Saturday, March 13, 2004

American Justice

Link via TalkLeft.
The Observer | UK News | How we survived jail hell is a two part series that is essential reading for anyone concerned about the direction Bush is taking this country. David Rose spoke with three British nationals who were just released from detention at the Guantanamo camp for "enemy combatants." One small problem: they weren't combatants.

Nor were they terrorists. In fact, they simply were three young men caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, and nearly became casualities themselves. Between the hellish experience of confinement in a semi container, to detention camps in Afghanistan, then off to Cuba, Asif Iqbal, Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul are living examples of a policy gone mad. And, they assert that most of the Guantanamo detainees are similarly confined without cause:

(from part two of the series of articles):

All are convinced that there are no 'big-time' terrorists at Guantanamo: arguably the most dangerous, in American eyes, says Ahmed, is a group of Taliban mullahs. American intelligence sources have confirmed this view to me. The 'big-timers' - men such as Khalid Shaikh Mohamed, architect of 9/11, have never been near Guantanamo. One source says: 'Guantanamo may even be a bit of a front, designed to divert al-Qaeda's attention. It takes everybody's attention away from more important matters and locations where big fish are being held. The secrecy surrounding it makes everybody think that very serious stuff is going on there.'

There's a word for the camp at Guantanamo and the actions of those who created it--shameful.
Rummy and His "Neat-o" 9/11 Souvenir

A US Justice Department investigation that criticised FBI agents for taking souvenirs from the World Trade Centre site has also found that US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a high-ranking FBI official kept items from September 11 attack scenes.

The final investigatory report said the Justice Department inspector general confirmed Rumsfeld "has a piece of the airplane that flew into the Pentagon".

More here.

I've always thought Bush acts like he's not ready to take the training wheels off, but it looks like Rumsfeld isn't far behind.

Off to a late start today, but these three posts are about as good as it gets: Timshel summarizes the lunacy of Bush's nuclear policy: threaten North Korea with a smackdown, but ignore the atomic 7-Eleven in Pakistan. Then I hit Atrios and Kos: both point out the fallacy of Bush being strong on National Security.

The fact is that Bush and his ilk are a disaster when it comes to national security. As the above posts note, they ignored the threat of terrorism prior to 9/11--hell, Dubya spent another MONTH on vacation AFTER BEING TOLD SPECIFICALLY that Middle Eastern terrorists were planning to use planes to attack high-profile targets here in the US. FBI field agents postulated CORRECTLY that the World Trade Center towers were a likely target. Bush's reaction to the attacks was to adopt a deer-in-the-headlights look, then beat a hasty retreat to Nebraska. Later, he and his followers cynically used the event to embark on a national security disaster--the occupation of Iraq, which has NOT made the world any safer, and which continues claim lives and tax the resources of our military.

The latest news from Spain indicates that the bombings in Madrid were the work of Al Qaeda. They seem to have weathered the half-assed operation Bush launched in Afghanistan. At this point, the capture or killing of bin Laden won't make any difference, tactics-wise. Osama is merely a rallying figure--the fact that he eluded death or capture for two years and counting is an inspiration to those wackos, who probably view this as "proof" that their perverted viewpoints are valid.

Funny though, that Bush once again feels the need to up the ante in the search for bin Laden--just in time for the election cycle.

Bush has consistently placed politics above the genuine security needs of the nation. He and his followers will lie, and argue to the contrary, but the record is clear. The United States--and the world--is decidedly less safe as a result of the actions Bush has taken in regards to international affairs. His policy of being a global Buford T. Pusser--minus the fact that Pusser at least knew a little about his patrol zone--has resulted in needless death and continued destruction.

A different direction MUST be taken.

Friday, March 12, 2004

An Army of...No Class

Confronting Rape in the Military is the title of an editorial in today's New York Times. Jerome Doolittle over at Bad Atittudes provided the link, and the best quote of the editorial:

The fact that servicewomen who become pregnant as a result of rapes are forced to pay for their abortions is one of the more appalling signs of the callousness toward the problem.

I'd say that's a bit of an understatement. Doolittle is more succinct. He calls it "sickening."
Giordano Makes a Promise

BigLeftOutside announces the John Kerry Speechwriting Tournament. Submit your speech or parts thereof, and Al promises

only this: If I think your submission should be part of Kerry's stump speech (or the whole thing) I will personally see to it that Kerry himself gets a copy of it... So your ultimate prize could be that one day you turn on the TV and hear your words spoken by the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Wouldn't it be a great blogosphere moment when the people start directly becoming the speechwriters?

Isn't that what democracy ought to be about?

