Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 02, 2007

OT 07-46

News & views ...

Posted by b on July 2, 2007 at 6:24 UTC | Permalink


McClatchy: Was campaigning against voter fraud a Republican ploy?

A New Mexico lawyer who pressed to oust U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was an officer of a nonprofit group that aided Republican candidates in 2006 by pushing for tougher voter identification laws.

Iglesias, who was one of nine U.S. attorneys the administration fired last year, said that Albuquerque lawyer Patrick Rogers pressured him several times to bring voter fraud prosecutions where little evidence existed. Iglesias believes that he was fired in part because he failed to pursue such cases.
That strategy, which presidential adviser Karl Rove alluded to in an April 2006 speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, sought to scrutinize voter registration records, win passage of tougher ID laws and challenge the legitimacy of voters considered likely to vote Democratic.

McClatchy Newspapers has found that this election strategy was active on at least three fronts:

- Tax-exempt groups such as the American Center and the Lawyers Association were deployed in battleground states to press for restrictive ID laws and oversee balloting.

- The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division turned traditional voting rights enforcement upside down with legal policies that narrowed rather than protected the rights of minorities.

- The White House and the Justice Department encouraged selected U.S. attorneys to bring voter fraud prosecutions, despite studies showing that election fraud isn't a widespread problem.

Posted by: b | Jul 2 2007 6:28 utc | 1

Journalist Michael Hirsh, who has been to Iran lately, scored an interview with the former head of the revolutionary guard. It was more than less, an official begging of Iran for more open talks with Washington: Iran Has a Message. Are We Listening?

Rezai's intention was clear: No matter what question I asked, he somehow managed to bring the discussion back to Tehran's need to find its way out of its dangerous stalemate with Washington. President Bush "has started a cold war with Iran, and if it's not controlled, it could turn into a warm war," he said.

Rezai suggested that Iran is searching hard for a face-saving way to end the standoff over its ever-advancing uranium-enrichment program. He endorsed, in a more forthright way than I have heard from any other senior Iranian official, a "timeout" proposed by Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. "What it means is for Iran to stay at the [enrichment] level it has reached, with no further progress. By the same token, the U.N. Security Council will not issue another resolution," said Rezai, who indicated that the idea is gaining support inside the Iranian regime. "The Iranian nuclear issue has to be resolved through a new kind of solution like this."
the comments by Rezai and Larijani indicate that, with 18 months left in Bush's presidency, Iran may be offering his administration a last chance at a new relationship. At least twice before, the administration has slapped down such overtures. In late 2001, Iran provided invaluable assistance in stabilizing the post-Taliban government led by Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan, pledging $550 million worth of assistance (about the same amount promised by the United States) at a January 2002 donors' conference. A week later, Bush declared Iran part of the "axis of evil" during his second State of the Union address -- a stinging rebuff that Iranians still talk about bitterly. Then, in the spring of 2003, Iranian officials used their regular Swiss intermediary to fax a two-page proposal for comprehensive talks to the State Department, including discussions of a "two-state approach" to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. That, too, was ignored.
"Mr. Bush's government is stuck at a crossroads" between confrontation and engagement, "and it can't make a decision," Rezai said. "We have a saying in Farsi: When a child walks in darkness, he starts singing or making loud noises because he's afraid of the dark. The Americans are afraid to negotiate with Iran, and that's why they're making a lot of loud noises." Whether or not that's true, new noises are clearly coming from Tehran. Washington should listen.

Posted by: b | Jul 2 2007 6:47 utc | 2

America is Israel's Bitch

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 2 2007 6:52 utc | 3

U.S. defense attache missing in Cyprus

U.S. diplomat missing in Cyprus

NICOSIA, Cyprus - Police were searching for an American diplomat reported missing on the Mediterranean island, authorities said Sunday.

Thomas Mooney, 45, has not contacted the U.S. Embassy in three days, a police statement said.

Neither the police nor the embassy specified his role at the embassy, but a Lt. Col. Thomas Mooney is the embassy's military attache.

