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31 October 2003

I Remember It Zell

Atrios has posted this letter from a Georgia Democrat to Sen. Zell Miller taking him to task for his turncoat routine. I do remember Zell Miller when he was a young idealist and I was - young.

Now he has gone over to the dark side.

A Crime of Stupefying Proportions and Why I don't publish certain pictures

I have just discovered this great new blog: Dave Pollard's How to Save the World. There is a post there with the title A Crime of Stupefying Proportions, with a really gruesome picture from a slaughterhouse. The post, riffing off of a reading of J. M. Coetzee's book Elizabeth Costello, is a long and thoughtful piece about how to react to the overwhelming evil in the world. Here is a longish quote:
"Our world, past and present and probably future, is full of these horrors, this massive tide of suffering and blood. When we show pictures of malnourished children, when we give them money and food to prolong their lives until the next famine or crippling disease, when I force you to look at the picture at the top of this post and tell you that all of these horrors happen millions of times every day, in every neighbourhood on Earth, is that a wake-up call, probably repulsive and probably ineffective but an important service nevertheless, or is it an obscenity, something no one wants or needs to see or hear or learn about?"
I had to bring this up because when I posted about the California fire I was tempted to post pictures, many of which are awe-inspiring, but a little voice kept whispering "disaster porn" in my ear and I just couldn't use the sufferings of others to give my blog some visual punch.
In a related but different dilemma, there is a widely circulating photo of Miss Afghanistan in a bikini. I would really like to post that picture with the question "Is this what the liberation of women looks like?" I would love to get the debate out there, raise a little consciousness. The problem is, my own answer is a resounding "No" so I would be feeding the very flame I want to put out.
But to get back to Dave's original question, I don't have an answer to that either.

Rummie's memo

A Memo That Speaks Volumes is an opinion piece in the LA Times about the confidential memo from Sec. of Def. Donald Rumsfeld. Gideon Rose notes that critics focus on the bleak assessment of the Iraq situation vis-a-vis the "official" happy-talk, while Rummie's fans give him credit for his tough approach. But Rose says they both miss the point; tough or not, Rumsfeld et. al.'s prescriptions will not work. The thing that no one gets in the Bush administration, whether they talk tough or spin it happy, is that "coercion and manipulation" will not "win hearts and minds". It didn't work in Vietnam and it is not going to work anywhere in the world today. Only when people are offered an alternative to weak or oppressive governments will they side with their "rescuers".
(By the way, I notice that this editorial makes a lot of the same points as Paul Krugman's, cited below. Is nobody listening?)

And speaking of Indians and wildfires...

Wampum, a blog focusing partly on American Indian issues, has a post about the effects of the California fires on Indian lands, homes and lives.

Solar Storms

Been having trouble communicating, blogging, or watching TV? This might be why. From New Scientist.

29 October 2003

California fires

Still raging on, still killing people and destroying lives. This is now a major story everywhere in the world.

A Willful Ignorance

Paul Krugman, in the New York Times, dsicourses on the cultural/religious blinders of the Bush administration and how it hampers the real efforts to halt terrorism (as opposed to the phony "crusade" which is like pouring gasoline on a fire.)

28 October 2003

Rugby World Cup Miscellany

From Guardian Unlimited Sport, three handy guides for those interested in rugby union but not yet very knowledgeable. First, the very basics: for those who wonder just how a rugby fifteen is composed. Second, good preparation for a trivia contest, a brief history of the sport. And finally, to be truly erudite and hold your own in any rugby-oriented gathering, the rugby jargon-buster.

There's something very creepy about this . . .

Well, now that I think about it, there are several things creepy about it. West Bank settlers turn to pigs for protection. From ABC Net (Australia).

27 October 2003

Who's a Miserable Failure then?

What a brilliant idea from Old Fashioned Patriot! OK, I'll do my bit.

Miserable Failure

There, done it.

