Saturday, January 28, 2006

"Out Now!" not "Support the Troops"

Joel Stein at The Los Angeles Times sparked a kerfluffle with an article about why he does not support the troops in Iraq. The article will be off line in a couple of weeks, but you can read a synopsis and response by Richard at American Leftist. Richard's comments are not only excellent in an of themselves, but they have sparked a great discussion as well. I couldn't help but join in because this subject comes up often in the anti-war movement and I've given it quite a lot of thought over the years. I'm copying my post here, but I encourage everyone to read the discussion both because it includes respectful and thoughtful arguments for different points of view.

Here's me:

First, yes, and by all means, the people to be concerned about are the Iraqis, not the men and women who are under orders to kill them.

Second, the only honest way I can support the troops is by doing whatever I can to bring them home -- Out Now! I cannot say I believe the war is unjust and at the same time support those people who are participating in that war.

What the antiwar movement can do and did do during the Vietman War is support those troops who refuse to fight. They set up GI coffeehouses so troops could talk about what they experienced. They helped produce newsletters so troops could teach each other the truth about what they were doing. They supported GIs who refused to carry out orders in Nam. This was the anti-Vietnam War movement whose history has been grossly distorted by right-wing propaganda.

I can't remember the book's title, but one researcher found absolutely no documentary record that any returning Vietnam Vet was spat on by anyone in the antiwar movement. Ever. The movement was not making those mistakes. In fact, it's history has been deliberately distorted.
And when the antiwar movement talks about poor body armor, lack of medical care and budget cuts to veterans, it cannot be in order to build a better killing machine, but is instead a method of showing just how callous our political leaders are in carrying out their imperialist wars. They don't care how many Iraqis die, but they also don't care very much about what happens to the people they hire to carry out their grand plans.

Support the soldiers who tell the truth and refuse to carry out orders. Support the soldiers who refuse to deploy. We do a great disservice to these brave and honest women and men if we lump them in with the group who have not yet or will never open their eyes to the horrors they inflict on Iraq.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

We have a location!

Another iteration. With desktop publishing, everyone seems to know how easy it is to update these things, and so I manage to do each flyer several times. That's cool.

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Check out Troops Out Now and/or A.N.S.W.E.R. for an event in your area. They should be listing them soon!

See also in the UK Stop the War and A.N.S.W.E.R. in Los Angeles.

Franklin, 1; Students, 1; Gonzales, 0

Students protested Attorney General Gonzales' defense of domestic spying by turning their backs and unveiling a banner:

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Now this is the kind of college athletic event I would pay to attend. Way to go!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Flatten Image

In Photoshop, you can set up different layers to work on particular parts of a composite image. But before you can save the file in some of the printable formats, you need to choose "Flatten Image" on the layers palette. This means your image has lots its depth and is no longer as easily editable.

My body has entered "flatten image" zone. For the first time in three years, I've got a bug and it has taken me down for two and half days. I manage to get dressed and breathe and that is the extent of my capabilities. I am all surface material and no depth. I am a congested nose, a sore throat and a voice from "The Exorcist". Can't read, can't concentrate on anything for long. I've flipped through the channels on cable and managed to read a couple of blogs on the net. Then I get exhausted and have to take a nap.

Enough whining, already. Later.

Friday, January 20, 2006

After the committee

Well, not a lot of changes, which is good. The copy changes are the committee's. The art changes are mine. I adjusted the lighting on the Guernica images so that they have the same gray levelss. Picked another detail to add. Looking OK, I think.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Just a draft

Trying to work up an agreeable leaflet for the March anniversary of the War in Iraq. This one will go to a committee, so I haven't put a lot of work into it.

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Monday, January 16, 2006

Sad news

This is not an uncommon event in Iraq, but it happens to be affecting the family of a friend.

My uncle Abdulrazaq (My father's younger brother who is 50 years old) was in Iraq (in our local city of Smarra Iraq) on Thursday January 5th, 2006 and at 8pm went to go meet with his business partners to finish financial exchanges and on his way back he was killed by American troops. Upon stealing the $10,000 that were in his coat pocket the troops that the Americans are so proud of and support, found that he did not have any weaons or explosives and then they dumped his body at the local hospital and walked away with his money.

