Letters From Exile

...Scott Bidstrup's Life And Living In Costa Rica

Thu, Jul 31 2003

No Cigar Today

Just got off the phone with the real estate agent, and it's become clear that escrow won't close tomorrow, and probably not until at least Monday. So I've changed my moving date to Friday the 8th and flight reservations for Saturday the 9th, which should give me plenty of time to get escrow closed next week. It just means I'll have to sit here and cool my jets for another week. The underwriter wasn't even apologetic. When rates are this low, they can get all the business they can handle, so why should they try to take care of customers?

In the meantime, I spent the morning getting rid of the van. Believing that I was going to close today, I figured that I would have to have it gone by the end of the day, and so I took it down to an RV lot and sold it for what I could get. Unfortunately, what I could get was about a fourth of what it is worth, but I didn't have much of a choice. So I sold it, collected a check, and it's gone now. I'm down to one vehicle, and that's the Escort.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 03:07:25 PM

Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop

Well, closing of the escrow on the house is being held up by the underwriter who writes the loan documents for the buyer. They still haven't been received by the title company, and I'm waiting. If it doesn't close today, the buyer will lose over $2, 000 in additional costs, and I'll be forced to delay the move, which will cost me money.

I'm finishing my packing preparations today, and putting the van in storage. That's the biggie - I've got lots of other, little things to do, but nothing that will take much time.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Yesterday, Dubya held his 9th press conference. His dad had held 61 by this point in his presidency. The man clearly doesn't care about accountability and letting the people know what he's up to.

~ Puerto Rico's constitutional ban on executions is under threat from the Bush administration, who is pushing to get the constitution changed. They're claiming that the constitution is not in conformity with the U.S. constitution.

~ At his press conference yesterday, Dubya changed his rhetoric on weapons of mass destruction. He's no longer talking about weapons. He's now talking about a "wmd program."

~ Also at his press conference yesterday, Dubya says he has a team of lawyers looking for ways to ban same sex marriage. He made a reference to the bible in discussing this, so it's obviously not about justice, it's about Dubya's personal religion and his sense of entitlement in forcing it on the rest of us. What a wonderfully tolerant man!

~ He also discussed campaign finances. When asked how he could spend $170 million in a campaign in which he has no Republican opponent, he said, "just watch me."

~ It has been revealed that the CIA warned the Blair government that it could not back up the claims being made by Blair that Saddam could deploy WMD's on 45 minutes notice. And apparently they also warned them that the yellowcake story was based on phony documents.

~ The Occupation Amateur Hour has detained at least four high level Iraqi scientists, none of which have offered evidence to back up Dubya's claims. It's becoming increasingly obvious that the claims were based on inflated claims.

~ It turns out that the Bushies have changed the nuclear use policy secretly. Without announcing it publicly, they have apparently changed the first use doctrine to a preemption doctrine. This means that other nuclear powers will probably be forced to do the same. Israel, Pakistan, India, all give reason for pause. Do we really want to go down this road?

~ The Senate rejected a measure requiring auto makers to increase fleet economy standards from 37.5 mpg to 40 mpg. They've also retained the special tax exemption for really large SUV's purchased for business. Sounds good to me. Just think of how much more money the oil companies are going to make - and how that's going to help us consumers of oil products!

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:06:28 AM

Wed, Jul 30 2003

Closing Today. Maybe.

Well, we were supposed to close the escrow on the house today. It didn't happen. I'm sure hoping it happens tomorrow. If it doesn't, it's not a serious problem. But if it goes beyond Friday, I'm in trouble, though. I'll have to change my reservations, which will cost me money. The buyer's agreed to pay me for my costs should that happen.

Today is another day of serious packing. I've got to get the documents out of the file cabinet that I'm going to need, such as my birth certificate, passport, apostilles, etc., as well as anything really sensitive, such as bank statements, tax records and the like, so that I don't have to worry about identity theft while the documents are sitting in storage in San Jose.

I also need to clean the pool - again. Last night we had a major monsoon thunderstorm, the first biggie of the season, and it trashed the pool. The buyer has a pool equipment guy coming to inspect the pool equipment for the home warrantee, so I really need to get it cleaned up.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ A group of 80 women have taken over a Shell facility in the Niger delta in Nigeria, claiming that promises made as the result of agreements arrived at earlier, have not been kept. Their words: "Our children and our husbands ... have never been employed by the company. We want to know: Why they should continue operating here?" What? A mega-huge corporation not keeping promises to a few impoverished villagers? I'm shocked!

~ A recently released Gallup survey shows that toleration for gays and lesbians in the United States is declining. There is less toleration for gays since Lawrence vs.Texas was announced - 48% approve of gay relationships today, versus 60% just since May. Of course, the campaign being launched by the Pope to halt gay marriage hasn't helped any.

~ Two hundred anti-globalization protestors have been arrested in Montreal during the WTO talks taking place there. The real question, of course, is whether those arrested are actually guilty of a crime, or simply embarrassing the Canadian government.

~ According to Republican senators who've seen it, up to 95% of the 28 page redaction of the 9/11 investigation committee report could be released. Dubya's obstinacy can only mean one thing - he's afraid of the public knowing all the facts. Which begs the question of what he is hiding. Dubya continues to win the confidence of the American people, one redaction at a time.

~ Ariel Sharon, Prime Minister of Israel, rejected requests by President Bush to stop construction of the "security" wall in the West Bank. His meeting yesterday was described as "entirely negative." Yet Dubya didn't have the guts to tell him outright to build it on Israeli land or stop building it or risk losing American aid. So it goes on being built - and Dubya's indifference wins the hearts and minds of Palestinians, one roadblock, one sniper victim's family at a time.

~ General Richard Meyers, commander of the Occupation Amateur Hour military forces, said the entire central portion of Iraq has degraded into a "war zone." At least he is admitting the obvious. 175 Iraqis were arrested in 60 raids just yesterday. The Occupation Amateur Hour continues to win hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, one busted-down-door and arrested innocent at a time.

~ Al Jazeera's news bureau in Baghdad has been subjected to "strafing by gunfire, death threats, confiscation of news material, and multiple detentions and arrests all carried out by the U.S. soldiers" according to an Al Jazeera spokesman. The Bush administration continues to win hearts and minds of the Arabs everywhere, one helicopter strafing, one death threat at a time.

~ Plans to send troops into Africa have been stalled over who will pay the bills. Nigeria is asking for $10 million in aid, the U.S. has refused, of course, and so Kofi Anan has asked the Security Council to divert some of the money allocated for peace keeping in Sierra Leone. The Bush administration continues to win hearts and minds of Africans everywhere, one ignored crisis at a time.

~ George Akerlof, the current Nobel Prize laureate for economics, has told a German newspaper that the Bush administration is " the worst government the US has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extraordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign policy and economics but also in social and environmental policy." The Bush administration continues to win hearts and minds of Europeans, one bad, self-oriented, anti-working man, pro-corporate-welfare policy at a time.

And people wonder why I'm leaving....

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:20:53 AM

Tue, Jul 29 2003

Serious Packing Day #1

Today I begin the serious packing that will take me through the week to complete, culminating in the arrival of the movers on Friday to complete the job. Actually, I'm not really packing, I am getting everything ready to pack. As a result of the 9/11 situation, international movers now require that they do all the actual packing. But I've got to get things ready for them, such as getting the computer shut down and removed from the desk, and ready to box up - things like that.

Had a bit of a scare last night with the telephone system. I'm using Vonage, and it works through the broadband internet connection I have. We had a power failure, and when the power came back on, the phone wouldn't work. That's the last thing I would need at this point. Well, after considerable snooping around, I determined that the Cisco telephone adaptor seems to work only if it is on a certain IP address in the router, and it had booted up quicker than the computers, so it got an IP address from the router that it couldn't use for some strange reason. Anyway, I got it straightened out and the phone works fine now.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Word is out that the Pentagon is setting up gambling system based on "key events." Two private companies, including a subsidiary of the Economist magazine of London, are running it and it is being overseen by John Poindexter, the Watergate indictee and the same person who is overseeing the national neighborhood-block-spy agency that John Ashcroft is setting up. The idea is that the system, being designed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, will monitor betting to generate tips regarding impending terror attacks based on the betting patterns. $600,000 has been spent already, and $8 million more has been requested. Congress is outraged, and several senators and congressmen are asking for an investigation. Can you imagine, being able to bet through a government sponsored casino, on whether or not that government will fall, or this target will be subjected to a terrorist attack? This, of course, sets up a powerful incentive for foreign intelligence agencies to bet on what they know - and make a sizable chunk of change on inside information. And of course, we wouldn't learn anything that the CIA wouldn't already know. Here's the kicker: Paul Wolfowitz defended it before Congress today, saying it was a way to "combine free market principles with intelligence." That one had me rolling on the floor!

~ J.P. Morgan-Chase and Citigroup have paid an $8 million fine for assisting Enron in helping that company set up the "special entities" that Enron used to rip off California to the tune of $24 billion and others to the tune of over $40 billion total. Figure it out: its roughly equivalent to helping steal a car, and when you face the judge, he tells you that you can keep the car, but you've gotta cough up the parking meter change you found in the ashtray. American justice is surely an inspiration to the world.

~ Even Saudi Arabia is objecting to the 28 pages of redactions in the report on the 9/11 attack. The Saudi foreign minister met with Dubya yesterday, and asked Dubya to release the redactions. Dubya's not budging. The report will remain censored. Shows just who has the most to hide, here, doesn't it?

~ The number of AIDS cases in the U.S. has increased this year for first time in a decade. This is the inevitable result of a lack of spending on public health measures to control the epidemic, and to educate vulnerable populations. We've got literally trillions of dollars for tax cuts for the rich, but we can't spend money to control an epidemic. Somehow, it shows us just what Dubya's priorities are and what his "compassionate conservatism" is really all about.

~ Attorneys for a Pennsylvania death-row inmate have definitive DNA evidence of their client's innocence, but as is usual in the U.S., the judge and prosecutors involved are reluctant to re-open the case and examine whether or not the conviction should be overturned. So yet another provably innocent man may yet still go to the gallows. American justice or American conviction-seeking? That sure makes us an inspiration to the world, doesn't it?

~ The Vatican is launching a worldwide campaign against same sex marriage. Of course, culturally, it's swimming upstream, but the Vatican is determined to do it anyway, in spite of its silliness. This policy means that the Vatican is adding to its long list of failed, counterproductive policies, none of them based on scripture that any reasonable Bible scholar could justify: birth control, ecclesiastical celibacy, anti-"liberation theology" and many others, which not only undermine the church's overall mission, but its credibility as well. So keep it up, John Paul. You're doing us all - and the cause of secular humanism - a big favor.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:13:36 AM

Mon, Jul 28 2003

The Three Significant Anniversaries

There are three significant anniversaries that all happen to coincide about now. Today is the 100th anniversary of Mother Jones' March of the Mill Children - focusing attention on child labor abuses and slavery in the mills, mines and sweatshops of the era - industrial slavery was producing profits ranging from 50% to 90%, even though children as young as six years of age were literally being worked to death. She marched to the Long Island home of Teddy Roosevelt, but Teddy refused to see her, saying he needed his rest. Today, actress Betsy Means re-enacted the march - and was also refused permission to re-enact Mother Jones' speech at the home, which is now a museum, by the curators - they said the march was just "a minor footnote in history." The speech led to the first national, enforced child labor legislation in American history. But it was a "minor footnote." The more things change, the more they remain the same.

This is also the 50th anniversary of the truce at Panmunjom, Korea, bringing an end to the hostilities in the Korean War. Of course, the Bush administration, through it's arrogant hubris, seems to be doing its level best to start up the festivities all over again, this time with the big bombs. This one is scary. This little war could lead to the deaths of not just thousands, but millions. Yet no one seems to be particularly concerned. And that's what's really scary.

The final anniversary being celebrated today is the 50th anniversary of the attack, by Fidel Castro, on the military barracks at Santiago de Cuba, the opening shot in the Cuban revolution. He lost the battle, but he obviously won the war, and Fidel himself showed up at the site today, and delivered one of his famously long-winded speeches. The Cuban revolution shows what can be achieved when you have the people behind you - a lesson that tyrants and demagogues around the world have learned from Fidel very well.

Today, I am hoping to finally sell the van. I have two people coming by, one sounding quite interested, and the other moderately so. They will be by around three PM. The rest of the day will be spent doing paperwork for the move: bills of lading, change of address forms, etc.

The lawn service showed up today. They mowed the lawn, which badly needed it, even though I had asked them to discontinue two weeks ago. I told them that this is their last day. Period. Finish! Went to the post office and got some more change of address cards, and some stamps for them. Lots of cards going out today.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ 15 soldiers of the Occupation Amateur Hour have been killed in the last 8 days. This has been the deadliest 8-day period since Baghdad fell to U.S. troops in April.

~ The Occupation Amateur Hour continues to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. The New York Times reports a search team that has been looking for Saddam has shot and killed five innocent civilians over the weekend, including an incident at a Muslim shrine in Karbala, prompting spontaneous rioting in Karbala and elsewhere in the country.

~ The U.S. military has charged four Occupation soldiers with punching, kicking and breaking the bones of prisoners being held in Iraq, in some cases leading to the hospitalization of the victims. Meanwhile, the prisoners continue to be held without being tried or even charged with a crime. No effort seems to being made towards getting tribunals or courts set up to try the suspects.

~ A group of Greek lawyers at the International Criminal Court in the Hague have announced that they are going to charge Tony Blair, the British Prime Minister, with war crimes for his involvement in the occupation of Iraq.

