Saturday, April 03, 2004

Two From The Angry Arab News Service

The Guardian UK provides some insight on the views of even those Iraqis who supported the invasion:

'Do you have any rooms?" we ask the hotelier. She looks us over, dwelling on my travel partner's bald, white head.
"No," she replies.

We try not to notice that there are 60 room keys in pigeonholes behind her desk - the place is empty...

We return to our current hotel - the one we want to leave because there are bets on when it is going to get hit - and flick on the TV: the BBC is showing footage of Richard Clarke's testimony before the September 11 commission, and a couple of pundits are arguing about whether invading Iraq has made America safer.

They should try finding a hotel room in this city, where the US occupation has unleashed a wave of anti-American rage so intense that it now extends not only to US troops, occupation officials and their contractors but also to foreign journalists, aid workers, their translators and pretty much anyone else associated with the Americans. Which is why we couldn't begrudge the hotelier her decision: if you want to survive in Iraq, it's wise to stay the hell away from people who look like us. (We thought about explaining that we were Canadians, but all the American reporters are sporting the maple leaf - that is, when they aren't trying to disappear behind their newly purchased headscarves.)

And, on the domestic front, Homeland Security takes the paranoid approach:

Seattle -- Halted en route to a West Coast lecture tour, Ian McEwan, an acclaimed British novelist who lunched last fall with first lady Laura Bush, was denied entry into the United States for 36 hours this week.

Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.

Relative Morality

Nathan Newman really makes the point. Thanks to NakedFurniture for the link.
In Iraq

Shiite Militia Marches in Iraq to Back Cleric Critical of U.S. Reuters reports a huge demonstration against the occupation in Baghdad. Shi'ia cleric Sadr will be a major power broker, along with Sistani. Does anyone recall the administration saying that our policy in Iraq would be to ultimately lay the groundwork for an Islamic state? I don't think so.

And, given the security situation, how can anyone believe that reconstruction can take place? Contracts let for project are little more than sop for the corporations whose former officials occupy places in the Executive Branch. While on that subject, the killings of the four private security officials in Fallujah underscore a troubling trend that both Kos and Steve Gilliard have commented on: no one like to see people being killed--and, as for me, Iraqi deaths are as troubling as US deaths--but these contracted former military officers are basically in a situation that is no different being a mercenary. With salaries of up to $1,000 a day, they make more in 24 hours than many regular soldiers earn in a month. It is simply unfair to order regular soldiers to place themselves in such a dangerous situation when their compensation is so poor. For that matter, why are the privateers there in the first place? It is up to the United States to provide security as an occupying force, and it should be provided by regular troops. Privitization of military is simply unacceptable.

Whether or not Bush is re-elected, Iraq will be his downfall.
More Terror

Blast Kills One as Spanish Seek Suspects. No way can the war policy be seen as reducing the tensions.
More From the Post

Colin Powell fesses up on the WMD canard. Meanwhile, another article indicates a big drop in public opinion regarding Bush's so-called "compassion."

Regarding Powell: if the administration can't get their intelligence data straight, what makes anyone think they'll do the same with science? As for Bush's poll numbers dropping, well, duh. Waging needless war abroad while doing nothing to allievate unemployment (yesterday's job numbers notwithstanding--he's still down by a million, eight hundred thousand)--don't mix with a compassionate theme. Cynical power grabs by a pResident whose election was dubious at best will eventually be seen by the electorate for what it is.
Bush to Scientists: Fuck Off

This Washington Post article shows that even science is not immune from the sleazy politics played by the administration. John Marburger released what is supposed to be a line by line refutation of a report issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists back in February. The Post's report makes it clear that the supposed refuation is just more hot air and lame opinion from the White House.

As long as government funds scientific research there will be politics. However, when a clear consensus emerges in the scientific community, it is imperative that research dollars go to fund projects that reflect this consensus. Bush policies, in contrast, fail in this regard. The most egregious example is probably their position on global warming. It is clear, based on the data, that global temperatures are rising. Whether or not this is a natural phenomenon or the result of human impact might be debatable, but the data doesn't lie. But Bush denies global warming, period.

Another example of politics trumping science is the EPA report on conditions at ground zero following the September 11th attacks. Common Dreams notes that the Bush administration made announcements about air quality while lacking adequate data, and ignored hazardous conditions at the site, potentially exposing folks like the rescue and recovery team to things like asbestos.

As someone who believes strongly in scientific principles, this sort of stuff should be reason alone to fire the pResident and put someone else--anyone else--in the office. But with this administration, it is merely ANOTHER reason, besides his disasterous domestic and foreign policies, to give it the boot.

Friday, April 02, 2004

Six Double Five, Three Two One, Do You See That Line? That Means, Your Feet Should Be ON THE OTHER SIDE OF IT!

OK, so it isn't quite that bad. But it certainly tell you something about the Ashcroft-like mindset of the people running things here when you see this:Guardian Unlimited-U.S. Fingerprinting Plans Dismays Some.

If one wants to contort logic into the shape of a pretzel, I suppose this makes some degree of sense: after all, we've been forcing the, uh, less pasty skinned to submit a fingerprint sample for some time now. But perhaps a MORE logical trend would be to gradually REMOVE the countries where non-pasty skinned people predominate, once we've determined that it's paranoia that caused us to fingerprint in the first place.

By Bush logic, though, everyone is a potential criminal. Which is a perfect 180 degrees removed from what the United States once stood for. About the only positive spin you can put on this is that they're certainly going all out in the attempt to universally piss off the planet.

