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31 December 2004

City Pages: Artists of the Year

This is the only end-of-2004 retrospective I will blog, because it's the only one you need. A little Minnesota-centric, but you say that like it's a bad thing.

30 December 2004

Worldwide labour solidarity response to tsunami

LabourStart has a compendium of things being done to assist tsunami sufferers and survivors through trade union and labour organisations. The article also links to stories of some of the economic fallout from the disaster. In the immediate aftermath, you would think that 10,000 people losing jobs because the hotels they worked in were swept away or damaged beyond repair is not a big thing, in the context. But if someone is left homeless immediately by the tsunami, or becomes homeless a month later because they have no income or near-term possibility of getting any, they are still homeless. And economic hardships on such a massive scale will only contribute to the long-term toll from poverty, malnutrition and disease. Another example of the collateral damages - the Norwegian trade union and agency's mine clearance programme had 650 mine clearance workers in Sri Lanka, who are missing, fate unknown.

28 December 2004

Tsunami stories

The American Street has a big digest of tsunami stories and aid donation sites. Some of the stories are from bloggers who live in Southeast Asia.

Words fail me

The tsunami. Possibly 50,000 dead in a few days time. A disaster that cuts across nations, continents even. When things happen on this scale, you wonder why we humans bothered to tote water uphill, plant seeds, invent language, make art. This would probably have happened anyway, and then there would have been fewer people in the affected areas to die, and none of us in the rest of the world would have known about it. It almost makes you want to be an innocent pre-verbal being. Because what can you say or think, with this great big brain of yours? You can't even rage against man's inhumanity, because this is apparently God's inhumanity. I shall read Job, and try once again to understand. Speaking of words, that word "disaster" is interesting. The "dis" is obvious, the "aster" is like in asteroid or astronomy. Well, more like in astrology. The stars are not working, or not working the way we think they ought to. They have thousands of astrologers in India and consult them for marriages, trips, career choices. Indonesia is full of superstitions that govern thought the way TV governs our thoughts here in the developed world. But no one saw this one coming, did they?

23 December 2004

Is this what they meant by teaching the world to sing?

The armed forces of Coca-cola strike again, from CorporateWatch News.com. Protest Coca-cola's violence in India. Send a Free Fax: http://www.indiaresource.org/action/faxcoke.php

The Minister, the Mistress, the Husband and the Pregnancy or Peyton Place, London W1

While I was in temporary retirement, as I said below, strange things were in the news. This, of course, is the other big story in the UK for the past couple of weeks. In fact, much bigger than the fall from grace of the Sikhs, one of Britain's most respected minority communities. For those who live in outer space, or the US, the story thus far:


Do you think I am capable of making stuff like this up?

22 December 2004

The play, the protest, the censorship and the backlash

All kinds of weird things are happening in the news here in Britain and I have not been blogging. I am very bad, and I deserve to have my page hits and my Google rating decline. (And so I have.) Darling Hubby wants me to blog about this. So I am. This is a convoluted story. The easy take on it is that it is the "Sikh version of Satanic Verses". The Sikh community, tellingly, protests that they did not ask for the play to be closed. Fair point - but! They asked for a rewrite, which, no matter how "sensitively" one tries to frame the request, is still censorship, and just as much an anathema to a free-speech advocate or an artist as dishonouring a temple is to the religious. The Sikhs complain they were not being heard, but fact is, they were not listening either. There is a lot of that going around, not just in political and artistic circles. Britons generally, whether they are Anglo-Saxon, Celtic or Asian sub-continentals, tend to think in cliches and reason through their spleens. If you don't believe me, just read the letters column in any "intellectual" daily newspaper. I just shake my head in disgust and wonder if I can live out the rest of my life in this country, many of whose so-called values I refuse to ever accept. There is still much good here, I suppose. But, to paraphrase dear old Prof. Higgins, why can't the British learn to speak? (And to listen and to use their own rules of grammar.)

18 December 2004

My latest excuse to neglect blogging

I am wearing my long-unused amateur cryptanalyst hat and trying to solve this. I have all but three pairs solved, and the connection between the pairs. I have left to go - the remaining six individuals and their connections, the overall connection between the two lists (apart from the obvious one) and of course, and I expect if anything will stop me it will be this, the hidden quotation. Still, I have only been working on it for two days, so that's pretty good.
Update, 22:30 - I have cracked it and sent my solution to GCHQ. Wonder what the prize is?

High Speed Internet to the People

Large telecommunications companies are threatened by the spectre of community networks, and in at least one case, have fought them and won. So no surprise there, really. This story came from Sojourners online magazine and e-mail newsletter.

14 December 2004

More British humour at our expense

This from the BBC Four Tribe on tribe.net.
December 08, 2004 - 06:19 AM

The Americans Ball. Later Arrivals:
We welcome
Cybil Rights & her Irish cousin, Bill O'Rights
Closely followed by
Mr & Mrs Ho, & their daughter, Ida

December 08, 2004 - 06:55 AM

Re: The Americans Ball. Later Arrivals:
Looking replendant we have
Mr & Mrs Vanation & their daughter, Bertha

December 08, 2004 - 07:42 AM

Re: The Americans Ball. Later Arrivals:
Ah! Who's this? Is it not Mr and Mrs Bennet-I-Can't-Believe Theyve-Elected-that-Monkey-Again? Yes it is! And with them is their son, Gordon Bennet-I-Can't-Believe Theyve-Elected-that-Monkey-Again!

12 December 2004

Colour-conscious but White-blind

Thanks, yet again. to tribe.net, i have discovered LiP Magazine and this excellent article about the racialisation of crime reporting and the hypocritical colour-blindness to crimes committed by an overwhelming majority of white perpetrators. This relates to something I have noticed since I was a little girl in the American South in the 1960s, although it sure didn't stop there: in everyday discourse, not just news reporting, white people are "people", white Americans have opinions that are called "American opinions" about black people and their problems, white girls are just girls but black girls are blacks who happen to be young and female. It goes on and on. Read this, it's really good, and whatever your colour it may open your eyes.

11 December 2004

How to blog, from someone on Tribe

OK, so the link doesn't work unless you are a member of Tribe. I sort of figured that. So I will have to post al of what he said. Meanwhile, you could join Tribe, becasue it's a good way to connect with people online:

December 10, 2004 - 08:07 PM
how to blog, tips, whatever
tony pierce said:
1. write every day.
2. if you think youre a good writer, write twice a day.
3. dont be afraid to do anything. infact if youre afraid of something, do it. then do it again. and again.
4. cuss like a sailor.
5. dont tell your mom, your work, your friends, the people you want to date, or the people you want to work for about your blog. if they find out and you'd rather they didnt read it, ask them nicely to grant you your privacy.
6. have comments. dont be upset if no one writes in your comments for a long time. eventually they'll write in there. if people start acting mean in your comments, ask them to stop, they probably will.
7. have an email address clearly displayed on your blog. sometimes people want to tell you that you rock in private.
8. dont worry very much about the design of your blog. image is a fakeout.
9. use Blogger. it's easy, it's free; and because they are owned by Google, your blog will get spidered better, you will show up in more search results, and more people will end up at your blog. besides, all the other blogging software & alternatives pretty much suck.
10. use spellcheck unless youre completely totally keeping it real. but even then you might want to use it if you think you wrote something really good.
11. say exactly what you want to say no matter what it looks like on the screen. then say something else. then keep going. and when youre done, re-read it, and edit it and hit publish and forget about it.
12. link like crazy. link anyone who links you, link your favorites, link your friends. dont be a prude. linking is what seperates bloggers from apes. and especially link if you're trying to prove a point and someone else said it first. it lends credibility even if youre full of shit.
13. if you havent written about sex, religion, and politics in a week youre probably playing it too safe, which means you probably fucked up on #5, in which case start a second blog and keep your big mouth shut about it this time.
14. remember: nobody cares which N*Sync member you are, what State you are, which Party of Five kid you are, or which Weezer song you are. the second you put one of those things on your blog you need to delete your blog and try out for the marching band. similarilly, nobody gives a shit what the weather is like in your town, nobody wants you to change their cursor into a butterfly, nobody wants to vote on whether your blog is hot or not, and nobody gives a rat ass what song youre listening to. write something Real for you, about you, every day.
15. dont be afraid if you think something has been said before. it has. and better. big whoop. say it anyway using your own words as honestly as you can. just let it out.
16. get Site Meter and make it available for everyone to see. if you're embarrassed that not a lot of people are clicking over to your page, dont be embarrassed by the number, be embarrassed that you actually give a crap about hits to your gay blog. it really is just a blog. and hits really dont mean anything. you want Site Meter, though, to see who is linking you so you can thank them and so you can link them back. similarilly, use Technorati, but dont obsess. write.
17. people like pictures. use them. save them to your own server. or use Blogger's free service. if you dont know how to do it, learn. also get a Buzznet account. several things will happen once you start blogging, one of them is you will learn new things. thats a good thing.
18. before you hit Save as Draft or Publish Post, select all and copy your masterpiece. you are using a computer and the internet, shit can happen. no need to lose a good post.
19. push the envelope in what youre writing about and how youre saying it. be more and more honest. get to the root of things. start at the root of things and get deeper. dig. think out loud. keep typing. keep going. eventually you'll find a little treasure chest. every time you blog this can happen if you let it.
20. change your style. mimic people. write beautiful lies. dream in public. kiss and tell. finger and tell. cry scream fight sing fuck and dont be afraid to be funny. the easiest thing to do is whine when you write. dont be lazy. audblog at least once a week.
21. write open letters. make lists. call people out on their bullshit. lead by example. invent and reinvent yourself. start by writing about what happened to you today. for example today i told a hot girl how wonderfully hot she is.
22. when in doubt review something. theres not enough reviews on blogs. review a movie you just saw, a tv show, a cd, a kiss you just got, a restaurant, a hike you just took, anything.
23. constantly write about the town that you live in.
24. out yourself. tell your secrets. you can always delete them later.
25. dont use your real name. dont write about your work unless you dont care about getting fired.
26. dont be afraid to come across as an asswipe. own your asswipeness.
27. nobody likes poems. dont put your poems on your blog. not even if theyre incredible. especially if theyre incredible. odds are theyre not incredible. bad poems are funny sometimes though, so fine, put youd dumb poems on there. whatever.
28. tell us about your friends.
29. dont apologize about not blogging. nobody cares. just start blogging again.
30. read tons of blogs and leave nice comments.

