Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The article below was originally posted by Pat Kirby at The Poorman. National Public Radio's show "On the Media" turned part of the article into a humorous skit. I looked and looked for a print version and finally found it here. Enjoy

NBC, CNN announce merger

June 11 (Bloomberg) — In a surprise move expected to send shockwaves through the world of TV journalism, CNN, the orginal cable news network, and NBC, which owns cable channels MSNBC and CNBC, announced a deal to consolidate their news organizations into a single giant news network. By pooling their journalistic resources, the organizations will be able to offer deeper coverage of the most important stories of the day, and will be better equipped to complete with current cable news champion FOX News. The new network - to be called Where the White Women At?, or WWWA - is set to debut this week.

At CNN President Jonathan Klein explained the deal at a press conference on Saturday. “For most of history, journalists could afford to spend their time covering wars, famines, politics, and business. The reason for this is that everybody knew where the white women were at -- at home, probably in the kitchen, minding the kids. Sure, sometimes they were out shopping, or knitting at a friend’s house, or even working as an elementary school teacher, but, by and large, the location and status of all white women was known.

“However, society has changed, and the business of journalism has changed with it. These days, with the increased opportunities available to white women, we as a nation are losing track of even the prettiest white women. White women are dissappearing in Aruba, from their jobs as Washington interns, and even right before their own weddings. And while we do our best to give the public all the necessary information about missing white women, the job is just too large for any one cable network to handle.

“And it is not just the number of white women who are going missing that is the problem. There are also white women who aren’t missing, but whose location and situation demands public attention. There are white women on trial for drowning their kids, white women who are dead but nobody knows who killed them, and even some white women who are on spring break and drunkenly flashing their breasts. Clearly, the sheer volume of white women stories is beyond anything journalists have ever had to deal with before.

But even when we restrict our coverage to only the prettiest white women, the coverage is often superficial and redundant. Really: does the public need to hear interviews with Jennifer Wilbanks’ bridesmaids on MSNBC, CNN, and CNBC? Of course not. The public should be able to hear interviews with Jennifer Wilbanks’ bridesmaids on MSNBC, interviews with her coworkers on CNN, and commentary by experts in the field of missing white women on CNBC. However, today, the fragmented nature of the cable news business makes such in-depth coverage impossible. With this merger, we will increase the breadth and depth of our missing white women coverage, and so meet our sacred obligation to keep the electorate informed and aware about where the white women are at.”

The new network will consist of a WWWA channel, as well as WWWA Headline News, which will deliver all day’s key missing white women developments every half hour. Most of WWWA’s time will be devoted to covering current missing white women, but there will also be talk shows where groups of white men get together to discuss the significance of the day’s missing or imperilled white women. Additionally, there are plans for a game show, hosted by Tom DeLay and James Dobson, where family members compete in trivia contests and gross-out physical challenges in order to determine whether or not their comatose white women relatives are kept on life support.

For his part, FOX president Roger Ailes said the deal was no threat to his network. “WWWA will probably become the public’s most trusted source for white women news, but we at FOX view this as an opportunity. While WWWA is focused on white women, we will be able to satisfy the public’s curiousity about shark attacks, babies falling down wells, and celebrity murders, as well as the latest stories of Beloved Leader’s brilliant triumphs over terrorists, Frenchmen, and their villianous Democrat..."

WWWA debuts in most markets on Monday, June 13. It begins its exclusive coverage of white women at midnight with a six-hour special on Michael Jackson.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Eleven on Top

Yesterday, I picked up Janet Evanovich's latest "Stephanie Plum" mystery called Eleven on Top -- the 11th in a series. Since yesterday was hot and sticky and our air conditioning exists only in the bedroom, I holed up with a cool drink, a couple of thick pillows and the book. Finished it in one sitting.

Evanovich writes to a formula and she has it pretty well nailed. Stephanie has a knack for getting herself into horrible situations and somehow surviving. She is surrounded by a basketful of equally unique characters. I read her books for comfort and the laughs and pretty much expect nothing. That's pretty much what I got. The murder mystery that is solved during the book is little more than a subplot this time around and I almost wonder why Evanovich even bothered with it. Still, it was a fun and quick read.

A few years back, I checked into some of the fan fiction that has been written based on the characters in this book. It would definitely be interesting to get a bit more background on some of the folks that make brief appearances and that's a perfect subject for fan fiction. There were actually one or two rather good pieces among them.

Evanovich definitely leaves the reader wanting to know more, especially about Ranger and his set up. This book doesn't do much to further that line of inquiry.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Another day, another flyer

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
I whipped this up for a friend who is a member of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. Nothing too creative about it. I don't know a thing about this guy and the flyer has too little antiwar information in it for my taste. But there you go. Sometimes I am just a worker bee.

Funny thing, this flyer is for my friend, Tom, who loves having maps on flyers. He thinks not having maps on flyer is rude. But, sheesh, maps are boring and they take up space if they are to be of any value at all. There is already too much information to put on any event flyer as it is, if you are trying to get the event info down as well as a political point of view. Tom will be happy, anyway!

Recent Reading

Just finished reading Live Bait, the second mystery by P.J. Tracy. That website is looking pretty slim and hasn't been updated since May, but the books are good! There is a third in the series in hardcover and I'll have to pick it up.

The first book, Monkeywrench, centerered on a marvelous, but tragic character named Grace and the cop, Leo Magozzi, who helped to save her life. This time, Leo is the focus and the mystery centers around three elderly Jews who were murdered. The only thing connecting them was that they all survived the Nazi death camps. Great characters, a plot that twists and turns, and an awesome ending. I highly recommend this book.

Last weekend, I read Persuader by Lee Child. This is the seventh in a series featuring Jack Reacher. I usually don't read books out of order, but I decided to give this one a try. It's really not my cup of tea. Macho and pretty much a loner, Reacher is kind of boring to me. The book is well-written and the plot includes conspiracies and twists and turns. Reacher beats the shit out of people he doesn't like. Another boring character trait for me.

Lately, I'm more interested in lead characters who have complicated relationships that make all their decisions more interesting -- their choices more gut-wrenching. Like John Sandford's Lucas Davenport who is dealing with a wife and a coupole of children now and can't be quite as hard-driven as he was when the series began.

This must be a sign that I'm getting older!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

[b]Aruba redieux[/b]

From the always interesting Bitch PhD I found a link to a wonderful response to the dust-up in the liberal-left blogosphere over Gilliard's post on Halloway. A fellow named Ross at This Space for Rent wrote a marvelous post entitled, I am not my c*ck. I use the asterisk because I'm afraid the filtering program at work will block my site. Here's some wonderful bits and pieces, but by all means follow the link and read the entire post. It's terrific!

I have never raped anyone ....

