Friday, June 18, 2004

A Republican I Can Admire

Edge of Sports has some quotes from the man who wants to be "the first black republican governor of Alabama," Mr. Charles Barkely:

While he makes us laugh - with classic lines like when he said to hyper religious AC Green, "If god's so good, how come he didn't give you a jump shot?" - Barkley speaks to agitate as well as entertain.

Click on the link to see more of Barkley's wisdom.

This is the first I've heard of this...I might have to do some barbecueing tomorrow.
Wishing it Wasn't So

The New York Times cites Al Arabiya in reporting that hostage Paul M. Johnson Jr. has been killed by Saudi militants affiliated with Al Qaeda.

Is there ANYONE who thinks the world is safer thanks to Dumbya's saber rattling?

Lately, I've been slow in posting--partly because of a swollen elbow, but partly because there's hardly any point in writing about the foolish Bush wars. Only the battiest individuals can believe that our flailing about in Iraq and Afghanistan could possibly serve any good purpose.

Lately, Atrios has linked to a few folks who've finally managed to remove enough of the sand covering their eyes and ears--the pieces I refer to are from, IIRC, the Detroit Free Press and The New Republic (TNR's link is, for me, beyond the registration wall).

I for one think it's good that these folks finally have managed to, at least in part, come to grips with the debacle that is now our "Middle East Policy." It's a goddamned shame, though, that these folks didn't see the light back when they and others were beating the war drum so loudly that it drowned out ANY serious discussion of the consequences.

As I've posted previously, my own thoughts regarding the occupation were that it would take a while--years, in fact--before resentment boiled over into hostility. But this assumed a genuine adherence to the Powell doctrine. I didn't think Rumsfeld would be so cheap.

I guess Rummy has his own ideas about strategery--as well as what constitutes adherence to the Geneva Conventions.

But like a bad musical in the middle of the second act, the show must go on. What Noam Chomsky calls "the limits of debate" is nicely summed up with the John Kerry position--more troops (good luck), more allies (oh yeah--like who?), same occupation. Like two lost men, neither Bush nor Kerry is willing to step out of the car and search on a map, much less ask for directions. Meanwhile, every day we remain in Iraq means more "car bomb derby" as Bill Hicks might say.

General ignorance is the ONLY thing keeping Bush from being vilified as an incompetent Richard Nixon--if not an incompetent Warren Harding, although I think Harding has been pretty much erased from the collective memory of the public. And the media is at least partly responsible for this. Sure, the stresses of modern life take their toll. But it seems these days that being a civic minded person requires the kind of energy that folks invest into serious hobbies--or extra part time jobs. No wonder folks pretty much tune out.

So, without ignoring the Middle East, I'm going to try to broaden my posts a bit since the debate, as it were, is over. Whether or not the public is looking, the United States is seeing the limits of its power. We can blast all kinds of stuff to smithereens--but we can't make people in the Middle East like us--especially when it's their stuff we're blasting away at.

Game over--no reset.

Vlad the Impalee

Or maybe I should just call him Vlad the whore. CNN reports on Putin's "warnings" to the US to the effect that Saddam was going to do terrible things to us after September 11th but before the March 2003 invasion.

My own thought when seeing this was a single word: Chechnya.
History Friday

Fifty-six years ago, the United Nations adopted the Declaration of Human Rights.

I think everyone knows the U.N. is little more than window dressing these days, but it's still worth looking at the text of the declaration. Who knows--we might actually learn something:

Article 1

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed by nature with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2

Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, property or other status, or national or social origin.

Article 3

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 4

1. No one shall be held in slavery or involuntary servitude.

2. No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Article 5

Everyone has the right to recognition, everywhere, as a person before the law.

Article 6

All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law against any discrimination in violation of this declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.

Article 7

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

Article 8

In the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him, everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

Article 9

1. Everyone charged with a penal offense has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defense.

2. No one shall be held guilty of any offense on account of any act or omission which did not constitute an offense, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed.

Article 10

No one shall be subjected to unreasonable interference with his privacy, family, home correspondence or reputation.

Article 11

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.

2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own.

