6.30.2005

dumb personal post

We're already spending tons of money getting ready for the move. Last week we went on a shopping expedition for four "must-have before moving" items.

We bought the incredible sucking machine known as the Oreck XL Ultra, so our lovely new home will continue to be lovely.

Here in NYC, we have beautiful hardwood floors, requiring nothing more than constant sweeping and the occasional Murphy's Oil Soap to look good. But two large, shedding dogs + carpeting = disgusting. Oreck has a 30-day free trial, plus they throw in free shipping, a free canister vacuum and a free lightweight steam iron to entice you to try it.

The vacuum arrived yesterday and it's incredible. We tested it on the dogs' beds, which are as covered in dog hair as the dogs themselves, and we were astounded. It's also very lightweight (that's Oreck's big selling point), which means Allan won't have to do all the vacuuming himself. Yours truly, even with my arthritic hands and shoulder, can vacuum, too.

Next, we bought an Aerobed, so we have something to sleep on after the movers come for our stuff, and before they deliver it all to Port Credit. I think we'll use it for guests instead of buying a futon or sofabed.

We also bought an array of dog beds. We assume finding used couch cushions on the sidewalk is pretty much a New York City phenomenon, and we don't want to take their old mats with us. This will somewhat reduce the fur-on-carpet factor.

And lastly, we bought our first digital camera! Yes, it's true, there were two bloggers left in the world who didn't own a digital camera. We both enjoy taking photographs with our conventional Olympus, and are resistant to gadgetry for its own sake. But posting pics of our new home and environs seems like a good idea, and it would be fun to take pictures of our move and arrival without having to deal with film, telephoto lens, etc.

So we did it. I was, of course, amazed at how easy and inexpensive it was. We got a little Olympus, plus memory and case, for around $175. Well worth it. I will try not to post pictures of my dogs everyday.

Bad mommy that I am, I have been thinking about how much more money we'd have if we weren't spending a small fortune on Buster's eye drops each month. I'm not seriously considering allowing my dog to go blind so I can save money. Just dreaming.

And now, to work. I have completed three of five chapters for the Ancient Civilizations book. (Hurrah!) Today I begin ancient Asia: Harrappa, Mohenjodaro and the Mauryan Empire in ancient India; Shang, Zhou, Q'in and Han in China; Koguryo, Paeke and Silla in Korea; Yayoi and Kofun in Japan; and a focus on silk. I know absolutely nada about these cultures - before I wrote the book outline, I had never heard of them - so it will be even more interesting.

find yourself a city to live in

I'm amazed, but I actually like the new design for the World Trade Center site. I strongly disliked the design that was chosen, and it's been tinkered with so much that I stopped paying attention. I figured I'd just catch up with it when they were finished playing with it.

Now the new design for "Freedom Tower" (excuse me while I gag) has been released, and lo and behold, it's an improvement.

Info on the design here, and the Times has a slide show and video. This is just the tower, of course, not the whole complex or the memorial.

I saw a headline the other day in one of the NYC tabloids: "Pataki Nixes Nutty Anti-American Art at Ground Zero". Nutty Anti-American Art? I guess someone suggested the US might be held accountable for something and isn't always 100% right. Arrest that man! (Begone foul spirit?)

The title of this post makes no sense, but we were watching Talking Heads concerts last night (Red Sox had a day game). Alternate title: "You may ask yourself, how do I work this?"

61 days. [Countdown moving to a more prominent location...]

felicitaciones

Whew, Canada just squeaked by Spain in the equality derby. Today, Spain became the fourth country on the planet to extend equal rights to its gay citizens. (I blogged about this when it was in the works; it was finalized into law yesterday.)

Spain's new legislation is especially welcome and significant, as Spain is traditionally a Catholic country. This is an incalculable act of defiance against the Church's death grip on modern life. Las felicitaciones a España.

6.29.2005

reasons for hope

G sent this excellent story that ran in the Washington Post about six months ago: "Coming Out for One of Their Own - An Oklahoma Teen Finds Love Where He Least Expected It". A young man discovers community...
A lesbian couple with a 3-year-old daughter took Michael and Shelly to dinner in Dupont Circle. Walking around the gay neighborhood, Michael was in awe. "It was like being around family," he said. "Seeing all those successful people, that could be me." . . . "Men were holding hands with men, women were holding hands with women, and no one was yelling at them," Shelly said.
...then a family discovers a larger community, when their town stands up to bigotry and allows themselves to think. (Thanks, G!)

The story reminded me of another town that stood up, when Ibrahim Parlak, a restaurant owner in Kalamazoo, Michigan, was retroactively accused of terrorism. (By strange coincidence, these two old stories are dated one day apart.)

I've been following Parlak's story (second item in that post); his supporters' website is here.

excellent news in the north

Congratulations, Canada! You've become only the third nation on the planet to legalize same-sex marriage. One gigantic WHOO-HOO for you.

ALPF noticed the strange coincidence of the vote in Ottawa and the speech at Ft. Bragg:
Last night at the exact same time "W" was "BS"ing his way through another speech live on TV our MP's were passing historic legislation. It was very funny to flip back and forth from one to the other!
That about sums up the difference between the two countries for me. No more flipping channels, I'm tuning in permanently.

And with that, the countdown begins: 62 days to go.

when will his daughters be enlisting?

President Bush, facing a growing restiveness around the country and in his own party over the constant stream of casualties in Iraq, declared Tuesday night that the daily sacrifice of American lives in Iraq "is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country."
That Moron felt the need to give a pep talk is a good sign. My question to him is above.

6.28.2005

begone foul spirit

By email, Carl D. Blyth, Sr. says:
Don't forget to give up your USA citizenship while you are there.

All leftists and liberals talk big about going to Canada and other socialistic economies, while blasting the United States of America where they have the freedom to demonstrate how foolish they are, but do not have the guts to put their citizenship where there mouth is.

So I am waiting to hear that you are now a citizen of Socialist Canada, where it is a crime to openly speak ill of the Queen or her minions. You will quickly learn that you cannot get away with free speech nor liberty. That is why my family fought the British Crown with such vigor, willing to spend all, give all, and surrender even life itself, rather than live in under the thumb of some egocentric kingship.

Yes your life in Canada will be fraught with fun things like 'you do what your told, not what you want!' That's what you need a good dose of the socialistic police collaring you.

HURRAH for lessons learned at great expense to others!

BEGONE foul spirit, and Americans all over will breath a sigh of relief, as will I.
The way Carl raves about free speech and liberty, one assumes he is not Muslim, eh? Notice, too, that the current rant has changed from "you all talk about moving to Canada but don't do it" to "you all talk about moving to Canada, but you'll still be US citizens". Got no choice right now, but in three years, I will.

I just thought you minions might all need a laugh today! Thanks Carl!

creeping stalinism

G's comment here reminded me that there are about a gazillion important civil liberty issues going on in the US right now.

Flag "desecration", restricted internet access, and violations of the most basic civil right at all - the right not to be hauled off and locked up without charges or access to counsel! - are all part of the creeping clampdown.

The ACLU is your best bet for one-stop shopping. While you're there, you can click on lots of easy action-alerts to send some outraged letters.

six degrees of richard nixon

Q: What do Billy Graham, Mark Felt, New York attorney Edward Cox, Hillary Rodham Clinton and the authors of two books about her have in common?

A: Richard Milhaus Nixon.

New York City columnist Clyde Haberman explains the connections. Teaser: they don't hate Jews, they really don't!

Haberman's column also points out how Hillary-basing continues unabated. I can hardly believe so many Democrats want her to run in 2008. Clinton, the woman millions of Americans see as, as Haberman puts it, "Eva Braun and Lady Macbeth rolled into one". Why not just cancel elections altogether and give it to the Republicans now, save us all a lot of time and trouble?

Oh wait, don't answer that.

6.27.2005

leavemychildalone.org

I love Bob Herbert. Here is a man who understands the connections between this immoral, illegal, unjust war and the class issues he writes about every day.
The all-volunteer Army is not working. The problem with such an Army is that there are limited numbers of people who will freely choose to participate in an enterprise in which they may well be shot, blown up, burned to death or suffer some other excruciating fate.

The all-volunteer Army is fine in peacetime, and in military routs like the first gulf war. But when the troops are locked in a prolonged war that yields high casualties, and they look over their shoulders to see if reinforcements are coming from the general population, they find - as they're finding now - that no one is there.
Herbert speaks with Sandra Lowe, of the Sonoma Valley (California) Unified School District. Sandra and other parents are disturbed by the calls flooding their homes from military recruiters, who are "on campus all the time," giving away perks like "very violent video games". Interesting connection there. Aren't these games cool? Come play our game!
Ms. Lowe said she was especially disturbed by a joint effort of the Defense Department and a private contractor, disclosed last week, to build a database of 30 million 16- to 25-year-olds, complete with Social Security numbers, racial and ethnic identification codes, grade point averages and phone numbers. The database is to be scoured for youngsters that the Pentagon believes can be persuaded to join the military.
There oughta be an "Amber Alert" for military recruiters, who pose a much greater danger than stranger-with-candy abductions. Khaki Alert?

