Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Quick Update

Been a busy week and I haven´t much felt like posting. More inanity in Washington. More inanity at my job. Blah.

At any rate, we´re headed to DC tomorrow for a holiday. So we´ll be traveling tomorrow and I´ll probably post something on the weekend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Relative Stupidity

I may have mentioned before that we get CBS International as part of our cable service. It´s not full time, however, and we really only have it for primetime and sporting events. When it´s not on, we have VOA TV on the same channel. VOA (Voice of America) TV is of low picture and sound quality, but can be interesting. You see things like congressional hearings, think tank meetings, interviews, and, like last night, White House press conferences.

You can learn a lot watching a press conference. For example, the young, blonde woman answering questions yesterday clearly thought that it was cool to be in "press" yet obviously has an intellectual challenge that is unlikely to be overcome. Of course, I don´t know how much I blame her, I mean, her President has taken wholly indefensible positions, so it´s pretty hard to provide a reasonable sounding explanations.

Still, last night she adamently declared that "there is no Congressional oversight of the Presidency" in the Constitution or historically. I was a bit flabbergasted by that but even more troubling was that the reporters at hand did not immediately follow up with a Watergate question or five. Nor did they ask about the Clinton years where a rabid Republican Congress went after the President for purely personal reasons. This is not to say this pretty blonde had anything more than bluff and bluster on this issue. She attempted to reference history but then just gave up and said something like, "I´m not going to cite precedent after precedent here" and moved on. Bully for her using 3-syllable words.

At any rate, one thing that the press did nail her on, and I doubt will be reported, is that she repeatedly made assertions about AG Gonzalez but then told a reporter that the President and Gonzalez hadn´t spoken in over a week. The immediate response was, "well, if they haven´t spoken, then how does the President know what Gonzalez thinks or that he is telling the truth?" Ouch. She didn´t have much of an answer to that either.

It was also fairly egregious when this young presser argued that the President had been very generous in offering to allow his advisors to "speak" with Congress, since, according to her, he has no obligation to do so. When a reporter not-so subtly implied that there was a difference between having a quiet chat and testifying, she brushed him off with yet another wild eyed appeal to a history that doesn´t exist vis-a-vis executive privilege.

Ultimately, the bullshit was so thick I was forced to change the channel. I just couldn´t stomach it in an unpaid capacity. It really is shocking that these people think there is no check and/or balance between the Presidency and the Congress. I mean, they have some serious juevos. So far, they´ve gotten away with it, but if the Dems step up and show a few stones of their own, they´ll win this one. It should start with the Justice official who invoked the 5th amendement yesterday. The Dems should request a hearing to determine if it´s a legitimate usage of the 5th. Because it´s not legit to invoke the 5th to avoid perjury or obstruction of justice.

After that, they need to go on the offensive with the whole executive privilege issue. Even if they don´t want to fight an extended court battle (which they should to prevent this type of nonsense in the future), they should take this battle to the streets. America doesn´t need an unchecked Presidency. We had that once. He was called King George III. And our entire system was founded to prevent that type of abuse.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nob of the Week: Ruben Navarrette Jr

Welcome to the Nobatorium, Mr Navarrette Jr. You have the distinct honor of being the first to be enshrined in these hallowed walls for today´s article on CNN.

In attempting to explain why everyone is attacking AG Gonzalez, Mr Navarrette Jr plays the race card. It´s not because he´s incompetent, it´s not because he introduced politics into the Rule of Law, it´s not because he reinterpreted the constitution to justify torture, a stronger executive, etc. No, everyone is out to get Gonzalez because he´s Latino:

"Leading this lynch mob are white liberals who resent Gonzales because they can't claim the credit for his life's accomplishments and because they can't get him to curtsy."

And if that example of utter nobbery wasn´t sufficient, Navarrette Jr. makes an overt threat to the Dems for the ´08 election:

"Well, if they succeed in running him off without a fair hearing, many Hispanics won't forget the shoddy treatment afforded this grandson of Mexican immigrants. You watch. Democrats will have to intensify their efforts to win Hispanic votes in the 2008 elections. And there's not that much chips and salsa on the planet."

From his exalted position as Speaker for All Hispanics, Navarrette Jr has committed three key errors:

1. He opened his mouth,
2. He assumed that all Latin People are stupid, and,
3. He became the liar that he so criticized in his essay.

