Friday, November 21, 2003

St. Helena--Sin Parish

Hopefully this will offset the more serious posts below: I'm watching the rebroadcast of Channel 9's 6 o'clock news...checked the website, alas, no link (yet--I'll update if I find it).

The courts have ruled that you can't stop nude dancing in St. Helena Parish--you can only hope to contain it, I guess. Here's a link to an earlier court opinion regarding just what constitutes legal erotic dancing in St. Helena Parish. In summary:

St. Helenda Parish tried to redefine legal erotic dancing:

On August 28, 2001, the St. Helena Parish Police Jury reconvened and voted to adopt Ordinance Number 216 of 2001. The new ordinance included provisions, designated Section 14-43, to supercede the existing Section 14:16. Section 14:43 (a) prohibits the holder of a retail or wholesale dealer license from permitting "any nude or partially nude person" on the premises. The word "nude" is defined as "a person who is less than completely or opaquely covered such as to expose to view that person's genitals and/or pubic region, all of the buttocks area or the female breast area below a point immediately above the top of the areola."

The plantiffs, who own Oak Ridge Lounge (Hwy 16, Pine Grove, for those interested) have been in litigation over whether the above definition is overly restrictive, especially considering the amended ordinance replaced Parish Ordinance Section 14:16 which

permitted live entertainment which would include erotic female dancers on any licensed premises. However, the displaying of the pubic hair, anus, vulva, genitals or nipple of the female breast was prohibited. In addition, Section 14:16 requires that the dancers perform on a stage at least eighteen inches above the floor level and three feet from the patrons.

Well, I'm glad the parish set that straight. Imagine if this had been left to chance. Would there have been an outcry? People marching in the street, petitioning the Police Jury?

"What do we want?!"
"Definition of erotic dancing!"
"When do we want it?!"

Additionally, Christy Barber (is that REALLY her name?), a dancer at Oak Ridge Lounge, joined the request for injunction because

[she] has worked for the Vaughns as an erotic dancer at the Lounge. She is not currently employed by the Lounge because she is pregnant. Once she delivers her baby and recovers sufficiently, however, Ms. Barber plans to return to work as an erotic dancer at the Lounge. She testified that she enjoys her job because she feels that erotic dancing is her form of art, and that erotic dancing is her way of expressing her innermost feelings and emotions. She does not believe that she can sufficiently convey her artistic message without displaying more of her body than Ordinance 216 will allow. She also depends on her well-paying job as a dancer at the Lounge for the support of herself, her three children and her fourth child that will soon be born.

Now, I'm not certain which court made the ruling, but it was clear that the plantiffs prevailed. So, here's to erotic dancing in St. Helena Parish, here's to you Christy, and your chosen form of expression, and here's to the court that made the ruling--Rock on, St. Helena! Between erotic dancing and video poker, I see great things in the future!
Follow up to previous post:

You could catch this same metaphor over on a comments link at CrawlingWestward, but what the hell--I might as well add it to my own web log--which seems to have a readership in the low single digits (me).

Regarding Pax's letter:

If someone gives me a lottery ticket, I'll say thanks. If it wins the jackpot, there is a good chance I'll share some of the loot. After all, I like to consider myself somewhat generous (I give spare change/dollar bills to panhandlers when I've got a little extra).

If the same person were to break down my door, piss on my rug, kick my dog, accidentally shoot my mom (and kill her), shatter my windows, shoot holes in the engine block of my car, rifle through my belongings, all while I'm pinned to the floor with a boot shoved into my back and my hands in plastic cuffs--well, don't expect me to be so damned generous if the lotto ticket you dropped to the floor on the way out comes up big. In fact, expect nothing. Period. If you're really lucky, I WON'T mention the fact that you've killed my mother--but I still might try to take revenge. Because no one messes with my mom.

It still amazes me, regarding this little controversy, that ANYONE still thinks we invaded Iraq because of our innate sense of righting a wrong. Bullshit. Anyone who believes this is hopelessly naiive in regards to the game of very realpolitik the US plays on the world stage. Besides--hello--liberation of the Iraqi people was the summer replacement series justification for the war. Since the real television season began in September, the spin has been something like 'going on offense in the War on Terror."

