Thursday, January 02, 2003

Not Mincing Words. After their extended holiday break left we pining for them for over a week, Salon.com is back, and they've started the new year with a gutsy and uncompromising piece by Robert Scheer. Check it out. It's the most visceral attack on Bush's foreign policy I've seen yet, and even though it's a lot more belliocose than anything I'm incliuned to write, I couldn't find much in it with which to disagree.

Also on the subject of North Korea, check out an article in today's Washington Post by Glenn Kessler (and also check out the latest from Talking Points Memo, which pointed me to the Kessler article). I think North Korea is easily the biggest in a long line of political and policy blunders this administration has made since taking office. It's also the most serious, and the most potentially dangerous. Basically, this country is going to allow to acquire nuclear weapons, despite the fact that they already have missiles that can hit South Korea and Japan, and aren't far from missiles which could hit Hawaii and Alaska (missiles hitting the continental U.S. are still a bit further off). The reasonable thing for an Administration to do is to try like hell to stop them from getting the nuke, or, at least, stop them from making any more. This is what Clinton did in 1994, and it worked. But Bush, the anti-Clinton, would rather let them do what they're going to do.

This position is not tenable. The world is already far more dangerous today than it was when Clinton left office, and this is the biggest step in that direction yet. Sooner or later, Bush is going to have to restore diplomatic ties with Pyongyang. If he doesn't, his successor will... in early 2005. It isn't about appeasement, it's about peace. Trust me, the U.S. still has enough political, economic, and military clout around the world that we'll get the better end of any deal. But Bush won't have it. Bush would rather allow the most dangerous nation in the world to develop the most dangerous weapon in the world, while the United States spends it's time valiantly defeating a crippled, broken nation like Iraq. This position is not tenable.

Thank goodness the press is firing on this issue. It wouldn't surprise me if Bush is forced to announce a major change in North Korea policy in his State of the Union address. We'll see.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Happy New Year! Or, as I was obstinately shouting last night at the party, "Happy Wednesday!" which is just as meaningful a thing to celebrate, as far as I'm concerned. But nevermind all of that. I actually had a really good time at the party last night. I even drank a glass (well, a plastic "glass") of champagne, albeit out on the back porch by myself in order to miss the orgy of inane celebration going on inside.

I ended up staying a hell of a lot longer than I intended, mainly because the Short Bus's fiancee required affirmation that she was well liked among the Short Bus's friends. I patiently provided this affirmation. This long-winded discussion, which included much hugging and smoking of cigarettes, was also conducted in the dim light of the back porch, which was the place to which all smokers were exiled from polite society. If she could see my nose growing longer, it was only in the pale-orange, flickering glow of a cigarette lighter.

The Short Bus's little brother, Swizz, came up with us. He got himself wrecked good and proper. I don't know what the boy was doing, but I'd bet plenty that there were some pills involved. He passed out on the floor of the Short Bus's bed room (he managed to completely miss the enormous bed which occupies fifty percent of the room and ninety percent of the far wall) with his pants down. It's just possible that there's a story there somewhere, but if there is, I don't know it. When Tucker and I dropped him off at a little after 4 in the morning, he was still fucked up, despite having slept peacefully for the 75 minute drive. He stood up patiently in the back seat waiting for one of us to let him out of the car. It took us three attempts to convince him that my '91 Buick Park Ave. was a four-door.

Swizz wasn't the only casualty. The Short Bus's fiancee was also pretty rocked, but she was still standing by the time I left. [Since I was driving, I should note that the "glass" of champagne I mentioned was the last drink I had for the night, only my fourth drink overall, and I left three hours after drinking it. I could have passed a breathalyzer like I passed the LSAT.] The biggest disappointment was Jenna, Lima Beanz's new (and first) girlfriend. Jenna is a member of the Crew, as am I (along with Beanzie, Duke, Tucker, and Trouble, who was the only absent crew-member last night), and as such, she is expected to be able to hold her drink. She must be getting old, because she was in bad, bad shape. I don't know if she ever actually vomitted (I hope so), but she was on Imminent Puke Watch for at least ninety minutes before I left. Lima Beanz, who claimed to have made everything she drank, says that she really didn't drink that much. Something very similar happened at Party @ Duke's last Saturday. By all accounts not having had all that much to drink, Jenna got really sloppy, and really sick. I think Crew-sanctions might be in order.

