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30 August 2004

George Bush's Olympic Speech and I Fly Away

George W. Bush is opening the Olympic Games and has to read a speech. "Oh," he says. "Oh, oh, oh ..."
An aide nudges him, "Mr. President, stop," he says. "You're reading the Olympic symbol."

I apologise; that's not really worthy of my blog, is it? And in the current feverishly partisan climate, it will probably attract trolls. But, heck, I couldn't resist. Thanks to my non-blogging friend Joani for the joke. And speaking of Joani, I will be seeing you soon, and it has been 14 years since our last visit.

I must also apologise for the 4-day hiatus in blogging. As I have mentioned before, I have not been myself. I blame the job. I have never been so stressed out by my job as I have been the past four months. I have never needed a vacation quite as much as I do right now. Tomorrow morning early I fly away for America. Portland Oregon, the recently moved-to home of my daughter and grand-daughter. Grand-daughter Savannah will be one year old on Wednesday and I will be there. Around about the middle of the month, I will board a luxury Amtrak for an 18-hour trip to Berekeley California. I will be gone a total of 22 days on my American west-coast sojourn, which is the second longest trip I have taken in my life. (The longest was my 8 week tour of Europe at the age of 16.)

Other personal news - I have joined tribe.net. It looks interesting; if anyone else is a member, or feels inclined to join, look me (Deborama) up as a friend.

26 August 2004

Blogkeeping and my life

I just added to Studs Terkel to the History links at Deborama's Fund of Knowledge.
I just had a major epiphany, in fact a coruscating cascade of epiphanies, tonight in my weekly psychotherapy session. I had a glimpse at the taproot of my melancholic personality. I suddenly tied together my lifelong insomnia, my obsession with death, why I like to see the sunrise, and why I feel vaguely uncomfortable with good-night kisses, good-byes and endings in general. I would tell you what it is, but I want to blog about it - properly. So stay tuned.

Your Children are Burning

William Rivers Pitt's article "Your Children Are Burning" asks why the two parties locked into the presidential dogfight are contesting a war that ended almost 30 years ago, when young Americans are dying right now in two wars that nobody wants to talk about. And then he lists those who have died in August 2004. And then he talks about those wars:

$24 billion in U.S. tax money has been allocated to 'rebuild' Iraq. According to Christian Parenti, who has reported from Iraq on the reconstruction process for The Nation magazine, "Only $5.3 billion had been allocated to specific reconstruction contracts as of late June 2004. According to a report from the White House Office of Management and Budget, of the $18.4 billion reconstruction honey-pot approved last fall only $366 million had been spent by late June - that is, invested in Iraq. Instead of creating 250,000 jobs for Iraqis, as was the original goal, at most 24,000 local workers have been hired."
"Most amazing of all," writes Parenti, "the OMB report showed that not a single cent of US tax money had been spent on Iraqi healthcare, water treatment or sanitation projects - though $9 million was dithered away on administrative costs of the now defunct Coalition Provisional Authority. Most of the little that has been invested in healthcare, water treatment and sanitation has come from Iraqi oil revenues, managed for most of last year by the Development Fund for Iraq, a US controlled successor to the UN-run Oil for Food program. In all, the CPA spent roughly $19 billion of Iraqi oil money - on what exactly is not quite clear."
And we wonder why there is an 'insurgency.' We wonder why a nobody named Moqtada al-Sadr has emerged as an Iraqi version of Thomas Jefferson, fighting the good fight against imperial usurpers. We wonder why so many Iraqis flock to his banner, pick up a weapon, and shoot Americans.
Sit in the dark for a year, be unemployed because all the jobs have gone to non-Iraqis, have no place to see your children schooled, have no place to bring your children if they get sick, drink water that tastes like something you squeezed into your toilet, and stand a good chance whenever you step outside of being shot by a sniper, blown up by a laser-guided bomb, or run down by a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and you might think about picking up a weapon, too.
This is how terrorists and suicide bombers are created. Desperation is the seed, time is the fertilizer, and rage is the crop reaped by American soldiers sent far from home to die because they were lied to, as were we all.
This is, perhaps, the most galling aspect of the whole Swift Boat Veterans nonsense. It has distracted us from realizing that our children still burn in Iraq, while simultaneously insulting every veteran who was given a medal for service in action. It implies that medals awarded for service in Vietnam somehow do not count, which when taken to the end of the argument, implies that medals awarded for service anywhere do not count.

