January 31, 2003
# Poets Against the War

Poets Against the War is a project to collect poems and signatures from poets protesting war with Iraq. It is led by Sam Hamill, the founder of Copper Canyon Press (which is located in Port Townsend, close to home). It's featured in the NYTimes and Seattle Times.

[update: Mr. Hamill's move is now noted on google news with a considerable number of related stories.]

posted by ola in activism
by stephen Oliver


O Say Can You Hear?


The dripping Gorgonís head
over the sands of Iraq, spittle of snakes flame out

from a thousand gun barrels -

at last! the two worlds unite in the death struggle,
the two as one to make a third:
fantasy is reality is fantasy.

America has become its own horror cartoon,
each thought locked within its renegade cell,

Bugs Bunny holds forth in the senate on
the bankrupt dream-stocks buried at Fort Knox.

Donald Duck meantime jerks off in disgust
over the American flag - quacks
the countryís been bushwacked,

'ainít worth a hill of beansí

in archaic colloquialisms of a nation near claim
jumping the Middle East.

The last capitalist gasp v the last medieval groan;
eventually, to make way for the eco-terrorists whose

motto: destroy what you cannot save: will sound
the retreat to a history vaporised - a memory erased.

So we come to inherit 'Our Common Lossí.

The Space Shuttle Columbia makes
its long wave 'good-byeí

bright finger nails tearing at the sky (like)

'morning Lucifer, that star that beckons all
mankind to daily roundsí

scratching down Godís blackboard
as seven souls fly away
toward the Pleiades.

So we make our omens to live and die by.

Stephenl Oliver, 2003


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# Iraq: A New Leaf

[Russil Wvong posted a link to the following discussion of foreign policy options regarding Iraq. Since it contains valuable information (despite its imperialist assumptions), I have cleaned up the original crappy USENET formatting and hereby assert my naive understanding of fair use laws by providing it in its entirety. The article originally appeared in the NY Review of Books.]

Iraq: A New Leaf

by William R. Polk, February 18, 1999

A sober reassessment of the American capacity to deal with the Iraqi dilemma is years overdue. Many opportunities have been missed, but it is not too late to avoid the threat of large-scale warfare and the use of weapons of mass destruction that still may lie ahead. Even short of such dreadful events, there is a clear danger of major regional upheavals that could affect the world economy and undermine American leadership. Here I will lay out in summary what I believe our options are, the chances of success of each one, and the cost of trying to implement it.


posted by dru in us
by gerard

have exon projected oil exaustion within 20yrs at home, could this be the motive behind the liberation of a defeated, bombed,persecuted race of human beings. g.w.bush I cannot insult enough, but to say his election reflects on the stupidity of the good old usa.

by gerard

have exon projected oil exaustion within 20yrs at home, could this be the motive behind the liberation of a defeated, bombed,persecuted race of human beings. g.w.bush I cannot insult enough, but to say his election reflects on the stupidity of the good old usa.

# Yet with zeal, he presses on.

CNN.com: Blair risks losing job over Iraq

Blair now risks splitting his own party, alienating his two biggest partners in Europe -- France and Germany -- and perhaps even losing office, so unpopular is his support for war with Iraq in Britain.

Yet with zeal, he presses on.

75 to 80 percent of the British public are against war in Iraq. The line between "zeal" and hyper-explicit, politically suicidal kow-towing becomes a little blurrier.

To review:

What are the chances that Saddam Hussein will attack the UK? Pretty slim.

What are the chances that Saddam Hussein will attack anyone, with the threat of total destruction hanging over him? Also slim.

What are the chances that Saddam Hussein will attack anyone he can, with as much destructive force as he can muster, if he and his country are in the process of being anihilated? Considerably less slim.

Ignoring all the humanitarian concerns (which are, of course, significant), the most pragmatic stance towards Iraq and it's possible use of WMD seems to be the status quo: massive deterance and ongoing inspections.

And then there are the sanctions and the bombing every three days for ten years. Destroying Iraq's economy and civil infrastructure has clearly made the people much more dependent on Hussein, and caused unnecessary, unimaginable, yet widely documented suffering. The possibility of Iraqi people rising up against Hussein is--as a result--as unlikely now as it has ever been. Acknowledging this, and the fact that the US sold him many of the chemical and biological weapons he now has, might be the first step towards a sane policy on Iraq.

posted by dru in us
by Russil Wvong

Check out the article "Iraq: A New Leaf," New York Review of Books, February 18, 1999, by William Polk. Polk reviews the possible options for US policy toward Iraq.

