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30 January 2005

PressThink: Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over

Here is a nice thought-y piece about the shifting relationship between journalism and the internet, specifically that microcosm of the internet we know as "blogging". This was written as an address to a conference held last week in Cambridge MA called Blogging, Journalism and Credibility, and is by media critic Jay Rosen of NYU, who also runs a blog called PressThink.

My feminist hero has become a rancid bore

Julie Burchill on her (and my) former feminist hero, GG, on the occasion of GG leaving the CBB (Celebrity Big Brother) house in a huff. Wonderfully bitchy, as expected from the fabulous Julie. (I know this is way out of date, but I couldn't let it slip away.)

A young gay woman discovers her history

Sarah, blogger of 'not you, the other one,' was initially unimpressed to learn that February is GLBT history month. Born in 1981, she is younger than my son Carey (my youngest). Here's what she says:

I dunno, I thought, probably some old queen on Radio 4 is going on about how Shakespear was gay. Then, during my near-daily read of naked blog, I picked up the following from Mike of Troubled Diva in the comments:
She then goes on to quote a basic and yet gripping summing up of the state of homophobic policy and public behaviour in the early 1980s. "I had no idea that any of that happened," says Sarah. And she's a politically-savvy young woman and even a bit of red-diaper baby as we used to say in the states. But unless you have either a gay mentor, a gay(gay-aware or gay-friendly) parent or a really radical school system that is going to teach you this stuff, how would you know? So apparently lots of young gay people get "their" history from blogs. Another plus for us, then.

Seymour Hersh: "We have been taken over by a cult"

I got this from Pete (WWW of Fat Buddha). Seymour Hersh's article in Counterpunch, We've Been Taken Over By a Cult, is a transcript of a rambling, jittery and yet totally sincere speech he gave at a synagogue in New York. It is pretty chilling reading, as he harkens back to My Lai, fast-forwards to Abu Ghraib, and speculates on the amount of damage the President's cult can do to the US in the next four years.

25 January 2005

Four British Guantanamo detainees released today

The story as covered in the Guardian. The four men have been taken into police custody, despite protests from their many supporters and the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which believes they need treatment before interrogation. However, experts says thay can expect to be released within days.

23 January 2005

Guilty pleasures

I have a confession to make. I started watching Desperate Housewives at its UK debut, and I am an open and practicing viewer of the show. In short, I am hooked. In Red Sluts, Blue Sluts, The Nation's Richard Goldstein deconstructs the show in an attempt to answer the question of why it appeals equally to bi-coastal gay and metrosexual men, married Christian conservative heartlanders and American feminists from states of every colour. (And, I would add, the Brits who love them.)

While the creators of this show understand the golden conservative rule of sinful pleasure--it must beget ruination--on TV this could take many seasons, and meanwhile everyone can focus on the hot means to that hellish end. For different reasons, secular humanists and fundamentalists alike can revel in the foibles of idle, affluent housewives. The right can view the show's sexual politics--women competing for men, men struggling for dominance over their wives--as fidelity to the patriarchal code, while lefties can see the same thing as camp. What's more, a babe is a babe, a hunk is a hunk, and the joys of watching their unseemly meeting cross party lines.

Post-'Roe' Postcard : Is Mississippi America's future?

Sharon Lerner's article in The Nation, Post-'Roe' Postcard, is about the current state of abortion services in Mississippi, a state that has all but outlawed abortion. And don't you know, it has the country's highest levels of child-poverty and an infant mortality rate that is double the national average.

Bluesblog: Hazy Shade Of Winter

Bluesblog is the work-related blog of the guy who does The Whole Wide World of Fat Buddha. In this post, he addresses homelessness in his part of Great Britain, and describes his visit to a dire and grim hostel.

It is a shame, it is a shame upon us as a nation that we will let people live like this. We take the most desperate, inadequate people we have and put them in grotty hovels, with no facilities, in the grottiest part of town and say, go on then, improve yourselves. You look at the dead, expressionless eyes of the young girls holding their babies and wonder what kind of life has led them to this, and you look at the babies, the faultless, innocent babies, and you envisage their future and it is enough to make you weep.

