For most people outside the US, the word filibuster (flibustier on the French coasts) might only raise some vague memories about scary-looking bad guys roaming the seas in order to loot, rape and sink whatever they get their hook on (no, not talking about Dick Cheney and Haliburton here). In US political legalese, however, it carries a very different meaning.
You better get acquainted with it, as you are likely to hear more of it, provided the Democrat senators get some of their spine back by then.
It is also the only legal barrier that stands between the 48% somewhat sane Americans and their newly elected Emperor’s theocratic vision for America.

To do very, very short:

A filibuster is a way for the minority party to oppose a law that’s being debated in the Senate and that would otherwise easily receive the necessary majority vote, by methodically obstructing the debate and hogging speaking privileges.

Senate rules state that every senator is entitled to two speeches of unlimited duration regarding the matter at hand. Further more, only a tiny fractions of such speeches (3 hours per session, to be precise) is required to be germane (somewhat relevant to the matter at hand), the rest can be about anything, and I do mean, anything (see below).

I wish I could find something positive to say about all that. Something to heal what feels like one of the worst hangover I’ve had in many years, even though I haven’t even had the heart to abuse my daily dose of cough syrup, let alone wash it down with a quart of rum, for the past two days. Like everyone, I’m looking hard out there for comforting words and reasons not to depress.

But really there ain’t.

Instead, and because we need to try and get our mind on something else for a bit (though I most certainly will come back to it in the near future), here is something to listen to. [Update: removed mp3 file for Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s incredible cover of Over the Rainbow in an attempt to ward off the leeches]

Make of it what you will.

So, waking up this morning was a bit like a movie:

You go to bed full of hope in the future, confident that tomorrow will be a bright and sunny day where nothing wrong can happen any more, all that, you know…

And when you wake up, there are undead people running across your lawn, destruction and desolation clutter every horizons and the teenage girl from next-door is devouring your boyfriend’s brains.

Or something along that line.

Picture drdave-godzilla.png Being a bedridden moribund with not much better to do than following the outcome of the next Mister Homecoming America pageant, I guess I ought to be somewhat enthralled by the close race unfolding before our eyes.

Truth is: I don’t really care anymore.

First, Kerry is gonna win the election. by a landslide. [yea, you got that right…]

Many reasons to that. including, but not limited to, the fact that polls did not pay the slightest attention to the radically different political context of this year: much stronger mobilization, mass registration drives among minorities, youngins actually getting off their ass to go cast a vote, since p-diddy and eminem told them to do so… all them people who are usually not George’s best friends. And despite all this, the restrictive sample polled still can’t get itself to give a clear support to the incumbent.
Let’s just say it’s not looking too good for Mr. Yeehaw tonight. Which should have the added effect of pushing most of the undecided morons, off their fence, into Kerry’s garden (“undecided” being just the standard technical term for “whatever the majority decides… baaah…”).

I did not say that Kerry would be the next president, mind you: for that to happen, we would still have to see that poor excuse for an electoral system somewhat working in the direction of the democratic process. A concept that got lost rather early in the application of that massively irrelevant piece of law they call the US Constitution.

It is not totally out of the question either, that a bunch of young republicans lead by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld clad in black denim uniform and cow-boy hats would go and discreetly slit the throat of a few hundreds political opponent while Dubya declares martial law on the ground that Kerry couldn’t have won without the help of the Terrahrists.

Although my guess is that they’ll keep that for 2008.

Busy is a pale euphemism to describe the current chaotic state of my life right now.

If I tell you I am currently a full-time music producer and arranger, full-time VoIP server architect and full-time applied mathematics student, you might get an idea of what I mean. And there is no mistake in the previous sentence: the word full-time is purposely used three times because I am very much supposed to be doing each of these occupation full-time. Which is kind of a problem given that Earth rotation period seems to be stalling around 24 hours these days. Factor in my current involvement with WordPress development as well as my attempts to keep an appearance of social life by making regular expeditions with friends to nasty local watering holes where we proceed to get absolutely plastered on cheap sake… and you have a mathematical impossibility the likes of which even Gödel would give up on.

Since there are only so many hours of sleep you can remove from your daily schedule before permanent psychosis sets in (I mean, real psychosis, not the milder form of borderline psychopathic behaviour I usually retreat to on a good day), and since I also decided that food could not safely be removed from my daily essential needs, I had to cut down on other activities. As a result, my news readings has long fallen from many hours of intense paper scrutinizing, down to a 30 second scan of my RSS feed list and a few occasional glances at online news articles, every other week… As for TV: I have barely ever watched it in my life and the only TV set of the house is currently stored in my roommate’s room where neither of us ever turn it on, so it isn’t much of an issue.

So we can safely say that I know close to nothing about the big (and small) events of the world these days, except for the rough outline (Bush has not yet declared martial law in the US, Ishihara still hates foreigners and Tokyo maintains a precise average daily temperature of: “very hot”)…

Hell, for all I know, the War of the Worlds has already begun and I am talking (writing, really, but anyway) for a bunch of unmanned computers sitting atop the ashes of what used to be the proud western civilization, while Godzilla is busy fighting evil alien spaceships off the coast of Japan.

