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31 July 2004

A letter from my sister

I am posting this without comment except to say: 1) I don't disagree with anything my sister says, though we are on opposite sides of the political balance point and she is a lot closer to the centre and 2) I pray for your safety every day, Cindy, just in case. So, without further ado, my little sister, retired US Army Reserve officer, from . . .

Green Zone, Baghdad, Iraq

Dear Deb,
Thought I would drop you a line and let you know how I am getting along here in the infamous Green Zone. Perhaps you can post this letter to your blog and let some of your constituents read a first-hand accounting from a unaffiliated but still somewhat biased ex-military officer, American patriot turned high-paid consultant.

First things first, the food and the living conditions are pretty good. Someone makes some delicious cinnamon rolls every morning and they keep a steady supply of coffee and the makings for tea (lots of Brits here) in the main dining area in the central section of the Palace.

I guess it has been 15 or 16 months since the Coalition rolled into Baghdad and the work done here on the compound continues, as they fortify the perimeter, add portable living trailers on every available inch of ground and establish work areas and secure entrances for the new Embassy personnel that will take over this building. They say the Green Zone is almost four square miles of secure area. I believe them. Inside this area is the infamous parade grounds where Saddam’s troops would pass in review. There is also a gorgeous monument to the Unknown Iraqi Soldier. I pass those areas on my way to work each morning.

I work for a DOD contractor, assisting the Ministry of Defense with training in the various areas of their organization. I am traveling with a team of 12. All of us are either retired military or hold a PhD in something like Foreign Affairs. Two guys have worked for the CIA, many have traveled to the Middle East before. Six of us participated in Operations Enduring/Iraqi Freedom in one way or another. One of my team members, an older gentleman in his 70’s is Lebanese and speaks many languages, including Arabic. He is extremely helpful to us.

We have a team of translators, all Iraqi citizens. They literally risk their lives everyday when they travel through the checkpoints into the Convention Center to work with us. Some of them have been threatened. There is a $30,000 bounty on the head of anyone working with the American infidels. But the sad thing is that even their neighbors are shunning them and asking them to move so they won’t endanger anyone else. The conversations we have with them are fascinating, but I am sure they are the pro-Americans. They speak of the horrors under Saddam. They tell about family members who were imprisoned and killed. They tell us how bad it was to never be able to speak their minds, to never have an opinion. Learning to use computers and the internet was discouraged and only the insiders in the government had access to them. There were no cellular phones. Now half the Iraqis on the street have a cell phone in their ear.

They are eagerly awaiting the return of air travel in Iraq. The only airline flying now is from Jordan. The military flies everyday, but they make us wear an armored vest and helmet on approach and takeoffs because the incidence of firing at aircraft is daily. But when the commercial airport is reopened, the Iraqis can go to Europe and to the United States to visit relatives. Many of them have exiled relatives in places like Detroit and Phoenix. The students we have from the MOD are all highly educated. Most of them were in the Army before. Some a long time ago and some under Saddam. They appear to be interested in moving on and changing their way of doing business, but one of my translators tells me that when they think we don’t know, some speak of Saddam coming back into power, or the Baathist party rising again.

I actually think that the closest correlation to what it will take for this place to heal, is the example of racial segregation in the United States. We know how long it has taken, generations, for our wounds to heal. And some people have tried to change and get on with their lives. And some folks can’t let it go, and want to keep racism alive. People on both sides, blacks and whites. But for the most part, there is equality in educational opportunities, in the military (Colin Powell rose to be Joint Chiefs of Staff) and in the workplace. We need to look forward two or three generations and envision a society in Iraq where the memories of life under Saddam are fading and only a few misguided loyalists continue to remember the good ole days. Change will come. It has to. Because if democracy in Iraq doesn’t work, and the economy and quality of life here can’t improve, then the rest of the Middle East will circle the drain and be sucked back into failure with Iraq. So let’s hope for the best and continue to support our governments (US and British) efforts to assist.

