Wednesday, March 31, 2004

and now for something completely different

stock tips from sean paul

oval office space (from my neighbor)

beatnik rummy (from blogamy)

echidne had me trying to lick my elbow (i failed)


another bomb in uzbekistan. this one in andijon (and the 6th according to their count). meanwhile militants have seized hostages in tashkent.

with the time change the fourth day of violence has just begun in the country.

it goes on and on

more confusing news from uzbekistan--this morning i just saw a wash of reports of detentions, shootings and explosions. its not clear whether they're reporting what happened over the past few days or new stuff. it can be really frustrating to try to follow news from central asia when you don't read russian. the christian science monitor has a fairly good overview of the situation, although it's only as of yesterday. so it doesn't help me figure out what is happening there now.

the best blog coverage, i think, is at the agonist (like here and here) and the argus (like here) [ed's note: why do all the blogs following central asian news start with a definite article? apparently, i never got the memo]

there's an argument that the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks are not al-qaeda here. and this article reports that powell has offered u.s. assistance to the uzbek government.

i don't usually focus on uzbekistan that much here (at least i haven't since september when i was blogging from there), so perhaps i lost many of my regular readers by my obsession with these attacks. i don't know why, but they've really affected me in a way that other, perhaps worse, attacks have not. i've had this pit in my stomach ever since i got the first email about them monday morning. it's very strange. i mean, i never lived there, i just went to the country for vacation. there have been bombings in other places where i have visited (e.g. turkey, tunisia) but i haven't felt such an emotional impact from those attacks. perhaps the explanation for my reaction is that this attack, unlike the others, came much sooner after i visited there--a matter of months not years. and i made several friends in uzbekistan who i have kept in touch with by email. the emails of those who have written me this week have added a personal dimension to the whole thing. (actually, what's a little more frightening are the friends who have not written--which is most of them, in fact. but most likely, they just can't get to an internet cafe. obviously checking in with me is not a top priority for them right now).

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

violence continues

more uzbekistan news here (via the agonist). its still not clear what exactly is going on there--there are several bombings, some shoot-outs with police, etc. no confirmation of any of my rumors of the tashkent subway, charvak dam or fergana bombings (they were unconfirmed to begin with). the whole thing is likely to stay confused for the time being. one thing is certain, uzbekistan is experiencing a second day of violence. i fear for the safety of some people i know there.

the government seems to be pinning the blame on hizb-ut-tahir, their usual scapegoat--an organization that has no proven record of violence (HuT is an islamist party that advocates institution of an islamist government but only through non-violent means. the uzbek government nevertheless claims it is secretly a terrorist organization and often groups it with the overtly violent Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan/Turkistan). again, it will be a little while before the dust clears and we can see what comes of all of this.

incidentally, there are a large number of u.s. forces in uzbekistan now in karshi (southern uzbekistan). there are probably also a fair amount of off-duty u.s. military personnel in tashkent, a city they use for R & R from operations in afghanistan. (a guy i met in tashkent told me that soldiers are not allowed to go to any city in the country except for tashkent and karshi). so it's possible the u.s. military could get involved in some of the uzbek government's anti-terrorist raids.

UPDATE: for what it's worth radio free europe has picked up on the "unconfirmed reports" of an explosion near the charvak resevoir. this obviously doesn't mean the rumors i heard are true, just that others are hearing the same rumors. if it's true, it's pretty clear that any attempt to blow up the dam failed. someone would notice if tashkent was flooded.

more on uzbekistan bombings

my sources in uzbekistan tell me that there are more bombs that have been reported in the news. in addition to the chorsu bomb in tashkent and the bomb(s) in bukhara, they say there was also a bomb in a tashkent subway stop (oybek) and at least one bombing in the fergana valley.

i have no idea whether these inside tips are actually worth anything. they didn't actually witness any bombings first hand and it would not be surprising if rumors were flying pretty fiercely around uzbekistan right now (remember the stories of the car bombing at the state department on 9-11-01?) on the other hand, the uzbek government has every incentive to try to minimize the size of these attacks and i wouldn't put it past them to underreport at least the fergana incident (a tashkent subway bomb would be harder to hide. 3 million people live in that city and there are plenty of foreign reporters passing through there on the way to afghanistan)

meanwhile, what is being reported is that uzbek special forces have raided an alleged militant hideout in the suburbs of tashkent.

sean paul also has a good post and he directed my attention to this article from eurasianet and this post from the argus.

UPDATE: as i was typing above, i got another email. it seems the fergana bomb rumor is that it was intended to blow up the charvak dam, which would have flooded tashkent had it succeeded. tashkent has apparently been sealed off from the rest of the country, no one can go in or out of the city.

Monday, March 29, 2004


explosion in chorsu market in tashkent. there aren't many details but it's very freaky. i feel like i was just there (even though it was 6 months ago). if it's an al-qaeda type bomb designed to retaliate against a close ally of the bush administration, the chorsu is an odd choice--when i was there the market was crowded with locals and farmers coming from the fergana valley. meanwhile a mile or two southeast is "broadway" the tourist strip that is often frequented by u.s. soldiers on break from afghanistan.

i am sure this will immediately be blamed on the islamic movement of turkistan (formerly the islamic movement of uzbekistan) and hizb-ut-tahir (an islamist political party that claims to be non-violent but always suffers when the government moves against the IMU/IMT). expect one of our "close allies in the war against terra" to get even more oppressive.

UPDATE: ever so slightly more information here.

UPDATE2: now it looks like a suicide bomb. or rather, bombs. it seems there was another (and more deadly) explosion in bukhara provence (but not bukhara city?).

Saturday, March 27, 2004


last night we saw the ladykillers, the latest film by the coen brothers. i'm a big fan of their films. they wrote and directed my official favorite movie and basically, everything they've done i've at least thought was "pretty good" if not better. it used to be that i had to wait 2-3 years in between coen brother films, but these days they're coming out roughly once a year. i've started to wonder if quality will start slipping. i was not a huge fan of intolerable cruelty (i would call it "pretty good," i.e. the lowest coen brother rating) and so when ladykiller came out this week to mixed reviews, i was wondering if this would finally kill the coen allure for me.

it did not. i really liked "ladykillers." it had its problems (e.g. the lump hudson character was particularly drab in a movie that is almost entirely driven by its colorful characters), but i honestly don't get some of the criticism (e.g.). i guess it just comes with the territory of remaking an alec guinness classic--the critics seem to be spending a lot of time comparing the coen brother's film with the original (which i have never seen). standing on its own, i thought the new ladykillers was quite entertaining, although not the coens' best.

grading flags

i just happened upon this site which grades to the flags of the world.

i actually disagree with at least 1/2 of the grades (my favorite flag was given a "C"!!!) and, i like many of the "failing" flags better than the "A" group. i mean, come on, how can you can honestly say that chile (an "A" grade) is more asthetically pleasing than, say, iran or kazakstan (both got failing grades). but for what it's worth, go check it out.

