Saturday, May 08, 2004


Adam Jones writing in Counterpunch, reminds us of another instance of prisoner abuse--the appalling instance in Afghanistan where several hundred POW's were allowed to suffocate in semi-trailers. Technically under the control of our Northern Alliance allies, the United States exercised control in the same sense that Israel was ultimately responsible for the massacres perpetrated by their Phalangist allies at Sabra and Shatila in 1982.

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it...
Methods and Madness

Also from Bad Attitudes, this is an article from The New York Times which counters the argument that prison abuse at Abu Ghraib is the work of a few miscreants. The Times notes that throughout the US prison system, one sees systematic abuse not at all unlike the conditions in Iraq. I wonder if Rush Limbaugh thinks that this is just another example of letting off some steam.
Picture Post

BAD ATTITUDES is daily reading for me. Jerome Doolittle has three excellent posts up thus far today--he writes:

Marc Simont, one of the country’s foremost illustrators of children’s a winner of the Caldecott Medal, the publishing industry’s highest prize for children’s books, along with numerous other honors.

As immigrants so often do, Marc has a clearer perception of what it means to be an American than many of us who were born here. And right now he fears that we are being led down a dangerous path that carries us farther and farther away from our highest and best ideals.

The sketch below makes that point. Bad Attitudes will be publishing more of Marc’s visual arguments as they come out of his studio. I hope that each picture will indeed be worth a thousand words, and that you will distribute them as widely as you can.

Friday, May 07, 2004


It's a few minutes before 9 o'clock and I just got back from the Kerry "Jambalaya Jamboree" over at the Governor's Mansion. I now own an autographed "The Real Deal" sign, and I even managed to direct some quick comments to the Senator as he made his way through the receiving line. Senator Kerry didn't respond to what I said, although he shook my hand and patted me on the shoulder. We're about the same height, so I was able to look him in the eye.

Given the limited time, I told him two things. First, echoing RudePundit's May 4th post (fair warning: subsequent posts are definitely NC-17), I told him to let the public know that Bush isn't merely dangerous--he's also incompetent. Then I followed with something that popped into my head, that the election is for President of the United States, not president of Harken Energy. That actually got a laugh from some of the folks I was pressed against, and if the Senator ever uses it, well--you heard it here first.

I also managed to speak to Governor Blanco. I told her that my mom was also a graduate of Mount Carmel Academy in New Iberia, and she recognized her maiden name right away. Then I thanked her for her speech. Blanco comes across as sincere, that's for sure.

But onto the event itself. I'm TERRIBLE at judging crowd size, but my rough estimate would be between five hundred and a thousand. And, you know what? In spite of the big range, it wouldn't surprise me if I was WAY OFF, so don't hold me on that. The overall mood was one of polite enthusiasm, and there was plenty of diversity--blacks, whites--I think I saw a few latinos as well--and the age range was everywhere from kids to college students to older folks. There were even a few that I'd say were in my own age range--uh, thirty, uh, something.

Also I ran into an old friend that I hadn't seen since just after moving back to the gret stet. That was fortunate--often I think about giving a call and checking in on said friend, but I'm sure everyone knows how that goes. We caught up on our respective recent histories before the speeches started, and agreed to try to stay in touch...hopefully. Good friends are good to have.

Besides Blanco and Kerry, State Senator and Mayoral candidate Kip Holden was out pressing the flesh, along with Chris John. Arthur Morel and John Kennedy were also in attendence, but I didn't see them. And, for some reason, Bob Odom was there--he almost fell down when he shook my hand.

For roughly an hour, entertainment was provided by, I think, the Southern Lab School Band, followed by Les Freres Moutons, a Lafayette cajun combo. Blanco was eventually introduced by someone I didn't recognize, and the general impression was that the intro lasted a little too long. Blanco made her points--Louisiana needs a President who will help out the working poor and middle-class families, a President who will ensure that health care is a priority, and, in an issue near and dear to all us residents of the gret stet, a President who will take steps to stop coastal erosion. Good. Then the Senator had his chance at the microphone.

Kerry spoke for about forty-five minutes, often interrupted by applause. He made his usual points--that Bush is not really conservative, but in fact is a dangerous radical (hence my own comment to him), and that he has a high degree of respect for John Breaux (who, among other things, took him to Mardi Gras many years ago). Timshel will have no use for this, but Kerry drew a big cheer when he congratulated LSU on their championship football season. I wonder what he's gonna say when he visits SoCal...

There were promises on deficit reduction, a rollback of Bush's rich men's tax cuts--coupled with a tax CUT for middle and lower income folk--and a promise that he'd never send troops off to fight for oil, drawing another big cheer, along with a few calls to "bring the troops home" (count me in on that). All in all, very much his standard speech--jobs, health care, the environment, with a few references to the Mississippi River thrown in. I also liked his mentioning of Northern versus Louisiana seasons--up there, it's spring, summer, fall, and winter, while down here, it's crawfish, shrimp, oyster, and catfish. That drew another hearty cheer. He told us to make the gret stet "Kerry Country."

Can that happen? Well, to be realistic, I'd say it's a long shot. That said, I hope he puts Edwards on the ticket. I spoke with my friend about this, and we agreed: Edwards, if nothing else, would force Bush to guard his rear flank, which could open up other regions. And, who knows? John Edwards has a certain rock-star appeal, and that could possibly generate some excitement in New Orleans and Cajun Country. I think Bush has a lock on the northern parishes, but the city is a nice prize as well.

The economy will be another big issue Kerry will have to ride for a chance down here--again, to focus on New Orleans, Bush's steel tariffs were bad news for the Crescent City, because imports from south of the border were cut as a result. That might be something to hammer home.

Hmmn. What else is there to say? Oh--a few anti-choice protesters hollered at me as I drove away, but the highway noise mostly drowned out their blather. And the jambalaya was pretty good--better than the stuff I occasionally buy over at the Jambalaya Shop over on Main Street. On the whole, Kerry looked and sounded good. I keep trying to remind myself that it's still early in the campaign, but I want to believe that the Senator will remember where he put his backbone and make this a referendum on the record of George W. Bush, miserable failure. Kerry DID make mention of how Bush has already spent some $70 million dollars attacking his own record, and then added that Bush has NO record to run on. That likewise was greeted with cheers.

If all goes well, I've shaken the hand of the next President of the United States.

Outta here. I'm thinking of catching Righteous Buddha over at Chelsea's Cafe. Last night, I took in a few minutes of John Jackson's B-2 Hammond Organ, accompanied by some good drumming over at Swamp Mama's, but the full band is always a treat. Don't know when I'll post tomorrow. Later.
Parts of Europe are Once Again Open

I can get to the Guardian and a few other spots, but still get a DNS registration page for the BBC. Oh--and, if possible, I'll be heading out in a few minutes to attend a John Kerry event at the Governor's Mansion. Need to put in a little more time here at work, but should be able to catch a portion of the event--provided I can find a place to park that's legal and in the same time zone, if not the same zip code...
Is This Just Me?

