Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Inapt DNA metaphors

I've noticed a flood of bad DNA metaphors coming from Bush administration officials recently. I'm still working on a theory as to why they've chosen DNA as their metaphor-du-jour, but here's a recent egregious example:
"It's like the twin strands of a double helix of a DNA molecule," said an official planning for the vote. "One strand is the technical and operational part. We are basically on course for that one, in perhaps 70 or 80 percent of Iraq," the official said. "But the other strand, without which you can't have DNA, is the overall environment. There we have a problem."
Oh, we've got a problem all right. It's hard to know where to start identifying the number of things wrong with this statement, but you can't have DNA without two strands? Tell it to the single-stranded DNA viruses!

Another recent example suggests that the Bush administration isn't as different from Clinton's as it would like to think:
"Aides said many other such moves will be announced, because Bush and senior adviser Karl Rove are determined to 'implant their DNA throughout the government,' as one official put it."
If you're in government, I have a recommendation - don't wear a blue dress to work!

Sunday, November 21, 2004


Freedom Just Can't Stop Marching

Rates of malnutrition among Iraqi children have doubled since the US invasion of Iraq:
The new figure translates to roughly 400,000 Iraqi children suffering from "wasting," a condition that takes in chronic diarrhea and dangerous deficiencies of protein.

Iraq's child malnutrition rate now roughly equals that of Burundi, an African nation torn by more than a decade of war. It is worse than rates in Uganda and Haiti.

Friday, November 19, 2004


This story is worth watching

There's been a lot of heated talk about the Afghan and Iraq wars being "all about oil", and much of it is overblown. However, if this story about a proposed trans-Afghan natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan pans out, especially the Unocal involvement, it would be hard to ignore.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the current US ambassador to Afghanistan and its virtual proconsul, was a consultant to Unocal in the mid-90s when this project was first proposed. At the time, Unocal was negotiating with the Taliban, which didn't sit well with the human rights community, to say nothing of Jay Leno's wife, Mavis. If the pipeline project gets handed to Unocal by the Karzai government, which doesn't make a move without consulting Khalilzad, it would be a major scandal.

According to the story linked above,
''[the Asian Development Bank's] technical and economic study will be completed and the three countries involved in the project - Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan - will hold a meeting in Islamabad at the end of November and then the final results will be announced.''
I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 18, 2004


"To Support Such a Vicious Dictatorship Can Never Be Right"

It's a running theme of mine that if the US is sincere about its opposition to dictators like Saddam Hussein, it ought to end its support for regimes that are its moral equivalent, like the Karimov regime in Uzbekistan. This is true on moral grounds alone, but as US support for Saddam throughout the 1980s shows, even the realpolitik argument doesn't hold up because the blowback is likely to be much greater than the benefits.

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, is speaking out about current US/UK support for the Karimov regime in return for Tashkent's participation in the "war on terror". Murray was relieved from his embassy post after he leaked a memo complaining that the British spy agency, MI6, was using information passed on to it by the CIA originally obtained through torture in Uzbekistan.

This interview with the UN information unit IRIN makes a pretty convincing case that the US policy of "constructive engagement" with Karimov is a fraud. Here's the key question:
Q: Do you feel the West's policy of constructive engagement with Tashkent had produced any positive results or do you feel it has stalled reform?

A: The economy of Uzbekistan is getting worse and repression gets harsher and harsher. I do not see, therefore, how the West can claim engagement has worked. I recall a meeting this year where the US Ambassador said the US had many full-time advisers in Uzbek economic ministries. I said that left two choices - either their advice was not being followed, or they were giving rubbish advice.

With its extraordinary economic policy of clamping down on private economic activity and closing its borders to trade, I think aid from the US, Japan and the ADB in particular has been essential in propping up the Karimov regime.

Equally important has been the fulsome political support for Karimov from all the senior figures in the US administration, from Bush down. To support such a vicious dictatorship can never be right and as the Tashkent regime tortures innocent Muslims, US support for him can only increase hatred for the West in the Islamic world.


Freedom is still on the March

I'm not a big fan of the NY Times, but since it's my local paper I read it and sometimes come across a gem. This op-ed piece from yesterday is one. It's by the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian lawyer and she discusses her inability to publish her memoir in the US because of its trade embargo against Iran. This graf caught my eye, for obvious reasons:
An American scientific journal, for instance, recently declined to run a paper on the human and economic consequences of the catastrophic earthquake last year in Bam, Iran, because Iranian scientists helped write it and therefore the journal would have to obtain a license to publish it.
Who are we?