For being on offense, we sure don't seem to have the ball a whole lot. Yeah, we can drop 2,000 pound bombs till our release-mechanism finger gets tired, we can raze houses faster and quicker than the Israelis, we can set up Provisional Governing Authorities to the point where everyone in the whole damn country can be President for fifteen minutes--but we can't get people to accept our authority JUST BECAUSE WE ARE THE USA. Guess what? Those letters, USA, don't mean to them what they mean to us. Here in the United States, we still, in spite of garbage like the Patriot Act, behave, for the most part, like a lawful nation--well, minus horrible actions like the shooting of Amadou Diallo--but in Iraq, USA means supporter of Israel (which they refer to as The Zionist Entity), which represses Arabs (Palestinians), USA means supporter of Saddam for almost ten years officially (and a good bit longer under the table), USA means exporter of decadent culture, and so this true? Quite frankly, IT DOESN'T MATTER IF IT IS OR ISN'T--Iraqis consider this to be true. Hell, some Iraqis think we STILL support Saddam, given that we haven't been able to catch him--their line of reasoning is that the US will let Saddam return to power once we've exited the scene. A ridiculous notion, to be sure--but I'm sure some Iraqis hold that to be truthful--just as some Americans believe, against all evidence, that Saddam and bin Laden are working together.

Oh, and I don't want to give people the impression that Iraqis are a monolithic people--sure, plenty of Iraqis look to the United States as a beacon of hope--and want to give us the benefit of the doubt--and, far from considering American culture decadent, embrace it--but the mistake we've made is not figuring out who those folks were PRIOR to the invasion. We could have/should have/needed to have a reliable base of popular support BEFORE we invaded--but now, we're spending a lot of political capital alienating the shit out of all kinds of people who would otherwise sympathize with us--by invading their homes, confiscating their weapons (and, believe it or not I'm a STRONG supporter of the 2nd Amendment--both here AND in Iraq, where weapons serve a protective purpose--shit, the NRA ought to be condemning this in the strongest possible terms), detaining their children, and so on...

One final analogy: if the right thinks the ensuing chaos in Iraq is ok, because it resulted in the end of Hussein's grip on power, then why doesn't the right call for assaults on St. Francisville (home of Baton Rouge serial killer Derrick Todd Lee), Yonkers, New York (Son of Sam), the Upper Northwest (Ted Bundy, The Green River Killer), Milwaukee and Adams/Friendship, Wisconsin (Jeff Dahmer and Ed Gein, respectively), etc. etc. Hey--do you right-wingers endorse an invasion of Pakistan because that's where Osama bin Laden has taken refuge? Oh yeah, that's right: Pakistan is an ally, ruled by Gen. Musharraf, who was elected--well, he wasn't exactly elected, was he...but who has shown concern for human rig...well, not exactly, either, especially considering that Pakistan security forces may well have assisted in the abduction/execution of journalist Daniel Pearl.

At least Pearl, tragic as his death was, is remembered to some extent. Thousands of Iraqis, though, have been killed in this latest Gulf War without even a decent apology from the United States, much less any recognition that civilian deaths are supposedly prohibited under various conventions regarding conduct of war. Of course, there will be those who say that this is merely a tragic consequence--the result of urban combat, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and 2,000 pound bombs. I would like to conclude, though, by asking: does this mean that there is an inverse relationship between the technology of war, and our respect for civilization? Is this inevitable? If so, I must wonder about the future of civilization.
More Pressing Issues

Went to CrawlingWestward for a quick look and came across this. You can read Salam's letter to Bush, James Lileks' "Fuck You" to Salam, Daniel Drezner's "Fuck You" to Lileks, and Ken Wheaton's "I agree with Lileks--Fuck You, Too, Salam" post, from Timshel's page.


Haven't really had a chance to check out the BigTimeBloggers like Atrios, Billmon, Kos, et al, and work calls, but I can't pass up the opportunity to add a line or two. First, Lileks sure does think big of himself, and, by extension, America, for being the cop of the world. And if the world is a little ungrateful for our assumption of the badge, stick, and gun, well--it's not like they elected us. The United States rode roughshod into Iraq because WE decided to--not the Iraqis. If they're glad we sent Saddam packing, well, jolly good. If they're sullen that we broke all the furniture, spit on the wife, kicked the dog, and pissed on the rug--well, let's go back to the first part of the sentence: Iraq, and the Iraqi people did NOT invite us in. We invaded for all sorts of reasons--not the least being that our intelligence indicated that Iraq was militarily weak (true) and that the people would hug and kiss us when they weren't throwing flowers on our tanks (disasterously untrue).

Hussein being a two-bit punk asshole of a despot didn't factor into this at all, except as a nice little ancillary bit of propaganda. Period. If respect for human rights was central to the US mission abroad, we would never have supported:
The various governments in El Salvador over the years.
The Argentinian Junta
Papa and Baby Doc Duvalier in Haiti
Mobutu in Zaire/Congo
The Military Junta in Argentina
Strossner in Paraguay
The Military Junta in Brazil
Various Despots in Central America/the Carribean Islands
Saudi Arabia
The Shah of Iran
Saddam Hussein in the 60s, 70s, and 80s
Despots in the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia
Yeltsin/Putin in Russia (Chechnya, anyone?)
The Secular Government in Turkey (with a Kurdish issue of their own--and an Armenian genocide in their not so ancient history)
Indonesia under Suharto
The Phillipines under Marcos
The Apartheid Regime in South Africa (Constructive Engagement--I guess that our policy in Communist China these days)
South Korea under Syngman Rhee and various despots until the 1990's
Franco in Spain
Business Dealings, including some by the Bush family, with Nazi Germany in the 1930's

And that's a far from complete list. So, please, right-wing web loggers, spare me the righteous indignation regarding all the good things we bring to life--that's GE's slogan.

