Dickens to Le Carré:

Smiley’s (Anti-American) People:

“Anyone can see what happened in Iraq. It was nothing more than a war of colonial conquest fought for oil, ‘dressed up as a crusade for Western life and liberty,’ and its authors were ‘a clique of war-hungry Judeo-Christian geopolitical fantasists who hijacked the media and exploited America’s post-9/11 psychopathy.’

These words are spoken in John Le Carré’s new novel ‘Absolute Friends” (Little, Brown, 2004). And although it is usually philistine and unfair to blame a novelist for what his fictional creations say, in this case the speaker expressing those opinions is plainly a point-of-view character – there is a vein of anti-Americanism running through his novels from nearly 40 years ago – and the opinions are shared by plenty of Europeans, the English among them.” —New York Times


Neo-Cons: Think Again

‘If only it were true!’, says Max Boot about claims that the Bush administration is pursuing a neoconservative foreign policy:

“The influence of the neoconservative movement (with which I am often associated) supposedly comes from its agents embedded within the U.S. government. The usual suspects are Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense; Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy; Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the vice president’s chief of staff; Elliott Abrams, the National Security Council staffer for Near East, Southwest Asian, and North African Affairs; and Richard Perle, a member of the Defense Policy Board. Each of these policymakers has been an outspoken advocate for aggressive and, if necessary, unilateral action by the United States to promote democracy, human rights, and free markets and to maintain U.S. primacy around the world.

While this list seems impressive, it also reveals that the neocons have no representatives in the administration’s top tier. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice: Not a neocon among them.” — Max Boot, Foreign Policy

Boot says the notion is superficially appealing because of the coalescence of Bush’s Iraq agenda and neo-con aims. But he doubts we will pursue a similar course with North Korea, Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. IMHO, the argument destroys some ‘straw-man’ myths about the neo-conservative conspiracy (like the ‘Jewish’ innuendoes) without substantively addressing their ideological influence on US policy.


Big Expedition Planned For `Albino Sasquatch’

“So far, Bigfoot has been a big mystery but that could soon change if two researchers in Redwood City, California, get a big hand from the public.

This spring, C. Thomas Biscardi and Peggy Marx are planning an expedition to an area near Mt. Shasta, California, that is reportedly home to as many as 500 Bigfoot creatures.

Biscardi estimates the Sasquatch search will take three months and cost at least $1.5 million so he’s hoping corporate America will foot what is expected to be a big Bigfoot bill.

He figures an SUV manufacturer or a charter airline are natural sponsors and hopes to sell the Discovery Channel on the idea of televising the search as the ‘ultimate reality show.'”


It’s a No-Brainer… or it might be:

Brain Sandwiches Still on Some Menus: “Fear of mad cow disease hasn’t kept Cecelia Coan from eating her beloved deep-fried cow brain sandwiches.

She’s more concerned about what the cholesterol will do to her heart than suffering the brain-wasting disease found in a cow in Washington state.

‘I think I’ll have hardening of the arteries before I have mad cow disease,’ said Cecelia Coan, 40, picking up a brain sandwich to go at the Hilltop Inn during her lunch hour. ‘This is better than snail, better than sushi, better than a lot of different delicacies.'” —Yahoo!


The Daily Body Count

“‘It’s like a game of Russian roulette,’ said one of my friends whose son is serving in Iraq. ‘Every day we wonder if our luck will hold out, or if today is the day we take the hit.’ ” —AlterNet

One thing I have recently noticed is that US news sources reporting on the death often say that a vehicle ‘ran into a roadside bomb’ or something similar. To me, this suggests accidentally hitting a buried hazard along the lines of a landmine left over from hostilities, while in reality we are talking about a deliberate attack by resistance fighters who have placed the device and I presume are waiting in the vicinity to detonate it as a US convoy passes. Similarly, when a helicopter or aircraft goes down, one has to get into the heart of the story for confirmation that it had been fired upon. Is this an unconscious softpedaling of the daily enmity the US faces? Reading European coverage of the same incidents, words are far less minced.

Related: US Soldiers’ Suicide Rate is Up in Iraq:

“Suicide has become such a pressing issue that the Army sent an assessment team to Iraq late last year to see if anything more could be done to prevent troops from killing themselves. The Army also began offering more counseling to returning troops after several soldiers at Fort Bragg, N.C., killed their wives and themselves after returning home from the war.

Winkenwerder said the military has documented 21 suicides during 2003 among troops involved in the Iraq war. Eighteen of those were Army soldiers, he said.

That’s a suicide rate for soldiers in Iraq of about 13.5 per 100,000, Winkenwerder said. In 2002, the Army reported an overall suicide rate of 10.9 per 100,000.

The overall suicide rate nationwide during 2001 was 10.7 per 100,000, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” —Yahoo!


Root of evil?

“It’s been a rocky year for Poetry magazine after the magazine learned it was bequeathed $100 million. “Poetry’s first order of business was to form a foundation to satisfy IRS regulations. But later developments seemed not just to suggest growing pains but to hint at the old adage that money ruins everything.” —Christian Science Monitor

Local NPR Member Stations Still Need Help: ‘Yes, National Public Radio just got a gift of $200 million. But “the truth is that the Kroc gift will have no effect on the financial needs or the fundraising efforts of NPR’s 750 member stations. Instead of receiving financial support from NPR, these stations have to pay for NPR programming.” And the gift might even have a negative impact as donors assume public radio is now awash in cash.’ —Christian Science Monitor


Orchestra Tunes Up for Sound of Silence

“For the first time in the UK an orchestra will be performing John Cage’s silent work 4’33” on the radio. Cage’s seminal work, 4’33”, which consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of silence, will be the highlight of a concert on Radio 3 at 7.25pm. In readiness for the performance, Radio 3 bosses will have to switch off their emergency back-up system – designed to cut in when there is an unexpected silence on air.” —The Scotsman


Death knell for space telescope

NASA is orphaning the Hubble space telescope by halting shuttle flights necessary for periodic maintenance even before Bush’s new space initiative phases out the shuttle vehicle six years from now. Among Hubble’s achievements, according to this BBC rundown:

  • Gave us the age of the Universe
  • Provided proof of black holes
  • Gave first views of star birth
  • Showed how stars die
  • Caught spectacular views of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9’s collision with Jupiter
  • Confirmed that quasars are galactic nuclei powered by black holes
  • Gathered evidence that the expansion of the Universe is accelerating

Since the new Bush plan is a virtually unfunded mandate to NASA to replace valuable space science with vote-getting glitz (space activity is concentrated in two states with fat pots of electoral votes, Florida and Texas), it is unclear if the successor to the telescope, scheduled for a 2011 launch, will ever be produced.


Heartless Marriage Plans

“The Bush administration’s idea of spending $1.5 billion promoting marriage is one of those rather expensive but basically symbolic gestures that presidents like to make in election years. Mr. Bush’s advisers may also hope that it will divert social conservatives from pressing for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages. But as meaningless sops to powerful voting blocs go, this one is particularly cruel.” —New York Times editorial