Even the Hawks are Abandoning Bush

November 30th, 2005 § 0

Check out this editorial from the the Stratfor Geopolitical Intelligence report of yesterday:

The presidency of George W. Bush is failing.

Love him or hate him, Bush has had the most dramatic international impact of any U.S. president in a generation. But as Bush’s fortunes ebb, his ability to control events in Washington and much further afield are fading as well…

In August…we argued that the United States had achieved the bulk of what it had set out to do in first containing, and then pursuing and dismantling, al Qaeda….

But Iraq has not flowed gently into epilogue, and the final agreements that seemed so tantalizingly close in August remain elusive. In the interim, the American citizenry has grown weary of the conflict — in which the number of American dead has now passed 2100 — and Bush’s popularity has suffered as a result.

But the real inflection point of this presidency was not Iraq; rather, it was Hurricane Katrina. Rightly or wrongly, Bush was perceived not just as unprepared for a major hurricane strike, but also as oblivious to the seriousness of the humanitarian disaster in New Orleans. This perception solidified the opposition of the U.S. left, denied the president any help from the American center and cracked the heretofore unified American right. The result was a president in danger of losing his core supporters, without whom no president can effectively rule. Similar circumstances condemned past statesmen such as Wilson, Truman, Johnson and Nixon into the unenviable company of failed presidents.

Since Katrina, the Bush administration’s fortunes have only slid further, with three critical defeats standing out most glaringly. First, its primary congressional ally, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, has been indicted for fundraising improprieties. Second, the administration’s efforts to shuttle Harriet Miers into the Supreme Court resulted in a break within the Republican Party. Third, the vice president’s chief of staff — Lewis “Scooter” Libby — has been indicted for disclosing the status of undercover intelligence officers to the press, a charge that may well be pressed against political mastermind Karl Rove, and perhaps even the vice president himself.

What this amounts to is that the Bush administration has alienated the Republican Party’s religious wing and those who value national defense above all else. Between that and the loss of DeLay, the president’s star has fallen so far that he can no longer demand meetings with key legislators; he must negotiate for them. His foreign policy agenda is weighed down by the albatross of Iraq, and since congressional Republican leadership is keeping its distance from the president, his legislative agenda has not so much as budged in months.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Normally Stratfor are imperialist cheerleaders in deep sympathy with PNAC, so for them to abandon the Bush/Cheney war train means the cars are really heading off the tracks.

Delightful. The world can move on to slowly becoming a better place. The heat is on the Americans and those countries in Europe who abetted the CIA in its illegal imprisonment and torture of invisible prisoners within their borders.

Illegal American torture in Europe is front page news in all the newspapers in Austria today. This story has been on the front page most of the last ten days. People are very unhappy about it.

I was out in flex again tonight. “Are you American?” asked the beautiful dancer hesitantly and with vague distaste.

“No, I’m no torturer,” I was happy to be able to answer.

SEO: WebCEO review

November 27th, 2005 § 27

Introduction: WebCEO

review updated 1 June 2007 to cover current services and software status!

This is a comprehensive review of the full version of WebCEO 5.6, a.k.a. the Professional edition. There are two other versions of WebCEO, a Small Business edition and a Free Edition. The distinctions between different WebCEO versions can be found on this page. Basically, the Free Version can’t do much while the Small Business and Professional Edition are almost indistinguishable. The Professional Edition makes creating self-branded reports easier and spiders the anchor text from backlinks.

SEO: WebCEO review Continues »

Fall of the Roman Empire in Fast Forward | Alaskan Bridges ~ Hadrian’s wall?

November 25th, 2005 § 0

The Alaskan senators have not given up on blowing hundreds of millions of dollars on bridges to nowhere.

While the two bridges had already achieved some notoriety prior to the transportation bill’s passage, after Katrina hit, the notion of spending federal money on infrastructure that would serve so few in such a remote area struck many as outrageous. It sparked some rather dramatic infighting among Republicans.

In late October, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., attempted to divert money from the bridge projects in favor of repairing a hurricane-damaged bridge in New Orleans. Coburn said he was answering America’s call to stop wasteful spending. This was apparently too much for Sen. Stevens, formerly chairman of the powerful appropriations committee. He threatened to quit in no uncertain terms, declaring he would become a “wounded bull on the floor of this Senate.” If his colleagues passed the bill, he said, “I will be taken out of here on a stretcher.”

