Friday, March 28, 2008

Tokyo Spring - Hanami

If you don't know, springtime in Japan is very famous for its cherry blossoms, and festivals are held under the trees. The festivals are quite noisy, raucous affairs, with the beer and sake flowing, feasting and even karaoke (!)

Below are a number of Tokyo spring shots, courtesy of Doodlebug.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fucking Brilliant.

Now I KNOW it's the Obama team behind these video "endorsements". Check out the Hillary team. Not QUITE as effective as Raining McCain, but still stomach-hurtingly hilarious:


Well, if this doesn't sew up the election for the Depends canddate, nothing will. Behold, I give you:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Homebrewed Japanese translations 2 - Courtney Love & Hole's "Malibu"

Before I read up on her, I unfairly resented Courtney Love for "capitalizing on the death of Kurt Kobain". Turns out she'd been a musician just as long as he had, and they met before either band hit the big time. Neil Strauss's encounter with her in "The Game" also gave me a new perspective. Still, it's no wonder Rolling Stone calls her "the most controversial woman in rock history". The classic "Malibu", a bittersweet ode to Kurt, while he was recuperating in rehab. Not incidentally, bassist Melissa Auf der Maur gives me total goosebumps. The lyrics follow in English and my somewhat wonky Japanese:

Crash and burn
All the stars explode tonight
How'd you get so desperate
How'd you stay alive
Help me please
Burn the sorrow from your eyes
Oh, come on be alive again
Don't lie down and die

Hey, hey
You know what to do
Oh, baby, drive away to Malibu

Get well soon
Please don't go any higher
How are you so ashes burnt when
You're barely on burning fire
Cry to the angels
I'm gonna rescue you
I'm gonna set you free tonight, baby
Pour over me

Hey, hey
We're all watching you
Oh, baby, fly away to Malibu
Cry to the angels
And let them swallow you
Go and part the sea, yeah, in Malibu

And the sun goes down
I watch you slip away
And the sun goes down
I walk into the waves
And I knew love would tear you apart
Oh and I knew the darkest secret of your heart

I'm gonna follow you
Oh baby, fly away, yeah, to Malibu
Oceans of angels
Oceans of stars
Down by the sea is where you drown your scars

I can't be near you
The light just radiates
I can't be near you
The light just radiates......

マリブ ホール

Hey, hey

baby, 今晩君を解放する

Hey, hey

夕陽 は下っている
夕陽 は下っている



Friday, March 14, 2008

homebrewed Japanese translations

A personal favorite song by a great Canuck band - translated for your edification:

もし百万ドッラがあったら (もし百万ドッラがあったら)
もし百万ドッラがあったら (もし百万ドッラがあったら)

君が手伝える、 そなに難しくない


Kraft Dinner (マカロニ・アンド・チーズ)を食べなくてもいい
でもKraft Dinner をたべる



If I had a $1,000,000
If I had a $1,000,000 (If I had a $1,000,000)
I'd buy you a house (I would buy you a house)
If I had a $1,000,000 (If I had a $1,000,000)
I'd buy you furniture for your house
(Maybe a nice chesterfield or an ottoman)
And if I had a $1,000,000 (If I had a $1,000,000)
I'd buy you a K-Car
(A nice Reliant automobile)
If I had $1,000,000 I'd buy your love.

If I had a $1,000,000
I'd build a tree fort in our yard
If I had $1,000,000
You could help, it wouldn't be that hard
If I had $1,000,000
Maybe we could put like a little tiny fridge in there
You know, we could just go up there and hang out
Like open the fridge and stuff
There would be already laid out foods for us
Like little pre-wrapped sausages and things

If I had $1,000,000 (If I had $1,000,000)
I'd buy you a fur coat
(But not a real fur coat that's cruel)
And if I had $1,000,000 (If I had a $1,000,000)
I'd buy you an exotic pet
(Like a llama or an emu)
And if I had $1,000,000 (If I had a $1,000,000)
I'd buy you John Merrick's remains
(All them crazy elephant bones)
And If I had $1,000,000 I'd buy your love.