~ Over the weekend, Dubya has announced that he has ordered troops to the coast of Liberia, but won't allow them to land until the ECOWAS troops arrive, if then. If I were a Liberian, I'd be desperately looking for oil deposits. If Liberia had oil, Dubya would have troops in there in a heartbeat.

~ The U.S. prison population jumped by 700 prisoners per week last year, a 4 percent increase in just one year, to two and a half million people. 2.43 percent of the American population are now behind bars, with an additional percent involved in the criminal justice system in some other way, either half-way houses or on parole. The vast majority in jail or on parole are are charged with drug offenses. It seems to be helping: cocaine addiction has gone from 2% of the population in 1920 when cocaine was outlawed, to 3.4% today.

~ The NAACP called for investigation into a lynching that occurred recently in Belle Glade, Florida. The victim was found hanging from a tree, with his hands tied behind his back. Police in Belle Glade are calling it a "suicide." The victim was dating a white policeman's daughter. This is the first documented lynching in twenty years.

~ Human rights groups are charging that Israeli troops are deliberately targeting Palestinian children; on Friday, a 4 year old shot dead, one of three civilians killed, and part of a recent pattern of an unusually large number of child deaths in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to El Ha'aretz, a leading Israeli daily.

~ Former Nixon aide Jeb McGruder claims that Nixon ordered the Watergate break-in. Says that he heard him discussing it on the telephone as he walked past. Nixon had always claimed innocence.

~ The New York Times says some of the redactions in the redacted 28 pages of the 9/11 investigation report say that Saudi Arabian government furnished hundreds of millions of dollars to the Al Qaeda terrorist groups and individuals connected with Al Qaeda.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:30:44 AM

Sun, Jul 27 2003

My Last Week As An American In America

Today I start my last week as an American living in the United States. My flight out of here is a week from yesterday, and at that point, I'll be glad to leave this country and its increasing repression, behind me. The conservatives are making a one truly glorious mess out of this country, and apparently I'm not the only one to notice. What I find so shocking about living here is just how few people seem to either notice or care. So I'm going to live in a country where people do care, and are concerned, even if they don't know what to do about it. Perhaps I can help educate them. I'll certainly do my best to help where I can.

My objectives for today are to get the books sorted, and write up an explanation, as promised, for the new owner of this house, as to how everything works around here, mostly how to do the pool maintenance. She admitted yesterday that it was the thing that scared her the most about living here.

People continue to ask why I'm leaving, even though I have a lengthy explanation in my essays section discussing it. Mostly, they seem to think that it's not "really going to happen here." I have to patiently explain that it really is happening here already, not at some time in the distant, unimaginable future, but it has already begun. There always seems to be an acknowledgement at some level, but the denial is palpable - and yet it is that denial that makes it inevitable. I think that most people seem to think that by denying what is happening around them that they don't need to worry about it, like it will go away. Well, it won't. In fact, it will, of course, make it worse. And that's why I don't hold out any hope that it will change.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Betcha didn't know that we're going to be out of both Afghanistan and Iraq by September 30, did you? Well, if you believe the White House budget document recently sent to Congress, we're not only going to have the troops home by Christmas, we'll have 'em home by Halloween. Those projections are based, of course, on wishful thinking, forged documents and selective intelligence as usual - all the tricks that got Dubya in trouble in the Niger yellowcake story. Some people are slow learners.

~ Speaking of wishful thinking, the budget document also says that we'll cut the $455 billion dollar deficit in half by 2008. Oh really? That'll get this rob-from-the-poor-and-subsidize-the-rich scheme that Dubya calls "compassionate conservatism" in the black in no time... If only it were true. The reality is, as usual with this president, quite different - and what these "anti-tax-and-spend" Republicans are running budget deficits which, on a per-capita basis adjusted for inflation, are greater than the deficits run up by FDR during the New Deal. Well, I'm no fan of tax-and-spend, but I've gotta tell ya, it's a helluva lot more responsible than this kind of conservative borrow-and-spend, fiscally irresponsible welfare for the rich. And don't try telling me that Dubya doesn't realize what he's doing - remember he has an ivy-league MBA.

~ Here's how Dubya and his Republicans in congress are supporting our troops in Iraq: Iin addition to the drastic cuts in death benefits, danger pay and family separation allowances previously reported in this space, they've also passed pay raises for higher ranks and paid for it by capping pay raises for E1's, E2's, and O1's at a token 2 percent. They also have accepted a $1.5 billion dollar cut in military construction, rather than pay for it by scaling back the tax cuts for the richest 200,000 Americans who earn more than $1 million a year. The White House supported all these measures. The deserter who sits in the Oval Office should be ashamed of ordering troops to Iraq when he couldn't even be bothered to show up for National Guard exercises, and then he has the nerve to ask Americans to "support the troops" when this is the kind of support he shows. Kinda reminds me of the comment by Antonio Somosa, the ex-dictator of Nicaragua, who was "our sonofabitch" down there for many years. When asked about the suffering of his people, he referred to them as his "oxen." I can't help but think that Dubya and his crowd think of all but the richest Americans, including his middle-class conservative supporters, in exactly the same way.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:20:14 AM

Sat, Jul 26 2003

Getting On With The Packing

Well, today, I'm going to start the packing process. I'll be taking down the radio antennas for my ham radio, and getting the equipment ready to be packed - I'm planning to bring it with me. I'll also be going through my books and discarding the ones I don't want to take. I also need to get the bill of lading filled out with what I'm going to take. The buyer is coming over today, and is going to be measuring the kitchen for new cabinets. His grandkids will be using the pool, so I've got to get it cleaned up. All in all, a busy day.

The calls for people wanting to adopt Sweetpea continued last night. I had at least three calls this morning. I'm glad she's in a new home where she'll be loved and appreciated, but I sure do miss her. And I wish I could have taken her with me. This morning, I woke up early, and while still half-asleep, was dreaming about her, that she was not particularly happy and is really stressed out in her new home. I sure hope that's not true. But even so, I'm sure she'll adjust and eventually be happy there.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Recently in this space I reported on an appropriations bill that had an attention-grabbing provision in it that would have rolled back the FCC's media concentration restrictions. But buried deeply in the bill was another provision, this one a lot more ominous. It would block the Supreme Court's decision outlawing the installation of a Ten Commandment plaques in the Supreme Court chamber in Montgomery, Alabama. Americans United for the Separation of Church And State has announced that if the provision becomes law, they'll pursue a Supreme Court test of it.

~ That's not the only recent undermining of the First Amendment. The House recently passed a measure intended to "reform" the Head Start program. It's a program that is widely regarded as not broken, so of course the Republicans have got to fix it - it works too well. One of the ways they're going to fix it, of course, is to allow religious organizations to discriminate in hiring based on religious affiliation. No need to reflect the demands of the First Amendment, just push your religious dogma on innocent five-year olds. It'll be interesting to see what happens when some kid in Salt Lake comes home from Head Start telling her mom that Mormons aren't Christian, because she heard that in Head Start class today.

~ On July 8, a federal court ordered the White House to surrender meetings minutes of Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, which of course, was really just the energy industry giving the Bushies their marching orders. To date, the White House has simply defied the court order. No appeal, no reply, just defiance. How I love the Bush administration's overwhelming respect for the rule of law.

~ Well, after all the furor surrounding the ETF, you'd think that the White House would have learned its lesson, but apparently not. They've formulated the "Rocky Mountain Energy Council" which is also holding secret meetings, mostly dealing with how to gut environmental and public land protection measures.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:06:25 AM

Fri, Jul 25 2003

Can't Call There From Here

It seems I'm unable to call Costa Rica from my Vonage phone at the moment. I've emailed Vonage and they've opened a trouble ticket, so I can get the issue resolved. Comes at a bad time - I need to talk to a lot of people down there. Of course, I just tried calling a few minutes ago, and got through on the first dial. Geez, I hate intermittent problems! I suspect that the problem is actually an insufficiency of trunk groups to Costa Rica from their network.

Today I've got to go to the bank and get rid of a lot of accumulated pocket change that has been building up. It's been sorted and counted, about $100 worth, and it's got to go. I need more penny wrappers, though. Also going to go to a feed store and get a 1/4 mile roll of electric fence wire for antennas down there. I'm sure it's a lot cheaper here, and even after paying shipping and duty, it'll be cheaper than buying it there. It's great antenna wire -strong and doesn't corrode or rust, and blessedly cheap.

Just got off the phone with the agent/buyer of the house, and he says he's still having to push the underwriter to get the loan documents over to the escrow office. Well, let's hope things don't get bogged down. I don't expect they will, but the agent tells me he'll foot the bill if I have to change my plane reservations to accommodate a later closing date.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Members of the Saudi royal family may have "given 9/11 hijackers financial and logistical support" according to Robert Fisk, an investigative reporter. That information was apparently also contained in the 28 pages of deleted material removed from the 9/11 Investigating Committee report released to the public yesterday - which was deleted "for security reasons" according to CBS news. Somehow, I can't see why 'fessing up to the Saudi connection should be a security issue, but that's what the Bushies are claiming. The biggest failure in the intelligence community regarding 9/11 was not a lack of information, but rather a spectacular failure of analysis, according to the 9/11 investigation report issued yesterday. Again, nothing particularly new to readers of this web site, but at least now its official.

~ In an ironic reversal of the Iraq controversy, it appears that the State Department and the Pentagon are at odds on whether or not the United States should intervene to put down the war it helped start in Liberia twenty years ago. But in this case, the State Department is recommending intervention, and General Meyers and other top pentagon officials are not wanting to go anywhere near the place - the direct opposite of what happened in Iraq. As for whether intervention will ever happen, my money is on the "no" side. There's no oil in Liberia, and Dubya is more inclined to listen to the military than to the state department. Meanwhile, the Liberians are dumping mutilated, even headless corpses on the doorstep of the U.S. embassy there, showing the American ambassador what the American indifference and foot-dragging is leading to.

~ House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R - Texas) is heading to the Middle East to voice his opposition to a Palestinian state. DeLay is the most prominent member of the Christian Zionist movement in Washington. As such, he is promoting a private viewpoint, and not a public one - the official position of the U.S. government still favors the establishment of a Palestinian state, a position Dubya himself has reiterated on numerous occasions. Yet in his meeting with public officials in the middle east, DeLay will undoubtedly promote his private view. There is a law that outlaws private diplomatic initiatives conducted without the permission of the U.S. State Department. Without that permission, he's committing a felony and could (and should) face jail time when he returns. If he is going with permission, it would signal an unpublished change in the American position regarding the establishment of a Palestinian state, and as such, can only serve to stimulate terrorist activity against the United States. Either way, DeLay's trip won't do anything to help promote the American cause among the Arabs of the middle east, it will only antagonize them further. So much for the war on terrorism.

~ The United States has signed free-trade agreements with Chile and Singapore, over the loud objections of a lot of labor leaders. Neither agreement has any labor protection clause or environmental protection clause in it. One Republican house member said he's becoming "less and less of a free-trader. All we've done is kow-tow to multinational corporations seeking to export jobs." Hey, if even the Republicans are beginning to oppose these agreements, hadn't we ought to take a closer look?

~ The huge multinational Monsanto Corporation is suing a tiny Vermont dairy for simply stating that its diary products are "artificial hormone free." No disparagement of Monsanto products, no claims about the products being free of Monsanto products. The labels don't even name Monsanto or any of its trademarks. Just simply stating that their product is free of hormones, in Monsanto's eyes, would appear to be actionable. On its merits, of course, Monsanto's action would never stand up in court in a jury trial - its purpose is abuse of process, pure and simple, to inhibit legitimate commercial free speech and punish opponents of Monsanto's pushing of hormones that stimulate milk production, even though they also are known to degrade the health of the animals. This begs the question, of course, that if Monsanto is so proud of their rGBH hormone, why do they have to sue people who simply state on their labels that they don't use it?

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:43:31 AM

Thu, Jul 24 2003

Adventures In Fine Dining

Dinner preparations last night was something of an experience. I decided to put together a little one-pan casserole that my mother taught me. The recipe includes ground beef. I had a frozen chub of ground beef in the fridge, and so I thawed it for a minute in the microwave to soften it enough that I could cut a chunk off of the end of the chub. After removing the wrapper from the end that I had cut off, I discovered a large discolored spot, dark bluish-gray in color. I cut out the bad spot and the area around it, and debated whether to put the rest in the casserole. I decided to do that, as I am getting low on groceries. As soon as the ground beef hit the pan, however, the redolence of well-used gym socks filled the kitchen. Needless to say, the casserole went straight into the garbage disposal.

The chub was not mishandled, at least by me. It was frozen immediately when I brought it home from the store, and the date on it was not expired when I bought it. But I have to ask whether or not it was good before it ever got to the store in the first place. It is quite clear to me that is that it was not. This is not the first time I've had problems with ground beef, even this month. Three weeks ago, I found myself spending some quality time on the porcelain throne, and the only reason I could think of why I had gotten sick was the use of ground beef the night before.

I have to say that I find this situation appalling. We all know that here in the United States, ground beef has to be handled as if it were a biohazard while in its uncooked state, because it is. Now this. Obviously, if beef inspection is supposed to be happening in the United States, it's clearly not adequate. Two problems in two weeks, not through careless handling, but because of what was clearly a bad packing process. I can't wait to get to Costa Rica, where meat packing plants actually get inspected once in a while.

The septic tank people were here yesterday, and $400 later, I have a freshly pumped, freshly certified septic tank. The buyer was here to witness it, and is satisfied with the results. The tank was close to full of solids - the previous owners did not get it pumped as they had claimed, and as was required by law (back then, a certification wasn't required for an ownership change, but a pumping was). Not that it really matters, but it annoys me that I had been deceived. I wish I had been able to be here to watch, but I was still living in California at the time, and the real estate agent wasn't particularly careful on my behalf. I should have been cautious when I noticed the Christian "fish" symbol carved on a piece of wood over the fireplace mantle when I was looking at the place. The folks may be Christian, but they certainly weren't honest, and this is hardly my first experience with such a thing.

