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28 August 2003

From Minneapolis

This is just quick note to say that I am not a grandmother yet. The baby is seven days overdue today. I am quite disappointed with Minneapolis. Minnesota Nice is just a nice memory. The legislature has passed a "concealed carry" gun law and now all of the horribly overpriced downtown business establishments (all the good ones have been driven away or had their buildings torn down) display signs very self-righteously saying that they do not permit guns. (We are not talking about frontier saloons with sawdust on the floor here; we're talking about corporate offices and the Gap.) But I am trying to make the most of it, and I am busily scheduling visits with the many friends I haven't seen for years. Meanwhile Aimee wants that baby to come out!!! We went to a Chinese restaurant just now and I was feeding her big slabs of barely cooked ginger. Hey, it may work.

24 August 2003

Death of a Cowgirl

From Reuters, via Yahoo News, I just happened to find this story: Cowgirl Reeves Dies at 101 After Fall from Horse. Obviously one of the best people to come out of Texas, along with Molly Ivins, Jim Hightower and the Dixie Chicks.

Off to America-land

The baby had still not arrived when I spoke to my daughter last night (Saturday afternoon for her.) I am leaving tomorrow for a 13-day sojourn to Minneapolis, so there will be a hiatus on this blog for at least a day, maybe more. Meanwhile, today, I am going to repair a problem at Deborama's Personal Pages. If anyone tried to look at any of the picture links they probably didn't work because they were in a Yahoo photo album, which I did not realise could not be linked to. So I have now copied my photos to our private domain at ntl and they are linkable from there. You can visit the Personal Pages now for photos of Aimee and my son Carey and me with parents and five siblings at a family reunion three years ago and also baby Savannah's scan from when she was about 3 months in utero. As soon as she is born, or as soon as I can, I will get photos of her on the page.

23 August 2003

Pentagon cover-up on pneumonia-like deaths

This story by United Press International concerns one suspicious death in Kuwait of a soldier serving in Iraq, and refers to about a half-dozen more cases. The common link is that they were all previously healthy and that their illnesses followed on from receiving an anthrax vaccination. It's the usual deal with relatives and in some cases doctors suspecting a link and spokespersons from the Pentagon trying to dance and sing their way out of it.

22 August 2003

Salam Pax - and follow-up to 1968 all over again

The latest post at Where is Raed ? makes a nice follow-up to the issue of when and how should the coalition pull out of Iraq. I will quote him:
"Maybe we Iraqis did expect too much from the American invasion, we did hope there is going to be an easy way. Get rid of Saddam and have the Americans help us rebuild. I don't think like that anymore. I am starting to believe that the chaos we will go thru the next 5 or 10 years is part of the price we will *have* to pay to have our freedom. . . It is too painful to have to admit that the [burn it down to build it up] process is what we will have to go thru."
Iraq really is quite different from Vietnam. There were millions of Vietnamese fanatically loyal to Ho Chi Minh and he was never overthrown. The Americans made no pretense about rescuing a country from a tyrant or "nation-building" in Vietnam; there "our" single wrong-headed objective was to "save" a country from the evil ideology of communism, one they would never had embraced had the West not driven them into the arms of the feared and mistrusted Chinese by refusing to recognise or credit Ho's basic nationalist movement. Both Iraq and Vietnam had internal divisions and weaknesses that are a legacy of colonialism, but Iraq has more, and more dangerous, divisions, while Vietnam had more apparent weaknesses (having been a true colony, and ruthlessly exploited) although these "weaknesses" turned out to be what gave them the strength to defeat the West. And yes, I do believe Vietnam defeated the West, not just the US. So it is not so much that "we" "lost" Vietnam (which we never had) but that Vietnam defeated its oppressors one by one and finally, beat off the US. Vietnam did also go through terrible chaos after the departure of the US, but they came through it and are now a strong emerging economy and an accepted part of the international community.
Whew, what a rant. I am quite shagged out and will need a nap now. We impending grannies have to harbour our energy.

