Saturday, August 16, 2003

reuters video 

All sorts of great stuff today, including:

Striking footage of an oil fire in Iraq.

MODEL rebels control Bucchanan.

Wonderful footage of girls playing soccer in Kabul.

Looting in Monrovia.

he got more kicks for speaking english 

Salaam Pax writes:

G. my friend got beaten up by US Army last night, he was handcuffed and had a bag put on his head. he was kicked several times and was made to lie on his face for a while. All he wanted to do was to take pictures and report on an attack, he works for the New York Times as a translator and fixer. He got more kicks for speaking english.
his sin: he looks Iraqi and has a beard.

story will be told, I need to get him drunk enough to get the whole thing out of him he doesn't want to talk.

He then suggests reading this column by Thomas L. Friedman:

...Unfortunately, the same Bush Pentagon that had the audacity to undertake this revolutionary project in Iraq did not prepare either itself or the U.S. public for such a vast undertaking. I worry that we're not going to have the time, money or people to finish this job right — for several reasons.

First, there's a word I've heard here that I did not hear on two previous visits since the war: "humiliation." This is an occupation. It may have come with the best of intentions, but nobody likes to be occupied. I just watched a scene at the checkpoint at the July 14 Bridge, which leads to the huge U.S. compound in the heart of Baghdad. U.S. soldiers kept telling Iraqi women — who were coming to work for the U.S. forces! — that they could not enter because no female U.S. soldiers were available to search them. It is 120 degrees here. To wait in line for 30 minutes and then be told you have to go across the city to a different gate produces humiliation and rage, and eventually grenades tossed at Americans. I saw it in the eyes of those Iraqi women and their husbands as they drove away.

...I was in a five-car convoy that was robbed in broad daylight on Monday morning just outside Baghdad. We were on the only highway linking Iraq to Jordan — the country's lifeline — when several BMW's with masked men, armed with AK-47's, ambushed us under a bridge. These "Ali Babas" blocked the road, pointed guns at our faces and demanded our cash (no credit cards!). They made off with thousands of dollars, which maybe they'll just keep, or maybe they'll use to pay people to kill U.S. soldiers. Who knows? I do know we drove for two more hours before we ran into the soldiers of a U.S. patrol and told them what had happened.

"Sorry," the sergeant said, "we just don't have enough people."

It's a travesty that four months after the fall of Saddam, the main road in and out of the country is still not safe. It underscores how much the Pentagon's ideological reach exceeds its military grasp. All of America's friends in Baghdad say the same thing: I love your ideas, but my daily life — salary, electricity, security — is worse since you came, not better.

more money, more bodies 

From the Pakistan Daily Times:

KABUL: A top rights group said on Thursday the world must not renege on promises to Afghanistan, saying the country was still on the critical list almost two years after a US-led intervention.

A report from the London-based Amnesty International said efforts to restore security and the rule of law in Afghanistan were being seriously undermined by the failure of the international community to provided urgently needed assistance. As the international community focuses on the reconstruction of Iraq, it must not rescind on promises made to the Afghans, the report said. Afghanistan is still on the critical list. It said the judicial system was barely functioning and the unwillingness of the international community to provide effective security outside of Kabul had allowed individuals in many areas to stay above the law through threats and intimidation. Afghanistan requires comprehensive long-term support and assistance to ensure that it develops a judicial system that is based upon respect for the rule of law, it said.

The report came out after the bloodiest 24-hour period in more than a year in Afghanistan, in which at least 61 people were killed in a series of attacks and clashes across the country. The bloodshed underlines the fragility of Afghanistan, despite the presence of a 12,500-strong US led coalition force that is pursuing remnants of the former Taliban regime and their Al Qaeda allies and 5,000 NATO-led peacekeepers in Kabul.

Also from the Daily Times:

KABUL: In an ominous sign for the United States and NATO, Afghanistan is living up to a reputation it hoped was buried in the past ” as a brutal and lawless land.

The wave of violence this week claiming at least 65 lives has highlighted both the growing threat from Taliban remnants and other anti-US elements and the failure of foreign forces in Afghanistan to crush the Islamic militia and impose security. In its first week in command of the 5,000-strong international peacekeeping force in Kabul, NATO in particular is facing tough questions about its role amid urgent calls to expand both the number of troops and its geographical scope.

“We are talking about tripling the number of peacekeepers, meaning an increase of 10-12,000, and with NATO now in charge there is hope for some movement on the expansion issue (outside Kabul) a government official said in Kabul.

From Reuters:

CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) - In an effort to head off mounting violence in Afghanistan, the Bush administration plans to replace its top aid administrator, put U.S. advisers in key ministries and may redirect $1 billion from its Iraq war budget, officials familiar with the plan said on Thursday.

Administration officials and congressional aides briefed on the plan said that it had yet to be finalized but that an announcement was expected in the coming weeks. Critics on Capitol Hill say the proposed changes would give the U.S. military greater control over reconstruction programs typically run by experts at the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. They also say that the administration, distracted by the war in Iraq, had yet to meet its financial obligations to Afghanistan, where violence has surged.

...To boost reconstruction efforts, the Pentagon is preparing a $1 billion aid package, $900 million of which is likely to come out of the emergency fund approved by Congress for military operations in Iraq, according to congressional aides briefed by the administration. The rest of the money would come from other foreign aid accounts, they said. The Iraq war budget gave the Pentagon some flexibility in deciding how to spend the money, which officials said would be used on a wide range of U.S.-backed projects in Afghanistan, including building schools and roads.

...Although the U.S.-backed government in Kabul has received pledges of about $4.5 billion in aid from international donors, much of that money has yet to arrive or was spent on humanitarian relief rather than reconstruction.

Also from Reuters:

IRVINE, Calif. (Reuters) - President Bush intends to nominate his special envoy in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, to take over as ambassador to oversee an expanded reconstruction program aimed at stemming mounting violence, people familiar with the plan said on Friday.

The move is part of a broader overhaul of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, which congressional sources said would be announcement by the White House in coming days. Khalilzad, one of Bush's top national security advisers and a former aide to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, will replace Robert Finn, who has served as ambassador to Kabul since March 2002. Khalilzad would assume a role similar to that of Paul Bremer, the veteran diplomat with sweeping authority over the reconstruction of Iraq. Unlike Bremer, however, Khalilzad would hold the rank of ambassador, which requires Senate approval.

...The administration is also considering placing 75 to 100 American experts in key positions within Afghan government ministries, as was done in Iraq.

Administration officials said the goal was to speed up reconstruction efforts and improve security in a country reeling from the most deadly outbreak of violence since the Taliban fell to U.S. forces in late 2001.

From the Islamic Republic News Agency:

Kabul, Aug 16, IRNA -- Preliminary licenses for the establishment of branches of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) and Bank Saderat Iran
in Afghanistan have already been issued and the two Iranian national banks will soon become operational in the country, it was
declared here on Saturday.

A report released by the Iranian Embassy in Kabul said that the keen interest of the two Iranian banks in opening branches in Afghanistan and their compliance with requirements set by oficials of Afghanistan's Central Bank have led Afghan banking authorities to give the greenlight for them to start operations.

From Hi Pakistan:

SHER-O-ABA: When US forces entered a remote Afghan village recently to hunt Taliban and Al Qaeda rebels, locals hurriedly hid their copies of Holy Quran in a sack.

Baffled soldiers who discovered the copies of the holy book asked an elder what was happening. He told them that villagers feared they would be killed merely for being Muslims.

..."On the slightest suspicion they arrest us and treat us like animals," said Haji Allah Dad, a 50-year-old resident of Sher-o-Aba, a village six km east of the town of Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan. "Their treatment is so inhuman that sometimes we even think of joining the 'jihad' (holy war) of the Taliban against them."

From the Palestine Chronicle:

KABUL - Armed struggles, bomb explosions, and chaotic conditions in various parts of Afghanistan during the past 48 hours have so far claimed at least 115 lives, and led to critical injuries of about another 100 individuals, in addition to lots of material damage.

According to IRNA correspondents in various parts of Afghanistan, the past 48 hours' deadly incidents have been quite unmatched during the past two years

chalabi watch 


LAST JANUARY, ACCORDING to INC sources, Chalabi met in Tehran with officials from several ministries. According to an account of Chalabi’s visit provided by an INC source, the Iranians told Chalabi that they “would not oppose” U.S. efforts to oust Saddam Hussein, but they worried that post-Saddam Iraq could become a base for anti-Iranian agitation. According to an INC source, Chalabi told the Iranians that “he did not want to see Iraq become a base of subversion toward any of its neighbors and that he would try to prevent this ever taking place.”

