Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Idiot's guide to News

When the greasy, misogynist pundits prefer circuses, beer over real information, Rome gets dumber...

As pointed out by Michigan Professor Juan Cole's blog, MSNBC news anchor Mika Brzezinski is shown fighting with fellow "journalist" Joe Scarborough on the lead story.

The choice is between Republicans turning against Bush on Iraq and Paris Hilton's release from jail.

Let's see... a global political issue that affects the future of U.S. standing in the world and Middle Eastern disruption...or a story about some spoiled, drunken, coked-out tart who can't keep her pants on let alone stay out of jail for being an asshole.

It's too bad stupidity rests with the "deciders," like Joe Scarborough, who don't know a story of importance from their asshole.

Keep on being real, Mika.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Glenview. Hi, we're in Glenview

I got an interview with the Sun-Times News Group for a Web job in this city, Glenview, IL.

After the interview, I wandered around Chicagoland.

With the help of a very kind homeless lady with excellent customer service (note to CTA: she's looking for a job and is a knowledgeable, friendly face), I used one of Chicago's many Metras to head to the northern village (25 minutes).

I really do see the draw of using commuter train. They pollute little and are on time, which is a far cry from the bus hook-up that made me a tad late this morning.

Commuter rail is a must have here in Madison, especially with daily commutes inward from Milwaukee, Sun Prairie, and Middleton.
On trolley's, I'm not entirely sold...

Anywho, here are some happy sights of Glenview for the kids...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Coulter takes it to the next level - From nonsense to complete nonsense

I do have qualms with some of the fund-raising through 501(c)4's, and use of said funds by the Edwards presidential campaign.

But Ann Coulter had taken it to the nonsensical level, personal attacks such as implying that John Edwards is gay, and that the Edwards couple uses their son's death to raise funds. And don't forget when she said that when she would talk about John Edwards in the future, she'd wish he'd been in a terrorist assassination plot.

Then Elizabeth Edwards took her to task, politely asking her to stop...

Coulter initially denies ever making a personal attack. What?
And then Coulter doesn't distinguish between the sort of attack she made and the sort of criticisms that I have, other policy criticisms.

"She's asking me to stop writing..." says Coulter. What? That wasn't the case.

Of course, it should come as little surprise that she puts things in a black and white paradigm, and that Coulter uses criticism of her actions to go off on some tangent, which has nothing to do with the discussion.


We should all be aware of the amount of vitriol that we send to partisan opponents.

On the left, Al Franken and Michael Moore are prone to hark on President Bush's problem with alcoholism, or the hijinks of his daughters.

There's enough real criticism of Bush's foreign policy, attacks on civil liberties, No Child Left Behind, cronyism...

The CIA cares about you

Well, I'm glad the CIA finally fessed up to war crimes and spying on anti-war "dissidents." As the New York Times reported, that was decades ago. Wire-taps and toppling foreign governments is all over now, so I can finally be at ease...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The silent revolution

Shirin Ebadi, a bulldoser of Autocrats.
(courtesy of the Associated Press).

Nobel laureate and Iranian human rights lawyer, Shirin Ebadi is railing against Iran's judiciary for giving more lenience to criminals than political dissidents, reports the BBC.

The story at the beginning of this year was on how U.S.-Iranian journalist Parnaz Azima was illegally detained while returning to Iran to visit her mother.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's thugs charged the Radio Farda journalist of "spreading propaganda" on Western airwaves. Azima has since had her passport revoked and had bail set at $500,000.

Ebadi, who has been barred from seeing clients, says Azima's bail is 50 times larger than a confessed rapist. She denounced the situation in a letter to head judge Ayatollah Hashemi Shahroudi.

Ebadi presents signs that a democratic movement of free speech and individual liberty is alive in Iran.

Her letter is a big deal given the state crackdown. The New York Times reports that Ahmadinejad has sent letters to news editors across Iran warning them not to talk about certain topics, professors were warned about going abroad, and some students have been "disappeared" to prisons.

