January 30th, 2006

hello?

Grasping the Subtleties Since 2000

"I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if your party has got an armed wing," President Bush said Thursday in remarks about the ever-so-unpleasant selection of Hamas to lead the non-nation of Palestine.

The president's failure to appreciate democracy-qua-democracy is legendary; taking his cue from right-wing sock puppet Hugh Hewitt (whose If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It came out after the 2000 elections), he seems to think that democracy is a sort of public spectacle, an excuse for potato salad and bunting, by which the public is allowed to vote in favor of the correct party. For him, elections are not unlike his service in the Air National Guard: a display, a perfunctory gesture through which one endorses allegience to the proper patriotic values -- but not anything to be taken particularly seriously, and certainly not anything in which an unexpected outcome (say, the fighting of an actual battle, or the election of an ideologically unsuitable candidate) should be allowed. His confounded, resentful reactions to open election results in Europe, Asia, and South America over the last six years tell you all you need to know about the esteem in which he holds the value of democracy; it's a principle worth going to war for, and worth wasting the lives of thousands, but it's not something you want to let decide who will lead a country.

Anyway, just in case the president wants to appear, in the future, slightly more informed about these matters, the reason that Hamas (and Fatah, for that matter) have armed wings is that, since Palestine is not a sovereign nation, it does not have its own military forces. Their armed wings function as combined police and security forces because, as an occupied territory of another nation, they are forcibly denied the opportunity to maintain a standing military. The only reason one does not say that the Republican Party in the United States doesn't have an armed wing is that, controlling the federal government as they currently do, they don't need one. Despite the best efforts of G.O.P. scandalmongers to make an issue out of Hamas' intention to use their own 'armed wing' as a security force, this is in no way different than what Fatah has done for the last fifteen to twenty years.

At any rate, we can all rest soundly at night, knowing as we do that if the President can't convince people that the Mahometan is a dire enough threat, American neoconservatives and lobbyists and the Israeli government can -- even if they have to commit treason to do it.
flavored with age

This War Brought To You By The Small Government Party

I've said for a while now that the worst scandal of the Iraq War is the one that's getting talked about the least. There's so much to hate about the invasion: the trumped-up pretexts for a war of aggression; the blatant fabrications about weapons of mass destruction; the paper-thin commitment to democracy and the freedom of the Iraqi people; the way that we're hanging the whole country out to dry now that things look less rosy than the unconscionably ill-planned pre-war predictions indicated; the near-universal scorn and ill will it's generated amongst our allies; the bitter division it's created within our own country; the way it's shown us to be weak at a time when we need to be seen as strong; the way it's involved us in torture, murder and false imprisonment; the necessity it's generated of making allies of some of the worst people in the region; and the incalculable cost in money, material and human lives.

But worse than all of that is the grotesque looting of public money by the very people who pushed for the war in the first place. The G.O.P. talks a high-minded game of democracy, freedom, and protection against terror, but their real priorities can be seen in the way profiteering businesses have taken the billions of dollars in taxpayer money earmarked for the war and stuffed it into their pockets -- and then going back to do it again and again and again. One compelling reason to think that George W. Bush is the worst president in American history is the way he combines elements of other rotten leaders in a repulsive synthesis: he blends the 'bog-America-down-in-an-unpopular-and-unwinnable-war' quality of Richard Nixon with the 'hand-over-as-much-public-money-as-possible-to-your-crooked-cronies' quality of Warren Harding. Independent estimates by non-partisan groups have indicated that the amount of money mismanaged, overcharged, or outright stolen by American forces, contractors and corporations in Iraq is far and away the largest in the history of the United States. Dozens are on trial or in jail already, but government prosecutors say that most cases aren't pursued and most guilty parties will never be charged (how much of a role political pressure plays in this reluctance to prosecute is unknown, but it doesn't take a genius to guess that it's a big factor).