The latest batch of classifieds hit the paper this morning, and I've had three calls on the van and one on the cat. Nothing on the car.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ The upcoming report on from the investigation committee on 9/11 is reporting that US intelligence had no information indicating that Iraq had any involvement in 9/11. The committee chairman has publicly stated that he is incensed that the Bush administration had purposely delayed publication of the report till after the war in Iraq had ended, because, according to Max Cleland, a committee member, the Bushies wanted to use the alleged Iraq-9/11 connection to "scare the pants" off the American public in order to build support for the war in Iraq.

~ The truth-telling is finally starting to happen: Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz admitted key assumptions regarding what would happen during an invasion of Iraq were wrong - plans had been based on the assumption that the Ba'athist party would collapse "like a house of cards," and it was assumed that the existing police would cooperate, and, most importantly, ignored numerous intelligence reports warning the plan wouldn't work because Iraqi resistance would not be limited to the Ba'athist power structure. Wolfowitz' excuse: "no war plan survives contact with the enemy." My analysis: hubris is no substitute for competence and planning based on real intelligence rather than wishful thinking and right-wing theorizing.

~ George Dubya Bush blew his chance to learn more about how Saudi Arabia had been financing Al Qaeda. He blew it when the Occupation Amateur Hour violated Syrian sovereignty by attacking a convoy of dozens of Mercedes automobiles inside Syrian territory. Turns out they weren't Ba'athists sneaking out of Iraq, as the Occupation Amateur Hour simply assumed, they were a group of traders who were smuggling gasoline in the trunks and tanks of the cars. The death toll was 80 Syrians. As a result of the attack, done without the permission of Syria, that nation is no longer sharing intelligence with the United States regarding Al Qaeda and other terrorist related subjects. Such smuggling is running rampant because the Occupation Amateur Hour isn't operating any border controls at all in Iraq. Even the CIA was "thunderstruck" by the arrogance and bad judgment demonstrated by the attack - we'd had the best intelligence relationship with Syria of any Arab nation, and the Syrians were considered experts on Al Qaeda, and that information is now unavailable to us.

~ One results of yesterday's attacks on the Occupation Amateur Hour: more soldiers have now died since Baghdad fell and victory was declared than died during the invasion - the total has reached 238. It's more than died during Gulf I.

~ The Massachusetts Attorney General has documented 789 instances of children who have been raped by pedophilic Catholic priests and church workers in Massachusetts in the last sixty years, and he is calling the situation "one of the greatest single tragedies confronting children in the history of the Commonwealth." He said the actual total is probably much higher than that.

~ The fruits of war: It has been announced that Chevron, Texaco, BP and Phillips have received or will receive contracts to export Iraqi oil. This is, of course, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits occupying power to alter pre-existing contracts or sign new ones for the exploitation for export of resources or labor under occupation.

~ The chief prosecutor at Hague War Crimes Tribunal says that the Tribunal can't prosecute Israeli soldiers because of a loophole in the law - the occupying power or the occupied state must give permission for the prosecution to go forward. Palestine is not an internationally recognized state, and under such circumstances, the occupying power must approve of the prosecution of its nationals. Since it is unlikely that Israel would ever agree to such a thing, it looks like the West Bank and Gaza Strip occupiers can continue to do what they want, including the commission of war crimes, with complete impunity.

~ Amnesty International has announced that they have evidence that the Occupation Amateur Hour has shot and killed several Iraqi detainees in their custody. Paul Bremmer, the American viceroy, has not authorized the release of any details, and no one is leaking, so we don't know the details of who was shot, why they were shot or under what circumstances.

~ The governor of California, Gray Davis, has successfully been made subject to a recall election, due to the efforts of a single, well-heeled right-wing millionaire and Republican member of the U.S. House, Darrell Issa, who is determined to rid California of it's environmental protections and abortion rights. He did what is often done in California - he simply hired a company - for $1.7 million - to collect the required signatures for him, and once he had enough, he filed them with the secretary of state. That's been done, and now an election has been scheduled for October 7. Money equals power, and when you have enough of it, you can decide who will or will not be allowed to run the government of the ninth largest economy in the world.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 10:05:50 PM

Goodbye, Sweetpea - I'm Missing You Already

Well, my little kitty is no longer a part of my life. The one creature in the universe that really offered me unreserved love and affection, is now a part of someone else's home.

In response to an ad in the paper, a young family came by just now and adopted Sweetpea. They took one look, and all them, parents and four kids, fell in love with her. So she's off to a new home.

Of course, it leaves me very sad. I'm reminded of the old '60's song... One less bell to answer, one less egg to fry, one less man to pick up after, I should be happy, but all I do is cry...

Yes, I'm crying tonight.

Goodbye, Sweetpea. I love you, sweetie. I miss you already, and know that when I wake up in the middle of the night, I'll be missing you, no longer curled up behind my knees, with your little paws outstretched and touching my legs, making sure I'm still there. I'll be missing your sweet little nuzzlings in at the crack of dawn, telling me it's time to get up and let you out. I'll miss your sitting at the window, trying to mimic the sounds of birds you see on the other side of the glass. I'll miss waking up from a nap on the couch, with you curled up asleep on my lap. And I'll miss you're brushing up against my legs every time I open a can of tuna. I'll always think of you, sweetie, every time I see a calico kitty. I'll always miss you. Goodbye, Sweetpea.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 04:39:42 PM

Wed, Jul 23 2003

Another Busy Day

Today is going to be a very busy day. I've got to fill out forms (bill of lading, etc.) sent to me yesterday by the mover, and get them, and copies of my passport, sent off to them. I need to place some more classifieds, trying once again to get rid of the van and the Escort. The pool needs cleaning (again), I'm getting the septic tank pumped and certified, I've got to make airline reservations and I need to call the manager at the Associated Residents of Costa Rica to get some questions answered. Oh, yes, I've got to get laundry done today, too. I'm completely out of clean underwear. So this journal entry is likely to end up short and sweet today.

Found a house I quite like in San Antonio de Belen, at a very good price - less than $30k. It meets all my requirements, except being in the country, and it has only a tiny garden area - about 6' x 6'. The rest is patio and is closed in all around. Sure like the price, but I'm going to hold out until I'm down there and can see what else is available. The owner of the B&B where I'll be staying initially apparently knows a mill owner who custom-builds cedar log homes at a low price. I'll be looking into that option, too.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Private Jessica Lynch has come home from Iraq, and was obliged to put on the "Wow! That Was A Terrific Rescue!" road-show that her Pentagon handlers wanted. There was very little truth-telling, other than the fact that some Iraqis had actually risked their lives to save hers. What she didn't say was that the Iraqis who risked their lives were the very same doctors and nurses who the Pentagon had accused of torturing her. In her statement, she thanked everyone but the people who actually saved her life - the doctors and nurses of the Iraqi hospital who donated their own blood and had attempted, under fire, to deliver her to U.S. troops.

~ Bomb attacks continue in Iraq, in spite of the death of Qusay and Uday Hussein, the sons of Saddam. A soldier and six Iraqis died in an attack in Mosul yesterday afternoon, even after the deaths of Qusay and Uday had been announced to the Iraqi people. Given that the two were in charge of the state security apparatus, the continued attacks call into question the notion that the Iraqi guerilla activity is the result of only Ba'athist resistance.

~ The White House finally admitted yesterday that the CIA had sent two memos in October about the Niger yellowcake story. Until now, they had claimed that they didn't know the story was a fake until after the State of the Union speech - even though a similar reference had been removed from an October speech as a result of one of the memos. The admission means that they've finally admitted to lying. Now, the question is what will be done about it. Moveon.org has announced a petition campaign asking for a congressional investigation. In just a few days, it has garnered 400,000 signatures.

~ A federal district court has slapped John Ashcroft's hand after his outrageous claim that a lawyer representing a client accused of terrorism is guilty of aiding and abetting terrorism for the act of representing his client. The court threw out a criminal complaint that Ashcroft had filed against the lawyer for the crime of legal representation. In a scorching opinion, the Milwalkee judge let the Attorney General know in no uncertain terms that the constitution protects the full right to representation for even those accused of terrorist crimes.

~ The Occupation Amateur Hour is shutting down dissenting voices in Iraq. Reporters Without Borders has announced that the Iraqi Media Network, a group set up by the Occupation to censor the media, have shut down several newspapers and radio stations for the crime of presenting a dissenting view of the Occupation. RWB is asking that the "Iraqi Media Network" to spell out clearly and rapidly what the rules are under which Iraqi media are allowed to operate. So far that hasn't happened.

~ As reported in this space recently, the Bush administration has let it be known that the president was prepared to veto any bill that attempts to roll back the new rules which relax media ownership concentration restrictions, as put in place recently by the FCC. This means that a showdown with Congress is inevitable, as the House has overwhelmingly passed a bill today that would do just that. The measure, should it make it to the president's desk, has the potential of pitting Congressional leadership directly against the administration.

The Good News:

~ Last night, the House voted by a broad majority to remove some key provisions of the U.S.A. Patriot Act. The legislation, attached to a $38 billion appropriation measure, would block "sneak and peek" searches ("terrorism" related investigations of homes and businesses conducted without searches), and would roll back some (not all) of the ability of the FBI to spy on library patrons' reading habits and bookstore purchasing records without disclosure to the patron being investigated. Whether the measure will pass in the Senate, survive a conference report vote, and also get signed by Dubya, is another matter. The vote was very lop-sided - nearly all Democrats and about half of the Republicans voted for it.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:23:26 AM

Tue, Jul 22 2003

Moving Day Set - August 2nd

Since I now have a date for the closing, I'm able to schedule the movers, so I will call them today, too, and get my moving date scheduled. I can also get a plane ticket bought and a reservation made. Hooray!

Just got off the phone with the mover - they're set to come out and move me on the 1st. of August, so that's moving day - and now I can get the airplane reservation set up for the next day - the 2nd of August. I'm outta here in a week and a half!

The real estate agent called, and I've been given a list of three septic tank pumping outfits that can come out and pump and certify the septic tank and disposal wells. I called the one he recommended (and who is a bit cheaper than the rest), and he'll be out here tomorrow at 1 PM.

Yesterday evening saw the strongest thunderstorm of the Phoenix monsoon season so far. Forty mile an hour winds thoroughly trashed the pool after I'd spent an hour yesterday vacuuming it. I'll be glad to not have to worry about it anymore. Just one more week!

Outrages Du Jour:

~ 600 civilians have been killed in Monrovia, Liberia, in just the last two days, and still the U.S. - self-appointed policeman to the world - does nothing at all about it, except to add an additional 45 marines to guard the embassy there, from the thousands that are crowding around, hoping for protection. Bush is still equivocating as to what to do, while people continue to die.

~ And while the dying continues in Liberia and Dubya does nothing, he issued his strongest warning yet to Syria and Iran. Those are the next wars in the queue, apparently. Iran, because it has oil and is financing Hezbollah in Lebanon (even though Hezbollah has long since given up its terrorist activities), and Syria because it's a neighbor of Israel and its foreign policy isn't yet under Israel's de facto control. Liberia? No oil and the Zionists don't give a damn about it. So it gets ignored as a priority by our "compassionate conservative" president even though people are dying there by the hundreds. At least we know what his priorities are.

~ According to Judicial Watch, a conservative think tank/judicial responsibility group, Dick Cheney's energy task force was examining Iraq's "foreign suitors for Iraqi oil contracts" a year before the war on Iraq was even being seriously discussed publicly. Apparently, the decision to go to war was made long ago - long before the public debate about it even began. Yes, we really do know what Dubya's priorities are.

~ The 9/11 Investigation Commission's report is about to be released, and the news for the Bush administration isn't good: The FBI repeatedly failed to investigate Al Qaeda in spite of significant information turned over to them. This was a problem especially in San Diego, where they actually had an informer living with two of the hijackers who ultimately went on to participate in the 9/11 atrocity. The FBI had been specifically instructed by the Bush administration to not look into connections between the Saudi government and Al Qaeda - again, nothing new to readers of this site, but what is interesting here, is that this information is being deleted from the Commission's report. Which begs the question, of course, of what the administration succeeded in keeping the commission from even finding out in the first place.

~ Attorneys for Republican Party are sending out threat letters to television stations around the country threatening to sue stations that run advertising being bought and paid for by the Democratic National Committee, claiming that the Niger yellowcake story was based on fabricated evidence. The fact that the claim was based on fabricated evidence is irrelevant - such a suit against a television station would, of course, almost certainly fail in the courts, but TV stations just don't want to be burdened with the cost and effort of defending the First Amendment, and so are quite likely to comply. The chilling effect on free speech and freedom of the press, is, of course, the intended effect of this abuse of the tort process. Isn't it interesting to note here that it is the Republicans who have been working so hard on tort "reform," ostensibly to prevent business becoming the targets of just this kind of abuse? Can we say "hypocrites," boys and girls?

~ Robert Wilson, a retired career diplomat, who had been sent to Niger on a CIA-financed trip to investigate the yellowcake claim, and found nothing to support it, has, he claims, become the subject of white house smear campaign. Deliberately leaked to the press was the fact that Wilson's wife is a CIA agent and has been for many years. Robert Novak, who broke the story, said it was "government officials" who leaked the information to him. That revelation, of course, sabotages her career with the CIA, which was the intent of the leak, to be sure. As bad as that was, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982 makes the deliberate revelation of the identity of a CIA agent an act of treason. But don't expect any prosecution or even an investigation - as we all know, Dubya and his crowd are above the law.