I hope everyone else had as much fun as I did on New Year's Eve, and I hope you all have a safe and happy 2003.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Rap and the Revolution. I don't know if any of my "regular" readers will find this interesting, but there is a fascinating article in The Nation about rap's past and present, with respect to its potential for putting forward a positive social message. As you may know, I am an avid fan of Public Enemy, and their music has been a significant influence on my politics and on my understanding of race in America today. I am only too keenly aware that Public Enemy's fifteen minutes of fame is over and done, but just because people have stopped listening doesn't mean that PE has run out of things to say. What this article provides is an overview of what else is being said which is falling below the corporate music radar. I'm inclined to try to find some of these artists and check them out for myself, but I wonder how easy they'll be to find.

Anyway, I thought I'd throw something a little different at you tonight. I hope you enjoy it.
Fucking Shit Up. I'm sure I have mentioned, on more than one occasion, a little bit of the history of this country's relationship with Saddam Hussein. However, it's taken far too long for the mainstream press to catch on and start talking about it. Especially because the juiciest bit is that, since Bush filled his cabinet mainly with tired retreads from the Reagan years, a lot of the characters are the same in too very different stories. The current story is about how Saddam Hussein is an evil little bastard, and the white-hat-wearing do-gooders at the White House are gonna kick his ass right good to teach him a lesson and protect freedom itself. Ok, let's pretend, for a moment, that this makes any sense at all to anyone over the age of five. That still leaves the other story, which needs to be explained. How is it that this guy, who is such an evil little bastard, was our special little bastard for years under the Reagan and Bush Administrations? What changed?

The simple answer, of course, is that our special little bastard invaded Kuwait, which was bad. Fine, we sorted that out, with kudos all around for a job well done. So, that's handled. What now? The Bush Administration has been talking about war for well over a year now, and I still can't figure why it's necessary. I mean, no doubt, Saddam is a bastard, and he's no longer our special little bastard. But all those things that the Administration regularly churns out, like how he gassed his own people, and how he's a dictatorial tyrant who oppresses his own people, and how he's prone to starting wars with his neighbors... all of those things were true back when he was still our special little bastard.

Ok, so go and read this article in the Washington Post. It provides an excellent background on the Iran-Iraq War, which is the one and only thing which has changed. It also focuses in on one of the major players in both stories, Donald Rumsfeld. Most importantly, it is frank and unflinching in its discussion of the U.S. role, under Presidents Reagan and Bush I, in Iraq's acquisition of chemical weapons, including anthrax and bubonic plague. That's right, the United States sold bubonic plague to Iraq. Can anyone tell me why that isn't an earthshaking revelation? Oh right, I forgot, the press is so blinded by liberal bias that they fiendishly cover up massive scandals committed by Republicans and focus like a laser on trivial, or just false, "scandals" committed by Democrats.

The point to take away from all of this is not that Rumsfeld, Reagan, Bush I, and the rest of the crew should be tarred and feathered. Actually, they were doing their jobs as they saw them, which was to protect and advance American interests abroad. As the article pointed out, the US was much more worried about Iran than Iraq in those days, and they wanted to make sure Iran didn't break through and start threatening Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, or other regional powers. It was about protecting US interests in the region, and those interests can be summed up by one word: oil. Again, this isn't a capital offense. No one needs to be flayed alive for trying to protect the US oil supply (though it should have occurred to someone other than Al Gore a long time ago that we desperately need to replace oil with something which isn't controlled by people who hate us, but that's another topic).

The point to take away is that when you are making short-term strategic alliances, and doing cute little backroom deals with dictators, all the while closing your eyes and pretending not to see the human rights violations, and convincing yourself that our special little bastard is really a lot nicer than their evil little bastard, you are going to fuck shit up down the road. That's what Saddam Hussein is: he is fucked up shit. Osama bin Laden is fucked up shit. Pervez Musharraf is shit, waiting patiently to become fucked up. North Korea is shit fucking up before our eyes. Venezuela has massive shit fucking up potential. The question is: when does it occur to someone, anyone, in government, that this kind of hard-nosed, realpolitik, short-term strategic thinking creates at least as many problems as it solves?

For another ripple in the sea of world politics caused by this kind of foreign policy, see Saturday's TPM.