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28 June 2004

Early, almost secret handover - is it coalition's first smart move?

The Guardian's Brian Whitaker comments on today's handover of power to the Iraqi government, a move which was brought forward two days and accomplished with no fanfare whatsoever.
"It was all over - and Mr Bremer had hastily left the country - before anyone outside the heavily-guarded Green Zone even knew the handover was happening.
"Disappointing as this may have been in terms of pomp and circumstance, it could be considered the first smart move the US has made since arriving in Iraq. Officials have finally learned - at the last possible moment - that a bit of guile goes much further than brute force in the Middle East.
"The big question, though, is whether the handover will make things better or worse. The US and British hope it will take some steam out of the insurgency because the troops in Iraq are, technically, no longer an occupation force.
"Legal niceties, however, are unlikely to cut much ice with the insurgents - so long as foreign troops remain, they will provide both a sitting target and a rallying point for discontent."

Guantanamo ruling

The BBC covers UK reactions to the US Supreme Court's Guantanamo ruling. Comments are included from Azmat Begg, the father of one of the detainees, Louise Christian, a lawyer representing two other detainees, and from Shasiq Rasul and Asif Iqbal, two former detainees now back in Britain. The four British prisoners still held at Camp Delta are Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Richard Belmar, and Martin Mubanga.

27 June 2004

Meanwhile, Blaugustine

At Augustine's Blog, Natalie has a lovely four-panel graphic post about her parents and mortality.

A mother's final, best lesson

I hope you are all following Ronni's series at Time Goes By, "A mother's final, best lesson", which is currently on part 5. It is the story of her mother's dying while under her care at home, and it is very rich in emotion and philosophy.

25 June 2004

A kilo of great films

Whether or not you agree with the 1000 greatest films, as chosen by the New York Times, it is great to have this link as a reference, because every entry links to a short NYT review of the movie, with links to the stars and directors. And, of course, you don't have to buy the book.

What We Talk About When We Say Nothing

This blog needs more popular culture, don't you think? Therefore, a post linking a very innovative interview with Stephen Merritt of Magnetic Fields in the Minneapolis weekly City Pages. Subtitled a spirited non-conversation, it is exactly that, with the sparse dialogue filled in with the interviewer's and interviewee's internal musings, including:
"Here, Merritt sounds a bit like Cole Porter, whom he has been absurdly compared to. The Porter comparisons have less to do with Merritt's music, which tends to be simple (more Brill Building than Broadway, more Richard Carpenter than Richard Rodgers), than with his occasional fondness for unconventional rhyme schemes. Or his persona, which is 'urbane,' which is another word for 'gay.' "
"Like most of the great Broadway composers (and like Merritt), Porter didn't much care for jazz. He didn't like singers messing with his melodies. If the song were supposed to end with a bluesy glissando, Porter might have argued, it would say so on the sheet music. Considering that Merritt as a singer has a contentious relationship with pitch, he is perhaps not in the greatest position to argue for the sacrosanctity of his tunes. Every time he applies his wonderful, froggy, flat voice to them, they're changed a little. But it's not a 'completely expressionless' voice, as he claims. His singing has a touch of Nico's flat-affect syndrome, but there's some of Ray Davies's plaintive croak, too, and he has a cunning croon, as on 'Infinitely Late at Night.' It seems to say: Come hither--wait, that's too close."

24 June 2004

Bloggerheads: The Parting Shot

A talented young blogger is fed up and quitting but leaves us this brilliant and moving Parting Shot (for Bush the fascist and Blair the appeaser). This takes a few seconds to load, and have your speakers on.

The Onion | Coalition: Vast Majority Of Iraqis Still Alive

This story at The Onion has a definite "glass is more than half full" kind of slant. "According to U.S. Department of Defense statistics, of the approximately 24 million Iraqis who were not killed, nearly all are not in a military prison. Bremer said "a good number" of those Iraqis who are in jail have been charged with a crime, and most of them have enjoyed a prison stay free of guard-dog attacks, low-watt electrocutions, and sexual humiliation."

