May 31, 2005
To me this story is just heart breaking. Whether she's guilty or not isn't the point. Being sentenced to 20 years for a first offense is completely inappropriate for the crime committed.
For a comparison, here are America's current mandatory sentencing laws:
Read more about it here.
What strikes me is that the Indonesian courts want to re-try Corby. They think the sentence is too light! Some want to give her the death penalty!!
I know a lot has been said of the America's mandatory drug laws: they don't work, they're racist, etc. But had Corby been in America she would have gotten far less than 20 years; 5 at the most, possibly less. She only had 4.1 kgs of pot on her.
American prisons are not good places to be. But at least you're well fed and given adequate, albeit spatan facilities for bathing and hygiene needs. There's more human rights violations in a week at some foreign prisons than in two years at G.B. in Cuba.
Maybe its only because she's a young white female from a western culture that I feel so bad for her. But something like this is my worst nightmare.
When I went to Saudi Arabia two summers ago, I had to fill out a passport/visa ID entrance card. The card read: "Welcome to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Death to all drug traffickers."
Whereupon I immediately ditched the bottle of vitamins I had in my duffle bag into the nearest trash recepticle.....
There has been talk of a prisoner exchange. Not sure if that going to happen though.
I think if people really want her out, they're going to have to pull some Ross Perot shit. Unfortunately, its not likely.
So to conclude: Don't do drugs! And for God's sake don't transport them to another country!!!! And be thankfull that you live in America (or a reasonable facsimile).
May 30, 2005
Is the wheel turning again with another bold Texan in power? Hard to know, of course, and the Democrats wonÃt rise in some mere hydraulic fashion. They need to find vision, ideas and charismatic leaders, and none of them seem to be in great supply. But the line of products-call them Bush Right-suddenly is looking like what marketers call a "mature brand." There are signs of age, strain and overreach, internally and externally.
I think that the real difference between the second term and first term is that Bush has stopped selling a free lunch. Tax cuts pretty much was the sum total of the Bush domestic agenda in the first term. Tax cuts are easy to sell, especially when they are not payed for with cuts in services. Social Security "reform" on the other is really going to screw people. Long as the anti-government conservatism never actually cut any government, Bush could cruse along on personality. The moment anybody thinks that Bush is serious about getting ride of governmentt his folksy charm goes the way of the dodo.
May 29, 2005
The French have rejected the new EU constitution, which is very ironic because the French are the leading advocates of a unified Europe. Like all important elections this gets complex, but the short version is that the United States of Europe is going to be delayed for a while.
Voting has begun in Beirut, Lebanon today. The son of an assassinated Prime Minister has won in light turn-out. I have absolutely no fricken idea what the implications of this result are, but I'm sure it's important. That's why I bring it to you.
Does anybody have any idea what this stuff means?
May 28, 2005
May 27, 2005
Shut it down. Just shut it down.
I am talking about the war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay. Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.
Husain Haqqani, a thoughtful Pakistani scholar now teaching at Boston University, remarked to me: "When people like myself say American values must be emulated and America is a bastion of freedom, we get Guantánamo Bay thrown in our faces. When we talk about the America of Jefferson and Hamilton, people back home say to us: 'That is not the America we are dealing with. We are dealing with the America of imprisonment without trial.' "
We can't just say we are the good guys. Everybody thinks that they are good guys. You have to prove that you are the good guys by doing good. It will do the world no good if the US "wins" if the US becomes nothing better than what we are fighting.
May 26, 2005
The US House just dropped a bill that would have restricted women's roles in a combat zone. Right now, women can do most jobs in the Army except for front line combat jobs like infantry, armor, artillery and special forces. Women can do all the "combat support" jobs like MPs, engineers, logistics and so on. The thing is, that in Iraq those jobs are in the combat zone too, and 35 women have died in Iraq. Duncan Hunter (R-Stone Age) thought that this would not do, but got shot down by, amongst other people, the Joint Chiefs. The Army is already facing a personnel shortage, dropping women from key roles didn't go over well.