So Sorry--Carry On

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Freed Briton tells of beatings:

One of the Britons freed from Guantánamo Bay spoke for the first time last night of the full horror of his ordeal.
Jamal al-Harith told how US soldiers brought in prostitutes to the camp, and paraded them naked in front of the many devout Muslims. The 37-year-old also claimed he was kicked, punched and assaulted with batons.

He told the Daily Mirror that detainees were shackled for up to 15 hours at a time in hand and leg cuffs with metal links to the skin. Mr Harith said punishment beatings were meted out by guards and prisoners were subjected to pyschological torture and mind games in an effort to break them.

Sadly, I can easily believe all of this, especially the story about the prostitutes. Young American men are particularly prone to stunts like this--don't ask me why, but humiliation of others seems to be a pretty common trait--as American as trash talkin'.

And what's a US base without a readily available supply of prostitutes? Freedom for he, but not for thee...

As far as the beatings, kickings, and shacklings? Par for the course as well. Back when these folks were being rounded up, it was simply accepted by the public that they were probably guilty of something, and given the "turn Afghanistan into a parking lot" sentiment at the time, my only surprise is that the detainees even arrived at Guantanamo alive. And it turns out, they were guilty of something: being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Sort of like being guilty of "Driving While Black."

Lisa, over at Kamikaze Kumquat, has something to say about this story

This woman didn't follow her doctor's advice because she was afraid or screwed up or whatever, so they're charging her for murder because one baby was born stillborn? Now, look, it was an unfortunate thing and a bad decision and I think the woman was a moron and she shouldn't have been pregnant to begin with, but charge her for murder? So, I take it Utah is one step from passing a law that says every time a woman ovulates if she doesn't attempt to have the egg fertilized and it's discharged by her body during her period, then she's committed abortion and will be charged for homicide.

TalkLeft has more, including an ABC article that states the obvious to anyone who sees Melissa Ann Rowland's photograph: according to her attorney, she has "a long history" of mental illness. Interestingly, the CNN story makes NO MENTION WHATSOEVER to this condition, but instead, allows the District Attorney to grandstand by claiming that Rowland avoided a C-Section for "cosmetic reasons."

A woman with a long history of mental illness should have been placed in some sort of mental health facility. She certainly should NOT have been entrusted to make such a difficult decision regarding whether or not to undergo a C-Section (itself not necessarily an "easy" procedure), and most certainly should NOT be prosecuted by an overzealous District Attorney who probably couldn't give a half-shit about the stillborn child.

These folks are trying to deny the basic right of a woman to control her own body in the most cynical way imaginable--by cherrypicking a case that involves someone who is MENTALLY ILL. The disposition of this case could go a long way towards limiting the rights of millions of women who are mentally sound. That isn't right.

I'm thinking strongly about attending the April 25th March for Women's Rights in Washington, D.C., because of things like this. It's time that people respected and accepted ALL women's rights. End of story.
We'll Beat the Freedom Into Them

BAD ATTITUDES: Democracy Spelled with a Dubya links to two articles in the New York Times about Venezuela.

In the first article, we see the evil inherent in using a country's wealth for the good of the populace, instead of having it line the pocket of some rich investor (written with sarcasm intended).


All across this oil-rich and poverty-riddled country, the state oil giant, Petróleos de Venezuela, the country's economic engine, is embarking on a radical and wide-ranging social spending program that includes building homes, running literacy programs and developing agriculture. In all, the company, known worldwide as Pdvsa (pronounced peh-deh-VEH-sah), is increasing its social spending from less than $40 million in previous years to $1.7 billion this year, according to the company's 2004 budget: $616 million on various programs, $600 million on agricultural development and $500 million on low-income housing.

The new spending measures are transforming a state company long run like a private concern into President Hugo Chávez's primary vehicle for social change in the world's fifth-largest oil exporter.

The second article tells us what the United States' response is:

Under United States pressure to allow a recall referendum against his rule, President Hugo Chávez has in recent days counterattacked, charging that the Bush administration is trying to oust him by aiding his adversaries, including those who briefly overthrew him in a 2002 coup.

The Times was at least kind enough to include the information that the Venezueala Solidarity Committee has compiled an extensive number of documents that support Chavez's assertions. Of course, they didn't include a link, but Google is free.

Full disclosure: I speak and write Spanish at about the same level: that of a child. Most of the documents are in Spanish, so my grasp is quite limited; however, I have access to translators who hopefully will assist me in taking a look. Meanwhile, I'll rely on the information from the Times article, even though there's no love lost between myself and the Gray Lady.

