Saturday, June 05, 2004

Rather: Reagan Dead

CBS News is reporting that Ronald Reagan died today. Thus far, there's nothing on the web sites, but expect that to change shortly.

I've taken to giving myself a day off on Saturdays, but I might be back later with something to say about his legacy. As you might expect, it won't be all that positive.

In a nutshell, I believe Ronald Reagan began the true dumbing down process in this country. To those who are a little younger than me, but who've managed to educate themselves in spite of ketchup being a vegetable on the school lunch menu, congratulations. To those who praise the Gipper, I say: Iran/Contra, massive deficits (Reagan was a closet Keynesian), jokes about nuking Russia--and stop believing the hype that suggests he "won" the Cold War. Study some history instead.

I don't celebrate the death of Ronald Reagan, but neither will I mourn him.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Kurt Vonnegut on Everything

Tom Street over at Bad Attitudes provided the link.

True, as this article points out (link via Needlenose)The new, improved UN Resolution being drafted has a provision that allows the government to request that the troops depart. And, as Swopa points out, Sistani could call out his own supporters at virtually any time should he tire of our presence.

But would the US really allow semi-autonomous nation of Iraq to show us the door? I doubt it. In this instance, the political implications would be enormous, and, while I actually LIKE the idea of Iraq telling us "get out," my gut says that neither Bush nor Kerry would accede to any such request. And while the US doesn't have enough by way of force to run the occupation with any degree of effectiveness, the soldiers have plenty of firepower to defend their garrisons. I guess the real question is whether or not they'd use their firepower against demonstrators as well as insurgents. The answer, thus far, is, yes, they will.

Iraq is, in a word fucked. In slightly more than a word, it will be interesting to see how long a 21st century semi-autonomous nation can exist. I'll give it until the end of the year...

Ayad Allawi, not surprisingly, is calling for US forces to remain in Iraq. Perhaps we should call him the "Semi-Prime Minister" of "Semi-Sovereign Iraq."

You know what? That's almost exactly like "American Style" democracy these days. Bush is a "Semi-pResident."
Taken With a Shaker of Salt

Atrios admits that Capitol Hill Blue isn't terribly reliable. In fact, he refers to this article as "Democratic Porn."

Alexander Cockburn, though, is giving it some play, noting that the item has been making the internet rounds--so, what the hell, I'll post, and you decide. Is Bush really turning into a raving lunatic--as opposed to just the regular lunatic we all know he is?

Maybe, maybe not. But it wouldn't surprise me if that WAS the case. Considering that he'll serve plates of food with NO silverware at fundraisers (reason: so he wouldn't be bothered by any noise during his speech), some of the allegations in the article are well within the realm of plausibility. Inability to "abide disloyalty" and chalking things up to "God's will" sound right in line with Bush's imperial image of himself. The war president as emperor.

No word yet on whether or not he'll request that people approach him on their hands and knees with their eyes averted. But who knows what might become the case should he manage to cheat his way into a second term?

President Bush's speech to the Air Force Academy.

Meanwhile, five more soldiers were killed in Baghdad today.
Freedom of Speech

Rome doesn't have "Free Speech Zones," hence, the demonstrations caused a change in plans for the dauphin. Instead of laying a wreath at the Italy's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Bush paid his respects at Fosse Ardeatine, the site of a World War II atrocity in which Nazis occupying Italy killed 335 men and boys, many of them Jews.

This San Francisco Chronicle article estimates the crowd size at 150,000, while CNN weighs in with half a million. I'd love it if the latter was correct, but the photographs suggest the former figure is likely more accurate. CNN may have inadvertently added a zero.

However, it is clear, as Tony Kushner said the other night on the Charlie Rose show, that BUSH is the problem. Basically, the guy has pissed off the civilized world with his self-righteous drivel. And he's going to find out just how pissed they are...
Fubar Trademarks an Expression

Future Collective Amnesia™. See what he means at Needlenose.

The Liberal Conspiracy has a few more photos.

And maybe Ahmad can call Ken Lay for advice on how to proceed once you've been dropped down the memory hole.
Freedom of the Press, or Freedom FROM the Press

I decided to give myself plenty of reading time this morning--and I noticed something I'll touch on in a second.