Article 12

1. Everyone has the right to seek and be granted, in other countries, asylum from persecution.

2. Prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations do not constitute persecution.

Article 13

No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality or denied the right to change his nationality.

Article 14

1. Men and women of full age have the right to marry and to found a family and are entitled to equal rights as to marriage.

2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the full consent of both intending spouses.

3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection.

Article 15

1. Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.

2. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article 16

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 17

Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Article 18

Everyone has the right to freedom of assembly and association.

Article 19

1. Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through his freely chosen representatives.

2. Everyone has the right of access to public employment in his country.

3. Everyone has the right to a government which conforms to the will of the people.

Article 20

Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security, and is entitled to the realization, through national effort and international cooperation, and in accordance with the organization and resources of each state, of the economic, social and cultural rights set out below.

Article 21

1. Everyone has the right to work, to just and favorable conditions of work and pay, and to protection against unemployment.

2. Everyone has the right to equal pay for equal work.

3. Everyone is free to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

Article 22

1. Everyone has the right to a standard of living, including food, clothing, housing and medical care, and to social services, adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, and to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

2. Mother and child have the right to special care and assistance.

Article 23

1. Everyone has the right to education. Elementary and fundamental education shall be free and compulsory and there shall be equal access on the basis of merit to higher education.

2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality, to strengthening respect for human rights and fundamental freedom, and to combating the spirit of intolerance and hatred against other nations and against racial and religious groups everywhere.

Article 24

Everyone has the right to rest and leisure.

Article 25

Everyone has the right to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement.

Article 26

Everyone is entitled to a good social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set out in the declaration can be fully realized.

Article 27

1. Everyone has duties to the community which enables him freely to develop his personality.

2. In the exercise of his rights, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are necessary to secure due recognition and respect for the rights of others and the requirements of morality, public order and general welfare in a democratic society.

Article 28

Nothing in this declaration shall imply the recognition of the right of any state or person to engage in any activity aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms prescribed herein

Thursday, June 17, 2004


Seen earlier at Atrios. Center for American Progress sends the truth squad out after Sean Hannity. Not surprisingly, they discover that Sean rarely lets the facts get in the way of a good story.
The Burbs

The New York Times on Dolores Hayden's new book, A Field Guide to Sprawl. I might have to add this to my reading list.
Aiding and Abetting

Bush expresses his support for Donald Rumsfeld, who is a war criminal.
Bush Wants All Cities to be Like Houston

Credit to Timshel for the link to the Pic article.

But even Houston has a damn light rail line.

A proposed light rail line from Louis Armstrong International Airport to Union Station in New Orleans is one of a dozen mass transit projects that would become cost-prohibitive under the Bush administration's plan to increase the required local contribution, according to a report released Wednesday by the Sierra Club.

Bush has recommended that Congress require local sponsors of such mass transit construction projects to pay 50 percent of their cost. Until now, local sponsors only had to pay 20 percent of the cost of projects including the return of streetcars to Canal Street.

Without having done the research, something tells me Houston probably forked over the minimum 20 percent.

I'm not all that surprised by the cuts Bush proposes--after all, backwards, half-assed thinking is the hallmark of his administration--but I'm amazed that the public has managed to turn itself so completely away from politics. Hell, the Republicans are looting the national treasury on a scale matched only by the looting in Iraq following Hussein's fall. Yet their thievery is greeted with a yawn.

The Pic article pegs the cost for the airport/Union Station line at between one hundred and three hundred million dollars. Without Halliburton stealing government money in exchange for not providing services in Iraq, there'd be plenty of federal cash to fund this. And it would benefit vast segments of the public, particularly if it became the first step towards a comprehensive system of mass transit. The reduction in pollution, the freeing up of money devoted to highway building (and repair/maintenence) the reduced number of accidents, and so on, would be a tremendous net gain. But projects benefitting the general public don't fly with Team Bush.

For them, it's one or none--percent, that is. If you're truly at the top of the financial slag heap, Dubya will be happy to work with you. Otherwise, you don't even exist.
A River in Egypt

George W. Bush is in denial of the September 11th Commission's findings regarding Al Qaeda and Iraq. So what else is new?

