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  Saturday   January 10   2004

women and war

One of the recent devolpments in Iraq that is cause for concern is the movement for Kurdish autonomy. (Arab-Kurd Compromise Nears: Deal Would Allow Ministate Within Iraq After U.S. Leaves). While this didn't seem to be a really good idea, it took four women to put this in perspective.

First, from Riverbend — our woman in Baghdad.

Splitting Iraq...


Salam blogged about a subject close to every Iraqi's heart these last few days- the issue of federalism in Iraq and the Kurdish plan to embrace Kirkuk and parts of Mosul into the autonomous region in the north.

I can sum it up in two words: bad idea. First off, Kirkuk doesn't have a Kurdish majority as Talabani implies in every statement he makes. The Arabs and Turkomen in Kirkuk make up the majority. After the war and occupation, the KDP (led by Berazani) and PUK (led by Talabani) began paying party members to set up camp in Kirkuk and its outskirts to give the impression that there was a Kurdish majority in the oil-rich area. The weeks of May saw fighting between Kurdish Bayshmarga and Turkomen civilians because in some selected areas, the Turkomen were being attacked and forced to leave their homes and farms.

While Kurds and Turkomen generally get along in Iraq, there is some bitterness between them. Making Kirkuk a part of 'Kurdistan', as some are fond of calling it, would result in bloodshed and revolt. The Arabs in Kirkuk would refuse and the Turkomen wouldn't tolerate it. To understand some of the bitterness between Turkomen and Kurds, one only has to look back at what happened in 1959 in the northern part of Iraq. During that time, the Iraqi communist party had control and was backing Abdul Kareem Qassim, who was president back then.

Many die-hard communists decided that the best way to promote communism in the region would be to attack religious figures, nationalists and socialists- especially in Mosul, a conservative, dominantly Sunni Arab city and Kirkuk. For several weeks in 1959, there were massacres in both areas. During this time, communist Kurds from Suleimaniyah and Arbil were given orders to control the rebellious region. For days, there were assassinations of innocents… people were shot, dragged in the streets, maimed and hung on lampposts as an 'example' to those unwilling to support the communist revolution. Naturally, the people in Mosul and Kirkuk never forgot that- anyone over the age of 50 from that region will have at least six woeful stories to tell.

To say that all Kurds want an independent Kurdistan would be a lie. Many Kurds are afraid of expanding the autonomous region because they know it will lead to a lot of bloodshed and strife. The Kurds who've always lived in Baghdad, as opposed to those living in the north, are afraid that this step by the ambitious Kurdish leaders will lead to a 'reaction' against Kurds outside of the autonomous zone. It's happening already- many people are bitter against Kurds because they feel that the splitting of Iraq will be at the hands of the Kurdish leaders.

Another thing Kurds seem to be worrying about of late is the fact that 'there is blood', as they say, between Berazani and Talabani. For the time being, they are presenting a united front for the CPA and Washington, pretending that they couldn't get along better if they were brothers. The reality is that before the war, they were constantly wrangling for power in the north with supporters of one attacking the supporters of the other, with innocent people, all the while, falling victim to the power struggle… and that was before oil was involved. Imagine what happens if they get Kirkuk.

We all lived together before- we can live together in the future. Iraqis are proud of their different ethnicities, but in the end, we all identify ourselves as "Iraqi". Every Iraqi's nightmare is to wake up one morning and find Iraq split into several parts based on ethnicity and religion. Salam said it best when he said, "There are no lines and none should exist…"


Next, from a writer that is new to me but is fast becoming essential reading — Helena Cobban. Helena starts off with Riverbend's post and then...

Fears of Balkanization in Iraq


Tragedy, tragedy, tragedy.

I remember back at the end of April when Martin Indyk, who was at the apex of Washington's Middle East decision-making for all of the Clinton administration, suddenly saw that the post-war situation in Iraq was not going as smoothly as he and many of his friends had hoped. Suddenly running scared by that, he told an audience at Washington's elitist Brookings Institution April 23 that, "We're going to have to play the old imperial game of divide and rule and the stakes could not be higher."