Compare and contrast

Baghdad Burning's Riverbend in "Bleak Eid" tells us how it really is in Iraq in the ugly, squalid run-up to the so-called election. Contrast this with the lavish celebrations in Washington and Bush's cynical depiction of "freedom" coming to Iraq. In Biblical language, water is always symbolic of freedom, justice, things going as they should. "As the waters cover the earth" is God's promise. So why does Baghdad have no water, along with no freedom of travel? And why are people being threatened with punishment if they don't vote? Something is very very rotten here.

22 January 2005

Baghdad Burning - Girl Blog from Iraq

Left I on the News reports that Riverbend's blog, which I link to constantly because it is so good, is to be compiled into an eponymous book.

20 January 2005

Dirty Old Town makes national news

Just as I was about to switch off the tv and go to bed, I heard the name of the little town where I live being mentioned, and it was not even the semi-local "East Midlands Today" programme, but the Nightly News itself on BBC2. It turns out that Robert Kilroy-Silk MEP (Ind) had chosen a rather posh-looking venue here in Hinckley to announce his official break with UKIP, the party under whose colours he was sailing when elected to the European Parliament. As I was wondering where in Hinckley this elegant assembly room was located, in which Mr. K-S was addressing about 60 former or disaffected UKIP members, they happened to mention it was the private golf club, which is only a few hundred yards from my front door! Across town at the Red Lion, the embittered husk of the UKIP local Bosworth branch was holding its official meeting, and holding forth to a national TV audience about what a sneaky old traitor Kilroy-Silk is. The whole story is far too tedious, convoluted and jejune to go into. It's always amused me that the more fringe and irrelevant a political organisation or movement is to begin with, the more likely it is to splinter into even tinier and more ridiculous factions, and this is just a banally unremarkable example of the phenomenon, featuring a main "personality" who is just embarrassing to watch.

Guantanamo Bay Britons

No, I did not miss the story that the remaining Britons held at Camp Delta were to be freed, announced rather quietly a little over a week ago. I just neglected to blog about it. To be fair, they aren't here yet, are they? And the whole deal is being done in a very opaque manner, the better to frighten the populace, I suppose. It's also not as if just releasing these men, after a long and brutal detention with no obvious crime having been committed, is going to make the wrong go away, or the political embarrassment to the UK government.
And it's not as if they are closing Camp Delta down; that would be the only just outcome, to end all of the illegal horrors that may or may not go on there.

Minnesota Eats Itself

Oh, dear. The excellent City Pages has an article on the continuing descent of once "decent" Minnesota into the appalling depths of laissez-faire, slash-and-burn state government.
Minnesota used to be a leading state in all kinds of indicators - infants' and children's health, education, the arts, employment rates and the rating of state bonds (AAA before the current administration got its hands on the budget.) Now the state has been through a severe recession and is still far behind where it was a few years ago. And the new biennial budget season is coming up, but instead of learning from its mistakes, the Pawlenty administration looks set to dish out more of the same.

Fry Chosen For Hitchhiker's Film

Stephen Fry is absolutely chuffed to have been chosen to do the voice of the guide in the new film of the cult classic, Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. He described the experience of learning that he had got the role thusly: "It's like having your birthday on Christmas Day, discovering a winning lottery ticket in your stocking and having chocolate poured all over you."

17 January 2005

Martin Luther King's warning to America

Tonight I watched a BBC special on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As is usual for me, I was in or near tears through much of the show, not simply because of the emotional power of the message of Dr. King, but also, I am ashamed to say, through a sort of self-indulgent nostalgia. The civil rights struggle dominated my childhood to such an extent that merely watching a documentary on it is like a visit back home. I was stunned by a segment that was shown of a speech given in 1967 against the Vietnam War. The documentary led one to believe that it was part of the historic Riverside Baptist Church "Beyond Vietnam" speech of April 1967. But when I googled that speech, the segment was not in it. So then I googled just King's name and a short segment of the excerpt, and found it listed as "attributed" on Wikipedia. Well, I think they can correct that "attributed" because I just saw and heard him saying it. To read the words here will not have one tenth the power of hearing him say it, so I urge you to see if either BBC Four in the UK or The American Experience in the US have a clip of it on a website somewhere. But here are the words:

Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be - a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America "you are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I am God."
George W. Bush, you can have that one for free.

16 January 2005

Alas, Babylon!

