Blog of Mass Distraction

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Election fun

The US elections draw closer and Bush is once again (slightly) leading in the polls. With just over a week to go it will be a close race. Let us, however, take a look at some of the other elections, recent and upcoming.
John Howard was reelected in Australia to an unprecedented fourth term a couple of weeks ago. What was expected to be a close vote turned out to be a strong win for Howard. Apparently Howard's strong emphasis on national security helped him. While involving Australia in the second Iraq invasion was unpopular, views about terrorism became more pronounced when violence hit closer to home. The vicious Bali bombings and the more recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta have pushed the vote in the direction of the right wing Liberal leader.
Speaking of right wing liberal leaders (what kind of oxymoron is that?) Blair has come under some harsh fire recently, from within his own caucus. Blair has agreed to send the Black Watch battalion to a location near Baghdad; trasferring them from their current location near Basra. This was criticized as a favor to his friend President Bush that will compromise the safety of British troops and calls in to question British independence. Blair has insisted this was a request of the US Army not Bush (British troops are under US command in Iraq), and that it's the right choice because it will help ensure the safety of the Iraqi elections in January. Blair seems to be relying on the lack of a viable opposition to his leadership because, with the elections set for next year in Britain, he seems to be digging his own political grave just to help out Bush. He must be getting some really nice kickbacks to put himself through the wringer and repeat the lies and mistakes to the British people that Bush promoted to the American people.
But enough about Blair, Indonesia has a new president. Megawati Sukarnoputri lost to the favoured former general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Yudhoyono has a reputation of integrity for reportedly refusing to declare a state of emergency at the behest of former president Wahid during calls for his impeachment. Supposed integrity and reputation as a reformer aside, Yudhoyono is a protege of former general Wiranto (accused of war crimes by the UN). Yudhoyono was also involved in the Indonesian military action in East Timor which lead to the slaughter of over 100,000 people in the tiny half island.
The real kicker in this was some political commentary I saw on BBC about the elections. Some pundit was saying that Bambang Yudhoyono would benefit from his military reputation. Because of the recent spike in terrorism associated with Indonesia, having a strong leader would be a change for the better. After all, he said, things weren't so bad under Suharto. That's what got me... things weren't so bad under Suharto? WHAT? Suharto started his term as president through a coup, elminated free press and, with the help of the CIA, conducted a mass expulsion of anyone considered a communist or political dissident. In fact the CIA provided the list of names, and checked them off as the people were captured or eliminated. Thousands were murdered under his military regime that lasted 30 years; and he drove the Indonesian economy into the ground while amassing a personal fortune of some $15 billion US. Suharto was a horrendous human rights violator and that destroyed the economy of what should be a very wealthy country (Indonesia is awash in valuable resources, including oil). And this guy was stating the comparison between Suharto and Yudhoyono as a positive thing?

One final note, Iran has given their endorsement to George Bush to win the US elections. Aside from being pretty funny, this actually has some sense behind it; but that will have to wait for my next post.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Boycott everything

I watched the third debate a couple of nights ago and it went pretty much like the first two. The third debate was about internal policy and the typical issues received attention: health care, education, economy and national defense. The debate was moderated by Bill Schieffer who also moderated the debates in the early 1860s during the start of the civil war. Sorry, I shouldn't joke about his age, I should be so lucky to live to be as old as he looks; and at least he's not a whiney jackass like Andy Rooney.
But about the debate, Kerry was all over Bush for his poor tax policy, cutting health care and education and making their country a more dangerous place to live. Bush, perhaps realizing that his policies are indefensible, resorted to mostly attacking Kerry's character while making feeble attempts to support his own actions. This seems to have been his strategy for quite some time now.
In terms of character assassination, the Republicans just seem better at it than Democrats. Democrats like to think they are smarter by actually discussing issues and topics rather than slinging mud but, considering how well the Republicans are doing in the polls, it seems like slinging mud may be the way to win people over.
On that note, Sinclair Broadcasting will be airing a documentary called "Stolen Honor" just before the election. It's supposed to be about Kerry's opposition to the Vietnam war, and how it denigrated the POWs and soldiers that fought in Vietnam. As I've said before the entire episode: from the assassination of Diem, to the bombing of Laos and Cambodia, supporting the Khmer Rouge, the many My Lai's, and the Kissinger brokered treaty (that was violated right away), was a giant crime against humanity. One for which Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon should be tried (if any of them were alive, that is). Kissinger is alive, and he should be tried for war crimes, but that'll never happen.
But back the point, someone suggested boycotting the sponsors of Sinclair Broadcasting. The problem is boycotting gigantic multi-billion dollar corporations gets really complicated really quickly. Just looking at that list, it includes the big 3 car companies as well as Toyota, Hyundai and Nissan, it includes Walmart, Colgate-Palmolive, Gillette, GSK and Pfizer. These last few in particular would make shopping for regular products fairly difficult; and if you're prescribed some medication good luck trying to boycott the sole copyright holder and manufacturer.
Now I'm not saying it's impossible to do this but it takes some effort, and I'm talking from experience. I decided a long time ago to not support cigarette companies. Kraft Foods happens to be owned by Phillip Morris (now called Altria), one of the giant tobacco companies. Now aside from the creepiness of buying your food from a tobacco company Kraft Foods, and its associated companies, make damn near everything. Post cereals, Jell-O, Nabisco and Mr.Christie are all Kraft. While this makes you very aware of what you're eating, it really cuts into the amount of choice you have.
Furthermore, I also don't drink Coca-Cola or any of its derivative products. This seemingly includes half of all the non-alcoholic drinks in the world (the other half being produced by Pepsi). A short run-down of some Coke products includes: Coke (duh!), Sprite, Fanta, Dasani, Gatorade, Powerade, Fruitopia, Dr.Pepper, A&W, Barqs, Canada Dry, Five Alive, and many more. And Coke ships its products to every blasted corner of the planet. There are some small African villages where it's easier to find Coke than potable water. I know this from experience as well, and it's just depressing.
Now don't get me wrong, it takes some effort to cut these products out of your consumption; but it's not impossible. And I'll definitely continue not using any of these products. Incidentally, I stopped drinking Coke because of their policy against their unions.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Don't be hatin'