Friday, March 26, 2004

fact checking brooks and myself

via atrios, i read this article which checked on some of the generalizations brooks has made about the contrasts between urban and rural america and found them to be untrue.

it's a good article and when people get so much attention for their writings, they should be called to task for it. but i read the article less as an indictment of brooks than as a reminded that many commonly held prejudices (including many that i have, consciously or not) about other parts of the country are not necessarily true. when brooks writes about "the meatloaf line" in american geography--a line which, once crossed, means that "there will be a lot fewer sun-dried-tomato concoctions on restaurant menus and a lot more meatloaf platters"-- it taps into some of my own sense about the regional differences in this country.

it seems to me that the only reason brooks is so successful at misrepresenting "red" america is because people like me happen to believe it. that doesn't excuse brooks, but it doesn't excuse me either

june 30th

it never ceases to amaze me just how openly the bush administration is treating this june 30th handover of sovereignty as a sham:
With fewer than 100 days to go before Iraq resumes its sovereignty, American officials say they believe they have found a legal basis for American troops to continue their military control over the security situation in Iraq.


Showing his confidence that the approach was grounded in international law, L. Paul Bremer III, the chief of the occupation authority, issued an executive order this week specifying that the newly formed Iraqi armed forces be placed under the operational control of the American commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, who has been named to lead American and allied forces after the transfer of political authority to the Iraqis.

Mr. Bremer and other top American officials say they believe Security Council Resolution 1511, which conferred the mandate for the American-led alliance, can be used to provide legal justification for the American military command to operate until Dec. 31, 2005. That is when a timetable agreed on by Iraqi leaders envisages the final transition to an elected Iraqi government.


The United Nations official said that while it would be a "practical reality" for American domination to continue despite Iraqi self-rule, "it has to be done in a way that's not offensive to Iraqis and the international community, which emphasizes Iraqi sovereignty rather than Iraqi impotence."
so, to summarize: on june 30, 2004 iraq will become a sovereign independent country again, not an occupied territory, even though its entire government will be appointed by the american military and the iraqi armed forces will be "under operational control" (i.e. actual command) of an american general. the above quoted u.n. official calls american domination to be a "practical reality," but he really should go further. it simply won't be sovereignty, at least not in any manner that the term is normally defined. instead, it sounds like iraq will still be occupied power with some more iraqi faces in mid-level positions than there are now.

the administration, however, badly wants whatever happens on june 30th to be seen as a handover of sovereignty. but the arguments they offer against the common-sense notion of sovereignty are pretty weak. like this one from the end of the above-quoted article:
Another official said Iraqis could hardly claim that Iraq's sovereignty was compromised by having its troops under American command when nations like Britain and Poland had placed military contingents here under an American general. "There's no sovereignty issue for them," the official said.
of course there's no sovereignty issue for britain and poland when they place command of a small number of their total armed forces under u.s. command in iraq. but there would clearly be an issue if britain placed all of its armed forces under u.s. command in britain. can we really image britain or poland standing for that?

how stupid do they think we are?

Thursday, March 25, 2004

nice try

someone found my site early this morning searching for richard clarke communist party. i looked at the search results and i am afraid that the searcher probably will be disappointed. perhaps in another few days enough bullshit will be thrown up on the internet to satisfy him/her.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004


nick kristof is trying to draw attention to the ethnic cleansing that is going on right now in western sudan:
The most vicious ethnic cleansing you've never heard of is unfolding here in the southeastern fringes of the Sahara Desert. It's a campaign of murder, rape and pillage by Sudan's Arab rulers that has forced 700,000 black African Sudanese to flee their villages.

The desert is strewn with the carcasses of cattle and goats, as well as fresh refugee graves that are covered with brush so wild animals will not dig them up. Refugees crowd around overused wells, which now run dry, and they mourn loved ones whose bodies they cannot recover.

Western and African countries need to intervene urgently. Sudan's leaders should not be able to get away with mass murder just because they are shrewd enough to choose victims who inhabit a poor region without airports, electricity or paved roads.

The culprit is the Sudanese government, one of the world's nastiest. Its Arab leaders have been fighting a civil war for more than 20 years against its rebellious black African south. Lately it has armed lighter-skinned Arab raiders, the Janjaweed, who are killing or driving out blacks in the Darfur region near Chad.
kristof also notes that the bush administration has been better than prior administrations in dealing with the ongoing civil war in southern sudan, which is true (although unfortunately it's also not saying all that much). but he doesn't mention why the bush administration has taken an interest in sudan's civil war in the south.

the civil war in the south is between the largely christian locals and the muslim arabs who dominate the national government and control the army. as the civil war is one of the front lines between christianity and islam, it has become a cause celebre among the christian right. the brutality of the fundamentalist sudanese government against the christian rebels fits nicely into their simplistic image of islam, an image that has only been enhanced since 9/11. bush's relative activisim on the issue, i think, has more to do with pandering to the christian right than anything else.

don't get me wrong, trying to stop the brutal civil war in the south is the right thing to do. i just question the administration's motives. i could be wrong. maybe i'm just cynical.

but the new ethnic cleansing in the darfar region of western sudan is bush's chance to prove me wrong. because of the attention to the civil war in the south, the government has largely halted its offensive there and instead gone after the muslim non-arabs in darfar. because this is not a christian region, i think the sudanese government is betting that the west will not care about its crimes there. and i think they're probably right. time will tell whether the president makes any effort to stop this sudanese offensive. if he doesn't i expect that a few years from how some american leaders will be apologizing for their inaction in this latest bout of genocide in a forgotten corner of the african continent.

a modest proposal

perhaps this is the only sensible compromise in the gay marriage debate: oregon county bans all marriage.

finally, a government has found a way to both: (a) make sure they don't issue marriage licenses in a way that discriminates against homosexuals, and (b) will not allow gay marriages to "redefine the traditional definition of marriage" or "weaken the institution of marriage" or whatever this week's slogan is. if you think about it, it's quite brilliant--it's like saying if you can't play nice with this marriage thing, no one gets to play!

okay, i read the link. i realize the marriage ban is just temporary. but it is worth reflecting which is more damaging to the institution of marriage: issuing licenses to any couple who applies (gay or straight), or not issuing them at all to anyone.

