Gonzales's Exit Not Speedy Enough

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The NYT leads off its article about Alberto Gonzales leaving his post as the chief law enforcement officer of the Federal Government this way:

“Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally done something important to advance the cause of justice. He has resigned.”

Just like most of Bush’s other appointees, A.G.A.G. was much more focused on keeping Bush, he supposed boss, happy than keeping his real boss, namely the American Public, happy. I thought it couldn’t get worst after Ashcroft, the man who lost to a dead man when running for Senate, became AG. I was wrong. It got a lot worse.
The further quote the NYT:

There was a more basic problem with Mr. Gonzales’s tenure: he did not stand up for the Constitution and the rule of law, as an attorney general must. This administration has illegally spied on Americans, detained suspects indefinitely as “enemy combatants,” run roughshod over the Geneva Conventions, violated the Hatch Act prohibitions on injecting politics into government and defied Congressional subpoenas. In each case, Mr. Gonzales gave every indication of being on the side of the lawbreakers, not the law.

Angry yet? Yes? No? Well, here is more for you:

Mr. Gonzales signed off on the administration’s repugnant, and disastrous, torture policy when he was the White House counsel. He later helped stampede Congress into passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which endorsed illegal C.I.A. prisons where detainees may be tortured and established kangaroo courts in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to keep detained foreigners in custody essentially for life. He helped cover up and perpetuate Mr. Bush’s illegal wiretapping programs, both in the counsel’s job and as attorney general. The F.B.I. under his stewardship abused powers it was given after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the name of enhanced national security.

In summation, the editorial wraps it up this way:.

Mr. Gonzales, for all of his undeniable deficiencies, merely reflected the principles of this administration. His resignation is a necessary but hardly sufficient step in restoring the nation’s commitment to the rule of law..

I hate to even mention it but lame duck or not, Bush is the leader of this country until January, 2009 and he will be responsible for picking the next AG as well. Hopefully we have reached rock bottom. Someone should tell Bush that when you are in a hole, stop digging, or at least start digging sideways and not further down.



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Last Saturday, my cousin asked me a rather general question about the prospects for peace between Israel, Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza and all of their neighbors. This started a long semi-rambling discussion whose thesis was related to something Thomas Friedman said in his Feb, 07 “Rules for the Middle East” op-ed piece. Rule 14 said that the Lebanese historian Kamal Salibi had it right: “Great powers should never get involved in the politics of small tribes.”
I found it funny that the next day, the NYT’s Sunday Magazine’s featured article titled “The Politics of God” had an intro paragraph which is very related to what I was saying that night and what I have been saying about tribalism in general. To the average American, the Middle East is simply full of Arabs. To me, it is fully of Persians, Egyptians, Alawites, Hashemites, Druze, Sunnis, Shi’ites, Kurds, Jews, Bedouins, Bahá’ís, Yezidis and many more sects, nationalities and/or tribes. The Middle East’s tribes are completely intertwined with religion so I do not mind intermingling say Persians, who are mostly Shi’ites and who live primarily in Iran, with Kurds, who have no nation of their own and who generally practice Yazdanism. While many of these sects or tribes believe in in the same deity, their Hatfield versus McCoy differences often can prompt extreme cases of violence. Over the past few years, I seen that common religious beliefs are not strong enough to overcome tribal differences. For example, look at how in Iraq the Sunnis and Shi’ites are wantonly destroying each other’s mosques.
I also see that Middle Eastern tribalism is closely related with religious theocracy and dogmatic thought which is why I am linking this term with the article. Tribes are not made up of individuals who are the free thinking Westerners that you and I style ourselves to be. I do not believe that the Western world understands how tribal some parts of the world still are and the intro paragraph neatly sums up this thought:

“We in the west find it incomprehensible that theological ideas still inflame the minds of men, stirring up messianic passions that can leave societies in ruin. We had assumed that this was no longer possible, that human beings had learned to separate religious questions and from political ones, that political theology dies in 16th-century Europe. We were wrong. It’s we who are the fragile exception.”

Keeping with this tribal theme, although incredibly modern in terms of its society, economics, government and culture, in the end, the modern State of Israel is simply a gathering of the biblical 12 tribes of Israel. Zionism can be considered rooted in tribalism because it is a term used to describe the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. Speaking about Israel, an extremely provocative recent New Yorker article titled “The Apostate” is about how one of the country’s foremost Zionists has lost faith in the future and his thoughts on the situation there. I found some of the reasons behind his pessimism very true and compelling and other parts actually quite deplorable. Here is one part which shows the provocative nature of the article:

Burg warns that an increasingly large and ardent sector of Israeli society disdains political democracy. He describes the country in its current state as Holocaust-obsessed, militaristic, xenophobic, and, like Germany in the nineteen-thirties, vulnerable to an extremist minority.

