Saturday September 9 2006
zoe and gerry
If you've been following this blog you will have been following what has been happening with Zoe's mom, Gerry, who is currently at Washington State Hospital where she will be stuck for at least another three months. Zoe is desperate so she wrote Oprah. You can too. From Zoe's blog:
Not quite Magical Thinking, but color me desperate.
And, you can help!!!
This is what I did. I wrote Oprah.
Zoe's post has a link that will let you write Oprah too. Read Zoe's post for details. Help get Gerry out of Washington State Hospital. Thanks you.
america the beautiful
Can American liberalism rise from Washington's two-bed brothel to dance with the ghost of Roy Orbison and eat garden tomatoes?
by Joe Bageant
The Shenandoah is not a bar. It's not a tavern. It's a beer joint. The kind that does cash-only business and scratches hard for every nickel it turns. And lately, it is about the only place in my life slowed down and dumbed down enough to honestly relax. It takes a couple of hours. Nearly everyone here on this Sunday morning lives or grew up within blocks of the place and feels most at home here -- which is not unlike myself, who used to sell newspapers on the corner here at age 12 and who, if the light is right, can imagine that pale, scruffy youngster shouting Paaaaaapers! NoozPaaaaaapers! Such nostalgia eases the frustrated wildness in old men.
This particular beer joint, deemed the seediest in town by good citizens who've never even set foot in the place, is operated by Denny, an overweight blonde fellow with breasts and earrings. Denny is going through a sex change and lives every minute of it right up front for a fundamentalist Southern town to ogle. The Pentecostal mission two doors down must certainly be praying hard for Denny's soul, especially on Saturday nights, when Denny does what he calls "my show." It's a real smoker, sort of a cross between Charlie Rich and the Righteous Brothers.
Ordering a Bud Light, I see that it is now up to $2.25, a sure sign of inflation and approaching collapse of society if ever there was one. A person on minimum age works an hour for the price of two beers. Meanwhile, a grizzled red-haired old bachelor pulls up onto the stool next to me, a drywall hanger named Wilf, whose grin reveals enough silver in his teeth for the Lone Ranger to make a couple dozen bullets. Sitting next to Wilf can be a good thing or an aggravating thing, depending. See, the drunker he gets the more educated he claims to be. Last night Wilf was all the way up to being a Harvard graduate. Which is to say he was bullet-proof drunk. But this morning here he is, sitting up and taking nourishment and talking about the one thing that verifies sanity and trustworthiness, in fact the onlssy truly important thing at this time of year in the American South -- garden tomatoes. "My tomaters are doing real good. I've got more than I have had in years. It's been hot, tomaters like that." In one of typically stupid lefty slipups, wherein we tend to spout knee-jerk bullshit instead of taking part in real conversations about real subjects such as tomatoes, I venture that the excessive heat this summer may be due to global warming. To which he replies, "Well then, I don't have no problem with global warmin."
A Global Family Portrait
by Peter Menzel
This remarkable book has been around for a while. From Amazon:
A fascinating look at the material possessions of families throughout the world. These people have been determined "average" for their countries and have agreed to have photographers move the contents of their houses outside in order to create visible representations of their relative standards of living. The dirt house and few possessions of Mali residents contrast with the 4 cars, 45-foot long sofa, and 12+ oriental carpets lined up outside the luxury home of a family from Kuwait. Each chapter includes the original spread of possessions, statistics about each family and country, as well as further pictures of daily life and some observations by the photographer. Interspersed among the chapters, which are divided by region, are pictorial representations of such interesting comparisons as televisions, meals, and toilets. Almost all of the pictures are in full color. Menzel hoped this would be "a unique tool for grasping cross-cultural realities." It is that and much more.
Taking portraits with the subject's material possesions isn't really new. It's just that he uses this portrait technique to illustrate cultural differences so effectively. It was done in 1994 and there have been a lot of changes in the world in that time. When I finished the book I was wishing for an update. When I checked Amazon for information about Material World I discovered he did have an update of sorts:
What the World Eats
by Peter Menzel, Faith D'Aluisio
For their enormously successful Material World, photojournalist Menzel and writer D'Aluisio traveled the world photographing average people's worldly possessions. In 2000, they began research for this book on the world's eating habits, visiting some 30 families in 24 countries. Each family was asked to purchase—at the authors' expense—a typical week's groceries, which were artfully arrayed—whether sacks of grain and potatoes and overripe bananas, or rows of packaged cereals, sodas and take-out pizzas—for a full-page family portrait. This is followed by a detailed listing of the goods, broken down by food groups and expenditures, then a more general discussion of how the food is raised and used, illustrated with a variety of photos and a family recipe. A sidebar of facts relevant to each country's eating habits (e.g., the cost of Big Macs, average cigarette use, obesity rates) invites armchair theorizing. While the photos are extraordinary—fine enough for a stand-alone volume—it's the questions these photos ask that make this volume so gripping. After considering the Darfur mother with five children living on $1.44 a week in a refugee camp in Chad, then the German family of four spending $494.19, and a host of families in between, we may think about food in a whole new light. This is a beautiful, quietly provocative volume.