The use of "imperial" tactics in Iraq is bound to fail, and most likely sooner rather than later. But still, the attempt to pursue them will quite predictably lead--has already evidently led--to the infliction of terrible harm on the already multiply traumatized people of Iraq, as well as to quite a lot of (totally avoidable) harm on the people staffing the US and allied occupation forces.

I read that chilling report of Martin's words back in April with a horror born in good part of my experience living in Lebanon while that beleaguered country was falling radically apart into religiously "cleansed" cantons in the 1970s. (Of course, the attempt at that cleansing was carried out in anything but the spirit of true religion. It was, however, generally carried out in the name of one religion or another--mainly, the Maronite 'Christian' version.)

And then, just a few weeks ago, there was supposedly "wise" Les Gelb, urging an extreme form of federalism onto the Iraqis-- as I commented on, here .

At this point I would urge everyone who has not lived in a society undergoing "radical Balkanization" as I have to head straight for a library or bookstore and get hold of two books.

The first is Slavenka Drakulic's The Balkan Express: Fragments from the other side of war. That's an incredibly well-written account of what it was like to live in Croatia (and to try to work in other becoming-'former'-Yugoslav cities) just as poor old Yugoslavia was being torn apart by (frequently manufactured) ethnic hatreds in the early 1990s.

The other book has an eerily similar title: Beirut fragments: A war memoir, by Jean Said Makdisi. It too is out of print. You can get a used copy from Amazon for $7-- plus, if you go to the Amazon page for the book you can read the first few pages of her prologue.

Both Drakulic and Makdisi have given us truly invaluable testimonies about what war feels like for the members of "warred-upon" society. They both write superbly in English. They are definitely "insiders" to the conflicted societies they write about, and they write with passion and insight from their role not just as professionals but also as mothers, i.e. people with extremely important responsibilities to society.


Are you still with me on this? I hope so because this is really important shit. Helena dusted off a review of these two books that she wrote ten years ago. This is a long piece. I can't encourage you enough to read the entire thing. It's absolutely brilliant. It's absolutely terrifying. It's hard to pull quotes out of this because there so much, but here are a couple...



An accident of history, really, that brought this nice young man, untested in foreign affairs, to the Presidency of the republic at a time when the United States is in a position of unequalled supremacy in world politics. Decisions that he makes -- on Bosnia, Somalia, Cambodia, wherever -- can rip apart the fabric of whole nations.

What does Bill Clinton know of war?

Forests of print have addressed this question, and enough electronic wizardry to boost a message to the edge of the universe. But that discourse was always dominated by men -- fighting men in uniforms, political men reading opinion polls, think tank men finetuning the game of grown-up bully-boys called 'deterrence'. But put all of these specialists together in a room, and the picture you get of this thing called "war" is still incomplete. Locked outside, but more deserving of entry than ever before, are people with a different view of war: those who are not its producers but, perforce, its consumers (and who thereby are consumed by it). Themselves products of two great developments of this century of ours -- the inclusion of massed civilian populations in the target sets of warriors, and the spread of mass education -- some of these civilian war-consumers can today describe war in a way that is more complete than any previous description. Especially the women among them.

Move over, Les Aspin. Move over, all you Clausewitz wannabes with your Rube Goldberg 'models' of this or that form of warfare. Move over, the warrior-poets of glory or of anguish. Make room for experts like these: Jean Said Makdisi, a college teacher and mother who chronicled 16 years of war in Lebanon in her 1990 book Beirut Fragments; and Slavenka Drakulic, a journalist and mother who chronicled the first year of the present Balkan wars in her book The Balkan Express; Fragments from the Other Side of War (1993).

These women might both have put into their titles a word, "fragments", that implies a tentativeness of experience or discourse. But each book builds an overwhelming, thoughtful, and undeniably true picture of what war does to societies at the end of our century.

Never mind the generals. Compared with these women, what does Bill Clinton know of war?



And even Jean, while pronouncing a non-violent manifesto, does so with huge empathy for those who are not able to. In the passage about her attitude toward those who defended Beirut in 1982, she expressed clear support for people using forceful means to defend their hometown. And she even seriously questioned whether, under each and every circumstance like those she has seen, she would abstain from acts of personal cruelty:

What do all these acts of unimaginable cruelty mean? ... I want to know whether I can escape the apparently inescapable conclusion that it is in the nature of the beast, that any of us could do it, that I could do it. Could I, if pushed far enough, yet do it?

