Candide’s Latest: Thursday, October 19, 2006
Pierre Tristam/Candide's Notebooks
The election is three weeks away, so are the scandals, the rigged votes, the machinations: “As dozens of states are enforcing new voter registration laws and switching to paperless electronic voting systems, officials across the country are bracing for an Election Day with long lines and heightened confusion, followed by an increase in the number of contested results,” the Times reports. In Maryland, Mississippi and Pennsylvania, a shortage of technicians has vendors for new machines soliciting applications for technical support workers on job Web sites like Monster.com. Ms. Oakley, who is also facing a shortage, raided the computer science department at the University of California, Davis, hiring 60 graduate students as troubleshooters. Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the states considered most likely to experience difficulties, according to voting experts who have been tracking the technology and other election changes. […] Election officials in many of the states are struggling with delays in the delivery of machines before the election as old-fashioned lever and punch-card machines are phased out. A chronic shortage of poll workers, many of them retirees uncomfortable with new technology, has worsened matters.
The Economist on America’s vanishing democracy: “THE polls go up, the polls go down and there are still more than three weeks to go: time for any amount of sleaze or terror to influence the voters. But it is quite possible that America's mid-term elections on November 7th will produce a close result, not just in the House of Representatives, where it has long been predicted, but in the Senate too. At which point things could get fraught. The problem is voting machines. Not the ones with hole-punches and their chads, hanging, swinging and dimpled. Since the debacle of 2000 in Florida federal money to the tune of several billion dollars has been lavished on replacing them. Unfortunately, many have been replaced with new ones that may be even worse. In a close election the prospect of just a handful of the 435 House seats or one or two of the 33 Senate seats at stake being furiously challenged in court is all too plausible. Like the presidency in 2000, the colour of Congress could have to be decided by lawyers. How could this have happened?” See “Crash and Re-Boot…”
Iraq, Tet, Bush, Barney
George Bush has for the first time conceded that there may be parallels between the increasing violence in Iraq and the brutal assault against the US during the Vietnam War,” the UK Times reports. “Asked in an interview last night if he agreed with the opinion of Tom Friedman, a New York Times columnist who compared the strife in Iraq with the Tet Offensive, the President responded: "He could be right. There’s certainly a stepped-up level of violence." […] It is the first admission from the President that similarities may exist between the two conflicts. When talking about Iraq , Mr Bush has until now been keen to avoid references to Vietnam for fear of souring opinion further against the war. Donald Rumsfeld, Defence Secretary and one of the Iraq war’s most determined defenders, has always rejected Vietnam comparisons in the past. But in a rare one-to-one interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Mr Bush acknowledged the parallel, saying that insurgents were trying "to inflict enough damage that we’d leave."”
Lebanon’s Hesitant Normalcy
“Many children spent their summers pent-up in schoolhouses with their families as internal refugees, having fled the conflict that raged throughout the south. Nearly all of the 1 million mostly southern Lebanese who were displaced by the fighting have returned to their villages,” the Christian Science Monitor reports. “But even as Lebanon's internal refugees return to their homes, a return to normalcy remains in the distant future. The reconstruction process has turned otherwise mundane events like a first day at school into notable milestones. Danger still lurks in the south, despite an uneasy peace. More than a million unexploded cluster bomblets are scattered across southern fields, groves, and villages. Israeli planes dropped most of them in the last three days of the conflict, according to the United Nations. The ordnance has killed at least 18 civilians.”
Nadia Jamal in the Sydney Morning Herald: “I am a Muslim woman and I agree that the covering of a woman's face in the name of religion may be confronting. If I - who grew up surrounded by women who have donned the hijab - can feel confronted by the niqab, which covers not just the head but also the face, then how can I be surprised when others who have not had that experience say that they are? […] The hijab is more than a piece of material. It is a way of life for many Muslim women and linked to Islamic culture and identity. Women who wear the niqab believe it is a religious obligation and they, too, have a right to practise their faith without discrimination. But there are important questions that have been overlooked. […] Much has been said lately about Muslim women's garb, but it should not be forgotten that being a Muslim woman is about so much more than what she wears.”
New Orleans Tales: Boyfriend Cut Up Corpse, Cooked It
From the Times-Picayune: “A suicide note in the pocket of a man who jumped off the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel on Tuesday night led police to the grisly scene of his girlfriend's murder, where they found her charred head in a pot on the stove, her legs and arms baked in the oven and the rest of her dismembered body in a trash bag in the refrigerator, according to police and the couple's landlord. In the note, Zackery Bowen, 28, confessed to killing his girlfriend, Adriane "Addie" Hall, 30, on Oct. 5, according to police sources and friends of the couple. Officially, police declined to release the name of the victim, saying she was still a "Jane Doe" until the remains of her body could be forensically identified. "This is not accidental. I had to take my own life to pay for the one I took," Bowen wrote in a suicide note found in a plastic bag in the front pocket of his pants. The note directed police to the scene of the crime and gave a synopsis of what he had done, according to sources familiar with the case.”