(link via see why?)

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

passing the buck

i never got around to posting today, so here's some other things to keep you entertained:

take the mustang bobby challenge

as the bush administration unleashes jim wilkinson to trash richard clarke, andante lists what's left out of wilkinson's official bio

cathy has seen the invoices

maru quacks

kirk has a good essay about how the hardline can backfire.

and if all else fails ming the merciless should keep you busy for a while (just keep clicking on stuff to see what they do) (via left is right)

Monday, March 22, 2004

no basis

maybe i’m being nit-picky or maybe this is just more evidence of the long term side effects of law school, but this morning joe lieberman waltzed right into something that really annoys me. lieberman was referring to the richard clarke’s newly published book and accompanying interviews in which clarke charged that the bush administration focused more on iraq than al-qaeda immediately after 9/11:
"I see no basis for it," Lieberman said on Fox News Sunday. "I think we've got to be careful to speak facts and not rhetoric."
"no basis?" isn’t clarke’s eyewitness account a basis? isn’t the fact that it is largely corroborated by former treasury secretary paul o'neill's similar accusations a basis? of course there’s a basis. while clarke could be wrong–he could be lying, or maybe he just misunderstood the discussions going on around him in some kind of three’s company-esque series of coincidences, overheard bits of conversation and remarks taken out of context–you can’t say his story is baseless.

baseless means there is no evidence, not even bad evidence, to support the assertion. eyewitness accounts to meetings is a form of evidence and thus it is a basis.

here’s an example of something that has no basis: lenny bruce says that in private briefings just after 9/11, the president announced he will invade benin after iraq finally stabilizes. there’s no basis because lenny was not in any post-9/11 meetings. he was dead. there is no basis for believing his account is true.

clarke’s account, on the other hand, has a basis. the basis is clarke’s own account of the events, coupled with the fact that clarke was actually present at the meetings he is talking about. again, just because it has a basis for believing it, does not mean it is necessarily true, but it does count for something. it at least needs to be addressed by those who want to contradict clarke's account

but "no basis" (along with its close cousin "no evidence") in political discourse has come to be used as a synonym for "wrong." "wrong" however is falling out of favor because it requires support–you need to back up the "wrong" charge with an argument. if lieberman has just said "clarke is wrong" he would be expected to explain just why that is. with "no basis" he isn't because the term implies a sort of objectivity that "wrong" does not have. right or wrong is an opinion. whether or not something has a basis is about reality. but because it has this air of objective truth, it actually operates to stifle debate. note that lieberman did not actually have anything concrete to contest what clarke was saying. he did not counter clarke's story with any contradictory evidence. he didn't even try to cite any. instead he resorted to scolding: "speak facts and not rhetoric." but who exactly, is speaking about facts and who is resorting to rhetorical tricks like "no basis"?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

shakhrisabz photos

last november sean-paul kelley went to uzbekistan with his father. now all of a sudden, months later, he's missing uzbekistan and is starting to post about it.

yesterday, he posted an email he got from his father about their trip to shakhrisabz and after reading it, now i'm getting all nostalgic too. anyway, here are some photos of the places papa kelley mentions in his email (i've been promising to post uzbek pictures for ages--this, at least, is an excuse to finally get around to it):

the road to the mountain pass between shakhrisabz (taken from a car window as i sped past--the yellow things are sunflower fields)

village along the takhtakaracha pass (i happened to pass through a funeral, these guys were jumping in their car to follow a funeral procession)

"the remains of Timur's Palace" (Ak Serai)

blue domed mosques

old man sitting near mosque

the marketplace

UPDATE: when i first published this entry, the images apparently didn't post right (i ran off to see the sopranos before i could verify that they posted correctly). i think i fixed it now.

the battle of algiers

i got a lot done for once this weekend. and believe it or not, i even went into work today and managed to avoid blogging the whole time i was there.

on friday night we saw the battle of algiers. the movie was recently re-released after it was allegedly remastered. i wouldn't know if it was. the sound quality in the theater where we saw it was pretty bad. i think one of the speakers was blown. or maybe we just had a bad print. in any event the music (which is supposed to set the mood of many of the scenes) was accompanied with this distortion. it really did take away some of the enjoyment of the film

but putting aside from the crappy sound, it's a remarkably realistic film about a terrorist-based insurgency. i had read that the amazing thing about the film is that by the end you're rooting for the terrorists. but that wasn't my reaction. by the end, i didn't like either side. like i said, it was pretty realistic. it's hard to watch the film without thinking about iraq. apparently the u.s. military does too. last summer the pentagon had its own screening of the film. as much as i liked the movie, it is a little frightening to contemplate just what the military guys watching it would get out of this film. you could argue, for example, that the film teaches that torture and brutal retaliation against civilians is an effective way to stop an insurgency--although you could also argue that the film views such tactics as counter-productive in the long term.

who knows what anyone takes away from a film with as much moral ambiguity as this one.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

TLC blogroll update (probably the last one for a while)

i just added all facts and opinions (natalie davis), yellow doggerel democrat (steve bates), wtf is it now?!?, indigo ocean, and norbizness to my liberal coalition section of my blogroll. all of them have been listed as "contributors" to the coalition for quite a while, i guess i never should have left them out. but now that there's no practical difference between "contributors" and "members" like me, i decided i really should link to them. i'm sorry it took me so long. hopefully, i can send some traffic their way to make up for it.

Friday, March 19, 2004

some points about the spanish election

in the past 5 days i have read about a half-million posts and articles about whether or not the election of the new socialist government in spain constitutes "appeasement of terrorists." but i wish that those who want to argue that it is at least acknowledge the below facts:

1. the socialist party might have won the election even if the march 11 attacks had not occurred

a poll conducted four days before the attack showed the socialists trailing in the polls by only few percentage points which was well within the margin of error. furthermore, a poll taken on march 10, 2004, the day before the bombing, indicated the socialists were in the lead by 2 percentage points, this was also within the margin of error. (thanks to ntodd for that second link). in other words, the race was a statistical dead heat. we will never know for sure whether the socialist would have won anyway, but, at least commentators should stop referring to it as if it is some kind of upset.

