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August 10, 2004
Still Wondering

If terrorists want to disrupt the UsofA presidential elections, what outcome are they hoping for? Doesn't make sense to me.

Dr. Rice said the government had actually “picked up discussion” relating to “trying to do something in the pre-election period,” and added that information on the threat came from “active multiple sources.”

I found myself wondering if those sources are any better than those cited by Attorney General John Ashcroft on May 26, when he launched this campaign, citing “credible intelligence from multiple sources that al-Qaeda plans an attack on the United States” before the November election. Ashcroft’s warning came out of the blue, without the customary involvement of the directors of the C.I.A. and Department of Homeland Security (although the latter quickly fell in line).

In support of his warning, Ashcroft cited “an al-Qaeda spokesman,” who the FBI later was embarrassed to admit is “The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades.” Sinister sounding though the name may be, this “group” is thought to consist of no more than one person with a fax machine, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official. That fax is notorious for claiming credit for all manner of death and destruction.

I'm having some trouble getting scared, here.

Also, I'm wondering, do we want to win our 'war' against the terrorists or not?

People are fighting terrorism around the globe, yes. Accused terrorists are even being brought to trial, although not in the UsofA, of course.

But there's a slight problem.

German authorities had asked the US for access to six key witnesses including Binalshibh, who is believed to be in American custody at a clandestine location. But in Tuesday's letter the US said that even information on whether a particular individual is in custody was classified information.

It's a little tough to hold a fair trial with the UsofA screaming, mine! mine! and refusing to share the evidence.

The Chalabis say the UsofA is resorting to dirty tricks to get them out of the limelight in Iraq and I find myself wondering if they really expected the farce to end any other way?

Ahmad Chalabi, once tipped to lead Iraq after Saddam Hussein's fall, said on Tuesday his former U.S. allies were pulling strings to end his political career, making him unsure of a fair trial on his return home.

Chalabi faces arrest on a charge of counterfeiting money as soon as he returns to Iraq from Iran, where he has been attending a trade conference. He dismisses the charge as ridiculous.

Formerly a darling of the Pentagon, Chalabi has fallen foul of his old paymasters who accuse him of supplying false intelligence over Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction and of leaking secrets to Iran.

I do find myself wondering if the Neo-cons are getting their revenge for being played like puppets.

The EU has spoken. What's happening in Darfur are "massacres" but it's not "genocide". As far as they're concerned the UN is off the hook for having to respond.

The EU said yesterday there was widespread violence in the Darfur region of Sudan but the killings were not genocidal, a potentially crucial distinction which underlined its reluctance to intervene.

"We are not in the situation of genocide there," Pieter Feith, an adviser to the EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said in Brussels after returning from a fact-finding visit to Sudan.

"But it is clear there is widespread, silent and slow killing and village burning of a fairly large scale. There are considerable doubts as to the willingness of Sudan's government to assume its duty to protect its civilian population against attacks."

He said in the absence of willingness to send a significant military force, the EU and others had little choice but to cooperate with Khartoum.

I see. It's not genocide but the government of the area doesn't seem willing to stop the slaughter which leaves us no choice but to work with the government of the area.

No, I don't see.

The announcement is bound to anger those impatient for stronger international pressure on Sudan.

Last month the US House of Representatives voted by 422 votes to nil to describe Khartoum's actions as genocide, a conclusion shared by several analysts who say there is no other term for the systematic slaughter, rape and expulsions.

But the White House, the African Union and groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have so far avoided using the g-word. At least 30,000 people are thought to have died and 1 million displaced in what the UN has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Genocide is defined as a calculated effort to destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, but the debate over its meaning is political, not semantic.

The genocide convention, adopted by the UN in 1948, calls on signatories to "prevent" and "punish" genocide. If governments accept events in Darfur amount to genocide they would be obliged to intervene.

Given the risk of such a logistical and military challenge, that is something few governments are willing to contemplate.

Words fail me.

I wonder if we're getting ready to bomb the heck out of Najaf? U.S. forces urge civilians to leave Najaf

American forces urged civilians to evacuate the combat zone in Najaf on Tuesday, the sixth day of clashes with Shiite militias that have restricted output from southern Iraqi oil fields and sent world oil prices soaring. . U.S. troops in Humvees drove through the center of the Shiite city, using loudspeakers to call on civilians to evacuate the zone immediately. . Residents said it was the first time U.S. troops had called for a mass evacuation, adding that they feared a massive attack on the Mahdi Army of the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr in the city's cemetery, and on the shrine of Imam Ali, one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites.