It’s like watching the Roman Empire fall in fast forward. What would be the equivalent of these bridges in Alaska? Sending the treasury of Rome to rebuild Hadrian’s wall?

Surely given the total collapse of one of America’s great historical cities and hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, one could find some better way to spend the $200 million burning a whole in your pocket, Senator Stevens.

How PNAC took over the American administration

November 23rd, 2005 § 0

I just disovered has a wonderful exposé on how PNAC took over the American administration over at Logosjournal.com.

Of the eighteen figures who signed the PNAC’s 1998 letter to Clinton calling for regime change in Iraq, eleven took positions in the Bush administration. In addition to Armitage, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, they were Elliot Abrahms (senior director for near east, southwest Asian and North African affairs on the National Security Council); John Bolton (undersecretary, Arms Control and International Security); Paula Dobriansky (undersecretary of state for global affairs); Zalmay Khalilzad (president’s special envoy to Afghanistan and ambassador-at-large for Free Iraqis); Richard Perle (chair of the Pentagon’s semi-autonomous Defense Policy Board); Peter W. Rodman (assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs); William Schneider, Jr. (chair of the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board); and Robert B. Zoellick (U.S. trade representative). Other PNAC associates and/or prominent unipolarists who landed high-ranking positions included Stephen Cambone (director of the Pentagon Office of Program, Analysis and Evaluation); Eliot Cohen (Defense Policy Board); Devon Gaffney Cross (Defense Policy Board); I. Lewis Libby (Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff), William Luti and Abram Shulsky (eventually, directors of the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans), James Woolsey (Defense Policy Board), and David Wurmser (special assistant to the undersecretary of state for arms control). Libby served as assistant to the president and national security adviser to the vice-president in addition to being Cheney’s chief of staff, an unprecedented trifecta of positions that amplified Cheney’s influence.

By all appearances this extraordinary harvest of appointments put the neo-cons in the driver’s seat of the new administration. But for eight months, until 9/11, they didn’t feel that way. They worried about Powell’s influence over the president, Rice was hard to read, and Bush had other priorities. The complaining began very early. Shortly before Bush’s inauguration, Kagan declared that the incoming administration had an obvious split between its leading hawks (Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz) and doves (Powell and Rice), and that even Bush’s commitment to missile defense was jeopardized by it.

Gary Dorrien’s article takes the reader behind the scenes of the Project for the New American Century machinations by following its founder William Kristol’s trajectory through the Clinton presidency, the Gore election and 9/11.

For more info on PNAC, the Project for the New American Century. More PNAC info at Wikipedia. But for shock and awe nothing beats the original paper Rebuilding America’s Defenses where they argue that US does not spend enough money on the military.

New American strategies in controlling the media – Kill them all!

November 23rd, 2005 § 0

Attacking and killing the press was official policy. President Bush tried to persuade Prime Minister Tony Blair to bomb Al-Jazeera’s headquarters in Qatar in April 2004.

What’s sad about this is that while Blair was able to dissuade Bush there have been many other reporters – specifically Al-Jazeera – killed in Iraq by coalition forces. It starts to look like policy rather than coincidence.

“If the report is correct then this would be both shocking and worrisome not only to Al-Jazeera but to media organizations across the world”…..The network said that if true the report would “cast serious doubts” on the Bush administration’s explanations of earlier incidents involving Al-Jazeera journalists and the American military.

Peter Kilfoyle, a former defense minister in Blair’s government, called for the document to be made public.

“I think they ought to clarify what exactly happened on this occasion,” he said. “If it was the case that President Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera in what is after all a friendly country, it speaks volumes and it raises questions about subsequent attacks that took place on the press that wasn’t embedded with coalition forces.”

This is clearly part of the fight for freedom. Killing reporters who disagree with you and rewarding reporters who cover up for you.

What would happen if you woke up one day and all your worst fears were realised? Time for another lookat The Parallax View. Wait, reality is worse. The Bush-Cheney administration are murdering openly.

