Thursday, November 27, 2003


All things considered, I have much to be thankful for. I won't get maudlin and go into the details...and I hope anyone dropping by this site likewise feels they have much to be thankful for, and is able to celebrate a holiday feast.

Right now, I'm watching the weather, hoping for a small break in the rain--unlikely, based on the forecast, but if it's just a drizzle, I think my car will make it down to New Iberia.

Too bad there isn't a train service that runs, oh, say, from Houston to Jacksonville--I'd hop onboard a train in a second, take the Lafayette stop, and call someone from my family to pick me up. It would make things a hell of a lot easier.

Although there is no longer an easy link to find (and I'm busy/too lazy to look for one) both television news programs ran stories last night about the holiday traffic. In a word: horrible.

But that's what happens when you limit your transportation choices.

Oh sure--back in the day, the railroad companies were probably viewed with as much resentment as the airlines are today--people probably complained about arbitrary schedules, poor service, high fares--but you didn't have to fight traffic.

Almost anyone I've ever talked to has said they'd use rail service if someone restored it (pariticularly to New Orleans). There are even some studies that have been done. But the cost is heavy...especially when you spend all kinds of money on other priorities--like an unnecessary war...

And speaking of unnecessary wars--I do not personally know any of our brave young men and women who are serving overseas--either in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere--but I wish them nothing but the best. For those who pray, please say a prayer for their safety. For those who don't, offer a thought or mantra. Those in harm's way need our support--in my case, I offer my hopes and wishes that they all soon will be reunited with their families and friends, safe and sound--and I am grateful for the work they do to defend the country.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

When Kidnapping is NOT a Crime

I saw this earlier, either at the New York Times or CNN website--or maybe it was Google News, I forget--but Billmon, as usual, cuts right to the chase:

"Would it have killed the AP to maybe just mention -- suitably buried somewhere down near the end of the story -- that taking hostages is, technically speaking, forbidden by the Geneva Convention?"

Of course, strictly speaking, the war itself is a violation of the Geneva Convention, not to mention the UN Charter--but why should the PNAC, and their errand boy George W. Bush, let that get in their way?

In other news, Counterpunch is back after a short break. Today they link to the Iraq Procurement site--they've announced an upcoming convention in London, set for February 2004. Some people see suffering--while others see opportunity:

"The reconstruction of Iraq--planned to take place over the next five years--is expected to cost in excess of $100 billion. At least half of this figure will account for projects to be sub-contracted to outside companies."

I wonder if Dave Del Dotto has a hand in this...nah--it looks like Dave is busy crushing grapes these days, instead of hawking his bottom feeder's guide to riches. That's too bad, because del Dotto would be the perfect spokesperson for this bottom feeder's war.

Meanwhile, the Young Fascis--uh--Conservatives at the University of Texas have decided to follow in the footsteps of Joe McCarthy. They've come up with a list of professors who apparently think literacy, critical thinking, and analysis should be encouraged. However, if you scroll to the bottom of their lynch--uh, I mean watch list, you'll see that one can still pursue a grass-eating major in Austin--thank heavens.

Finally, to round out some holiday reading, check out Alexander Cockburn's piece on Rupert Murdoch.

"At BskyB's annual general meeting on Friday November 14, Murdoch conducted himself in a manner that would have won the approval of Vlad the Impaler, snarling at one dissident that if he didn't like it he should sell his shares, bickering openly with BskyB's chief executive, his son James."

And, in case anyone hasn't figured it out, he goes on to comment approvingly on a bio of the "global tyrant" by Bruce Page, called The Murdoch Archipeligo. Critical viewers of the Fox collection of network should find this all too familar:

"Page's detailed and compelling case, based on his investigation of Murdoch's operations in Australia, Britain, the USA and the Chinese People's Republic, amounts to this: as an international operator, Murdoch offers his target governments a privatized version of a state propaganda service, manipulated without scruple and with no regard for truth. His price takes the form of vast government favors such as tax breaks, regulatory relief, monopoly markets and so forth. The propaganda is undertaken with the utmost cynicism, whether it's the stentorian fake populism and soft porn in the UK's Sun and News of the World, or shameless bootlicking of the butchers of Tiananmen Square."

