Saturday, October 19, 2002

Clueless UN Socialists

Juan Gato has a little blurb here, about the ravings of an inexcusably stupid UN bureaucrat, one who has somehow been chosen to chair a UN commission, this one on the right to food. Read what Juan has to say, because it is brief, incisive, and devastating.

posted at 02:44 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

More press-release journalism

Yahoo! News seems to be more and more likely to be a source for advocacy journalism. This front-page story is nothing more than a press release from Oneworld US, an umbrella group for a collection of left-wing agitation groups.

This time, the "article" is about a Worldwatch Institute report on how consumerism is the cause of suffering and environmental damage, and how the western world doesn't care about the deaths and destruction caused by consumer demand.

What Worldwatch is loath to admit is that even if all trade in disputed resources were to cease, the wars would continue. Most of the tin-plated dictators and self-important agitation groups won't let something like a lack of money stop them from fighting; most of the countries cited in the press release have been fighting for decades, with no end in sight.

posted at 02:27 PM | permalink | Comments (1) is listed as a "provider" under "News Resources", right up there with the AP and, um, Reuters; they spew this stuff all the time.

posted by CGHill on October 20, 2002 10:10 PM

Another crackdown in Israel

This Reuters story demonstrates Israel's determination to crack down on terrorism, even as the US pushes them to cool down.

For what it's worth, I feel the US position is wrong—if we were in the same position, we would be cracking down as well. However, the US is attempting to reduce Arab instransigence towards operations against Iraq, and since Iraq and the Palestinian intifada are tightly linked, they hope that an Israeli drawdown will help ease anti-American sentiment.

posted at 02:10 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Anti-Americanism in Bahrain

This article from the Los Angeles Times discusses protests in Bahrain, the tiny island in the Persian Gulf that serves as the home of the US NAvy's Fifth Fleet and as an airfield for British and American aircraft operating in the region. The protestors are ignoring history:

During the Persian Gulf War, Iraq launched Scud missiles at Bahrain. Still, the protesters said the U.S. presence here is politically unacceptable and endangers Bahrain's sovereignty.

In what way is Bahraini sovereignty endangered?

"This is the new colonialism," said one protester, Suhyla Safqr, a dentist. "Americans are the new savages. We have so much anger at them. We will stop at nothing to stop them if they attack an Arab country."

Savages? We're not the ones who murdered 3000 innocents in one day, a move that certainly qualifies as "stopping at nothing". Apparently, Safqr prefers tyrants such as Hussein murdering their own countrymen to outside influence.

Mohammed Musfir, a political science lecturer, predicted an exponential growth in anti-U.S. sentiment and protests that could lead to governments asking the U.S. military to leave the bases it has used for decades.
"You will see demonstrations like never before in the Arab world," Musfir said. "The anger has built up because of U.S. support for Israel against the Palestinians. A war with Iraq will make the anger ignite."
But Hassan M. Saleh Ansari, director of the Gulf Studies Center at the University of Qatar, a regional think tank, said such predictions are exaggerated. He noted that the same sort of rhetoric was heard before a U.S.-led coalition forced Iraq to abandon Kuwait in 1991.
"We have heard this before," Ansari said. "If the war is quick, I do not think the reaction will be severe."

As in much of the Arabic world, there is a lot of anger at American support of Israel, and a belief (spread by some of the more virulent Anti-American fanatics and the Iraqi government) that this is an American war against Islam.

"First it was Afghanistan, now Iraq, soon Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. America will not be happy until it destroys all of Islam," said one protester, Sallah Salih, who works at a Chili's restaurant.

Obviously, Salih fails to graps the irony of the statement, coupled with his place of employment. How many of his coworkers would be unemployed if not for American corporations and the American military presence (which employs a significant number of locals)? Maybe he should look at the unemployment figures elsewhere in the Arab world.

posted at 01:53 PM | permalink | Comments (1)

Do you ever wonder how many of the protesters are on Bin Ladin's payroll?


posted by John Johns on October 20, 2002 03:19 AM

"Novel" tripe

Today's Seattle Times has a guest editorial that dresses up the same tired old tropes against the war in a spiffy new suit. Diana Abu-Jaber is a novelist and a professor at Portland State Univeristy. Her shtick is to dress up her criticisms of the administration as a critique of the "storyline" from a writer's point of view, forgetting that real life doesn't always work well as a book.

• Today, the book on attacking Iraq

Sure, President Bush is surrounded by all sorts of well-meaning consultants, analysts and spin-masters, but it seems that he's been getting some bad advice about story-telling — especially the story about Iraq. I'm no political pundit, but I have taught literature and creative writing for a while, and I had a few lesson-plan notes I thought President Bush might find useful.
• Show, don't tell: This is the oldest creative-writing-class axiom of all. Readers crave tangible details in a story instead of bland assertions. It's much more convincing to have physical proof that Saddam Hussein is capable of or planning to injure us than merely declaring he's part of an "axis of evil," which is actually a fairly weak abstraction.