U.S. government officials say that intelligence reports about Chalabi’s visit to Iran, which reached Washington just as final planning for the war was underway, suggested Chalabi had assured the Iranians that their influence would be “safeguarded” in a postwar Iraq. Sources say the INC leader’s enemies in Washington, which include the CIA and State Department, used the intelligence about his Tehran visit to press the White House to block moves by Chalabi, which were backed by Pentagon conservatives, to set up a prewar government-in-exile, presumably led by Chalabi himself.

From the Channel


A leading delegate of the US-installed Iraqi Governing Council has come to Washington, with Ahmed Chalabi reclaiming the diplomatic offices of the former Saddam regime.

Listen to Australian Broadcasting Corporation's profile of Chalabi.

We think we have him but we're not sure. We can't confirm it 100 per cent. 

Courtesy of the Memory Hole:

Reuters, 12 Aug 2003, 11:21 AM

SAN FRANSISCO - The US government said today it had neither an exact count nor all the names of hundreds of people captured in Afghanistan over a year ago and now detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. US government lawyers made the disclosure during a court hearing in a case on behalf of Falen Gherebi, a Libyan national believed to be in US custody in Cuba. In May, a US District Court said it did not have the authority to consider whether Gherebi was being held lawfully and remanded the matter to an appeals court.

At the appeals court hearing on Monday, the planned debate over the government's right to hold Gherebi dissolved into a more basic discussion over whether the US government even had kept complete records on the people being held. "They won't let him out and they also won't tell us if he's there," said Stephen Yagman, a lawyer for Falen Gherebi's brother, Belaid Gherebi, a San Diego resident, who has sued to get his brother legal representation. "This is crazy. This is just nuts."

Yagman complained that the government has stonewalled such requests on behalf of Gherebi and other detainees by maintaining ignorance as to who exactly it had in custody.

The Memory Hole also has a running piece on parts of the Navy's Gitmo website that have been removed and leaked photos of detainees being transported.

there was a loud whisper 

From the Independent:

By Kim Sengupta
16 August 2003

At 2.48 on a hot and slow afternoon in the Hutton inquiry, Martin Howard, an intelligence chief, casually dropped into his evidence that the Prime Minister had personally intervened in the case of David Kelly. Amid the frantic scratching of journalists' pens on their notebooks, there was a loud whisper, "torpedo running".

By the end of this first week of the inquiry, any hopes Tony Blair and his government may have had that Lord Hutton would confine himself to the narrow channel of the immediate circumstances of Dr Kelly's death have evaporated.

In a series of meticulously crafted questions, James Dingemans QC, counsel for the inquiry, has drawn witnesses into the incendiary issue of the Government's case for war on Iraq. With the timing of a conjurer, he has produced a deck of hitherto undisclosed official documents that give a tantalising insight into how the September weapons dossier, the justification for the invasion, was constructed, and the level of friction and disquiet it created.

The inquiry was shown successive drafts of the now notorious September dossier, something the MPs in the Foreign Affairs Committee had asked for from the Government and been refused. Mr Dingemans asked Mr Howard why the drafts were not made public. Why were they not given to the Foreign Affairs Committee? As Mr Howard squirmed, the QC took him through the various stages of the document as the Government tried to prove Saddam Hussein could launch a chemical and biological attack within 45 minutes.

The final version, said Mr Dingemans, "is noticeably harder. Is that fair, hmm?" Mr Howard had to reply, "I think that is fair, yes."

...One of the memorable experiences in the hearing has been the parade of civil servants who appeared in the witness box to praise their dead colleague when evidence showed they were not supporting him during the last weeks of his life. There was Patrick Lamb, deputy head of counter-proliferation at the Foreign Office, who told Lord Hutton he had offered sympathy to Dr Kelly over his predicament and anxiously inquired whether his pension rights would be unaffected. Yet it was the same Mr Lamb who had, in effect, "shopped" the scientist as Mr Gilligan's source to Mr Howard at a drinks reception at MI5 HQ.

Then there was Bryan Wells, Dr Kelly's line manager. He told the inquiry his main thought was "what was best for David". Yet in the two grillings Dr Kelly received at the MoD, Mr Wells had not uttered a word in his support. "I was taking notes," he said. "But you could speak, couldn't you?" asked Mr Dingemans caustically.


The BBC journalist had a rough ride and was uneasy when he admitted he ought not to have claimed that No 10 insisted on the 45-minute claim despite knowing it to be false. But Ms Watts' admission that Dr Kelly had named Mr Campbell too, and Dr Kelly's own words on tape appear to back him up. He spotted the story, even if his execution of it may not have been perfect.


While a highly respected expert and far from a "middle-ranking official", Dr Kelly made conflicting statements on the dossier, telling bosses it was "completely coincident with my own personal views" but citing "unease of some substance" among his colleagues to reporters.His worries were shared by at least two members of Defence Intelligence Staff.


Dr Kelly named him to Susan Watts in a call on 7 May. Evidence shows that a letter of 8 July from Martin Howard, deputy director of Defence Intelligence, to John Scarlett, was copied to Mr Campbell. Mr Campbell is said not to have approved but merely to have "noted" the naming strategy of the MoD press office. This distinction may not survive close questioning.


A letter from Mr Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee suggested a "security-style interview" for Dr Kelly. It is unclear whether Lord Hutton will call Mr Scarlett in public but it is inconceivable he will not be called at all. He will have to say whether he suggested to Nik Gowing, a BBC journalist, that he was not totally happy with the dossier.


Ms Watts stuck the knife into the BBC and Mr Gilligan. She raised questions as to why she dismissed as "glib" Dr Kelly's mention of Alastair Campbell and why she ignored his reference to the role of the "No 10 press office" in the revising of the dossier. It is unclear why she did not follow up what and how Dr Kelly knew about the press office's involvement.


The Prime Minister's role in the way Dr Kelly was questioned became apparent this week, contradicting claims that Mr Blair had taken a "hands-off" approach. Martin Howard said he had been told by Sir David Omand, Mr Blair's security co-ordinator, that the Prime Minister wanted "to go into a bit more detail into the differences" between Dr Kelly's and Mr Gilligan's statements.


His future is on the line after the inquiry was told he had overruled Sir Kevin Tebbit, the MoD's permanent secretary, in making Dr Kelly appear in public before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. "Presentationally", it would be difficult for him and the MoD if Dr Kelly only appeared in private before the Intelligence and Security Committee, Mr Hoon said.


The Foreign Secretary was damned in Ms Watts' recorded conversation with Dr Kelly when the scientist questioned Anglo-American claims on Iraq's military capabilities. "I didn't think the British had a definitive position on Iraq's exact capability in that only Bush/Straw said they had such and such. That was spin," Dr Kelly said.


A former director of GCHQ, Sir Kevin opposed the idea of forcing Dr Kelly to appear in public but his role in the naming strategy is unclear. Called for consideration for Dr Kelly - a plea apparently ignored by Geoff Hoon. But he may be asked why he described Dr Kelly as "eccentric" over dinner with James Robbins, BBC diplomatic correspondent.

a little help from my friends 

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Saudi Arabian authorities have embarked on a vast anti-terrorism operation in which up to 12,000 citizens will be questioned at the behest of the United States, a Saudi opposition group has said.

...Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, told security officials on Thursday that the kingdom was engaged in a "decisive battle" against terrorism. "In the struggle between forces of good and forces of evil there is no room for being neutral or hesitant," he said.

The claim that Saudi authorities are working through a US-supplied list of suspects could not be independently confirmed. The US is known to have supplied a shorter list to Yemen. The kingdom has publicly turned down requests to let the FBI question suspects, so accepting a US list of people to be interviewed by Saudi officials could be a compromise solution.

hey, I resemble that remark 


On April 22, an anoymous Bush adviser told the New York Times that Kerry "looks French,” a silly insult designed to capitalize on anti-French sentiment in the wake of the Iraq war. Since then, three right-wing pundits have repeated it frequently, calling Kerry "French-looking" in nonsensical terms. Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz, lashed back in the press, prompting James Taranto, the author of the Best of the Web Today column on Opinion Journal, the website of the Wall Street Journal editorial page, to first pick up on the phrase. In his April 24 column, he first discusses the controversy, then further down calls Kerry "French-looking," beginning a spree of 22 uses of the term that culminated in a Wall Street Journal op-ed yesterday in which he repeated it.

Radio host Rush Limbaugh has used the term multiple times as well (see commentaries from June 9, July 16, July 22 and August 5, among others). He has also introduced other variants, calling Kerry "John French", Jean Cheri and "Jean F. Cheri".