The truth is, sir, Gonzalez is responsible. No matter your pleasant little narrative about Gonzalez being an "honest public servant" (always good to trumpet out the words of the Prez, right?), no matter who else was involved, no matter who pulled the strings, Gonzalez is the guy at the top. This was the worst sort of politics, the type that fundamentally plays with the independence of our prosecutorial system and risks the Rule of Law. To deny that is to merely expose you as the Nobarrific Hack that you are.

So, Sir Nob, I salute you. Your Nobtext was virtually unprecedented from an editor of a major newspaper.


Dick Cheney Corruption Story

Here´s a very long article from the LA Times on the matter.

For those of you not interested in reading or with little time, the article basically gives a history of the company that bribed Duke Cunningham. They made no money, no reported revenue, until they suddently got a $140,000 contract with the VP, they paid Cunningham exactly $140,000, and then received a 5-year, $250 million, no-bid contract from GSA to provide computer equipment and things of that nature.

There´s is zero doubt that corruption played a role in this. It´s only a question of how high it went.

Watergate was a joke compared to these guys.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A very strange coincidence

Read this.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Killer Bananas aka How to support terrorism and avoid penalties, A Master´s Thesis by Chiquita Banana

Colombian prosecutors are likely to make formal extradition requests for the Chiquita Banana executives involved in paying "protection" money to the AUC, a Colombian paramilitary organization. The company pled guilty yesterday to paying off the group known as the most violent and responsible for the most civilian massacres in the country´s history.

Court documents also revealed that Chiquita and it´s Colombian subsidiary smuggled 3,000 rifles on a banana boat into Colombia on the behalf of the AUC, weapons that were likely used to push out leftist "guerillas" and others.

While Chiquita executives involved have not been identified, court documents state that at least 10 people in the company were directly involved in the payoffs.

(The above was in the non-personal, semi-objective journalist voice. The following is in the rant like a stark raving lunatic voice - which I personally prefer.)

Damn straight.

They should rot in a Colombian jail. Damn scallywags. They get off with a fine of $25 mil. They ought to be jailed. We´ve jailed people for thinking about committing terrorism against the US and we slap these guys´wrists? These guys directly supported and contributed to the deaths of innocent civilians - poor farmers. I hope that Colombia carries through with the extradition process.

Oh, right, they´re only jailed if they fund Islamic terrorism, a nagging little voice in the back of my skull says. Silly me.

And here´s another thing I don´t get. If a corporation, as legally defined, has the legal status of a person, which person would be merely fined for funding terrorism? This case reveals one of the utter failings of the US corporate system. Large MNC´s literally get away with murder because there´s no way to put the corporation in jail. Thus, we grant corporations the legal status (priviledge) of a person, yet they avoid all responsibility for their transgressions. Sounds like the Bush administration.

Look, if we put away guys who funnel money to Islamic "charities" with links to terrorist organizations, surely we should do the same with profit-desperate corporate executives that pay off paramilitary organizations to ensure plump bananas arrive in US supermarkets on time. The only difference is that one group does it for ideology (Islam), the other for profit (Chiquita).

Wait, scratch that. There is only a difference in the type of ideology. We´re only making clever semantic distinctions sliced ever so finely when we say there is any difference between the two cases.

Hold on, scratch that. Those convicted of funding Islamic charities never connected directly with the terrorists. They gave money to a front organization that distributed the funds to the actual terrorist groups. Chiquita said, screw the front, we´re going right to the top. They deserve to rot in a hellish Colombian prison.

Bananas. They might not kill you. But they will kill anyone who opposes the mighty power of Chiquita.



It´s what I feel today. For a lot of reasons, this job is more difficult than it should be, but the primary factor is the Spanish. It´s not always a huge problem, but today it is. And on the really important matters of discussion, it will remain a problem until I can improve my ability to express complex ideas.

Short version: We submitted some documents to USAID. They sent back a seriously devestating criticism and rejection (with a several of the very questions I asked and have yet to receive an answer). Problem is, the email is in English and my boss (limited English) needs me to explain the finer details.

Patience wearing thin. Had I the complete fluent ability to express complex ideas in Spanish, perhaps all this unpleasantness (proposal rejection) could have been avoided and my value to the company could have been demonstrated. Instead, the managers blundered and I get to play the role of interpretor. Lovely.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Now's hardly the time to be overly concerned with what is or is not "Constitutional"

Now is it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Mistakes were made"

Hi, I´m a serial killer. The other day, I robbed a bank, shot 3 people, and lied to the cops about it. But you know, "mistakes were made." And "[I´m] going to take steps to ensure that that doesn´t happen again."