21 August 2003

Oliver North lost the Vietnam War --Joel Sax

I am apparently guilty of blog provocation now. (I am a bloggant provocateur.) Pax Nortona's blogger Joel was compelled to respond to my post below about getting out of Iraq now with this. But nobody likes my thing about omelettes and eggs. Boo hoo! I have another bon mot, an old omelette-egg trope as it were, which is to characterise both fascist types and nihilist anarchist types with "F**k the omelette, I just like breaking eggs!" (Could be that's the motto of Bush and the PNAC as well.) (By the way, I only censor my blog like that so that I can view it at work through the filter; in real life I am not at all squeamish about the f-word.)
But seriously. I still don't think justice or the Iraqi people would be served at all by an immediate withdrawal of the coalition. I think they should clean up their act. I think the height of evil is to be found in, amongst other things, the tax cuts, the military benefit cuts, and the persistent lying about both causes and outcomes.

20 August 2003

Hope springs eternal

In the midst of all the negativity in the news, my little family grouping, my very scattered tribe, is awaiting the entrance of our newest member. To be more specific, my only daughter and oldest child, Aimee, is expecting a baby - today! I don't know statistically how many babies are born slap on their due dates so I don't know what are the chances she will come today. I say "she" because we know the baby's a girl and she even has a name already. (We're not superstitious in our family, or at least not that supersititious.) So I am sitting here about 6 or 7,000 miles away, waiting for a phone call or an e-mail to tell me that I am a granny. I will be flying over to the states on Monday, either to be present at a slightly late birth, or to see a very new baby girl. Prayers for my daughter and for her daughter are very welcome, from any of you who pray.

Bush Wars - It's 1968 all over again

I was browsing blogs and news sources for something original about the death of de Mello and the bombing of the UN, and I came upon this quote of Steve Gilliard in the Bush Wars blog of Steve Perry of Minneapolis:
"The Iraqis aren't going to work with us. They are not going to kill their relatives for the greater glory of Halliburton. George Bush is so fundamentally corrupt, and the Iraqis are so fundamentally angry at the occupiers, that people are willing to help anyone destroy anything. They blew up the pipeline for the water. How did they learn the spot to hit? Some civil engineer had to tell them. How did they know where de Mello's office was? Someone who worked in the building told them. The Iraqi resistance is sheltered and embraced by the Iraqi people. It could not exist otherwise."
This gave me a definite chill - doesn't it sound like the Viet Cong?
Also in Perry's blog, he works on the meme of the absconding dictator:
"..., but at this point I'd give the sonuvabitch [Bush] tens of millions of dollars and a Saudi palace if he would just resign and go away now." and then does a variation on it with:
"At this point in time I don't think the Iraqis care if we take the oil with us when we leave. I think they just want us gone. Now."
Which is great rhetoric, but I am not so sure it's entirely true. Not the impression I get from Salam Pax, and other Iraqis he quotes, and he is certainly no apologist for the failings of the coalition. But there's a difference between criticising the way the Americans are handling things and saying that the solution is to just leave. The way I look at it, they broke the eggs already, now they had better make the omelette.

19 August 2003

Huge blast at UN HQ in Baghdad

This is what greeted us on the news when we came home tonight. Salam Pax has a more raw and on-the-spot viewpoint. Dark days.

Paul Newman Is Still HUD

Paul Newman is suing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)for copyright infringement. "Mr. Newman claims that the Department of Housing and Urban Development, called HUD, is a fair and balanced institution and that some of its decency and respectability has unfairly rubbed off on his movie character, diluting the rotten, self-important, free-trade, corrupt conservative image that Mr. Newman worked so hard to project in the film. His suit claims that this "innocence by association" has hurt his feelings plus residuals."

IMF "medicine" proven to be nearly fatal to emerging economies

You must read this article, Poisoned Chalice, by George Monbiot. It is an excellent explanation of what the IMF does, why it does it, and what happens to poor and emerging economies, depending on whether or not they accept the bad medicine spooned out by the IMF.

Britain now known as the nation of the wobbly upper lip

David Aaronovitch in The Guardian (Stiff upper lip? Don't make me laugh) takes the nation to task for being big babies about nothing much.