Early on, I came across this post from Timshel. He links to Atrios commenting on the elite media. Steve Gilliard has his own, slightly different version. Heathers vs. Kool Kids Klub--take your pick.

I find myself hitting blogs before going to news sources. The links above go a long way in explaining why. Sure, I cite news outlets in my own posts. But the US media no longer can be trusted. And, they more or less admit it. The Times, after some self-serving praise, allowed that it showed a lack of "rigor" in endorsing the Bush run to war. Lack of rigor. I think Alexander Cockburn said it a lot better: they swallowed hook, line, sinker, rod, and reel, the Administration's point of view. In other words, they made a mockery of the idea of an independent press.

Michael Massing, in this New York Review of Books article, points out that it wasn't just the "newspaper of record" that dropped the ball, kicked it around a few times until it fell through a storm drain, and then got stuck in a sewer pipe. Virtually the ENTIRE national press corps has shamed their profession.

Fortunately, there's the overseas press for actual news. The US press, IN SPITE of having a tremendous degree of political protection (i.e., the First Amendment), is good for little more than mouthing the official line. Calling it the the Pravda of whatever river they're close to (Hudson or Potomac) is an insult to Pravda, which at least was up front about being an organ of propaganda.

At the same time, though, if you look around, you can find items worth noting. While browsing, I came across this list of things from The Left Coaster. For an open thread, there's plenty of stuff--everything from Halliburton to the Plame investigation and more (about the only thing missing is a link to the Enron tapes. So, just for the record, here's one). But this sort of proves my point. It's a blog that makes the essential connection--all the stories cited are examples of scandalous actions by the Bush administration.

Speaking of The Left Coaster, check this out if you've got time. Short version: Afghanistan is becoming a "failed state." And, not coincidently, Juan Cole has a post this morning noting that--imagine--Iraq is also becoming a failed state. A functional press would make the connection. But the US press is no longer functional.

That doesn't mean the press is no longer powerful. Tim Russert can still make or break a politician. But one good thing about the rise of blogs is that there's the possibility of stealing a little bit of their thunder, as it were. I've gone from scanning a newspaper first thing in the morning to scanning the blogs. THEN I look at the various Pravdas in print (or online, in the case of the Times and the Post--it's also cheaper, and, for those who dislike having to register, LSU Blog links to a fantastic site, Bugmenot, which has anonymous logins for all sorts of stuff). Freedom of speech is not something to be held in trust by a group of journalists--especially a sorry assed group like the ones in our national media. Punditry is nothing more that opinion, pure and simple, and I see nothing in the views and opinions of the national press that is any better thought out or analyzed than what I read on the internet every day. In fact, blogs usually have BETTER analysis than the pundits, because there's no incentive to suck up to anyone. And, as a former DAILY reader of the printed copy of the Times and whatever the local paper was, I hope that I'm part of a trend that reduces their power--or at least their revenue.

That's something I could be proud of.

Thursday, June 03, 2004


Via Bad Attitudes, who further cite Body and Soul, here's an excellent example of Bush in action--the Human Kleenex.

Fred Kaplan summarizes this week's bad news for Team Bush.
WaPo and NY Times: "We've Been Smoking Something"

And it looks like the Post's editors have much higher quality smoke. first, check out Juan Cole's translation of Ayatollah Sistani's Fatwa on the New Government in Iraq. Then, take a look at the headlines on the two "newspapers of record."

Here's what the Post says: Respected Cleric Recognizes New Iraqi Government

OK, to be fair, the subheading notes that Sistani fell short of a "formal endorsement," although the first paragraph goes on to say the following:

BAGHDAD, June 3 -- The most influential leader of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, endorsed the country's new government Thursday and demanded it swiftly assume "full and unflawed" national sovereignty with power to end the U.S. military occupation.

So, is it, or isn't it? And how hungry is the editor getting?

The Times has it's own yellow light: Iraqi Ayatollah Cautiously Acknowledges New Government

If you actually READ the fatwa, though, the Times' "cautious acknowledgement" phrase rings hollow--sort of along the lines of noting Mr. Lincoln's assassination, then continuing with the review of "Our American Cousin."

I wonder: does either organization drug test their employees?