How many medals did George W. Bush earn to allow him to make this frontal assault upon those who served in his stead a generation ago, and those who serve now in the free-fire zone he placed them in with his deceptions?
When a person puts on the uniform of the United States military and swears an oath, that person is promising to sacrifice their life for their country. The only promise they expect in return is that their life not be spent for no good reason. That promise was broken.

News flash: Kerry Denies Performing Gay Weddings on Swift Boat

A brilliant spoof from Andy Borowitz of YubaNet. Well, really, is it any crazier than the actual news?

25 August 2004

US court to probe death of Archbishop Romero

Catholic World News has the story of the US (Fresno California) based law suit against the accused assassin of Archbishop Oscar Romero. The Archbishop was gunned down in the Cathedral in San Salvador as he celebrated a mass on March 24th, 1980. An amnesty in El Salvador means that his suspected assassin will never be tried there. Alvaro Rafael Saravia, now a resident of Modesto California, is said to have committed the assassination, but right-wing politician Roberto D'Aubuisson is widely believed to have instigated the killing. Romero, a dearly beloved Archbishop, was assassinated because he had preached a number of fiery sermons denouncing the activities of military and para-military "death squads" which terrorised the peasant and working class population at that time. His words and the few recordings of his homilies and radio broadcasts were iconic in the movement to free El Salvador from its oppressive oligarchy.

Everywhere in chains

Today is the International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition - an event of particular importance this year because 2004 is the UN's International Year to Commemorate the Struggle against Slavery and its Abolition.

Yet slavery continues: millions of women, children and men throughout the world are enslaved and no region is free from this abuse, even though it is illegal under international law.
This is from an article by Beth Herzfeld, press officer for Anti-Slavery International, which is one of my supported causes as you can see in the left-hand margin of this blog. A lot of people do not want to believe that there is still "real" slavery in the world. Especially not if it means accepting, for example, that up to 40% of commercial chocolate is produced by bona fide slave labour. No, not just underpaid, terrorised, marginalised workers. We are talking slave-gang raids, young men and boys in chains, locked up at night, killed if they try to flee. That kind of slavery. And the same ostrich-thinking applies if you try to talk about sex slaves or domestic slaves in London and other western capitals. They are "failed asylum seekers", or "enslaved" by addiction, or unfortunate, poor women of low self-esteem who made "bad choices". Um, no. They are ordinary women from poor countries who are 1) kidnapped, 2) raped, 3) sold and 4) threatened with death if they try to escape. Sounds like slavery to me, and there is no choice involved. Click on the Anti-Slavery International link to learn more and get your head up out of the sand.

The latest from Guantánamo - hearings to begin

Guantánamo hearings begin, from the Guardian.

Osama bin Laden's Yemeni driver will today become the first Guantánamo Bay prisoner to stand before a US military commission to face war crimes charges, in proceedings that have been denounced as unfair by human rights groups and American military lawyers.

David Hicks, a former Australian kangaroo hunter turned Islamic jihadist, will face war crimes and attempted murder charges tomorrow, followed by Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, a Yemeni poet, and a Sudanese accountant, Ibrahim al-Qosi. . . Mr Bahlul and Mr Qosi are alleged to have acted as bodyguards for Bin Laden.

More from Guantánamo: Guantánamo Britons are to be visited by lawyers in the next few days.
The US granted the visits after the supreme court ruled the base in occupied Cuba was covered by American law, despite the Bush administration claiming it was not. Reports suggest that Moazzam Begg and Feroz Abbasi have been suffering mental health problems while imprisoned.
Both have been held in isolation for up to a year, with Mr Begg having been detained in a windowless room. He is also believed to now be denied human contact after he started talking to his guards, and is monitored by a remote controlled camera.
Two US lawyers representing the Britons are scheduled to arrive in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, next Monday.
As well as Mr Begg and Mr Abbasi, they are expected to see Martin Mubanga, and two Londoners whom the Foreign Office refuses to represent.
They are Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi national from Kingston-upon-Thames where he has lived for 20 years, who has been interrogated more than 50 times according to testimony from released British detainees.
A lawyer will also see Jamil el-Banna, a Jordanian refugee, who is alleged to have been sexually humiliated while detained and to also be suffering mental health problems, according to three released British detainees.