Thanks to skippy the bush kangaroo

Skippy the bush kangaroo has very kindly almost doubled Deborama's daily traffic by linking me in his excellent "a-list" blog. I am humbly grateful.

The verdict on Fahrenheit 9/11 - flawed but great

According to MTV, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Australian. However, Bush supporters have a rather different view.
The verdict on Bob Dylan - great but flawed, according to the Independent.

22 June 2004

Nobody Does It Better


Clinton rages against Dimbleby in Panorama confrontation over Lewinsky. So say the headlines, just proving what Clinton said, in my view. I think he was right on target. And I thought he was charming. And it just tickles me pink the way the wingnuts are so baffled by the way women - and even [shudder] feminists - like Clinton and forgive him for Lewinsky. Could it be because Clinton likes women, and you so demonstrably don't?

21 June 2004

Happy Solstice!

Here's a nice picture of sunrise at Stonehenge. Wish I was there. And thank God for yoga! I have been feeling really crappy lately and my yoga class tonight was just what I needed to work the ya-yas out. Of course we did salute to the sun, the strong version (with cobra, warrior and hanging dog). Yes, I may survive after all. So, why am I feeling so blue? Part of it is just that age-old plaint - I NEED A VACATION! Or a holiday even. Whatever. But I hate travelling at high summer. So my current plans are to go to Portland "Organ" (never been there) on or about my only grand-child's first birthday, which is the 1st of September. Jeesh, that's a long way away. I have a few more days I could use before then. Anyone got an idea for a short cheap holiday I could take that won't involve over-exposure to either sun or crowds? Preferably something very restful and calming.

20 June 2004

So, George, how do you feel about your Mom and Dad?

Blog browsing through Washington Interns Gone Bad, I found a triptych of popular psychologists' analyses of the character of the "most powerful man in the free world". This one from Oliver James in the Guardian, and this one from a prominent DC shrink and this one from Salon (day pass required). Despite what the intro to the Salon article says, they pretty much agree with each other. He's emotionally unwell, paranoid, sadistic and driven by intense Oedipal competitiveness.

Time magazine discovers blogs

TIME.com: Meet Joe Blog.
"Not that long ago, blogs were one of those annoying buzz words that you could safely get away with ignoring. The word blog — it works as both noun and verb — is short for Web log. It was coined in 1997 to describe a website where you could post daily scribblings, journal-style, about whatever you like — mostly critiquing and linking to other articles online that may have sparked your thinking. Unlike a big media outlet, bloggers focus their efforts on narrow topics, often rising to become de facto watchdogs and self-proclaimed experts. Blogs can be about anything: politics, sex, baseball, haiku, car repair. There are blogs about blogs.
"Big whoop, right? But it turns out some people actually have interesting thoughts on a regular basis, and a few of the better blogs began drawing sizable audiences. Blogs multiplied and evolved, slowly becoming conduits for legitimate news and serious thought. In 1999 a few companies began offering free make-your-own-blog software, which turbocharged the phenomenon. By 2002, Pyra Labs, which makes software for creating blogs, claimed 970,000 users.
"Most of America couldn't have cared less. Until December 2002, that is, when bloggers staged a dramatic show of force. The occasion was Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, during which Trent Lott made what sounded like a nostalgic reference to Thurmond's past segregationist leanings. The mainstream press largely glossed over the incident, but when regular journalists bury the lead, bloggers dig it right back up. "That story got ignored for three, four, five days by big papers and the TV networks while blogs kept it alive," says Joshua Micah Marshall, creator of talkingpointsmemo.com, one of a handful of blogs that stuck with the Lott story."

When the zombies take over

A fantastic laugh, but quite deadpan, as you would expect from the name of the site: Straight Dope Staff Report. This one discusses in minute detail how long you could expect your electricity to operate in the case of a Dawn of the Dead scenario. I found this at Joel's excellent weekly "Trite Metaphor" feature.