Playing the Occupation Game

Via Unfair Witness, here's a post fromLawrence of Cyberia: The Banality Of Evil. It's worth checking out. Short version: Three Israeli soldiers on border patrol arrested, without cause, two Palestinians, and proceeded to beat them silly. Unusually, the Palestinians decided to take legal action (the post notes that most Palestinians have little faith in the Israeli legal system).

I'm reminded of something I saw this morning over at The Angry Arab News Service. This article, from The Guardian, mentions that humiliation of refugees seems to be pretty much routine for Israeli soldiers assigned to patrol Hebron--which is about as bizarre a place as one could imagine. The Israelis who've settled there are about as hard-core as it comes. You might recall that Baruch Goldstein, an Israeli, killed twenty-nine Palestinians at a mosque in 1994.

We're already seeing many of the same things in our own occupation. And, like the Israeli experience, I doubt we'll see an improvement--ever.
Educational Reading

Jason Burke, a reporter for The Observer, shatters a few myths in this Foreign Policy article. I especially took note of the first shattered myth, because I agree with his first point regarding exactly what Al Qaeda IS, although of course he does so with a lot more creativity and economy of words than I could.

The article is a good followup to the tripe spewed forth by the likes of Rottweiler (see post below). If the US--and the western world, for that matter--want to "win" the "war on terror," looking at Burke's article would be a good place to start.

Not every problem can be solved by application of military force. This relatively simple notion seems to be lost on the neocons and their followers, who not only caused the mess we're in, but now seek to tar anyone questioning their sheer stupidity by piously invoking the "for the good of the troops" justification (see the entire week's worth of Daily Howler posts for more clarification).

It doesn't take a genuis to see that our Iraq "policy," if it can be dignified with the term, is completely fucked. If Bush were a coach, he'd have been fired last November--when it became apparent that "the greatest military" in the history of mankind couldn't shut down the resistance movement. Shit, it's as if the 1927 Yankees couldn't put away last year's Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

OK, the sports analogy doesn't quite cut it, but, then again, war metaphors don't quite fit sporting contests either. Still, I think the neocons running the show were so charmed by their own propaganda that they didn't bother to even read the playbook, much less memorize it. It's almost as if we've got occupation by self-gratification going on. I guess it's only fitting that the folks thinking it all up decided to add a little S&M to the mix, photograph it, and turn it into the most salacious stuff to come out of the government since Ken Starr got all sweaty over his own work of bad literature.

In contrast, Burke's article isn't nearly as gross, or kinky, but it does offer something constructive: a starting point towards actually understanding the Middle East. Without that, we'll be perpetually stuck in a rut there--like we are right now.

Medicare reciepents are lining up for the new drug benefit card in the same way that the public lines up to vote in an off-year election consisting solely of bond measures. It seems that the new plan is going over like a lead balloon because of two things: one, it doesn't really offer much of a discount anyway, and two, it's too damn complicated.

Maybe the administration could market the plan by noting it isn't as complicated as this:

Headmaster: All right, settle down, settle down. [He puts his papers down.] Now before I begin the lesson will those of you who are playing in the match this afternoon move your clothes down on to the lower peg immediately after lunch before you write your letter home, if you're not getting your hair cut, unless you've got a younger brother who is going out this weekend as the guest of another boy, in which case collect his
note before lunch, put it in your letter after you've had your hair cut, and make sure he moves your clothes down onto the lower peg for you. Now...

Wymer: Sir?

Headmaster: Yes, Wymer?

Wymer: My younger brother's going out with Dibble this weekend, sir, but I'm not having my hair cut today sir, so do I move my clothes down or...

Headmaster: I do wish you'd listen, Wymer, it's perfectly simple. If you're not getting your hair cut, you don't have to move your brother's clothes down to the lower peg, you simply collect his note before lunch after you've done your scripture prep when you've written your letter home before rest, move your own clothes on to the lower peg, greet the visitors, and report to Mr Viney that you've had your chit signed.

See? In comparison, the drug plan really is, uh, simple...
A Village in Texas Misses its Idiot

Via The Left Coaster, here's an article about the Mayor of Crawford, Texas, Robert Campbell. He supports John Kerry for President.

"I don't see where I'm better off than I was four years ago," Campbell said Tuesday. "I don't see where the city is any better off."
The First to Fall

Is George Tenet. CNN reports what they call 'breaking news.'

