Thursday, May 19, 2005

Straight from the pages of Update from Washington

From an e-publication called Update from Washington:
The Humane Society of the U.S. is asking Congress to end the tax breaks of big-game hunters who are "donating" their mounts to US charitable institutions.

According to HSUS, which conducted a 2-year undercover investigation, "HSUS estimates that over 350,000 big game trophies entered the United Statesbetween 1998 and 2003. An unknown number of those trophies were donated to museums....

"HSUS investigators estimate that millions of dollars in tax revenue have been lost because of improper deductions that date back years. Understaffed enforcement efforts have resulted in deductions that are vastly inflated.

"Big game hunters are also eligible for awards offered by Safari Club International (SCI), which promotes worldwide competitive trophy hunting. The competitive nature of trophy hunting is revealed in the group's record
books, which document the size, location and date of the kill....

"Under the Endangered Species Act and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), permits are required to import trophies from threatened or endangered animals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the agency responsible for enforcing these laws and for reviewing the permits. Last month, Interior Secretary Gale Norton appointed Matthew Hogan, a former SCI lobbyist, to interim director of the USFWS [US Fish & Wildlife Service]...."


Washington Post Story:

HSUS Press Release, go to April 2005 Press Room at:

Friday, May 13, 2005

John Bolton: Wilford Brimley's Evil Twin

The Bolton clusterfuck is something I think bears interesting comment... however, lacking time to make new interesting comments, I'll instead focus on the Red Herring the Bush Crime Family is trying to put across: the UN needs reform, and so an insane hard-driving yelling a-hole who Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell's former staffers admit had to be kept on a tight leash lest he foolishly reveal, deride, obstruct, or overzealously promote the interior workings of the Crime Family Administration is the one to do the job.


So rather than deconstructing the Bolton side of this red herring, let's go to the UN side: the UN needs reforming. Baby, you ain't kiddin'. But guess as to why I think the UN needs reforming? Hint: it's from the influence of some"one" with a name and initials very similar to the UN... So I've called in as guest writer J circa 2002, from a Fray post in response to an old Slate article on the UN by Max Boot:
Unilateralists' Odd Logic
Date:May 9 2002 12:07PM

Mr. Boot admits much of the UN's effectiveness has been in the past hampered by US actions, and that the US is an essential linchpin.

Relatively close to these admissions, he says the UN isn't and never will be effective, and the US has to take leadership and its own initiative. This seems to be a favorite hawkish argument, but if you put this thought together with the previous one, you get a kind of Mobius strip:

If the UN is often ineffective because of us, the US, and we have to take leadership and initiative into our own hands, then why don't we, guess what, take the leadership and initiative to help increase the UN's effectiveness and advance a multilateral agenda?

Why? Because multilateralism insists on compromising our own interests for larger ones, even in somewhat flawed bargains but supremely important bargains like Kyoto and the International Court. This may sound unpalatable, but stop and think -- are our own INTERNAL policies, agreements, and regulations without flaw? C'mon, think things through here.

The only reason the UN doesn't, and "may never" work is that the world's superpower keeps dragging its feet about it. It may be unimaginable that a world body can ever be effective, but important steps are often unimaginable. (Try explaining US democracy in ancient Sumeria, see how plausible they'd've thought it. Or hey, imagine convincing the post WWI US that today's UN would work at all.) But equally unimaginable is the status quo -- only by *making* the UN effective will the US ever be able to retire as the world's intervenor.

(Editor's Note: This is from a far less revolutionary J; besides which, the "world's intervenor" bit was a more a bone thrown to the opposite side -- who feel we have a moral obligation to intervene and feel it burdensome that we only get criticized when we do so; what does it matter if we only do so for our own self-interest and usually fuck it up? "We're a superpower, it's what we do" seems to be the attitude. In any case, that past last sentence notwithstanding, J is not necessarily a big advocate of US or even UN intervention militarily in most matters (though Darfur might be a good place to do SOMETHING for flying fucks' sake) but does agree the UN is quite often hamstrung in even its peaceful and/or humanitarian goals. The reason, quite often, is the US, which has often been the only objector and has, for example, not signed international agreements committing to children's rights, women's rights, workers' rights, particularly notable in my line of work, signed but never ratified the 1976 Covenant on Cultural, Social, and Economic Rights, which includes within it the right to food and committment of governments to provides means for which their own citizens may all acquire sufficient food for a healthy and active lifestyle). Being the only country, say, using napalm, the largest country still using anti-personnel landmines, the country with the largest number of worldwide military bases, the country condemning other countries for torture while shipping prisoners there to be tortured, to say nothing of our immense prison population, execution of minors and those with developmental problems still legal in some states, capital punishment in general still being legal, and carried out ever-so-sloppily by then-Governor Bush (in the process of which he also bypassed some more international agreements), developing new nuclear bombs...

All that is to say, one of the main problems with the UN is it is dependent largely on the superpowers for it to accomplish anything, in terms of both resources necessary to do them and the votes in the Security Council and the political will to support the UN and multilateralism in general, that if the self-proclaimed world leader refuses to lead in, for example, addressing hunger, which afflicts 800 million people in the world as well as posing dangers to the health and development of an additional 1.2 billion people (i.e. 1/3rd of the world's population give or take) and views expediency as more important than obeying nuclear treaties and justifies increasing the number of times we can raze the surface of the earth and the depths to which we can do so with... well, nothing. We need to be safe, therefore, we need the power to kill you.