I base my assessment on over half a century of work and study on the Middle East as a scholar, as a businessman, and as a United States government policy planner. I have lived in Iraq under previous regimes, have closely observed Iraqi society, have visited units of the Iraqi army, have talked with most of the current Iraqi leaders, and have shared observations and insights with British, French, Russian, and fellow American observers and officials.

Note that Polk is also the author of the 1958 article in the Atlantic Monthly on the fall of Nuri al-Said. His book The Arab World Today is a very good introduction to modern Arab history.

by dru

Russil,

Thanks for posting that. Though Polk doesn't seem to have any problem with the US asserting ownership or control over an entire region because it can, he nonetheless provides what looks like a very good background on Hussein's motivations, and if followed, his policy would undoubtedly be much better than the current disaster.

I've cleaned up and reposted the article.

by Russil Wvong

Thanks for cleaning up and reposting the Polk article, Dru.

I've put together a long article on September 11 and the Middle East, including a section on the Iraq crisis.

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# North

Path of the Paddle is a worthwhile Canadian weblog, with links to other worthwhile Canadian weblogs. Also, author, activist, and "Liberal strategist" Warren Kinsella has been logging about Liberal infighting as part of the fight, which is interesting.

posted by dru in canada
by Ikram Saeed

Thank's for the plug Dru. HEre's hopin' that befroe long,t here will be a sizeable community of non-loony Canadian bloggers covering Canadian issues. (And I'm willing to be quite relzed on the whole 'non-loony' thing)

# Impeachable Offense

People do realize that Bush tells outright, verifiable lies all the time, right? To think otherwise would be to think that the American press, media, and population (the ones that get polled, anyway) aren't capable of rudimentary critical thought. Or maybe lying isn't a considered bad anymore.

I suppose that lying about important issues is different than lying about one's sex life. Much different.

Accuracy.org has a line by line dismantling of Bush's State of the Union address. I can't say it's really needed, though--at least not to establish that there are major problems with almost everything that was said. Reading a single line of the speech, chosen at random, and thinking about it for more than 10 seconds raises all kinds of contradictions and iss... oops, can't type any more--time for another standing ovation.

posted by dru in us
by smj

I'd be interessted in what you thought of Rex Murphy's recent commentss on Bush'ss state of the union addresss. smj

by dru

I generally find Rex Murphy to be pompous and wrong, but I didn't hear his comments. Do you have a pointer or a summary?

by smj

This is the text of Rex's commentary after Bush's address last week.

http://cbc.ca/national/rex/rex20030129.html

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January 30, 2003
# What's the Catch?

In Canada the Liberals are proposing limits on campaign financing that appear fairly significant.

New measures include a $10,000 limit on individual donations, a $1,000 per party limit on corporate donations, outlaws trust funds, bans corporate and union donations outright for (intra-party) leadership campaigns, full disclosure of more kinds of donations, and public funding for campaigns based on votes recieved.

That's one advantage to having a Prime Minister with an insane amount of power, I guess. Though I may be missing something, it sounds like a damn good start at the very least.

posted by dru in canada
# Of Note

IHT: Will invading Iraq make life safer for Americans?

As a CIA assessment said last October: "Baghdad for now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks" in the United States. "Should Saddam conclude that a U.S.-led attack could no longer be deterred, he probably would become much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions." The CIA added that Saddam might order attacks with weapons of mass destruction as "his last chance to exact vengeance by taking a large number of victims with him."

Where does the idea that an invasion of Iraq will be bloodless and lead to insta-democracy come from? I've never heard of anyone actually promising that there won't be many casualties. Unless everything is completely different than the public record indicates it is, this "painless regime change" trope is almost complete fantasy, and yet it is repeated constantly.

Atlantic Monthly: Articles on foreign policy and Iraq, 1958 to present. 1958 was the year that Iraqis overthrew Nuri as-Said, the US-supported dictator of the day.

Raven Matrix: Interview with Michael Stutz about copyleft for writing, linux, and washing dishes.

posted by dru in us
# A Short Guest Editorial

[And now for something completely different. Sort of. The following article was submitted by John Haney, a friend, photographer, and keen practicioner of off-colour humour. A veritable plethora of references, and maybe a bit of levity. A good excuse to say "veritable plethora", anyway.]