Parents all over the country are organizing to fight these dangerous and insidious intruders. One resource Lowe mentions is Leave My Child Alone, which links to Military Free Zone.

a chorus of deep throats

Emails have been arriving regularly from armchair activists gasping about the impending death of PBS and NPR. I've been a bit blase about it, not because I don't care about those cherished, semi-non-commercial media outlets, but because I felt the senders were barking up the wrong tree.

The last time the "save public television" rallying cry was heard, Reagan was cutting everything that could be perceived as social spending, no matter how miniscule a slice of the bloated budget pie. But this isn't a funding issue. It's strictly an ideological one - part of the right's overall movement to shut out any voices of dissent or diversity, and gain total control over The Message.

Yesterday, in "The Armstrong Williams NewsHour," Frank Rich put it in context.
HERE'S the difference between this year's battle over public broadcasting and the one that blew up in Newt Gingrich's face a decade ago: this one isn't really about the survival of public broadcasting. So don't be distracted by any premature obituaries for Big Bird. Far from being an endangered species, he's the ornithological equivalent of a red herring.

Let's not forget that Laura Bush has made a fetish of glomming onto popular "Sesame Street" characters in photo-ops. Polls consistently attest to the popular support for public broadcasting, while Congress is in a race to the bottom with Michael Jackson. Big Bird will once again smite the politicians - as long as he isn't caught consorting with lesbians.

That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense.

. . .

As the public broadcasting debate plays out, there will be the usual talk about how to wean it from federal subsidy and the usual complaints (which I share) about the redundancy, commerciality and declining quality of some PBS programming in a cable universe. But once Big Bird, like that White House Thanksgiving turkey, is again ritualistically saved from the chopping block and the Senate restores more of the House's budget cuts, the most crucial test of the damage will be what survives of public broadcasting's irreplaceable journalistic offerings.

Will monitors start harassing Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour," which Mr. Tomlinson trashed at a March 2004 State Department conference as a "tired and slowed down" also-ran to Shepard Smith's rat-a-tat-tat newscast at Fox News? Will "Frontline" still be taking on the tough investigations that network news no longer touches? Will the reportage on NPR be fearless or the victim of a subtle or not-so-subtle chilling effect instilled by Mr. Tomlinson and his powerful allies in high places?

Forget the pledge drive. What's most likely to save the independent voice of public broadcasting from these thugs is a rising chorus of Deep Throats.
I agree. To rally a "save PBS funding" campaign is to miss the forest for the trees. This is much worse. Read the whole essay.

village on the lake

I just found this Port Credit website. A little cheesy, but very nice to see!

We'll arrive just in time for the local blues festival, which is kind of funny, since we used to be super, super into blues, and now, not as much. Back in Allan's music critic days, we saw tons of blues, and got a bit burnt out on these local acts.

But hey, an early September music festival down the road? We'll be there. And if we hear a few good tunes in the process, that's a bonus. Click on "directions" and our street is on the map!

The Red Sox - yes, that's the first place Red Sox - will also be in Toronto in September. I think Allan is ordering tickets now. I've also been checking locations of Home Depot, Ikea and whatever the Canadian equivalent of Bed Bath & Beyond is (Home Outfitters?). I told you we'd be good for the local economy. Too good!

6.26.2005

operation yellow elephant

Do you all know about Operation Yellow Elephant?

Like most things on the web, we don't know where this started. It might have been this guy Jesus' General, or perhaps not. In any event, folks at New Patriot say:
If you believe we are in a war between civilizations with our way of life at stake, don't you have a moral obligation to help fight in that war? And I don't mean in the 82nd Chairborne Division.

Jesus' General has a very patriotic campaign going to convince College Republicans to drop their studies in favor of the infantry our nation needs so badly in Iraq. It's called Operation Yellow Elephant.

The General is very patriotic (not French at all) and he know it's best to face weakness head-on. The overwhelming support of the College Republicans for the war is embarrassing when compared to their unwillingness to fight.

You can help them save their dignity.
There's a button or logo you can add to your blog, just for fun. I'm up for it.

6.25.2005

heartbreaking

Blogger's newest Blog of Note is breaking my heart. But it's also beautiful. Animal lovers, please visit the street dogs of Bangkok.

maher arar has company

An Italian judge has ordered the arrest of 13 officers and operatives of the Central Intelligence Agency on charges that they seized an Egyptian cleric on a Milan street two years ago and flew him to Egypt for questioning, Italian prosecutors and investigators said Friday.

The judge, Chiara Nobili of Milan, signed the arrest warrants on Wednesday for 13 C.I.A. operatives who are suspected of seizing an imam named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, as he walked to his mosque here for noon prayers on Feb. 17, 2003.

It is unclear what prompted the issuance of the warrants, but Judge Guido Salvini said in May that it was "certain" that Mr. Nasr had been seized by "people belonging to foreign intelligence networks interested in interrogating him and neutralizing him, to then hand him over to Egyptian authorities."

Mr. Nasr, who was under investigation before his disappearance for possible links to Al Qaeda, is still missing, and his family and friends say he was tortured repeatedly by Egyptian jailers.
New York Times story here.

the word is plural

Peter Phillips, a sociology professor at Sonoma State University, wrote something for Common Dreams which deserves our notice.
Mainstream media is the term often used to describe the collective group of big TV, radio and newspapers in the United States. Mainstream implies that the news being produced is for the benefit and enlightenment of the mainstream population-the majority of people living in the US. Mainstream media include a number of communication mediums that carry almost all the news and information on world affairs that most Americans receive. The word media is plural, implying a diversity of news sources.

However, mainstream media no longer produce news for the mainstream population-nor should we consider the media as plural. Instead it is more accurate to speak of big media in the US today as the corporate media and to use the term in the singular tense-as it refers to the singular monolithic top-down power structure of self-interested news giants.

A research team at Sonoma State University has recently finished conducting a network analysis of the boards of directors of the ten big media organizations in the US. The team determined that only 118 people comprise the membership on the boards of director of the ten big media giants. This is a small enough group to fit in a moderate size university classroom. These 118 individuals in turn sit on the corporate boards of 288 national and international corporations.
Read the rest here.

When the revamped Ms. magazine premiered in 1990, Gloria Steinem wrote an essay, which has since become famous, about why and how advertising changes a magazine. Reading Phillips's piece, I immediately thought of Steinem's - then searched around and found it here. (We love the internet!)
About three years ago, as glasnost was beginning and Ms. seemed to be ending, I was invited to a press lunch for a Soviet official. He entertained us with anecdotes about new problems of democracy in his country. Local Communist leaders were being criticized in their media for the first time, he explained, and they were angry. "So I'll have to ask my American friends," he finished pointedly, "how more subtly to control the press." In the silence that followed, I said, "Advertising."

The reporters laughed, but later, one of them took me aside: How dare I suggest that freedom of the press was limited? How dare I imply that his newsweekly could be influenced by ads?
Read, think, enjoy.

6.24.2005

big problem solved

Yesterday I told you about our day-of moving dilemma. Many phone calls and much discussion later, I think we've got it figured out.

Allan found a company that will rent us a van one-way to Buffalo. They only have passenger vans, not cargo vans, but that should work. The dogs will be very happy on the seat in back of us (their usual place in the car), and we can pack everything else on and around the rest of the seats. We'll have to be careful about how much stuff we leave out of the professional move, but that's fine, we should be anyway.

We'll rent the van for 4 or 5 days, to give us a little breathing room our first week in the house, which is sure to be exhausting and chaotic. At the end of the week, we'll rent a car in T.O., drive to Buffalo separately, return the van, then drive back in the rental car. It's not quite as simple as we were hoping, but on the other hand, not as insane as we were dreading.

This week's Sign That We Are Really Moving: we cancelled our Netflix membership! We hardly watch movies during baseball season anyway, and when the Sox are off, we need to get out of the house.

worse than china?

According to Pew Foundation survey, many Europeans have a more favorable view of China than of the US. Brief article here, and the actual survey results and analysis at Pew Global.

Thanks, you-know-who. Yes, I had seen it, but everything's a blur right now and you help me focus.

roots

You know I'm writing about the ancient world right now. These are the people who built the earth's first cities, who figured out how human societies could govern themselves, provide for each other, communicate, travel, and create on a large scale. On my timeline, humans have already made the shift from the hunter-gatherer to the agricultural society (the single greatest change in human history), and are now building complex, self-conscious societies.