Meaningless mayhem in Iraq on the first day of the holiest month

I don't know what to think about this. I mean, I know what I feel, but I don't know how to understand it. The news from the media is all too dry, lacking commentary or emotional probing, so I check the blogs, starting with those on the scene, and I find this at Healing Iraq. The actions of these particular terrorists seem more irrational than most, which is extreme, given that irrational is almost a defining characteristic of terrorists anyway.

California wildfires

I'm sure most people in the States know about this already, but it only gets a little coverage over here. For quite thorough reporting and pictures and videos, check the story at CNN.com. At least one blog-friend, Joel, has been affected by the fire. I have also heard some first-hand stuff from a mailing list I am on with numerous California members.

26 October 2003

The Making of Modern Iraq

This is a scholarly article from the Wilson Quarterly on the history of British involvement in the middle east and how Iraq was formed in the aftermath of World War I. Link borrowed from Fat Buddha.

Don't see the fnords

It all started with browsing my now seriously depleted bookshelves (but it's OK, the 4000 are boxed up in the cupboard under the stairs). I noticed the large hardcover Foucault's Pendulum that I bought a few months ago online, to replace a much-loved first edition that I lent to some "friend" who "forgot" to return it (I wish I could remember who it was so I could insult them online.) I have been meaning to re-read that book anyway, so I carried it into the bedroom and dropped it on the bed. As I was doing this, I wondered if my daughter Aimee had read it, and I thought that I would recommend it to her by saying it is the thinking person's "Illuminati", because I remembered that she had read the Illuminati trilogy and liked it. This made me think of the Illuminati game, which I used to play - oh, wa-a-a-ay back in the mid-1980s - with Aimee and Carey, when they were little, and Doug, my partner at the time. So I went to the trusty old internet and looked up Illuminati the game and bingo! It's there. (What DID we ever do before the internet?)
Here is the Illuminati Home Page. I am going to buy one, even though I will never find anyone to play it with. Wait, maybe I'm not - I just saw the price. The one I bought from Uncle Hugo's SF Bookstore was about $8.00. What a difference 20 years makes.

25 October 2003

Wellstone World Music Day

Today is Wellstone World Music Day in the Twin Cities. If I were there, I would go . . .


I have been busy over at the Book Reviews and Store blog: I have added five book reviews in three posts, all related in the fact that these books were purchased (and mostly read) during my trip to Minneapolis, about two months ago. I only visited one bookstore (I have to ration myself somehow) and that was Once Upon A Crime. If you live in or near Minneapolis, you should read the book reviews and then go and visit Once Upon A Crime. Tell them Deb Wordkeeper sent you, even though they will have no idea what you're talking about.

24 October 2003


I am going to be strong. I am going to rise above it. I am NOT, despite any low temptation, going to blog about Princess Diana's letters. No, I'm not .... oh! Damn.

The lost boy

This very moving article in the Guardian Unlimited Film section asks "Where would River Phoenix be today if he had lived?" I was one of those who idolised River when he was alive, in a very maternal sort of way. I cried for days when he died, not like a son of mine had died, but like a son of a best friend had died. This story, telling of all the films that he would have made or might have made, and all the lives he touched, and how the fickle media has all but forgotten him, made me very sad.

'A shambles that beggars belief'

With the Northern Ireland peace process hanging by a thread, this might be a good time to check out a blog called Slugger O'Toole and get seriously clued up. Or, for the long view, try CAIN (Conflict Archive on the Internet) (not a blog). Both of these are non-partisan sources, that could really teach Faux News what "fair and balanced" actually means.

23 October 2003

Blair: Guantanamo Row Should Finish Soon

The Guardian reports the latest word on the Guantanamo "row". Blair mentioned the Camp Delta detainees yesterday in PMQ, and today at a news conference at No. 10, said that he expected a resolution "within the next few weeks".

New energy source from tap water & other environmental news

I thought that this science story was pretty interesting. I will be watching it to see if it develops into something practical or just mysteriously vanishes like so many promising new power source stories.
Other environmental news stories : a total ban on cod fishing is being proposed. This is the most drastic step yet mentioned in the crisis over dwindling populations of cod due to overfishing.
Zoologists working to save African elephants from extinction have indicated that rising prosperity in China is fueling demand for ivory and endangering the elephants.