Bush's Blue Balls
A Short Editorial

I am pleased to have just read, from the Sydney Morning Herald, via (and courtesy of) Dru Jay's web site Misnomer, that, in preparation for a war in Iraq, George W. Bush has a plan in the works termed "Shock and Awe". This is a concept whereby the United States would bombard Iraq with approximately 800 missiles in 48 hours so that the effect would be rather like "[that of] the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima" Harlan Ullman, military strategist, croaks. "We want them to quit, not to fight..." so that any battle in Iraq would take not "days or weeks but minutes." The article goes on to note that operation "Shock and Awe" would target power sources and water sources in Baghdad. Hmmm. I think I can draw a worst-case scenario of all that water and electricity blowing-up and spraying this way and that. "Shock" no doubt! There will be no shortage of mustachios standing straight-up. Not to mention a lot of people in the desert without any more water or electricity.


posted by dru in article
by danfeder

Minor point: from what I understand, this is not a plan hatched by Bush, but by the Pentagon durring, surprise surprise, the Clinton years. As usual, the trotskyists have the goods here.

Something tells me the SOA-types who come up with this stuff are pretty happy to have someone like Bush in the White House, though.

by Emily

Johnzo: maybe it would have been more effective to use some kind of ape/oranguatang analogy instead of frogs??

by John

Toads Emily, not frogs! Yes, maybe apes would have been more appropriate.

# Europe's disease

Some interesting speculation on the origins of the myth that the US is supremely and inherently benevolent, a myth which forms the first premise of much of our foreign policy--in a report from Davos.

The United States has a very different experience of nationalism and therefore a very different view of multilateralism. From the U.S. point of view, World Wars I and II were exercises in European savagery; it fell to the United States to save Europe from itself. However, the United States never saw itself as responsible for Europe's disease, nor did it see itself as susceptible to it. Washington was not afraid of its own nationalist tendencies. Americans believed that the Europeans would not behave as civilized human beings unless they were forced into institutions that limited their sovereignty and behavior. In the American view, the lesson of the 20th century was precisely the opposite: The United States could be trusted to behave responsibly without institutional constraints.

posted by dru in us
# Yes Magazine

Yes! Magazine looks like an interesting magazine. Recent issues have tackled themes like living economies and what would democracy look like?

The Grassroots Economic Organizing ("Democratic Workplaces and Globalization from Below") is a good source of similar alternatives.

Some of the folks who put together the Climate Change Caravan are pooling their money to buy 100 or so acres of land and turn it into a land trust, which is a good way to live on and use land without needing to be wealthy, while ensuring that the land gets used responsibly for the forseeable future.

posted by dru in politicsoftech
January 29, 2003
# Immigration Canada's Brilliant Reasoning

The New Forum: One of these things is not like the other

And this: "Being an NDPer is alot like being Scottish: the dour obedience to tradition and inscrutable elites, the belief in sometimes irrelevant ideals, the preference of presumed righteousness to pragmatism, the humourous acceptance of being a continual loser."

posted by dru in canada
January 28, 2003
# Depleted but Deadly

Helen Caldicott on Depleted Uranium:

America used over one million pounds of uranium weapons in the Gulf war Ė 7000 tanks rounds and 940,000 bullets fired from planes. 10,800 shells were fired in Bosnia and 31,000 in Kosovo.
...
Because uranium 238 has a half life of 4.5 billion years, and plutonium, which is by orders of magnitude more carcinogenic than uranium has a shorter half life of only 240,400 years. Iraq, Kuwait, Bosnia and Kosovo are now contaminated with carcinogenic radioactive elements for ever. Because the latent period of carcinogenesis, the incubation time for cancer, is 5 to 10 years for leukemia and 15 to 60 years for solid cancer, the reported malignancies in the NATO troops and peacekeepers and in the American soldiers and the civilians in these countries are just the tip of the iceberg.

In other news, Helen Caldicott is an incredible human being.

posted by dru in us
by Russil Wvong

Hmm. I was just reading a discussion about this in soc.culture.iraq. According to this person, depleted uranium is no more radioactive than the equivalent mass of topsoil.

by dru

Interesting. Thanks for posting that.

Two differences between Caldicott's account and the Trakar guy's jump out at me:

1) Caldicott says that the DOE admitted that Depleted Uranium ammo contains significant amount of contaminated uranium. Trakar neatly sidesteps this by claiming that talk about anything outside of pure DU is "irrelevant to this discussion"

2) The wartime use of DU ammunition (again according to Caldicott) high-speed impact, resulting in a lot of "tiny aerosolized particles", which are easily inhaled. I wonder how the battlefield compares to the testing environments that Trakar cites. Even if pure (i.e. not what the ammo is made of) DU isn't radioactive, I doubt that having tiny particles of a heavy metal lodged in your lungs is particularly good. At the very least.