All the while, Iran's economy is allegedly in a rut as the government hardliners focus on dubious issues. They castigate former moderate President Mohammad Khatami for breaking religious law by shaking an unknown woman's hand. Students are silenced in the interests of national security. !!

Saber rattling by the U.S. administration, hawks and stupid democrats like Lieberman, are only giving Ahmadinejad more of a reason to clamp down.

You know, dumb things like McCain's "Ba Ba Ba, Bomb Iram," are far from the needed soft diplomacy that would recognize dissidents, enact change.

Ebadi has the best retort: "winning an election does not confer the right to rule without respect for human rights."

Divorce court

For most people in Madison, cars as more of a pain than a convenience. This seems to be a growing contention among mid-size and large U.S. cities. But I believe Madison had the first human-automobile divorce proceedings in the Midwest.

The first divorce was at the Orpheum theater, where ride-sharing program Community Car was on tap to register new customers.

"'Own less and live more,' is the Community Car motto," says newly divorced Brent Sainsbury to thedailypage.

New Isthmus intern James T. Travis (and fellow UW J-schooler) got more of the details.

Here's some photos of the new divorcees.

And an article by Bill Novak at The Capital Times.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Hip Hop Jesus

This is a little late...

But Saturday brought some Christian spoken word, with a multi-ethnic audience clapping along. I have to say that I'm skeptical when I hear people preaching about Jesus on Library Mall.

You can run into people denouncing gay marriage and abortion while holding up pictures of dead fetuses. Usually some drunken fratboys, coupled with a few philosophy majors, are fighting back.

And don't get me started on the baptist accordion quartet. They looked like nice enough gents, smiling and performing Christ-infused polka. That is, until they passed me a illustrated pamphlet on how unbelievers are all doomed to hell.

I digress...

The Saturday hip-hop evangelists were actually refreshing, speaking about such things as faith helping people out of poverty and despair.

"We're not talking about religion, we're talking about love," rapped the emcee as b-boys danced and the crowd clapped. Now that's a message I can respect.

Plus, I got a laugh out of their low-riding wheels.

As the metal band Ministry said, "Jesus built my hotrod."

Saturday, June 23, 2007

I like this guy

Ron Paul

It's usual that so-called fringe candidates have so much to say. Such as the idea that using force to meddle in others affairs may have some blow-back. Maybe the policy of the CIA taking out democratically-elected governments (Chile, Iran) has made other countries more likely to be pissed at the West, embrace a fundamentalist ideology?

The cusp...The CIA itself is doing a mea culpa over 30 years of spying on dissidents, taking out leaders, funding insurgents. Though the problem is, the CIA is saying, "that was then, we're better now." Really?

Also Ron Paul has this crazy idea that democracy should be spread by example instead of bombs. What is even more crazy is that Republicans are bashing him, though when you think of the insane amounts of dollars spent on defense, and the damage of war on markets, are hawk Republicans being conservative?

And that government ought to stay out of the bedrooms and private lives of gay couples. It's like he makes a distinction between public good and private belief...

I may not agree with Paul on privatizing all government entities. E.g. available, quality health care isn't necessarily a profit-making venture for privatization. And his stance on choice and government environmental protection (although, where has that gone?).

But I hope this guy has a high place in the next administration, instead of the comedy relief/puppets running now at the head of both parties.

The clip below is good, except Bill Maher's stupid talk about how everyone loved Clinton and JFK.

The whole legitimacy thing

Afgahn presdient Hamid Karzai criticizes lack of coordination between Coalition and NATO forces for the number of civilians killed in the last week by bombings.

Karzai's only, very reasonable, request is that the forces let his government know before any military strike. It is the Afghani's country after all.

As the Bush administration is considering a quicker close to Guantanamo in light of loss of U.S. standing in the world, the loss of Afghan and Iraqi civilians also contributes to the West's credibility gap.

Few leaders do have legitimacy to Afghanis, considering that they are fighting against the Taliban, while they continue to be bombed by outsiders who are supposed to "help" them in that fight.