Does anyone know why I used the passive voice above? Well, as a non-certified English as a Foreign Language teacher, I can testify that one of the key uses of the passive voice is when we don´t want to take or assign blame. And because, you know, the premeditated acts of robbing a bank, killing innocents, and covering it up were, like, totally accidental, I just can´t help myself. You know, mistakes were made. I mean, I made mistakes and all.

Now, maybe (For the Moment) Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez isn´t totally familiar with the grammar rules (most people aren´t) and yes his "crimes" weren´t as grevious as those of a serial killer and yes he did take some responsibility ("I made mistakes") after being badgered, but when it comes down to it, he´s just another lying ass clown employed by the King of all Nepotism.

Look, saying "mistakes were made" might work when decisions are taken in the moment or based on faulty information. But firing 8 Attorney Generals because they refused to indict Democractic Candidates prior to the 2006 election was a premeditated act that merely caps AG Gonzalez´s tenure as a Constitution-shredding, Torture-Justifying, Ends Justify the Means, Power over Law, Sonic Death Monkey. And I hope to God it´s the last act of his service.

I watched his interview on CNN this morning and I found him to be just as deplorably reprehensible as usual. I also think he´s a bit of a wuss. He refused to answer the question "Is it time for you to resign?" with anything other than, "I serve at the will of the President, it´s for him to decide." Of course, the 3 year old illiterate monkey conducting the interview couldn´t come up with a follow up question.

(Exs, "You´re the highest judicial authority in the land and, on your watch, according to your department´s own report, the FBI illegally spied on private citizens and now you´ve admitted that you lied to Congress about the firing of USAs. Doesn´t that warrent the termination of your tenure as Attorney General?" Or, more simply, "Where does the buck stop? You´re in charge of the FBI and under your watch, they illegally spied on private citizens. Doesn´t that justify your resignation?" Or even, "what would constitute a fair basis for dismissal of an Attorney General?")

At any rate, I´m absolutely disgusted with the Bush administration and feel that it will take years, if not decades for America to recover. Gonzalez is just one example, hopefully one self-serving puppet that will be summarily removed in the very near future. But these people have arrogantly abused whatever power they have received, broken virtually every law that stood in the way of whatever immoral action they wanted to perpetrate, and smugly thrown dirt at everyone and anyone that criticized them over it. They deserve to be prosecuted, jailed, and never pardoned.


Torture - Check
Lie to Congress - Check
Violate constitutional rights - Check
Attempt to force federal prosecutors to indict Democrats before 2006 election - Check
Fire those USAs after they refused to trump up charges - Check
Fired, Charged, Jailed - Pending

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Utter Confusion

Well, today started off nice enough, but then my energy tapered down when I started reading about timber markets, marketing strategies, and other such nonsense.

At any rate, what I really want to talk about is something that´s been troubling me for quite some time: America´s lovefest with CSI:Miami.

We get a lot of CSI down here. We have the CBS international station (live primetime feeds nightly) and a variety of english language channels, two of which have different CSI franchises. So, on any given night, you can pretty much watch CSI. Last night, I watched Miami for probably the last time.

Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the CSI franchise, it´s about crime scene investigators and the different crimes they have to solve. So each episode makes for an interesting riddle and, since the creators are relatively clever, there isn´t a wuss ass legal side to ruin the show (like all of the Law and Order spinoffs).

Ahem, what I was speaking about above was CSI: Las Vegas. Because Vegas is clearly the best of the three and Miami is clearly the worst. I won´t go into Vegas or NY further. I like Vegas, NY is ok. There´s a little too much soap operish drama from time to time, but overall, Vegas is quality.

The same can not be said for Miami. The following is a list of it´s clear stupidities:

1. The acting is horrible. Look, anytime your lead actor is David Caruso, you´re in trouble. The guy has the talent of a B-movie supporting actor. B-movie porn fluffer, that is. To him, acting is akin to fixing a pose, declaring a one liner about as flatly as possible, and having the loud obnoxious music cut the scene. He´s the least believable actor on TV. But he´s not the only one. The rest of the cast has only one person who I would consider good (Emily Proctor) and one who has been so utterly emasculated by the writers that his talent completely useless (Rex Linn, the corrupt Treasury guy from Cliffhanger).