My cousin is a resident physician at the local hospital. The Americans had notified them that they were bringing in a dead body and to come and receive it. Upon going to receive the body from the Americans outside of the hospital he was shocked to find that this is his uncle. At home his wife was very worried as he was extraordinarily late for dinner. She called other family members who called the hospital (which is something people typically due since so many people are dying since the U.S. invation) to see if he had an accident at which point my cousin answered informing them that his body was just dumped at the hospital. Our family was contacted and they came to receive his body. He was shot in the head, abdomen, and in one of his kidneys and it is believed that he died immediately, though the details of whether they robbed him before or after they killed him and when decided to dump his body are unknown. He left behind a wife and two daughters age 4 and 5. They are still not sure how to break the news to his daughter.

My uncle had spent 16 years as a prisoner of war in Iran. He was freed on April 9th, 1998 (even though the Iran/Iraq war ended in the late 80's). Upon starting his life again in 1998 he married and had two beautiful daughters. Although it was always hard for him to talk about the torture in the Iranian prisons, his daughters Shayma (5 years old) and Yamama (4 years old) always had a way of transcending words.

My uncle Abdulrazak is not the only one, there are thougsands that have died in this way. This is the face of American terrorism. Our family is so numb. Our hearts are swollen with grief, resentment, and sorrow. American soldiers sign up to risk life and death and when one of them dies it is though the earth stops its rotation, but when an Iraqi civilian who is working hard to support his family and is forced to live his life in the midst of an American occupation is murdered and robbed by sweet American boys, he is dumped like road kill. What makes their lives more worth living?? Is it the blue eyes and blond hair? or is it the cross that hangs on their necks?? I wonder what defense they have for this one. Did he part his hair on the wrong side? Did he wear the wrong color? Was he driving "suspiciously"? What would they say he did to deserve being murdered? How about robbing him? It must not have been a robbery. Maybe they were afraid that a doctor would steal his money so they kept if for safe keeping. Maybe they wanted to take the money and buy a gift for his daughters. Whatever it is it must be good because they are Americans! In fact as they provide this hypothetical justification (assuming they would be prompted to do so- which wouldn't happen because Americans answer to no one) I can just hear the national anthem playing in the background. My uncle's murderers will come home to their families one day to tell of the heroic stories but humbly refuse to be called heroes and instead insist that they were merely doing their duty, but in their soiled hearts they will carry the ugliness of what they have done and who they became and it will eat at them until it destroys their lives and the lives around them.

This email will not have an end-just as these killings do not...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Problem In Iraq? Bad BRANDING!

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Image from Haha Funny Pictures. Go make your own!

Wikipedia describes branding this way:

Marketers seek to develop or align the expectations comprising the brand experience through branding, so that a brand carries the "promise" that a product or service has a certain quality or characteristic which make it special or unique. A brand image may be developed by attributing a "personality" to or associating an "image" with a product or service, whereby the personality or image is "branded" into the consciousness of consumers. A brand is therefore one of the most valuable elements in an advertising theme, as it demonstrates what the brand owner is able to offer in the marketplace. The art of creating and maintaining a brand is called brand management. You're creating the story.

Failed colonial administrator/puppet Mark Etherington told Terry Gross on Fresh Air yesterday that he and the Ukranian troops who were protecting his sorry ass got kicked out of Iraq because of bad branding!!

The key to this business is this: as one goes in, first of all, you have to project your brand. People need to know what it is you stand for and they need to be conscious of your particular identity, your profile. One has to project this early. It's important to set the tone. And the reason it's so important is because one has, typically, a finite period of time in which, really, to win the consent necessary to prosecute these reforms.

Now our difficulty was that Iraq is a large country, and we had insufficient numbers of troops, to lend the public that sense of security that is so essential. And what that meant is that in villages in my province, for example, is that they might see a military patrol once a month or something on that order. And this was really not enough for them to feel confident in the kind of role that we were trying to play. And what this additionally meant was that it placed a lot of pressure on the military forces there, many of whom hadn't really done this before.

