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31 May 2004

A mother’s final, best lesson: Part 1

Ronni of Time Goes By (What it's really like to get older) has begun a journal about her mother's experiences with cancer. This is the first part of a multi-part journal, so I don't know how it ends. But the end of this instalment is very heartwarming.

How To Silence An Awkward Newspaper

From ZNet, an article by John Pilger on the silencing of the Daily Mirror. Pilger suggests there is more to the story of Piers Morgan's sacking than just dodgy photographs:
"Since Morgan's departure, no newspaper has demanded that the Ministry of Defence produce the 'incontrovertible evidence' that the Mirror's photographs were faked. The hearsay and apologetics of a regiment with a documented record of brutality in Iraq, facing at least five murder prosecutions, have been accepted. If the Mirror was stitched up, was it merely for money? Instead of pursuing that, as the editors of MediaLens website point out, 'a cowed media lined up to heap invective on the sacked editor and to declare the decision 'correct', 'necessary', 'inevitable''."
. . .
"A BBC newsreader referred to such photographs as 'mere mementoes'. Imagine the response, had they been of Iraqis torturing British PoWs. On the day Morgan was sacked, a BBC reporter, Nicholas Witchell, said: "After the appalling reality of what the Americans have been doing, the Mirror's pictures threatened to compromise the work of every British soldier." By contrasting the 'reality' of American abuse with the unreality of "the Mirror's pictures", Witchell managed to whitewash the British army while fretting that its good 'work' in Iraq might be 'compromised'. Are BBC trainees taught sophistry like this?
"The British army is doing no worse in Iraq than it has done in its long history of colonial occupations. Torture was deployed as a strategy in Palestine (where the British pioneered the terror tactic of home demolitions), in Cyprus, the British Cameroons, Brunei, British Guiana, Aden, Borneo and Northern Ireland. In Malaya, the conversion of entire villages to concentration camps and the use of carcinogenic defoliants were copied by the Americans in Vietnam. In Northern Ireland, British interrogators refined their methods, reported Amnesty, 'for the purpose or effect of causing a malfunction or breakdown of a man's mental processes'. Little of this was reported at the time."
This link was found at the Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha.

30 May 2004

To Tell the Truth

Paul Krugman, in the NY Times, suggests that the tide may be turning on the way the mainstream media portray President Bush.
"People who get their news by skimming the front page, or by watching TV, must be feeling confused by the sudden change in Mr. Bush's character. For more than two years after 9/11, he was a straight shooter, all moral clarity and righteousness.
"But now those people hear about a president who won't tell a straight story about why he took us to war in Iraq or how that war is going, who can't admit to and learn from mistakes, and who won't hold himself or anyone else accountable. What happened?
"The answer, of course, is that the straight shooter never existed. He was a fictitious character that the press, for various reasons, presented as reality.
"The truth is that the character flaws that currently have even conservative pundits fuming have been visible all along. Mr. Bush's problems with the truth have long been apparent to anyone willing to check his budget arithmetic. His inability to admit mistakes has also been obvious for a long time. I first wrote about Mr. Bush's "infallibility complex" more than two years ago, and I wasn't being original."

The man who should have been President

At the MoveOn website, an article by Al Gore details, amongst other things, all the high-ranking military and policy advisers who have turned against the Bush Administration. It's very good; read it.


First of all, I cross-posted the story below at my poor neglected LJ
Browsing the web, I was reading Neil Gaiman's Journal when I came across a "stab from the past" - Omaha the Cat Dancer. There was a link to a blog owned by Reed Waller who was the artist of Omaha, but alas he doesn't appear to keep up with it much. This led me to a reviewer column at a site called Comic Book Resources.com. The column is titled "Lying in the Gutters" and is edited by a British comic book aficianado. So all that went on to Deborama's Fund of Knowledge - Cartoons and Comics.
The other big blog news is that I moved the tag board to my personal page. I got tired of having to close the pop-up window every time I access my page (and I bet some of you did too; not all pop-up blockers worked on it.) If you like tag board and left messages in the past, they are still there, just on a different page.

A rambling story and my object of desire

I have been meaning to do a little personal blogging in there amongst the commentary and "reportage" but every time I come to my computer meaning to do it, I end up playing solitaire or some other variety of time-wasting. I think I am just too mentally depleted by my job. Or something. I have a lot of interesting little stories saved up - DH and I had a night on the tiles about a month ago and I really meant to post something about that. And various other things. I had a big payout on an investment of sorts and have a few thou to reinvest or spend. That's not something I am used to. So I did something quite uncharacteristic and bought myself a lovely toy. DH and I went out yesterday to look at printers, clothing, sofas and coffee makers. We have two hideous, ancient, falling-apart suites, one that he had before I came here - many years before - and another almost as old that we got from his parents. The coffee pot was because our cheap filter-drip machine died a few weeks back. It already had an annoying crack in the plastic housing, and then someone dropped the carafe on the floor and shattered it. So we have been discussing getting a real, serious espresso machine. The printer was something DH thought we could use - a colour laser printer. And clothes - well, why not?

