Thursday, January 27, 2005

"I would rather die standing than live on my knees!"

-(Emiliano Zapata)

Yesterday I was reading MSNBC’s story about the deadly CH-53 Sea Stallion crash in Iraq. About midway through the article there was a box with links entitled “Related Coverage”. There was one link:

Live Vote: If you were an Iraqi, would you be willing to risk your life to vote Sunday?

So, I thought I would click through to it, and I clicked “yes” without thinking about it much. I was shocked by the results: at the time they were 39%: yes, and 61%: no. At that point only around 25,000 had voted. This morning I checked again, and by now over 60,000 people have voted, and the results have only changed slightly to 38%: yes, and 62%: no.

First I though, well, this must just represent MSNBC readers. This can’t represent all Americans. Americans are proud and patriotic.

Well, I don’t know, but it got me really thinking about it. Maybe I was just trigger happy with my response to the poll. Maybe I wasn’t putting myself into the Iraqis' shoes. I haven’t been living there, seen the daily carnage, suffered through the power outages, the water shortages, the car bombs, the kidnappings of relatives, the killings of friends or acquaintances at the hands of US soldiers or the “resistance fighters.” How can I suggest that they should go risk their lives to go vote?

But that didn’t sit with me too well. I just can’t see how staying at home not voting is going to help. I guess, if you have no faith in the elections, and believe they are a sham and will have no use, then I can somewhat understand not having high hopes in them…but on the other hand, what are the options?

I can’t see how not going to vote is better than going to vote in, albeit, imperfect elections. If no one goes to vote, how will the situation change? How are representatives going to be chosen, who are going to make the blue-prints for a new government? By not going to vote, you are in a way saying that the status-quo is okay. That Allawi’s government is a-ok with you.

If the country I were living in were occupied by some other country, I would sure as hell want them out of there sometime in the future, no matter how beneficial their presence there may be. I would want to choose my leader, and not have them imposed. I wouldn’t want to be the pawn between two groups. And if the only chance I have at that would be to take part in some elections, however imperfect they may be, then I would do that.

Yes, they will be risking their lives. But I have to ask, why does someone want to continue living in such misery? How do they think things are going to change, if they don’t act? You can’t blame everything on the Americans and the terrorists. Unless they start taking things into their own hands, and grasping whatever opportunities they have to do something, someone else will always be deciding their fate.

I was reading Riverbend’s latest post yesterday, and was dismayed. They haven’t had water for a few days, because terrorists attacked the water lines.

It's amazing how as things get worse, you begin to require less and less. We have a saying for that in Iraq, "Ili yishoof il mawt, yirdha bil iskhooneh." Which means, "If you see death, you settle for a fever." We've given up on democracy, security and even electricity. Just bring back the water.

This Reuters article also stated:

Insurgents are suspected of attacking water mains outside the city several days ago, cutting off supplies, but the U.S. military had no immediate information on such an attack.

In the absence of hard information, rumor and speculation often run riot in Iraq.

Some Baghdad residents say the Iraqi government and U.S. military have cut off the water on purpose to frustrate people and prompt them to vote in the Jan. 30 election.

Others take the water shortage as yet another sign that the U.S. occupation has brought them nothing but problems.

Even if the Coalition forces leave, the terrorists won’t. And they won’t be organizing any votes for the Iraqis to take part in.

Contrast Riverbend’s sense of helplessness with this brave Iraqi's sense of duty:

Only hours after his brother was shot at a checkpoint by an unseen terrorist, this young Iraqi soldier marched proudly out the door to man the exact same checkpoint for the rest of the night.

I can only hope that more people understand what is at stake; it goes beyond individual fate. To Riverbend, I can only say: in German there is a saying, which translates to: "If you are standing up to your neck in water, don't hang your head."

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

How do you say goodbye to a deploying solider?