Maybe this is the beginning of a trend...

Via Atrios, I came across this MaxSpeak post/contest. IIRC, the idea is that the post has to come from someone on Instahack's blogroll.

Have to take a break for a second (and throw up), but it looks like someone calling himself Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler is picking up a lot of nominations. I see the Rottweiler, but Anti-Idiotarian is false advertising.

The remainder is about what you'd expect from folks with the mental age of a twelve year old: kill 'em all, they'll be sorry they messed with us, they're less than human, etc. etc., ad nauseum. Well, at least it reminds me of what we're up against: basically, the same sick mentality that brought us legal segregation back then--and race problems that persist to this day. These folks are letting their collective inner-racist hate agenda color (no pun intended) their entire world view. Which is ironic, considering that the leaders under whom they march in lockstep have suggested that "liberation" of the folks they apparently hate with such a passion is one of the reasons we invaded Iraq in the first place.

Alas, while inner-racism is at their core, logical consistency is off their radar screen. Still, if you can stomach it, you might want to take a look at what we're up against.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Here's to the State of Mississippi

Jeffrey over at The Library Chronicles came across the aptly titled Pic article, HIGHWAY ROBBERY? (it could stand to lose the question mark).

When Atiya Saleh saw the flashing lights of a squad car pull up behind his Ford sedan on Interstate 55 near Brookhaven, Miss., he didn't think twice about the $27,000 in cash in a plastic grocery bag in the trunk.

He and his business partner, fellow Palestinian immigrant Shareef Quattom, had received the money that morning from a Jackson merchant as a down payment for their corner grocery store in New Orleans. The men were traveling to Jackson with the buyer, Jordanian immigrant Majed Atta, to help him move some of his belongings to New Orleans. Saleh didn't think there was anything strange -- or illegal -- about carrying that much money in his car.

But Mississippi officials did.

Though Saleh and his partner carried papers documenting the business deal that required the $27,000 and though all three men are in compliance with U.S. work and residency rules, they were held for seven hours during which they were subjected to a strip search, drug-sniffing dogs and interrogation by local and federal officials.

But what Saleh and Quattom deemed the most outrageous indignity took place upon their release, at 5 a.m. the next day: Although the sheriff's department found no drugs or any other basis to charge them with a crime, officials told the partners they were going to keep their money anyway in case they could link it to illegal activity. The only offense any of the men was booked with that night: careless driving.

"They know it is not drug money, they know it is not terrorist money," Saleh said. "They know that in their hearts. But they want to hurt us the worst way they can, legally, because we are Arabs."

Nearly three months after they were detained in Mississippi, Saleh and Quattom have yet to be charged with any crime. But to their mounting anger and dismay, their $27,000 is still in Lincoln County.

The entire article is a little on the long side, but if you have a chance, by all means take a look. By the way--believe it or not, Saleh doesn't think race was an initial motivating factor. It was at night, which would make it difficult to see who was driving. However, the car had out of state plates.

I tend to agree with his assessment. Fortunately, I've never been stopped for any moving violation in the Magnolia State, but you can be damn sure I'm paying pretty careful attention to things like posted speed limits, fog lines, center lines, and whatnot. At the same time, I'll bet once it was determined that the out-of-staters were also ferrigners, the cops probably considered it a very nice target of opportunity.

Also, as Jeffrey notes, Mississippi has a law that allows for the seizure of cash on the mere SUSPICION it was obtained through illegal activity. Then, if no attempt is made to claim said cash after 30 days, it's added to the local budget. In other words, the officers must have thought they'd just got themselves a brand new Crown Vic.

Not so fast. The men in question aren't going to take this lying down:

Quattom and Saleh, who already have spent $2,500 on legal fees to reclaim their money, said they won't back down until they win.

"I will pay $25,000 to get $2,000 back -- but I will not leave a penny for those sons of bitches," Saleh said. "Because it was clear from the first minute that they were going to try their best to take this money. Nothing else was a concern to them."

Good for them.
Three From Unfair Witness

I've gotta make sure to hit Tex's site daily. He's got this link to Noam Chomsky's blog, a chilling video that shows why we're losing the battle for hearts and minds in the Middle East, and here's a quick look at the art scene in Baghdad. Education and inspiration in one stop.