Ivan Cavallari’s Tschaikowski Impressionen at Volksoper

November 21st, 2005 § 1

Gyula Harangozó

This year the Vienna Staatsoper has a new ballet director Gyula Harangozó. A Hungarian, after an illustrious career in both the Hungarian National Opera and the Bavarian State Opera, Mr. Harangozó had his last years as a celebrated soloist at the Vienna State Opera from 1985 to 1991. After leaving dance, Mr. Harangozó was the director of the ballet at the Hungarian National Opera from 1996 until this year.

Mr. Harangozó is replacing the sometimes popular, sometimes reviled but always charismatic Renato Zanella. There was quite a controversy over Mr. Zanella’s departure – merited or unmerited.

This year is also the first year of the merger of the Vienna State Opera ballet (guardians of the classical tradition) with the ballet of the Volksoper (traditionally modern dance). As opera is a much bigger draw in Vienna than ballet, much of the work of both companies is as figurantes and divertissements in the major operas. Apparently the merger idea came out of cost rather than artistic considerations.

What has this to do with the premiere of Ivan Cavallari’s Tschaikowski Impressionen on Saturday night at the Volksoper in Vienna?

Quite a bit. This was Mr. Harangozó’s first independent project since becoming director, after a very successful refreshing of Giselle for the fall season with frequent guest artists like the extraordinary Sergei Filin and new soloists like Byelorussian Irina Tsymbal. Expectation and anticipation were high. Very little information had filtered out about this production apart from a wide and aggressive publicity campaign. And this was the first Volksoper production featuring primarily Staastoper dancers.

Almost the entire world of Austrian dance was present. The artistic directors of companies as far away as Innsbruck and Graz came to town. A host of Vienna’s best known dance and theatre critics were present. Tickets were in such short supply that the stage manager of the Staatsoper was unable to reserve a decent seat for himself.

The curtain rose to two Tchaikowksi characters talking to one another. The dance Tchaikowski was played by Tamás Solymosi while his speaking Alter Ego was Wolfgang Grascher. In what would become a symptom of the evening, the phrasings and philosophical musings were banal and trite but Grascher injected considerable life into them.

Tamás Solymosi and Wolfgang Grashcher as two sides of Tschaikowski

On the other hand, the two men could not have been worse costumed. They wore what was apparently period attire (I’ve been told that the clothes were off-period by at least 30 years) – but in the drabbest beige-grey ever seen outside of a bad print of a 1970’s film. Worse – the two suits were of a very similar colour but not the same colour neither different nor the same. The cut was unflattering as possible when either of the two men danced. Surely, Tschaikowski who was a very fashionable society man would take more care with his appearance. Was there any reason not to retailor the period clothes- as is customary – to be more suitable for dance?

A second curtain rose to reveal a line of eight men on wooden chairs with top hats. Were they supposed to represent society? A great chandelier hung over the stage. At some point Tchaikowski was half-disrobed and dumped in a pseudo water tank by these men. The water was indicated by a blueish colour part way down the tank. To my taste, if a major theatre intends to dunk the lead actor in water, I would prefer that they get on with it and immerse him in the liquid stuff. Or find some other way to communicate the idea. I mention this particular piece of stage gaucherie just as indicative of a recurring trend in the stagecraft.

None of it mattered much as the soundtrack to this point was played back over loudspeakers. I understand when a small company is obliged to use playback from tape for their music. In the case of a major musical company like the Vienna Staatsoper performing on a national stage like the Volksoper, it is shameful and unacceptable. Particularly when the music is orchestral and canonic like Tschaikowski. It would be as if the entire public had turned up in jeans and t-shirts rather than black tie and elegant formal garb.

Now was some atrocious pantomime. First a woman with a sun umbrella and two small children kissing Tschaikowksi’s head. Next a young woman in a fashionable robin blue trimmed dress is first kissed and then pushed away by our tormented Tschaikowksi – she represented Tschaikowki’s wife whom he abandoned two weeks after the marriage.

All this lead into a pair of dancers coming out in skin-coloured suits which were somehow incredibly awkward looking – more like pink pajamas than impercetible body suits. The two dancers Boris Nebyla and Irina Tsymbal danced quite beautifully a passable duet. They were followed by another six dancers in the same garb. The larger piece was less moving, despite admirable performances by all (Kathrin Czerny, Franziska Hollinek, Iva Rohlik, Kirll Kroulaev, Kamil Pavelka, Rudolf Wächter).