2. The characters are totally unlikeable. This one I just can´t understand. There´s not a single character on this show I don´t want to punch in the face (several deserve to be punched unconscious). I´ve already mentioned Caruso´s character (start the pummeling) but the other truly egregious figure is Adam Rodriguez´s character, who, the best I can tell, is actually intended to be an utter prick. At any rate, every time I watch the show, I see someone do something that merits an extended bout of fisticuffs. Not good karma.

3. The plots are so far off the reservation to make a 3 year old monkey be skeptical. Look, we just went through the following: The main character (Caruso) falls in love with the resident dick´s (Rodriguez) sister, sparking a huge personal conflict, the sister has cancer, but then recovers, then gets shot to death by a drug dealer out for revenge, only to have Caruso and Rodriguez go after said drug dealer, ultimately concluding with Caruso shooting and killing the drug dealer in front of the police station.

Not even Miami Vice would have tried to pull that off. Oh, and did I mention that Rodriguez got shot in the head, appeared to be heading off the show for good, only to be miraculously restored to health? Plus, the new blonde girl with a central role (Eva La Rue) not only can´t act, she also had a love interest with Rodriguez only to shift to another character, before being exposed as a low class ho´when her ex-con, ex-husband showed up, and he was killed off a few episodes later.

Whew. I´m out of breath now.

4. Apparently, in Miami, the CSI runs the investigation and always gets a confession. I never realized this before. I was pretty sure that CSI did the scientific investigation and gave the results to the detectives, who went after the bad guys.

Not in this world. In this world, the detectives are side-shows who do little more than hold guns and arrest the bad guys while the CSI guys stand around looking smug and saying, "I told you I´d catch you" (nananana boo boo!!!).

I was also pretty sure that no police force in the country had a 100% confession rate. Seriously, they need to get these guys down to Guantanamo or up to Homeland Security because they´ll not only wipe out crime, they´ll get air tight confessions from everyone.

Not only that, Caruso´s character quite literally saves the day every single time by shooting someone. It´s like the writers watched one too many Hunter episodes from the 80s and decided that having the lead man be a mass murderer was a great cornerstone for the show. Last night´s episode featured Caruso shooting a gas tank on a speeding tractor trailer filled with explosives, from 100 yards, exploding the truck, stopping terrorism, and killing the would be suicide bomber with one pull of the trigger. I guess Miami PD couldn´t spring for a Swat Team or something.

At any rate, what I can´t understand is why this show is so popular. It´s a formulaic show, with annoying music, unlikeable characters, bad acting, ridiculous soap operatic qualities, and so far divorced from reality that it´s grating to the senses. I´m apopletic about this.

My wife famously deems it "one of those stupid American shows" and she´s right. This show is one of the reasons why American culture stinks. Hollywood types keep putting up mindless crap and we keep gobbling it up. Well no more. Just like we are a "no Emmeril" house and a no "Fox (except for the Simpsons and Family Guy)" house, we are now a "no CSI Miami" house and NY had best be careful because the melodrama has started to escalate (even though I like that Sinise guy).

In conclusion, once again, flipping through the prime time schedule has confirmed that American TV still stinks. Fortunately, Dr. House is still going strong and Heroes (just started here) looks good. Plus, Lost is still an option if I can ever sit down and watch all the episodes in a row to catch up.

(And we should all hang our heads in shame that Dancing with the Stars has been the #1 rated show and is coming back for another season.)

Friday, March 09, 2007


Well, the internets are working very slowly today. And that´s putting a damper on an otherwise very boring afternoon. I had planned on finishing some work (check) and then falling into an open-eyed slumber but the absence of reliable internets connections is impeding my ability to laze off like a typical government worker.

When I left Javeriana this afternoon, I saw some protests in the street. Some anti-King George students had blockaded the road and were getting quite militant while the cops watched. No tear gas or water cannons, but then again, those who attend Javeriana are rich, so you wouldn´t want the cops busting up some rich kids, now would you? Class is everything.

I went out last night, with much reluctance, with my co-workers. It was pretty boring for the most part. They are very cliquish and I found it difficult to make conversation as the person I was talking with invariably would get distracted by a friend, start chatting with the other person, and totally forget that I had been in mid-sentence. Whatever. These people are for the most part, not my kind of people. There´s a lot of reasons for that, and I´ll likely profile them on a day in which I actually have a smidgeon of energy, but suffice it to say, Blah.