Update: Sites in France and Germany send me to the same page. I'll look into this...

Every .uk site I try to look at brings me to this DNS registration page. Haven't yet tried other european sites...
In Other News

While the Rumsfeld clown show captures the attention of the nation--myself included--here are some other stories in the news. Roughly two dozen Iraqis, including young children, have been killed in heavy fighting in Najaf and Kufa. Basra is also showing signs of unrest. In economic news, crude prices topped $40 dollars a barrel before settling down to just under that price at the close of the business day. Paul Krugman has more on the politics of oil in his op-ed. And Ahmad Faruqui notes that today is the 50th Anniversary of the defeat of the French colonial army at Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam.

Of course, Iraq is NOTHING like Vietnam.
Willfull Ignorance

If you want some decent analysis of Bush, based in part on his life history, and on his clumsy use of, uh, English (sort of), take a look at this article in Slate by Jacob Weisberg. It's pretty much right on target.
Reference Material

Check out this map of Iraq's oil infrastructure, courtesy of Today in Iraq.
And All They Will Call You Will Be Detainee

I'll have some additional things to say about Ronald Dumsfeld's testimony later (credit to Michael at Musing's Musings for the Dumsfeld moniker). I heard part of it in the car during my lunch break and subsequent visit to a remote site for printer "repair" (for the second time in a week, "repair" meant plugging the cable back in. Hmmn). From the few minutes I heard, it sounded like an extended act of contrition--minus the contrition part, though.

For some reason, I'm reminded of the old Woody Guthrie song Deportees.

The cops are all in but the system is rotting
Prisoners are piled up in pyramid stacks
In blindfolds some fly across the wide ocean
Guantanamo's where they'll be hanging their hats

Goodbye to Kabul, Goodbye Nasiriyah,
Alekem Fallujah, Kirkuk, and Tikriti
You won't have a name in Abu Ghraib
And all they will call you will be detainee.

The Times article linked to above notes exasperation on the part of John McCain, who apparently coundn't get a straight answer to a simple question, namely, who was in charge of the interrogations. It also noted that several protesters shouted "Fire Rumsfeld!" several times before being whisked away by the freedom police. Then there were the usual pious rumblings about investigations, committees, and so on, while Rumsfeld himself alluded to more pictures and videos--in other words, we've only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Again, though, I'd like to make the point that the abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib, appalling as it is, is part and parcel to the occupation. Would unjust, random detention be acceptable if it WASN'T accompanied by the sadistic actions depicted in the photographs? Is that what we've come to as a nation?

Like Martin Sheen's character said in Apocalypse Now, the bullshit is piled so high you need wings to stay above it. Which isn't a bad image of the Bush administration these days--they're flapping their arms as fast as they can, but getting no lift. The only question is how deep they'll sink into the muck--up to their ears, eyeballs, or worse.
Will the Wrongwingers Call This More Anti-Americanism?

Aljazeera reports on a cannabis advocacy group in South Africa.

This story confirms what I noted below. The FDA declined to approve the Plan B morning-after contraceptive for over the counter sales, despite an expert panel's recommendation. Bush places politics over women's health.
An Iraqi Perspective

Riverbend has a lot to say. Here are two small excerpts:

All I can think about is the universal outrage when the former government showed pictures of American POWs on television, looking frightened and unsure about their fate. I remember the outcries from American citizens, claiming that Iraqis were animals for showing 'America's finest' fully clothed and unharmed. So what does this make Americans now?...

I sometimes get emails asking me to propose solutions or make suggestions. Fine. Today's lesson: don't rape, don't torture, don't kill and get out while you can- while it still looks like you have a choice... Chaos? Civil war? Bloodshed? We’ll take our chances- just take your Puppets, your tanks, your smart weapons, your dumb politicians, your lies, your empty promises, your rapists, your sadistic torturers and go.
Help Wanted--Must be able to Drive, Cook--or Interrogate

I saw this Guardian report cited both at TalkingPointsMemo and the Angry Arab News Service. That cooks and drivers were assigned as interrogators is shocking enough. The admission that a good number--perhaps a majority--of Iraqis were detained without just cause should open the eyes of everyone. Reverse the situation: if somehow you were under the control of an occupying army who took yourself or a loved one off to prison one night JUST BECAUSE YOU HAPPENED TO LIVE WHERE YOU LIVE--well, I don't think it'd make for a positive impression.

One question we need to ask ourselves is why we would do that--detain people without cause--in the first place. I think it reflects a desperation on the part of the occupying authorities. They don't have the first clue as to who the resistance is, and have taken to basically terrorizing the civilian population in the hopes that perhaps some useful intel will come of it. The abuse at Abu Ghraib is despicable. But so is the tactic of nighttime raids and random detentions. Imagine your house being stormed at night by upwards of twenty heavily armed soldiers, breaking down doors, shouting in a language you don't understand, menacing you or your family with lethal weapons. That sounds a lot like what we were ostensibly trying to stop by invading in the first place--well, once it became clear that our invasion wasn't going to unearth any Weapons of Mass Destruction, and once we realized that the Iraqi people had their own ideas about a post-Saddam nation. As I've noted before, combine this overall confusion on the ground with some good old fashioned racism, and you've got a recipe for Palestine on steroids in Mesopotamia. Let it cook long enough, and it will become Afghanistan in steroids.

An invasion is doomed to fail without substantial support among the civilian population. The actions by the military have turned the tide against us, as Iraqis doubtless just want us to go before we humiliate more in the prison itself, or enrage more with our nighttime raids. On a broader scale, we are losing the so-called "war on terror" with such heavy handed actions. Torture, abuse, and killing in the name of "freedom" isn't much of a sales pitch, even if you say we're "less evil" than, for example, Saddam Hussein. And is THAT what we want to claim as our legacy? Not as bad as Saddam?

Meanwhile, the big "news" in the US today seems to be the final episode of Friends. Light comedy for heavy times. Oh--and Rumsfeld "apologized" to Congress for "not keeping them informed about the abuse." Ah, if only he'd just told them, then it would have been all better.
Well, We'll Always Have Castro to Kick Around

Like someone coming home and kicking their dog after a bad day at work, Bush is engaging in some good old fashioned smackdown on Fidel Castro. Sniff, Sniff: I smell election year pandering.
Nigeria Follows Our Example

Reuters has a report on the upswing in Christian/Muslim violence in central Nigeria. I wonder if anyone cares.
Making the World Safer?

