Friday, September 24, 2004

How Bad is Iraq?

It's time to revisit some information sites that are a little more in touch with what is going on in Iraq than President Bush. Most of these sites have their anti-war bias, but they also are either close to the action or are very well researched.

For front lines, man on the street, Iraqi point of view, the best source I have found is Riverbend (Baghdad Burning)
You know things are really going downhill in Iraq, when the Bush speech-writers have to recycle his old speeches. Listening to him yesterday, one might think he was simply copying and pasting bits and pieces from the older stuff. My favorite part was when he claimed, "Electricity has been restored above pre-war levels..." Even E. had to laugh at that one. A few days ago, most of Baghdad was in the dark for over 24 hours and lately, on our better days, we get about 12 hours of electricity. Bush got it wrong (or Allawi explained it to incorrectly)- the electricity is drastically less than pre-war levels, but the electricity BILL is way above pre-war levels. Congratulations Iraqis on THAT!! Our electricity bill was painful last month. Before the war, Iraqis might pay an average of around 5,000 Iraqi Dinars a month for electricity (the equivalent back then of $2.50) - summer or winter. Now, it's quite common to get bills above 70,000 Iraqi Dinars... for half-time electricity.

For a good indicator of trends of violence it is always best to look at the attached graph. The slope of the "death line" is important. As you can see, it keeps getting steeper, indicating Iraq is a more and more dangerous place for US servicemen everyday.

Us Fatalities in Iraq

As linked to in other recent posts, Juan Cole's site is a great source of information and stories about what is going on in Iraq.

Another Blog that is a good place to engage in discussion about Iraq is called Today in Iraq run by Yankee Doodle.

More later. Gotta go now.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Hack the Vote - Chimp helps Chimp win by cheating

Surprise, Surprise! Fox News no less brings us this story about how easy it is to manipulate the electonic vote tally. You know if a chimp can do it a chimp will do it.

Hack Effort Called 'Monkey Business'

Critics of the Diebold (search) touch-screen voting machines turned their attention Wednesday from the machines themselves to the computers that will tally the final vote, saying the outcome is so easy to manipulate that even a monkey could do it.

And they showed video of a monkey hacking the system to prove it.

In the minute-long video produced by Black Box Voting (search), Baxter the chimp is shown deleting the audit log that is supposed to keep track of changes in the Diebold central tabulator, the computer and program that keeps track of county vote totals.

Black Box Voting founder Bev Harris said the demonstration shows that the system — which will be used in more than 30 states, including Maryland — is dangerously inadequate when it comes to stopping election fraud.

But a Diebold spokesman insisted that the system is secure despite "incessant" criticism from organizations such as Black Box Voting.

"The fact of the matter is what you saw was a staged production ... analogous to a magic show," said David Bear, the Diebold spokesman.

Even if the system could be hacked, he said, it could only be done by a person with "unfettered access to the system." Bear noted that elections are not just the machines, but also the people who work the elections.


Americans can't handle the truth - and that's a fact.

My friend Andy from Philly turned me onto Juan Cole's post about "What if America was Iraq". Most people in this country really have no clue what Iraq is like, nor would they ever care to imagine what it would be like if they lived in such a country.

What would America look like if it were in Iraq's current situation? The population of the US is over 11 times that of Iraq, so a lot of statistics would have to be multiplied by that number.

Thus, violence killed 300 Iraqis last week, the equivalent proportionately of 3,300 Americans. What if 3,300 Americans had died in car bombings, grenade and rocket attacks, machine gun spray, and aerial bombardment in the last week? That is a number greater than the deaths on September 11, and if America were Iraq, it would be an ongoing, weekly or monthly toll.

And what if those deaths occurred all over the country, including in the capital of Washington, DC, but mainly above the Mason Dixon line, in Boston, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and San Francisco?

What if the grounds of the White House and the government buildings near the Mall were constantly taking mortar fire? What if almost nobody in the State Department at Foggy Bottom, the White House, or the Pentagon dared venture out of their buildings, and considered it dangerous to go over to Crystal City or Alexandria?

There are estimated to be some 25,000 guerrillas in Iraq engaged in concerted acts of violence. What if there were private armies totalling 275,000 men, armed with machine guns, assault rifles (legal again!), rocket-propelled grenades, and mortar launchers, hiding out in dangerous urban areas of cities all over the country? What if they completely controlled Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Denver and Omaha, such that local police and Federal troops could not go into those cities?

