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.

And so it begins, the post-Bush era, as well as the Obama Years. Let’s see what they shall bring, eh?

As the door hits Bush’s backside on the way out it looks like some judges are finally growing a pair, while other continue to erode the constitution.

There’s no shortage of advice for the new President. So many writers and opinion-givers are lining up to share something they hope Obama might actually read. (I wonder if they ever read the newspapers or internet, or just rely on their advisors… Bush was famous for not reading anything without pictures in it.)

Most of the advice I’ve been reading has revolved around what to do about the economic crisis. It’s natural since it’s going to be the dominant world news topic for some time. The decisions made over the next few months may well shape the outcome of the next few years. Some are not feeling very hopeful at all. (83 out of the top 100 corporations in the USA have subsiuaries in offshore tax havens – and some of them are receiving taxpayer funded bailouts. Ssssssh!) Obama’s rhetoric is very inclusive, but you have to wonder how grounded it is in reality. When Obama says that ‘everyone’ is going to have to make sacrifices, one wonders how much the poor of America have left to give… perhaps they will just disappear; or is that the plan? Obama lays claim to the legacy of MLK, but how much would have King approved of Obama’s message and actions? The salaries of the majority of Americans has decreased over the past 40 years. The people who put him in power now need to hold him accountable.

One interesting outcome of the financial crisis has been that the US armed forces’ recruitment quotas are now being exceeded. People are seeing the Army as a safe haven as far as securing an income is concerned. One wonders though exactly what they’re being set up for

Amnesty International is pushing for a war crimes tribunal into what has happened in Gaza over the past month. Of the 1194 Gazans who died in the invasion, 1099 were civilians. 6000 were injured. Many of the victims were children.  Don’t look to the U.N. for any support though… And as for that ceasefire – forget it.

Britain is walking a tightrope. It still doesn’t look good in Ireland or Iceland either. Australia’s situation is not looking good either. Eastern Europe and the Baltic States are seeing more civil strife as their economies worsen. Japan’s economic stimulus package is deeply unpopular, but that isn’t stopping the PM’s crusade to see it through – even as his own MPs are deserting him. In the rest of Asia the crisis may have an interesting spinoff, leading to greater independence for the Asian economies. The banks that are bankrupting America are now targetting the funds in Medicare and Social Security.

The situation on the Korean peninsula is still threatening to spill over into total war.

I promise I’ll post something positive/nice/weird/entertaining soon…

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.

One thing that strikes you about Japanese TV is that there are seemingly hundreds of ‘idols’ – campaign girls, bikini girls, promotion girls – whatever you want to call them. One show famously has one hundred girls dressed in red outfits sitting in the background while the hosts talk about the news of the day or other recent hot topics. They don’t do anything, just sit and react to what the hosts say – kind of a living wallpaper if you wish. I have sometimes wondered how the TV industry can support such a lot of people who just sit around and do nothing (save my tirade for the celebrities (or ‘talento’, as they are known in Japan) for another time) since they must be getting paid a decent rate for their ‘services’. Turns out they are often paid less than office workers and have to resort to offering other ‘services’ to get by – or even to get work. One of these idols has blown the whistle on the culture of prostitution and corruption that plagues the TV industry in Japan.

Japan’s whaling fleet are heading back south for their ‘research’ to commence. In Tokyo, two Greenpeace activists are being held in prison for making off with a box of whale meat that was headed for the black market. They wanted to expose the corruption and truth about the scientific research – that it really was all about the meat. Instead they’ve been the target of sustained and organised harrassment by the authorities.

George W. Bush’s legacy continues to reveal itself. Something that has been around since 2000 but I didn’t find out until recently was that at a young age, the younger George exhibited a strong sociopathic streak, shooting frogs and blowing them up with fireworks. You can extend that to his callous attitude to life, whether it be convicts in Texas, prisoners in Abu Gharib or Guantanamo.

Meanwhile the US financial system continues to unravel. The Fed has refused to release any details of where $2 trillion is going. A prominent hedge fund has collapsed, leaving a $50 billion hole behind. One of the world’s most prominent investors has labeled the banks as essentially “bankrupt, totally bankrupt”. Another commentator has placed the blame squarely at the feet of the big universities where most of Wall Street got their education. It’s also the reason why these people can’t and won’t be able to take the steps necessary to fix the crisis – and why it will in all likelihood get much worse over the next year – and why Obama really won’t be able to do much about it. It’s going to be very hard for anyone to undo 30 years of mistakes.

The Governor of Illinois was arrested for allegedly putting Obama’s vacant senate seat up for auction, or was arrested in order to cover up dealings with the Bank of America. You choose.

Very quietly, the Iraq War ended on November 27, 2008, when the Iraqi government signed the new Status Of Forces Agreement with the USA. It is legal and binding. It calls for all American forces to be out of Iraq completely by December 31, 2011. The news was buried amongst the reports from Mumbai, but it does mean that the USA has lost that war. Sssssh!

In Somalia, some progress has appeared to have been made on the diplomatic front, although the Bush administrataion has reserved the right to declare the whole country a ‘free fire zone’ in the name of combating piracy, but you can bet that it’ll be the civilians of the country who will feel the wrath of the bombs that fall.

The riots in Greece continue anabated. It’s important to note that country-wide chaos doesn’t unfold in a vacuum. The crisis has been brewing for years.

Tensions are still high in Thailand, Russian forces are still in Georgia, and the Caucauses are still primed to explode at any time.

It can all seem rather hopeless

I’ve been revisiting the Qatsi trilogy. The films (along with Ron Fricke’s Baraka)resonate with my feelings about life, the Earth and what we’re doing to it. If it all seems hopeless then I am somewhat comforted that after civilisation has ended and we are all dust, life will go on. We are all made of stars, so to the stars we will all return one day. I’ll finish with three quotes, one from the film Koyaanisqatsi, one from its director Godfrey Reggio – and one from Agent Smith:

koy.aa.nis.qat.si (Hopi) [n] 1. crazy life 2. life out of balance 3. life disintegrating 4. life in turmoil 5. a way of life that calls for another way of living.

“What I’m trying to show is that the main event today is not seen by those of us that are living it, who see the surface of the newspapers, the obviousness of conflict, the social injustice of the market, […] but to me the greatest event or the most important event perhaps in our entire history, nothing comparable in the past with this event, is fundamentally unnoticed, and the event is the following: the transcending from all nature or the natural environment as a host of life for human habitation, into a technological milieu, into mass technology as the environment of life. So these films have never been about the effect of the technology, of industry, on people, it’s been that everything, politics, education, the finance structure […] the culture, religion, all of that exists within the host of technology. So it’s not the effect of, it is that everything exists with-in. It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” – Godfrey Reggio

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species. I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague…” – Agent Smith (The Matrix)