If you want to embark on an excellent adventure with the added thrill of guns, don't expect the world to be so goddamned grateful. Consider that accidental death, mistaken identity death, plain old death, and being frightened to death because a young man who doesn't speak you language is hollering at you and pointing said gun at your face, might just make you a little upset at the do gooders who "liberated" your wife, child, girlfriend, sibling, or friend on a permanent basis. Yeah, Salam might still be keeping his head down and shying away from the cops if Baathist Rule still carried the day--but that's a decision HE'S entitled to make as an Iraqi. Do the right-wing web loggers think it would be ok if Middle Easterners suddenly appeared on our streets, searched our homes, blasted away our buildings, and fired our bureaucrats because George W. Bush is CLEARLY a despot? I don't think so. Yet it's ok when it's OTHER PEOPLE'S countries that get blasted to smithereens.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem with the right-wing: they just don't get the fact that not everyone thinks EXACTLY like they do--or, if they do dimly understand this, they brand it "enemy" and try to blast it to bits. Or ship it off to Guantanamo. Like I'm sure they'd do to Pax if he was in their jurisdiction.

Fuck them.

Abraham's Home Movie

Every ten years or so...

Some may have guessed from the previous post that I wasn't just watching C-SPAN last night. Yeah, I gave more attention than I should have to both the ABC and PBS specials last night marking the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.

These days, I'm pretty skeptical regarding any sort of conspiricy--full disclosure: I've read Case Closed, as well as a bunch of conspiracy books years ago, my parents bought a copy of the Warren Commission's summary (one volume, not the 26 volume full report) and I've browsed around the various websites...

I do this for several reasons: One, when I was a kid, the Kennedy myth was in full force. Hell, one of the first books I ever read was a children's book about the 35th president. I had been born not long after the assassination, and learned to read during the era of Nixon and Watergate (no lie: when I was ten, I read All the President's Men, and pretty much got the gist of it--even the reference to Deep Throat, but, no it was many years later before I saw that movie). I recall well the reopening of the investigation by the House Assassination Committee, and at the time agreed with their findings--which suggested a conspiracy.

Of course, by this time, Kennedy's legacy had been tarnished somewhat by allegations/revelations regarding his sex life, his health, and so on. Some of this was, in my opinion, inspired by Watergate--Nixon's defenders wanted to salvage their man's reputation, and did so by attacking JFK. So there were "shocking" revelations about lurid scenes in JFK's White House (my personal favorite is the story of Kennedy smoking pot--three joints, if I remember--and frolicking around with one of the young interns--remind you of anyone?).

Kennedy the politician, I learned, was a disappointment: he was largely ineffective as President, providing merely tepid support for the emerging civil rights movement, he was extremely hawkish on defense (he campaigned on a lie: that the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union militarily, when the opposite was true), and he was dead set, no pun intended, on killing Fidel Castro. Add to this the fact that Kennedy massively increased our involvement in Vietnam, AND his embrace of supply side economics (oddly, after going out of their way to shoot down JFK's star, Republicans justified their own dalliance with the Laffer curve by citing Kennedy's tax cut--ironic), and I became much less impressed with the man. It seemed as if it was his image--confident, handsome, with a glamorous wife and children, and, of course, his horrible death, that became his measure.

I also find it disturbing that Kennedy was never called to task for his wholehearted support for Joe McCarthy. Nixon's defenders might have a point with this one.

These days, as I get older still, I can grudgingly accept that JFK handled the Cuban Missile Crisis fairly well--hell, his Cabinet was ready to start World War III--thank heavens he and his brother nixed THAT (RFK, it turns out, delivered an impassioned speech AGAINST PREEMPTIVE INVASION of Cuba on principles of international law--maybe Richard Perle should be forced to read the transcript). I better understand his reasons for being so lukewarm on civil rights (Johnson, as a Southerner, could get away with this, even as he correctly forecast Republican adoption of "The Southern Strategy," i.e. a wink-wink, nudge-nudge appeal to racism as a means of increasing their support in Dixie), and yeah, I also recognize his intelligence in understanding the essence of the Presidency as imagery. Kennedy knew how to use the media in a visceral sense--something no successor, even Reagan, has been able to do (Reagan ALWAYS relied on his image handlers, while Kennedy seemed to KNOW how to play the press like a violin).