Many modern people could imagine these ancients as their ancestors. It would be impossible to know, of course - no one can trace their family line back to 1500 BC. The chances of one family going back in a given region for 4,000 years is incredibly remote. Still, the series (which my book will be part of) will have international distribution, and it might be fun for a kid reading in, say, Japan, Peru or Greece to imagine his Yayoi, Moche or Minoan ancestors.

At the same time, by coincidence, I'm reading about the prehistoric world - early humans and what they can teach us about ourselves.

Leakey (or Lewin) is a marvel at illuminating the connection between these hominids who lived two million years ago and us, today. He always refers to the early humans as "our ancestors" and to humans as "our species". Maybe all paleoanthropologists do this, but I don't usually encounter it.

We are all one species. We are all human. No matter how our ancestry has diverged in the tiny period of time since records have been kept, we all share one common ancestry. The bits of DNA that give rise to different physical appearances are incredibly minute, some tiny fraction of a percent, compared to what all humans have in common.

This might sound corny, or incredibly obvious, I don't know. But Origins Considered is making this fact come alive to me.

The world I'm writing about seems so long ago. So much has happened on the earth since Pompeiians painted their frescoes, since Zapotecs played tlachtli. But in terms of Leakey's work, Pompeii was yesterday, or maybe 7:00 this morning.
Our planet is some 4.5 billion years old. Primitive life here began almost four billion years ago; the first life forms on land appeared some 350 million years ago; the first mammals, 200 million years ago; the first primates, a little more than sixty-five million years ago; the first apes, thirty million years ago; the first hominids, about 7.5 million years ago; Homo sapiens, perhaps 0.1 million years ago.
Way to feel insignificant - but in a good way.

politics, pucks and pride

I see there's some political news up north. As usual, I'll leave my Canadian readers to wrangle over it. I did notice, though, that this means the vote on gay marriage will happen sooner rather than later. Excellent!

I did like this bit, too:
The Conservatives could only sputter and fume after their unofficial partners in the Bloc Quebecois deserted them to join the Liberals and the NDP to cut off debate on the budget.

They compared their Liberal, NDP and Bloc opponents to crooks, Satan and Hollywood homicidal maniac Hannibal Lecter.
Now that's politics!

Lone Primate has informed me that I'll be able to participate in Canadian elections even without citizenship or the right to vote. I'm amazed! I will definitely investigate this as we get settled it. Not quite the "on arrival" list, but probably the "during the first six months" list.

Meanwhile, back in New York City, I haven't posted anything for Pride. Yesterday when I switched on our New York City local news channel - just to check the temperature outside my air-conditioned cocoon - I saw this story on a gay hockey league at Chelsea Piers. So happy Pride from wmtc to the NYCGH!

6.23.2005

speed bump

We're having a hell of a time figuring out one part of our move - namely, how to get us, our dogs and a few essentials safely from New York to Port Credit.

We're hiring professional movers, so 90% of our stuff will leave about 5 days before we do and arrive 10 days so after. No problem. We thought we'd rent a U-Haul for the four of us and the other 10% - clothes, computer, an air mattress and whatever other essentials we'll need before the moving van arrives.

Then we found out there are no U-Hauls with backseats. Can't put the dogs in a closed truck, can't fit them in the front with us.

Plan B. We'll rent a cargo van.

Nope, no one-way rentals to Toronto.

OK, plan C. We'll rent a cargo van to Buffalo, a few days later rent another car in Toronto, follow each other back to Buffalo to return the van.

Nope, no one-way van rentals to Buffalo.

This is getting very tricky.

We don't own a car, which probably sounds bizarre, but is very typical in NYC. It's very difficult to bring an American-owned car into Canada anyway, so we've been planning on renting until we can lease or buy a car in the Toronto area. But this latest wrinkle is proving very complicated.

Now we're looking at a one-way car rental to Buffalo for us, the dogs, and a bare minimum of stuff, then UPS the rest. Or else the same one-way car rental and hire a guy with a van to drive the other stuff instead of shipping.

Either way, it depends on the one-way car rental, which might not be possible. Allan is taking care of these phone calls while I write about the maurauding hordes of ancient Europe (Goths, Huns, Vandals, Scyths).

hodge-podge

Lone Primate alerted me to this quiz from the Globe and Mail. I thought it was about history, politics, maybe geography, but it's about Canadians, and what's on your minds. I scored much higher than I expected to, thanks to our little wmtc community.

ALPF noticed that David Wilkins is being sworn in as the new US ambassador to Canada. Wilkins was speaker of the South Carolina State Assembly for 11 years, so The State, a South Carolina website, weighed in on strained US-Canadian relations. The same story also has a very silly Canada quiz. I expect everyone here to score 100%.

The folks in Bangor, Maine, ask an excellent question.
"How can members of Congress avoid looking like anything but irrelevant busybodies if they will occupy themselves with Major League Baseball's steroid policy but refuse to consider information that President Bush may have intentionally misled the nation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein?"
Finally, in the Sun Is Hot department, the Democrats are wimps. Can you believe Dick Durbin apologized??? Yes. You can. Because you knew that he would. Because the Democrats are wimps.

6.22.2005

american voices

Letters to the New York Times today about the Guantanamo gulag.
To the Editor:

Re "Guantanamo's Long Shadow," by Anthony Lewis (Op-Ed, June 21):

I want to assure Mr. Lewis that despite his statement that "Americans have seemingly ceased to care" about the prison abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, this American, and everyone I talk with, continues to be outraged by it and cares deeply. It is the leaders of this country, specifically the Bush administration, who do not care and want our country to forget.

I am continually frustrated that as a citizen with little voice or power other than contacting my elected representatives and casting my vote, I lack the ability to move this country to take the appropriate action.

Mr. Lewis, please tell me what you would have us do.

Patricia Smith
Madison, N.J., June 21, 2005



To the Editor:

I agree with Anthony Lewis ("Guantanamo's Long Shadow"). And the longer we keep Guantanamo open, the more anger we will generate in the Muslim world.

The attack on 9/11 came not because the suicide bombers and their handlers were envious of our free democratic society but because of American foreign policy.

No matter how many terrorist plots we foil using new and better efforts, the only true safety for Americans will come when we become better world citizens, when we eschew military intervention and use diplomatic intervention.

I am an old woman, but I can dream, can't I?

Susan Stern
Chestnut Hill, Mass., June 21, 2005



To the Editor:

At a June 20 press briefing, President Bush, in response to a question about the detention of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo and elsewhere, said, "What do you do with these people?" I have one suggestion: You could give them a trial.

James Scalzo
Philadelphia, June 21, 2005



To the Editor:

Re "Who We Are" (editorial, June 18):

Americans are proud to be a society that lives under the rule of law, but our post-9/11 detention facilities were created specifically to sidestep accountability for prisoner abuse under any law, United States or international.

Our country will continue to pay an incalculably heavy global price till this self-righteous folly is ended.

Ted S. Corin
Austin, Tex., June 18, 2005



To the Editor:

Re "Who We Are" (editorial, June 18):

We should have closed Guantanamo and the other prisons where torture has occurred long ago, if only in self-interest.

As you correctly point out, abusive treatment of prisoners jeopardizes members of our own military, if captured.

But another selfish consideration should be what the torturing does to the torturers.

What becomes of our young people in the military who are asked or commanded to do the unspeakable to another human being?

Torturers seek to dehumanize the prisoner, but in fact, it is they who lose their humanity.

Is this "who we are"?

Bev Smith
Wheeling, W.Va., June 18, 2005
These letters do my heart good. They give me hope.

"people die in war"

Kyle sent this excellent piece by Anthony Gregory, at the Lew Rockwell site.

Gregory calls out the hypocrisy that demands a pound of flesh - anybody's flesh - in retribution for American lives, while "foreign" lives are shrugged off as expendable.
Before long in any discussion with an apologist for the warfare state one will hear this simple rejoinder to all talk of the devastation, calamity, and bloodshed wrought by the latest military intervention: "Well, yes, people die in war."

It is spoken as though it should shut off all concern for the innocent life expended in war's barbaric cruelty. The mere fact that "people die in war" is supposed to make us all realize that we have been utterly unrealistic and juvenile in denouncing or even mentioning the deaths in war. The proponents of war speak as though all costs in human life have already been stipulated and thoroughly considered, and it would be a waste of time for us ever to mention the dead again. Indeed, only a childish mind would have brought it up in the first place. We all know that people die in war.
It's very good, well worth your time. In closing, Gregory reminds us, "People die in war. They are killed. The greater peace that is promised never comes, the greater freedom guaranteed is never delivered..." Read more here.

a second wind

Speaking of tsunamis, we need one of the metaphorical variety.

"We've got new momentum. Now let's ride the wave." So says Medea Benjamin, co-founder of both (!!) CODEPINK and Global Exchange.