This isn't something I'm proud of. That's because I can't be proud of not raping people anymore than I can be proud of not sh!tting on myself whenever I laugh. Not being a rapist is the default f*cking setting. Far as I know, most men have never raped anyone. I assume this means that rapists are a minority of men, and in a normal world you'd think that not being an evil, violent monster would make one more sympathetic to the victims of rape, who are also not evil violent monsters.

....Tons of male bloggers and commenters are suddenly stepping over themselves to equivocate and fiddle back and forth on the subject of rape. Sure, they lazily toss in disclaimers about their sympathy to women who have been assaulted, but that's usually followed quickly by a lecture on how women ought to behave.

These sad douchebags state with a straight face the manifesto of all sexist dillweeds who can't wait to castigate women for being sexual beings: "Men", apparently meaning them, "can't control themselves", and therefore women shouldn't be surprised by being assaulted. Really? From this point of view, it's somehow the woman's responsibility not to get raped, rather than society's responsibility to punish and prevent rape in the first place.

....Contrary to what many men (even on the left) seem to think, most guys can and do meet women all the time without even once assaulting them. It's really easy. You just, you know, not be a rapist.

There's more and it's definitely worth reading.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Portrait of a Textile Worker

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
I found this via metafilter.

Terese Agnew has created this amazing portrait entirely from clothing tags. Here is the description from her site:

Portrait of a Textile Worker makes one person among millions of unseen workers, visible. Her image was constructed with thirty thousand clothing labels stitched together over two years. The idea came from a simple observation. One day while shopping in a department store I noticed huge signs everywhere -- Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Kathy Lee and so on. They were all proper names. I'd recently met two garment workers and realized that by contrast, their identity was rarely thought of and often deliberately hidden. That anonymity could be undone by assembling a view of one worker using the well-known names on apparel she produced. The portrait is based on a photograph of a young textile worker in Bangladesh by Charles Kernaghan*

The project began with a massive campaign to get the labels. Thousands of people responded, painstakingly cutting out garment tags one by one. I used the labels in numerous ways to create the image. For example, text on a contrasting background was used as a gradation, text borders were ironed back leaving a unified block of tiny words to form specific tones, names were used as segments in a line and combined with others like lines in a drawing. From twenty feet away, the composition is a representational image of a remote place. As you move closer, the illusionistic devices dissolve into labels as intimately familiar as your own clothes.

Terese Agnew © 2005

The quilt will be in Milwaukee this December. Time for a road trip!

Here is a detail of the quilt:

Not pictured here

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
On Wednesday I got to watch as the The Raptor Center banded the peregrine chicks that live on the top of City Center in downtown Minneapolis. There are four chicks: two males and two females. They were tremendously unhappy throughout the whole affair. Their feathers are in and trying to shove all that downy fluff aside. Every time they moved they released a snowstorm of fluff. I couldn't find any pics, so the picture here is from a similar program in California.

Here's the article that ran in the Skyway News:

Downtown baby falcons' public banding is Wednesday
By Rachel Drewelow

If you've never seen a baby peregrine falcon up close, your chance comes Wednesday, June 22, when four chicks are banded in City Center's atrium.

The 10 a.m. ceremony is open to the public, and follows the baby birds' May 25 birth on the roof of the 33 South Sixth skyscraper, which is attached to City Center, 615 Hennepin Ave. S.

University of Minnesota Raptor Center volunteers will do the honors.

Peregrines have been laying eggs in a nest box on the tower's roof since 1987. These are not the only nesting falcons Downtown - there are others atop City Hall, 350 S 5th St., and Midwest Plaza, 801 Nicollet Mall.

Falcons commonly nest on high cliffs or bluffs overlooking a coastline, according to the Raptor Center's Web site. The practice of placing safe wooden nest boxes in high office buildings and below bridges began in the '70s to boost a falcon population that was quickly becoming extinct. Falcons were removed from the endangered species list in 1999.

Volunteers from the Raptor Center monitor the nest boxes.

Banding allows the far-flying birds' paths to be tracked worldwide.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Rove Report

June 23, 2005

Rove Criticizes Liberals on 9/11


Karl Rove came to the heart of Manhattan last night to rhapsodize about the decline of liberalism in politics, saying Democrats responded weakly to Sept. 11 and had placed American troops in greater danger by criticizing their actions.

"Conservatives saw the savagery of 9/11 in the attacks and prepared for war; liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers," Mr. Rove, the senior political adviser to President Bush, said at a fund-raiser in Midtown for the Conservative Party of New York State.

Citing calls by progressive groups to respond carefully to the attacks, Mr. Rove said to the applause of several hundred audience members, "I don't know about you, but moderation and restraint is not what I felt when I watched the twin towers crumble to the ground, a side of the Pentagon destroyed, and almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens perish in flames and rubble."

Told of Mr. Rove's remarks, Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, replied: "In New York, where everyone unified after 9/11, the last thing we need is somebody who seeks to divide us for political purposes."

Mr. Rove also said American armed forces overseas were in more jeopardy as a result of remarks last week by Senator Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, who compared American mistreatment of detainees to the acts of "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime - Pol Pot or others."

"Has there ever been a more revealing moment this year?" Mr. Rove asked. "Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals."


Sectons of the ruling class are breaking into factions over what to do about Iraq. It's never more clear than one or the other group starts making an ass of themselves by lying about their opponents. On the other hand, back in the '60s and '70s we had to wait until the White House tapes were declassified before we found out just how much hate our political leaders spurt on a daily basis. Rove's total disdain for his fellow citizens could not be clearer.

I suppose this means he'll be asked "Why do you hate America?" every five minutes from now on....

Operation Yellow Elephant

Objective: To motivate the College Republicans to vigorously defend the vital work they're doing defending the homefront by holding affirmative action bake sales, immigrant hunts, and subsidizing the Scaife funding of Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, and Michelle Malkin (see post below for more detail).

Method: Challenge the College Republicans to volunteer to fight in the war they demanded.

Mode: Nonviolent Leaderless Creative Expression

Target: 56th College Republican Biennial Convention
June 24-26, 2005
Crystal Gateway Marriott
Arlington, Virginia

Deployment: Red team, Metro Washington DC; Blue Team, nation-wide.

Weaponry: Flyers, posters, stickers, video cameras, video cameras, still cameras, digital communications, humor, irony, creativity.

Idea clearinghouse:Patriot Boy

Some fun links

The All Your Base Bohemian Rhapsody via Presurfer

The Unexpected Life of the Green Frot via via Presurfer

AFI List of Top 100 Quotes from U.S. Films

Wed Jun 22, 2:25 AM ET

The American Film Institute's list of top 100 quotes from U.S. movies, with film title and year of release:

1. "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," "Gone With the Wind," 1939.

2. "I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse," "The Godfather," 1972.

3. "You don't understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am," "On the Waterfront," 1954.

4. "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore," "The Wizard of Oz," 1939.