Civilization will ALWAYS have risks--they are inherent once you make the great leap from clan to tribe to city. That doesn't mean you have to give up on preventing terrorist attacks: Spain proved today that not every attack succeeds, as did the US when agents foiled the Millenium Plot. Investigation and law enforcement, though, have plenty of tools at their disposal--without the Patriot Act--to provide PLENTY of protection, provided we don't have an administration that has their heads up their collective asses and missile defense envy (an odd thing to have, since NO ONE ELSE HAS missile defense, but hey, it's not like these folks are the sharpest knives in the drawer. Just the rustiest).

These trends are part and parcel to the REAL isolationism that Bush pretends he's against, when, in reality, he's got us so far out on a limb that gravity alone might cause it to snap, unless Rove can somehow get the gasoline he needs to run his chainsaw.
Selective Justice System

I've posted previously regarding Captain James Yee, the chaplain at Guantanamo who was needlessly put through the ringer by overzealous military prosuecutors: initially charged with espionage (a capital offense), he was subjected instead to the humiliation of having his private life exposed needlessly (the charges eventually became adultery and possession of pornography. How many others in the military would like their computers and personal lives examined in such a way?). Here's a follow up that shows how justice, at least in the military, has numerous shades:

In February 2004...Col. Jack Farr an intelligence officer [was] arrested on November 29, 2003 and charged with an offense similar to Captain Yee's...[Farr] was charged with "wrongfully transporting classified material without the proper security container on or around Oct. 11" and lying to investigators.

Col. Farr was not placed in solitary confinement. According to an Associated Press report he was permitted to continue on duty while his case was being investigated...

Col. Farr was Caucasian and Captain Yee was Chinese. Captain Yee's father said it for him: "How much have you heard about Col. Farr's case? What's the story on him? Col. Jack Farr is Caucasian and not a Muslim. James is Chinese and a Muslim. This is ethnic and religious profiling."

He may be right.

Late in the day on Friday, March 19, 2004, so as not to attract to much media attention, all charges against Capt. Yee were dropped. Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller said the case was being dropped because of "national security concerns that would arise from the release of the evidence" if the case went forward. Col. Bill Costello, a spokesman for the Southern Command said dropping the charges "seemed to be the prudent way to proceed."

I suppose the wingnuts, in the spirit of supporting the troops, will say something like "he knew what he was getting into when he enlisted."

Upping the Ante

Reuters and others report a bomb was found on high speed rail tracks near Toledo, Spain today.

More "success" in the war on terror, I guess. The good news is at least they found the bomb before it could be detonated; the bad news, of course, is that such threats will certainly be part of the landscape as long as the "war on terror" involves invasion and occupation of Middle Eastern countries. Spain--and, by extension, Europe--will continue to be targets for these deranged individuals, given the proximity to the Middle East (relative to the US) and North Africa. Spain also provides an inviting target based on the history of Arab control over the southern portion of the country.

Here's a question: Why the hell do we want to occupy the Middle East anyway? It's not like we need the lebensraum, nor do we have an insatiable taste for dates and raisins. Does it have something to do with petroleum? Goddamn it, if your wet dreams are loaded with Persian Perrier, BUY THE STUFF. Who the hell else will they sell it to?

As for "freedom and democracy," please don't make me laugh: our closest allies in the region that are majority Arab--Saudi Arabia and Kuwait--are about as democratic as Russia was under the tsars of the 19th century. The leader of our newest ally--Uzbekistan--is noted for boiling people alive, while the best we can say regarding the occupation right now is that we haven't killed as many as Saddam--yet--even though some folks are ready to nuke Fallujah, or any other city, if that's what it takes to "free" the Iraqi people.

I think people concerned about "democracy" here in the US might just want to take a look at democracy right here in the US. Does anyone seriously believe that States like Louisiana, Texas, New York, Rhode Island, Illinois--for that matter, just about ANY State--can offer themselves as examples of "clean" government? Add to this, that, outside elected positions, anyone with an inkling of understanding of how society works here in the US knows that some citizens are a little more equal than others (e.g. bluebloods, old money--hell, even O.J. was able to join the group, although he had to take a seat in the back). Clean up the mess in your own back yard before you start hollering at the folks who don't even live in the neighborhood.

As long as we occupy Iraq, bin Laden and his minions will simultaneously thank Allah and engage in acts of hostility--both in the occupied land, and throughout the world. For every daisy cutter bomb we drop--and, like it or not, hearts and minds aren't won when they're blasted to bits--they will counter with suicide bombers, IED's, possibly dirty bombs (because we won't fund efforts to buy and dispose of radioactive junk in places like the old Soviet Union), or other "low-tech" implements, up to the point where, as I've noted before, Armageddon becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. THIS PLAYS INTO BIN LADEN'S SCHEME, for chrissakes (no pun intended).

In the end, what we need to do is first, lower our profile in the region. Second, it's time for Israel to pay us back for all the aid we provide: negotiate a genuine peace with the Palestinians, based on UN 242. Finally, we need to support and work with genuine residents in the area, not the charlatan Chalabi--because the ONLY fight that can be won will be the battle of ideas between those for whom Islam is an expression of piety, not a call to arms, and the lunatics like bin Laden. It's THEIR fight, not ours. Sure, we can offer some support. But it is our presence as OUTSIDERS that pisses them off.

Remember when John Edwards told off Howard Dean after the latter made his remark about Confederate Flag Decals, Pickup Trucks, and the people who drive them? Multiply that by ten thousand, and that will help you understand what's going on in the Middle East.

