Friday, June 02, 2006

Muscular Liberals has a link to a piece about Latin America’s recent turn to the left, and how there are two distinct strains of thought operating within the label.

Pledge to Shun Vice

"Teenagers who take pledges to remain virgins until marriage are likely to deny having taken the pledge if they later become sexually active."

I don’t see anything odd about this. In fact, I think many of the pledges asked of young people are pretty silly. In my grade school days, we had an anti-drug program called D.A.R.E. After you completed the program, you made an oath to never use drugs. Now this was when I was 10 years old; I had no concept of drugs and their effects. It sounded like folks who used them were evil demonic gangsters who hated life and wanted nothing more than to put illegal substances in kid’s candy. This childhood impression of mine obviously did not reflect reality, and the D.A.R.E folks knew this.

The same goes for these virginity pledges. I made one when I was 15; at the time it seemed to make sense. I was not interested in having a girlfriend and most of my time was spent thinking about school and comic books. Obviously, I was in a very different mindset by the time I entered the university….

I am by no means advocating drugs use and promiscuous activities for today’s youth. I still do not find drug use to be a very positive pastime, and early sexual activity may bring about unwanted psychological problems in the future. But asking children to make life commitments is rather silly. The only folks who benefit from these pledges are the parents and culture warriors who are able to sleep a tad better thinking they saved their young from a life of sex and vice.

Oh the Horror!

When your poll numbers slip to ghastly levels and your own conservative base abandons you, what plan of action do you take? Well, you try to stop gay folks from getting married!

“President Bush will promote a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage on Monday, the eve of a scheduled Senate vote on the cause that is dear to his conservative backers.”

Lord knows: with a war in two separate nations, and increasingly problematic immigration legislation, we clearly don’t have our hands full as it is. I am glad the President has his priorities straight!

Street Performers of the world: Unite!

You know all those street performers that play at Farmer’s Markets and the like? Well hot dang, they are freakin pissed off about not being treated properly, and have made a number of rules they would like the public to follow!

“Interacting With Street Performers”

Not that there is anything wrong with these rules, I just found it humorous.

Somalia

A nice post over at American Footprints.

“In an earlier post, I raised the broader question of how the US can avoid the pitfalls that can accompany intervention in local conflicts in connection with the GWOT. The ancillary question is whether there are lessons to be learned from US support of anti-communist forces during the Cold War.
Dan Darling, in the comments threads to both posts, has provided lots of useful information on the Somalia conflict and the highly divergent perspectives of various experts on the presence and role of jihadis in the country. In his most recent comment he mentioned a further possible contributor -- Eritrea may be arming the Islamists as part of its eternal quarrels with Ethiopia.
That reminded me of a recent UN monitoring report I had seen referenced on the arms embargo -- and at about the same time, via The War in Context I ran across a helpful article in yesterday's Guardian on the large economic stakes that may have more to do with fueling the battles in Mogadishu than ideology or US "proxy wars."
But while it is tempting in this US-bashing age to blame the renewed fighting solely on Washington's foreign policy, it would also be far too simplistic. Somalia's problems are far deeper ingrained, involve many motivations and many more actors than the US alone.
An insight into the forces at work can be found in the latest report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia, presented to the UN security council on May 4. The biannual report, written by a group of independent consultants, chronicles arms-embargo violations and other matters related to current events in the country.
The US is not mentioned by name, although it is almost certainly the "third country" listed as having secret involvement in Somalia and providing financial support to the Alliance. Six other countries are named, however, for breaking the arms embargo by supplying weapons or other military-related support to various warlords and businessmen.
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Italy, the former colonial master, are all fingered and all, as can be expected, deny the allegations. But if detail is taken a measure of veracity, the charges do not appear to have been plucked out the air.
"On 28 March 2006, 10 metric tons of arms including mortars, PKM machine guns, AK-47 assault rifles and RPG (anti-tank weapons) arrived in Jowhar from Ethiopia ..."
Even more illuminating is the detail about the economic activities of warlords and business syndicates, which help bankroll both of the current warring parties.
The report's authors state that three prominent business cartels that have huge monopolies - especially when it comes to winning contracts from the UN and aid agencies - and earn revenues of tens of millions of dollars a year in southern Somalia.
"The only regulations they [the cartels] abide by are self-imposed, and the only taxes and fees they pay are to each other, rather than to a central government ... The vast and complex web of economic web of economic vested interests ... represents huge financial gains for their owners, and therefore the intense urge to secure and maintain those interests is compelling and primary."
The report also shows that in a single year checkpoints run by a warlord in a medium-size town can earn him more than $4m (£2.1m).
There, in dollars and cents, lie the reasons that Somalia has remained a byword for anarchy for so long. Chaos equals cash for those with guns.
A functioning national government, which President Abdullahi Yusuf is trying to install, would spell financial disaster for the warlords and the cartels.
US funding and Islamic fundamentalism may well be a factor in the recent fighting, but the argument that it is a battle to consolidate territory, militia, and above all revenue sources at a time when the government is trying to establish itself seems equally persuasive.
Could it be a coincidence that many of the early bouts of fighting occurred around the main port and airfield, two of the most lucrative assets in Mogadishu?
One might make a similar observation about the escalating violence in Basra. With the lengthy power vacuum at the national level since the December elections, local groups are attempting to grab power to foreclose central government involvement. We should expect those groups to oppose vigorously Maliki's newly announced state of emergency in Basra -- and shouldn't be suprised by more rather than less violence in Basra, at least in the near term.”

