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30 April 2003

29 April 2003

Hiphopophobia

Zoe WIlliams asks why we conflate "black culture" with the views and mores of only young, straight, black males in her article Hiphopophobia.

Electoral abuses in the UK

Here is an interesting article (a bit shocking, really) about the abuses of postal voting in UK local elections.


I mentioned here a while back that I am reconsidering my decision not to apply for British citizenship. I had a look at the forms, thoughtfully provided by my darling hubby (thank you, darling hubby!) and noticed that I will have to swear an oath of loyalty to the Queen. I am not thrilled by this idea. When I mentioned it to DH, he suggested that I protest on the basis that Sinn Fein MPs were exempted from having to do the same thing. (Admittedly, their reasons were more, shall we say personal? than mine; mine are almost pure technicality.) I wonder if Quakerism is a valid exemption reason? My aversion to swearing an oath to a human being is more in the line of the Quaker aversion to all oaths generally. When I was quite young, I worked for the state of Georgia briefly (for the University system, in between bouts of being a student) and had to swear a loyalty oath then (to the state of Georgia and the US and their constitutions, I believe it was). I thought it was very archaic, very offensive, very Georgia. Some 25 years later, my son also dropped out of college for a couple of years and worked for the University, and I believe they were still making employees swear the oath.

Disorientation about sexual orientation

Government disorientation about sexual orientation.

27 April 2003

On the future of Europe

Jeremy Rifkin says thanks to President Bush for giving Europe a renewed sense of identity.

25 April 2003

British place names

An amusing quiz about British place names.

Apres Saddam, le deluge

Apres Saddam, le deluge? Suzanne Goldberg's last report from Baghdad.

24 April 2003

Back to Iraq

Just a quick one here - it looks a like a blog from a free-lance war correspondent in Iraq. Or something. Anyway, it has a lot of good stuff on it. I found this following a link to MoveableType, apparently the main competitor of my own weblog's host Blogger/Blogspot.

Why I love the internet

Here is a link in the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association website to something called the Rhythmical Time Fountain. It is only 1/2 mile from where I am sitting at work right now, and so I am going to see it today or if it is raining today, maybe tomorrow. Now, how did I happen to find this? Wonderful serendipity. There was a mention of the sculptor Rowland Emmet in a letter to Neil Gaiman that he posted on his weblog, Neil Gaiman's Journal. (I was reading that just because I am bored.) There is no link telling where in Nottingham this thing exists, and it undoubtedly never occurred to Neil or his correspondent that a middle-aged woman working in Nottingham with time on her hands would read this fragment and wonder whether she could pop out for half an hour and see the piece. But the ever-useful Google provided the answer in a few seconds. I did not even know there was this meticulous registry of all the monuments and sculptures in Britain, and that alone will give me hours of time-wasting enjoyment.

23 April 2003

Altered Statesmen

Altered Statesmen! Famous men on drugs. Read about the substances zipping around in the brains of John F. Kennedy, Winston Churchill and other heads of state or leaders of governments.

21 April 2003

Neil Gaiman excerpt

I was just reading Neil Gaiman's journal, which is one of my links down at the bottom of this page. He has a very funny little segue from telling of a story in the Guardian about the revision of European history to a kindler and gentler version, apparently in order to bolster the European Union. The re-casting of the Vikings from cruel barbaric pillagers to clever traders and peaceful farmer-settlers inspired him to re-write the Crusades, the Jewish diaspora and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. Check it out (you may have to look in the archives in a few days.)

The sugar connection

Today's topic is sugar.
Last Friday I happened to suggest to hubby that we might look into trying the Atkins diet, as we both desperately need to lose weight. He agreed, and Friday night I went to surf the web to look for resources in starting the diet. I discovered that Atkins had just died that same day. At first I thought this was a mighty coincidence, until I realised that the subject had only suggested itself to me because of an e-mail I had received a few days earlier from a dieter's support group. Since Atkins had suffered a fatal head injury nine days before he died, I figured that this group and the "online dieting industry" at large probably knew that and thus sent the e-mail.
Now today I came across the sugar connection in a more sinister guise. There is a story in the Guardian about the evil sugar industry and the WHO. The sugar industry violently objects to the notion that sugar should make up no more than 10% of a healthy diet, claiming that refined sugar in the form of soft drinks and confections can make up up to 25% of a diet without being unhealthy. US Government agencies being pressured to de-fund WHO say that the tactics being used are far more blatant and strong-armed than anything they experienced from the tobacco industry.

18 April 2003

Here is an article that my friend Joani sent me. From the Washington Monthly, it is long, but full of some very thought-provoking ideas. The chaos is all part of the plan.