By the way, the ABC program was better than PBS's, surprisingly. I thought PBS gave a little too much credibility to some true wacko conspiricy theorists, while Jennings did a nice job debunking Oliver Stone's movie (although pawning off the Zapruder film as a scene from JFK was a little much--Costner as Garrison, the fatal shot replayed 5 or 6 times--I had to turn away for a second). Jennings also pointed out something I've only seen written about by Al Cockburn from an old Nation column: In September of 1963, Fidel Castro gave a long interview to the western press where he alluded to the NUMEROUS attempts on his own life, and warned that the other shoe could fall. This story ran in the New Orleans paper, where it was VERY likely read by Lee Oswald, who at that time was trying to distinguish himself as a revolutionary communist and pro-Castro organizer. This may well have planted the seed in his mind, and when by tragic misfortune the motorcade route passed right in front of the building where Oswald worked, history was forever re-written.

For the record: those positing a CIA/Shadow Government/Lyndon Johnson conspiracy are full of it, if you ask me. In spite of the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy was their guy--enamored of Special Forces-type clandestine operations, as true a blue-blood as an Irish Catholic could be, with certifiable movie star looks and charm: no, there's no way they'd off one of their own. As for the mafia, sure, there was motive--Robert Kennedy went after them like an attck dog, in spite of their collaboration on Castro--but that's the problem. If the mafia can't get Castro, what makes anyone think they could get JFK?

In closing, I'd also like to note that I watch these programs for the physical records they provide of a moment in time. There is LOTS of news footage, ranging from high quality 16 mm movie film, to the relatively primitive black and white television pictures, although, surprisingly, none of the assassination itself. Instead, we have the ultimate cinema verite--home movies taken by otherwise anonymous people like Abraham Zapruder, who suddenly found themselves forever associated with the event. This is both mundane and amazing: home movies as American History.

Seeing the low-resolution black and white television footage (video tape had just come into common use--indeed, the murder of Oswald by Jack Ruby was only broadcast live by NBC, although the replay was shown over and over on the other networks), along with the early 1960's automobiles, clothes, street scenes, and so on, is fascinating. This and the measure of time as it reflects upon myself and my opinions of the event (as I have no personal recollection) make marking the anniversary of the tragedy as much a measure of my own changes as anything, while simultaneously providing a way to peer back in time, as it were.

In the end, I have some opinions regarding how things might be different had Kennedy not been killed--some of these differences might have been for the better, some for the worse--but speculation is for conversation at a bar, not for this web log. And, as it stands, there are more pressing issues out in the world. Still, the Kennedy assassination is one of history's time capsules, and ten years from now I'll probably watch the specials yet again....
I'll never forget where I was when I saw the statue fall.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

More Bad News on the Terror Front

'"They don't have today the capacity to attack the World [Trade Center] towers as they did on the 11th of September, 2001," he said. "That capacity they don't have, that has been destroyed."

"But they do have the capacity to hit a synagogue in Istanbul, or to hit a hotel in Bali, or in Jakarta, as we have seen."

The report also predicted al Qaeda would continue to function in a decentralized manner, "with 30 or 40 organizations throughout the world and they will be focusing on what they call soft targets, not the hard targets," Munoz said'


I'm sure the John Birchers and the wingnuts will have a field day with the source--the United Nations, aka the Satanic Organization that Dares Threaten the hegemony of the always benevolent United States (so benevolent that we supported the Shah of Iran for roughly 30 years, Saddam for at least 10, if not 20, the House of Saud since they managed to bring the Arabian Peninsula under their control, etc. etc. ad nauseum). But it is worth considering: if Al Qaeda is able to consider biological and/or chemical weapons, if they've morphed to the point where, while they can't slam airplanes into buildings (thank the supreme being)--BUT CAN hit hotels, synagogues, hotels, and similar targets--doesn't that mean the War on Terror isn't exactly going to plan? I mean, the idea is to STOP this stuff, right?

Maybe Tom DeLay is anxious to get on with Armageddon already, but I'd like to think most folks want to leave the world more or less intact for their children and grandchildren--and all future generations. What's the line? Fighting for peace is like fucking for virginity? Yeah, that's it.

The strategy, the rare moments when it looks like Team Bush actually HAS a strategy, seems to be "we'll liberate 'em even if we have to kill 'em all to do so." Damn.

Of course, this might explain the presence of the Brits in the coalition: "The British Government has learned...that we had to destroy the city to save it."