I'm sure she feels the same way about North Korea, and all those foolish concerns about their non-existent nuclear weapons program. Oh, wait, you mean they're TRUE?

• Pacing is crucial: Stories have to unfold at a natural, organic tempo in order to seem genuine. Pressuring Congress to make a hurry-up decision on a question as big as whether to attack another country, about two minutes before a major election, feels forced and manipulative.

There has been no hurry, considering that Iraq has been a topic for quite a few months, now. The fact that is came at election time is due to the fact that Bush acquiesced to Democrat demands to study and discuss the issue thoroughly. We could have been done months ago if not for that acquiescence.

• Don't drop your story lines: Readers like to follow a story from beginning to end. Don't trail off in the middle of hunting Osama bin Laden to attack a new villain — that just leaves us all dangling.

Osama bin Laden is DEAD. There is no more story there, no dangling storyline. We've moved on to the next chapter.

• Avoid cliché and hyperbole: A term like "war" implies there are two sides capable of fighting each other. But Iraq has already been devastated by the Persian Gulf War as well as our economic sanctions and foreign policy. Previous weapons inspectors tell us that Iraq barely has an army — much less any real "weapons of mass destruction" (see above: hyperbole, cliché and abstraction).

If Iraq is so devastated by war and sanctions, how can they pay so much money to Islamokazis in Israel and the West Bank? Since there have been no weapons inspections (or weapons inspectors) in Iraq for four years, there is no reliable figure on the size or state of Iraq's army or weapons programs. As to the "hyperbole, cliché, and abstraction" about weapons of mass destruction, see above: North Korea's non-existent nuke program.

• Draw on personal experience: The most authentic stories come straight from our own life experience. Merely having your father state "I hate that man" (i.e., Saddam Hussein) is not satisfying to readers. I've visited the Middle East and taught lots of Middle Eastern students and I've found that they respect and admire America and that most of them would love to live here. The "bad guys" are a distinct minority — just like in this country.

Correction: Bush's father hates Hussein because Hussein tried to have the elder Bush assassinated. Further, the war is not against Iraq, but against the whole evil, corrupt, oppressive regime in Iraq, a distinct minority.

• Familiarize yourself with your subject: If you haven't read any novels or seen any Hollywood movies told from an Arab perspective, you might ask yourself why that is. Ask yourself: What am I not hearing? Ask yourself: Is this really the story that I want to tell?

There are few movies told from an Arab perspective in this country because there is not a market. Does Abu-Jaber believe that Hollywood would deliberately ignore a market where there is a profit to be made? After all, she is about to rant against corporate greed.

Consider this: There may be other, more powerful and immediate narratives we need to hear right now — tales of corporate greed and ruined life plans, right here at home; stories of pollution, disappearing forests and clean water, and global warming the world over. True, "war" is a grand story full of sound and fury, to paraphrase Faulkner, but maybe we want a different story right now. Maybe what we need to hear is the story of ourselves.

Perhaps she has it backwards—we cannot worry about corporate greed and ruined life plans, pollution, disappearing forests and global warming, because of the need to do something about Iraq. Her justifications have been used by anti-war activists of all stripes to argue against involvement in any war. They are indefensible when they are held up to the light of day. She "advises" Bush to avoid cliché, then engages in it herself.

posted at 01:07 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

I must admit I'm deeply troubled by this strong entry. Still, Portland is not left bereft of resources. I've noted a contenduh over at my joint.

posted by Moira on October 20, 2002 12:20 AM

Funny that a professor of literature should "paraphrase Faulkner" and not the guy Faulkner copped the phrase from -- Bill Shakespeare...

posted by Brian Swisher on October 21, 2002 04:52 PM

Looking for writers

The proprietor of The Sabertooth Journal is looking for writing partners for his blog, or for someone who would like to merge blogs. See this entry for details.

posted at 11:28 AM | permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, October 17, 2002

Stupid Letters

Moral equivalence from one of Seattle's dimmer lights.

If a president decides bombs are the answer, that's "leadership." But if somebody else decides bombs are the answer, that's "cowardly"? ("Indonesia links nightclub bombing to al-Qaida," News, Oct. 14.)
It's enough to make me say "Hmmm."
Joy Shayne Laughter, Seattle

Let's see—Bush wants to bomb MILITARY TARGETS; Al-Qaida wants to bomb CIVILIAN TARGETS. Bush's bombing campaign will prevent Iraq from waging war on its neighbors and ethnic minorities; Al-Qaida's bombing campaign will prevent tourists from dancing.

I can see the difference; it's too bad that Ms. Joy Laughter cannot.