Bushido: The Way of the Warrior.

The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one's aim is to die a dog's death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one's aim.

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaming one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he pains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.


Bushido : The Way of the Armchair Warrior.

Because human beings are prone to illusion, the sounds and sights of battle—the groans of the wounded, the maimed bodies of one’s comrades—may remain in the mind for many years, like a cloud that confuses judgment. Hence, a man who has fought on the battlefield and has later risen to high office may be fearful of leading his people to war. Such weakness does not afflict the armchair warrior, who at all times is firm in his resolve.

The armchair warrior does not fear death, especially not the death of other people.

Links courtesy of The Left Coaster.
Wrong Metaphor

Bloomberg has more on Bush's speech to the Air Force Academy. It looks like he--like most of the idiot pundits these days--keeps using World War II metaphors to define the war in Iraq. Saddam as Hitler.

Um--wrong. I think the more useful comparison is Hussein as Ngo Dinh Diem--a once useful tool no longer suitable for US support, but more than worthy of US scorn. In addition to Vietnam, Tony Kushner, a former teacher of mine who was interviewed by the boorish Charlie Rose last night, brought up the comparison to Germany during the FIRST World War. Germany was a world power at the time, but one with a leader whose personal insecurities led him to embark on a disastrous policy.

George Wilhelm Bush. The man who yearned to be a "war president." Well, now he is. And let's face it: he doesn't have the first clue how to behave (see "Bring 'em on").

Rewarding someone like this with four more years to further damage US security interests--not to mention damage the US public image throughout the entire world--would be like giving a puppy a treat every time it took a crap on the floor.
Bush: More Pie, Even Bluer Sky

I'll keep looking for a transcript, but so far the best summary of the Bush "address" to the Air Force Academy--coupled with another fundraiser where folks paid as much as $15,000 a plate (no word on whether or not they were permitted to use forks and knives)--I managed to find is here.

You know, just as Rummy explored his inner anarchist in the days immediately following the fall of Saddam (remember the "freedom is a messy thing"?), now Bush comes to grips with his inner naiive idealist in calling for "democracy and freedom" as if this could be accomplished in Iraq with a smirk, a snicker, and a repackaged IGC which promises, what, 20 percent more representation and 10 percent less repression than the previous government? The absurdities keep multiplying.

Mikhail Nuaymah

Angry Arab calls him "one of the best writers in Arabic in the 20th century." The only thing I've ever read of his is the link--but it's damn good.
An Army of Some

Looks like stop-loss orders are the new Rumsfeld Rules. The New York Times has the details.

But don't call it a draft. It's a volunteer army--that's been volunteered for extra duty.
Ahmad Chalabi's Decoder Ring

The New York Times reports that, among other things, Richard Perle is a chump. Perle continues to defend Ahmad Chalabi, even after he let the Iranian government know the US had broken the code they use to send secure messages. Ahmad, for his part, denies he did anything wrong, although, interestingly, he didn't refute the specific charges.

Billmon, cutting right to the chase, as usual, thinks this could become the modern equivalent of the Alger Hiss case. However, instead of Hiss going to jail for perjury charges related to passing relatively unimportant documents to Whittaker Chambers, we've got a whole slew of neo-cons facing the possibility that their boy--and their org (the INC)--played them like for fools on a level matched only by suckers falling for a Nigerian email scam.

So, yet another example of our foolish naiivete in our dealings with the Middle East. In fact, I'm beginning to think of the Bush Team as the US equivalent of the new Iraqi security forces--dangerously out of their league when it comes to managing the mess. Consider: Bush himself was a failed businessman. His entire professional life has consisted of bailouts and/or subsidies (when he ran the Rangers). Cheney was the one who made Halliburton respsonsible for handling asbestos claims. In other words, don't think about whether the guys at the top can shoot straight. Think about whether they can even load the weapon without shooting themselves and anyone else in the room.

Bush and Cheney have certainly distinguished themselves in one way: they are by far the most incompetent individuals ever to serve as president and vice-president. Shit, they make James Buchanan look like a statesman.
"These Are Not America's Puppets...and Pay No Attention to the Strings Attached"

I took the time last night to catch the replay of Bush's "press conference." If your stomach is strong enough, you can view a RealMedia file over at C-Span (title: President Bush on Iraqi Transition Government).

