Saturday, April 10, 2004

In Black and White

Presdential Daily Brieifing On bin Laden, August 6, 2001.

One thing's for sure: it's brief, although I don't know how much more clear it could get. Apparently though, it wasn't enough to disrupt a month-long spell of R&R for Mr. Bush. And, as I'm sure most folks have seen, Bush responded to the latest escalation of fighting in Iraq by--goin' fishin'.

How's that for leadership?
Isolated Pockets of Resistance

This map courtesy of Today in Iraq.

Sorry for slow posting today. Last night I was out enjoying The Chris Leblanc Band at Swampmama's, emphasis on enjoying.

I have been looking over stuff at Whiskey Bar, Needlenose TalkingPointsMemo, Pandagon, Counterpunch--along with Timshel's Saturday post and I quickly glanced at Mary's site which I'll look at more closely once I'm fully alert. And, just to let the anger flow a bit, I linked over to an Instapundit screed regarding casualities and David Brook's weird op-ed in the New York Times.

Regarding Reynolds and the other rightwards gross comparison of body counts: I find this sort of death-by-numbers to be more than a little disgusting. To callously suggest that the numbers "aren't nearly as bad as...[name the war]" is cynical and shows a profound degree of contempt for those who wear the uniform. Much in the same manner as "they knew what they were getting into when they signed up," which I've written about before.

Yes, combat is a bloody business. Nobody thinks otherwise. That's why the country should be very careful about where and when our forces are deployed. Also, it is totally disengenous to compare combat deaths from different eras: wounds that killed in Vietnam, Korea, and World War II are thankfully not always lethal these days. That said, they aren't mere scratches either.

The right-leaners also seem not to realize the level of carnage being inflicted upon the Iraqi people. The number of dead and wounded Iraqis in Fallujah speak to an indiscriminate use of firepower. In the extreme short run, this might keep a lid on the uprising, but the long term implications are about as negative as one can consider. There is now NO WAY that the so-called "Sunni Triangle" will ever accept our presence, which means that, until we withdraw, the situation will fluctuate between low-level hostility and outright rebellion.

Meanwhile, as the map linked to above indicates, resistance is by no means isolated--as this map demonstrates, opposition to the occupation is evident almost everywhere there is a significant number of people.

Regardless of how many times Rumsfeld might lie about contingency plans for Iraq, the fact is that NO ONE thought that, one year in, we'd be facing this kind of opposition. This alone should be enough to make any sane individual realize that the war is lost. David Brooks simply is trying his best to spin, as are the other warmongers. "Staying the course" at this point will do about as much good as it did for the French in Indochina or Algeria.

The war in Iraq is a complete fuck-up. We've lost hundreds of lives, spent huge amounts of money, and what we've gotten out of it is a Pandora's Box in the Middle East. I seriously doubt ANY war strategy would have worked in Iraq, but the one pursued by the Bush administration is particularly inept. Which shouldn't be all that surprising: Bush is about as lightweight as it comes when you talk about political figures. His "vision" for the world is about as complicated as that of an average high schooler. This country needs a leader who truly understands what's happening in the world, and has a detailed plan for dealing with world events. I don't know if Kerry has that kind of vision--yet--but I guarantee that Bush is simply out of his league.

As I've seen it written on other websites: 86-43-04. Indeed.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Cuckoo For Cocoa Puffs

Jeff Skilling, former CEO of Enron, is feeling the strain.

I can only imagine what he might do if his life savings had been destroyed--which is what he did to a number of Enron employees.
One More Helping of Fried Rice

Richard Clarke was interviewed on both Nightline and the regular ABC news broadcast. This isn't surprising: Koppel admitted he's a paid consultant. You can link to the Jennings interview above.

One other thing that's bothered me about Rice's testimony was her insistance on a so-called separation between the FBI and CIA--I managed to stomach more of her testimony yesterday during the second C-Span replay. The sort of weird grin she gave when she managed to conjure up the whole canard about "structural" issues in this regard spoke volumes: she was pulling this out of her ass, and it was evident.

Here's something Clarke said regarding this:

We had meetings that I chaired two and three times a week where FBI and the CIA shared information. My deputy had a daily meeting where that took place. The problem was that there was information buried in FBI and the CIA that wasn't shaken out.

The sort of contorted parsing of Rice demonstrates a profound level of contempt for the American public. Does she think Tenet and Freeh would have engaged in some sort of bizarro form of "Password" when discussing significant information about possible terrorist plots in the United States? Or was she simply ignorant?

"Mr. CIA Director, I've got a secret. Now, you know I can't share any information with you, because of those ticky-tack laws and everything,'s a hint. His name rhymes with, uh, Hosanna."

"Hmmn...Hosanna, Hosanna--um, Emmanuel? Emmanuel Goldstein?"

"I said RHYMES with Hosanna. Let's see...last name...two words...when you throw something away, you put it in the rubbish..."

"Can? Canada is attacking us?"

