Friday, April 13, 2007


Open Secret of the Day

It has been an open secret in Baghdad for months now that strands of the muqawama [Sunni Arab resistance] boast they can sweep over the Green Zone and decimate the innocuous government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki whenever they choose to. —Pepe Escobar writing in "The Baghdad gulag"



Bolivia challenges Coca-Cola's monopoly on coca

Bolivians have had it with Coke—Coca-Cola, that is—and want to diversify. Though they're reportedly shipping 105 tons of coca leaf per year to the U.S. for use in Coca-Cola products, that still leaves them with more leaf than they can chew.

Of course, the U.S. sets a limit on how much "industrial coca" can be grown in Bolivia, and all of it goes to Coca-Cola. This upsets the Bolivian growers to no end. It would be like telling the U.S. how many weapons we can produce or how much tobacco we're allowed to grow and sell.

In the drive for commercialization, Margarita Teran, head of the Coca Committee in Bolivia's Constituent Assembly, wants Coca-Cola to take the "Coca" out of its name. She also wants to see coca leaf included in the national seal, which is a part of the Bolivian flag.

This year after Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged that the country was producing double the official estimate of coca, the U.S. cut drug-enforcement aid by 25%. No problem. In another little jab at the U.S., Venezuela announced in January that it would buy Bolivia's entire industrial coca production for medicines and teas. It advanced the money to construct two processing plants and sent along some Cuban scientists to help with the engineering.

Various groups are now charging that Venezuela's purchase of coca is a violation of the Vienna Convention and amounts to "indirect legalization of coca by-products." Don't expect any of that to make a difference. International law went down the toilet with the Bush administration.

So Bolivians are looking toward the development of "a variety of consumer products from coca, including candy, wine, shampoo and toothpaste." And Venezuelan consumers will soon be enjoying "coca mate and 'three-mate,' a compound of anise, chamomile and coca." Yum.


Thursday, April 12, 2007


Last Words of the Day

Texas just executed its 12th prisoner of the year, who doesn't appear to have given it much thought. When asked if he had a final statement, James Lee Clark replied

Uh, I don't know... Um, I don't know what to say. I don't know.

Then through the window he spotted someone he knew—

Oh, I didn't know anybody was there. Howdy.

Any chance this guy is retarded? Not according to the state of Texas.

Though two experts in the field determined that Clark's IQ was in the 63-68 range, Texas prosecutors went shopping and found a psychologist who concluded that "James Clark did not have mental retardation and was faking it to avoid execution." Who'd have guessed that Clark was so smart?

The latter psychologist did not himself bother to administer an IQ test, but his word was apparently good enough for the U.S. Supreme Court.



Headline of the Day

Monster CEO quits after six months UPI

I won't even attempt to guess which one it was.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007


"First" of the Day

Realtors forecast first-ever annual decline in U.S. home prices. —MarketWatch Alert

Rex Nutting reports

In its monthly housing outlook, the real estate industry group said tighter lending standards will cut into home sales even further than it had been projecting, driving prices lower.

Median sales prices of existing homes are now projected to fall 0.7% in 2007 before a modest 1.6% gain in 2008, the realtors said....

After adjusting for inflation, real home prices will probably decline for three straight years from 2006 through 2008....

Other housing economists have been predicting falling prices as well.

More bad news for what's left of the middle class, since their homes are their primary assets. Great economy, huh?

Related posts
Yet more news about the dollar (and the global economy) (10/21/04)
Housing starts plunge (4/19/05)
Happy days are here again (10/4/05)



Poem of the Day

Lady in a Big Old House

Keeping the big place up exhausts her; she's harried
with chores; her days are long.
But it's worth it to have everything nice.
She straightens the news at breakfast; by ten
has carried the uglier gobbets,
like cancer statistics and civil rights,
to the garbage pail. She has a deep drawer
she needn't ever look into again for
the Wall and the rockets.

Though time is a leaky faucet she has to pretend
she doesn't hear dripping,
she's equal to most of the rest
of the cosmic mess,
(reasons missing, standards slipping,
culprits skipping)
so much to be leveled, squared, fixed
keeps her nipping;
all day she's at it.
And though she's too beat by then to give it
more than a perfunctory swipe,
last things at night she dusts off sex, that white
elephant of a wedding gift
she's never quite dared take to the attic;
then sleeps. She's busy; she's

holding up the whole wreck, just like Atlas did,
knitting small frantic decencies
for the big bare Rabelaisian bones of as-it-is;
setting her pans and pails
under the holes in the roof
when weather knocks at her gables,
mopping up a bit here and a bit there when truth
slops over the edge of the fables.

