Mr. President? Gary, Indiana Isn’t A Country: Quote of the Day

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From Fred Kaplan’s analysis of the President’s speech on Wednesday night: 

“President Bush’s TV address tonight was the worst speech he’s ever given on the war in Iraq, and that’s saying a lot. Every premise, every proposal, nearly every substantive point was sheer fiction. The only question is whether he was being deceptive or delusional…Oddly, he thanked “the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq.” At the peak of the “coalition,” back in the fall of 2004, only 31 countries besides the United States had any troops in Iraq. They amounted to 24,000—fewer than one-fifth of America’s numbers—and one-third of those were contributed by Britain. Now, according to the most recent official report (dated Aug. 30, 2007), just 25 countries have troops there; they number fewer than 12,000 (an average of fewer than 500 per nation), and more and more, including Britain, are leaving every month.”

Marijuana Is Apparently Free In South Africa

From the Economist.com (who consistently has the coolest graphics):

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So look for a sudden spike in requests from students at the University of Colorado to “study abroad” in Johannesburg.

 

China: Much Richer, No Smarter

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

For basically the entire duration of the post-Iraq Bush presidency, the United States has been pilloried in the town square of global opinion.  Ever since Iraq started to go sideways, countries that were formerly our bosom buddies (Great Britain) or affectatiously unimpressed allies (France) joined in with countries who hold every-hour-on-the-hour “Death to America” rallies (easy to find the time when everyone is unemployed, Iran) and fired broadside after broadside at the U.S.S. Best Damn Country There Is.  I’m not saying our leadership doesn’t deserve a lot of the scorn, and I’m not saying that a good portion of the criticism is spurious or baseless.  But the fact of the matter is this: Feith, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, O’Beirne, Bremmer, and others botched Iraq.  And once they did, America-bashing became the global politics equivalent of Radiohead – everybody’s into it, even if they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

Today, if you’re having a conversation about who is raping and pillaging the Third World, you’re not talking about narco-terrorists who victimize their native countrysides (and who get caught, by the way), you’re bagging on America.  If you’re talking about who is de-stabilizing the international system, you’re not talking about nihilists who are beheading journalists, you’re talking about America.  If you’re talking about who is spewing all the carbon into the atmosphere, you’re giving the EU a pass on its farcical carbon trading scheme and blaming big, bad, anti-Kyoto America.

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“I’m sorry my voice sounds muffled, but if I remove my mask, the air pollution will burn my lungs like dry twigs in a campfire.”

Again, America is by no means the innocent babe in the woods.  Nevertheless, at some point, people have got to wake up to the fact that a bunch of other countries suck worse.  In other words, America might plunder its natural environment to mine coal, but if David Gregory did a news story on it, Bush wouldn’t have him gunned down.  Russia’s Vladimir Putin, however, would.  (To be fair, Cheney would try to make it happen).   So honoring the great American tradition of shifting blame, I’d like to take some of the heat off my beloved country by pointing out a spectacularly shitty thing that happened in China this week.

“So many choices!” you say.  I could point out, for example, that the entire country is basically a Superfund site.  Or that China supports the egregious regimes of, among others, the genocidal Sudanese government as well as Burma.  Or the enthusiastic way the government embraces eminent domain over there, harassing and even beating villagers who have the nerve to protest the seizing of their farmland for industrial use.

I’m going to let those slide for now, in favor of this bucket of rainbows: 27 snow leopard pelts were recently seized from a black marketeer’s apartment in western China.  Just so we’re all on the same page, here’s what we’re talking about:

 snow-leopard-snowfall.jpg         snow-leopard-cubs.jpg  

Twenty-seven snow leopard pelts, plus 104 bear skins and parts of clouded leopards and lynx.  “But, the guy was arrested,” you might be saying to yourself.  “Doesn’t this just prove that the Chinese government is tough on this kind of wildlife abuse?”  Not so much.  There are isolated successes…the World Wildlife Federation in China points out that tough enforcement in Tibet has appreciably diminished the threat of poaching there (but that’s Tibet, not quite China); in fact, the real problem in Tibet is “reprisal killings,” or farmers killing endangered cats because they get at their livestock.  However, elsewhere, China is a main engine in the worldwide poaching machine.  The country’s demand for exotic, endangered species – for use by fancy restaurants, native medicine, virility treatments, etc – is eating through the Burmese forests alone like a buzzsaw.  Armed gangs, eager to make big money selling tiger skins, are killing my favorite land animal goddammit and selling them in markets that feed the Yunnan province, or elsewhere.  China is the biggest market in the world for tiger bone (the primary component in “tiger bone wine”), leopard parts, and rhino hornA 2006 survey by the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) and WildAid found 42 percent of the restaurants and 60 percent of the wholesale markets polled in 16 Chinese cities — but especially those in southern Guangdong province — served dishes featuring the meat of wild animals.  Most Siberian tigers are killed for export to China.  All this despite the fact that China signed the CITES treaty – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – in 1981. 