Tuesday, November 16, 2004


Another Whopper from the Bush Administration

Burger King Opens at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. Have it your way.

Monday, November 15, 2004


Behind the Irony Curtain

Great news! Global warming will open up new areas of the arctic to oil and gas exploration! Maybe this will get the oil companies to finally acknowledge the fact of global warming, if not the cause.

Saturday, November 13, 2004


Freedom is on the march

According to Az-zaman, a study commissioned by the Iraqi Planning ministry finds that 43% of the Iraqi population is currently living below the poverty line, with no improvement in living standards during the 17 months since the US invasion. More disturbingly, the study also finds that:
While the risk of starvation can be avoided, there are growing concerns over the spread of disease, death and psychological trauma particularly among the children, they say.

The authors say Iraqi children are now much more vulnerable to violence and the adverse impact of military operation in major cities than before.

Neither the occupation forces nor the interim government have unveiled any plans on how to protect the country’s nearly 13 million children.

Remember, this is not a study from some left-wing international aid organization, this is from the Planning Ministry of the US-allied Allawi government.

Friday, November 12, 2004


Veterans Day

I tried my best to write a "thank you to the troops" post yesterday but I couldn't do it. It's not that I don't thank them for their sacrifices. I absolutely do, but it makes me unspeakably sad that they are giving themselves and their lives to an Iraq war that has very little to do with the threat of terror Bush claims to be protecting us from.

In my mind, their honorable commitment to defend the country is being abused by a shameless White House that has no moral difficulty in misleading the country and exploiting the patriotism of a stunned people in order to achieve longstanding foreign policy goals that preceded 9/11, namely direct military control over the region containing the most indispensable economic resource in the world.

So, thank you to our soldiers, past and present, who have served honorably in the cause of freedom. And god damn their leaders who, I feel, have all too frequently abused the trust placed in them by those soldiers even as the leaders grotesquely wrap themselves in the honor legitimately earned by the sweat of other, better people.

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Democracy is for our enemies

I would like to take Bush at his word when he says "freedom is on the march". It would be easier to do so if he showed as much enthusiasm for democracy on the part of our allies as he does on the part of our enemies.

The prime example is Kuwait, which the world liberated from the Iraqis at the cost of significant numbers of lives and other resources. You would think the Kuwaitis might pay the world back by creating a free society, but to quote from the most recent Freedom House report on Kuwait:

Freely elected representatives do not determine the policies of Kuwait's government. The royal family of Kuwait, which is a hereditary emirate, largely sets the government's policy agenda. The country's emir has overriding power in the political system, appointing the prime minister and cabinet.

Other key examples of allies with even worse human rights and political rights records than Kuwait include major staging areas for the "war on terror" including Uzbekistan and Qatar, not to mention Saudi Arabia, which receives the lowest scores possible for both Political Rights and Civil Liberties.

(By the way, I chose to use the information from Freedom House because its board, with figures such as James Woolsey and Jeane Kirkpatrick, can't be accused of having an anti-US political agenda.)

What's the message here? If you want to become a democracy, first become an enemy of the US, then we will invade you and turn you into a democracy, but if you're our buddy we'll leave you alone no matter what you do. Not only that, but we'll help you get rich in the meantime, no matter the cost to US taxpayers.


Have a Nice Day

From todays NYTimes:

FALLUJA, Iraq, Nov. 10 - American marines called in two airstrikes on the pair of dingy three-story buildings squatting along Highway 10 on Wednesday, dropping 500-pound bombs each time. They fired 35 or so 155-millimeter artillery shells, 10 shots from the muzzles of Abrams tanks and perhaps 30,000 rounds from their automatic rifles. The building was a smoking ruin.

But the sniper kept shooting.

He - or they, because no one can count the flitting shadows in this place - kept 150 marines pinned down for the better part of a day. It was a lesson on the nature of the enemy in this hellish warren of rubble-strewn streets. Not all of the insurgents are holy warriors looking for martyrdom. At least a few are highly trained killers who do their job with cold precision and know how to survive.

"The idea is, he just sits up there and eats a sandwich," said Lt. Andy Eckert, "and we go crazy trying to find him."

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Sorry, World!

Just go here


Feeling safer?

This is my first post. The blog is named for the famous "Arthur (Two Sheds) Jackson" episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Doesn't this make everyone feel safer???

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