He's been in denial regarding WMD. His sudden interest in Abu Musab al-Zarqawi belies the fact that al-Zarqawi operated in northern Iraq, i.e., autonomous Kurdistan--our ally--prior to the invasion.

And bringing it all full circle, Bush made Pakistan--a country with KNOWN ties to Al Qaeda--a major "non-NATO ally" of the US. Boy, that sure does send a message.

The message is that the pResident is dangerously divorced from reality.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Uncle Osama

Link via Lead Balloons at Bad Attitudes
Nathan Newman cites a Reuters article that says Al Qaeda has "more than 18,000 militants ready to strike at the US in Iraq." How's that for meeting recruitment goals?

He's LAUGHING at us.

And the soldiers on the ground STILL don't have the kind of intelligence that would allow them to distinguish between friend or foe, much less know whether the enemy is local or foreign. Among other things, that makes the nighttime raids less a surgical strike and more of a hit-or-miss scenario--which guarantees plenty of folks will be completely pissed off at us.

The wingnuts have NO legitimate fallback position for these "mistakes," because the mistake was thinking we'd be greeted warmly--much like in the movie Animal House, the nuts thought "wait till the Iraqis see us. They LOVE us!"

They love us enough to pretty much anticipate our moves, and respond accordingly--if we beef up security around the Green Zone, they go after the pipelines. If we garrison the troops, they shoot at the "civilian contractors" in their big SUV's.

You know, I just realized another terrible irony regarding the vulnerability of the "contractors." They're almost in the exact opposite situation vis-a-vis a hostile Middle East population as your average stereotyped Middle Easterner is here when working at a convenience store. I know I've heard more than a few sick "jokes" about how the night-shift folks at the Circle K might as well be wearing targets on their shirts. Funny how it isn't funny when the tables are turned.

Lastly, Billmon has some thoughts about the CPA's decision to give the "new, improved Iraqi government" control of Baghdad International Airport. His point, in summation, is that it's not such a good idea to give away the line of retreat, especially considering that the "new, improved security forces" are actually the NON foreigners who've been fighting us since the insurgency began.

Team Bush really put the nit in nitwit.

Twenty-seven retired career diplomats went on record to deliver what, for a diplomat, is harsh criticism:

"We all believe that current administration policies have failed in the primary responsibilities of preserving national security and providing world leadership,'' said a statement signed by the 27 retired officials. "We need a change.''

The rare criticism by career senior U.S. officials came from a group that included members of both major political parties, two former ambassadors to the Soviet Union and a retired chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In attacking Bush's national security record, they challenged a key Bush argument for his re-election against Democrat Sen. John Kerry, that the Iraq war has made America safer.

"Our security has been weakened,'' the group said.

The former officials, some of whom said they had voted for Bush, said the Republican president manipulated intelligence on Iraq to lead the United States into an "ill-planned and costly war from which exit is uncertain.''

Bush has maintained an "overbearing'' approach to foreign policy that relied excessively on military power, spurned the concerns of U.S. traditional allies and disdained the United Nations, the group said.

"It justified the invasion of Iraq by manipulation of uncertain intelligence about weapons of mass destruction, and by a cynical campaign to persuade the public that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda and the attacks of September 11,'' it said. "The evidence did not support this argument.''

"Never in the two and a quarter centuries of our history has the United States been so isolated among the nations, so broadly feared and distrusted,'' it added.

I remember the old--very old--Saturday Night Live sketch for Ambassador Training School. It consisted of a "test," where the "correct" answer to all questions was to rave about the sweet and sour shrimp. Careerists tread lightly, and say little. Their statement is the polite way of saying "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on--now get the hell out.

And your sweet and sour shrimp sucked."

66th (Tie)

Checking Timshel's link, I see Baton Rouge, which for a while had the slogan "We Are BR!" (I always wanted to add "549" after BR) dropped to 66th in the Old Spice "Sweatiest Cities" ranking. I guess the term rank is appropriate.

This summer has been a lot more hot and humid than last.

For the record: Ricky cited the site to note New Orleans "gained" ten spots to finish fifth, just ahead of Houston.