"By putting Iraq in play, they've opened up an entirely new front, one that sucks up people and resources at an alarming rate, but yields absolutely no offsetting advantages in the struggle against jihadism. It's become the 21st century version of Gallipoli -- at best, a bloody stalemate; at worst, a disastrous strategic defeat."


Billmon at The Whiskey Bar not only hit the nail on the head, he hammered it in with one blow.

Full disclosure: I sent an email to Joshua Marshall with much the same position a few weeks ago. Of course, Marshall has much more important things to do than reply to a complete unknown like myself, but I take some pride in both recognizing the situation AND trying to add my point of view to the public debate. The fact is that even a stalemate is a defeat for the Anglo-American alliance: besides costing an ever increasing amount in lives and money, a stalemate means that the mightiest military force the earth has ever seen can be defeated by a very small force of guerillas--if the latter has a supportive or even simply a passive population they can blend into when not actively engaged with the enemy.

I forget the link, although I think it was on the PBS website a few weeks back--(yeah, it was on PBS, and here is the link)--T.E. Lawrence managed to do remarkable things in the Middle East by relying on unconventional methods throughout the First World War. Was Lawrence racist? Probably--go to the site and judge for yourself. But he learned the terrain AND the people, and by doing so he scored spectacular successes against the Ottoman Empire, while Churchill's doomed plan at Gallipoli was an utter failure.

Meanwhile, Bush is proving himself incapable of staying on message (link also courtesy of Billmon). No wonder they won't let him out of his glass box when he's in the US. My favorite line in the article is this:

"His comment appeared to take top aides by surprise. As the president spoke, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice glanced pointedly toward the press corps assembled inside Britain's foreign office as if to suggest that there might be some clarification coming."

Some clarification coming. This reminds me of something from the old Hunter Thompson book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail . I'll be honest: I think Thompson lost his mojo years ago--probably dropped it down the sewer drain by accident following yet another night of binge [name your toxin(s) here]. Hell, I saw the guy speak at Tulane many years ago and thought he'd lost it (the fact that it was a Q and A format and the idiot Tulane students couldn't think of anything better to ask than Doonesbury questions didn't help). But anyway...

My point was about something Thompson wrote in regards to campaign managers--this was before the term "spin doctor" had become fasionable, but the description was dead on. He used Sodomy Laws as the example--I believe it went something like: The Campaign Manager job is to ensure that the message gets out. If, say, the candidate decides that Sodomy Laws should be repealed, then the Campaign Manager will go out of his way to insist that, indeed, the Sodomy Laws MUST be repealed, and this is of utmost concern. If, however, they discover that the public isn't exactly buying into this, it's the Manager's duty to insist that, in fact, the candidate hadn't actually called for the repeal of Sodomy Laws, but of Sodomy itself.

So, that's what we'll be seeing from Dubya's staff, as soon as he's safely placed back in his box. Meanwhile, the more reports I see about the bombing in Istanbul, the worse it seems. The War on Terror is bin Laden's wet dream, but the US public has gone along like we're dancing on a string. At least the British public had decided to they've had enough.
This is Your Wake Up Call

More bombings in Istanbul. Yesterday in a post I noted that Iraq seems on the verge of civil war. The latest bombings in Turkey almost make that assessment sound optimistic.

The level of density in the Bush Administration could make solid lead ingots float. The only surprising thing is the knee-jerk support that Tony Blair has given as junior partner in the enterprise.

I've never really liked Blair all that much--his reputation is sort of a Clinton lite, as if that could even be possible. I will give Blair some credit, though: at least once a week, he's forced to at least practice some basic elocution skills and show a degree of quick thinking during Prime Minister's Questions (shown on C-SPAN on Sunday evenings). Sure, it's not entirely candid--most of the questions are known in advance, particularly those put forth by the ruling party--but I seriously doubt George W. Bush could stand even thirty seconds of this without his head exploding. But I digress...

Right now, considering how the war is going in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the round of explosions in Turkey, you have to wonder if bin Laden somehow has managed to construct effigies of Bush/his neo-con advisors/Blair, and has been poking them with pins, whispering in their ears, and pushing his own sick agenda for the region. Because our policy has become Osama's dream situation. Large numbers of US troops in the region, anarchy in Iraq, anarchy in Afghanistan, terrorism in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and, for those with short memories, Indonesia (remember the Bali bombing). Osama's Jihad, courtesy of the mule headed Administration of George W. Bush.

Well, he'll reply, at least we're doing SOMETHING--and, of course, we had to DO SOMETHING after September 11th. We had to take the war to the trrists. Excuse me? The Iraqi resistance is IRAQI--the terrorists are multinational and multiethnic--the latter uses a collective if demented interpretation of scripture/history to wage a bloody struggle against both the West and secular institutions in the Middle and Far East (again, for those who might not understand the reference to the Far East--this means INDONESIA--and the Phillipines, although we need to be careful, because religious fundamentalism could well spread BEYOND the major hot spots).