First we take Manhattan . . .

City Pages : The Great American Lockdown, by Steve Perry tells the story of the ramping up of "security" (in this case, an Orwellian euphemism for repression, methinks) in the run-up to the Republican Convention. This is followed up by a trenchantly observed vignette of President Bush's so-called campaign tactics.

The tent-revival aspect of the gathering kept floating to the surface. Another concerned citizen for Bush, who identified himself as a "youth minister," asked after faith-based initiatives. But it was only an entrée to his real question, which concerned any plans the president might have for publicly exposing Satan and his works. Bush thanked the young man for his own works but let the devil off the hook entirely in his reply. Soon, mercifully, it was back on the bus and off to the city.
Every day now, this sort of painfully contrived sideshow is passed off as the president meeting the people on the grand road of democracy. The next morning the Star Tribune summarized his trip thus: "A wide embrace for Bush in St. Paul." It would have been nearly as accurate, and more apt, to make that "Bush in Wisconsin: Soft on Satan?" But the script forbids making fun of the president, even when he's making fun of the script.

24 August 2004

Inside the Imam Ali Shrine

Chris of Back to Iraq 3.0 is inside the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf. This is what blogging was made for; this is a first-hand account of the scene of history in the making and it is nothing at all like listening to a cookie-cutter newscast, whether on the BBC or Fox News. For instance, the news media never told us about the ice cream.

More news from Lake Woebegone

So I got my absentee ballot (for the state primary) and I was puzzled by the Democrat column. It turns out it was just my fading memory; I forgot about a certain "perennial candidate" who is challenging Martin Olav Sabo, our very capable 5th District Congressman. (Note to Brits: perennial candidates is what we have in America instead of the Monster Raving Loony Party.) But I wrote an e-mail to my friend L, who is something of an insider in Minnesota DFL politics (Note to non-Minnesotans: DFL is Democratic Farmer-Labor party, what we have in Minnesota instead of Democrats). Armed with all that knowledge you can now read and appreciate a long excerpt from her reply. But first my query:

I am voting this year by absentee ballot. When I first moved here, I was going to turn my back on US politics but obviously subsequent events have forced me to rethink this. So I got an absentee Partisan Primary ballot for the 5th district seat and I am not sure what to do. Sabo I know of course, and I know nothing special about him pro or con except that I have seen him smoking guiltily at the caucuses and conventions but I would hardly vote against a guy just because he smokes. This ballot has 1 IR and 2 DFL. The other DFL guy is one "Dick" Franson, and although the name sort of rings a bell, I don't remember who he is. So my questions to you are 1) why is Sabo being contested, and 2) is there any reason not to vote for him, and 3) who is "Dick" Franson anyway and is the fact that he is called "Dick" with quote marks significant? Are they saying he is or is not a Dick? Why not say Richard "Dick" Franson and Martin Olav "Marty" Sabo? And doesn't poor old "Dick" Franson have a nice Scandahoovian middle name he can use to rope in the surviving Ole and Lena's in the state? God, how I miss Minnesota politics. It just ain't the same over here.