Tamás Solymosi as Tschaikowski

For some reason here and elsewhere the dancers spent most of their time, very far away from the front of the stage. Which is a pity as the stage at Volksoper is very deep and to force the audience to strain their vision to see what were generally quite small bits of choreography (we are talking about two to eight dancers at a time, not twenty-four or forty persons) takes away from the potential impact of the performance.

At one point a procession of ballerinas from the past danced backwards across the stage. Their movements were deliberate and lyric, as if they were held in some kind of slow motion stasis as they moved from the front of stage left to the back of stage right as Tschaikowski sought and imagined his artistic vision. Low and dramatic lighting added to the impact. Tschaikowski’s 19th century ballerinas and dancers wore period costumes to great effect, looking for all the world like the daguerrotype of the old Petersburg Imperial Ballet. This section was impressive and one could only wish it had been developed further.

Birgid Steinberger and Tomás Solymosi

Things finally began to look up when a grand piano appeared at the back of the stage and a woman in a red velvet dress joined the pianist and we had some live music. Birgid Steinberger played the role of Nadeschda von Meck, Tschaikowski’s great patron. As one comes to expect in Vienna, the singing was wonderful as was Igor Zapravdin’s work at the piano.

Unfortunately this beautiful moment only lasted for a song or two.

End of the first act.

As in Boris Eiffman’s Tchaikovsky, great drama is made of Tschaikowksi’s tormented sexuality in Cavallari’s piece. Did he not just have and enjoy his love affairs with men? Discreetly, of course, but was he really as tortured over the issue as Eiffman and Cavallari make out? I suppose this is one for the cultural historians. Eifmann took his tortured sexuality meme and took it to the limit, in a ballet which never stopped for breath. The aesthetic in retrospect was somewhat kitschy but at least consistent.

While the reaction at intermission was of subdued dismay at a historical ballet gone astray, nothing thus far had prepared the audience for act two.

The curtain opened on a fifteen foot wooden cross outlined in lightbulbs. There are a couple lying prone before the cross. Tschaikowski enters and brings their hands together like the priest in Romeo and Juliet.

We then flashback to the beginning of the Romeo and Julie story. We get about two dozen of the Staatsoper dancers in jeans and t-shirts. The Capulets are green and the Montagues in red. There are street fighting scenes taken almost directly from West Side story but restaged on more pastiche of Tschaikowksi’s score. In fairness there was quite a decent display of stage fighting put on by Kirill Kourlaev, Fabien Voranger and Rudol Wächter. Kourlaev in particular treated the audience to some bravura flying spins. But the whole episode matched or developed to anything we had seen earlier.

When it seemed things could get no more preposterous or disappointing an even more amazing sequence began. A young man (Mikel Jaueregui) with headphones on bops across the stage to Tschaikowski’s music but dancing hip-hop. He flirts with a young woman (Alba Sempere) dressed as a serious student. The back curtain rises to reveal two beds on each side of the stage. Each side of the stage had a desk at the front. The young woman grabs a bag of crisps and leaves through a fashion magazine. On the other side of th stage the young sets himself up for a computer chat. Over their heads are two screens. The screens are plain blue, like DOS laptops from twenty years ago. He summons the young woman to the chat room.

She is Nadia and he is Piotr. Get it? Piotr and Nadia. Piotr flirts aimlessly with Nadia while she whines in chat about having to study too hard for her tests… Until her computer is infected with a virus. First we get confusing text coming out across the blue screen above her head wile Alba Sempere makes mock horror hands at her screen. Suddenly an evil looking man leaps out on stage a tight blue body suit and begins a dance of triumph. András Lukács is the physical representation of the virus.

András Lukáks as the blue virus

Again a good performance in what is a ludicrous role.

Somewhere along the line another twenty of these computer virii appear, now on tricycles wheeling madly about the stage in a bachanale of digitial malice. On its own and with a decent soundtrack this bit of madness might have legs. But the dance of the virii had neither music nor context on its side. Again a good performance from the corps-de-ballet wasted.

Piotr eventually vanquishes the virii to get a thank you and a rendezvous promised from Nadia. What is the morale of this story? Fix a modern girl’s computer and get laid? Even in our technological age, computer expertise is no great aphrodosiac – except insofar as that core competence allows you to do astonishing work as a photographer, DJ or a filmmaker or brings you great riches. As unlikely a proposition as the whole rest of this production.