2. outgoing prime minister jose maria aznar was not running in the last election

aznar has been a staunch ally to president bush, a stance which seriously hurt his reelection prospects. several months ago, he decided not to run for reelection, in part, many believed, because he really didn’t stand a chance to win. (he also had several other reason to be unpopular, such as his government’s less than forthright handling of the prestige oil tanker spill off the spanish coast. for a discussion of aznar’s political liabilities and a good summary of the modern history of spanish politics see this article from salon). the fact that the popular party put up a different candidate in the election illustrates just how clearly the spanish public was against supporting the u.s. in iraq before the madrid bombings. the ruling party knew the only way it could be reelected is to distance itself from the policy and the divisive politician who symbolized it.

3. jose luis rodriguez zapatero, the incoming spanish prime minister, is not saying he will end cooperation with the u.s. in the “war on terror”

zapatero has vowed to make anti-terrorism a top priority for his administration. under zapatero, spain will continue to aid american forces in afghanistan and elsewhere in the world. even in iraq, zapatero has not said that he will withdraw spanish forces from there immediately, but rather after june 30, 2004. in a sense, he's only calling the bush administration's bluff when they claim to hand over sovereignty on that date. the date, clearly chosen with the american electoral calendar in mind, is supposed to create the impression that the iraq mission has been accomplished. but if that's the case, what is wrong with spanish troops leaving after iraq "rejoins the community of nations?"

furthermore, zapatero has not said that spain will definitely pull out after june 30. they will stay if they get a u.n. mandate. zapatero is simply playing hardball with the bush administration, trying to get them to rejoin the community of nations if they want foreign help to rebuild the country. you may not agree with the policy or tactic, but that's not necessarily the same as appeasement.

4. zapatero's socialist party is not a communist party

americans cannot keep communists and socialists straight, and thus they are easily confused by the concept of a democratic socialist political party. but the fact is, in virtually every other democratic country, there is a democratic socialist political party. (a few months ago i read this book it didn’t happen here which discusses many of the historical and structural reasons why a democratic socalist party did not take hold in the u.s. when it did everywhere else). the democratic socialists parties go by various names in the various countries, but these days they are mostly on the moderate-left end of the political spectrum. notably, in britain the democratic socialist party is called the "labour party," the party of bush’s buddy tony blair.

if you want to argue that the spanish elections equals appeasement of terrorism, fine. but if you want to make a serious case for it, you have to at least address the above points.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

[oops, forgot to write a title for this one]

i just read an excellent article about the spanish elections. i've been mostly sitting out the whole post-election brew-ha-ha that has been bouncing around various blogs and op-ed columns over the past few days. i got a few things to say on this issue, but when everyone else is already discussing it, it is less likely i will try to add anything, especially if i feel that it's already being said elsewhere.

that may change soon (or maybe not. i'm trying hard to resist the impulse to promise future posts here because i so rarely follow through). right now, however, i'm off to the labor board for a hearing, then court for another hearing, then my arabic mid-term. ba'da dhalik anwii an sa'aktub kathiran hunaa, insha'alla

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

bombs away

homophobic bigots

(inspired by charles2)

red alert

a short film about how the department of homeland security color-coded alert system was created. enjoy.

(via scout)

upyernoz's st. patrick's day question

more or less inspired by david's friday question (a weekly feature over at blogAmY), i'm launching a new feature here at rubber hose: upyernoz's st. patrick's day question. for the rest of 2004 on every st. patrick's day i will ask a compelling question that will shock and amaze you. or maybe not. it will, at the very least, be something that has been bugging me for a while. so here is the very first st. paddy's day question:

how did "weapons of mass destruction" ever get related to 9-11? i'm not trying to ask about bush's justification for the war in iraq. i think the link in the public's mind pre-dates that. within days of 9-11 i remember people talking about the dangers of terrorists with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. (like this nrp show about bioterrorism threat that aired on 9/14/01 or the last letter printed here (also on 9/14/01) citing the threat of terrorists with nuclear or chemical weapons). i don't think the president made up the link to justify iraq. it was already in the air. he just took advantage of it later.

but why was it in the air? if anything, the 9/11 attacks proved that terrorists do not need sophisticated weapons to produce mass destruction. when knives and commericial airplanes can be so destructive, why bother with the expense and danger of nukes? why did it seem to be such an easy jump from planes going into the world trade center and a mushroom cloud?


st. patrick's day

at least for people around here, it's not much more than an excuse to drink. i'm not criticizing that or anything, but here's my problem with st. patrick's day:

i'm not a fan of st. patrick.

patrick got his sainthood by "converted thousands of irish people to christianity from paganism." indeed, he's basically credited (rightly or wrongly) with converting the whole damn island. the thing is, europe's already got plenty of christian countries. did they really need yet another one? europe used to be mostly pagan; the monotheistic religions were centered more in the middle-east. i understand how christians worked hard to turn that around, but couldn't they have left one or two pagan bits? it just would have been an a lot more interesting world if they left some pagans around.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

a question

Bush Prods Kerry to Name Leaders Who Want Him Out

wouldn’t it be easier for kerry to just name the leaders who want to keep bush in office?

Monday, March 15, 2004

iraq constitution redux

nathan newman noticed something i didn't when i read through the iraqi interim constutition last week:
Bush wants to claim that with the new Constitution passed, power will be turned over to Iraqis after June of this year.

It's a lie.

The new government under the new constitution will be barred from overturning any laws that the US has imposed on the country since the Occupation.

Why can't they change them?

Because of this provision in the Constitution, Article 26:
A) Except as otherwise provided in this Law, the laws in force in Iraq on 30 June 2004 shall remain in effect unless and until rescinded or amended by the Iraqi Transitional Government in accordance with this Law.
Note that the "Iraqi Transitional Government" doesn't come into existence until new elections occur, which can be as late as December 2005-- a long period to be governed by Paul Bremer's recently enacted pro-corporate laws.