I'm not sure if this link will work for everyone (if it doesn't let me know.) What this guy says is a little bit bossy, but basically true and heartfelt. I have to say, I have violated almost every one of his prescriptions, but I would never delete my blog. Not this one, anyway. I should probably delete some of my neglected minor blogs, but I just can't bring myself to. I think I just basically love to listen to myself talk, and yes, I have had therapy about that.

More great spam titles

"You must transmute to the champion individual for her"
and even better . . .
"Improve your spermatazoon measure & character".

07 December 2004

The sharp end of globalisation

"Behind the Brand Names" is a fact-rich report on conditions in the "export processing zones" in such countries as Haiti, El Salvador and China. The report is sponsored by the ICFTU (International Confederation of Free Trade Unions), an organisation which is responding to globalisation by trying to revive the old idea of truly international unions. (You need Acrobat Reader to access the PDF file.)

05 December 2004

Doonesbury

Doonesbury has been since the early 1970s and remains today my favourite comic strip of all times. It has gone through some incredibly shallow periods, and there have been times when I have been really irritated at it. But the high points, like today's strip, more than redeem it. What other comic strip has real characters who not only age but also grow (Joanie, Michael, BD, and in this case, Boopsie!)? And at the same time, it has ridiculous cartoon characters who function as a wicked send-up of a famous person (Uncle Duke) or of a phenomenon (JJ). And as if that's not enough, it even has a talking cigarette, a bloviating waffle and a desperately out-of-his-depth centurion helmet who happens to be the President of the United States.

Sensitive Light: A dogs life

A touching little post from a local photoblogger (who, besides living a few scant miles from me, is really very good.)

Soul of a Butterfly

This morning I read a book review for a biography/autobiography of Muhammad Ali from the Times Online Books mailing list. Sometimes, a really good review is almost as good as the book itself. This review was excellent, and is the sort of thing I aspire to in my book reviews. Reviews of books that the reviewer didn't enjoy are rarely good, only when the reviewer is good with corrosive sarcasm and the book is bad enough in a big enough way to deserve it. But a good review of a good book gives you a taste of why that book is so good, gives you a taste of the book itself and gives you a little more besides.

Take love, for example: and the book is all about love. For Ali, it seems essential that he loves vast numbers of people, and is loved back by them. I was there in Atlanta when he lit the Olympic flame, and I felt the oceans of love washing towards him from America and the world. I have been at prize-fights where the very name Ali gets a bigger cheer than either contestant. Ali: the world’s most beloved sportsman; perhaps the world’s most beloved human.
Which is odd when you remember that he spent years as a hate-magnet. Quite deliberately: he modelled his free-wheeling braggart monologues on a wrestler named Gorgeous George, reasoning that the more people who wanted to see his ass whupped, the more tickets he would sell. He was always an actor, an illusionist, a man who adores conjuring tricks. He still does them; though now, as a devout Muslim who will never deceive, he afterwards insists on showing you how it was done.

04 December 2004

Lesbian Minister De-frocked

An openly lesbian Methodist minister was stripped of her credentials in a juried ecclesiastical trial. Although the jury vote was 12 to 1 to convict her of violating Methodist discipline, the vote to expel her from the clergy was only 7 to 6. The liberal congregation in Philadelphia PA where she served for the past five years has offered to employ her as a lay associate. In a similar case earlier this year in Seattle, another lesbian minister in the same denomination was acquitted.

03 December 2004

Blogkeeping and my life again

Tomorrow I am going in to work to supervise an implementation. A really major implementation. It is my first time doing something like this, there are many disadvantages under which we are labouring, and it is always possible that the whole thing (or I) will fall in a heap. This thing looming on the horizon (and it has been postponed twice, which hasn't helped much) is a big reason why I was so stressed before my holiday to America, and got back up to high stress soon after it, and why my blogging has fallen off and my Google rating gone from 6 down to 5. But soon it will all be in the past, for better or worse, and I can get back to the things that matter - books, cooking and the internet. And writing about politics, sex and religion. And maybe taking our poor old neglected dog for a proper walk.
Meanwhile, did you know I have a sort of "greatest hits" column? In the left-hand "menu" of this page there are some links to my favourite old posts, which I think distill the best writing I have done on this blog. Today I added a link to the kitchen blog, That Hash Browns Story. Check it out, you may enjoy it.
A lot of my favourite bloggers have recently gone into semi-retirement or just totally packed it in. I guess I may have to do some more pruning in the blogroll, but in some cases, their old stuff is so good that I'll leave it there as long as the link works, and maybe some passing stranger will discover it.
Update (Sunday): the implementation is in. It took about 8 hours longer than I estimated, for which I was roundly excoriated by client and upper management. But I am philosophical about that. It could have been (and by all rights might well have been) a lot worse.

30 November 2004

Why are we silent?

Riverbend, in Baghdad Burning, asks us all the question I have been asking myself - why are we all so silent about Fallujah? My own reaction on seeing the city after the "fighting" was over was also, like hers, a feeling of being in the wrong time somehow. Riverbend says how, with all our communications, e-mail, mobile phones with cameras, how can the world not say anything about Fallujah? I thought not that this was out of the earlier 20th century, before we had all this techie stuff to make the world intimate, but that it was medieval; it was like the massacre of the Cathars, or even earlier, like the razing of Carthage, the obliteration of Troy. The Nazis did this to small villages in Poland, but Fallujah was no small village. This was not pacification, not flushing out insurgents, it was collective punishment on a grand scale, like My Lai times a thousand, like an Israeli retaliation against Palestinians, but on steroids.
I want to protest with a massed gathering, I want to join a movement - and there is no movement. And I am ashamed to say I don't know how to start one. This is my cry in the wilderness. Blogosphere of the left, do you really not care? Are all these American issues with voting systems, all this petty in-fighting, anywhere near as important as forcing the empire to look at itself in the mirror and confess what it - what we - have done and have become?

27 November 2004

Just playing around

I tried to be serious today and do some real blogging but I got caught up in the snares of a silly meme. I collect all these things on my personal page and sometimes also put them on LiveJournal. This one (at the top) shows which calligraphy hand I am. Got this from Cheryl at Flotsam and Jetsam.

Well-known dupe of pinkos to retire from news-reading

Fafblog's Medium Lobster has this to say about the impending retirement of veteran news-anchor, Dan Rather:

Today he retires under a cloud of scandal, having earlier used forged memos to falsely imply that President George W. Bush is a son of wealth and privilege. But he will long be remembered for his tireless dedication to investigative journalism - a curious anachronism, similar to quilting bees and coal-powered heat - and for his longstanding role as an anarcho-communist traitor to the Republic.
Rather will continue to work as a full-time correspondent for 60 Minutes and as a leader of his local al Qaeda cell. His successor on the Evening News will be exumed corpse of Leon Trotsky.