OK, I am not even going to try to make this story short; I'm just going to ramble. We went to our nearest suburban-sprawl retail multiplex (Fosse Park). We started with the furniture stores. We found a small sofa we liked and decided to go home with the measurements, look around the lounge, mentally rearranging it, and make the decision from home. That took a while. Then we went to look for printers at a PC World. We didn't plan to buy anything there, just look at printers. While DH was looking at printers, I wandered over to the digital camera counter. I have been thinking of taking an adult ed course in digital photography. So the guy at the counter was showing me these cameras and he put one in my hand that I just totally fell in love with. The thought inserted itself as I looked at it and felt it in my hand - "object of desire". I am not usually subject to longings for material things, except a few specific things, like gloves, and bookplates, and really elegant pens. This was sort of like that, a fetishy feeling, but it was all about the evident quality of the thing. Reader, I bought it. And I still love it the next day. This is the one. The review really doesn't do it justice. That little thing on the front that says Cybershot on it is slid upwards to cover the lens. This turns the camera off, and sliding it back down turns it on. The viewscreen is almost the whole back of the unit, except for a tiny little control panel. It has a docking station for uploading your pictures or viewing your pictures or recharging the battery. Here's a picture of our back garden, which I have named "Suburban Sky" (the picture, not our back garden), that I took with it. So, we also bought an espresso maker and a coffee maker. The espresso maker is this one. Yeah, not usually thought of as an upscale brand, but this is a serious piece of kitchen kit and surprisingly high quality. Been trying it out - DH has been trying it out all day! He's going to be a right mess about 2 am tomorrow. We couldn't find any clothes I liked. And we ordered two two-seater sofas, a chair and a footstool when we got back home. I'm all shopped out for the moment.

29 May 2004

Philosoraptor on who is bin Laden's choice for US President

Philosoraptor has a wonderful counter to the idiotic statement by Kelli Arena of CNN. I won't try to summarise but this quote may give you the flavour:
"If we look back—or if bin Laden were to look back—to where we all stood on September 12th 2001, looking forward to 2004, what we would see would be a spectrum of possibilities, some better for us, some better for bin Laden. But from that perspective, a reasonable person would have predicted that the real possibilities ranged from a total victory for the U.S. to—just possibly, and on the worst end of the spectrum of possibilities—a more limited victory, with al Qaeda more-or-less intact, but badly wounded. I doubt that any reasonable person could have predicted that 2004 would find bin Laden still at large, al Qaeda largely intact and deluged with recruits, our allies resentful and distant, and America deeply divided."

Announcing dKosopedia

Markos of Daily Kos has launched a political wiki. A wiki is a colaborative website. In the spirit of Wikipedia, the most well-known wiki (a collaborative encyclopedia) Kos and friends has put together dKosopedia, which will be progressive, political, information-rich and a community that you can join to share knowledge with other progressives. Sounds like a good idea to me.

What it's like working in Iraq

Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0 has a "Dear Friends" post to explain his less frequent blogging. It makes for a really useful insight (if you care about such things, and it happens that I do) into what it is like to live in Iraq as a western reporter, and his take on what it must be like to live there as an Iraqi.

Outrage, says Atrios

At Eschaton, the initial apoplectic reaction to Kelli Arena, "Justice correspondent" (whatever that means) for CNN, commenting from Washington (you sure couldn't call it reporting):
"Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House."
Atrios suggests that you tell Ms. Arena how you feel personally about her outrageously partisan, unsubstantiated (could indeed never be substantiated, which is why it's so handy as electioneering propaganda) statements. She can be reached at kelli.arena@turner.com.

26 May 2004

Justice must be seen to be done

Thank you Pete (of WWW of Fat Buddha) for posting the link to this brilliant polemic in The Blogging of the President: 2004. I don't know who Stirling Newberry is (I feel I should know, but I don't), but there is something very Patrick-Henryish in his prose style and the unflinching, harsh logic of his declaration.
"Our leaders, if we were a defeated nation, would be sent to the Hague or some other tribunal for War Crimes prosecution. That we will not do this insures that our enemies, fortified by the clear bankruptcy of our laws, and our clear willingness to flagrantly break them when it is to our own advantage, and the complete and utter lack of accountability for those that break them, and those who enable breaking them - will strike, with devastating force, at the centers of our commerce and population."

George Monbiot on the immigrants loved by the ruling class

The only thing wrong with this article by George Monbiot is that it might be a little too subtle for the readers of the right-wing tabloid press to follow, and so it is, sadly, just preaching to the choir.
"Given that illegal labour is unpopular with voters, that it undermines the tax base and is linked to other forms of organised crime, you'd have thought that a government would do all it could to wipe it out. But, as a Home Office adviser told the Times last year, if our illegal labourers 'disappeared overnight, London and the South East would break down before breakfast.' The corporate economy depends on them, and it intends to remain dependent upon them. The legalisation of illegal eastern European workers on May 1st is likely to have been a disaster for some of our most respectable businesses. They will be seeking to replace them with illegal workers from other countries as swiftly as possible."