The result is that "reactionary" forces seem more appealing. If civilians continue to be bombed, the West has helped create another enemy for itself.

Much like after Reagan's use of the Taliban to fight against the Soviets, the vacuum left as the West pulled out created an optimum recruiting environment for al Queda.

History repeats itself.

World Leaders 1.2

Here John Stewart talks about those running for the U.S.'s highest office.

Remember, these people are making life and death decisions for us all...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Live-Blogging Educational Beats

A crowd of about 250 gather in the Wisconsin Historical Society Auditorium as an incoming freshman at UW-Madison and first poet takes the stage.

"God decides who is saved or not, so leave it up to him," he says of the gay-marriage rights debate. "People never get to share in matrimony because they are anatomically similar...You say you speak for God, but God never talked about ignorance."

The crowd gazes as the poet denounces hypocrisy, misogyny and bigotry. Applause erupts as he ends: "You don’t have to accept (gay-marriage rights), just respect it."

The poet is one of 15 in the First Wave Spoken word and Urban Arts learning community. The program, to start in the fall, is a UW-Madison community for bright youth to use hip-hop in education.

This Friday night meeting brings together the new school with the old school as four MC's initiate the next generation, talking of the history of hip hop and where it has come.

From Left: Baba Israel, K-Swift, Queen God-Is and Jamaican native DJ Kool Herc, the father of hip-hop.

"I didn’t think Hip Hop would get this far." says D.J. Kool Herc. "Now it's a tool to reach kids."

But before hip-hop was a movement, Herc says the musical influence started with his father, who infused in him a cornucopia of music to train the ear: Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, James Brown.

Herc built monster sound systems, using records as his tools. Starting from block parties in the 1970s, he says the goal was to bring people together.
"Don't smoke pot in here. You got a problem with someone, take it outside."

And so started the hip-hop movement, and an interactive culture that would evolve into a form of teaching.

"This is a dream come true," says Baba Israel, an international touring artist. Hip-hop "is a powerful way to engage young people, but also to open up teachers..."

When he was in school, Baba Israel notes how poetry and the urban arts were not encouraged, how he had to do poetry, rhymes on the side.

"It made me think about race, history, racial injustice," he says. "I wasn’t getting it from teachers, I got it from the music. Kids who sat silent in the back of the room, are now at the front of the class."

Hip-Hop artist and educator K-Swift added that he was one of those kids who secretly used urban art to learn. At age 12, he says he wrote rhymes, got interested in literature, and even used rhymes, mnemonics to learn chemistry and biology.

"It's about expanding your mind through the art," K-Swift says. He's happy that institutions like UW are taking not of this potential. "There's nothing as extensive and comprehensive as what's going on here."

That some teachers ignore the ability of hip-hop to be a tool, tending to ignore the identities of students, is a travesty to hip-hop artist and producer Queen God-Is.

"You can’t teach kids with your back to them," she says.

God-Is explains that students already have poetry, physics, biology within their everyday experience, and it's up to teachers to bring it out in a way that kids understand.

The four panelists agreed that the divisions among music, be it hip-hop, rock, metal, jazz, were infinitely less important than musics common story-telling character. In that way, music that speaks to individuals can be used to unite, and ultimately, to enact positive change.

"If it is music that’s good for people, I’ll play it," says Herc. "Listen to music that makes you want to do something for your future."

The First Wavers all clapped before more of their spoken word performances implied that the future would be bright.

A last performance by a member of the First Wave program for select incoming UW-Madison freshmen.

For more information on Youth Speaks Wisconsin and the First Wave learning community, see UW-Madison's Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives Web site.

See a related post.

Frankenstein and you

Frankenstein (aka Phil Hands) at the Wisconsin State Journal stormed the state capitol today in hopes of persuading movement in the state legislature to ban the so-called "Frankenstein veto."

Not only is it informative via testimony, that Doyle has gradually changed his mind on yanking the veto as it has allowed him amass power over the years and that it's unfair to yank it when the Doyle term is up, but the editorial is damn hilarious.