18 August 2003

Sensitive Light

I found this blog called Sensitive Light when following a random link over at The Truth Laid Bear which was titled "Barwell Carnival". Barwell just happens to be the name of a small village adjacent to the town of Hinckley where I live. And it turns out it was THAT Barwell. There are photos also of deer at Bradgate Country Park, which is very near here.

When Wal-Mart comes to town

Gary Younge, in the Guardian describes the immense cultural and economic power of Wal-Mart. In America, free speech is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, but that doesn't stop Wal-Mart from censoring CD lyrics, de-listing magazines, or broadcasting its support for the Gulf War on its in-store CCTV channel. Wal-Mart has more customers per day than the whole population of Britain, and more people in its uniform than the US Army has.

The Tale of The Brits Who Swiped 800 Jobs From New York, Carted Off $90 Million, Then Tonight, Turned Off Our Lights

Power outage traced to dim bulb in the White House, by Greg Palast.

17 August 2003

A plethora of perceptive posts and a progressive prayer

This excellent post at Body and Soul is about the difficulty with American Democrats and "the language of faith". All I can say is 1) amen! and 2) it's even worse in Britain, despite the two (supposedly) progressive Christians at the head of government.
Jeanne's post refers to an article by Amy Sullivan in the Washington Post titled "Do the Democrats have a prayer?" which discusses the same issue. Sullivan notes that the only two Dems to be elected since 1964, Carter and Clinton, were also the only two with significant references to their Christian faith, and I would just point out that they are both Southerners as well. East Coast "Yankees" and West Coasters just don't seem to be able to "do" religion in a political context, sothat may mean that the only Dems who do "have a prayer" are Southerners and Midwesterners who have a religious base.
You have to give the people what they want in politics, but, as a very successful Republican once said, you can "appeal to their better angels".

Speaking Ill of the Dead - Part II

In his article Offensive charm in the Observer, David Aaronovitch echoes Francis Beckett's sentiments on the late Lady Diana Mosley, below, only with even more force and contempt.

16 August 2003

Speaking Ill of the Dead

In "A better class of fascist" Francis Beckett comments on the praises and favours heaped on Lady Diana Mosley, who died earlier this week, and asks if it is not just classism and snobbery to have found her charming and elegant and to forgive the all too obvious racism which she manifested to the end of her life.
However, the famous person who died today will really be in for some well-deserved posthumous slams; I mean, of course, Idi Amin, who only ruled for eight years and managed to oversee the killing of an estimated 500,000 of his fellow Ugandans.

15 August 2003

The Victory Act

In Victory, blogger billmon points out the uncanny use of the term "Victory" throughout both the proposed legislation championed by US Attorney General Ashcroft and the George Orwell novel, 1984. So is it an ironic coincidence caused by the Bush administration's famous C-student cultural blinders, or a more astute Bushie's idea of a sick joke? You decide.

Power and Peril

I was directed to this column by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times by Salam Pax.
Speaking of whom, he has (in his own words) sold his soul to the devil. Bless.

Punishment without trial, an occupation without law

'It was punishment without trial' by Jonathan Steele relates several stories of innocent Iraqis caught up in the blundering march of coalition "justice". In the absence of a plan, an authority or a clear understanding of the law, treatment of detainees is largely a matter of the good or ill will of random American officers. Even children are subject to the whims of the often misguided attempts at enforcing order.

14 August 2003

BookCrossing - FREE YOUR BOOKS!

Have you heard about bookcrossing? Read all about it in the BookCrossing website. If you are lucky enough to live in Manchester, UK, your city will be the recipient of hundreds of free books this Saturday.

13 August 2003

We Brits are so wacky

It's no fun trying to make fun of Brits when they, especially AL Kennedy of the Guardian, do it so well themselves. You have to laugh to keep from crying, or going mad. This is very hard-hitting stuff; I want to quote, but I would end up quoting the whole thing.