Barely Legal

From City Pages, a newsweekly in the Twin Cities, a story about the ever-decreasing options in Minnesota for women needing to terminate a pregnancy. This is not the moral or rational way to reduce the number of abortions. Piling on paperwork and scare tactics against patients may deter a few feckless teenagers from having a hastily considered abortion, but when it increases the anguish of a family who discovers their eagerly awaited new baby will not survive due to a birth defect, it is really not worth any benefit that may accrue at other times. And then there are medical training institutions bullying medical students into not learning the procedures. And saddest of all, some qualified doctors won't perform terminations because, in the words of one, "I don't want to get shot."

25 May 2004

Rio Rancho High School story - retracted?

The Agonist (and probably a few other a-list bloggers as well) has a counterpoint to the story below. It appears that the story at least has some exaggeration and possibly some known falsehoods in it, despite being originally published in a respectable newspaper and then syndicated and very widely blog-posted. Read the whole story to get the other side, including the personal testimony of the quite annoyed teenager who wrote the poem.

Dueling pundits

Natalie said I should read Susan Sontag's article in yesterday's Guardian, and in fact I meant to read it yesterday, but never got round to it. This afternoon, I plucked a colleague's G2 section out of the bin to readThe trouble with Sontag's story, by David Aaronovitch. Aaronovitch is a regular columnist at the Guardian, and was initially a liberal hawk, although he seems to have partly recanted. I assume everyone knows who Susan Sontag is. You should probably just read both articles and let them have at each other.

23 May 2004

On the Home Front

In some ways, this is the most frightening of all the stories in the grim saga of America's War on Terra - er - Terror. At Rio Rancho High School in New Mexico, the prinicipal commits an egregious violation of the First Amendment rights of the whole student body. It all started with an extracurricular club of students learning to perform in "poetry slams" and the very successful reading by one girl student of a poem critical of Bush administration war policies and education policies. The principal of the school and its military liaison then went on a massive witch-hunt, firing the teacher advising the poetry group, banning all teaching and reading of poetry in the school, tearing down posters and art-work they deemed "un-American" and subjecting the students to patriotic assemblies where they were told to "shut their faces" if they disagreed with the prinicipal's politics. The mother of the offending student poet, also a teacher, was ordered to destroy her daughter's work, which she refused to do, also being threatened with dismissal. (Note: I have been meaning to post this for a few days and forgot. Thanks to my non-blogging friend James who sent it to me in an e-mail and prodded my memory.)

22 May 2004

Abu Ghraib, responsibility, prurient interests and Catholic guilt

Jeanne of Body and Soul is back from her blogging hiatus with a very long (but not, as she says, contradictory, at least not that I can see) post, headed with the picture of the naked, filth-covered Iraqi prisoner in a "stress position". There's a lot there; you may want to re-read a few times to get it all. One of the things I really responded to was her nagging suspicions that the "interest" the American mainstream media is showing in all the horrifying imagery of Abu Ghraib is stemming from the same dark and ugly place in our psyche as its earlier "interest" in Janet Jackson's breast. As I mentioned before, I have very mixed feelings about all the traffic this blog gets from people searching for video of Nick Berg being beheaded or "pornography" from Iraqi prisons. If Jeanne is saying that this is in large part a twisted and depraved world, then I agree with her. Well, I agree with almost everything she says in this post, even the Catholic parts, and I'm not a Catholic. (However I had Catholic best friends and belonged to a Catholic Girl Scout troop, so I may have been infected.)

Riverbend waxes Orwellian

The following quote from Baghdad Burning, provoked mainly by the slaughter of 40 Iraqi civilians in a wedding party, could have come straight from the Master's Politics and the English Language:
"No. Of course not- it couldn't have been a wedding party. It was a resistance cell of women and children (one deviously dressed in a wedding gown!). It wasn't a wedding party just as mosques aren't mosques and hospitals are never hospitals when they are bombed. Celebrating women and children are not civilians. 'Contractors' traveling with the American army to torture and kill Iraqis ARE civilians. CIA personnel are 'civilians' and the people who planned and executed the war are all civilians. We're not civilians- we are insurgents, criminals and potential collateral damage."

US asks for extended exemption from war crime

As revelations of prisoner abuse just keep coming out, the bUSh administration actually had the nerve to request that the UN Security Council extend their immunity to prosecution by the Internation Criminal Court at the Hague for another year. Link from Horst of Aardvark Speaks. "Given the recent revelations from Abu Ghraib prison," said Richard Dicker of Human Rights Watch (HRW), "the U.S. government has picked a hell of a moment to ask for special treatment on war crimes." Just to ensure "compliance", they are threatening to block UN Peacekeeping endeavours in Iraq if they don't get their way.