2.5) I don't know about how bioaccumulation works with radioactive metals, but if it's anything like DDT, the consequences could be bad in the long term.

by Russil Wvong

I did a quick search on the contamination issue. The alt.war.nuclear regulars discuss this:

Yes, some lots of US DU have been identified as having been contaminated with reactor products. The general radioactivity level of the resultant DU was still very low, the contamination was not identified by increased radiation, it was identified by isotopic analysis.

There is no evidence that the tiny increase in radiation relative to properly processed DU is any health hazard. While this was clearly a processing error and needs to be guarded against, the practical health effects appear to be zero.

One of Trakar's references discusses the dangers of inhaled DU particles -- apparently the greatest danger isn't radiation but heavy-metal toxicity, which is similar to that of lead.

Scientists have shown that elevated concentrations of uranium in kidney tissue may cause an effect called proximal tubular necrosis -- cell damage in the first part of the collecting tubules of the kidney. The damage in research animals was either temporary or permanent depending on the amount of excess uranium. We believe the Level I DU exposures from friendly fire during the Gulf War constitute the highest DU exposures as a result of inhalation, ingestion, wound contamination, and retained DU fragments. While there were no specific measurements for kidney damage when individuals were wounded, kidney function could have decreased due to burns, blood loss, and hypovolemia (water and sodium loss leading to insufficient blood volume). However, the Baltimore VA's studies on 33 Gulf War veterans severely wounded by DU friendly fire have shown no subtle or persistent kidney abnormalities from their DU exposure. The VA conducted extensive testing in 1993-1994, 1997, and 1999 and documented no kidney abnormalities, even in veterans with retained DU fragments who are excreting elevated levels of uranium in their urine. Their testing included measuring retinol-binding protein and Ŗ2-microglobulin, which would indicate the presence or absence of proximal tubular damage.[40] (Tab P further discusses the medical results noted to date in the DU medical follow-up program.)

# Shocked and Awed

Holy Shit!

From a story in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The US intends to shatter Iraq "physically, emotionally and psychologically" by raining down on its people as many as 800 cruise missiles in two days.

The Pentagon battle plan aims not only to crush Iraqi troops, but also wipe out power and water supplies in the capital, Baghdad.

It is based on a strategy known as "Shock and Awe", conceived at the National Defense University in Washington, in which between 300 and 400 cruise missiles would fall on Iraq each day for two consecutive days. It would be more than twice the number of missiles launched during the entire 40 days of the 1991 GulfWar.

"There will not be a safe place in Baghdad," a Pentagon official told America's CBS News after a briefing on the plan. "The sheer size of this has never been seen before, never been contemplated before."

The plan has emerged just as American diplomats at the United Nations hinted that the US Administration might be willing to give UN weapons inspectors another month to complete their task.

And:

"We want them to quit, not to fight," Ullman said, "so that you have this simultaneous effect - rather like the nuclear weapons at Hiroshima - not taking days or weeks but minutes."

It's not really terrorism, because terrorism is what the other guys do.

And whether it's bluffing or not, comments like this (from Saddam Hussein's son) leave me just a tad bit uneasy:

If they come, September 11, which they are crying over and see as a big thing, will be a real picnic for them, God willing... They will be hurt and pay a price they will never imagine. They can get much more from Iraq without resorting to the logic of force and war.

But wait! It's unpatriotic to fear nuclear annihilation. It means the terrorists have already... oh, you know.

posted by dru in us
January 27, 2003
# Media Control

The media in Canada may be way more right wing than most Canadians, but to hear Matthew Engel tell it, the US press is not just right wing, but out to lunch. We knew this.

It is not merely Bush's opponents who have failed to grasp the rules, but ordinary reporters who believe their sole job is to get at the truth. American journalists emerge from university journalism schools, which teach rigid notions of factual reporting and "objectivity". But facts can be very slippery creatures, especially when sliding through the hands of skilful politicians and their spokesmen. The journalists may see the sleight-of-hand, but in the US the conventions of their trade make it hard for them to convey it.