If I had a $1,000,000
We wouldn't have to walk to the store
If I had a $1,000,000
We'd take a limousine 'cause it costs more.
If I had a $1,000,000
We wouldn't have to eat Kraft Dinner
But we would eat Kraft Dinner
Of course we would, we'd just eat more
And buy really expensive ketchups with it
That's right, all the fanciest dijon ketchups

If I had $1,000,000 (If I had $1,000,000)
I'd buy you a green dress
(But not a real green dress, that's cruel)
And if I had $1,000,000 (If I had $1,000,000)
I'd buy you some art
(A Picasso or a Garfunkel)
If I had $1,000,000 (If I had $1,000,000)
I'd buy you a monkey
(Haven't you always wanted a monkey?)
If I had $1,000,000
I'd buy your love

If I had $1,000,000, If I had $1,000,000
If I had $1,000,000, If I had $1,000,000
I'd be rich

-the Barenaked Ladies

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Clueless?!? Think Again!

I've gradually come to a rather chilling conclusion: Bush, Cheney and his oil crony pals know EXACTLY what they're doing. In fact, while at times ad hoc, it's all generally part of a quite well-documented plan:
Four years ago this week, the tanks rolled for what President Bush originally called, “Operation Iraqi Liberation” — O.I.L. -- I kid you not.

And it was four years ago that, from the White House, George Bush, declaring war, said, “I want to talk to the Iraqi people.” That Dick Cheney didn’t tell Bush that Iraqis speak Arabic … well, never mind. I expected the President to say something like, “Our troops are coming to liberate you, so don’t shoot them.” Instead, Mr. Bush told, the Iraqis, “Do not destroy oil wells.“....

And that was the plan: putting a new floor under the price of oil. I have that in writing. In 2005, after a two-year battle with the State and Defense Departments, they released to my team at BBC Newsnight the “Options for a Sustainable Iraqi Oil Industry.” Now, you might think our government shouldn’t be writing a plan for another nation’s oil. Well, our government didn’t write it, despite the State Department seal on the cover. In fact, we discovered that the 323-page plan was drafted in Houston by oil industry executives and consultants.

There's more:
Insiders told Newsnight that planning began "within weeks" of Bush's first taking office in 2001, long before the September 11th attack on the US.

An Iraqi-born oil industry consultant, Falah Aljibury, says he took part in the secret meetings in California, Washington and the Middle East. He described a State Department plan for a forced coup d'etat. Mr Aljibury himself told Newsnight that he interviewed potential successors to Saddam Hussein on behalf of the Bush administration.

Secret sell-off plan
The industry-favoured plan was pushed aside by a secret plan, drafted just before the invasion in 2003, which called for the sell-off of all of Iraq's oil fields. The new plan was crafted by neo-conservatives intent on using Iraq's oil to destroy the Opec cartel through massive increases in production above Opec quotas. The sell-off was given the green light in a secret meeting in London headed by Mr Chalabi shortly after the US entered Baghdad, according to Robert Ebel.

Mr Ebel, a former Energy and CIA oil analyst, now a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, told Newsnight he flew to the London meeting at the request of the State Department.

Mr Aljibury, once Ronald Reagan's "back-channel" to Saddam, claims that plans to sell off Iraq's oil, pushed by the US-installed Governing Council in 2003, helped instigate the insurgency and attacks on US and British occupying forces. "Insurgents used this, saying, 'Look, you're losing your country, you're losing your resources to a bunch of wealthy billionaires who want to take you over and make your life miserable,'" said Mr Aljibury from his home near San Francisco.

"We saw an increase in the bombing of oil facilities, pipelines, built on the premise that privatisation is coming."

Philip Carroll, the former CEO of Shell Oil USA who took control of Iraq's oil production for the US Government a month after the invasion, stalled the sell-off scheme. Mr Carroll told us he made it clear to Paul Bremer, the US occupation chief who arrived in Iraq in May 2003, that: "There was to be no privatisation of Iraqi oil resources or facilities while I was involved." ....

New plans, obtained from the State Department by Newsnight and Harper's Magazine under the US Freedom of Information Act, called for creation of a state-owned oil company favoured by the US oil industry. It was completed in January 2004 under the guidance of Amy Jaffe of the James Baker Institute in Texas. Formerly US Secretary of State, Baker is now an attorney representing Exxon-Mobil and the Saudi Arabian government.