OK, before I get back to serious blogging . . .

I just had to post this silly picture of naked students on a roller coaster. (They are trying to break a record, or something.) I know it's just my sick mind, but don't they sort of make you think of the Matrix?

More Blogkeeping

I have been doing a little tweaking here and there. I posted more issues of Kitchen Gardeners International newsletters on Deborama's Kitchen. On the links page, I have added Air America to the TV and Radio section, and Get Fuzzy to the Comics and Cartoons section. Real blogging will commence later today.

21 May 2004

Blogkeeping - and a plug

First the plug. Courtesy of Ronni, the owner of a blog called As Time Goes By, there is a review of Deborama. And a very flattering and glowing review it is, too. Thank you Ronni. It's positive feedback like this that makes it all worthwhile.
Flash news - I have actually posted something at Wordkeeper! I was really taken by this post at a blog new to me called Open Brackets. I will probably blogroll it.
I updated the post below about the Seymour Hersh article on Abu Ghraib, et al. (I added the footnote explaining who or what "jags" are, in the context of the military and international law.)
I am just about to head on over to Deborama's Kitchen and post a recipe for Hippie Student Food. This simple little confection has become an enormous hit at the homeless youth hostel where I have been teaching economical cooking classes for the past three weeks.
***Update - oops. When I was in the middle of posting that recipe my computer went phut. I have just now got it back up and running and it's tomorrow morning. Sorry about that.
***Update. It is there now: Hippie Student Food.

20 May 2004

Just Fade Away

George Monbiot ponders the pros and cons of a shrinking first-world, and then global, population.
"Having been urged for years to stop breeding for the sake of humanity, we are now being told to breed like coathangers for the same cause. Only if governments encourage us to start having babies again, Longman argues, will we avert an economic catastrophe.
"At first sight, his argument looks persuasive. Those of us who haven't got there yet face a bleak old age of increasing needs and declining income. Young people will see us as a crippling and useless burden.
"But there is a good side to all this, which Longman's article ignores. If people stop breeding when they become rich, then we have stumbled across the perfect, self-regulating solution to resource depletion and ecological collapse. For the first time in history we may have developed a mechanism which prevents us from wolfing our way to extinction."

Emergency Room Politics

Once again Arkhangel of Better Angels of our Nature has a brilliant and timely post - this time about a supremely wrong-headed bill before Congress called HR 3722 that will seek to compel ER staff to turn illegal immigrants seeking treatment in to the INS. (Which I did not realise had been made a part of the dreaded Department of Homeland Security.) Read the post to find out why this is such a bad idea.

19 May 2004

Clash of Civilizations

Maureen Dowd in The New York Times quotes Sen. Dianne Feinstein: "If somebody wanted to plan a clash of civilizations, this is how they'd do it. These pictures play into every stereotype of America that Arabs have: America as debauched, America as hypocrites."
And an excellent quote from Dowd herself:
"The administration's demented quest to conquer Arab hearts and minds has dissolved in a torrent of pornography denigrating other parts of the Arab anatomy. George Bush, who swept into office on a cloud of moral umbrage, now has his own sex scandal — one with far greater implications than titillating cigar jokes.
"The Bush hawks, so fixated on making the Middle East look more like America, have made America look un-American. Should we really be reduced to defending ourselves by saying at least we don't behead people?"

17 May 2004

Mad Cow in the US: We're going to D.C.

At Health Supreme I found a post to heal my aching heart - someone has finally made the connection between mad cow disease and Iraq! (And, no, it's not the obvious one: that GWB and Rummy, not to mention Cheney and Ashcroft, have nibbled off of a few too many "downer" cows.) "The man who killed the mad cow last December," Dave Louthan, has twigged to the fact that the government can lie and get away with it, and he is using this insight to mobilise against the war (and mad cow disease too, one presumes.) It definitely sounds like a movement I could get behind.

A plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox!

Fafnir of the inimitable Fafblog! has a truly original plan for extricating the coalition from Iraq - it has the element of surprise, dignity for all and smoke machines. Check it out.

16 May 2004

What's Today's Vocabulary Word? C-R-I-M-I-N-A-L

This article made me feel ill. It's a description of some of the typical practices in an elementary school in Los Angeles, with a student base of - surprise - children of colour living in poverty. And being "educated" in a prison.
"The bullhorn blares across the yard. Young Latinos and African Americans quickly scan their surroundings, noticing the many faces that watch them. A chain-link fence, 20 feet high, surrounds them on three sides. Dutifully, they fall into place in line. Heads up, hands clasped behind their backs, shoulders straight. Most know better than to talk. A few test the rules and murmur among themselves. "You're wasting my time!" barks the attendant. Rumpled play dollars are doled out to the well behaved; order is maintained through this token economy. Thus begins their day.
"A day at boot camp? A day in juvenile hall?
"No. This is elementary school. First grade. Our inmates are 6 years old. They are not criminals. Small and wiry, these are children whose usual offenses are pulling braids or not sharing Hot Cheetos. The children must walk in straight lines. Hands must remain behind their backs, as though in handcuffs. The high fences separate them from the outside, physically and symbolically.
"What does it mean when you are 6 and your school is run like a prison?"
Link found at Talk Left.