Washington Times editor Wes Pruden is the other major figure using the term. He wrote on June 20 that "You have to feel a spot of sympathy for someone who looks as French as John Kerry. But he's sometimes got a mouth like Jacques Chirac, and he leaves a lurid paper trail." In a subtle touch, Pruden then called him "The French-looking senator" in his next sentence. On July 25, he called Kerry "the French-looking pursuer of Howard Dean."

Dean has also become a target of Limbaugh, who has begun referring to him as "Nikita Dean" in a reference to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev. Reacting to a Washington Post story that portrayed Dean as a fiscal conservative, Limbaugh said:

The Democrats always try to tell us that the Soviets, "well, they're just misunderstood people. I mean, they're really not our enemies, they're just afraid of us because of our nuclear arsenal." I've got a new name for Howard Dean. I'm going to call him "Nikita Dean." With the way the press is trying to position this guy, they're not going to get away with it. "Nikita Dean" from now on.
Later in the show, Limbaugh added:

He's [Dean] positioned himself so far out on the left that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is to the right of him. Hence the name "Nikita Dean." I mean I'll bet most of you never thought you'd see the day when the head of Russia was more supportive of capitalism, individual liberty and American foreign policy than the leading Democratic presidential candidate is, but it's the truth.

Finally, a Bush advisor labelled Edwards as the "Breck girl of politics" in the same April New York Times article where Kerry was labelled as looking French, which the Times described as "a reference to the shiny-hair model for a popular shampoo in the 1960's."

see you in hell 

Idi Amin is dead.

Original BBC television report from 1971 when Amin seized control of Uganda.

The McDonald's of arms dealing 

The World had this report on the arms dealer Victor Bout.

Friday, August 15, 2003


AP video of aid arriving in Liberia

And I meant to post this video last week

sierra leone 

GNN has a intense video report on the diamond trade in Sierra Leone. Warning:extremely graphic.

we are dolls, but don't play with us. we bite. 

From Game Girl Advance:

One of the strangest slices of this culture is what a friend poetically dubs “Fetish Amish”, but which really goes by the no less disturbing name “Goth-Lolita”: angelic faces framed by layers and layers of black lace, modestly opaque black stockings under masses of white eyelet, accessorized by slightly morbid stuffed animals or disproportionately huge carpet bags.

There is a synergy with dolls here. Actually, although many Japanese are superstitious about dolls - there are many ghost stories that rely on the device of a beautiful doll animated by a troubled spirit - you'll find dolls perfectly preserved in glass cases in many houses. Maybe younger people emulate this by collecting plastic figurines of manga heores. Maybe the GothLolitas are trying to dress like cute but creepy dolls. Maybe it's the very cuteness, the prettiness, which is creepy. There's a lot of ambient creepy cute in Japan.

i'm not sure what you're selling... 

...but here's my credit card number.


Marketplace has a report on tort reform that does an excellent job making the case on why we need it but fails to say what form it should take.

Thursday, August 14, 2003



right click and "save target as" baby!!! yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

you may already be a winner 

From OMBWatch:

The first round of IRS rebate checks to middle and upper income families with dependent children have been mailed. In addition, a second mailing by the IRS was conducted, at a cost of $20 million, letting people know a check would be on the way.

This second mailing (see text below) is completely unnecessary and wastes valuable resources at a time when deficits are already exploding.

laurie anderson eat your heart out 

The first great work of American Post-Modernism is finally available on DVD.


GNN has an excellent video report on unanswered questions from 9/11.

almost a step forward and a step sideways 

From the Boston Globe:

UNITED NATIONS -- The United States introduced a resolution yesterday that would establish a UN mission in Iraq and welcome the Iraqi Governing Council as "an important step" toward the formation of a true government -- but it faced strong opposition from Syria. US Ambassador John Negroponte called for a vote today after closed-door consultations, but Syria's UN Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe, the current council president, said, "We will see whether we are able to vote tomorrow or not."

The Arab League said last week that its members, including Syria, would not recognize the Governing Council and would instead wait until Iraq is led by an elected government.

...The initiative at the Security Council notwithstanding, US officials said yesterday that the Bush administration has abandoned the idea of giving the United Nations more of a role in the occupation of Iraq, as sought by France, India, and other countries as a condition for their participation in peacekeeping there, The New York Times reported today. According to the Times report, the officials said that instead, the United States would widen its effort to enlist other countries to assist the occupation forces in Iraq, which are dominated by the 139,000 US troops there. The officials said there was a consensus in the administration that it would be better to work with these countries than to involve the UN or countries that opposed the war, the Times reported.


WASHINGTON -- Government-financed health insurance covering every American is the cure for the current system's high costs and limits on patient care, a group of nearly 8,000 doctors said yesterday.

The proposal by Physicians for a National Health Program is being published in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Some of its backers appeared at a news conference to kick off a campaign to put national health insurance at the top of the nation's domestic agenda.

Under the group's proposal:

Every American would be fully covered for all necessary medical care.
Patients would be able to choose any doctor or hospital.
Patients would have full prescription-drug coverage.

The proposed national health insurance system would be a "single-payer" plan resembling Medicare. It would be financed by the federal government and administered by federal state and regional boards.

In a news release, the group said the program would be paid for by combining current sources of government health spending into a single fund with modest new taxes that would be fully offset by cuts in premiums and out-of-pocket spending. Its backers claim that the plan would save at least $200 billion a year by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry and reducing spending for marketing and other related services.

"This system is more efficient and less costly," said Dr. Quentin Young, national coordinator for the physicians group. "Universal health insurance is associated with better health care outcomes -- life expectancy is longer, freedom from preventable disease, (and better rates of) infant mortality and maternal mortality."

...Dr. John Palmisano, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement that "by implementing a single-payer system, the U.S. would be trading one problem for a whole set of others." He said these would include "long waits for health care services, a slowness to adopt new technologies and maintain facilities and development of a large bureaucracy that can cause a decline in the authority of patients and their physicians over clinical decision-making."

jason rocks the source code 


recall island 

mark fiore

jama jam 

When I heard that Physicians for a National Health Program had come out in favor of a single payer healthcare system I rushed to the Journal of the American Medical Association to read all about it.

When I got there I was confronted with this:

Purchase One-time Access
• Purchase Article - You may access and print this article (from the computer you are currently using) for 24 hours for US$12.
• Purchase Access - You may access and print articles in JAMA & Archives Journals (from the computer you are currently using) for 24 hours for US$30.
• Regain Access - If you have previously used Purchase Article or Purchase Access and your access period has not yet expired, you may regain access using the user name and password you created at the time of purchase.

Unfortunately, my HMO* would only spring for the free abstract.

So here it full:

The United States spends more than twice as much on health care as the average of other developed nations, all of which boast universal coverage. Yet more than 41 million Americans have no health insurance. Many more are underinsured. Confronted by the rising costs and capabilities of modern medicine, other nations have chosen national health insurance (NHI). The United States alone treats health care as a commodity distributed according to the ability to pay, rather than as a social service to be distributed according to medical need. In this market-driven system, insurers and providers compete not so much by increasing quality or lowering costs, but by avoiding unprofitable patients and shifting costs back to patients or to other payers. This creates the paradox of a health care system based on avoiding the sick. It generates huge administrative costs that, along with profits, divert resources from clinical care to the demands of business. In addition, burgeoning satellite businesses, such as consulting firms and marketing companies, consume an increasing fraction of the health care dollar. We endorse a fundamental change in US health care—the creation of an NHI program. Such a program, which in essence would be an expanded and improved version of traditional Medicare, would cover every American for all necessary medical care. An NHI program would save at least $200 billion annually (more than enough to cover all of the uninsured) by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private, investor-owned insurance industry and reducing spending for marketing and other satellite services. Physicians and hospitals would be freed from the concomitant burdens and expenses of paperwork created by having to deal with multiple insurers with different rules, often designed to avoid payment. National health insurance would make it possible to set and enforce overall spending limits for the health care system, slowing cost growth over the long run. An NHI program is the only affordable option for universal, comprehensive coverage.

I should note that I have a conflict of interest in covering this issue since I have no insurance.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

ahhh, don't fall for that crap 

SCO claims to have just gotten their first IP licensee.

what the heck, let's throw in a little millet 

From the Onion:

LILONGWE, MALAWI—A much-needed humanitarian aid check from the United Nations to Malawi was "totally blown" by the beleaguered South African nation before the actual payment arrived, government officials admitted Tuesday.