Stallone's Mother's Psychic Dogs Predict Winner in California

Another story in the same link (see below) is about Sylvester Stallone's psychic mother's psychic dogs and their prediction for the California governor recall race. (I think Stallone's ma is more of an oracle, with the dogs being the actual psychics. They can only answer yes-or-no questions, she says, but they are never wrong.) So, are you surprised to hear that they favour Schwarznegger to win? I'm not.

Bush Adminstrations latest briefing from God

I just discovered "The Scoop", a gossip/weird news column on MSNBC. Two excellent items are to be found there today.
Is Bush getting apocalyptic advice? Only a good quote will suffice to show the true juiciness of this story, this one being from apocalyptic televangelist Jack Van Impe:
“I was contacted a few weeks ago by . . . Condoleezza Rice to make an outline. And I’ve spent hours preparing it. I will release this information to the public in September, but it’s in his hands. He will know exactly what is going to happen in the Middle East and what part he will have under the leading of the Holy Spirit of God. So, it’s a tremendous time to be alive."
Uh, right.

11 August 2003

Is August truly the cruelest month?

Hywel Williams in "A truly wicked month" argues that it is, and history is on his side:
"This is always a good time to launch a coup, as Mikhail Gorbachev discovered in his dacha in 1991 and Iranians found in 1953 when the CIA toppled their government. Major military aggression also finds its August cue. Whether with cavalry or with artillery and infantry, this was always the high campaigning season in European warfare. The crops are gathered and the ground is hard.
"America in the Vietnam of 1964, Saddam in the Kuwait of 1990, all Europe in 1914 and then 1939: the rollcall of summer military onslaughts, either declared or imminent, is a reminder that August is serious, not silly."

Iraq Body Count visual aids

From mykeru.com. Just what it says on the label, and no further comment from me is required.

Only in Britain

. . . could you have this story. Bookies lose shirts as record tumbles, says the Guardian (and in a special report, no less!) What record is this that has such an enormous impact? Why, the weather, the temperature! And the really British thing about it is that, even though temperatures have officially been measured in Celsius for decades, it was the "magic" numbers of 99 and 100 on the F scale that the punters bet on. This so wonderfully combines the British impulse for silly vices (they will bet on literally anything) and the obsession with the weather (which outstrips even Minnesota's, though I would not have thought that possible.)
Does the fact that I am blogging about it mean I have gone native at last? God, I hope not.

10 August 2003

What Was Behind the Pentagon's Betting Parlour?

In What Was Behind the Pentagon's Betting Parlor? published at CommonDreams.org, David Morse summarises all the madness of corporate greed and monopoly capitalism run amok that permeates the entire Bush administration. A representative quote:
"As the occupation grinds on, with more loss of American lives and political rumblings at home, the corporate brainstormers running the administration have resorted ever more desperately to the ploys one would expect from runaway capitalism - the placing of bounties on Saddam Hussein, dead or alive, the degrading attempt to buy the loyalty of former Iraqi army troops with hundred dollar bills. The cynicism of these devices, and the grumbling of our own troops, all convey the essential failure to secure a just peace for the Iraqi people. But that objective was missing all along."

Le Carre: The US has gone mad

This is old news, but still pertinent. John Le Carre thought that the US had gone mad way back in January 2003 (seems like years ago, doesn't it?) I wonder what he thinks now. We may find out soon, as he is apparently about to publish a new spy novel that concerns Iraq and the current state of the inter-relationships between the US and UK intelligence networks, a theme to which he often returns with great insight. And of course, it will be a cracking good read, if nothing else.
I found this as I was working on my "bookstore" page, which is greatly improved since yesterday if you want to take a look.

09 August 2003

Believers and Non-believers: both in error

In Karen Armstrong's article Believers in the lost Ark in the Guardian, I found the best explanation yet for the difference between logos and mythos. It is very frustrating in the modern world to be one of those who "believes in myths". To the modern mind, blinded by science, this is tantamount to believing in lies or crediting obvious falseness. So completely is the meaning between "truth" and "fact" conflated that it is impossible to talk of "two kinds of truth", one physical and one metaphysical. This article is an attempt to tease the meanings apart again, and explain to the modern mind why we need mythos.