The embassy has posted a message on its Web site with photos of Mooney and his car, urging anyone with information that might be helpful in locating him to contact police.

P.S. b, I have no idea what happened above, typepad must have burped please remove all but one. Thx...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 2 2007 7:17 utc | 4

from b's #2

"We have a saying in Farsi: When a child walks in darkness, he starts singing or making loud noises because he's afraid of the dark. The Americans are afraid to negotiate with Iran, and that's why they're making a lot of loud noises."

that really does describe the knuckleheads to a tee. a whole lot of bluster and bravado from their keyboards in mom's basement but really pissing their pants at every loud noise. kinda pathetic, aint it?

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 2 2007 7:22 utc | 5

I'd like to draw peoples attention to last ot, in particular, b reals post. And while keeping that in mind...

Welcome to Lacuna Inc.*

Researchers have found they can use drugs to wipe away single, specific memories while leaving other memories intact. By injecting an amnesia drug at the right time, when a subject was recalling a particular thought, neuro-scientists discovered they could disrupt the way the memory is stored and even make it disappear.

Also see, The Guilt-Free Soldier.

Along the same lines:

Harnessing humans for subconscious computing

Technology Review has an article on using humans as part of a digital face recognition system.

Uniquely, you don't have to take part in any deliberate recognition, the system uses electrical readings to automatically measure the response of the brain - even if you're not aware of it.

It's truly a pkd world now...

finally, Strategic Personality Simulation: personality simulation systems ? For Personality Profiling and Simulation?

You think it's creepy now, just wait...

*For those who don't know, 'Welcome to Lacuna Inc' is from the movie, 'The Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind'.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 2 2007 7:39 utc | 6

Joey Lieberman apparently recommended on tv (Sunday?) that threats to America could be decreased by "extended use of video surveillance cameras".

ABC news is reporting that AQ is/could be targeting America this summer. Like the pre 9/11 days.... As we've said, if NeoNuts want to attack Iran, they'll have to attack America (& Europe) first...

Posted by: jj | Jul 2 2007 9:35 utc | 7

New NSA Whistleblower Speaks

A former member of U.S. military intelligence has decided to reveal what she knows about warrantless spying on Americans and about the fixing of intelligence in the leadup to the invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 2 2007 10:46 utc | 8

New NSA Whistleblower Speaks

A former member of U.S. military intelligence has decided to reveal what she knows about warrantless spying on Americans and about the fixing of intelligence in the leadup to the invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 2 2007 10:51 utc | 9

Posted by: b | Jul 2 2007 18:13 utc | 10

Annals of Enlightend Government: Riley says pray for rain to fall from heavensWith the state's weather forecasters not delivering much-needed rain, Gov. Bob Riley on Thursday turned to a higher power. The governor issued a proclamation calling for a week of prayer for rain, beginning Saturday.

Posted by: b | Jul 2 2007 19:16 utc | 11

Scalia's New Professionalism Roundup:

Ivory Webb, the San Bernardino police officer who shot an Iraq war veteran three times at point blank range, has been acquitted on all charges. You may remember that Webb said after the shooting that he inadvertently told the victim to "get up!" when he meant "don't get up!" and thus shot when the victim obeyed him, and got up. It's the first time a police officer in San Bernardino has ever even been charged with a crime. So I guess we shouldn't be surprised that he was acquitted. Here's amateur video of the shooting, in case you missed it the first time:Pig Peace Officer shoots American hero vet attempting to comply with orders.

Baby SWAT or jackboot train-up.

Straight Talk: Videotaping Police.

Last month, Brian Kelly of Carlisle, Pa., was riding with a friend when the car he was in was pulled over by a local police officer. Kelly, an amateur videographer, had his video camera with him and decided to record the traffic stop.

The officer who pulled over the vehicle saw the camera and demanded Kelly hand it over. Kelly obliged. Soon after, six more police officers pulled up. They arrested Kelly on charges of violating an outdated Pennsylvania wiretapping law that forbids audio recordings of any second party without their permission. In this case, that party was the police officer.