What if, during the past year, the Secretary of State (Aqilah Hashemi), the President (Izzedine Salim), and the Attorney General (Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim) had all been assassinated?

What if the Air Force routinely (I mean daily or weekly) bombed Billings, Montana, Flint, Michigan, Watts in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Anacostia in Washington, DC, and other urban areas, attempting to target "safe houses" of "criminal gangs", but inevitably killing a lot of children and little old ladies?

What if the leader of the European Union maintained that the citizens of the United States are, under these conditions, refuting pessimism and that freedom and democracy are just around the corner?


Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The Slowly Turning Wheels of Justice

Tom DeLay - I hope you sleep a little less soundly tonite. I know you have sold your soul to Beelzebub, and you have good reason to believe that he will protect you. But maybe he wants you closer to him, because I know you must feel the fires of political hell warming your back. For example, I see that three of your top aides have been indicted.

(Houston – September 21, 2004) John Colyandro, executive director of Tom DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), along with two other top aides, Warren Robold, a Washington, DC fundraiser and Jim Ellis, a key DeLay aide, were indicted today by a Travis County grand jury. Following a two-year investigation into illegal solicitations of corporate contributions for Republican state legislative races, the grand jury handed down a 32-count indictment. These are the first official charges stemming from two separate ethics investigations into illegal fundraising by DeLay and his lieutenants.

Oh well, we can only dream of you in prison, Tom.

Oh, and here's a cute article about how the Republican Majority keeps you, the voter, in the dark about legislation they are passing.

The wee hours of a Friday morning tend not to be a busy time for most people. But it’s been a very productive period for House Republicans, who passed six bills during that time in 2003.

Democratic Representative Sherrod Brown cataloged the list of legislation passed between midnight and 6 a.m. on Fridays last year for a St. Louis Post-Dispatch column recently. Many of these bills passed by just a handful of votes. The measures cut veterans’ benefits as well as Head Start funding and secured $87 billion for Iraq. At 5:55 a.m. on a Saturday, the House passed a prescription-drug bill. As Brown noted, it’s convenient to approve measures in the first hours of a Friday morning because coverage is relegated to the Saturday morning papers.

Brown told me that it wasn’t this way when Democrats ran the House, or even when Newt Gingrich was speaker. But, he added, “None of this is a surprise -- it’s taken to a level no one has ever seen.”

And the USA Today has an article about how a significant fraction of the US Military in Iraq is becoming stridently anti-Bush.

"[For] 9 out of 10 of the people I talk to, it wouldn't matter who ran against Bush — they'd vote for them," said a U.S. soldier in the southern city of Najaf, seeking out a reporter to make his views known. "People are so fed up with Iraq, and fed up with Bush."

Lastly for now, I thought this was an interesting article in the Guardian (that of course got no play in the US media).

Leaked Whitehall documents present an extraordinarily revealing picture of how Tony Blair's closest advisers and his foreign secretary, Jack Straw, warned him of the pitfalls of following the Bush administration's march to war against Iraq.

For Blair, it was inconceivable that the US would invade without Britain. He was desperate to get UN approval to satisfy parliamentary and public opinion. We know that Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, changed his advice to suit his client's wishes.

The secret papers, leaked to the Daily Telegraph, disclose the extent of concerns in Whitehall about Washington's openly stated objective - namely, regime change, considered illegal by British government lawyers - and the lengths to which senior British officials connived to manipulate opinion.

The documents provide an exceptional insight into the mindset of Blair's entourage during a bout of high-level contacts across the Atlantic in the spring of 2002, a year before the war.

They have added significance in the light of comments last week by Kofi Annan, who said the invasion was "illegal", and of the draft final report by the Iraq Survey Group, which found no sign of WMD (the British justification for war) and no evidence that Saddam Hussein was trying to resume his nuclear arms programme.

The documents show that early in March 2002, ministers were warned by Cabinet Office officials that the Bush administration was pushing hard for an invasion to topple Saddam even though there was no evidence he posed more of a threat than previously, or supported international terrorism.

Oh well, enough for now. Tell me what YOU think.