"NO, Goddamnit. Um...rhymes with SIN!"

"Sin. er...gin...din? Gunga Din?"

"No, it's bin, goddamnit--now you've done it! I've broken the law! YOU BETTER NOT TELL ASHCROFT!"

"Been what?"

"Not been, BIN! Shit, do I have to spell it out? Hey--that might not be a crime...ok b-i-n, first word of last name, second word, l-a..."

"Oh, this is all just so confusing...tell Condi we're working on it..."
Strict Constructionist

TalkLeft notes that Scalia threw a hissy fit in Mississippi over the press recording his public remarks.

Maybe it's time Antonin was given a refresher course:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Timshel wrote this a couple of days ago--looks like Good Friday will be good for the Prados.

Without really thinking of the religious season, I found myself at the grocery store thinking, o.k., shrimp or chicken? I chose the former, even though it was imported. Damn, I need to start hitting Tony's Seafood, in spite fo the fact that it's way the hell out on Plank Road.

So, with apologies to the local industry, I'm in good graces with the Catholic Church, AND get to eat my favorite seafood today. If you don't mind me going off topic, here's the recipe.

Shrimp Curry


2 pounds shrimp
1 large onion (chopped)
Fresh chopped parsley
1 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
2 14 oz. cans of chickpeas


1 TBSP Cumin Seeds
1 TBSP Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Dried Red Pepper (crushed)
1 Tsp Tumeric
1 Tsp Ginger
2 Bay Leaves
1 Clove Garlic
1 Tsp Cardamom
1 TBSP Hot Curry Powder
Salt & Pepper to Taste
Olive oil

First, you peel the shrimp, which is child's play compared to peeling crawfish. Heat the oil in a large skillet (I used an electric skillet), then fry the cumin, mustard, and red pepper briefly. Add the chopped onion, tumeric, ginger, cardamom, bay leaves, and garlic--keep the heat up until the onion is somewhere between clear and carmelized. Then add the can of tomatoes and reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the two cans of chickpeas. Let this sit for a few minutes.

I'll usually add about a quarter cup of water here, to give the sauce a consistency that I like.

Then add the shrimp. Spice this to taste with the curry powder, salt, and pepper. They'll cook really fast, so keep an eye out. After no more than about ten minutes, it should be done--add the chopped parsley and stir a bit. It'll taste even better the next day, once the spice has soaked in.

Serve over rice.
Mission Accomplished

Riverbend has some news about the one year anniversary of the toppling of Saddam's statue in Firdaws Square:

Firdaws Square, the place where the statue was brought down, is off-limits because the Americans fear angry mobs and demonstrations… but it doesn't matter because people are sticking to their homes. The kids haven't been to school for several days now and even the universities are empty. The situation in Baghdad feels very unstable and the men in the neighborhood are talking of a neighborhood watch again- just like the early days of occupation.

She also writes about the convoy that was organized to provide relief to the residents of Fallujah. Her own family donated sacks of flour, rice, chickpeas, and lentils--but she also says entry was denied to the city, contrary to what I've read elsewhere.

Here's more:

Where are the useless Governing Council? Why isn't anyone condemning the killings in the south and in Falloojeh?! Why aren't they sitting down that fool Bremer and telling him that this is wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong??? If one of them were half a man or even half a human, they would threaten to resign their posts if there isn't an immediate ceasefire… the people are enraged. This latest situation proves that they aren't Iraqi- they aren't here for the welfare of the Iraqi people.

The American and European news stations don't show the dying Iraqis… they don't show the women and children bandaged and bleeding- the mother looking for some sign of her son in the middle of a puddle of blood and dismembered arms and legs… they don't show you the hospitals overflowing with the dead and dying because they don't want to hurt American feelings… but people *should* see it. You should see the price of your war and occupation- it's unfair that the Americans are fighting a war thousands of kilometers from home. They get their dead in neat, tidy caskets draped with a flag and we have to gather and scrape our dead off of the floors and hope the American shrapnel and bullets left enough to make a definite identification…

One year later, and Bush has achieved what he wanted- this day will go down in history and in the memory of all Iraqis as one of the bloodiest days ever...

OK, this is their idea of liberation. Makes you wonder what their idea of compassion is...

Today in Iraq links to this Financial Times article on Richard Perle. If you can stomach the Prince of Darkness, take a look. His own "plan," as it were, involves threats to destabilize the entire Middle East, although he assures us that it's mostly--just threats.

Hot air and bluster from a neocon. Imagine that.

Nothing to be Seen Here Either

Forbes reports that the USDA won't allow Creekstone Farms Premium Beef to run their own tests to determine whether or not the cows they slaughter are infected with BSE.

Hold the pickle, Hold the lettuce. Extra prions.
Nero Fiddled, Bush Clears Brush

Actually, Nero allegedy sang an aria, although historians are pretty much in agreement that he took an active role in the rebuilding of Rome following the fire--not the least reason being that he decided to build his Golden Palace. Dubya is happy enough with a big-screen TV and a chain saw.