Personally, I think that women should serve in all roles. Yes, men are stronger than women for the most part, but even most combat jobs like driving a tank or pointing an artillery piece don't deal with strength. And for the jobs that deal with strength, sorry a lot of women can't cut it. But some could.
Take special forces for example. Most women would not have a chance of making the cut for SF. Most men can't make it. But I bet you anything that some women could. And those women would be something. I think we could find a use for a few deadly women in this whole shadowy war on terror thing, eh?
May 25, 2005
Four years after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, human rights are in retreat worldwide and the United States bears most responsibility, rights watchdog Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe the picture is bleak. Governments are increasingly rolling back the rule of law, taking their cue from the U.S.-led war on terror, it said.
"The USA as the unrivalled political, military and economic hyper-power sets the tone for governmental behavior worldwide," Secretary General Irene Khan said in the foreword to Amnesty International's 2005 annual report.
"When the most powerful country in the world thumbs its nose at the rule of law and human rights, it grants a licence to others to commit abuse with impunity," she said.
The world has moved backwards on human rights. They have done so because the United States has moved backwards. Yes we really are that powerfull. And yes we are not doing a good job with that power. You can check out the whole report here.
May 24, 2005
Disney - Fine, Just Fine - A conservative Christian group has ended its boycott of the Walt Disney Co., launched nine years ago in response to what leaders perceived as the erosion of the company's squeaky-clean image.
Paris Hilton - Evil, Pure Evil - A Carl's Jr. commercial starring a scantily clad Paris Hilton frolicking with a water hose is too hot for a media watchdog group.
"This commercial is basically soft-core porn," said Melissa Caldwell, research director for the Los Angeles-based Parents Television Council. "It's inappropriate for television."
Is it clear yet?
According to Michael Sokolove's profile, Santorum in 2002, alluding to Toni Morrison's famous description of Bill Clinton as "the first African-American president," called George W. Bush "the first Catholic president." Sokolove asked Santorum the obvious question: what about America's actual Catholic president, John F. Kennedy? And Santorum basically said Kennedy wasn't much of a Catholic at all, because, like many Catholic Democrats today, he "sort of adopted that same line, that they are going to hold that part of themselves off to the side, which has led to people who want to completely separate moral views from public life, which is a dangerous thing.''
Bush, on the other hand, is a better Catholic than JFK, suggests Santorum, because his views are consistent with "Catholic social teaching."
If all it takes for Bush to "be a good Catholic" is to bash gays and oppose abortion then being a Catholic doesn't mean anything. If religion embraces politics too closely, it becomes worthless political retoric and not much use as religion. That Santorum, I'm going to miss him.
May 23, 2005
To measure how American publications have depicted the war in pictures, The Times reviewed six months of coverage from Iraq. The period from Sept. 1 of last year until Feb. 28 of this year included the U.S. assault on Fallouja and the escalating insurgent attacks before January's election.
Despite the considerable bloodshed during that half-year, readers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Washington Post did not see a single picture of a dead serviceman. The Seattle Times ran a photo three days before Christmas of the covered body of a soldier killed in the mess hall bombing. Neither Time nor Newsweek, the weekly newsmagazines, showed any U.S. battlefield dead during that time.
War like most human endevors, is complecated enought that it can be covered in many, many ways. What we are getting on this war is largely bloodless.
Craigorian Chant is offering nothing but positive coverage of the war. Check this video out from our good friends the British. Very Funny.
May 22, 2005
May 20, 2005
May 19, 2005
The politics are there. "This is how democracy dies - to thunderous applause" We can debate if its really about Bush or not but really the message is Democracy good, Dictatorship bad.
Helpfull guide for non-nerds here.
Revenge of the Brick.
Although the Yankees seem to do ok with blue, white and gray.
And lets see....The Steelers, Notre Dame football, the Lakers, Celtics, Cowboys, UCLA basketball, Green Bay Packers, and the Cleveland Browns have all at some point been a dynasty and there's no red in their uniforms. Perhaps its a better predictor of individual rather than team success.