The Next Phase of the Middle East War
Israel's war on Lebanon is an integral part of a US sponsored "military roadmap".
The war on Lebanon, which has resulted in countless atrocities including the destruction of the nation's economy and civilian infrastructure, is "a stage" in a sequence of carefully planned military operations.
Lebanon constitutes a strategic corridor between Israel and North-western Syria. The underlying objective of this war was the militarization of Lebanon, including the stationing of foreign troops, as a precondition for carrying out the next phase of a broader military agenda.
US Army Contemplates Redrawing Middle East Map
to Stave Off Looming Global Meltdown
Maj. Peters, formerly assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence where he was responsible for future warfare, candidly outlines how the map of the Middle East should be fundamentally re-drawn, in a new imperial endeavor designed to correct past errors. “Without such major boundary revisions, we shall never see a more peaceful Middle East,” he observes, but then adds wryly: “Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works.”
Hizbullah's victory has transformed the Middle East
The defeat of the regional superpower could yet open the way to a wider settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict
As the smoke clears from the battlefield of the 34-day war in Lebanon, it would be a mistake to count the cost only in fallen masonry and fresh graves. All is changed, changed utterly, by the defeat that the whole of Israel is now debating, from the cabinet through the lively press to the embittered reservists at the falafel stall. Practically the only person in the world who claims Israel won the war is George Bush - and we all know his definition of the words "mission accomplished".
Bush Turns to Fear-Mongering
Creation of "Islamic" Bogeyman
The Bush administration obviously wishes it were waging war on Nazi Germany. Even the old Soviet Union would be fine, these nostalgic Cold Warriors seem to think. Something big and menacing that would scare the blue-haired grannies in Peoria into voting Republican because, everyone knows, in addition to being good for business (except for that Depression unpleasantness), Republicans are mean s.o.b.'s and would as soon shoot a potential menace to the US as glare at him.
Hizbollah's reconstruction of Lebanon is winning the loyalty of disaffected Shia
By Robert Fisk
Hizbollah has trumped both the UN army and the Lebanese government by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars - most of it almost certainly from Iran - into the wreckage of southern Lebanon and Beirut's destroyed southern suburbs. Its massive new reconstruction effort - free of charge to all those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or damaged in Israel's ferocious five-week assault on the country - has won the loyalty of even the most disaffected members of the Shia community in Lebanon.
Hizbollah has made it clear that it has no intention of disarming under the UN Security Council's 1701 ceasefire resolution and yesterday afternoon, Major-General Alain Pellegrini, the commander of the UN Interim Force in southern Lebanon - which the Americans and British are relying upon to seize the guerrilla army's weapons - personally confirmed to me at his headquarters in Naqoura that "the Israelis can't ask us to disarm Hizbollah". Describing the ceasefire as "very fragile" and "very dangerous", he stated that disarming Hizbollah "is not written in the mandate".
But for now - and in the total absence of the 8,000-strong foreign military force that is intended to join Unifil with a supposedly "robust" mandate - Hizbollah has already won the war for "hearts and minds". Most householders in the south have received - or are receiving - a minimum initial compensation payment of $12,000 (£6,300), either for new furniture or to cover their family's rent while Hizbollah construction gangs rebuild their homes. The money is being paid in cash - almost all in crisp new $100 bills - to up to 15,000 families across Lebanon whose property was blitzed by the Israelis, a bill of $180m which is going to rise far higher when reconstruction and other compensation is paid.
Compare how fast Hizbollah is getting reconstruction funds to the Shia to how fast the US is getting reconstruction funds to katrina victims.
Why should Europeans protect Israel?
The enlarged Nato/Unifil force is not going to preserve 'peace'
So a big Ho-Ho-Ho from the world of reality. The enlarged Nato/Unifil force is not going to preserve "peace". It is going to maintain a " buffer" zone to protect Israel after the latter's dismal failure to destroy, disarm and liquidate the Iranian-armed Hizbollah guerrilla army over the past seven weeks. The UN may deny that it is a buffer zone for the Israelis - but if it was a buffer zone to protect Lebanese (the numerically higher victims of this latest war), it would be based, surely, inside the Israeli frontier. But no, it is there to protect Israel.