Murdoch, in the whole scheme of things, makes Dubya look like a piker...

Cast Your Vote

For the worst mug shot.

Nick Nolte.

Glen Campbell.

We'll leave Michael Jackson out of the running for now.

In other news, Augusto Pinochet has begun to push for his own canonization:

"I harbor no hatred or rancor. I am good, I feel like an angel," he said. "I have kindness. Whenever I can do something to help someone, I do it. To help anyone." ...

Human rights activist Lorena Pizarro said a more appropriate label for Pinochet would be an "angel of death."

According to an official report released by the civilian government that succeeded Pinochet, 3,197 people were killed for political reasons during the dictatorship and thousands more tortured and forced into exile.

CrawlingWestward links to a story out on TalkingPointsMemo regarding stolen memos. Recall that several weeks ago people (and I use that term loosely) like Sean Hannity were aghast that some Democratic Senators dared to view the Iraq war in political terms (after all, it's not like Tom Delay ever politicized war--oh, wait a second).

The stolen memos in Marshall's story do not include the Intelligence Committee document--yet. But Orrin Hatch (R-Bondage/S&M) is in a delicate situation, to say the least. Already exposed as a hypocrite over the so-called judicial nominee impasse, Hatch now is forced to admit that one current and another former staffer seem to be thieves. Atrios notes sentencing guidelines for just such a crime. Kos rightly adds that investigators should look into whether this is a one-time criminal but basically stupid act, or if this is indicative of a pattern of behavior among Hatch's staffers.

I will give a small bit of credit to Orrin: unlike G.W. Bush's incompentence regarding the Plame scandal, Hatch got to the bottom of this rather quickly. Bush, in contrast, is hoping we've forgotten about his condoning a felony committed by someone in his Administration. We haven't, George.

Lastly, for now, Kos also comments on the latest Rethuglican attempt to smear Democrats/wrap themselves in the flag: the Bush television ad. Howard Dean's staffers thought they heard something odd--in the ad, Bush is reciting the State of the Union address. Last winter, he clearly stumbled over some of lines in the speech. Now, thanks to the magic of audio editing, he comes across clear and strong. Is this something the Democrats can focus on? In other words, if we can't even trust the basic accuracy of Bush's ads, how can we trust them on anything else?

The comments on the link above have a number of good points, both for and against the idea of publicizing the doctored ad. My own attitude is whenever you can attack, do so. If the Rethugs whine about this being minute, simply point out that the American people have a right to know the facts--then move on. But always be attacking. It's not like Rethugs haven't lied--hell, they've lied about EVERY aspect of their agenda to date: the economy is in shambles--no, a single quarter of 8 percent growth ISN'T a turnaround, and besides, a LOT of this growth is due to Keynesian, borrow-and-spend policies Bush has undertaken over the last two and a half years--the war is a bloody mess, with civil war in Iraq looming, Afghanistan is slowly boiling over, terrorism continues to be a worldwide problem, the tax cuts really didn't cut most people's taxes at all--this is the legacy Bush will be running on. And he needs to be hammered over the head with it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Posting is delayed today--my computer at work was having problems with Internet Exploder, so I tried reinstalling it, which blasted away my Java plug-in, which wouldn't reinstall after several tries--additionally, the machine has experienced all sorts of other issues, mostly because my 10gb drive is no longer capable of storing my increasing collection of junk, be it work-related or personal.

So out came the zip disks, which now house a number of utilities that I use for troubleshooting servers (PsInfo is pretty good, for example) and yeah, a few photos (though the photo of the day can be found here, with an interesting article about how bears who live near cities and towns are heavier and more sluggish than bears found in the wilderness--it seems they've been eating fast food leftovers from dumpsters, garbage cans, etc.).

