Thursday, September 30, 2004

WSJ reporter Fassihi's e-mail to friends
9/29/2004 2:58:10 PM

From: [Wall Street Journal reporter] Farnaz Fassihi
Subject: From Baghdad

Being a foreign correspondent in Baghdad these days is like being under
virtual house arrest. Forget about the reasons that lured me to this job: a chance to see the world, explore the exotic, meet new people in far away lands, discover their ways and tell stories that could make a difference.

Little by little, day-by-day, being based in Iraq has defied all those reasons. I am house bound. I leave when I have a very good reason to and a scheduled interview. I avoid going to people's homes and never walk in the streets. I can't go grocery shopping any more, can't eat in restaurants, can't strike a conversation with strangers, can't look for stories, can't drive in any thing but a full armored car, can't go to scenes of breaking news stories, can't be stuck in traffic, can't speak English outside, can't take a road trip, can't say I'm an American, can't linger at checkpoints, can't be curious about what people are saying, doing, feeling.And can't and can't. There has been one too many close calls, including a car bomb so near our house that it blew out all the windows. So now my most pressing concern every day is not to write a kick-ass story but to stay alive and make sure our Iraqi employees stay alive. In Baghdad I am a security personnel first, a reporter second.

It's hard to pinpoint when the 'turning point' exactly began. Was it April
when the Fallujah fell out of the grasp of the Americans? Was it when Moqtada and Jish Mahdi declared war on the U.S. military? Was it when
Sadr City, home to ten percent of Iraq's population, became a nightly battlefield for the Americans? Or was it when the insurgency began
spreading from isolated pockets in the Sunni triangle to include most of Iraq? Despite President Bush's rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a 'potential' threat, under the Americans it has been transformed to 'imminent and active threat,' a
foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.

Iraqis like to call this mess 'the situation.'When asked 'how are things?' they reply: 'the situation is very bad."

What they mean by situation is this: the Iraqi government doesn't control most Iraqi cities, there are several car bombs going off each day around the country killing and injuring scores of innocent people,the
country's roads are becoming impassable and littered by hundreds of
landmines and explosive devices aimed to kill American soldiers,there are assassinations, kidnappings and beheadings. The situation, basically, means a raging barbaric guerilla war. In four days, 110 people died and over 300 got injured in Baghdad alone. The numbers are so shocking that the ministry of health -- which was attempting an exercise of public transparency by releasing the numbers -- has now stopped disclosing them.

Insurgents now attack Americans 87 times a day.

A friend drove thru the Shiite slum of Sadr City yesterday. He said young men were openly placing improvised explosive devices into the ground. They melt a shallow hole into the asphalt, dig the explosive, cover it with dirt and put an old tire or plastic can over it to signal to the locals this is booby-trapped. He said on the main roads of Sadr City, there
were a dozen landmines per every ten yards. His car snaked and swirled to avoid driving over them. Behind the walls sits an angry Iraqi ready to detonate them as soon as an American convoy gets near. This is in Shiite land, the population that was supposed to love America for liberating Iraq.

For journalists the significant turning point came with the wave of abduction and kidnappings. Only two weeks ago we felt safe around Baghdad because foreigners were being abducted on the roads and highways between towns. Then came a frantic phone call from a journalist female friend at 11 p.m. telling me two Italian women had been abducted from their homes in broad daylight. Then the two Americans, who got beheaded this week and the Brit, were abducted from their homes in a residential neighborhood. They were supplying the entire block with round the clock electricity from their generator to win friends. The abductors grabbed one of them at 6 a.m. when he came out to switch on the generator; his beheaded body was thrown back near the neighborhoods./CONTINUED BELOW

WSJ reporter Fassahi's e-mail to friends /2
9/29/2004 2:47:12 PM

The insurgency, we are told, is rampant with no signs of calming down. If any thing, it is growing stronger, organized and more sophisticated every day. The various elements within it-baathists, criminals, nationalists and Al Qaeda-are cooperating and coordinating.

I went to an emergency meeting for foreign correspondents with the military and embassy to discuss the kidnappings. We were somberly told our fate would largely depend on where we were in the kidnapping chain once it was determined we were missing. Here is how it goes: criminalgangs grab you and sell you up to Baathists in Fallujah, who will in turn sell you to Al Qaeda. In turn, cash and weapons flow the other way from Al Qaeda to the Baathisst to the criminals. My friend Georges, the French journalist snatched on the road to Najaf, has been missing for a month with no word on release or whether he is still alive.

America's last hope for a quick exit The Iraqi police and National Guard
units we are spending billions of dollars to train. The cops are being
murdered by the dozens every day-over 700 to date -- and the insurgents are infiltrating their ranks. The problem is so serious that the U.S. military has allocated $6 million dollars to buy out 30,000 cops they just trained to get rid of them quietly.

As for reconstruction: firstly it's so unsafe for foreigners to operate that
almost all projects have come to a halt. After two years,of the $18
billion Congress appropriated for Iraq reconstruction only about $1 billion or so has been spent and a chuck has now been reallocated for improving security, a sign of just how bad things are going here.

Oil dreams? Insurgents disrupt oil flow routinely as a result of sabotage
and oil prices have hit record highs of $49 a barrel. Who did this war exactly benefit? Was it worth it? Are we safer because Saddam is holed up and Al Qaeda is running around in Iraq

Iraqis say that thanks to America they got freedom in exchange for
insecurity. Guess what? They say they'd take security over freedom anyday, even if it means having a dictator ruler.

