thing

People are warning of the coming Republican electoral strategy: declare "victory" in Iraq and run on it. With some soldiers trickling home and marching in victory parades, will the electorate still be in the mood to hold the Administration and its allies responsible for anything?

This is certainly a suitably diabolical plan, and I'm sure the GOP will try just about anything to keep its slimy grip on the levers of power. But will even state-sponsored propaganda parades be enough to turn the party's rapidly declining fortunes? Polls show a double-digit advantage for Democratic Congressional candidates. Bush is at 39% in some polls despite the State of the Union pushback and the rolling out of yet another terrorism story to make everyone clutch their carebears in horror.

Still, you have to hope that at some point people will realize what an astounding cock-up this administration has made of everything it's ever touched. On the domestic front, Bush managed to alienate all ends of the political spectrum with his idiotic prescription drug plan, which is both a huge economic commitment and a big bottle of champagne and assorted cheeses for the pharmaceutical industry.

Social Security evisceration reform died with the president's fleeting and paper-thin popularity. No Child Left Behind has turned into the cruel joke that its name always promised. The number of uninsured Americans has skyrocketed. Job growth has not kept up with population growth, environmental protections have been gutted, worker's rights have been trampled upon, and to top it off, these humorless clowns decided to make it harder for all these struggling people to declare bankruptcy -- even in the face of crippling medical debt.

All of this might be overshadowed if the Administration had any meaningful international accomplishments to brag about. It would be like the last-place team that still led the league in batting average or something. Unfortunately, the willfully ignorant and deranged people running this country have accomplished nothing in the international arena -- unless you consider destroying the country's good name something of which to be proud. In the Middle East, the Bushies have coolly and disinterestedly presided over the worst five years in the Arab-Israeli conflict since 1967-73. Negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians came to a crashing halt while Bush signed off on the Israeli annexation of vast swaths of the West Bank, undermining nearly 40 years of established diplomacy and making the two-state solution an increasingly dismal prospect.

The administration has also precipitated two entirely needless crises: one with North Korea, which appears to have passed, and one with Iran, which is simmering and may yet spill out into open conflict. Both were caused by Bush's swaggering and his idiot speechwriters, all of whom seem to take a fratboy's delight in pissing people off for no good reason. Bush has alienated a host of traditional allies. And by deliberately and fraudulently lying this country into war, turned the name of the United States into a pile of dirt.

And lest we forget, there is the minor problem of having turned Iraq from a police state that threatened no one except its own weary citizens into a spectacularly failed state and the biggest incubator and training ground for international terrorists since 1980s Afghanistan. All it cost was 2,273 American lives and counting, $2 trillion dollars, and perhaps a hundred thousand Iraqis. Meanwhile we threaten and harangue strategically insignificant puppet states like Syria and lecture them about democracy and occupations, whereas the world's largest outlaw occupier state, China, gets warm trade relations and happy tidings. Now, say what you will about Bill Clinton's foreign policy, but it always made more sense than this.

Aside from the quick and clean exit of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan from the world stage (and truth be told, the situation in that country is no longer anything to brag about) this administration can't boast a single meaningful accomplishment. But they know how to win elections, you can't take that away from them. They get their fundamentalist judges confirmed, their illegal wiretappings approved and forgotten, and they sure do know how to illegally redistrict their favorite states. They also do a bang-up job funneling money from lobbyists to officeholders. You might say that the business of the Republicans is taking care of their own dirty business.

But even that would be too charitable.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Beware the Veep

Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent hunting trip is the first direct manifestation of his increasing wonton bloodlust. Sure, it starts with 78-year-old lawyers and farm-raised quail, but the thirst for more could quickly escalate.

On Saturday Feb. 11, the president went to a Texas hunting ranch on a trip that clearly served as a thinly veiled sojourn to unleash years of pent-up anger and a desire to expedite the thinning of the American population. On the trip, Cheney “mistook a hunting buddy for a cubby of quail” and riddled the man with buckshot from his shotgun. Sure, sending hundreds of thousands of young men to war is one effective method of reducing the burgeoning American population, but, apparently for Cheney, it wasn’t working quickly enough.

The bad news for the 64-year-old Cheney is that his shot isn’t what it used to be. His efforts to remove 78-year-old hunting companion and Arlington attorney Harry Wittington from the social security files was thwarted when the dogged septuagenarian fought the buckshot’s nasty effects and is now listed in stable condition at a Corpus Christi hospital.

According to various news sources, including the BBC.CO.UK, Whittington had more than ten pieces of buckshot throughout his face and body, but fewer than 100 scraps of the shrapnel. I, personally gonna bank on about 56 pieces that – at the right angle – look smackingly like a new multi-million dollar contract for Halliburton. Just for one last FU to Wittington, some of the buckshot will never be able to be removed from his body, according to the victim’s daughter, Sally.