5. "Here's looking at you, kid," "Casablanca," 1942.

6. "Go ahead, make my day," "Sudden Impact," 1983.

7. "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up," "Sunset Blvd.," 1950.

8. "May the Force be with you," "Star Wars," 1977.

9. "Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night," "All About Eve," 1950.

10. "You talking to me?" "Taxi Driver," 1976.

11. "What we've got here is failure to communicate," "Cool Hand Luke," 1967.

12. "I love the smell of napalm in the morning," "Apocalypse Now," 1979.

13. "Love means never having to say you're sorry," "Love Story," 1970.

14. "The stuff that dreams are made of," "The Maltese Falcon," 1941.

15. "E.T. phone home," "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," 1982.

16. "They call me Mister Tibbs!", "In the Heat of the Night," 1967.

17. "Rosebud," "Citizen Kane," 1941.

18. "Made it, Ma! Top of the world!", "White Heat," 1949.

19. "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!", "Network," 1976.

20. "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," "Casablanca," 1942.

21. "A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti," "The Silence of the Lambs," 1991.

22. "Bond. James Bond," "Dr. No," 1962.

23. "There's no place like home," "The Wizard of Oz," 1939.

24. "I am big! It's the pictures that got small," "Sunset Blvd.," 1950.

25. "Show me the money!", "Jerry Maguire," 1996.

26. "Why don't you come up sometime and see me?", "She Done Him Wrong," 1933.

27. "I'm walking here! I'm walking here!", "Midnight Cowboy," 1969.

28. "Play it, Sam. Play 'As Time Goes By,'" "Casablanca," 1942.

29. "You can't handle the truth!", "A Few Good Men," 1992.

30. "I want to be alone," "Grand Hotel," 1932.

31. "After all, tomorrow is another day!", "Gone With the Wind," 1939.

32. "Round up the usual suspects," "Casablanca," 1942.

33. "I'll have what she's having," "When Harry Met Sally...," 1989.

34. "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow," "To Have and Have Not," 1944.

35. "You're gonna need a bigger boat," "Jaws," 1975.

36. "Badges? We ain't got no badges! We don't need no badges! I don't have to show you any stinking badges!", "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," 1948.

37. "I'll be back," "The Terminator," 1984.

38. "Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth," "The Pride of the Yankees," 1942.

39. "If you build it, he will come," "Field of Dreams," 1989.

40. "Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get," "Forrest Gump," 1994.

41. "We rob banks," "Bonnie and Clyde," 1967.

42. "Plastics," "The Graduate," 1967.

43. "We'll always have Paris," "Casablanca," 1942.

44. "I see dead people," "The Sixth Sense," 1999.

45. "Stella! Hey, Stella!", "A Streetcar Named Desire," 1951.

46. "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars," "Now, Voyager," 1942.

47. "Shane. Shane. Come back!", "Shane," 1953.

48. "Well, nobody's perfect," "Some Like It Hot," 1959.

49. "It's alive! It's alive!", "Frankenstein," 1931.

50. "Houston, we have a problem," "Apollo 13," 1995.

51. "You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?", "Dirty Harry," 1971.

52. "You had me at `hello,'" "Jerry Maguire," 1996.

53. "One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas, I don't know," "Animal Crackers," 1930.

54. "There's no crying in baseball!", "A League of Their Own," 1992.

55. "La-dee-da, la-dee-da," "Annie Hall," 1977.

56. "A boy's best friend is his mother," "Psycho," 1960.

57. "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good," "Wall Street," 1987.

58. "Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer," "The Godfather Part II," 1974.

59. "As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again," "Gone With the Wind," 1939.

60. "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!", "Sons of the Desert," 1933.

61. "Say `hello' to my little friend!", "Scarface," 1983.

62. "What a dump," "Beyond the Forest," 1949.

63. "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?", "The Graduate," 1967.

64. "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!", "Dr. Strangelove," 1964.

65. "Elementary, my dear Watson," "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes," 1929.

66. "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape," "Planet of the Apes," 1968.

67. "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine," "Casablanca," 1942.

68. "Here's Johnny!", "The Shining," 1980.

69. "They're here!", "Poltergeist," 1982.

70. "Is it safe?", "Marathon Man," 1976.

71. "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain't heard nothin' yet!", "The Jazz Singer," 1927.

72. "No wire hangers, ever!", "Mommie Dearest," 1981.

73. "Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?", "Little Caesar," 1930.

74. "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown," "Chinatown," 1974.

75. "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers," "A Streetcar Named Desire," 1951.

76. "Hasta la vista, baby," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," 1991.

77. "Soylent Green is people!", "Soylent Green," 1973.

78. "Open the pod bay doors, HAL," "2001: A Space Odyssey," 1968.

79. Striker: "Surely you can't be serious." Rumack: "I am serious ... and don't call me Shirley," "Airplane!", 1980.

80. "Yo, Adrian!", "Rocky," 1976.

81. "Hello, gorgeous," "Funny Girl," 1968.

82. "Toga! Toga!", "National Lampoon's Animal House," 1978.

83. "Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make," "Dracula," 1931.

84. "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was Beauty killed the Beast," "King Kong," 1933.

85. "My precious," "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," 2002.

86. "Attica! Attica!", "Dog Day Afternoon," 1975.

87. "Sawyer, you're going out a youngster, but you've got to come back a star!", "42nd Street," 1933.

88. "Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't you forget it. You're going to get back on that horse, and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight, and away we're gonna go, go, go!", "On Golden Pond," 1981.

89. "Tell 'em to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper," "Knute Rockne, All American," 1940.

90. "A martini. Shaken, not stirred," "Goldfinger," 1964.

91. "Who's on first," "The Naughty Nineties," 1945.

92. "Cinderella story. Outta nowhere. A former greenskeeper, now, about to become the Masters champion. It looks like a mirac ... It's in the hole! It's in the hole! It's in the hole!", "Caddyshack," 1980.

93. "Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!", "Auntie Mame," 1958.

94. "I feel the need — the need for speed!", "Top Gun," 1986.

95. "Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary," "Dead Poets Society," 1989.

96. "Snap out of it!", "Moonstruck," 1987.

97. "My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," 1942.

98. "Nobody puts Baby in a corner," "Dirty Dancing," 1987.

99. "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!", "The Wizard of Oz," 1939.

100. "I'm king of the world!", "Titanic," 1997.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Lions save girl

story here

Three lions save girl, 12, from kidnap gang



THREE lions rescued a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by men who wanted to force her into marriage, chasing off her abductors and guarding her until police and relatives tracked her down in a remote corner of Ethiopia, police said yesterday.

The men had held the girl for seven days, repeatedly beating her, before the lions scared them off and protected her for half a day before her family and police found her, police sergeant Wondimu Wedajo said.

"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," Sgt Wondimu said.