I don't doubt Bush is itching for military action in Venezuela. Iraq is a disaster, the war on terror is such a joke that I wonder if those supporting either the creation of a police state or archaic military action even know what they're talking about, and the Administration has nothing to show for the outlay of billions of dollars except for more terror. Oh--and the economy sucks, in case no one's noticed.

Lying, Crooked--and Sanctimonious Bitches

Mary over at Naked Furniture points out that Rethuglicans aren't merely white whine: they're white whine in a box.

For the record, I watched the replay on C-Span last night of both Kerry's press conference and the Republican House Leadership. The contrast was amazing. The Democarats at least appeared to look like normal humans, while the Republicans looked like a combination of inbreeds (Frist, DeLay, and what's his name, a backbencher from Georgia), thugs (Hastert), thugs with a Napoleon complex (Stevens), and Geeks in the literal definition of the term (Santorum). One thing I found kind of funny was that the guy from C-Span kept holding the camera at an angle, giving it the appearence of a sting operation, with the House leadership playing the role of the mafia.

Of course, in reality, they're classic bullies--full of bluster and vim, but ready to run off like little crybabies when someone stands up to them.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


Atrios links to The Poor Man's storyboarding (complete with bitch-slap/kiss of TNR) of the latest Bush ad. If I was in Lafayette, I'd consider nominating it for an Addy.

I waited until now to post regarding the tragedy in Spain for several reasons. First, even the authorities aren't certain who is responsible. Second, I was late getting home and busy enough at work. But I'd like to make a couple of points:

When Bush says we're safer, I've got to disagree. One, you had the anthrax letters in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, then there have been bombings in Indonesia, Morocco, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, as well as plenty of flak in the form of disinformation that causes the Bush administration to jump like a little puppy that's chasing its tail. Now we have this.

Whether or not it's ETA, or Al Qaeda, or Al Qaeda-affiliated, or whoever, the message is clear: the so-called "War" on terror will no more kill the threat than shooting bullets at smoke will clear the air. Yes, I'm recycling that metaphor, but it's appropriate. Terrorists are NOT nations. Fighting a conventional war on terrorists is akin to using third-generation tactics of war against fourth-generation conflict. In the last century, the First World War was initially fought using the tactics of the 19th century and the equipment of the 20th century--with horrendous results for the soldiers who fought in the conflict (incuding my own grandfather, although, thankfully, he arrived late as an American, and, without any shame at all, told me that he often volunteered for K.P. In his broken english--grandpa was a mostly French-speaking Cajun--he told me that K.P. "put you in the back trench, and you could eat the leftovers." Good for him).

Of course, we could always opt for the police-state method of dealing with tragedies like 9/11--or 3/11. Basically piss on the notion of individual rights and freedoms, and turn the public into subjects of whatever you want to call the government at that point. But if that comes to pass, then the game is over. THAT'S when the terrorists have won.

And that's the Bush plan for dealing with terrorism. Use time-worn, out-of-date tactics, crush individual liberties, scare the shit out of the public with sinister advertising imagery, and hope that no one notices the fact that your cronies have looted the Treasury.

But the world is decidedly less safe as a result. And that's something Bush has to answer for: as the leader of the free world, his decisions weigh heavily when it comes to the fate of all of us--whether we are in the United States or anywhere else that accepts our pre-eminence as a world power--and Bush must accept responsibility for his decision to engage terrorism in such an archaic, and stupid manner.

Yes, the world HAS changed since 9/11. But not in the way the neo-cons--emphasis on con--ever imagined.
After the Trashing

A little bit of love forThe New Republic campaign blog written by Ryan Lizza. Link via TalkingPointsMemo.

Lizza writes: "A reader suggests a nickname for the new Bush spot: the Muhammad Horton ad. Another reader suggests Walid Horton." Walid or Muhammed, it's still a desperate attempt to scare the shit out of the voting public. Theme: a vote for Kerry is a vote for terrorism. The shot: a slow motion split screen featuring, again using Lizza's words, "swarthy, somewhat sinister-looking man with darting eyes who slowly turns toward the camera. He is clearly the terrorist in this scary montage."

Sleazy can hardly begin to describe their tactics.
Mickey Kaus, Professional Asshole

Missing Kerry Mate Surfaces, Fires - Alas, it's Douglas Brinkley's story, is the title of a rant in Kausfiles, and a prime example of why I've essentially tuned him out. Kaus is ready to take at face value the story of Stephen Gardner, the single crewmember of Kerry's swift boat command who has a negative view of the retired Lieutenant. Disguising his faith in Gardner's story by attacking the writer of the Time article as "publicity-mad" Douglas Brinkley (who admittedly penned a sympathetic biography of the Senator), Kaus demonstrates why Slate needs to can his sorry ass and let him run off to the Freepers, or the National Reviewers or like pea-brains. Sadly, though, I expect that Kaus will continue to peddle his blather for the online publication.