Kelly was charged with a felony, spent 26 hours in jail, and faces up to 10 years in prison. All for merely recording a police officer, a public servant, while he was on the job.

There's been a rash of arrests of late for videotaping police, and it's a disturbing development. Last year, Massachusetts Attorney General Tom Reilly threatened Internet activist Mary T. Jean with arrest and felony prosecution for posting a video to her website of state police swarming a home and arresting a man without a warrant.

Interestingly enough, keep the above 'Straight Talk: Videotaping Police'in mind when watching the following: Cop flips on kids for skating downtown in Hot Springs Arkansas.

notice the part where the kid says "I got a picture of him choking the kid". that's when the cop runs after him. Wonder why? /snark.


Handcuffs = reasonable.
Putting a child in a headlock = potentially fatal form of restraint, arguably reckless endangerment.
Choking a child = assault and battery.
"Shut up or I'll spray you" to already restrained child = assault.

As far as whether or not saying "Shut up or I'll spray you" to an already restrained child is assault or not, I dont' think that one of the purposes of mace is to get people to stop talking. Mace is for self defense, for the protection of the police officer. You don't use it against a teenager because you don't like the fact that he is asking you questions.

More here on this particular incident.

Reminds me of this...

Are we paying attention?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 2 2007 20:58 utc | 12

libby the louse doesnt get to be a lag

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Jul 2 2007 22:12 utc | 13>another little lesson about the law and power

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 2 2007 22:27 utc | 14

Re: Scooter Libby....Thank you, Gerald Ford.

SCHICK v. REED, 419 U.S. 256 (1974) is the commutation authority.

Posted by: | Jul 2 2007 23:26 utc | 15


Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 2 2007 23:27 utc | 16

For Rgiap: Fire The Grid is coming to Nantes on July 5 at La commune de Sallertaine


Posted by: brewster_north | Jul 3 2007 2:09 utc | 17

Libby walks free, sez ">,,-6753393,00.html"> the Guardian.

Posted by: Jake | Jul 3 2007 4:00 utc | 18


Libby story here.

Posted by: Jake | Jul 3 2007 4:07 utc | 19

One of the (few) advantages of being a lame duck: the damage done by pardoning Libby is less than the damage done by having him go to jail for doing his job in the White House.

Posted by: ralphieboy | Jul 3 2007 4:22 utc | 20

Here's the reason for commutation instead of pardon. Since only the sentence was commuted, Libby can still appeal his conviction. While under appeal, Libby can still take the 5th amendment. There is no way to force him to testify before congress. The appeal could last another couple of years. If Bush had pardoned Libby, he would be up in front of a congressional committee tomorrow under oath answering questions about Cheney. This is a beautiful and deliberate two-fer. Libby is hushed up and doesn't have to testify.

Also, amongst the libby crap don't let this get by you...

Hush-Hush: Rove's Security Clearance Renewal.

and also, a PSA:

The following sites and resources are “insanely useful Web sites” for government transparency. They provide a broad range of information available to track government and legislative information, campaign contributions and the role of money in politics.

Insanely Useful Websites

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 3 2007 5:10 utc | 21

goddamnit b @ 11

did you have to rub it in that the governer of my state is a fucking drooling moron?

but hey, here in Birmingham we got quite a bit of rain today. praise HeyZeus!

Posted by: ran | Jul 3 2007 8:32 utc | 22

Uri Avnery

With the air of a Sultan throwing coins to the paupers in the street, Olmert announced his intention of releasing some Fatah prisoners. 250 coins, 250 prisoners. That was the "generous gift" that was to make the Palestinians jump for joy, "strengthen" Abbas and awaken to new life the dry bones of his organization.

If Olmert had not been sitting so far away from Abbas, he could just as well have spat in his face.

The sole winner was Olmert. The conference has proved that Mubarak's and Abdallah's influence on Israel is nil, and that Abbas' position is even worse.