I heard an educated Iraqi say today that if Saddam Hussein were allowed to run for elections he would get the majority of the vote. This is truly sad.

Then I went to see an Iraqi scholar this week to talk to him about
elections here. He has been trying to educate the public on the importance of voting. He said, "President Bush wanted to turn Iraq into a democracy that would be an example for the Middle East. Forget about democracy, forget about being a model for the region, we have to salvage Iraq before all is lost."

One could argue that Iraq is already lost beyond salvation. For those of us on the ground it's hard to imagine what if any thing could salvage it from its violent downward spiral. The genie of terrorism, chaos and mayhem has been unleashed onto this country as a result of American mistakes and it can't be put back into a bottle.

The Iraqi government is talking about having elections in three months
while half of the country remains a 'no go zone'-out of the hands of the
government and the Americans and out of reach of journalists. In the other half, the disenchanted population is too terrified to show up at polling stations. The Sunnis have already said they'd boycott elections, leaving the stage open for polarized government of Kurds and Shiites that will not be deemed as legitimate and will most certainly lead to civil war.

I asked a 28-year-old engineer if he and his family would participate in
the Iraqi elections since it was the first time Iraqis could to some degree
elect a leadership. His response summed it all: "Go and vote and risk being blown into pieces or followed by the insurgents and murdered for cooperating with the Americans? For what? To practice democracy? Are you joking?"


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

“politics is the shadow cast on society by big business”
- John Dewey

(via quasimeta)

Monday, September 27, 2004

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Friday, September 24, 2004

Project Hello
"To give homeless individuals a name,
and in the process,
encourage others
to treat them with dignity, respect, and compassion."
Looking for some procrastination related links, perhaps?

(betcha can't click just one!)
a reusable non-linear personal web notebook

Monday, September 20, 2004

Friday, September 17, 2004

Captain Haddock's Curses

Addle-patededly alphabetized
by the Tin-hatted Technocrats at Tintinologist

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Why Bush Left Texas


"If it is demonstrated that profound behavioral problems
marred Bush's wartime performance and even cut short his service,
it could seriously challenge Bush's essential appeal
as a military steward and guardian of societal values.
It could also explain the incomplete, contradictory
and shifting explanations provided by the Bush camp
for the President's striking invisibility from the military
during the final two years of his six-year military obligation.
And it would explain the savagery and rapidity
of the attack on the CBS documents."

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

The Way Things Are


"My principle is the Principle of Humanity.
It has to do with the great goods, our great desires.
These in my reckoning are for
(1) a decent length of life, say 75 years rather than 35,
(2) the further means to bodily well-being,
(3) freedom and power, including freedom and power as a people,
(4) respect and self-respect,
(5) personal and wider human relationships,
(6) the goods of culture, including knowledge and religion.
Bad lives are defined in terms of the denial of these goods,
the misery and other distress of that denial.

The Principle of Humanity
is that we are to take actually rational steps
to get people out of bad lives.
Rational steps, first, are effective ones,
not pretences and the like.
Secondly, they are humanly economical
-- they do not cost too much in terms of the great goods.
The principle gets filled out by way of certain policies
and prescriptions, several having to do with transfers
of means to well-being,
one large one having to do with equalities.
We're enough alike so that practices of equality are fundamental.
The concern with equality, however,
is consistent with the end or aim
of the principle being not relational at all,
but rather getting people out of bad lives."

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sunday, September 12, 2004

"trippy shockwave apps and ambient music"

(from Canada!)
Decode Your Barcode

"What information is encoded on your license
that machines can read and you cannot?"

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The PhAT Chair:
"ready to drive girlish furniture out of the room"
Lambsprinck: the inner work of the spiritual alchemist

(grazie, Giornale Nuovo!)

Friday, September 10, 2004

Introduction to George Lakoff's new book,
'Don't Think of an Elephant!'

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Monday, September 06, 2004

google "US near seizing bin Laden"

(looks like pretty big news...
wonder when we'll smoke him out!)
The World's Shortest Blog

The MicroBlog Dedicated To One Simple Question
only twelve days until Ganeshmas!

Ganesh Chaturthi is Saturday, September 18, 2004

Sunday, September 05, 2004

The science of fiction

by Philip Pullman
Le Tigre
Get Off The Internet:

It feels so 80's
Or early 90's
To be political
Where are my friends?
(Get off the internet!)
I'll meet u in the street
(Get off the internet!)
Destroy the right wing
(Get off the internet!)
I'll meet u in the street
(Get off the internet!)
Destroy the right wing
This is repetitive
But nothing has changed
And I'm crazy
Where are my friends
(Get off the internet!)
I'll meet u in the street
(Get off the internet!)
Destroy the right wing
(Get off the internet!)
I'll meet u in the street
(Get off the internet!)
Destroy the right wing

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Electronic voting systems are used in over 30 states,
each counts up to two million votes at once...
and they "appear to be designed for fraud"

"By entering a 2-digit code in a hidden location,
a second set of votes is created.
This set of votes can be changed,
so that it no longer matches the correct votes.
The voting system will then read the totals from the bogus vote set.
It takes only seconds to change the votes,
and to date not a single location in the U.S.
has implemented security measures to fully mitigate the risks."

Friday, September 03, 2004

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Ask MetaFilter:

"Which freely available utilities,
gizmos and doodads
ALWAYS have a place on your computer?"
Vacationing Bush
Accepts Republican Nomination
Via Live Satellite Feed