08 August 2003

Special report: the silly season

From Guardian Unlimited a summary of silly stories, from the surprisingly cheap toilet study to the sheepdog that tries to pee on the Prince of Wales, along with kangaroo crashes, nude hiking and the failure of London pavements to fry eggs.

California Carnival

Yes, I know, I could blog about all the serious stuff happening today - the Baghdad embassy bombing, the armed stand-off between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians - but you can read about that anywhere. Besides, it is officially the silly season (see post above) and I am going with it.
Mind you, if I lived in California myself, as my best friend Joani does, I would probably not find this so amusing. But seriously, Arnold Schwarznegger and his flotilla of Humvees? The politician who initiated the recall tearing up his entry application in tears on national TV? One team of Democrats saying no Dems are to run, we all support Davis, while another group says let's recruit 1000 candidates and crash the system? As Joani says, you could not make this stuff up.

"28 Days Later" - an urban apocalypse zombie film from Danny (Trainspotting) Boyle

This is great. It's about time the world had another intelligent zombie film.

Flash mob storms London

The oddest thing about this BBC NEWS story on the UK's first "flash mob" (at a SofaUK in London, if, like me, you somehow missed it) is the following sentence:
"But some fear [sic] the craze could die out as soon as it started thanks to the over-interested media and over-reaction by the police."
OK, work with me on this: the article has just taken a page to explain very carefully and sensibly that the flash mob's whole point is that it is essentially pointless. So, if a thing's existence is pointless, its ceasing to exist is similarly unprofound. So, what is the "fear" all about?


Aljazeerah is finally available online. I have been trying to access it for weeks and it was always broken. Maybe I was just unlucky? Anyway ...

07 August 2003

Masters of deceit

Maybe it's nothing you don't already know. But Isable Hilton's column in the Guardian gives a good summary of the activities of the Poindexter/North/Abrams conglomerate from the late 1970s to the present day. (Lest we forget.)

05 August 2003

The Trouble with Blogrolls

The Aardvark Speaks, in What blogrolls are about, gets into the tricky issue of trying to balance the careful selecting and pruning of links to other blogs with the tendency bloggers have to over-identify and emotionalise their relationship with their blog. If you remove someone from your blogroll, it doesn't mean they're not your friend anymore, he protests (and yet he knows as we all do that almost everyone will still take it that way.) This is just one aspect of the fascinating new social phenomena that spring up with each new manifestation of "virtual life", as the world-wide web matures.

04 August 2003

Simon Tisdall: Bumbling Bush may have given Osama an open goal; Deborama : I don't know so much

This column in the Guardian analyses the effectiveness (or rather almost total lack of it) of the war on terror. I don't totally agree with the final analysis, though, as the writer believes that Bush is trying to win the war on terror as we would understand it - e.g., eliminate or greatly reduce acts of terrorism. An open goal for Osama? Hardly. This is pure 1984-style foreign policy - the war on terror need never end, is infinitely useful to the rulers, and if the personae keep changing, who cares? it's always the same war. Be expecting the two-minute hate to be instituted any day.

Gaming's crack cocaine

I don't really blog about my personal religious beliefs that much, although I am sure they leak out. One way in which I am an ultra-traditional Methodist is in the way I absolutely abhor gambling. This very sad and heartfelt story from a self-confessed gambling addict, illustrates why.

Why downloading is music's saviour

An article in the MediaGuardian.co.uk section by Owen Gibson, new Media editor.

03 August 2003

Months Before Debut, Movie on Death of Jesus Causes Stir

This is a very frightening story, frightening in what it reveals about the current state of the religion-politics dialectic in the world, and especially in the US. Essentially, Mel Gibson, and others like him, seem to be going all medieval on us.

The UK needs a constitution

Here's another post on one of my recurring themes - my ambivalence about the UK and whether I want to apply for UK citizenship or not. One of the strong reasons not to is the flaws I see in the "mother of democracies" and its "mother of all parliaments". The Soliloquist, a UK blogger that I particularly favour, has posted about The Need for a Written Constitution. There is a link to Charter88, an organisation working on the project. Curiously, the Labour party used to support this movement when they were out of power.