The suspicion is that Bush went to war to get Iraq’s oil. That’s not true. The document, and secret recordings of those in on the scheme, made it clear that the Administration wanted to make certain America did not get the oil. In other words, keep the lid on Iraq’s oil production — and thereby keep the price of oil high. Of course, the language was far more subtle than, “Let’s cut Iraq’s oil production and jack up prices.” Rather, the report uses industry jargon and euphemisms which require Iraq to remain an obedient member of the OPEC cartel and stick to the oil-production limits — “quotas” — which keep up oil prices.

The Houston plan, enforced by an army of occupation, would, “enhance [Iraq’s] relationship with OPEC,” the oil cartel. And that’s undoubtedly why Condoleezza Rice asked Fadhil Chalabi to take charge of Iraq’s Oil Ministry. As former chief operating officer of OPEC, the oil cartel, Fadhil was a Big Oil favorite, certain to ensure that Iraq would never again allow the world to slip back to the Clinton era of low prices and low profits. (In investigating for BBC, I was told by the former chief of the CIA’s oil unit that he’d met with Fadhil regarding oil at Bush’s request. Fadhil recently complained to the BBC. He denied the meeting with the Bush emissary in London because, he noted, he was secretly meeting that week in Washington with Condi!)

Fadhil, by the way, turned down Condi’s offer to run Iraq’s Oil Ministry. Ultimately, Iraq’s Oil Ministry was given to Fadhil’s fellow tribesman, Ahmad Chalabi, a convicted bank swindler and neo-con idol. But whichever Chalabi is nominal head of Iraq’s oil industry in Baghdad, the orders come from Houston. Indeed, the oil law adopted by Iraq’s shaky government this month is virtually a photocopy of the “Options” plan first conceived in Texas long before Iraq was “liberated.”

In other words, the war has gone exactly to plan — the Houston plan. So forget the naïve cloth-rending about a conflict gone haywire. Exxon-Mobil reported a record $10 billion profit last quarter, the largest of any corporation in history. Mission Accomplished.

But the plans are much more insidious and sociopathic than even invading a non-threatening country and killing over a million civilians simply to line the pockets of the elite. It gets much, much worse:
The Bushies have a pattern and they stick to it in spite of every apparent reason to change course. It’s not as if we don’t know what pattern it is, and it’s not as if they haven’t advertised what the pattern will be--it is to break down the government so completely that it can’t be put back together again. Let’s take a look at the “mistakes” the Bush administration is said to have made, and, instead, ask ourselves if they are actually realized intentions:

1. Hobbling the government with debt by combining an expensive, prolonged war with perennial rounds of tax cuts.

2. Destroying the bureaucracy by making it impossible for neutral, expert, or objective bureaucrats to keep their jobs, replacing them with incompetents.

3. Destroying the integrity of the election system, state by state, beginning with Florida and Ohio.

4: Defanging the media by paying fake reporters, co-opting members of the MSM (why did the New York Times refrain from publishing stories unfavorable to the Bush administration before the 2004 election?) and allowing (or encouraging) huge mergers and the buying up of independent media operations by known conservative media conglomerates.

5. Destroying the middle class by changing the bankruptcy laws and the tax laws.

6. Destroying the National Guard and the Army by deploying them over and over in a futile war, while at the same time failing to provide them with armor and equipment.

7. Precipitating Iraq into a civil war by invading it.

8. Accelerating the effects of global warming by putting roadblocks in the way of mitigating its effects.

9. Denying healthcare and prescription medication to an increasing number of Americans, most specifically by ramming the prescription drug legislation through Congress, but also by manipulating Medicare and Medicaid so that fewer and fewer citizens are covered.

10. Encouraging the people in the rest of the world to associate the US with torture, military incursion, and fear, by a preemptive attack on a sovereign nation, by vociferously maintaining the right of the US to do whatever it wants whenever it wants, and by refusing to accept international laws.