While Bush takes what he considers some well-deserved R&R, Iraq continues to seethe, and the news out of Afghanistan isn't much better. Reuters reports that General Abdul Rashid Dostum is advancing in Faryab province, calling on Karzai to fire the defence and interior ministers, and threatening to overthrow the government itself.

Another smashing victory, I guess.
Are We Really THAT Naïve?

The New York Times has some details on the killing of four "contractors" in Iraq:

...It appears that the four private security contractors killed, burned and mutilated in Falluja last week were in fact lured into a carefully planned ambush by men they believed to be friendly members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, according to Patrick Toohey, a senior executive at the security firm, Blackwater USA.

Here's the pretty bizarre take on this from our Commander in the field:

Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top American commander in the Middle East, spoke openly of his worries about the Iraqi security and police forces, now numbering more than 200,000.

"There's no doubt that terrorists and insurgents will attempt to infiltrate the security forces," he said. "We know it's happening, and we know it has happened. We attempt to do our best with regard to vetting people."

Is that the extent of his knowledge?


\...The four Falluja deaths and other clashes involving private security guards have prompted fresh questions about the scores of security companies working in Iraq on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. With thousands of private security employees now guarding supply lines, buildings and reconstruction projects — and with thousands more on the way — they are increasingly being drawn into firefights and other combat situations that traditionally have been left to the military.

No shit. If this is the best intelligence we've got, after having been in Iraq for a year now...what else can you say?

Bush has opened the floodgate in Iraq. It is now the good, the bad, and the ugly, all in competition, all with an equal chance of winning--and all undefined. The winner will make the history. One thing's pretty certain: that WON'T be George W. Bush.

Maybe Iraq has a good side afterall.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Fried Rice, Part II

OK, one thing I'm wondering regarding Condoleezza Rice's testimony: She admits that the Clinton administration warned the incoming team about Al Qaeda cells in the US. The August 6th PDB is TITLED "bin Laden Determined to Strike IN the US" (my emphasis). So why was she focused on overseas targets? What the hell did she think the Al Qaeda cells were doing here? Enjoying the scenery? Preparing to LEAVE the US so they could attack one of those overseas targets?

I've watched as much of Rice's testimony as I can stomach--about an hour and a half, I guess. From the news reports, it seems like the conservatives will try to wipe the slate clean by proclaiming it all "politics," which in their twisted view means "justifiably ignored."

Shit: are the principles in the Bush administration THAT ignorant? It seems as if they couldn't put two and two together to get four, if Ms. Rice's testimony is even partially accurate. Think about it: they KNEW Al Qaeda operatives were in the United States, they KNEW something big was being planned, they KNEW it involved hijacked airlines, they KNEW bin Laden was "determined to strike in the US."

Does someone have to tell these folks that the odds are good that the target would be highly visible? How many "highly visible targets" existed in the United States on September 11th that would attract the attention of a terrorist. I can think of about 20, but reasonably solid intelligence could easily narrow it down.

I've noticed an odd anomaly with the Bush Team: they often bray and bellow about their "decisive actions," but when their actions are carefully scrutinized, you find that they are almost childlike in their incompetence. What was Rice expecting from Al Qaeda? An itinerary?

Apparently so.
Small Update

Here's the article associated with the previous post.

Update to the Update: Tex at UnFairWitness has more photographs and articles.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Check this post out at Billmon's Whiskey Bar. His title says it all:

People Power
Compassion Explained

Matt Lavine, who brings us Basket Full of Puppies, breaks down the numbers.
FUBAR, Indeed

Hesiod beat me to the title above, so I'll just second the motion. Over at Billmon, a few stray wingnuts have proffered the ridiculous idea that it's the libruls who lost Iraq--why am I not surprised by such idiocy? Atrios notes that Condi Rice committed perjury in her testimony this morning (although the mainstream media like NPR and CNN are reporting that she 'held her own.' Right. And the Kool-Aid Mr. Rumsfeld provided was really refreshing!). By the way, I'm sure everyone has seen a number of photographs of Ms. Rice recently that make Howard Dean's infamous "bite the head off a cat" pic look warm and fuzzy.

Oh--while at Billmon, check out his post entitled "The Secret Plan." Not that I'll be celebrating a lot if/when Kerry gets elected: it'll be more like a sigh of relief. But this is writing and analysis at its best. I saw the idiotic New York Times article myself (re: Iraq is both Bush AND Kerry's problem, for some odd reason. Oh--right--something about noblesse oblige, I think). About all I can say in response is that it's time to lay blame for Iraq where it is due: at the feat of that miserable failure, George W. Bush. It's HIS fucking war, goddamnit.

If I recall, on NPR, when they weren't proffering the non-opinion of "Rice really was defending her boss, wasn't she," they made mention of the large number of times the National Security Advisor emphasized 232 days--that's how long Bush was in office before 9/11.