To eliminate any doubt about this, Olmert sent the army at once into the kasbah of Nablus, the heart of Abbas' virtual kingdom, in order to "arrest" the leaders of the military arm of Fatah. They put up determined resistance, wounding several soldiers. A lieutenant lost a hand and a leg. In another incursion, this time into Gaza, 13 Palestinians were killed, including a boy of 9. According to the official version, the aim was to throw the militants off balance so that they would feel hunted.


INTO THIS reality Tony Blair is now stepping.

He is being sent by the Quartet - something that does not really exist, a diplomatic fiction of four that are one.

Europe does not exist as far as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is concerned, except as a financial instrument of the White House. When the President of the USA wants it, Europe sends alms to the Palestinians (and arms to Israel). When the President of the USA wants to starve the Palestinians, Europe imposes a blockade on them.

The UN has long ago become an instrument of the US Department of State, especially in the Middle East. When the American drill sergeant shouts, the UN jumps to attention or stands at ease.

Posted by: ww | Jul 3 2007 9:02 utc | 23

completely un-related to anything here but I have seen Mac questions answered and I have one.

I would like to use syslog to keep track of a few things and have configured it to work properly except that it stops every night at 3 am. what would I have to do to fix that? I am looking at other syslog programs but would not mind staying with Apple if possible.

thanks in advance

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 3 2007 15:42 utc | 24

Nothing to be hoped from British leftists.

One best-blog is Lenin’s tomb, impeccable on historical analysis, left theory, worker support, feminism, or practically whatever whatever one wants to drag up.

But ::

He persists in explaining or (almost) excusing ‘terrorists’ with the mantra, no wonder they, the Ayrabs or whomever, are outraged, we do then so much harm backlash is inevitable. (Chomsky is an idol.)

On the recent UK ‘bombers’ -

The current batch of British jihadis, if this is what they are, are failing to match the competition. They are the underachievers of global terrorism.

(Note the hidden assumptions)>link

Their actions are mirrored to State actions:

Terrorist attack: 100 dead. This refers to Iraq.>link

In this way, all forces are ideologically equalized, all are ‘terrorists’, the ‘wars’ are comprehensible and legitimate, or true horror, damnable and devastating. Both. One can’t quite decide.

Tortuous contradictions, and much blindness, often follows. There are Arab workers as well. They are not mentioned often.

Muslims are terrorists.


They are, even if it is our fault.

Posted by: Noirette | Jul 3 2007 21:05 utc | 25>french complicity in rwandan genocide

Posted by: slothrop | Jul 3 2007 21:31 utc | 26

slothrop - "The motivation was an obsession with the idea of an Anglo-Saxon plot to oust France from the region." idea? heh. the article makes it sound like this was something in mitterrand's head that nobody could talk him out of. funny that there's not one mention of the actual 'anglo-saxon plot' to wrest the great lakes region from the french or those actors' complicities.

Posted by: b real | Jul 3 2007 22:25 utc | 27

New Franklin Lamb piece on Counterpunch.

The Edginess of Lebanon

It's about a possible prisoner exchange with Israel.

Posted by: Alamet | Jul 3 2007 23:56 utc | 28

I'm liking the new and improved Al Jazeera less and less. Look at this news piece about Mexico:

Mexico poll loser rallies followers

The losing candidate in Mexico's closest presidential election has rallied hundreds of thousands of supporters in Mexico City's main square, aiming to re-ignite a flagging movement that could split the left.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who still insists he won the election a year ago, threatened to rouse the masses if the government tried to privatise the country's state-owned oil industry.

He called for "zero negotiation" with Felipe Calderon, the man who beat him at the polls.

"Zero negotiation. I repeat, zero negotiation" with the government, he told the rally on Sunday, which was somewhat smaller than the ones he called last year after narrowly losing the July 2, 2006 elections, a defeat he blamed on fraud.