At any rate, I analyzed the social dynamic last night and I came to the realization that the organization of a table for a social gathering is incredibly important for creating interaction. Last night was in the American style and by that I mean, a long ass table with 15 people meaning that you can only really talk with the person in front or next to you (if you´re on the end, like I was). Law firms in the US sometimes get that this layout doesn´t work, but my general experience in the US was much like this. Big ass tables, lots of shouting, shitty time.

On the other hand is the British style. One thing about the Brits, they know how to socialize. The only time I had a professional work party that utilized the afor mentioned layout strategy, it was organized by a prick of an American partner (with a 2 drink limit). It was, without a doubt, a shit ass time.

But, the more typical Brit layout was without tables. The idea isn´t to go sit on your ass and act formal. The idea was to get to the pub, have some drinks, and let loose. Low level shrubs like myself were encouraged to talk to tall trees, as the partners and big wigs actually sought us out and wanted to chat with us. Basically, it was: gather in an open space, add beer, and mix. And it works.

Meetings like last night, however, are made for big wigs to feel important. They become the center of attention, they feel like because they´re enjoying the spotlight, everyone must be enjoying it too, and most of the people pretty much kiss ass all of the time.

You can say I was less than thrilled to be there. Fortunately, I didn´t have to pay for anything and I took my boss´s car service home. So, at the end of the day, I got some free food, two Rum and Coke´s and a lack of sleep.

Perhaps next time we can go to an actual pub and mingle naturally instead of sitting in the spotlight of the big bosses who are hoping we worship them for all their big boss glory.

God I hate corporate life.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Well that was disappointing

The anti-George Bush protest at Universidad Nacional may have been a big thing at the main location. But for us here at the 73, it was a big let down. Just down the street, we have the Education Department of the university, which is actually fairly big. So, while the press is reporting tear gas and water cannons, the most we had was a bit of tear gas, overzealous and overimportant security guards, and a bit of noise on the block. Really, not much.

One thing is for sure, Colombia doesn´t like protests much. I don´t know if anything provoked the tear gas. But from my vantage point, the students just walked out of the school en mass and the cops launched the gas. That was it. No rocks thrown, no real protest started, nothing. Just a preemptory strike against a relatively peaceful group. That´s real stand up democracy right there.

Ready for some Rioting

Well, the office security official has just informed us that there is a very high probability of more student-police clashes sometime during the day. I mentioned once before that I encountered the tail end of these protests once before and was seriously effected by the remnants of the tear gas used. My office just happens to be in the middle of the nexus of where the previous protests/riots occured and that means we´ll likely be effected by today´s events.

As we are situated on the 3rd floor and at the corner of the 73 and 11, there is a very good chance that tear gas will enter the building and make life here on our floor quite difficult. The windows don´t really shut all the way and every night we´re assaulted by noxious bus pollution making life here quite suffocating. If there is a riot, I´m sure we´ll have to evacuate our floor.

Some people would be concerned about this development, but I´m just wishing I had brought my camera. They told us we could go home and work from home if we wanted to, but there´s no way I´m doing that. I have the perfect vantage point to see the shenanigans and if we get gassed, we have a 10th floor patio that gives adequate viewing without noxious fumes.

I just hope this doesn´t effect my lunch break.

For the love of incoherence

The Libby trial verdict (guilty 4 of 5) is drawing the regular and distasteful partisan spin, primarily from the GOP side, but a wee bit from the Dems as well (not that i blame them after the dirty ass dog tactics of the Bush admin). The TV, from what I´ve read and seen, is alive with the sort of spittle you expect from Fox News, except this time the corruption is spreading to most of the news channels.

"There was no underlying crime."
"He shouldn´t have been prosecuted."
"What was his offense?"

They´re all saying it and they all deserve to be taken behind the woodshed and treated to a nice, resounding, five minutes of paddling fun. If you´re going to act like a lying child, you deserve to be treated like one.

Heading up this Maelstrom of Mediocrity is Robert Novak, the backwash "conservative" columnist who lost any sense of objectivity somewhere around 1914 and sparked this whole Plamegate with his original non-news article outing Valerie Plame as a CIA officer and implying that she had used her influence to send her husband to Niger on a fact finding mission (yet never indicting the credibility of his findings).