Here is L's reply:
MN Politics just isn't what it used to be. The ultra Right Conservatives with their single issue politics have gotten the worst of the worst into our MN House of Reps.
Now to the answer your question. The only reason you might remember this "Dick" is because he has run for something every year. Governor, Senator, etc. etc. etc. I truly do not know why the quotation marks and why he is a "Dick". I have seen none of his literature and know nothing about him.
Sabo has the DFL endorsement and there is no reason not to vote for him. In fact, there are many reasons to continue to vote for him as long as he will run. He is very good, and if the Dems ever get the House back, he'd probably be chair of Budget. This is because he memorized every one of the House members and if they did anything that he thought was good, he went to that individual and said so. This made it possible for him to get things passed, because he was then remembered. The one thing that I really appreciate, is that he has made the country aware of the huge disparities between CEOs salaries and their employees salaries and has introduced several bills to try to bring some equity back to workers. He truly understands the budget, and has influence, which a newcomer would not. Smoking bans are springing up all over Minnesota right now, so I suppose he feels guilty. He's Norweigian so that would make him feel twice as guilty. That makes him human without all the excesses that some other congresspeople may exhibit.
St. Paul put in a smoking ban in all bars and the Mayor vetoed it. That wretched mayor (Randy Kelly,Dem. former Senator) has endorsed Bush of all things! He wrote a piece and put it in the paper! The DFL'ers then got so upset that they threw out his friend and cohort, and took over the City Council and now a woman named Lantry is running the City Council and they're trying to impeach the Mayor, and overturn the Mayor's veto, among other things. [Former St. Paul mayor] Coleman switching from Democrat to Republican is one thing, but to have the 2nd Mayor stay a Democrat, and endorse Bush is too much!
Minneapolis is looking at a Smoking Ban in Bars and Restaurants, but they haven't decided yet. There is pressure for the State to pass the ban, but then we didn't pass much this 2004. The Republicans in the House refused to appoint a conference committee on any of the major bills so we ended session without a Bonding bill, or anything else of substance either. Governor Pawlenty wanted the legislature to pass a bill to change the constitution to define marriage as between a man and a woman. (Even though, in statute, no gay person can get married in Minnesota now) This is what President Bush feels might assure him re-election because all the far Right would come out and vote for him if it is on the ballot. The Dems then (even those that are Right of Atilla the Hun) wouldn't let there be a vote on the Senate Floor - procedural nightmares for over a month, in which all Republicans refused to do anything except try to get that consitutional marriage amendment passed.
Then, all Summer Pawlenty refused to call a Special Session unless that marriage amendment would be included. Our Senate Majority Leader, Dean Johnson said that was not necessary, so we never had a Special Session to fix all the things that went wrong with legislation from last year, and all of the stuff we worked on for 6 months.
Now unless we have a change in the make-up of the House, I don't know how we're going to survive another year with that narrow minded bunch of bigots that are in charge in the Minnesota House.

22 August 2004

Isn't this the most depressing presidential campaign in history?

Is it just me, or do other people find that it's like watching a slow-motion train-wreck, script by Kafka and directed by David Lynch? Jeanne of Body and Soul, writing about the gross and obvious corruption going on in Iraq (and I don't mean, nor does she, only by Iraqis, we are talking Halliburton here) states the bleeding obvious. First she quote Steve Soto:

It's time for Kerry and Edwards to talk a lot about Halliburton, the ineptitude if not outright graft of this administration, and the loss of our soldiers daily to provide the means for Halliburton and other GOP campaign contributors to rape the US taxpayers and the Iraqi people.
In fact, that would be the ideal message to hammer during the week of the GOP convention.

and then she says, quite reasonably:
That makes such perfect sense to me that I have a hard time understanding why it's not the common wisdom. No matter what you think of the war, stealing everything in Iraq that isn't nailed down seems a pretty lousy way to win anyone over. The evidence of either theft or gross incompetence is overwhelming. I understand that there are political truths that are hard to sell, but this doesn't seem to me to be one of them.

Meanwhile, and against all reason, the main story of the campaign is the Swift Boat thing, which is to me just so obviously a pure and simple dirty trick that I still, even knowing how many blindly loyal, neo-con-following Republicans there are in the US, cannot believe that it's taken seriously.

21 August 2004

Portraits by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Tete a Tete is an online portrait gallery of works by the late, great photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Update: After reading through I realised that there were only a few pictures on the site, although there are also some links of interest to H C-B fans. It is more a post about an "online" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. (Also I found that the link was broken, but I think I have fixed that now.) In fact, this link at the Washington Post has the full online gallery of photo portraits, or at least a lot more of them.

Later I found this article from last week in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune following on from the death of Cartier-Bresson at age 95, which was, in case you missed it, August 3rd. There are a couple of great pictures there, too, which you can click to enlarge, including "Last Days of the Kuomintang (1949)" which I have "borrowed" to rope in your interest, dear reader. If you want even more, you can check out the Art Encyclopaedia or the Peter Fetterman Gallery or Magnum Photos.

19 August 2004

The latest outrage - the Data Quality Act

It's hard to imagine a more Orwellian, euphemistic name for a childish debating trick masquerading as serious legislation. Winston Smith of Philosoraptor, unflappable as ever, picks it apart and demonstrates the inherent danger in this latest piece of neo-con chicanery.