Bloomberg reports that a suicide bomber killed ten people and wounded seventy, twenty-five seriously, in Karachi. The bombing seems to be linked to the ongoing controversy over "President" Musharraf's (Busharraf) support of the equally dubious "pResident" Bush.

I'm sure, though, that more terrorist bombings are simply part of the overall Bush strategy for "winning" the war on terror. And as soon as they figure out just WHAT the strategy is, they'll let us know (all sarcasm intended).
Conservative Bullshit

Via Atrios, we have this link to Media Matters for America. The wingnut crowd is looking to pin the blame for prisoner abuse on...women in the military.

What's next? Blaming illness on wicked gnomes?

Thursday, May 06, 2004

I'd Say They Voted Thumbs Down, But I'm Not Quite Sure They've Reached That Evolutionary Stage

This Washington Post article indicates that the makers of the Plan B emergency "morning after" contraception pill did not expect the FDA to approve it for over-the-counter sales despite overwhelming approval from their expert panel advisory committee. I haven't really followed this, but here are two items that caught my eye. First, Wendy Wright testified against the proposal. I've seen Wright before, and she is trying hard to become the next Phyllis Schlafly. Second, the last line of the article noted that "Emergency contraception is available in 101 countries and does not require a prescription in 33."

I was busy with something else, but think I heard on PBS that it was voted down.

Once again, it seems that Team Bush is playing politics with women's health issues.

And, as a followup, here's a AP article posted on the New York Times website. For this, I'll cite the first paragraphs:

More than one-quarter of American women have high blood pressure and nearly one-fifth lack health insurance, according to a study released Thursday that says federal and state governments fail to meet women's health needs.

The country meets just two of 27 health measures established by the federal government, the report found. Those two measures are the percentage of women who receive mammograms and see a dentist annually.

Meanwhile, the cost of war keeps rising.

Professional Parsing

Sidney Blumenthal rips Rummy and Bush a couple of new ones in today's Guardian. Dumsfeld must have some fancy sort of drafting pen--the kind with a micropoint--to draw such a fine line between abuse and torture. Here's a short excerpt:

"My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture," said Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defence on Tuesday. "I don't know if it is correct to say what you just said, that torture has taken place, or that there's been a conviction for torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the torture word."
He confessed he had still not read the March 9 report by Major General Antonio Taguba on "abuse" at the Abu Ghraib prison...

The same day that Rumsfeld added his contribution to the history of Orwellian statements by high officials, the Senate armed services committee was briefed behind closed doors for the first time not only about Abu Ghraib, but about military and CIA prisons in Afghanistan...

Bush has created what is in effect a gulag. It stretches from prisons in Afghanistan to Iraq, from Guantánamo to secret CIA prisons around the world. There are perhaps 10,000 people being held in Iraq, 1,000 in Afghanistan and almost 700 in Guantánamo, but no one knows the exact numbers. The law as it applies to them is whatever the executive deems necessary. There has been nothing like this system since the fall of the Soviet Union. The US military embraced the Geneva conventions after the second world war, because applying them to prisoners of war protects American soldiers. But the Bush administration, in an internal fight, trumped its argument by designating those at Guantánamo "enemy combatants". Rumsfeld extended this system - "a legal black hole", according to Human Rights Watch - to Afghanistan and then Iraq, openly rejecting the conventions.
Another Isolated Incident

Jeffrey St. Clair in Counterpunch, writes that two Marines are facing a court martial for kicking, beating, and breaking the neck of an Iraqi last June--after first smearing him with feces.

The person who actually killed the Iraqi has been cleared of all wrongdoing. The Marine Major who ordered the action, and a Lance Corporal who assisted, have been arrested.

The whole war has been just plain sickening from the outset.

Is There A Gap Ad in Their Future?

There are a number of folks I need to cite here, starting with Bad Attitudes. From there, a quick trip to Wampum, then on to The Road to Surfdom, and finally ending up at CACI International. Pronounced "khaki," they're at the heart of the prison scandal, and are suitably expressing a Captain Renault level of shock.

Interestingly, CACI's corporate motto is "Ever Vigilant." Wonder if they left an "e" off of the last word, or if they were simply taking orders. Either way, they seem to have ignored a now apparently forgotten set of moral and ethical considerations that once formed the heart of the US's moral authority. This set of considerations are called the Nuremberg Principles. Funny, but I don't quite recall when they were deemed irrelevant.

I don't know why I thought of this, since I'm not particularly religious anymore--well, since I was a teenager, in fact. And that was some time ago.

But seeing a picture on Needlenose made me think. By the way, Swopa really hit the target with this post, the essence of which is that Bush wasn't so much shocked by the prison abuse as he was pissed that there was proof. Immediately below this, Fubar provides some perspective on what can only be called a systematic pattern of abusive behavior on the part of at least some in the military. Makes you wonder just who is actually running the show--that's for YOU to answer, Mr. Rumsfeld--and what sort of issues they may need to work out.

Anyway--Fubar ends his post with this photograph of John Walker Lindh, aka Johnny the-American-Taliban:

And it hit me that I'd seen something very similar before:

Romans will be Romans, I guess.

(For the record: I'm skeptical as to the authenticity of the Shroud of Turin. But as I grow older, I'm a little less strident in my disregard of things religious. If some folks want to believe, so be it. And there's no escaping the symbolic value of religious imagery, particularly for those who DO adhere to that stuff).

Thank You--Now Please Get Out

Reuters reports that Saddam's our man in Fallujah, General Muhammad Latif, has a permanent solution to the violence problem there: US out of Fallujah.

Ah, the sweet smell of victory.
Sanitized for Someone's Protection

Salon (if you don't subscribe, today's day pass is pretty short) discusses the Abu Ghraib photos in the broader context of reportage from the front:

"I certainly think we've seen an extremely sanitized version of the war," says Peter Howe, author of "Shooting Under Fire: The World of the War Photographer." "There are very few images of Iraq casualties, let alone American casualties; and it's a real problem because as a nation we are consistently unprepared for the reality of war. Unless we understand the full implication of our actions, as a democracy we can't make a reasonable assessment of when it's the right time to go to war. If war is divorced from daily life, as a video game [is], we can't make judgments, and we find ourselves mired in something we did not expect."

Howe notes that unlike during the first Gulf War when battlefield images were tightly controlled -- even censored -- by the U.S. military, photographers in Iraq, whether embedded or unilateral, have had complete freedom to shoot whatever they wanted. Yet he suggests that the mainstream media's images remain oddly uniform and, until very recently, clean and simplistic. "There's censorship being applied, but by the media itself," says Howe. "Everybody is running scared."