What do you do when someone you love is going to leave for a year? And not for a semester abroad, but to a combat zone? So that means the whole “oooh, I can come visit you” has to be scratched. And he also won’t be eating tapas all day and enjoying Brazilian nightlife…nah, his daily activities will be a little more life threatening.

He’s going to be leaving towards the end of February. But I have known he was going to leave for about six months now. When do you officially stop living day-today life, and start mentally and emotionally preparing for him to leave, by doing things that “celebrate” his leaving, like having a “last” meal there and the “last” time going there?

It is extremely frustrating to me that when I tell some people that my boyfriend is in the military, something akin to pity crosses their faces. When they ask, “will he be going to Iraq/Afghanistan?” I try to hide my contra-pity for their naivety. The ignorance that so many people still have about the U.S. military and the current situation is shocking…but I have to admit, I used to be just as naïve. I respond with as much restraint as possible, that it is pretty difficult to find someone in the military nowadays that won’t be rotating over to the Middle East or Afghanistan sooner or later.

Then comes the question: “A whole year? How are you going to handle that?” Good question…but it gives me great comfort that hundreds of thousands of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, daughters, and sons, etc. have “handled” it before me. And why would anyone suggest that I couldn’t be as strong as them?

Even more affronting are those who ask: “Are you going to wait for him?” I mean, I almost have to laugh at that. Granted, we aren’t married, so we have nothing contractually binding us to stay together. So, in one way the question is founded, but in another way, it reflects a lot about those who ask the question. It doesn’t make sense to me, why someone would think it okay to break off a perfectly functioning relationship, just because one of the partners was going away for a set time. Basically it reduces the concept of a relationship to something based on physical presence, instead of something encompassing so much more. Also, my boyfriend is going away to perform life-threatening duties for the benefit of others. You can agree or disagree with the US involvement in Afghanistan or Iraq, but you cannot disagree with the self-sacrifice of the US soldier. How can anyone think I would want to break off a relationship with someone like that?

There are daily reminders now of his impending departure. The last-minute bureaucratic things he needs to tie up before leaving, the ever-growing pile of military issued gear in his apartment that he will be taking, and one of us starting or ending a sentence with: “when you are/I am in Afghanistan” or “get back from Afghanistan.” I have to fight my inner puppy, who wants to mope around with my tail between my legs, while he prepares. I have to respect the fact, that his position is a hundred times harder than mine. I am just losing him from my daily life…he is basically losing his daily life. Well, not losing it. He is trading it. Trading the freedom in of movement of being able to jump into his car and drive anywhere he wants for the restriction of life on a base, trading his own apartment including his bed and bathroom for a shared tent and communal facilities, trading home cooking for chow hall cuisine, and the list goes on. He is trading all this to do the job he has been training for. So, even though I may want to wallow about how much I am going to miss him, I don’t have the heart to. It would be extremely self-centered…okay, I lie…on occasion I wallow like a pig, but I keep it short.

To my surprise, I am also somewhat excited about him going to Afghanistan. I look forward to his emails describing his experiences there, the people, the sights. I look forward to his photos. And I would have to say, the thing I look forward to most, is meeting him all over again. After a year, he and I will both be completely different people and I look forward to the butterflies in my stomach upon seeing him again. Checking him over for new wrinkles, new scars, more gray hairs. To be re-introduced to that teasing twinkle in his eyes. Some ask how to keep the spice in a relationship: try a one year separation!

One day soon he will be getting on a plane that will be taking him to Afghanistan. Usually when someone you know is going to fly somewhere, you wish them a good flight. Somehow the flight doesn’t seem that important. Although, I will probably crack some joke along those lines, to make light of the situation. To make him laugh, to see that smile that I won’t see for so long, one last time.

