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.]
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
"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.
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."
Dave Grenier has been back on the web for a while, and is posting scads of good political links.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
Michael Parenti's web site has a few excellent articles, including:
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.
War Is A Racket by Major General Smedley Butler (ca. 1930)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.