"If the lions had not come to her rescue then it could have been much worse. Often these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept the marriage," he said. "Everyone thinks this is some kind of miracle, because normally the lions would attack people."

Stuart Williams, a wildlife expert with the country's rural development ministry, said that it was likely that the young girl was saved because she was crying from the trauma of her attack.

"A young girl whimpering could be mistaken for the mewing sound from a lion cub, which in turn could explain why they [the lions] didn't eat her," Mr Williams said. "Otherwise they probably would have done."

The girl, the youngest of four brothers and sisters, was "shocked and terrified" and had to be treated for the cuts from her beatings, Sgt Wondimu said.

He said that police had caught four of the men, but were still looking for three others.


Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
Another event at the bookstore. This time to benefit the Prison Radio Project. I have yet to see this movie, although I have a copy of the old documentary Haskel Wexler did in the 70s. I never got the fascination with the underground that so many folks seem to have. But I've always been biased towards the people who do the hard work, not the people who turn outlaw. Your mileage may vary!

Sami Rasouli in the StarTribune

Back from Iraq, still working for peace

Jon Tevlin,  Star Tribune

June 21, 2005

When former Minneapolis restaurateur Sami Rasouli arrived in his homeland of Iraq in November, he looked very much the outsider. His Western dress caused suspicion. So did the ever-present digital camera, and his inability to comprehend slang that didn't exist when he left more than 20 years ago.

But after six months, Rasouli acclimated. He gained the trust of neighbors in his hometown of Najaf enough to form an organization called Muslim Peacemaker Teams (MPT), which has begun the arduous and sometimes dangerous job of cleaning up Iraqi cities and towns that have been, and still are, in a state of war.

Rasouli is back in Minnesota for several weeks, raising money for the efforts. He brought with him about 50 pieces of art from a variety of Iraqi artists, which he plans to display and sell around the Twin Cities. Money raised will go to the artists and their families, as well as to peacekeeping efforts.

Rasouli's group has worked with other peace groups, including Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) of Iraq. On May 6, Rasouli and a group of Shi'a Muslims from MPT traveled to the Sunni-dominated city of Fallujah to help clean up rubble from the U.S. assault on the city. MPT sought to counter reports of Sunni/Shi'a sectarian violence, and to demonstrate unity, according to the CPT website.

"One of the most hopeful signs in Iraq today is seeing people reach across the divide between Sunnis and Shi'as, and between countries, to try to find peace," said David Pritchard, CPT co-director. Rasouli and others, he said, have "overcome fears and dangers to say they are going to make peace."

Rasouli, an ardent opponent of the war in Iraq as well as the continued presence of U.S. troops, did not land easily in his homeland.

Daily threats

He got sick from the lack of sanitation. Electric power has been sporadic and water supplies low in some places. Although he has never been threatened or harmed himself, security threats are part of daily life, something driven home even more since he returned to Minnesota.

In early June, Rasouli received notice that his nephew was kidnapped and was being held for ransom. As head of his extended family, Rasouli was making plans to return early to Iraq when he received notice the nephew had been released unharmed.

"My family, like any Iraqi family, is surviving the daily details," said Rasouli. "There is a lack of electricity, a lack of security. Until recently, there was such a lack of gasoline [that] drivers had to sleep in their cars in line for three days."
His cousin works at a hospital that's been looted so much it's now no more than a clinic, Rasouli said. "Rumors were spread that the U.S. put a virus in the clinic and that if you go, you'll get sick," he said.

The mutual mistrust inside Iraq makes progress difficult. That's why, as a peacekeeper, Rasouli said he needs to be careful not to associate too closely with either the U.S. military, the government or insurgents.

"You have to avoid accepting a ride in their Humvee, even if you are tired," he said, for fear that citizens will think he's working with the soldiers.

But Rasouli has been friendly and talked to soldiers, particularly those he's met from Minnesota. And at one stop, he took photos with two young soldiers who were the same age as his sons. "I wanted to show people that the human family is frayed by acts of insane wars."

Corruption rampant

Asked if there had been any gains since the United States first occupied Iraq, Rasouli said the only real jobs created were as police and national guard officers. He said corruption has been rampant, both by Iraqis and contractors doing business in Iraq.

Working with CPT has inspired Rasouli to keep up the work. "I look at their faces and they are radiant," he said. "They are fearless. They go everywhere help is needed, no matter how dangerous it is."

Still, he said, "we are committed to nonviolent solutions. The Iraqi people were the victims of Saddam's brutal dictatorship, but now they are still suffering and they don't see the light at the end of the tunnel."

Rasouli, who will return to Iraq in July, hopes the small amount of money he raises in Minnesota will help shed just a little of that light.

Tuesday: 7 p.m. (6 p.m., silent auction of Iraqi art) Where: St. Joan of Arc Church, 4537 3rd Av. S., Minneapolis
Call: 612-827-5364.

July 1: 7 p.m. (optional dinner, 6 p.m., $8)
Where: Sindbad's Deli, 2528 Nicollet Av S., Minneapolis.
Call: 612-871-6505.

Art exhibit
Iraq: Through the Eyes of Her Children
When: Reception with Sami Rasouli June 30, 7 to 8 p.m.; exhibit continues 10 a.m.- 4 p.m., Mondays through Fridays, through July 15.
Where: St. Martin's Table
2001 Riverside Av., Minneapolis
Call: 612-339-3920

Jon Tevlin is at Jtevlin@startribune.com.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW)

Last Thursday, I attended a talk by two Iraqi labor union leaders at the Carpenter's Hall in St. Paul. The event was sponsored by U.S. Labor Against the War. There were 300 attendees. Here are my extensive notes from the event. I had no tape recorder so this is NOT verbatim. Any errors are mine:

6/16/05 program in St. Paul Minnesota with Iraqi trade union leaders.

David Foster, Director, United Steelworkers, District 11.

Iraq and America's future are deeply intertwined. A free, safe and prosperous society includes the exercise of labor rights. Sixty years ago in 1948 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed. It recognized labor rights and essential. But the global economy is being formed in direct opposition to labor rights. Each time Bush signs a treaty, he weakens labor rights around the world: in Colombia, in Bolivia, with CAFTA, with job flight to China and on the Marianna Islands that can label their products "Made in USA" while not providing the US minimum wage. The lack of labor rights in China is reflected in plant shutdowns here at home. GM says it will layoff thousands of workers. Wal-mart shelves are stuffed with the results of this unfair system. Nowhere are labor rights issues more important than Iraq. The laws prohibiting unions in Iraq that existed under Saddam are still in effect today under U.S. occupation. They claim that "stability must precede democracy." But where has democracy ever NOT been led by independent trade unions. It was true in Poland, it was true in Serbia. Unions are the true measure of a democracy.