Link is courtesy of Angry Arab News Service, who is quoted in the article:

"Americans see a bloodless, victimless war, unless when Americans die, and then we don't see any pictures at all," adds As'ad AbuKhalil, author of "Bin Laden, Islam, and America's New 'War on Terrorism.'" "Patriotism really challenges the journalism standards we've seen," says AbuKhalil, an expert on Arab media who teaches politics at California State University at Stanislaus.

So much for the So Called Liberal Media...
Hoping There's No Quid Pro Quo

Balta makes an interesting point in the case of the latest US national to be taken captive in Iraq. While the old saw of "two wrongs don't make a right," might be in order, it is just as possible that the hostage takers might be more favorably inclined to "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Let's hope they aren't.
Fool Me Once, Shame on You

Fool me twice, shame on me. Of course, for Dubya, the line is something like, "Fool me--uh--won't get fooled again." The Guardian UK is reporting that people in the Middle East seem to have the correct adage in mind, and are skeptical of Bush's not-quite-apology for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

Jeffrey over at Library Chronicles found this article, which focuses on one individual Iraqi who is pictured in some of the photographs. To call his recollection troubling is an understatement.

This sort of scandalous behavior by the prison guards is bad enough. Even worse, IMHO, is the casual attitude Bush is taking towards this and the rest of his Middle East policy, which now resembles nothing so much as a train wreck. Today's Daily Howler (thanks for reminding me to read it, Timshel), as well as a Kevin Drum piece from a few days back hammer home the idea that Bush displays all the signs of incompetence that got him to where he is today. Remember, this is an individual who failed in virtually every endeavor he attempted, from oil companies to a sweetheart deal that bought him a piece of the Texas Rangers (who've been a paragon of mediocrity ever since) to a governorship noteworthy for almost nothing except the numbers of people he executed (and a now whopping budget deficit, thanks to Bush tax cuts).

I'll be going to see John Kerry tomorrow at an event organized by the Louisiana Dems. If I can catch his ear, I'll try to raise the point--he shouldn't be afraid to attack Bush for being a monumental, miserable failure. Dubya's life set the stage for his present predicament. To be honest, something tells me my odds of speaking to him directly are slightly less good than winning the lottery. But one can always hope.
Emerald City

William S. Lind likens the Green Zone to the fabled metropolis in the Land of Oz, which means we mustn't pay any attention to Paul Bremer behind the curtain.

Lind offers a hopeful conclusion, though:

When the full scope of America's defeat in the Wars of Mass Destruction ignited by Iraq becomes apparent, the political result is likely to go far beyond any election, especially an election in America's one-party Republicrat state (you get two candidates, but they both represent the same thing.) We are likely to see that interesting time known by historians as "change of dynasty," where a defective and corrupt Establishment is all swept away.

Now that could be fun to watch.
Or It Could Buy Two Picassos

Bloomberg reports that Bush has met his goal of raising $200 million dollars for the campaign. I wonder if electioneering is his way of promoting job growth.
Bowling for Gasoline

Reuters reports that the price of crude oil is nearing $40 a barrel. Analysts say the price spike is the result of both fears of supply disruption in the Middle East--read as attacks on pipelines and infrastructure--as well as summer "driving season" here in the US.

Freeway Blogger sums it up right here: 10 MILES PER GALLON, TWO SOLDIERS PER DAY.

Like nothing else.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

A Rising Ire Lifts All Activists

I first saw this over at Bad Attitudes, and they cite Talking Points Memo as their source. From AP

U.S. soldiers who detained an elderly Iraqi woman last year placed a harness on her, made her crawl on all fours and rode her like a donkey, Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal human rights envoy to Iraq said Wednesday.

In an earlier post, Moe Blues reminds me that pResident Bush was feeling a little lighthearted last December on the subject of international law, which, among other things, regulates prison conditions for occupying authorities. Bush joked, "International law? I'd better call my lawyer." Ha ha.

Maybe he should. Because while I can't say I've plowed through the agreements of the various Geneva Conventions, I'm pretty sure humiliation of the kind described above isn't condoned under any circumstances. In fact, I'd like to think that if Bush somehow hears about this, it will wipe the silly grin off his face.

Following up on this topic, Billmon knocks another out of the park, and has a link to MSNBC's copy of the Taguba report, which I'm kind of skimming, more or less, right now. The proprieter of The Whiskey Bar points out a troubling phenomenon: "ghost prisoners." Much like Jacobo Timmerman in Argentina, who wrote Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number (and yes, the Amazon link is Billmon's as well), these are people who've been detained, yet there is no record of their incarceration. Bush might want to talk to his lawyer about that too.

The wrong wingers will attempt to spin this by arguing that, regardless of our actions, we're still better than Saddam Hussein. OK, sure. Would these same people accept murderers walking the streets because they're "better" than Ted Bundy? Do we have to tally the body count?

Speaking of which: Needlenose has a pretty poignant photograph and post about Fallujah. As I noted below, we're definitely the lesser of evils--but that's one hell of a relative scale.
A Higher Authority

In what could be described as a feel good story, more adults are turning to good old hemp, aka cannabis or marijuana, these days:

Habitual marijuana use increased among U.S. adults over the past decade, particularly among young minorities and baby boomers, government figures show.

The prevalence of marijuana abuse or dependence climbed from 1.2 percent of adults in 1991-92 to 1.5 percent in 2001-02, or to an estimated 3 million adults 18 and over.

The data represent statistical estimates from two nationally representative surveys that each queried more than 40,000 adults.

If nothing else, the data shows that survey planners apparently trust pot smokers to tell them the truth; however, I recall an article in the New York Times Magazine years ago about a big cannabis convention in Amsterdam. Asked whether they preferred organically grown hemp or hydroponic, some 60 percent chose the former--while another 60 percent or so opted for the latter. It must depend on what the definition of "prefer" is.
Bush: "Spare Change for War?"

Reuters reports that Bush will pull out his begging bowl and scrounge to the tune of $25 billion dollars for more death and destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. CNN has more.

I seriously doubt that will be the last request for additional cash. Like a PBS drive, once they have their hands in Congress' purse, they'll be looking for more. Right now I believe costs are running at about $1 billion dollars a week, which means $25 billion is the moral equivalent of jobless benefits. It'll do for roughly half a year, while the administration tries to pick up the pieces of a shattered Middle East policy.

That said, I sure could use some off-book supplemental cash, too. I wonder if I could put in a request with my own paymaster--hell, an extra $25,000 would be plenty for starters. And I guarantee that it'd go to something a lot more productive than the Project for a New American Century Project to turn Iraq into Rubble and the Project to turn Afghanistan into--well, it already IS mostly rubble. Gravel, I guess.
New and Improved Mukhabarat

ORANGE COUNTY WEEKLY reports on the US's decision to recruit, and the CIA's decision to finance, many of the former officers in Saddam Hussein's former secret police.