In another part, Burg talks about the 3 things that lead to the founding of Israel and how since they have been met, there is great stagnation in the society. Again, interesting food for thought:

Burg said, “after some fifteen, twenty years in political life I had a feeling all of a sudden that, to use the Biblical term, Israel was the kingdom without prophesy. I realized that the three founding narratives of the national idea of Israeliness were over: the mass immigration to the land, aliyah; the security of the land; and the settling of the land. All three had served their purpose and were no longer the core of the nation’s narratives. I asked myself what was the alternative. This was a long process of thought. I didn’t feel that the political system in Israel was trying to renew its thinking.”

Neither of these articles provide answers. For the most part, they only raise questions. However these questions might be ones that you have not pondered as of yet. The more we think about the possibility that maybe we, the Post-Tribal world, is “crazy” and the rest of the world is “sane” the more we might get somewhere closer to peace, in whatever form that concept exists to tribes.


Paper Waste

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I read about AT&T’s titanically large iPhone bills on Slashdot two weeks ago and now this story has made its way to the NYT. Long story short, they are ginormous (now an official word according to Merriam-Webster) because AT&T’s billing system is totally dumb. I probably wouldn’t have even written about this except for the fact that the image below is too damn cute not to post:

For instance, a video blogger, also known as the worst person in the world to get something like this, received instead of an envelope a box which contained a 300-page, double-sided, excruciatingly well itemized bill. To quote the man whose dog is shown above, “It’s nonsense,” said Mike Brophy, 34, who owns a software company near Seattle and posted an item about his 64-page bill on his blog. “Ninety-five percent of the bill is just page after page of 1K data transfers, all with a charge of zero.”
Save the environment. Don’t get an iPhone, or don’t get one before AT&T figures out how to send a smaller bill.


Mission Still Unaccomplished Part II

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This is the second of what will probably be more and more frequent posts about how we need to dramatically decrease our level of involvement in the Middle East as soon as possible, if for nothing else simply practical reasons.
Today, 14 American soldiers died when their helicopter crashed in northern Iraq. Military officials said mechanical failure appeared to have brought down the Black Hawk UH-60. It was the second incident of its kind in eight days. (Note: bold was my emphasis).
This directly relates to what I I first said in my first Mission Unaccomplished post from May 1 of this year. I wrote then

Four years in a desert is never good for any car – think about what its doing to our military’s trucks, tanks, personnel carriers, helicopters, etc. You should see the amount of sand that gets in my stuff after one day at the beach. After four years at the beach? Oh man…I don’t even want to think about it…

I hate to say “I told you so” but I will in this case knowing the limited facts that I know. I also am unfortunately expecting more failures and more injuries. Bring them home!


How To Win At Scrabble

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Sure, I’m giving away a secret but future victories will be even sweeter knowing that my opponent could have been on the same level as I am in terms of obscure word knowledge. Courtesey of Wired Mag’s “How To” issue, here are recommended “words to know” from John Williams Jr., executive director of the National Scrabble Association:
azo, jo, ka, ki, qaid, qat, qi, xi, xu, za, zin and zoa.
Also on the list for when you have too few or too many vowels:
hm, hmm and ourie.
When I pull a “zin” on someone, when he or she is complaining that it isn’t a word, I’m simply going to say “next time read my blog.”
Via Wired.


Commercial Music

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Once Led Zep sold the rights to “Rock n’ Roll” to Cadillac I knew it was all over. TV commercials are great in terms of picking and playing great music – sometimes even better than the radio.
Some of the songs are so good they end up in my jukebox. The last song that I bought after hearing it from a TV commercial was Paul Van Dyk’s “Time of Our Lives” a month or so ago – it is featured in the current Jeep commercials. Before that, I fell in love with Royksopp’s “Remind Me” after hearing it in a Geico Caveman spot.
I’m happy that someone else cares about TV commercial music even more than I do as I’m hoping it will prove to be a valuable resource in the future. It took me way too long to track down the Jeep song…


Damn Yankees: Onion Sports Style

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The Onion’s Sport Section has a great (and very true, at least for the past decade) little ditty about my beloved Bronx Bombers this week. To wet your appetite, I have provided the first 2 paragraphs (slightly edited for length):

Moments after the NY Yankees pulled within a once unfathomable four games of the first-place Red Sox…stunned and enraged baseball fans across America took a moment to shake their heads in disbelief and curse dejectedly at the relentless inevitability of Yankee glory.
“Fucking Yankees,” said Marshfield, MA resident and longtime Red Sox fan Lawrence Broberg, echoing the sentiments of thousands of men and woman across the nation. “Every year. Every goddamn year.”