Don't believe the hype-- with Article 26, the Occupation continues after June. A government that cannot change US-imposed laws is nothing more than a remote controlled puppet regime.
i agree. and this provision also explains how the u.s. can be so certain that u.s. troops will remain after "sovereignty" is handed over on june 30th. all they have to do is get the puppets in power today to pass a law requiring iraq to accept u.s. troops and presto, the u.s will be guaranteed a place in iraq for at least another year and a half, if not longer.

one year later

tom tomorrow reminded me that right around now is the one year anniversary of the american invasion of iraq (have we come up with an official name for the conflict yet? most people seem to be using "the iraq war" or "the war in iraq," but occasionally i hear someone say "gulf war two." i'm still a big fan of "the blair-bush project," but somehow it hasn't seem to caught on).

there's been remarkably little "one year after" hype. maybe because the situation in iraq right now is so inconclusive and the usual people who would otherwise be hyping the anniversary (i.e. the bush administration) don't want to bring it up for fear of reminding people of the reasons we went there in the first place.

a few days before the war began last year, my wife and i had a party. after everyone left, it was probably around 2 in the morning, mrs. noz and i were cleaning up and, i guess, talking about the coming war. my wife remarked--partly as a joke: " i wonder if we will remember this party as the last hurrah of the pre-war days. you know, like in a movie, where people are dancing and partying right before hitler rolls into town and the world changes." it was a strange idea. i hadn't really thought of life at that moment in that way. were we, at that moment, antebellum?

a year later its pretty clear that the onset of the war in iraq did not cause any major changes in our day-to-day life. in some ways it's not that surprising. after all, unlike the characters in the movies my wife was alluding to, the fighting was not coming to our town. the iraq war was never about fighting were we lived (if it were i'm sure it would have been a lot less popular). but in other ways, it's very odd to reflect on how little is different. the war was a major undertaking for this country and still is today. a significant portion of our tax dollars are flowing into the country now, mostly via the pentagon or halliburton. thousands of americans are in iraq now, and a few are killed and wounded each week. but aside from my outrage over what i read in the newspaper each morning (or online), it barely causes a ripple in our daily lives. it's actually a little frightening just how easy and cost-free this war would seem if i weren't obsessively following what is going on there.

i don't really have a point to this post. i'm just reflecting on how the past year has been fairly good to me, my wife, my friends and family. but it's been a bad year for plenty of other people in the world. and they didn't even get to go to our party.

Sunday, March 14, 2004


since 9-11 many people have noted that the u.s. government is woefully short on people with language skills from the middle east and central asia. how do you get more people to study arabic, persian or pashto? certainly not by making them subject to a draft when no one else is.

another bright idea coming out of the defense department.

(via the agonist)

Saturday, March 13, 2004


i just found this site of odd signs from around the world.

i also like this one:

spanish october surprise

for the past few months bush's approval ratings have finally dipped below 50%. whenever i talk about the president's reelection prospects to any of my friends, one of us always adds the caveat: this all goes out the window if there is another terrorist attack before the election

but this is exactly what has happened in spain. spain's national elections are this weekend, only days after the horrific madrid blast. which is why prime minister aznar's government is trying hard to blame the ETA and not al-qaeda for the attack. aznar's party was favored to win in polls taken earlier this week, now no one knows what will happen.

this morning it struck me that this is playing out in spain exactly the opposite way that me and my friends have assumed it would in the u.s. when we said "this goes out the window if there is another terrorist attack" what we meant was that if there was an attack--specifically an al-qaeda attack, bush would probably win, regardless how low his polls sink prior to the attack. in spain, it seems, a confirmed al-qaeda attack may be fatal to the governing party.

what accounts for the difference? in spain, the strongly pro-u.s. aznar went out on a limb and against the overwhelming will of the spanish public when he supported the u.s. led invasion of iraq. the theory is, with 90% of spaniards against the iraq war, if it is al-qaeda they will blame aznar and his party for making them a target. in the u.s. on the other hand, both our ego and geopolitical reality indicate that we already were a target.

oddly, also i think if the u.s. were attacked before the election, many americans would feel like that somehow justified the war. they would feel that it proves that the "war on terror" lives on, and want to rally behind bush as a leader just as the american people did after 9-11. never mind that such an attack could also be seen as evidence that removing hussein from power may not have made us any safer.

on the other hand, this is all speculation. i've certainly been wrong before, probably more often than not. i just hope that i never find out if i am right on this one.

Friday, March 12, 2004

the politics of the lonely crowd.

i just wrote a long comment over at tripp's site as an argument against the thoughts expressed in this article. go check it out and argue with me there if you're so inclined.

not dead

hey, sorry i disappeared like that, i had to go to new york yesterday on short notice. a few days before that it was newark, new jersey (ah, beautiful newark). even my after work time has been pretty packed. there's no arabic class this week because of spring break, so this time last week i thought i'd have some extra free time. in fact, it's the opposite. the college where my wife teaches is on spring break too. and so many of my friends and neighbors in faculty housing are in goof off mode right now and i've been goofing right along with them

meanwhile, things should pick up here again. i've edited the below post, adding in the senator contact information that kirk posted in the comments. (thanks kirk!) i guess i should have done that originally.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

HR 3077

juan cole posted a few days ago about HR 3077. section 6 of the bill (page 17 of the pdf i just linked to) would require the establishment of an "advisory board" to monitor international studies centers on american campuses. the advisory boards are designed to "make recommendations that will assist the Secretary [of Education] and Congress to improve [programs funded by Title VI grants] to better reflect the national needs in relation to the homeland security, international education, and international affairs..." (p. 21 of the pdf version) and then make recommendations that will effect which programs get federal funding (see p. 22 at (F)). what is particularly striking about these boards is that they will have investigatory powers, and will be able to use resources of federal, state, and local governments to investigate these academic programs. (see p. 26 of the pdf beginning with the (4)).

while it may take a while to wade through the cross references in the bill itself, the bottom line is rather simple. the bill would create a board designed to monitor the scholarship and curricula of university programs and to assess them in light of whether they provide sufficient airtime to champions of american foreign policy. the board will be able to use governmental resources to evaluate and investigate both academic scholarship and courses to assure that they have acceptable content, and, if not, can threaten to cut off their funding. the members of the board will be appointed by the secretary of education, speaker of the house and president pro tem of the senate (p. 19 of the pdf)--all three of which are currently held by republicans. notably, the bill further specifies that some of the first appointees to the board will have longer terms than subsequent appointees (p. 23), guaranteeing that apologists for this administration will dominate the board and thus influence federal funding of middle eastern programs through the next presidential term, regardless of who wins presidential election or ends up with control of congress.

juan cole's post (juan is a professor of middle eastern history at the university of michigan) has a well-thought out analysis of the flaws of this legislation and includes the following plea:
I plead with all the thousands of you who have expressed interest in this site and read it frequently, to FAX your senator, or the senate generally, expressing your conviction that this advisory committee be excised from the final bill. Repeat: The message should be that HR 3077 is OK in general, but the "Advisory Board" stinks. The contact information is below. An email is better than nothing, but the FAX is what would get the job done.
at the end of juan's post is contact information for each member of the senate health, education, labor and pension committee, who will be considering HR 3077. remember, polite messages are must more effective than rude sarcastic ones. it can be hard to restrain one's self sometimes. but if you want your message to have an impact and not be summarily tossed in the "wacko" pile, you need to avoid inflamatory words and stick to substantive polite argument. sometimes you gotta pretend to be respectable to be heard.