当節は仕事や勉強だからすごく忙しい。

The Vaterland Sicherheit Homeland Security Agency has just come up with a brand new idea to protect you.

Choice quote (emphasis added):

In his letter, Soaries pointed out that […] “the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election.

Soaries wants Ridge to ask Congress to pass legislation giving the government such power, Newsweek reported in its latest issue that hits the newsstands on Monday.

Homeland Security Department spokesman Brian Rochrkasse told the magazine the agency is reviewing the matter “to determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election.

So let me get this straight: a member of the current executive branch (whose very election is itself a point of controversy) is considering asking the legislative branch to pass a law, that would in effect put the decision to renew the executive branch into the hands of… the executive branch.

Yea, if that sounds like a lot of executive branch in the same sentence, that’s because it is. Somehow I get the nagging feeling this plan doesn’t go in the overall direction of more Check and Balance.

Just remember people, War on Terrorism is Peace, Slavery is Freedom and who needs a goddamn election anyway?

You know what?

Nothing really new with this one, but it just hit me today:

Reminiscing about Bonzo and his ruthlessly opportunistic career (or how to slide from union leader to strike buster in less that 10 years), I realized all of a sudden that he was only the first one in a line of Mediocre Actors Turned Conservative Republican Governors of California

And for a second, I had some apocalyptic vision of him ever getting closer to the Presidency of the United-States than he was when he married Jackie’s niece…

Thanks God for that stupid born-American-citizen requirement… I can breathe now…

Update: This week’s edition of the Onion has the best headline, ever:

Reagan’s Body Dies

Since it seems dying automatically makes you a flawless human and a regretted politician, regardless of the fact you were actually a senile, dim-witted actor with more blood on his hands than many a current dictator… I feel obligated to add my little contribution to the endless string of tearful eulogies filling the media right now.

Or rather, I’ll let the brilliant Gil Scott-Heron do it in the words he used more than two decades ago:

Well, the first thing I want to say is…"Mandate my ass!"

Because it seems as though we’ve been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate – or a landslide. 21% voted for Skippy and 3, 4% voted for somebody else who might have been running.

But, oh yeah, I remember. In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan…meant it. Acted like an actor…Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We’re all actors in this I suppose.

[…]

And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan – and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at – like a “B” movie.

[…]

Remember, we’re looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Clichés abound like kangaroos – courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Clichés like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Clichés like, “Get off of my planet by sundown!” More so than clichés like, “he died with his boots on.” Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap stick tough. And Bonzo’s substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece – a miracle – a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

“Macho, macho man!”

“You go give them liberals hell Ronnie.” That was the mandate. To the new “Captain Bly” on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past – as a liberal democrat – as the head of the Studio Actor’s Guild. When other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy – Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch idol…born again. Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights…it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

[…]

Why wait for 1984? You can panic now…and avoid the rush.

excerpts from the lyrics to the song B Movie (1981) by Gil Scott-Heron

And that was before he was able to carry most of his politics…

Whether him or somebody else, never would I wish in cold blood for the death of a man. But please do not expect me to mourn him:
For fuck sake: the man died peacefully in his bed, at an age most people on the planet have not even heard of. I can think of quite a few people in Latin America who were not given this chance.

Last week, Yosef Lapid, Israeli Justice minister and leader of the centrist Shinui party (one of the least radical trend in the current government coalition) harshly criticized the recent demolitions of Palestinian habitation (allegedly an effort to “secure” the Gaza strip). A few members of Sharon’s own government had already shown increasing concerns over the disastrous human and political consequences of this offensive. But Lapid went one major step further in an interview with Israel Defence Forces radio:

Referring to the TV picture, Mr Lapid said he was “talking about an old woman crouching on all fours, searching for her medicines in the ruins of her house and that she made me think of my grandmother”.

“I said that if we carry on like this, we will be expelled from the United Nations and those responsible will stand trial at The Hague,”

Source: BBC News

These comments take their full weight when you know that he “spent part of World War II in a Budapest ghetto and lost many members of his family in the Holocaust, including a grandmother who died at Auschwitz.”

Of course, this allusion to Nazi Germany when discussing domestic policies utterly infuriated his right-wing colleagues and prompted him to quickly retract his previous statement: “I’m not referring to the Germans. I’m not referring to the Holocaust,” Lapid told the Radio. “When you see an old woman, you think of your grandmother.”

But there is little doubt on the true reason of his original reaction: while he most certainly did not mean to draw a serious parallel between current Middle-East events and the horrors of the Holocaust, it is hard not to notice that the Israeli government is now assuming the ugly role of the persecutor in occupied Palestinian territories.

Of course, in this stupid conflict, both sides abound with political extremists, scary religious fanatics and blood-thirsty militants.
But only one side is claiming the legitimacy of a democratic government. And lately, it has not displayed a conduct very befitting of a democracy.