Good Friday

A Good Friday message from Giles Fraser, Anglican priest.

17 April 2003

Talkin' 'bout my generation

I say talkin' 'bout My Generation.

16 April 2003

And the neocons own that copyright anyway

It's nice to see that they can't get away with this kind of shite anymore. The up-side of living in the Information Age, perhaps. Sony forced into a major climb-down. (They have withdrawn their request to copyright "Shock and Awe" for a new video game.)

A book review

A timely book review : The Chief Rabbi's Haggadah by Jonathan Sacks.

14 April 2003

Two stories

Two interesting stories, only one of which is about the war:

A story about the recently rescued Shoshana Johnson, from her hometown (El Paso TX) TV news station.

The original She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Some good quotes

From the Guardian Informer (a free e-mail newsletter) :
>>> QUOTATIONS OF THE DAY

"The kid sister of all battles" - the Chicago Sun Tribune on the
battle for Baghdad.

"I'm not sure, and that's why we need to talk to them about it." - The
foreign secretary, Jack Straw, is asked whether Syria has weapons of
mass destruction.

"I came here thinking I wouldn't need any Arabic at all - just 'Put
your hands up' and 'Put your weapons down.' They've been teaching me
how to talk to the thieves. Things like, 'You are lying, I'm not
stupid,' and 'If you steal, we will kill you.'" Marine Sgt Steven
Christopher in Baghdad on the local residents helping him to identify
and accost looters.

12 April 2003

Free to do bad things

The daily dose:
Free to do bad things, according to Rumsfeld from the Guardian's Brian Whitaker.
The hell that was once a hospital, by Suzanne Goldberg, also of the Guardian.
A bankable ringer to replace Saddam? "Reprinted" by Venik Aviation (iraqiwar.ru) from the Washington Times.
US tank crew, Iraqi civilians, killed in munitions accident, from Al Jazeera, via iraqiwar.ru
Syrian oil exports cut by half after US sabotage pipeline from Iraq. From Al Bawaba business section.
You would have to be an idiot to believe that, says Dick Cheney about journalists fears that US forces are deliberately attacking journalists. But that is just what many major mainstream journalists do believe, including the editor-in-chief of Reuters, several watchdog groups, and the UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw.

10 April 2003

Covering the war

There's a very funny vignette and also some good rumours and murmurings in Brian Whitaker's daily briefing on the war.

Steve Bell, excellent political cartoonist, has an article about being a "war cartoonist". Read why he would rather stay in the Palestine Hotel than wear a flak jacket with CARTOONIST stenciled across it.

Saving of Private Lori

Everyone has now heard about the Saving of Private Lynch. Gary Younge of the Guardian asks : What About Private Lori? And here is a tribute to Private Lori Piestewa from Indian Country Today.

09 April 2003

Blogkeeping

If you are one of those people who look at the stuff around the edges of a web page, you may notice that I added a Contact Me link above. Feel free to send e-mail and express yourself.

I also added a few more News links. One of them, Common Dreams, is a great site that I just discovered thanks to my best friend Joani (thanks, Joani!) sending me an article from it by Arthur Schleshinger, Jr., whom my fellow baby-boomers may remember as JFK's "special assistant" and more lately, his biographer. In this article Schleshinger mentions (and it is, I think, the third article I have read to mention it) the speech by President John Addams where he says that America "will not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy." Thinking of JFK and AS, Jr. being such comsummate cold warriors and all, made me make one of my strange lateral connections. In the Cold War days, the other side, whom we styled, quaintly, "the Soviets", did, or were accused, of exactly that. We used to pride ourselves, as Americans, that we didn't have to export our ideology the way they did, though we granted that they saw themselves as destroying the monsters of capitalist imperialism that stalked abroad. But we thought that the American way of life, the capitalist ideology, the doctrine of freedom, just had to be superior because it sort of exported itself: it leapt off the shelves, it turned up everywhere. Non-Americans could claim to despise us, but they all wanted to be us, even the "Soviets", apart from a few fanatics, would defect at the drop of a hat. And then the Cold War ended (we won) and still there were people who despised us, and they weren't even "Soviets". In the world of Islam, we found some opponents who seemed far more resistance to the old American Schmooze, they did not think our ideology was like flapjacks at all, and they seemed remarkably slow to adopt our way of life, even when they had the dosh to do so. So now at long last we have found a monster worth going abroad to destroy? Well, yes, Al Qaeda fits that bill. But Saddam only ever wore the trappings of Islam as a political technique - he is the opposite of a fanatic, and we really don't (do we?) mean to "destroy" Islam itself. Another hint that maybe the war against Iraq is a winnable proxy for another fight we know we cannot win, at least not satisfyingly and now.