Lopez Obrador has refused to recognise Calderon - who won the five-way 2006 election by a margin of less than 1 per cent - and has mounted his own parallel "government", with himself as "legitimate president".

How many ways can you say "loser, loser, sore loser", really? And only after that ridiculous intro does the piece get around to what was supposed to be the news.

Posted by: Alamet | Jul 4 2007 0:08 utc | 29

another to go along w/ uncle's #6
Brain Research, Nanotech and the Military: Mind Wars

The accounts of both Kaczinski and DeFreeze suggest that their crimes might have been "blowback," unintended consequences of covert intelligence operations that rebound on perpetrators.

If those accounts were not public, however, and we speculated in that vein about DeFreeze and Kaczinski, it would be easy to dismiss our speculation as "conspiracy theories" or sloppy thinking. We know those two accounts are not the only experiments that might have backfired, but prudence suggests we not extrapolate from the known data, lest we be ridiculed. That's what respectability in a world of strangeness requires. But in light of those accounts, it is not unreasonable to ask, what other rough beasts have slouched out of covert research to be born?

Posted by: b real | Jul 4 2007 2:51 utc | 30

woo hoo! the site counter is now over a million. not too shabby. drinks all around!

Posted by: dan of steele | Jul 4 2007 8:29 utc | 31

Hamas secures release of BBC reporter Alan Johnston.

"To be quite honest, I think if it hadn't been for that real serious Hamas pressure, that commitment to tidying up Gaza's many, many security problems, I might have been in that room for a lot, lot longer," said Johnston.

"We made a big effort in past months to free him. He is the friend of the Palestinian people," Haniya said, expressing hope that a deal would be reached to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been held in Gaza for a year.

Posted by: Bea | Jul 4 2007 14:22 utc | 32

Message in a Bottle

We're moving 1 billion bottles of water around a week in ships, trains, and trucks in the United States alone. That's a weekly convoy equivalent to 37,800 18-wheelers delivering water. (Water weighs 81/3 pounds a gallon. It's so heavy you can't fill an 18-wheeler with bottled water--you have to leave empty space.)

Meanwhile, one out of six people in the world has no dependable, safe drinking water. The global economy has contrived to deny the most fundamental element of life to 1 billion people, while delivering to us an array of water "varieties" from around the globe, not one of which we actually need. That tension is only complicated by the fact that if we suddenly decided not to purchase the lake of Poland Spring water in Hollis, Maine, none of that water would find its way to people who really are thirsty.

A chilled plastic bottle of water in the convenience-store cooler is the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel. Yes, it's just a bottle of water--modest compared with the indulgence of driving a Hummer. But when a whole industry grows up around supplying us with something we don't need--when a whole industry is built on the packaging and the presentation--it's worth asking how that happened, and what the impact is. And if you do ask, if you trace both the water and the business back to where they came from, you find a story more complicated, more bemusing, and ultimately more sobering than the bottles we tote everywhere suggest.

Posted by: b | Jul 4 2007 15:28 utc | 33

Too bad sentience doesn't ensure sanity...

Sentient world: war games on the grandest scale

Perhaps your real life is so rich you don't have time for another.

Even so, the US Department of Defense (DOD) may already be creating a copy of you in an alternate reality to see how long you can go without food or water, or how you will respond to televised propaganda.

The DOD is developing a parallel to Planet Earth, with billions of individual "nodes" to reflect every man, woman, and child this side of the dividing line between reality and AR.

Called the Sentient World Simulation (SWS), it will be a "synthetic mirror of the real world with automated continuous calibration with respect to current real-world information", according to a concept paper for the project.

Posted by: Alamet | Jul 4 2007 18:20 utc | 34

The Death of the RMA

What Israel's Defeat in Lebanon Means for Defense Industry Fat Cats

Hopefully this obituary covers the SWS featured in my link above, though I'm still worried about what sort of real life tests they'll want to conduct to calibrate their system.