As you know and as the article makes clear, many (perhaps even most) arguments in science--and out of formalized science, for that matter-- involve assessing the weight of conflicting evidence for and against some hypothesis. We can think of this as a kind of UNbalancing, analogous to weighing two items of extremely similar mass to determine which is heavier. If we build an inaccurate scale--or if we put a finger on the scale, continually nudging one side up or down depending on some antecedent preference about which we'd like to weigh more--the results of our efforts are basically valueless.

One way of cheating the system is to employ illegitimately differential standards of proof. . . According to this [Washington Post] article, the DQA is being used to nudge the scales in favor big business. When the weight of evidence indicates, for example, that some substance is harmful, this act allows those who oppose regulation to arbitrarily raise the required standards of proof.

Given that evidence is often available on both sides of any important question, if you give me the ability to raise and lower the standards of evidence at my whim, I can frequently torture the data to support whichever conclusion I prefer. The application of systematically differential standards is an old trick of pseudoscientists.

16 August 2004

Breaking up the empire

God's ex-Boyfriend's post, Abe Lincoln Was Wrong, is very interesting in its proposition - that it was not a good thing that the outcome of the American Civil War was an enduring union. He has a very thorough demonstration of why bigger is not better when it comes to democracy, and that all the regional tensions that were there in the Civil War are still with us and more, and also that slavery would probably have been abolished even if the South "won", and without the vicious backlash that Reconstruction brought. All of which I agree with. But then he proposes fixing it, by a utopian scheme of voluntary break-up of the US into five nation-states.
This is my response to the idea, as I posted in a comment:

Interesting idea - I have two quibbles, one small and one big. The small one is I think Maryland should be in the South (read Countee Cullen's poem "Baltimore") The big one is that this isn't going to happen - because it would a) increase democracy (which the powerful don't want) and b) destroy a currently ruling empire. I don't think you can gloss over such a major fact of our present geopolitical situation by talking of "realignments". Just like Rome before it, the US started out as provincial republic and as it grew in power and wealth, it shrank in personal freedoms and personal integrity for its citizens. There is some inexorable force of history at work here, and I expect the demise of the American empire will follow a similar path to that of the Roman: barbarians at the gates, scary cults, the triumph of anarchy, and a slowly encroaching cultural dark age.
That's if the environmental apocalypse doesn't make the whole question moot.

Captive State by George Monbiot

Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain by George Monbiot George Monbiot uncovers what many have suspected but few have been able to prove: that corporations have become so powerful they now threaten the foundations of democratic government. Many of the stories he recounts have never been told before, and they could scarcely be more embarrassing to a government that claims to act on behalf of all of us. Captive State is a devastating indictment of the corruption to which our political leaders have succumbed. (Quote from www.monbiot.com)
Note: I have not read this book yet, but I have read "Age of Consent" by the same author, and I follow his blog and his Guardian articles almost obsessively, so I feel no qualms about recommending it. And I will probably purchase it to take on my holiday, perhaps to read on one of the 18 hour train trips between Portland Oregon and Berkeley California and back again.

A mother's final, best lesson: postscript, at "As Time Goes By"

I posted about this series in the blog of Ronni Bennett previously when it was nearing its end. It comprises a total of eleven segments, plus this postscript. (I am a little late posting this link, as it was 10 days ago, but better late than never, eh?) Every installment of this story is a little literary jewel and every one has a piece of the "final, best lesson" embedded, but this postscript is the only one that had me tearing up all the way through it. You really owe it to yourself to read the whole series (links are provided at the end of the postscript) because it is one of the best things on the web, I kid you not.

15 August 2004


A summertime treat awaits all foodies over at Deborama's Kitchen. This is also in honour of Julia Child's passing. Despite introducing America to fine dining, she liked the simple and rustic, such as this summertime vegetable dinner, with its idea of eating the fruits of the harvest in a plain and appropriate manner.
Also, on Deborama's Fund of Knowledge, which by the way sort of operates as my portable "favourites", there is a link in the unclassifiable section to Subversive Cross-stitch. It's a hoot.