Once again, Bush showed a startling lack of understanding as to the real situation in Mesopotamia--with one exception. I noticed a certain glimmer of recognition, and a big old shit eating grin, when he remarked upon the performance of the new Iraqi security forces. "Some didn't stand up and do their duty," he said.

Hmmn. Sounds like he knows a lot about THAT.
Bush: Now, Watch Me Pull a Rabbit out of my Head...uh...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Like a Fish on the Pier

Via Salon, I came across this from the Center for American Progress--pResident Bush, Flip-Flopper in Chief. Twenty quick and easy to remember reasons why what Dubya says today won't be what he means tomorrow. It's so simple, Bush himself might be able to recall them.

Nah, probably not.
It's Not the Heat, it's...Well, it IS the Heat

Riverbend manages to put some time at the computer. It's too bad that she hasn't been able to post much lately, but I can't say I blame her.

Hell, down here, life without an air-conditioner would be--well, I don't even want to think about it. This past week I even had to run the AC in the car, which I rarely do. Afternoons arrive with rain, which then steams up following the cloudbursts, making everything feel parboiled. I can only imagine how it is in Baghdad. I guess it would be like living in your oven.

Riverbend writes that electricity is up for two hours, then down for four. Generators are breaking down from overuse and poor quality fuel. And the real dog days of summer aren't even there yet.
Go Jump in a Lake

I'm curious as to Timshel's opinion on this, also from The Advocate: a story about Cypress Lake and how it got to be that way. It also offers a theory as to how the alligators got there.

For the interested reader, Mr. Prado has his own post (scroll down to Happy Friday) on the, uh, tradition of an alumnus who apparently thinks dancing with wolves is for sissies. He prefers swimming with gators.
Limping to the Line

The Advocate reports over 2,500 people lost jobs here in Louisiana during the month of April. This is bad enough--the cloud associated with this lead lining is that these numbers include only those affected by large-scale layoffs, i.e., a business pink-slipping more than fifty people. In other words, my sister, who is now freelancing because she was laid off last month, doesn't show up in the stats.

Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, the price of gasoline is between $1.84 and $1.94 for a gallon of regular. With crude ranging from $40-$42 dollars a barrel, depending on delivery date, I think $2 a gallon is reasonable to expect, especially as we get ready for the introduction of reformulated gasoline (although the city is pulling out all the stops in an attempt to avoid this).

I think I'm beginning to see why Kerry thinks Louisiana could be in play come November.
Judge Vetos Bush Bill

Talk about a rogue's gallery.

Fortunately, The New York Times reports that U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton struck down Bush's law--because an adult woman SHOULD have the right to choose whether or not to carry a fetus to term. End of story.

This doesn't mean that it's over, though. Cases in New York and Nebraska are pending, and it's certain the US Supreme Court will make the final decision. However, it's a good sign that basic logic and sanity carried the day on the West Coast.
Birds of a Feather

Ed Gillespie is teaming up with Don King in an attempt to appeal to African American voters. Sort of smells like Richard Nixon teaming up with Sammy Davis, Jr., doesn't it.

They're calling it the "African American Economic Empowerment Tour." Considering that King isn't exactly one to promote family values or law and order, I guess it sort of narrows down just what he CAN promote.

What's next? Teaming up with Arnold Schwarzneggar to promote women's rights?
A is for Atta, who Hijacked a Plane, B is for Bush, who is Totally Lame

The Independent has an A to Z Iraq primer. Link via The Angry Arab News Service
Remind Us

Counterpunch's web site of the day.
Needlenose Nails It

Swopa's post nicely sums up the news from Iraq:

First, there's TODAY'S car bomb near the Green Zone. As I noted yesterday, CNN might as well add 'bomb blast near the Green Zone' to their style sheet. Then they can fill in the details as they arrive.

Then he links to two Los Angeles Times articles. One sheds some light on the "rebuilding the schools" sham (short version: we're NOT), while the other notes a disturbing phenomenon: doctors are routinely kidnapped, either for ransom or as part of an ongoing effort to destabilize the healthcare network.