19 June 2004

Bush told he is playing into Bin Laden's hands

This article in the Guardian provided me with yet another example of how "ahead of the curve" a lot of bloggers can be. Less than a month ago, I posted a link to a Philosoraptor post in which he argued very much the same thing. Uncanny almost. Julian Borger quotes from the author of a book called "Imperial Hubris" which bitterly attacks Bush administration policy from the perspective of the professional intelligence community. (The author's name is only given as "Anonymous".)
"Anonymous, who published an analysis of al-Qaida last year called Through Our Enemies' Eyes, thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.
"'I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now,' he said.
"'One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president.'"
Philosoraptor, back on 27 May, said:
"The administration has trotted out its newest sophistry. (Well, it’s been floating around for awhile, but it’s suddenly being pushed hard.) It goes like this: the al Qaeda attack on trains in Madrid affected Spanish elections, causing Spain to elect an administration that is softer on terrorism than the previous one. Therefore it is likely that al Qaeda will try to strike in the U.S. before our elections in order to influence our election, specifically by bringing it about that we elect a Democratic Kerry administration that will be softer on terrorism than a Republican Bush administration."
He then followed with his analysis of why the flaw in this idea is that clearly UbL would prefer Bush to any other president, describing how he let al Qaeda escape at Tora Bora to "save troop strength" only to turn around and attack a man whom bin Laden called "a bad Muslim" and who posed nowehere near the threat to the US that al Qaeda did.
"Imagine bin Laden’s relief—and disbelief. To get a sense for it, I suppose you’d have to contemplate something like the following scenario: you have been wounded and cornered, without hope of escape, by a ravenous tiger. You see it approach your for the kill…but, as you prepare to make peace with your maker, the tiger not only turns and runs away, but runs into the next county and eats somebody you really hate. Greater good fortune bin Laden could not have imagined. But, of course, there’s more. Incredibly, we have yet even to mention the worst of it. Not only did the Bush administration let bin Laden escape, not only did they attack and depose his great enemy, not only did they alienate our allies and anger the rest of the world, but on top of it all they galvanized the Muslim world against us and created a recruiting goldmine for al Qaeda. Greater incompetence and a more resounding failure can hardly be imagined."

18 June 2004

Riverbend on the new government

After a bit of a hiatus, understandable given the horrible conditions in Baghdad, Baghdad Burning is back with a long and informative post about the inside dope on the new Iraqi government.

RIP Kate Worley

In an earlier post I mentioned a comic book/graphic novel that I used to enjoy called Omaha the Cat Dancer. This was written by Reed Waller and Kate Worley and illustrated by Reed, and in the post I linked to, it was mentioned that Kate had cancer, which had been in remission, but was at that time returned. Just a few days after I posted that, on June 6, 2004, Kate lost her life to the cancer. Kate was a really talented writer and a fixture in the comic book scene in the 1980s, when she and Reed lived and worked in Minneapolis. I was very grieved to hear of her passing. Here is a great tribute to her on the blog of one who is obviously a kindred spirit. And here is a long excerpt:
"There's actually a whole subgenre of funny-animal-porn comics, but Worley and Waller were the lions of it. By their example, they raised the bar not only for the quality of comics writing, but for the freedom of expression of the medium, and by extension our sexual freedom in society at large. Worley and Waller both came out as bisexual in the late 1980's, making them among the first publically openly queer creators in comics. (Other gay-identified creators before them had usually used pen-names.) Although both creators seem to be closer to the low end of hte Kinsey scale, Omaha included characters of assorted orientations, and the couple proudly contributed a 5-page story and the cover for the "funny animals" issue of Gay Comics. And above all, they celebrated sex as the potentially joyful, perfectly natural, part of everyday life it is.
"Omaha came to a rather abrupt end when Worley and Waller broke up, an acrimonious split that seemed completely irreconcilable. She later remarried, to cartoonist Jim Vance (best known for the excellent graphic novel Kings In Disguise) and had two children. Part of the sad irony of Worley's death at this particular time is the fact that the wounds between her and Waller had finally healed enough that they had recently begun work on new Omaha material, to finish a planned reprint of the series. Unfortunately, her cancer returned at the same time, and she only got a little bit written before she was overtaken by it. Waller has said that he and Vance intend to finish the project in her memory, based on her notes and what they both know of her plans for the story."