I have not seen my baby's body mangled in the dust or my fiancee's raped body lying bloody in the street, legs wide apart and eyes blank. I have not seen my father dishonored in death or my mother's nakedness exposed to the world. I have not seen my beautiful, strong, young husband reduced to unidentifiable bits of flesh... And since I haven't, I no longer dare say that I would not do such cruel things as have been done.

Besides, is there a difference between killing people by pressing a button as you soar through the sky and killing people while you see terror on their faces?(JSM, pp.202-3)

Slavenka might reply to this question that yes, from the point of view of the killer, there is a difference: In her interview with Ivan, he spells out how much harder it is to kill someone when you can see his face. But both women would probably agree, that from the point of view of the victim and her or his survivors, there probably isn't any difference at all.

* * *

The atmosphere at our tea-party has become quite serious. We are talking, after all, about questions at the core of human existence and purpose. Jean might bring some of her points home, for the Americans present, by expanding her reflection on what she describes as the "generalized rage" of the young men with guns. Perhaps, she writes, they wield them, "to vent a bottomless anger with a world that has done them no good and, when they shoot, aim at their own dissatisfaction as much as at any more precise target."(pp.133-4)

In her introductory essay, this thoughtful, experienced survivor of the war-zone warns that:

Outsiders look at Beirut from a wary distance, as though it had nothing to do with them; as though, through a protective glass partition, they were watching with immunity a patient thrash about in mortal agony, suffering a ghastly virus contracted in forbidden and faraway places. They speak of Beirut as if it were an aberration of the human experience: It is not. Beirut was a city like any other and its people were a people like any other. What happened here could, I think, happen anywhere.(JSM, p.20)


Read all of this very carefully. Helena saw a country, Lebanon, fall apart. Jean and Slavenka lived through the destruction of their countries. I fear for Riverbend and her country.

 03:23 AM - link

  Wednesday   January 7   2004

griff's story

I've added a new section to Griff's Story. For those that are new (or have not been paying attention!), My grandfather was a Naval Combat Artist in WWII. In addition to being a good artist, he was a hell of a writer. He did two books, which are up on the site, and had started a third, which was never completed. Between December 1943 and June 1944, Griff traveled around the world sketching and writing. His writing was in the form of reports sent back to the Navy, which were to be the basis of the book that didn't happen. I've been slowly putting them up. REPORT NO. 6, dated Feb. 22, 1944, is the latest section I've added.

Many thanks to Jenny who has been typing much of this. We have electrostatic copies of typewritten reports and the scanner can only do so much. Here is one day's entry.


Feb 12 - 0900 Pack up "U.S.S. JEEP 111180". Canteens filled, box of food, musette bags and pistol belts strapped fast to sides of car. Driver--Photographer's Mate 2c--and a Lt. Comdr. who wished to observe certain things, as a guest. Give orders to weigh 1000 and off we move, three jeep-mates on a cruise. Last night the Captain said, "You have got to be tough to take a rough trip of 1300 miles in an open jeep in winter. You take a terrific banging and the springs will stick up through the thin seat covering. The sun will burn your face in the desert, and the wind on the snow-covered passes of the mountains will cut through like a knife. You'll cross the pass at 5,000 feet, when a day or so before you were sweltering 1,300 feet below sea level. If you break down in the desert, put on your pistol belts, for presently Arabs will appear from nowhere and be all around you. Take water and food and get those German gas cans made fast to the car, you may need them. Take plenty of American cigarettes--you'll get none where you are going, and they are worth a lot of money and can be used for barter. Watch out for your petrol points--you'll get gas nowhere else. I know you'll get some swell pictures for the Navy at Beirut and elsewhere. Good luck, Griff!" Out of dusty Cairo with the air laden with donkey-, horse-, and camel-dung dust. We roll out across the colorless Sinai Desert bound for Suez, ninety miles to the Eastward. Pass many convoys of lorries. Distance dim, sky pale and misty. Last hour 3,000-foot high desert hills on the starboard hand. We three, gay with going. 1230 ships' masts and spars showing above the rolling sand. Over causeway through quaint squalor of Suez. Over second causeway to Port Tewfick. Look back and see town upside down in still waters. Down Suez Canal to its southern end, to Navy office at the head of the Red Sea. Canal bright blues and dancing greens. Lt. Robert Johnston comes out to greet us. Eastern experience, fine officer. He's No. 1. Three officers and three men at this Naval observation post. Sit in his fine office as big Dutch tanker northbound and feluccas pass his window. To French Club on terrace overlooking Canal, for pink gin. To his villa for lunch with his mess, Lts.(jg) Tarrant and Newell, and American Consul. Newell drives me through U.S. Army camp at Ataka, and around head of Red Sea to the Adabiya Dock. Here the high, bare mountains come right down with their dry sand to the very salty water. Out of this desert juts suddenly a modern dock with big, self-propelling cranes, loading four large ships. Very unexpected. Spend night at villa and from my floor bed can see the Sinai mountains looming large across the water in the misty moonlight.