Their Master's Voice

Uri Avnery, Israeli peace activist and writer, in Counterpunch, has an article about Bush, Blair, their intelligence services and the great political difference of the UK. He points out why the behaviour of the intelligence services in the US and the UK, and indeed in all modern states, whether democracies or not, is essentially the same. But the significant thing is in the degree and nature of fallout in thetwo countries after the deception/mistakes/lies are uncovered:

"Did the Americans get upset when the lie was discovered? Not at all. So the President lied. Big deal. And the CIA helped him to lie. Big deal again. The important thing is that the sons of Saddam have been killed in a "targeted elimination", Israeli-style. How wonderful!

"But in the UK, things work differently. There you have a political class and clear standards of what's 'done' and what's 'not done'."

Healing from War - Be Not Afraid

Today's lesson is from Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourner's magazine, via Tikkun magazine. Based on his four-year old son's spontaneous outburst, and the Old Testament prophet, Micah, Wallis discusses how we can face fear in a world where we know our vulnerability.

A view on what the Iraq occupation has achieved, from a pro-invasion progressive

In the interests of balance, and to show that I really am cautiously neutral about the invasion of Iraq (despite the emotional nature of some of my posts on the subject, for which I make no apology), here is David Aaronovitch's Observer column "Inching to peace". Aaronovitch is OK; I would never call him a neo-con. And I like the way he puts his biases right out front, ahead of the analysis; in fact, I wish all journalists and pundits would be as transparent.

02 August 2003

Punctuation Trivia

I used to love creatively "nesting" parentheses in sentences in e-mail. I still do it occasionally. While most people become very terse in e-mail, to me the ease of typing as opposed to writing and the psychological freedom of e-mail can tend to make me even more loquacious than I am verbally. In today's Guardian, the gentle humour column of Smallweed played around with nested quotation marks. I'll just quote the last sentence, but I will not add extra quote marks, so as not to steal Smallweed's thunder:
"Mr Smallweed told me today: 'George Monbiot wrote in today's Guardian, "As George Bush told his troops on the day he announced victory, 'Wherever you go, you carry a message of hope - a message that is ancient and ever new. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, "To the captives, 'come out', and to those in darkness, 'be free'. " ' " ' " If newspaper history wasn't made by Monbiot on Tuesday, I trust that it has been now.

Deborama's Weblog keeps on improving

Little by little, it is getting there. As you will see, I just added titles on the main page. I have only gone back about a week putting in titles on existing posts that didn't have them. I will probably go back another week or two then stop. Must . . . be . . . less . . . obsessive - . . . compulsive!

Also, I have finally got a books page. I have one and a half book reviews up there, and an Amazon Associates button. Do buy your Amazon purchases from me (but only if you live in the UK or Europe; obviously I don't expect anyone to pay the higher prices and astronomical shipping charges for purchases from the US!)

Future projects include (1) a fully functioning Amazon.co.uk store for all my personally recommended books (and maybe CDs, what do you think?), and (2) photos, as soon as I learn how to upload them to our ISP-provided web space. Also related to that project is the scanning of a load of non-digital pictures for inclusion where needed. Some day, I may start selling used books and comics online (again, only to the UK and maybe Europe.)

Let me know what you think of the new look -- and the books page when it is more finished.

History Judging Mr. Blair

History is already judging Tony Blair - in the form of a scathing critique by Roy Hattersley. "Blair has matched Attlee's record for duration, but not accomplishment."

01 August 2003

Today in History

From the Manchester Guardian, August the 2nd, 1834:
Throughout the British dominions the sun no longer rises on a slave. Yesterday was the day from which the emancipation of all our slave population commences; and we trust the great change by which they are elevated to the rank of freemen will be found to have passed into effect in the manner most accordant with the benevolent spirit in which it was decreed, most consistent with the interests of those for whose benefit it was primarily intended, and most calculated to put an end to the apprehensions under which it was hardly to be expected that the planters could fail to labour as the moment of its consummation approaches. We shall await anxiously the arrivals from the West Indies that will bring advices to a date subsequent to the present time.

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