~ Democratic congressmen fled a meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee and fled to a library next door to avoid being railroaded on a bill they had not been given a chance to read. The Republican chairman of the committee, Bill Thomas, then did what all conservatives do as a first impulse - he resorted to force. He called the police, and asked them to force the committee members back into the committee hearing room, so he could force a vote. The police, to their credit, refused to cooperate, and told the Republican committee chairman that it was a matter for the House Sargent At Arms to deal with in accordance with House rules, and was not a law enforcement issue. Now there's a Republican committee chairman with real respect for the democratic process!

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:21:32 AM

Mon, Jul 21 2003

Down To The Wire

Tomorrow is supposed to be the big day when I sign on the house. I know of no reason why it shouldn't happen, and of course, I'll be thrilled when it does. It's getting down to the wire on the move - I still haven't got a plane ticket arranged, so it will be a week at least before I move. The agent/new owner has generously allowed me to remain in the house for up to two weeks before I have to be out.

I went back to Guild Camera today to get another filter set and a hotshoe level for my camera. I'll then be ready for decent photography in Costa Rica. I got a polarizing filter on the last trip (the lack of which was really hampering me when I was down there last spring), but forgot to get a pair of neutral density gradient filters. For digital cameras, a hotshoe level is not vital (Photoshop can correct for a non-level shot), but it's useful nevertheless - avoids having to end up cropping an unlevel image. And the haze filter would have been really handy. Well, they had the hotshoe level, but they're awfully proud of it. At $37, I don't need it that badly. I did get an ND gradient filter that I need, but they had only one of the two I need. No haze filter - they're recommending just using an aggressive UV, which I got on the last trip.

There was a storm last night, but it was just wind and lightening. Only a few sprinkles of rain. Made a mess out of the pool, so I've got to spend some time today cleaning it up - again. I'll sure be glad when I don't have to worry about that darned pool.

Yesterday was my last grocery shopping trip here in Phoenix. It's been most of a month since I bought groceries, and still didn't have to buy much. I won't be leaving much behind.

Just read in the Tico Times that the Sele, the Costa Rican national soccer team currently playing in the Gold Cup of the Americas, has come back through a series of wins, the latest beating El Salvador by 5-2. This means they go on to face Mexico in the quarter-finals. This will be a Really Big Deal in Costa Rica. It's kinda like the Army-Navy game here in the States - the rivalry is the most serious in all of Central America.

I called my realtor to find out if we're on track for a closing tomorrow. Turns out that it had been scheduled for the 30th, and no one told me. I wasn't a particularly happy camper, but at least I have a firm date now, and can get the mover scheduled. Still need to get the septic tank pumped and inspected, but that's about all that's left of my obligations. Still need to get the vehicles disposed of and find a new home for the cat - that's turning out to be a real challenge.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ It's a rare day when someone from the Occupation Amateur Hour in Iraq doesn't get killed as the result of the rapidly deteriorating security situation there. Yesterday, two people died - an American soldier and his Iraqi interpreter - and that doesn't even count all the Iraqi civilians who are dying. Helicopter attacks on villages, carelessly strewn cluster bomblets and other unexploded munitions, excessively forceful raids on homes and shops suspected of harboring contraband, militants, or Ba'athists, all are taking their toll. The number of civilian casualties has reached a minimum of 6,000 and may be as high as 7,700.

~ The defense department has now finally admitted that the air strikes conducted last summer, dropping 600 tons of bombs on 400 targets in Iraq, long before the UN debate on Iraq began, in a secret plan called "Southern Focus." It was noted at the time that the air activity over Iraq had increased enormously, and now the Pentagon is admitting as to why. Long time readers of this site, of course, already knew what was up - I discussed it in a Front Page Editorial last year.

~ Michael Powell, the chairman of the FCC, has announced that he's stepping down and resigning from the FCC. Could it be because he can't handle the controversy over his handing the broadcast radio spectrum to a few huge corporations? Somehow, I doubt that - he seemed to stand up just fine to the controversy raging around him as it was happening. Or is it because he getting ready to accept the fruits of his labor - a plum, grossly overpaid, easy job in a private enterprise that has benefited from his largesse - like so many other people in this revolving-door administration are doing? I'll let you know where he ends up working in the private sector.

~ Paul Wolfowitz visited a site of a mass grave in Iraq over the weekend. He used the opportunity to propagandize on how we are doing such a wonderful thing by having stopped Saddam from committing such atrocities. Of course, he didn't say a word about the 6,000+ Iraqis who've died as a direct result of our activities in Iraq. The fact that Saddam is in hiding but still around won't come as much of a comfort to the families of the six thousand.

~ Dozens of Justice Dept. employees have been accused of serious human rights abuses in an internal audit, not yet released to the public, that calls into serious question the ability of the Justice Department to police its own. That's not news to readers of this web site, but at least John Ashcroft's own people recognize that the DOJ's behavior has been over the top. Now if we can get John Ashcroft on board with this bleeding-heart human rights business.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 07:31:05 AM

Sat, Jul 19 2003

Pool Finally Clean

Finally I've gotten the pool algae under control. It took $60 worth of chlorine to do it, but it finally looks decent. I can now have people over for a swim and not be embarrassed at how the pool looks.

Today is grocery shopping day. I'm almost totally out of food, the pantry is finally almost bare, and so I've got to get about a week's worth of grocery shopping done so I'll have something to eat. I'm down to oatmeal for breakfast, and there's nothing in the house for lunch and little for dinner. Looks like I won't be leaving much food behind.

I really need to spend some time doing yard work, but I don't think it's going to happen in this heat. There's quite a bit of duff building up under the pine trees in front of the house, and the tumbleweed in the horse pasture is getting rather high again. It was 108 yesterday, and will be even hotter today as the monsoon seems to have waned a bit - the humidity is back down. It's 8 AM in the morning as I write this, and already it is 91 - the forecast is for a high of only 104, but I suspect it will be all of that. I'm really looking forward to Costa Rica's cool tropical temperatures!

I finally got an FTP program installed on my lap top, and along with Blog.exe and the USB modem I got the other day, I have the tools I need to maintain the web site using the laptop from a dialup connection in Costa Rica. Got a short-term apartment arranged at a bed and breakfast in Los Angeles Sur de San Ramon, which is about 45 minutes west of San Jose, while I'm waiting for the apartment in San Ignacio de Acosta to be freed up. It's also 45 minutes from the Pacific coast, so I can get down there and do some photography as soon as I have a vehicle bought, fixed up and ready to drive. I can't wait - the Pacific side is much more picturesque than the Atlantic side, which I saw when I was there in March.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ If you've been following the Great Niger Yellowcake Saga in this space, you're probably wondering who is the "senior White House official" that George Tenet referred to in the House hearings, who insisted that the claim, known to be fraudulent, be included in the State of the Union address. Well, the insider information leaking out of the white house these days says "the smart money is on Dick Cheney," and there are calls for his head already. Well, I was calling for his head back when he was toadying for Enron's executives in their scheme to economically strip-mine California, but gee, what do I know?

~ All this focus on the Niger yellowcake story is missing the point: there were a lot of other lies in the State of the Union speech, too, and since, and they were known to be lies at the time Dubya uttered them. To wit: The aluminum tubes: They were intended for use as casings for rocket motors, legal under the agreements. They were not being secretly purchased, the request for proposals was actually on an Iraqi government web site. Iraq-Al-Qaeda links: No evidence was ever produced, nor has any been found since the war began, that there was ever any degree of cooperation or even contact between Saddam and Al Qaeda. The trailers. Turns out they were designed to generate hydrogen to fill artillery practice balloons. Weapons inspections: The president said, on July 14, "We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in." Not true, Dubya - after the Security Council passed its resolution requiring the inspectors to be allowed in, Saddam did just that. He let them in. Saddam was six months away from possessing nuclear weapons: Dubya quoted from and International Atomic Energy Administration report - but the problem was that the report never said any such thing. And it turns out that the IAEA was right - Saddam was years away from possessing nukes, if he was even working towards that goal at all. Bush even claimed that Saddam maintained a fleet of unmanned aircraft that could be used "for missions targeting the United States." No such drones have been found, nor is there any evidence that there ever were any.

~ I have some good news and some bad news to report about Pat Robertson's blood-diamond operations in the Congo. He has lost control of his diamond mines there. That's the good news. The bad news is that they've fallen into the hands of the rebels. So the mining machinery that was originally bought with money sent in by widows and orphans contributing to the 700 Club, and even flown there on 700 Club aircraft, is now directly helping to finance the bloodiest war in African history. I'm sure the widows and orphans that keep him in champagne and caviar would like to know more - why don't you tell us more about it on the 700 Club, Pat?

~ It seems that Pat Robertson doesn't have anything better to do with all the money he's making on his Sierra Leone blood-gold mining operations than to start a "massive prayer offensive" to smite us liberals. "There is a higher tribunal than the United States Supreme Court. There is the Judge of all the earth." If he really believes that, why would he be engaged in blood-gold mining operations in war-torn Sierra Leone? While he's waiting for God to get around to smiting the liberals on the Supreme Court, he might want to do a quick cursory read of Matthew chapter 23. I think he could learn something from it.

~ The Bush administration is now openly defying court orders. It seems that they've told the Corps of Engineers to not comply with a court order to alter flows of water on the Missouri River, as directed to do so by U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on July 12. The administration apparently subscribes to the George Will Theory of Democratic Government, that "if the President does it, it's legal." Yes, George Will really said that. Gee, I'd always thought that in a democracy, the rule of law was supposed to reign supreme, and even presidents were bound by it. Apparently, neither George Will nor Dubya seem to think so - this is a minor operational change to the Missouri river, and it is not a big deal by itself but it is evidence of a very troubling attitude: The president has made it clear that he knows better than the courts and has told the Corps to not comply with court orders. What makes this so troubling is that it means that the president, as I've often indicated, considers himself above the law, and entitled to do whatever he damned well pleases. This means that the rule of law is at an end in the United States as far as the president is concerned.

~ The Child Tax Credit, widely touted by the administration as an example of "compassionate conservatism" is, as it turns out, not going to help the neediest 25% of America's children after all - that's more than 16 million children - including 40% of all children in Mississippi, 39% of all children in Louisiana, and 36% of all children in New Mexico. I agree with Dubya that it's a very good example of conservatism, but I don't think the word "compassionate" would apply.

~ While the recipients of Dubya's tax cuts are enjoying their champagne breakfasts aboard their yachts financed by the taxpayers, the House has voted to make deep cuts in conservation spending, dramatically reducing funding for the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuge program, and funding for state parks and recreational facilities, as well as forest conservation on private lands. But it was too much for even Republicans to stomach, so more than 180 members of the house repeatedly backed leaders who brought up repeated attempts to overturn administration policy on these programs. In the end, however, the rebellion failed, and the administration got its way. The timber markets will help dictate forest conservation policies regarding old-growth forests, and the market value of wildlife will help dictate how much wildlife conservation gets funded. Aren't free markets wonderful?

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:11:47 AM

Fri, Jul 18 2003

More Pool Work Today

After spending about $100 on pool chemicals "guaranteed" to kill algae and suppress its re-growth, the algae is back, and is as bad as ever. So today I'm going to go get a bucket of pool shock and really shock the heck out of it. Lots and lots of chlorine. That, with some lowering of the pH will be the only solution, no doubt.

No more calls about the vehicles or the cat. I'm really getting discouraged about getting rid of the van and the car - I've run four ads on the car and haven't had even a single call. And if I don't find a home for Sweetpea, she may have to go to a shelter - and that is the last thing I want to do. It would break my heart to have to take her there.

So far, the monsoon season here in Phoenix has been quite a bust. The humidity in Phoenix this morning is 46%, but there won't be any rain today, as there hasn't since the onset of the monsoon season. Low-level moisture is so intense that the visibility is greatly reduced - less than five miles, yet there have been no big thunderstorms here. I'm beginning to think that there won't be any rain to speak of this monsoon season. Mostly what we've been getting is just a lot of high, thin clouds. That's bad news for Arizona, which has been in a drought cycle for four years so far. I don't mind the lack of rain, as it keeps the weeds down, but I'm looking forward to Costa Rica and some green. There, I can hire some Nicaraguans to take care of the weeds and do the hard work.

I've been transferring all my videotape collection to Windows Media format, so I can take CDroms to Costa Rica instead of piles of videotapes. It's an ongoing process - I've got quite a few, and it's taking a while, but I'm finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Been watching "And The Band Played On" this afternoon as I've been dubbing it. I get very angry and very sad whenver I watch it. I can't help but cry for all the lives lost because of the arrogance, ignorance, bigotry and self-righteousness of Ronald Reagan. The AIDS pandemic could have been nipped in the bud had he not deliberately blocked the CDC and the WHO from doing their jobs - a fact that the film touches on, but doesn't really dare tackle head-on like the book did. I think the pandemic ought to be named the Ronald Reagan Memorial Pandemic in his honor for doing the best he could to obstruct the CDC, the WHO and the public health community from nipping the pandemic in the bud when it could have been stopped, all because he thought it only affected gay men. Yes, I place the responsibility for the pandemic's progression squarely on his shoulders. Ronnie's bigotry, and the pandemic it made possible, has been responsible for 42 million infections and 21,800,000 deaths, the vast majority of whom were not even gay. I hope he thinks the tragedy he caused was worth the relatively few number of gay American men he murdered with his bigotry. That makes him the second largest mass-murderer in world history - passing Adolf Hitler several years back - and to think he's still a hero to millions, just because he used virus particles instead of guns as his murder weapons.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ A key figure in the British row between the BBC and the Prime Minister's office, has been found dead. He was key in the controversy over the claim Tony Blair made in Parliament about Saddam being able to deploy WMD's on 45 minutes notice. He had been fingered as the source of a BBC report that Blair had "sexed up" the dossier on Saddam. The body of David Kelly, a civil servant who had served in Iraq as an UNSCOM weapons inspector, was found dead in a wooded area just southwest of London. He had been missing since the previous afternoon.