Upon further investigation, however, 7 or 8 (can't be completely certain) of Sport's Illustrated's "Top 20 Dynasties of the 20th Century " wore at least some red when they competed (Russian pairs skaters most likely did not wear red when they skated, but the USSR and Russian flags have red on them and Edmonton's uniform's look more orange...but close enough). So out of all the possible colors, at least a third of the best sport teams/institutions/countries of last century had some chroma of red on their uniform. I'd say thats significant.
Just something to keep in mind someday if you have kids and find yourself in charge of picking out the team's soccer uniforms.
May 18, 2005
Filibuster fight is off to a promising start.
Really good piece on Faith and Politics:
As a bonus, says Thomas, opposing abortion and gay marriage generally has more to do with changing someone else's behavior than one's own. He points out that, as far as the decline of American culture goes, Christians are just as guilty as non-Christians when it comes to high divorce rates, out-of-wedlock sex, and rampant materialism. (Supporting data for this and similar trends can be found in Sider's book The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.) But addressing this embarrassing reality would involve too much self-scrutiny, says Thomas. "People would much rather watch a video of someone else exercising than go to the gym and do the sweating themselves," he quips.
Go meet the new Mayor of LA.
Ok, everybody back to work.
May 17, 2005
Newsweek floundered in journalistic purgatory over the weekend, unable to confirm or completely retract the "Periscope" item from its May 9 issue that incensed rioters in Afghanistan and Pakistan; 16 people died in the melees.
Naturally the Pentagon/Bush admin is overplaying this and are attempting to blame Newsweek for all their war trouble. Not so fast:
Recall that the White House and its allies spent all of 2002 and a good portion of 2003 touring the country and the world making statements about Iraq's WMD programs and ties to terrorism that have almost uniformly turned out to be inaccurate. Recall that as a result, thousands and thousands of people are now dead, with an untold larger number maimed or otherwise seriously wounded. Recall further that in response to a Newsweek story that turns out not to have been as well-sourced as its author and editors initially believed and that became the pretext for some anti-American rioting, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said, "People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?" An interesting question.
In other news we have anti-war British Parliament member George Galloway going off in front of a US Senate committee. I was watching this over breakfast and the guy did such a powerful rift against the war that the Foxnews anchor was sputtering to rebut him.
Finally a some bad GOP poll numbers to brighten your day.
May 16, 2005
Sure the film could resemble current events...but shit like this happens all the time! You could draw parallels with RofS and events in many different time periods.
On the plus side though you two earned some killer condescending points!
.....yes, yes, its all a rich tapestry--n'hey, the colors children, the colors....
Lucas, at a Cannes film festival press conference yesterday, said he first wrote the framework of Star Wars in 1971 when reacting to then-U.S. president Richard Nixon and the events of the Vietnam War. But the story still has relevance today, he said, and is part of a pattern he has noticed in history.
"I didn't think it was going to get quite this close," he said of the parallels between the Nixon era and the Bush presidency, which has been sacrificing freedoms in the interests of national security.
"It is just one of those re-occuring things. I hope this doesn't come true in our country. Maybe the film will awaken people to the situation of how dangerous it is . . . The parallels between what we did in Vietnam and what we are doing now in Iraq are unbelievable."
In the latest film, the Palpatine character takes over as ruler of the universe with the co-operation of the other politicians.
"Because this is the back story (of the Star Wars saga), one of the main features of the back story was to tell how the Republic became the Empire," Lucas said.
"At the time I did that, it was during the Vietnam War and the Nixon era. The issue was: How does a democracy turn itself over to a dictator? Not how does a dictator take over, but how does a democracy and Senate give it away?"
Lucas cited the Roman empire in the wake of Caesar's death, France after the revolution and Hitler's rise in Germany as historical examples of countries giving themselves over to dictators.
"They all seem to happen in the same way with the same issues: Threats from the outside; they need more control; and a democratic body not being able to function properly because everybody's squabbling."
"Star Wars" director George Lucas says that although he wrote the original film during the Vietnam War, his six-part saga could apply to the war in Iraq.