US guards 'filmed beatings' at Guantanamo

Just when you think it's safe to read or watch the news again, just when you think things cannot possibly descend any lower, you read this. From the Observer, courtesy of the Agonist.

Strange but . . . strange

I was doing my occasional little vanity trip to see what searches find my page and how high on the search results it was. And I was a little bit creeped out to see that one of the searches was "video beheading of deb". But on the plus side, I was the third result on the search.

How we got where we are

According to Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker, the secret operations in the "war on terror", developed at Guantanamo Bay and exported to Iraq in August 2003, have led the US and the west into this moral "gray zone". A quote from the close of the article sums up the problem:
“In an odd way,” Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said, “the sexual abuses at Abu Ghraib have become a diversion for the prisoner abuse and the violation of the Geneva Conventions that is authorized.” Since September 11th, Roth added, the military has systematically used third-degree techniques around the world on detainees. “Some jags* hate this and are horrified that the tolerance of mistreatment will come back and haunt us in the next war,” Roth told me. “We’re giving the world a ready-made excuse to ignore the Geneva Conventions. Rumsfeld has lowered the bar.”
*jags (for the benefit of those unfamiliar with US military jargon) = members of JAG Corps = Judge Advocate General Corps = military lawyers, basically

15 May 2004

More about Nick Berg and his father Michael

Joel of Pax Nortona had a post yesterday about Michael Berg: Enemy of The Right the Wrong. He refers to a right-wing site called Freerepublic.com which had Michael Berg listed as an "enemy of the people", which may have been the reason for Nick Berg's mysterious detention by US forces (or the FBI?) in Iraq. All of which, according to Michael Berg, is a major factor contributing to his capture and death. And if I had enough time to read as much as Joel does, I would have picked up his excellent post on the mania to view the infamous video of Nick's gruesome death and added it to the two posts I cited below. Well, consider it done now.

14 May 2004

Iraq, mostly

And now back to serious blogging. Yes, things are becoming uglier by the day. Yesterday I had to put someone with whom I have been corresponding for over seven years on the Spam filter. I was toying with posting his name here, to "name and shame" him, but really, I don't want to do that. I just want to never have another of his creepy political rants in my mailbox again.
It all started with the internet murder of Nick Berg, about which you all aware. This man, I'll call him "Dwayne" (which is not his name) saw and heard the "execution", out of some weird sense of "duty" on the Matt Drudge site (where else?) I have deleted his e-mail, but basically, along with a little bit of typical thoughtlessly encoded racism, he had concluded from this experience that it was necessary to kill "every man, woman and child" native to "the Middle East" because none of them deserved life. (It's always good, when calling for a reverse-jihad, to be as unspecific as possible about the boundaries defining your proposed victims, don't you think?) And I noticed that this man, who rightly or wrongly called the hooded terrorists who carried out the ritual slaying "cowards", was not volunteering to go himself to the "Middle East" and risk his own lily-white neck in pursuing this mad bloodbath.
Anyway, I have to compare and contrast with what a couple of people with moral compasses and a basic grasp of history and where we all are in it today had to say about this pivotal moment in the world's survival. First some words from one of "Dwayne's" potential condemned, Riverbend of Baghdad Burning:
"I was sick to my stomach when I first saw the video on some news channel and stood petrified, watching the screen and praying that they wouldn't show it whole because for some reason, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. I feel horrible. Was I shocked? Was I surprised? Hardly. We've been expecting this since the first pictures of the torture of Iraqi prisoners broke out." . . .
"I think beheading was the chosen method of 'execution' because the group wanted to shock Americans and westerners in the worst possible way. The torturers at Abu Ghraib and other prisons chose sexual degradation because they knew that nothing would hurt and appall Iraqis and Muslims more than those horrible, sadistic acts. To Iraqis, death is infinitely better than being raped or sexually abused. There are things worse than death itself and those pictures portrayed them."
Now, from a real warrior, rather than a pusillanimous little sabre-rattler, Arkhangel of The Better Angels of Our Nature:
"For what it's also worth, I feel foul having seen Berg's death. I can't emphasize how truly disturbing the video is. Watch if you want--but you're not going to learn or understand or get anything out of it that you wouldn't have by not seeing it.
"I'm going to try to cleanse myself, but I suspect I'll fail; there's far too much muck these days, and it sticks to you without you even trying to get dirty."
Later he had this to say:
"Ever since the video showing the gruesome death of Nick Berg came to light, many conservative commentators have decried the lack of comment on it by liberals, saying that we'd rather discuss what happened at Abu Ghraib . . .There's nothing new we would have learned from seeing Nick Berg's death throes. We already know that Zarqawi and people like him revel in death and gore--we've known that for years. We saw it when Daniel Pearl died, we saw it on September 11, and we see it day in and night out in Israel, every time another 'martyr' decides to speedily fufill their appointment with 72 dusky virgins in Paradise. . . In contrast, the images and videos coming from Abu Ghraib (and other places) reveal a level of brutality that we don't associate with ourselves, and others have only suspected. Now that it's out in the open, it's forcing us to realize that we aren't intrisically good because we're Americans, and that we are, in fact, capable of being every bit as barbarous as anyone else. There's a long history of that, by the way, but we don't like reading about it, or learning about it, because it doesn't make us feel good about ourselves. . .
"I think the real reason many of these folks are harping on Nick's death is because it gives them a chance to score easy political points. Yes, they are that crass, and that desperate. That snuff film gives them the chance to say, "Yes, what happened at Abu Ghraib was awful, but look what happened to this guy!" And then they can try to rally support for the President and the war. . .
"I happen to think that Nick Berg's death was utterly cruel, and having seen it, I'm a worse person for it. And yes, it's shocking. But it's not a surprise. And trying to wave the bloody shirt with it is appalling. The two events aren't on the same plane, and they don't cancel each other out. The fact that something like this happened does not give us the moral authority to obliterate Iraq."