22 October 2003

Something interesting?

I was looking through the now quite large Blogging Brits list and found this: Blogger's Parliament Home. I haven't had a chance to fully explore or participate yet, but in case anyone else might be interested in such things, I thought I would plug it now and look into it later.

19 October 2003

Ramallah's first shopping mall

Ramallah's first mall offers more than retail therapy. This article from The Age (Australia) tells of the enormous impact the newly-opened retail centre can have on the blighted lives of Palestinians. An article in the Telegraph relates the long difficult road to building the mall, and the perseverance and vision of its founder, American born tycoon, Sam Bahour.

As sun sets on Concorde, the super-rich go private

The very last Concorde flights will touch down in Britain later this week. Stephen Khan, writing in the Guardian, reviews the often sad history of the Concorde, and asks what VIP luxury options will be available in the post-supersonic era of commercial flights.

'I'm a father, that's what matters most. Nothing matters more'

One of my favourite people in Britain is interviewed after the happiest moment of his life. Chancellor Gordon Brown and his wife Sarah welcome their baby son, John, into the world, a little less than two years after the premature birth and death after 10 days of their daughter Jennifer. The Chancellor will take two weeks of paternity leave and try to hone his nappy-changing skills.

17 October 2003

Not the End Times yet, then

So the times are not so miraculous after all; the Marlins will be going to the series. In a lingering apocalyptic note, they are now referred to as the anti-Cubs, and are trying to get used to being the most hated team in baseball. Said one clever pundit: "There's a Cub nation out there. But . . . they can wait another 95 years.''
Still can't understand (or maybe have never heard of) the Cubs mystique? This article from Jean Marbella explains it about as well as anyone can.
And the other almost as perennial underdogs the Boston Red Sox? Yep, they lost too.
From Greg Cote of the Miami Herald:
"Thursday night proved it once and for all.
A large banner at Yankee Stadium read: 'Mystique Don't Fail Us Now.'
And it did not.
Another banner read, simply: 'Destiny.'
And it crushed the Red Sox. Again."

16 October 2003

The Anglican church summit

Guardian Unlimited : Another priceless Steve Bell cartoon.

Red Cross report on Guantanamo prisoners

Guantanamo Bay is the subject of a special report by the Red Cross. This site also features a full report of the BBC visit to Camp Delta, which includes an audio recording.

Monsanto to quit Europe

Monsanto, the world's largest GM seed company, is pulling out of its cereal business in Europe. The company says that the genetically-engineered wheat market had "failed to grow" in Europe. Read our lips, guys: There is no market in Europe for GM crops. That's no market, as in zilch, nada, bupkis.

15 October 2003


You may have noticed that the Blogroll on this page got a bit shorter. Never fear, I only deleted inactive blogs. Others have merely been moved, some to here and some to here.
There are new book reviews at Deborama's Book Reviews and Store. And more coming soon, probably at the weekend.

Michael the Mum : my verdict

Well, it was a good show. And Michael was a good sport. He was very sincere in his dismay over his failures and over the post-show criticisms of the real single mum, when she came back to re-clean the kitchen he had just scrubbed up and tell him where he went wrong with the kids. In many ways it was painful to watch, that last scene. Mothers get so emotional about the issue of parenting, and their own kids' personality traits. I can remember (vaguely) feeling like that - always on the verge of some emotional meltdown and smiling through incipient tears. And Mr. Portillo, MP, for all his admitted and not at all apologetic class consciousness, was not condescending, not for a moment. I'll give him that. Yes, he was a good sport. A true Englishman.

City Pages: White Meat

The Minneapolis School Board is in a shambles. And it appears to be at least 80% style-over-substance type politics. In other words, the structural problems facing Minneapolis schools, although not trivial, are not different from those in most cities, and not as bad as those in many. But the personalities involved are making the worst of the situation.

