Saturday, April 19, 2003

By the way Happy Easter y'all. The concept of resurrection and renewal is tricky one and ultimately depends on your POV. This is why evangelist Christians have no trouble sleeping at night while the government applies scorched earth tactics to--well just about everything. All clean, no mess, no fuss. But hope is in short supply these days and the one thing I am trying to hold onto with the tippy-tops of my fingernails. So here's to hoping that things get better, and working, and trying.

For tomorrow, turn off the tv, shut off the computer, and eat yourself sick on Dove Dark Chocolate Easter Eggs. 'Cause no matter what your religious leanings or non-leaning might be everyone needs a break from the news. And chocolate.
I was going to do a Good Friday post yesterday but found I couldn't really find the words. I've always found Good Friday depressing. I'm even more depressed this year. Maureen Dowd gets to the absurdity of this year's Easter holiday in light of recent events.

The Pentagon, a k a the International Trust for Historic Preservation, has once more shown the world its deep cultural sensitivity.

Franklin Graham, the Christian evangelist who has branded Islam a "very wicked and evil" religion, was the honored speaker at the Pentagon's Good Friday service.

After Kenna West, a Christian singer, crooned, "There is one God and one faith," Mr. Graham told an auditorium of soldiers in camouflage, civilian staffers and his son, a West Point cadet: "There's no other way to God except through Christ. . . . Jesus Christ is alive because he is risen, and friends, he's coming back, and I believe he's coming back soon."

When Muslim groups complained that the Pentagon was "endorsing" his attacks on Islam, Mr. Graham asked for a photo op with Muslim Pentagon employees. They declined.


Instead of hectoring those who expressed any doubt about the difficulty of occupying Iraq, the conservatives should worry about their own self-parody: pandering to the base by blessing evangelical Christians who want to proselytize Muslims; protecting their interests by backing a shady expat puppet; pleasing their contributors by pre-emptively awarding rebuilding contracts to Halliburton and Bechtel; and swaggering like Goths as Iraq's cultural heritage goes up in flames.

Talk about a baptism by fire.

If Franklin Graham wants to bring Jesus to Baghdad, I say let him go. Meanwhile go read this book.   

Friday, April 18, 2003

Ah Yes, Democracy.

Yes, a theocracy with a lot of oil. This has never been done.

Thousands marched through the city's downtown, urged on at Holy Day prayers by an imam recently returned to Iraq after years in exile.

Some protesters carried banners that said, ``Leave our country. We want peace,'' and many raised their right fists and chanted, ``America is God's enemy.''

Thursday, April 17, 2003

The Nation on The Daily Show
You are 30% geek
You are a geek liaison, which means you go both ways. You can hang out with normal people or you can hang out with geeks which means you often have geeks as friends and/or have a job where you have to mediate between geeks and normal people. This is an important role and one of which you should be proud. In fact, you can make a good deal of money as a translator.

Normal: Tell our geek we need him to work this weekend.

You [to Geek]: We need more than that, Scotty. You'll have to stay until you can squeeze more outta them engines!

Geek [to You]: I'm givin' her all she's got, Captain, but we need more dilithium crystals!

You [to Normal]: He wants to know if he gets overtime.

Take the Polygeek Quiz at

Not a native, but I speak the language.
Ben and Jen Crap on Casablanca: Who Cares?

More pragmatic people may wonder why protesting an ill-conceived remake of a Hollywood classic is worthwhile when there are so many other things to be outraged about. Surely we are fueling the argument that leftists just have to be outraged by something no matter how trivial. And in examining my own feelings on the subject I have to wonder at my own vehemence. On the subject of Casablanca I really don’t have much to say. I’ve seen the movie exactly once and enjoyed it for the most part, but felt that it’s been so over-referenced and satirized that it no longer seems original. On the whole Ben and Jen media-whore-fest, I’m disgusted and for them to make a video like “Jenny from the Block” and then even attempt to approach classic Hollywood is enough to make blood come shooting out of my nose. But my outrage is mostly my own fault. Nobody’s forcing me to pay attention to their comings and goings. It’s like a car accident: I’m simultaneously horrified and transfixed. So it could be simple celebrity hatred.

But I believe it’s more complex than that. Browsing the comments on the petition two things jump out at me. The first is how scandalized people are, even people who don’t hate the two offending actors, people who respect the integrity of the film too much to see it “improved upon.” The second is that people are using antiwar rhetoric (albeit tongue in cheek) to sum up the depth of their feeling on the subject i.e. “Not In My Name,” “The Terrorists Have Won,” etc. And whenever I try to reexamine the possibility of a Casablanca remake with any kind of perspective I still can’t seem rid myself of a sense of the world having betrayed me at some fundamental level; a feeling that is very closely echoed by my feelings on the war.

(At this point I feel that I’m about to lose a bunch of you, left and right alike, so I can only plead with you to bear with me, and hope as I do that I end up making sense.)