The most recent audit is just that -- the most recent. Not the most damaging, not the worst, not the widest or the most damning; simply the latest. And even though it's less horrific in the picture it paints of American businessmen using taxpayer money meant for Iraq as a personal feeding trough than certain previous audits, it's damning enough:

- Desks at the Provisional Authority's Hillah office were stacked a foot high with $100 bills; Coalition authorities -- many of them young interns with no experience, hired because they put their resumes on Heritage Foundation job sites -- took them out of the central vault at their leisure, with no documentation of where the money was going. The amount of money taken out of the vault with no paperwork indicating who took it, who deposited it, or where it was spent may be as much as $20,000,000.

- One PA agent kept three-quarters of a million dollars -- money earmarked for Iraq reconstruction -- in an unlocked foot locker. An American soldier took over $50,000 of it to use on a gambling junket in the Phillipines.

- A large amount of Iraqi oil revenue, meant to be used to finance reconstruction, has gone missing -- auditors could account for only $23 million of a total of $120 million in revenue. (Beyond the missing $97 million, only $8 million of the $23 million accounted for was documented in a proper manner.) Many of the agents in charge of the money were former Bush campaign workers.

- American contractors fattened themselves off of gargantuan contracts but did little actual work. One received over $600,000 to repair an elevator at Hillah's General Hospital, but he didn't do the work, and three Iraqi orderlies fell to their deaths when the elevator collapsed. Another American contractor received over $100,000 to replace the plumbing at a public pool in Hillah; he merely polished the old pipes to make them look new and pocketed the money. And another was paid $14,0000 four times for a job he only did once. (Auditors estimate that for every case of contractor fraud of this nature they discover, there are possibly as many as a dozen more they don't.)

- Two PA agents simply absconded with nearly a million and a half dollars. Their manager, when confronted with evidence of the loss, tried to clear them using fraudulent paperwork. (None of the three have yet been referred for prosecution.)

- Nearly $2,000,000 of reconstruction funds for the library at Karbala was wasted, with hundreds of thousands still unaccounted for. The American contractor in charge of the project promised to install almost 70 computers, but he only delivered 18, and didn't provide internet access or a LAN; the computers only work as stand-alones and are thus nearly worthless.

- $23,000,000 was given to PA officers and agents to pay contractors. Only $6,000,000 was disbursed.

- U.S. security forces spent nearly a million dollars on seven armored cars; not only did they prove to be too lightly armored to use, but one of them is missing.

Keep in mind, this audit deals only with south-central Iraq -- one of the least hostile, most stable parts of the country following the cessation of active combat. Most auditors expect the amount of fraud, theft and misappropriation in other parts of the country to be much, much higher.

It's too bad that calling this Halliburton's War has become such a leftist cliche. It's never been about oil, but it's always been about money -- and in the end, the war will end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars, not just in legitimate expenses, but in terms of the fraud, overcharging, double-dipping, misappropriation, and outright theft that is being perpetrated by American corporations with a wink and a nod from the most corrupt White House administration since the Ohio Gang. Next time someone tells you they vote Republican because only the G.O.P. can protect us, remember those un-armored cars shuttling around crooked timeservers with their fingers in the till; next time they tell you they vote Republican because they're against big government wasting their tax dollars, remember those 22-year-old Bush interns sitting behind a desk piled high with cash that used to be in your wallet.
banana

Anyway

What we learned from Friday's poll:

1. A majority of respondents agreed with xanthussaves that 'teeth plaque conspiracy Metallica' is the Google search result they'd most like to see. Well, here you go, 52% of my readers:



2. The most popular choice of who you would like to see naked was MODOK, proving once and for all that you are a bunch of sick fucks. Come on, folks -- look at his withered, flaccid little legs, and draw your own conclusions. Continuing the geeky theme, the runner-up was all of the actors who have ever played Dr. Who, further cementing the identity of of this site's readership as perverted geeks who like looking at withered, useless male genitalia. The prospect that some of you are aching to see Patrick Troughton's block and tackle is probably the most upsetting thing I have discovered via these polls. (The fact that three of you want to see Nan Talese naked but none of you want to see James Frey naked likewise speaks to a certain skewed sensibility, I fear.)