13 August 2004

Julia Child

Julia Child, another major life influence for me, has died at the age of 91. I think she is more responsible than almost any one person for my very early interest in fine cooking and the world of multicultural food. I have not travelled nearly as much and as widely as I have wanted to, but my taste buds have travelled the most. From the age of 12, I sampled the cuisines of the world, starting with the Empress and Queen of cooking, France, because of Child, and Japan, because of my father. (No, he's not Japanese, he was just very taken with their culture when he was in the Air Force there in the late 1940s, and it rubbed off a bit.) Today the airwaves are awash with "celebrity chefs" but they just don't make them like Julia anymore.

11 August 2004

OK, that does it . . .

GW Bush is just not a nice person. We have all heard about his drunk-driving, draft-dodging, failing to report for duty in his cushy job in the Air National Guard, insulting his wife and daughters, wiping his hands on the dress of a total stranger, starting illegal wars, having and corruptly assisting shady billionaire friends, insulting other nations and pulling out of treaties. But now - can you believe it - it appears that he has also played extremely, unforgiveably un-sportsmanlike rugby! And thank heavens, he's been photographed doing it.
Update, 12 August: here is a very interesting coincidence. The rules of the game - Bertuzzi and Bush is a March 2003 opinion piece for al-Jazeerah online that likens the Bush administrations attack on Iraq with a very similar sports transgression by a professional player. This piece was written with no knowledge that the young student Bush had committed exactly the same criminal act at Yale 35 years earlier. Note the italics, which I added.
"I love Todd Bertuzzi, the big goof, but I'm also a player - in rugby where, like hockey (and football too), hitting hard is appreciated. But a sucker punch from behind injuring an opponent deserves not just a penalty, or even a long suspension, but criminal charges. Such actions are completely outside the rules of the game.
"A really late hit or even a deliberate high tackle could cause a serious neck injury similar to Steve Moore's, but still be within the game. While deserving of penalty and suspension, it would not be a criminal matter.
"Considering criminality and the rules of the game, what if the government of a signatory state to the Un Charter attacks another country with no reasonable self-defense justification and without UN sanction or global community support?"

Good-bye, kind world!

George Monbiot has just the thing for a depressed, ill-at-ease, fearful and slightly paranoid person such as myself to contemplate. You have never had it so good, and guess what? You never will again. It's all downhill from here. In fact, on some scales, it's been all downhill since 1976. Think of that - 5 million years of steady progress and just as we, the human race, become sophisticated enough to measure it, it passes the peak and starts on the short slippery slope down. All I can say is, I hope this is just liberal PC scaremongering, because frankly it hardly bears thinking about.

08 August 2004

Remember 10 September 2001

Eric Lee of LabourStart has an article titled 'End of the Internet dream?' which references a massive study of abuses of online freedom of expression by nearly every country in the world. This was conducted and published by a group called Reporters Without Borders.

Camden Town remembered

Here is a beautiful little piece of nostalgia from Dick Jones' Patteran Pages.
"When Adam & I skulked in doorways with our fists buried deep in our duffle coat pockets, fags dangling from corners of mouths, pretending to be Sal Paradise & Dean Moriarty, Camden Town was another country. There was a hint of the exotica that sprung fully formed from between the paving stones during the mid-to-late ‘60s. You could find the odd rebel bookshop selling communist & anarchist literature & a few beatniks would obligingly fall across your path from pub or club. But the region was still primarily the province of the London Irish & the second wave of West Indian immigrants. The battered glass-covered noticeboards outside tobacconists & sweet shops were full of scribbled small ads offering single rooms to tenants, but making it clear that ‘no Irish or coloureds need apply’. I even remember reading one that stated with disarming frankness, ‘Sorry, no niggers’."

Dancing in the Streets

I can really get on board John Perry Barlow's prescription for an Emma Goldman-style revolution. Summer's here and the time is right for dancin' in the streets. And why not make it the streets of NYC, or your own hometown, during a certain political convention? Emma would have been proud.
But on a more serious note, there is an important strategical point in Barlow's suggestion. As he says in the article, discussing possible protest scenarios for the Republican convention:
"If the protests in New York should turn even a little violent, it will be to Bush's benefit. This is so much the case that I rather expect to see undercover agents provocateurs scattered among the ragtag disaffected who will shortly descend on Manhattan. And the NYPD, while generally my favorite police force on the planet, can get themselves in a froth when they feel spooked. One thrown bottle could result in days of riveting television, during which Bush would have plenty of opportunity to pretend, convincingly to some, that he was Gary Cooper."
On a vaguely related note, I was Googling around looking for interesting things about the Republican convention, and I hit serendipitously on this extremely funny parody at Dissident Voice. Here is a tasty excerpt:

"August 30
"6 p.m. -- OPENING PRAYER read by Mel Gibson, while being flogged with a spiked leather strap wielded by Ann Coulter, who will enjoy it a little too much.
"* TOM RIDGE raises National Alert Level from beige to ecru.
"* DICK CHENEY hosts AMBASSADORSHIP RAFFLE - Opening Bid $1,000,000 (cash, non-sequential bills, 20s or less)
"* CLIMAX OF THE EVENING -- FILM - "BRING IT ON!" Stirring fictionalized re-creation of Mr. Bush's actual dental appointment in Alabama in 1972, where he showed the incredible courage to allow "deep cleaning" of gums without anesthetic. (Sponsored by Sinclair Broadcasting)
"* SUGGESTED AFTER-EVENT -- "GET BAKED WITH RUSH "Crankster" LIMBAUGH! (Location TBD) (Sponsored by Pfizer)"

07 August 2004

Just when I think things cannot get any more hideous and strange

If you know me, or if you know any other super-Scorpios like me, you know that I can tend to a paranoid view of things anyway. I am drawn to shadowy conspiracies like a bee to nectar. But things these days are just feeding my paranoia, testing my ability to maintain a rational skepticism. Normally I would not be one to say that a person, or an administration, which is a collective of persons, is "evil"; I used to talk like that when I was young and headstrong, but nowadays I try to avoid such hyperbole. But seriously, read this and tell me that, if true, it is not evil. Here's an excerpt with the gist of it, but you should read it all:
"Why in the world would Bush administration officials out a double agent working for Pakistan and the US against al-Qaeda? In a way, the motivation does not matter. If the Reuters story is true, this slip is a major screw-up that casts the gravest doubts on the competency of the administration to fight a war on terror. Either the motive was political calculation, or it was sheer stupidity. They don't deserve to be in power either way."

Riverbend mourns for the Christians

Baghdad Burning's Riverbend has another sad, lucid, crazed, bitter, wise and charitable post. I am in awe at the amount of sincere emotion this woman can pack into a sentence or two.
"It makes me miserable to think that Christians no longer feel safe. I know we're all feeling insecure right now, but there was always that sense of security between differing religions. Many Iraqis have been inside churches to attend weddings, baptisms, and funerals. Christians have been suffering since the end of the war. Some of them are being driven out of their homes in the south and even in some areas in Baghdad and the north. Others are being pressured to dress a certain way or not attend church, etc. So many of them are thinking of leaving abroad and it's such a huge loss. We have famous Christain surgeons, professors, artists, and musicians. It has always been an Iraqi quality in the region- we're famous for the fact that we all get along so well.
"I'm convinced the people who set up these explosions are people who are trying to give Islam the worst possible image. It has nothing to do with Islam- just as this war and occupation has nothing to do with Christianity and Jesus- no matter how much Bush tries to pretend it does. That's a part of the problem- many people feel this war and the current situation is a crusade of sorts. 'Islam' is the new communism. It's the new Cold War to frighten Americans into arming themselves to the teeth and attacking other nations in 'self-defense'."


My sitemeter counter will pass 10K some time today. I will post something real (I hope) later today but this morning I have to go to $&^@~# work. Well, I don't really have to, it's just my sense of duty and responsibility.
Update: it is just now at 10,000. I had a most hideous day at work, and also in the 2.5 hour journey home. I don't want to talk about it.
In lieu of real blogging, I have added a link to this marvelous language resource Spanish slang of various Spanish-speaking countries, including the US to Deborah Wordkeeper's Links for Logophiles.

04 August 2004

News from Lake Woebegone

I am missing Minneapolis so much it hurts, and I don't know when I'll get back to visit. So to keep in touch, I read The City Pages online. This week had a bumper crop of interesting news (unusual anywhere for August!) Surprise! Heritage Park Is Not Hell on Earth is about the newest experiment in social engineering, in its later stages of construction on Minneapolis's near-north side. I posted a far more critical expose about it some months ago, so the (relatively) good news is welcome. Not so welcome is the evidence of the further slashing of income-equalising "quality of life" factors that made Minnesota so attractive to me in the first place, such as the closing of a truly exemplary care home and the aggressive rise of the fundamentalist-funded Teen Challenge. And then there is this very interesting story Will "Justifying Torture" be on the final exam? St. Thomas's new Law School hire. This concerns the appointment of Robert Delahunty, coauthor of the infamous "torture memo" to the faculty of a local law school in a college that has always been noted for its leadership in human rights advocacy. Where did it all go so wrong for "kinder and gentler" Minnesota?

