August 4, 2004

count the days that we have wasted from the start

* Chess: a game of dictators. excerpt:

"Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a diminutive 44-year-old man with Eurasian features and a cherubic smile, has since 1993 been the president of the former Soviet republic of Kalmykia. In 1995, after soliciting permission from Boris Yeltsin to carry on two simultaneous presidential roles, Ilyumzhinov was elected president of FIDE (Fédération International des Echecs), the world's foremost chess organizing body. As a head of state, he has rendered Kalmykia into a thriving command/capitalist economy with his iron-fisted rule; as for FIDE, however, many say he has managed to run the game of chess into the ground.

"The Kalmykian leader counts among his friends Bobby Fischer and Saddam Hussein, or at least that's the conclusion one might draw from the fact that Ilyumzhinov's bizarre personal homepage names the chess recluse and the Iraqi leader on a 'Meetings and Friends' link. On the Hussein page, Ilyumzhinov waxes romantic about his pal (quoting himself from a statement he made in1996): 'Living in a blockade for five years and not only ceasing the inflation, but also raising people's wages--these are things which not every leader would be capable of. Everything is fine in Baghdad.' (Other 'friends' Ilyumzhinov outs on his website include the Dalai Lama and the Pope; elsewhere on the site, the president has put up cute pictures of himself as a uniformed, fifth-grade 'Young Pioneer.') And one can only speculate as to why Ilyumzhinov was reportedly one of the last foreigners to see Uday Hussein alive, on a curiously-timed visit to Baghdad this April."
"In fairness, FIDE and Ilyumzhinov are not entirely to blame for the enfeebled status of chess. Many believe that the international chess community has rendered itself a laughing-stock by infighting and internal fragmentation. At present, for example, there are not one, but three world chess champions, because the chess world cannot come to a consensus on this matter. One champion is Kasimdzhanov, by virtue of having won the FIDE tournament in Tripoli. Another is Garry Kasparov, the highest-ranked player according to the Byzantine FIDE scoring logarithm (Larry Parr, former editor of Chess Life, calls Kasparov 'the whatever champion by virtue of universal acceptance.') The third is Vladimir Kramnik, having defeated Kasparov in competition. Even those persons most principally affected by the rankings are confused.

"It seems that, whether the cause is Ilyumzhinov's corruption, the End of History, or disorganization, the chess world's incapacity for self-governance has left an intermittent vacuum, making it easy for the game of kings to become the game of dictators."

* Washington Post's Harold Meyerson asks where's Rumsfeld? excerpt:

"Could be the Abu Ghraib business. After a couple of days digging around, I discovered in the current issue of Newsweek a story that speculates that Rummy's own special committee to investigate how nice American boys and girls turned into a Junior Gestapo might actually finger Rummy himself.

"But that couldn't be the whole story. Rummy's been under wraps for a while now. In fact, he disappeared around the time U.S. forces in Iraq disappeared.

"I mean, what have we heard out of our guys since we transferred power, as we say, to the Iraqis at the end of June? The whole occupation is under wraps. In June, when we were running the joint, 42 American soldiers were killed. In July, when we'd reduced ourselves to a historical footnote, 54 American soldiers died, but who knew it? None of our guys is around to talk about the occupation anymore. L. Paul Bremer is gone. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez is gone. Rummy is -- well, that's what I was trying to find out.

"We've gone from Mission Accomplished to Mission Invisible. The fact that we still have men and women in harm's way doesn't play very well if the boss is going to get reelected. The fact that we never had a plan for Iraq after Saddam Hussein -- or, worse, that we had plans from the generals and from State and from the CIA, and that Rummy trashed them all and figured we could run the place with nothing more than Ahmed Chalabi and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo -- is not something the Bush boys want voters thinking about as the election draws near."

* The Caribbean returns to Boston Friday, August 6, and will be playing Durrell Hall (Central Square YMCA), Cambridge, Massachusetts with Xiu Xiu.

The Caribbean are also scheduled to play in Norfolk, Virginia next Wednesday, August 11, also with Xiu Xiu. The show, at Relative Theory Records, begins at 8pm.


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