When Michael Portillo Became a Single Mum

Tonight on the BBC: a childless Conservative MP takes on the life of a low-income single mother in Merseyside for seven days, while she observes him via video-camera from a nearby flat. (How I would love to see the equivalent to this on American TV - sadly, only in my dreams.) He will care for her four children and attend to both of her low-paid jobs and struggle to provide for the family with her budget of £87 (about $130) per week. I expect him to be humbled by the experience; I will report back later.

From LA Weekly: Black Like I Thought I Was

Here is a very interesting story about a Louisiana man in California who thought that he was black. That was, until he got an "ethnic DNA test" to find out what he could about his African heritage, only to discover that he had none. I have a feeling that DNA testing is about to overturn our centuries old misconceptions about race, and possibly even lead to the very concept of race becoming a quaint anachronism.

14 October 2003

Singer's punch 'was self-defence'

Read this and then tell me if you have ever in your life heard a less convincing "defence". Pitiful, just pitiful. I saw a picture of the victim, Sophie Amogbokpa, in "the free paper on the train" but I can't find it on the web to put a link here - she had one eye swollen shut and half her face was bruised.

TV vicar leaves parish

This story from the BBC is sort of sad; I meant to watch the show and somehow never found the time. If it was just that he had to quit the show because of excess strain of being a celebrity that would be one thing, but the parish has lost a great vicar, after being forced to share him with the "viewing public."

12 October 2003

Pax is back in Iraq and so is Suzanne G.

Salam Pax is back from his book-promoting and interviewing tour with two or three juicy posts about his adventures in London and the difficulties ordinary Iraqis have in getting out of or back into their country.

In an unrelated story, Suzanne Goldberg, who covered the build-up and opening stages of the war from Baghdad for the Guardian, has also returned to Iraq, and reports on some of the ironies (if you want to call it that) of the coalition occupation:
"A more substantial assault on Saddam's legacy is under way in the Republican Palace, where the occupation authority is making preparations to dismantle the food distribution system which gave free rations of flour, rice, cooking oil and other staples to every Iraqi.
"Described by the UN as the world's most efficient food network, the system still keeps Iraqis from going hungry. But the US civilian administrator of Iraq, Paul Bremer, views it as a dangerous socialist anachronism. The coalition provisional authority (CPA) is planning to abolish it in January, despite warnings from its own technical experts that this could lead to hunger and riots."

However, she reports, the coalition has decided that there is nothing anachronistic about Saddam's security network, so many old Ba'athist intelligence officers and secret police are being brought back by the new coalition run Iraq police force, along with, no doubt, their old corrupt and brutal practices. And, just for a laugh, the former second-in-command of the Iraqi Information Ministry has been hired by - wait for it - Fox News!

10 October 2003

The Theological Implications of Recent Near-Miraculous Developments in Baseball

Jim Wallis in Sojourners has an article titled Baseball and the end times. "A World Series with truly eschatological implications is now possible after the surprise play-off victories of two of the most long-standing underdogs in baseball - or maybe in all of sports.. "

It also made me think of one of my sig file quotes: "While conservatives tell you, leave things alone and no one will lose, and liberals tell you, interfere a lot and no one will lose, baseball says: Someone will lose . . . So that baseball achieves the tragic vision that democracy evades."

09 October 2003

The Single Bitter Announcement Weblog

The Single Bitter Announcement Weblog. (Just what it says in the title.) I love it.

08 October 2003

Blotting my copybook again

I just can't seem to be serious. The more depressed I get about current events the more I reach out blindly for humour, trivia or various legal but unhealthy forms of self-medication. So I thought I would check in with all the Californians in my blogroll and see what they were saying. Body and Soul's Jeanne was sad and angry and - hmm - almost elegaic about -- lost innocence? Maybe. Very close to how I would feel if I were a Californian and if I didn't make this silly retreat into foolery. Pacific Views has thoughtful stuff and the observation that California is practically un-governable, which makes one think that Arnie may have made a major strategic blunder being the fall guy at this point in history. Joel at Pax Nortona for some reason has not even blogged at all; is he too upset or is he above all that? But it was on ZOTA in a post called Blot that I found the register of my moody reaction: he's discussing the kinds of alcohol most appropriate to use in the attempt to forget. (I am sure there's a wordplay on Total Recall in there somewhere but i just can't get it.) The funny thing is I didn't know until now that Zota was in California; I only blogrolled it to have something presentable that started with "Z". (There, now everyone knows what a tragic little OCD person I am.)