U.S.-led forces, using Iraq's ancient city of Babylon as a military base, have caused "substantial damage" to one of the world's most renowned archaeological treasures, a British Museum report says. A soldier from 101 Airborne Division is pictured overlooking the ruins of Babylon in this file photo. (Reuters, Peter Andrews)

In other news from Iraq:
Riverbend reacts to the "news" that the US has given up its search for WMD:

A question poses it self at this point- why don't they let the scientists go if the weapons don't exist? Why do they have Iraqi scientists like Huda Ammash, Rihab Taha and Amir Al Saadi still in prison? Perhaps they are waiting for those scientists to conveniently die in prison? That way- they won't be able to talk about the various torture techniques and interrogation tactics...
The author of "Iraq's Nuclear Mirage", Imad Khadduri, has started a blog called Free Iraq. It is in a mixture of English and Arabic. He has a recent post about the destruction of Babylon, too.
And finally, as Abu Ghraib fall-guy Spc. Charles Graner awaits sentencing, two firms whose employees faced abuse charges at the prison have been awarded valuable defence contracts to continue providing prison "services" in Iraq.
Three employees of CACI International and Titan - working at Abu Ghraib as civilian contractors - were separately accused of abusive behaviour. The report on the Abu Ghraib scandal implicated three civilian contractors in the abuses: Steven Stefanowicz from CACI International and John Israel and Adel Nakhla from Titan. Stefanowicz was charged with giving orders that 'equated to physical abuse', Israel of lying under oath and Naklha of raping an Iraqi boy. It was also alleged that CACI interrogators used dogs to scare prisoners, placed detainees in unauthorised 'stress positions' and encouraged soldiers to abuse prisoners. Titan employees, it has been alleged, hit detainees and stood by while soldiers physically abused prisoners. Investigators also discovered systemic problems of management and training - including the fact that a third of CACI International's staff at Abu Ghraib had never received formal military interrogation training.
In the face of demands by US human rights groups that the two companies be barred from further contracts in Iraq, CACI International has been awarded a $16 million renewal of its contract and Titan has been awarded a new contract worth $164m.

Quotes from tribe.net

This may replace my blogging about subject lines of spam e-mails. I have been collecting quotes from conversation threads in the various tribe message boards that I follow. Here are two particularly lustrous gems:

  • Yes you could, we need someone to wear out the cat so that she sleeps through the weekend.

  • I can weld, but I can't teleport.

'Girl Culture' photos reveal social pressures

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune announces in the art section a powerful photography show by California photographer Lauren Greenfield. The Minneapolis Center for Photography in NE Mpls hosts the show, which was two years in the making and covers 20 venues around the world.
Greenfield's accompanying book, "Girl Culture" (Chronicle Books, $40), matches the photos with candid ruminations by fat girls, showgirls, anorexics, bulimics, self-mutilators, party girls, shopgirls, pre-teen vamps, a Chattanooga Christian, a Stanford swimmer, a New York model and 13-year-olds from Edina. They talk of "in groups" and "out groups," mockery and humiliation, peer pressure, food and exercise obsessions, having babies, getting "boob jobs" and -- in a rare instance -- the independence and self-esteem that come with athletic skill.

15 January 2005

Getting personal - Tribe

I have been hanging out on Tribe a lot. Ideally, I would like it if all my online friends, and all my real-life friends who go online, would join Tribe. I have tried wikis, Friendster, LiveJournal, yahoo groups, Google groups and group blogs, and I have to say this is the first online "thing" I have encountered in the 21st century that really works more or less as it says on the label. It actually can be a form of online community.
Here is how it goes : you sign up, no need for an invite, although you can be invited, nor to pay, although you can pay and get merely the satisfaction of supporting it. You define a profile, as forthcoming or not as you like. You can upload a lot of photos, and you can choose one as your "main" which will appear in a little avatar by all your posts, listings, messages, etc. You can send a message to anyone. You join tribes (I have joined about a hundred so far.) The tribes work a lot like newsgroups or forums in that you post to create or reply to threads. You ask people to be friends, and unlike friendster you don't have to know them first. (They can always say no!) I currently have 20-something friends, only one person said no to a friend invite, and two or three just ignored it. Three of the people who are my friends I knew already - my two kids, and my daughter's good friend Ursula. One is someone I "know" from his blog, and he knows me the same way. I visit Tribe every day, sometimes several times. I love getting messages on tribe.
One of the really good things about Tribe, and like all its other qualities it is something it borrowed from another "product" and slightly improved upon, is that it is localised - you tell it where you live and it sets your location. (Of course you can set a location other than where you really live if you want to.) This is good mainly because of listings - you can list job openings or searches, places to rent or for sale, items for sale, services, upcoming events, both public and private, recommendations of things like restaurants, coffeeshops, bookstores. So Tribe can connect you in the real world, too, and not just in cyberspace.
If you want to enrich the quality of your online interactions and grow a bigger network of like-minded people, I strongly recommend Tribe.
I have posted here before about how I don't have many (well, any) friends (well, close friends) in the UK, and what a wrench that was after the vibrant, encompassing but not restricting, community I had in Minneapolis. I am trying to use Tribe in tandem with another great web-based idea, Meetup.com, to meet more people, and not just random people, but people I have something in common with, and can maybe have some social activities with. Last week, I went to my first meet-up, but it was not a blogger's meet-up, where I have been putting most of my attention, it was a Book Crosser's meet-up. There were only two people there, but they were Good Quality People, so it was worth the trip. (Well, it would have been, if not for damned Central Trains stranding me on a halted train 5 miles from home from 9:15 to 10:45 pm. But that's another story.)