Or, to put it another way, the Bush administration apparently wishes for and is working toward a chaotic Iraq, a corrupt American election structure with openly corrupt influence-peddlers like Delay and Abramoff in charge of policy, a world in which people suffer and die from weather-related catastrophes, a two-tiered economic structure in the US (with most people in the lower tier), and the isolation of the US as a rogue state from the other nations of the world.

How else are we going to interpret the satisfaction the President continually expresses in the results of his policies so far? As an example, when Bush said, “Heckuva job, Brownie”, outsiders generally assumed he was making a mistake--that he didn’t know what a bad job Brownie was doing. But let’s say that he knew perfectly well that Brownie had abandoned new Orleans to the forces of nature, and that THAT was the essence of the heckuva job he was doing. In the same way, many people assume that the administration is embarrassed that the extent of the American rendition gulag or the techniques of torture used at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have gotten into the news along with the use of white phosphorus in Falluja, as if torture and rendition and white phosphorus were something that Bush does not want to do. But let’s say that torture and rendition are something that the Bush administration is happy to do, and doesn’t mind others knowing about. Likewise, many observers, let’s say Jack Murtha, for one, assume that the president does not want to destroy the army. But if the army is destroyed, then the services that the army provides at a relatively moderate expense to the taxpayer can be farmed out to companies like Halliburton. Let’s say that Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush have cast their lot not with the draft, or even the volunteer army, but with the mercenary army, which is more profitable, less subject to Congressional and public oversight, and, really, the appropriate army for a rogue state. And, with a mercenary army, there is no problem when a fallen soldier is sent home as a piece of freight. It is only citizen-soldiers who make the ultimate sacrifice out of patriotism. When we get rid of citizen soldiers, then we don’t have to respect them.

When Grover Norquist said he wanted to strangle the shrunken government in the bathtub, he was not kidding. He meant that the taxpayers and and voters would not be able to look to the government for any services whatsoever, but also that they would not have any control over the government does. The drowned and strangled government, having ceased to exist, would not only offer no benefits to citizens, it would offer no obstacle to those who wished to break the laws (for example against internal spying), because there would be no law to break. It is for this reason that the Bush administration pays absolutely no attention to the polls--they have already discounted the preferences of the citizens. When the government has been shrunk to nothing and drowned in the bathtub, the citizenry will be entirely powerless--that is the real goal, not an unintended consequence. Norquist and his fellow theorists understand perfectly that in a modern democracy, there are two competing modes of voting: there is “one person, one vote” and there is “one dollar, one vote”. They not only prefer “one dollar, one vote”, they want to entirely get rid of “one person, one vote”.

The outcome of such policies will be a dictatorship or a tyranny. Such policies cannot be reconciled with the US as we know it, or with the vision of the Founding Fathers. It is true that rogue elements have stolen elections before, as the slave interest stole the election in Kansas in 1856 by openly ferrying fraudulent voters across the river from Missouri, and then bullying the Congress into certifying the election in spite of plenty of evidence that the election was corrupt. It is also true that the public has been fed lies in the past so that they would support a questionable war (remember the Maine!). Corrupt administrations probably outnumber clean ones in US history. But the ten “successes” I cite above come together to present, I think, the greatest threat to the US since the Civil War. The US is not like much of the rest of theworld: France has always been France, and England has been England for many centuries, and Russia defined itself during the reign of Ivan the Terrible as Russia in contrast to the Tartars and Europe. Chinese history is, supposedly, the longest continual history of any people in the world, but the US is based on an abstraction--a certain set of ideas that divide up and share out power so that it does not become concentrated in the hands of a single tyrannical entity, either party or person. We are expected to participate as citizens in our government at the local, state, and national level, and our government has been expected, from the beginning, to be a shared enterprise, not an engine of power and wealth for a single oligarchic group. Our government was devised as a set of ideas about how to avoid kings, aristocracies, and tyrannies. If it fails at that, or is manipulated into producing tyranny, then we are no longer living in the US, we are living in a no man’s land, without an actual identity. This set of ideas, political techniques, and beliefs that holds together immigrants from every continent and every culture.

Think that's too crazy for even such rampantly amoral bastards as the modern GOP?