“The Shaw's supermarket chain was definitely not looking for this kind of exposure,” the Portland Press-Herald reports. “Shaw's, which has 23 stores in Maine, pulled the most recent issue of the Portland Phoenix from its shelves because the weekly newspaper contains a nude photograph of the late poet Allen Ginsberg on one of its inside pages. The portrait accompanies a review of a new Ginsberg biography in the Phoenix's Oct. 13-19 edition. The photo shows the acclaimed Beat poet gazing into the eyes of his longtime lover, Peter Orlovsky. Both men are naked, and they're shown from the front. Shaw's spokeswoman Judy Chong declined to answer questions Tuesday about the company's decision to remove the newspaper.” Care to guess in what stall she was holed up, and with what publication?
The view from below: Shi'ite child toys with a gun at a protest during al-Quds in Karachi, Pakistan, on Wednesday. Protestors railed against the United States and Israel and prayed for the liberation of Palestine. (Asif Hassan, AFP)
Iraqi Blog Roundup
Anyone who still doubts Iraq is well into a civil war, read on. The following blog entries are a collection of writings from the last few days, straight from Iraqi writers.
- “This is Iraq the most dangerous place to live in for the last years especially after 2003,” writes Hammorabi. “Every single day there are at least 100 people killed and more wounded in Iraq and every day pass is a day of blood, horror and killing. No day pass in Iraq without discovering many bodies of an unknown people after being tortured and mutilated. The horror includes assassinations, kidnapping, mass murdering, expulsions, car bombs, suicidal attacks, attacks by rockets and other weapons, and so many other crimes that no one is able to count.”
- Riverbend is back after a long absence, and takes on the Lancet study's claim of 600,000 Iraqis deaths: "For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone. [...] We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?"
- From Nabil’s Blog: “Yesterday... I witness the most horrible thing since I got here in Baghdad.. I was standing with some friends in the street.. and saw a guy coming out from a house.. his eyes were coverd, his mouth was shut.. and his hands were tied.. the house was across the street just about 20 meters away from us.. the guy came a cross the street without seeing and went to a shop.. he was shouting.. untie me.. open my eyes.. some people ran to help him, his only words were.."please take me to my house... they will kill me".. so the people just helped him.. and hired a taxi for him.. then we heard his story from the people of the house that he came out from.. they said that they were sitting in their back garden.. waiting until the time of eating comes.. (they were fasting as it Ramahdan now).. they said suddenly... a body jumped into the garden from the back fence of the house... at first they said that they thought he was dead.. but the guy just stood him self up... and began to move.. they're were girls sitting in the garden as well, so they started to scream as they were very scared.. because his view was very scary..(I mean I freacked out when I saw him), after the girls started to scream.. the guy said "please, don't scream..I'm kidnapped..the kidnappers will hear you", the girls just didn't stop screaming.. so he ran out from the front door of the house..where we saw him coming out.” [Read the rest of the story at Nabil’s Blog…]
- From A Family in Baghdad: “I have stopped writing on my website for a while now… And the reason is perhaps; because I was occupied working with the Iraqis who fled the hell of life inside Iraq, or perhaps that I was bored from the same talk about the painful reality that is going on for more than three years, until I no longer like to talk, as if repeating the same words, uselessly. Iraqis are still dying everyday; killed by trapped cars, sectarian militia, and death squads who carry out random assassinations on the streets. Or they die by assassinations organized against every nationalist or cultured Iraqi, against every scientist, doctor, or university professor… There is someone out there who decided to assassinate everything in Iraq, everything that moves on the land of Iraq, and bears the Iraqi identity… If Saddam Hussein was a tyrant, this Bush is no less a tyrant… Currently he is imposing his viewpoint upon the American people, depleting the tax payer's budget to finance an unjust war, a war that destroyed Iraq, dislodged its people, and deprived the country of its national unity, peace, and security. All for what? […] At the beginning, the war was marketed as a sacrifice from the American people so that the Iraqis would be liberated and be happy. There are a lot of fools in America, and out of America, who believed this story… Afterwards, when it was evident that the Iraqis didn't get freedom or happiness, Bush's speech changed; he now tells the Americans: we must stay in Iraq until we eliminate terrorism- meaning; if we get out of Iraq, terrorism will come to America… Ha,ha,ha, what a story… [Read the rest at A Family in Baghdad…]
- From In The Middle: “I felt so depressed yesterday after watching this video showing the 2 US soldiers who were kidnapped some months ago being tied to a truck and then dragged for a few minutes before then being set on fire and burned. According to Mujahideen Shura Council, the two soldiers were part of the brigade that raped and burned Abeer Qassim al-Janabi and killed her family in al-Mahmoudiya back in June. More killing and torture will not get us anywhere.”
- From Treasure of Baghdad: “ America’s funniest monkey called [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki and assured him that he still gets support. Bush called Maliki after the latter was scared to death that he might be kicked off because of his failure. […]Ok. First of all, he begged Bush! And that’s insulting in our culture. Secondly, if they all say Iraq is a “sovereign democratic country” and that the government “has the full power to do whatever it wants”, why did Maliki sound like Bush is the real prime minister of Iraq? If you are confident of yourself and willing to do something, why do you beg others to keep you in your position? This whole phone call revealed many things including the fact that Maliki is just a puppet in the hands of the US administration. Instead of acting like this, Maliki should have shown some respect to those who die everyday. Enough humiliating our identity.”