Now, of course, althought the Ukranians -- and I'm not singling them out -- The Ukranians, of course, did their best, but I think few would argue they are very experienced in peace-keeping terms. And this is a parculiarly sophisticated art -- this business of capacity-building -- in fact it's more than peace-keeping, it's capacity building as well, it's state building.

My head just exploded.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Egoboo from EgoSurf

This is apparently bogus. I found the link via Presurfer and entered my screen name and blog name. There is no way my traffic is anyway near the Presurfer's. Something's fishy about the system.

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Here's the link in case you want to try for yourself.

True English Nerd

You scored 89 erudition!

Not only do you know your subjects from your objects and your definite from your indefinite articles, but you've got quite a handle on the literature and the history of the language as well. Huzzah, and well done! The English snobs of Boston salute you.

You scored higher than 93%
on erudition

Link: The Are You Truly Erudite? Test written by okellelala on Ok Cupid, home of the 32-Type Dating Test

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hissy Fits are funny

Via American Leftist, I found a link to an Empire Burlesque post about the latest media pimping being done by Paul Bremer. He was the first U.S. colonial kahuna in Iraq and now he's worried he's gonna be blamed for the fucked up mess the U.S. has created. He has written a volume to add to the long list of apologia's by middle managers in government who are willing to slurp up all the privileges of power but just hate to have to take any responsibility once the blame gets doled out.

The article is preaching to the choir, of course, and won't change any minds. But the writing had me laughing out loud:

The Highly Informative Hissy Fit of L. Paul Bremer III

Tuesday, 10 January 2006

We need shed no tears for Paul Bremer, the former satrap of Iraq who now claims that he was set up by the Pentagon as the "fall guy" for the Bush Regime's bloodsoaked folly in Iraq. No one put a gun to his head and forced him to take up the colonial overseer's baton, and if the Bushists, in their usual manner, used him up then spit him out, that's just too damn bad. Anyone who cast their lot with this wretched enterprise deserves everything they get, in spades.

But that doesn't mean that there isn't much useful information to be gleaned from Bremer's whiny new memoir, especially the insider confirmation that neither the Bush warmongers nor their corrupt Iraq collaborators ever had the slightest idea of what to do with the country once they ripped it to shreds -- other than just loot it and kill people.

As the Financial Times puts it: "What emerges clearly from the diary is that there was no detailed postwar reconstruction plan, that the US lacked decent intelligence to deal with an insurgency it failed to predict, and the naivety of Americans who were shocked at the dismal state of Iraq's economy and infrastructure after years of sanctions.

"Mr. Bremer accuses Pentagon officials of setting him up to take the fall for the postwar failures in Iraq, even though the decision to disband the army was personally approved by Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, and cleared by Mr Rumsfeld and President George W. Bush….

"A Pentagon spokesman on Monday confirmed that Mr Bremer had sent Mr Rumsfeld a memo based on a report by the Rand Corporation consultancy that recommended 500,000 US troops would be needed to pacify Iraq -- far more than were sent. But Mr Bremer's advice was rejected by military leaders and Mr Rumsfeld."

In the time-honored fashion of bootlickers everywhere, Bremer hastens to heap praise on Bush personally -- saving his ire for well-placed barbs at the murderous incompetence and bureaucratic hugger-mugger of Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith and other masters of disaster. Yet at the same time, the hapless viceroy is desperately trying to signal that the final responsibility for the FUBAR fiasco lies with the dimbulb in the Oval Office. It's not my fault, Bremer screams through the lines on every page: I vas only following the orders of mein Fuhrer!

There is of course an egregious amount of butt-covering in all of this. Bremer presents himself as a gosh-darn good egg who just wanted to do what's right but ended up as the tragic victim of vicious circumstances. Yet the fact is that Bremer played a key role in creating those circumstances, and at every point assidiously carried out his primary duty: laying open the ruined nation to the rapacious appetities of Bush's corporate cronies. He is, to put it bluntly, a war criminal like the rest of them, although he would perhaps be ranged with the second tier of defendants in that new Nuremberg Tribunal of our dreams.