UPDATE:SENATE COMMITTEE (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) CONTACT

** If your senators are not on this list, it is still important to
contact them, especially in the event that the legislation is
confirmed by the HELP committee and goes to the entire Senate.
Contact information for senators is available at:

SENATE COMMITTEE (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) CONTACT INFO:
** If your senators are not on this list, it is still important to contact them, especially in the event that the legislation is confirmed by the HELP committee and goes to the entire Senate. Contact information for senators is available at:

Committee Chairman:
Judd Gregg (R-NH) -- (202) 224-3324 or (603) 225-7115

Democrat Members:

Senator Edward Kennedy (MA) -- (202) 224-4543 or (617) 565-3170
Senator Christopher Dodd (CT) -- (202) 224-2823 or (860) 258-6940
Senator Tom Harkin (IA) -- (202) 224-3254 or (515) 284-4574
Senator Barbara Mikulski (MD) -- (202) 224-4654 or (410) 962-4510
Senator James Jeffords (I) (VT) -- (202) 224-5141 or (802) 223-5273
Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM) -- (202) 224-5521 or (505) 988-6647
Senator Patty Murray (WA) -- (202) 224-2621 or (206) 553-5545
Senator Jack Reed (RI) -- (202) 224-4642 or (401) 943-3100
Senator John Edwards (NC) -- (202) 224-3154 or (919) 856-4245
Senator Hillary Clinton (NY) -- (202) 224-4451 or (212) 688-6262

Republican Members:

Senator Bill Frist (TN) -- (202) 224-3344 or (615) 352-9411
Senator Mike Enzi (WY) -- (202) 224-3424 or (307) 682-6268
Senator Mike DeWine (OH) -- (202) 224-2315 or (614) 469-5186
Senator Christopher Bond (MO) -- (202) 224-5721 or (573) 634-2488
Senator Lamar Alexander (TN) -- (202) 224-4944 or (615) 736-5129
Senator John Ensign (NV) -- (202) 224-6244 or (702) 388-6605
Senator Jeff Sessions (AL) -- (202) 224-4124 or (334) 244-7017
Senator Pat Roberts (KS) -- (202) 224-4774 or (913) 451-9343
Senator Lindsey Graham (SC) -- (202) 224-5972 or (864) 250-1417
Senator John Warner (VA) -- (202) 224-2023 or (804) 771-2579

(thanks to leah for taking up and passing on juan's call to arms).

Monday, March 08, 2004

go figure

via kirk i read this copy of the iraqi interim constitution that was signed today. it's pretty interesting. what jumped out at me are these provisions:

article 13(H): an express constitutional right to privacy

article 14: a constitutional right to "education" and "health care"

article 15(G): "Every person deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall have the right of recourse to a court to determine the legality of his arrest or detention without delay and to order his release if this occurred in an illegal manner."

article 15(I): "Civilians may not be tried before a military tribunal. Special or exceptional courts may not be established."

article 17: no constitutional right to bear arms.

article 23(E): "The Iraqi Armed Forces may not be dispatched outside Iraq even for the purpose of defending against foreign aggression except with the approval of the National Assembly and upon the request of the Presidency Council."

what do the above provisions i cited have in common?

all of the them are things president bush opposes having right here in the u.s.

(one more thing: as quoted above, article 15(I) forbids the establishment of "special or exceptional courts." but then this is directly contradicted by article 48, which endorses the establishment of a "special tribunal" beyond the jurisdiction of the regular judiciary. did anyone bother to proofread this thing?)

Sunday, March 07, 2004

my small part

rivka just noted how "hardly anyone reads Respectful of Otters on the weekends." i've noticed the same thing. my hits go way down every saturday and sunday, even though i tend to post more over the weekend than during the week. it only goes to show just how much blog reading is about goofing off at work as it is about reading our insightful commentary on the critical issues of the day. at least i am glad to be doing my small part in keeping productivity down in the workplace. if you believe what economic experts say this should help improve the prospects for the unemployed. i'm happy to be of service.

2 more members

we picked up two more TLC members this week. i'd like to welcome musing's musings and bloggg to the list on the right (or "at the bottom" depending on the size of your screen. i've still got to get around to fixing that bushcounter code). welcome to both of you!

Saturday, March 06, 2004

more passion and some sunshine

i just got back from talk cinema. i think i've mentioned it before here. it's a film series that i subscribe to and that shows art house-type movies before the films are released. after they show us the film, there is some kind of discussion, usually led by a film critic or film professor (or both). the films run every few weeks, but i never know what the film is until i show up at the theater. two weeks ago the film was kitchen stories (a norwegian comedy), but during the discussion harlan (the guy who hosts the series) let it slip that he was originally planning to show mel's latest instead. the deal fell through at the last minute and harlan had to scramble to get the norwegian film which we saw instead.

today, before they started the film, harlan brought up "the passion" again and asked if anyone in the audience had seen it yet. only one or two hands went up, so harlan made a pitch to convince us all to see it. his point was that whether good or bad the film is now part of the zeit geist and so to be informed filmgoers we all really should see it. he also noted that the opinions of those who have seen it have not been unanimous but rather divide roughtly down the middle between those who love it and hate it. given that, there really is no telling which side any of us will fall on until we go and see it for ourselves. i don't totally buy the zeit geist argument (after all, i do not think my life would be less complete had i never seen titantic) . but the argument that i should go and make up my own mind about the film was kinda compelling. he didn't totally get me with that argument, but i am wondering if i should again. i guess i'm back to waivering. it doesn't mean i will see it, but i might.