I never understood why this was a story in the first place. It essentially had the same factual relevance as the "John Edwards sold his house" story in that there was nothing scandalous about Valerie Plame nominating her husband for the mission at hand. What was newsworthy was that Wilson went to Niger and found NOTHING. No nuclear materials, no evidence of Iraqi interests, no evidence of WMD. This would become a continuing theme with the Bush administration "evidence" supporting the war as it became increasingly clear that the neo-cons had fabricated a story out of shreds of highly questionable "facts" that ran counter to State and CIA findings. The bastards.

Nevertheless, outing Plame, a covert CIA officer with a cover in a dummy company, was debatedly criminal (hinged on knowledge of her covert status, see Armitage, Richard), but either way, the White House scrambled to cover it up and hide any evidence that they had been involved. In the process, former Vice Presidential Aide and now convicted felon I. Scooter Libby lied to the FBI and a grand jury about his involvement and knowledge of the leak.

Why lie?

A lot of people have asked why would Libby lie. And while I´m not convinced that we´ll ever get an answer to that, I theorize that there are two factors. First, it´s very likely that the White House was planning on outing Plame and that Armitage essentially got there first. That´s there MO and it´s also why 50% of America immediately assumed they were guilty. It would have been a brazen violation of common sense, but that´s obviously not a problem for this administration. But it looks like they never had to do the risky lifting in this case. In other words, they lucked out.

The second factor is something I have not seen discussed and I´m very confused by it. Journalistic standards always call for confirmation of pertinent information. When GOP hachetman Novak wrote his article outing Plame, didn´t he need confirmation? Wouldn´t there have to have been someone else who outed Plame at the same time? And wouldn´t that person have to have been in the White House? Either Novak is the least ethical and worst "reporter" around (probably true on its merits) or he got confirmation from someone inside the White House and they didn´t want anyone to know about it.

Update: As my memory is a bit slow this morning, yes, there was a second source and his name is Karl Rove. I´m still not sure why he wasn´t prosecuted or at least hasn´t had his security clearance revoked. I mean, he confirmed classified information which directly lead to the compromising of CIA top secret assets abroad. Seems like fair grounds to remove his clearance.

It´s very possible that Libby lied to cover up the simple fact that the White House (or VPs office) was involved in destroying Valerie Plame´s career and they didn´t want it to publicize just how vindictive they were or how dirty their hands were (legal or not).

At any rate, you pretty much don´t lie to a grand jury unless you´re hiding something big. So whatever Libby´s motives (orders?), it´s a mistake he´ll be paying for for quite some time.

No underlying crime

"Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?"

- Ripley, Aliens

The Rightwing-Hack-o-Sphere is all over this argument that since there was no underlying crime, there shouldn´t have been an investigation or prosecution. Hack-o-Sphere, meet woodshed.

I don´t seem to remember anyone making this argument when President Clinton was drawn and quartered over receiving a BJ in the Oval Office, something that is clearly less illegal than what we´ve seen in the Plame case. In fact, some of the current Naughty Boys and Girls that are trumpeting this line were adament that Clinton be impeached because he lied to a grand jury and they repeated those claims just when Clinton released his memoirs. The sanctity of the legal process, etc.

In the immortal words of Seargant Al Powell, "Why don't you wake up and smell what you're shoveling?" Please, spare me the bullshit this time around.

Not only that, however, the whole point of lying to a grand jury and the FBI is to ensure that no one can find an underlying crime. We may never know if there was an underlying crime because Libby lied about it and helped cover up any White House or Darth Cheney role.

Last, who gives a damn about an underlying crime. That dude lied repeatedly to the FBI and Grand Jury. That´s a crime. He should be Nixonized for it. Enough said.


The scandals continue and for anyone interested I strongly recommend looking at Talking Points Memo. They´re all over the fired US Attorney scandal that is only going to get bigger. Just to catch everyone up on this one, basically, the Justice Department fired 8 US Attorneys on the same day in December. It was highly unusual (and flagrantly stupid) and there appears to be clear evidence that it was politically motivated and probably illegal. This is only going to get bigger and could lead to the impeachment of US Attorney General and Torture Justifier Alberto Gonzalez.

Anyway, this is going to be an interesting story to watch. Already two Congresspeople from New Mexico are implicated and one from Washington State. Plus, the Justice department has clearly lied about the motivations for firing and that includes Gonzalez. He was under oath when he lied to Congress as well. So, we shall see how this goes.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Apartments, Africa, and Grad School

Well, we bought an apartment over the weekend. Or, we signed a Purchase Letter (carta de compra) and paid an initial deposit for the place. Assuming everything goes smoothly, we should receive the apartment by April 14th, or just after we return from the US.