"It's not that the press is uncritical of the people it covers," says Steven Weisman, the New York Times's chief diplomatic correspondent, "but it's critical the way a sportswriter is critical, calling the points and measuring success or failure based on wherever the administration wants to be. So in a situation like this, when the administration is set on waging a war, is enacting its programme and is winning seats at elections, then in a funny way the press becomes like a ga-ga sportswriter. Except for scandals, the press is unable to set the agenda in this country."

posted by dru in us
# Dave Grenier

Dave Grenier has been back on the web for a while, and is posting scads of good political links.

posted by dru in sites
January 26, 2003
# WSF III and the Terror Map

The industrious folks at the NYC Independent Media Center have produced a colourful 36x24" map of the "US Terrorist Infrastructure", marking the locations of war criminals and terrorists who reside in the US, chemical weapons, think tanks that formulate ways to terrorize other countries, nuclear weapons manufacturing and storage, as well as the agencies and corporations that fund terrorist activities. It's free for download in pdf, and copies can be ordered for $7.

In other news, the World Social Forum in Porto Allegre, Brazil has over 100,000 attendees this year. Anarchogeek has been covering the proceedings and linking to other sources. Indymedia also has lots of good coverage. Even more from Google news.

The World Social Forum was originally started as a counterpoint to the World Economic Forum, where leaders, CEOs, NGO types, investors, "visionaries" and other bigwigs get together in Davos, Switzerland to discuss in secret how best to (ahem) fix the problems of the world. Problems like barriers to the free movement of capital (which is the answer to everything, of course), I'm guessing. But it's secret, so who knows. In any case, I was glad to see that most coverage of the WEF in Davos this year has focused on the ways in which various leaders have used it as a platform to condemn US aggression.

Mostly, I'm still surprised at how few people find something fundamentally wrong with the most powerful people in the world getting together to hobnob, discuss, and make deals in secret.

posted by dru in activism
by Johnzo

Dru--

Love That Map! I get so depressed reading it that I laugh out loud! I wonder if I could get my hands on one big enough to carpet my living room? There's an idea--the wives of the Bush Administration Men could get together for Thanksgiving and make a giant quilt of the same design. I'll bet Nancy could sing The Battle Hymn Of The Republic to Ronald whilst she embroiders. Thanks for the link!

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January 25, 2003
# Refreshing!

Rabble.ca's Corvin Russell (a name I recognize from my Canadian University Press days) has been doing a good job of covering the NDP convention. Much more interesting than generally stale or downright bad mainstream coverage.

A good summary of the convention and the foolishness of the way professional journalists cover... everything (from a distance, paying more attention to their computers, and comfortably).

And he socks it to blockheaded Globe columnists who find the NDP boring and outmoded. If you believe that market ideology should not be questioned, and find concentrated money and power exciting, then of course you're going to find the NDP boring. Russel writes:

Iíll take the boredom of principle over the boredom of capitulation any day.

The mainstream media has never been known for its political astuteness or innovation in the realm of ideas. Far from being ahead of the trend, the chatterati mostly lag far behind political realities in their thinking. The market convictions of the Thomas Friedmans of the world sprouted long after Thatcher and Reagan had sown their oats.

And:

The media prescription to move to the centre expresses contempt for voters, treating them like a static lump whose choices are given, who canít be engaged by political education and campaigning. Good politics moves the ďcentreĒ to where you are, not the other way around. Itís not like Canadians are passionately devoted to the Liberal Partyís opportunistic centrism. Theyíre not passionately devoted to any political project. Thatís the real crisis that the mainstream media has missed: the crisis in liberal democracy.

Heck, just read the whole thing.

posted by dru in canada
# NDP update/a new propaganda machine

After much speculation about a drawn out multi-ballot vote, Jack Layton won with more than 50%. In a wierd turn of events, a denial-of-service attack slowed down the internet voting, which was run by election.com. Local parties all over the country rented hotel rooms and set up computers so that folks could hang out, watch the speeches, discuss, and vote directly, which was pretty cool.

The latest NDP news. (from Google)

An NDP-run Newspaper?

In one of the more interesting bits that I previously missed, Jack Layton said that the NDP should buy a newspaper to make up for the national media's outright hostility to the party (except for the CBC, which continues to be a reasonable source of mostly balanced information).