 10:50 PM - link


It's been a bit chilly at Honeymoon Lake. It was down to 16 degrees F on Sunday. That's as cold as I have ever seen it here around Puget Sound. I've seen it this cold before, but not often. The lake froze over which is not something I've seen. Monday night Robby and Hannah came over and Robby skipped stones across the ice. Skipping rocks across a frozen lake makes the neatest sound. There is a funny reverb that is kind of like hitting a metal tube. It's hard to describe. The next time you come across a frozen lake, skip some stones across it. Trust me on this. Robby was able to get a stone all the way across the lake.

Tuesday morning it snowed covering the lake with white. We only had a little less than 2 inches and it's gone now. The rain is back and the ice has melted.

 10:01 PM - link

  Tuesday   January 6   2004


This is a must read!

America: The Real Danger Lies Within
by Eric Margolis


The year 2003 dramatically and dolefully illustrated Lord Acton's famous dictum that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

An almighty United States, unrestrained by any rival, international body, or world opinion, bestrode the globe, a belligerent colossus determined to monopolize global oil reserves and use its vast military power to crush lesser nations or malefactors that disturbed the Pax Americana.

For America's hard right - a curious farrago of Armageddon-seeking southern Protestants; neo-conservative supporters of Israel's right-wing Likud party; and the military-industrial-petroleum complex - the Bush administration's aggressive foreign policy of world domination, and utter contempt for international laws and old allies, marks a new era of national greatness. President George Bush, who vowed his foreign policy would be "humble" and "compassionate," has turned out to be the most radical president in modern U.S. history.


 02:40 AM - link

political ads

Check out the 15 finalists for moveon.org's contest for an anti-bush commercial. Some really good ones!

bush in 30 seconds


  thanks to Conscientious

 02:36 AM - link

iraq — vietnam on internet time

Iraqi MI5 in the Works, funded at $3 bn


According to the Telegraph Dick Cheney has managed to put through a plan to have the US CIA train an Iraqi secret police (mukhabarat) and fund it at $3 bn., as part of the "black" CIA budget. The article claims that this secret police apparatus will allow the US to continue to control Iraq even after a civilian Iraqi government is supposedly installed on July 1.

I have to say that this plan worries me. At a time when the CIA is all that stands between al-Qaeda and several tall US buildings, I think the Agency should be concentrating its efforts on tracking down Bin Laden and other persons of similar mindset. Does it have a spare $3 bn. in its budget for that?


Iraq's anti-democratic SOFA


Wright and Chandrasekaran, writing in today's WaPo, have a piece that outlines Colin's Powell's plans for the six-month transition to (the appearance of) Iraqi self-rule.

The plans include an inappropriately early deadline for conclusion of a "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA). Hence the headline here.


Can the US keep Iraqi Shiites happy for long?
by Juan Cole


British officials publicly worried recently that the United States-led coalition occupying Iraq had only about a year before the Shiites of Iraq turned against it.

Shiites, the majority in the country, so far have been more welcoming of the coalition military and civilian presence than have the Sunni Arabs. But the Shiite community, which is more religious than most outside observers had anticipated, is deeply ambivalent about the occupation. Like most Iraqis, Shiites dislike the idea of occupation, but most also want the security provided by coalition troops, at least for now. If very many Shiites turn hostile, they might begin listening to radical voices. This would make Iraq ungovernable for the coalition.


