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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".

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