Here's what I'd do. Get a budget together to pay for an editorial staff and layout team, with enough cash left over to pay some writers. Then, make connections with the student press, independent papers, magazines, indymedia types, and other scattered bits of lefty journalism, smack small but significant-enough financial incentives on quality, in depth stories and breaking news. Put together a good pile of reporting with attractive layout once a week, post it for free as a pdf. Leave space for local coverage and advertising, and sign up local activists or entrepreneurs to sell advertising and take care of printing and distribution. Take 25% of net revenues for the national editorial and layout office, let the locals keep the rest. Give the editors full independence (but hire folks who will actually cover the NDP), and try to break even. All the NDP needs to do is spend more time doing newsworthy things. If it works financially, hire more staff and crank it up to two or three issues a week.

The result: a national newspaper with cutting coverage, whose money goes to the people who do the work, not the shareholders (coz there aren't any), and the possibility of quality journalism.

(But it'll only work if they hire me as editor.)

It really bugs me that any millionaire could do this if they wanted to (heck, a dedicated group of folks with decent fundraising skills could do it), but instead we have the National Boast and the Global Male.

posted by dru in canada
# NDP Leadership

I spent the morning listening to the speeches of the candidates for party leader at the New Democratic Party (NDP) conference. For those joining us from away, that's Canada's left wing party. It's nice that I could hear them at all; try as I might to imagine NPR doing nationwide full coverage of a Green party convention on a weekend, I fail.

What folks have been saying for a while is that it's a horserace between long-time Winnipeg parliamentarian Bill Blaikie and Toronto city councillor Jack Layton. So it's basically experience in parliament, relatively moderate, less slick (Blaikie) vs. connections with activism, media-friendly (Layton). Layton has the most money, and is heavily favoured. What a coincidence. But through some deal with labour, one labour vote counts for roughly 12 "normal" votes, so despite the one-member-one-vote campaign, some members are still more equal than others.

By far the most compelling speech, though, came from Pierre Ducasse a 29 year old Quebecker with less experience than the others and little funding. In what I venture to call the most compelling delivery of a political speech of recent memory, Ducasse layed down a compelling case for lefties to go mainstream, with "democratization of the economy and society" as a first priority. He's not going to win, but a lot of people are kicking themselves for voting early for Layton in the first round.

Here's what Ducasse reckons:

As democrats and socialists, our goal cannot simply be to accommodate or humanize the capitalist system, or to try and overturn it immediately. What we must do - using innovative, progressive and well thought-out policies - is bring deep changes to the existing economic structure so that, in the long term, we establish a social and economic system founded on social democratic principles. We are opposed to savage capitalism. But the party must promote gradual and structural measures that will bring about a real political, social and economic democracy.

Vague though it may be, it's a good foot to stand on, and I don't hear many other pols talking with anything like that kind of clarity. I think it's inspiring to a lot more people than just (soon to be post-) academic lefties like myself.

Me, I'm kicking myself for not remembering to register to vote in the leadership election until five days after the deadline for registration. Of course, it didn't help that the NDP did practically nothing to inform me, Joe Voter who talks to NDP members all the time, of when the deadline was or even that there was one-member-one-vote this time around (I heard from a friend, third-hand).

With apparent dependence on word of mouth, the NDP was still able to grow its membership by a full 50%. With a $1000 per city budget for flyers, pamphlets and posters, they could have easily pulled in twice that amount. Heck, a poster that said, in bold print "last chance to participate in a democratic political party" a week before the deadline would have got a lot of attention, at the very least. The campaigns that get run in New Brunswick consist almost entirely of spending a lot of money on signs; a few pamphlets highlighting key issues that the media ignores could change things dramatically. Instead: nothing.

The media, of course, (and as Lawrence Martin pointed out on Thursday in the Globe) is way more right wing than most Canadians, so the NDP gets nothing but grief. Some of this is deserved, but it's completely out of proportion with the willingness to criticize other parties. Indeed, the liberals may be criticized, but the NDP gets condemned, with little or no dissent in the mainstream media.

Equally damaging has been the NDP's unwillingness to play to their own strengths, though. Ignoring their advantages and playing to their weaknesses seems to be what they're best at, whether it's squandering the democratization of the party, ignoring free trade in the 80's when the majority of Canadians were against it (at least according to Rick Salutin, in the last paragraph of this column), or talking idly about health care when all the other parties were putting the same amount of emphasis on it.

All this is an outsider's rant, though, so maybe the reality is so complex that the most utterly obvious things can't be done. It's possible.

posted by dru in canada
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January 24, 2003
# NDP coverage

NDP Convention: 1, 2

posted by dru in original
# Oooh, pretty.