~ Senior CIA officials claim it was Robert Joseph, Bush's Senior Director for Weapons Nonproliferation and Homeland Defense, and a man who has close ties to the warmonger faction in the adminstration, who was responsible for insisting the Niger yellowcake story being included in the State Of The Union speech. George Tenet, the CIA director who had been forced to publicly accept responsibility last week, apparently had nothing to do with vetting the speech. It was apparently a low-level intelligence agent who had actually vetted it.

~ The $370 Billion budget for the Department of Defense just submitted to congress does not include a dime of the $100 billion+ required for the occupation of Iraq. The House Armed Services Committee has accused the administration of trying to obfuscate the real cost of the Iraq occupation.

~ The New York Times is reporting that the Bushies are considering privatizing at least the security functions of the Occupation Amateur Hour. They would be trained at taxpayer expense, and would be used to guard key facilities and sites - as if the Iraqi police force they're training can't be trusted to do the job. Hey, why not privatize it? What they're doing now certainly isn't working.

~ Amnesty International has reported that of the 20 juveniles (or people who have been accused of crimes committed while juvenile) who were executed around the world last year, 13 were executed by the United States. Other nations who execute juvenile offenders include the D.R. Congo, Iran, Yemen, and Nigeria. Isn't that great company to be in?

The Good News:

~ Finally, someone's talking about impeachment. Senator Bob Graham, a candidate for president on the Democratic ticket, has said "If the standard of impeachment is the one the House Republicans used against Bill Clinton, this clearly comes within that standard." At last, someone's actually had the courage to say it. And a group of about a thousand demonstrators shouting for his impeachment, demonstrated outside a Los Angeles hotel, where Bush was raising yet another $3.6 million for his election campaign. Of course, neither fact was widely reported in the "liberally biased" American press.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 06:48:55 AM

Thu, Jul 17 2003

Goodbye, Sweetpea - Maybe

Well, the ad I placed in the paper on Monday has apparently produced results. I had a call this morning from someone who wants to adopt my cat. They'll be here later in the day to pick her up, they say. Had a call later in the day, too, but no taker. The first caller never showed up. Lets hope tomorrow produces better results. It really breaks my heart to have to give her away. She's been a faithful, loving companion for a lot of years for me, and she's so sweet and affectionate. The only real source of affection in my life. It's really painful to have to give her up.

I received the DOS boot disk my brother sent yesterday, which has FDISK on it, so I could get the old hard disk reformatted that I installed from my old computer of years ago. Turns out that the version of FDISK he included does not support FAT32, so I couldn't use it to create the partitions I needed. In doing some poking around on the net, trying to figure out a way, I discovered that Win2K Pro includes some utilities that enable the user to partition and format hard disks right in Win2K. I tried it, and it works! Don't try this unless you really know for sure what you're doing, but the secret is being logged in as the administrator, and if you are, you can go to Start>programs>administrative tools>disk management and do what you need by finding the "hard disk" you want to work on, right click on the partitions or volumes you want to delete, and do so. Once all the partitions are gone, just right click again on the empty area and select "format" - Windows gives you a wizard that enables you to both partition the disk and format it - it gives you the option to set any partition size or select any file system you want. It worked great - and I now have all the hard disk space available to me that the old disk had on it. Now I can get all my media files moved and not have to drag a bunch of disks with me to Costa Rica. Lots of online disk space now. I love it!

The propane guy and the air conditioning guy both showed up late in the day. I'm all set there. I've emailed the buyer to let him know he can reschedule another inspection.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ The United States is facing a "classical guerilla war" in Iraq, according to John Abizaid, General Tommy Franks' deputy who replaced Franks recently as the commander of the troops in the Occupation Amateur Hour. The troops in Iraq are stretched so thin that the Pentagon is considering calling up 10,000 reserves. Meanwhile, as readers of this space already know, troop morale daily reaches new lows. Many troops are openly questioning questioning their leadership; one told a reporter that if Donald Rumsfeld were standing in front of him, he would ask for his resignation. "I used to want to help, now I don't care about them anymore," he said.

~ The Pentagon is getting so desperate for additional help in Iraq that the administration is actually considering seeking broader UN authority in Iraq, hoping that such an authority would encourage other nations who have already refused them, to provide some troops to help out.

~ George Tenet has told a closed-door session of the House Intelligence Committee that he was not personally informed about the Niger yellowcake story appearing in the State Of The Union address. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership of the Senate intelligence committee has said that their investigation will "widen." According to Senator Lieberman, the committee will be looking specifically at whether story was part of a "pattern" of lying about reasons for the war in Iraq.

~ Tensions along the De-Militarized Zone in Korea continues to increase, with no evidence that the Bush administration is doing anything about it. Yesterday, machine gun was fire traded across the DMZ.

~ It was reported yesterday that Attorneys General in several states have been raising hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars from companies being investigated by their offices.

The Good News:

~ Darryl Cherney and Judy Bari, two environmental activists who where victims of a car bombing, were publicly accused by the FBI and the Oakland Police, officially, of being the fabricators of the bomb that injured them and the agencies refused to investigate any other suspects. As it turns out, the FBI and the Oakland Police were lying, knew they were lying, and the agencies and individuals within both agencies were successfully sued as a result. The jury awarded them millions of dollars in damages, and it was announced yesterday that the Oakland PD and the FBI have both settled out of court, admitted responsibility, and have agreed not to appeal the verdict. Judi Bari, who has since died, has been honored by the Oakland city council with a day in her honor for her activism. One victory in the fight against political harassment.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 07:17:29 AM

Wed, Jul 16 2003

Waiting For Godot

Well, here I sit. I'm waiting for the propane delivery guy to show, and so far, nothing. He was supposed to have been here hours ago. The air conditioning guy didn't show up yesterday afternoon as promised, either, so I'm going to have to call both and find out what the deal is.

Looks like I've got an apartment lined up at a bed and breakfast, at least temporarily, until the apartment I had been promised is available again. So I'm pretty much set down in Costa Rica, if I can just get ahold of the landlord I've been promised will take me in. So far he hasn't responded to my email.

I woke up this morning with terrible heartburn, so I got up and took some of the Gaviscon mimic tablets that I bought the other day at the brand new Eckerd Drug that just opened up here recently. Boy, was I disappointed! The tablets, which weren't cheap, were nowhere near as strong as the Gaviscon mimic tablets I had bought at Payless Drug sometime back. In fact, they appeared to be mostly sugar. So little alginic acid in them that they didn't foam up or knock down the heartburn at all. What a rip-off! I'm going to take them back and ask for my money back. Meanwhile, my stomach's burning up and I can't do anything about it, because I can't leave the place - I'm waiting for a propane delivery and an air conditioning guy, neither of which appear to be likely to show. Arrgh!

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Dick Cheney's company, Haliburton, is still "trading with the enemy." Hey, if we're at war with terrorism, and Iran is a "state sponsor of terror," why is the Vice President's former employer, and a company that is still paying him big bucks, helping to prop up the Iranian regime by trading with them? Shows how serious this administration is about dealing with Iranian terrorism. When Haliburton was caught, and was fined $15 million several years ago, Cheney lobbied to get the fines lifted. But then why should Haliburton be singled out? There are at least 200 other publicly traded companies doing business there, of which apparently at least 41 are clearly in technical violation of the law regarding trading with embargoed nations. Iran is recieving billions of dollars a year from the work these companies are doing, and the government there is highly dependent on that money. So much for enforcement of embargoes against state sponsors of terrorism.

~ Bush has raised $34 million for his 2004 election campaign so far, and as previously reported in this space, that's more money than all the Democrats combined. Bush relied on a group of 68 friends, each given the responsibility for raising at least $200,000. One of the friends is an Enron executive, who has been implicated in the scandals in that company. Some people have no shame about using criminal elements to help them raise campaign money. Bill and Al get in trouble for going to Buddhist monks. These guys go to corporate criminals and get away with it. So where's the "liberal biased" press been in complaining about this?

~ According to the Washington Post, the Niger yellowcake story was the only "unchalllenged" element of Bush's warmongering in his State Of The Union speech. All the other elements had already been disproven by UN inspectors, and that's why Dubya chose to use the Niger uranium yellowcake story. So it wasn't bad vetting by George Tenet after all, it was Dubya's desperation for a believable story. Surprise, surprise!

~ The word has leaked out that John Boulton, the undersecretary of state for military policy, was set to claim before the House Armed Services Committee last fall that Syria had a program for developing weapons of mass destruction, including both chemical and biological weapons. The speech was canceled when CIA said the claim was "exaggerated." Boulton last year had claimed in a speech that Cuba had violated biological warfare treaties, but that claim has also been proven untrue.

~ At least 25 cases of women in Iraq have been reported as having been raped, murdered or abducted as a result of the lack of security since the invasion - far more than during a similar period before the invasion. Women are retreating from public life in Iraq because they're afraid to appear in public for fear of abduction, rape or murder. The Occupation Amateur Hour is doing nothing about it, and has not shown any effort to address the problem, and then it is wondering why women don't seem to be willing to take part in advisory panels and governance bodies.

~ Israel has arrested 8 activist members of the International Solidarity Movement. They're being held in a West Bank jail, incommunicado, and there's no evidence that they're going to be charged or released anytime soon. They were arrested for the crime of protesting the construction of West Bank Wall. Hey, why shouldn't Israel arrest its dissidents and hold them incommunicado? We certainly do!

~ Dubya's EPA minions have chosen not to set drinking water safety standards for several chemicals, including perchlorate, a highly toxic ingredient of rocket fuel that, in dilute form, interferes with thyroid function. It also did not set safety standards for many chemicals used to sanitize drinking water. The EPA chose to make the announcement, a major policy decision, in the form of a small notice at the bottom of a press release issued Friday.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:57:31 AM

Tue, Jul 15 2003

Bad News Day

Talked with my real estate agent and discovered that he needs two things from me - a "service" on my east-zone air conditioner and a fill of the propane for my hot tub so he can have it checked and made a part of the home warrantee program. No big deal, but that's another $100+ out the window.

And then, I got an email from the guy I'd supposedly rented the apartment from in Costa Rica, indicating that he never got my email and had rented the apartment out to someone else. So now I'm back to looking again. Found a studio in a complex in Colon for $250 a month, and that's doable, but I'm not wild about moving into a building and especially a lower floor studio. But I suppose I could live with it for three months while I'm finding a house. I'm going to continue to have a look around before I commit to it.

The air conditioning company is going to be out today and "service" the air conditioner. It'll cost me $68. I've got to hang around till they arrive this afternoon, as I don't want to miss them. The propane company will be out tomorrow to fill my propane bottles for the spa.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Finally, more than half of the country has awakened to the fact that Dubya lied in order to build support for a war. But no one is talking about impeachment yet. Why not? Is getting 7,000 people killed based on a lie, for no real imperative of state, not an impeachable offense? But lying about a semen stain on a blue dress, is? C'mon, conservatives, where's your sense of perspective here? What's really important to you? Doesn't constitutional governance or executive accountability matter to you at all anymore?

~ India has refused the request, as have Pakistan and Portugal, to send troops to Iraq to relieve U.S. forces, unless they're under a U.N. mandate and command, and of course, the U.S. has refused to seek a U.N. mandate for the occupation. So the tour of duty of troops already there has been extended. Reservists are growing concerned about the availability of the jobs they thought they'd be back to in three months. Some may be there more than a year or more, with no break - working 12-hour days, 7 days a week, month in, month out. No wonder that the morale among the troops is at rock-bottom.

~ Meanwhile, Bush is refusing to negotiate with North Korea, apparently because he has no North Korea policy, and the result is that they've gone ahead and reprocessed their uranium fuel rods into refined plutonium suitable for nukes. They already have ICBM capability. That makes them a serious threat, unlike Saddam. The result, some insiders say, may be a war with North Korea by the end of the year. And that could involve China - they have a close military alliance. When the commander in chief is a self-entitled deserter and doesn't give a damn about the suffering caused by war, can we have much hope that he would avoid a repeat of the Korean War?

~ The Office of Management and Budget has declared the first six months of this year to be the most fiscally irresponsible in recent memory.

~ The research into AIDS in the U.S. by the N.H.S. is slowly grinding to a halt. The Bush administration has diverted research money into the AIDS epidemic to fund research into an anthrax vaccine. Like people are dying of anthrax every day. Last I heard, that was a threat, but not a problem. Meanwhile, AIDS is a problem - more than 10 people an hour are dying from it. But this compassionate conservative doesn't seem to care.

~ Other defectors from the intelligence community are telling all about the lying that was used to justify the Iraq war. The latest is an intelligence operative from the Australian intelligence community, who says that the war was sold on the basis of outright lying - nothing new there - but also that one of the principal lies was that Iraq was cooperating with Al Qaeda, which this source says is simply not true.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 10:10:06 AM

Mon, Jul 14 2003

Big Day Today

Today's going to be a busy day. I've got to get three classified ads placed, I have to call the Associated Residents of Costa Rica in San Jose and talk to them about some of the procedures. I've got to email the landlord of the apartment where I'll be staying. I've got to call a septic tank outfit and arrange to have the tank pumped and certified. Finally, I've got to finish cleaning out the filing cabinets I started yesterday. I spent so much time shredding old bank statements, etc., that it finally burned out the shredder. And I'm not done, so I've got to get a new one. That's OK, they're cheap, the old one was worn out and I'll need to be taking it with me to Costa Rica.