''In terms of evil, one of the original concepts was how does a democracy turn itself into a dictatorship,'' Lucas told a news conference at Cannes, where his final episode had its world premiere.
So everbody is right. I love it when that happens.
May 15, 2005
Cannes audiences made blunt comparisons between "Revenge of the Sith" the story of Anakin Skywalker's fall to the dark side and the rise of an emperor through warmongering to President Bush's war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq.
Two lines from the movie especially resonated:
This is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause," bemoans Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman) as the galactic Senate cheers dictator-in-waiting Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) while he announces a crusade against the Jedi.
"If you're not with me, then you're my enemy," Hayden Christensen's Anakin soon to become villain Darth Vader tells former mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor). The line echoes Bush's international ultimatum after the Sept. 11 attacks, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.
Pretty strong stuff for a pop culture icon, eh?
May 13, 2005
May 12, 2005
Michael Medved, who is a twit as both a political comentator and a movie critic has some trouble with his facts:
He's like, I dare you to name one politician who supports phasing out Social Security. My reaction was, I don't want to get into naming names. But he kept harping on me so I had to dig into my files.
So I read him this quote from Congressman Chris Chocola: "Bush's plan of individual investment of 2 percent of the money is a start. Eventually, I'd like to see the entire system privatized."
At that point, Medved just lost it and started saying that Chocola was not a real Congressman.
Repeat: When confronted with the facts once again he accused me of lying and said he doubted that there was really a member of Congress named Chris Chocola.
ABC News Not Interested in Covering the Iraq War:
You can just imagine the pathetic newsroom attitude: we don't cover cats getting stuck in trees, we don't birthday parties at the local McDonalds, and we don't cover America's multi-billion dollar war in the Mideast.
And finally just go read this whole James Wolcott rant. Fine Stuff.
May 11, 2005
May 10, 2005
True, but "I'm Not the New Me" is joining a growing list of born-from-blog book deals. Over the last few years, this genre has produced everything from novels and memoirs, such as Mimi Smartypants' "The World According to Mimi Smartypants," and how-to manuals like "The Weblog Handbook" by renowned San Francisco blogger Rebecca Blood. Actor Wil Wheaton has even published two books compiled from entries off his popular Web log.
May 9, 2005
In a once-unthinkable setting for a U.S. leader, President Bush took a place of honor on Red Square amid symbols of Soviet power Monday and saluted the greatest military victory of an empire formerly regarded as America's most-threatening enemy.
Bush watched goose-stepping soldiers and flags emblazoned with the Soviet hammer and sickle that recalled the days of communist rule. He sat beside Putin on a reviewing stand next to Lenin's tomb.
Think of the fun I could have. Why our President is in bed with the Communists! He's selling out the County! I am shocked! Shocked!
Like I said, it would be fun.
Yes, Mrs. Bush was funny, but the mere sight of her "interrupting" her husband in an obviously scripted routine prompted a ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention. The same throng's morning-after rave reviews acknowledged that the entire exercise was at some level P.R. but nonetheless bought into the artifice. We were seeing the real Laura Bush, we kept being told. Maybe. While some acknowledged that her script was written by a speechwriter (the genuinely gifted Landon Parvin), very few noted that the routine's most humanizing populist riff, Mrs. Bush's proclaimed affection for the hit TV show "Desperate Housewives," was fiction; her press secretary told The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller that the first lady had yet to watch it.
Even the jokes are lies! Lies!
May 8, 2005
May 7, 2005
The US can no longer mount a land campaign against Iran. It is bogged down in Iraq fighting a guerrilla war. The Iraqi Shiites would never put up with a US campaign against Shiite Iran. US stockpiles of smart weaponry are seriously depleted.
The US could not make up any slack from allies such as the UK. Tony Blair's parliamentary majority has been whittled down to only 66. About 40 Labour MPs routinely vote against his bills and intitiatives anyway. So his real majority may be razor-thin. He certainly could not convince this parliament to go to war in Iran, e.g.