But even butt-coverers can tell the truth -- inadvertantly, letting bits of it poke out from behind their comfy quilt of rationalization and justification. And Bremer's hissy fit confirms once more that the ultimate responsibility for this illegal invasion of Iraq -- and all the stomach-churning horrors that have followed in its wake -- does indeed lie with the tinpot tyrant in the White House: George Widowmaker Bush.

Sami is returning to Minnesota!

My good friend Sami Rasouli is returning to Minnesota after spending several months in Iraq working with the Iraqi human rights teams and helping his family to rebuild. I just made the flyer for his report back. It will be great to see him again.

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Ten reasons why you should never accept a diamond

Found via metafilter, this article is a short, concise guide to the problems with diamonds and has links to longer articles.

I've never understood the fascination with diamonds, so this is one of those "political" decisions that is an easy "sacrifice" for me. It's like the decision I made to stop shaving when I was in my teens. I have very light and very sparse hair. You'd have to get awfully close to my legs see my political statement. Making the politically correct decision under these circumstances hardly counts.

On the other hand, life is hard enough. Nothing wrong with taking the "easy" road every once in a while!

Monday, January 09, 2006

New Year's Inventory Meme

1. What did you do in 2005 that you'd never done before?
Bought a newer (good) used car rather than a crappy used car.

2. Did you keep your new years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Yes/I've made enough for this year.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My grandson was born on February 16.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

5. What countries did you visit?

6. What would you like to have in 2006 that you lacked in 2005?
More time with friends.

7. What date from 2005 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
September 24. The huge anti-war march in Washington, D.C.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Surviving with my sense of humor intact.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Losing my sense of humor on occasion.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing permanent. Knock wood.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
The car.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Those who protested the war.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Our so-called "leaders."

14. Where did most of your money go?
The car.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Mizna's Third Annual Midwest Arab Film Festival

16. What song will always remind you of 2005?
Can't think of any.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you more or less relaxed?
The same.

18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Gone to more movies.

19. What do you wish you'd done less of?

20. How will you be spending Christmas?
With family.

21. Did you fall in love in 2005?
All over again. He's the one.

22. How many one-night stands?

23. What was your favorite TV program?
Crossing Jordan

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
It's pretty much the same.

25. What was the best book you read?
The Book of Salt by Monique Truon

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Can't think of one.

27. What did you want and get?
More time with Ravenhub.

28. What did you want and not get?
A perfectly clean house.

29. What was your favorite film of this year?

30. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
Had a party for myself. Had a wonderful time.

31.What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
The overthrow of capitalism.

32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2005?

33. What kept you sane?
Friends and drugs (not those kind, you ninny).

34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Vandana Shiva

35. What political issue stirred you the most?
The war in Iraq.

36. Who did you miss?
Activist friends who moved out of town.

37. Who was the best new person you met?
Vandana Shiva (see above)

38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2005.
To laugh. At myself, at reality, at the universe. I have to relearn it every year. (Sometimes every day....)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Two Events

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This ad for the MLK weekend event will run in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.

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The above flyer is for an event the same weekend at Mayday Books. Author Cathy Sultan will speak about her new book, A Beirut Heart.

Busy busy busy!

Our priorities suck

We've got thousands of people trained to remove manicure scissors from carry-on bags so that business people can jet around the world, while people just trying to make a living are dying undreground.

For an excellent overview of the situation of coal miners, check out Twelve of 13 miners found dead after false rescue report at the World Socialist Web Site.

Wherever Mother Jones is now, she's pissed and spoiling for a fight.

Monday, January 02, 2006


Yesterday I went to see "The Squid and the Whale". What an amazing movie. Jeff Daniels plays a character very much like my own father. The film covers the divorce of a family. The parents are both writers with advanced degrees in literature. The two boys are dealing with adolescence as well as the breakdown of the family. Sounds like a boring movie, but, in fact, there are parts of great humor and intense pain. Mostly there are spot-on characterizations of people and the massive disappointment we feel as children when we discover our parents are human and make tons of mistakes.