The curtain comes down on Nadia back eating chips and reading fashion magazines. Considering the historical import of this premiere, the audience response was quite staid. A few rounds of polite applause which bought us a view of the culprits here – Ivan Cavallari trotted out with costume designer Roman Solc and dramaturge Alexander Müller to boldly take responsibility for their creation. Anmazingly enough, Cavallari is a handsome and personable chap about forty with long hair and a smart beard and a winsome and genuine smile.

Much of the audience reeled for the exits in stunned and silent disbelief. No standing ovations here.

I thought perhaps I just missed something and didn’t understand the piece so I asked the artistic directors of five different Austrian dance companies share with me at least one thing that they liked in the production. The most positive answer I received was “There was an intermission. It’s always nice when there’s an intermission”.

In praise of Mr. Cavallari. I spoke with some of the dancers I know after the show. Apparently none or very few of them have seen the production from the auditorium so they couldn’t say anything about the piece as a whole, but were happy to talk about the working process. They said they had a wonderful time working with Ivan Cavallieri and the the work process was extremely festive and that they hadn’t had so much fun working on a piece in years.

The excellent peformance photographs above are courtesy of Volksoper and photographer Dima Dimov. Gyula Harangozó’s portrait courtesy of Staatsoper. Uncredited.
Read more about Ivan Cavallari’s Tschaikowski Impressionen in German on Tanz.at.
Check dates and book tickets to Tschaikowski Impressionen on the Volksoper website.

James Allen and the Bush-Cheney regime

November 21st, 2005 § 0

Somebody send this little book to George Bush for Christmas. It’s just 68 pages and large print so he might be able to get through it. Here’s the passage to bookmark and run the yellow highlighter over on page 30:

Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles.


Clichés I’m tired of: You Get What You Paid For

November 21st, 2005 § 0

Not necessarily. Sometimes you get a whole lot more than you paid for. Sometimes you don’t get what you paid for at all.

On the other hand, if you give your money to crooks, charlatans or the corrupt, don’t expect much whatever the price.

Success at getting more than you paid is one of the core attributes of the successful businessman. You have to get more than what you paid for or you won’t have much to sell.

Another one is making the people doing the paying feel that they are getting good value. If you provoke your customers while making your money, you won’t stay in business long.

There are different ways of getting more than one paid for.

Taking the money out of government coffers, giving it to your friends on no-bid contracts, suspending labour laws is probably not a good way.

Many of the cleanup workers for Hurricane Katrina (no bid contracts handed to Haliburton again) are illegal aliens. And while doing hundreds of millions of dollars of dirty work, they are left unfed, unhoused and unpaid.

Tovar “kicked us off the base,” forcing him and other cleanup workers — many of them Mexican and undocumented — to sleep on the streets of New Orleans. According to Martinez, they were not paid for three weeks of work. An immigrant rights group recently filed complaints with the Department of Labor on behalf of Martinez and 73 other workers allegedly owed more than $56,000 by Tovar. Tovar claims that she let the workers go because she was not paid by her own bosses at United Disaster Relief. In turn, UDR manager Zachary Johnson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, told the Washington Post on Nov. 4 that his company had not been paid by KBR for two months.

There are so many things wrong with this it is hard to know where to begin.

First of all these unfortunate men should not have been eligible for this work as illegal aliens. Second whoever is doing this work deserves proper shelter and board while doing that work. Third whoever is doing this work deserves the official federal wage for work of this kind. Fourth, leaving the workers unpaid is inexcusable.

Building Bush’s America.

One scents exactly the same kind of irresponsibility and abuse of power here as in the Abu Graib torture case. It is bad enough when such malfaisance is the work of a few corrupt businessmen, but when this is national policy coming from the (vice) president’s office – your country is no better than the most corrupt and vicious of the third world dictators.

From James Allen’s classic tract on practical ethics, As a Man Thinketh:

Here is an employer of labor who adopts crooked measures to avoid paying the regulation wage, and, in the hope of making larger profits, reduces the wages of his work-people. Such a man is altogether unfitted for prosperity, and when he finds himself bankrupt, both as regards reputation and riches, he blames circumstances , not knowing that he is the sole author of his condition.