We´re pretty happy about the place. It´s a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 6th floor apartment with a nice design and plenty of light. Plus, it really was a bargain compared to other apartments in the area. The couple we´re buying it from decided that they wanted the cash to invest in a restaurant instead of keeping the place, so we´re getting a very good price since they need the money quick. Of course, they´ve made a tidy profit on the place as they purchased it when it was still in the design phase at a huge discount.

At any rate, whether the price appreciates or not (it will), we still come out winners in the end for two reasons. First, we´re no longer going to be throwing rent money down a bottomless hole. That money becomes an investment every month that we´ll be able to recoup down the road. More importantly, however, is that Colombia has a tax sheltered retirement program similar to a 401(k) except that if you use the money in that account for home ownership, you don´t ever pay taxes on it. So, we´ve been putting a very nice percentage into that account and now we get to use it to invest in property over the short-medium term, eventually converting it to cash without paying a penalty. We rule.


I´ve been thinking a lot about my career of late (for obvious reasons) and while I´m not exactly sure what´s going to develop, I believe it´s clear that I´m more interested in conflict (causes, effects, and resolution) than general development issues. My current job, while interesting from time to time, is something that I really have to fight with to keep focused. I find my attention span growing shorter as the day goes on and it´s difficult to stay focused on the task at hand. This, of course, has been a long term character flaw as I´m quite good at focusing on the things that I´m interested in, but have great trouble concentrating on things that I find f*cking boring (see Transcripts, Emory for more evidence).

That´s not to say that everything I do on my job falls into the "f*cking boring" category. In fact, I wrote something last week that I was really interested in and as far as I know, I kicked its ass. (There´s nothing like criticizing *ahem* shreddding a stupid ass USAID policy with the knowledge that your memo is going direct to USAID decision makers. Not that it will change anything, but at least I got to utterly destroy a bankrupt policy in such a way that only dogmatic jackass could deny the validity and power of my argument. I rule.)

At any rate, the other writing assignments that I have, while marginally interesting and definitely important, are not really holding my interest. Instead, I find myself job hunting and exploring other aspects of my career (or non-stop refreshing Fire Dog Lake to see if Libby has been convicted).

This investigation has led me to consider a variety of options (and discard most) but one that I just can´t shake is the idea of working in/with Africa, particularly in relation to Darfur. People who read this space know that I feel pretty passionately about shutting down "evil sh*t" and Darfur definitely qualifies. Now what could I do about it, really? Probably not much. The world pretty much doesn´t blink in the face of genocide unless something really important, like, uh, oil is endangered. But, I think I could be a powerful advocate for the truly disadvantaged people in Darfur and maybe that´s what captures my interest.

I feel that as I´ve developed as a writer and a thinker, I´ve become a much better and focused advocate for things that are really important to me. As always in life, sometimes I swing and miss. But, I think as I´ve developed, I´ve been hitting more than I´ve been missing. Anyway, I can´t help but think that I´m sitting on the sidelines while some of the greatest tragedies of our time are ongoing without the necessary attention they deserve (Caveat: Iraq is excluded from all future travel plans, I may be passionate, but I ain´t stupid).

What this means in the big picture is pretty much unknown. We just bought an apartment. We´re definitely staying in Colombia for another year if not longer. And as far as I can see, I´m locked into a work situation that, while helpful professionally, sidelines me on all pertinent conflict/refugee issues here in Colombia.

But, I have to start researching and developing a plan for accessing the passion that I have. Whether that means picking up and moving to Africa, going to get a PhD, or finding an NGO here or in the US (UK) to work at, I don´t know.

So, for the interim, I plan to keep working the best I can in this capacity while continuing to educate myself and write as much as I can about the things I want to write about. And if someone is kind enough to eventually publish some of my material, well, that would be sweet, now wouldn´t it.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

More about Genocide

As I have progressed academically and professionally, it´s become quite clear that one of the issues that is most troublesome to the core of my humanity is the unchecked slaughter of men, women, and children simply because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or what have you. I´m continually shocked that the lens of foreign policy interest filters out things like genocide because it seems like stopping those types of horrors goes to the core of what it means to be human. Even though I know that stopping genocide will never be in a nation´s "national interest", it does seem that it´s in every human´s interest and that since humans make up nations, which make up interests, it should be a priority in our foreign policy agenda. And, given how relatively easy it is to stop genocide, it´s something we might actually get right if we were willing to give it a shot. Call me an idealist.