Today we have two leaders in the Iraqi labor movement. Amjad Ali Aljawhry fled Iraq in 1995 and is currently living in Canada. Falah Awan is a member of two underground union organizations in Iraq. He believes the key to resolving issues between people of good will and shared principles is to meet and listen together.

Two and a half years ago, the AFL-CIO spoke out against war in Iraq. At the recent meeting of the USW, an overwhelming majority demanded a strong statement against war. This situation demands that we talk and learn from each other.

There's a difference between service to our country and honoring that service and blind obedience to the policies of the Bush Administration. Langston Hughes has a poem called "Let America Be American Again," in which he says, "We the people must redeem America .. we must make America again." Be united in insisting that labor rights are redeemed and be determined to make America again.


Letters from Mark Dayton and Betty McCallum read by their representatives.


Ali Aljawhry, rep. of the FWCUI and Union of the Unemployed in Iraq (UUI) for North America.

Due to my union activities, I was blacklisted in Iraq. I fled to Turkey in 1995 and made my way to Toronto in 1996 where I have been active in the anti-war movement. I want to thank the labor unions in Minnesota who sponsored this tour.

It is very hard to imagine what life is like in Iraq today. We want to build our own future. But after 27 months of occupation, the situation is getting worse and worse. Victims increase daily. The economy is going down. The infrastructure is devastated. The occupation is driving us to an ethnic and civil war which we cannot get out of unless the U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq. Iraqis know that the American people and the Bush administration are totally different entities. The media portrays Iraqis as people who only kill. We want to build and Iraq with a non-discriminatory constitution that defends every citizen of Iraq. So far, after two years, we haven't seen any democracy. The same labor code that existed under Saddam is still in place. We want to change this. Iraq unions have suffered. Only one union has gained status today. To build our society, we know that workers are who form the majority of our country. Giving the right to organize independently is the only way to maintain human rights.

We Iraqis and Americans have one thing in common. Our kids are workers. Without distinction between Iraqi and Americans, we need to withdraw the troops to keep both of our children alive. One of the consequences of occupation is very personal. Last year my father had a heart attack. Because of the curfew, there were no ambulances, so we drove. Because of the check points, it took us four hours to go a distances that usually takes 20 minutes. He died before we got to the hospital. The doctor said he could have been saved if he had arrived at the hospital earlier. My father's death is not counted as a casualty of war, although it is.


Falah Awan, President of Federation of Workers Councils and Unions of Iraq.
In English: I have a problem with the language, so my friend will help me out.

In Arabic: On behalf of Iraqi workers and on behalf of the workers councils and on behalf of myself, I greet you. I want to talk about the devastation in Iraq. We have to talk about how to rebuild a new society. Our federation started to organization industrial workers and we have survived the war. It was very difficult. Our goals were clear and militant. Our major issue was to not build unions that are directly tied with the government. We have a heritage of this kind of union in the Baathist tradition of Iraqi. Our job was to draw up a future society in which we bring about a more modern labor code.
Workers must participate actively in drafting the new constitution. To put it simply, the workers must participate in building this society.

Iraqi society is losing its entity under occupation. The new government was installed and based on ethnicity and religion. Various power groups were racing to get their share of the government. The needs of the workers were lost in the struggle. In order to build a modern society, the occupation troops must be withdrawn and the workers must lead. I would love to tell our friends that the progressive workers are not what the media shows -- that Iraqis are killers. And the silly idea that society will burn down if U.S. troops withdraw. The progressive movement does exist and we represent that movement. We will represent our humanity. We will fight the reactionary groups. We consider ourselves part of an international movement. A victory in Iraq will be a victory for the international labor movement.

The progressive movement has been defeated, however we will return. We will go ahead and build a better world, without war, without discrimination. A world where human rights are defended.

It want to call upon everyone -- the labor movement in the U.S., in Europe and in the entire world -- to be clear in opposition to war and occupation. Because all of the world says no to war and yes to human rights.

The time has come to transfer our words into a plan, to set our standards. The task for building a better world is led by the workers. The workers have moved the entire history of our world.

I'll close now. I want to assure our brothers and sisters that the progressive movement will survive the occupation. Your solidarity with our movement will be huge and our movement thanks you.


Foster: The next steps are clear.

1. Carry on this discussion among ourselves and in the labor movement.

2. Join the Steelworkers associates union and help put on more programs such as this.

3. Support U.S. Labor Against the War by becoming a member.

4. Help build the labor movement in Iraq. It costs a lot of money, and it is an especially difficult struggle when it is not funded by groups like the CIA. The expenses for this event have been paid for by the sponsoring unions. Your donations today will go directly back to the workers in Iraq.

Question & answer session. Questions were written on 3x5 cards and compiled and asked by Foster.

Q: Is your country better off now than before the war?
A.: It's just getting worse and worse.

Q: What is currently happening in organizing unions?
A: It is not easy. Unemployment is high. Known union organizers will be fired by their employers. Decree #16 allowed for one union to be organized so far. We also have a 25-year tradition that is a barrier to union organizing. There are ethnic tensions, the domination of some militias over areas of the country. These are barriers to organizing. There are small areas of stability in which we were able to organize.

Q: Iraq has a history of literacy, human rights and women's rights. How has that changed since the war began?
A: The sanctions placed huge pressures on our people. The tribal traditions were revived. Many issued decrees that oppressed women, especially "honor killing" which gave men the right to kill relatives they believed were unfaithful. This has been a serious defeat of the women's movement in Iraq. And in Kurdistan-controlled Iraq, the women are treated even worse. At one time, 2000 prostitutes were rounded up there and slaughtered in the street.

Q: Is there any advantage to continuing the U.S. occupation?
A: We demand occupation troops be withdrawn fully and immediately. Terrorist groups are committing crimes against the people because of that occupation. If the U.S. truly wants to help democracy, they can pull their troops out and give support to the progressive workers of Iraq. We will be the ones to get rid of the reactionaries and right wing in Iraq.

Q: What is the size of the progressive, secular society in Iraq? Were you able to participate in the January elections?
A: Every reactionary power in Iraq has its allies outside Iraq that support it. Outsiders openly finance these groups. The secular movement does not have strong support from outside Iraq. Iraq is in a very unstable situation. The instability can allow only 100 people to control an entire city. So even if there were thousands of progressives living in that city, they would lack the organization to fight this control. To help organize progressives, we have formed the Iraq Freedom Congress and we may be able to grow.

On the elections, we issued a statement saying the election was not legitimate. We declared the election was only a ploy to give legitimacy to the installed government. Yet one of the organizations with a very big reputation in Iraq issued a fatwa saying whoever doesn't vote will go to hell. These kind of tactics depend the divisions in Iraq. Conditions got worse and worse after the election. The current government has allowed for only one union. That union is run by a man who was a member of the installed government before he joined a union. We have presented our views and demand to participate in drawing the new constitution.