Sugar Ration's Been Increased--Half Kilo a Month. Doubleplusgood, eh Smith?

Expect Team Bush to crow about the "glorious news" on the home front (can we expect the announcement of a "smashing victory" over the forces of East Asia in the near future? Not enough to end the war, but...

Anyway, buried at the end of this Reuters article is an interesting line:

In the only other jobless recovery since World War Two, which was the crawl back from the 1990-91 recession, it took 14 months for the number of employed to get back to where it stood when the recession ended.

This time it is 28 months, and counting.

Anyone who thinks this is such good news should start counting backwards from 1,800,000. That's the net number of job losses since Bush was selected president.
Admission by Omission

The New York Times reports that

The Bush administration had blocked thousands of pages of classified foreign policy and counterterrorism documents from former President Bill Clinton's White House files from being turned over to the panel's investigators.

That's a little odd. You'd think Bush would release everything from the Clinton era in order to prove that the man who "couldn't keep his pants on" was, uh, busy while the Al Qaeda termites were boring into the woodwork. Unless he was actually doing something like thwarting the Millenium Plot or...

It'll be interesting to see what's in the files--if they're ever released.
Lead Balloons from Bad Attitudes

Posted this yesterday: Shifty George: Swingin' In The Wind. It's short, and I hope he doesn't mind me citing the whole post:

Now, with the medieval awfulness of charred remains swinging from a bridge, is a good time to remember the immortal words of James Carville: “He lied to get us in, and he has no plan to get us out.”

Check out Bad Attitudes' main page here.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

That's as close as I'll get to any April Fools silliness. Here's the link, which, in contrast, is serious and spot on accurate: Turkey Tales by Arundhati Roy.

I don't cite Roy often enough. Thanks to San Deigo Moon for reference, and here's a small sample:

The tradition of `turkey pardoning' in the U.S. is a wonderful allegory for New Racism. Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation presents the U.S. President with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every year, in a show of ceremonial magnanimity, the President spares that particular bird (and eats another one). After receiving the presidential pardon, the Chosen One is sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia to live out its natural life. The rest of the 50 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving are slaughtered and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. ConAgra Foods, the company that has won the Presidential Turkey contract, says it trains the lucky birds to be sociable, to interact with dignitaries, school children and the press. (Soon they'll even speak English!)

That's how New Racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys — the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell, or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself) — are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park. The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of AIDS. Basically they're for the pot. But the Fortunate Fowls in Frying Pan Park are doing fine. Some of them even work for the IMF and the WTO — so who can accuse those organisations of being anti-turkey? Some serve as board members on the Turkey Choosing Committee — so who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it! Who can say the poor are anti-corporate globalisation? There's a stampede to get into Frying Pan Park. So what if most perish on the way?...

If all of us are indeed against Imperialism and against the project of neo-liberalism, then let's turn our gaze on Iraq . Iraq is the inevitable culmination of both. Plenty of anti-war activists have retreated in confusion since the capture of Saddam Hussein. Isn't the world better off without Saddam Hussein? they ask timidly.

Let's look this thing in the eye once and for all. To applaud the U.S. army's capture of Saddam Hussein and therefore, in retrospect, justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq is like deifying Jack the Ripper for disembowelling the Boston Strangler. And that — after a quarter century partnership in which the Ripping and Strangling was a joint enterprise. It's an in-house quarrel. They're business partners who fell out over a dirty deal. Jack's the CEO.

Rove Scholar

Sara Roy writes in the London Review of Books:

Recently, at Harvard University where I am based, a Jewish student, using an assumed (gentile) name, began posting anti-semitic statements on the weblog of the Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice, an anti-war, pro-Palestinian group on campus. The student, it turned out, is the secretary of Harvard Students for Israel - which dissociated itself from the incident - and had previously accused the HIPJ of being too tolerant of anti-semitism. He now went undercover as part of a self-appointed effort to monitor anti-semitism on campus. In one posting, for example, he referred to Israel as the 'AshkeNAZI state'. Incidents of this kind, which are becoming commonplace on American campuses, reflect a wider determination to monitor, report, defame and punish those individuals and institutions within academia whose views the right finds objectionable. The campaign is directed at area studies generally but the most virulent attacks are reserved for those of us in Middle Eastern studies whose ideas are considered anti-Israel, anti-semitic or anti-American.

Two things: I'm glad the Harvard Students for Israel disassociated themselves--I also hope they removed the individual in question from his position as secretary, and booted him from their organization. Second, I don't doubt for a second that it is the sleaze tactics at the top of the slagheap, i.e., Mr. Karl Rove--and his good buddy Dubya--who inspire this stuff. Really raises the level of discourse, no?
Fried Rice

The Black Commentator comments on her imminent demise.
More White Whine

CNN reports that the Bush campaign is letting the Franzia flow freely as they wail and gnash their teeth over the possibility that 527 groups might cut into their assumed superiority in the ad wars:

In a tactical twist, the Republican group asked the FEC to quickly consider its complaint, then dismiss it -- so the committee can move the dispute into federal court.

The reason? The FEC's process for handling such complaints makes it unlikely it would be resolved before the November election. In federal court, the GOP committee could ask a judge to stop the activities of the groups immediately...

Marc Racicot, chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign, conceded the request was unprecedented, but he said it was warranted under the circumstances.

What circumstances? That you're a bunch of shitmongers who get upset when others point out that your product stinks?
Judging Dubya

Storm Over 9/11 Leaves Swing Voters Less Certain Still is the headline of a New York Times article. Take a look.