The weather has definitely changed into the monsoon mode here in Phoenix. For the last several days, we've had thunderstorms in the area during the afternoon and evening, and this morning, the air is murky with humidity - visibility down to about 5 miles or so from its usual 20 or so. Even my cat, Sweetpea, who usually loves the warm weather outside, is finding it a bit warm for her taste. When I'm watering, she'll go sit in the mud to cool off. When you hear Arizonans talking about, "but it's a dry heat," they're not talking about the monsoon season. The humidity can get downright muggy, as it was yesterday. The bad part is that the humidity doesn't moderate the heat at all - yesterday was 115, even with the humidity. The air conditioner ran all day and never shut off.

Well, it's evening now, and getting dark. No thunderstorms on the horizon, but it sure is getting muggy out there again. Sweetpea decided that it was a good evening to go hunting, and she went out and caught a young rabbit that she's eating out on the back lawn. She used to eat her catches on the back porch, but I kept kicking them out on the lawn. She seems to have learned that I don't want my back porch used as an abattoir, so she's started eating her catches on the lawn now. I've noticed a number of times that she's actually considerate that way, unlike most cats. Geez, I'm going to miss that cat. I get teary-eyed thinking about having to give her away.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ When Dubya went to Goree Island, Senegal, the departure point for millions of slaves headed for the New World in centuries past, it wasn't enough for him to have the usual security accorded visiting heads of state, including Bill and Hillary Clinton. Instead of accepting the hospitality of his hosts, he brought his own cars, his own furniture and even his own food. Rather than restricting just areas where he was going to be, as is the usual situation for a visiting head of state to the site, the entire island was evacuated for several hours, and if that weren't enough, all the residents' homes were required to be left unlocked, where they could be searched by American security teams, including searching dresser drawers! The whole thing was way over the top, and Senegal is estimating that all this excessive security has cost it millions of dollars in both direct costs and loss of economic activity, which it can ill afford. I'll bet they'll think twice about inviting him back in again.

~ Latest on the saga of the Niger uranium story: It seems that George Tenet, the CIA director, had looked over a draft of the State of the Union speech, and had warned Dubya about there being no support for the Niger uranium line, but Dubya's team said that the British had intelligence to support it, so it went back into the speech anyway. George Tenet did not sign off on that line - the Bushies used it because it came from British sources, not the CIA. But you'll note that the CIA was forced to take the blame last week. Nice to know your boss is supportive, isn't it Mr. Tenet?

~ Donald Rumsfeld is finally admitting that the attacks against the Occupation Amateur Hour are organized, getting worse and are starting to get the best of the situation. He's calling for more troops. The cost: $100 billion. That's enough money that could have cut the number of Americans without health insurance in half. It could have paid for millions of school teachers or college educations. But what you're going to get instead is gasoline that's probably a nickel or so cheaper than it would have otherwise have been.

~ Unemployment among African-Americans is rising at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. Most of the jobs being lost are from the manufacturing sector, and won't come back when the economy does. Teens are facing worst summer job market for teens in 55 years. Someone needs to remind Dubya that it's the economy, stupid. Hubris doesn't fix bad economies, competence and leadership does. Of course, the reality is that he doesn't care about the economy because he doesn't have to care anymore. The problem that made his father a one-term president, has been fixed - free and fair elections.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 06:55:44 AM

Sun, Jul 13 2003

Cleaning Out The File Cabinets

Today I'm going to clean out the filing cabinets. The legal size cabinet will be sold to the buyer of the house - he's expressed interest in it. The letter size cabinet will go with me. I expect it will take much of the day. Grocery shopping later in the day. The pantry continues to empty out, and there's not much food left in it.

I don't follow football at all ordinarily, but since my new home, Costa Rica, qualified for the Gold Cup Of The Americas tournament, I've been following their progress. I'm disappointed to report that Canada beat out Costa Rica in yesterday's game, 1-0. That ends Costa Rica's presence in the Gold Cup - quite a surprise, as Costa Rica ranked 18th worldwide (hey, football, not Catholicism, is the national religion down there), and Canada is 78th. Or was. Cheer up lads. There'll be another tournament next year.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Turns out that George Tenet wasn't responsible for the inclusion of the Niger uranium reference in Dubya's state of the union speech after all. It appears that he successfully got a similar reference deleted from a presidential speech back in October. So this is the smoking gun. Dubya lied and used the lie to build support for starting a war. Turns out that the leaks about what's really happening in the Administration is slowly turning into a running faucet. That's because a lot of people in government are growing seriously disillusioned with Dubya's disingenuousness (read: lying), and aren't willing to take the heat for it anymore. Dubya's going to discover that using bureaucrats as doormats can come back to bite him.

~ Reverend Lou Sheldon, that self-righteous old windbag who spends his days plucking motes from the eyes of people he doesn't approve of (mostly gays and abortion rights advocates), seems to have a beam in his own: He's been caught taking large sums of money from gambling interests to stir up his rabble to oppose card rooms and Indian gaming. He's not denying it, either. Seems he thinks the devil's had the money long enough, and it's time he gets his hands on it. God's business is good business, eh, Lou? Maybe we'll someday even see him at the craps table with Bill "Book-of-Virtues" Bennett, another religious conservative with a beam-in-the-eye problem related to gambling.

~ The Madness of King George? Our god-fearing president is hearing voices from God, it seems. I kid you not - Dubya now says he is taking directions directly from God himself. It's not clear whether Dubya discusses things with the Almighty first or just simply takes a dictat, but El Ha'aretz, the leading Israeli newspaper, is quoting Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas as having said that Dubya told him during a recent meeting: "God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you can help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them." I can tolerate such delusions of grandiose self-entitlement from someone like a Jerry Falwell or a Pat Robertson who's certifiably nuts, but from the President of the United States? That's scary indeed!

~ After all the noise that the Republicans made about Al Gore using a White-House telephone for fundraising, comes this: The Bush people have been using Housing and Human Serivces money - that's taxpayer dollars - for trips that happened, just happened, to coincide with campaign appearances by Republican candidates. Imagine that! Taxpayer dollars being used to provide transportation and expenses for what were primarily campaign experiences! Why, if it were Democrats doing this, we'd be hearing about it from every talk-radio host hate-monger in the country, but somehow they're silent about this! Can't imagine why! Can we say "double standards," boys and girls?

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:14:15 AM

Sat, Jul 12 2003

Fax Attack

I decided that I really should take a USB modem with me to Costa Rica, because it's likely to be a good long time before I'll have broadband provisioned. So I went to Fry's today and picked one up. Like most modems these days, it has fax capability built in, and I decided I'd try to get it working. I've had fax modems in the past and have never managed to get them running, so I wasn't too hopeful. But after a lot of hassle, including several software re-installs and most of the afternoon later, I managed to get it running. I sent a fax to myself (I have an E-fax number), and it actually worked! So I now have the capability of scanning a document and sending it as a fax, and can receive a fax as well. This is cool! A fax machine the size of a pack of cigarettes! I know a lot of you have had that capability for a long time, and I've had the hardware to do it, but have never been able to get the software to actually work until now.

The Season of Fabulous Sunsets, a.k.a. the monsoon season has arrived in Phoenix. Today was noticeably muggy, and as I write this, there is a huge monsoon thunderstorm looming over the Superstitions out to the east of the city - big, beautiful cumulonimbus, glowing orange in the sunset light. The sunsets here are one of the few things I'm going to miss in Costa Rica. But then, I've seen some nice ones there. It's just they fade amazingly fast.

Dubya's been pretty quiet (jet-lag coming home from Uganda, perhaps?), and so there's not much in the way of outrages to report today.

~ I did read in the Guardian, the UK daily, that the UK intelligence services really, really do have some evidence for Niger selling uranium yellowcake to Saddam. We'll see about that - Tony Blair is in as much trouble as Dubya is over this WMD's thing. Of course, nobody's coming forward with any hard evidence, it's all just heresay so far.

~ Under pressure from the Bush administration, Belgium has scrapped its war-crimes law, under which it claimed the right to prosecute any war criminal from anywhere in the world, in spite of where the war crime was committed. I imagine Henry Kissinger is breathing a sigh of relief right about now - not to mention a few past U.S. presidents.

~ The U.S. aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan has been launched and has entered service. It's a fifth of a mile long, can cruise at 30 knots and carry 80 aircraft. It can operate for 20 years without refueling. The Navy has announced that the next carrier is going to be named the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. I'm not surprised that the big ships are getting named after Republican warmongers, and all that Jimmy Carter got was a lousy submarine. The military-industrial complex sure knows who its friends are. Of course, if the Navy knew who G.H.W. Bush is named for, they might be a bit more reluctant to name their carrier after him - George Herbert Walker and his son, G.H.W.B.'s dad, Prescott Bush, made much of the family's fortune by laundering money for the Nazis in World War II. In 1953, their bank, the Union Merchant Bank, was forcibly liqudated by the Treasury Department as a criminal enterprise.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 07:14:21 PM

Fri, Jul 11 2003

Interest In The Van

Had a lengthy call last night from a fellow in Tucson who is really interested in the motorhome. He's aware that it sleeps one, but is really intrigued by the 4WD possibilities for motorhome living. Said he'll be getting in touch with me this weekend and come up and have a look. Great! I hope I can sell it to him - it will be a big load off my mind if I can.

The Good News From The Culture War:

~ Canada's cool! I'm not referring to the Canadian climate, I'm referring to the fact that Canada has suddenly become fashionable. Canadians are showing that you can go off in directions contrary to American conservatism, and not only have your civilization not collapse, but actually become a more attractive place to live. What they're doing up there seems to be everything that conservatives in this country hate. For starters, the Chretien administration would not support the invasion of Iraq, and paid a diplomatic price for that, but did it anyway - and he's now more popular than ever. And Chretien doesn't have egg on his face for seconding Dubya's lies about WMD's. Then in May, the Chretien government introduced legislation to decriminalize the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana - still illegal to grow or sell it, but mere possession will get you the equivalent of a parking ticket. Apparently they're getting tired of building prisons to house folks who just toked a joint or two. After that, in June, the Chretien government announced that it would introduce legislation to legalize gay marriage throughout Canada, bringing all the provinces in line with Ontario and British Columbia, which have already legalized it by court decree. And finally, at the end of June, the government announced the opening of the first "safe injection site," which brings European attitudes towards drug abuse to America - that drugs are a health problem, not a criminal problem. All this has the American conservatives (and a few in Canada) apoplectic with rage - Pat Buchanan referred to Canada as "Soviet Canuckistan." Well, apparently Canuckistan has become an attractive place to live: American gay couples are flooding north to get married, and immigration offices up there are saying they're flooded with applications from Americans wanting to live there. And no sign at all of the "collapse of civilization" as predicted by the Mormon church. In fact, to the contrary - their economy is even doing better than the American economy.

The Bad News From The Culture War:

~ Between ten and sixteen Nigerians have died in riots that were sparked, in part, by Dubya's presence in the country. To the disempowered of Nigeria's oil region, Bush represents everything they hate - the exploitation by the oil companies, the companies' careless pollution of land owned by tribal communities, and paying of grossly inadequate cash compensation for the destruction they do and the resources they take. The close ties between the Bush family and Chevron, one of the main players in the Niger Delta, is not lost on the Nigerians. To a Nigerian, to be called a "bushman" is a very serious insult. And when I lived there, I referred to Dubya's father as "George Bushman." The Nigerians who laughed the loudest were always from the oil country.

~ The occupant of the White House has finally admitted that things aren't going well for the Occupation Amateur Hour. This, some two months and 77 American deaths after the "victory" was declared. What's really laughable is what he said about it: "It's going to take more than 90 to 100 days for people to recognize the great joys of freedom and the responsibilities that come with freedom." Oh really? I suspect it's going to take a lot longer than that for the Iraqis to Learn To Love The Cluster Bombs.

~ While you're out cashing the check from your portion of the Bush $7 trillion tax cut for the rich, think about this: If you are an enlisted member of the U.S. Army, and you die during active duty, your family will get $6,000. Apparently, that's all that Dubya thinks your life is worth, because he's actively opposing a Pentagon proposal to double that amount. Just so you know how much this benefit is costing the taxpayers, it's about 0.00032% of the money we're spending on the Occupation Amateur Hour. And your putting it all on the line for America is also apparently worth less than you're currently getting: the Bushies want to cut your imminent danger pay from $225 a month to $150 and cut your family separation allowance from $250 to $100. And if that's not enough, the cheapness even extends to basic pay: the proposed budget for 2004 includes only 2% increases in the already grossly inadequate pay for many ranks. Now you know what Bush really thinks of you. Of course, such is to be expected from a man who has so little regard for the military that he went AWOL for over a year (check out the definition of, and penalties for "desertion" in the Universal Code of Military Justice, by the way).

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:38:00 AM

Thu, Jul 10 2003

Pool Day

Today's pool day. I've got to get the pool cleaned up - I've been letting it slide while I've been dealing with the vehicles and my ham radio rigs, and the pool is really starting to show the neglect. There's algae growing everywhere in it, and that can only mean the pH is too high and the chlorine too low. It also means that I need to do some serious brushing. I may just hop in the pool and do the brushing before I put the chlorine shock in it. The water is about perfect.