I wonder what those last minutes of ours together will be like. Part of me will fight to pretend that this is like any other goodbye we have had up to now. I can pretend that in a few days, I will be seeing him again, and that way I won’t cry and turn into a basket case. But part of me will want to give the moment the honor it deserves. Acknowledge that I won’t be seeing this man for a long time, and yes, that this, without being morbid, is potentially the last time I see him. How do you convey in one goodbye so many messages: be safe, do a good job, I'm so unbelievably proud of you, I love you, I’ll miss you, I can’t wait to see you again, it has been an honor knowing you, and I will always cherish the time I have spent with you?

I hope to find the answer to that question soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Davids Medienkritik wants to go German

Davids Medienkritik is a website analyzing German media, in its own words: "Politically Incorrect Observations on Reporting in the German Media". Although it started off in German, it quickly changed to English after realizing that there was a better market for it in the site's owners want to go back to the roots and publish a mirror German site and hope to attract a wide German audience. They write:

If you feel that you have what it takes to be a good German-language blogger on our site, don’t hesitate to
email us. If you can help us translating English to German, we may also be able to put you to good use on our new site. Let us know!

I am really looking forward to that. The new [yet to have been given a web address] German site debuts on February 1st.

Where are the human shields now?

I just read Spotlessmind's post about Henryk Broder's editorial about anti-Bush sentiments...and this paragraph made me smile:

Und was machen die Friedensfreunde aus dem alten Europa? Sie halten sich vornehm zurück. Bis jetzt ist noch keines der "menschliches Schutzschilde" in den Irak gereist, um Wahllokale, Polizeistationen und Moscheen vor Angriffen der Terroristen zu beschützen, wie sie es mit Raffinerien vor den Angriffen der Amerikaner getan haben.

Translation: "And what are all the peace activists from old Europe doing? They are elegently restraining themselves. Up to this point, no "human shield" has traveled to Iraq, to protect voting stations, police stations and mosques from terrorist attacks, how they so elaborately did before the American attacks."


I love being an adult

I was always kind of frustrated as a kid; I couldn't stand not being tall enough to see over counters.

Being a teenager was equally frustrating, I had ideas of my own, but wasn't yet able to implement them.

However, coming of age changed all that...and there is nothing sweeter than being able to eat ice cream while waiting for my dinner to cook.

...Or foregoing dinner completely and just eating ice cream.

Or eating ice cream while waiting for your jogging partner to arrive to pick you up.

Or eating ice cream while soaking in the tub.

*Sigh* is great.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Representative government and patriotism

Representative government can function efficiently only in those countries where the people are themselves imbued with the democratic spirit,
where they are willing to abide by the decision of the majority.
So long as powerful minority groups exist that will draw the sword and attempt to rule by force whenever they are beaten, or likely to be beaten, at the polis there can be no stable government
[Nations’s name] is a land where every prospect pleases, but where the majority of the citizens have not yet attained that degree of education, patriotism – that degree of temperamental poise which representative government demands.
Democracy is more than a form of government; it is a state of mind. For such a government to function the people must learn to practice restraint. They must learn that
principles are more important than individuals, laws than men.
More than ten years ago the [nationality] farmers and those of mixed race rebelled against a government that, while nominally democratic in form, was in reality a dictatorship. The hardships they endured seemed to them to have passed beyond the point of endurance. Revolts in the different states took a revolutionary form; and the revolutionists won.
Since that time other revolutions have developed; one which is still in progress. The reason for this last revolt is not the be found in the oppression of the masses, but in a dispute among individuals and groups as to what leader and party shall be elevated to the Presidency. It assumes a personal rather than a patriotic aspect.
The spirit of revenge plays a greater part than devotion to country.
Such a revolution is made possible by the fact that the great mass of the people undervalue the importance of the elective franchise.
Ambitious politicians look upon revolt as a great adventure. They are more concerned with gaining supreme power than with the methods by which that power is secured. To them success carries its own vindication. They regard government as a means to their individual ends.
The [nationals] have yet to learn that higher devotion to the public welfare. They permit personal animosities and the spirit if revenge to take precedence over national patriotism.
In a country where the people find no moral obloquy in rebelling against a government of their own creation the task of those who attempt to govern by constitutionals means becomes extremely difficult, at times impossible. However wise, energetic and patriotic the President of such a republic may be, he cannot govern according to the law unless a respect for the law exists in the hearts of the people.
Whoever is at the head of the [nationality] government occupies a difficult, a hazardous position. Education along patriotic lines is the only remedy; and education is a plant of tardy growth. Steps must be hewn in the granite walls of ignorance and prejudice before they can be surmounted.
That is a work that cannot be accomplished in four years; it is a labor of generations.
The first and most important duty of those at the head of the [nationality] government is to promote education, patriotism: promote devotion to principles, putting it above personalities. Until this can be done the position of the President of [nation’s name] is almost untenable. The tendency of such a government is to degenerate into military dictatorships.