It's not like Dubya was running for President of the Texas Rangers Baseball Club. I don't buy his pathetic little excuse about needing more time to grow into the office. He was and is THE pRESIDENT of the United States. The big leagues, for real. Hell, Lincoln had to deal with successionists upon arrival, Truman assumed office DURING a war, and Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated in the midst of a depression. What the hell did Bush expect? That issues would be served to him on a batting tee?

Whining about needing more time to get up to speed means that Bush was patently unqualified to be president in the first place. In fact, I'm really beginning to wonder after seeing Nightline (link to from the previous post, if you're interested): did they deliberately send the dauphin off to Nebraska so he wouldn't screw up? Not that I'm saying anyone knew beforehand--except for a couple of folks alerted by an Odigo Company Instant Message--but once the shit HAD hit the fan, it was time to get the boy out of the loop, lest he press the wrong button.

That's not leadership, it's failure. And Iraq is looking more and more like what I expect Dubya's college term papers looked like--that is, if he typed them himself: probably LOTS of errors, scratchouts, correction tape spots, erasures, endnotes added by hand after the fact--and slid under the door to the prof's office several hours after deadline.

Maybe in college he could get away with something like that. Take an "I," or a gentleman's "C," or whatever. Perhaps that also explains some of his appeal to wingnut voters--they aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer either. But this isn't college--it's the most important stage in the world. And it's looking more and more like the show is little more that a certain Dick Cheney doing a ventriloquist's act.
Self-Fulfilling Prophesy

According to this Reuters article, eleven hostages have been seized in Iraq by militants:

Arab television Al Jazeera showed the three Japanese, kneeling with their eyes bound with white cloth and surrounded by masked men holding rifles and also sitting on the floor without their bindings and talking to their captors. The walls of the room were riddled with bullets.

It said they had been taken hostage by a hitherto unknown Iraqi group called Saraya al-Mujahideen (Mujahideen Brigades).

"We tell you that three of your children have fallen prisoner in our hands and we give you two options -- withdraw your forces from our country and go home or we will burn them alive and feed them to the fighters," the group said.

"You have three days from the date of this tape's airing," it said in a statement, accusing Japan of betraying Iraqis by supporting the U.S.-led occupation.

The others are seven South Koreans who are members of an unspecified church group and a British national working as a contractor at a US Military Base. The report does not indicate what sort of work he did.

If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword. Our not-so-excellent-adventure in Iraq is reaping consequences far beyond the limited ability of Bush and his team. Not only is Iraq LOST, but the circumstances surrounding the defeat guarantees a less safe world. Iraq, for all of Saddam's vicious thuggery, was not an international terrorist threat. That's now changed.

Hostage taking means that, among other things, that there isn't a chance in hell that our version of reconstruction will work. Not that international capital raking in huge sums of money would help all that much, but hostage taking is indicative of an utter breakdown in security. No way will the Halliburtons or Bechtels move in for the kill without a reasonable assurance that their personnel are safe enough.

I doubt seriously that Team Bush has the slightest grasp of what's happening in Iraq. The "coalition" of the increasingly less willing--well, the US and British part--can still pack a punch, but more and more they will be irrelevant in the long term. The day to day reality for the Iraqi public will entail political control by those who are willing to assume such control--right now, the various militias and gangs that roam the cities. There is NO central authority. The CPA issues edicts from Extreme Makeover, Saddam's Palace Edition--where they add a 25 foot high concrete barrier--and the IGC is referred to as the Puppet Council. Who knows what the handover government will look like...

Billmon just posted this assessment from John Mearsheimer, which sounds a like a comment I posted over at Bad Attitudes. In summary, we're damned if we do, and damned if we don't.

The ONLY question left at this point is whether or not we continue the insane escalation--which will guarantee a nightmarish scenario at some point, be it in the Middle East or here in the US--or whether we TRY to do something to lessen the tensions. Our ONLY chance at this point is precisely what Senator Byrd said yesterday: seek the support of Iraq's neighboring countries. Maybe they can help lessen the tensions a bit, and pave the way for some sort of UN presence. The alternative is an Islamic nation forged in the defeat of the coalition. Neither one is particularly desirable, but chaos is even less desirable. It could potentially lead to a what was discussed last night on Nightline--the Armageddon Scenario, which is a plan to establish martial law right here should there be a significant terrorist attack. By the way, according to the report, the plan was implemented post 9/11 and continues to run, in the words of Richard Clarke (yes, THAT Richard Clarke) on "warm standby."

Welcome to the end of democracy. Now shop till you drop. That's an order.

Robert Byrd's speech yesterday on the Senate floor. Last night C-Span ran a replay.

I'm trying to listen to Condoleezza Rice's testimony, but Real Player isn't working right here at work, and my other option, a cheap little radio that you get as a perk at a conference, is fading in and out. Damn.