Outrages Du Jour:

~ The Occupation Amateur Hour is costing the taxpayers $90,000 every minute and there's an American or two and several Iraqis dying there every day - three Americans just yesterday. Meanwhile, Donald Rumsfeld admitted yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Bushies didn't have any evidence of new (meaning post-Gulf War) WMD's in Iraq. The BBC has reported that "a very high" British intelligence official has "virtually ruled out" finding any WMD's in Iraq at all. Which begs the question as to why we even went in there at all. Of course, there are two answers, one of which Paul Wolfowitz has already admitted to - oil. The other is Israel - without Saddam's support, the Palestinians are even less able to resist Israel's depredations - and that, of course, will make the terrorism problem worse, not better, but what Israel wants from us, it gets. The war had nothing to do with the interests of the American people or some sort of altruistic desire to liberate the Iraqis from their despotic leader.

~ A federal appeals court has upheld the suspension of civil liberties of an American citizen being held by the Department of Justice, based solely on the Executive department's designation of that person as an "enemy combatant." The detainee can be held indefinitely without benefit of trial or even access to counsel. The use of the word "enemy" implies that there's a war going on, but I can't recall the Congress having declared a war anytime recently, even though the constitution is very explicit about authorizing congress, and congress alone, to declare war. Isn't it setting a dangerous precedent to suspend civil liberties in the absence of a declaration of war? If you think we should just "trust" Dubya, his behavior in other areas would indicate that such trust is misplaced - keep reading.

~ Continuing the Republican assault on public education, the Bush administration is going to massively overhaul what they themselves admit is already the most successful of all federal education initiatives, Head Start. It's been too successful at helping disadvantaged students get a good start in education, so they're going to "reform" it by making 3 and 4-year old poor kids "quit freeloading" and "start learning" which, of course, is just more code words for making it more difficult, not less, for disadvantaged kids to have access to the program.

~ When the National Head Start Association objected, Dubya didn't address their concerns, but instead, in the usual Bush manner, he has used the opportunity to continue his assault on freedom of speech. The administration has notified all federally funded Head Start teachers by letter that if they criticise his "reforms" of Head Start, they'll held legally liable. Then he has the hypocrisy to talk about being a defender of "freedom" and "liberty." Some freedom. Some liberty. Some reason to love America.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 08:47:57 AM

Wed, Jul 09 2003

Little Action On The Other Vehicles

Not much action regarding the 4WD motorhome and the Ford Escort I have for sale. Had one phone call this morning about the motorhome, but the caller lost interest when I told him that it sleeps one person only and can't readily be converted to sleep two.

I've got to go to the insurance company this afternoon to get the insurance stopped on the pickup I sold yesterday, and get information on insuring my goods while they are in transit to Costa Rica. I also need to give the pool some attention - the algae is starting to build up again, not surprising in this heat.

Apparently my brother has been reading this blog, and has sent me some information about using the FDISK utility from DOS to format the hard disk from my old computer that I've put in this one. I'd love to get that up and running before I pack this computer up for shipment to Costa Rica - there's a fair amount of stuff I'd like to put on it.

The Outrages Du Jour from Democracy Now:

~ It seems that Roxanne Walker, another Clear Channel on-air personality who dared oppose the war in Iraq, was fired yesterday for "expressing an opinion on-air," something she had been doing daily for years. Clear Channel doesn't appear to care about either the intent of the "Fairness Doctrine" nor the notion of equal time - it's been quite happy to organize and promote pro-war rallies using the public property of the radio spectrum which it is using for for free. Of course, it is using the public spectrum to express its own views to the exclusion of others - who are equal owners of the spectrum they're using. And they wonder why we question the wisdom of allowing Clear Channel to gobble up even more radio stations, or ask that the justice of the Fairness Doctrine and the equal time provisions be re-established in the broadcast rules.

~ The Bush administration is requiring a "government minder" to be present anytime the Congressional 9/11 Investigatory Commission interviews a government official. And they're obstructing the NORAD, FAA and DOD information that the Commission needs to answer those nagging questions about why the jet fighters weren't scrambled, as they'd always been in the past, to chase down the hijacked planes when it was known they had been hijacked. Does this "minder" business remind one of how foreign journalists were treated in, say, Saddam's Iraq? Of course, the irony of the hypocrisy here is lost in the conservatives' minds by, once again, their sense of entitlement. And they wonder why I'm a liberal.

~ Dubya's not answering questions about justifying the war in Iraq in his state of the Union address, using information that he has admitted he knew at the time to be false. Well, I'm sorry, Dubya, but I really think you ought to be accountable for what you do. You are, after all, a public servant, not a public master. Would you care to face the same kind of scrutiny from members of your own party that LBJ had to face after lying about the Gulf of Tonkin incident? I really think you should. And for the same reasons. Of course, I don't expect this to happen any time soon. As usual, reason and fairness take a back seat to the conservatives' sense of entitlement and Republican hypocrisy.

~ Dubya won't be visiting Nelson Mandela while in South Africa. Seems he still can't bring himself to admit publicly that he and his party were wrong to support the Apartheid regime in South Africa during the Reagan era and before. Nor can he, it seems, bring himself to look a moral authority in the eye anymore. Can't imagine why. Seems that Dubya's visit to South Africa is really quite controversial down there - and not just because of his family's support for Apartheid, but because of Dubya's recent behavior. The state terrorism acts that are working their way through the South African parliament are also very controversial - they would have the effect of making South Africa a client state of the U.S., and Dubya's visit isn't helping calm down the controversy.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 10:47:21 AM

Tue, Jul 08 2003

Last Night's Forum And The News From The Culture War

Well, the fellow who was interested in my truck came by. He liked what he saw, and bought it - went and got a cashier's check and paid me on the spot. We went to the DMV to transfer the title - the usual 1 1/2 hour wait - and it's finally a done deal! Hooray! One less vehicle to worry about. Now if I can get rid of the van and the Escort, I'm a happy camper. No interest in either in the last couple of days, though.

The interesting thing about the fellow that bought the truck - he's starting a small consulting business. Like me, he was "downsized" out of a job, and like me, his former employer is now contracting with him to do what he used to do for them full time - in his case, cable splicing. When there are no backhoe fades to deal with, he now sits at home on his own nickel. So he's filling his time by buying cars with fixable problems, fixing them and selling them at a profit. Says he's bought the truck for his cable splicing business, though, and it would be ideal for that. This young man, probably in his late 20s, is so typical of the "new economy." He's a freelancer who is forced to live with the fact that nobody hires anybody anymore, they "outsource" to freelancers instead. So he's hoping his old employers and others will outsource to him. No guarantee, of course, so he's got to hustle to survive nowadays. Buying and repairing cars is one way to ensure that he does. I really feel sorry for young people today that are going to have to live with the results of this "neoliberal" economy. They're not going to have a life, they'll have to hustle all their waking hours just to live.

Last night's forum at Border's went quite well. I gave a brief history of my harassment by the FBI, and told why I was leaving. Turns out that most of the people there were interested in moving to Costa Rica because they happen to like the place rather than the politics in the U.S., so the discussion revolved mostly around people wanting to know more about Costa Rica. For two hours, we discussed the Costa Rican culture, climate, investment and real estate opportunities. It was a good forum. When I mentioned that my anti-Zionism is, I believe, one of the factors in my harassment, a militant Zionist spoke up and tried to hijack the forum, insisting that I answer whether or not I believe Zionism is equivalent to fascism, but I managed to squelch him by offering to discuss it privately with him after the meeting, but refusing to discuss it in the forum. He didn't stick around to take me up on it.

The Good News From The Culture Wars:

~ Michael Savage, the bigot who was given a forum by MSNBC for his bigotry, is apparently bad for business. They found it necessary to axe his program. They even said it was an "easy decision." Well, it's not like they hadn't been warned. Plenty of groups, such as GLAAD, FAIR, and many others, had given MSNBC plenty of examples of his on-air bigotry, but they went ahead anyway. I can only assume that MSNBC pulled his show because the sponsors didn't like him and he turned out to be bad for business.

The Bad News From The Culture Wars::

~ The Bush Administration issued a statement last night that it knew that the claim that the sale of uranium yellowcake by Niger to Iraq was false before the claim was used in Bush's State Of The Union last January. The fact that they can now admit to an outright lie means that they must feel that they have impunity. Which I'm sure they do.

~ The Independent Commission on 9/11 has been facing major hurdles imposed by the Bushies, "It's obvious they're [the White House] sifting the information to the 911 Commission here; we're way, way late," one member said. This, of course, begs the question of what the Bushies are hiding. That's something I'm sure they're not going to come clean about anytime soon, as it could give the Democrats a wonderful election issue for next year's election.

~ Time Magazine is reporting that the looting of Iraq wasn't done just by Iraqis. U.S. troops looted and trashed the Baghdad airport when they occupied it, doing $120 million in damage, including shooting up two Boeing aircraft that were so severely damaged that they may never fly again. The Occupation Amateur Hour's response: "Hey, this happens in every war." Oh, does it? Sounds to me like the DOD has a serious discipline problem.

~ The Senegalese government apparently rounded up at least 1000 dissidents, including scholars at the Dakar University in Dakar and elsewhere in the country, in preparation for Dubya's arrival there today. Don't want any of that embarrassing opposition, I guess.

The United Nations Human Development Index was released today. Good news and bad news, again. Costa Rica came up in the rankings a notch. It's ranked # 42 now, up from # 43 last year. But in all likelihood, that is due to the fact that most of the lesser-developed world has slid - so that means that Costa Rica may have advanced by default, by simply not sliding as much as the rest. The United States is in the same spot as last year (# 7) and Canada came down from # 3 to just behind the U.S. at # 8 - but that was mostly a statistical fluke, due to the fact that the way education is measured has changed since last year, and the new methods apparently tend to favor the U.S. and discriminate against Canada. A look at my other prospective havens: Nicaragua, like much of the developing world, slid. It's down to # 121 from # 118. Panama slid as well - it's # 59 now, versus # 57 last year. New Zealand, which would have been my first choice, is # 20 this year, and was # 19 last year. In top spot? Norway, once again due more than anything, to the abundant oil revenue that finances a lot of things Norway wouldn't be able to afford otherwise. Second place is genuinely interesting, though. It's that hotbed of liberal environmentalist left-wing progressive politics - Iceland, which beat out Sweden for second place for the first time. Iceland is a nation that undeniably deserves the honor - no windfall sources of foreign exchange there - no oil, no huge timber reserves or vast grain-growing regions. But rather than just throwing the market open to any imports at all, including oil, as the neoliberals would have it, they're making a determined effort at creating renewable energy sources, and they're already on their way to becoming the first hydrogen economy in the world. Quite an achievement for a country making a living on a barren rock with practically no resources that other nations don't have in far greater abundance. Maybe America could learn something from them.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 10:00:02 AM

Mon, Jul 07 2003

The Education Of The U.S. Military

Today's agenda - get a haircut, do some minor shopping and prepare for the lecture tonight at the Borders Between The Lines Lecture. (If you're in Phoenix, you might want to stop by - 24th and Camelback in the Biltmore Fashion Place mall, 7:30 PM.) Also need to get some Gaviscon. Have a bad case of heartburn this morning, and somehow I can't find any of my Gaviscon tablets. I think I may have tossed them while cleaning things out. Argghhh!

Looks like the pickup may be sold. A fellow down in Yuma is coming by tomorrow to look at it. That means I need to fix the valve cover leak today, too. Then it should pass muster and I can get my money out of it.

Well, Before the war began, I had predicted it wouldn't be the cakewalk that the hubristic warmongers in the Bush administration had been claiming. And I was right, though I have to confess it was for reasons I didn't quite expect. I had predicted, along with many others, that the resistance would be military, that Saddam's regime would collapse only after a considerable fight that would have the support of the Iraqi people.

As it turns out the resistance has proven to be a guerilla resistance, put up, not by Saddam's regime (even though its being blamed on Saddam, and he's no doubt contributing to it), but primarily by the Iraqi people who are fed up with the intermittent electricity, lack of water, lack of security, empty promises and all the other failures of the Occupation Amateur Hour.

Now there's word that the Occupation troops themselves are facing the lowest morale among their ranks that has been seen in any recent U.S. military activity. Besides the incompetence of the occupation government, they have also had to face the contempt of the Iraqi people, and the fear of turning their backs on the wrong Iraqi or driving their Humvees down the wrong road. Yesterday saw the most lethal 12-hour period since the hostilities "ended" - 3 American soldiers were killed in separate incidents on Sunday. And when their 12-hour shift ends, the soldiers go back to their billet where the living conditions are terrible, get a few hours of sleep, never enough, and go back out to do it all over again. Many servicemen serving in Iraq are now cooperating with left-of-center journalists, for the first time, hoping that the journalists will help them get home. Some have said they'd be glad to empty their bank accounts for nothing more than a plane ticket out of there. One might hope that if and when these soldiers ever do find themselves on the way home, that they'll give some thought as to the nature of their experience, and what their command had told them to expect, versus the reality they encountered. That would be the best hope that the left could have in helping to get them out of this imperialistic quagmire.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the six "detainees" in Guantanamo who are about to go on "trial" there, have been given a choice. Confess and get twenty years in prison or go through the kangaroo court trial and face the death penalty. In other words, confess or die. I'm so proud that I live in a nation that upholds the principles of democracy and the rule of law! Yeah.

Some classified and unclassified reports coming out of the Pentagon indicate that 30 nations are now on the nuclear target list. We're sure doing what we can to spread self-determination around the world, aren't we?