Slate is akin to some of the worst of the mid-to-late 90's Madison politicians. As someone wrote to the local free weekly just before I left the isthmus, there was so much 50's style conservatism passed off as 90's style liberalism that he or she was ready to move back to UTAH, for chrissakes. Slate likewise spends so much time trying to prove that liberals are capable of conservative thought that they've become almost the moral equivalent of The New Republic. Check out these gems:

A hatchet job on George Soros, who should be commended for seeking to level the political playing field by donating money to various Democrats and/or liberal/left causes.

A slash piece, singling out Wonkette and Gawker, but essentially dismissing the entire blogosphere as worthless.

Here's a piece that will have the Rethuglicans licking their chops: how to attack John Kerry on the basis of his Catholicism.

Here's a "condensed" Tour of Duty, highlighting a number of perceived weak points for the candidate, e.g., some folks think he's a phony because he has consistantly excelled at everything he tries.

In spite of a decent piece by Fred Kaplan that tells the facts about Bush's flat out lie regarding Kerry's bill(.pdf)--in summary, it was a deficit cutting measure that sought to recover $1.5 billion dollars the National Reconnaisance Office hadn't even spent, along with non-military cuts (furthermore, it should be noted that the biggest criticism of our intelligence services in light of 9/11 was its over-reliance on satellites, i.e., precisely what the NRO is all about)--Slate is becoming the sort of stuff that is read by folks who never really were on the left, but figured it was cool to look like it during college.

Timshel has a post about a group of veterans in Abbeville who are, in a word, ignorant:

[A] veterans group in Abbeville [is] causing a ruckus over a pan-African flag flying in an Abbeville cultural center.

LaBorde took a poll of fellow veterans in Post 4158. They agreed the the Pan-African flag needs to come down. The flag and its colors represent different things to different people. For some, it symbolizes the struggle for African unity. For others, its a banner of the black liberation movement. That's what bothers the veterans in Abbeville.

"It advocates their goal and thrust is to overthrow the government and create a black country on the north American continent," says LaBorde.

The best part is their offer to buy a Liberian flag to fly in the cultural center in the tri-color's place. These guys are clearly paragons of cultural understanding. This whole report (and this post too) is much ado about nothing, but it's always fun to point out stupidity in the ranks.

OK, I stand corrected--they're stupid, not ignorant. But I'll stand by my use of the term Grasseaters, which in the 1950's was used to describe hard-core segregationists like Willie Rainach. Sadly, while the South has managed to evolve quite a bit in the ensuing half-century, there are a few folks still around to remind us of our worst moments.
Just Like Mom Used to Make

Just got back from setting up a printer for a couple of workstations that the Commissioner's Office wanted over at the Capitol Building--and I took a brief side trip up to the observation deck on not quite the top floor (Louisiana's Capitol Building, for those who've not been down to the Gret Stet, is a Huey Long-era mini-tower, sometimes referred to as "Huey's erection").

I got back to find an email from my sister which directed me this page over at The Onion:

By Josh Modell, Noel Murray & Tasha Robinson
The shelves of America's dollar stores are packed with off-brand foodstuffs from netherworlds where Nabisco and Frito-Lay exist only as rumor. These weird little consumables sport odd names, curious mascots, unusual cooking suggestions, and flavor combinations that no sane laboratory chef could concoct. But how do they taste? The writers at The Onion A.V. Club recently emptied their coin purses and embarked on a quest for budget-friendly snacks.

Here's one example:

The tin says it all, though not succinctly: "Luncheon loaf with chicken, pork added. Smoke flavoring added." Basically, it's off-brand Spam, but with chicken in addition to the usual meat byproducts. Inside the tin is a greasy brick of mottled pink material. Science has been unable to determine anything further about Treet.
Scariest-sounding ingredient: "Food starch-modified."
Worth the price? If only for the recipe on the back of the can, which teaches the unutterably incompetent how to make a Treet sandwich by layering bread, cheese, sauerkraut, and mayonnaise in a strictly prescribed order.

If you still have the stomach for it, click on the link above for the rest...
Will They Outsource the Manufacturing Czar's Position?

The Island of Balta points out that the new "Manufacturing Czar," Anthony F. Raimondo, owns a company that laid off workers here while spending $3 million dollars building a new plant in Beijing.