I'll watch the rebroadcast tonight, and Billmon opened a thread for discussion. My only spot of luck was hearing most of Ben-Veniste's time on the way to work.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Well, At Least They're consistent

German Court Frees 9/11 Suspect Pending Retrial--the reason why they freed him was because the US refused to allow a captured terrorist suspect to testify--you know, national security and all.

Sort of like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Or plucking out your own eyes.

Rumsfeld: We're Still in Control

Reuters has the details...

When will we finally see the other Donald put on his clown suit and grease paint? We're in control of the GARRISONS, yes, but there's a lot of Iraq that isn't considered the "Green Zone." Saying we "control" those areas is a joke. We are TOLERATED in SOME of those areas, but that's quite a difference story.

As a sign of our "control" over the situation, Rumsfeld is considering a delay in troop rotations.

So the policy of piss off the Iraqis AND our soldiers is par for the course if we listen to them. Sounds more like they're buried in a sand trap.
Out of the Loop

The New York Times reports that pResident Bush made a phone call--for all of twenty minutes (geez, you'd think he was on some sort of REALLY basic long distance plan)--to check on the situation in Iraq. So, what do you think Cheney told him? Perhaps, "Don't sweat it too much, boy. Take a nap, then clear some brush later this afternoon."

Meanwhile, Kay Bailey Hutchison has been revealing her inner ditz, opining that we've finally seen the elite Republican Guard--over there, not the servants who keep her Dallas area home tidy for when she arrives on weekends. What the hell is she drinking at lunchtime? Someone needs to be sure her iced tea glass has--iced tea.

At least Robert Byrd, in his advancing years, seems to have a lock on the situation: "Surely, the administration recognizes that increasing the U.S. troop presence in Iraq will only suck us deeper into the maelstrom of violence that has become the hallmark of that unfortunate country. Starkly put, at this juncture, more U.S. forces in Iraq equates more U.S. targets in Iraq."

It is exceedingly clear that the "plan" for the occupation was sort of like Bush's "plan" for the Middle East--long on wishful thinking, but short on specifics. That kind of stuff might be appropriate for high school debate class, but the highest elected official in the land--indeed, the most powerful individual on the planet--needs to show some real leadership. Vacations on the ranch at a time like this are worse than negligent. If you ask me, such actions should be grounds for impeachment.

Science Wednesday

I watched NOVA last night on PBS. It was a rerun, but a pretty good one: the show recounted the discovery in 1938 of an ancient fish thought to be long extinct, the coelacanth:

Three days before Christmas, 1938, in the South African coastal town of East London, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, the young, black-eyed curator of the local natural history museum, got a phone call that would turn her world upside down and ultimately make her name known internationally...

The call Courtenay-Latimer received was from the manager of a local trawler fleet whom she knew, saying he had a load of fish for her to examine for possible museum specimens. Courtenay-Latimer and her assistant took a taxi to the wharf, climbed aboard the 115-foot trawler Nerine, and began picking through a mound of fish, mostly sharks. Noticing a blue fin poking out of the pile, she pushed aside layers of fish and slime and saw what she later described as the most beautiful fish she had ever seen.

Watching this reminded me of the work of astronomer Henrietta Leavitt:

Leavitt was not allowed to pursue her own topics of study, but researched what the head of the observatory assigned. Because of the prejudices of the day, she didn't have the opportunity to use her intellect to the fullest, but a colleague remembered her as "possessing the best mind at the Observatory," and a modern astronomer calls her "the most brilliant woman at Harvard." She worked at the Harvard College Observatory until her death from cancer in 1921.

And this is another reason why I'm attending the March for Women this April 25th: the contributions women continue to make to the sciences are astounding, even as women are forced to overcome traditional male bias in these fields. We ALL benefit from their work.
Lies and the Lying Liars--Part Seven

Alexander Cockburn makes a good point today in Coutnerpunch:

People are dying in Fallujah and other towns across Iraq in part because the US press didn't do its job and mostly swallowed, hook, line, sinker, reel and rod, the WMD claims of Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the others. Right now US forces, either in uniform or disguised as civilian contractors, are hunting for Sadr the Shia cleric on the grounds his newspaper is telling lies. There's an idea! Send the troops into the New York Times newsroom and arrest Judith Miller! Then run across town and arrest the editor of the New Yorker for printing Jeffrey Goldberg's endless fictions about the Saddam-Al Qaeda connection.

And, while at Counterpunch, check out Robert Fisk's article on Saddam. Fisk explains why we were so eager to grant him POW status: so we could ship him out of the country. Unfortunately, Saddam is turning out to have as much of a grasp of the situation in Iraq as Dubya, which is to say, none at all. Seems as if he was surrounded by so many syncophants telling him what he wanted to hear, instead of the facts.

Sounds familiar, no?
Sorry, But That's Classified

BAD ATTITUDES has a good summary, and I've also seen posts at Balta and TalkingPointsMemo.

Condoleezza Rice's undelivered September 11th speech, which the Washington Post reported on last week, is being withheld from the 9/11 Commission. Think about that...