In an essay published a few days ago by Common Dreams, Benjamin writes:
For the history books, mark down June 2005 as the moment the US movement against the occupation of Iraq got its second wind. In June, the US public became solidly anti-war, Bush's approval rating took a nosedive, and a significant number of Congresspeople started to call for an exit strategy. This marks a seismic shift from just one month ago, when Congress overwhelmingly passed another $82 billion for war-with only 44 members of the House and not one Senator dissenting.

The continued violence in Iraq, the daily deaths of US soldiers, and the non-stop drain of financial resources has finally moved the anti-war sentiment from a much-maligned minority position to a mainstream one. A Gallup poll June 6-8 found that 6 in 10 Americans advocated a partial or full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for the first time, a majority said they would be upset with the president if he decided to send more troops. An Associated Press poll showed only 41% approved of Bush's handling of Iraq. With such negative perceptions of the war and 2006 midterm elections approaching, an increasing number of elected officials have finally started to listen to the public and push for an exit strategy.

Thursday, June 16 was a snapshot of just how much the ground has shifted.
Read the rest here.

remember the tsunami?

It's been six months since the tsunami caused mind-boggling death and devastation in countries on the Indian Ocean. Bill Clinton takes stock of what's happened since, and what still needs to be done.

I'm expecting at least one wingnut email telling me Bill Clinton caused the tsunami.

forty-one years ago yesterday

On June 21, 1964, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and James Earl Chaney, three young civil rights workers, disappeared in Neshoba County, Mississippi. Yesterday, one of their murderers was convicted (though not of murder).

Although I was too young when this happened to remember it first-hand, I feel an odd connection to the case. Andrew Goodman's mother, Dr Carolyn Goodman, lives in New York City; the local media checks in with her perennially, and has kept the case very much alive for New Yorkers. I mentioned this when Killen was indicted.

This New York Times story has some interesting reaction from jurors and other local people on the trial and the manslaughter verdict.

6.21.2005

happy solstice

I've been so holed up in the ancient world, I almost forgot to wish you all a happy solstice. In northern hemisphere, today is the first day of summer.

If you live in Alaska, you can play midnight baseball, or just open a beer, hang out at the game and stay up all night.

how the grand canyon was formed

This happened here yesterday.
No one knew quite what to call it. Residents and office-bound workers near the corner of 56th Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan approached it suspiciously, investigating yet another addition to the gorges that punish vehicles and texture New York's streets.

But if this was a pothole, it was a new breed - it was so deep it looked like an excavation site. Construction workers showed up and blocked off the street. Heavy construction equipment - backhoe loaders, actually - rolled down the block. Barricades were set up to keep the curious away.

Maybe a meteor had hit, one person remarked, or perhaps someone decided to install a seven-foot-deep pool in the middle of 56th Street, in front of a deli and a sushi restaurant.

"I don't think I've ever seen anything quite like this," said Ivan Sabio, the superintendent at 29 West 56th Street. "This is a first."

It took some time before Mr. Sabio and the others straining their necks for a glimpse into the mother of all potholes figured it out.

About 7 p.m. Sunday, a privately owned service line connected to the water main on 56th Street broke, and tons of dirt holding up the heavy asphalt above was washed away. With no support, the pavement gave way, opening a 20-by-15-foot chasm in the middle of Midtown and depriving some buildings of hot water and air-conditioning all morning. No one was reported hurt and no cars were lost.

"I told my son that that's exactly how the Grand Canyon was formed. . . "
It's the Grand Canyon of New York! And now I have to get to work.

no wonder i'm so alienated

It's the religion thing. I need a country with less of it.

According to a recent AP poll, "Americans are far more likely to consider religion central to their lives and to support giving clergy a say in public policy than people in nine countries that are close allies.".

In the usual sample size of 1,000 adults in each of 10 countries, "nearly all U.S. respondents said faith was important to them and only 2 percent said they did not believe in God". Two percent. Two.

Almost 40% of US respondents said religious leaders should try to sway policymakers - much higher than in other countries, including Mexico, Italy and Spain. Of course that means slightly more than 60% wanted religious leaders to keep their noses out of government, which is still a clear majority.
Only Mexicans come close to Americans in embracing faith, among the countries polled. But unlike Americans, Mexicans strongly object to clergy lobbying lawmakers, in line with the nation's historical opposition to church influence.

"The United States is a much more religious country than other similar countries, looks a lot like what you call developing countries, like Mexico, Iran and Indonesia," said John Green, an expert on religion and politics at the University of Akron.
That bit about Mexico is interesting: people in the traditionally Catholic countries don't necessarily want the Church to run their government.

And here's a shocker: the survey found that Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to think clergy should try to influence government decisions in this country. In other news, the sun is hot.

Most of the big news sources carried the results of the survey. The Boston Globe version is here.

Thanks, Kyle. I did Google News to find the poll results from a non-Fox source.

big, raw and full of surprises

The Times (UK) has some vacation tips for Brits looking for wide open - and friendly - spaces.
Oh, Canada! The best of the big country
Stunning scenery, vibrant cities, wilderness adventures and friendly airport security.

This summer, armies of Brits are expected to swallow the hassles and humiliations of US immigration for the amazingly restorative payoff of getting nearly two dollars for every pound in their pocket. Fair enough, but before you rush to join them, consider another America — a place where your money goes twice as far as at home, your passport is stamped with a smile and the travel experience still feels big, raw and full of surprises.

Canada is not only kind on the wallet (one English pound buys 2.25 Canadian dollars), but well stocked with the pleasures you find south of the border. It has world-class cities and a big mash of cultures; stunning scenery and profuse wildlife; spectacular roads and railways; and a full suite of activity holidays, from riding to canoeing.

What's more, the place has gone and become fashionable. Celebrities such as Robin Williams now holiday there regularly, and so many movies are made in Toronto that the hotels are awash with Willises, Jolies and Paltrows. Currently in town are Michael Douglas, Kim Basinger, Alan Rickman and Antonio Banderas. [Ed note: This cracks me up!]

Before you start planning, though, be warned: Canada is immense, second only to Russia for bulk. [Must be the donuts.] So how should a first-timer tackle the Big Moose in a two-week holiday? Simple answer: focus on one experience and save the rest for a second visit. Here are six classic ways to begin your adventures above the 49th Parallel.
It's a good story, and I have a feeling it will come in handy one day. I'm thinking that our first vacation as residents of this immense bulk will be a cross-country drive - we'd rent an RV and bring the dogs. We haven't made a great trip in several years - saving money for this stupid emigration thing! - and by next summer I will be really ready to hit the road. Maybe we can visit you all as we drive west.

huddled masses yearning to breathe free

ALPF and Kyle have given me a lot to mull over this morning, and it's a good thing, because I'm feeling too busy and pressured to find anything good myself. Some days the book deadline feels completely possible, other days it feels completely ridiculous. Book-terror level alert: fuchsia.

So let's see. Forget about the dirty war, Canada doesn't even want the US's dirty air.
The leader of Canada's most populous province said Monday Ontario is considering legal action against the U.S. government and American polluters in an effort to cut U.S. smog from coming into the province.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said they'll consider joining lawsuits already in progress against Washington and against big U.S. polluters. . . .

Ontario released a study Thursday showing that more than half of the air pollution hanging over Ontario comes from the U.S and costs Ontario $5.2 billion a year in health and environmental damage.
Canada will, however, take the people trying to clean things up. Really trying, big time. In this article from Canada.com, "Canada sets universal human rights model - offers training for activists from corrupt, war-torn countries".
Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Que. -- They have come by the dozen from many of the world's most authoritarian and corrupt countries to be trained in human rights advocacy, Canadian style -- though what they learn in this picturesque Quebec village could put some of them in jeopardy back home.

Described by their hosts as among the "most courageous people in the world," the participants in this training workshop have travelled from Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Zambia, Indonesia and 60 other countries. Many have escaped fresh conflicts to spend three weeks here, where they are discussing normally taboo subjects of religion and politics and absorbing the fundamentals of human rights.

It is risky. Some participants were reluctant to speak to the Citizen for fear of reprisals when they return home.

The program offers a respite from violence and fear, but it is impossible to escape the troubles completely. One Iraqi learned this week that her uncle and cousin had been kidnapped for ransom.

Still others couldn't even get to Canada. About two dozen, primarily from Africa, were refused visas for fear they might not return home, said Ian Hamilton, executive director of the Canadian Human Rights Foundation, which is hosting the program.

Mr. Hamilton said that by teaching human rights, Canada becomes a "powerful moral force in society." When the participants go home, equipped with new skills and knowledge, they bring what could be considered one of Canada's proudest exports.
So far, 2,500 people have attended the program, coming from Zimbabwe, Kosovo, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Nigeria, Cameroon, Thailand, Iraq, Yemen and Nicaragua, among other places. Participants take home an action plan, and nearly 70% of them find a way to implement it. Very cool story here.