Back after a short absence

This is my first attempt to post using the new and improved Blogger. So far, two things I have noticed - it is unable to republish my whole site (which may or may not be a problem) and I was unable to enable the built-in comments, possibly because I would have to disable the Haloscan ones first. But, we'll see. Meanwhile, DH has created some lovely brochures for the charity he works for and they are even available online. Here is the one about volunteering. All five are available in the Art section of my personal page. Leave a comment here if you think they are brilliant.

11 May 2004

Abstinence-only sex education increases pregnancy, abortion and STDs

George Monbiot urges parents in the UK to resist the coming onslaught of "virginity" campaigns from the US. Conservatives' ruthless return to the worst excesses of Victorian values not only do not work, but they make the very problems they are designed to fight become worse. Distorted reporting by the compliant media is used to hide this embarrassing fact. Don't be fooled - sex education and openness about contraception, plus a safety net to offer teenage girls economic alternatives, are the shining successes of the teen-age pregnancy prevention story. On the other hand, the climate of shame and fear surrounding "abstinence-only" programmes lead to higher rates of unwanted pregnancy, abortion, poverty and AIDS.

The sickening predictability of our capacity for evil

A really excellent editorial in The Seattle Times posits that what happened at Abu Ghraib is exactly what any competent psychologist would have predicted to happen. Several well-known experiments, including the infamous prison experiment which was eerily repeated in a failed reality TV show about the infamous prison experiment, have all shown that normal, decent, stable people will become able to perform acts of evil that they themselves would not have thought possible, when put in a stressful situation, under an imagined or believed-in authority, in an environment where individuality and dissent are suppressed. Thanks to WWWofFB for this link.

09 May 2004

One good quote from the comments

Not mine, alas. The story on journalistic standards that I posted below, on Back to Iraq 3.0, attracted, as of now, 54 comments and 6 trackbacks (not including mine, because the ping wouldn't connect.) Sometimes in these cases the comments are almost better than the post. This one I especially liked:
"The road to Abu Ghraib passes from Mi Lai, through The School of the Americas, on to Guantanamo, and directly to the oil-slippery slopes of Baghdad."
For the sake of remembering a lot of history in one sharp sentence, I will forgive the mixed metaphors.

Eisner, Moore and the truth

Even though I know about Michael Moore's slippery tactics in dealing with the media (even though he is media) and "the man" (even though he is now a man of wealth and power himself) I simply blogged what Moore had basically put out as a press release. And so did the New York Times, although they're not necessarily an organ with which I would want to be compared. A commenter left word that Moore had "made it all up". Hmm. I tried to check it out. Well, this is just evidence of how polarised not just the blogosphere but the whole online news world is. I found hundreds of right-wing sites (dittohead and jingoist, that is, not fascist or racist), mostly blogs, which trumpeted that Moore was guilty and Disney innocent, based on the fact, apparently (it's hard to extract facts from the rhetoric), that Moore had a year or so of advance notice that Eisner did not intend to allow Miramax to distribute his film. I know I don't really understand what misunderestimating is, and I am not stirred by pronouncements like "bring it on", but I think I do understand English, so how is that proof that Moore "made up" anything? All the purely left-wing sites were continuing to heedlessly follow Moore like lemmings and busily organising e-mail campaigns and boycotts to "fight censorship". Again, apologies for my literal mind, but how is a private corporation deciding where to spend its money, or a squabble between a millionaire and billionaire if you prefer to see it that way, censorship?
It took me at least 15 minutes, and that's an eon in Google searching time, to find a more or less balanced report of the story in The Salt Lake Tribune. Pah! A plague on both your houses. And I know I am going to have my liberal credentials pulled for saying this, but I don't like Moore's movies. Almost as much as I don't like Disney movies!