Q: Can you talk about the ethnic challenges to forming a union and how to fight that?
A: Yes it is difficult. We had a union in an oil company in Kirkuk that included people of all ethnicity and religions. Our union included representatives of all these groups. Then the militias came. They said Kirkuk is Kurdish and that the union could only represent the Kurds. They threatened to relocate the union and they arrested two officials. It has made our work very difficult.

Under the Baathist regime there were two union federations: one was Shi'ite and one was Suni. These unions spoke to workers based only on their religion. If that tradition continues, it will be a disaster for the Iraqi labor movement.

Q: After withdrawal, how will Iraq avoid a civil war?
A: Ask yourself, who in Iraq is gaining strength from the U.S. occupation? After the occupation began, these groups -- Bin Laden and such -- grew very strong in the western part of Iraq and they even operate in parts of Baghdad. They do things such as kill hairdressers who provide "western" haircuts.

Q: What is the impact of the U.S. contract workers in Iraq?
A: We are not against foreign workers. They deserve protection and labor rights as well as the Iraqis. In Iraq the official unemployment rate is now 40%. The foreign companies are using six or seven subcontractors for every project. Of those subcontractors, the last two might be Iraqi. The installed government employs only the police and the military and their contracts last for six months only. They are given no insurance and no compensation for injuries or death. We believe the unemployment rate will continue to rise and that will increase the violence in Iraq.

Q: What industries survived the war and what organizing happens in those industries?
A: We have textile, leather, food and oil industries. These industries survived, not because nobody wanted to loot their factories, but because the equipment was too big. In one plant we have 6,000 machinists who survived and are unionized, but there is tremendous pressure to privatize the plant.


Foster: Our international union gives all our translators a break after 30 minutes and we have already broken that rule here tonight!

Reading of fraternal greetings from the campaign against Coca-Cola in Colombia.

Foster: Thank you all. $1,219 was raised to support Iraqis. Meetings like this are very important. All of you should please join the Steelworkers. This struggle will go on for a long time. The observation of labor and human rights must be supported. Go out tonight determined to do good work.

Out now!

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
The first of many fliers to come to publicize the national demonstrations scheduled in D.C. this fall. I whipped out this boring and rather boilerplate-like flier to pass out at the meeting tonight. 500 people went to Joan of Arc church to hear local Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli talk about his experiences in Iraq these past few months. It was a fabulous turnout and a heartfelt talk by Sami. We placed one of these fliers on every chair along with the June 30 fliers. The word is getting out and we are experiencing a sense of renewal in the antiwar movement. General public opinion is turning against the war and various U.S. politicians are demanding a timetable for troop withdrawal. We are definitely living in interesting times.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

WCCO gives abuser and murderer prime-time platform

What do you get in Minneapolis when you murder your estranged wife's co-worker?

You get a prime-time platform on local television and radio station WCCO.

Jeff Skelton wasn't happy with the coverage of the murder he was hearing while listening to the radio as he hid out from the cops, so he called the local station and whined. When I don't like what a local station runs, I call the station and nothing happens. But if you are a murderer on the lam, you get full-court coverage. They even have the taped interview on the WCCO web site so you can hear it and replay his vicious ideas over and over again. What a great public service!

I was steamed up enough to call the newsroom and complain. I also wrote an e-mail to the Minnesota Coalition on Battered Women. I've copied the e-mail below because I'm too angry to write up the events a second time for this blog:


This is to alert you of a problem on WCCO news 10 p.m. coverage of the Skelton case. I watched the report today and immediately got on the phone to the newsroom. While this creep was hiding out from the cops he apparently contacted a WCCO radio reporter and blamed his wife for his actions. The report included snippits of the interview with the murderer in which Skelton basically blamed his wife for the murder of her friend. They noted that we lucky citizens can listen to this creep's entire interview by clicking a link on their website.

The report went on to explain that Skelton was not "unknown" by the police and that the murder victim had a restraining order against him.

What they did not do, at any time, was explain that this guy was a raving lunatic and that women had options in fighting against such a man. They made no reference to services available to women who are being abused. They had no expert on hand explaining how murderers and abusers always blame their victims. Nothing. Nada.

Basically, Skelton got himself a free platform for his vicious beliefs. One of the quotes they put on the air was that Skelton felt there should be some punishment for anyone who "breaks the commandments." I wonder how hard it would have been for WCCO to find a minister on a Sunday to explain that committing murder did not constitute proper punishment.

I immediately got on the phone and talked to a Mark (he wouldn't give me his last name) in the WCCO newsroom. I told him I was very upset by the report and how it included no information useful to women in a violent situation. He agreed and said that the reporter was unable to get a hold of a spokesperson from the domestic violence community before the report went on the air. He did say they were preparing a report that will run tomorrow about how women can get help.

I told him that if they had phone books in their offices, they had the information they needed in the blue pages and did not need a spokesperson to put that on the air. Mark agreed.

I told him that if I was still with my abuser and watched that program, he would have turned to me and said, "See what can happen if you say anything!" I told Mark his report put people in danger tonight and they were totally irresponsible.

I asked who made the decisions about this and he told me I should contact the assistant news director John Danzer. He was the one who made the decision to put the report on the air as is.

Mark also said, "I understand what you are saying and I agree with your conclusions."

I just wanted you to know what happened and I will support anything you want to do to make sure this doesn't happen again.


If you live in Minnesota and/or are as appalled as I am about this, please take a moment to do something concrete to help out your local shelter, hotline or other service for women who are victims of abusive men.

Friday, June 17, 2005


I've been catching up with one of the latest feminist battles in the progressive blogosphere over the Natalee Holloway disappearance. Below I mentioned how tired I was of the media's fascination with missing white women. Television media just can't resist decorating their newscasts with pictures of beautiful blonde women whenever they get the chance. Since I am neither beautiful, nor blonde, nor young, I am damn sure that, should I turn up missing, my pictures wouldn't make the cut.

So I was almost prepared to applaud when I began to read a postfrom Steve Gilliard about the class issues the media is using to their benefit. But then I kept reading. Boy did he get it wrong. A great response. has been posted by Pinko Feminist Hellcat. And I'm following her excellent lead in my response.

Gillliard wrote:

I don't think it's not so much that "she got what she deserves", but a media refusal to look at their conduct and say these girls were placed in a less than optimal situation. I would also bet no one had an honest discussion with them about acting like adults and making adult choices. Of course not. It was a "Christian" school.

This is such a fascinating assumption. I'm damned if I can figure out how anyone could talk herself into it. And I use the female pronoun purposely. What planet does he think this woman lived on?

Women are bombarded with fear mongering by our friends, our families, our teachers and our media every single day. We constantly read and hear about rape, murder, sexual and domestic assault. It is in our newspapers, on the radio, in our songs, on the internet, in our soap operas, in our movies, in books and in our families. We hear it from the people we know who have survived attacks. They are everywhere: our family, our co-workers, our friends and ourselves.