25 November 2004

Cultural reverberations from my old neighbourhood

Some bars get cooler with age, and some simply get older and crustier. The Hexagon Bar in the Seward neighborhood of southeast Minneapolis has somehow accomplished both after 80 years in business. So says Chris Riemenschneider in his article: Putting the Hex back on scene. Read this for a taste of Minneapolis and why I miss it so much.

23 November 2004

Blogkeeping and my life

As badly as I have been neglecting this blog, I have been even worse at my book review and bookstore blog and at Deborama's Kitchen, my food and food politics blog. So I am cross-posting this at both, because I have been a) actively reading and planning, bursting even, to review a couple of books, and b) I have some cookie recipes to post and some simmering thoughts about all this diet and nutrition stuff. First the cookies. As those of you in Britain will know, last week was the big Children In Need charity fund drive. My employer (a mega multi-national) is a big participant and this year I sold cookies. Real American cookies baked by a real American grannie, is how I advertised them. They even (ugh!) put my picture on the intranet, posing with my cookies held out in front, a fake smile on my face, not a hint of (detectable) irony (I hope.) As for food politics, it has been brought to the fore, for me, by the recent hunting-with-dogs ban. I used to be a vegetarian. I am still selective about what animal products I will eat, and I try to influence DH who is pretty much not. I saw a Countryfile show on Sunday where a gamekeeper and a leader of a shooting ("wild" birds) group debated two anti-hunting activists. My thoughts, about which I will probably not get more specific, were about the comparative ethics (from an anti-animal-cruelty viewpoint) of eating game vs. farm animals. I do believe that the world is evolving towards total veganism, which I think is a good thing. But I tried and failed at that for myself, in the here and now. So this is a pragmatic argument for me. Maybe I will get more specific, later. I have to think about it.

Now, as to the books. While the siege of Fallujah was going on, I was reading Absolute Friends, by John le Carre. This book echoed against some very dark and despairing sentiments I was already experiencing due to watching "The Power of Nightmares" on the BBC, and due to the same nightmare scenario being acted out in Fallujah and elsewhere. I need , desparately, to review this book. I want to talk about it to someone. But my energy continues to wane and every little task I accomplish after work or on the weekend is a major triumph. So in the meantime, life must go on, and long train journeys must be endured, so I started on some other books. Right now I am about halfway through Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson) and it is so very very excellent. I am enjoying it immensely.

20 November 2004

Sarah is back

I have been missing one of my favourite British bloggers for several months (she went to Greece to work, and also had problems with the blogging software) and sometime in early November she returned and started a new blog on a new software but with the same name - not you, the other one. Highly recommended, if I haven't said this before. And even if I have. Welcome back, Sarah.

19 November 2004

Baghdad Really is Gonna Be Burning Now

Riverbend had this appalling story in her latest post. It's covered, and I know this because she linked to it, at Yahoo. But I am searching my massive list of US blogs and a few British ones and so far I have found nothing which indicates to me that the Western media is either censoring the story completely or, what's worse to contemplate, nobody is that interested. Although I don't have the links handy, Jeanne has posted about a couple of similar incidents in the past; at least they happened on the street and not actually IN A MOSQUE! Arkhangel has come back to the blog world (for which I am thankful, as his posts are some of the best in my usual reads) to discuss, very eloquently as always, the mosque-desecration photo story that I mentioned earlier.
Taken all together, this seems to illustrate a trend. That the worse things go for the Americans, the more they keep doing the same incredibly stupid and dangerous and cruel and unnecessarily ignorant things in Iraq, in a shocking downward behavioural spiral that feels and smells like a decaying empire. I am with Riverbend on this one - it makes me physically ill. Unlike Riverbend, I don't live in the middle of it, trying to survive. Sister, my prayers are with you daily.

Elmer Andersen: a keen mind, a courageous soul

Elmer Andersen, a great Minnesotan, a liberal Republican, a former governor. He died a few days ago and lies in state in the Minnesota capitol rotunda. He was so loved by the state, and there are many tributes to him in the papers.
It's snowing today in the East Midlands but it makes my homesickness for Minnesota even worse.

14 November 2004

"We got your back."

Soldiers to a comrade in Iraq? Police officers to a fellow officer in trouble? No, these were the words of one member of an evangelical church in Oklahoma to another - and in this case the other was a gay teenager threatened by the infamous Rev. Phelps. And it wasn't just one church member speaking for himself either; the whole congregation rallied round Michael Shackleford of Sand Springs Oklahoma to assure him that God loved him and they were still his church. I got the link to this beautiful story in the Washington Post, Coming Out for One of Their Own, through a mailing list. And I have to say it sort of made my day.

13 November 2004

Eyewitness: Smoke and corpses

The BBC news website is carrying daily eyewitness accounts from inside Fallujah, filed by a journalist who lives there and is trapped inside the city. There is no water, no electricity, no food, no medical care at all. People are burying their children and parents, when they die from stray gunfire, falling buildings or disease, in their gardens, and some bodies are just left out in the street. I got this link from Riverbend of Baghdad Burning, and also this report from aid agencies, all of whom decry the "taking of Fallujah" as an unmitigated human rights disaster. Riverbend calls it genocide and I do not dare to disagree with her.

More on Fallujah: American Samizdat has republished a shocking picture of armed and booted Marines resting between the labours on the "plush red carpet" of a despoiled mosque. Here is what zeynep has to say about that:

Somebody please tell Lt. Brandon Turner that he's insane, that the Pentagon is insane, whoever is allowing the marines or any American soldiers "rest" on that "plush red carpet" with their shoes, uniforms and machines guns is insane. Does anyone understand anything about religious feelings in general or about Islam in particular? Have they spent even half a day watching a documentary or two about Islam and noticed that people carefully and respectfully take their shoes off before entering a mosque, where they will kneel and put their head on that carpet? (Those "plush red carpets", by the way, are prayer rugs, or "sajjade." And you don't step on them with your combat boots, especially inside a mosque, and smile for the cameras unless you really want to fight to the death with up to a billion people.)
Seriously, this is either the most arrogant, incompetent, ignorant occupation, ever, or the most clever, insidious, skillful effort towards bringing about an apocalyptic world war. Are they asleep at the awheel, drowning under their own ignorance, or simply want to end life on earth as we know it?

Jeanne of Body and Soul was also shocked by this picture and her comment on it is tied back to the speech G W Bush made in the National Cathedral days after the 9/11 attacks, in which he claimed a sort of avenging god-hood.
My god is bigger than your god. Beyond that symbolism, can anyone explain what the point of attacking Falluja is? Does control of that city matter if it angers the rest of Iraq?

The liberal blogosphere is pretty united in its shock and horror at this picture, and yet the liberal media in the US (I haven't checked it out but I haven't seen it here) apparently do not see anything noteworthy in it, merely using it as backdrop to more of their tame reportage of the military's view of the war. It's really a case of parallel universes.

Letter to Democrats Abroad

The Letter from Washington to Democrats Abroad has a thorough and clear-headed assessment of the elections, and an excellent summary of where we go from here.

12 November 2004

Steve Bell



I am just sad that I am too old to offer to bear Steve Bell's children. This man is an effing genius.

11 November 2004

Palestinian Leader Arafat Dies at 75

I guess we knew this was coming soon. I wonder what historians will make of Arafat in 50 years time? Will he be remembered as a terrorist or a freedom fighter, a statesman or an enigma? Let's pray that it doesn't increase the violence in occupied Palestine.

10 November 2004

We're Sorry, World

Sorry Everbody is a hoot! A website features a huge gallery of mostly young arty types with their graphic apologies to the rest of the world for the fact that their country has re-elected Bush. You can participate if you wish - all you need is a camera (or photo-enabled mobile phone) and maybe a sheet of paper and a pen.

MoveOn.org fights The Battle of Kenwood Hill

Another election day "human interest" story from City Pages. Or is it local colour? As you can probably tell from its name, "Kenwood Hill" (it's really just Kenwood, and it doesn't have hills) is the posh neighbourhood in Minneapolis. City Pages tells the story of how MoveOn.org fought the fight and won the prize in Minnesota.

Ten Reasons Not to Move to Canada

A motivational talk for progressives from Common Dreams.

City Pages: Election Day's Checkpoint Charlies

Election Day paranoia is encountered by City Pages G. R. Anderson, Jr. as the voter turnout in the state soared to 77% and a Republican Secretary of State is accused of partisan trickery in the run-up to the election.

07 November 2004

TalkLeft: Fallujah Reaction

I'm sorry but I have to print the entire text of a response to a conservative pro-war comment in TalkLeft.