How will Bush introduce Raimondo when the appointment becomes official--"Here is the fox I've hired to guard the henhouse"?

Remember, Gregory Mankiw, chief economic advisor to this administration, literally cheered and clapped over outsourcing recently, all but saying "bring it on."

Oh, and last night, I came across a speech on C-Span by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-OR, regarding the appointment. According to DeFazio, it was to take place today, but there's a small hitch: Raimondo is in China.

I wonder when Bush will appoint Ken Lay to chair the S.E.C., Jack Kevorkian as Surgeon General, Karl Rove to run the F.B.I., and Ahmad Chalabi to head the C.I.A...

More State Secrets Revealed

The GOP is throwing a hissy fit over John Kerry's remark that they are "the most crooked, you know, lying group of people I've ever seen."

The designated crybabies from the Bush team were Mark Racicot and Scott Stanzel. Racicot, as some may recall, hauled water during the election controversy back in 2000. Stanzel I don't know much about. But remember:

This is the administration that allowed Ken Lay, Chairman of Enron, to essentially write energy policy.
This is the administration that is gutting the Clean Air Act.
This is the administration that is cutting taxes for the rich during wartime--something never done in the history of the country.
This is the administration that lied about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.
This is the administration that stonewalled the 9/11 commission--and was asleep at the wheel prior to the attack.
This is the administration that outed a CIA agent for purposes of partisan retribution.
This is the pResident who callously announced "Bring 'em on" when asked about the deaths of US soldiers.
This is the administration that developed A.D.D. during the hunt for bin Laden, only to rediscover their lost toy in time for the 2004 election.
This is the pResident who pranced around on an aircraft carrier in a flight suit and announced Mission Accomplished when in fact the mission was just beginning--the ultimate flip-flop.
This is the administration whose vice-president is on the payroll of the biggest private defense contractor of the war.
This is the administration that won't even level with the public regarding the actual costs of war, choosing to push "supplemental" budgets to cover the Iraq war's skyrocketing costs.

And this isn't list isn't even complete. Racicot and Stanzel ought to be grateful that their political party is in complete control of government; otherwise, the frogmarches and perp walks would become a regular feature on the news shows. Most crooked, lying?--that's an understatement.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Maybe Shrub Should Chair Disney

Link courtesy of As'ad abu Kahlil
Put some mouse ears on, George:

A tale of conquest of the Orient, based on entirely false pretences ... Now where have we heard that one before?

That's the closing line of an article in today's Independent. The story is about a Disney movie called Hidalgo, a "true story" of how Fred Hopkins--and his horse--applied good old American spunk, derring-do, and know-how to win a famed Middle East horse race, the 3,000 mile-long Ocean of Fire, a hundred or so years ago. Hopkins took the best of the region to task, becoming the first Westerner to claim the title in its fabled 1,000 year-history.

Note that I used the term "fabled." That's because about the only truth to Disney's story is that Fred Hopkins certainly claimed this as part of his life-story--along with equally false tales of being at the Battle of Wounded Knee, having toured the world with Buffalo Bill, etc. etc. In fact, the very idea of a horse race called the "Ocean of Fire" is simply another myth--there's no such thing.

This hasn't kept Disney from marketing it as "the incredible true story," although, as the article notes,

Disney's executive director of international publicity, Nina Heyn, was quoted last year as saying, in an apparent moment of unguarded honesty, that "no one here really cares about the historical aspects", a line the company has been careful not to repeat since.

Sounds like the kind of movie Dubya would get a kick out of, and, better still, it reflects his method of thinking: why let the facts get in the way?
Running Scared

CNN is reporting that the Bush team has adopted a "white whine" strategy of late. They're wailing and gnashing their teeth over the fact that and the Media Fund have enough money to run ads critical of their Dear Leader. The ads will run 17 "battleground" States over the next few weeks.

Here's a link to a description of the spots (yeah, the link is to the NY Times, which, as noted below, won't be winning my praise anytime soon. But just because I don't like it doesn't mean I don't read it). In short, the theme is "Bush's policies are eroding the American Dream."

Makes you wonder if the Bushistas are angry that an official state secret has been revealed.
Don't Forget to Tip the Maid

Timshel has a good post about a certain four-post bed in Washington DC that is the centerpiece of the Lincoln bedroom. For those whose crave a more rural setting, a Camp David Cabin is also available--all for the low price of a certain president's political integrity--not that he ever had any integrity to begin with.