6.20.2005

someone else's child

With Paul Krugman on vacation, Bob Herbert becomes the sole reason to read the New York Times. You know, the "paper of record" that has yet to report on the Downing Street Memo???

Today, Herbert asks the question that, for me, has always the bottom line. Would you send your child?

When I was growing up during the Vietnam War, my father used to say this all the time. Would they (the hawk politicians) send their kids? Of course, "they" did not. He had no intentions of sending his, either. My brother was of draft age, and my father, who was very political, explored whatever options there were to keep him out: exaggerating a knee injury, getting conscientious objector status, and if necessary, moving to Canada.

I have no idea if my father would have actually moved us north, though I know he would have done whatever it took to keep his son out of Southeast Asia. My brother "got a good number," as we said in those days, and I never found out.

Bob Herbert says:
It's easy to be macho when you have nothing at risk. The hawks want the war to be fought with other people's children, while their own children go safely off to college, or to the mall. The number of influential American officials who have children in uniform in Iraq is minuscule.

Most Americans want no part of Mr. Bush's war, which is why Army recruiters are failing so miserably at meeting their monthly enlistment quotas. Desperate, the Army is lowering its standards, shortening tours, increasing bonuses and violating its own recruitment regulations and ethical guidelines.
Daddy Bush didn't want Junior to go, either. Hell, Junior didn't even show up at his avoid-the-draft club, a/k/a the National Guard. (Let's not forget, folks, the Guard meant something different in those days. People joined to get out of the draft, period.)

My only quibble with Herbert is over this:
If the United States had a draft (for which there is no political sentiment), its warriors would be drawn from a much wider swath of the population, and political leaders would think much longer and harder before committing the country to war.
This should be true, but in reality, there is always a way out for the rich and connected. It has always been thus. Given the disparities of wealth and privilege in the US today, there is no reason to think it would be otherwise. I don't think a draft is the cure. Though with these dark hints of Osama in Iran, we may soon find out.

6.19.2005

and then they came for me

I'm sorry I didn't see this sooner. But we can still try to help this kid.

My pal Nick, who is emigrating to Canada with his partner Mason, posted this terrible news.
A blog that tracks the activities of ex-gay ministries made a post recently that sent shockwaves out. A 16-year old boy, Zach, has been sent to a residential treatment center for children who are struggling with homosexuality. The kid told his parents he was gay and they decided to send him off to what in my professional opinion amounts to a concentration camp. There is no therapeutic benefit to this program - it is all based on religious doctrine and encourages patients to kill [themselves]. The director of the facility believes in this type of therapy:

"I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery." -- The Final Indoctrination from John Smid, Director, Love In Action (LIA).
There's that culture of life again. What is wrong with these fucking people. Don't answer that. I just need to say it.

And please, don't tell me this is a hoax. These programs exist. This kid is real.

Nick has some ideas on what we can do. Please write a letter, send an email, tell your friends.

amazing but true

I just learned that yesterday - yesterday! - W claimed that the US invaded Iraq because of September 11th.

Nothing shocks me; very little even surprises me. But I am sitting here with my mouth hanging open, amazed at the sheer audacity of these people. I won't try to recap, I'll just link to Redsock, who found the whole story at DU. If you haven't seen this elsewhere yet, please go read it right away.

If people's lives weren't at stake, this would be a hilarious. Instead, it's enraging and heartbreaking and... I'm out of adjectives. Let me know if you have any I can borrow.

life blood

I know we're all besieged with requests for donations, and many of us also put our selves, as well as our wallets, on the line. I just wanted to alert you to an important and relatively painless option for the peace movement.

United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella group for more than one thousand anti-war organizations, is looking for people to join its "sustainer program," where a certain dollar amount is charged to your credit card every month or every three months. It can be as little as $5.00. Most of us can afford $5.00 or $10.00 a month without noticing a difference.

If you've ever done any political organizing, you know it can't be done without money. (If you haven't, take my word for it!) The internet saves a fortune, but funds are still needed.

I can tell you without reservation that UPFJ in New York City, at least, runs on an absolute shoe string. If you donate, you're not paying for administrative overhead or big salaries. You're building a movement.

Here's a bit from their email:
United for Peace and Justice is the largest anti-war coalition in the country with more than 1,200 member groups: national organizations, regional coalitions and local groups. We have the commitment of our member groups to work cooperatively in order to maximize our impact. We have a structure, with an elected national leadership, designed to encourage democratic participation and decision making. We have a dedicated and hard-working staff, prepared and able to take up the work of this broad coalition. We have several major campaigns in the works, as well as a massive mobilization planned for this fall, all of which are designed to target the strategic vulnerabilities of the Bush administration's war drive.

What we do NOT yet have in place is a steady, reliable flow of money coming in to make sure we can carry out our plan to strengthen and broaden the anti-war movement and bring the troops home!
Click here to join.

what i'm reading

It's been a while since my last What I'm Reading post. That's because I read the beginnings of several mediocre novels that I won't name. Good writers worked very hard creating them, and although they didn't do much for me, someone else is sure to love them. No need to trash anyone's work.

I'm about to start Origins Reconsidered - The Search For What Makes Us Human, Richard Leakey's follow-up to his famous Origins. If the author's name sounds familiar, it's because he's the son of the world's most famous paleontologists, Mary and Louis Leakey.

There's cool info about the whole family on their foundation's website. So much of what is known about early humans goes back to the Leakeys' groundbreaking work. Their granddaughter, Louise Leakey, carries on the family tradition. There's a profile of Mary and Louis in Time's "100 Most Important People of the Century".

From the Origins Reconsidered jacket:
... For Richard Leakey the most compelling question is no longer "How did we physically evolve?" It is, instead, "How did we become human?" For this world-renowned paleoanthropologist it is a humbling reminder that no matter how complete the skeleton, how perfect the fossil, there is a gap in our knowledge. Our ancestors evolved from two-legged scavengers into creatures that create. They learned to make stone tools, to communicate, to build shelters, and to hunt for food.

This realization sparked Leakey to return to his earlier work - especially his 1977 book, Origins - to poke holes in his previous beliefs and to reflect anew on what makes us who we are. As he gently admits, considerations like these are usually left to philosophers, not scientists. But again and again, he is faced with his own guiding principle: "The past is the key to our future."

In this seminal work, Leakey incorporates ideas from philosophy, anthropology, molecular biology, and even linguistics, to investigate not only how we evolved anatomically, but how we acquired the qualities that makes us human - consciousness, creativity and culture.
I think this sounds fascinating. These days it's popular to cherry-pick anthropology and paleontology out of context, and use selected (and often disputed) ideas to reinforce stereotypes - the "men are from Mars, women like repetitive tasks" crew. But as Jared Diamond showed us in Guns, Germs and Steel, those disciplines still have a lot to teach us.

I hope I can understand this book enough to enjoy it. Sometimes the science that fascinates me isn't written for my level of knowledge. Leakey's co-author, Roger Lewin, is a famous science writer, so maybe that bodes well.

for bigotry, press 1. for equality, press...

David Cho sent me a very amusing link. Click on I, II and III. If it's no longer the first entry, scroll down to "Anti Gay Phone Company".

Eugene Mirman, a writer, performer and filmmaker, doesn't quite have the 411 on these calls - what the company is, where the money goes - and I guess he's not inclined to research it. But the phone call are real.

Thanks to Mr Mirman - and thanks, David!

6.18.2005

his profound disappointment

What would we do without our liberal media. From Common Dreams, John Conyers's letter to the Washington Post, copied here in full.

June 17, 2005
Mr. Michael Abramowitz, National Editor;
Mr. Michael Getler, Ombudsman;
Mr. Dana Milbank;
The Washington Post,
1150 15th Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20071

Dear Sirs:

I write to express my profound disappointment with Dana Milbank's June 17 report, "Democrats Play House to Rally Against the War," which purports to describe a Democratic hearing I chaired in the Capitol yesterday. In sum, the piece cherry-picks some facts, manufactures others out of whole cloth, and does a disservice to some 30 members of Congress who persevered under difficult circumstances, not of our own making, to examine a very serious subject: whether the American people were deliberately misled in the lead up to war. The fact that this was the Post's only coverage of this event makes the journalistic shortcomings in this piece even more egregious.

In an inaccurate piece of reporting that typifies the article, Milbank implies that one of the obstacles the Members in the meeting have is that "only one" member has mentioned the Downing Street Minutes on the floor of either the House or Senate. This is not only incorrect but misleading. In fact, just yesterday, the Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid, mentioned it on the Senate floor. Senator Boxer talked at some length about it at the recent confirmation hearing for the Ambassador to Iraq. The House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, recently signed on to my letter, along with 121 other Democrats asking for answers about the memo. This information is not difficult to find either. For example, the Reid speech was the subject of an AP wire service report posted on the Washington Post website with the headline "Democrats Cite Downing Street Memo in Bolton Fight". Other similar mistakes, mischaracterizations and cheap shots are littered throughout the article.