Nick Schou likens this decision to the notorious Operation Phoenix program in Vietnam, which did nothing constructive in regards to the war in Asia, although it certainly upped the body count and terrorized the Vietnamese population. Rival gangs and political factions routinely "informed" on their foes, turning the program into a rather bloodier version of Hatfields and McCoys.

Which appears to be happening quite frequently in Mesopotamia. Duh. For the life of me, I can't understand why the warmongers couldn't envision this. Their view of Iraqis ranges from clueless naiivete to a vicious racism. The fact that they've been living in the region for hundreds of years doesn't seem to register one whit.

Let's forget the illusions and propaganda. The people of Iraq are no better or worse than people anywhere. Some are no doubt good people, some have their own agenda, and some will do almost anything to get ahead. Shoot, the occupation troops are basically doing the same thing--trying to gain an advantage by playing various factions against each other.

One little problem vis-a-vis the Coalition's position, though, is that they are the new kids on the block, as it were. Add to this that there are language and cultural issues, and it's damn easy, in my mind, to see why they're the ones most often taken for a ride. All the military might in the world can't make up for a lack of information.

As a result, frustration sets in. Eventually this manifests itself in such things as, I don't know, ritual humiliation and abuse of detainees, for example. In other words, they'll show the rag-headed camel jockeys just who's the boss. However, as others with far more knowledge than me have said, this is disasterous in the long term. Insults are rarely forgotten--no matter how many "good deeds" are done by way of contrition.

But how much longer will it take before the country wakes up? And what will it take for that to happen?
You're Fired!

Parts of SoCal are dodging a bullet in regards to several wildfires that have been kept in check thanks in part to lower than normal temperatures. I was reminded, though of this article that I ran across a couple of days ago.

Those who worry most about the future of the West — politicians, scientists, business leaders, city planners and environmentalists — are increasingly realizing that a world of eternally blue skies and meager mountain snowpacks may not be a passing phenomenon but rather the return of a harsh climatic norm.

Continuing research into drought cycles over the last 800 years bears this out, strongly suggesting that the relatively wet weather across much of the West during the 20th century was a fluke. In other words, scientists who study tree rings and ocean temperatures say, the development of the modern urbanized West — one of the biggest growth spurts in the nation's history — may have been based on a colossal miscalculation.

Scarce water also means problems with electricity generation--sort of a double whammy in the fast growing region.

I assume the government will eventually step in with grants for study, followed by some sort of project--but there's only so much money to go around. And the cost of war continues to rise.
The Descent of Journalism

Al Giordano is back again, this time lamenting the sad fact that Bush, Kerry, Nader, and the entire national press corps (recently I saw a reference to "the White House Press Corpse." How appropriate) are violating what he calls "Uncle Bruno's Law:" Do not bore the readers!

He goes on to cite this Village Voice column, which, for me, nicely follows up on an interview I heard with Bob Edwards last night as I drove home from work. Al also referenced, but provided no link, to a New Yorker profile of A.J. Liebling. Fortunately, the internet has a number of useful tools like search engines.

One can only imagine what A.J. might have to say about the miserable failure occupying the Oval Office, although this quote in regards to the death of Joe Stalin provides a clue:

“Inconsiderate to the last, Josef Stalin, a man who never had to meet a deadline, had the bad taste to die in installments...”

Fortunately, we have Sy Hersh. But the rest of the press is not much more than the best of the rest. C-Student writers covering a C-Student pResident. The lesser of evils merges with mediocrity, generating a stupor inducing average. Super Size the fries, and drive the SUV up to the take out window.

It Could be Worse--The Neocons Could be Running It

Yet another Times articlehere, this one about the upcoming Olympic Games in Athens. I cite it mainly to point out that hard-hitting journalism these days seems to be confined to the world of sport. Perhaps the same sort of tone should have been applied to Bush's splendid little war(s).
Bush: I'm Shocked, Shocked, to Find Gambling Going on Here

Sorry for being a little slow on the uptake today. A friend who I do some internet work for was trying to renew some domain names, and asked me to participate in a few conference calls. But enough of that...

I managed to come across this offering from the Times. Bush gave ten minutes to Al Hurra, a sort of Vichy-style Arabic Network based in Virginia, followed by an additional ten minutes with Al Arabiya, which has a bit more pull among residents of the Middle East. Dubya certainly has the bewildered look down, but whether it can translate into any sort of credibility in the Middle East is doubtful, given his record. To me, this lame, after-the-fact approach is akin to someone poking around the ruins of a house after the tornado, seeing if there's anything remotely salvagable.

Of course, this won't keep the Dauphin from engaging in his favorite activity: staged media events. And this piece, also from the Times, demonstrates the kind of style Bush seems to prefer: basically, that of a mafia don or warlord.

[The motorcade consisted of] three buses moving along on back roads, preceded and followed by Chevy Suburbans carrying men with large guns, and helicopters overhead.

Welcome to Dubya's America. Now get out of the f'ing way. I'll admit that I'm a little preturbed that there are enough folks who still believe the tripe Bush serves tastes like foie gras, but that's the way it goes. Between the abysmal mainstream press, the lousy public education system, and the simple lack of time for most folks (balancing work, family, and so on), I'm just glad no one has seriously proposed nuking the Middle East. Here's hoping no one does.

Because eventually truth manages to rise to the surface, and it will demand some serious accounting. The abuses at Abu Ghraib are a symptom of a more pervasive illness. One that combines good old fashioned racism with a healthy dose of, for lack of a better term, white man's burden. The time isn't far off for the shit to smack seriously into the fan, and when that happens, it will REQUIRE some genuine soul searching. Of the kind that folks like the famously non-introspective Dubya can't imagine. Maybe someone will organize a confrontation.

Or maybe not. If I remember, Calvin Coolidge spent his final years not really understanding how his economic policies helped bring about the Great Depression. History remembers him as a doddering old man. Dubya may well suffer the same fate.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Stupid, Yes, but Criminal?

Link via TalkLeft. It's pretty dumb to call a cop "a fucking pig." Really dumb. I'd rank it right up there with making crude racist jokes in a racially mixed setting. However, the First Amendment protects the right to open your mouth and prove that you're missing more than a few neurons. Unless, apparently, you call a cop "a fucking pig."

That's what Malachi Robinson did in Missoula, Montana four years ago. He was fined $50 and sentenced to ten days in jail--though the time was suspended. A lawyers' group appealed the conviction to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear the case, thereby letting stand a Montana Supreme Court decision that ruled against Robinson.