You'd think the occupying army might want to ensure security and stability...but, right now, survival might be a more pressing issue. Mission Accomplished, anyone?

As Swopa notes, whoever is "president" of Iraq doesn't really matter. They might as well make it a fantasy league game. The real issue is whether or not a functioning nation can be built from the mess we created in the course of invasion and occupation. And, right now, the answer is no, it can't. We've committed $200 billion dollars to the project, and the best we're going to get is what we have right now.

What a fucking waste.

Springtime in Grozny

The New York Times has a report on the capital "city" of Chechnya where selling or stealing rubble is the new growth industry, i.e., they're turning rubble into rubles.

The last few paragraphs tell the story of a young girl who is sick--the result of exposure to toxic substances while out on the rubble hunt. Expect similar stories to emerge from Iraq. I'll bet Putin and Bush both agree that this is "regrettable but necessary."

Things like this pretty much negate any sort of "glory" derived from combat, particularly when the war isn't necessary.
Please Read This

Can't really add anything else.

Whiskey Bar: Memorial Day:

"So I'm not trying to imitate George Bush - standing up on a podium in Arlington Cemetery to deliver a few vacuous sound bites about the human lives he has so recklessly squandered. I'm not blind to the moral dubiousness of honoring the casualties of a war such as this one - a mistake, at best, and at worse a neocolonial power play gone disastrously wrong. I know some readers, especially non-U.S. ones, will jeer at our dead, and speak angrily of war criminals gone to their just rewards.

But I also believe that most Americans serving in Iraq are decent men and women who, through no fault of their own, have been thrown into a cesspool. They've been deceived and manipulated - into believing they were avenging 9/11, or that Saddam was on the verge of nuking the United States, or that they would be greeted with rose petals by the grateful natives. I believe many of them sincerely would like to help the Iraqi people, and are doing the best they can under unbelievably difficult conditions to carry out their mission. It's not their fault the mission is hopeless."

Monday, May 31, 2004

Truth in Advertising

Slate, of all places, is where I found this (fair warning: language not safe for work. Use headphones if you have wingnuts within range), and this (work friendly, but requires Quick Time).

Freedom, June 30th Style

Needlenose linked to this Boondocks strip.
Where's Ahmed?

The Ahmed Chalabi Photo Gallery shows that, unlike Waldo, Chalabi was just about everywhere. Link via As'ad Abu Khalil.
You Go, Ghana!

I.K. Gyasi, of the Ghanian Chronicle, rips Bush a new one. Link courtesy of Today in Iraq.Bush: a Study in Failure.

You know, it's pretty amazing when GHANA is reminding the US of what our citizens should be doing.
The Safety Dance

I'm taking a quick look around the blogs as well as the mainstream press right now. Damn, I think even George W. Bush could figure out that there's a huge mess in the Middle East--that is, if you could take his mind off his shiny new toy. That's right: Dubya now possesses Saddam Hussein's revolver (I read this first at The Island of Balta).

CNN is repeating headlines, reporting on yet another blast near the "Green Zone." At this point they could probably add "Blast Near Baghdad Green Zone" to the style sheet, and enter the details when they become available. I wonder what color the terrorist alert is there? Some folks claimed that Iyad Allawi's motorcade passed by moments before the blast, although a spokesperson for the Prime Minister designate seems to have learned a lesson or two from Scott McClellan.

Allawi's "honeymoon" seems to have lasted negative thirty days.

The New York Times has a story on renewed fighting in Najaf and Kufa. In a major gaffe that would be hilarious if the situation wasn't simply tragic, the story notes a premature announcement of the killing of Moqtada Al-Sadr. Billmon has a good post regarding this "shot-while-trying-to-resist-arrest" non-story, suggesting that the Iraqi security forces--who deserted--might well have dropped the flyers on their way out the door.

More from the Times: complaints from Iraqi citizens that US forces either assaulted them or stole their property are finally being taken seriously by higher ups in the ranks. Um--didn't anyone mention to the troops that theiving and assaulting were bad from a hearts and minds point of view?

Still more from the Times: at least twenty death certificates were drawn up on Abu Ghraib detainees only after the abuse investigation began. Maybe the dog ate them...