How hi-tech Hezbollah called the shots
Hezbollah's ability to repel the Israel Defense Forces during the recent conflict was largely due to its use of intelligence techniques gleaned from allies Iran and Syria that allowed it to monitor encoded Israeli communications relating to battlefield actions, according to Israeli officials, whose claims have been independently corroborated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Lebanon: The Transnation
The rap on Lebanon is that it is hopelessly factional, as if its eternal destiny were to live out some Western fantasy about the essential oriental dilemma. Although Lebanon's origin is indeed arbitrary, a sense of nationalism is emerging, but it is one that hardly erases other loyalties or connections. The Lebanese have survived to create a dynamic, diverse, free society partly because no one group could completely dominate; instead the Lebanese have slowly learned to negotiate and accommodate, to allow differences. In this sense, it is their very differences that make them distinct. Must they now sacrifice these on the altar of the country? The Lebanese, in fact, demonstrate that it is possible to manage multiple levels of identity and attachment. The problem in Lebanon is not that some people identify more with their sect than with their nation, any more than that people elsewhere identify more with their nation than with those outside it. It is not the level but the nature of the community that is crucial. Such loyalties are only poisonous if they blind people to the humanity of those beyond.
It is a peculiar assumption of our age that the state should command a loyalty as exclusive as its monopoly on violence, and that people should identify primarily with the state, rather than with communities smaller or larger, older or newer. We call it nationalism: Lebanon calls it into question.
How Lebanese Civilians Thwarted Israel's War Plans
The Home Front
By simply returning to their homes Lebanese civilians played a key role thwarting Israel's plans in its most recent war in Lebanon. As the Associated Press reported on August 14, immediately upon the start of the UN sponsored cease fire tens of thousands of Lebanese families defied orders from Israeli commanders, took to the roads, and returned to their villages in southern Lebanon . Their courageous action stifled any hope the Israeli government may have had for accomplishing its grand vision for southern Lebanon with this war.
A Resistance to War
My Journey to South Lebanon
OnLast week, I made my first trip to South Lebanon since the war began. Having traveled a fifth of the world, and been present during “wars” in Iraq, Palestine, and New York - I can honestly say that I have never seen such complete devastation in my entire life. The only thing that even comes close are the pictures I’ve seen from World War II. Much of South Lebanon simply lies in ruin.
Rabbani on Nasrallah's 'bombshell'
by Helena Cobban
Additional resources on the Israel-Hizbullah war<
by Helena Cobban/font>
New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
by Charles C. Mann
This book will open your eyes. From Amazon:
1491 is not so much the story of a year, as of what that year stands for: the long-debated (and often-dismissed) question of what human civilization in the Americas was like before the Europeans crashed the party. The history books most Americans were (and still are) raised on describe the continents before Columbus as a vast, underused territory, sparsely populated by primitives whose cultures would inevitably bow before the advanced technologies of the Europeans. For decades, though, among the archaeologists, anthropologists, paleolinguists, and others whose discoveries Charles C. Mann brings together in 1491, different stories have been emerging. Among the revelations: the first Americans may not have come over the Bering land bridge around 12,000 B.C. but by boat along the Pacific coast 10 or even 20 thousand years earlier; the Americas were a far more urban, more populated, and more technologically advanced region than generally assumed; and the Indians, rather than living in static harmony with nature, radically engineered the landscape across the continents, to the point that even "timeless" natural features like the Amazon rainforest can be seen as products of human intervention.
Mann is well aware that much of the history he relates is necessarily speculative, the product of pot-shard interpretation and precise scientific measurements that often end up being radically revised in later decades. But the most compelling of his eye-opening revisionist stories are among the best-founded: the stories of early American-European contact. To many of those who were there, the earliest encounters felt more like a meeting of equals than one of natural domination. And those who came later and found an emptied landscape that seemed ripe for the taking, Mann argues convincingly, encountered not the natural and unchanging state of the native American, but the evidence of a sudden calamity: the ravages of what was likely the greatest epidemic in human history, the smallpox and other diseases introduced inadvertently by Europeans to a population without immunity, which swept through the Americas faster than the explorers who brought it, and left behind for their discovery a land that held only a shadow of the thriving cultures that it had sustained for centuries before.
Here's an article by Mann about his book.