Everybody getting this?  These are some of the most endangered, the most majestic, the most awesome animals that live on Earth.  Anywhere.  These are the animals that have been a part of earliest man’s spiritual life.  Even though I’m an inveterate tree-hugger, I try not to sound like one most of the time, so forgive me this lapse:  These animals deserve to be here.  To hell with any economic benefits they might bring via ecotourism, or any other “practical” reason a well-meaning biologist might advance.  They have an evolutionary lineage far longer than ours, they have an inherent dignity, and that’s all that matters.  They deserve to exist, and furthermore they ought to exist.  They should not, under any circumstances, be killed so their bones can be ground up in a “tonic” because some putz over in China can’t get an erection. 

So the next time some “blame America first” so-and-so starts in on how the Bush administration subverts the Endangered Species Act, tell them this:  that might be so, but when American men want to treat our erectile dysfunction, dammit, we do it with a little blue pill that’s sold on a really creepy commercial, the way God in His or perhaps Her wisdom intended.  We sure as hell don’t kill one of Earth’s last good things.

Chávez, You’re Doing a Heck of a Job

From the Economist.com Risk Briefing

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Venezuela is the seventh most risky nation on Earth to do business, and even riskier than it was last quarter!  Nine years of lofty rhetoric about alternative economic models and “petro populism,” and the country is nothing but a profit sink.  Keep on nationalizing, Hew-go…once you’ve driven out all the foreign expertise, those home-grown officials who have been taking bribes instead of doing their jobs will be just the people you can count on to lift the economy out of inevitable poverty.  Now, tell me more about this New York-area bridge you have to sell me…

An Apology to All the Goths

bela-lugosi-dracula.jpg by Scary Civilizer

For those of you that don’t have blogs of your own, most of the blog sites, including WordPress, have a fun little administrative tool that tells you exactly how readers landed at your blog.  If somebody e-mailed them a link to your blog, it tells you that you got a visit from Hotmail, or Gmail, or what have you.  It’s neat.  But what’s even better is the search engine tracker – whatever somebody plugged into Google that pointed them to your blog, you get to see it.  So, if somebody searched for “Toyota PM” and my blog came up, and that somebody clicked the link, WordPress tells me that somebody found All Things In Their Place because they were searching for “Toyota PM.”  It’s probably my favorite thing on here, because some of the searches that people run are really, really weird.  “All things go get your best young man,” for example.  Huh? 

Over the past week or so, however, there have been an inordinate amount of vampire-related searches.  Obviously, my post regarding John Carpenter’s Vampires is what’s pulling these folks in, which brings me to my apology.  The majority of the vampire searches have been for vampire fashion, vampire body art, pictures of vampires, vampire lore, and vampire history, so for all of you who got pointed in the direction of this blog while you were looking for this stuff and found a review for a B-movie starring James Woods, and then a bunch of crap about Vladimir Putin, the environment, mountaintop removal coal mining, and other topics that have nothing to do with sucking the blood of the living, I am sorry that you were disappointed.  Please accept this photograph of Peter Murphy from Bauhaus singing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” while upside down at Coachella as a token of my penitence:

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On the other hand, this whole thing has woken me up to the fact that vampires are where the traffic is at, so maybe I’ll have to feature them far more heavily.  Although the posts about Vladimir Putin should already qualify.

Bite Me: An Anti-Apple Manifesto, Part the First

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darth-civilizer-1.jpg by pro-Microsoft’s evil empire Darth Civilizer

First off, you have to understand the depths of the black, icy antipathy I feel towards hippies.  I was at the movie theater a few weeks ago, taking in a moving-picture show, when a trailer showed up for a movie called “Across the Universe,” which, as far as I can tell, is about how “the artists” (read: sullen teenagers who will never be gainfully employed) are the ones who have it all figured out, and down with The Man, and isn’t Vietnam is a total bummer because it busts up your pot-smoking, self-absorbed daily routine of talking about “your music” or whatever and instead makes you straighten up, cut your damn hair, and be useful for a couple months.  And the story is told as a kind of musical, all set to Beatles music.  I had to fight to keep my gorge from coming up.