Saddam’s Capture: Was a Deal Brokered Behind the Scenes?
When it emerged that the Kurds had captured the Iraqi dictator, the US celebrations evaporated. David Pratt asks whether a secret political trade-off has been engineered


For a story that three weeks ago gripped the world's imagination, it has now all but dropped off the radar

Peculiar really, for if one thing might have been expected in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's capture, it was the endless political and media mileage that the Bush administration would get out of it .

After all, for 249 days Saddam's elusiveness had been a symbol of America's ineptitude in Iraq, and, at last, with his capture came the long-awaited chance to return some flak to the Pentagon's critics.

It also afforded the opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of America's elite covert and intelligence units such as Task Force 20 and Greyfox .

And it was a terrific chance for the perfect photo-op showing the American soldier, and Time magazine's "Person of the Year", hauling "High Value Target Number One" out of his filthy spiderhole in the village of al-Dwar.

Then along came that story: the one about the Kurds beating the US Army in the race to find Saddam first, and details of Operation Red Dawn suddenly began to evaporate.


 02:29 AM - link


Antoni Gaudi


  thanks to The Cartoonist

 02:12 AM - link

the thing that eats your brain

System for checking cow feed flawed
Critics say enforcement is lax


Preventing mad cow disease is all about controlling what cows eat, but federal regulations are full of loopholes and enforcement is lax, according to consumer advocates and the government's own watchdog.

Since an infected cow was found last month on a Washington state farm, federal authorities have tried to quell the public's concerns by citing feed companies' stellar compliance with the 1997 ban on mixing ground-up cow parts into cattle food.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which monitors animal feed, was reporting 99.9 percent compliance last month among the country's almost 12,000 feed mills, rendering plants and other facilities covered by the ban.

But loopholes in the feed ban are big enough to "drive whole herds of cattle through," according to consumer advocates. And a 2002 congressional investigation blasted the FDA for lax enforcement of the ban.

For starters, federal inspectors rarely sample the actual feed to test for banned materials.


A free and complete copy of "Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?" Can be downloaded at: http://www.prwatch.org/books/madcow.html

 02:03 AM - link

doll art

Puppen von Nicole Marschollek.


  thanks to The Cartoonist

 01:58 AM - link

We are all soldiers at checkpoints
By Gideon Levy


No Israeli can skirt his responsibility for the acts of the IDF in the territories - acts that have long since ceased to be aberrations, but are instead the fruits of consistent and systematic policy. "Detail," the impressive new video work by filmmaker Avi Mugrabi, documents how anonymous soldiers sitting in a scary-looking jeep abuse a woman who is carrying a small child in her arms and is trying to cross a checkpoint east of Nablus. Her husband, who pleads with the soldiers and tells them that his wife is bleeding, is turned away with coarse language too. For three hours, the woman is made to stand in the blazing sun, the child in her arms, her face pale, while the soldiers speak to her from the jeep using a loudspeaker, as though they were dealing with an animal herd. This scene, which is played out daily, is also done in our name.

The optimists among the human rights activists in Israel believe that the day will come when those who are responsible for Israel's brutal behavior in the territories will be brought to justice. Whether it will take the form of a South Africa-style "truth and reconciliation committee" or a trial before an international court, those who have abused a defenseless civilian population for so many years will be brought to account, the optimists insist.

But even if this vision is realized, no one will be able to escape the collective responsibility. In our silence, in our indifference and in the overwhelming fact that it's all being done in our name, we are all soldiers at checkpoints.


Israel Jails 5 as Dissent on Military Rises


An Israeli military court sentenced five young men to a year in prison yesterday for refusing to serve in the army as long as the Jewish state occupies the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The five are part of a growing movement that the military has had to contend with since the Palestinian uprising began more than three years ago. Hundreds of soldiers, alleging human rights abuses against Palestinians, have refused to serve in the West Bank and Gaza including, just last month, 13 members of the crack Sayeret Matkal, the most storied unit in the Israeli military.

