Saturday, November 12, 2005

Writers jailed in 2002 for political satire

Of course walking sub-human sludge like the members of the Bush adminstration responsible for this monstrosity could care less whose lives they wreck. But those of us with working hearts should be furious at the mindboggling stupidity and inhumanity being demonstrated in our name.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Badr Zaman Badr and his brother Abdurrahim Muslim Dost relish writing a good joke that jabs a corrupt politician or distills the sufferings of fellow Afghans. Badr admires the political satires in "The Canterbury Tales" and "Gulliver's Travels," and Dost wrote some wicked lampoons in the 1990s, accusing Afghan mullahs of growing rich while preaching and organizing jihad.

So in 2002, when the U.S. military shackled the writers and flew them to Guantanamo among prisoners whom Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared "the worst of the worst" violent terrorists, the brothers found life imitating farce.For months, grim interrogators grilled them over a satirical article Dost had written in 1998, when the Clinton administration offered a $5-million reward for Osama bin Laden. Dost responded that Afghans put up 5 million Afghanis -- equivalent to $113 -- for the arrest of President Bill Clinton."It was a lampoon ... of the poor Afghan economy" under the Taliban, Badr recalled. The article carefully instructed Afghans how to identify Clinton if they stumbled upon him. "It said he was clean-shaven, had light-colored eyes and he had been seen involved in a scandal with Monica Lewinsky," Badr said.

The interrogators, some flown down from Washington, didn't get the joke, he said. "Again and again, they were asking questions about this article. We had to explain that this was a satire." He paused. "It was really pathetic."It took the brothers three years to convince the Americans that they posed no threat to Clinton or the United States, and to get released -- a struggle that underscores the enormous odds weighing against innocent foreign Muslims caught in America's military prisons.

First African Woman Elected Head of State

As is often the case with "firsts" I approach the announcement with a a mix of excitement and dread. For as is often the case, look for many to view any ordinary missteps she may make as a sign of the inappropriateness of women for the job of president. She's in a particularly tricky spot, as Liberia is one of those "war-torn" African nations -- difficult for anybody to lead well.

Anyway, here's how the New York Times reported the historic news:

DAKAR, Senegal, Nov. 11 - Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, a Harvard-educated economist and former World Bank official who waged a fierce presidential campaign against the soccer star George Weah, emerged victorious on Friday in her quest to lead war-torn Liberia and become the first woman elected head of state in modern African history.


"There are so many capable women," said Yassine Fall, a Senegalese economist and feminist working on women's rights in Africa. "But they just don't get the chance to lead."


The impact of her victory went well beyond Liberia, a nation still trying to recover from more than a decade of civil war.

The history of the continent rings with the names of heroes like Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela and Jomo Kenyatta, fathers of the modern African states they helped form, and villains like Mobutu Sese Seko, Idi Amin and Sani Abacha, the despotic "big men" who ruled ruthlessly over their subjects, enriching themselves along the way.

Despite the large role women played in many national struggles for independence, they were largely relegated to the sidelines in the post-colonial era. The most ambitious women often went abroad, and some, like Ms. Johnson-Sirleaf, rose to prominence in international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank.

But in recent years, African women have gained power and visibility. In 2004 a Kenyan environmentalist, Wangari Muta Maathai, won the Nobel Peace Prize, while Nigeria's finance minister and feared corruption fighter, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has emerged as one of that country's most respected officials.

Women have also made gains at the ballot box. The prime minister of Mozambique, Luísa Dias Diogo, is widely seen as a likely future president. In Rwanda, there is a greater proportion of women serving in Parliament than in any other nation; they occupy nearly half the seats.

Indeed, Africa leads the developing world in the percentage of women in legislative positions, at about 16 percent, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, an organization of parliamentary bodies worldwide.

Yet having more women leaders does not necessarily bring decisions that benefit women. While women generally make decisions that favor women and children, they often gain political power as an embattled minority that feels it must follow men's lead in order to maintain power, said Geeta Rao Gupta, president of the International Center for Research on Women, a Washington-based research group.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Post-Katrina Expulsion of 4 Black Students

He's another heartwarmer from the post-Katrina files.

A student at William Carey College, in Hattiesburg, Miss., reportedly took a small campus generator out of a storage shed that was damaged by the storms and brought it to a dormitory, where students used it to charge cell phones to try to communicate with their loved ones. It is not clear who took the generator, but four black students say that they were expelled — without the opportunity to defend themselves — because of the incident.

The students say that while they were among those in the dormitory who benefited from the generator, they are being treated unfairly because they are black, and that white students who used the generator are not being punished.


Marvin Flemmons, who was a junior before being expelled, said that he didn’t even use the generator. “We were treated very unfairly and I never had the opportunity to speak up for myself,” he said.

Please, Not Another 3 Years

Despite the New York Times' reputation as a "liberal" media outlet, it is hard to imagine another time in the W. Bush presidency when that paper would have published anything nearly as blistering as the editorial they posted today. Slowly, but surely, eyes are finally beginning to open regarding the horror that exists at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Choice cuts:

After President Bush's disastrous visit to Latin America, it's unnerving to realize that his presidency still has more than three years to run. An administration with no agenda and no competence would be hard enough to live with on the domestic front. But the rest of the world simply can't afford an American government this bad for that long.


Mr. Bush could certainly afford to replace some of his top advisers. But the central problem is not Karl Rove or Treasury Secretary John Snow or even Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary. It is President Bush himself.


The place to begin is with Dick Cheney, the dark force behind many of the
administration's most disastrous policies, like the Iraq invasion and the stubborn resistance to energy conservation. Right now, the vice president is devoting himself to beating back Congressional legislation that would prohibit the torture of prisoners. This is truly a remarkable set of priorities: his former chief aide was indicted, Mr. Cheney's back is against the wall, and he's declared war on the Geneva Conventions.

Mr. Bush cannot fire Mr. Cheney, but he could do what other presidents have done to vice presidents: keep him too busy attending funerals and acting as the chairman of studies to do more harm.

Welcome to reality, Times editorial board. Where the heck y'all been?