"We've been living so hand-to-mouth lately that, as soon as we received word that aid was coming, we began buying some necessary items," President Bakili Muluzi said when reached by phone at his home office. "We got a little out of control. Then again, we couldn't bear the thought of another dinner of bark." The $50 million check, a combination of funds from UNICEF, World Food Programme, and other U.N. agencies, was intended to help alleviate disease and famine in Malawi, which has been devastated by recent flooding and the sub-Saharan AIDS pandemic. Although the check wasn't due to arrive until Aug. 11, Malawi officials were promised the money on Aug. 4 and behaved as though the cash was already in their hands.

"When we found out money was on the way, we celebrated by immediately going out and buying 200,000 bushels of maize," Malawi Agricultural Minister Chakufwa Chihana said. "We even said, 'What the heck, let's throw in a little millet.' Big mistake."

...Giddy with the promise of a large cash deposit, Malawi lent struggling neighbor Mozambique $1 million, under the express agreement that Mozambique was to repay the money Aug. 8, when its own relief check came in.

"Bad move," Muluzi said. "In terms of repaying loans, Mozambique is as bad as Tanzania. On payback day, [Mozambique Prime Minister] Pascoal [Mocumbi] called me and said that we still owed him money for the cashew nuts and sisal twine we imported in February 1996."

hasta la vista gravy 

The Daily Show continues to have the most honest coverage of the California election.

castro @ 77 

From the Guardian:

HAVANA (AP) - Fidel Castro, the world's longest ruling leader, turns 77 Wednesday after a year that saw his communist-run island grow even more isolated as he lashed out at his European allies and jailed some of his most vocal critics. But despite rumors that he was in poor health, the bearded revolutionary has shown in recent weeks he still has the energy to give his traditional hours-long speeches and keep up a work schedule that would exhaust a much younger man.

He also remains as defiant and independent as ever. "Cuba does not need the help of the European Union to survive,'' Castro told an enthusiastic crowd of about 10,000 supporters in the eastern city of Santiago on July 26 as he celebrated the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cuban revolution.

Here's a round up of substantial writing on Cuba from this year:

From the World Press Review:
Nick Miroff
World Press Review correspondent
Havana, Cuba
April 23, 2003

On the night of April 4, all of Cuba's three government-owned television stations devoted their prime-time programming to Fidel Castro. Dressed in his trademark military fatigues, the 76-year-old commandante spoke for nearly five hours. This in itself was not unusual, but the president seemed in a surprisingly good mood given the events of the past week. A tense hostage standoff with a group of hijackers who commandeered a passenger ferry in an attempt to reach the United States had just been resolved, and all the hostages were safe.

It had been the third such hijacking in nearly two weeks, and Castro railed against U.S. policies that, he said, continue to encourage such terrorist endeavors. But he also joked about the amateur”if not comical”efforts of the hijackers, who allegedly professed their love for the Cuban leader during his negotiations with them. The commandante laughed and members of the studio audience laughed with him.

At dawn on April 11, the three lead hijackers were sent before a firing squad and executed, having been hastily tried and convicted barely three days earlier.

The deluge of international criticism over their quick executions has added to existing outrage at the Cuban government's recent arrests of its domestic critics. In March, more than 100 alleged dissidents were arrested by state security forces in a crackdown that was unprecedented in its severity. Most of the detainees were tried and convicted in swift, closed-door proceedings”some of which lasted only a few hours”and given prison sentences averaging 20 years.

...Cuba's draconian measures have bolstered an argument that many Castro critics have been making for years: that whenever the U.S. embargo seems on the verge of being weakened, the tricky commandante does something provocative to stir up the pro-embargo lobby.

...Other analysts say the crackdown is Castro's pre-emptive response to the Bush administration's aggressive new foreign policy. Though it didn't merit a place on President Bush's axis of evil, the Cuban administration clearly feels it may be on the U.S. hawks' laundry list of nations due for regime change. According to these theorists, the crackdown was Cuba's effort to stage a little shock and awe of its own, sending a clear message to Washington about the firmness of Havana's resolve.

...The single event that seems to have led directly to the recent crackdown was the press conference held by Cason in the home of Marta Beatriz Roque in February, where he told reporters that a political transition was already underway in Cuba. The Cuban government is afraid: afraid of freedom of conscience, afraid of freedom of expression, afraid of human rights, he declared.

There is little question that Cason's actions have enraged the Cuban government. At an April 9 press conference, Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque asserted that Cason came to Cuba with the plan of creating a single party of dissidents in Cuba, a plan he advanced, Perez Roque says, by channeling funds to dissident groups and encouraging them to unite. By way of evidence, Cuba points to the millions of dollars in U.S. funds routed into non-governmental organizations like Freedom House and the Center for a Free Cuba, which fund anti-Castro programs inside Cuba.

Havana States Its Case
Damián Alin, Bohemia (weekly newsmagazine), Havana, Cuba, April 18, 2003

The clamor coming from certain Western capitals has been, if anything, disproportionate. Many of those who said they were concerned, disturbed, or opposed hardly made a peep when Washington dismissed the United Nations and went ahead with its invasion of Iraq. Among those who expressed their regret, barely any complained about the five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States for fighting against terrorism. [In 2001, five Cuban men were convicted of spying for the Cuban government by infiltrating anti-Castro groups in the United States. Described in Cuba as The Five Patriotic Heroes, the men were convicted in U.S. courts and are currently serving prison sentences ranging from 15 years to life.

But something has happened in Cuba to really set off their alarm bells now: Some seven dozen opponents of the Cuban government have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison.

On April 9, the mood in the press conference room at Cuba's Foreign Ministry was calm. Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque would publicly address the issue, and it was not something to be missed. Perez Roque's fundamental argument was clear: The U.S. government continues with its insurrectionist agenda for the island and was the creator of the so-called dissident movement, formed in order to suffocate socialism from the inside. How, therefore, can we speak of prisoners of conscience, repressed intellectuals, journalists with no right to express themselves, or real, meaningful opposition? In light of all the press coverage and media attention this has received abroad, what has really happened?

The foreign minister was categorical. They were simple mercenaries, shamelessly linked to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and their stature has been grossly inflated by Washington and the Miami mafia in an effort to present them as champions of disobedience.

From the Weekly Standard:
by Fred Barnes, for the Editors
08/18/2003, Volume 008, Issue 46

"PRESIDENT BUSH is the most pro-democracy, pro-freedom president on Cuba that we've ever had," says Emilio Gonzalez, who recently stepped down as the National Security Council's expert on Cuba. Maybe so. Bush has vowed to block any attempt to repeal the trade embargo against Cuba. He's transformed the American interest section in Havana into a proactive spearhead for supporting Cuban dissidents. Bush raises the Cuba issue when he meets with European and Latin American leaders.

...But there exists an appalling gap in Bush's policy toward Castro: the treatment of refugees escaping Cuba. Bush has continued the refugee policy of the Clinton administration known as "wet feet, dry feet." Under it, a refugee is sent back to Cuba unless he or she gets a foot on dry American land. This has led to wrenching scenes on Florida's shores of Cubans struggling to reach the beach--and potential freedom--as U.S. Coast Guard personnel battle to keep them in the water.

...This refugee policy is the result of an agreement between President Clinton and Castro.

...Why is the Bush administration clinging to a Clinton policy that's a matter of presidential discretion, not federal law? Five words: fear of another Mariel boatlift. In 1980, Castro cleaned out his jails and insane asylums and sent a flotilla of some 125,000 refugees to Florida. The sudden influx created some havoc in Miami and even in Arkansas, where violence and rioting by Cubans held at Fort Chafee contributed to Bill Clinton's defeat for reelection as governor.

Yes, Castro is quite capable of mounting another boatlift. But the question is whether Bush should allow this fear of another Mariel to make Castro, in effect, the architect of American refugee policy. The answer is no. Another boatlift would not be pretty...The truth is America could handle a fresh surge of Cuban refugees, perhaps not painlessly, but without the turmoil and political fallout of 1980.

From the Guardian

Julian Borger, Washington
Saturday August 9, 2003

Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo, 68, announced his decision to live in Cuba at Havana airport where he had been expected to board a plane back to Miami with his wife and three sons after a short visit to the island.

Instead the dissident - who spent 22 years in a Cuban jail after trying to lead an armed rising against Mr Castro in 1964 - told journalists: "I'm publicly declaring my right to stay in Cuban territory." The declaration came as a shock to Mrs Gutierrez-Menoyo, who said she had been given no warning that her husband would be staying behind until he began addressing the press. She boarded the plane with their sons, and later expressed her support from Miami.

But news of the decision caused uproar in the rest of the Cuban exile community in Miami. "I'm very disappointed with Menoyo," Huber Matos, another fellow rebel leader told the Miami Herald. "He is not the man he used to be. To me, he is allowing himself to be used by Fidel to make it look to the world that the opposition is allowed to exist in Cuba, while we know that those who oppose the government are punished."