Be sure to check out CrawlingWestward's links. Several make note of a Bush quote from back in 2000--to paraphrase, he claimed that Truman's famous sign "The Buck Stops Here" was moved to the Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton Administration. Seems like Bush not only kept it there, he had another one made and dropped off at the Camp David retreat to boot.

I was out late last night, taking the off chance that Mr. Franken might show up at one of the local watering holes following his talk last night. No such luck, although I did run into an acquaintence who also spent the early evening hours at the Assemby Center.

In the course of a lengthy (and slightly sodden) conversation, this person made an interesting point: about the only thing the left and right can agree on these days is the shoddy reporting of what Billmon calls Pravda on the Hudson: the Gray Lady herself, the New York Times. Al Giordano even has an entire section devoted to the topic "Who Killed The New York Times?"

It's a little frightening to think that I agree about ANYTHING with the rightward-leaning folks, but contempt for "The First Rough Draft of History" is one where there's a definite spirit of bipartisanship.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Franken at LSU

I almost forgot that Al Franken was speaking this evening at the Assembly Center. At roughly 7 o'clock, having just finished up an early dinner, I realized that I hadn't voted (meaningless, sure, under the circumstances, but...), and I'd forgotten about the talk. Figuring it'd take about twenty minutes to walk over--of course there was no line at my polling place--I went ahead and caught the last hour and a half. Not bad--it was mostly a retelling of certain stories from his latest book, with some additional embellishments for those of us who've read it more than once.

Al wanted to have a longer Q&A--hell, at first it looked like there wouldn't even BE a questions and answer--but they found a wireless microphone and opened the floor to a limited number of queries. Most weren't all that surprising considering the speaker, although to have an audience that I'd estimate at around 3,000 here in bible country certainly is saying something. One "questioner" elicited the biggest laugh of the night when, in the midst of a long screed about the evils of the two party question, Franken interrupted with the observation that "It has to be like Jeopardy--in the form of a question." Another person who reached the microphone wasn't able to distinguish between the Clinton policy of advocating regime change in Iraq with Bush's policy of unilateral invasion--and while Al's response was easy enough for me to understand, I don't think the questioner quite got it.

Not a bad investment of a couple of hours. Unfortunately, like an idiot, I forgot to bring my copy of Lies to get signed, but that's life.
He's Also Describing Baton Rouge

I finally found the time to plow through a fairly long article from Monthly Review written by Paul Sweezy, who passed away a week and a half ago. Called Cars and Cities it originally appeared in the April 1973 volume of the periodical.

The text is not for the faint of heart in regards to economics. Additionally, being over thirty years old, the statistics are certainly out of date. But if you feel like a little bit of independent Marxist analysis of the internal combustion culture--minus any references to gearheads or NASCAR Dads--by all means give it a look. Here are a couple of the concluding paragraphs:

Where these conditions [a thriving urban center] are found, the city retains much of its traditional structure and character, despite the ubiquitous sprawl and the decaying slums and ghettos between downtown and the outer residential areas. But where these conditions are not found or are found in a relatively undeveloped form—and this is the case with most cities which have experienced most of their growth during the automobile age—there has been a strong tendency for the old urban structure to break down and a new one without historic precedent to take its place. The process of sprawl has brought with it a decentralization of most of the functions usually associated with downtown, with resultant emergence of a multiplicity of subcenters, each offering some of the services of downtown—shopping areas, branch banks, motels, restaurants, cinemas—but without any of its character or magnetism. When this stage has been reached, the city as a meaningfully organized and structured form of civilized living has disappeared in favor of an amorphous aggregate of people, dwellings, cars, roads, and economic units jumbled together in a more or less continuous and potentially ever-expanding geographical area. Los Angeles is the obvious prototype of this kind of urban area. It was vividly characterized as long ago as 1959, in a perceptive series of articles by Harrison Salisbury in the New York Times, as follows:

Here, nestled under its blanket of smog, girdled by bands of freeways, its core eviscerated by concrete strips and asphalt fields, its circulatory arteries pumping away without focus, lies the prototype of Gasopolis, the rubber-wheeled living region of the future.

Los Angeles is no longer a city as the term has been conventionally defined: Sam S. Taylor, general manager of Los Angeles traffic, calls Los Angeles a "mobile region."

For anyone looking toward the future, toward the end result of the full autofication of the American metropolis, Los Angeles is the phenomenon to analyze most carefully.

When Lincoln Steffens went to the Soviet Union just after the Bolshevik Revolution, he proclaimed, "I have seen the future—and it works."