Think again. This isn't guesswork. They've been openly advocating the program for years:
President Bush loves to talk about his favorite foreign policy doctrine of pre-emption, the radical notion that even in the absence of imminent danger the United States should use force against any nation that might pose a threat down the road. What the president won't admit is that his administration has adopted the same doctrine toward government -- and Democrats -- here at home. For conservatives, a government that's not mortgaged to the hilt poses too great a threat of social activism. That's why, in 2001 and again this year, the Bush administration has launched pre-emptive attacks on the national treasury designed to leave the U.S. government so deep in debt it poses no threat to the conservative status quo. Its motto is: Stop government before it can help again.

The Bush White House will not acknowledge the existence of this domestic doctrine. It can't: George W. Bush owes his presidency in large part to the masterful illusion that he was a different kind of Republican from Newt Gingrich. He's even careful to avoid making overt spending cuts in popular programs, lest he give the enemy atrocities to point to.

But one of the leading strategists behind Bush's secret war on government is more than happy to tell the world all about it. His name is Grover Norquist, and he is the nation's leading advocate of "kill the taxes and you kill the government." If pre-emption is the most dangerous idea any president has had since Richard Nixon, Norquist may well be the most dangerous adviser. Perhaps more than anyone else, his growing influence on the Bush agenda helps explain not only the country's current economic woes, but also the long-term threat the new conservatism poses to a prosperous future. More and more, the administration seems to be thinking about taxes just like Norquist -- tax cuts are always good, because they take money from government.

Norquist, leader of libertarian-leaning groups like his unofficial leave-us-alone-coalition and Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), is renowned in Washington as the avatar of scorched-earth tax reduction. He's a hero to so-called "movement conservatives" (people for whom conservatism is religion) because they still see, through Reaganesque lenses, the government as always the enemy, never the solution. Norquist is the man who compared any and all recipients of government funds -- presumably excluding the Defense Department -- to cockroaches. He also famously announced that he and his brethren in the anti-government movement wanted to reduce the federal government to a size so small "that it could be drowned in a bathtub."

All this would make for an interesting, if grotesque, sideshow except for one thing: What once was right-wing braggadocio is now the heart of the Bush agenda. "What this administration is doing, and most people haven't figured it out yet, is an annual tax cut," Norquist recently told The Washington Post.

And, lest you harbor any remaining doubts, let's look to where Cheney's black, machine-driven heart lies: it turns out, Kiplinger Magazine ran an article based on Cheney's financial disclosure statement and, sure enough, found out that the VP is lying to the American people for the umpteenth time. Deficits do matter and Cheney has invested his money accordingly.

The article is called "Cheney's betting on bad news" and provides an account of where Cheney has socked away more than $25 million. While the figures may be estimates, the investments are not. According to Tom Blackburn of the Palm Beach Post, Cheney has invested heavily in "a fund that specializes in short-term municipal bonds, a tax-exempt money market fund and an inflation protected securities fund. The first two hold up if interest rates rise with inflation. The third is protected against inflation."

Cheney has dumped another (estimated) $10 to $25 million in a European bond fund which tells us that he is counting on a steadily weakening dollar. So, while working class Americans are loosing ground to inflation and rising energy costs, Darth Cheney will be enhancing his wealth in "Old Europe". As Blackburn sagely notes, "Not all bad news' is bad for everybody."

This should put to rest once and for all the foolish notion that the "Bush Economic Plan" is anything more than a scam aimed at looting the public till. The whole deal is intended to shift the nation's wealth from one class to another. It's also clear that Bush-Cheney couldn't have carried this off without the tacit approval of the thieves at the Federal Reserve who engineered the low-interest rate boondoggle to put the American people to sleep while they picked their pockets.

Reasonable people can dispute that Bush is "intentionally" skewering the dollar with his lavish tax cuts, but how does that explain Cheney's portfolio?

It doesn't. And, one thing we can say with metaphysical certainty is that the miserly Cheney would never plunk his money into an investment that wasn't a sure thing. If Cheney is counting on the dollar tanking and interest rates going up, then, by Gawd, that's what'll happen.

We underestimate these evil fucks at our very grave peril, my friends.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Hilariously warped....

This is just WRONG on so many levels...

In other words, I love it.