in other news, today's talk cinema film was eternal sunshine of the spotless mind which i loved. i don't think i've ever liked a jim carrey movie this much. he wasn't overacting and didn't have his usual shit-eating smirk. in fact was able to completely forget it was jim carrey on the screen and just enjoy the film. the plot was creative and convoluted, and, not surprisingly, written by charlie kaufman, the guy who wrote being john malkovich and adaptation (two other movies i really liked)

on the other hand, most people in the theater with me hated it. as the closing credits rolled the old guy behind me said "that was the worst film i have ever seen." i dunno how many films he's seen. probably not nudist colony of the dead or curse of the queerwolf. but still, maybe eternal sunshine is not for everyone. but i liked it. so there.

not on the list

i just found this list of blogs by vassar alums like me and i wasn't on the list!!! how did that happen? CaTHY's blog is on the list for christ sake!!!

i feel like i've been bounced from some trendy club

UPDATE: i sent the administrator a message and somehow i made the cut. i'm now on the list. i knew that degree would come in handy eventually.

free trade and jobs

i'm at work again and just like last time i came in to my office to "work" on a saturday. but here i am posting instead.

i actually drove here. while i posted earlier about how i don't have a real spring break, my wife the professor does. so she's flying to florida this morning. i drove her to the airport and then decided to just take the car to center city rather than hauling it back to the burbs to take the train back in.

anyway (and there is a point to this pointlessness), i was listening to n.p.r. on the radio as i was circling and looking for a space to park. some economic expert was talking about why job creation has been so bad even though other economic signs say we are in a "recovery."* he explained that economists had two theories about why economic growth has not produced more jobs:

(1) increased productivity--employers have "gotten more productivity out of their existing workforce rather than hiring new people" [i.e. making people work longer hours]

(2) business leaders are still skittish about the economy and are reluctant to commit to hiring new people

what surprised me is that there was no mention of a third reason, which seems to my amateur eyes to be a major factor in why the nation's unemployment figures are not improving:

jobs, in fact, are being created, just not in this country. unlike the recovery period from prior recessions, the countries biggest companies are no longer really "american" companies, but rather multinationals in a largely global system. when a company's fortunes improve, it tends to hire where it had offices, factories, etc. this is still probably true today. the difference is, in the past the offices and factories of american companies were largely located in the u.s. and now, since the explosion of free trade and falling tariffs in the 1990s, "american" companies' facilities are located all over the world--aside from the nationality of their c.e.o., they are no longer really american. high speed internet only compounds the problem as it allows even white collar jobs for the first time to be outsourced abroad.

the thing that i find so odd is that, while there is a lot of talk about outsourcing of jobs overseas, and lots of talk about the economy's dismal employment figures, the two are rarely spoken about at the same time. i would imagine someone else is talking about this, but i haven't seen it (though admittedly i have not looked very hard. i'm just reacting to the economic news that i encounter by accident as i did this morning. in those reports, i have yet to hear one which discusses this possible connection). admittedly, i do not totally know what i am talking about on economic issues. but this theory has a common sense appeal to it that at least deserves a rebuttal by qualified economists.

one other thing bothers me about this. i have this sneaking suspicion that one of the reasons it's not talked about is because no one wants to open the pandora's box of protectionism. there seems to be a fear that if the downside of free trade were discussed openly (and it does have a downside--although laissez-faire types will try to argue that, in fact, everything is win-win. but nothing is really win-win. it's only win-win when you disregard the losing side), the public would clamor for trade barriers.

almost no one is protectionist anymore. as far as i am aware and aside from gephart, all of the presidential candidates were free traders to one extent or another. at best, politicians propose tinkering with nafta. no one seems to be for repealing it. even the liberal bloggers occasionally note that they are "free traders" (see e.g. atrios). "protectionism" seems to be universally considered to be a bad word in political discourse, while "free trade" as a term has a positive connotation that seems to cross most of the political spectrum. indeed, i have my own prejudices against protectionism, though i have a hard time articulating them in a coherent way. i guess i just picked up the general spirit of our modern age and its distaste for trade barriers. also, at least on an abstract level, it's hard to see why trading with people in other parts of the world, by itself would be bad. if a person in uzbekistan has a hat that i want and i have some money that he wants, there is nothing wrong with us making an exchange. at its most basic level, that is what free trade is.

but it also seems to me that the offhand dismissal of any attempt to address some of the problems that come along with trade is counterproductive. we need an open policy debate about job loss in the u.s. where economists at least knowledge the costs as well as the benefits of free trade and to see if there is a way to get some of the benefits while minimizing the cost.** i have no idea whether there is such a solution, but maybe if this were talked about more directly we could figure one out.

*-my question: how long can you continue to call this a "recovery," with its implication that things are getting better. officially we're some 2 years post-recession. by now we have either recovered or we haven't. is it a "recovery" right up to the day we enter the next recession?

**-there has been some discussion of "minimizing the costs" of free trade. but again, as far as i have heard, only in a general abstract kind of way. i want to hear a discussion of actual proposals. has anyone out there seen any?

Friday, March 05, 2004

cat killing for jesus

curiosity has a big effect on me. i've gone halfway around the world just because i was curious about a place. so for the past week or so i've had this ongoing debate with myself about whether i will see this passion flick. most of what i've read is negative. on the other hand, one friend of mine apparently loved it (he sent me an email review raving about how moving he found it to be).

also one of my classmates in my arabic class keeps trying to talk me into seeing it. she is an evangelical christian. we generally avoid talking about religion with each other, so her pitch was less theological than linguistic. she said she understood about 30% of the aramaic dialogue because of its similarity to arabic. in other words, she thinks i should see the film because it would be good practice. i replied that it would probably be even better practice if we just rented a film in arabic, but she didn't think so: "they talk to fast in arab films, and it's all 'amiyya [regional dialects of arabic and not the modern standard that we are learning]. in "the passion" the aramaic dialogue is very slow and enunciated. the aramaic was easier to understand than arabic in the arabic films i have tried to watch."

she may have a point. after all, the actors in "the passion" don't speak aramaic. i can imagine that as they filmed each scene there was probably a frustrated scholar of aramaic sitting behind the camera yelling "no no no! it's a 'Haa' not a 'haa!' and we need more phlem when you do that 'kh' sound! mel, make them do it again!" the actors were probably speaking slowly just to make sure they hit every syllable correctly. take it from someone who once was bar mitzvahed, it is very difficult to recite something correctly from memory when you do not understand the language. so i guess there is some logic to what my classmate was saying.