Talk to you soon, love
Cindy

Body and Soul: Obama

Jeanne was deeply moved by Barack Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention. I wish I had heard it. They don't cover the US political conventions over here (can you imagine that?) Well, I could probably catch highlights on CNN if I stayed up really late.

On the Guantanamo front

On the Guantanamo front of the war on terra, The Agonist reports on two developments - military "commissions" (hearings) for four detainees, and individual "prisoner reviews" for all inmates to be held in the near future.

28 July 2004

City Pages: Sacred Unions

Minneapolis had its own "Bloody Sunday" decades before the more famous one happened to Northern Ireland. I should have been here last Saturday to commemorate the 70th anniversary. I'm sure I had a number of friends amongst the crowd, as I knew at least a handful of people in Teamsters for a Democratic Union. And the music - it sounds like it was the best.

27 July 2004

Iran, Iraq and 9/11

Winston Smith of the blog Philosoraptor is always good for a thoughtful piece on some connection overlooked or misinterpreted by many of the other pundits. But then he doesn't claim to be a pundit, he claims to be a philosopher. This one is concerned with what it may take to get "true believers" to stop believing that Iraq was responsible for 9/11.

24 July 2004

About Al Gore and the Internet . . .

God's Ex-Boyfriend has gone off on untruthful journalists in a righteous snit and very thoroughly explained the misinformation techniques behind the widely believed calumny that Al Gore claims to have invented the Internet.  That's one ugly myth utterly de-bunked, but will anyone listen?

22 July 2004

The check is in the mail

This article in City Pages is headlined How a once-mighty union sold out thousands of workers on the eve of retirement, but the full story is a bit more complicated than that. People are being left out in the cold by their union pension fund, in this case the Teamster's, but it's more a case of political football than sell-out. The game involves the federal government and its pro-corporate policies and the machinations of another mighty player, United Parcel Services. Not that that makes it any better for the victims.

OK, this is wrong

I have posted a couple of things since Monday, using the "Blog This" button, but Blogger seems to have lost them.  Also my ISP has been acting up.  I am not sure what's going on.  Please bear with me.

19 July 2004

How Can the Democrats Win?

Rick Perlstein's article is long on political philosphy. It is also long on speculation, long in its sights on the future (how can the Democrats win in 2018?) and -well - just plain long. So the fact that I am posting about it means that I think it is worth poring over, nevertheless. I may need to go back and read it again to get all the juice out.

Are some Republicans too fond of animals?

The Gadflyer asks this question while discussing various "family values" arguments that were deployed against gay marriage in recent Congressional/Senate debates.
"Is Santorum haunted by visions of the love that dare not bark its name? Does he wake up at night in a cold sweat to find his faithful pooch sitting at the foot of the bed, her ears flopping seductively, her nose wet with anticipation, wearing an expression that says, "You know you want it"? And just what is it about the box turtle that led Senator Cornyn to see erotic possibilities where few had found them before?"
I got this link from Julie.

17 July 2004

Blogkeeping - big announcement

Today I became a rodent. Don't know if I can keep it up, though. Thanks for all your support.

Is it too sick for investors to gamble on the terminally ill? Don't bet on it

From my non-blogging friend Joani, I received this article from The Observer about the recent trend in individual investors buying the life insurance policies of people diagnosed with terminal illnesses. I remember a decade or so ago when this was a big thing for AIDS patients to sell their life insurance to charities, mainly in order to free up cash to make the remainder of their lives more comfortable. But the sale to individual investors hoping to make, if you'll excuse the expression, a killing, has a definite moral downside, as evidenced from this excerpt:
". . .Peter Hewitt, an independent financial adviser with Richmond Financial Management[:]
" . . .'We pulled out of this market altogether because we found the sellers were not dying when they were supposed to, and we were having to face huge numbers of disgruntled buyers,' he admitted.
"'When the sellers suddenly have lots of money to spend on achieving their life dreams, it gives them an extra spurt of life and they don't die,' he said.
"'It became quite embarrassing: we would have buyers ringing up, asking us what sort of condition the sellers were in, and we would have to admit they were on some exotic holiday, jumping out of aeroplanes.
"'It didn't go down too well when they were supposed to have died months earlier.' "