The news isn't all positive for Democratic nominee John Kerry, but it's certainly not good for Bush. His "asset," as it is, supposedly his "sincerity" and "straight talking," is being questioned by a number of voters in a critical swing state--Ohio.

Of course, being here in the South, I know all about Bush's so-called "straight talkin:" it's just like you hear with a used car salesman. "What will it take to get you into this war RIGHT NOW? You see, I want you to have this war. You can drive it right off the lot today."

Kerry's problem, believe it or not, is an unfamiliarity with the voting public. That of course will change as his ads hit the airwaves, and as the campaign hits full stride. On the other hand, Bush is well known, and between the flip-flops, the outright lies, and his condescending attitude (did you see Little Lord Dubyaroy the other day in the press room? My god--and I'm not even religious...), he is alienating a number of independent minded people. At a certain point, the scales may well tip heavily against him.

Let's not kid anyone, though: there is a crypto-fascist community in the United States that supports the Crawford Cretin. I'll estimate the numbers at anywhere from about 30 to 40 percent of the voting public (emphasis on VOTING). This is a significant number of people, and they cannot be dissuaded by ANY EVIDENCE. Bush could be found guilty of selling drugs to and then molesting children, but his core support would continue to haul water, drink the Kool-Aid, or whatever metaphor you wish to use.

But these voters don't make a majority. Opposing this group is a roughly equal number of people who are strongly in favor of preserving democratic traditions--especially since this relatively educated group of people are aware of facts regarding 9/11, the war in Iraq, and, indeed the war on terror. They know that the course of action Bush is taking meant the administration was asleep at the wheel in 2001, that Iraq is a stupid diversion--it has cost dearly in lives, money, and the reputation of the United States, both in the Middle East and throughout the world--and that his economic policy of "charge it" will spell big trouble for our nation in the years to come.

So, the election will be decided by a group of swing voters. They don't necessarily follow current events, their political science education likely consists of a single high school civics course, and they are far more interested in matters that DON'T involve the issues of the day. Bush is relying on a reputation for straight talk (undeserved, of course, but...) to appeal to these voters, and the media has been hammering the theme home, at least up to now.

So, it's mildly reassuring to see some chinks in the GOP armor. Now Kerry, and other prominent Democrats--indeed, all the contenders, even the awful Joe Lieberman--need to put their foot in the door and start hammering home some points of their own. Kerry, for instance, need to make sure his vote on the $87 billion supplemental for Iraq is properly explained: he didn't vote against PAYING for the war, he voted CHARGING it on the credit card. The Democrats need to emphasize that good economic policy MEANS protecting high-level jobs--and that Bush is the isolationist, as his policies continue to alienate the REST OF THE WORLD. Finally, it's getting to be time for the Democrats to put together a platform. Don't worry about a shadow cabinet or VP nominee--put together a caucus of all major factions of the party, and come out with a well reasoned, easy to understand set of policies that will move the country forward. These would include universal health care, an energy policy that makes the US more energy independent, strong support for education at ALL LEVELS, and an environmental policy that isn't in bed with the petrochemical industry. On foreign policy, it is critical to emphasize the necessity for this country to work within a framework that is multilateral--and a connection needs to be made between this on a security level as well as on a business/economic level.

This election isn't going to be easy, unless something upsets the apple cart in a big way between now and November. The cynic in me is waiting for the October Surprise, but if by some miracle that doesn't happen, the article referenced above makes it clear that Dubya could well be scrambling come election day. National Security is the ONLY issue he's got, and if he's seen as vulnerable on this--it'll be bye-bye Bush.
Send Jim Bunning Some Email

Here's a link to a form that you can use. Notes From Ground Level (link via Atrios) explains why:

According to Senator Jim Bunning, his opponent this fall, who is the son of Italian immigrants, looks like Udai and Qusai Hussein. Ha, ha! What a funny joke! It's great because it combines two can't-miss themes: (1) if you oppose a Republican, you're more or less a supporter of the Hussein regime, and, even better, (2) racism.

Kentucky Zip Codes begin with "4"--I found one for Lexington: 40502 (There's a bunch of stuff you're suppsed to fill in on the form).

Yeah, it will be read, if at all, by some low level staffer. But if my little screed raised his or hers blood pressure by a point or two, good. That was the point.
Condi Care

Hand Wash Separately, or With Other Fine Delicates
Press as Needed--Can be Done in Private, or in Public Under Oath
Hang Out to Dry.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Brother, Can You Spare $28 Billion?

BBC NEWS reports that Hamid Karzai is requesting the most expensive detox since Rush Limbaugh checked into inpatient therapy:

President Hamid Karzai has called for more international help to fight drug production in Afghanistan.
Speaking at a major aid conference in Berlin, he said drugs were undermining the "very existence" of his country.

Afghanistan is the world's biggest producer of poppy-derived opium, which is used to make heroin.

The two-day Berlin conference, attended by officials from 50 countries, is considering fresh aid to Kabul - which is seeking $27.5bn over seven years.

OK, so it's only $27.5 billion dollars. What's a half billion between, uh, friends I guess. Of course, now that Iraq is receipent of $20 billion per annum of our largesse, I expect the US contribution might be a little on the slight side. Then again, since the security situation isn't, maybe they could divert some of the money until it's a little safer to drive on the streets in the Sunni triangle (and Mosul, and Basra, and...).

I wonder if Poppy Bush has any words to say about the 'success' in Afghanistan...
"So Tell Me, Jack, When Did You Develop This...Theory?"
"Actually, Mandrake, It was During the Physical Act of Love."