At this very moment the art and history world is up in arms over the looting and burning of Iraqi museums and libraries, their anger and disbelief fueled by the oh-welling of Donald Rumsfield who saw fit to protect the Oil Ministry while letting 7,000 years worth of history disappear. I am more sickened than shocked by this, because it reaffirms everything that I believe about this administration, namely that they have no respect for history or art, and see the world in terms of power and money. One couldn’t even begin to explain to them the scope of how wrong this is.

The really sad thing is that it’s not just the administration. How many people care about this? In fact those of us that do care are being flamed for being more concerned about artifacts than Iraqi lives. Talk to people about the burning of the great Library in Alexandria, and feel your soul shrivel and your head throb at the blank stares you get. It’s an old story but no less depressing. Arts groups scramble for funds, the NEA loses more and more money, museums struggle to attract more patrons, and libraries can’t order more books. Meanwhile, somebody found the money necessary to finance a remake of Casablanca starring Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, because what’s the world-weary scowling visage of Humphrey Bogart compared to the Ben’s shiny cream-cheese mug. And how can the luminosity of Ingrid Bergman compete with the Jen’s ‘bout-it booty?

The line between the Casablanca remake, the antiwar sentiment, and the loss of Iraqi artifacts isn’t direct. I hesitate to make the comparison because the things are anything but equal. But they are part of the same animal; what is history when compared to money and power? What’s worth preserving and respecting if it can’t be bought or sold? The outrage against both is part of that same sense that nothing is sacred, not art, nor history, nor human life. If those aren’t sacred why should a little thing like Classic Hollywood be any different?

[Thanks to James and Jenn for the links.]

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

One of my fellow bloggers(I don't recall who it was) pointed out that even to debate over whether Fox News is biased to the right is to give credibility to the absurd position that it isn't--it's kind of like debating a flat-earther or a Holocaust revisionist.

This kind of gets to the heart of what I'm trying to say about why there shouldn't be a debate about whether or not to go to war against Syria. Debating and proving them wrong implies that the debate is worth having. I don't really believe we are going to war against Syria (although at one lovely self-deluded time I didn't think we'd really go to war against Iraq), but I am afraid of the way it might succeed in drowning out other key discussions we should be having (oh that pesky economy).
The Evolution of an Argument

A year ago: "We can't attack Iraq! There's no way they have WMD. Besides they had nothing to do with 9/11"

A few months ago: "We can't attack Iraq! If they have WMD we should let the inspectors do their jobs and peacefully disarm Iraq. Moreover, a preemptive strike could anger fundamentalist Muslims and endanger American lives. Besides they had nothing to do with 9/11."

Right before the war: "We can't attack Iraq! If they have WMD what if they use them on our troops? Besides they had nothing do with 9/11."

Fast Forward to today: "We can't attack Syria!"

Do you begin to see how we trap ourselves? While all the this indignation from the left is admirable, in a way it plays right into the hands of the right. We have our faults and one of the biggest ones is the teacher's-pet need to not only prove that we are right but back it up with reams of documentation. Whereas the right doesn't even bother with proof, they simply assert that they are right and let us run ourselves ragged proving that they're not.

So how do we avoid having the same argument all over again? More later.

The Center on Conscience and War (CCW), which advises military personnel on CO discharges, reports that since the start of 2003--when many soldiers realized they might have to fight in the Iraq war--there has been a massive increase in the number of enlisted soldiers who have applied for CO status.

"The bare minimum is several hundred, and this number only includes the ones that have come to my group and to groups we're associated with," CCW official J.E. McNeil told IPS.


... CO discharge is a long-established practice in the U.S. armed forces and always peaks in wartime. CCW says there were an estimated 200,000 COs in the Vietnam War, 4,300 in the Korean War, 37,000 in World War II and 3,500 in World War I.

The military granted 111 COs from the army in the first Gulf War before putting a stop to the practice, resulting in 2,500 soldiers being sent to prison, says Bill Gavlin from the Center on Conscience and War, quoting a report from the Boston Globe newspaper.

During that war, a number of U.S. COs in Camp LeJeune in North Carolina state were "beaten, harassed and treated horribly," Gavlin says. In some cases, COs were put on planes bound for Kuwait, told that they could not apply for CO status or that they could only apply after they'd already gone to war.

As far as Gavlin knows, that type of treatment has not happened this time. But he has counseled service members who were harassed. For example, one woman was told that if she applied for CO status she would be court marshaled. It is not an offence to apply, and her superiors did it, Gavlin says, "to intimidate her."

Allison says she was both supported and condemned when she became a CO. "Privately I received overwhelming personal support from the other members of my unit," she says. "But publicly I was isolated by my unit."

(snip-yes it gets better)

Soldiers that have this change of heart fall into three main groups, says McNeil.

The first group contains "those who go into the military understanding war and are willing to accept it," she says. "But then something happens during their service and they are no longer OK with war."