17 June 2004

Clean wholesome nudity


Just to show I am not anti-sport, and for no other reason, I am displaying this wholesome, clean, sporting picture of nude touch rugby in Dunedin, New Zealand.

England - a drinking country with a football problem

Unfortunately, this is not the only, or even the most serious, violence problem due to drunken English football fans - this is. Under the sensational headline "THEY SIT IN TERROR PRAYING ENGLAND WIN...", the Nottingham Evening Post, usually an excessively pro-football paper from all I can tell (though I admit I mostly only read the property ads), told the shocking story of the huge rise in domestic abuse calls from women on nights when England has lost in international soccer competition.
"Fear rose inside Sharon as she realised England were going out of Euro 2000. She knew her partner - a passionate England fan - would be angry with the result and he had been drinking heavily.
"She knew she would be badly beaten if she stayed in their house.
"She put a coat on her young son and went to the nearest public phone box."

16 June 2004

Terry Jones is a sick, sick man

In "This won't hurt much" in today's Guardian, the former Python and erstwhile "TV history programme presenter" (ha! who did he think he was fooling?) explains why, thanks to the legal research of Donald Rumsfeld, he no longer worries about the legal and moral implications of chaining members of his family to radiators, putting bags over their heads, or sexually humiliating their friends. After all, it's all in the good cause of extracting information and being a better parent, so how could it be torture?

Happy Bloomsday!

Today is the day, and this is the blog. The Bloomsday blog, that is.

9/11 commission discounts Saddam-Bin Laden link

From the Guardian Unlimited, Special reports. Yeah, well, uh, no surprise there, really.

13 June 2004

Tony, Tony, Tony

Richard Ingrams of Guardian/Observer Politics, says Blair is getting "barmier and barmier". "A possibly more interesting reflection would centre on the dangerous self-delusion of which Blair seems to be capable. This, in turn, might also lead to reflections on the urgent need for him finally to be replaced by someone with a slightly firmer grasp of reality."

Who do you think you are?

Yet another article about the English identity crisis.

This way for Carey Street

An Observer commentary by Will Hutton on Britain's culture of debt. "It is an extraordinary merry-go-round familiar to everyone. Bit by bit, homes have been turned into mini secondary banks, reaching an apogee with the new flexible mortgages which allow the borrower to run up and reduce mortgage debt monthly as individual spending and borrowing patterns fluctuate."

A secret world of US detention

The Guardian's Jason Burke has an article (re-published at buzzle.com) about the whole system of extra-legal detentions and multinational "snatches" of suspects who cannot be arrested legally. It covers some of the most notorious cases, like Maher Arar, and the more well-known facilities, such as Guantanamo, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. And it is a chilling story, too. Very Gulag archipelago.

11 June 2004

And now for something completely different, and yet, strangely familiar

Monty Python: Fellowship of the Ring. Yes, you heard that right . . . Monty Python: Fellowship of the Ring. For example:
"Wi nøt trei a høliday in Røhän this yër?
See äll the løveli hørses
The wøndërful gølden häll uv Edørås - Medusëld
And mäni interësting Røhirrim who tälk aløt lik dis (and vøld lik vëry much to kill yøu)"

The real 2004 Democratic National Convention

Save the 2004 Democratic National Convention from a Republican Google bomb. Click on this one, and post one at your site. Please note: I am not an official Democrat; I am just doing this in the spirit of fair play on the internet.

City Pages: The Neighborhood Prophet

A little hometown local colour news: this City Pages "City Beat" article tells about local artist Andrew Moore, an ex-Black Panther. His house, mentioned in the story, is about two blocks from my Minneapolis church - Walker Methodist - which back in the late 60s, when they didn't have services in the church, housed the Panthers in one of its basement offices.