So Saddam Hussein 'may have been developing ability to produce WMD,' according to Charles A Duelfer, the new US chief weapons inspector in Iraq. I wonder if his name is pronounced "Dull-fer."

In other news, I MAY be developing the ability to seduce supermodels via telepathy. The sun MAY be developing an ability to rise in the west and set in the east (actually, that simply depends on whether or not you 'accept' that north is north, and south is south. If you disagree, the sun ALREADY is rising in the west). And pResident Bush MAY be developing a comprehensive plan to restore the world image of the United States AND a reasonable strategy (strategery?) to defeat Al Qaeda and associated organizations.

Wanna buy a bridge real cheap?
I Dunno--Maybe Ken Lay Needed the Money

Link via BadAttitudes: Jerome Doolittle hit the nail on the head and drove it home in one blow.

Did you know that Bush just turned down an IRS request for 80 more criminal investigators to block the flow of funds to Al Qaeda?

Not unless you happened to read a story tucked away on page C3 of today’s New York Times; it didn’t make the AP wire, or the news roundups on Google and Yahoo.

Yet it offers a truly fascinating glimpse into Bush’s Washington, where a GOP congress joins hands with a GOP White House to hide embarrassing truths from the American people. And Bush would have got away with it clean if a single Democratic congressman hadn’t been paying close enough attention to spot the pea under the shell.

I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied. This article is indicative of how Bush REALLY fights the war on terror--he doesn't. While his papa is out schmoozing the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, lamenting the fact that the press is missing the story about the "progress" in Iraq--so ably demonstrated today in Falluja and Mosul--George the Younger is busy making sure that financial oversight will be no obstacle to his pals. Why let a few pesky terrorists moving money around the planet get in the way of making sure the audit trail doesn't end up somewhere embarassing--like Crawford Texas or Jackson Hole Wyoming...
Greeted With Kisses and Flowers

5 G.I.s and 4 Contractors Are Killed in Separate Attacks

Funny that Zell Miller didn't say anything about "the terrorists" cackling over our ridiculous operation in Iraq, because they are--much more so than the 9/11 hearings. The arguments given for war in Iraq are nothing more than the collective analytical reasoning of the meduallus oblongatus of the pro-invasion crowd: well, we had to do SOMETHING.

Yeah, like, I don't know--maybe catch bin Laden, instead of giving up after a couple of months?

The reasoning behind the Iraq invasion is so damn flimsy that it makes a house of cards look like the Great Pyramid at Giza plateau. Shit, if the Bush team was a bunch of folks working for Orkin, their "termite protection plan" for your house would be to burn down the neighbor's house up the street--then argue that there was a "potential" for termite infestation there too.

Of course, razing a structure certainly will solve a termite problem, in a manner of speaking. Burn it to the ground. Look at the pretty flames. And don't think about where you're going to live, or the value of the property--because, if you do, that just means that you're siding with the termites...
Is He Zell T. Agnew or Spiro T. Miller?

I decided to stay in last night--easy enough. Monday I was out pretty late and paid the price. So I spent the evening channel surfing my lame cable package--nothing much, unless you're into religious stuff--so C-Span substituted for background music while I read the usual websites.

You know, if Zell Miller was in Louisiana, and began to holler about some sort of State issue with the kind of vitriol I saw last night, I'd immediately wonder who had photographs (and negatives) of Zell doing what. You could be certain that he'd violated the Louisiana Rule of Politics or something equally horrible.

Here's the transcript.

I'll admit cracking a smile when he claimed "the terrorists," who "were certainly listening to the hearings," were "smiling like mules eating briars." How will that translate into Arabic?

Zell was doing nothing so much as his best imitation of Richard Nixon's ultimate insurance policy, Spiro T. Agnew. Agnew was, if you can actually believe this, a meaner, darker version of the Trickster, and so appalling that I'm sure many of Nixon's enemies actually prayed for his good health, lest Agnew become the ultimate Accidency.

Agnew became the cultural values point person for Nixon, spewing about the press, the radiclibs, etc. etc., until the matter of his corruption came to light. He eventually pleaded "no contest" to charges of bribery, and faded from view, at least until Zell decided to resurrect his ghost for last night's speech.

I was a young child when Agnew, Nixon, and the rest of the crew walked the plank. I remember a lot of that stuff (yeah, we actually HAD television in those days, as well as newspapers), but a child's perspective isn't exactly extensive. However, it really seems as if the same kind of garbage is being recycled again, as the Bush administration looks more and more like Nixon redux (minus the fact that Dick was forced to accede to certain initiatives, which make him look relatively less conservative in retrospect). About the only difference is that the underlying (pun intended) issues involve the very structure of government. Even Nixon realized that lying and coverups were wrong. The process of government was still considered far too important for blowing away the rules, at least publicly. Bush and his team are gambling that the general public, having been through the wringer, are too concerned with daily life--paying the bills, trying to raise the kids if they have kids, etc. etc.--to worry about the government anymore. They're banking on ignorance, apathy, and acquiescence. And upwards of 30 to 40 percent of the electorate seems to be ready to allow the country to slide into corporate statism (used to be called fascism).

The good news is that 30 to 40 percent of the electorate is rightly appalled by this slide. This election cycle will determine where the remaining folks stand. Zell is praying they drink Bush's Kool-Aid: last night's 'oratory,' which is hardly the word but will have to do, was the exhortation to take a big gulp.

I just wonder what Bush has on Zell that makes him such an ardent disciple.

I posted below regarding the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to ignore the 4th Amendment to the Constitution--well, just some of the time, they say. It turns out that Timshel DID note this--I didn't see it at the time. Here's the link to his post and here's the Advocate's story.