08 May 2004

Wake up and smell the fascism

At - Project for the OLD American Century, there is a great post called George W Bush and the 14 points of fascism. I found this link at the Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha.

Halliburton Pulling the Plug on GI Communications

From the blog of Kathryn Cramer, and not, you can be sure, from the mainstream media, we learn of the Bush administration's Pentagon damage limitation in the growing scandal of torture and abuse in Iraq - accountability? resignations? training? repentance? No, first we have to go to the source of the problem - free speech amongst the troops, obviously. How else would the world have known? So now the hired help has been instructed to cut off the already harried, ripped off and run around GIs from e-mail and web communications, from their lifeline to families back home, and of course, to their conduit to the world, in case any of them want to do any more unpatriotic whistle-blowing. I feel quite nauseated now.

Arkhangel: I like this guy more and more

A quotable moment in Speech! Speech! on the blog Better Angels of our Nature:
"My toil, my uniform, my blood, my sweat and my tears may protect your right to be an moral idiot. It also gives me the privilege of calling you out as the morally excresent gasbags that you are."

Baghdad Burning

Riverbend to Coalition: Just go. And here's something else she says, that everyone in the West needs to hear, no really hear: "People would rather be dead than sexually abused and degraded by the animals running Abu Ghraib prison." You know what this means, don't you?
Unfortunately, people like Bush and Rumsfeld do not know what it means. Because, as mentioned below, there is no honour. It's even deeper than that. A human being with a soul, who knows he has a soul, who believes he will be accountable to God some day, cannot act like these people are acting. So don't say another word to me about Christian values.

A good ol' girl . . .

James Benjamin at American Samizdat on the scandal of Private Lynndie England, "the dingbat dominatrix of Abu Ghraib". It's a very depressing read.

"There Is No Honor"

Sean-Paul at the Agonist posted a link, under the heading Apologies Don't Wash With This Soldier, to Arkhangel at Better Angels of our Nature:
"There is no honor.
"I saw Don Rumsfeld's testimony today, and there is no honor. Certainly, the other men present at the witness table did not acquit themselves well, but in the end, it comes down to Rumsfeld and the President. And there is no honor.
"Who was in charge? What was the chain of command?" Simple questions, these. Asked by John McCain, an honorable man. Simple questions, deserving of a simple answer. But the simple answer never made it past the lips of the Secretary. There were evasions and dodges, a dance of deceit, if you will.
"No one was in charge, it seems--because that way, the only people who suffer punishment are the sergeants and privates in the photographs and videos. And as for the chain of command, well...uh...well, that was left behind somewhere in the recesses of the Pentagon. And there is no honor in that."

This was pretty much my reaction to the ten or so minutes of Rumsfeld's testimony that I could bear to watch. DH doesn't believe that the US Army ever had a tradition of honour, but he doesn't know US history, really, and only knows what's gone on since TV news was in colour, plus a few highly slanted notes from the glory days of his vanished empire that he learned in school. The US military once had honour. Even in Vietnam, it had more than this.

Back to Iraq 3.0: Various updates and some hard truth

Christopher, who unlike most of us bloggers is a "real" journalist, writes about the standards of proof that journalists need to be using in anti-war reporting - e.g., coalition atrocities. (By the way, I didn't mean to slight him or journalists by putting the quotes on "real" but rather to imply that in a way, we should all be real journalists, or in other words, being an amateur is an excuse for some things but not for just anything.) And this goes to the heart of what Christopher is saying. Blogging is this new media phenomenon which has a good and a bad side to it. And part of the bad side is that it contributes to the fact that the web is rife with rumour and it's hard to know what to believe. And especially when you add a dirty big war into the mix and some "real" journalists are so clouded with ideology and outrage that they think the rules don't apply to them. All this makes me weary and sad, as opposed to the outrages themselves which make me weary, ashamed, angry and feeling helpless. Because my natural instinct is to identify with and apologise for the idealistic anti-war crusader who is compelled to get out his message "by any means necessary". But, possibly because I once harboured a desire to be a journalist and even completed two and a half years of a journalism degree before switching to something else, in my heart I know that Christopher is right, and that neither the war nor blogging is an excuse to let the standards slip.

06 May 2004

Disney Blocks Moore Bin Laden Film

Ever more blatant censorship by the ruling family of America is now so common it raises barely a stir. Like this.

04 May 2004

State Department: Methodist visa denials were routine, not racist

State Department: Methodist visa denials were routine, not racist. Excuse me, but what I think we're saying, Mr. State Department, is that racism is routine.

