As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Tear Down This Wall!

The International Court of Justice ruled yesterday that the Israeli separation wall (in true Orwellian style, called a "security wall" by Jerusalem's government) that cuts into Palestinian refugee land in the West bank violates international law and must be dismantled. The opinion was almost unanimous; the 15 judges voted 14-1, with the American judge giving the only dissenting opinion. The ruling lays bare the real reasons for this wall:

In a sharply worded advisory opinion - far harsher than Israel expected - the International Court of Justice said Israel should compensate Palestinians harmed by the structure and return property confiscated for its construction...

Palestinians say - and the court agreed - that the barrier could lead to the demarcation of a new border and be "tantamount to de facto annexation." If security were the only issue, the Palestinians said, the barrier could be built on the Israeli side of the 1967 border.

This is a land grab, pure and simple. It has less to do with security than turning whatever swath of "Palestine" remains into a prison compound. In fact, the wall is set up exactly like a maximum-security prison wall, with razor-wire fences, trenches and watch towers. It also practically denies work, schooling and hospitals to Palestinians who now, instead of walking the short distance across where the fence now stands to their destination, must get themselves miles and miles to a security checkpoint. The wall will kill people who are herded on one side of it.

Predictably, the US government remained at Israel's side, with Press Secretary Scott McClellan claiming that it's a political issue, not a legal one. And Israel is already making sure they will not be affected by The Hague's non-binding opinion:

Israeli public radio said Washington has already assured Israel that it will block any UN resolution calling for sanctions as demanded by the Palestinians.

Standing in opposition to a unanimous world opinion, using veto power to block its enforcement... for a superpower, we look more and more like a rogue state every day.

Incidentally, just to show that the Middle East crisis is an issue on which everybody's wrong, the leader of Hizbollah said today that the only means to tearing down the wall was armed resistance.


Friday, July 09, 2004

The "I'm an Idiot" Defense

Yesterday, hearts soared as former Enron CEO Kenneth Lay got to do his perp walk in handcuffs to his federal grand jury indictment. Afterwards, he held a press conference, where he engaged in an old white-collar crime technique: the "I'm an idiot" defense.

Lay reiterated that he assumed responsibility for Enron's downfall, but "that does not mean I know everything that went on at Enron."

In other words, I was the leader of the company, but I had no idea that the company was illegally increasing its market value through bad accounting, even though that was the entire modus operandi of the company. Lay was the public face of the company; he was the one who talked to investors about the state of affairs and future prospects. And he was clearly explaining to everyone how good things were going, when in fact the company was on the verge of disaster. So his actual defense is that he wasn't lying, he was just stupid! The head of the company didn't know what was going on at the company? Why do I have trouble believing that?

Lay also found a scapegoat in CFO Andrew Fastow, who's already plea bargained to the government. As if a CFO and CEO never talk to one another. It's so clear that the Enron scandal was the result of a policy of greed, where market manipulation and overinflated stock reports are par for the course. That policy of greed begins and ends at the top.

Strangely, Kenny Boy's best friend was silent about the whole affair. W walked out on a press conference after being asked about the Lay indictment. Maybe he went to talk about it to that lawyer he hired (he'll have to get to know about the whole perp walk thing).

Perhaps Lay can hire Giovanni DeStefano, a lawyer who is, get this, representing both Slobodan Milosevic AND Saddam Hussein. Now there's a guy with a conscience gap.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Sudan update

The African Union committed troops to war-torn Darfur today. A whopping 300 troops. They claimed that the troops would intervene if they witnessed violence by Arab militia against Africans. Considering there will be 300 of them in a region the size of France, I doubt there'll be any witnessing.

Also, the AU declined to call the systematic raping, killing and removal of Africans in Darfur as genocide, joining the rest of the world community in refusing to call this what it is.

In the end, we cannot expect the African Union to fight this battle; the pressure has to come from the US and the UN.


Time to scare everybody

Nothing like another "al Qaeda is planning to strike" warning to get the electorate forgetting about Edwards and running toward "Our Protector" Preznit.   The Ridge transcript's from FOX - I go there so you don't have to:

Since September 11, 2001, we have had intelligence that al-Qaeda intends to launch more attacks against the homeland.  Credible reporting now indicates that al Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process...

In the coming months, the Nation will host high profile events, including those associated with our democratic traditions.  We are working very closely with state and local officials in New York and Boston to ensure the security of the Democratic and Republican national conventions...

In two weeks we will meet the with the security officials from the professional and collegiate sports associations to determine how to increase security for upcoming large sports events as well.

I guess we all have to get out our duct tape.  Kerry has taken the alert at its word, but took the opportunity to blast the foreign policy disaster under Bush: "John and I know how to fight a war on terror that doesn't create more terrorists, but makes America safer... The United States of America should never go to war because we want to, we should only go because we have to."



Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Don't Go There, W

Well, it took all of 20 minutes for GOP attack dogs to attack John Edwards as an "ambulance chaser," "political lightweight," and "radical liberal." Now the Preznit has joined the fray.