Mr Gutierrez-Menoyo is a former revolutionary who fought by Mr Castro's side in the 1950s but broke with him and tried to rally support against him in 1964 at the head of an armed faction called Alpha 66.

Cuba's revolution in thrall to the dollar
Giles Tremlett in Havana
Guardian Weekly

A noisy, drunken game of dominoes is being played at the Committee for the Defence of the Revolution on Havana's San Lorenzo street, the pieces slapped down on the bare wooden table to the accompaniment of colourful, if amicable, abuse.
"We may have problems, my friend," says one player, as a bottle of white rum does the rounds at the Saturday-night game. "But we have Fidel. He has the answers."

..."If someone steals your wallet on the street here, I will run after them myself and get it back," promises Lazaro Gonzalez who, although 74 years old, means what he says. He has no doubts that, 50 years after Castro launched his revolution and 44 years after his rebels swept into Havana to oust the corrupt regime of Fulgencio Batista, the revolution is alive and kicking. "This is the most marvellous revolution in the world," he says.

If you want to find diehard adherents of Castro's brand of state socialism, visit any of the thousands of CDRs, each pledged "to carry out the revolution in every neighbourhood".

...The San Lazaro CDR organises nightly neighbourhood patrols to keep eight city blocks clear of crime. It is an objective that, in a safe city already patrolled by numerous police, is reached with few problems.

But here, as almost anywhere you turn in Cuba, contradictions quickly emerge. For the CDR has a nastier reputation as a Cuban Big Brother, snooping on the neighbours and watching out for "counter-revolutionaries", wherever they may hide. When Ivan, a student, refused to sign last July's state-organised referendum declaring Cuban socialism "irrevocable", his sister signed his name for him. "She wanted one of the television sets the CDR was giving away," he explained.

On a Havana street corner a billboard carries the boast "200 million street children in the world, and not one of them Cuban". Cuban children are just as likely to reach the age of five as their counterparts in the US. At current rates they will live to 76, one year less than in the US.

The few children on Havana's streets during the day are invariably dressed in neat school clothes. Their teachers claim they are serious students who flourish without the distractions of the consumer society. Literacy rates reach 96%. Again, however, the contradictions appear. Some of the girls will go on to find a career in jineterismo - looking for European sugar-daddy tourists, or simply selling their bodies to sex punters for US dollars.

David Hickey, an Irish surgeon and professor at Havana University, says Cuba does amazing things with limited health resources. "They are short of virtually everything, but I am amazed at the integrity and commitment of the Cuban doctors," he says. ...However, the head of surgery at a Havana hospital, Mr Hickey complains, may earn less in a month than a hotel waitress gets in tips in a day. Little surprise that some doctors work nights as taxi drivers or that others have abandoned the profession.

The most coveted jobs in Cuba are now in a tourist sector that is the country's biggest earner. The dollar became a legal currency in 1993 as Castro sought to refloat an economy which had been propped up by the old Soviet Union. It rules supreme, at least in the minds of many Cubans.

The average monthly salary that goes into a Cuban pocket is 353 pesos, exchangeable for just $14. A walk up San Lorenzo street gives an idea of how the inequalities function. At the Ideal corner shop, jars of rice, soya and oil are on display on the almost bare shelves. The Ideal is part of the peso economy, most of its prices state-controlled and incredibly cheap. A pound of rice costs the equivalent of one cent. That would stretch the average salary a long way, if the same goods were not rationed.

Walk into the air-conditioned, dollar-economy Friendship supermarket up the street and there is a large array of unsubsidised goods, from cornflakes and baby food to olive oil and port wine, all priced in dollars. Ordinary Cubans queue to spend up to $20 a go on food. A brand-new fridge here costs $1,000.
Who can afford that? And if they can, how? Have they earned the money themselves, working in the tourist sector or the black market? Or has it been sent by relatives in Miami? One estimate is that 60% of Cuba's 11 million people have access to dollars.

Why the US fears Cuba
Seumas Milne
Thursday July 31, 2003

Some have concluded that a paranoid Castro walked into a trap laid by Bush. After 44 years of economic siege, mercenary invasion, assassination attempts, terrorist attacks and biological warfare from their northern neighbour, it might be thought the Cuban leadership had some reason to feel paranoid. But perhaps significantly, the US has in the past few weeks adopted a more cooperative stance, returning 15 hijackers to Cuba and warning Cubans that they should only come to the US through "existing legal channels", which allow around 20,000 visas a year.

And however grim the Cuban crackdown, it beggars belief that the denunciations have been led by the US and its closest European allies in the "war on terror". Not only has the US sentenced five Cubans to between 15 years and life for trying to track anti-Cuban, Miami-based terrorist groups and carried out over 70 executions of its own in the past year, but (along with Britain) supports other states, in the Middle East and Central Asia for example, which have thousands of political prisoners and carry out routine torture and executions. And, of course, the worst human rights abuses on the island of Cuba are not carried under Castro's aegis at all, but in the Guantanamo base occupied against Cuba's will, where the US has interned 600 prisoners without charge for 18 months, who it now plans to try in secret and possibly execute - without even the legal rights afforded to Cuba's jailed oppositionists.

Which only goes to reinforce what has long been obvious: that US hostility to Cuba does not stem from the regime's human rights failings, but its social and political successes and the challenge its unyielding independence offers to other US and western satellite states. Saddled with a siege economy and a wartime political culture for more than 40 years, Cuba has achieved first world health and education standards in a third world country, its infant mortality and literacy rates now rivalling or outstripping those of the US, its class sizes a third smaller than in Britain - while next door, in the US-backed "democracy" of Haiti, half the population is unable to read and infant mortality is over 10 times higher. Those, too, are human rights, recognised by the UN declaration and European convention. Despite the catastrophic withdrawal of Soviet support more than a decade ago and the social damage wrought by dollarisation and mass tourism, Cuba has developed biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries acknowledged by the US to be the most advanced in Latin America. Meanwhile, it has sent 50,000 doctors to work for free in 93 third world countries (currently there are 1,000 working in Venezuela's slums) and given a free university education to 1,000 third world students a year. How much of that would survive a takeover by the Miami-backed opposition?

I don't know if the repressive elements of Castro's revolution are part of the nature of the beast or the inevitable results of having the world's largest superpower 80 miles away breathing down your neck for forty years. What's clear is that the embargo has been a failure, if fostering democracy in Cuba is it's goal (it's not). What's clear is that Cuba is the only country in Latin America that has high literacy, low infant mortality and long life expectancy(none of the US's client nations can claim these things). What's clear is that while US President's age visibly during their paltry four years in office Castro is still chugging away after almost 44 years of constant threat of assassination, insurrection and invasion. What's clear is that the US has done nothing constructive in recent years to have a positve influence on events if Castro ever dies. What's clear is that the Mariel Boatlift was one of the most brilliant pieces of political jiu jitsu ever.

I don't support Castro any longer, but I sure as hell respect the guy.

dean round up 

Howard Dean is moving into the limelight. Last week he was on the covers of Time and Newsweek.

Jonathan Alter in Newsweek captured the momentum of the campaign.

After hearing that Vice President Dick Cheney was traveling to Columbia, S.C., at the end of July to raise $300,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign at a $2,000-a-plate fund-raising luncheon, the Dean campaign posted a digital picture on its Web site of the candidate eating a $3-a-plate turkey sandwich while sitting at a computer. The appeal to stand up to wealthy interests raised more than $500,000 in three days, beating the Bush-Cheney juggernaut (for one weekend at least) and bringing Dean's Internet booty to more than $5 million, by far the most ever raised by a politician online, though he's amassed less than a third of Bush's war chest so far.

Nicely played.

John Cloud in Time got under the skin a little more and delineated ways that Dean doesn't fit neat political categories and especially ways that might put him at odds with the progressive voters that are driving his campaign.

These are all points that have been available to informed progressives. I linked to Jim Farrell's "Dean's No Wellstone" from the Nation and David Tell's "Swooning for Dean" in the Weekly Standard weeks and weeks ago.

Here is typical example of something that I'm supposed to find distressing:
At a July 15 forum sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, a gay political group, moderator Sam Donaldson of abc grilled Senator John Kerry, who is favored over Dean by many in the Democratic Party establishment, on why he supports allowing gay couples all the rights that married straight couples enjoy except the right to be called married. Kerry waded in, invoking history and religion to argue that marriage is viewed by "the body of America ... as a contract between a man and a woman." Boos and hisses. Dean, who shares the exact same position, avoided the question by joking with Donaldson about the newsman's pointed interrogation. The crowd giggled, a disarmed Donaldson apologized, and Dean moved on to his support for gays in the military. Cheers. Dean had done something preternaturally political—avoided a question, changed the subject—and got away with it.