The one lesson the [nationality] people have yet to learn is that degree of patriotism which enables one to put aside personal disappointment and to abide by the decision of the majority until the time arrives for the next national election.
[Nation’s name]’s development along progressive democratic lines must come from within. The people of the United States wish [nation’s name] only well. […] Perhaps we can render a service, however, by bringing to the attention of the [nationality] people the means which has enabled this country to avoid disastrous revolutions. We have had agitators and disappointed politicians among us who have sought to foster revolutionary movements, but they have failed miserably, and for the reason that the great mass of the people will not take part in any activity which would tend to overthrow constitutional government by force.
Whom the people have elected the people must support. Strict adherence to that principle is an absolute essential to constitutional government under representative forms.

I was reading through the Los Angeles Times archives and found this, and couldn't help notice but how it mirrored the current situation in Iraq, and for that matter, many other countries plagued with civil strife. The article is entitled "Mexico's Dilemma" and was published on Dec. 30th, 1923.

Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Cokie Roberts Saved By US Marine!

Don't have time for a post today, but I found this little snicker inducer:

News Anchor Dan Rather, NPR Reporter Cokie Roberts, and U.S. Marine assigned to protect them were captured by an al Quaeda death squad. They were tied up and brought before the leader.
The leader said, "I am familiar with your western custom of granting the condemned a last wish; so, before we kill and dismember you, do you have any last requests?"
Dan Rather said, "Well, I'm a Texan; so I'd like one last bowlful of hot spicy chili." The leader nodded to an underling who left and returned with the chili. Rather ate it all and said, "Now I can die content."
Peter Jennings said, "I am Canadian, so I'd like to hear the song 'O Canada' one last time." The leader nodded to a terrorist who had studied the Western world and knew the music. He returned with some rag-tag musicians and played the anthem. Jennings sighed and declared he could now die peacefully.
Cokie Roberts said, "I'm a reporter to the end. I want to take out my Tape recorder and describe the scene here and what's about to happen. Maybe someday someone will hear it and know that I was on the job till the end."
The leader directed an aide to hand over the tape recorder and Roberts dictated some comments. She then said, "Now I can die happy."
The leader turned and said, "And now, Mr. U.S. Marine, what is your final wish?"
"Kick me in the a*s," said the Marine.
"What?" asked the leader. "Will you mock us in your last hour?"
"No, I'm not kidding. I want you to kick me in the a*s," insisted the Marine. So the leader shoved him into the open, and kicked him in the a*s.
The Marine went sprawling, but rolled to his knees, pulled a 9mm Pistol from inside his cammies, and shot the leader dead.
In the resulting confusion, he leapt to his knapsack, pulled out his M4 carbine, and sprayed the Iraqis with gunfire. In a flash, all the Iraqis were either dead or fleeing for their lives.
As the Marine was untying Rather, Jennings, and Roberts, they asked him, "Why didn't you just shoot them? Why did you ask them to kick you in the a*s?"
"What," replied the Marine, "and have you three a*sholes call me the aggressor?"