Something tells me we won't be seeing this on the "Welcome to Baton Rouge" signs.
Freudian Slip

Still busy here, but I managed to get to a few sites. Mary over at Naked Furniture has the best "misread" of the day--in quotes because ain't it the REAL truth.
Laff--Mission Accomplished

OK, I'm sneaking a peek at a few more sites before I get busy over here. I saw this at CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday claimed victory in the war on terrorism in Afghanistan and announced what he called five new initiatives to strengthen the links between that country and the United States...

"Coalition forces, including many brave Afghans, have brought America, Afghanistan and the world its first victory in the war on terror," the president said...

A short while later in the Afghan capital city of Kabul, NATO forces came under fire Tuesday when at least one rocket exploded outside their headquarters.

How can ANYONE take Bush seriously? Calling him a clown is an insult to clowns.

Lair for a Liar

Atrios links to the folks with the details. The White House seems to be all in a snit about Time Magazine printing what was apparently an open secret for those who really wanted to know.

On that note, check out Winning Argument. I found it via Needlenose. One of Winning Argument's posts succinctly explains why, in general, classifying material is counterproductive. Looks like I'll be checking in with this site regularly.

Things will be a little busy for me today. Someone's hollering over here about a couple of servers that I'll be putting together. As usual, they want them done yesterday--although I was stuck in a meeting for the most part. As for Monday--the meeting was a class on how Cisco Security Agent works. We had set up a server for this a couple of weeks ago. Upon arriving, though, we were told that their software doesn't work with Windoze 2003. So I had to redo the setup using Windoze 2000. As usual, one step forward, two steps backwards.

Back in a bit.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

But Seriously--What's $8 Billion Dollars Between Friends?

I saw this over at The Angry Arab News Service and at Balta, respectively. The Financial Times notes Halliburton mismanaged at least $8 billion taxpayer dollars in the form of goverment contracts in Kuwait and/or Iraq.

It's good to know that the time honored practice of private business engaging in price gouging during wartime continues unabated. It helps me appreciate history all the more.

Here are a couple of examples:

A fifteen pound bag of laundry was cleaned for the low price of $100 dollars. Flat tires forced the abandonment of some trucks, which were billed to the government at $85,000 apiece (were these the "sailboat fuel" trucks?). No wonder they needed to be abandoned--the sailboat fuel leaked out of the tires!

I wonder if Cheney is beginning to worry about his pension.
Afghanistan: Model Nation

Reuters reports that George W. Bush thinks Afghanistan is a good model for Iraq.

By those standards, The Hindenburg might make a good model for an aviation system, the maiden voyage of The Titanic a good model for how to navigate the North Atlantic, and the Pinto a good model for a compact car.

But maybe I'm being a little harsh. After all, Afghanistan now has a growing source of foreign currency, no pun intended. There's sort of a rule of law--depending on where you are. And I hear Hamid Karzai has set a firm goal of controlling most if not all of Kabul, while the US is doing its part by promising to treat prisoners--well, like prisoners.

You know, the elections might be cancelled--um, delayed--but why say the glass is half empty when it could easily be considered half full, provided the bullet hole at the bottom of the glass is patched up. All it would take is a little bit of duct tape.

And some pretty good P.R.
Class Values

No, this isn't a Marxist screed, but a note that I'm in class for a few more hours learning all about CSA--not the Confederate States, but Cisco Security Agent. I could explain for those interested, but I doubt there are many who are...

Back in a bit.
Do They Kick Puppies?

The Globe and Mail is reporting that "Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski said that Major-General Geoffrey Miller told her last autumn that prisoners 'are like dogs, and if you allow them to believe at any point that they are more than a dog then you've lost control of them.'"

I guess I'll check and see what Basket Full of Puppies thinks about this statement. I wonder if that counts for the Right Wing Dog Injury Report.

Still--beatings and humiliation--that's not how I'd treat a dog--unless I'd want it to live a completely fucked up life, alternately resenting and fearing its owner.

It's certainly not how to treat a person, unless you're trying to create enemies. Then again, maybe some folks in the Army WANTED enemies. You know, in the same way that some folks like it when computers break down--it's job security. Well, for the high ranking officers, that is. The elisted personnel face additional occupational hazards, of course.