08 April 2003

Blogkeeping - citizenship

Yesterday I neglected my weblog. It was either yesterday or late Sunday that a bit of free-style web browsing led me to a possibly life-changing decision. If you look at my second or third post (back in the archive) you will see where I was moaning because I cannot vote now, seeing as how I am not a British citizen. I had been saying, these past five years, that I had no intention of becoming one, because I was under the mistaken idea that I would lose my US citizenship if I did so. A web-expedition amongst the papers of the US Department of State has convinced me that this is not the case. It says there that although the US does not encourage dual citizenship, mainly because it is a pain in the neck to Departments of State everywhere, they do not automatically strip natural-born Americans of their citizenship if they take up residence elsewhere and decide to become citizens there. In fact, the only way I can be deprived of my US citizenship is if I ask to be, or if I commit treason or certain other heinous crimes that I have no inclination to commit. So, all in all, I have decided to apply for British citizenship in due time. I just hope they won't make me sing that "Long to reign over us" line from God Save the Queen.

Military Rank Trivia

Some of the sharper viewers and readers may have noticed that certain news providers - TV, online and print - have referred to the British military spokesman Group Captain Al Lockwood as simply "Captain". There is no such rank in the RAF. Group Captain in the RAF is a bit higher than Captain in the Army. (In the US Armed Forces, the ranks for Air Force and Army are almost identical, mainly because the Air Force was originally part of the Army - the Army Air Corps. This is not the case in the UK.) If you would like to find out what all the RAF ranks are, in the proper order, try the RAF Officers Rank Test.

An alternative news site

According to some sources, the best place to get less-biased news coverage on the war is from Russian spies. There is a website that relays an English translation of news sourced from Russian intelligence with a one-day delay. The site is run by Venik's Aviation. You can even get it straight from the source and (sort of) translated into English. In fact, despite the patchy translation, this site is far more entertaining than the very dry, purely text Venik's site. Best of all are the instant feedback from users all over the world. A lot more content-rich than the average hour of "Faux News".

06 April 2003

North Korea

Murmurings from North Korea (but it should be shoutings!) Listen, you guys, this thing is beginning to worry me. North Korea and the US 'on a slide towards conflict'

05 April 2003

On loving ones neighbour

Today I share two stories from the Guardian which have similar themes. The first is about the friendship between Daniel Barenboim (an ex-patriate Israeli) and Edward Said (a Palestinian in exile). The theme of this story is reconciliation.

The second is an essay by one of the regular columnists Jonathan Freedland, "You Don't Need to Believe in God to Learn From Religion". (Very highly recommended.)

04 April 2003

How to argue

How to argue, with illustrations from The Onion:

Don't be afraid to use strategic sarcasm

Just stick to the facts!

It helps if you can establish common ground . . .

Always consult an expert.

Prayer and belief

Why Is Bush Afraid of Franklin Graham? from BeliefNet.

BeliefNet also has Prayer Circles for servicemen and women in the Iraqi War, for the coalition, for innocent victims and POW/MIAs.

My friend Leta from Georgia sent an e-mail about collective prayers worldwide at 9 pm Eastern time for troops, "our" citizens (you can make that of the world, I think) and world peace. An excellent idea and one I will participate in.

How will we know?

I just can't stop myself! Here is a really good piece from the Washington Post. How will we know when we have won?

03 April 2003

Our families in Baghdad

Only one post today about the War. It is too much, even though I feel guilty saying that because I have a choice, which neither the Iraqis nor the soldiers there have. But still, I don't make anyone feel better by making myself crazy-sick-unhappy. So one thing about the war, and all I can say is, for God's sake, will everyone please listen to these people! From our families in Baghdad.

The road to Wigan Pier

A nice little essay on "The Road to Wigan Pier".

02 April 2003

Alas, Babylon

Arundhati Roy sums it all up very well.

Worse than I expected

I keep thinking that things cannot get any worse. But they can. Before the war started, I was full of dire predictions. The mildest of which was "I think they are underestimating how long and how many lives it can take." And "I don't think anyone has said how all this is going to be paid for." (I did see a report about the ordering of body bags in early March. I don't remember the figure but it was a lot higher than any number you want to think about in this context.) The worst of my predictions are based on the appalling similarities in the run-up to this war and the run-up to World War I. (I am not the only person to have noticed this. I mean to say pundits wrote about that, too.) And it is also a lot like how "we" got into Vietnam, but a lot faster and maybe even stupider, given the really advanced technology and the greater military experience the US has now compared to the mid-1960s.