Friday, January 21, 2005

I love stupid people...

...because they make me feel smarter:

I'm a tech support engineer for a software company. I had a guy call up rather annoyed that the disks we'd sent him containing the latest version of our software didn't work.

Customer: "The install fails half way through. I tried several times, and it always fails at the same point."
Tech Support: "Did you see any kind of error message?"
Customer: "Yes."
Tech Support: "What did the error message say?"
Customer: "It said, 'Please insert Disk 2.'"
Tech Support: "Have you got another disk there?"
Customer: "Yes."
Tech Support: "Is it labelled 'Disk 2'?"
Customer: "Yes, it is."
Tech Support: "Insert that disk into the drive, and click 'OK'."
Customer: "Wow, thanks! That's fixed it. It's installing now. What was it, a faulty disk or something?"


Tech Support: "Ok, in the bottom left hand side of the screen, can you see the 'OK' button displayed?"
Customer: "Wow. How can you see my screen from there?"

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Iraqi Referendum

This is an interesting proposal from some journalists at the NYTimes:

When is the proper time, then, to withdraw the bulk of our 150,000 troops from Iraq? The answer does not lie in the corridors of Washington, but on the streets of Baghdad, Tikrit, Mosul and Falluja. The answer lies with the people of Iraq.[...]

Why not let the Iraqis themselves decide? Ask Iraqi voters in a referendum six weeks after the national elections if they think foreign soldiers should withdraw immediately. Let the Iraqis debate what the absence of American forces will mean for their families and nation. Tell them we'll hold the referendum every nine months until they vote us out or we determine it's time to leave.[...]

The op-ed goes on to explain the pros and cons of such a proposal. An interesting read.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

From fashion victim to asylum seekers

Last week the murder of a German fashion designer rocked Germany...okay, I am exaggerating, it jiggled Germany. I mean, like a friend said, Moshammer was no Versace. Like Paris Hilton, his biggest product was himself. He was found dead in his apartment Friday morning. Over the weekend the Munich police apprehended a suspect, an Iraqi living in Germany since seeking asylum a few years ago.

The apparent murder motive is the fact that Moshammer offered this guy 2000 Euros for sex, and then after the deed, refused to pay up. So he ends up being strangled with a telephone cord. I don’t think Moshammer deserved to die for this, but I can imagine that it wasn’t the first time he had done such a thing: offer someone money for sex, then refuse to pay, knowing in full that there was no legal recourse for the “wronged” guy. So, while I don’t condone this murder, I can understand someone being really pissed off about this guy ripping him off, and him having no recourse, that in the heat of the moment he offs Moshammer. Happens all the time…it’s human nature, whether we like it or not. Months/years later at the trial, the perpetrator will also not understand why he did it.

However, the plot thickens: this guy was a repeat offender…also something that happens a lot. They were able to pinpoint him, because they had his DNA from another case, where he was accused of rape. He was never charged, for some reason or another. He was also accused of aggravated assault in another case.

So, here is my gripe: I am perturbed that someone seeking asylum here ends up killing a fellow German resident after already showing some anti-social behavior. I agree that there are German citizens who behave just as despicably, and we can’t really do anything about it…but why does someone who is a guest in this country get so many chances? At what point do immigration officials decide it is time to revoke someone’s residency? A famous example of this problem with “misbehaving” asylum seekers is the Caliph of Cologne.

He was finally extradited October 2004:

Turkey, which is predominantly Muslim, wants to put him on trial for attempting to overthrow its secular government, calling for a holy war and plotting to attack a shrine to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, modern Turkey`s founder. [my emphasis]

Okay…so I think I have to back up Schily’s statement: foreigners who violate the constitutional order shouldn’t have the right to benefit from that constitutional order.

And another sigh is elicited by this. I mean, I think we have a tendency to hari-kari. We sometimes have so many laws to protect people’s rights, that we end up strangling ourselves.