09 June 2004

Rating Reagan

From The Consortiumnews.com, a really brilliant article (with that increasingly rare thing, serious historical analysis!) about the "bogus legacy" of Ronald Reagan, the "winner" of the Cold War. Could be he impeded the end of the Soviet Union, far more than he could ever be said to have achieved it.

Heart of Darkness

Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0 has a really good, absolutely heart-breaking post, summing up his feelings about being in Iraq.
"People die on a daily basis in random, terrifying attacks. And for what? Freedom? Stability? Peace? There is none of that here and it’s likely there won’t be after the Americans leave. Iraq has spiraled into a dark place, much worse than where it was a year ago during the war. There is no freedom from the fear that is stoked by mutual hatred, cynicism and an apprehension about the future. So what if one side has superior firepower? Every bullet fired helps kill souls on both sides of this war, whether it hits flesh or lands harmlessly.
"We — Iraqis and the Americans here — are caged by fear, and we are all conquered people now."

The War President

At American Leftist, a remarkable portrait of GW Bush - and his victims. I got this link from a mailing list.

06 June 2004

Kristi, D-Day and the Insane Anglo Warlord

Not wishing to speak ill of the dead, but the Insane Anglo Warlord has passed on. Gone to join his beloved Ayn in Atheist Heaven, wherever that is.
As I could barely escape noticing, today was the 60th anniversary of D-Day. But my major association with the 6th of June is that it is the day my room-mate Kristi died. This was a life-altering event for me, and not just an isolated trauma, because Kristi was more than just a room-mate.
I met Kristi at a day care centre in downtown Atlanta. My son Carey, who was just seven months old at the time, was occasionally confused with another little boy named Stephen. Stephen was just twelve days older than Carey, and they looked enough alike, as babies, to be brothers. Kristi was Stephen's mother. She was about eight years older than I, which seemed terribly old to me at the time -- she was 35 and I was 27. Another thing we had in common was a need to find better rental housing on a very tight budget. We decided to set up house together. I had a husband and a four year old daughter in addition to Carey; Kristi had Stephen and an elderly dog named Maggie. I didn't like dogs at that time. I am very ashamed to remember how grouchy I was about living with Maggie. We lived all together in a big Edwardian bungalow with two kitchens and a steep back garden, and a garage with an illegal apartment over it that we sublet to an elderly Marxist named Jack. The kids called him "Jack-in-the-back". We were together for almost two years, through the election of the Insane Anglo Warlord, the death of Ayn Rand (ding-dong, the witch is dead!), the murder of John Lennon and the murder of Oscar Romero.
As the world descended into the leftist's nightmare that was the 1980s, Kristi, who had been expelled from the SWP, ostensibly for keeping her bourgeois job as advertising copy-writer, but possibly also for being a closeted Christian, descended into alcoholism and asthma. She was definitely weird, but so ultimately lovable that I began to love her like a sister. It was easy to think of her as like family, because she was screwed up in a similar way to some of my more distant relatives. She never really weaned or potty-trained her boy, and he was sleeping in the bed with her right up to the day she died. Even at the time, I realized that the sudden wrench of losing his mother at the age of two and a half must have been made even worse by the way she was so "unnaturally" close to him. (I put that in quotes because she would argue, passionately, that her non-traditional parenting style was actually more natural. Maybe for a gorilla, I would answer, heartlessly.)
We had huge fights, like the time when my grandfather died while Eric and I were out, and Kristi, who took the call in the middle of polishing off a bottle of cheap red wine, forgot to tell me until several months later. But we had tearful and sincere reconciliations after every one. And we had good times, too. We took our kids swimming on our rare days off, we attended Quaker meetings together. Eric played the piano, and Kristi played the violin, and sometimes we would have a little family party of playing, singing, dancing and drinking wine, and let the kids stay up until they fell asleep on the sofa, the floor and the dog.
But I sort of lied when I said she was my room-mate. Actually, the strain of living with her was tearing me apart and did ultimately destroy my marriage to Eric (doomed anyway, so I don't blame her), In a last ditch attempt to find sanity, which failed so spectacularly that I will never be able to tell the whole tale, Eric and I bought a condominium and moved out; Kristi got a new room-mate. Just two months later, on Sunday, 6 June, 1982, Kristi had a fatal heart failure brought on by her well-known allergy to peanuts and a potluck dinner at the Atlanta Friends Meeting House. At the time she collapsed, she was pushing her son and her huge dog home from the Quaker House in a wonky old baby buggy in 85 degree heat. (I told you she was weird).
This was only the first of several great losses of close friends that I was to suffer in the next two decades. It does no good to dwell on the unfairness of RWR living on exactly 22 years after poor, innocent Kristi, who never hurt anyone deliberately, who hurt herself so badly trying to live through her own faith in love and hope. I know perfectly well that life is not fair like that.