3. The "one-dollar, one-vote" system was suggested by a majority 17 of you as the G.O.P.'s next democratic refinement. I suppose it will not be surprising to most of you that certain libertarian thinkers have actually seriously proposed such a thing -- that a person's net worth should be reflected in their voting power. One such proposal, big in the early 1990s libertarian boom, advocated voting 'units' in ten-dollar increments; thus, a bum with $300 in his pocket would get the equivalent of 30 votes when he pulled the lever, while a corporate CEO worth fifty million would get the equivalent of five million votes. The reasoning behind this is that a bum contributes much less to society than a CEO, so the CEO's vote should be worth more. The utter ridiculousness and anti-democratic idea behind this seemed to have escaped its defenders completely.

4. In a surprise result (at least to me), cheese was the #1 vote-getter as a taco option, with 86% of you demanding it. I have nothing else to say about that question other than it made me hungry for tacos.

5. It was highly enjoyable reading your proposed memoir fabrications, and there were plenty of good ones to choose from. But I'm giving the crown to fiberpunk, who writes that "I could have helped more Jews get out of the death camps by selling my watch, when really, it wasn't that nice a watch."

6. (BONUS QUESTION) The funniest joke that Ann "Let's Poison That Liberal Fuck Stevens" Coulter has ever made is that she is funny, according to 33% of you. Strangely, no one seemed to think that her suggestion that we repeal the right of women to participate in elections was very funny. It's so subjective, humor.
flavored with age

Actual conversation between me and the MovieFone AIM-Bot

[15:17] theludickid: Hey, MovieFone AIMBot!

[15:17] MovieFone: Hi there. I'm the new MovieFone bot! I can find movies for you anywhere in the country in a fraction of second. All you have to do is give me part of the title, an actor or director's name. I can also send you alerts when your favorite films are opening. Type privacy anytime to review the policy. Type any movie you want to see or menu to get going.

======= Movie of the Week =======
The Pink Panther (2006) - Movie Site

[15:17] theludickid: You really think I would like "The Pink Panther"? Because I have to tell you, it looks super-shitty.

[15:17] MovieFone: I think you should type, menu. I was not able to find any movies related to what you typed.

[15:17] theludickid: There's no need to get cagey, MovieFone.

[15:17] MovieFone: 1 -P- Get Rich or Die Tryin'

[15:18] theludickid: No, YOU get rich or die tryin'!

[15:18] MovieFone: 3 -P- Yabu no naka no kuroneko (Kuroneko)

[15:18] theludickid: You know quite well I don't speak your foreign jibber-jabber. Hey, did you see "Failure to Launch"? Because I did, and it was god-awful.

[15:18] MovieFone: Pardon me? If you don't understand why I am not understanding you, just type, help.

[15:19] theludickid: If...if I don't understand why I'm not understanding you?

[15:19] MovieFone: 7 -F- Awesome: I F&!#in' Shot That

[15:19] theludickid: You can cuss in front of me, MovieFone. We're both adults here.

[15:19] MovieFone: 1 -F- You Want Me to Kill Him?

[15:19] theludickid: Do I want you to kill who?

[15:19] MovieFone: Let's not get carried away ;-).

[15:20] theludickid: Oh, MovieFone. Emoticons? I expected so much more from you.

[15:20] MovieFone: Enter a valid 5 digit zip-code.

[15:20] theludickid: Uh, okay. 60618.

[15:20] MovieFone: I found Imagine Me & You playing on 01/30/2006 but not anywhere near 60618. Try for another film, director or actor.

[15:20] theludickid: With pleasure.

[15:20] MovieFone: 1 -P- India: Kingdom of the Tiger: with Captions

[15:20] theludickid: WITH CAPTIONS! Oh, MovieFone, you've made me the happiest man alive.

[15:20] MovieFone: 4 -F- Don't Trip...He Ain't Through With Me Yet

[15:21] theludickid: I am through with you, though.

[15:21] MovieFone: Mm hm.