Whenever I read one of your comments in support of "the war" I truly wonder what planet you're living on. As a former Marine Sergeant who was seriously wounded during the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and as the father of one son who's an active duty Marine Captain, and another son who's worked for the UN in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the past two years, it is my opinion that you don't have the slightest idea of what you're saying. If you had ever seen the smashed body of a decapitated little civilian girl, or carried the still warm dead body of an 18 year old Marine in your arms, as have I, you would know better than to stand on the sidelines yakking about statistics and cheering while my Marine Corps, the best military force this country has ever assembled, is consistently misused by a delusional civilian administration for highly questionable purposes of very questionable morality.
It is at times like these that I want to say to guys like you that if you love the smell of napalm in the morning (you wouldn't, incidentally, because it stinks) and if you think this war is such a great idea, why don't you go fight in it! If you're too old, or too scared, send your son. They have lots of openings, and I'll be happy to cook you up a nice, warm casserole. Semper fi, pal...Terry Kindlon

06 November 2004

Magnanimous Defeat - essay by JPB

I like it when John Perry Barlow of Barlowfriendz gets all elegaic like this. Magnanimous Defeat is, unsurprisingly, Barlow's musings on the election results and his reaction to them and where he thinks we should go from here. In case you don't know who JPB was before the Internet, he is mainly a lyricist, which is a type of poet in my view and there is a definite beat-poetry / cowboy-ballad esthetic in his prose. I particularly liked this part, which also struck a bit of a nerve for me:

I have a terrible admission to make. I've been so fanatically opposed to this administration that I have taken dark satisfaction in their failures, even though they were American failures as well. I welcomed growing indications that the situation in Iraq was deteriorating into a sump-hole of back-alley insurgency. Good economic news was bad economic news as far as I was concerned, and vice versa. I was tickled to death with Al Qaqaa and its terrorist-purloined WMDs, and not just because the name was so great. Surely all these bad tidings would eventually add up to an indictment that would convict Bush in the eyes of the American people and they would rouse themselves from Fox-hypnosis and 'possum sleep and vote for change.
But it didn't turn out that way. While I still believe that half of America is hallucinating on hot religion and bad TV, I can't say I have been any too sane, having been delivered into a condition where I took comfort in the successes of our enemies and frowned at news of economic recovery. Despite my own financial anxieties, and those of all around me, I have been so zealous that my own well-being was secondary in importance to the political damage bad times might do the Bush administration. Now that's hallucination. And I'm sorry.

Spam redux

Today was another great day in my spam mailbox. I got "Microshit Money 2004 clearance" and "Lexy ladies waiting for you mushy". No kidding.

Guess who

Guess who said this:

Homosexuality is the mark of Cain, of a godless and soulless culture which is sick to the core. The teaching of the youth to appreciate the value of the community, derives its strongest inner power from the truths of Christianity. For this reason, it will always be my special duty to safeguard the right and free development of the Christian school and the Christian fundamentals of all education.

Answers in the comments or via e-mail (there's a button).

[Much later addendum. No one tried to answer. The answer is of course Adolf Hitler.]

05 November 2004

O, Canada!

This priceless gem via Firebrand:

Ladies and gentlemen, Drop your borders Now that George W. Bush has been officially elected, single, sexy, American liberals - already a threatened species - will be desperate to escape.
These lonely, afraid (did we mention really hot?) progressives will need a safe haven.
You can help. Open your heart, and your home. Marry an American. Legions of Canadians have already pledged to sacrifice their singlehood to save our southern neighbours from four more years of cowboy conservatism.

The kids are alright!

I knew it! When they told me that young voters stayed home in droves on Tuesday, I said I didn't believe it. "I bet it's just the craven media distorting things again." And you know what? I was right.
In fact

despite long lines and registration snafus, voters under age 30 clocked the highest turnout percentage since 1972. The good news is that America's young people are more engaged in politics than at any time in two generations. Aging cynics have been quick to blame the kids for a host of political lapses, but the cynics have it wrong
according to the Boston Globe.

Remember, remember (again)

Today is my birthday. I am 52. Thanks. More on that story later.

04 November 2004

Don't mourn . . .organize

So, yesterday I stayed home from work, taking a day's vacation to chill out from the stress and to be able to watch the election returns as obsessively as only a Scorpio can without feeling guilty (intense loyalty, even to shitty jobs, being another possible Scorpio trait, or maybe that's my Taurus rising.) I didn't expect two things - I didn't expect Bush's win to be so decisive and I didn't expect to feel so sanguine about it. I guess it's a product of having lived through 1972 and 1984 and other similar disappontments. Or maybe it's just age and wisdom. But the relatively early finish to the agony gave me some time to peruse the blogs of the passionate Bush opponents, and there again there was no great surprise. Those whose opposition to Bush was puerile, febrile and ill-informed (and, yes, there are a few of those) had a response in the same vein - I'm leaving the country, going underground, getting really drunk. OK, I admit, in my younger days I had a similar reaction, for about an hour. Then common sense set in - in 1984 I had two kids and adult responsibilities. In 1972, I realised that I wasn't all that grounded anyway so better stay where I am and sort myself out.
On the other hand there were many in the left blogosphere, the ones I consider my real soul-mates, who reiterated in so many different ways that old refrain: Don't Mourn, Organize. I also had a few good e-mail exchanges with friends from Minnesota and elsewhere that went along the same lines.
Unity is another theme that is being played in the aftermath. I have a few observations on that. The left's big problem is and has always been the old circular-firing-squad metaphor. Those feverish, firecracker types I referred to earlier will put a high priority on finding someone to blame. So the losing side (that's us) will not reach out to the winners, and will have to struggle even to stay together with those whom they have infinitessimal stragegical differences with. Sad, but true. Bush, on the other hand, can blithely assume (boy, can he assume) unity in his camp. He speaks, like a good Christian, of building common cause with those Americans who voted against him, and I'm sure he thinks this is the epitome of healing. But wait a minute, can anyone who is so blindly, chauvinistically nationalist be a good Christian? What about healing the gaping wounds in Europe, the middle East and the rest of the world? Speaking of the rest of the world, how about some of that big-hearted love for the planet?
Let's not leave healing and unity up to the neo-cons and the fundies, because their version of unity is oddly exclusive. As for me, I will mourn and organize simultaneously.

Another great quote from Fafblog

Fafblog! the whole worlds only source for Fafblog.: "Eleven States voted to Define Marriage tonight, says Lester Holt, and they have Defined it as a slow-moving, thick-skulled poison-spitting reptile that hates queers. America has spoken."

01 November 2004

If the rest of the world could vote

John Kerry would win by a landslide. This is the news from the worldwide (somewhat controlled) straw poll for US president, Theworldvotes.org. Billed as the first global experiment in e-democracy, the site allows anyone in the world (US citizens included) to register electronically in advance of the election, then receive an electronic ballot and vote in advance of November 2. Intermediate surveys in the run-up period have been published showing preferences amongst the site's registered voters. The faq page promises that "a global Electoral Commission will be established to validate the election process and results. It consists of the most experienced managers of national elections" but I don't see any follow-up on that, and today is their election day. Unsurprisingly, given the tense, partisan atmosphere in the US, cyber-attacks have been threatened against the site and the coalition it forms part of, The World Speaks, for "trying to affront the sovereignty of the United States".

30 October 2004

What I struggle to say is articulately stated

What I struggle to say is articulately stated by John Pilger. What will be the aftermath of this surreal election? I can see one of two scenarios, and both are equally violent, though one is far preferable. They actually do not depend at all on who wins the election, but on the state of consciousness of the American electorate. The metaphor of sleeping giant is often used about America, but it's usually used mistakenly. Pilger gets it right when he nails our previous waking up episodes as the civil rights campaign and the ultimate revulsion against our actions in Vietnam. The question is - will there be such a waking from the slumber on the 3rd of November? If Bush is re-elected and such a reaction does occur, it will be inevitably violent, because of the instant repression of the triumphant administration. If Kerry is elected and the anti-war crowd try to hold his feet to the fire, and it turns out that his wimpy pronouncements about the war are what he really believes and not just what he said to get elected, well, that could go almost any way.
The less preferable outcome, and the one I fervently hope is not inevitable, is that whether it is Bush or Kerry who is elected, it means that the majority, slight though they may be, actually support this imperial project that both candidates tout, only pausing to criticise each other's competence as a warlord-emperor. And then as Pilger says, we will see the American war on Terra unleashed.

28 October 2004

Send in the clones


The above is from a real Bush-Cheney '04 advert. (Except without the circles and arrows, in case you don't see the obvious cloning.) Read all about it at Daily Kos, mostly.