I'll try to post more a little later, but I need to finish up the reconstruction of my computer first. Thankfully, my machine at home is in good shape.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Useless Trivia

Seems like my posts tend to be serious followed by mindless of late. In that vein, here's a link that will give you an idea of how I spent a slow afternoon at work.

Paul Lukas now writes for Slate, and his latest effort is dated November 14th--but the Village Voice columns are just short enough to keep you hooked, with the prospect of more useless trivia to follow--here's my favorite, which presents otherwise useless sports uniform facts ranging from 1916 through 1997--the final factoid noting the retirement of Craig McTavish, the last person to play in the NHL without a helmet.

I haven't written much about sports here, beyond the occasional metaphor. Not that I don't follow sports--just the opposite, I watched the baseball playoffs, usually catch a college and/or pro football game on the weekend, and even went to a pro basketball game last year (saw the Hornets lose their final game of the 2002-2003 season to Philadelphia. If there was decent, reliable train service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, I'd probably go to more Hornets games, and might even watch a Saints game or two).

Back in the 1970's, when I was a kid, my parents took me to some Virginia Squires games in the old ABA. Afros, real shorts that were above the knee, Converse Chuck Taylors...and the symbol of the league, a red, white & blue basketball. Julius Erving was the star of the ABA, but, man Artis Gilmore was TALL. I believe the saying goes, 7'2", but 7'6" with his afro...

But I can't say I'm real proud of my sports addiction. Hell, I consider sports to be the television equivalent of junk food. Easy on the eyes, simple to follow (if difficult to really understand, like American Football), fraught with moral clarity (except when teams like the Oakland Raiders throw a monkey wrench into all that is supposedly good, true, and right)--hell, I'll admit that it burned for a bit when I watched the Cubs flame out again this year, followed by Grady Little sticking with Pedro for an inning too long--but, shit, sports are empty calories. Maybe that's a good thing--for example, let's hope Chicago fans hold no grudge against Steve Bartman, who, from all I've heard, seems like a truly decent person--even if I laughed at the several MasterCard parodies that appeared in the days following (could only find one link for this post--sorry). But even as I know I'll be watching a good bit of MNF this evening, I'll try to balance it out with some sort of chore, so at least I can say my evening wasn't completely wasted...
William Safire, Water Boy

Bill takes time off from being America's grammarian in chief to opine about the latest offering from Douglas Fieth regarding the supposed connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

"The Defense Department acknowledged the Oct. 27 letter included a classified annex of "raw reports or products" of U.S. intelligence agencies on "the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda," cautioning that it "drew no conclusions." But with so much connective tissue exposed --some the result of "custodial interviews" of prisoners--the burden of proof has shifted to those still grimly in denial."

(my emphasis).

Regarding the last sentence: Bull. Safire, the Weekly Standard, and Edward J. Epstein (Epstein, to his credit, isn't quite ready to hop aboard just yet) are engaged in the journalistic equivalent of throwing a Hail Mary pass and hoping for an interference call from a flag happy referee. They see smoke where, at best, there is fog.

TalkingPointsMemo has done great work in debunking this story. None of the allegations are new, Feith's name at the top of the memo means that it should be taken with a shaker, if not a grain, of salt, and, given the dated nature of the material, it is inconceivable that this information would NOT have been heavily publicized prior to invasion. This information, if true, would be far more damaging to Hussein than any Weapons of Mass Destruction in his possession--it would be grounds for invasion alone. The UN would have signed off on such an invasion if the link between Hussein and Al Qaeda existed--like they essentially did in Afghanistan (UN Resolution Passed on September 18, 2001).

I've had the displeasure of viewing Safire, in all his vainglorious righteousness, on PBS a few times. It ain't pretty. I'll give him credit for being an intelligent man, but he engages in demogaugery on a scale that shines far brighter than his relatively low rent post at the Gray Lady. This latest fish wrapping can go directly to Fulton Street and take up its true calling.