And here's the 4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

The full text of the Constitution can be found here.

Maybe the clerks can pass the word about this neat new invention called the internet to the judges who sit on the court. All sorts of fun stuff can be found. Of course, most of them would immediately discover porn, and the wheels of justice would grind to a halt.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Chickenhawk Chicanery and Other Thoughts

It's been a little busy here at work, although I did get a chance to go over to the Capitol again today--but not to the observation deck.

I'm sure everyone who might be interested has noticed Condi's flip-flop on testifying before the 9/11 commission. TalkingPointsMemo has plenty of links, including Alberto Gonzales' haughty letter to the commission. The same letter indicates that Bush and Cheney will appear as a tag team, rather than individually--why am I not surprised? I guess Dick will add some gravitas to the event, as well as provide George with a palm to slap when he inevitably finds himself grasping at the ropes.

William S. Lind has a good article in Counterpunch that discusses the clash in Pakistan last week. It seems that it has all but faded from the media's radar screen, but the ramifications--a group of 'tribal' combatants managed to hold off the regular Pakistani Army--could well be the beginning of the end for Musharraf (aka Busharraf). The chances, unfortunately, are quite good that his replacement would be of the lunatic Islamic variety. How will this be spun by the war crowd?

Over in Britain, eight men were arrested in connection with a siezure of more than a half ton of ammonium nitrate, which would make one hell of a large bomb. I'm sure the right-wing nuts will deride this as "mere law enforcement" as opposed to the much more testosterone-laced military operations undertaken by Bush, but it also underscores the fact that war in Afghanistan and Iraq hasn't seemed to diminish the terrorist threat. In fact, just the opposite seems to be the case: terrorism is increasing.

The Island of Balta has several posts worth looking at. The top of the page links to a Washington Post article about a family who received a letter of condolence from George W. Bush--they lost a son in Iraq--and another letter of condolence from George W. Bush that is identical to the first. How kind--a form letter. But I understand how busy one gets when you're pretending to be president. All those fundraisers to attend...

Bush, by the way, decided to visit Appleton, Wisconsin today, home of his hero, Senator Joseph McCarthy. I'm sure Bill "killing-of-kittens-is-my-fetish" Frist will want to know all the details. In his speech, Bush demonstrated his inability to grasp his own budget and spending plans: he 'chided those who want to increase spending' without noting the irony of HIS OWN ballooning deficits and off-book supplemental financing of his wars.

Balta also links to a Detroit Free Press story showing just how Bush busts the budget. Boeing was selected for a military contract involving airborne tankers (planes that refuel other planes) even though they were outbid by AirBus. AirBus' plane was also more suited to the list of specifications than Boeing's--so, of course, the specifications were changed.

I believe the trend among the right is to allow the threat from terror to inflate to the point where the cold war mentality of an 'official enemy' once again becomes the dominant political paradigm. Once installed as the successor to the Evil Soviet Empire, the wild-eyed Islamic Fanatics will justify all sorts of desk-jockey employment for those who like a good, restaurant-cooked meal--and a pleasant home in the suburbs of DC and/or SoCal. Given the right wing indifference if not downright hostility towards the poor of all ethnicities (although that doesn't keep them from making the occasional racist remark) the fact that they've essentially midwifed the latest increase in terrorism is simply another way for them to say "fuck you" to the lower end of the economic ladder.

So Condi will now probably lie under oath, although the agreement that will put her at the witness table has no provisions for a second round--so it will become a 'he said, she said' clash between her and Richard Clarke. The Bob Novaks and Wolf Blitzer's, who must be the second most pathetic pieces of slime-mold shit to wind up on the planet (right ahead of Karl Rove), will wonder if Clarke is gay or racist, while Frist and Hastert seek to kick up enough dirt to taint the 9/11 hearings as "political," i.e., shady and corrupt. Meanwhile, the REAL corruption--the impoverishment of millions throughout the world while sloths in the defense contract industries work on adding an extra chin--continues unabated.

What a bunch of motherfuckers. In fact, I doubt too many of these clowns would have any problems with another terrorist attack on the US, if they thought it would improve their political position.
Oil of Allah

The Financial Times is reporting that OPEC is in general agreement to cut production by one million barrels a day. This will keep prices up, and affect the already anemic economic recovery here in the US.

The US does not import a lot of OPEC oil, but the spot markets will reflect the production cut. This can't be good news for Bush.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Accidents Will Happen

The Times reports that the U.S. Accepts Responsibility for Killing of 2 Iraqi Journalists. A lot of bloviating has come from some in the wingnut crowd who've suggested that the "Arab reporters" were somehow responsible for their fate. I hope this clears things up for them:

But the senior official acknowledged today that eight American soldiers had opened fire that night and that four to six bullets aimed at the speeding car hit the journalists, who were traveling in a sport utility vehicle about 100 meters behind the car.

"It's unfortunate but their vehicle happened to be in what we call the beaten zone," the senior military official said.

That's the first time I've heard the phrase "beaten zone." I'll have to search for that. As far as 100 meters--that's the two second rule and then some on all but the fastest of highways.

The article notes that American officials have indicated a willingness to meet the families of the slain journalists. I doubt they'll offer anything more than token compensation and perhaps an expression of regret, which at least is more than the average Iraqi gets.

But stories like this only underscore the fact that we're losing the battle for hearts and minds so quickly among Arabs, Middle Easterners, and Central Asians that it's going to make our heads spin. Add to this the decidedly icy relations vis-a-vis Europe, and it paints a bleak picture. God forbid, but another attack against the US could well be seen by the world in a much different light than September 11th.