Imagine a green-headed monster going up the stairs to talk to state Sen. Fred Risser, nodding his head with statements on government reform.

There is a second meaning, however, intentioned or not. The editorial points out state politics for what it is, theatrics.

It's great that the paper is bringing political cartoons to life, kudos to the State Journal and Phil!

To see this fine piece of work, click here.

For more on the Frankenstein veto, and a perspective on why the ban needs tweaking, check out this Capital Times column.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Work this

John Edwards's campaign is alleged to be all about helping the working class, raking in millions from unions. But with tax-exempt orgs and $400 haircuts (using campaign money), is he really authentic?

The New York Times reports that Edwards used much funding from a charitable organization for travels, campaign materials, staff, information from advisers...

The Center for Promise and Opportunity is an IRS 501(c)4 organization. That is, it's primary focus is mandated by law to serve some public interest, though it can engage in some political advocacy. The revenue from donations is tax-exempt for the org, thought the donors who supply said revenues cannot claim any tax exemptions on their gifts.

This is different from a 501(c)3 org, which is restricted from any political campaigning, but both the donor and the organization enjoy tax exemptions. Such things as churches, synagogues, service orgs like Goodwill.

But the fact that most of the donations funded campaigning has raised eyebrows on the limits that Edwards pushes the IRS tax code.

He also has to worry about a credibility gap. The man who inspires working class people to give up hard earned money should be wary of filling his own coffers, using their money to pay for his plane tickets/haircuts. These donors can't even write it off.

Wisconsinites and the next pres

Wisconsin loves Giuliani and Gore, with the latter pulling in 64 percent among Republicans, and the former pulling in 62 percent among Dems in the latest Badger Poll.

Following the footsteps among "net favorability" were

Tommy "the gay/jew basher" Thompson at 58 percent
John "bomb Iran" McCain at 16 percent
Mitt "Ann Coulter wants me" Romney at 4 percent

Hillary (blame Iraqis) Clinton 60 percent
Barack (I talk nice) Obama at 57 percent
John (the trial lawyer everyman) Edwards at 54 percent

Meanwhile President Bush has favorability rating of 26 percent of Americans, according to the latest Newsweek poll. This is between the lowest for his father (29 percent) in a '92 Gallup poll and the lowest for Nixon (23 percent) in a '74 Gallup poll.

No mention of Fred Thompson in the Badger state this time around, though he did top a straw poll held in Lake Geneva mid-May.

UW-Madison Political Guru/Pollster Charles Franklin, on his blog, notes Fred Thompson is eclipsing Sen. McCain nationally, even though both are pretty similar on the issues.

Dems and Reps, mostly wrong

As Democratic and REpublican presidential candidates, as well as many congress members debate the futility of the IRaq situation, what is disturbing is the tendency to blame Iraqis.

Hillary et. al. call for benchmarks so that the Iraqis "step up to the plate" for the security of their country. While Republicans, for the most part, clamor about how they'd extend Guantanamo Bay. It's like Rudy and Mitt are having a pissing contest on how tough they can be with rogue nations.

Hmmm, many in the rest of the globe consider the U.S. to be a rogue nation.

Politicos say that Iraq leaders just aren't doing enough to insure security for their people, to quash "sectarian violence" sprouting up in the green zone and elsewhere.

But what about the failure of U.S. leadership? Invading Iraq after a brutal dictatorship expecting things to be puppies and rainbows, roses tossed at the troops.

Some parts of the country have less electricity and job prospects than under Saddam. How about Abu Ghraib's scourge brought on by Western treatment, driven by the highest levels of defense. What of the amount of looting allowed and decision by Paul Bremer to purge Iraq of Baathist elements who have experience to rule?

The Iraqi's didn't bring all of this on themselves, though tensions between Shia and Sunnis doesn't help. They got caught up in what UW alumnus/Washington post correspondent Anthony Shadid calls "The U.S. war in Iraq."

Politicos don't seem to recognize that Iraq and Iran have a history of a bright civilization with preservation of the arts and sciences. Though that was muddied further when English and French colonialists grasped for oil in the early 20th century.