And perhaps this is why the Bosnia ruling in the ICJ is so troubling. Right or wrong (legally speaking) the ruling essentially gave a blank check to the genocidal Sudanese government that´s already been living on a blank check for the last four years. What we, as a global community, have said is, go ahead and kill anyone you want, for any reason you want. We won´t do anything about it.

The reasons commonly given for not acting to stop genocide include the lack of national interest and the risks of foreign intervention. Pessimists and/or realists generally cite Somalia or Vietnam (and soon to be Iraq) as examples of the risks of foreign entanglement in situations we don´t fully understand. But those comparisons fail the laugh test. Stopping genocide is a completely different task than those undertaken in Somalia, Vietnam, and Iraq. In fact, stopping genocide can´t exactly be seen as terribly difficult. When the guilt-ridden French finally went into Rwanda, it took little more than lifting a finger to brush the genocide away.* Machetes versus tanks, yo. And, if you´ve ever watched a video about Darfur, you could conclude that a few attack helicopters tasked with the mission to protect could pretty much shut down the genocide permanently. But, we don´t act because of the "risks" involved.

*(Note: The situation in Rwanda was much more complicated and the French deserve no credit as the Rwandan Patriotic Front actually halted the genocide as they were better armed and organized than Paul Kegali´s genocidal forces. But the point remains the same. It wasn´t hard to stop the genocide in Rwanda. A few well armed troops against machete armed militias wasn´t a contest. In two months the RPF crushed the Hutu regime. Imagine what a well trained, high tech equipped army could have done.)

As a young Bosnian woman who I recently had as a guest speaker in my IR class so eloquently stated, "there´s a difference between fighting a war against [genocidal regimes] and protecting the innocent." I found her comment to be particularly insightful because of the shameful performance of the UN in stopping genocide. When the UN sends "monitors" that´s exactly what they do, monitor. In Rwanda, in an outright disgrace of human decency, UN forces were tasked with protecting foreigners only. So, as soon as the UN troops left an area, out came the machetes, off came the heads. Rwanda was the most primitive of genocides and there was clear evidence at the time that the mere presence of armed UN forces would have shut it down. But we didn´t authorize that. The world instead prefered to let between 800,000 and 1,000,000 people die from the machete than risk the lives of 10 or 20 soldiers.

Darfur is a particularly horrid case as some powerful governments cite the lack of national interest for not acting and others cite national interests for not acting. The US and Europe, for example, are just gun shy when it comes to out of the way areas with few resources to exploit. But the Chinese, on the other hand, are pretty much acting the asshole on this one. The Chinese, God bless their Realist loving souls, want something that Sudan has - Oil. And they know that a hostile position toward the genocide in Darfur will curtail their oil interests. So, the Chinese have not only refused to lift a finger of assistance to the refugees in Darfur, they have actively frustrated UN Security Council efforts by threatening to veto any resolution against the Sudanese government stronger than weak tap water. Hu Jintao meet Adolph Hitler.

The complexity of diverging national interests in a vertical (consensus) system of government essentially guarantees that, as currently composed, the UN Security Council has little hope of acting against genocide in the near term (next 50 years). That leaves two options: unilateral or non-UN multilateral intervention and legal remedies.

Given that 3rd party intervention is extremely rare and unlikely absent strong national interests, the campaign to stop genocide has largely become a legal battle to punish perpetrators after the fact as a means to deter future genocidal leaders. I think that with the history of the last 16 years (post-cold war era) it can be reasonably concluded that this tactic has been a complete failure. Genocide continues. Leaders don´t get punished. And, as seen in Bosnia, responsible parties evade guilty verdicts.

I´ll put it this way. If the Army of the Serb Republic was seen as "independent" from the Serbian government, then what are the odds a future court would rule that the Janjaweed are acting under the auspices of the Sudanese government? I´d say slim to none.

The real conclusion from the Bosnia ruling is that the best way to prosecute a vicious and evil war against civilians is to Outsource Genocide. And that´s exactly what seems to be happening in Darfur.

Unless and until we step up, as a global people, and put an end to this type of violence, we all bear the shame of complicity in murder. I, for one, don´t want blood on my hands.

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