And, like it or not, we still need the rest of the world to help us fight against terrorists.
We Don't Need No Stinking Warrent

WDSU reports "Police officers in Louisiana no longer need a search or arrest warrant to conduct a brief search of your home or business.

Leaders in law enforcement say it will keep officers safe, but others argue it's a privilege that could be abused.

The decision in United States v. Kelly Gould, No. 0230629cr0, was made March 24 by the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals."

I just took a look at Timshel's site to make sure I didn't miss his post, but I didn't see anything. Maybe I missed something though. AngryArab provided the link.

What I find frightening is that a search warrant, in this case, would have been almost a routine request. A witness claims that the defendant was threatening to kill people (hearsay, but maybe a lawyer can enlighten me as to whether hearsay counts when it comes to search warrants, as opposed to being thrown out during trial). The defendant, furthermore, is a convicted felon--technically, that shouldn't matter, but...
Third, it would be reasonable to conclude that the defendant would use a weapon to kill. Yes, some folks kill with their bare hands, but I'll bet most use guns or knives. Being a convicted felon, Gould is prohibited from owning a firearm here in Louisiana.

So why didn't they just wake up a judge--if it was late--and have him sign off on the damn piece of paper. If the judge is cranky about being awakened in the middle of the night--too goddamn bad. That's what he makes the big bucks for.
We Interrupt Our Usual Program

To bring you this: I've been looking over a special section in The New York Times, devoted to 100 years of subterranean transit. Yeah, it's the Times version of events--there are others--but for those of us who believe in choice, i.e., convenient, effective public transit should be an available option to everyone, not just those living in flagship cities, it's not a bad overview.

Interurban transit would likewise be nice. Yesterday, for peace of mind, I took a rental car down to New Iberia--my commute to work vehicle probably could have made it, but no sense in taking chances (these days the transmission occasionally decided to balk at using the overdrive gear). At least five times in a roughy 80 mile drive I witnessed complete stupidity in action--vehicles changing lanes without checking, vehicles going WAY too fast, or driving halfway on the shoulder, etc. And it was a nice day.

When it rains--like today--you can almost bet on the local news reporting a "chain reaction crash" somewhere in town--with even odds that there are severe injuries or deaths. But, I guess that's just the price of freedom, eh? Forty thousand deaths a year...
More on Freedom for the Iraqi People

Balta and Steve Gilliard both provide a link, so I'll add one of my own. Listen toReason, or at least read it if you have the time.
Freedom to Repress the Press

Another Times article this morning covers the closing of Al Hawza a paper "considered a mouthpiece for Moktada al-Sadr, a fiery young Shiite cleric and one of the most outspoken critics of the Americans."

The article is well worth reading, as it provides insight into a fundamental issue with the occupation: the failure of the United States to grasp the intricacies of Iraqi society. Neo-conservatives seem to think that Middle East societies will simply adopt--lock, stock, and barrel--the "western" model, and often accuse skeptics like myself of being racist, or at least condescending, when we suggest that this isn't necessarily the case.

The region we now call Iraq, which is a 20th century name coined by the British, has extensive experience with civic institutions, whether or not they are 'democratic' as we in the US define the term. History did not cease with Hussein, nor was it non-existent prior to his usurption of power. In the end, the people of the region will decide for themselve how they wish to be governed--an imposed 'democracy,' regardless of how noble the intent, will last about as long as South Vietnam, i.e., when the US troops are gone, it will fall apart.

I think what amazes me most about the situation in Iraq is the unbelievable level of naiivete among the right: they somehow think that the US government--which, by the way, is so representative of the people and responsive to their needs that HALF the public no longer even votes--but they think our government will of course 'fit like a gove' anywhere in the world. It's as if a social order has never existed in the conquered lands...

Which is a major reason why the occupation is failing so miserably. There are other reasons as well: initially, our force level was WAY too small, our 'operational intelligence' is either non-existant or WRONG (thanks for NOTHING, Chalabi), and many of the decisions made by the CPA have been plain stupid. But don't forget that we also have a fundamental lack of understanding of "how things get done" in the region. And this lack of understanding is pissing them off. Whether or not Saddam Hussein was the despot in chief, day-to-day existence for the people there involved customs and procedures of which we have no understanding at all. I doubt seriously that ANY person pushing for an invasion of Iraq in 2003 could tell you anything regarding Iraqi methods of handing civil disputes, probate and succession, marriage and divorce, specific rights of property holders, etc., not to mention anything about less formal methods of dispute resolution, i.e., whether this might have been handled in the mosque, or through established families, or any other method, be it fair or not. Without an understanding of these basic tenets of civil society, how can any occupier hope to gain the consent of the governed?

Long hard slog doesn't begin to describe what's happing in Iraq.

Our Ally

The New York Times reports "two suicide bombings, attacks on police and an explosion at an alleged terrorist bomb-making factory in Uzbekistan killed 19 people and injured 26." Initial reports out of the country blame Muslim extremists, possibly foreign, for the bombings.

Karimov's record in regards to human rights is, in a word, abysmal. Read an overview here and more specific instances of human rights abuses here. Also note that, according to the Times article, "Uzbekistan has been a strong supporter of U.S.-led campaign in Afghanistan, and American troops are using a military base at the southern city of Khanabad for operations."

In a "best-case" scenario--that is, assuming the government controlled media is telling the truth--is troubling. It means yet another front in the "war on terror." However, again from the Times article, "...there were suspicions of an official set-up. He said Interior Minister Zokijon Almatov had visited Chorsu personally on Thursday and that was ``the start of the whole thing'' and that police had been preparing a diversion for a while."