So the military options are not apparent.
What are the covert options? It seems highly unlikely that the Iranian officer corps would cooperate in a coup. The clerics would be very difficult to overthrow in any popular movement as long as the police, intelligence services and army are loyal to the state and anti-American. Iranian nationalism is fierce and the population would support the government against a foreign invasion.
The Iraq War has really hurt our ability to deal with other threats. North Korea has nukes, Iran will have nukes and we have nothing. Iraq is not just bad on its own, its doing real damage to the safety of America in the World.
May 6, 2005
In other news, no real winner in the British Election. Everbody says so.
May 5, 2005
If anybody reads the column and has an opinion, put it in comments at the end of this post or drop me a line on e-mail.
May 4, 2005
The absolutely single-biggest liability for Tony Blair is that voters think that he is George W. Bush's "poodle" and that he lied about Iraq.
The British Election is just the latest in a series where a winning political issue is opposing the US and Bush. Spain, Germany even the the Ukraine all had winners that based their campaigns in part on anti-Bushism. It's not always enough to swing an election. It won't be in the British elections but nowhere in the world will backing Bush win you more votes than bashing him. This is not good. The countries we need help from in the world respond to their own domestic politics. If helping the US is political suicide we won't get any help. Try to argue that Anti-Americanismis a good think if you want, but losing allies is never a good thing.
May 3, 2005
There is a name for those who continue to sit at a gambling table even after they learn that the game is fixed. They are called fools.
Now that President Bush has proposed Social Security benefit cuts through "progressive indexing," his critics are said to have an obligation to negotiate in good faith to achieve a solution. There are just two problems with that sentence: The words "good faith" and "solution."
Bush's "plan" is still not a plan, just a few ideas. If the president is serious, let him first persuade members of his own party to agree to a detailed proposal so everyone knows what the trade-offs are. If what he has in mind is a good idea, Republicans will be eager to sign on. And if Bush can't get Republicans to go along, might that say something about the merits of his suggestions?
Look, I'm all for dealmaking and bipartisan when something good can come of it. Nothing good will come of doing a deal on Social Security. There is a time to end an argument and a time to win it. It's time to win this argument.
May 2, 2005
Anyone who has traveled regularly to the Middle East over the years, as I have, knows that the recent hopeful democratic moves in Lebanon, Egypt, and the Palestinian territories have causal roots that long predate our arrival in Iraq, or that are otherwise unconnected to the war. American groups like the National Endowment for Democracy and numerous international organizations have been working with and strengthening reform-minded elements in these countries for years, and to some extent we are now seeing the fruits of that quiet involvement. But it is a mistake to believe that everything that is happening in the region—whether positive or negative—is a result of American military actions or rhetoric from Washington.
In Iran, for instance, the hopeful movement toward democracy went into remission after we invaded neighboring Iraq. Did our invasion cause democratic reform to falter in Iran? Not necessarily. There are many reasons—most of them internal—for why reform movements within a country wax and wane. But it is hard to claim that the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq was responsible for pro-democratic reactions in some Middle Eastern countries, but not for anti-democratic reactions in others.
Conservative commentators are running with the idea that every good event in the world came from the Iraq War. It's a pathetic attempt to try and balance the costs of the War. It's time to take a real honest look at what this war has created.
May 1, 2005
Student project enthralls:
Residents cheer ideas to recast Park Marina
Where there is asphalt and Aqua Golf, Redding residents had little trouble Saturday envisioning kayak launchings, waterfront dining and a children's carousel along Park Marina Drive.
About 70 people gathered at the Shasta County Administration Center in downtown Redding to hear a presentation by six Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo graduate students tasked with rethinking development along a narrow, 27-acre strip of riverside property and roadway.
For the most part, residents embraced the idea of making Park Marina Drive a bustling destination spot, as opposed to the speedy byway along prime river real estate it is now.
"I'm so excited I could drop dead right now," Penguin Paddlers owner Garth Schmeck told the presenters.
We really are that good. Regular Posting to resume Monday.