During a question and answer session with reporters, the president was asked to compare Senator Edwards' credentials to those of his own vice president, Dick Cheney. His response was brief.

"Dick Cheney can be president," he said.

Oh boy. Do you really want to start this debate, George? Let's see:

On the one hand you have a man who didn't have a rich father, who went to state schools, who became a lawyer through hard work, who was actually GOOD at his job, who represented regular people against scornful corporations and made them pay, including defending a 5 year-old girl who was sucked into a valve in a wading pool that the manufacturers knew was faulty (read more about that one and others here and here), and who was elected to the Senate and served 5 years in Washington, on the Senate Intelligence Committee among other places.

On the other hand, you have a C student whose rich father helped him get into college and get into the oil business, and also helped him get out of the oil business when he fucked it up, who wasn't good at all at his job, who bounced around to a bunch of different jobs when he wasn't sneaking out of his Air National Guard duties (which his father also got him into), who used his father's connections to acquire a campaign staff in Texas, who had NO experience in Washington when he was (s)elected President, and who has shown his foreign policy and Capitol Hill inexperience to be a catastrophe by lying his way into an invasion of Iraq, turning the postwar situation into a colossal failure, by losing 1.5 million American jobs (the worst job loss in history since Herbert Hoover), cutting taxes for the super-wealthy, and generally making us hated around the world.

Do you REALLY want to make that argument?

Side Note: In the first of what may become growing GOP voices, former Senator Alphonse D'Amato has suggested that Bush dump Cheney from the ticket. Also, Enron exec and Bush-Cheney pal Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay has been indicted on charges stemming from the company's collapse in 2001. I'm guessing he's the first of many Bush hangers-on to get this treatment.


Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Meanwhile, from that OTHER Vice President

Cheney has again been smacked down by the 9/11 Commission, who deserves some sort of medal.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Sept. 11 commission, which reported no evidence of collaborative links between Iraq and al Qaeda, said on Tuesday that Vice President Dick Cheney had no more information than commission investigators to support his later assertions to the contrary.

Translation: He's talking out of his ass.

"The 9-11 Commission believes it has access to the same information the vice president has seen regarding contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq prior to the 9-11 attacks," the commission said in a statement.

Translation: Cheney's a liar. (Cheney, you remember, said on CNBC that he probably has more information that the Commission about an Iraq/al Qaeda link, which is disturbing, because it means Cheney held information back. Pity he wasn't under oath, or this'd be impeachable, no?)

Joe Klein made an astute observation that the Edwards-Cheney comparison is much like a Frank Capra film, with the young idealistic lawyer facing the old, dour robber baron with rimless glasses. I want Cheney to slip during the debate and call Edwards "Bailey!!!"


A Tale of Two Johns

Personally, I'd rather it was Linnell and Flansburgh, but Kerry and Edwards is your 2004 Democratic ticket. There was a message on an aviation message board late last night (about 1:30am Eastern Time) that claimed they saw Kerry's campaign plane repainted with "Kerry/Edwards" on the fuselage, which turned out to be the case. So maybe you CAN believe everything you read on the Internet.

I like this choice a lot because of what it shows about Kerry's decision-making. First of all, they were able to keep it quite secret instead of playing the veepstakes game through the media. Instead of Kerry hearing the Lieberman choice by seeing it on television, everyone was told before anything got out in public. Also, this is a look forward to the future rather than the past. Gephardt would have represented a safe pick from the heart of the Washington political establishment. This pick shows me Kerry wants to win.

But most important, this shows how willing Kerry is to listen to his constituency. He was obviously torn between what might be best for the ticket and who he would be personally comfortable with. Edwards was clearly the favorite for Democrats, and it appears Kerry put aside his difficulties with him, and that shows leadership.

Kerry/Edwards is already taking heat from Republicans, with most of the talking points out almost minutes after the announcement. This does show a certain amount of fear, yes, but the GOP would have been all over anyone that was selected. The Bush campaign ad featuring John McCain was launched today, trying to somehow paint McCain as the first choice for the VP slot. McCain's goodwill toward Kerry and Edwards (as evidenced by his quote on the back of Edwards' book Four Trials)seems to defuse that. The attack that Edwards has no experience is laughable, considering that he's been in Washington longer than George W. Bush has. Overall, this is a pretty solid choice, and as much as Republicans want to grouse, I think the proof will come during that Edwards-Cheney debate.


Monday, July 05, 2004

Hanging Chads in Jakarta

Indonesia's first direct Presidential election is in chaos because of a faulty ballot. You remember faulty ballots, right?

Indonesia's election authority last night ordered a nationwide recount of votes as the country's first direct presidential election descended into confusion over millions of votes wrongly declared invalid.

The Election Commission held an emergency meeting after receiving scores of calls from confused officials who reported thousands of invalid votes soon after counting began. Officials on the ground reported that in some booths, invalid votes outnumbered the votes received by the most popular candidates.