I can't find it over at ThisModernWorld (am scanning through the archives, but I need to post and run to lunch--will be in meetings for part of the afternoon)--but I remember a cartoon from Tom Tomorrow's first book that featured "General Schwartzkopf" "answering" questions in an all-too-familiar style.

"General is the sky blue? Is the grass green? Is the pope Catholic?"

"I'm sorry, but we're in no position to discuss the color of the sky."

"Pete, do you have anything about the color of the grass? No? Sorry, can't discuss that."

"One thing I CAN tell you about the Pope--he's a very religious man."

I'll update this if I can find a link to the cartoon.
In Memorium

A mutual friend told me this morning that this accident took the life of an acquaintance of mine Monday morning. I remember running into Ron not long after moving back to Baton Rouge--he recognized me, it took me a minute to remember him.

While not a close friend, I'm truly saddened by his passing. Ron was a very good person. He and his twin brother Don were military veterans and political progressives. To be honest, I forget if it was he or his brother that became fluent in German while stationed overseas--maybe both did--nor do I recall if it was he or Don who whispered a general translation to me of Triumph of the Will, which I sat in on when it was screened in an advanced German class at LSU.

I also recall a number of parties I attended back in the eighties at their apartment--which always had a nice international flavor.

The stretch of interstate where the accident occurred is pretty awful. It is VERY poorly designed. Jackson, Mississippi has a similar curve--a highway with speeds like what you see on an interstate really shouldn't have anything like this. They've reduced the speed limit at the location, but cars and trucks routinely ignore the lower limit.

Accidents which result in death and injury on highways are a global problem. Yesterday, before I learned the news about Ron, I came across this article and almost made a short post about it.

Imagine if once a month, every month, like clockwork in cities across America, terrorists leveled a building like they leveled the World Trade Center -- killing more than 2,700.

42,000 highway deaths average out to MORE than one 9/11 attack a month, but the comparison is apt.

[Motor vehicle] accidents killed 1.26 million men, women and children worldwide in 2000. Twenty-five percent of all fatal injuries worldwide, in fact, occured in auto accidents. War accounted for 6 percent...

The global impact of motor vehicle accidents is staggering: in addition to the dead, about 50 million each year are injured. The World Health Organization and World Bank, which together produced the "World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention," estimated the annual cost of accidents at 1 percent of the gross national product in low-income countries, 2 percent in middle-income countries and 3 percent in high-income countries like the United States -- for a total of $518 billion.

Every day, millions of us are a split second away from becoming another grim statistic. Unfortunately, this happened to Ron. He will be missed.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Raed in the Middle

Raed Jarrar, co-writer with Salam Pax of Dear Raed, is writing his own blog. It will be listed on my roll soon. I'm not going to link to a specific post here, but check out the two most recent ones. Wow. What a coincidence: he is writing from an Iraqi perspective EXACTLY what I've been trying to say from a US perspective--here's an example:

Most of the people that I know (including myself) were against this war… and still are…
Why? Because we are Baathists and Saddamists? Because we are masochists who enjoyed living in the horrible life under the Iraqi government?
It was because we understood that the modifying must come from INSIDE… even if it took decades or centuries.

I know that I can’t come to Texas and tell people what to do…
Or to London… or to Madrid…
Not because I don’t have enough ideas… it is because my ideas will be OUT OF CONTEXT.

This is the exact situation of the Ideas of the Bush administration in Iraq, they are not bad at all… they are completely out of context…


Or play American football with the Army of the USA?

Which reminded me of something I wrote a while back (I don't feel like looking it up in the archive)--what Iraqis call football, we call soccer. A pretty minor difference, to be sure, but that's where the differences begin, not end.

And, if you go to the next post, Raed offers the kind of analysis of Iraqi society that the Bush administration should have been doing--with quite a bit more attention to detail--before embarking on such a fool's errand as an unprovoked invasion. But instead Bush et al chose to believe their own propaganda. After all, neither they nor their children will have to experience the consequences of such hubris.

The same arrogance and hubris seems to be part and parcel to the pro-Bush crowd as well--I've been checking out the comments over at The Angry Arab News Service, and find it amazing that they don't have the slightest problem with the logical flaws in their reasoning: in one breath, they're waxing at length as to the suffering of the Iraqi people, in the next, they're asserting that Islam is a gutter religion, and Iraqi cities should be nuked. It's almost like they have wife-beater's syndrome.

Iraq, for these folks, no longer matters as a country--if it ever in fact did. It's simply a political issue to be argued, namely, an expression of their fealty to all things Bush. Leader says it, they believe it, that settles it. Iraq isn't even a pawn on a chessboard--it's a focus group test.

Pretty ugly, if you ask me.
Island Vacation

The Island of Balta has a number of superb posts up today. I've been having to run back and forth between various projects here at work, but I've managed to finally get through the posts, and will hit the linked articles shortly.

In order, they cover the chaos in Afghanistan, Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease, Sadr, and the US habit of poisoning our own troops with DU dust.