And the country faces a foreign policy failure.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Car Lotto

The Telegraph notes that in Iraq there's a good reason to not drive around in an SUV:

In Iraq, driving a 4x4 has become tantamount to driving around the country with an American flag painted on the bonnet. In other words, very dangerous.

Dozens of Western contractors and government officials have been killed and most if not all were travelling in 4x4s, which are known in Baghdad by their American name, SUVs, or sports utility vehicles.

"There are several ways to get killed in Iraq if you're a foreigner. Top of the list is to drive a SUV," said Abu Saif Fatah, a team leader at the security group Diligence, which recommends that its clients stick to old Iraqi cars.

To Iraqis, the SUVs have become symbols of the occupation, as black Mercedes became synonymous with Saddam Hussein's reign.

Expensive, air-conditioned and often driven boorishly, they represent what Iraqis consider to be the arrogance and aloofness of the US-led administration.

History Monday

The New York Times summarizes the recently discovered narratives of John Washington and Wallace Turnage. Both escaped from slavery during the US Civil War by rowboating to safety (Washington left Richmond, Virginia, Turnage from Alabama (the article doesn't indicate the town or city).

Brief excerpts from each narrative are here.
From the "Elections Have Been Cancelled Department"

The Afghans will just have to wait.
Reconstruction Proceeds Apace

Maybe this is where the money is going--and it could be the "good news" the press refuses to focus on: Patrick Cockburn in The Independent:

"Gigantic concrete slabs, like enormous grey tombstones, now block many roads in Baghdad. They are about 12 feet high and three feet across and for many Iraqis have become the unloved symbol of the occupation. Standing side by side, they form walls around the Green Zone and other US bases, with notices saying it is illegal to stop beside them.

It is the ever-expanding US bases and the increasing difficulties and dangers of their daily lives which make ordinary Iraqis dismiss declarations by President George Bush about transferring power to a sovereign Iraqi government as meaningless. As Mr Bush and Tony Blair were speaking this week about a new beginning for Iraq, the supply of electricity in the country has fallen from 12 hours a day to six hours. On Canal Street yesterday, close to the bombed-out UN headquarters, there was a two-mile long queue of cars waiting to buy petrol."

Check out the rest of the article to get an idea of what "liberated" Iraq is like these days.

Steve Gilliard has more on Iraq. His post is well worth looking at.
Busy Here

But finally got a chance to take a break. I'll be short on comments for a while--at least until the swelling in my elbow goes down a little.

From Needlenose, here's an interesting take on the recent hostage disaster in Saudi Arabia. War Nerd points out that the Saudi terrorists TOOK A LUNCH BREAK during the rampage that left 22 "non-believers" dead. Think about that.

Our ALLIES can't be trusted to track down terrorists taking time to head over to a resort for a little R&R between horrific acts of violence. In fact, they didn't "storm" the building until the next day. With friends like this...

Don't forget to also check out a post below regarding the latest car bombing, which segues nicely into a story and comment about the electricity shortage. Apparently, three of the dead from today's blast were employed by Granite Services Inc., which is one of the companies contracted to restore the electrical grid.

What is being proved here is that the insurgents--be they WHATEVER THE HELL YOU WANT TO CALL THEM--are more than capable of keeping Iraq in a chaotic situation for as long as the US occupies the country (at least in present form, although at this point what would an extra 300,000 soldiers do?). And that's ALL they have to do for the occupation to be a total failure.

Add the Abu Ghraib (and other prison) abuse(s) to the mix, and the level of fucked up beyond all recognition would actually have to improve if we want to call it fucked up beyond all recognition. To think otherwise is to be willfully blind. We're talking 1980 New Orleans Aints amd then some.

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Pfc. Lynndie England's wish list of defense witnesses has about one hundred names, from Dick Cheney on down. It'll be interesting to see what excuses the higher ups pull to avoid testifying.

Meanwhile, according to Bloomberg, a new idea is being floated to try to explain away the abuses at Abu Ghraib--they'd been drinking.