The article begins with an especially mean and nasty tone, claiming that House Democrats "pretended" a small conference was the Judiciary Committee hearing room and deriding the decor of the room. Milbank fails to share with his readers one essential fact: the reason the hearing was held in that room, an important piece of context. Despite the fact that a number of other suitable rooms were available in the Capitol and House office buildings, Republicans declined my request for each and every one of them. Milbank could have written about the perseverance of many of my colleagues in the face of such adverse circumstances, but declined to do so. Milbank also ignores the critical fact picked up by the AP, CNN and other newsletters that at the very moment the hearing was scheduled to begin, the Republican Leadership scheduled an almost unprecedented number of 11 consecutive floor votes, making it next to impossible for most Members to participate in the first hour and one half of the hearing.

In what can only be described as a deliberate effort to discredit the entire hearing, Milbank quotes one of the witnesses as making an anti-semitic assertion and further describes anti-semitic literature that was being handed out in the overflow room for the event. First, let me be clear: I consider myself to be friend and supporter of Israel and there were a number of other staunchly pro-Israel members who were in attendance at the hearing. I do not agree with, support, or condone any comments asserting Israeli control over U.S. policy, and I find any allegation that Israel is trying to dominate the world or had anything to do with the September 11 tragedy disgusting and offensive.

That said, to give such emphasis to 100 seconds of a 3 hour and five minute hearing that included the powerful and sad testimony (hardly mentioned by Milbank) of a woman who lost her son in the Iraq war and now feels lied to as a result of the Downing Street Minutes, is incredibly misleading. Many, many different pamphlets were being passed out at the overflow room, including pamphlets about getting out of the Iraq war and anti-Central American Free Trade Agreement, and it is puzzling why Milbank saw fit to only mention the one he did.

In a typically derisive and uninformed passage, Milbank makes much of other lawmakers calling me "Mr. Chairman" and says I liked it so much that I used "chairmanly phrases." Milbank may not know that I was the Chairman of the House Government Operations Committee from 1988 to 1994. By protocol and tradition in the House, once you have been a Chairman you are always referred to as such. Thus, there was nothing unusual about my being referred to as Mr. Chairman.

To administer his coup-de-grace, Milbank literally makes up another cheap shot that I "was having so much fun that [I] ignored aides' entreaties to end the session." This did not occur. None of my aides offered entreaties to end the session and I have no idea where Milbank gets that information. The hearing certainly ran longer than expected, but that was because so many Members of Congress persevered under very difficult circumstances to attend, and I thought - given that - the least I could do was allow them to say their piece. That is called courtesy, not "fun."

By the way, the "Downing Street Memo" is actually the minutes of a British cabinet meeting. In the meeting, British officials - having just met with their American counterparts - describe their discussions with such counterparts. I mention this because that basic piece of context, a simple description of the memo, is found nowhere in Milbank's article.

The fact that I and my fellow Democrats had to stuff a hearing into a room the size of a large closet to hold a hearing on an important issue shouldn't make us the object of ridicule. In my opinion, the ridicule should be placed in two places: first, at the feet of Republicans who are so afraid to discuss ideas and facts that they try to sabotage our efforts to do so; and second, on Dana Milbank and the Washington Post, who do not feel the need to give serious coverage on a serious hearing about a serious matter-whether more than 1700 Americans have died because of a deliberate lie. Milbank may disagree, but the Post certainly owed its readers some coverage of that viewpoint.

Sincerely,
John Conyers, Jr.

To reach Milbank and the Post:
milbankd@washpost.com
webnews@washingtonpost.com
phone: 703.469.2500

harness this anger

Catching up on my blog-reading, I found this moving quote.

Fearless Leader said it's "hard work" comforting the families of soldiers killed in Iraq. This didn't sit well with Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, California. She knows something about hard work.
Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again.

Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby.

Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday.

Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big [brother] into the ground.

Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both. ...

We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people.

Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life ...
Original story here.

a big dig

The Loch Ness Monster. Bigfoot. Extra-terrestrials at Area 51. These mysteries pale in comparison to New York's most elusive creature: the Second Avenue Subway.

It's been talked about for, oh, about fifty years, ever since Robert Moses tore down the Third Avenue El with no thought to what would replace it.

Gene Russianoff, an amazing guy who puts the lie to every lawyer joke you ever heard, has been working for New York City public transit riders for almost as long. (I totally exaggerate.) But Russianoff, the anti-Moses, once again makes the case for the Second Avenue Subway. As usual, he's got a plan. Also as usual, it makes perfect sense.

imminent threats

I've been looking for more news about the two teenage girls who were abducted and "detained" - love that euphemism! - on suspicion of terrorism. I blogged about it briefly when one was released after six weeks: my post here and the story I linked to saved here by Islamophobia Watch.

The second girl was eventually released on condition that her family leave the country. The only charges filed were her parents' immigration violations.

Yesterday the Times ran a follow-up on the girl who was deported, with this CYA note:
This account is, in large part, her version of events. Some of it is supported by documents and other interviews, but it cannot all be corroborated because a court has sealed the case record at the F.B.I.'s request and barred participants from disclosing government information. The government has declined repeated requests to present its side.
The FBI says the girls' behavior set off "alarm bells". Pre-9/11, thousands of alarm bells were missed and ignored. Even on the fateful day itself, a few dozen more - too many to be dismissed as coincidence or incompetence - slid by. Now a 16-year-old girl chooses a life of faith, visits an internet chat room, and she's put in prison, then deported.

Americans who agree with this kind of thing often play the immigration card. When all other arguments fail, they say, Hey, her family was here illegally anyway, they should be deported. But the US immigration process is, to put it mildly, extremely difficult to navigate. It's an arcane, convoluted, byzantine system - a mine field.

In New York City, families like Tashnuba's are driving our cabs, repairing our buildings, preparing our food, paying taxes, and contributing to the life of the city. (Elsewhere, of course, they are mowing lawns and harvesting fruit.) Their half-baked immigration status often keeps them from participating more fully: they usually can't become citizens, so they don't vote or sit on juries. If something happens to them - if someone is raped, or sexually harassed, or taken advantage of by an employer - they are highly unlikely to report it, out of fear of discovery and deportation. They have only a tenuous, second-class status, and almost anyone can be deported on immigration violations. The system is designed that way.

Tashnuba Hayder herself sounds like a terrific girl - smart, strong and savvy. In prison with young drug offenders and girls being held for assaults, she was strip-searched regularly, forced to march at attention and forbidden to wear her Muslim dress.
"The F.B.I. tried to say I didn't have a life - like, I wasn't the typical teenager," Tashnuba said bitterly, fingering her long Muslim dress. "They thought I was anti-American because I didn't want to compromise, but in my high-school ethics class we had Communists, Democrats, Republicans, Gothics - all types. In all our classes, we were told, 'You speak up, you give your opinion, and you defend it.'"

The lesson backfired, she said, when she found herself stubbornly debating the Koran's definitions of jihad with the lead F.B.I. agent: Foria Younis, a Muslim immigrant of a much more secular stripe.

. . .

From childhood, Tashnuba embraced religion with a kind of rebellion. By 10 she was praying five times a day - and reproaching her more secular father, a salesman of cheap watches. At 12, Tashnuba even explored Christianity. But at 14, she adopted a full Islamic veil.

In part, she was emulating her closest friend, Shahela, an American citizen who, in an interview, described veiling as a way to oppose "the degrading treatment of women's bodies as commodities" and "to hold on to my faith after 9/11." It also provided Tashnuba a refuge from her parents' marital rifts and fragile reconciliations. Soon, the two friends were conducting religious classes for other girls at city mosques.

"This is what gives me an identity," Tashnuba said of her religion.
This speaks to something I mentioned yesterday: the religious zealotry in this country is very specific. Bible good. Koran bad. Faith-based my ass.

Meanwhile, because the government hides behind its own veil, we don't know whether Tashnuba was actually "an imminent threat to national security" or even if there was reason to think so.
Mike German, who left the bureau a year ago after a long career chasing homegrown terror suspects, said that the agency's new emphasis on collecting intelligence rather than criminal evidence has opened the door to more investigations that go "in the wrong direction."

"If all these chat rooms are being monitored, and we're running down all these people because of what they're saying in chat rooms, then these are resources we're not using on real threats," said Mr. German, who has publicly complained that F.B.I. management problems impeded terror investigations after 9/11.

The stress on intelligence increases the agency's demands for secrecy, to protect its sources. And secrecy, he said, leads to abuses of power.

"Perhaps the government has some incredibly incriminating piece of information and saved us from a terrible act of violence; it would make everybody feel better to know it," he said. "Conversely, if they did something wrong, the public needs to know that."

