Monday, August 16, 2004

The designated driver

Quote of the day, a US army major frustrated by the limitations on the use of heavy weaponry in Najaf: "It’s frustrating, like being the designated driver."

Hurricane Charley is a test of the idea of the Dept of Homeland Security, into which FEMA was merged. Priorities at FEMA are therefore now set by the terrorist-fighters (according to a story in the Wall Street Journal). This isn’t the first time FEMA’s priorities have been distorted: the Reagan admin redirected it to the task of preparing for a winnable nuclear war, leaving it totally unable to deal with hurricanes, earthquakes, etc.

Of course, according to Jeb Bush, it’s not like we need any preparedness, weather satellites, etc, because "God doesn't follow the linear projections of computer models." "This is God's way of telling us that he's almighty and we're mortal." And what were you telling us when you signed all those execution orders?

The NYT has two thematically linked stories today. One is that the FBI is questioning activists about possible protests at the R convention, the other (Bob Herbert’s column) that Florida state police have been questioning elderly black voters and get-out-the-vote volunteers. The theme these stories share, of course, is intimidation. The Justice Dept’s Office of Legal Policy, most recently heard or for arguing that torturing terrorism suspects was ok, has issued a ruling that the chilling effect on 1st Amendment activities is outweighed by law & order concerns. Florida claims to be investigating something to do with absentee ballots, they won’t say what. Remember, this is the state where the Republican party is telling R’s to vote absentee to ensure their votes are counted.

CNN & other media have started using the phrase "anti-Iraqi forces" for the very-much-Iraqi resistance, Juan Cole points out. He cites journalist Nir Rosen reports that the phrase was developed by a PR company, but "they were told that no Iraqis would fall for it. So apparently it has now been retailed to major American news programs, on the theory that the American public is congenitally stupid." Cole has no link to the Rosen piece, and I can’t find it. Has anyone seen it? Anyway, a News.Google search for the phrase scores 712 hits.
Update: Tex of the UnFairWitness blog has suggested to me that Rosen communicated this information to Cole privately rather than in a published article, which seems to me on re-reading to be a fair reading of Cole & Angry Arab. It would be nice to have more than anecdotal evidence, given the phrase's pervasiveness (now, 8/17/04, 5:30pm, 717, 4,240 Google hits).

1,600 Palestinian "security prisoners" in Israeli prisons have gone on hunger strike for better conditions. Prison guards have been barbequing meat and baking bread within smelling distance of the prisoners. It would be nice to know what percentage of them are being held without charge or trial. I don’t think they’re planning to fast to death, although they have been threatened with forcible feeding, something which the British prison system, to name one, stopped doing to sane hunger striking prisoners in 1974. The US has done it in Guantanamo, but generally won’t in mainland prisons.

Najaf police, no longer pretending to have ordered journalists out of the city for their own safety, have said they will shoot any reporters who leave their hotel.

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