Fighting a conventional war against an enemy of this kind is ridiculous. To use a well worn cliche, it's like trying to swat a fly with a sledge-hammer. Of course, you COULD use an alternative conventional strategy--genocide. But I think Hitler and Stalin made use of this method roughly 60 years ago and failed. I also think that civilized people are rightly horrified by policies of genocide--duh.

The fact is, to fight against an unconventional enemy like international fundamentalist terrorism, you have to adopt different tactics. And the first thing you need is genuine, reliable INTELLIGENCE. Well, yeah, that also means plain old smarts, which Bush is obviously lacking, but I also mean you need pretty daring/brave folks who can infiltrate terrorist cells, identify genuine leaders, alert civil authorities BEFORE terrorists are able to act, and so on. Guess what that means--yeah, that's right: you've got to work with locals in the regions where sympathy for terrorists is high. You've got to provide a positive example of why fundamentalist terrorism should be opposed. This means respect for and understanding of customs, practices, and habits of a particular region. It means listening and being patient. It means, most of all, demonstrating a basic concern--something soldiers are neither trained to do, nor should be expected to do. We need, instead, to work with local individuals and groups to identify and deal with terrorists via the criminal justice system. That's our ONLY chance.

I'd go on, but already I've been noticing system issues on this computer, so I'm hoping this will just post, damnit, then it will be time for a reboot. Windows--the George W. Bush of Operating Systems....
War Criminal

Richard Perle alias Prince of Darkness, distinguishing characteristics: Unbelievably condescending atttude towards the general public, receding hairline, prone to hyperbole when discussing global issues, has known conflicts of interest arising from his position on the Defense Policy Board while also serving in similar capacity for a private companies bidding on government contracts.

While not likely to be armed, Mr. Perle is extremely dangerous. Do not attempt to aprehend this criminal yourself, but neither can you rely on normal authorities to do so.

Known associates: George W. Bush (alias Dubya), Donald Rumsfeld, Richard "Dick" Cheney, Elliot "I-got-off-on-a-technicality" Abrams, John Poindexter (alias The Admiral), Condelezza "Condi" Rice, and numerous other co-conspirators.

While there is unfortunately no reward for his apprehension, you can help repair the damage he has caused his country by VOTING OUT GEORGE W. BUSH next November.
CSPAN is, as usual, an endurance contest: hours upon hours of tedium, then they come up with something interesting. In this case, it's a reference to this series from The Mirror. Reporter Ryan Parry went undercover as a footman for a few months, and has this to report.

Now, I hope that there won't be a mass, uh, sacking is the Brit term, I think, of footmen/servants who may have padded their resumes just a bit, but it is interesting to note that for all of the paranoia surrounding security these days, an investigative journalist used just about the oldest ruse in the book to penetrate the inner circle, as it were: he lied and got away with it.

The fact is that, in spite of all the "measures" we take on security, society's main protection will ALWAYS be that, in the end, the vast majority of citizens see the benefits of it, and choose not to engage in criminal acts, terrorism, or whatnot. Once you lose a critical number of people, hell will break loose.

Like in Iraq.

Speaking of which, I'm glad that Billmon's sabbatical still allows for the occasional post. More hearts and minds stuff. Unbelievable.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Joshua Marshall has been posting of late regarding a Weekly Standard piece on the relationship between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda. You can read the Standard's story here. This is the latest rebuttal from Marshall's website and here is an article of his from The Hill.

In a nutshell, The Weekly Standard's article sets down a number of points which allegedly prove a link between Hussein and Al-Qaeda. Marshall (and others) point out that their "evidence" consists of recycled charges that made the rounds anywhere from months to years ago. The fact that Douglas Feith is the name most closely associated with the memo doesn't help either. Feith is about as objective as Ahmed Chalabi in this regard.

Meanwhile, it's starting to look more and more like civil war in Iraq. Is this what Bush means when he says the Iraqi people are better off?

Big Brother

I don't know what's more frightening: the speech itself or the picture CNN is running. Bush is using a classic straw-man argument, the "you're either with us or you're a Saddam lover" spiel that a third grader could see through.

The fact is that many Iraqis are worse off under US rule. First, those who are dead. Second, those who are now subject to having their homes invaded by the occupying forces. Funny, but these raids often result in the confiscation of guns, which are in abundance in Iraq, but I've yet to see the NRA condemn this.

And no, the world is NOT better off when our men and women in uniform are killed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Meet the New Boss:

Interesting article from The Independent (UK) on how we're winning hearts and minds. Click here.

Short Version: It's working so well in The West Bank and in Gaza...why not try it in Iraq?