Wal-Mart 'very disappointed' at its first union certification

I haven't posted any Wal-Mart news for a while, so it was nice to receive this via e-mail from Cheryl, who is Canadian.

03 August 2004

Why a possibly honest president is not good enough

From Winston Smith of Philosoraptor, another of his meticulously argued conclusions about matters of immediate concern, in this case the charges against the Bush administration of "dog-wagging".
"The left tends to assert that we can be certain that this administration is dishonest. True believers on the right sometimes go so far as to argue that the administration is exceptionally honest, but a claim so preposterous as that does not warrant serious discussion. The more sensible on the right have usually settled for arguing that we don’t know for sure that the administration is dishonest—for example, it is often argued (falsely) that Bush never really lied about Iraq, or that he did not really say specifically that Iraq was an 'immanent threat'.”

'Can't Blair see that this country is about to explode? Can't Bush?'

Robert Fisk's article in The Independent asks the above question. He says watching the Western media's coverage of Iraq is like "tuning in to Planet Mars" it bears so little resemblance to what is actually happening.
"Living in Iraq these past few weeks is a weird as well as dangerous experience. I drive down to Najaf. Highway 8 is one of the worst in Iraq. Westerners are murdered there. It is littered with burnt-out police vehicles and American trucks. Every police post for 70 miles has been abandoned. Yet a few hours later, I am sitting in my room in Baghdad watching Tony Blair, grinning in the House of Commons as if he is the hero of a school debating competition. . . "

02 August 2004

Sullen, Depressed President Retreats Into Private, Paranoid World

Capitol Hill Blue has a story about the mental health of the most powerful man in the world. Quite frightening, I must say. This was sent to me in e-mail from a non-blogging friend named Jim.

01 August 2004

Baghdad Burning

Riverbend is back! And what excellent timing. I wanted to post something from someone outside the Green Zone, to balance my sister's post. Because while, as I said, I basically agree with all that she said, to be fair, she is in a relatively protected situation. And her letter does not really address the thing that this blog has been about - a truthful and unflinching attempt to apprehend the lives of other people in often appalling situations. Such as those described by Riverbend today.
"I get emails by the dozen from people crying out against the abduction of foreigners. Endlessly I read the lines, 'But these people are there to help you- they are aide workers…' or 'But the press is there for a good cause…', etc. What people abroad don’t seem to realize is the fact that everything is mixed up right now. Seeing a foreigner, there’s often no way to tell who is who. The blonde guy in the sunglasses and beige vest walking down the street could be a reporter or someone who works with a humanitarian group- but he could just as likely be ‘security’ from one of those private mercenary companies we’re hearing so much about.
"Is there sympathy with all these abductees? There is. We hate seeing them looking frightened on television. We hate thinking of the fact that they have families and friends who worry about them in distant countries and wonder how in the world they managed to end up in the hell that is now Iraq… but for every foreigner abducted, there are probably 10 Iraqis being abducted and while we have to be here because it is home, truck drivers, security personnel for foreign companies and contractors do not. Sympathy has its limits in the Iraqi summer heat. Dozens of Iraqis are dying on a daily basis in places like Falloojeh and Najaf and everyone is mysteriously silent- one Brit, American or Pakistani dies and the world is in an uproar- it is getting tiresome."
I think, or I hope, this also explains why I pray for my sister's safety even though she is in a place with powerful security and armed guards, not to mention air conditioning and cinnamon rolls and coffee. Because she is there trying to do good work, and it is necessary for Iraq to get through this time of being "mixed up", and the more Brits and Americans of good will and high moral character can be there to help, the better. Even though I agree with Riverbend that greater priority should not be given to deaths of Americans over the far more numerous deaths of innocent Iraqis, everyone gives greater priority to family. So my thoughts and sympathy and prayers are with both my sisters, Cindy and Riverbend.

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