Before it became the New World, the Western Hemisphere was vastly more populous and sophisticated than has been thought—an altogether more salubrious place to live at the time than, say, Europe. New evidence of both the extent of the population and its agricultural advancement leads to a remarkable conjecture: the Amazon rain forest may be largely a human artifact
by Charles C. Mann
Throughout eastern North America the open landscape seen by the first Europeans quickly filled in with forest. According to William Cronon, of the University of Wisconsin, later colonists began complaining about how hard it was to get around. (Eventually, of course, they stripped New England almost bare of trees.) When Europeans moved west, they were preceded by two waves: one of disease, the other of ecological disturbance. The former crested with fearsome rapidity; the latter sometimes took more than a century to quiet down. Far from destroying pristine wilderness, European settlers bloodily created it. By 1800 the hemisphere was chockablock with new wilderness. If "forest primeval" means a woodland unsullied by the human presence, William Denevan has written, there was much more of it in the late eighteenth century than in the early sixteenth.
Cronon's Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists, and the Ecology of New England (1983) belongs on the same shelf as works by Crosby and Dobyns. But it was not until one of his articles was excerpted in The New York Times in 1995 that people outside the social sciences began to understand the implications of this view of Indian history. Environmentalists and ecologists vigorously attacked the anti-wilderness scenario, which they described as infected by postmodern philosophy. A small academic brouhaha ensued, complete with hundreds of footnotes. It precipitated Reinventing Nature? (1995), one of the few academic critiques of postmodernist philosophy written largely by biologists. The Great New Wilderness Debate (1998), another lengthy book on the subject, was edited by two philosophers who earnestly identified themselves as "Euro-American men [whose] cultural legacy is patriarchal Western civilization in its current postcolonial, globally hegemonic form."
It is easy to tweak academics for opaque, self-protective language like this. Nonetheless, their concerns were quite justified. Crediting Indians with the role of keystone species has implications for the way the current Euro-American members of that keystone species manage the forests, watersheds, and endangered species of America. Because a third of the United States is owned by the federal government, the issue inevitably has political ramifications. In Amazonia, fabled storehouse of biodiversity, the stakes are global.
Guided by the pristine myth, mainstream environmentalists want to preserve as much of the world's land as possible in a putatively intact state. But "intact," if the new research is correct, means "run by human beings for human purposes." Environmentalists dislike this, because it seems to mean that anything goes. In a sense they are correct. Native Americans managed the continent as they saw fit. Modern nations must do the same. If they want to return as much of the landscape as possible to its 1491 state, they will have to find it within themselves to create the world's largest garden.
Gaza is Dying
"Gaza is a jail. Nobody is allowed to leave. We are all starving now."
Gaza is dying. The Israeli siege of the Palestinian enclave is so tight that its people are on the edge of starvation. Here on the shores of the Mediterranean a great tragedy is taking place that is being ignored because the world's attention has been diverted by wars in Lebanon and Iraq.
A whole society is being destroyed. There are 1.5 million Palestinians imprisoned in the most heavily populated area in the world. Israel has stopped all trade. It has even forbidden fishermen to go far from the shore so they wade into the surf to try vainly to catch fish with hand-thrown nets.
Many people are being killed by Israeli incursions that occur every day by land and air. A total of 262 people have been killed and 1,200 wounded, of whom 60 had arms or legs amputated, since 25 June, says Dr Juma al-Saqa, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City which is fast running out of medicine. Of these, 64 were children and 26 women. This bloody conflict in Gaza has so far received only a fraction of the attention given by the international media to the war in Lebanon.
Palestine: casualties and open thread
by Helena Cobban
Here is the weekly summary that the Palestinian Center for Human Rights produced for the period 17-23 August, 2006, cataloguing major rights abuses inflicted on the Palestinians by the Israeli Occupation Forces in (and around) Gaza and the West Bank.
During the week, as PCHR reports, 30 Palestinians, including 3 children, a mentally disabled young man and a woman, were killed by IOF. The 30 included two who died during the week from wounds previously inflicted by the IOF.
The report added:
the number of Palestinians killed by IOF in the Gaza Strip since 25 June 2006 has increased to 217, including 46 children and 12 women. In addition, 755 others, mostly civilians, including 203 children, 28 women, 4 paramedics and 6 journalists, have been wounded.
Figures available from the "Statistics" page on B'tselem's website (click through the links in that first table there, and look down the right sidebar on the pages that up) tell us that from January1 through July 31, 2006, a total of 15 Israeli civilians and 3 Israeli security forces personnel were killed by Palestinians... while the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces in the OPTs and in Israel in the same period was 346.