Mathematical proof that girls are evil

This is from the Trivia and Ephemera section of a complex oif sites by someone who calls herself the Trivia Queen. She has inexplicably blogrolled me, for which I am, as always grateful, but I don't know how she knows me, or if I know her. If you are Trivia Queen, please drop me a note or a comment (as I would to you, except I don't see either e-mail or comments on your site(s); perhaps I haven't looked in the right place yet?) and let me know who you are. It's a very interesting bunch of sites by the way, if a little confusing to navigate.

There’s Something About the Way You Use the Bible

Real Live Preacher has a beautiful post from yesterday, one of his best and that is really saying something. I got to this post by reading the comments on a somewhat related post at Slacktivist, which in turn I got to because Jeanne said it "might just be the richest and most beautiful post I have ever read on any blog."

Resistance is futile

A site called aikarin.com features this handsome custom-made object, a representation of what it looks like when My Little Pony is assimilated by the Borg. I would say that someone should do a Borg Barbie, but of course it's more or less been done already by Jeri "the reason spandex was invented" Ryan.  By the way, I finally found a way around the Blogger bug I mentioned below, in order to post this.  I used the "Blog This" button, which defaults to the old-fashioned Edit HTML view, which is all I really wanted.  I could probably drag-and-drop the picture using the wysiwig or something fancy like that, but I am too old and set in my ways.  I still use COBOL, for gosh sakes, and even, in a pinch, JCL.  (But that's at my job, obviously, not for blogging.

Sorry for lack of posts

I am not feeling well. Partly because I had minor surgery on Monday and I have been home all week recuperating.  But even before that I was suffering what may or may not be classic depression, and it is very unpleasant, as anyone who has experienced it will tell you.  I suppose I have been lucky to get this far without really being brought down by depression before.  And then Blogger - hmph.  I don't want to bad-mouth Blogger too much because really they are free and they are awfully good for a free service.  But they have introduced a new wysiwig editor that prevented me yesterday from posting this adorable picture and when I couldn't get around what appears to be a bug, I gave up in total disgust.

15 July 2004

Blogkeeping

I am not a dictator, nor an evil genius, but just a politician.
I have added a link to my Blogger profile to the template (sidebar). I have also added a link enabling you to purchase a very nice comic for a very worthy cause. And quite cheap too.
I have had an unexplained surge in daily hits. But I am still just a Flappy Bird. Oh, well.

Amature Spelling

God's ex-Boyfriend has a great post about amateur writing, the joys of correct spelling, and the internet's degrading effect on language. Preaching to the choir, hallelujah.

14 July 2004

Moore 1, Media 0

Here's a review of F 9-11 by The Nation's Katha Pollitt. It's well worth a read. I still haven't seen the film, so don't tell me how it ends.

13 July 2004

Greasing up to power

George Monbiot's latest. He is always eloquently stating the incredibly obvious, and then you wonder why he is almost the only one:
"So why does this happen? Why do broadcasters (and newspapers) which have a reputation for balance, impartiality and even liberal bias side with the powerful? There appear to be several reasons.
"One of them is that they assume – rightly or wrongly – that the audience doesn’t want complexity. One BBC journalist told the Glasgow team that he had been instructed not to provide 'explainers': what the editors wanted was 'all bang bang stuff'."
. . .
"Another is that, as in all professions, you are rewarded for greasing up to power. The people who are favoured with special information are those who have ingratiated themselves with the government. This leads to the paradoxical result that some of our most famous and successful journalists are also the profession’s most credulous sycophants.
"While you are rewarded for flattery, you are punished for courage. The US, British and Israeli governments can make life very difficult for media organisations which upset them, as the BBC found during the Gilligan affair. The Palestinians and the people of Iraq have much less lobbying power."

