It turns out George W. Bush started the Iraq invasion to stop a couple of mythical monsters. Seriously!? YES! Another reason to stop the insanely religious of all persuasions from ever holding political office.

That foreclosure problem in the USA has hardly started hitting its stride. Those green shoots are dying fast, eh, Mr. Obama?

The Arctic Ocean could well be a toxic mess by the end of this century. I guess it will be that way almost everywhere. I guess if we haven’t fished the oceans to death by then, the fish wouldn’t be able to live there anyway…

Enjoy it all while you still can.

Yay, I’m back for who-knows-how-long… For those who aren’t in the know; I have a bad back. To be precise I have two herniated disks in my L4 and L5 lumbar. So that means from time to time they go nuts on my spinal cord and I can’t do simple things like sit or walk. I had an operation once to fix this problem when I was 24 but the problem resurfaced a few years later. I could have another operation but the time needed for recovery is rather large so it’s just not an option at the moment.

So in practice what that meant was I had to spend a week in bed, which wasn’t as exciting or romantic as it sounds. Thank goodness I have a Macbook and an almost endless stream of movies to watch, not to mention the free wireless access through some kind neighbour’s unsecured network!

The funny/sad thing about all this is now I share my bed with a Macbook. Does that means I’m now cursed to never have a girlfriend ever again? At least I don’t live in my parents’ basement…

Another upshot is that the update I had in the works is now hopelessly out of date. But it’s refreshing to note that apart from a couple of celebrity deaths and a couple of aircrashes that nothing much has really changed in the news over the past few weeks – at least in the meta-stories that I follow…

I qualify for the free 12,000 yen from the Japanese Government! I have the form and will go down to the city office soon to stake my claim. No idea how I will choose to stimulate the economy… Any suggestions?

One interesting development in the Australian internet firewall fiasco is that iiNet has pulled out of testing the new system. They have cited the reason that the list clashes with their philosophy of supporting free speech and social responsibility. The list of banned sites was leaked onto Wikileaks and showed that the government was not just targetting child porn sites (the reason for the censorship) but also regular porn sites as well as some that discuss euthanasia, hate speech, even inocuous sites like that of a Queensland dentist. A big thimbs-up to iiNet for taking a stand, and hopefully if the other testers follow suit the government will have no choice but to abandon this ridiculous program.

You could also add the Australian government’s environmental program to the list of policies that need drastic overhauling. Rudd’s done a Howard and gone to ‘clean coal’ (an oxymoron if ever there was one) instead of doing what the Europeans (and even Obama) are doing and that’s developing solar and wind energy.

Cracks are appearing in the mainstream media’s one-eyed hero-worship of Obama with a 60 Minutes interview taking the new President’s seeming callous attitude to the economic crisis to task. Public protests are also starting up across the country as it becomes clear that the bailout of the banks may well be doing more harm than good.

Obama’s empty rhetoric is justifyably getting an airing, and we need to keep supporting people researching what’s really going on behind the words of this charismatic man. Take closing Guantanamo for example. 200 or so of the prisoners (since they aren’t called ‘enemy combatants’ any more) are being moved to an expanded Bagram base in Afghanistan, where their situation won’t change. Another is the escalation in Afghanistan. Obama would do well to listen to the advice of the former Soviets – and that is, basically, don’t bother.

There was also the passing of legislation that could lead to the creation of a seven-million strong civilian “army” that could be drawn upon to keep the peace if the country goes to pot, or just become a default ‘draft’. This one can’t be blamed entirely on Obama as it’s been in the pipeline for ages, but it is happening on his watch, and with his approval.

One independent commentator is asking if Obama is really “dumber than a bag of hammers”. Another has declared that the USA has two solutions; either declare bankruptcy or start a war – a big one. That could well happen in Pakistan as the state looks to be very unstable at the moment – and they have nukes.

Regardless of the economic situation, Britain’s chief scientist has released a report claiming that due to food, water, energy and environmental problems getting out of hand, by 2030 the world is going to be in a desperate state, and people will respond by taking desperate actions.

With China and Russia calling for the world to abandon the US dollar as the default reserve currency, things are going to get very interesting indeed.