What's truly sad, though, is that Bush is so desperate for allies in his various wars that he'll resort to such a despot for help. It demonstrates clearly that human rights are of little concern to the United States in international affairs. I think the diplomatic expression for this type of behavior on our government's part is "two-faced."

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Getting the Point on Clarke

Beween the hysteria and smoke screens the right has been spitting out regarding Richard Clarke--the ridiculous charges launched by Bill the cat killer Frist (since retracted, at least in part. See TalkingPointsMemo for more), the question of whether or not he was ever "really a member of the fort," etc. etc., two conclusions can be drawn. First, the Bush team is capable of behavior equalled only by petulant little children. Second, as the Washington Post points out, they are desperately obscuring an important point: Clarke's major criticism regards the Bush beeline towards Iraq in the wake of the 9/11 attacks:

John F. Lehman, a Republican member of the 9/11 commission, put it bluntly to former counterterrorism chief Richard A. Clarke when he testified publicly last week: Why did his earlier, private testimony to the commission not include the harsh criticism leveled at President Bush in his book?

"There's a very good reason for that," Clarke replied. "In the 15 hours of testimony, no one asked me what I thought about the president's invasion of Iraq. And the reason I am strident in my criticism of the president of the United States is because by invading Iraq . . . the president of the United States has greatly undermined the war on terrorism."

Clarke, as befits his speciality, does not give the Clinton administration a free ride, as some suggest. On the contrary. What he DOES argue is that Bush diverted resources from the hunt for bin Laden in order to satisfy his craving for Saddam. He did this in spite of the fact that Iraq posed no threat. Now, we're stuck there, Iraq in it's present state is VERY MUCH A THREAT, and continues to cost us tremendously, in lives and money, while Al Qaeda has taken the time to regroup, as it were.

But 'regroup' is hardly the correct word. What's happening overseas is that independent cells, emboldened by each act of terror since 9/11, have taken their own initiatives. Bin Laden or al-Zawahri don't have to give the order. It is enough that they provide inspiration to the relatively small number of lunatics who, in spite of their numbers, can cause great damage, thanks to the easy availibility of weapons and explosives.

On Other Fronts

Donald Rumsfeld explained the finer minutiae regarding just why he felt no sense of responsibility for 9/11--it was a law enforcement issue, says Rummy--which mustn't exactly sound heroic or particularly noble to a group of four women (thanks to Steve Soto for the link) who almost by themselves are responsible for the fact that we're learning ANYTHING at all about the Bush policy of "leave bin Laden alone." For more on this, check out this very long but thorough timeline--also courtesy of Steve--which should poke a giant hole in the thesis that 9/11 was 'unavoidable,' which has been the Bush tack from the beginning.

This Eric Boehlert piece in Salon discusses the testimony of Sibel Edmonds, a Turkish American who worked as a translator for the FBI. It's worth watching the ad for non-subscribers. While she's prevented from discussing particulars, her general picture presents an administration that ignored very specific threats involving the use of airplanes as weapons by Al Qaeda. Pretty damning allegations.

Balta found this in The Independent UK: US and British tax dollars are, in part, financing an enormous contingent of private "security personnel," i.e., mercenaries, many from South Africa. In other words, our occupation is not able to provide the kind of security necessary to protect individuals involved in the reconstruction effort. It's also a handy way to downplay casuality numbers, as these private forces don't show up in the body count.

Scroll down a little on Balta's page and you'll find this:

Specifically, on April 30, 2001, CNN reported that the Bush Administration's release of the government's annual terrorism report contained a serious change: "there was no extensive mention of alleged terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden" as there had been in previous years. When asked why the Administration had reduced the focus, "a senior Bush State Department official told CNN the U.S. government made a mistake in focusing so much energy on bin Laden."

Further links are provided at the island.

One good bit of news comes out of Israel, where the country's chief prosecutor has recommended that Ariel Sharon be indicted for bribery. Maybe now we can add "common criminal" to "war criminal" when his name is brought up.

Last night I watched a replay of Bush's Radio and Television Correspondent's speech on C-Span. The look on his face when delivering his tasteless WMD "jokes" was priceless. He really doesn't get it. Between his joke about "hitting the trifecta," his crass remark of "bring em on," and this, I'd say that Bush has his three strikes. But he isn't out yet.

Signs of Bush's "success" in the war on terror include the new leader of Hamas calling Bush an "enemy of Muslims," while Thailand is now experiencing an upswing in Muslim terror. And, while not specifically linked to Islamic terror, the threat of renewed violence in Congo demonstrates clearly that there is a general breakdown in global order, no doubt helped by the fact that the UN is weaker than ever, thanks to our nose-thumbing at it.

The next few years will go a long way towards determining whether or not war will be considered the acceptable method of dealing with terror, or whether we adopt a fundamentally different strategy, which would involve attacking terrorists as opposed to countries. The latter method will require a level of understanding of the globe that Bush either doesn't have, or has rejected, namely, that NON-state terrorists are the threat, and conventional warfare is not a strategy that can deal with this threat. Other methods are needed. The Bush policy does little beyond fattening the already thick wallets of his friends in the fields of defense contracting and support services, and his oil buddies. This contributes NOTHING to the national security needs of the United States.

Finally: again, I'm running down to New Iberia to check up on my dad, who is still hospitalized. Maybe later this evening I'll have something to write, but the odds are even that this is the only post of the day.