Between this and what I saw on Nightline yesterday evening, I'd say Operation Alienate the Crap Out of Anyone Who Might Remotely Want to Help Us With the Occupation is a resounding success.

What's next? Strategic Hamlets? Free fire regions? The rebirth of Tiger Force?

One thing is certain: History will judge G.W. Bush harshly. In fact, with enough time, he will be considered in the same vein as Saddam Hussein. They BOTH managed to wreck Iraq but good. Additionally, Bush managed to turn the rubble that was Afghanistan into gravel, while thoughtfully allowing bin Laden and Mullah Omar safe passage to wherever fundamentalist religious wackos go to rest in The Tribal Belt.

Way to go, G.W. I think you might have earned a unanimous selection as receipient of the Nobel War Prize.

A couple of observations:
First, it seems like people drive WORSE in the rain down here for some reason. I'm still trying to figure this one out. You'd think this would be a pretty simple matter of everyday physics: water on the roads means less friction between the tire and asphalt/concrete. Compensate by slowing down just a bit. But apparently folks here in BR take the opposite view, maybe something like this: It's raining, everybody else is taking precautions, so it'll be ok to speed up a bit. And everyone adopts this state of mind, so now it's demolition derby for the morning rush. Damn.

Glimpsed three wrecks on the way into work. Glimpsed is the key word. Not that I like to rubberneck, but traffic in this otherwise minor league town is horrible, mostly because they've never given long-range thought to an overall plan. The bus system is a joke, the roads mostly suck, and we've got what I call an 80/30 mentality: folks either travel 30 miles an hour above the speed limit, or 20 below. Sort of like having NASCAR but with rikshaws thrown into the mix.

Between dodging right-turners-on-red (who've forgotten that you're supposed to wait for the intersection to clear) and light runners, I was able to focus a bit on an NPR story I heard about the transit strike in Los Angeles. In case anyone still thinks NPR is a progressive voice, I encourage them to find the story--I think it might be under a link to Morning Edition.

Haven't really followed the strike news, except to note that it apparently was the last straw that broke the web log back of Arthur Silber and I think Scoobie Davis as well, which is too bad. However, the radio story indicated health care benefits were a big reason for the impasse in negotiations between the transit union and the City. It always comes down to something like health care or pensions, it seems.

What I found interesting were the "person-on-the-street" interviews, all of whom expressed negative views towards the union--some knew about the health care issue--one person said something like (can't make a direct quote, alas, but this is the gist) well, most jobs in So Cal no longer provide this benefit, so why should the transit workers be so lucky? Another indirect quote was along the lines of yeah, the union says one thing, the City says another, and I think both sides are full of it.

The latter remark can be dismissed as that of a pissed off bus rider who is dramatically affected by the strike but doesn't know the basis of it, the former is much more serious: it indicates that the ongoing assault on--well, there's no other way to put it--the assault on compensation for working people is not only continuing apace, but at least some folks see nothing wrong with it.

This report was preceded by a story about how lovely the political situation is in Georgia--no, not Zell Miller country, but Eduard Shevardnadze's little fiefdom. Freedom for the Georgians-on-the-Black Sea means, these days: about 2-3 hours of electricity a day, while the old-age/Senior citizen pension of about $5 dollars a month hasn't been paid at all for almost half a year. Now, I couldn't really get all the story as I was forced to play dodge car in the rain, but I heard the translation of something an elderly woman said--something to the effect that she'd like to see President Shevardnadze buried alive. I guess our President would say that the good news is she's "free" to say that--yeah, free like the song Me and Bobbie McGee--nothing left to lose.

We in the United States are largely insulated from this sort of cynical treatment of the elderly, but we might want to think of the above stories as warning shots. And consider as well the fact that Ken Lay was MORE THAN WILLING TO GAMBLE the pension fund as a last ditch attempt to keep Enron afloat, even as he lobbied Dick and George to keep quiet while he robbed California blind by "gaming" the deregulated electrical market. Keep in mind that the "privatization" of Social Security is simply a scheme to bring billions, if not trillions, of dollars into a stock market that still might be over-valued. The idea that they care about the "little guy" is as absurd as saying Enron cared about their shareholders, many of whom were company employees. Kenny preached a message of faith to his minions, while he adopted an Enlightened Rationalist point of view when it came to his own portfolio. The big-shots at WorldCom did the same.

Remember, these examples are not anomalies--this is how those people behave. And sooner or later, if we allow it, we'll reach a point where we too will have the equivalent of a $5 dollar a month pension that sometimes goes unpaid for six months at a time, while a paid health care benefit for employees will be as lost as the local and inter-urban streecars that used to dot the landscape until GM bought up most of systems and converted them to buses back in the 30s and 40s.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Alas, I missed the return of Rush Limbaugh to the airwaves, but, hey, how much can a person take? Everytime I've tried to listen to his bloviating (and, apparently, drug-addled) rants I start shouting at my car-radio and begin driving like most of the folks in this town, i.e., like we're all trying out for at least the Busch Series, if not Winston Cup. But I digress...