27 October 2004

Fear and Loathing in modern global history

I just finished watching part two of a three-part documentary on BBC2 called The Power of Nightmares. It is about phantom enemies, extremism, idealism and fantasy futures fueled by imagined triumphs. My own unfulfillable fantasy is that this show could be screened on American television. Somehow, I doubt that that will ever happen, and that is very depressing. This show is a masterpiece of subtle analysis and adroit connecting of the seemingly random dots in the news stories of the last decade. Watching it, I was overwhelmed by a cascade of "aha!" moments, as bits of knowledge were imparted that comprised missing pieces of the moral puzzles of modern life. I got answers (or at least possible answers) to such questions as: What was the real purpose of the Clinton wars? (Not its avowed purpose.) What is going on inside the world of Islamic political philosophy? (A lot more than you'd ever guess from watching the western media.) Is there any hidden meaning to some of the terrible violence that happens in the middle east? (Yes, but not really hidden, just ignored due to some clever misdirection.) Who really won the Cold War? (It wasn't really a war, and nobody won anything. A rotten government collapsed, and thus some other people were able to change their governments for better ones, but that's part of the cycle of history and was more due to the "cold warriors" looking temporarily in another direction.) Who is John Galt? (Apparently he is this creepily insightful guy named Leo Strauss.)

I will probably have more to say on this later. This was one of those things (films, books, programs) that makes you think, and all the things you think don't come to you at first, but over days and weeks of slow rumination. If I can find the time, I need to do some research on the two prime movers behind today's ascendancy of nightmare: America's neo-cons and Arabia's extremist Islamists. It seems I know a lot less about these guys than I thought I did.

Do ye ken John Peel?

Possibly very few of my American readers will know of John Peel, born John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, even though he began his career in Dallas. He was well-known and loved here, a BBC radio host and former "pirate" DJ (although the BBC tribute conveniently leaves out that part of his CV). In fact at least one newspaper called him the Godfather of British pop music. He died yesterday while on a working holiday in Peru. He was a titan amongst DJs, a unique voice on the radio and from all accounts, a really nice guy too.

23 October 2004

Hollow Victory

Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos and Our Congress, writing in the Guardian on 20 October, has a rundown of some of the low points of voter registration fraud, obviously a centrepiece of the US elections of 2004.

21 October 2004

Back to Iraq 3.0: Bugged Out

Yes, I'm still here; it's been six days since my last post and I am feeling classic blogger's guilt. It's my job, mostly. Also in personal news, I was going to go to a weblogger meetup at the Trip to Jerusalem pub in Nottingham, but at the last minute I declined because it didn't look like it was going to happen (no RSVPs). Too bad.
Meanwhile, Christopher has had to leave Iraq. As you may have noticed, I have my favourite sources for news on various fronts and my best sources in Iraq lately have been Riverbend and Back to Iraq 3.0, Christopher's blog. He also mentions and links to the kidnapping of Margaret Hassan, which has caused a minor groundswell of grass-roots outrage here in Britain, along with stiff opposition to the idea of sending British troops deeper into the American quagmire in Iraq.

15 October 2004

Ramadan - under siege

Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0 tells about the realities of journalism in Iraq. You can't go into the Green Zone without a pass, and passes are only issued in the Green Zone. And they're all afraid to go out, anyway. And it's the first day of Ramadan.

14 October 2004

Don't you just love Spam?

No, not the strange pink meat-like substance. those anonymous, plaintive, almost poetically subject-lined missives that appear in your inbox, first in twos and threes, then in dozens, scores, maybe even hundreds. Today I got a particularly charming collection of subject-lines:
1Million People Anxiously Sending you $40 Each!
Permit bank rival for your credit
Save much on latest soft names
A Thinking of You Card for you (from Plumping G. Gustav)

13 October 2004

"Furious George"

In a welter of shameless name-dropping, Deborama wants to thank Pete of the Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha for linking to Markos of the Daily Kos, who is now writing a column in Guardian Unlimited. This one is titled "The Madness of George" and it is pretty good news for those who have long suspected that there was something a bit undisciplined, unpredictable and well, frankly un-presidential about the Shrub, now to be known as the Burning Bush.

12 October 2004

Jeanne of Body and Soul

. . .has a great quote in her post titled More smart people who don't like Bush:
Maybe this isn't the best timing, but I can't help but remember the famous Stevenson story: During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai E Stevenson 'Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!' Stevenson called back 'That's not enough, madam, we need a majority!"

Christopher Reeve, 1952-2004

Journalist Penny Wark remembers Christopher Reeve: "the most unforgettable person I have interviewed."
As do many others, I mourn the untimely death of Christopher Reeve, a great actor who became a great man in the face of the terrible indignity of being paralysed and virtually helpless. I read through a lot of articles and tributes before selecting this one as being the best at giving a sense of what the man must have been like (as opposed to the celebrity or the "hero").
If you are an American, and you want to do something to honour the memory of Christopher Reeve, be sure and vote on election day, especially if you support Reeve's work to ensure the legality of stem cell research in America. I must admit that one of the first things to cross my mind after hearing of his death, after the initial shock and sadness, was "I wonder if he voted by absentee ballot?" because otherwise his vote is lost, which is one more in the list of terrible ironies of his life.

Save Marriage! It's all the fault of the homos ...

This website was included in an official Oregon pamphlet to help voters consider the issues on the ballot. It is unclear whether election officials knew that it was satire.

08 October 2004

Election day today

For me, that is. I received my absentee ballot a few days ago, and I have decided to vote tonight and go to the post office Saturday morning to get the postage put on, taking no chances that I get it wrong. I didn't vote in 2000. First general election I have missed since 1972 and look what gets in! Ralph Nader, by the way, is listed in the "Better Life" party. His running mate (in case you aren't following the campaign that closely) is Peter Camejo, noted former leader of the Socialist Workers Party. I won't say ex-Socialist Worker, because I believe Trotskyism is sort of like Catholicism in that you can lapse but never really leave. Here is an interview with Camejo and his defence of the Nader campaign.

03 October 2004

Supporting Kerry Anyway...

Although I seem to be developing an election theme here, and I do hope it doesn't continue unbroken right up to the election, I had to mentionJohn Perry Barlow's views on how we elect our Presidents and how that needs to improve. Or as he so cogently puts it:

We all need to get a grip and quickly. Whatever it has been traditionally, this Presidential race should not be a personality contest. I say this as much to myself to myself as I do to you. I have to snap out of it and remember we are not electing our new best friend here. We were electing a set of ideologies, cultural predispositions, policies, practices, and beliefs - many of them religious - that may literally affect the fate of life on earth. And one thing I will say for George Bush, he has disabused me of my old belief that it doesn't really matter who's President.

George Soros enters the fray . . .

GeorgeSoros.com is a new site with an associated blog which is dedicated to the proposition that "President Bush is endangering our safety, hurting our vital interests and undermining American values". The WaPo says: "Soros is a figure whom Republicans should extol -- arguably the world's most effective capitalist anti-communist. He made his money the old-fashioned way, on Wall Street." And the LA Times Book Review says of his book The Bubble of American Supremacy: "Soros' intensely polemical but also succinct and well-reasoned book ought to provide a welcome template for how the candidates might begin to think their way through to a more coherent view of America's place in the world." And Booklist's reviewer says (briefly and to the point): "This may be the one anti-Bush book that reaches an audience beyond the Democratic amen corner."

Guantánamo has 'failed to prevent terror attacks'

Following directly on from the story below, the Observer today has this piece about a number of retired or serving military officers and experts who are now coming forward to blow the whistle on the dubious intelligence value of Camp Delta interrogations. I wonder if it is because Bush is just now beginning to appear like a lame duck after his poor showing in the debate? Or is it just a coincidence in timing? Whatever the reason, this week will see the publication by British journalist David Rose of "Guantánamo: America's War on Human Rights" which contains the testimony of Ret. Lt. Col. Anthony Christino and three other intelligence officials against Bush and Rumsfeld's pursuit of the war on terror. Among other things there are charges that "the 'screening' process in Afghanistan which determined whether detainees were sent to Guantánamo was 'hopelessly flawed from the get-go'" and that "General [Geoffrey] Miller [former commandant of Camp Delta and now running Aby Ghraib prison] had never worked in intelligence before being assigned to Guantánamo, and his system seems almost calculated to produce entirely bogus confessions."

01 October 2004

Jeanne tells of fairy tales

Caution: Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo content.
A few days ago, Body and Soul posted this excellent post about Seymour Hersh's book Chain of Command and a fairy tale that she was reading to her daughter called Ella Enchanted. This may seem like an odd juxtaposition but it is not. And it gave rise to this beautiful bit of prose from Jeanne:

The idea that evil is stupid is comforting in a children's book. It is not comforting in Hersh's.
I haven't gotten very far into Hersh's book, but so far, this is what I know: Within a few months of the Guantánamo Bay prison's opening, three things were obvious:
1. The Bushies wanted prisoners treated harshly in order to extract information quickly.
2. Treating prisoners harshly wasn't going to extract information -- quickly or otherwise.
3. The vast majority of Guantánamo prisoners had no information to give.
Bush and Company believed so firmly in the first point that the easiest way to kill a career was to mention the second or third points. Not that some people didn't try -- but they failed to have any influence. To have any interest in facts, any connection to reality, was to be branded soft on Al Qaeda.
Some of the Guantánamo prisoners were mentally ill old men. Under different circumstances, they might have had promising civilian careers in the Pentagon.