—R.E. Sebenthall,
   Acquainted with a chance of bobcats


Monday, April 09, 2007


Novak acknowledges Israeli policy of apartheid

In late 2006 former President Jimmy Carter angered just about everybody who was anybody in the U.S. when he released his book "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid." The Washington Post ran a review by New Yorker writer Jeffrey Goldberg, who found almost everything about the book objectionable except the smell.

The Post's own writers disagreed with Carter's thesis of an Israeli-imposed apartheid in a more moderate sort of way. Columnist Richard Cohen, formerly an admirer of the Iraq invasion, mentioned the book in passing while writing in his own defense—

At times, I have written coldly and provocatively about Israel, maybe once or twice in anger. This, in turn, has angered some readers who knew what I was thinking but not what I was feeling -- that, at bottom, I had a strong emotional attachment to Israel.

Michael Kinsley wasn't sure what "apartheid" meant—

It's not clear what he [Carter] means by using the loaded word "apartheid," since the book makes no attempt to explain it, but the only reasonable interpretation is that Carter is comparing Israel to the former white racist government of South Africa. That is a foolish and unfair comparison....

Since Palestinians found inside the Washington Post building are more likely to be arrested than given a book to review, the reaction to Carter's apartheid charge has been pretty one-sided. Until today.

To my absolute astonishment Robert Novak (yes, he of Plamegate) produced a column for which he'll be glad he converted to Catholicism last month. He writes

Hani Hayek, an accountant who is the Christian mayor of the tiny majority-Christian Palestinian village of Beit Sahour, was angry last week as he drove me along the Israeli security wall. "They are taking our communal lands," he said, pointing to the massive Israeli settlement of Har Homa. "They don't want us to live here. They want us to leave."

.... I could see both the construction at Har Homa and road building for a dual transportation system for Israelis and Palestinians.

Jimmy Carter raised hackles by titling his book about the Palestinian question "Peace Not Apartheid." But Palestinians allege this is worse than the former South African racial separation. Nearing the 40th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, the territory has been so fragmented that a genuine Palestinian state and a "two-state solution" seem increasingly difficult.

Concerning the near impossibility of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—Alexander Cockburn, columnist for The Nation, was making the same point last week on C-Span. When Alexander Cockburn and Robert Novak agree, you can assume the unusual cold snap we're experiencing in the East is a vapor rising from hell.

I'm pleased that at least one person on the American right is able to acknowledge the injustice of Israeli policies. And Novak says he's found, perhaps, one other—

Republican Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey was at the university the same day I was, and faculty members could hardly believe a real live member of Congress was there. Smith later was given a tour of Jerusalem to see with his own eyes that the separation barrier in most places is a big, ugly and intimidating wall, not merely a fence.

Concerned by the disappearance of Christians in the land of Christianity's birthplace, Smith could also become (as I did) concerned by the plight of all Palestinians. If so, he will find precious little company in Congress.

A Simply Appalling two-state solution

I'm a bit surprised that I haven't been accused of anti-semitism by now. But before any such calumny gains a voice I'd like to propose a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem that I believe will amply demonstrate the falseness of such a charge.

Some time ago I checked the land area of Israel. Though the exact size is hard to come by (since it keeps changing), it looks as if New Hampshire may be the best approximation. So my proposition is this: Let the Israeli Jews cede Palestine back to the Palestinians and move to New Hampshire. It lacks the Mediterranean climate, but with New York only a hop, skip and a jump, the opportunities for shopping will more than compensate.

As for the current New Hampshirites, the largest ethnic component of the population is French, and we don't want their kind anyway. They can move back to Canada where they came from. As for the rest, they can be resettled in Vermont—I'm sure they won't mind. But if they do, we can always build a wall.

Related posts
The new McCarthyism: First they came for the Arabists ... (3/11/06)
World Bank gives chicken feed to the Palestinian Authority (3/27/06)
Iran and the New York "money people" (1/12/07)


Sunday, April 08, 2007


Parallel of the Day

As if to confirm we're in the last throes, President Bush threw any remaining caution to the winds during his news conference in the Rose Garden.... Almost everything he said was patently misleading or an outright lie, a sure sign of a leader so entombed in his bunker ... that he feels he has nothing left to lose. —Columnist Frank Rich in "Sunday in the Market With McCain"

Even as the Bolsheviks enter the city we await the coup de grâce. What will it be this time? Vodka?


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