Meanwhile the top story in Australia the past couple of weeks has been over whether Pauline Hanson had nude pictures taken of her. No, I didn’t look, and I don’t think you should either (urrrgh!), but it gives you an idea of why I don’t read the mainstream press that much…

And so it’s very likely that this will be my final post for this year as I’ll be exploring the temples around Angkor Wat in Cambodia followed by tramping around Hong Kong until after the New Year has dawned. It promises to be an excellent holiday.

Time for a few parting shots and links to tide you, dear reader, through the next few weeks until I get my butt into gear again.

This article neatly summarizes all the bad things that George Bush has done throughout his presidency – saves you buying any books if were interested at all. I wish that Odin existed instead of his elderly and less wrathful cousin, Santa Claus / Father Christmas. In short, Odin whisks off bad children in his sack while riding an eight-legged flying horse. Where they go – who knows? If only Bush could be whisked off by a vengeful god… too late now anyway. The guy just doesn’t know when to stop.

That leads to a quote of the day. It’s been a while since I had one, and it comes from the lips of George Bush – and superbly sums up his attitude to anything he’s done that’s turned out badly: “So what?” Here’s the transcript of the interview which also demonstrates how he really does believe his own bullshit:

BUSH: One of the major theaters against al Qaeda turns out to have been Iraq. This is where al Qaeda said they were going to take their stand. This is where al Qaeda was hoping to take–

RADDATZ: But not until after the U.S. invaded.

BUSH: Yeah, that’s right. So what? The point is that al Qaeda said they’re going to take a stand. Well, first of all in the post-9/11 environment Saddam Hussein posed a threat. And then upon removal, al Qaeda decides to take a stand.

My response? As the Austrians say: “Du kannst mir gern den buckel runterrutschen und mit der zunge bremsen.” (final phrase – scroll down)

The knives continue to come out for Barack Obama a month from his inauguration.

Afghanistan is going the way that it did under Russian rule in the 80s. The smart thing would be to get out – but Australia’s PM is going the middle road – neither pulling out or putting in extra numbers to ‘get the job done’. (Although the elephant in the room is the reason we’re there in the first place….) I think we can call Rudd “Sit On The Fence Kev” as that’s what he seems to do on most issues; take the environment for example. I guess that’s what you get when you have a career public servant who wants to please everyone running the country: insipid, dull and risk-free ‘management’. And by the way Kev, we DON’T want Howard’s policies back – like detention centres, for example.

Like Greece, like America, like Europe.

The kanji for this year in Japan is ‘nise’, meaning ‘fake’, in the wake of a number of scandals that hit the country this year. Scandals are a weekly phenomenon in Japan. If it doesn’t involve the government, then it’ll be companies doing something hideous – or both – or just something weird and cruel.

In slightly related news, I’m never having sex with Japanese girls again, unless they’re fully tested – twice.

This financial crisis isn’t the same at all as the one in the 1930s and we’ve learned from our mistakes. OK, so I was being sarcastic. The politicians are leading the way of course, by voting themselves a pay rise. Buy stock in Spam though.

According to this, I should live forever.

Goodbye oceansgoodbye life as we know it. Maybe I’ll move to Sweden where energy policy really is of and for the people.

In the USA there are currently 73 children between 13 and 14 years old who have been sentenced to prison for ‘life without possibility of parole’. Regardless of what crimes they’ve been convicted of – these are children who will never see life outside of a prison for the rest of their lives. The USA is the ONLY country in the world that is known to do this.

Of course we’re all so distracted to notice what’s going on around us.

Naqoyqatsi indeed. See it, and above all, THINK dammit!

The 2008 P.U.-litzer Prizes are out.

When you’re bemoaning the lack of decent movies to rent these holidays, thank your lucky stars that none of these have been made – yet. Quentin Tarantino’s in currently in production.

Another case of life imitating art. Scientists have developed technology that can map people’s dreams. It’s one step from the technology explored by Wim Wenders in ‘Until The End Of The World’ in 1991.

Here’s a guide to the latest in Japanese slang. My 13 year old students often use “KY” when they’re talking about me. I’ve got them fooled that I can’t understand Japanese at all. 🙂

I don’t usually post links to The Smoking Gun’s mugshot galleries, but this one is particularly festive. Merry Christmas – don’t end up like this lot –  good luck with the holiday romance, and have a safe 2009.