Murder on Rucarb Street
The Worst Kind of Terror
It is only now that the gun-fire saluting the killed young man has become sporadic and no longer constant, and that the verses of the Koran, chanted in farewell to him, has ceased. But the streets are full; and full too are the hearts of all who had to witness an attack that should only have been imaginable in the darkest back alleys of some underworld city.
At 9 pm, the 28th, undercover Israeli Special Forces walked down the main street of Ramallah. They wore civilian clothes and Palestinian police-caps. They carried M-16s as all the police force does. No one looked at them twice. They walked straight past us where we stood at Al-Minara discussing work with a third colleague.
They walked straight passed the Palestinian Police Force as well who is always stationed there.
They continued walking straight down Rucarb Street until they were opposite the famous Rucarb Ice-cream shop where families gather every evening in the summertime.
Then they opened fire.
global climate change
Study Says Methane a New Climate Threat
Scientists Find New Global Warming 'Time Bomb' _ Methane Bubbling Up From Permafrost
Global warming gases trapped in the soil are bubbling out of the thawing permafrost in amounts far higher than previously thought and may trigger what researchers warn is a climate time bomb.
Methane a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide is being released from the permafrost at a rate five times faster than thought, according to a study being published Thursday in the journal Nature. The findings are based on new, more accurate measuring techniques.
"The effects can be huge," said lead author Katey Walter of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks said. "It's coming out a lot and there's a lot more to come out."
The Rise of Christian Nationalism
by Michelle Goldberg
There is an alternate reality in America and there is no room in it for the likes of us. Be aware. From Amazon:
In an impressive piece of lucid journalism, Salon.com reporter Goldberg dives into the religious right and sorts out the history and networks of what to most liberals is an inscrutable parallel universe. She deconstructs "dominion theology," the prevalent evangelical assertion that Christians have a "responsibility to take over every aspect of society." Goldberg makes no attempt to hide her own partisanship, calling herself a "secular Jew and ardent urbanite" who wrote the book because she "was terrified by America's increasing hostility to... cosmopolitan values." This carefully researched and riveting treatise will hardly allay its audience's fears, however; secular liberals and mainstream believers alike will find Goldberg's descriptions of today's culture wars deeply disturbing. She traces the deep financial and ideological ties between fundamentalist Christians and the Republican Party, and discloses the dangers she believes are inherent to the Bush administration's faith-based social services initiative. Other chapters follow inflammatory political tactics on wedge issues like gay rights, evolution and sex education. Significantly, her conclusions do not come off as hysterical or shrill. Even while pointing to stark parallels between fascism and the language of the religious right, Goldberg's vision of America's future is measured and realistic. Her book is a potent wakeup call to pluralists in the coming showdown with Christian nationalists.
The Growing Threat of Right-Wing Christians
Michelle Goldberg says progressives need to wake up and pay attention to the enormous -- and growing -- influence of the radical Christian right.
Michelle Goldberg: I've done reporting on the subject for a long time. One of the first pieces I did on the Christian right was on the ex-gay movement. What struck me going to the Exodus Conference was that it takes place in this whole entire parallel universe. They have their own psychologists, psychological institutions and their own version of professional medical literature. The amount of books, magazines and media, and the way it almost duplicated everything that we have in our so-called reality, is remarkable. What struck me years later when I was reporting on the Bush administration was that the parallel institutions that I had first come into contact with were replacing the mainstream institutions -- especially in the federal bureaucracy.
It's been a while. When I was last seen, I had hoped that Zoe would have come home from the hospital on Saturday the 2nd but that didn't happen until Sunday. (Zoe's post on her hospital stay.) She has been home almost a week now but is still not out of the woods. She was on a liquid diet and we have been introducing new foods. The doctor put her on a BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. She had toast for the first time last night and her stomach started to act up. I got up at three this morning and made her some chamomile tea. That seemed to help. The doctor also said to reduce stress. Easier said than done with all that is going on with her mom. I've taken over making the phone calls about her mom. Her paperwork is finally on the way to get her on Medicaid. I also found out that it may take another two to three months to get Gerry out of Western State. Gerry has been doing much better but she can't get on the discharge list even if she was ready to be discharged because they only can only handle 10 on the discharge list. Someone had to be discharged before anyone else can get on the list. It's a manpower restriction. The discharge process then takes about two months to get all the reports and evaluations done. And that's if they find a place that will take her. With Zoe in the hospital for almost a week, I got behind on work. That's almost caught up with now. Now to get my links organized so that I can start posting again. I did get a number of books read, however, so there will be some recommendations coming. Regularly scheduled programming to resume at any moment.