Of course, poisoning our soldiers and sending them off to die in an unjustified war is what the right calls "supporting the troops."
Solving the Democracy Problem

Mary at NakedFurniture linked to this: Will the 2004 Election Be Called Off? Why Three Out of Four Experts Predict a Terrorist Attack by November - Maureen Farrell at It is frightening enough, and worth reading (thanks Mary). Then it got me thinking...

The title above refers to something I heard Alberto Fujimori say back when he was "President" of Peru. Fujimori, like Bush, was more than willing to bend or break the law when it suited him. I also noticed a certain slickness during this particular interview: when presented with a question he found uncomfortable, Alberto thickened his accent and seemed to deliberately mangle his syntax, whereupon the interviewer (I forget who--it could've been Koppel or a Nightline sub, or maybe it was CNN) would move on to less upsetting topics.

However, in a wonderful Freudian moment, Fujimori claimed that he had "solved the democracy problem in Peru" when he was asked about the suspension of various laws. How true. If I remember right, this led to a commercial break--even more fitting.

Of course, the midnight hour stikes for all dictators, and Fujimori was forced to flee the country he ruled with an iron fist after a bribery scandal erupted involving a trusted aide. He now lives as an exile in Japan.

Thinking about the Farrell article, and recalling the Fujimori statement, got me to consider a few things that Bush has taught us in regards to solving the democracy problem right here. By no means a complete list, here are some observations.

Things I've Learned From The Bush Administration

It is perfectly acceptable to lie in order to further policy goals. More lies here and here. A corollary is the change-the-subject ruse: Ask about the WMD lie, and they'll reply with a question: "Aren't we better off without Saddam controlling Iraq?"

It is perfectly acceptable to play politics with people's lives. See Valerie Plame.

Matters of vital national security are less important than political perception. Why is Bush acting like a defendant in regards to 9/11?

Preemptive war, which NEVER was a policy of the US, is ok (although for years we've HAD a nuclear first strike policy. Fortunately, we haven't actually used nuclear weapons since World War II).

It is perfectly acceptable to steal.

It's ok to cheat in business, as long as you don't get caught. Hell, it's ok even if you DO get caught.

A moron (and a miserable failure) in spite of a virtually unlimited bankroll, can't get elected president, but that won't keep him from assuming office.

Because I Gots To Know

I actually registered at the Charlotte Observer's web site to see if Atrios' post was true. It is:

A gourmet luncheon with only one thing missing: something to eat it with.

The explanation was at the bottom of the menus distributed at President Bush's $1.5 million Charlotte fund-raiser Monday.

"At the request of the White House, silverware will not accompany the table settings," it said in discreetly fine print.

No silver. No plastic.

The lack of utensils might have been why many plates went virtually untouched.

The reason: So the tinkle of silver wouldn't disrupt the president's speech.

Another chapter in the twisted saga of Little Lord Dubyaroy.

Condi Care, Part II

From Needlenose, who cites Skeptomai. Translated, it says, "We are sorry that our pResident is an idiot--we didn't vote for him."

Hang out to dry.
Mission Accomplished or Mission Impossible

Where do I begin? Timshel's post sums up nicely the Fallujah operation: to summarize, we'll free them even if it means killing every last one. Sadr has taken control of several buildings in Najaf, seven more soldiers have been killed, Richard Lugar of all people is asking Bush to show at least a smidgen of leadership and is publicly admitting that the June 30th "transfer" of power has about as much validity as a college term paper deadline...the British are beginning to realize that the administration's policy in Iraq is basically politics for domestic consumption.

The press is dutifully reporting this, but, uh, hasn't anyone from the Fourth Estate noticed that the wheels have fallen off? A year ago, Tom Brokow was reporting that we were going to be "owning" Iraq in a matter of weeks. I believe that the costs of reconstruction were to be in the $1-2 billion dollar range, and our military presence was to be reduced to about 30,000.

Earth to the SCLM: the Bush policy is a disasterous failure. What is it going to take before you call it for what it is?

Monday, April 05, 2004

Brand New ARVN Rifle--Never Been Fired, Only Dropped Once

I've seen this on several blogs today, including NeedleNose, who cites Unfair Witness--but I'll also cite Today in Iraq. Yahoo reports that, contrary to my title above, ICDC forces (the "new" Iraqi army) didn't just run away, but instead fired upon US troops during the pitched battle in Baghdad. Ah, just what we need: yet another armed faction. Something tells me that soon, though, they'll be working alongside one or more of the resistance organizations that "just don't get it."

What's really tragic about the whole misadventure in Iraq at this point is the stubborn refusal of ANY politician, with the exception of Dennis Kucinich of all people, to realize that the mission, as it were, is over. There will be no "western-style" democracy in Iraq, at least of the fantasy variety that everyone thinks exists here.

Consider: in spite of having a fairly decent system of electoral democracy and a relatively efficient bureaucracy, is there ANYONE that thinks say, New York City, or New Orleans--for that matter, the Gret Stet itself, or Chicago, or--hell, name the place--runs a perfectly clean government? C'mon.