Atrios links over to Robert Novak's Sun Times op-ed, which is as damning an assessment of the Afghanistan war as anything. The Taliban are engaging in the kind of activities that eventually forced the Soviets from the country. Drug production is way up--rule of law is, um--isn't.

Then there's the, uh, incident in Saudi Arabia. Again citing Billmon (scroll down to Saudi Riddle)--why did the terrorists attack foreigners and not oil infrastructure? They could bring down the House of Saud by going after the pipelines, storage facilities, refineries, or pumping stations. Do the Saudis know something we don't? Of course they do. Our "intelligence" is so abysmal in the Middle East that out-of-the-loop could well be a goal to achieve--sort of a step up for us. That said, the possibility that some sort of deal has been struck between the kingdom and Al Qaeda is--let's say it ISN'T my idea of a secure Middle East, especially when Al Qaeda factions seem to be testing the limits of said deal, if it exists.

In the interest of balance, I guess, there's this story about a bomb blast at a Sh'ia Mosque in Karachi, thus ensuring a bloody day throught the entire region.

And I haven't even mentioned Gaza.

You know, Bush I, following the collapse of the Soviet bloc, proclaimed "The New World Order." What is Bush Lite's legacy? The New Discord? The New Ongoing Violence? Whatever it is, the future of the Middle East has certainly been transformed beyond Dubya's wildest dreams. The problem we face, though, is the end result, which will be more like a nightmare.

Happy Memorial Day.
Adding One More Voice Against Asshole Cheney

As seen at Balta, the Angry Arab News Service, and probably countless other places. I'll add a link to TIME as well. It notes at least one instance where a paper trail--or, in this case, the email equivalent--ties Dick the veep to a big-time Halliburton deal:

Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.

The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems says the Vice President "has played no role whatsoever in government-contract decisions involving Halliburton" since 2000. A Pentagon spokesman says the e-mail means merely that "in anticipation of controversy over the award of a sole-source contract to Halliburton, we wanted to give the Vice President's staff a heads-up."

Cheney is linked to his old firm in at least one other way. His recently filed 2003 financial-disclosure form reveals that Halliburton last year invoked an insurance policy to indemnify Cheney for what could be steep legal bills "arising from his service" at the company. Past and present Halliburton execs face an array of potentially costly litigation, including multibillion-dollar asbestos claims.

Kevin Kellems, if you ask me, is lying. If you ask him, I'm sure he'd say that his statement was accurate. In an exceedlingly narrow sense, it is. I'm sure Halliburton gave Cheney a "heads-up," but I'm equally sure Dick went right to the nominal "boss" and proceeded to explain the "necessity" of the contract. Evidence indicates Cheney spends extensive amounts of time with Bush. What the hell else do they discuss after the formalities of denouncing Saddam yet again--or, more likely, what is Cheney TELLING the president?

"Got rid of Saddam, George. Good. Now, there's the matter of how we'll...

Restore Iraqi Oil. Or Move "sailboat fuel" around. Oh, and then there's a small matter regarding food service contracts. I think a fine might be appropriate."

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Please Allawi to Introduce Himself

Patrick Cockburn has a good summary of the Doctor's public life in The Independent. Short version: Iyad is anything but independent, having served many masters over the course of his chameleon-like career.

Allawi was responsible for feeding the false claim to Tony Blair's government that Iraq had the ability to launch chemical weapons withing a 45 minute time window. Looks like he was off by more than a little bit.

In addition, there are ties to the CIA, and MI6, as well as the fact that in his younger days, Allawi was a fervent Baathist, albeit a Sh'ia. Cockburn ends the article by noting a decided lack of support--during an uprising just north of Baghdad last year, one of the first things the crowd did was set fire to the INA office. Iyad Allawi was the leader of this faction of exiles.

For more on the INA, the INC, and the various manueverings that put Dr. Allawi in the catbird's seat--or the electric chair, depending on your point of view--check out these excellent posts by Steve Gilliard. This one is a primer on the vocabulary of newspapers, while his previous post more or less sums up my own feelings--the Doctor, if he takes the job, is a dead man walking. Note: of late, I've had to use the F11 key to get the entire article to display at Gilliard's site. Hit F11 twice if you run into this problem.

Oh--and, as the LSU Blogger noted, Billmon is back to posting after taking a week off. Count me as yet another person glad to see he's writing again.