And yet, the main thing that I fear is the distraction of it, the fact that, as bad as the war is, it is only one little part of the world picture, but it is dominating 95% of the news in all media. Meanwhile, in Korea, meanwhile on the West Bank, meanwhile in Kashmir, meanwhile in the Ivory Coast, etc. etc. Then there is the eerie correspondence between the outbreak of SARS now and the influenza that grew in strength in the background through the last few years of WWI, only to explode into a pandemic (Europe 1918-1919, East Cost of US 1919, midwest 1920).

But I never really anticipated the naked imperialism being displayed by elements of the American government. No, I never saw that coming. I always think that I am so paranoid about people like Rumsfeld and Perle and Cheney that they can't really be as bad as they seem to me. But guess what, I think maybe they are.

Iraq's cultural heritage - exterminate!

A piece in the Guardian about Iraq's cultural heritage and its possible (in many cases likely and in a few cases, done) destruction by the war.

01 April 2003

Generational discussion on the ills of the world

This is a slightly-edited copy of my daughter Aimee's e-mail response (which I invited) to the article titled "Ethical Quandary" (see 28 March, below).

I have a direct quote from one of the guys in the article that really adds
weight to my opinion (which I will get to in a second):

"This war is a catalyst that is shining light on a military that is always
strong and present and here for one reason -- to keep us safe," he said in
an e-mail.

"The world today is a safer place because of American military
capabilities."

Yeah, well. {excrement}. If you're not part of the solution you're part of the
problem. These guys started out being anti-establishment, but possibly
never really had their hearts in it (can we say 'stoned, liberal, easy
girls hang out at protests', anyone?). This guy 'sold out' as soon as it
became convenient, but lets just face it - when the keys of power, money,
and priviledge were handed to him as part of his coming-of-age, he stuffed
the man's {generative member} right in his mouth and said 'thank you very much sir'. And,
what really makes me angry is that he probably didn't sell out earlier in
life because he didn't HAVE TO, as nobody took his career as a hippie
seriously because he was no real threat because he really had nothing to
complain about and didn't care about what he WAS ever protesting.

So, they/we can be raging hypocrites and go to protests and nobody will
care, because we are ALL the fascist, capitalist, imperialist dictators we
think we're against, and all of us who drove to a protest and slabbed
Vaseline on our lips to keep them moist while we drank bottled water and
yelled 'Bush is a terrorist' in between sips of lattes and drags of a Camel
lite are all a bunch of liars.

And I'm a hypocrite for even writing this email (how DID this electricity
get here?). However, I wasn't asked to sit down at a conference table with
someone from the military and seriously considered writing missile guidance
programs for them for some cash or whatever the {common 4-letter expletive} this company did so I
probably only have maybe the little tip of a {male generative member} in my mouth. This guy's
mouth is so full he probably muffled his way through the meeting. The room
probably reeked like a peep show booth when they walked out of there and
went for some celebratory cocktails.

Oh, I'm sorry. Did I type that last bit out loud? How crude for a
mother-to-be. I should make the world all peaches and roses for my new baby
girl. Maybe if I'm lucky she'll come squirting out onto a bed of rose
petals and Barbie-doll clothes. I always heard new mothers have a really
hard time having children without doing something to make the world they're
coming into a better place. But I'm telling you this... I don't even know
where to begin.

Aimee


And this is my response. Which I am only giving because Aimee's message does end on a bit of down-hearted note and in case others are feeling as hopeless as she is (or was?) I just want to say what I can to keep hope alive. After all, I, being one of the most negative, dark and pessimistic people on the planet, have a grand-child on the way!

This was great feedback - I can tell that you think more deeply about these issues than most of the older people I know. I think your criticism of the so-called radicals of my generation is very valid. If it weren't for all the dirty words, I would post this on my blog, with your permission. But I won't because of the words, and I wouldn't want to bleep it, because that would just be more hypocrisy. (I am not opposed to strong language you understand, it is just that I wouldn't be able to access my own blog at work if I put dirty words on it because of their "security" software, and also I would hate to get one of my friends in trouble if they accessed it at work.) (As you see, I did post it after all, because she said she didn't mind being bleeped.)

Anyway, don't beat yourself up - they have Vaseline and lattes in Iraq, you know. They even have broadband internet and blogs and digital cameras. Of course, they also have a lot more starvation and poverty, and now they have collateral damage and conquering Christians, too, but then, your protesting is meant to oppose that. As for where to begin changing the world, it sort of doesn't matter. I think one place is as good as another, so long as it is your own {excrement} you are working on and not everybody else's.

I love you. Keep on being strong.

Mum


As you can see, I even had to bleep myself. Oh, well, as they say here in England, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

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