Again, don't get me wrong. Robinson was dumb. But things like the First Amendment are designed to, among other things, protect the stupid. Because who decides what is and isn't ignorant, and when will they make calling the president "a goddamned jerk" (my words) a criminal offense?
We Are Definitely The Lesser of Evils

MSNBC reports that twenty-five people have died in US custody during the occupation. That's a whole lot less than the numbers who died in custody during the rule of Saddam Hussein.

See how the lesser of two evils works? Why, we've literally got hundreds, if not thousands more deaths to go before we approach the level of violence...what was that you said? Fallujah?

Um...let's talk about something else. How 'bout them Cubs?
Cons and the Con Artists who use Them--and the Neocons who let Themselves be Conned

I finally managed to mix in reading Salon's article on Ahmad Chalabi with some work stuff around here. My take on it is summed up in the title above: the neocons were shopping for someone who would tell them what they wanted to hear. Whether it was true, false, or patently absurd didn't matter. Ahmad took advantage of those who wanted to be taken advantage of.

Now the neocons have to live with the mess they've created. The tragedy, of course, is that almost eight hundred American soliders have been killed, along with several dozen foreign soldiers--and thousands of Iraqis. Worse, there is no end in sight.
Hitting the Nail on the Head

To further the metaphor, Doug countersank it in one blow.
Drudging Up Rumors and Innuendo

The Island of Balta had a link to Matt Drudge's site, which suggested Nightline ratings were lower than usual last Friday. Notwithstanding the fact that Sinclair Broadcasting decided that reading the names of the dead was "too political," and pre-empted the broadcast in a number of markets, it turns out that the "low ratings" canard was just that:

Soldier tribute boosts 'Nightline' ratings
Viewership up 22 percent in wake of controversy over show.

The article goes on to note that Fox News, not to be outdone by a ferigner like Koppel, will have a broadcast of their own this Saturday that will "honor the dead and show all the positive things we've done in Iraq" over the last year.

Will rebuilding the Abu Ghraib prison count as a "positive accomplishment?"
National Petroleum Radio

NPR carried a story about The Stanford Prison Experiment, a classic study of how groups of people are capable of engaging in--well, vile acts--when properly motivated. Such motivating factors include a pervasive secrecy, belief that the detainees are somehow less-than-human, and so on. I recall coming across the site above via either Slate or Salon, I think. It was several years ago. In spite of the rather lengthy amount of time it takes each page to load, it makes for compelling reading. As Zimbardo said today on the radio, the really shocking element of the experiment was that EVERYONE involved had been thouroughly vetted and deemed pretty normal.

We have met the good Germans, and they are us.
And Pope John Paul I Is the Patron Saint of Temps and L.T.E.'s

Here are two interesting perspectives on the photos from Abu Ghraib: The Revealer: Pictures from an Inquisition, and Killing the Buddha: Our Lady of Minor Hostilities.
If It's Not Super Power, It's Not the Best Heroin

Abu As'ad Khalil links to this article from Knight Ridder. It shows what Afghans are doing to allievate the almost unspeakable poverty that's been brought on by decades of having the misfortune of being a pawn in a superpower chess game: they've turned to massive production of poppies:

Some 200,000 acres of opium poppies have been planted in Afghanistan - opium serves as the raw material of heroin - and the country's late-summer harvest will produce three-fourths of the world's heroin. That will mean further billions for growers, smugglers, corrupt officials and Afghan warlords.

It's also likely to mean a windfall of tithes to al-Qaida and its Islamist brethren said to be regrouping in the mountains of Central Asia.

"Drug trafficking from Afghanistan is the main source of support for international terrorism now," Yuldashov said. "That's quite clear."

But in recent congressional testimony about heroin flow out of Afghanistan, Drug Enforcement Administration head Karen Tandy spoke only of "potential links" and "possible relationships" between Afghan traffickers and terrorists. Drug agents in Central Asia say they're baffled by Tandy's hedging.

"The connection is absolutely obvious to us," said Col. Alexander Kondratiyev, a senior Russian officer who has served with border guards in Tajikistan for nearly a decade. "Drugs, weapons, ammunition, terrorism, more drugs, more terrorism - it's a closed circle."

Look at that last line again. Drugs, weapons, ammunition, terrorism...sort of a small market version of EXACTLY what the US does around the world. Interestingly, someone whom I admire and trust a great deal was telling me pretty much just that recently--drugs and guns make the world go round.
A Message From The Rude One

I can't say I agree with EVERYTHING The Rude Pundit says in this post, but I'm willing to overlook one slightly crass remark in an otherwise inspired piece. I just wish someone from the Kerry campaign was assigned to look at it too.
It's Like Progress, Except it's the Opposite

CNN notes that

Schools have not been as racially unbalanced since 1968, the start of a series of Supreme Court decisions that put muscle behind desegregation, said researcher Gary Orfield, co-director of The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

Desegregation reached a high point in the late 1980s, but has since eroded, his research shows. Most white, black and Hispanic students still go to a school where they are in the racial or ethnic majority.

"The ultimate irony is that a lot of people in 2004 are talking about everything else but desegregation, and the country has resegregated many of its public schools," said Theodore Shaw, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, which argued the Brown case in court.

Of course, public education is in such a crisis that I don't think anyone knows quite where to begin. Do you seek to remedy the problem of a de facto (and sometimes not so de facto) resegregation of the system? Or do you first try to raise overall standards? I don't know.

One thing I DO know, however, is that public schools are a crowning achievement of modern society. Primary education is the best gift we as a society can provide to the next generation--and it's a damn good investment for us as well. The fact that our public education system is in crisis is shameful, particularly considering just how much wealth we as a nation posess.

I for one would like to see both increased funding for public schools AS WELL as increased effort to ensure a diverse student body. I don't know what it's like in every community, but down here, I think we've had exactly ONE new school built in the last thirty years. Many of the school buildings in the parish are not in good repair. One thing we HAVE had, though, was an ongoing challenge to the original desegregation order from 1959. In other words, forty years of litigation that was finally settled, IIRC, last year. That's way too much lawyering and way too little effort on facilities, much less curriculum.

Of course, as noted below, we can't even tackle bullying here in the gret stet--'cause some folks think that's being to easy on "the queers."

Climbing the Learning Curve

Today's Science Times has this feature about the award of a Sloan grant to Gretchen Somerfeld, who is refining a screenplay about another aspect of movie star Hedy Lamarr's life: that of an inventor.