But the five are different from other dissenters in several ways. For one thing, they refuse to be drafted altogether, not just to serve in the occupied territories. In a country in which the military is more venerated than any other public institution, not serving can be one of the most alienating things an Israeli can do.

And the five will pay a much heavier price than other dissenters, who typically have been ordered to spend about a month in detention.

The yearlong sentence the five received is in addition to the 14 months they have been locked up while awaiting trial.


 01:52 AM - link


Here are some large Eschers. I like large.

Haga click en uno de estos iconos para ir a su entrada en la tabla de abajo. Aquí debajo hay algunos enlaces sobre Escher e imágenes curiosas.


  thanks to cipango

 01:44 AM - link


The New American System Of Justice
by Jimmy Breslin


Howard Dean then said that he was old-fashioned and he didn't think you could judge or punish Osama bin Laden until you had a trial and found him guilty.

Suddenly, politicians and the news industry shouted, What are you talking about innocent until found guilty? How can this man Dean say that bin Laden deserves a trial? They said that this was a perfect illustration of Dean talking without thought. And completely un-American, too.

In 1945, they had the Nuremburg trials for Nazis who had killed tens and tens of millions, and had judges, witnesses, evidence and defense counsels. Just the other week, one of the Democratic candidates, Wesley Clark, testified in the Hague at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic of Yugoslavia.

Yet Joseph Lieberman, who is a peripheral candidate now and thus a nasty little man, said that because he relies on the Constitution, Dean is a weakling who would melt in the face of George Bush.

John Kerry and Dick Gephardt were wildly opposed.

Yet all Dean has to do in this big Des Moines debate today is ask each candidate, "Are you in favor of sentencing bin Laden before you have a trial?"

Let them answer in front of a country that is better than they are.

My friend, David Greenfield, a top lawyer in Manhattan who takes on murder cases, was reading some of this over the holiday. He was saying, "This is insanity. I thought everybody knew that no matter how high the crime or the criminal, the punishment phase always must follow the trial. These people, they want off with his head and we'll see if he's fit to stand trial."


  thanks to Eschaton

 01:39 AM - link


The Low Road North


The 1931 Nautilus Expedition to the North Pole

From the first efforts to locate the Northwest Passage in the 17th century to the flowering of arctic studies in the mid-20th century, European and American explorers and scientists have made repeated efforts to reach the North Pole. Traveling by ship and dogsled, Admiral Robert E. Peary, USN, became the first to reach the Pole on April 6, 1909, after which other explorers outdid one another in efforts to reach the top of the world. Most famously, on May 9, 1926, Admiral Richard E. Byrd, USN, became the first to fly over the North Pole. In 1931, Australian explorer Sir George Hubert Wilkins and a volunteer crew of submariners and scientists set out in a decommissioned U.S. Navy submarine to sail under water from Spitsbergen to the Bering Straits by way of the North Pole.



 01:31 AM - link


Deflation Nation


I hate kicking off 2004 with a post about the dismal science, but since I haven't written much about the economy of late, and since its strength is likely to be the key to the outcome of this year's election, this seems like a good time to weigh in.


How Will Bush Deal With the Deficits? Connecting the Dots to Iraq


Republican hearts are all aflutter over one quarter of strong GDP numbers. But the 8.2% third quarter growth was purchased on credit-the $374 billion budget deficit that was the largest in the country's history. All indications are that next year's deficit will be even larger, exceeding half a trillion dollars.

There is simply no magic to "growth" under these conditions. Any idiot with a hand full of credit cards charged to the next generation's children can gin up the short term illusion of prosperity. Until, that is, the bills come due.

George W. Bush inherited a $127 billion fiscal surplus but ran through all of that and more in his first year. He has turned a $5.6 trillion 10 year forecast surplus into a $3+ trillion forecast loss-an almost unimaginable reversal of $9 trillion in only three years. And this, in an economy that has grown for ten of the last twelve quarters.

The result of this psychotic profligacy, according to the Congressional Budget Office, will be a national debt of $14 trillion in 10 years. Interest payments alone will approach a trillion dollars a year and will exceed spending for all discretionary federal programs combined. Even more surreal, a study commissioned by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neil indicated that the 50 year forecast U.S. deficit would reach $44 trillion. The study was suppressed and O'Neil was fired.