but then again, most of the film is not aramaic conversation. all of the reviews i have read, pro and con, seem to agree on that point. but i am still curious. the the over-the-top hype surrounding the film normally would turn me off. but the sharply divided opinions i am hearing from different people can make it hard to resist. then there's the conflicting stories i hear about whether the film is anti-semitic lots of people seem utterly convinced that it is, but others insist it is not. that alone makes me want to see it. when something is this controversial and produces such different opinions in different people, i usually want to take a look to make up my own mind.

so just when i think maybe i should go... i read sean paul kelley's review. now i think i'm leaning towards not going again. controversy aside, it sounds like just the just the act of sitting through the film would be unpleasant. there are limits to my curiosity.

he's okay

salam pax is posting again

Thursday, March 04, 2004

wa-hoo!!! spring break!!!!

no arabic class next week because penn's on spring break. of course, i still have to work next week, as do all of my classmates. we all work full-time, even the one undergrad in the class. it makes the whole week off deal seem a little silly. i mean, in a way it's kinda a rip off. all it means is i will have more of an opportunity to sluff off in my daily review of vocab and grammer.

i've been a light blogger so far this week, but that will probably change soon. don't give up on me yet!

in the meantime, i recommend reading tom tomorrow's takedown of today's thomas friedman column. when tommy goes on and on about the wonders of free markets it's always like he's in another universe (just like when he goes on and on about the "new middle-east"). not that i'm necessarily anti-free market. but i think it's a complex issue that deserves more attention than mindlessly touting the benefits of open markets without even acknowledging that there is a cost. i have no idea what to do about the job outsourcing issue, but to pretend that the spiking unemployment rate is good for everyone is simply ignoring that open markets (like all policy decisions) has its losers as well as winners.

see? i almost kinda did some real commentary there.

the above will probably percolate in my head and eventually erupt into a full-blown rant sometime soon, but in the meantime i need food.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

yaa salam?

i just read salam pax. the link the the right has been broken for the past few weeks so i hadn't been keeping up with him lately. today, i finally fixed the link and read this:

february 25, 2004 entry by salam:
... I, my mother and cousin will be going to Karbala for a week. I hope I will be able to take pictures and blog from there...

march 3, 2004 entry by raed:
salam i was trying to call your phones all the day long, i hope u didnt die in the karbala explosions

i hope he's okay... the death toll from the baghdad and karbala explosions is now between 117 or 271 with at least another 233 wounded.

UPDATE: billmon already noticed the same thing here and here. as he wrote in that first of the two posts i just linked to:
I know it's selfish to worry about one when so many have died, but Salam Pax has become such a familiar voice -- if not a friend than at least an acquaintance. He's a constant reminder to me that the Iraqis are not props in an American made-for-TV movie, but human beings with hopes and fears and opinions and demands of their own, whose fates are now bound to our own by the insane logic of empire. I pray for his safety.
he said it better than i could.

maybe this is what bush had in mind...

...when he proposed that moon base:

we like the moon (make sure the sound is on)

Tuesday, March 02, 2004


i haven't really posted about haiti here, largely because so far i have had little to say. haiti is one of those complex situations which is it difficult for even a monday morning quarterback like myself to comment on. i just haven't been able to think of any options that will lead to a good result. the likely result of virtually any decision is either the rise of a brutal oppressive regime or a period of sustained chaos on the island. i am disappointed with aristide, but not sure if any of the alternatives are anything but worse.

in the early 1990s i was an aristide supporter. he really did have a moving story, a poor priest, thrown out of his catholic order because he bucked the conservative ideology coming out of rome, and surprising everyone by being elected to the presidency in haiti’s first free and fair election. when he was overthrown 8 months later. the first bush administration tried to portray him as “mentally unbalanced” as the junta leaders (who for some reason bush the first saw as the paragon of sanity) embarked upon a brutal reign of terror on the island. the day aristide was forced out of power i was a college student. i remember seeing the newpaper headline on the kitchen table that morning while one of my housemates pointed at the headline and said "this should come as no surprise, the guys name is 'arresteed'" (sounds like "arrested"). but aristide was not arrested, he managed to get out of the country and spent 2 years in exile in the u.s.

during his exile, i saw him speak in chicago. he was a good speaker. he spoke compellingly about the need for democracy in haiti and how he had hoped to be one of the first (the first?) haitian leader to leave office peacefully. there was no question in my mind this man was not at all "mentally unbalanced."

nevertheless, i had serious misgivings about the u.s. invasion in 1994 to restore him to power. the previous time the u.s. invaded the island to restore order, we occupied the country for 40 years, and only then when the first of a series of pro-american dictators was firmly installed there. but i was pleasantly surprised. aristide even stepped down peacefully when his term ended in 1995. if he had stopped there, i probably would still be a fan of aristide today.

but in the late 1990s he decided to run for the presidency a second time. he won again. in 2000 however, aristide got into a standoff with his political opponents over the fraud-ridden parliamentary elections of 2000. both sides refused to compromise and haiti ended up without a functioning legislature and it has not had a parliament with any sense of legitimacy since then, leaving aristide to rule virtually by decree. aristide began to lose his support among the democrats and poor in haitian society. his support was further eroded as he replaced the u.s. trained national police force with his cronies and, when civil society started to break down on the island, supported (or at least did not try to stop) armed gangs who would attack his opponents.

given aristide’s recent turn, it is really no surprise that the situation on the island has crumbled so rapidly. on the other hand, it’s not like the u.s has not played its own part in encouraging the chaos there. see haiti: malign neglect. furthermore, while i am no longer a fan of aristide, he was the elected leader of the country. that at least gives him a step-up legitimacy wise over any of the alternatives. furthermore, as many others have noted, the people who are now assuming power in haiti are the same thugs who overthrew aristide the first time and brutally suppressed the population in his absence. aristide, for all his flaws, has nothing like the record of human rights violations of these guys.

so if you’re looking for the lessor of two evils, aristide is clearly it. but given the bush administration's almost knee-jerk distaste for aristide, american leaders’ tendency to see problems in haiti primarily as a refugee question and the undeniable fact that a hardline repressive government in haiti, at least in the short term, is the best bet to stem the tide of refugees (though the mid-1990s proved that in the long term it does just the opposite), i have no trouble believing that aristide did not voluntarily resign the other day. maybe he did. but in this context it’s easy to believe that the reason he was escorted off the island secretly with a bunch of heavily armed marines was not for his own protection.

Monday, March 01, 2004