The Lone Star Iconoclast endorses Kerry

All of us in Liberalbloggerland are very excited about this Crawford Texas publications high-profile endorsement of Kerry for President.

Why Bush Left Texas

Finally someone (and I'm not surprised it's someone at The Nation) is doing some serious journalism about the AWOL issue.

26 September 2004

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree

At the weblog American Samizdat, under the simple title of How Bush's grandfather helped Hitler's rise to power, there is a link to this Guardian story about the shady dealings of Sen. Prescott Bush, grandfather of the current (P)resident. Bush was director and shareholder of a company called Brown Brothers Harriman, a private investment bank which financed many of the businesses of Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen. While Thyssen was building up Germany's economy and gearing up for war in the 1930s and early 1940s, Bush was building up the Bush family fortune which would fund a future dynasty. BBH only stopped trading with Nazi Germany in 1943 when its assets were seized under the Trading with the Enemy Act.
It's all very much like the current secretive and suspect dealings with the Saudi royal family that the present holders of the Bush fortune engage in. Directly funding terrorism? You can try to prove it, but when the controllers of the funds also control the government and thus have enormous power to control access to relevant information, it's not likely that anyone can prove it until GW Bush is long dead.

25 September 2004

Portland and Berkeley trip pictures

I have migrated the best of the pictures from my trip to the US west coast to a separate folder on my homepage. I am sorry, this is a rush-y job and so not terribly user friendly. For those who are not very computer-savvy, just click here or on the previous link (same thing) and you will get a page with a bunch of file names, which are somewhat descriptive of what the picture is. Click on any name to see the picture and then use the back button on your browser to return to the list. And for anyone for whom even that is too much trouble, here are some thumbnails of the best pics for immediate viewing:

       

18 September 2004

Blogkeeping

I have added 2 new links to Deborama's Fund of Knowledge under the Local News category - one is an Orange County CA group blog that includes amongst its members Joel Sax of Pax Nortona and the other is similar - a group blog of progressives in Oregon called BlueOregon.com, which I think I mentioned below. I have also added a new link under the Humour section - the Firesign Theatre.
By the way I am still blogging from Berkeley CA. Tonight I will board the Coast Starlight train back to Portland (18 hours in coach!!) but I will only be there one night and morning and then get on the plane for my 16 hour (!!!) flight back to England. I must be insane. If I suddenly stop blogging, it will be a good guess to say that I dropped dead from DVT (or sheer exhaustion) somewhere en route.

Baghdad Burning on 9/11

I am posting from Berkeley California today. It has been a while and I have missed being online, reading my blogs and posting. So, on logging into Bloglines, the first site I read was Riverbend's and, as usual, I was utterly bowled over. She is discussing here her feelings on watching Fahrenheit 9/11.

I was caught up in the film from the first moment, until the very last. There were moments, while watching, when I could barely breathe. I wasn’t surprised with anything- there was nothing that shocked me- all of the stuff about the Bush family and their Saudi friends was old news. It was the other stuff that had an impact- seeing the reactions of Americans to the war, seeing the troops in Iraq being interviewed, seeing that American mother before and after she lost her son in Iraq.
Ah, that mother. How she made me angry in the beginning. I couldn’t stand to see her on screen- convincing the world that joining the army was the ideal thing to do- perfectly happy that her daughter and son were ‘serving’ America- nay, serving, in fact, the world by joining up. I hated her even more as they showed the Iraqi victims- the burning buildings, the explosions, the corpses- the dead and the dying. I wanted to hate her throughout the whole film because she embodied the arrogance and ignorance of the people who supported the war.
I can’t explain the feelings I had towards her. I pitied her because, apparently, she knew very little about what she was sending her kids into. I was angry with her because she really didn’t want to know what she was sending her children to do. In the end, all of those feelings crumbled away as she read the last letter from her deceased son. I began feeling a sympathy I really didn’t want to feel, and as she was walking in the streets of Washington, looking at the protestors and crying, it struck me that the Americans around her would never understand her anguish. The irony of the situation is that the one place in the world she would ever find empathy was Iraq. We understand. We know what it’s like to lose family and friends to war- to know that their final moments weren’t peaceful ones… that they probably died thirsty and in pain… that they weren’t surrounded by loved ones while taking their final breath.

08 September 2004

Hairy-backed swamp developers and faith-based economists!

Preach it, Garrison! Garrison Keillor speaks was found at BlueOregon.com which was found via a comment from Kevin of American Street. Thanks, Kevin! Blue Oregon is a great resource. And I have found good food in Portland. Oh, and here's an excerpt from Garrison Keillor speaks:

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons...

Well, he goes on, at eloquent length. I always suspected Garrison was good folks.
I am back at the stinky laundromat internet place. There is a very nice coffee shop near here with free internet access and no smelly driers and good coffee and PB cookies and sandwiches. But I have trouble blogging there and absolutely cannot access Gmail because the free-to-use computers are Macs. Portland has lots of free wifi hotspots but my laptop 1) does not have the technology for that and 2) has a cracked and therefore almost illegible lcd screen. The plugs are different here, none of the digital camera thingies can read my Sony memory sticks properly and daughters Mac notebook computer has a dodgy power cord. Technologically, we are not doing very well here. But at least the baby is cute. There will be pictures some day, I promise.

03 September 2004

When the night meets the morning sun

OK, I promised I would do this personal post about my epiphenal insight in a therapy session and I guess I had better quit procrastinating and do it. One of the reasons I want to share this with you all is that I suspect that it is a very widespread complex of neurotic issues; it may even have a name. If I were to be privileged to name it for all eternity I would call it the Marvell complex. You know, Andrew Marvell.
When I am drunk, really drunk, such as I almost never am these days due to the failing health of the body, I tend to recite poetry. The poetry I recite all tells the same story:

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages and the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms
I labour by singing light . . .
--Dylan Thomas


And here face down beneath the sun
And here upon earth's noonward height
To feel the always coming on
The always rising of the night
--Archibald MacLeish

  Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
Or why was Burton built on Trent?
Oh many a peer of England brews
Livelier liquor than the Muse,
And malt does more than Milton can
To justify God’s ways to man.
Ale, man, ale’s the stuff to drink
For fellows whom it hurts to think:
Look into the pewter pot
To see the world as the world’s not.
--A. E. Housman

And especially . . .

 But at my back I always hear
Time's winged chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
--Andrew Marvell

Somehow in the therapy session in question, I got on the subject of waiting for my father. When I was a girl, the oldest of six children, my mother didn't drive, and anyway we could not have afforded a car. My father had a company car. He had to drive everyone in our family everywhere they had to go (we lived in a suburb with almost no bus service) and he had to fit this around his busy schedule of work and civic responsibilties (both my parents were great volunteers and very hard workers for the common good, in church and scouting and general good works.) So my father, for all his good intention, was usually late picking me up. I never blamed him, but I spent uncounted hours on suburban street corners and in dull waiting rooms - waiting. And at my back I always heard -- guess what? Yes, even at the age of 10 or 11 or so. I had this heightened sense of my own, and everybody else's mortality. It started even earlier than that. It probably started when the family was very small and very young, just baby brother, toddler me, and lovely young mommy, who with the best of faith and purpose, taught me a little prayer to say at bedtime. You may have learnt it too.
Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

When I first learnt this prayer it meant nothing to me; it was just a recitation, nonsense syllables almost. I wish it had remained so. Somewhen, probably at about the age of three, I was brought up short by the literal meaning of the third line - if I should die before I wake! What an appalling thought! Could such things happen? How could I prevent it? That was when I first fell into the thrall of private inward superstitions. That was when I embarked on the lonely road of extreme insomnia. That was when I first began to hear the winged chariots at my back.
Somehow, and I haven't unravelled this part yet, the fear of dying in the night became entangled with the dread of Mommy or Daddy not loving me (of God not loving me, yes, I get that part) of not finding love and happiness when I grew up, of never having enough time, of wasting the time I had waiting on street corners for a saviour who would never come. The more I look at this thought form, or whatever it is, the more connections I find. So far, it has only been a breakthrough of insight and not of therapy itself, in the sense of getting better. But I anticipate that next stage to come along soon. It feels, for all my current sadness and disappointment and nervous uncertainty, like a spiritually fertile time. I will keep you posted.