OF course, the ones in charge usually don't have problems finding scapegoats.

For a look into the Iraqi consciousness, see this blog by an Iraqi teenager who's lost most of his family.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Burning Break

As the world is burning itself to the ground, it's a good time to take a break and go to the beach. So with my trusty laptop and digital camera, I find myself in paradise for a couple of days with the fam and girlfriend at Daytona Beach Shores.

Early this morning, the sunrise over the Atlantic ocean was magnificent.
Here's photos for the kids at home:

As I read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, I figure that's the kind of journalism that I really want to do.

Hip Hop in the Classroom

A Cap Times article by yours truly on a new teaching technique.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Two steps back

Palestine has erupted into chaos as Hamas takes over Gaza and President Mahmoud Abbas scraps the government, blaming the internal strife on Hamas, and calls for new elections.

I remember four months ago when there was some sign of hope for a coalition between Abbas and Prime Minister Ishmael Haniyeh via the Mecca accords, with the bringing together of a unity government. Hamas even agreed to respect prior peace agreements made by the PLO, though didn't specifically address Israel.

The only G8 groups that considered backing the accords were Germany, France and Russia, with the U.S. only agreeing to meet with Abbas.

It's possible to partially blame the West for lack of progress there. The U.S. and Israel were as stubborn as Hamas about conditions in the international "peace process."

The U.S.-Israel camp conditioned restoration of foreign aid if Hamas reject violence, recognized Israel, and past agreements. Hamas wanted to keep the slightly altered (Mecca Accords) status quo vis a vis Israel, in turn for restored aid.

In the midst of the February talks, a Rural Sociologist and West Bank native at UW-Madison, with whom I talked, made a common yet poignant observation. The good professor pointed out, who the hell are Israel and the U.S. to make demands when they don't really embrace peaceful terms with all of Palestine? Israel doesn't recognize Hamas as an authority despite both allowing state-sponsored violence against civilians.

On the other hand.

The West does not deserve the entire blame for the current situation. Hamas was so horizontally organized that internal strife was already common despite the Mecca Accords.

Even if Haniyeh had complied with Israel's demands (less likely than a snowstorm in the West Bank), pissed off, fragmented groups would have still lobbed missiles.

What happens in the planned new elections is another sign of whether there could be any progress for reconciliation between Fatah, Hamas, let alone Israel in the next 20 years. And this is all the more convoluted with Syria and Iran's involvement.

Abbas has been able to pull off small miracles in the past. Let's just hope the U.S. doesn't support him so much that he or the government there are even less legitimate than now. Or that Abbas doesn't get killed.

For a BBC take, click here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Online news of tomorrow

Broadcast Engineering says a study predicts that online news will overtake TV news within the next five years.

"The data came from a Harris Interactive poll on newspapers and online sites and was released last week at the World Association of Newspapers conference in Cape Town, South Africa. The research came from a poll of 8749 adults taken last month in seven countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and Australia."

Among other findings, people want more local news coverage, as well as more in-depth analysis.

If you watch TV news this should come as no surprise. CNN, FOX et. al. are filled with pestilent platitudes.

I rather prefer doing news online, including videos, games, interactive polls. Newpapers seem to be catching on to that.

Cap Times has jumped on the scene with video-editorials using images and music, as well as open-commenting after stories. Sometimes the comments are nuts, but doesn't that add to the fun?

I mean, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad left me a comment just last week...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Save Me, Julie Kogon

Writing about his hometown of New Haven, Conn, novelist Allen Ruff invites the reader into a world that existed beyond the confines of Yale's protective ivy enclosures. His new book, Save Me, Julie Kogon, features a charming, yet bittersweet view into that scene, a glimpse at the underbelly of a Jewish urban scene that has all but disappeared.

"Whenever you think about the past and piece things together, the writing becomes therapeutic, even cathartic, says Ruff, at the reading of his book Sunday at Avol's bookstore.