Book Collector software

I just found out about this - Book Collector - at the blog Unlearned Hand. He has created a book blog using the software, and incorporating his "new lifetime reading plan". Both of which are great ideas which I may very well steal. This blog is cross-posted at Deborama's Book Reviews and Store.

11 July 2004

The sorrows of the poor

I seem to get an awful lot of my best leads to links from Pete of WWW of Fat Buddha. Catching up on my blog-reading and blogging, both seriously behind due to work stress, mild depression and a few other things on my mind, I found two links that made a connection in my head, even though they were miles apart to the rest of the world. One links to this excellent WaPo article "Hostile Mission for Recruiters", dateline Keyser W. Virgina. This is in the little poor backwoods community from which most of the members of the "notorious 372nd Military Police Company" (think Abu Ghraib) are recruited. You really should read it. And then let me tell you that I was born about 40 miles from that place, and that even though (fortunately for me) I did not grow up there, nor did I grow up in poverty by any definition, I know these places, and these people, and these are nevertheless my roots in a sense. I am still close enough, as a coal-miner's grand-daughter, to know what I escaped. The other link was about the Welsh town of Blaenavon and its attempted renaissance as a literary shangri-la. My maternal/maternal great-grandmother was born there, and died in the little Western Pennsylvania coal-mining town where I was born. When my parents came to visit me in the UK in October 2001 (yes, you read that right, and wasn't that brave of them?) we visited Blaenavon, searching for our roots down in the Big Pit. My mother and I and DH had never been down a mine. My father had briefly followed his father into the mines in Westmoreland County, PA. I think he stuck it for about a month, and then - guess what? That's right, at the age of 18 he joined the military, saw the world, got the he** outta there. And that's why I was not born an earlier version of either Lynndie England or Jessica Lynch. So, I guess the connection, apart from coal mining, is the sad legacy of poverty - violence, ignorance, little people who can be manipulated by big evil. Cannon fodder for the dictators. And so it goes.

Bitter medicine from Catherine Bennett

So, how hard can we hit our children? The Guardian's Catherine Bennett reacts with bitter irony to the newly adopted Lord's amendment on the so-called "smacking" law.

A great quote

From John Perry Barlow and his too infrequently posted-to blog:
"I do think it's worth mentioning, however, that the two dystopian visions of 1984 and Brave New World, thought mutually exclusive at their time of publication, appear to be coming simultaneously true. Occupation is liberation. Pass the Soma (or Prozac if you prefer)."

10 July 2004

Blogkeeping

Gradually, Deborama is climbing the evolutionary ladder of the blogosphere. Some of my blog-friends, like Natalie, (see 1 July, as she does not have permalinks) are winning awards and notice for what they are doing. I have had my moments of fame (MN blog of the day on Babelogue, but sorry, I'm too lazy to find the link) and being briefly noticed by Skippy the Bush Kangaroo, Slugger O'Toole and other A-listers. I don't read my stats as obsessively as I once did. I have grown used to the idea that a lot of my one-time visitors are coming here looking for sex. If the search is on Yahoo, my blog was number 83 for quite a long while. Now it is number 50, so I am moving up in somebody's world. If on the other hand, you search Google for "sex at Fosse Park" I am a staggering number 3! And I occasionally still get hits from Aimee Tyler fans, which anomaly was explained in a much earlier blog-keeping post. All of this shows (for the geeky ones amongst us, in which I must include myself) the increasing divergence between the two top search engines, Google and Yahoo. My rankings for sex and Aimee Tyler searches, which I would classify as false hits, are much lower on Google than on Yahoo. Maybe more people just look for sex on Yahoo than Google, what do you think?
Meanwhile, in the real world, I have put some links down the side to some of my personal favourite posts, that I think show what Deborama is all about. What I would really like is more feedback, and I am happy that comments are up and almost totally free of trolls. Thanks to all my constant readers.

06 July 2004

Rock Paper Saddam

This is quite humorous. Found at one i'd man.