Textpattern looks really good. Usable and pretty, by the looks of it.

In other news, I just realized that I've had a weblog in some form or other for about four years, and a web site for ten years now. Time has gone by.

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# The Two Towers

I saw the Two Towers, liked it except for the racism and counter-intuitive-bordering-on-idiotic-but-distracting-at-best changes to the plot and that goofy dwarf. I'll let other people's posts speak to both issues:

Baraita: "All the characters except Aragorn are supposed to be idiots?"

Golublog: "the Two Towers, which was basically a three hour long George Lucas smack down."

(via Laughingmeme.org)

posted by dru in culture
by David Grenier

How was The Two Towers racist? Or at least, how was it any more racist than the books (one problem with fantasy in general is that generally all of the 'races' are still all-white. another is that races almost always have innate racial characteristics including an innate 'goodness' or 'evilness' typical of 19th century thought)?

The changes were horrible, much worse than the stuff cut out of the first film. Even my dad, who had never read the books and does not generally like fantasy, asked if the Arwen stuff was added to make it more romantic.

by Dru

The movie was definitely *less* racist than the books, but racist nonetheless. The Uruk-Hai dreadlocks were unnecessary, as well as the middle eastern-style army.

More:
http://film.guardian.co.uk/lordoftherings/news/0,11016,852217,00.html

by Mark

The 'middle-eastern' style of the army is straight from the book. And the idea of a 'middle-eastern' flavoured army is not in itself racist (Tolkien was a devout Christian...a faith based on the principle of loving one's neighbour). The 'middle eastern' army was in fact from a desert region called Harad. Tolkien was merely drawing on his understanding of the world. Dress of that sort (head coverings, face cowls, etc.) are simply necessary in such climates. The fact that they were portrayed as 'bad guys' is a mere fact of Middle Earth history. One should read the books and take in the whole tapestry of Tolkien's work to ensure that one understands what one is criticizing.

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January 19, 2003
# Yugoslavia

Michael Parenti's web site has a few excellent articles, including:

The Rational Destruction of Yugoslavia

That U.S. leaders have consciously sought to dismember Yugoslavia is not a matter of speculation but of public record. In November 1990, the Bush administration pressured Congress into passing the 1991 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, which provided that any part of Yugoslavia failing to declare independence within six months would lose U.S. financial support. The law demanded separate elections in each of the six Yugoslav republics, and mandated U.S. State Department approval of both election procedures and results as a condition for any future aid. Aid would go only to the separate republics, not to the Yugoslav government, and only to those forces whom Washington defined as "democratic," meaning right-wing, free-market, separatist parties.

posted by dru in good_articles
# Is War A Racket? Yes, It Is.

War Is A Racket by Major General Smedley Butler (ca. 1930)

posted by dru in good_articles
# Iraq is inhabited by humans.

Today was the latest global day of demonstrations against war with Iraq. Folks are saying 200,000 people turned out in DC, 20,000 in Los Angeles, 80,000 in San Francisco. Crowd estimates will be better tommorrow. In Canada alone, over 20 cities held similar demonstrations (including here in Sackville: pop. 5000, temperature -20C).

One can follow the ever-annoying and bizarre politics of crowd estimates and coverage at Google News. (Describing 200,000 people as "thousands" isn't accurate. In fact, it's misleading.)

There are numerous city council resolutions opposing war in Iraq.

posted by dru in activism
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January 18, 2003
# Health care that's universal, not spaced out

If you're a Canadian citizen, and not interested in a future of HMOs and huge medical bills, you may wish to read and sign the Implement Romanow Petition.

posted by dru in canada
January 16, 2003
# Eldred

Kendall: Why I Don't Care About Eldred

I've been a bit excited about/interested in the Eldred case, but mostly because if it had won, it would mean that the translation that one of my profs did of Heidegger's Being and Time would be legal. Now, the likelihood that it will get published at all is pretty slim. But like Kendall says, it's a symptom, not a root cause.

posted by dru in politicsoftech
# Zizek

Ha'aretz: Disaster movies as the last remnants of Utopia (an interview with Slavoj Zizek)