Jeff Daniels plays the father and he is amazingly self-absorbed. He is a successful writer whose current writing is being rejected. He is pompous, spouting opinions on anything and everything. He is concerned entirely with himself and his view of the world, which is both cynical and self-aggrandizing.

The oldest son has coped by turning himself into the adoring audience for his father. The son asks questions about culture, allowing his father to spout his cynical pronouncements. The son then memorizes the answers and spouts them back in an attempt at conversation. The youngest son is less imprinted, less able to cope and therefore harder hit by the problems that arise.

The mother is a writer who is just coming into success, something that is clearly a major problem for the father. She seems more interested in the lives of her children than their father, but, to their detriment, she chooses to have affairs with people she has met through her children including a school psychologist and her son's tennis teacher.

The family lives in a comfortable brownstone in Brooklyn. When the break-up happens, the father moves into a decrepit apartment "across the park". The walls are splotched with holes, the furniture is minimal. The father apparently steals one of those chair/arm desk pieces from school and proudly presents it, but fails to notice that it is for left-handers and his kids are right-handed. He proudly proclaims he has a ping-pong table, but he is the only one interested in playing the game. Again, with the self-obsession on Daddy's part. Over time, he demands to keep "his nights" with the kids and makes it a competition between himself and the mother, even though he does little for the kids themselves.

To a large extent, the movie does a great job of portraying the pompous intellectual caricature we've all heard about. Mostly, he is just a pathetic father. Years ago, I pegged my father fairly well by saying he was a man who always wanted offspring but never wanted children. I see the same in the Daniels character. He has nothing to give to anyone around him, especially his children who have no choice but to need and want more than they can possibly receive from him.

I'm not sure the break-up of the marriage is hurting or helping this family, since it was already so geared away from the needs of the children and so wrapped around the mighty ego of the father. The mother's attentions are too unfocused to compensate for that hole in their life and the sons are in for some painful and embarrassing experiences while they struggle to learn how to cope with life's issues without any support from the people whose job it is to help them.

In the last moments of the movie, the father has suffered an accident and tells his son how much he will need him around more to see to the father's needs. In a hopeful moment, the boy pulls his hand out of the grasp of his father and makes his way out of the hospital, preparing to deal with his demons on his own. I like the movie because it portrays what can happen when a man is allowed to be spoiled and self-absorbed and makes the grave mistake of having children he can't care for.

In the past year there was a study I found fascinating and logical. People who are incompetent at their jobs are also incompetent in judging how good they are at their jobs. This father is positive he is a good father, fighting for his children, although he is no help to them at all. There is a terrific scene when he tells his wife how hard he tried in the last year of their marriage. "Remember, I made hamburgers once!" It doesn't help matters that the wife, and we, find the statement to be hilarious. There's just no way this guy will ever "get it."


I took a half hour break after "The Squid and the Whale" and then saw "The Family Stone." What a shock to the system, this film was. The commercials emphasized the humor in the movie, but it was fundamentally not funny. Instead, it tugged at our heartstrings, taking every opportunity to wring sentimentality out of a not very interesting situation. The plot was stupid, the people were mean-spirited, the resolution was inauthentic and the ending was tacked on. It was definitely a major waste of my time. More than that, it was mean spirited and amazingly cynical. Again, we have a disgusting "liberal" family who somehow are unable to be tolerate anyone outside their insular clan. Kind of the opposite of the concept of "liberal" if you ask me.

Spoiler ahead! This time, the mother was the self-absorbed whiner whose picture is in the dictionary next to the term "inappropriate behavior." But, alas, she's dying of cancer, so we must feel sympathy for her. Honestly, I say good riddance, bitch.

Save your money.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

I'm hoping this day has found you in health and among people who make life interesting and fun for you! I am definitely enjoying just such a day myself.