AT BEST, there was a very small chance that government in Iraq could be formed that was no worse than what we see in the west. But that chance was exceedingly small, and now it's virtually non-existent. It's not that there is an innate level of corruption in the region, at least not anymore of a level of corruption than what we tolerate. But there are so many forces and factors playing into the quest for political power in Iraq (be it local, regional, or national)--along with the fact that NO ONE, least of all the CPA, seems to care one bit about establishing a democratic TRADITION--that I'll bet Bremer would be thrilled if he could form any sort of stable government before June 30th.

The right often seeks to curtail debate by making the choice a yes/no on Saddam alone: "If so-and-so had their way, Saddam would still be in power," or "Are you saying we shouldn't have invaded?" etc. etc. blah blah blah. That misses the point. Right now, the chaos in Iraq is alone enough to create real problems in the long term--see this post over at Needlenose for a more concise point of view--and we still DON'T KNOW who eventually will assume power in the country. Whoever does might be better than Saddam, or might be WORSE--we DON'T KNOW yet. But the idea that everything is now A.O.K. just because the Butcher of Baghdad is sitting in a jail cell is a lot like saying Mission Accomplished when the mission has barely begun. World affairs and international relations are no place for the shallow minded--nor are they any more of a haven for wishful thinking, i.e., platitudes without planning.
US To Arrest Sadr for Murder--In Other News, Speeding Tickets Handed Out at NASCAR Race

Here's The Washington Post's article.

To which I can only say unfuckingbelievable. What was the line in the movie Casablanca? Something about human life being cheap? Sadly, that goes for Iraq these days, too. Did Sadr have a hand in the killing of a "moderate" Sh'ia cleric Abdul-Majid Khoei in April of 2003 (almost a year ago)? Perhaps. But the public issuance of an arrest warrant only serves to fan the flames. Besides, it's not like our hands are particularly clean, which might be one reason why we had an Iraqi "judge" actually issue the warrant. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

In contrast, Robert Fisk writes about the circumstances that led to the deaths of two more journalists in the country. An expression of regret is all the families received, despite troubling evidence: they were at least 150 yards from the checkpoint that fired the shots AND they were hit from behind, i.e., they were traveling AWAY from the checkpoint. Additionally, they had previously identified themselves and received clearance from the same checkpoint to film their report. It is an understatement to say the conditions leading to their deaths are unusual.

Attempting to nab Sadr could be seen as a "bold" move by the CPA, but it could just as easily be seen as foolhardy. The US has been careful regarding the cleric to this point; calling for his arrest is a gamble at best, and possibly a true sign of desperation. By upping the ante, we are entering the dangerous territory that Israel got into regarding the killing of Sheikh Yassin. As Fisk noted:

For years, there has been an unwritten rule in the cruel war of government-versus-guerrilla. You can kill the men on the street, the bomb-makers and gunmen, but the leadership was allowed to survive.

Now all has changed utterly. Anyone who advocates violence - even if they are palpably incapable of committing it - are now on a death list. So who can be surprised if the rules are broken by the other side?

The top guys are now in the firing line. Let us not say we didn't know.
Bush: Support the Troops With Food Stamps

Barbara Ehrenreich, one of my favorite writers, has a few things to say in this month's Progressive.
Nation Abuse

I've noted before that the only surprise about The March of Folly in Iraq is the incredible degree of rapidity with which it's fallen apart. It seems like it's gotten to the point where on an hour to hour if not day to day basis the country is either the focus of the neo-cons' affection or the object of their abuse. The New York Times reports it is the latter today. Paul Bremer has fingered Moktada al-Sadr as an "outlaw," while Sh'ias, our nominal "ally" (remember the hapless Rumsfeld publicly getting frantic last April when they didn't rise up against Saddam?), are making a serious play for genuine political power.

Imagine that: Sadr and his followers are taking advantage of the power vacuum. Duh. What the hell did we expect? That they'd roll over and act like little puppies? The hubris of the neo-cons has placed the US smack in the middle of an incredibly complicated puzzle, and, what do you know, they haven't a solution in sight, except for maybe adding a few more feet of reinforced concrete to the walls surrounding the Green Zone--and a reactive raid on Fallujah that will do nothing but inflame the already sky-high tensions.

The war is and has been an intelligence failure. Chalabi, our intelligence "source," has proven that he's as good a liar as he is an embezzler. Not that he cares, mind you--he's got what he's wanted all along, and 600 plus deaths and thousands of wounded--plus the uncounted Iraqi deaths--don't bother him a bit. Meanwhile, ANY intelligence on the ground must be suspect: Iraqis KNOW we are essentially flying blind, and will just as soon hurt us as help us, depending on our luck on a given day.

I've posted before my opinion that Iraq is Arabic for quagmire. That might be optimistic. Iraq might well become Arabic for hell.