And why is this causing a problem with your humanitarian aims which we support less only in money than in rhetoric?... it's simple: all of you other little countries and brown people stop fucking up and allow us to dominate you so that we can slap the shit out of you if you do fuck up, why can't we all just agree to that as a matter of founding UN principle?

Bolton is almost an explicit supporter of this philosophy, saying it in not quite those words but still in no unclear terms... this is the reform we need?

Sending a small child or Ted Kaczinski into the UN as our rep would "shake things up" too -- not all blathering blustering shaking-upping bravado is GOOD for reform, you twits...

Thursday, May 12, 2005

That J is Still Crazy: More Good Sh*t from the Vaults

Heyo, things have been mad busy is the real-life portion of the J Continuum, so very little time for posting. As always, I shouldn't be posting now but rather working, and on the other hand, there are also eleventy billion things I should talk about and be posting on if I had my druthers. Instead, part II of my "Back in the US" diary from my first hours here after returning from Brasil ~ 1 month ago. Enjoy. Or, you know, don't. (Though someone might try COMMENTING one of these days... throw me a frickin' bone here, I don't WANT to be an echo chamber...)

Monday, April 11, 2005, 9:38 AM:
Not sure if I heard the women behind me correctly, but let us assume I did, at least just to be a foil for this rant.

They were talking about traveling and the different politics of different regions – one of them commenting that really it’s only the cities (or hubs was her actual word) that are liberal (blue was her actual word). That the countryside of all the states was red; “I don’t know of one truly blue state,” was what I thought she said, and will pretend that she did in fact say for my purposes here.

Now let’s think about it – it’s worth assuming she said this because it reflects an attitude I think truly exists in the American collective unconscious (or conscious). “Except for the cities, we’re a conservative country.” “Well, most of the state is actually red, but Portland and Seattle are blue so there you go.” Of course, the reason why the “hubs” have such an effect is because that is where
most of the people live. To sort of wish away the crazy liberals in the cities is to disregard half of the country! The fact that half of the country lives in close proximity to each other in cities does not, to me, have much to do with how valid their political views are in contrast with the less densely populated larger LAND area the rest of the people live in. Now, I wouldn’t want to make the same mistake of saying that just because a lot of people live in the sparsely populated countryside their ideas or votes should be disregarded. But how many times have you heard, or got the impression of, “if it weren’t for Chicago/Detroit/New York City/Los Angeles/San Francisco/Portland/Seattle/what have you, that state’d be red”? Well sure, and if dolphins were made of jelly we’d spread them on pieces of bread in the morning and have it with some coffee (it took me 5 minutes to think of something that ridiculous, I hope you appreciate it). That is to say, sure, yeah, you’re right, if it weren’t for the cities, the country would mostly skew red (though not as much as many people think – see here and here and here – most of the US is pretty evenly divided, with most of the clearly red areas being very small population-wise, and by far most of the country "purple hazy", very visible here (from M. T. Gastner, C. R. Shalizi, and M. E. J. Newman, (c) 2004):

...But to talk like these women did, it's, it's... it's sipmly to make up world where most people don’t exist and, I guess, the people in the countryside make their own cars, appliances, cheez whiz and all the other heavily processed consumer products that these days they make in those knees-bent running-about so-called enlightened cities.

Yeah, and if it wasn’t for my horse… (award yourself 85 points on your J Continuum Home Game if you recognize that joke)

At some point later, they were complaining about how hard it was to keep a job these days, especially since once you get a little bit of time underneath your belt in a company, they try and boot your ass so they can higher someone cheaper/younger. “All they care about is money – is about that bottom line,” says one as the other nods in agreement. “But that’s Big Brother for you.”


Does she think the Government (probably composed of some liberal city-like pockets – if it weren’t for those liberal EPA bureaucrats…) is the reason her company and many others fire people in order to hire younger ones, just cuz they’re cheaper and are likely to cost less in health care expenses? Or, is the reason, oh let’s see, who could it be now, could it be…. SATAN! I mean, CAPITALISM? Or does she think Big Brother is just some general term for, I don’t know, institutions that are larger than your circle of friends? Big Brother consisted of faceless bureaucrats and indifferent caprice in Orwell’s 1984; how is it an indictment of liberalism that her company is the same? (Of course, she may not have been connecting this to liberalism but just general… I don’t know, general “things to grouse about”.) Nonetheless – Big Brother? Huh? If only I were a little ruder so I could’ve intruded in their conversation to see what the hell they were thinking (I really wanted to ask the one whose boyfriend still eats only “Freedom Fries” if she and/or her boyfriend knew that “French Fries” are (according to their own accounts) from a country I like to call “Belgium” and that people in the country of “France” don’t give a shit about "Freedom Fries” since French Fries is a long-used US-exclusive name? Or would that be too knees-bent liberal snotty intellectual elitism, to, you know, know what actual words mean and when they might be wrong/stupid/aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahh?)