How, then, does a nation deal with debts that so greatly outrun its ability to pay? There are basically only five strategies. All are unappealing. Most are calamitous.


Rubin Gets Shrill
by Paul Krugman


The point made by Mr. Rubin now, and by Mr. Mankiw when he was a free agent, is that the traditional immunity of advanced countries like America to third-world-style financial crises isn't a birthright. Financial markets give us the benefit of the doubt only because they believe in our political maturity — in the willingness of our leaders to do what is necessary to rein in deficits, paying a political cost if necessary. And in the past that belief has been justified. Even Ronald Reagan raised taxes when the budget deficit soared.

But do we still have that kind of maturity? Here's the opening sentence of a recent New York Times article on the administration's budget plans: "Facing a record budget deficit, Bush administration officials say they have drafted an election-year budget that will rein in the growth of domestic spending without alienating politically influential constituencies." Needless to say, the proposed spending cuts — focused only on the powerless — are both cruel and trivial.

If this kind of fecklessness goes on, investors will eventually conclude that America has turned into a third world country, and start to treat it like one. And the results for the U.S. economy won't be pretty.


No end in sight to dollar's descent
Federal Reserve's insistence on rock-bottom interest rates triggers currency rout

 01:21 AM - link


San Rocco Church, Lugano Switzerland


The recently restored San Rocco church was built in the 17th century and features frescos dedicated to the life of Saint Rocco di Montpellier, who is venerated in the Roman Catholic church as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases. Conservation and restoration work has been ongoing since 1985 to the roof, bell tower and facades, and the chorus stalls. The residents of Lugano have always considered the baroque church of Saint Rocco a privileged place of culture and while it is used for prayer and worship, it is also a place where locals meet, largely due to its central geographical location within the city.



 01:11 AM - link


Follow the Money:
Why the Best Voting Technology May Be No Technology at All


As for voting itself, I think we have made a horrible decision to solve this problem with technology. While the voting technology we have been considering is flawed, the best answer doesn't have to be some other voting technology that is somehow better. We turn to technology because it supposedly eliminates human error. I suggest that we add humans to the process in order to eliminate technological errors. And we'd save a lot of money in the process.

My model for smart voting is Canada. The Canadians are watching our election problems and laughing their butts off. They think we are crazy, and they are right.

Forget touch screens and electronic voting. In Canadian Federal elections, two barely-paid representatives of each party, known as "scrutineers," are present all day at the voting place. If there are more political parties, there are more scrutineers. To vote, you write an "X" with a pencil in a one centimeter circle beside the candidate's name, fold the ballot up and stuff it into a box. Later, the scrutineers AND ANY VOTER WHO WANTS TO WATCH all sit at a table for about half an hour and count every ballot, keeping a tally for each candidate. If the counts agree at the end of the process, the results are phoned-in and everyone goes home. If they don't, you do it again. Fairness is achieved by balanced self-interest, not by technology. The population of Canada is about the same as California, so the elections are of comparable scale. In the last Canadian Federal election the entire vote was counted in four hours. Why does it take us 30 days or more?

The 2002-2003 budget for Elections Canada is just over $57 million U.S. dollars, or $1.81 per Canadian citizen. It is extremely hard to get an equivalent per-citizen figure for U.S. elections, but trust me, it is a LOT higher. This week, San Francisco held a runoff mayoral election that cost $2.5 million, or $3.27 per citizen of the city. And this was for just one election, not a whole year of them.

We are spending $3.9 billion or $10 per citizen for new voting machines. Canada just prints ballots.

No voting system is perfect. Elections have been stolen and voters disenfranchised with paper ballots, too. But our approach of throwing technology at a problem with a result that election reliability is not improved, that it may well be compromised in new and even scarier ways, and that this all costs billions that could be put to better use makes no sense at all.


 01:06 AM - link


Stop Motion Studies - Tokyo


The “Stop Motion Studies” are a series of experimental documentaries that chronicle my interaction with subway passengers in cities around the world. The aim of the project is to create an international character study based on the aspects of identity that emerge.



  thanks to consumptive.org

 12:56 AM - link