07 October 2003

'Farting Dog' Hits Best-Seller List

The world is going to hell in a hand-basket; I cannot find anything hopeful to say about Israel v. Syria v. Palestine; it's the s.o.s. in Iraq and most of the US blogs are freaking out (one way or the other) about the Governator / recall election. Which just depresses me no end. And I've already done my obligatory Plame-outing post. And British politics right now is so-o-o-o boring. So I thought that today I would post about 'Walter the Farting Dog'. Don't laugh, this is serious.

06 October 2003

Message over medium?

From the United Press International via Buzzflash comes this commentary article about Bush's selective White House leaks; it's just another wrinkle in what is becoming the scandal of the Valerie Plame "outing".

Glasgow's crying shame

George Galloway, MP, writing in the Guardian, is scathing in his criticism of the latest outrage against asylum seekers.

05 October 2003

Blog Title of the Month

I have just made up the above award, and I feel pretty confident in awarding it to Crooked Timber for a 2 October post, even though I appreciate that there are still 29 days to go in the month. The title is MI6: What Was It You Wanted Organised In That Brewery Again Sir? (Americans are invited to look at the comments for an explanation of this phrase.)

04 October 2003

EU members in unholy row

Here is a fascinating article in the Guardian Unlimited about one of the major difficulties to be overcome in agreeing to an EU constitution. It's probably due to my strong Jeffersonian philosphical background, but I think they are rather missing the point. The squabbles over how to word a "reference" to Europe's religious heritage, whether that be called Christian or Judeo-Christian, merely points up the need for religion to be mentioned in the document. But the powerful disestablishmentarians, those who are adamant about the "separation of church and state" (that's mainly the French, with typically wishy-washy backing from our Tone) want to enforce a policy of no references at all to religion of any sort. What is needed is an explicit statement that the union itself and the member states will have freedom of religion and no state-sponsored religions; then, a mere historical reference to Christianity will be unable to be used harmfully, to oppress or exclude.
I have to say, I have a hard time understanding why so many people are unable to either understand or embrace religious tolerance. The "separation of church and state", too, although a cornerstone of American liberty, is widely misunderstood in America, by Bible-thumpers and militant atheists and everyone in between. Christian fundies think the amendment is their enemy, not realising that they wouldn't be there today without it. Those wary of religion think the amendment is a weapon to silence religious discourse about politics. It seems like madness to me, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the chaotic approach in Europe.

Blogkeeping Chapter II

I have added a moon phase link down the margin of the main blog. I have some new book links scattered throughout (go down to near the bottom to access the auxiliary blogs.) Go to Deborama's Personal Pages for an opportunity to see me and my whole family (except DH) at the time (some more nieces and the granddaughter have been born since) as we were at the family reunion of August 2000.

Arnold Unplugged

I promised myself I wouldn't blog about Arnold S., because the American bloggers are doing it so much, but that was before Greg Palast and others connected him securely with the Enron scandal. God, am I glad I don't live in California. (Apologies to Joani, who does, and who sent me this article.)

01 October 2003

Riverbend explains cousins and veils

This is the follow-up to the "sheikhs and tribes" post in Baghdad Burning from Monday. It really should be called "veils and hijabs" rather than "cousins and veils" because the main point is a) that male cousins do not force Middle Eastern women to wear veils and b) Westerners often call a hijab a "veil" even though they don't look at all alike. And they conflate veils, burqas and other garments that are not even "Islamic" but simply the traditional modest dress of a particular culture. Read this blog, so you won't be in danger of making ignorant, culture-bound mistakes. I did, and I am a better person for it.

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