Sure sounds like it, doesn't it? (Oh, wait. we've already started. Hey, if Iraq is all sovereign and stuff, why are we still shelling their population? Did we get permission to do that?)

Only half a revolution is how the Guardian is describing the feminist equality movement.

There is nothing wrong with the competence or commitment of the female medical graduates. But they apparently fail to thrive in the profession in a way that doctors seem unable to diagnose, despite the fact that the same phenomenon is present in almost every workplace in the country: they do not make it on to committees, they find the demands of advancement incompatible with family life, they opt in larger numbers for part-time and flexible working.

The bottom line of what is being said here is still why can't women be more like men? However, the problem is not that the workplace has been over-feminised but that it has not been feminised enough. If we wish families to continue to exist, to bring up children, to treat their elderly and sick with a modicum of humanity, we have to accept that the burden and costs of work that is now largely the unpaid labour of women have to be shared. We have had half a revolution - the one that lowers the formal barriers to paid employment. The other half - the one that shares the burden, is still a long way off.

There are a lot of men out there happily diving in to help raise their children and maintain their homes. I know couples who share the burden of these tasks. I know men who are delighted to have the opportunity to spend time with their growing children. (Few of these men are quite as happy when offered a mop and a dirty kitchen floor, but that isn't a task most of us approach with joy.)

On the other hand, I know a lot more families where the woman is still doing 75% of the work around the home, including child-rearing, and working a full-time job as well.

Gross inequities exist, both inside and outside the home.

(For those interested in religion, the Pope has an opinion as well.)

Krugman is talking about jobs and political spin, and putting the economy's failure to thrive firmly in context as something that started before 9/11 and can't be blamed, three years later, on fallout from 9/11.

Power blackouts aren't a preventable problem so we shouldn’t waste time on trying to prevent them, we should stock up on candles and learn to cope. That's the point of this column, anyhow.

For the record, Denver has started burying their power lines instead of stringing them around the landscape. I can't remember the last time we had a weather-related blackout. Granted, I don't imagine that's the solution for everyone (there are places where land is too valuable for that) but the point the authors should have been making is that our infrastructure is decaying and we need to deal with that problem. Instead, they're arguing that our infrastructure is inadequate and we need to learn to live with it.

The job market was a nightmare for the Bush Administration last month (32,000 jobs), so they're not talking about it any more. No, now they're all over how great 'productivity' of corporations was, instead. No jobs for the populace, but the corporations did well, hooray!


You know that fuss that was in the papers a few months ago over the need to rewrite the "food pyramid" to reflect contemporary thinking about what constitutes a "healthy diet" for a normal person? Did you even wonder how the pyramid gets designed? It's very interesting.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:58 AM


"The EU has spoken. What's happening in Darfur are "massacres" but it's not "genocide". As far as they're concerned the UN is off the hook for having to respond."

Which should remind us why liberals were the interventionists of the 20th century. When I was in high school my history teacher stressed to me that the Democrats lead America into every war of the 20th century. Not till the first Gulf War did that become untrue.

Wilson brought idealism to American foreign policy, and it was a feature of Democratic politics for at least 80 years. To boldly declare that America has the right to invade dictatorships and overthrow them should remain a core part of the Democratic belief system I'm saddened by the reversal now going on between the parties. It's rather like the reversal over which party believes in deficit spending, though that is a reversal I don't mind.

Posted by: Lawrence Krubner at August 10, 2004 11:14 AM

The question about elections is an interesting one. My reading is that what they are aiming for is chaos and fear, to which they hope we will respond with confusion, bad policy and an abandonment of our values. I honestly can't see that the arguments in favor of Bush or Kerry affect this one way or the other, and we haven't seen any actual evidence that al Qaeda, et al., cares who the president is.

Posted by: Jonathan Dresner at August 10, 2004 03:16 PM

Lawrence - I don't like to talk about Wilson. He upsets me. :) Such a combination of, as you said, idealism and progressive policies with bigotry and racism makes my head hurt.

Jonathan - Half the time I think they're just "chattering" about the election to give the spies conniption fits.

Posted by: Anne at August 12, 2004 09:22 AM