Apparently it's so hard for us to imagine a new global utopian project based on work and cooperation, that the only way we can entertain the thought is to pay a mental price of extreme catastrophe. What fascinates me about disaster films is how circumstances of vast catastrophe suddenly bring about social cooperation. Even racial tensions vanish. It's important at the end of Independence Day that everyone pulls together - Jews, Arabs, blacks. Disaster films might be the only optimistic social genre that remains today, and that's a sad reflection of our desperate state. The only way to imagine a Utopia of social cooperation is to conjure a situation of absolute catastrophe. Disaster films might be all that's left of the utopian genre.
...
I think that in Communist regimes, things which aren't manifest in liberal democracies have become evident. I believe that liberal democracies are paradoxical in the sense that they contain a fundamental blindness about the ideological mechanisms which operate within them. Take, for instance, the liberal principle of free choice. Choices made by people in democratic states are not necessarily less compulsory, and yet they experience these choices as though they are free.
(via nettime)

posted by dru in good_articles
January 14, 2003
# India

Two interesting posts from a woman who is travelling through India while doing work with an unnamed women's rights organization:

Hateful thoughts "Yesterday I hated men. But today I feel much better."

Hyderabad. A vivid account of a few days at the Asian Social Forum.

(via Anarchogeek)

posted by dru in activism
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January 10, 2003
# Charles Taylor

Boston Review: a review of Charles Taylor's book on William James

But as James points out, this scientific posture may obstruct access to truths that we can grasp only through a stance of openness and commitment. Taylor offers a striking illustration of this possibility: "Do you like me or not? If I am determined to test this by adopting a stance of maximum distance and suspicion, the chances are that I will forfeit the chance of a positive answer."

posted by dru in culture
# P-U

According to Normon Solomon's P.U.-litzer Prizes, CNN's Jack Cafferty said the following:

This is a commercial enterprise. This is not PBS. We're not here as a public service. We're here to make money. We sell advertising, and we do it on the premise that people are going to watch. If you don't cover the miners because you want to do a story about a debt crisis in Brazil at the time everybody else is covering the miners, then Citibank calls up and says, 'You know what? We're not renewing the commercial contract.' I mean it's a business.

Well, that clears that up.

posted by dru in us
# Jaggi: the trilogy

Jaggi Singh, that Canadian activist with name recognition, doesn't seem to have any luck with police. After being arrested at the 1997 APEC conference in Vancouver and kidnapped by Mounties in Quebec City in 2001, he has most recently been nabbed, interrogated and beat up by Israeli thugs immigration officials.

Incidentally, The New Forum has been full of frequently updated, wholesome CanCon lately.

posted by dru in activism
# Jacques!

I occasionally run into Derrida: the Movie while searching for something or other. I wasn't sure what to think when I saw the pre-release web site, but I certainly didn't expect it to get heaps of glowing praise from reviewers in major publications.

In resisting any predictable, formulaic approach, they make Derrida a living, informal demonstration of "deconstruction" -- a system of thought which up to now has otherwise eluded cinematic capture. The result is not only thought provoking, but ground-breaking.

posted by dru in movies
January 09, 2003
# The reading binge continues

Books of which I plan to read at least a chapter (more in most cases) in the month of January (in no particular order):

Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Judgement
Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish
Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women
Elizabeth Warnock Fernea, In Search of Islamic Feminism
Claire Colebrook, Gilles Deleuze
Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition
Naomi Klein, Fences and Windows
Desmond Rochfort, Mexican Muralists
Martin Heidegger, Letter on Humanism
Martin Heidegger, Being and Time
Thomas Frank, The Conquest of Cool
Various, Gender Politics in Global Governance

For a bigger list of books that look interesting to me, see my Amazon.com wishlist. Amazon wishlists are a convenient way to keep track of books that I plan to read at some point, though it doesn't hurt that people can (easily) buy books for me if they want to.

posted by dru in culture
# Spirit?

The US Air Force has christened a new plane with the name "Spirit of Strom Thurmond". I'd gag, but instead I'll remark that Aaron McGruder probably hasn't been spending a lot of time thinking of new material for Boondocks lately.

posted by dru in race
January 08, 2003
# drool.

Just when I think that I've outgrown the ability to lust after technology, Apple comes out with a 17 inch powerbook. Yow.

Apple also made a speedy new web browser based on Gecko, which looks promising.

posted by dru in blog
by kellan

Not based on Gecko, based on KHTML (from KDE)

Me, I want the 12in, though at 4.6lb its still a pound heavier then I want to be carrying everyday all day :(

by kendall

I'm still holding out for Apple's first price break on the 23" LCD monitor, which is still the most beautiful computer thing I've ever seen -- but $3495? *Ouch*. They gotta drop that by a $1000 or so eventually...

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