Bishops Say Some Members Denied Visas To Attend Methodist Conference In U.S. -- Beliefnet.com

BeliefNet and the AP are covering the Methodist Conference in Pittsburgh PA where some 25 delegates have still not been allowed to enter the US because their visa applications were denied. "Four bishops said during a news conference before the start of the conference that 42 members from the Philippines and Africa were [originally] denied visas. 'It seems clear ... that the policies or the application of these policies are racist and unjust,' said Marshall Meadors, a retired bishop who teaches at the Candler School of Theology in Atlanta. The bishops called for the federal government, including church members President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, to investigate the matter and see if some of the visa problems might be resolved before the conference ends May 7."

03 May 2004


I have been very busy today and reviewed two books - no - four books! - on my book reviews blog. One is a trilogy - the Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. The other is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon. Please leave a comment if you like my book reviews.

In England's green and pleasant land . . .

My blogfriend Yorkshire Soul has uncovered a nasty little piece of racism and pounced on it righteously and appropriately:
"Here is a group of 3,000 people, individuals and whole families, all from one ethnic background, and Macer Hall thinks it a good idea to make them homeless. Hey Macer, how about we form them into lines, separate the young from the old, remove glasses, shoes, spectacles, gold teeth ? How about we turn on the showers. . . ."

Learn from history! part II

Found at Dick Jones' Patteran Pages:

Quick Political Scholastic Aptitude Test

It consists of one (1) multiple-choice question.
Here's an alphabet-length list of the countries that the U.S. has bombed since the end of World War II, compiled by historian William Blum:
a. China 1945-46
b. Korea and China 1950-53 (Korean War)
c. Guatemala 1954
d. Indonesia 1958
e. Cuba 1959-1961
f. Guatemala 1960
g. Congo 1964
h. Peru 1965
i. Laos 1964-73
j. Vietnam 1961-73
k. Cambodia 1969-70
l. Guatemala 1967-69
m. Grenada 1983
n. Lebanon 1983, 1984 (both Lebanese and Syrian targets)
o. Libya 1986
p. El Salvador 1980s
q. Nicaragua 1980s
r. Iran 1987
s. Panama 1989
t. Iraq 1991-2003
u. Kuwait 1991
v. Somalia 1993
w. Bosnia 1994, 1995
x. Sudan 1998
y. Afghanistan 1998, 2001-2
z. Yugoslavia 1999

Q: In how many of these instances did a democratic government, respectful of human rights, occur as a direct result?
Choose one of the following:
(a) 0
(b) zero
(c) none
(d) not a one
(e) a whole number between -1 and +1
(f) zip
(g) squat
(h) nada

02 May 2004

The Shame of Abu Ghraib

Arkhangel of the blog Better Angels of our Nature is a pro-military (but critical of the war) blogger. His unstintingly angry reaction to the atrocities of fellow servicemen and servicewomen deserves a read.

Found on the letters page of A Prairie Home Companion

Have you ever had a weird character trait, so weird that you were certain you were the only one in the world, and then found out it was a well-known quirk or even a syndrome?

Browsing the web, I came across A Prairie Home Companion Post to the Host:

Dear Host:
I think that I may have unintentionally become a Unitarian, or at least adopted a Unitarianesqe outlook. Are there warning signs? A check list?
Sam S*
. . .
Tending toward the church of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Thomas Jefferson is no reason to feel shame, but if you want to know, one warning sign is a tendency to read ahead, while singing from the hymnal, to see how you feel about the lyrics, doctrinally, which means that you don’t sing very well.

Oh, my God!

01 May 2004

In the shadow of a gun

Pictures from Hell, link found at Yorkshire Soul.

Fighting Walmartization

Via Daily Kos, in a blog called Fight for the Future, a union (SEIU) leader is posting a series about opposing the global hegemony of Walmart and its one-sided rules.

Riverbend sees the pictures

Baghdad Burning's latest post is her stunned and furious reaction to the pictures of torture in Abu Ghraib prison.
"All anyone can talk about today are those pictures... those terrible pictures. There is so much rage and frustration. I know the dozens of emails I’m going to get claiming that this is an ‘isolated incident’ and that they are ‘ashamed of the people who did this’ but does it matter? What about those people in Abu Ghraib? What about their families and the lives that have been forever damaged by the experience in Abu Ghraib? I know the messages that I’m going to get- the ones that say, 'But this happened under Saddam...' Like somehow, that makes what happens now OK... like whatever was suffered in the past should make any mass graves, detentions and torture only minor inconveniences now. I keep thinking of M. and how she was 'lucky' indeed. And you know what? You won't hear half of the atrocities and stories because Iraqis are proud, indignant people and sexual abuse is not a subject anyone is willing to come forward with. The atrocities in Abu Ghraib and other places will be hidden away and buried under all the other dirt the occupation brought with it."

US media grapples with Iraq horrors

BBC NEWS has a story about the controversy in the US over showing flag-draped coffins, and over an upcoming ABC programme to read out the names of all 700-plus American military personnel who have died in Iraq. The big question is not whether but how much does the current administration muzzle or influence the media. It's another look at how different relations between government and media are in the US compared to the UK.


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