The War in Iraq has been sold under so many false pretenses that it's hard to keep up with the lying. Let's see: first it was WMD's, then it was Iraqi Liberation from Saddam, then it was Saddam was an imminent threat, then it was the War on Terror, now it's 9/11's Revenge--except that none of these make sense. There are NO WMD's (Condi Rice saying Saddam was the WMD was the most pathetic attempt to salvage that one), Saddam being ANY threat to the United States was/is laughable (he couldn't even control the whole of Iraq--Iraqi Kurdistan was de facto independent since 1991--we maintained the fiction of a united Iraq so as to not upset Turkey, which has its own reasons for opposing an independent Kurdistan), our newfound love for the Iraqi people is offset by the fact that we've killed over 5,000 to date--and face it, we as a country have NEVER been real keen on Middle Eastern human rights to begin with, the War on Terror is a canard when we consider that Iraqi resistance is mostly native in construct, and 9/11's revenge would only be valid IF we attacked Saudi Arabia--unless, of course, we've become so racist against Middle Easterners that we don't care who we kill, as long as we kill someone. And, if that's the case, we will lose--either directly on the battlefield, or, thinking broadly, by becoming our enemy.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Took yesterday off from posting, and no, I didn't ride over to St. Helena Parish to take advantage of the thriving adult entertainment industry.

I'm guessing most folks who follow the story saw/read yesterday about the bombings and the non-fatal attack on the DHL airplane in Iraq. Today, more grim news in Iraq, where three US soldiers were killed, two in Mosul, and a third near Ba'qubah. Meanwhile, in the forgotten war, the Taliban claimed responsibility for an explosion at a hotel in Kabul. Hamid Karzai's government admits they don't control the provinces, but now their ability to maintain order in the capital is not a given.

And, for those nostalgic for the good old days of COINTELPRO, here's a story from the New York Times regarding our FBI hard at work fighting terrorism--by collecting data on antiwar protesters. You'd think they might devote their resources to actually fighting genuine terrorists, as opposed to those exercising their constitutional rights...rights that may soon be taken away.

I realize it's quite a jump from sleepy Baton Rouge to Counter Intelligence, but you might be surprised. In the late 1960's/early 1970's, there were active agents collecting data in Baton Rouge--while the focus was mostly on those involved in the Civil Rights Movement, at least one individual was assigned to the antiwar movement--which did not exist in any meaningful way. So, the agent in question CREATED an antiwar movement. Interesting. Incidentally, the identity of this agent was kept a secret until he ran for student body president--someone discovered that this erstwhile antiwar activist was on the payroll of the local police, and further investigation indicated the source of funds was federal.

You know, this is pathetic AND scary. Scary because the difference between "monitoring" and "acting against" (through use of such information in attempts to defame those who are being monitored) is one of nuance. And pathetic because this country is supposed to allow people to speak, assemble, and petition freely. If the FBI wants to make a difference, they should go after TERRORISTS, damnit, not Americans who are using their freedoms.

To harken back to another era in BR--back in the 80's, I recall a police crackdown on young adults--at the time, I fit that description--who hung out around Chimes Street, drinking cheap beer (we couldn't afford anything else), talking, and otherwise doing what young people do...several people we're arrested on open container violations, a good friend of mine who WASN'T DRINKING was arrested for LITTERING because a piece of paper fell out of his pocket while police were removing his wallet from the same pocket--eventually a number of folks marched from campus to City Hall to demand a stop to the harrassment.

Meanwhile, plenty of real crime was occurring on a daily basis in the city--serious crime, like assault, sexual assualt, robbery, burglary, murder--you name it. Hell, the cops could've had a field day on the open container law if they ever showed up on Saturday evenings when there were home football games. So, why did they go after the street folks?Simple--it was easier. And I'm sure that's exactly what the FBI is thinking.

Like I said--scary AND pathetic.