We are taught techniques and sold products that might protect us. We lock ourselves into our cars, our homes and at work. We take self-defense courses and hold our keys splayed between our fingers. Women in this country almost never walk alone at night, enter an alley even in broad daylight or go to a bar alone.

And yet, somehow, Gilliard believes that there are 18-year-old women in this country who have somehow missed all this and need a man like Gilliard to explain it to them.

There's a lot more to Gilliard's post that you can read for yourself. But he comes around to the same ridiculous assumptions in his conclusion:

Because Natalee Holloway only had limited tools to deal with the adult situation she placed herself in. By drinking, she lowered those odds, but it is likely that her parents, school and chaperones did little to increase her awareness or decision-making skills.

Sure, she made bad decisions, but they shouldn't have the death penalty attached to them. And frankly, she was placed into a situation which she could not handle and her family and friends did not equip her to deal with. You could say she was a victim of American sexual schizophrenia, but that would never make the papers or CNN.

Gilliard has absolutely no evidence to back up his assumptions. None of us has a clue about what actually happened in Aruba. But he is sure that Halloway was "ill-equipped."

I want to know why in the hell he thinks he can say anything about Holloway's life, her abilities or her decision-making skills. In what kind of a world does a man feel he can define the life experience of a woman he's never even met?

Oh, I know. That would be a sexist world.

Is Gilliard blaming the victim? Well … not exactly.

But he is living in a dream world if he thinks that women will benefit from having yet another man explain how she isn't properly prepared for the world.

As Amanda says in her entry into this fray:

Women cannot stop rape. We cannot do it. It's not fucking possible. In order to stop rape in our current climate we would have to sequester ourselves from men completely….

There are men out there doing the hard work to try to change our culture. They aren't doing it by making assumptions about how women lead their lives. They are doing it by making decisions about how men should lead theirs.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Book of Salt

On my way home from work I pass through East Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis' Southeast Neighborhood. Lately, the area has been spruced up and now has a number of bars, restaurants and stores catering to a yuppie, white, gay clientelle. One of those stores is a lovely little bookshop called, Query Books. I stopped in a month or so ago and saw the discussion book for June is Monique Truong's The Book of Salt I bought the book and tomorrow evening I will attend the discussion which is being led by Toni McNaron

This book is written from the point of view of "Binh", the Vietnamese cook who worked for Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas for five years in Paris. It is a book in the tradition of several others that take a well-known literary tradition and view it from the point of view of the "other". I am reminded of Jean Rhys' Wild Sargasso Sea, which is the story of the madwomen in the attic from Jane Eyre or Tom Stoppard's play Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead written from the point of view of two minor characters in Shakespeare's play, Hamlet.

By taking the point of view of a minor character in a major story, we see our assumptions and prejudices burst wide open. The book seemed deliberately obscure and I've spent some time, since reading it, looking for information on the internet that might fill in some of the details on events which are merely alluded to by Truong.

By far, the strength of the book is in portraying the incredible barrier that language presents. Incredibly intelligent people are made stupid by the inability to speak a common language. We forget that. There is a wonderful passage about a printer's assistant who cleans up the press, never knowing the words and the meaning of the hot metal stories he touches every day. Here is a wonderful passage about his job:

My third oldest brother worked at a printer press. He cleaned the typeset sheets, ready to be dismantled, voided by the next day's news. He removed each block and cleaned the letters while they were still warm and cloaked in a soft scab of ink, getting his brush into the sickle moons of each “C," the surrending arms of each "Y". ....Anh Tung looked down and saw only the "O" roar of a lion's mouth, the "T" branches of a tree, the "S" curve of the Mekong. Anh Tung smiled to himself thiking how the heat of the presses was not as bad as his friends had warned him, how the taste of ink can be washed away by a cup of tepid tea, how he would just hide his graying fingernails in his pockets when he went courting.

Every day, for forty years, I have spent my life with letters as well. Sometimes I read what I produce, but often I do not. Of if I do, my concentration lasts only as long as it takes to understand whether a sentence has meaning, and then it is gone, erased from my memory to make room for another. I understand the feeling of letters as pictures and not words. The mass of letters as a sculpture, not a story. I like this concept and the way Truong describes it is similar to the way workers in the printing industry experience words even today.

Getting old

OK, I'm only 49 years old. But I have apparently reached the age at which injuries are subtle and harder to resolve. Saturday I woke up and could not feel parts of my left thumb. I thought I probably slept on it wrong and tried to shake it "awake". No luck. Some of the feeling came back later in the day but the numbness continued through today.

A quick check on the internet showed numbness in the thumb to be a common symptom of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Since I've spent the last 40 years working eight hours a day or more at one sort of keyboard or another, this is not surprising. I've never had the severe pains people with CTS can experience, but at various times in the past I've worn wrist braces to cut down on the sharp pains that run up into the shoulders. It just seemed odd to be happening now since I do less keystroking than ever and I mouse with my right hand.

Today I left work early and went to my doctor. Instead of just concentrating on my thumb, as I had been doing all weekend, she started pressing different parts of my hand. That nearly sent me through the ceiling in pain when she touched the soft area between my thumb and finger. I never bothered thinking about, much less touching that area all weekend long. Now I know why!

"You've just earned yourself a wrist Xray," she said and off I went to get radiated.

Turns out the bones are fine, but I have a torn ligament. Something with the lovely moniker, "De Quervain's Tenosynovitis". Solution: a butt-ugly hard plastic splint to keep my thumb in one place and a series of exercises help move the ligament back into place. Should be healed in about a week.

Apparently I did something on Friday to tear the thing. I just can't remember. On the other hand, I'm often moving or stretching or picking something up in a way that is painful and that I forget about two seconds later. I consider it just another joy of age. Things just aren't that easy any more and it's painful to do stuff I used to do without any stress. Evidently I still don't think about it at all, but the consequences are longer lasting!

And the final insult: there's no quick fix for this. Just more work and awkwardness. That about sums up age, I think: More work and awkwardness. It isn't pretty, but it could be far worse.

I'm not writing to complain, either, just noting how terribly boring and uneventful everyday life can be. Even the injuries are boring and uninspiring! I wouldn't have it any other way.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Cheap joke

There are three types of people in the world.

Those who can count.

And those who can't.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Missing white woman fatigue

I must admit I am tired of all the attention paid to missing blonde, blue-eyed, young and nubile white woman. The latest is a high school tourist in Aruba. The story is sad and the family is in anguish, but I just cannot find it within myself to give a damn. I mean, seriously, folks, what infinitesimally small percentage of Americans are able to take a tour to a Caribbean island to celebrate graduating from high school?

Where I come from, sharing a twelve pack of Heinekins would have been the ultimate in celebrations.