Posted by: Alamet | Jul 4 2007 21:28 utc | 35

As recently as March 2007, Jordanian officials developed a $1.2 billion proposal to train, arm and pay Abbas' security forces so they could control the streets after he dissolved the government and called new elections. McClatchy Newspapers obtained a copy of the plan. While two sources close to Abbas said U.S. officials were involved in developing and presenting the plan, a State Department official described it as a Jordanian initiative.
How U.S. policy missteps led to a nasty downfall in Gaza

Posted by: b | Jul 5 2007 11:11 utc | 36

After subduing the insurgents and reporting back to their superiors, Marines were told to quickly move to another location to help colleagues engaged in a firefight.

Helms said Wednesday that when the Marines radioed to their superiors that they were still holding prisoners, the response was, "They're still alive?"

"That was taken to mean, 'Whack those dudes.' So they whacked them and moved on," Helms said. Minutes later an airstrike demolished the house, burying the bodies in rubble.

Marines face scrutiny in Iraqi deaths

Posted by: b | Jul 5 2007 11:31 utc | 37

Quite a contrast:

LA Times editorial: The guns of August?

A summer war between Israel and Syria isn't inevitable. But Damascus' arms buildup is worrisome.

Haaretz: IDF carries out massive exercise on Golan

The exercise's goal is to prepare both mentally and actively for any future challenge.
A senior officer says that over the past year the exercises for reserve troops have increased dramatically. "The exercises are more structured. Each unit carries out specific exercises according to its goals and aims. Our emergency supplies have been renewed, there is a multi-year plan for weapons and personal equipment.
[IDF officers] believe Syria's army has limited capabilities and its air force is far inferior to Israel's.
In recent months the Golan Heights has become one of the IDF's main exercise areas. At times this requires closing off roads. Infantry troops and rows of tanks, armored personnel carriers and jeeps raise clouds of dust in grazing fields and the air is filled with low-flying helicopters and echoes of explosions.

Posted by: b | Jul 5 2007 11:55 utc | 38

Collective punishment - 'Israel ruining economy in Gaza Strip'

The virtually total closure imposed on the Gaza Strip since Hamas's takeover in June has almost destroyed the Palestinian economy and threatens to turn its 1.4 million residents into charity cases, Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, charged in a report released Wednesday.
Seventy-five percent of Gaza's factories have shut down because of the closure. The rest are operating on borrowed time, until the stocks of raw materials are exhausted.

Eighty-five percent of the population is already dependent on food aid from international organizations and the number is growing.

There is a severe shortage of raw materials including flour and sugar for domestic and industrial consumption. The price of flour has increased by 34 percent, powdered milk by 30% and rice by 20%.

Israel has erased from its computers the customs code used to identify goods entering Gaza and issued orders not to release them until further notice. This policy has cost Palestinian importers $1.5 million in the first two weeks of the closure, including fines paid for the use of rented containers, breach of contracts and damage to goods stored in warehouses for extended periods of time, the organization said.

Posted by: b | Jul 5 2007 14:45 utc | 39

The path to ME security leads through Syria first?

"anti-tank and anti-aircraft systems" The Hizbullah Lebanese are preparing for renewal of their war with Israel. They are building new fortified "belts" and "stand alone" fortified zones. The "anti-aircraft equipment" is going to make a big difference this time. Israeli pilots are not used to being shot at from the ground while trying to attack targets. Pilots' aim is not as good under those conditions. Ask a pilot if that is not true.

What are they doing in the Bekaa Valley? Among other things they are training for how they will fight this time. I presume that someone is watching this?

What are the Israelis doing? They are preparing for a drive into Syria across the Golan heights, a "decisive" battle with the Syrians between there and Damascus and then a left "hook" into Lebanon to execute a "turning movement" against Hizbullah.

Will that coincide with American action against Iran? Someone should ask the Chenians that.>Pat Lang comments on WaPo report of hostile Syrian & Hezbollah activities.