Thanks to Atrios, I was able to get a real feel for the sad shell (caplet?) of a figure that once almighty Rush now projects...and from Eschaton's comments, I came across this gem--maybe a little off-topic, but dead on as a concept.

My own feeling about Rush were expressed recently as a comment over at BigLeftOutside. In summary, I think Limbaugh is roughly 500,001 on my list of compassion for victims of the drug war--the other 500,000 putting up with a lot more crap than anything El Rushbo had to deal with during his five weeks at the drug addict equivalent of a fat farm.

Take a number, Rush.

Announcement: Now offering compassion to...number 121,352...Alva Mae Groves. Link courtesy of The Razor Wire
Was just about to add a small post this morning when a fire drill got my immediate attention. I wish Johnson Controls was a little more specific as to the exact nature of their equipment. In summary: the alarm might not wake up the dead, but anyone short of vegetative coma state will GET THE HELL OUT of the building. It sounds like a plague of locusts, except that the volume is at ear splitting level. The only other time I've EVER had my head hurt that much was when I went to a Monster Truck rally at LSU's Parker Ag Center. Aside: no, I'm not a monster truck fanatic, but I just couldn't pass up the, uh, opportunity to witness a particular aspect of Southern Culture. I've managed to hit the dirt track as well, and one day I'd like to check out the drag strip. Call it getting in touch with my inner Bubba.

Meanwhile, I caught the news about Marine Girl being forced to shut down her own web log via Atrios and Mary. Mary has been doing some fantastic posting about the debacle in Iraq, and I've been frequently checking out her site.

Lately, I've also tried to head over to for a look at the conflict from the conservative/libertarian side. Justin Raimundo and I might not agree on much else, but damn, he's got a lock on what's happening in the Middle East, and is likewise unafraid to criticize Israeli policy vis-a-vis Palestinians. The latter point is particularly important, as it seems that ANY criticism of Israeli policy is taken these days as a sign of Anti-Semitism--which is a lie. As citizens of a free nation, we have the right and duty to stay informed about issues and express our opinions, particularly considering our close relationship with the state of Israel. Israel is presently the largest receipent of United States Foreign Aid (Iraq will soon take the title, leaving Israel as Number 2, but it's STILL a lot of money). And, yes, I feel like it's my business when it's my tax dollars.

Meanwhile, and I should have expected this, Ed Gillespie has adopted a similar tack in defending the Bush Administration's tragic follies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Crticisim of the President is unpatriotic, says Ed, and hate speech to boot. This from the party that brought you Willie Horton.

Meanwhile, the tragedy continues, even as we seek peace with honor. It's truly amazing to watch the incredibly hollow G.W. Bush come out against death and destruction in all forms--well, I guess with the exception of death and destruction on the other side. But I presume that dehumanizing the enemy is essential to all wars.

And, here's a story showing how the world is getting so much safer now that we're taking on the terrorists over there. I'm sleeping better already, especially considering what I saw on 60 Minutes last night--that just about anyone can wander in to many of the roughly 15,000 chemical facilites dotting the nation. I expect that a real terrorist would receive slightly more punishment than the $25 dollar fine levied against Steve Kroft for trespassing. But would a real terrorist give a damn about blowing himself to kingdom come, along with a tank of highly toxic chlorine gas, thereby making additional penalties, uh, irrevelant?

Considering where I live--at the northern apex of the chemical corridor--I'm glad that my approach to such things is a combination of rational thought mixed with a tinge of fatalism. In all seriousness, the region between Baton Rouge and New Orleans could well be a ticking time bomb, waiting for some deranged fanatic to light the fuse. I don't think the war in Iraq has done one bit in making this area safer. That said, I'm not out buying gas masks, tinfoil hats, or other such nonesense. If it happens, so be it--although here's certainly hoping it doesn't happen.

Final aside: it is far likelier that any chemical release down here would be the result of an industrial accident, but until it was confirmed as such, you'd almost certainly see a paranoia bordering on the absurd should something tragic happen. Maybe it's time to SECURE these sites.

And, lastly, off topic, but comforting: Kasparov did some serious byte-kicking yesterday in his chess match against X3D Fritz. Not that I'm a big chess fan, but I always prefer the human in these contests, partly because I've been frustrated myself against chess computers, and partly because I still prefer people, even as I wish I could summon the fire alarm (see above) at will when dealing with difficult people on the help desk.