I watched the second debate last night. It was a town hall type setup, citizens from St.Louis, who are supposedly undecided voters, asked questions for President Bush and Senator Kerry. The process was moderated by Charles Gibson. Gibson, at the beginning, made it clear that he had preapproved all the questions, and they were to cut off anyone that asked something else; thus eliminating all possibility of discussing taboo subject matter.
I didn't bother watching the commentary and spin afterwards, so I'm not sure what other opinions of the debate were but, for what it's worth, I think it was a little more even handed than the last debate. I think Bush's genial style helped him out here, but Kerry has still made a better showing overall in the first two debates; and likely will do so in the third. One funny thing that Kerry mentioned when asked about raising taxes he said he'd raise taxes for only those Americans earning more than $200,000 a year. So, he said, of all the people in attendance at the debate only three would be affected: himself, President Bush, and the moderator Charles Gibson.
While Kerry has shown himself to be the consummate debator, it may not help him actually win the election. Bush has had a lock on a good number of the college votes and he has strong ties with governors of California and Florida. This would help if he wanted to use dirty tricks and vote rigging but, judging from the 2000 elections, he's obviously not above such tactics.
The great threat to our country is that these haters end up with weapons of mass destruction.
- George W. Bush, 2nd Presidential debate 10/08/2004

Friday, October 01, 2004

Kerry won, I guess...

Ok, so the debates went off pretty much as expected. The first rich guy questioned the actions of the second rich guy. The second rich guy said the first rich guy can't make decisions.
But seriously, the main topics of discussion were Iraq, nuclear weapons, North Korea, Iran, and national security; though virtually everything that was said was disingenuous. There were a couple of topics where they were being at least somewhat frank about their actions. But when there's that much dishonesty, some truth may happen to slip out.
Both candidates made plain their support for the right to first strike of the US. Both of them support the right of the United States to unilaterally make preemptive attacks on any country. Kerry said "No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America." Of course the word 'protect' can be used as loosely as desired. They can, and have, made preemptive strikes to protect US interests, or the interests of specific people. But that's all part of their first strike doctrine.
Bush also made clear his opposition to the International Criminal Court. He was against the idea of "a body based in The Hague where unaccountable judges and prosecutors can pull our troops or diplomats up for trial." Bush didn't bother mentioning why the ICC would ever want to put those people on trial, but I'm surprised he mentioned this in the way he did. Sure he said they're unaccountable judges, but saying that US troops and diplomats would be on trial in the International Criminal Court (which only tries war crimes and crimes against humanity) seems like he's entering taboo subject area. Perhaps he fumbled his statements and meant to say (what the US has been parroting as their standard dismissal of the ICC) that US enemies would use the ICC for political attack against America.
One thing that sort of shocked me, and really surprised me when no one picked up on it, was a statement that Kerry made about Iran. While criticizing the Bush administration policy on Iran, he mentioned that he would have offered Iran nuclear material. Maybe it was because he mentioned it so breifly that no one noticed, but really... offering nuclear material to what is considered an enemy state? It seems down right crazy; and to say it during the debate! I thought for a little while there that I might have been mistaken, but it's right there in the transcript. "I think the United States should have offered the opportunity to provide the nuclear fuel, test them, see whether or not they were actually looking for it for peaceful purposes." Oh hell, they sold weapons to the moo-lahs before; maybe selling nukular material to Iran wouldn't be such a drastic policy shift after all.