Today's visitor to Los Angeles might paraphrase Steffens and say, "I have seen the future—and it doesn't work." (March 3, 1959)
Halliburton Says "Let Them Eat Cake"

The Island of Balta links to an MSNBC article which shows the sincere concern Bush and Cheney have for the troops in Iraq:

Balta notes:

A company called Event Source, who are working under Halliburton in Iraq to provide meals to U.S. troops (they prepped the famed thanksgiving dinner) are threatening to stop serving our troops hot meals. The company has already started laying off staff in the U.S. and is on the verge of having to serve nothing but sandwiches.

Why? Halliburton, who is already being accused of overcharging the government for food, hasn't paid tens of millions of dollars that they owe on the contract.

There's small justice in noting that HAL is down a bit today. Overall, the price is still almost 50% higher than it was a year ago. Dick Cheney can sleep easier tonight: his severance package is safe, and I expect his response to providing hot meals to our soldiers would be remarkably similar to his rationale for avoiding military service as a young man: He has "other priorities."

Link courtesy of TalkLeft

The Guardian goes hunting for weasels today with a profile of Karl Rove, the "brain" behind the blank look that is characteristic of Dubya:

In the autumn election season of 1970, a cherubic, bespectacled teenager turned up at the Chicago campaign headquarters of Alan Dixon, a Democrat running for state treasurer in Illinois. No one paid the newcomer much attention when he arrived, or when he left soon afterwards. Nor did anyone in the office make the connection between the mystery volunteer and 1,000 invitations on campaign stationery that began circulating in Chicago's red-light district and soup kitchens, promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing" for all-comers at Dixon's headquarters.
As political dirty tricks go, it was minor league. Hundreds of the city's heavy drinkers and homeless turned up at a smart Dixon reception looking for free booze. Dixon was embarrassed but the plot failed to stop his momentum: he was elected state treasurer and went on to become a senator. But the teenager who stole his letterheads, Karl Rove, has gone even further.

Rove might not take too kindly to the profile; however, he might have more pressing things to worry about. TalkingPointsMemo links to an article in The American Prospect (also referred to in TalkLeft) that paints Rove as what I would call an accessory after the fact in the Valerie Plame matter--at best. While not implicating Rove as the source of the Novak article, the piece makes it clear that Rove thought it jolly well good to pile on at a time when perhaps he didn't realize the consequences of outing a CIA agent:

President Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, told the FBI in an interview last October that he circulated and discussed damaging information regarding CIA operative Valerie Plame with others in the White House, outside political consultants, and journalists, according to a government official and an attorney familiar with the ongoing special counsel's investigation of the matter.

And this is the Administration that supposedly can be trusted in matters of national security?
Of Local Interest

The Advocate reports that an eyesore on East Boulevard is about to go the way of all things:

Demolition of the East Boulevard apartment complex is expected to take 80 days. The demolition of both East Boulevard and Oklahoma Street is set to be completed by July 22, Murray said.

One of the routes I take to work passes right by this complex. It is an example of all that is wrong with public housing--the project was poorly designed, poorly built, and fell apart quite rapidly once completed. For years it teetered between partial occupancy and abandonment, finally being boarded up a couple of years ago.

Something tells me that in spite of being officially condemned, there were likely a few folks sharing space with the roaches, rats, and assorted species common to South Louisiana.

Good riddance to this project, and here's hoping the almost $19 million dollar grant associated with the demolition and reconstruction will produce housing of higher quality. In fact, the entire area, commonly known as "The Bottoms" (so named because it lies on "bottom land" that originally was bordered by a natural levee that defined the outer limit of the Mississippi River during flood stage) could and should be the recipient of reconstruction grants. I've argued before that if Bush wanted to engage in the kind of nation building that he's so keen to do in Iraq, he should have tried it first RIGHT HERE in the USA. There are a lot of places that could use the money, and the folks wouldn't be attacking us with RPG's. It would also accomplish something that George the Second is apparently unable to figure out how to do: strengthen the economy.

I'd even consider letting Halliburton in on some of the gravy under those circumstances.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats--Unless it Sinks Them

Link courtesy of As'ad Abu Kahlil. The Guardian UK reports that Argentina is seriously thinking of defaulting on a $3.1 billion dollar loan held by the International Monetary Fund. The dispute is actually a broader issue involving the country's crushing $90 billion dollar outstanding debt, and questions over how many cents on the dollar creditors will ultimately receive:

[President Nestor] Kirchner and economy minister Roberto Lavagna have offered creditors 25¢ in the dollar. Any more, they argue, would force them to cut spending on schools and hospitals. The creditors are demanding 65¢ in the dollar and say Argentina can afford to pay them, now the country is enjoying healthy growth.