Chillin' at the Laundromat on Chicago

Jennifer Vogel of City Pages has a great little gem, a "human interest" story, about a laundromat that I have spent many an hour in myself. It speaks to the human condition, to poverty, anomie and the loss of control over our time and the circumstances of our lives:

As I fold my laundry, I glance at the pile belonging to a triangle-shaped Mexican woman. I know as well as anybody that you're not supposed to look. But one of the few, guilty pleasures of the laundromat is getting to see people's underthings. Her clothing is all velour, I notice. Velour pants, velour tops, velour lingerie. Even velour socks. I glance at her high-heeled flip-flops and then at a miniskirt that's slit practically up to her waist.
Our eyes meet and she smiles as if to say, My life is a million times more sensual than yours. And I think, Well, hell, she's probably right. The woman shoves her fuzzy duds into a laundry bag and departs. Next goes the camo guy and the woman with the tight jeans.
When, finally, it's my turn, I feel as gleeful as a parolee. It's a tremendous relief that matters not one bit to the revolving cast of characters at the Vend-a-Wash. Nothing has changed or will change. An American Indian woman paces wildly, waving her tattooed arms in the air. "I lost my cigs," she says. "Has anybody seen my cigs?"
The dryers at the Vend-a-Wash on Chicago and Lake go round and round.

Portland Organ

I am here in Portland at a really overpriced and stinky internet cafe. I just had a rather overpriced and stinky massage about 2 hours ago and I feel a little better for it. Then I have been wandering around aimlessly and not finding anything to eat. I guess it's true - I am too picky. Oh, well, won't kill me to miss a meal. I have a lot to report, but the blogging conditions are far from ideal so it may have to wait. Meanwhile, why not explore some of the other wonderful Deborama sites? Links are down near the bottom of the page.

30 August 2004

George Bush's Olympic Speech and I Fly Away

George W. Bush is opening the Olympic Games and has to read a speech. "Oh," he says. "Oh, oh, oh ..."
An aide nudges him, "Mr. President, stop," he says. "You're reading the Olympic symbol."

I apologise; that's not really worthy of my blog, is it? And in the current feverishly partisan climate, it will probably attract trolls. But, heck, I couldn't resist. Thanks to my non-blogging friend Joani for the joke. And speaking of Joani, I will be seeing you soon, and it has been 14 years since our last visit.

I must also apologise for the 4-day hiatus in blogging. As I have mentioned before, I have not been myself. I blame the job. I have never been so stressed out by my job as I have been the past four months. I have never needed a vacation quite as much as I do right now. Tomorrow morning early I fly away for America. Portland Oregon, the recently moved-to home of my daughter and grand-daughter. Grand-daughter Savannah will be one year old on Wednesday and I will be there. Around about the middle of the month, I will board a luxury Amtrak for an 18-hour trip to Berekeley California. I will be gone a total of 22 days on my American west-coast sojourn, which is the second longest trip I have taken in my life. (The longest was my 8 week tour of Europe at the age of 16.)

Other personal news - I have joined tribe.net. It looks interesting; if anyone else is a member, or feels inclined to join, look me (Deborama) up as a friend.

26 August 2004

Blogkeeping and my life

I just added to Studs Terkel to the History links at Deborama's Fund of Knowledge.
I just had a major epiphany, in fact a coruscating cascade of epiphanies, tonight in my weekly psychotherapy session. I had a glimpse at the taproot of my melancholic personality. I suddenly tied together my lifelong insomnia, my obsession with death, why I like to see the sunrise, and why I feel vaguely uncomfortable with good-night kisses, good-byes and endings in general. I would tell you what it is, but I want to blog about it - properly. So stay tuned.

Your Children are Burning

William Rivers Pitt's article "Your Children Are Burning" asks why the two parties locked into the presidential dogfight are contesting a war that ended almost 30 years ago, when young Americans are dying right now in two wars that nobody wants to talk about. And then he lists those who have died in August 2004. And then he talks about those wars:

$24 billion in U.S. tax money has been allocated to 'rebuild' Iraq. According to Christian Parenti, who has reported from Iraq on the reconstruction process for The Nation magazine, "Only $5.3 billion had been allocated to specific reconstruction contracts as of late June 2004. According to a report from the White House Office of Management and Budget, of the $18.4 billion reconstruction honey-pot approved last fall only $366 million had been spent by late June - that is, invested in Iraq. Instead of creating 250,000 jobs for Iraqis, as was the original goal, at most 24,000 local workers have been hired."
"Most amazing of all," writes Parenti, "the OMB report showed that not a single cent of US tax money had been spent on Iraqi healthcare, water treatment or sanitation projects - though $9 million was dithered away on administrative costs of the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority. Most of the little that has been invested in healthcare, water treatment and sanitation has come from Iraqi oil revenues, managed for most of last year by the Development Fund for Iraq, a US controlled successor to the UN-run Oil for Food program. In all, the CPA spent roughly $19 billion of Iraqi oil money - on what exactly is not quite clear."
And we wonder why there is an 'insurgency.' We wonder why a nobody named Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as an Iraqi version of Thomas Jefferson, fighting the good fight against imperial usurpers. We wonder why so many Iraqis flock to his banner, pick up a weapon, and shoot Americans.
Sit in the dark for a year, be unemployed because all the jobs have gone to non-Iraqis, have no place to see your children schooled, have no place to bring your children if they get sick, drink water that tastes like something you squeezed into your toilet, and stand a good chance whenever you step outside of being shot by a sniper, blown up by a laser-guided bomb, or run down by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and you might think about picking up a weapon, too.
This is how terrorists and suicide bombers are created. Desperation is the seed, time is the fertilizer, and rage is the crop reaped by American soldiers sent far from home to die because they were lied to, as were we all.
This is, perhaps, the most galling aspect of the whole Swift Boat Veterans nonsense. It has distracted us from realizing that our children still burn in Iraq, while simultaneously insulting every veteran who was given a medal for service in action. It implies that medals awarded for service in Vietnam somehow do not count, which when taken to the end of the argument, implies that medals awarded for service anywhere do not count.

How many medals did George W. Bush earn to allow him to make this frontal assault upon those who served in his stead a generation ago, and those who serve now in the free-fire zone he placed them in with his deceptions?
When a person puts on the uniform of the United States military and swears an oath, that person is promising to sacrifice their life for their country. The only promise they expect in return is that their life not be spent for no good reason. That promise was broken.

News flash: Kerry Denies Performing Gay Weddings on Swift Boat

A brilliant spoof from Andy Borowitz of YubaNet. Well, really, is it any crazier than the actual news?

25 August 2004

US court to probe death of Archbishop Romero

Catholic World News has the story of the US (Fresno California) based law suit against the accused assassin of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Archbishop was gunned down in the Cathedral in San Salvador as he celebrated a mass on March 24th, 1980. An amnesty in El Salvador means that his suspected assassin will never be tried there. Alvaro Rafael Saravia, now a resident of Modesto California, is said to have committed the assassination, but right-wing politician Roberto D'Aubuisson is widely believed to have instigated the killing. Romero, a dearly beloved Archbishop, was assassinated because he had preached a number of fiery sermons denouncing the activities of military and para-military "death squads" which terrorised the peasant and working class population at that time. His words and the few recordings of his homilies and radio broadcasts were iconic in the movement to free El Salvador from its oppressive oligarchy.

Everywhere in chains

Today is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition - an event of particular importance this year because 2004 is the UN's International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition.

Yet slavery continues: millions of women, children and men throughout the world are enslaved and no region is free from this abuse, even though it is illegal under international law.
This is from an article by Beth Herzfeld, press officer for Anti-Slavery International, which is one of my supported causes as you can see in the left-hand margin of this blog. A lot of people do not want to believe that there is still "real" slavery in the world. Especially not if it means accepting, for example, that up to 40% of commercial chocolate is produced by bona fide slave labour. No, not just underpaid, terrorised, marginalised workers. We are talking slave-gang raids, young men and boys in chains, locked up at night, killed if they try to flee. That kind of slavery. And the same ostrich-thinking applies if you try to talk about sex slaves or domestic slaves in London and other western capitals. They are "failed asylum seekers", or "enslaved" by addiction, or unfortunate, poor women of low self-esteem who made "bad choices". Um, no. They are ordinary women from poor countries who are 1) kidnapped, 2) raped, 3) sold and 4) threatened with death if they try to escape. Sounds like slavery to me, and there is no choice involved. Click on the Anti-Slavery International link to learn more and get your head up out of the sand.

The latest from Guantánamo - hearings to begin

Guantánamo hearings begin, from the Guardian.