Many people tend to see Israeli politics as one single block united behind hard-line right-wingers. But nothing could be farther from the truth. The Knesset is divided between a ridiculously high number of small factions that form and break coalitions, successively putting the left or the Likud in position of power. Lately, under the rule of Sharon, undeniably a talented strategist and a very popular figure, who, incidentally, has been firmly written down in the books of a few Belgian prosecutors as a War Criminal, the Likud has enjoyed a seemingly unstoppable support and has used most of it to muddle the situation back into the mess it was two decades ago.
But if you talk to a lot of Israeli, especially the ones who do not currently live in Israel: the countless youth who have jumped on the first occasion to flee the downward spiral of violence engulfing their native country, you will hear a much dissenting opinion from what is usually considered the “Israeli cause”. Unfortunately, this moderate majority is entirely overshadowed by a vociferous minority of fanatics who are currently tearing appart any hope of a peaceful resolution to this conflict, irrevocably damaging the Jewish State’s international credit in the process.

It is also worth pointing out that the much talked-about US “neo-cons”, currently in control of every strategic position in the White House, have more than a connection in passing with the Likud.

Please excuse the crappy quality of the above pictures: they were captured with rather rudimentary tools from the low-quality streaming of an Israeli broadcast archived by France Television 2 (link to that day no longer available unfortunately). I stumbled upon this footage while watching a webcast of French TV’s excellent show: “Le Zapping” (see part 6.3 of my special Links Edition entry for more info on that show).

Yea, Albert said that. And he was not the dimmest one of the lot.

Actually, I think he would have gladly included “blind patriotic rage” under the “nationalism” umbrella. The kind of nationalism that involved sticking a flag on your SUV and cheering at Dubya’s lame western one-liners while burping your Budweiser light in front of Fox News. The same kind of nationalism that will cause even more deaths this year in Iraq than in NYC on 9/11. A nationalism, that, like any self-respecting fanatical ideology, feeds itself on its own failure…

These past two months, I have stayed away from the most important topic of all, precisely while it was entering a particularly dramatic phase of its development. Of course, I did not stay shut for lack of a strong opinion on the war or its proponents. But I guess we all get progressively numb to disgust and consternation after a while. Further more, I did not really feel like contributing to what truely is a bit of an echo chamber… I mean, call me jaded, but do we really need thousands of identical “read this article”/”this is horrible” comments, each time a statement is made or a news is published. I’m all for popular democratic involvement, but what is the point of sharing your opinion if:
1) It is the same, verbatim, as a few thousands of other blogs/websites and does not bring any new insight on the question whatsoever.
2) It will only be read by people already sold to your cause and certainly not by people who might disagree (in fact, most of us do not write for those people).

Then why post now? Well, even if I do not put the slightest claim on any groundbreaking analysis or much originality altogether, there are a few small items I felt like sharing:

  • Regarding the Abu Ghraib “Scandal”: for as shocking and vile as these treatments are, anybody who claims to be surprised at such a behaviour being condoned by US officials is either lying through his teeth or very poorly informed. Abuses are not new, they are not even a secret. The only new factor is that, this time, the whole world is looking at it and it’s hard to keep it discreet. However, many papers (not in the US, need I precise) have been pointing for a long time at the constant trampling of the Geneva Convention rights in places such as Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo. Of course, US officials are quick to point out the “extra-territoriality” of Guantanamo, in effect preserving some appearance of respectability in the face of international law. But no legal loophole will amend the fact that the US have officially recognized using “physical intimidation” and other gulag-style methods to extract information from their illegally detained prisoners (most of whom have not been charged by any qualified tribunal). The US also does not hide the fact that they routinely use the “assistance” of other countries in interrogating their suspects. In practice, it has meant shipping “suspected terrorists” to countries known for their less-than-stellar record on human-right issues and let them handle the dirty work for them. A certain Canadian traveler who had the misfortune to tick off some US airport officers certainly know something about that.
  • Common knowledge too that US media coverage of the war in Iraq is laughably bad. Actually, US media altogether have long collapsed to a rather low level of propaganda-relaying for a conglomerate of various political and corporate interests. But that’s just my personal opinion (or rather: Noam Chomsky’s, and I share it).
    Of course, this peremptory judgement admits many exceptions, most notably Sy Hersh‘s amazing investigative work for the New Yorker (the dark irony that he had to be the very person to uncover the inconvenient Abu Ghraib scandal is certainly not lost on some people in Washington: history has strange hiccups sometimes).

    Otherwise, the Guardian. consistently brings such a strong cover of every aspects of US domestic and international policies that it will quite often precede US newspapers.

    For people who can read German, the Frankfurter Allgemeine keeps a slightly more conservative approach, though as critical of the US administration, of current affairs (I think a translation of major articles is also present on the English version of their site).

    Another great reading (in French) are the pages of Courrier International which culls the best of the press worldwide and presents a compilation of translated articles written by journalists of every nationalities.

    My personal favorite among politics/war-related blog is definitely Whiskey Bar were both content and form are a pleasure to read. Beside, any man who can quote both Monty Python and Pontecorvo’s movie Battle for Algiers in a perfectly meaningful political analysis has to be my hero…

And that will be it for tonight, as I will have to handle another kind of international conflict pretty soon if I do not close this computer immediately…