Posted by: small coke | Jul 5 2007 17:07 utc | 40

The Washington Post reports:

U.S. diplomats in Iraq, increasingly fearful over their personal safety after recent mortar attacks inside the Green Zone, are pointing to new delays and mistakes in the U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad as signs that their vulnerability could grow in the months ahead.

A toughly worded cable sent from the embassy to State Department headquarters on May 29 highlights a cascade of building and safety blunders in a new facility to house the security guards protecting the embassy. The guards' base, which remains unopened today, is just a small part of a vast $592 million project to build the largest U.S. embassy in the world.

The main builder of the sprawling, 21-building embassy is First Kuwaiti General Trade and Contracting Co., a Middle Eastern firm that is already under Justice Department scrutiny over alleged labor abuses. First Kuwaiti also erected the guard base, prompting some State Department officials in Washington and Baghdad to worry that the problems exposed in the camp suggest trouble lurking ahead for the rest of the embassy complex.

The first signs of trouble, according to the cable, emerged when the kitchen staff tried to cook the inaugural meal in the new guard base on May 15. Some appliances did not work. Workers began to get electric shocks. Then a burning smell enveloped the kitchen as the wiring began to melt.

All the food from the old guard camp -- a collection of tents -- had been carted to the new facility, in the expectation that the 1,200 guards would begin moving in the next day. But according to the cable, the electrical meltdown was just the first problem in a series of construction mistakes that soon left the base uninhabitable, including wiring problems, fuel leaks and noxious fumes in the sleeping trailers.

"Poor quality construction . . . life safety issues . . . left [the embassy] with no recourse but to shut the camp down, in spite of the blistering heat in Baghdad," the May 29 cable informed Washington.

Such challenges with construction contracts inside the fortified enclave known as the Green Zone reflect the broader problems that have thwarted reconstruction efforts throughout war-torn Iraq.

It is a serious matter, and an infuriating one as well for many reasons, but it brought back a memory I'd long forgotten about. When I was in grad school I remember taking the daylong "Part II" of the Foreign Service entry exam. I had aced the initial written test. Part II was a series of different types of interviews and role-plays, all of which I did at least ok on, except for the final one.

The last thing was role-playing where my assigned role was an embassy contracting or administrative officer who had to confront a local contractor who had failed to deliver for a major building project in one of our middle eastern embassies in a country that was an important ally to the U.S. The scene was that now the contractor had actually shown up wanting to be paid, notwithstanding the failure to deliver fully and the screw-ups and shoddy work done to date on what little had actually been done so far, and my challenge in this little scenario was how would I handle this.

I basically took the straight forward approach, read the riot act to this foreign service officer who was role-playing the part of the shifty local businessman, and told him in no uncertain terms that payment would most definitely NOT be forthcoming until the problems were resolved. He wheedled, he flattered, he whined, he threatened, etc. and even though he was hamming it up, it actually faintly reminded me of trying to buy something in an Indian bazaar! But I held firm, politely, throughout, and he left without a penny. And I left without a foreign service job. On the written results I got in the mail some time later, I had done reasonably well on the other parts of the day, but got a failing score on the role-playing interview. Someone had hand written in, next to my score of zero, "no cross-cultural sensitivity."

I was incredibly disappointed at the time, not realizing that by nature I was not born to have a career in a place like the State Department. But seeing this article today brought it all back, and made me reflect on what they really mean by "cross cultural sensitivity."

I guess invading and subjecting a country to occupation without cause and then proceeding to ruin its economy and society is ok, but trying to make sure that contractors do a good job and the taxpayer doesn't get ripped off is "insensitive".

Posted by: Maxcrat | Jul 6 2007 0:30 utc | 41

Thanks Maxcrat (41)

Posted by: beq | Jul 6 2007 0:51 utc | 42

Sale and rent back
Stretched homeowners seek new options to stay in their properties.

With millions of homeowners burdened by debt, sale and rent back is becoming big business.