From the beginning, the government framed this case as purely an immigration matter. When a dozen federal agents plucked the girl from her home in a dawn raid on March 24, they cited only the expiration of her mother's immigration papers, telling the family that Tashnuba would probably be returned the next day.

Instead, after two weeks of frantic inquiries by her parents, The New York Times learned that Tashnuba was one of two girls being held, officially on their parents' immigration violations, but actually for questioning by F.B.I.'s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Her parents didn't even know where she was for two weeks! They were unable to find out without the help of media resources. And until the story came out - a full two weeks after she was abducted - she was held and questioned without representation. A minor. Think of it.

The Times story is really incredible. This is going on right under our noses.

6.17.2005

a library, of all places

Oops, I almost forgot an important follow-up. Naomi Klein and Aaron Mate decried a Montreal library's decision to remove some photographs by Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian photojournalist who was tortured to death in Iran, after some Jewish groups complained about supposed anti-Israeli bias.

When I blogged about it here, asking for follow-up, G the LB sent me this almost immediately:
On Friday, members of the Canada Jewish Alliance Against the Occupation held a mock book-banishing ceremony in front of the Côte-St-Luc library where Kazemi's photos had been on display.

A member of the group, Lillian Robinson, used metal tongs to drop a book into a bright orange biohazard bag. It was one of several books about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict that she and the Jewish Alliance borrowed from the library to make a point about freedom of expression.

"A library, of all places, is a place where all opinions, different opinions, are aired," Robinson says.

She says Zahra Kazemi's photos of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories belong in the library. She says it's absurd that a complaint about those pictures convinced borough officials to take them down.

"What are they afraid of? They're afraid of a woman who died for free expression, for freedom of the press," Robinson says.
Great stuff indeed. And for me, a little extra, as I'm always happy to see Jewish people speak up for what's right, instead of some narrowly perceived self-interest.

some scary thoughts

I have some cool stuff from ALPF, from two sources I never would have seen. (Extra thanks!)

In The Tyee, Raif Mair confronts "The problem with pre-programmed politicians".
Last week I offered, as one of the reasons the Tories will lose the next election, the fact that they are being hijacked by the religious right, just as has happened to the Republican party.

At last count there were some 15 actual or probable Tory nominations to fundamentalist Christians.

When I raise this question on air, I can expect a barrage of email asking: "Why are you afraid of fundamentalist Christians? And wouldn't it be better for the country if we had men and women of Christian morality in office?"

My answer to the first question is that I fear any politician whose views on anything are unbending and depend upon a philosophical commitment that is unbreakable.

Am I saying that I want politicians who change their minds with every shift in the prevailing wind? No, not quite that. I just don't want them preprogrammed. To me, fundamentalists of any religion are the reverse side of the communist coin. Each looks to accepted (by them) written authority when making a decision. Neither the Communist Manifesto nor the words of Mao and Lenin, however interpreted, should guide public policy. Nor should the writings in the Bible.

I make one exception to the latter statement – if the politicians guiding principle is "love thy neighbour as thyself", no one can complain.
That's it exactly, isn't it? It's not the politician's religion per se; it's possible that an elected official's religious beliefs could make her a better representative. It's the inflexibility. Read more, it's good.

In the excellent Dissident Voice, John Chuckman offers the scariest thought of all: "All Bush, All the Time, For the Rest of Your Life". Here's the idea: kill the 22nd Amendment, put in place to stop the people from getting what they might have wanted (more FDR), and keep BushCo running.
It has my full support, simply because I believe America needs a belly full of Bush before the world can expect any relief from the country's lunatic course. I know through long experience that what happens to the rest of the world carries little weight with most Americans. Since 9/11, America has been turning itself into a gated community, bristling with ferocious weapons, vis-à-vis the rest of the world, and the truth is we don't hear much outrage about it from America herself.

Americans are stubborn people, convinced of the virtue of whatever they do - even today you'd be hard put to convince many that cremating, poisoning, and blowing apart three million Vietnamese was anything other than heroic self-sacrifice in the name of freedom - so it takes a long time to alter course in America. Steering one of those gigantic super-tankers where you have to anticipate your turn miles ahead is almost child's play by comparison.

Lies have always been used to promote wars, and America's wars, despite the nation's ongoing flirtation with democracy, have been absolutely no different in character to those of despots over the centuries. We could say that it will be the test of democratic maturity when the American people are consulted and told honestly why they are being asked to start a war, but that seems unlikely to happen in our lifetime.

. . .

So I don't understand why any Americans are surprised at Bush's shameless lies. He's almost turned lying into a form of stand-up comedy. As soon as one lie's usefulness is ended, he smirkingly substitutes another, without pausing to consider any need for continuity between the two. It is hilarious to watch the leader of a great nation doing this, at least so long as you are not one of his victims.

The real puzzle is why Americans keep buying tickets to his act...
It's an excellent piece, and sure to offend those who still love the good ole USA, and those who still believe the Democrats are going to save it.

As much as I agree with Chuckman, I also sigh with sadness when I read this: "the truth is we don't hear much outrage about it from America herself". Are our dissenting voices not being heard?

hope for the future

A college senior writes about "an unspoken civil disobedience" and a new motto - why fight? - as Generation Y refuses to be taken in.

I'd personally like to see that joined with what he calls "our parents' wild flood-the-reflecting-pool protests" - private resistance, public demonstration of strength and support. But either way, it's hell no, we won't go.

He closes with this:
Maybe if you had in the first place, your electoral outlook for the next 20 years wouldn't seem so bleak. For now, enjoy the power you've got with this one little caveat in mind: Since you seem to want to play in your sandbox so much, you will end up fighting the war with something like "an army of one."
Thank you, Phill Provance. And congratulations on getting the Op-Ed in the Baltimore Sun!

three days in t.o.

On Fridays, the New York Times has a section called "Escapes," with a feature called "36 Hours In...". Today, it's Toronto!

Check it out and let me know what you think of the writer's choices. Of course you'll want to add your own.

6.16.2005

the resistance

army

Thanks to Redsock for this great pic.
Thanks to this man for doing this job.

"does anybody know what posthumous means?"

Most afternoons I take a break from writing to drink a mug of Irish tea and watch "Dallas". Yes, Dallas, the cheesy 1980s nighttime soap, which can be seen in endless reruns on SoapNet. Call it a guilty pleasure, or call it re-charging. I can't read on a break - I need to rest my eyes and my brain - and a mindless yet somehow compelling soap opera, especially one I've seen before (long ago, my roommate and I used to watch it on Friday nights), is the perfect thing to keep me away from the computer for an hour.

Most of the commercials during this hour are for household cleaning products and bizarre gadgetry like uber-mops or magnifying glasses you wear as a necklace. There is one striking exception: the US Army. Aimed at young people watching TV in the middle of the day, presumably without jobs or classes to attend, these ads take many different tacks. Education. Adventure. Pride. Independence. (I love that one. How could any military foster independence?) Becoming a man.

I'd love to see each one of these ads followed by one from our side. Pictures of torn bodies, a gory socket where there once was an arm, a shrapnel-ruined face. A former classmate learning how to use a wheelchair or work with a guide dog. They'd have soundtracks, too - shrieks of pain, parents sobbing at funerals.

It's heartening to read how recruitment efforts are sagging. And also to know the draft resistance is already organizing.

The excellent New York Times columnist Bob Herbert continues to sound the alarm about the government's nefarious recruiting efforts. Nothing is out of bounds in the quest for fresh cannon fodder.
With the situation in Iraq deteriorating and the willingness of Americans to serve in the armed forces declining, a little-known Army publication called the "School Recruiting Program Handbook" is becoming increasingly important, and controversial.

The handbook is the recruiter's bible, the essential guide for those who have to go into the nation's high schools and round up warm bodies to fill the embarrassingly skimpy ranks of the Army's basic training units.

The handbook declares forthrightly, "The goal is school ownership that can only lead to a greater number of Army enlistments."

What I was not able to find in the handbook was anything remotely like the startlingly frank comments of a sergeant at Fort Benning, Ga., who was quoted in the May 30 issue of The Army Times. He was addressing troops in the seventh week of basic training, and the paper reported the scene as follows:

" 'Does anybody know what posthumous means?' Staff Sgt. Andre Allen asked the 150 infantrymen-in-training, members of F Company, 1st Battalion, 19th Infantry Regiment.

"A few hands went up, but he answered his own question.

" 'It means after death. Some of you are going to get medals that way,' he said matter-of-factly, underscoring the possibility that some of them would be sent to combat and not return."

. . .

"Homecoming normally happens in October," the handbook says. "Coordinate with the homecoming committee to get involved with the parade."