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Portrait of a One Sided Story

I have not spent much time at Indybay recently, principally given the fact that I can no longer browse the deleted comments. But I did fall upon a piece by a schoolmate of mine concerning Palestine. I do not know Jakop Schiller, but we did have a few classes together at UCSC, and I do remember what the school’s paper was like under his stewardship. I was not a fan of his politics or the direction I feel he took the paper, but that is beside the point. He always seemed very competent, and his piece up at Indybay Santa Cruz (and PBS for that matter) looked pleasant and professional.

I do find it to be blatantly unfair in its assessment of the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict. Becky Johnson posts a response to the piece that I think hits a few of my own points on the head.

“First, let me say that the photography is spectacular! Schiller has an eye as a photographer which is superb. But the content is so one-sided, soppy, emotional, and by it's nature, fundamentally dishonest that I cannot recommend it.

There is not even a hint of journalistic integrity for Schiller, a self-labeled secular Jew, to fact check the stories he is told by the villagers. He says they were "forced out and made to live in refugee camps." WHO "forced" them out? The Israeli historians have ample evidence of Arab leaders of the time urging the Arabs to flee. All news services and on the spot war correspondents of the time reported NO Israeli military forces driving thousands, much less hundreds of thousands of Arab civilians from their homes and businesses. Schiller expects us to swallow the big lie: That it was the Jews that drove the Arabs from their homes even as 8 Arab armies were attempting to drive the Jews from their homes!

The bulk of Schiller's work has been activism directed against Israel's security barrier, which Schiller acknowledges is not a wall. "Instead of the 30-foot-high concrete wall in other parts of the West Bank, the barrier around Wadi Fukin will be a complex series of electrified fences...." Despite this, both Schiller and all the Palestinians he interviews continue to call it a "wall."

Yet nowhere does Schiller provide even a passing reference to either the series of suicide bombers for which the barrier was erected, nor that even with the barrier incomplete, suicide bombings have been already been decreased from 40 to 5 in only one year.

But Schiller is not a journalist. He is a propagandist.

Schiller writes: "The United Nations has reported that approximately 5,000 Palestinians already live on land that lies between the barrier and the Green Line."

BECKY: So what is the fuss? It sure sounds like the barrier is being built so close to the green line that in a country of 9 million people, only 5,000 are on the wrong side of the fence. That is 0.05% of the population that is inconvenienced. Not killed. Not gassed. Not tortured. Not enslaved. Not raped. Not mutilated. No village burned to the ground. No mass executions.

Schiller should go to Darfur and he can do some REAL journalism.

Does Schiller tell his readers that the Israeli government approached Palestinian towns on the border of the proposed barrier and asked them which side they wanted to be on? To the chagrin of the Palestinian Authority, they invariably chose to be on the Israeli side.

That means the disaffected Palestinians are the ones who remain on the Palestinian side.

A fence, put up to stop waves of suicide bombers, can be taken down once the Palestinians abandon them.”


While I recognize the need for stories about the suffering of the Palestinian people in the current political quagmire, I would have expected PBS to put together a well rounded piece, and not one that skimps on some of the important facts surrounding Israel’s security wall.

(Graph via Jewish Virtual Library)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Mobile Phone Appeal To Support Iraqi Trade Unions

"The TUC has launched an appeal for unions and their members to pass on their used mobile phones to the Iraqi trade union movement. You can help too, by passing on your old phones and/or chargers."

Check it out at the Euston Manifesto website.

Fake Soldier's Story

I recently linked to a video interview of a purported Iraqi War veteran who claims to have killed hundreds of innocent civilians, all under orders from his superiors. The video made the rounds on a number of sites, and the authenticity of the ‘soldier’s’ story has been called into question by a number of individuals.

Apparently, it was all a hoax. Michelle Malkin has a video blog about the incident.

Malkin is hardly intellectually honest, but this video seems straight forward to me.

There seems to be a bigger issue at play here. In our high-speed world where every website or newswire wants to be the first to break a story, the research required to substantiate a story has fallen by the wayside. Most military bloggers were quick to point out the irregularities in his uniform; why didn’t anyone ask these folks before they put the video up? It may have taken an extra few hours to have it analyzed by someone in the know. I do find it ironic that Malkin is criticizing someone else’s journalistic integrity, since her own ethics have been called into question on a few occasions. But I digress.

It is not difficult to see who was in the military and when, how the folks who put together this video thought they would get away with it, is beyond me.

There are numerous reasons to oppose the military operation in Iraq, why do some feel they need to lie and smear to make their point? With real massacres apparently occurring, why lie about fake ones?