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 09:24:22 AM

Sun, Jul 06 2003

Finally - Action On The Vehicles

I'm finally seeing some action on the classifieds. I've had three calls this morning about the motorhome, and one person came by to have a look. She's quite interested. She's interested in fulltiming, and fits the type - older, very independent-minded, liberal (she loves the "Jesus, Deliver Me From The Christians" sign on the back). She has one concern about it, and that is whether her dog would be comfortable in it when parked in hot weather. Well, to me, that's an easily solvable problem. If the weather is hot enough that the animal would be in trouble, you're in the wrong area and need to move north or up in elevation anyway.

Yesterday, I built some quick-and-dirty antennas for my VHF/UHF ham rig to see if it is working, and it appears to be. I'm able to talk to stations I can barely hear, so it appears that the radio is working fine. I'll have all three of my ham radio "rigs" working and with me in Costa Rica.

The 4th of July holiday weekend is pretty much over with, thank goodness. America's annual orgy of nationalism is almost at an end. As time goes on, I grow ever less comfortable with "patriotism" which I've concluded is really nothing more than a disguised form of nationalism. There' s no longer even a single nationalist bone in my body - I consider myself a citizen of the world, and I've decided that I should live where I think I can get the best deal, not some place where I happened to have been born. I no longer believe in patriotism as a virtue. My country when it's right, but only when it's right, and never when its wrong. And right now, it's wrong, so I don't support it anymore. And I sure as hell don't go around waving a flag anymore, talking about how proud I am to be an American.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 01:08:13 PM

Fri, Jul 04 2003

Fourth Of July On The Porcelain Throne

Woke up at 4 AM with that familiar rumble in the belly that was telling me something is wrong down there. I spent about an hour sitting on the porcelain throne dealing with what was probably the results of the ground beef I had with last night's dinner. It was most likely some careless hygiene in how I cooked the meat. Isn't it interesting, how, here in the Land of Unregulated Business, one has to treat the "food" that comes out of giant meat packing plants as if it were a biohazard. As a child, I recall that it was not necessary to exercise such care in the handling of ground beef, and one rarely got sick - packing plants were much more carefully inspected and regulated back then in the "golden age" of the '50's. The difference, of course, is that meat packers are allowed to get away with a lot more than they used to. But they make more money that way, and that's the important thing, isn't it? The public health be damned. Isn't deregulation a wonderful thing?

Well, today is the annual Fourth of July celebration here in the United States, and I'll have to endure America's annual orgy of a disgusting degree of nationalism that Americans regard as "patriotism." Millions will be out in their back yard, barbecuing hamburger patties, and hundreds of thousands will get sick because they didn't handle the meat like it was a biohazard. And yet they'd all rather be here than anywhere else, they think.

It's 9:30 in the morning, and I'm up and around, and feeling much better, having gotten rid of whatever it was that was bugging my system. The classifieds appeared in the paper this morning, and I've gotten one call so far - on the van. It was a husband-wife pair who cooled quite quickly when they discovered that it is strictly a solo affair - sleeps and carries one person only. I need to do a new feedback page for my web site for these ads and a few other pages that need a less flamboyant feedback page. That will be my project for today.

Democracy Now is running a special today. It is a reading of Howard Zinn's "A People's History Of The United States." It's worth a listen - quotes from Fredrick Douglas and others whose voices are seldom heard in celebrations of American independence.

Just put up a new Front Page Editorial, this one dealing with schizophrenic secular Zionists who think that they can be Humanists and still be Zionists. Well, we'll see about that - my editorial makes it quite clear that they're effectively mutually exclusive.

Along with the new Front Page Editorial, I have published a new essay. This one is the expanded version of an email I once sent to my friend Gary. In it, I have outlined my reasons for believing that American democracy is at an end, and why I feel compelled to go into exile.

Watching the National on CBC television, I found that the U.N. is going to release its annual Human Development Index next week, but released its statistics today. It's widely considered to be the most objective ranking of how good countries are to live in. The 2003 index will be released next week, but I figured I'd check and see what the current (2002) index ranks things. The U.S. ranks 6th, behind Norway, Sweden, Canada, Belgium and Australia. Costa Rica ranks high (top third) of development at no. 43, and one of only four Latin American nations to be ranked as a developed nation (Argentina, Uruguay and Chile are the other three), and well ahead of Mexico (54), Panama (57), and Nicaragua (118), as the other places I've been looking at. New Zealand, which I looked at until I discovered I couldn't get in, ranks 19th. It will be interesting to see how these nations fare in the index that is released next week.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 04:45:38 AM

Thu, Jul 03 2003

A Day To Relax For A Change

I'm pleased that the classified ads are placed and the vehicles are ready to sell, for the most part. I need to clean the interior of the Escort, but that is not a big deal. The van is all cleaned out, inside and out, and I need to move all the van stuff back into it. I'll probably do that later in the day.

Spent part of the afternoon salvaging a hard disk out of my old computer and installing it in my current one, and adding 256m. of memory. Worked on the first try, but the hard disk out of the old computer had a Linux partition on it, and I haven't figured out how to format the whole disk, not just the Windows partition. Going to have to do some research on that. It's nice having the extra memory in here - no more waiting for the computer to do its swap file bit. Now I can throw the old clunker away and not feel like I'm abandoning anything useful. Blew all the dust out of it, and there was quite literally clouds of dust in there. Whew! It's got my asthma stirred up big-time. I had to go take a puff on the inhaler.

I'm listening to the daily outrages on Democracy Now, and of course, there's the usual list of outrages du jour:

~ Turns out that the Bushies are really scared and are starting to freak out about being held accountable in the International Criminal Court for what they do around the world. The U.S. has been strong-arming the rest of the world to exempt "U.S. persons" from prosecution, and I'm proud to say that the Costa Rican government has not caved in. Of course, threatening to withhold military aid from a country that doesn't have a military is pretty much an empty threat. Costa Rica will lose about $500,000 in training funds. The U.S. embassy down there, however, has made it clear that they're going ahead with the "international police academy" that is going to be built there. I guess training state terrorists is a higher priority than punishing countries for rebelling.

~ The U.S., after all the noise about Saddam's biological warfare agents, is building about 20 mobile germ warfare labs of its own, costing about $2 billion. This is in blatant disregard of the numerous bans on biological weapons that the U.S. has signed over the years. And it turns out that the principal suspect in the anthrax attacks not long after 9/11, is none other than Stephen Hatfeld, the director of that program.

~ The nation's largest defense contractor that you've never heard of, the Carlyle Group, used to have George W. Bush on the board of directors of one of their holdings, but they kicked him off. Why did the Carlyle Group kick Dubya kick him off, when his daddy was (and is) on the parent's board? Because his principle activity was telling jokes (mostly off-color, from all accounts) and he seemed to know little about the company and its activities and didn't care to involve himself in it. He was a liability rather than an asset, according to David Rubenstein, the founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group. Why did Rubenstein make such remarks? According to an investigative journalist, it's because Carlyle is desperate to distance itself from the Bush dynasty. Investors are abandoning them in droves because of it. It would be interesting to know what they know but I don't.

~ Dubya has actually taunted Iraqi anti-occupation militants with a casual "make my day" sort of remark that will only serve to antagonize the Iraqi people. Political and military scientists who have analyzed the remark are shocked by its lack of temperance and pragmatism.

~ The disinformation campaign, designed to destabilize Iran is beginning - Persian language broadcasts start Sunday.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 12:15:36 PM

Wed, Jul 02 2003

Big Brother Really Will Be Watching You

Outrages Du Jour:

~ Word is out that DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is working on a massive facial recognition scheme, that when implemented, will enable it to use a large network of security cameras to track, in real time, the movements of "suspects" as they travel by car around in a city. Of course, this won't ever be used on American dissidents, we're promised. Your Government Doesn't Spy On You. Oh, yeah, like I believe that one after what I've been through. There's only two places in the world that have enough security cameras scattered around big cities to make that system work - the U.K. and the U.S. - and both have a pretty sorry record of honoring free-speech rights of the left-of-center when not in the glare of the press.

~ Liberal media bias? Hah! Turns out that Judith Miller, the New York Times reporter in Iraq, has close ties to that Aqhmad Chalabi fellow, the Iraqi ex-con, 40-year exile that the Bushies are promoting as the man to replace the Occupation Amateur Hour with a real government. Not only that, Miller, it's been charged, has been involved with strong-arming military decision-making in the unit in which she is embedded, has provided the military with intelligence, and has even taken part in an Army ceremony. Judith Miller wouldn't be able to do such things without the permission of the owners of the Times. And the Times is actually defending her behavior! The report about this appeared in the Washington Post. At least they're disgusted by it. The Times has really started behaving like Al Ahram in Cairo - functioning as a semi-official organ of the government. The newspaper of record, all right. All the propaganda that's fit to print.

~ Over the weekend, we've apparently reached a new landmark - it seems that the 200th American soldier has died in Iraq for Liberty, Justice, Cheap Gasoline and Zionist Greed. We don't know how many have been injured since the Pentagon doesn't release those stats, but statistics from previous wars indicate that the multiplier is somewhere between 2.6 and 4.1. Of course, that doesn't come close to the Iraqi civilian casualties - between 6,000 and 7,000 Iraqi civilian deaths have been documented to be the direct consequence of the war. But as one correspondent put it to me, "Arab bodies don't count." Don't agree with that, but we do know General Franks isn't counting.

~ Democracy Now has reported that one of its reporters' apartments was raided and searched by the NYPD. No warrant was served, and the police, including the warrants office, denied any knowledge of a warrant that may have been issued, what was to be searched for and why as the 4th Amendment requires. Why am I neither shocked nor even surprised anymore?

~ Election fundraising: Bush $34 million, Howard Dean (front-runner by far among the Demos) -$7 million. Looks like it's running Bush to Demos, 34 to 7. Since money is the mother's milk of American politics, you can pretty well accept that's where the election stands at the moment.

~ Exile for Charles Taylor in Liberia? Dubya's talking about intervention, but I doubt it, not without a forced "regime change." There's no political strategy in the offing, and Dubya's brain (read: the warmongers in the Pentagon Defense Policy Board) says no intervention without one. But Dubya's thinking he might send in a token force of a thousand troops. Good luck, Dubya. That won't even secure the capital - I know, I've lived in West Africa and you haven't even been there yet. As part of a huge ECOWAS peacekeeping force, it might help, but we don't do things that way. We bring in just enough allied troops to make the word "coalition" somewhat credible. Obviously, nobody's found any oil there yet or we'd already be waging a full scale war by now.

Well, that's just today's blizzard of bad news. We're living through tough times, no doubt. Just hope that it will end in November of 2004. I'm not optimistic, especially given that campaign finance item, but we can only hope. Meanwhile, I'll be safely tucked away in Costa Rica, watching the whole of America come apart from a distance - and hoping the conservatives enjoy laying in the fascist bed they're making.

Not much on the agenda today. Placed some classifieds in this weekend's papers for my vehicles, and I'm off to do some grocery shopping. I'm out of just about everything. The pantry is starting to empty out - and that's good. Won't have to walk away from that much in the way of groceries.

The tide of spam is rising exponentially. In just the last week, it has risen from an average of 130 per day to 200 per day. I'm getting, in some cases, four and five copies of the same message. The Republicans have made it pretty clear that regulation of business, no matter how egregious the behavior, is absolutely off the table, so nothing useful will be done by this administration. Thank God for POPfile. Without it, my email inbox would be totally useless.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 10:16:01 AM

Tue, Jul 01 2003

Appraiser Due - Car, Pickup Web Pages Done

Another day, another $50 it has cost me to live here. Well, anyway, at least I'm making some progress to getting out of this house. The appraiser is due to come in a half-hour. That, I think, is the last of the inspections that need to be done. I still need to get the septic tank pumped and certified, and that's about it. The termite inspection was done as part of the house inspection last week.

Finally got the web pages done for selling the van, the pickup and the car. Now I can call and get some classifieds inserted for this weekend, with references to the web pages, , and hopefully I'll get some action on getting them sold. The ad I placed at cars.com has produced no response whatever. So much for that. I don't think I'll even bother to renew when it expires in three weeks.

Couldn't get the Democracy Now stream this morning, but I finally have it streaming now. The outrages of the day:

~ Amnesty International is reporting on some violations of international law by the "coalition" in Iraq of Iraqi detainees. Why am I not shocked?

~ The Guardian and the BBC web sites are both reporting that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is trying to develop some un-manned hypersonic bombers that could carry a 12,000 lb. bomb load anywhere in the world within two hours - at ten times the speed of sound - this is to free us up from having to actually rely on allies that might disagree with our unilateralism. Of course that means more unilateralism.

~ In Iraq, The Occupation Amateur Hour has detained it's own governor of Basra - the guy was involved in theft and extortion.

~ The really big outrage of the day is that apparently, the American work-week, already the longest in the industrialized world and rapidly getting longer, isn't getting long enough quickly enough. They're getting ready to effectively scrap the 40 hour week by eliminating the requirement to pay overtime to millions of workers who have grown dependent on the extra money. Great guys, these conservatives. They're really looking out for the working guy, aren't they? And all of that wealth is sure trickling down, isn't it? Since Reagan's famous "trickle down" remark, the nation's GDP has nearly tripled, but my standard of living sure hasn't.

~ A poll just released has revealed that 40% of the American public believe that Dubya lied about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction. Well, if we could just bring reality to the other 60%, we might be able to get the Republicans to do to Dubya what they wanted to do to LBJ - impeach the president for telling a lie to start a war. Frankly, I think that's a much more compelling reason to impeach a president than spilling semen on a blue dress and lying about it. Of course the thought of him being replaced by Dick Cheney isn't very appealing itself.

|| Scott Bidstrup, Nuevo Arenal, Costa Rica 01:40:42 PM
Copyright © 2003 Scott Bidstrup. All rights reserved.