A google search of her name came up with this repulsive little missive (it's near the bottom; scroll down to view) on the Andres Serrano "artwork" entitled "Piss Christ" (the infamous photo of a crucifix submerged upside down in a jar of urine):

February 26, 1998

I'd like to clarify some points about the Andres Serrano photograph, "Piss Christ," that actually brings more dimensions of the topic into view:

The crucifix in the photo is plastic and less than six inches long. It's a cheap, mass-produced product of the petroleum earth-rape culture, one of millions punched out in slave-wage factories somewhere in Mexico or Asia. So, what part of the righteous, pristine, all-holy Christian "morality" does this object reflect? Do you see that actually knowing the facts about the materials used can change what the art is "about"?
And did you ever think that urine would ever photograph so beautifully?
For me, seeing "Piss Christ" was a religious experience. The image from a religious story has been cheapened and trivialized by commerce, not by urine. Urine is part of God's plan, part of the miracle of our bodies (which includes Jesus' body, human thing that ate, shat, farted and peed), part of the complete ecological system of nature. "Piss Christ" reminded me that the essence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit (or whatever names you want to call the Creator Power) are present in urine, maybe more so than in a chip of plastic intended to make a profit from spiritual hunger and fear.
Joy Shayne Laughter, Seattle, WA,

Oh.My.God. I am not a particularly religious person, but the Serrano photo was offensive in the extreme, and here she manages to deify it, and work in a diatribe against the "petroleum earth-rape culture". Of course, coming from one who can't tell the difference between a nightclub and a weapons bunker, I shouldn't be surprised.

posted at 06:10 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

I want to see Serrano collaborate with Karen Finley, the performance artist. She could play the crucifix.

I also wondered about the famous Robert Mapplethorpe pictures we all paid for, especially the one with the bullwhip in his bung. I figured it would have been even more artistic if they had stuffed it in further.

posted by J Bowen on October 18, 2002 05:14 AM

I wonder if I could get an NEA grant to put a copy of the Koran upside down into a bottle of piss?
Nah, that would be a "hate crime," doncha know.

posted by Toren on October 19, 2002 11:42 AM

Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Gephardt-tax cutter?

In this article, which stopped me in my tracks, Dick Gephardt (!) advocates a $75 million tax cut, coupled with $125 million in spending increases (which is more like what I expect to hear from our boy).

It's amazing that this is the same person who has been screaming about how Bush "squandered the surplus", considering that he has not explained where he expects to find the $200 million to fund this plan. I'm curious, because unless he plans to hack something else, the money is not there.

Gephardt also pushed for familiar Democratic priorities: a raise in the minimum wage to $6.65 an hour from the current $5.15; an extension of unemployment benefits; a new system to protect worker pensions; a crackdown on excessive compensation for corporate chief executives; cuts in federal subsidies for corporations; and a "budget summit" to help erase a long-term federal deficit.

All of the usual Dem boilerplate is there, plus the "budget summit" to ease a problem that has an obvious solution. To eliminate the deficit, spending must be reduced to a level below that of income. Neither party is willing to take the steps necessary to achieve such a feat, however, and pork-barrel projects are the rule for politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Amusingly enough, the White House ignored most of Gephardt's speech (liberally peppered with attacks on the administration) and seized on the tax cut proposal as something that they can support.

"The idea of tax incentives to help stimulate growth is always an interesting idea," Fleischer said. "We'll take a look at what the congressman said. We want to work with Democrats and Republicans alike."

At least they agree on something.

posted at 05:31 PM | permalink | Comments (0)

Straw: More money on Defense

Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, has urged European governments to increase their defense spending to take on the threat of global terrorism.

The CNN Europe article also has a chart showing defense expenditures (as a percentage of GDP) for 1980-1984, and again in 2000 for the members of NATO. Every nation except Turkey and Italy showed a decline, and shows that six nations currently spend 1.5 percent or less of their GDP on defense expenditures. (The US figure was 3 percent.)

Another point made in the article is a sharp increase in British support for the campaign against Iraq; it shot up 10 percent in one week, to 42 percent. The survey was conducted by the Wanker, so it is fairly safe to say that it was not designed to inflate the figure for support of the war.

posted at 05:12 PM | permalink | Comments (0)


The weather this week has been a bust so far. Monday was very windy (gusts of 40 mph), and it rained yesterday. Today it has rained almost continuously, and we are currently experiencing a thunderstorm stronger than any I have ever experienced outside of Florida. I miss the pleasant weather of San Diego; even Seattle was nicer than this...

posted at 04:51 PM | permalink | Comments (2)

But hey, you're still getting per diem!

posted by Wind Rider on October 16, 2002 04:54 PM

But your selfless services to the Empire in far away places will, in turn, serve you well.

How 'bout, say, half of California?

posted by Emperor Misha I on October 17, 2002 02:50 AM

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