It just strengthens my support because it tells me he can win.

Many Vermonters agree that Dean arrived at a political crossroads”a point when his luck seemed sure to run out”in 2000, on the issue of gay marriage. A year before, the state supreme court had ruled that gay couples have a right to the same benefits the state provides straight couples”inheritance, hospital visitation and so on. The court told the legislature to decide how best to extend those perks to gays. Dean expressed discomfort with the idea of gay marriage, and he eventually signed a bill establishing a separate-but-equal arrangement: straight couples get marriage licenses; gay couples get civil-union licenses.

It was a moderate compromise attacked from left and right. Instead of staging a public ceremony, Dean signed the bill with only about 15 staff members present. The left didn't like that. And the right didn't like the bill. Thousands of calls poured in every day, according to longtime aide Kate O'Connor. "If you have a couple hundred a day normally, it's a big deal," she says. Dean was running for a fifth term, and he had signed the civil-union bill six months before Election Day. It didn't look good. "We were campaigning, and people would be wearing gas masks, like we were poison," says O'Connor. Protesters screamed that Dean was a "faggot"; so many threats were made that he had to wear a bulletproof vest. (A detail that, to his credit, Dean never offers on the campaign trail, even to gay audiences.)

In a rural state it was a courageous position and I don't think he should apologize for it and I don't think that progressives should be turned off by it.

I find it more toubling that he hasn't found a voice for speaking to white or black Southerners.

He routinely offers skeptics two explanations when they ask how he can compete there. First, he says, he was campaigning in South Carolina a while ago and met an 80-year-old World War II veteran who turned out to be gay. The man thanked him for signing the civil-union bill. The point of the story seems to be that you can't assume anything about Southerners, which is true, but it's more homily than strategy.

Second, he says, he will tell Southern whites, "You have voted Republican for 30 years. Tell me what you have to show for it. In South Carolina, there are 103,000 children without health insurance. Most of those kids are white. Tell me about your public schools. Are you happy that the legislature cut $70 million or $80 million out of the public school system in South Carolina? ... Has your job moved to Indonesia? ... And the answer is, if you don't like the answers to those questions, maybe you should think about voting Democratic." A solid argument but one that failed for Al Gore, himself a nominal Southerner, four years ago. And it may come across as insulting to tell people they are poor—and then tell them their own votes are to blame.

Meanwhile Ted Rall gets holier than thou and rehashes the "Dean's No Wellstone" routine a Yahoo News.

Howard Dean, media-anointed Lord of the Left and Prince Protector of Progressivism, is surfing a tsunami of Democratic discontent that could carry him to the White House. But as Vermonters tell anyone who's willing to listen, the former governor they call "Ho-Ho" is at best a leftie-come-lately. "The Howard Dean you are seeing on the national scene is not the Dean that we saw around here for the last decade. He's moved sharply left," says John McClaughry of the Ethan Allen Institute, a rightie think tank, of Dean's campaign rhetoric.

Dennis Kucinich attacks him from the left, as nothing more than another Clinton--a Democrat in name only. "If someone wants to be a fiscal conservative, a good place to start is the Pentagon (news - web sites) budget and he's already taken it off the table," rages Kucinich. (Dean on the military: "I don't think you can cut the defense budget.") "How in the world can you be for peace when you won't touch a Pentagon budget that needs war to expand, that needs war in order to justify itself?"

Uh, he's running for President and has no chance of winning if he proposes cutting the defense budget at a time when the Administration has half the population scared out of their wits.

Dean's supporters don't believe what they're told. They hear what they want to believe, and Dean provides the strident vagaries that fuel their self-delusion. "We need to know what the president knew and when he knew it," he spat when Bush got caught lying about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction in his State of the Union address. That reference to the 1974 Nixon impeachment hearings affirmed many Democrats' belief that Bush deserves serious punishment for lying about Iraq, but will President Dean turn over Bush to the International War Crimes Tribunal? Not bloody likely. And how can antiwar types reconcile Dean's support for Bush's invasion of Afghanistan.

Because Afghanistan bore direct responsibility for 9/11. I'd like to see polling data but I would guess that most people who opposed the war in Iraq did not oppose the war in Afghanistan. As far as expecting President Dean not to turn Bush over to the International War Crimes Tribunal, you need to get a better brand of crack if you think that is a legitimate argument for not supporting Dean.

If elected, Dean says, he plans "to do what Clinton did in 1993. We need to make a genuine effort to start to balance the budget to restore investor confidence. The second thing I would do is to support the small-business community." Some leftie! Like Clinton, he'll clean up the Republican deficit, making it impossible to fund Democratic social programs. He's pro-defense and pro-business. He's committed to the environment but he'll likely disappoint liberals on health care, taxes and trade.

I'd take a Clintonian administration sans Paula, Gennifer, Monica and Whitewater (and maybe a little loyalty to cabinet appointees thrown in for good measure) over the Bush adminstration any day of the week. It's telling that Rall suggests no alternative to Dean for liberals and progressives.

If we don't have a viable candidate that we can love and trust it's our own damn fault not Howard Dean's. With Dean on record against the war in Iraq, in favor of internationalism, a strong Labor record as governor, clearly socially liberal, pushing to save Americorps, dogging Bush on his tax cuts and unemployment and last I saw leading in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire against better known locals I don't see what the problem is. Step one is to organize to get him elected and step two is to organize to hold him accountable. Of course, it's much easier to complain that nothing is ever good enough.

I don't know what happened. I used to like Ted Rall. I don't think his comic is funny anymore either. Oh Weellllll.

I just saw Janeane Garofalo on Bill Maher the other night. She's been in the gym, got a nose job and a makeover. She's hot as shit.

$2 off your purchase of $15 or more  

From Greil Marcus' "Real Life Rock Top Ten":

1) Hem, Rabbit Songs (Dreamworks reissue) From Brooklyn, this set of nihilist love letters--originally released independently in 2001--keeps company with Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, Denis Johnson's novel Jesus' Son, Sarah McLachlan's "Sweet Surrender," and the old American ballads in which the singer narrates his or her own death. In a clear, sweet, altogether assured voice, Sally Ellyson sings Dan Messé's songs of abasement and ruin less as if she's looking back on folly than helplessly anticipating it. Violin, viola, cello, and piano carry her into the songs like a stream carrying a piece of wood--there's no will here, no struggle, not even a wave as again and again the people in these tunes go down, somehow rising to the surface every time.

3) Pearl Jam with Corin Tucker, "Hunger Strike," Sports Palace (Mexico City, July 18, see Eddie Vedder leads, and then Tucker subsumes him. As she pushes the words of the old Temple of the Dog number in front of her in a deep, thick voice, the performance finds its feet somewhere between Guns N' Roses' "Civil War" and Robert Plant and Sandy Denny's duet on Led Zeppelin's "Battle of Evermore."

4) "John F. Kennedy Jr.'s Life Was Cut Short Four Years Ago in a Plane Crash. What If He Had Lived?" (headlines for a cover story by Edward Klein, Parade, July 13) The bad faith, the lies, the corruption--all of it would be gone, of course.

6) "The Pinko Behind Little Richard"--or Your Freedom of Information Act at Work (e-mail from Dave Marsh, July 21) Bumps Blackwell (1918-85) was a founder of rock 'n' roll. He produced Sam Cooke's early pop records, Guitar Slim, Lloyd Price, Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti"; co-wrote "Reddy Teddy," "Rip It Up," and "Long Tall Sally"; in 1981 he co-produced Bob Dylan's "Shot of Love." Dave Marsh writes: "His FBI file identifies him as a member of the Young Communist League in Seattle c. 1943. He joined because he was fired from the Seattle Tacoma Shipyards on the grounds that he was a Negro; in essence, the Communist Party got him his job back: the campaign included a benefit dance called 'Jibe Bombers Swing into the Second Front Stomp.' 'On Blackwell's return to his job,' the file reads, 'many white young workers personally approached him expressing their support and welcoming him back to his job.' Blackwell was already a musician and is further alleged to have been attending CP 'hootenannies...'"

7) Warren Zevon, The Wind (Artemis) Last fall it was announced that Zevon had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Nothing on the old rounder's putative farewell album can erase his version of "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," which is not a joke.

10) Summer travel tips (e-mail, July 22) Michele Anna Jordan writes from Dallas: "The back of the ticket to the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealy Plaza offers $2 off your purchase of $15 or more at the Spaghetti Warehouse on North Market St."