The story itself is about a son, Davey Rabin, flying from his home in the Midwest to visit his childhood roots of New Haven. The occasion? The "ol' man," Harry Rabin, has gone stiff, and Davey must go to bury Harry.

Davey's own apprehension about seeing his family, and the ensuing mishigas (for Yiddish trans. click the link), is shown by instructions to his wife, Annie, to pretend it's all a movie.

He ponders about his own life: "Forty years old tomorrow, I got gray in my beard already and I gotta bury the old man. Happy Birthday!"

Ruff's Sunday reading at Avol's was of Chapter 7, "The Obit" where the reader comes into contact with intertwining, perhaps little known facets of the life of Harry and the family tension therein.

Davey and his brother, Howard, wonder why Harry's last words were "Save me, Julie," when they couldn't recall any particular Julie in Harry's life.

Davey bemoans the Rabbi overseeing the funeral as a shmuck. He writes Harry's obituary on the 80 MB hard drive computer, initially blaming the death on the "malpractice and professional incompetence on the part of the staff in the Intensitve Care Unit at Yale New Haven Hospital," rather than the old age and cigar habit.

Davey notes how he'll see his black sheep brother, Mickey, at the funeral, who will likely bring along his girlfriend to have a cat-fight with Mickey's wife.

The reader also learns of a long-lost sister, Alexandra, from an affair Harry had after fighting with mom. The sister does have Harry's shnoz. The brothers almost include their newly discovered sister in the obituary as "an illegitimate daughter named Alexandra from down state somewhere," right before Davey drives down and delivers the obit to the Journal Courier. They wonder if the Alexandra's mother is named Julie.

The realism of the story is that it's somewhat identifiable with everyone's family: the unknown parts of family history, the conflicted acceptance of annoying family members, and the feeling of being frozen in time during times of laughter and tears.

As Ruff notes, the tapestry of quirks and questions unravels further. With deft touch, and familiar dialogue, the reader is pressed to look for more.

Will a cat-fight between a mistress and a wife interrupt the funeral? Is Julie Kogon Alexandra's mother? What other secrets lie in the family after Davey escaped for the Midwest?

A sample of the novel follows as the story begins with Harry's hard-drinking, best friend and undertaker...

"1989...Louie Vellner just sat and stared at the body of his lifelong friend, barely recognizable without any clothes, lying there on the morticians's table. The aged undertaker figured it must have been well over an hour since they wheeled Harry in from the van, removed him from the zippered body bag, and slid him onto the slab. That made it more than two since they had gotten the call from Yale New Haven to come get his old crony. But Louie, dressed in a body length surgeon's gown, a surgical mask tucked under his chin, hadn't done a thing since he removed the hospital tubes from the corpse's nose and mouth and peeled the tape from his arms."

"He sat there and stared at the body as he sipped deeply from a glass of Johnny Walker, his long-time anesthetic of choice, and took a moment to pour another belt from the half-empty bottle resting nearby on the cart that he had wheeled within reach before sitting down. He realized that he was beginning to get as stiff as his old friend, knew he must get to work, but found it impossible to move. He felt as if he had suddenly lost all the skills and know-how that came with more than fifty years in the business. He reflected on how it had rarely troubled him before, after all he had seen, the thousands he had prepared. How it had suddenly become so very difficult, now that it had come time to bury so many of his old friends. And Harry was the most difficult to date. 'Time to get the hell out,' he thought."

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Contraception, helping rape victims, and the old guy in the sky

Davidoff at the Cap Times reports about the discord between state Republicans regarding a bill that mandates emergency contraception at hospitals. This before an assembly vote on the matter.

The fact that it only applies to rape victims has likely made the bill more palatable to conservative groups such as Wisconsin Catholic Conference and Wisconsin Right to Life, who are not opposing the bill. Regardless, some state senate Republicans voted "ney" as part of a tiny minority.

The assembly vote is not certain as there is a slight Republican majority. The bill's co-sponsor state Rep. Terry Musser, R-Black River Falls, and ally state Rep. J.A. Hines, R-Oxford, are concerned about the political viability of their party in the next election cycle.