The conventional wisdom is that hippies have more or less sunk into the bong water of history.  And it’s true, you don’t see many of them around anymore.  Hell, this generation re-did Woodstock some years back, the hippies’ high water mark of peace and love, and it took just a couple days for it to devolve into rioting, looting, and arson.   Nevertheless, it is my contention that hippies are alive, well, and plentiful.  They don’t wear those awful clothes anymore, and they shave their armpits now, but they’re here.  They are on your bus, your plane, in your office, in the parks where your children play, the gym where you pretend to work out but are instead ogling the attractive people, on the sidewalks, and in your doctor’s waiting room.  For the hippie, consistent with the Reader’s Digest Eastern philosophy that he or she pretended to understand, has reincarnated.  Yesterday’s hippie is today’s Apple customer.

By “Apple customer,” I’m not talking about somebody who bought an iPod, or a Mac because there was a student discount.  I’m talking about those people who loooove any and everything that Apple disgorges into the marketplace.  Those people who think Steve Jobs walks on water on his way to work everyday, and then turns the water coolers into wine casks upon arrival.  If you simply own some Apple products because they were the right purchase for you, or you just have iTunes on your desktop, I’m not talking about you.  If you lined up overnight to get an iPhone, or would have if you had the money, I’m talking exactly about you.  Damn hippies.

The modern Apple customer is the new flower child, evolved into its present form after being acted upon by some of the dominant cultural forces of our day – superficiality, contrarianism, poseurism, and corporate branding – into the marketplace’s most irritiating hypocritical consumer.  These people are the new hippies because they have bought into, wholesale, this marketing fantasy constructed by Steve Jobs and Co. in which we can make the world a more enlightened, more colorful, more creative, more peaceful, more fun, safer for dancing, everyone’s your buddy, techutopia.  The original hippies tried to make this happen with sex, drugs, and overrated rock and roll, and the Apple hippies think this perfection will arrive with an iPod, iTunes, and the iPaidTooMuchForThisPhone.  The vintage hippies made a lifestyle out of anti-establishmentarianism.  The Apple hippies do too, only in a highly diluted form – they’re anti-PC establishment, or anti-Microsoft.  It’s a class of people who embrace the (advertised, marketed, and hyped) “Think Different” ethos by all wanting to buy the exact same thing.  And it drives me insane.

This is the opening salvo in what will become a recurring feature of All Things In Their Place: the anti-Apple manifesto.  I’m sick of all the salivating, downright obsequious coverage that saturates the media (the mainstream media, not just the tech media) whenever Steve Jobs dumps a new gadget into the tank.  I’m sick of Apple hippies who walk around with their iPaidTooMuchForThisPhone like they’ve got the Higgs boson tucked in their pocket.  I obviously won’t change anybody’s mind – Apple hippies are like the people that think global warming isn’t happening…try and tell them otherwise and they plug their ears and start singing White Stripes songs really loud so they can’t hear you.  But I will feel better, and that’s what a blog is all about – solipsism.

Fundamentalism – Idiotic, No Matter What the Country: Quote of the Day

Pervez Hoodbhoy, MIT-trained professor of nuclear physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, Pakistan, on describing the geophysical forces that caused the 2005 Kashmir earthquake to his students in a graduate-level class (quoted in the September 07 issue of National Geographic):

“When I finished, hands shot up all over the room.  [The students said] ‘Professor, you are wrong.  That earthquake was the wrath of God.’  It isn’t Islamic to teach that earthquakes are caused by the movement of tectonic plates.  Instead, you are supposed to say, by the will of Allah, an earthquake happens.”

A graduate-level class!  Doesn’t that little episode just warm the very cockles of your heart.  Christopher Hitchens is looking more and more sagacious all the time.

You know, I think the rise of Islamofascism is producing a corollary to Karl Marx’s famous line “Religion is the opiate of the masses.”  That quote, in context, characterizes religion as an element of society that sustains a kind of illusory happiness or contentment, a state of mind that mollifies any rising sentiments of economic discontent in the temporal lives of the poor by assuring them happiness and riches in the afterlife.  It takes the pain of poverty away, in other words, and reduces the possibility of a violent uprising.  If you examine 3 of the most pivotal chapters in the story of radical Islam’s ascendency on the world stage, the 1977 military coup in Pakistan led by muhammad zia-ul-haq (dead in 1988 and presently spit-roasting in hell) which saw general haq institute a severe “Islamization” program, the 1979 Iranian revolution, and the current Iraqi insurgency, you see malevolent, self-appointed “sheiks” and “mullahs” hatefully spitting Koran-inspired vitriol as a way to inspire a violent, barbaric, religiously-directed bloodbath wherever “infidels” may lurk.  When you look at image after image of mangled cars, decapitated bodies, buildings reduced to rubble, and read the hyper-aggressive poison vomited from the mouth of al-qaeda and the like, you can’t help but wonder if the opiate of the masses has become an amphetamine.