In Indonesian elections, voters use a nail to punch a hole in the face of their preferred candidate and only those ballot papers with one hole are declared valid. However, the ballot papers used yesterday were a folded sheet of paper which did not need to be opened fully for voters to see all five candidates. That meant millions of voters punched a hole that went through their preferred candidate and on through another part of the ballot paper containing voting information. Many of those votes were initially declared invalid.

A couple thoughts about this. First of all, isn't it amazing that Indonesia, a country with a dubious history of repression and brutality, in its first-ever Presidential election, actually has an Election Commission, which apparently worked very quickly to order a recount after noticing the problem? Contrast that with our system, which has no independent Election Commission, and relies on court challenges to unentangle messy elections. Good thing Indonesia doesn't have a partisan Supreme Court to decide these things. Who knows, they may even get the right result!

Also, this has to be worrisome, especially when you consider that voters use a NAIL:

Like the month-long election campaign, voting yesterday was free of any violence, but Mr Yudhoyono warned that might change if he or another candidate failed to win more than 50 per cent in the first round, in which case a run-off between the top two candidates would have to be held in September.

"There will be two candidates facing each other, there will be a head-to-head competition, and surely this will be rough," he told reporters before voting amid an adoring crowd of supporters.

"Supporters will face each other and there is the potential for confrontation. This is unavoidable. The key is for the candidates and the supporters to restrain themselves."

Might want to change that nail to a marker, guys.


Amnesty Iraqi National

In a true example of who's controlling the real ruling power in Iraq, today the interim government postponed their announcement to provide partial or full amnesty for low-level Iraqi insurgents who fought against the US occupation. It seemed very curious where they were going to draw the line between "low-level" and "high-level" insurgents; at the time of the announcement, the interim authority claimed it would only be granted to those who were "misled" by insurgency leaders. How can you possibly quantify that? In reality, this was seen by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi as a way to break the ties between the fedayyim (Saddam loyalists and former Baath Party members) and the coalition of Shiite militants and foreign fighters. Now, the fact that Allawi himself is a former Baath Party member makes it all the more suspect that he would offer amnesty to Saddam loyalists but not Shiites.

However, the entire plan crumbled at some point, and now the amnesty announcement has been delayed indefinitely. Hmm, let's see, the interim government comes up with an idea on its own, an idea that the US government probably will not like. The story gets leaked to the press ahead of time, they report it, and within two days, the plan is scuttled? I'm just surmising here, but it seems to me that Ambassador Negroponte made a phone call to a man who's name rhymes with "Lallawi" and mentioned ever so softly that perhaps it would be in everyone's best interest to do, well, exactly what I want (I'm paraphrasing, actually not even, I'm paraphrasing an imagined conversation).

Meanwhile, attacks and bombings are continuing at virtually the same rate as before, mostly against Iraqi targets (although several US troops have died since the handover). And if the Prime Minister has to go on television and answer criticism that he is NOT a puppet, well, when there's smoke there's fire. I haven't seen a puppet government like this since the time Tahiti elected Willie Tyler and Lester.


Sunday, July 04, 2004

Happy 4th of July

I'm off to an Independence (from Bush) Day fund-raiser for John F. Kerry. But I couldn't let this get past my sensor. It's from the L.A. Times, and I'll just post the whole story, because it's not that long:

Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue

David Zucchino
The Army's internal study of the war in Iraq criticizes some efforts by its own psychological operations units, but one spur-of-the-moment effort last year produced the most memorable image of the invasion.

As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel — not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images — who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking.

After the colonel — who was not named in the report — selected the statue as a "target of opportunity," the psychological team used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist, according to an account by a unit member.

But Marines had draped an American flag over the statue's face.

"God bless them, but we were thinking … that this was just bad news," the member of the psychological unit said. "We didn't want to look like an occupation force, and some of the Iraqis were saying, 'No, we want an Iraqi flag!' "

Someone produced an Iraqi flag, and a sergeant in the psychological operations unit quickly replaced the American flag.

Ultimately, a Marine recovery vehicle toppled the statue with a chain, but the effort appeared to be Iraqi-inspired because the psychological team had managed to pack the vehicle with cheering Iraqi children.
Coming out on a Satuday during a holiday weekend, this probably won't get a lot of play in the press. But God dammit. It was pretty obvious this was fishy from the beginning; at the time Information Clearing House printed pictures showing that there was no throng of people (maybe 100 or so) around the statue, and that the area was sealed off by US tanks. Also, it shows proof that at least one of the "jubilant Iraqis" in the crowd was a member of Ahmad Chalabi's Free Iraqi Forces militia. Now, we get official confirmation that the entire event was fucking staged, and almost catastrophically bungled by the Marines putting the US flag over Saddam's face (like so many hoods over Iraqi detainee's heads). My biggest regret is that Bush-Cheney didn't use this in a campaign commercial before it was revealed as bullshit. Then again, they just believe the American public ignorant enough to slip it in somwhere anyway.