I'm pleased that state Sen. Mike Ellis and state Rep. Dean Kaufert, both Republicans from my hometown of Neenah, made the good sense decision to support it.

Kaufert has a nice bar in Neenah as well, delivering Spotted Cow and delicious chicken tenders...

Iran and US, revisited

This sent to me by historian\cab driver\book writer-seller Allen Ruff

Original source: Counterpunch, June 2007, as noted on the Nasir Khan Blog. (Supplemented by hyperlinks of other sources)

"Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's election as president in June 2005 has not made dialogue any easier, given his taste for provocative statements, particularly about the Holocaust and Israel. But Iran is a big country rich in history and there is more to it than
its president. There is much tension within the government and Ahmadinejad had severe setbacks both in the local elections and in elections to the Assembly of Experts in December 2006. There are substantial challenges, economic and social, and forceful demands for more freedom, especially among women and young people. Iranians refuse to be regimented and the only strong card the regime has to win their loyalty is nationalism, a refusal to accept the kind of foreign interference suffered
throughout the 20th century."

However, War monkeys may not get it...

"...the war on Iran has already begun. Many sources confirm that the United States, bent on destabilising the Islamic Republic, has increased its aid to armed movements among the Azeri, Baluchi, Arab and Kurdish ethnic minorities that make up about 40% of the Iranian population. ABC News reported in April that the US had secretly assisted the Baluchi group Jund al-Islam (Soldiers of Islam), responsible for a recent attack in which some 20 members of the Revolutionary Guard were killed. According to an American Foundation report (1), US commandos have operated inside Iran since 2004 (Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner)."

Not exactly news, but gives some context to my previous posting.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Revolutionary Kin?

Newsweek highlights the trials of Arab bloggers in a time when radical elements of power reign supreme.

Dissidents rail daily in their own ways against their governments, much like many patriots before them. A growing movement of discontent dwells beneath the surface of leaders who may put little value on the creativity and intelligence of their citizens.

Sounds somewhat familiar...

Featured in the Newsweek article is a "cynical, snarky, pro-US..." Egyptian writer who runs the blog 'Rantings of a Sandmonkey'. The writer in question got some heat for posting a video of an Egyptian bus driver being sodomized by police. He has since stopped blogging.

Also featured is Syrian blogger Ammar Abdulhamid, who runs 'A Heretic's Blog'. An alumni of UW-Stevens Point, he blogs from Maryland after being exiled from his country for railing against "the thug," President Bashar Assad. Abdulhamid credits receiving less severe punishment to the fact that his mother, Mona Wasef, is a famous Syrian actor.

These examples remind of the reformist blogs in Iran that were shut down soon before the coronation of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The Neo Cons call for regime change. Perhaps they are correct in some way. But the organic discontent from within the country needs to lead it. Otherwise, it's likely the whole prospect will likely be seen as a movement for Western interests.

Revolution takes time. The movement seems instantaneous, but the result must clear several roadblocks.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Vang Pao Where?

Well, the guy who I somewhat defended got arrested for planning a coup against the communist gov't of Laos. Talk about a foot in my mouth...

Still, there's been worse folks made out to be heroes.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Srebrenica looks for justice

Citizens of Srebrenica are looking to sue the Netherlands and the U.N. over the slaughter of Muslims by the Serbs.

UN bureaucracy and rules of engagement kept Dutch "peacekeepers" from intervening. A big motive was to not take sides in the Bosnian catastrophe. But lack of forces and pressure to not risk Dutch casualties drove operations, or lack of them, on the ground.

While the widows of the Srebrenica massacre may be right in their anger at the ineptitude of the UN in times of war, (see Rawanda), is suing the Dutch going to achieve the goal of reform?

Addressing a general Western ambivalence to get involved in conflict, in which the West doesn't have an interest, may be too difficult. And given the situation of defending "human rights" in Iraq, Afghanistan, developing proper intervention in such situations becomes all the more muddied.