It all came back to me as I watched the D-Day programming today on TV. The thing that always makes me and the old veterans cry is the memory of the young comrades they lost. I thought about how I seemed to age at least 10 years in the weeks following Kristi's death, as my husband and I and her other best friend, D, struggled to settle the affairs of her life, and clear the way for D to adopt Stephen. (She also adopted Maggie, but fortunately that was easier.) And I always feel afresh my own grief, when survivors of a battle, a war, a disaster, struggle with the reality that those who were so close to them, who were just like them, were snuffed out in an instant, often in front of their eyes, and there they are, 10, 20, 60 years later, wondering what that beloved person would be like today. Survivor guilt, and the unbearable knowledge of our own mortality. Or just missing terribly someone who has gone away and won't be back.

05 June 2004

What Rumsfeld doesn't know that he knows about Abu Ghraib

I didn't know that In These Times was still being published, let alone that it is on the web. I found this link, as so many, at WWW of Fat Buddha, and it was like finding an old friend. The article itself is great - short and punchy, yet very subtle in its insight about one of the pathologies of "American values". And the illustration really says it all, in a way.

04 June 2004

"Inspector Sands" on the BNP

Every now and then I find an interesting British Blogger through the webring of the same name. Someone else is a BritBlogger and one of their readers does the random link thing and ends up here, and then I see their blog on my referrers list. Thus I found Casino Avenue. I have linked to the May 2004 Archive because there is a good thing about the BNP there and the permalink doesn't work. (It's the last post on 31 May.)

Politics and Poetry

Thus spake Jeanne of Body and Soul: "But of course I do want to live in America, and I want the America I live in to bear some resemblance to the one in my head."

George Tenet resigns as Director of CIA

AP story via Yahoo! News. As the commentators here in the UK are saying, he is the only person on both sides of the Atlantic to lose his job over Iraq. (I guess they're not counting those who are voted out, or Spaniards.) But still, that's shameful. By the way, sorry for the sparse blogging; I have not been well and my job is stressing me out.

02 June 2004

Up on the roof

Riverbend of Baghdad Burning cleans the roof. That's for sleeping on, as the heat rises and the electricity situation just worsens. I am in awe that she can continue to blog at all under such conditions.

John Kerry: must do better!

The Guardian today features a comment article by Howell Raines on the campaign challenges of John Kerry. He finds it wanting. There is no message there, either on the war or the economy.

01 June 2004

Art gallery closes after verbal and physical abuse of owner

Artdaily.com, The First Art Newspaper on the Net, has a story about a woman named Lori Haigh who was running an art gallery in San Francisco. Was, until she made the seemingly innocent decision to show some work depicting the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The article shows a picture of her face after a stranger punched her in the eye; another spat in her face, and she has received numerous telephone and e-mail threats. She was finally forced to close the gallery indefinitely, part because of fears for the safety of her children. "This isn’t art-politics central here at all," Haigh said. "I’m not here to make a stand. I never set out to be a crusader or a political activist." Like so many good links, this came from Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha.

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