Posted by: Rick | Jul 6 2007 2:09 utc | 43

I guess invading and subjecting a country to occupation without cause and then proceeding to ruin its economy and society is ok, but trying to make sure that contractors do a good job and the taxpayer doesn't get ripped off is "insensitive".

The contractor in the case were Kuwaiti and Saudi. They certainly would blame an Iarqi contractor, by Kuwaitis and Saudis are "friends".

Posted by: b | Jul 6 2007 5:02 utc | 44

The reason why I decided to always use "U.S." not "American" ...

From the editors for the Web site of the French daily Le Monde

There’s a Word for People Like You

“Américain” (in French the ethnonym is capitalized, the adjective is lower case) is a word with many meanings, depending on context: “américains” applies to all Américains (from the United States), yet all Américains (from North and South America) are not necessarily américains.
Helpfully, though, in Quebec about six decades ago the word États-Unien, derived from the French for United States, États-Unis, was born. Its spread was modest at first, but today it’s frequent in the news media, and there’s even a radio program here that uses it exclusively. In ordinary conversation, though, the French still say “Américains.” A recent occurrence of “États-Uniens” (though far from the first) on the Web site of our newspaper, Le Monde, provoked the ire of readers who saw anti-American and anti-globalist sentiment behind it.

When we published a note on our language blog defending the use of États-Uniens — the word is neither pretty nor musical, but it answers a certain need — we had an outpouring of responses. They ranged from absolute opposition to the word (because of its supposed anti-Americanism, its ugliness, its snobbishness, its sarcastic tone, its lack of usefulness for anyone but academics — and because it sounds like space aliens) to enthusiastic approval, notably as a counter to the “imperialist” appropriation of a whole continent by one country’s ethnonym.
One reader even declared, “The United States of America is the only country in the world that doesn’t have a name: the first two words define its political organization, the last the continent it sits on.”

Posted by: b | Jul 6 2007 5:42 utc | 45

For b real, et al...

A wonderful story...Malawi man builds a windwill to power home

William Kamkwamba decided to build a windmill to power lights in his home: "For many years we had only paraffin candles to light my home at night. They are expensive, smoky, smelly and have to be purchased about 8 km from home."

Truly uplifting and inspiring. Way to go William Kamkwamba!

Also see, afrigadget

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jul 6 2007 10:28 utc | 46

Fake Terror and Instability in North Africa

Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, the Philippines and Lebanon aren’t the only fronts in the “global war on terror.” Although it remains largely out of the public eye, the U.S. has also sought to open up a north-African front in its fight against al-Qaeda, with equally unappreciated consequences.

Regional powers have been emboldened to repress both their own peoples and to meddle in weaker neighboring countries. The predatory activities of mining and oil interests have been shielded by the perceived need to pursue international “jihadists” while the labeling of regional groups as “terrorists” has promoted instability.

Posted by: b | Jul 6 2007 11:19 utc | 47

@ b #45 - I suppose we could fall back on Oceania. Or Airstrip One.

Posted by: beq | Jul 6 2007 11:52 utc | 48

Gary Hart, Lynne Cheney, and War with China

At the first meeting, one Republican woman on the commission said that the overwhelming threat was from China. Sooner or later the U.S. would end up in a military showdown with the Chinese Communists. There was no avoiding it, and we would only make ourselves weaker by waiting. No one else spoke up in support.

The same thing happened at the second meeting -- discussion from other commissioners about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, anarchy of failed states, etc, and then this one woman warning about the looming Chinese menace. And the third meeting too. Perhaps more.

Finally, in frustration, this woman left the commission.

"Her name was Lynne Cheney," Hart said. "I am convinced that if it had not been for 9/11, we would be in a military showdown with China today." Not because of what China was doing, threatening, or intending, he made clear, but because of the assumptions the Administration brought with it when taking office.

Posted by: b | Jul 6 2007 12:00 utc | 49

thanks uncle. was just talking about these type of solutions w/ some diaspora friends. will pass it forward.

Posted by: b real | Jul 6 2007 14:00 utc | 50

The comments to this entry are closed.