Lovers disagree

The New York Times reports a troubling development in Russia-U.S. relations. Even worse than when Cheney and Putin called each other despots.

The marriage between Putin and Bush erupted into relative chaos after disputes over missile defense systems. Basically, Putin said: if you point your missiles at us, we'll point our missiles at your friends.

Apparently, Putin is worried that Bush is a little trigger happy. Who knew?

Bush's quick reaction to Russia's disapprobation could be considered as somewhat surprising given the administration's love of Europe. Perhaps we really want to get the revenue from those missiles in the Czech Republic and Poland. It's probably more cost effective than giant satellite lasers.

A hell of a way to kick off the G8 summit.

I remember the embattled couple in more happy times...

Wolfe Blitzer and candy cane questions

Ad editorial rightly criticizes Wolfie's handling of the Sunday democratic debate. The actual discussion on specifics, or lack thereof in most debates, is troubling. Why would any journalist provoke it?

I am ambivalent, if a little turned off by Hillary, but her comment here was very apt.

Vang Pao and the Madison Hmong

"In interviews, (Hmong in Madison) said they feel the designation (of Vang Pao Elementary) not only honors their leader, but recognizes the sacrifices the Hmong made as staunch allies of the United States during the Vietnam War."
--Capital Times

Susan Troller outlined many valid points in the controversy over Vang Pao elementary.

Initially, I was against the naming, based on UW-Madison Historian Al Mcoy's research that Pao is a heroin/opium lord and military despot.

But the Hmong don't see Pao that way...

The Hmong community has felt rejected, faced discrimination, and been misunderstood in recent history; this despite the fact that it helped U.S. Soldiers in Vietnam.

That members are making headway into American life needs to be recognized. Vang Pao is also a symbol of their persistence rather than simply a leader (military or otherwise).

That said, Vang Pao is not a perfect symbol, but who is?

Schools are named after Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and George Washington despite blots on their record. Jefferson and Washington owned slaves. Roosevelt and Wilson both presided during times of questionable military tactics, while most of them took drugs.

The names of these "American Heroes" may offend small groups, but they are usually accepted as symbols of US prosperity, achievement in the world. And relative to their cultural perspective, their "faults" are not surprising, nor greatly questioned. Washington and Jefferson lived during a time when slave-ownership was expected.

We may now criticize, but don't devalue these figures. Why not extend the same cultural relativity to Pao?

He likely dealt in opium and heroin production, but such is the standard practice in the far East. Some economies are built entirely around opium because there is little else to produce.

I am not condoning the opium economy, but we ought to take into consideration the conditions at the time. Simply cutting off opium production may shut down an entire economy if alternative crops are not developed.

Vang Pao was a military leader, allegedly using CIA backing to execute civilians and staff. This is the most pressing issue.

But as Richard Zeitlin of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum says, "In the real history of the 20th century, there are no clear good guys or bad guys."


Truman called the atomic bomb drop "the greatest achievement of organized science in history." Yet what the bomb did was bring the painful death to thousands of Japanese, killing civilian and soldier indiscriminately, as well as U.S. POWs and workers.

Though in many U.S. circles, he's deemed a hero.

As is John F. Kennedy, despite his own drug problem and use of the CIA to train South American miltants like Luis Posada Carriles. Carriles was recently released by U.S. authorities despite his role in a 1976 airline bombing.

All these leaders have their faults, sometimes horrendous.

With Vang Pao, the Hmong overall see him as a symbol of good. The major questions are: Who is offended by the naming of Vang Pao Elementary? Do these people consider the faults of revered symbols in their own communities?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Lions Tigers and Bears

Among the stops in the great land of Ohio was Columbus, with Ohio State University, a sister, and a zoo.

The Columbus Zoo was probably the best thing there. Though the Wexner Center for the arts had 40 years of revolution on display, as visitors could peruse the photography of Chris Marker.

I still try in vain to capture the essence of my own travels, though revolts against fascism trump pictures of cute animals most days.

Don't forget about the Chimps. The one below eventually pulled a sheet over her head and pretended she was the "Great Cornholio".