Recruiters are urged to deliver doughnuts and coffee to the faculty once a month, and to eat lunch in the school cafeteria several times a month. And the book recommends that they assiduously cultivate the students that other students admire: "Some influential students such as the student president or the captain of the football team may not enlist; however, they can and will provide you with referrals who will enlist."

It's not known how aware parents are that recruiters are inside public high schools aggressively trying to lure their children into wartime service. But not all schools get the same attention. Those that get the royal recruitment treatment tend to be the ones with students whose families are less affluent than most.

Schools with kids from wealthier families (and a high percentage of collegebound students) are not viewed as good prospects by military recruiters. It's as if those schools had posted signs at the entrances saying, "Don't bother." The kids in those schools are not the kids who fight America's wars.
The column is here, and here's an earlier Herbert column about resistance to the recruiters. Good stuff.

drop in the bucket

There's a tiny bit of good news on the so-called Patriot Act. The House voted to block a provision that makes it easier for the FBI to snoop into library and bookstore records. Luckily both conservatives and liberals saw the danger in this Big Brother clause, and voted 238 to 187 against.
"Congress has begun to hear that civil liberties and privacy issues are important to Americans," said Representative Bernard Sanders, the independent from Vermont who led the effort to block the provision through a $57.5 billion spending measure. It covers the Justice, State and Commerce departments as well as federal science programs.

The White House has threatened to veto the measure if it impedes the Patriot Act, and Mr. Bush as recently as Tuesday personally urged lawmakers to renew the law.

"The Patriot Act is an important piece of legislation," Mr. Bush told Republican lawmakers at a fund-raising dinner. "It gives those folks who are on the front line of fighting terror the same tools - many of the same tools that are used to track down drug kingpins or tax cheats."
What about deserters? Liars? Anything in that bill to catch treasonous lying scum like you?

There may even be enough votes in Congress to over-ride the veto. This doesn't go nearly far enough, of course. But it's good to see a few members of Congress are awake.

censoring the dead

Naomi Klein and Aaron Mate, a journalist and researcher from Montreal, have a written an excellent and disturbing piece for Common Dreams.
Even after her death, it seems the attacks on Zahra Kazemi will not end. It was only two months ago that Canadians were stunned by new evidence that the Montreal photojournalist was tortured to death while in Iranian custody. Kazemi was arrested in June 2003 while taking photographs outside of a prison in Iran, the country of her birth. To punish her for this transgression, Kazemi's captors raped and beat her, according to a doctor who fled Iran to tell the story.

Close to two years later, there are new attempts to cover Kazemi's lens, to prevent her photographs from reaching public eyes only now the censorship is happening inside her adopted country of Canada. Last week Montreal's Cote St. Luc Library removed five of Kazemi's photographs from display after Jewish patrons complained of alleged "pro-Palestinian bias"; they left up the rest of the exhibition, which had already been displayed in Paris. Kazemi's son, Stephan Hachemi, called the removal of the Palestinian photographs "a violation of my mother's spirit" and rightly demanded that the library show the entire exhibit or nothing at all. So the library took down the entire show.

. . .

It's not too late to make things right. Kazemi's work must be immediately remounted, but on a much larger scale. It would be a particularly powerful gesture if members of the Canadian Jewish community, who are well known supporters of the arts, stepped forward to help hang Kazemi's photographs - all of them - on the walls of a major Canadian museum.

This would demonstrate that Canadians are capable not only of condemning censorship when it happens in far off countries, but are committed to defending the principles of freedom of expression and a genuine diversity of views and opinion here at home.

It would be a fitting, if modest, way to pay our respects to a Canadian hero who was murdered because she believed that these ideas are more than theoretical.
Similar issues arise - with similar results - in New York, where often, anything not from a 100% pro-Israeli point of view is attacked. And of course it happens on a much larger scale to any exhibit seeking to portray another side of any US war.

I'll try to follow this one, but if anyone sees an update, please feel free to send me a link. Klein's and Mate's story here.

6.15.2005

catapulting the propaganda

I read - and write - both fiction and nonfiction, and appreciate real quality in both. I also know the difference between them. From conversations with co-workers and students over the years, I've learned that not everyone does.

I've observed that the average person has a lot of trouble distinguishing between fact and fiction. I've seen people read newspaper ads - the full-page variety that many advocacy groups take out - as if they were articles. People read novels written in the first person and don't understand that the narrator is not the author. Basically anything printed between two covers is assumed to be fact, and any author assumed to be an authority.

These people aren't dumb. They aren't well educated, which makes them like most Americans. And they're not rare.

This is why the increasingly blurry line between news and entertainment - and there are so many examples, I can't begin to name just a few - is so dangerous. This is why the disinformation put out by the government, whether through CNN or the CDC (condoms don't protect against STDs! abortion causes breast cancer!) is not only unethical. It's dangerous.

An Op-Ed in today's New York Times speaks to this.
The Interactive Truth
By Stacy Shiff

It used to be that the longest unprotected border in the world was that between the United States and Canada. Today it's the one between fact and fiction. If the two cozy up any closer together The National Enquirer will be out of business.

More than 60 percent of the American people don't trust the press. Why should they? They've been reading "The Da Vinci Code" and marveling at its historical insights. I have nothing against a fine thriller, especially one that claims the highest of literary honors: it's a movie on the page. But "The Da Vinci Code" is not a work of nonfiction. If one more person talks to me about Dan Brown's crackerjack research I'm shooting on sight.

The novel's success does point up something critical. We're happier to swallow a half-baked Renaissance religious conspiracy theory than to examine the historical fiction we're living (and dying for) today. And not only is it remarkably easy to believe what we want to believe.

. . .

This week The Los Angeles Times announced its intention to exile the square and stodgy voice of authority farther yet. The paper will launch an interactive editorial page. "We'll have some editorials where you can go online and edit an editorial to your satisfaction," the page's editor says. "It's the ultimate in reader participation," explains his boss, Michael Kinsley. Let's hope the interactive editorial will lead directly to the interactive tax return. On the other hand, I hope we might stop short before we get to structural engineering and brain surgery. Some of us like our truth the way we like our martinis: dry and straight up.

Kinsley takes as his model Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia to which anyone can contribute, and which grows by accretion and consensus. Relatedly, it takes as its premise the idea that "facts" belong between quotation marks. It's a winning formula; Wikipedia is one of the Web's most popular sites. I asked a teenager if he understood that it carries a disclaimer; Wikipedia "can't guarantee the validity of the information found here." "That's just so that no one will sue them," he shrugged. As to the content: "It's all true, mostly."

What if we all vote on the truth? We don't need to, because we will be overruled by what becomes a legend most: entertainment. Twenty-one percent of young Americans get their news from comedy shows. Journalism once counted as the first draft of history. Today that would be screenwriting. As Frank Rich reminds us, the enduring line from Watergate - "Follow the money" - was not Deep Throat's. It was William Goldman's. And "Show me the money" was Cameron Crowe, not President Bush.
In this respect, the internet is a double-edged sword. Obviously it's been an incredible boon to those of us trying to counterbalance the avalanche of lies, to keep each other educated, to organize the resistance. I shudder to think where we'd be without it. I truly believe our use of the internet is forestalling the rise of fascism in the United States.

But any crackpot - and any government flak disguised as a journalist or blogger - can have a website. It's fashionable to sneer at the word "credentials". I don't care about credentials like a journalism degree or a media pass. But credibility is something we can't live without. We're not all authorities. All sources are not equally valid. There's a difference between a belief and a fact.

Stacy Shiff reminds us of the Big Lie that too many Americans still believe: "One in three Americans still believes there were W.M.D.'s in Iraq."

Read her essay here.

waiting a very long, long time

Rob, filling in for ALPF, sent me this excellent story.
Airbase hosts 1st military gay wedding

Two men were married in the chapel at Nova Scotia's Greenwood airbase in May, in what's being called the Canadian military's first gay wedding.

Lt.-Cmdr. David Greenwood, the base's head chaplain, said a sergeant and a warrant officer were married May 3 in front of about 45 guests.

"This couple had been waiting a very long, long time," said Greenwood, declining to give their names because he hadn't asked for permission.

In September, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriages is unconstitutional, effectively changing the definition of marriage in the province to "the lawful union of two persons to the exclusion of all others."

The military has said it's willing to host gay weddings in jurisdictions where it's legal.

Greenwood, an Anglican, did not perform the marriage but he did make the arrangements for the service while a United Church minister from nearby Wolfville performed the vows.

"I looked after the co-ordination in accordance with our military policy of receiving the couple with dignity and respect," said Greenwood.

"I was there to preach and welcome the community on behalf of the base chaplaincy."

While most Anglican dioceses in Canada do not perform same-sex marriages, the Canadian church has postponed its official decision until 2007.

Greenwood said the ceremony was relaxed and low-key, and there wasn't a dry eye in sight when the couple signed the marriage documents.
All I can say is: Way to go, Canada! Full story here.