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

welcome to the tehrandome 

From the Arab Times
TEHRAN, (Agencies): Iran's President Mohammad Khatami Tuesday warned religious hard-liners who have opposed his reform efforts they were alienating the country's youth and could cause trouble in the future. "Ignoring young people and their demands and misusing religion and Islamic values to oust political rivals from the scene, could create big problems for society," Khatami said in a speech to a non-governmental organizations' conference.

...Meanwhile, a liberal woman activist held a three-hour sit-in outside Iran's most notorious prison Tuesday to protest the July death of an Iranian-Canadian Photo journalist while in police custody and "lack of security" for prisoners.

Azam Taleqani said her sit-in at Evin Prison in northern Tehran was a "symbolic" gesture of protest against the trampling of freedoms and the rights of prisoners by the hard-line ruling Islamic establishment in Iran. " I held a sit-in to protest the death in prison of Zahra Kazemi and the judiciary's failure to inform the public about who was behind the crime," Taleqani told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

Taleqani said she was approached by prison officers, curious to know the reason for her sit-in. The officers asked her to leave without forcing her. Kazemi, 54, died July 10, nearly three weeks after she was detained for taking photographs outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

TEHRAN – Amir Mohebbian, a columnist for the conservative Iranian daily Resalat, has little trouble summing up the state of his country's reform movement. "Iran's reformers are like poker players whose bluff has been called," he says firmly. "Their game is over."

..."The reform process has been emasculated," says Davoud Hermidas Bavand, a law professor at the Supreme National Defense University in Tehran. "The mood in Iran now is angry, but above all pessimistic."

Analysts say the crunch came on June 3, when the Guardian Council - a staunchly conservative unelected upper house - refused to ratify a parliamentary bill that would have stripped the councilof its power to veto candidates it considered unsuitable for elected office. Mr. Khatami had described the measure as crucial to planned reforms, and had hinted he would resign if it was vetoed. He has yet to budge, however. Their leader's helplessness exposed more harshly than ever, parliamentary reformists seem increasingly split between moderates, many of whom are clerics willing to work within Iran's theocratic system, and others, who privately want out.

...A far more serious blow to Khatami's cause came in early July. Dismayed by his perceived failure to defend 4,000 protesters detained after nationwide pro- democracy demonstrations in June, the student-led Office to Foster Unity (OFU) announced it would no longer be supporting him. With about 60,000 members, OFU is among the largest and best-organized protest groups in Iran.

Though conservatives like Mohebbian insist reformists "overestimate people's desire for change." In Tehran, at least, criticism of the regime is omnipresent. Taxi drivers routinely boast that they have stopped picking up anyone wearing a cleric's turban and robes. Deep skepticism of Iran's leaders extends even to some members of the baseej, a pious semi-militia.

The trouble, argues pro- reform columnist and businessman Saeed Laylaz, is that hard-liners have been just flexible enough to appease most of their critics. "These people are not stupid," he says. "Their willingness to permit the loosening of puritanical laws on dress and public behavior have created the illusion of freedom." He also warns against the assumption that the grumbling in Tehran is shared throughout the country. The Shah made that mistake, and he ended his life in exile," he says. "Only cautious reforms can balance urban radicalism and rural demands for bread."

...Such cynicism worries Rouzbeh Mirebrahimi, the youthful political editor of the pro-reform daily Etemad. He points to the dismal 12 percent turnout at local elections in Tehran this February. "We handed victory to the conservatives on a plate," he fumes. "And the same thing could happen in next year's general election.

This is disheartening. I think the West should be pursuing a Soros/Open Society Foundation strategy here, funnelling money, computers, photcopiers, radio transmitters to dissident groups.

how can I get fox news to sue me? 

From the Washington Post:

Fox News Channel has sued Al Franken and his publishing house to stop them from using the expression "fair and balanced" in the title of his upcoming book. "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right" is due out next month from Dutton, a unit of Penguin Group.

But Fox News, in a trademark infringement lawsuit filed in Manhattan, claims that it registered the expression "fair and balanced" in 1998. Franken and Penguin, the suit claims, are trying to exploit the trademark to boost sales.

Maybe the strategy was to bait Fox into a sales boosting lawsuit.

From the New York Times:
This strange lawsuit has all the feel of an O'Reilly shouting match shoved onto an unlikely new stage: the Supreme Court of New York State. For Fox, the issue is — among other things — Mr. Franken's use of the words "fair and balanced" in its subtitle. The network's lawyers are arguing that those words belong to Fox as part of its trademark. (Journalism schools need to take note here.)

Mr. Franken and Mr. O'Reilly have had one or two public set-tos already, and Fox's complaint sounds like a collection of things Mr. O'Reilly wishes he'd remembered to say at their last encounter. It calls Mr. Franken "deranged," a "parasite," "sophomoric" and lacking "any serious depth or insight."

In a word, Fox apparently does not think that Mr. Franken is amusing, prompting the comedian to threaten to trademark the word "funny" for a possible countersuit.

For years now, liberals have wrung their hands over the fact that the right wing had a monopoly on acerbic, unfair and entertaining political commentators. Mr. Franken is clearly attempting to fill the gap, and for some reason the Fox people appear to be doing everything they can to help pave his way.

Why didn't the Democratic Party sue Fox when the "Fair and Balanced" network wouldn't run their ads?


Starting with Reuters TV: We see troop movement and then U.S. Ambassador John Blaney announcing a pledge by LURD to withdraw and then more troop movement.

From the Financial Times:

Opposite a large mural of the crucifixion that adorns the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, boy scouts wearing yellow T-shirts could be seen on Tuesday singing and clipping the grass. Since Monday, the boys have been making neat piles of vegetation beside the central reservation of Broad Street, a main thoroughfare on the government-controlled side of a city besieged by the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (Lurd) rebel group.

The moving evidence of civic pride in a city with almost no social services is one manifestation of the hopes raised by this week's departure of President Charles Taylor from power and the country.

...Central Monrovia remained tense on Tuesday, with a restive crowd of more than 1,000 gathering at New Bridge, on the front line between loyalist and rebel forces, expressing frustration at being unable to cross.

A group of about 25 rebels armed with at least one rocket-propelled grenade launcher, ran on to the bridge during the afternoon, drinking beer and cheering before returning to their own territory.

East of the city, a separate group of rebels known as Model was reported to be advancing towards the international airport. News agencies reported a wave of civilians fleeing the fighting, with tales of rebels attacking with machetes and killing indiscriminately. Tiah Slanger, Model's chairman, acknowledged there had been fighting, but said from Ghana that local commanders were being urged to cease fire.

Lurd added to security concerns by responding to Mr Taylor's departure with trenchant statements about the unacceptability of his successor Moses Blah, the former vice-president. Sekou Fofana, Lurd's deputy secretary general, said Mr Blah had "no differences" from Mr Taylor and warned that Sekou Damate Conneh, the group's chairman, was the only person who had the necessary authority to hold the presidency of an interim government provisionally scheduled to take over in October. That demand contradicts an accord by heads of state from Ecowas, the 15-member union of West African states, that the interim government should not be headed by the leaders of any warring parties.

Humanitarian agencies estimate that the arrival of 200,000 or more displaced people in Monrovia has swollen the population to about a million, leading to outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.

From Reuters:

The sharp rat-tat-tat of a volley of shots. The screech of brakes and the dull crunch of tires struggling over broken glass. At the edge of rebel territory in Liberia's capital Monrovia, sounds still call out war.

At the New Bridge on Tuesday, dope-smoking young rebels listened to music at roadblocks just five minutes from their enemies across the water. Here, the lawless, teenage-fantasy world of African warfare comes to life. A dilapidated van with "Lurd Force" painted in the middle of a fluorescent pink-and-blue montage screeched to a halt. A fighter lay flat on the roof, his machine-gun on his stomach, fiddling with the earphones of his walkman. Shouts echoed from further into town -- what might be a trivial quarrel anywhere else raising the specter of bloodshed in a place where even skinny boys on bicycles have AK-47s strapped on their puny backs. Later, young rebels in red and yellow T-shirts and bandannas raced into the middle of the bridge, dancing, singing and jumping between swigs of beer.

"No monkey, no monkey," they taunted government forces on the other side. Rebels often refer to former President Charles Taylor as a monkey, and themselves as hunters.

The leader of the pack wielded a small pistol. A little boy in a green T-shirt ran alongside, a machinegun reaching along his back almost to his ankles, his hands full of beer cans.