Argentina's problems stem from their following the plans laid out by the IMF and various international lending institutions during the 1990's.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Just for the Record

Most of y'all stopping by certainly read DailyKos, but I want to make sure that, if nothing else, I've got an easy link to a by-no-means-complete list of Bush's flip-flops on the issues (although considering there are over one hundred comments, it's likely that a fair number of Bush changes are noted).

Bush Portrays Kerry as Too Indecisive to Lead is the headline in the New York Times. Here's a direct quote:

"It's the same old Washington mindset," Mr. Bush [said]. "They'll give you the orders, and you pay the bills."

This statement is from a man who has unilaterally gone to war in Iraq at a cost of $105 billion dollars and counting, who has run up a $500 billion dollar deficit this year alone, who has allowed Kellogg Brown and Root to overcharge taxpayers for food and fuel for US soldiers in the Middle East, who has forced States, counties, and municipalities to increase taxes to pay for federal mandates like No Child Left Behind, who has gutted environmental regulations, who has subsidized the drug companies to the tune of billions of dollars at taxpayer expense--and he accuses the "Washington mindset" of somehow being profligate.

To me, Bush sounds more like a thief who tries to sue a homeowner because he tripped and fell when climbing through the window.
Pay No Attention to the Karzai Behind The Curtain

The Christian Science Monitor reports on Human Right's Watch and their assessment of our Afghanistan actions:

Human Rights Watch, the largest US-based human rights group, released a report Sunday saying US forces hunting Taliban and Al Qaeda sympathizers in Afghanistan have beaten and psychologically abused detainees, and used excessive force during raids that led to civilian deaths

Im guessing that everyone who stops by has seen Atrios' post regarding Karzai:

KABUL (CP) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered Afghan men a trade today in an attempt to convince them to let their women vote in upcoming elections. "Please, my dear brothers, let your wives and sisters go to the voter registration process," Karzai told a gathering to mark International Women's Day. "Later, you can control who she votes for, but please, let her go."

Karzai's plea set off a murmur in the crowd of about 500 women and illustrated the fragile grip the democratic process holds in Afghanistan.

The Reverend Al Hour

The New York Times reports that Al Sharpton's next career move following the campaign might well be, in their words, "multimedia sensation."

He may not have won many votes this primary season, but the Rev. Al Sharpton won credit from various quarters for often stealing the show at Democratic presidential debates, where his wit and sense of humor often made his opponents seem like, well, politicians...

"I don't think anyone denies that I have built a national personality.''

My own opinion is this could be a good move both for Sharpton and the progressive Democratic movement--provided the Reverend recognizes that being a media personality, Ronald Reagan notwithstanding, will likely mean the end of any genuine political aspirations he may have held (of course, his record in the primaries likewise suggests that politician isn't something that Al should pursue).

Having watched him during the campaign, I think he could work quite well in this capacity: he is politically progressive, he KNOWS the how to speak within the confines of the modern media, and he won't back down a la Alan Colmes.

Sure, it's not quite as much fun as being in the thick of the race, but there's a degree of power in being a media figure, along with a degree of freedom that politicians don't have.

For the record, I'd watch the Reverend Al Hour. It'd beat the hell out of O'Reilly or Hannity or any of the other right-wing clowns that monopolize political discussion on the airwaves.
Department of Irony

Sorry for the no-post weekend. Had a lot of stuff to do, and was also interested in watching and reading everyone else out there. This morning, though, I caught a few minutes of NPR : Morning Edition on the way into work. Juan Williams was playing batting practice pitcher to Donald Evans, Secretary of Commerce.

Evans did his best to turn chicken-shit into chicken salad in the course of a ten minute interview. Funny how easy that is to do with a compliant interviewer. Juan served up meatball after meatball, and Evans took mighty swings. To the casual listener, it had all the fill-me-up of a giant sized bucket of french fries. Too bad Evans' assertions: tax cuts create jobs, things are looking up, etc. etc., were NEVER challanged.

The secretary chanted what I'm sure will be the Bush mantra regarding the outsourcing of jobs--it sounds a lot like the mantra regarding "collatoral damage" on the war front: a most insincere expression of regret, followed by an assertion that 'we must maintain the course' regarding free-trade and globalization. That's easy for a person with Evans' net worth to believe in, but explain that to someone who's been out of work for a couple of years. It's hard to pay bills on the basis of empty promises.

The final irony in the piece was what folks in the "non-commercial" radio call the "granter" spot, that is, the commercial. It was for Keene's Worldwide Outsourcing. Working with the government to outsource IT positions. No lie.