12 January 2005

Neoliberal vs. re-distributionist theories - a case study

George Monbiot's blog has an excellent article titled "Punitive - and it works" which attacks the received wisdom that neo-liberal economic policies work better than those old outmoded social democratic ideas with their "punitive taxes" and "grandiose projects of public spending". He does this in the simple, straightforward way of comparing various economic and social welfare indices for two fully developed "post-industrial" countries, one of which (the UK) follows neo-liberalism in an exemplary fashion and one of which (Sweden) is "one of the last outposts of distributionism". The results are telling: GDP is slightly higher in Sweden, and has been for all but seven of the years between 1960 and 2000. Sweden's national balance sheet shows a $10bn surplus, while the UK's shows a $26bn deficit.

Even by the neoliberals’ favourite measures, Sweden wins: it has a lower inflation rate than ours, higher “global competitiveness” and a higher ranking for “business creativity and research”.
In terms of human welfare, there is no competition. According to the quality of life measure published by the Economist (the “human development index”) Sweden ranks third in the world, the UK 11th. Sweden has the world’s third highest life expectancy, the UK the 29th. In Sweden, there are 74 telephone lines and 62 computers per hundred people; in the UK just 59 and 41.
The contrast between the averaged figures is stark enough, but it’s far greater for the people at the bottom of the social heap. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Economist does not publish this data, but the United Nations does. Its Human Development Report for 2004 shows that in Sweden 6.3% of the population lives below the absolute poverty line for developed nations ($11 a day). In the United Kingdom the figure is 15.7%. Seven and a half per cent of Swedish adults are functionally illiterate – just over one third of the UK’s figure of 21.8%. In the United Kingdom, according to a separate study, you are over three times as likely to stay in the economic class into which you were born than you are in Sweden. So much for the deregulated market creating opportunity.
It's interesting that I read this today; this morning, on the radio, I heard a story about Sure Start, the eminently neo-liberal programme for lifting families and children out of poverty. A think tank had evaluated the results and found them almost too small to measure and had predicted that far better results could be attained by simply giving the parents the money. Sort of a no-brainer when you hear that the programme, with all its overheads and bureaucracy, costs £100K per year per child.

Too black for America

A City Pages article, The Baddest Man on the Planet tells the story of the immortal Jack Johnson, the most in-your-face black man in American history. The renewed interest in Jack Johnson is sparked by a new 4-hour documentary by Ken Burns which is being released this month in the US. (I have to see it!)
Johnson was many things in his life--a dandy, a braggart, a womanizer, a gambler, a drinker, a fugitive, a convict, a vaudevillian, even an inventor (he held the patent on a special wrench designed for working on racing cars, another of his passions). But he was never yellow. In the language of the day, Johnson was a "bad nigger," and he swaggered through Jim Crow America as if prejudice did not exist. In the ring, he reveled in humiliating white boxers, delaying or altogether forgoing the knockout to extend their suffering. Conversely, he often took it easy on fellow blacks.
At a time when other black men were lynched for looking at a white woman the wrong way, the Galveston-born Johnson flaunted his relationships with white women, often traveling from city to city with two or three of them in tow. Ultimately, his relationship with one "sporting woman"--as prostitutes were called--became the pretext for Johnson's arrest and conviction on a trumped-up Mann Act violation, which prohibited the transport of women across state lines for "immoral purposes."