...The rebel Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) have held Monrovia's port and the surrounding areas for more than three weeks. Now their arch-enemy Taylor has stepped down as president and flown into exile and they have promised to hand over the port to regional peacekeepers and withdraw from the city.

But for the wild-eyed young fighters, whose eclectic fashion style teams wellington boots with wigs and lacy women's tops with lycra shorts, it is probably just another break in the wars that have stolen their youth.

...Civilians in the rebel-held territory want the Nigerian peacekeepers -- the vanguard of a thousands-strong operation -- to move in as soon as possible. Some are afraid of more fighting. Others of reprisals. "We are on LURD's side. We think that if the government soldiers get a chance they might harm some of the people," said Gerald Adolphus Payne-Davis.

Some residents here say LURD have treated them well. "They sell us food. They don't bother us," said Fatou Swaray, as she chewed a piece of courgette.

But people look nervous as they hurry through the streets, lugging sacks of food. Rebels in cars painted black and green and with names like Lion Escort or Bush Dog speed by, some with mounted guns handled by proud young fighters.

From the Guardian:

The day after the grim farce of ex-president Charles Taylor's flight from Monrovia, international aid agencies have rushed to tackle the human tragedy which he left behind.

An estimated 1 million people are either trapped in appalling conditions in Liberia's cities or cut off from help in the countryside, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee, bringing together 11 British charities to launch the Liberia Crisis Appeal. The country ranks last but one on the UN's human development index. The percentage of children suffering from malnutrition is as high as in North Korea. Oxfam, Save the Children and others have to tackle appalling conditions in which displaced families live next to "rivers of sewage and infestations of maggots" and the cost of rice has risen by 700% since June. Liberia is justly labelled as a "complex emergency situation" and the disasters committee appeal deserves a huge response (donations online at or at any bank or post office).

From the AP courtesy of the Cape Cod Times (where my parents live):

Charles Taylor, the warlord who brought 14 years of death and destruction to Liberia, yielded the presidency yesterday under pressure from rebels, the United States and West African neighbors - but not before vowing, "I will be back."

Taylor surrendered power to his vice president as rebels lay siege to the capital, and then flew into exile in Nigeria.

..."History will be kind to me. I have fulfilled my duties," Taylor said, relaxed and smiling in a hymn- and prayer-filled ceremony that seemed part send-off, part revival, with the Liberian leader stopping once to compliment himself for being such a good speaker.
He repeated much of his farewell address recorded Sunday night - but unheard by Liberians until yesterday morning, with radio stations off the air for days because of the lack of fuel and food in the government-held part of the capital.

Accusing the United States anew of forcing him out, Taylor showed nothing suggesting repentance for launching once-prosperous Liberia into bloodshed in 1989, when as a rebel he led a small insurgency to topple then-President Samuel Doe. "I have accepted this role as the sacrificial lamb ... I am the whipping boy," Taylor said.

His parting words appeared to startle the crowd: "God willing, I will be back," he said, drawing murmurs rather than the heavy applause that Kufuor's declaration of peace received.

And that is why the US needs to be careful about getting involved in Liberia. That place needs so much help, so desperately. But it is just insane in West Africa. He might very wll come back, who knows. The crazy thing about watching footage of Taylor is that he seems like such a cool guy. Loose, self possessed, stylish. He seems more like the CEO of an R&B record label than the murderous, bloodsucking, lying, thieving despot that he is.

Observations from my trip to Tampa: 

My trip to Tampa was marvelous but I'm going to share only my complaints.

The Tampa airport has no signage directing you to public transportation. When you are at "Ground Transportation" there is no sign for where to get the bus, nevermind a system map and directions on using the system. You have to go up three flights to Information to get a bus schedule and vague directions on where to pick up the bus. The information center is located as far away as possible from where new arrivals to the city are likely to be scratching their heads trying to figure out what to do. Why is our public transportation system so often treated like a secret city wide conveyor belt for poor people? Public bus systems are the worst. For the first time user, stops rarely have system maps or schedules and you are wondering if you are getting on the right bus, or if you are getting on the right bus are you heading in the right direction. You have to wait next to a pole in the middle of nowhere without a bench or shelter. This really matters in Portland where it rains a lot and it wasn't so fun in Tucson in the summer either. San Francisco is the only US city I've ever been in where middle class white people understand the bus system. Poor people always know the bus system chapter and verse because they have to. In Atlanta, getting from a residential neighborhood to a bus stop often requires walking through some godforsaken stretch of litter strewn dirt and weeds that creates a psychic barrier completely disproportionate to the distance walked that discourages anyone who doesn't need to use the bus or MARTA from using it. It seems crazy to spend billions on a public transportation system and fall short of broad use and broad political support because it 's too much work to put up a few signs, install a few benches and kiosks and landscape a few walkways connect pedestrian friendly neighborhoods to the public transit system. Atlanta also needs MARTA to connect to Virginia Highlands/Little Five Points and to the Ballpark. Especially the ballpark.

Portland and Atlanta get high marks for the accessiblity and ease of use for their light rail at airport. Delta airlines gets extra credit points for having check-in and baggage check right in the MARTA station (made my morning).

Hartsfield airport had trash cans with trash compactors built in. Who got that contract? That's what I want to know. And who got the contract to maintain the stupid things?

But Hartsfield also had an exhibition of striking sculptures from Zimbabwe on the concourse between terminals.

I took Tampa's new trolley from downtown to Ybor City and it's very nice. The woodwork inside is stunning. Again, inadaquete signage at the train station. I had a cab driver drop me at a central node downtown and there was a system map but no sign telling me where I was on the system, there wasn't any sign anywhere around that told me which station I was at. Other stations had them. But not the big station. And there were two tracks but no signs indicating if a track was inbound or outbound so you can't tell which platform to wait on. Compare this with Washington DC's METRO stations which not only indicate the direction of the train for each platform, but list every station you can reach by trains leaving from that platform. The New York subway has system maps everywhere and you know damn well which station you're at and which direction trains are running for the platform you're on. Then, the sign "explaining" the fare system listed a "Special Discount Fare" of 60 cents for one way and one stop. Which is what I was doing. So when I got on I tried to pay 60 cents. Come to find out the special discount wasn't for going only one way and one stop. It was for going only one way and one stop and being old or young. Which I'm neither (or both depending on who you ask.) I said that the sign didn't explain that and I was told I needed read the fine print. Great, a fare chart with fine print.

Enough about public transportation in Tampa.

Unfortunately for you, this will not be the last time I go on a rampage about the simple details that hamstring mainstreaming of public transportation in the US. The quality of my writing suffers when I get worked up, I know, I can't help it.

I still really like Ybor City and the wedding was at the Cuban Club which was beautiful. I had lunch with a friend a the Columbia( two ropa viejas, por favor) and then we had the rehearsal dinner there that night(Paella, pork and flamenco). Ybor still has some old world charm but the forces of evil are taking over rapidly. Imagine Washington Ave. in Hoboken, New Jersey if the entire avenue was wearing a Bourbon Street costume and five hundred Ft. Lauderdale spring breakers wound up there by accident. That's 7th Avenue in Ybor at night. I'll pass.

Tampa is a true two paper city. Which is nice. I however was in a self imposed news black out.

Question: Why don't Black people fly?

I was just on four flights in and out of Atlanta and there were almost no Blacks on the flights. Granted two flight were between Portland and Atlanta, but still. I didn't do any counting until this mornings flight from Atlanta to Portland. Here are the numbers: 1 of 24 in first class and 9 of 159 in coach. About 4 and 6 percent. Four and six percent, c'mon. Atlanta has one of the most vibrant Black middle classes in the country. Contrast this with around 40 black and 6 whites on the MARTA car that I was in to the airport until the airport stop where the ration was 4 black and 6 whites and none of the blacks had luggage.

Now, the obvious answer is simply that Blacks are still excluded from the economic mainstream of this country. And no doubt this plays a large role. But I see...uh...trashy whites flying all the time. Granted that is mostly single moms and their three year old who cries in my ear for an hour and a half. You don't see a lot of roofers and dry wallers flying. And again, this is Atlanta, the local government is run by Blacks, the head of Coca Cola is Black. So what gives?

There must be a cultural aspect that don't understand. I'll have to ask around. If you know, please write me.

The development in Atlanta since I left in 1997 all looked good to me. They are doing a lot of infill and it looked good. I like infill. A friend said however that it is outstripping demand. That made sense because my scientific survey of rents for five different apartments on a bulletin board in a coffee house all looked cheap to me. (which I also like).

I think that's all the public policy highlights of the trip.

The wedding was phenomenal and it was great to see everyone. Though we missed the Burmese opposition leader. Don't ask.

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