Ignoring the real story of Cheney’s internal evil sublimating to actual bouts of attempted murder, the news media has tended to focus on the more inncuous question of whether the White House spindoctors dragged their feet notifying the press and public about the attempted murder/hunting mishap. "I think you can always look back at these issues and look at how to do a better job,” said White House spokesman Scott McClellan at a press conference on Monday morning. Was he talking about handling the press or the entire length of the Bush administration? Oh, those public information guys are wiley and cryptic. In fact, there is speculation in the media that Cheney and his staff attempted to keep the entire incident under wraps until ranch’s ower Katharine Armstrong leaked the story to the journalistic juggernaut the Corpus Christi Times.

To compound Cheney’s bad luck/taste for blood, it seems he might not have had the proper certification on his hunting license to attempt murder. This oversight could leave the failed would-be murderer a severe slap on the wrist not only from the environmental lobby (who don’t so much like the man anyway), but also the pivotal NRA contingent who actually do attempt to separate hunting from homicide. Most of the time, anyway.

Cheney, of course, is not the first VP to attempt murder. There was Alexander Hamilton and his famous and ill-fated duel against Aaron Burr. But Cheney is the first to grow pointy horns and sport glowing red eyes at the time of the incident. He also failed to give his victim a sporting chance at reciprocity. Okay, that horns part is a slight exaggeration – and I’ve heard nothing about the color of Cheney’s eyes at the time of the incident. But I’m warning anyone contemplating a sporting weekend with the VP to reconsider.

On the golf course, you could be mistaken for a pesky gopher. At the bowling alley, you might lose some digits in the ball return. Don’t get me started with the perils of archery or, God forbid, bocce. Keep Cheney far from Turino. His outdoorsey evils know no boundaries. Our second in charge has smelled fear in 78-year-old form. It can only have served to jump-start the eventual massacre. Beware the Veep.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Impeach the bastard

It is time to impeach the President of the United States. I have resisted the impulse to say this for a very long time. And let’s face it, some folks of my political persuasion have been throwing around the I-bomb like lapdances at a Minnesota Vikings sex cruise since the day Bush took office.

But there is really no way around it – this president set aside very clear provisions of the Constitution – specifically the Fourth Amendment and a set of very lenient spying provisions in FISA. He did it for no good reason other than that he and his advisers knew perfectly well that it was illegal and that they would not otherwise have been able to get away with it. The legal doctrine being wielded to support this egregious and unapologetic violation of American law is the idea that if the President does it, it’s not illegal. Most legal scholars are chuckling at the idea that the Afghanistan war resolution in 2001 gave the President the authority to do whatever the hell he pleases.

They should also chuckle at the argument that Bush’s advisors told him it was okay. In fact, this should be the ultimate argument for not having a president so dumb that he can barely tie his own shoes. Listen, I could go out for beers tonight with a bunch of lawyers and have them tell me it’s okay to hold up the bar and beat the snot out of anyone who looks at me crooked. But that doesn’t make it legal, now does it?

I have heard the argument that it would not be good for American democracy for two consecutive presidents to be impeached. Well my friends, Clinton’s impeachment cannot be undone, but it was a farce perpetrated by a hostile Congress bent on his destruction from the day those maniacs swept to power in 1994. But even if you believe that Clinton’s impeachment was legit, that’s not an argument for letting the next president off the hook for what are indisputably graver crimes than lying about blow jobs.

If Americans don’t want to see their presidents impeached, they should try electing people that don’t brazenly and openly violate the law. You can’t blame them on that score for electing Bush in the first place, but when you re-elect a guy who thinks it’s okay to capture American citizens and then ship them off to Syria to be tortured by a government you are actively trying to overthrow, you kind of have it coming. When you send a man back to the White House who sold you a pack of lies to get you into a totally unnecessary war, you have this coming. Frankly, American democracy has this coming. An impeachment might be just what this country needs.

If spying on your own citizens without permission from any legal authority whatsoever is not a high crime and misdemeanor, than nothing is. Unfortunately, Congress is controlled by a group of lawmakers so corrupt that they belong in the Ethical Special Olympics. Impeaching the president requires you first to remove his hand out from underneath your balls. And these guys have never – not once – shown any inclination to do so. After launching an investigation every time Clinton took out his recycling, the GOP-controlled Congress has been so compliant with the Bush Administration that you’d think they were being paid by the hour.

This is one more reason why it’s so important to take back one or both branches of the legislature this fall. The ha-ha hearings being held this week aren’t going to lead to impeachment any more than the intelligence failure hearings resulted in anyone getting fired or taking responsibility for anything. At the most Arlen Specter will be trotted out to slap the President on the wrist. Lightly.

The galling thing is that Americans would get behind an impeachment of Bush in a way that they never did for Clinton. The violation of the law is much clearer here, and illegal spying and surveillance have much more relevance for the average American than Clinton screwing an intern. Bush is deeply unpopular and mistrusted. And he has this coming. He and his advisors have treated the law as something to be bent, twisted and molded to fit whatever authoritarian impulses John Yoo and Alberto Gonzalez were feeling on any given morning. Their behavior, and Congress's obeisant acquienscence to it, calls into question the very machinery of American democracy.

Wouldn't you like to see that smug, self-satisfied little frat boy frogmarched out of office with his sneering and corrupt advisors trailing behind, forever disgraced and discredited?

I can always dream.

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