It ain't pretty, but there you have it.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Two Fruitbats!

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.
This is a special Friday Cat Blog. Here is a picture of my own Fruitbat, a cat born with huge ears who finally grew into them as you can see here. I did my first Friday Cat Blog on Fruitbat, with whom I shared 21 years on this planet.

In an example of internet serendipity, I have learned about another Fruitbat. Another cat owner decided to Google the words "Fruitbat" and "Cat" and ended up at this humble blog. Recently, I received an e-mail with this lovely picture of a Fruitbat who has the ears to live up to her name.

Originally uploaded by Ravenmn.

It's good to know that the Fruitbat the Cat name continues on! Please say hi to another, very special Fruitbat the Cat!

Update on reading....


I finished reading The Librarian by Larry Beinhart. Beinhart also wrote a book called American Hero which was turned into the movie Wag the Dog. The Librarian novel is a screed against unfair elections and campaign practices, corruption at the highest levels, conspiracy, fraud -- the works. There was humor, but not enough to blunt the points Beinhart was repeatedly hammering hammering hammering hammering in to the reader to get his political agenda across. So the book is a tiresome read, but it is also a book with no faith in the ability of an aroused citizenry to make a difference. Beinhart's "solution" is artificially ambiguous and he absolutely demands that the reader DO SOMETHING!:

It depends on the people as well. Will they just want to get it over within twenty-six minutes, solved like the conflict in a sitcom? Or will they demand to get the facts clearly and in detail and sort the wheat from the chaff and the flash from the trash?
It depends on you. Sorry about that. But it does.

After spending 430 pages portraying the American people as dupes, it's pretty disingenous to then demand they do something now that our hero has pointed out the correct problem for them to fight against. Give me a break!


To get back to writing in the service of a good plot, I read the latest novel by John Sandford called Broken Prey. This is another in a long line of mysteries centering on Minnesota detective Lucas Davenport. The murderers in these books are so depraved and disgusting that it seems impossible that Sandford can top his last book for horrifying detail and concept. Yet he succeeds again with a plot hatched in an insane assylum in southern Minnesota. This time around, Davenport partners with Sloan, a detective who must have been an important part of the previous books, but I can't remember any of them clearly enough now to recall the history.

In addition to providing the creepiest of the creepy characters, Sandford also excels in providing salt-of-the-earth local police officers, troopers, cops and allied politicians who are fiercely loyal, and determined to track the killers. All in all, another very satisfying read.

The big disappointment, for me, was that Davenport's amazing wife, Weather, is out of the country during most of the events and their relationship exists across telephone lines only. What will be truly amazing, I think, is to watch Davenport deal with the conflicting pressures of work and family. Thus the fact that his wife and children are out of the country seems like a cheap way for Sandford to postpone that particular conundrum. Somehow, though, it feels as if he'll be able to write it once he decides to take it on. We'll see.


Next I read the first in a series of mysteries by Jessica Speart featuring a Fish and Wildlife officer called Rachel Porter. The first book in the series, Gator Aide takes place in the swamps of Louisiana and in New Orleans. In addition to dealing with a new career she's not sure she can handle, Porter is also thrust into the deep south as a citified New Yorker. Porter gets mired in the swamps as well as in the bog of sexism, racism and southern distrust of northerners and nearly gets herself sliced and diced as a result. The book is a fast and pleasing read. Not too heavy, not too didactic and interesting enough to keep me reading straight through. It's interesting that Porter holds her own despite the efforts of many over-protective males to keep her out of the way. She doesn't solve the problems of sexism, she tries to work her way around the issue. She wins as often as she loses and it's satisfying to have a heroine who is not invincible, has lots of doubts, but pushes on through to the end. Along the way, she meets fascinating characters, making friends and enemies where she least expects it. Definitely worth checking out some more of Speart's work.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Who is Deep Throat and who cares anyway?

I became a journalist at 15. I got hired by my local newspaper to cover high school sports in southern Minnesota. I covered football, basketball and track in 13 counties during the academic year. Every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday night would find me at the newspaper with four or five other peons, writing two paragraph stories about high school competitions until 3 or 4 in the morning. I'm sure it was a violation of child labor laws and I could never have done it if I wasn't attending an "open" school that allowed me to come in every day around noon.

And I loved it. I loved the writing. I loved talking to people, getting the story, choosing the words, glorifying the everyday. I really loved everything about newspapers. I loved the sloppy, cheap atmosphere. The smoke-filled rooms and the reams of newsprint spewing out of the teletype machines. I loved the smell of photo-processing chemicals. I loved the absurd camaraderie that occurs when diverse writers join together making something out of nothing and filling a news hole. Yeah, it wasn't world-shattering, but it was important to our readers and we knew it. We certainly heard about it when we were wrong.

After three years of sportswriting, I headed off to University and got a job in production on a college paper and enrolled in "J school" -- that's a Journalism major, to those of you not in on the lingo.

This was after Nixon resigned. Woodward and Bernstein were being hailed for saving the nation with their Watergate reporting. J-schools were filling up with young, starry-eyed boys and girls hoping to become the next American Hero. Journalism and its effects seemed "Important" with a capital "I".

Such a glorious concept. And a load of crap, of course.

Now, thanks to a Vanity Fair article (sorry, can't find the link!), we know that the man who directed Woodward and Bernstein's reporting in a way that revealed the depths to which the Nixon White House had sunk, was just another embittered Washington insider named Mark Felt.

John Nichols describes the revelation in his blog:

In hindsight, we should have known that Washington Post writer Bob Woodward's source for the investigative reports he and Carl Bernstein wrote about Nixon-era corruption would not be an idealist who sought to expose a corrupt presidency. Rather, like so many of Woodward's sources over the years, W. Mark Felt was a consummate Washingtion insider. Far from being someone who feared for the Republic, Felt was a protégé of longtime Federal Bureau of Investigation director J. Edgar Hoover.

On the other hand, it is that very human quality of bitterness and self-aggrandizement that has revealed the truth on so many issues.

Let me digress.

When I was involved in the movement against intervention in Central America, it was discovered that the FBI was conducting secret investigations of a group I was a member of, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). The reason we found out? One of their moles got pissed at the FBI for not paying him what he felt he deserved, so he revealed the secrets. Just plain human selfishness. Nevermind that his activities directly led to the deaths of Salvadorans who sought refuge in the U.S. He wanted his money and he wanted it now. Secrecy and the U.S. government be damned.

That's the amazing thing about our country. The truth can come out for all the wrong reasons, and yet it eventually does come out.

Which reminds me of Leslie Marmon Silko's extraordinary book Almanac of the Dead. Silko teaches us that you don't have to be an exceptional human being to make a difference. Revolution will come from ordinary people living ordinary lives in ordinary places who simply say, "Enough!"

Basta. Basta ya!