The second group contains people who have "sought out spiritual growth and have come to believe that God doesn't want them to participate in war."

The third, and biggest, group, she says, is made up of young, often naive, people who join the military in their late teens. They are often poor whites, blacks or Hispanics, who either have limited employment opportunities, or are looking for a way to fund their college education.

Because military recruiters target poor youth in urban centers--the so-called "poverty draft"--this is probably the fastest-growing group of COs as well as the biggest, added McNeil.

[my emphasis added]

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Back To Babylon
It's nice to see that sometimes people do come to their senses.

Now if only there were hope for Jennifer (I refuse to call her J. Lo) and Ben.

I am Charlie Brown

Which Peanuts Character Are You Quiz

I don't necessarily agree with this. At least I don't feel underappreciated.
This Julian Barnes piece from the New Yorker, outwardly about the experience of being fired, gives a quietly chilling picture on how self-censorship works in journalism today (yes Eric I know, go buy the book).

Observe this passage describing what came to pass after Rupert Murdoch bought his newspaper.

...As a by-product of a labor dispute with the printers, everyone else at the paper—all fourteen hundred of us—was informed that we were suspended. News International no longer recognized our contracts of employment. The journalists inquired upward, and were told not to worry our little heads. You’ll be fine, they said, just carry on working as usual; in a while we’ll issue new contracts on the same terms as the old ones. Then why this sacking? What was the point? Well, it was just that management wanted to sort out some other layer of hapless plant-coddlers, and from a legal point of view it was convenient to fire everyone, while not necessarily meaning it.

This was my first direct experience of corporate management techniques. And the one thing everyone on the paper knew was that Murdoch regarded journalists as expendable; indeed, more or less interchangeable. If one didn’t like the job, another would. It was a chilly moment. Around this time, I heard a News International manager—testosterone in a suit—utter a phrase I have never forgotten. He was being asked about some especially brutal piece of “management”; how could the company possibly do—i.e., get away with—something like that? “You do it by doing it,” he replied. Quite.

The National Union of Journalists called a meeting of the chapel, as a union branch is known in this trade. I went along, expecting—well, the sort of movie scene in which craggy journos denounce wicked new bosses on grounds of highish principle. The main motion proposed sending a letter to Rupert Murdoch protesting at our mass suspension, which was a direct breach of the disputes procedure he had signed up to when he bought the paper. This reasonable stance began to crumble when someone pointed out that Murdoch was a pretty tough customer and might not like getting a letter of protest—especially one that demanded a reply by a certain date. Then someone else ingeniously proposed that we write a letter that didn’t require an answer from Murdoch: this way, we wouldn’t have to find out if our bat squeak of protest had offended the great man. This suggestion was seriously discussed for a while, and even formulated into these menacing words: “The N.U.J. Chapel would like to remind Mr. Murdoch and News International that it is aware of its position.” That seemed to cover it. Or were we, even so, being too bold? On further reflection, we saw the folly of such provocation, and instead resolved to do absolutely nothing for the time being. A while later, we were all reinstated, and everything carried on as before, except for an awareness of the fundamental contempt in which we, as employees, were held.

Notice that no overt threats were made and the "sacking" wasn't really a termination because the contracts were to be reinstated. But the act of firing fourteen hundred people does enough damage to the psyche that it assures that there will be no large-scale protest. Read thru to the end.

Monday, April 14, 2003

'Nuff said.
Capitalism run amock.

In other news, the editor of The Onion resigned citing a nervous breakdown.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

I often get annoyed at the why-is-the-left-etc. and why-is-the-right-etc. debate but this is a pretty fun read.

If the right thinks that the left is on the crabby side these days, they should try to remember how they felt during the Clinton years and multiply it by Bush, a war, Bush, a recession, Bush, a tax cut, and once again Bush.
Congrats to Sy Hersch.
The USA: bringing law, order and sex slavery to the people of Iraq.

A US military contractor accused of human rights violations has won a multi-million-dollar contract to police post-Saddam Iraq, The Observer can reveal.

DynCorp, which has donated more than £100,000 to the Republican Party, began recruiting for a private police force in Iraq last week on behalf of the US State Department.

The awarding of such a sensitive contract to DynCorp has caused consternation in some circles over the company's policing record. A British employment tribunal recently forced DynCorp to pay £110,000 in compensation to a UN police officer it unfairly sacked in Bosnia for whistleblowing on DynCorp colleagues involved in an illegal sex ring.


DynCorp personnel contracted to the United Nations police service in Bosnia were implicated in buying and selling prostitutes, including a girl as young as 12. Several DynCorp employees were also accused of videotaping the rape of one of the women.

When Dyncorp employee Kathy Bolkovac blew the whistle on the sex ring she was dismissed by the company for drawing attention to their misbehaviour, according to the ruling of a British employment tribunal in November.