Osama bin Laden's Yemeni driver will today become the first Guantánamo Bay prisoner to stand before a US military commission to face war crimes charges, in proceedings that have been denounced as unfair by human rights groups and American military lawyers.

David Hicks, a former Australian kangaroo hunter turned Islamic jihadist, will face war crimes and attempted murder charges tomorrow, followed by Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a Yemeni poet, and a Sudanese accountant, Ibrahim al-Qosi. . . Mr Bahlul and Mr Qosi are alleged to have acted as bodyguards for Bin Laden.

More from Guantánamo: Guantánamo Britons are to be visited by lawyers in the next few days.
The US granted the visits after the supreme court ruled the base in occupied Cuba was covered by American law, despite the Bush administration claiming it was not. Reports suggest that Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abbasi have been suffering mental health problems while imprisoned.
Both have been held in isolation for up to a year, with Mr Begg having been detained in a windowless room. He is also believed to now be denied human contact after he started talking to his guards, and is monitored by a remote controlled camera.
Two US lawyers representing the Britons are scheduled to arrive in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, next Monday.
As well as Mr Begg and Mr Abbasi, they are expected to see Martin Mubanga, and two Londoners whom the Foreign Office refuses to represent.
They are Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national from Kingston-upon-Thames where he has lived for 20 years, who has been interrogated more than 50 times according to testimony from released British detainees.
A lawyer will also see Jamil el-Banna, a Jordanian refugee, who is alleged to have been sexually humiliated while detained and to also be suffering mental health problems, according to three released British detainees.

First we take Manhattan . . .

City Pages : The Great American Lockdown, by Steve Perry tells the story of the ramping up of "security" (in this case, an Orwellian euphemism for repression, methinks) in the run-up to the Republican Convention. This is followed up by a trenchantly observed vignette of President Bush's so-called campaign tactics.

The tent-revival aspect of the gathering kept floating to the surface. Another concerned citizen for Bush, who identified himself as a "youth minister," asked after faith-based initiatives. But it was only an entrée to his real question, which concerned any plans the president might have for publicly exposing Satan and his works. Bush thanked the young man for his own works but let the devil off the hook entirely in his reply. Soon, mercifully, it was back on the bus and off to the city.
Every day now, this sort of painfully contrived sideshow is passed off as the president meeting the people on the grand road of democracy. The next morning the Star Tribune summarized his trip thus: "A wide embrace for Bush in St. Paul." It would have been nearly as accurate, and more apt, to make that "Bush in Wisconsin: Soft on Satan?" But the script forbids making fun of the president, even when he's making fun of the script.
Unbelievable.

24 August 2004

Inside the Imam Ali Shrine

Chris of Back to Iraq 3.0 is inside the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf. This is what blogging was made for; this is a first-hand account of the scene of history in the making and it is nothing at all like listening to a cookie-cutter newscast, whether on the BBC or Fox News. For instance, the news media never told us about the ice cream.

More news from Lake Woebegone

So I got my absentee ballot (for the state primary) and I was puzzled by the Democrat column. It turns out it was just my fading memory; I forgot about a certain "perennial candidate" who is challenging Martin Olav Sabo, our very capable 5th District Congressman. (Note to Brits: perennial candidates is what we have in America instead of the Monster Raving Loony Party.) But I wrote an e-mail to my friend L, who is something of an insider in Minnesota DFL politics (Note to non-Minnesotans: DFL is Democratic Farmer-Labor party, what we have in Minnesota instead of Democrats). Armed with all that knowledge you can now read and appreciate a long excerpt from her reply. But first my query:

I am voting this year by absentee ballot. When I first moved here, I was going to turn my back on US politics but obviously subsequent events have forced me to rethink this. So I got an absentee Partisan Primary ballot for the 5th district seat and I am not sure what to do. Sabo I know of course, and I know nothing special about him pro or con except that I have seen him smoking guiltily at the caucuses and conventions but I would hardly vote against a guy just because he smokes. This ballot has 1 IR and 2 DFL. The other DFL guy is one "Dick" Franson, and although the name sort of rings a bell, I don't remember who he is. So my questions to you are 1) why is Sabo being contested, and 2) is there any reason not to vote for him, and 3) who is "Dick" Franson anyway and is the fact that he is called "Dick" with quote marks significant? Are they saying he is or is not a Dick? Why not say Richard "Dick" Franson and Martin Olav "Marty" Sabo? And doesn't poor old "Dick" Franson have a nice Scandahoovian middle name he can use to rope in the surviving Ole and Lena's in the state? God, how I miss Minnesota politics. It just ain't the same over here.

Here is L's reply:
MN Politics just isn't what it used to be. The ultra Right Conservatives with their single issue politics have gotten the worst of the worst into our MN House of Reps.
Now to the answer your question. The only reason you might remember this "Dick" is because he has run for something every year. Governor, Senator, etc. etc. etc. I truly do not know why the quotation marks and why he is a "Dick". I have seen none of his literature and know nothing about him.
Sabo has the DFL endorsement and there is no reason not to vote for him. In fact, there are many reasons to continue to vote for him as long as he will run. He is very good, and if the Dems ever get the House back, he'd probably be chair of Budget. This is because he memorized every one of the House members and if they did anything that he thought was good, he went to that individual and said so. This made it possible for him to get things passed, because he was then remembered. The one thing that I really appreciate, is that he has made the country aware of the huge disparities between CEOs salaries and their employees salaries and has introduced several bills to try to bring some equity back to workers. He truly understands the budget, and has influence, which a newcomer would not. Smoking bans are springing up all over Minnesota right now, so I suppose he feels guilty. He's Norweigian so that would make him feel twice as guilty. That makes him human without all the excesses that some other congresspeople may exhibit.
St. Paul put in a smoking ban in all bars and the Mayor vetoed it. That wretched mayor (Randy Kelly,Dem. former Senator) has endorsed Bush of all things! He wrote a piece and put it in the paper! The DFL'ers then got so upset that they threw out his friend and cohort, and took over the City Council and now a woman named Lantry is running the City Council and they're trying to impeach the Mayor, and overturn the Mayor's veto, among other things. [Former St. Paul mayor] Coleman switching from Democrat to Republican is one thing, but to have the 2nd Mayor stay a Democrat, and endorse Bush is too much!
Minneapolis is looking at a Smoking Ban in Bars and Restaurants, but they haven't decided yet. There is pressure for the State to pass the ban, but then we didn't pass much this 2004. The Republicans in the House refused to appoint a conference committee on any of the major bills so we ended session without a Bonding bill, or anything else of substance either. Governor Pawlenty wanted the legislature to pass a bill to change the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. (Even though, in statute, no gay person can get married in Minnesota now) This is what President Bush feels might assure him re-election because all the far Right would come out and vote for him if it is on the ballot. The Dems then (even those that are Right of Atilla the Hun) wouldn't let there be a vote on the Senate Floor - procedural nightmares for over a month, in which all Republicans refused to do anything except try to get that consitutional marriage amendment passed.
Then, all Summer Pawlenty refused to call a Special Session unless that marriage amendment would be included. Our Senate Majority Leader, Dean Johnson said that was not necessary, so we never had a Special Session to fix all the things that went wrong with legislation from last year, and all of the stuff we worked on for 6 months.
Now unless we have a change in the make-up of the House, I don't know how we're going to survive another year with that narrow minded bunch of bigots that are in charge in the Minnesota House.

22 August 2004

Isn't this the most depressing presidential campaign in history?

Is it just me, or do other people find that it's like watching a slow-motion train-wreck, script by Kafka and directed by David Lynch? Jeanne of Body and Soul, writing about the gross and obvious corruption going on in Iraq (and I don't mean, nor does she, only by Iraqis, we are talking Halliburton here) states the bleeding obvious. First she quote Steve Soto:

It's time for Kerry and Edwards to talk a lot about Halliburton, the ineptitude if not outright graft of this administration, and the loss of our soldiers daily to provide the means for Halliburton and other GOP campaign contributors to rape the US taxpayers and the Iraqi people.
In fact, that would be the ideal message to hammer during the week of the GOP convention.

and then she says, quite reasonably:
That makes such perfect sense to me that I have a hard time understanding why it's not the common wisdom. No matter what you think of the war, stealing everything in Iraq that isn't nailed down seems a pretty lousy way to win anyone over. The evidence of either theft or gross incompetence is overwhelming. I understand that there are political truths that are hard to sell, but this doesn't seem to me to be one of them.

Meanwhile, and against all reason, the main story of the campaign is the Swift Boat thing, which is to me just so obviously a pure and simple dirty trick that I still, even knowing how many blindly loyal, neo-con-following Republicans there are in the US, cannot believe that it's taken seriously.

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