Burn

Jeanne of Body and Soul, summing up her comments on MM's F 911:
"There's no contradiction, really, between recognizing that war both exploits the most vulnerable young people, and also brings out their worst traits, and even glorifies those traits. That Moore is able to deal with the fact that many people in the military are both victims and perpetrators speaks to an intellectual honesty that's disgustingly rare in Moore's popularity and income bracket. The problem, for me, showed up at the very end of the movie. Summing up, he turns sentimental, talking about how ironic it is that the people who get the least from this country are the ones most likely to volunteer to defend it. And emotionally that felt like a false irony and a cheap sentiment. He's already made it clear that it's not patriotism that drives people into the military, for the most part, but hopelessness, and also that the anger engendered by that hopelessness can turn ugly when put in a position of both danger and power. That's something to mourn, and to rectify, not sentimentalize into some notion that poor people are more patriotic than rich people."

Inside Guantanamo

At the Guardian Unlimited there is a gallery of exclusive photos from inside Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by Andrew Leighton of the Associated Press. Although there is no comment about it in the caption, it looks to me like the picture "The Basics" which depicts an inmate sleeping in his cell, shows a detached artificial leg on the floor under the bunk. Which is pretty grim. Well, the whole place, the whole idea, is terribly grim. I guess that's why I almost excessively blog about it.

04 July 2004

Their George and ours

A column in The New York Times by Barbara Ehrenreich, "giving the dead white men their due", according to Jeanne of Body and Soul, opines:
"But it is the final sentence of the declaration that deserves the closest study: "And for the support of this Declaration . . . we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." Today, those who believe that the war on terror requires the sacrifice of our liberties like to argue that "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." In a sense, however, the Declaration of Independence was precisely that.
"By signing Jefferson's text, the signers of the declaration were putting their lives on the line. England was then the world's greatest military power, against which a bunch of provincial farmers had little chance of prevailing. Benjamin Franklin wasn't kidding around with his quip about hanging together or hanging separately. If the rebel American militias were beaten on the battlefield, their ringleaders could expect to be hanged as traitors.
"They signed anyway, thereby stating to the world that there is something worth more than life, and that is liberty. Thanks to their courage, we do not have to risk death to preserve the liberties they bequeathed us. All we have to do is vote."

03 July 2004

Blogkeeping

This book has made such a huge impression on me that I have posted about it at Deborama's Kitchen and at Deborama's Book Reviews and Store. You really must read it, and don't let it drive you into denial, use it to change the way you shop and the way you eat. That's what I am going to do. I am going to start making my own bread again. I am going to find a way to keep my salad growing year round so I never have to buy another bag of chlorine soaked, e.coli-tainted mixed leaves at one pound sterling to the ounce. I am going to refuse to drink any coffee that isn't fair-trade.

I have discovered . . .

Debian, as defined at Wikipedia. It even has its own manifesto and social contract. I must learn more about this. Please comment or e-mail if you know or know about debian.

02 July 2004

In memoriam - another good dog done gone


I made a draft of this post from Time Goes By, about old pets for old people, almost a month ago. I was going to take a nice picture of Sandi, our very old pet, to illustrate it. But I never got around to it, and Sandi didn't have any good hair days - she hadn't had any for many months, as her health was failing terribly. On Wednesday, she died at the veterinary hospital. I was on my way home from work, on the train, when I got the call from DH to say she was there and was not coming home, and did I want to come by and say good-bye to her. She was suffering from major kidney failure; and she hadn't been able to eat for days and so did not take her "brain pill". Finally, she couldn't get out of her bed, which is why Hubby had taken her to the vet.
So I went to the vet's, but we are not sure how conscious she was of us, as we stroked her and talked to her and cried softly for a few minutes. Then DH called for the vet to come in a give her the merciful dose. She was a good old dog, and we miss her.

01 July 2004

The wrong war?

Peter Bergen in Mother Jones magazine summarises all that is wrong with the war in Iraq in his essay, The Wrong War.

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