08 January 2005

The strait gate or the wide? A response to the Gonzalez appointment

A Southern Baptist ethicist is appalled at the proposed appointment of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. -- Beliefnet.com I got this link in an e-mail from my friend Lance in Minneapolis (thanks!) A good quote from the end of the piece:

Christians pride themselves in voting their values, but where is the righteous indignation over the sanctity of all life?
Jesus tells us what to do with a tree that bears bad fruit. And yet, some Christians support torture and injustices in the name of patriotism. They choose the easy road, and want this wide gate of power and privilege protected on the homefront as well as the world stage.
But we also know this wide gate leads to destruction. They will stand before the throne saying “Lord, Lord, did I not define my “moral values’ in you name?” But alas, for on that day, the prisoners of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo shall arise and bear witness against this perverse generation.
Who will instead take the road that is hard through the narrow gate that leads to life? So few who call themselves Christians traverse that road!

Blogkeeping - my core values

Who is Deborama? I wrote that tongue-in-cheek introduction almost two years ago. Looking back on it, I feel older now, but I find that that's true of anything "funny" that one writes. It probably seemed wise and clever at the time, and when you read it after any passage of time, it seems a little silly. Still, in the tradition of wise fools, there is probably a nugget of truth in it.
My blog has, in the way of blogs, grown up in the 22 months of its existence. It acquired post titles, several new templates, sister blogs, a blogroll, comments, trackbacks, statistics, blogshares value, a google rating, a google search box, and all the detritus and strange attractors that live in the left-hand margin. Amongst that LHM stuff, a fairly recent addition, are links to some of my starring posts. Ever since adding them, I have been thinking about tackling the question of what my blog "is about" which is somewhat related to the question of what I am about. I have decided today to stop procrastinating and do it.
In my blog description, my main areas of interest are prominently listed as politics, sex and religion. I think the fact that I listed "sex" there, just to be consistent, when it is actually a pretty minor part of my blogging interest, is responsible for about 50% of my page hits, and probably 90% of the "false positives" who come here once and never return. I have steadily moved up the ladder for yahoo searches (by far the most numerous on "sex") from three digits to less than 50. In addition to the big three, there are also history, philosophy, humour, literature, et. al. I occasionally also venture into the more macho areas of sport and hard science. Food and books are relegated to separate blogs.
So, without dithering around anymore, here is a segmented list of my major areas of bloggable interest. In some of these I am listing "my position" as a sort of shorthand to point to what interests me in particular. Although I do not strive for "journalistic objectivity" (and in fact don't believe it exists) I do try to present things fairly, and despite being a Scorpio, I have been known to change my mind, even.

  • Politics:

  • Democracy, how it works, how it mostly doesn't

  • The war on terror, especially in Iraq (sort of why I started blogging, although I have never been a "war blog")

  • Human rights, international law, freedom of conscience, anti-slavery, migration issues

  • Guantanamo, anti-torture, Abu-Ghraib

  • Anti-racism (see also History, infra)

  • Anti-death penalty

  • Religion in politics - anti-establishmentment, pro-choice, anti-theocracy

  • British politics, especially New Labour

  • Green Party, environmental issues, anarchism (see also History, infra)

  • Economic issues, mainly fair trade, globalisation, poverty, homelessness

  • Sex:

  • Gender identity, sexual identity, GLBT issues

  • Sexual/reproductive health, especially women's

  • Erotica, pornography, censorship

  • Sex and religion, e.g. gay issues in Christian church, female priesthood, Marian Christianity, Mary Magdalene, goddesses

  • Religion:

  • Gnostic Christianity

  • Christian Socialism

  • Islam

  • Power of the "religious right" in America, arguing with Fundamentalists

  • Religious wars and conflicts

  • Eastern spirituality, especially Hindu philosophy, yoga and Taoism

  • History:

  • Labour history (US, British, international)

  • British political history

  • Civil rights, history of

There are also some things that I don't really blog about, mainly because they are not the sort of things that either make the news or intrude into my daily life, but I am very interested in these things and spend much of my solitary reading and studying on them. This will probably be reflected somewhat in my book choices. They include:
  • Gnostic Judaism, Kabbalah, Sabbatianism, Lost Tribes

  • The moon (I did blog about it at least once)