Quote of the Day

"How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin." -Ronald Reagan

Onward towards a Nanny State

Is there no Party left to stand against the Nanny State?

“It's largely the Republicans have vamped up the Drug War, and who have regretfully expanded it even into doctor's offices, where drug warriors now decide what courses of treatment are and aren't acceptable. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez recently stated that under his watch, eradicating pornography will be a priority on par with fighting terrorism. And several members of Congress are now pushing to expand FCC regulation to include cable TV, satellite radio, and perhaps even the Internet, all in an effort to protect Americans from bad words and dirty pictures.

Nanny Statism is commonly thought to be the province of the left. And with good reason. The public health movement that has taken on obesity and alcohol and given us seat belt laws and smoking bans has always carried with it whiffs of socialism. But the right is no better. If leftists don't trust Americans to make our own decisions about what we eat, what we drink, or whether or not to smoke tobacco, conservatives don't trust us to make up our own minds about what transpires in our bedrooms, what music we listen to, what television we watch, what we consume from the Internet, and whether or not we should smoke marijuana.”
- Radley Balko

Being a traditional liberal, I must say that I feel very much left out of both major political parties at this moment in time. The Nanny State is now accepted by the Republicans and Democrats as a tolerable tactic in combating ‘unwanted’ aspects of our liberal society.

It is not the government’s job to combat pornography. It is not the government’s job to dictate what people do behind closed doors. Many folks said that the ‘04 election was the most important of this generation’s lifetime; I disagree. While the 04 election was a vote for or against a strong internationalist foreign policy, the 08 election will be about personal freedom and responsibility at home. I hope that both parties put forth candidates that support our basic personal freedoms and our right to make decisions as adults rather than having the government hold our hand and forcefully guide us to the ‘right conclusion’.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Service

A fitting post about service that just about anyone can find some common ground with. It can be found over at ‘Gun Toting Liberal’.

“I miss my Dad this time of year. Not because he was killed in action, but because throughout a life punctuated by achievement, trials, and personal demons, he felt his service in the USAF was where he found his best self. The clarity of ethical conduct appealed to his sense of how people need to be to and with one another. I think if he had been alive to witness this last presidential election his reaction would have been one of shame. Shame that there is no honor that cannot be shoved aside in the cause of winning. Shame that the debate of ideas is a distant second to the besmichment of character. This is not to say my Dad wasn’t politically savvy, I grew up outside of Chicago, after all, but he did expect the people who earned his vote to “have some stones” when it came to making tough choices. Phrases like “civil servant” and “civic virtues” weren’t lip service, they were core attitudes, as much a part of him as his size 12 1/2 feet.
During his lifetime he did not miss a single opportunity to vote. Not one. Voting, he explained, was a civilian’s duty towards democracy. Not voting, in my house, was akin to capital crime. He and my Mother, both whip smart and good debaters, turned election time around our home into an unending series of congealing suppers on dinner-plates, chilling to the tune of political discourse. I can remember seeing my brother face down, asleep at the table while the pro’s and con’s raged, oblivious.
My Dad had very set ideas about behavior. There was no lying, no dissembling the truth when faced with the dark brown-eyed stare down. Honor was a mindset; trust earned by conduct. These are all military ideals, I realize now. As a child, they were just the law. Deviations were disciplined. Conduct should never be compromised.
When I read about things like Abu Ghraib, I think about my Dad. I know what he would have thought was honorable in that situation. I know where he would have considered the line to be. Honor’s qualities preclude avoidance of responsibility. My Dad, as an officer, would not have looked upon trials of service men and women favorably. The chain of command is absolute. You are responsible for your people. They don’t piss without you knowing about it. Honor requires ethics, courage and responsibility. Honor earned is your strongest shield, but it is a transparent one.
My Dad was not a perfect father, but to me he embodied America. He always tried. He embraced duty, country and family with passion and commitment. You knew where you stood with my Dad. You knew where you stood with his America.
This weekend we look at ours. This is the great, untrumpeted gift of the Memorial Day holiday to our nation. It gives us an opportunity to see honor as it should be seen: quietly, in individual gratitude for the sacrifice, and with personal introspection for the enormity of that gift. As you look upon the faces of the dead, see them, but be also humble, as is befitting honor.”

Memorial Day



Let us all remember that a soldier does not choose the wars and battles he or she fights. We may not always agree with the fights our politicians pick, but we should always respect the courage of our men and women who stood up and meet the call of duty in such trying times.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

“It's about time we started boycotting boycotts.” - Courtney Hamilton

While I Was Away...

I was up in Maine for a few days, and hence, was unable to post. I did however read some nice books while I was away.

Them: Adventures With Extremists by. Jon Ronson

A nice easy read that documents Jon’s journey into a few extremist organizations. I am fascinated by radical groups that adhere to conspiracy theories that don’t hold up (at least in my opinion), and Ronson does a pretty good job depicting the groups he shadowed.

Wimbeldon Green by. Seth

A touching graphic novel that is both critical and accepting of eccentric comic book collectors.

I will be back to normal posting patterns come tomorrow.