Read the full and unedited article ether after the jump or at the Onion.
Fucking Yankees, Reports Nation
August 16, 2007 | Onion Sports
BOSTON — Moments after the New York Yankees continued a month-long stretch that has seen them climb from the bottom of the AL East to pull within a once unfathomable four games of the first-place Red Sox by defeating the Baltimore Orioles Monday night, stunned and enraged baseball fans across America took a moment to shake their heads in disbelief and curse dejectedly at the relentless inevitability of Yankee glory.
“Fucking Yankees,” said Marshfield, MA resident and longtime Red Sox fan Lawrence Broberg, echoing the sentiments of thousands of men and woman across the nation. “Every year. Every goddamn year.”
The Yankees, coming off a decisive three-game sweep of the Central-leading Indians, have won nine out of their last 10 games, catapulting them to the top of the wild-card standings, restoring the team’s infuriating confidence, and instilling a sinking sense of impending misery among all non-Yankee fans.
“It’s like they can’t lose,” said Connecticut resident Gerry DiCenzo, who could only watch helplessly as the Yankees overcame a late Orioles rally to win their fourth straight. “They literally cannot lose. Suddenly no one can beat the Yankees. The Red Sox suck. The Orioles suck. Everyone sucks. Everyone suddenly sucks when they play the Yankees.”
“Unbelievable,” DiCenzo added. “Un-fucking-believable.”
Sparked by the recent returns of phenom starter Phil Hughes and slugger Jason Giambi, the Yankees have their full roster healthy and together for the first time since April, which fans around the world have solemnly realized is perfect timing for the stretch run.
“It seems like every time the [sports] ticker comes up, they’re winning 10-1,” said Chicago resident Jeremy Killian. “You knew this was going to happen. You knew. Right when they got Clemens back, you fucking knew.”
“Every time,” Killian continued. “Every time with this fucking team. It’s the same damn thing every time. You just, they never go away. You can’t give them an inch. You cannot give them one inch.”
“And Jeter…” Killian added, watching as the Yankee shortstop drove home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth with a softly tapped ball that barely dribbled past the pitcher’s mound. “Fucking Jeter.”
As the Yankees remain hot in August, the team continues to rely on GM Brian Cashman’s strategy of stockpiling cheap, young pitching and assembling a group of talented role players to surround the team’s superstars. In recent weeks, rookie reliever Joba Chamberlain and newly acquired utility man Wilson Betemit have stepped up and delivered in clutch situations, much to the frustration of nearly everyone.
“You got fucking Abreu all of a sudden going 3 for 4 every night,” Boston citizen Mark Baker said of the Yankees’ recent surge. “Fucking Giambi’s back. A-Rod’s hitting 500 fucking home runs a night. Posada, that bastard. You got Matsui, who’s a Red Sox killer. Then there’s Shelley Duncan, who no one even heard of till three weeks ago. Guy never hit a home run in his life, he puts on pinstripes and suddenly he’s Babe fucking Ruth.”
“And this Melky Cabrera guy,” Baker added. “Where did this fucking guy come from? Him and Cano. They got guys coming out of the fucking woodwork.”
“Fucking Yankee fans must be loving this,” said New York resident and avid Mets fan Dave Julian, muting the Yankee broadcast to temporarily silence the grating sound of Yankee cheers. “The smug fucks. And those Yankee announcers. Why don’t they root a little harder? They make me sick. Michael Kay. Bet Steinbrenner’s laughing it up. Bought himself another fucking championship.”
Although the Yankees’ schedule becomes tougher in the coming month, with multiple series against the Tigers, Angels, Red Sox, and Mariners, most baseball fans have resigned themselves to the fact that the season is “pretty much fucking over.”
“What the fuck can you do?” said Detroit citizen Terry Grey. “Every call. The Yankees get every break, the bounces all go their way. It’s luck. They’re lucky. They’re so fucking lucky.”
“Stupid,” Grey added. “It’s all stupid. Why play the whole fucking season if this is what’s always going to happen?”
Despite the mixture of anger, resentment, and disbelief that has surfaced across the country during the Yankees’ recent hot streak, most fans have been able to take some solace in the fact that the Yankees will be eliminated by the Angels in the first round of the playoffs.


Holodeck v1.0

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This omni-directional treadmill represents a massive step forward in designing and developing virtual worlds. So far its just the floor of the holodeck, but still it’s something…

Via Neu


My Very Own Football Club

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Ever wanted to own a sports team? If someone says “football” do you think “match” instead of “game?” If so, you’ll want to know about a new site/org called MyFootballClub which is aiming to make football history in just 3 easy steps:

  1. Get at least 50,000 members who will pay 35 pounds each (equal to $70.81 today).
  2. Use the pooled money to buy an English football club
  3. Have its members, who are also owners, vote on team selection, player transfers, etc.

If interested, they, or I should say we, have reached the magic 50k threshold and now are in talks with 4 different teams (nameless for now, though they are in the Division Two and Conference divisions). Overseas payments are now accepted and I paid yesterday.
I cannot wait to see what club we end up with!


Timely Mail

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I’m working from home today due to the storm related transit problems. I finally tried to head into the office and found that the 4/5 line stopped at 86th St and that while the 6 was running sporadically, there were hundreds of people waiting. So, in order to make a 2 pm call, I went home and on the way to my virtual office, I got my mail and saw that I received from the New York City Office of Emergency Management the piece below:


You can’t make this stuff up.