  • Philosophy, both ancient and modern (and post-modern)

  • India, history of

  • American civil war

  • Soviet Union, history of

  • Spanish Civil War

  • Military history and theory, especially of WWII

  • History of Celtic peoples

  • Genealogy

  • Codebreaking, secret writing, artificial languages

  • Conspiracy theories, occult organisations

  • Crime, law enforcement, detective work

06 January 2005

I Don't Want to Set the World On Fire

How do you preserve a precious e-mail? What happened to all the priceless chat from pre-internet days on bulletin boards? When all of us who remember an old, old song have died, will that song be around, and if not, will anybody care? Do you know what tunes went through your grandmother's head? Did your great-grandmother go to the cinema and if so, what did she see? what did she like?
While a lot of bloggers have the latest hits running through their heads ("earworms", love that neologism) I occasionally find myself in thrall to "Mairzy Dotes and Dozy Dotes" or "I Don't Want To Set the World on Fire", which is (hard to believe) not in the Rudy Vallee official hits CD. I think, and I should check on this while there is still time, that this was my father's all time favourite song. My mother used to sing Mairzy Dotes to me when I was a toddler, along with late-40s and early-50s country songs or hit songs. Mom was not a big Elvis fan. She was more Bill Anderson, the "whispering cowboy".
So, what runs through your head?

03 January 2005

British schoolgirl responsible for nearly halving British tsunami death toll

Reuter's news agency has this story about a 10-yr-old UK girl who, while on holiday in Thailand with her parents, recognised the warning signs of a tsunami and raised an alarm. The girl's mother in turn notified the hotel staff and about 100 British tourists evacuated the private beach, and watched from a safe distance as the tsunami hit the beach moments later. It was the only Thai beach in use by humans with no fatalities. The warning signs of a tsunami (oh, so now you think it's worth knowing!) are that the sea bubbles and gurgles and then the tide rushes out. Judging from this beach crowds experience, you do have time to take cover if you see this phenomenon. (All the adults were, like most of the other humans in the region, gawking in amazement at the retreating tide.) Animals are apparently "wired" instinctively to survive tsunamis because the wild ones had mostly left of their own accord.

02 January 2005

Back to Iraq 3.0, more on the election

Christopher of Back to Iraq 3.0 also covers the Iraqi elections in a recent post:

Over at Daily Kos, one item caught my eye: Iraqi Candidate Names Not Released for ‘Security Reasons’.
This is currently absolutely true. I say, “currently” because every political figure I’ve spoken with, both on the Sistani list or running their own, promises me the lists will be published “some day soon.” We’ll see.
But the question that seemed to spark the most comments was this: “Who has the final authority on whether to hold the Iraqi elections on time, or to delay them? Is it [Prime Minister Iyad] Allawi? Or is it some other person or government body?”
Well, here’s the answer: no one has the authority.

Baghdad Burning on New Year and upcoming election

Riverbend has fired up the generator and at the cost of precious fuel sent another despatch from Baghdad:

There are several problems. The first is the fact that, technically, we don't know the candidates. We know the principal heads of the lists but we don't know who exactly will be running. It really is confusing. They aren't making the lists public because they are afraid the candidates will be assassinated.

Another problem is the selling of ballots. . .

Yet another issue is the fact that on all the voting cards, the gender of the voter, regardless of sex, is labeled "male". Now, call me insane, but I found this slightly disturbing. Why was that done? Was it some sort of a mistake? Why is the sex on the card anyway? What difference does it make? There are some theories about this. Some are saying that many of the more religiously inclined families won't want their womenfolk voting so it might be permissible for the head of the family to take the women's ID and her ballot and do the voting for her. Another theory is that this 'mistake' will make things easier for people making fake IDs to vote in place of females.
All of this has given the coming elections a sort of sinister cloak. There is too much mystery involved and too little transparency. It is more than a little bit worrisome.
American politicians seem to be very confident that Iraq is going to come out of these elections with a secular government. How is that going to happen when many Shia Iraqis are being driven to vote with various fatwas from Sistani and gang? Sistani and some others of Iranian inclination came out with fatwas claiming that non-voters will burn in the hottest fires of the underworld for an eternity if they don't vote (I'm wondering- was this a fatwa borrowed from right-wing Bushies during the American elections?). So someone fuelled with a scorching fatwa like that one- how will they vote? Secular? Yeah, right.

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