During World War II, Lamarr hit upon an idea for ensuring that radio controlled devices (like today's "smart bombs") couldn't be jammed. Calling her invention "frequency hopping," it is the basis for such things as cell phone networks, WiFi, and other cordless devices. She received a patent for her idea, and subsequently donated the concept to the government. Lamarr eventually received the Pioneer Award of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1997.

The Times article also focuses on another woman who's insight led to major advances in science: Rosiland Franklin. Likewise the subject of a new screenplay, Franklin never received due credit for her X-Ray photographs of DNA molecules. James Watson and Francis Crick, who are generally credited with deducing the double helix structure of DNA, relied heavily on Franklin's work. They went on to receive acclaim and honors. Franklin succumbed to cancer in 1958.
Putting the Grab in Abu Ghraib

It seems like every day Whiskey Bar has yet another amazing post. This morning's special is a few choice comments on Saddam's notorious jail, which has become...the occupation's notorious jail. As he points out, they didn't even change the name, but simply reopened it (recall that Saddam, in a desperate attempt to shore up his crumbling political support, declared a general amnesty in the fall of 2002).

I caught the segment of "The News Hour" which included Hisham Melhem, a Lebanese journalist--he was on a panel discussion that also featured Sy Hersch and Gary Solis. What he had to say was pretty damning. Melhem thinks the US destroyed its street cred in the Middle East. Not just Iraq--the whole region. And not just on a temporary basis, but basically, forever. Think about that for a while.

For years, I've wanted to visit the Middle East. While not specifically religious, I'm fascinated by the subject, and I have as much of a love of ancient history as a good amateur historian can. But I can now forget about any sort of extended exploration of the region. Imagine the difficulties the real historians will have.

While considering this, of course be aware that we've got--how say--a certain political and strategic interest in the Middle East. As Captain Ahab, aka Dick Cheney might say, "I seek the Great Black Gold." But there is no oil in Israel. And the other nations in the region will have no choice but to distance themselves from us, as we all but beg for help in trying to put back together the pieces of Iraq that we managed to shatter as we bulled our way through the china shop. Jeez, we broke it but good. All the super glue in the world can't put it back together, even if we managed to locate every shard.

$112 Billion Dollars and counting--and we don't even get to bring it home with us. How's that for limited government?
More on Flat Earth Folk

Came across this from Timshel this morning. Here's the link to the bAdvocate article. Jeez: just when I think Louisiana isn't "just another regressive State," along come a group of "anti-Sodomites" to remind me that there are still plenty of grass eaters down here. Let's see--Bill Shanks, one of the "leaders" of the group (which had no name), believes that Category 5 Hurricanes and racism are caused by the abomination of gay marriage. Hmmn. I wonder how he developed his, uh, theory...

The bills opposed by Shanks and his minions seek to define a spouse as a domestic partner for purposes of sick leave, a mandate for public schools to develop a policy on bullying (which would, according to the flat earthers, teach "tolerance of homosexuality"), and two bills prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Maybe Shanks, et al, should seek a more positive message. From what I've read, the sound supremely qualified to promote the rights of stupid people.

Monday, May 03, 2004

Citing Sources

Whiskey Bar has extended--uh, I was going to say happy hour, but "happy" is completely inappropriate. Extended sad hour, I guess. Billmon provides perspective and contemporary material.

Is it just me, or has the "news cycle" become so--what's the word?--so hyperkinetic?--that it essentially generates a collective amnesia? For instance, Dubya's May Day stunt last year on the USS Abraham Lincoln is now, well, mostly ignored, but when circumstances force it, packaged as a half time speech from the Coach in Chief, instead of what it was at the time: a cynical attempt to crow about what should have been the easiest invasion in human history. I mean, shit, Saddam Hussein was despised even by those of us who opposed the war. I'll bet he could barely count on Uday's and Qasay's support. Sending our military out against Hussein was like sending the Super Bowl champs against a mediocre squad of high schoolers. Sure, the champs said to beware--the enemy had the bomb. It turned out, though, that they didn't even have equipment.

But, funny enough, it's not turning out the way we planned. As I posted long ago, football means something different to most of the world, and now our team is finding out that it's not that easy to manuever or kick a ball into a goal when you're loaded down in heavy pads. And the crowd is cheering your every mistake.

I'm outta here for the evening, but I'll end with a promise to try--TRY--to spend some time on an extended project that's been in the back of my head for a while: to figure out some way of quickly, and easily, providing references to Team Bush's past actions, and their present tense.

Of course, one way is to cite an awfully good source: like Billmon.
Faith Based, But Not Just Any Faith

Musing's musings links to a Slate article which, among other things, notes that of the $100 million doled out to so-called "faith based" service organizations, not a nickel has gone to Jewish or Muslim organizations.

The Slate article doesn't say, but my guess is that the Wiccans, Hindus, Shintos, Daoists, Buddhists--name the faith--likewise didn't see much in the way of support.
How Many Percentage Points Can $25 Million Buy?

Pandagon has some information about the Kerry media buy. Looks like the gret stet is on the list of targeted areas. Interesting. I haven't followed enough polling data lately down here, but this hopefully is an indication that we could genuinely be in play come the fall.

One thing I did notice though, was an ad that ran during the Channel 9 news rebroadcast the other night. It was a plug for--the Selective Service System (don't call it a draft--yet. Besides, stop-loss orders are basically the same thing). I took a look at their site, and the denials have all the hallmarks of the "we don't negotiate with terrorists" stances.

To be honest, I actually don't think the draft is a much more than a last-ditch option at this point. As I said, stop-loss orders do much the same thing, and the shaky economy always makes the military look like a viable option to someone looking to make it in the world during difficult times. But should Shrub manage to eke out another--uh, I almost said victory, but--should he somehow get grandfathered into an extra four years, look for some sort of mandatory "service" to receive serious consideration for at least as long as we're stuck in the Middle East sandstorm. I mean, let's face it: we might not be at the last ditch yet in Iraq, but it's definitely in reach if not in sight.

OK. Back to the main topic: Hopefully, the Kerry ads will get some folks to consider him as a genuine alternative to the most ill-prepared human ever to occupy the White House--I suppose time will tell. But it's a good sign that Kerry even has that much money to spend so early on in the campaign. I was not a fan of the front-loaded primary season mostly because it meant that the nominee--whoever it was--stood a good chance of getting caught in the doldrums until at least the convention. This actually DID happen to Kerry for a bit, and perhaps that's not such a bad thing. He doesn't appear to be a particularly outstanding campaigner. Still, he is Homo Sapiens Sapiens to Bush's Australopithicine when it comes to the trail. I'm more convinced than ever that Rove's biggest problem is going to be managing to keep Bush in the public eye while somehow avoiding the public. Dubya, in anything remotely resembling an event with real people, seems barely capable of uttering his own name, let alone thinking on his feet. All the spin in the world can't make him any better.

I'll be staying tuned like everyone else.

I've been letting some of the more egregious efforts to restrict a woman's right to abortion swirl around in my head for a while. For instance, in Georgia, an attempt was made to require a DEATH WARRANT prior to obtaining an abortion--complete with an "appointed guardian" for the fetus. Similarly, Oklahoma attempted this same cynical ploy.

Oh--and I know this has been noted already--Mary comes to mind--but did anyone notice Karen Hughes becoming merely the latest Bush administration operative to compare political opponents--in this case, pro-choice, pro-women's health activists and demontrators--to terrorists?

This was crossing my mind as I read this seemingly unrelated story in the Guardian UK about three young girls who were POISONED for simply going to school. But then it hit me: just as being the lesser of two evils in Iraq can't possibly be called a success, neither can we condemn brutality such as poisoning young girls while at the same time engaging in the physical and psychological torture that results from women being denied access to safe, legal abortions. To do anything to deny women this right is a de facto way of telling women that they are less than citizens--indeed, it implies that women are less than the embryo or fetus they are carrying.

And then I came across this: article: in summary, it notes that 59% of the American public, according to polling data, believe in Armageddon. Hmmn. When you're anticipating the imminent end of humanity, I guess it becomes easy to trample on rights. After all, why would the annihilated care much? Between the rapture, the selection of the good, bad, and ugly, etc. etc.--with plenty of PG-rated fire and brimstone (but nary an R rated display of nudity or passion anywhere)--forcing a woman to carry a fetus to term if she becomes pregnant is, I suppose, just another way to ensure one's good grace come the day they open the big book looking for your name.

Unless the country manages to move away from its fusion of religion and politics, often personified in the person of Dubya.

Deep down, I think most Americans--not all, mind you, but most--prefer a healty separation between religion and matters of state. Such craven posturing towards notions like the world being flat, 4,000 years old, and possessing a "chosen" people along with the rest of us is a little far-fetched. If nothing else, separation of church and state is financially more beneficial than the opposite--although many scientists are theists or deists, and many regularly attend church.

However, there is most definitely a tendency amongst some of our species to engage in the behavior of "God said it, I believe it, that settles it." To which I reply: those rules are fine for the interior four walls and roof of your home. But the rest of us don't buy it, so lay off. I'll even leave you to your bible studies classes and whatnot, provided you leave the public spaces of this country to THE PUBLIC, which is not exclusively populated by folks like John Ashcroft.

But where or when will the Dubya's and Asscrossed's of the world meet their comeuppence? Here's hoping it will be by ballot box in November; otherwise, exile is looking more and more like an option.
In Honor of Clarence Carter

Once again, we're applying patches to the servers today. Microsoft came out with several to add to the growing list, in an attempt to keep up with the latest virii and worms. I'll be trying to stay current/post when I can, but alas, my paycheck is based on working as opposed to posting.

Here's hoping everything goes as well as it can--considering that we're dealing with Microsoft, there's no guarantee.
On the Hypocrisy Front

Timshel exposes the ridiculousness of Judie Brown and the American Life League, a non partisan Catholic organization dedicated to opposing women's health rights. He accurately notes that Ms. Brown, in her zeal to tar and feather Catholic politicians who think they can separate their religious and political views, has ignored the Vatican's condemnation of capital punishment and war in general (for that matter, the Vatican isn't all that keen on the Iraq war).

Timshel doesn't quite say this, so I will: from little brains like that of Judie Brown's, little will emerge--and what does should be considered in context.
Sharon Outflanked from Right--In Other News, Hell Freezes Over

I lied a little bit. The fact that there are Israeli citizens who are even more wrong-wing than Ariel Sharon isn't surprising, nor is their rejection of a proposal that would result in the withdrawal from Gaza.

Still, this could be good news. Billmon considers this a positive sign, if only in the sense that this could be Ariel's swan song. He thinks Netanyahu will pick up the torch, and, while a despicable man as well, Bibi might be willing to pander a little more to US interests. So, the no vote is good news, but on a highly relative scale.

For more background on what sort of scale we're looking at, here's today's Middle East news summary from the BBC. A few highlights:

At least Four US soldiers killed in Iraq.

More fallout regarding the abuse of prisoners in Iraq.

Foreigners leaving Saudi Arabia amid fears of violence.

More opinion regarding the vicious beating (by her husband) of a Saudi Television personality.

Photographs showing the aftermath of the Fallujah siege.

BTW--regarding Fallujah: the degree of denial regarding what happened in Fallujah is astounding. Patrick Cockburn has more on this, and Billmon, as always, provided insightful commentary. The installation of Jassim Mohammed Saleh as overseer of the troubled city is indicative of what Cockburn calls "[perhaps] one of the most extraordinary defeats in history." One would never know this from a reading of this CNN transcript with, among others, Daniel Senor, Carl Levin, Chuck Hagel, and, I guess for SOME balance, Sy Hersch, who helped break the story on the abuse at Abu Ghraib. The transcript and the New Yorker article are worth looking at.

I don't know how much more clear it could be to see that the US Middle East policy is a GIGANTIC failure. If this were a term paper, I don't think it'd even get an "F," because that would be too generous. You'd almost expect the prof to say "no grade," and demand a start-over. Too bad this isn't school, though. It's perhaps the most volatile region in the world. No retakes and makeups allowed. And "F" is bad for everyone.

Sunday, May 02, 2004


One little problem with Jazzfest is seen as soon as you look at today's schedule. The headliners simultaneously performing at different stages were:

Hugh Masekela

Robert Cray

The Neville Brothers

The Radiators

Dianne Reeves

and more. So, you make compromises. This year, it became a little of this, a little of that.

Damn, it was chilly! Well, by Louisiana standards. Fortunately, there was no rain, but each step on the infield reminded you that New Orleans IS below sea level.

Wyclef Jean drew a big cheer when he said he didn't like George Bush, or words to that effect. And I'm hoping Cockburn and St. Clair made it out to the Fair Grounds, because I got into the city too late to catch the book signing. Oh well. Maybe next time.

Unfortunately, I've got a nice headache going, so I'm ending this post here. Back tomorrow...
Jazz and Counterpunch and Beltane, Oh My!

I'll post some more things this evening, but today continues my habit of making it to at least one day of Jazz Fest since I got back to the gret stet. I'm also want to get to Hotel Richelieu to see Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair, who will be signing books and giving a talk. And I learned a little bit about May Day this morning, thanks to a most thoughtful email. The rain looks like it will hold off long enough to put in some quality time at the Fair Grounds.

And here's hoping there aren't any aircraft carrier landings by a pretend pResident anywhere close by.

Back a little later.