So, now we come to the second part of this rant: this was an Iraqi asylum seeker. I have been having difficulty finding information on the current policy for asylum seekers from Iraq. But I did find this article from 2003:

As U.S. and British troops work to forge some stability out of the chaos that is present-day Iraq, German officials are watching to see what to do with the tens of thousands of Iraqis currently housed in refugee homes across the country.

After suspending all decisions on Iraqi asylum seekers and halting deportations as war broke out, Germany's Interior Ministry has since kept quiet on the fate of more than 30,000 Iraqi exiles. A ministry spokesperson told DW-RADIO that they are waiting for the situation in Iraq to become clearer before formulating a new policy.

That silence has raised concern among asylum advocates like the organization Pro Asyl that the Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees (BAFL) could begin deportations before a transitional government is set up to stabilize the country.

"There were comments from the (BAFL) during the war that they were planning to start procedures to repeal decisions that granted Iraqis asylum relatively soon after the end of combat operations," Bernd Mesovic, a Pro Asyl spokesman told DW-RADIO. "But we hope that reason will prevail here, since the circumstances are still altogether unclear, and at the moment, the humanitarian situation in the country hardly allows such considerations."

Fear to return

Such hope is shared by Iraqi exile Mohammed Hussein Hashem, who arrived in Germany just six months ago and applied for political asylum. A decision on his application has currently been put on hold, but Hashem fears he would will have to return to a country not much less dangerous than the one he left.

"At the moment there's no government in Iraq. How can a country fare, how can the situation be when there's no government?" asked Hashem, who has spent the past half year sharing a shabby apartment in an asylum seekers home. "That's the one thing. Then everyday life there -- the basic necessities like electricity, water, work and a functioning currency. When life returns to normality and stability, yes, then I can go back. No problem."


Well, I find this attitude really unproductive. I can understand being afraid, but I can’t respect the cowardice. Basically, this person and many like them think it’s not their responsibility to make things better in Iraq. They would rather wait until things clear up and the standard of living is better before returning. What if everyone thought that way? What if those in the tsunami stricken areas just sat around and waited for the water supply to clean itself, and the villages to rebuild themselves? These cowards want the burden of rebuilding to be borne by others, and then go back and enjoy the fruits of other’s labors without having toiled themselves. True patriots don’t stand on the sidelines.

I have no idea what happened to Mr. Hussein Hashem. I wonder if he went back to Iraq, or if he is still waiting for things to get better. I hope he has returned, to help those who didn't have the same luxury to watch and wait.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

“Sir…it seems like the enemy is engaged in a mass orgy.”

– what could be heard in a combat zone if these brain farts of non-lethal chemical weapon research would be realized.

The U.S. military rejected a 1994 proposal to develop an "aphrodisiac" to spur homosexual activity among enemy troops but is hard at work on other less-than-lethal weapons, defense officials said Sunday.

The idea of fostering homosexuality among the enemy figured in a declassified six-year, $7.5 million request from a laboratory at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio for funding of non-lethal chemical weapon research.

The proposal, disclosed in response to a Freedom of Information request, called for developing chemicals affecting human behavior "so that discipline and morale in enemy units is adversely affected."

"One distasteful but completely non-lethal example would be strong aphrodisiacs, especially if the chemical also caused homosexual behavior," said the document, obtained by the Sunshine Project.

The watchdog group posted the partly blacked-out, three-page document on its Web site.
Lt. Col. Barry Venable of the Army, a Defense Department spokesman, said: "This suggestion arose essentially from a brainstorming session, and it was rejected out of hand."

The Air Force Research Laboratory also suggested using chemicals that could be sprayed on enemy positions to attract stinging and biting bugs, rodents and larger animals.

Another idea involved creating "severe and lasting halitosis" to help sniff out fighters trying to blend with civilians.

The U.S. military remains committed to developing less-than-lethal weapons that pass stringent legal reviews and are consistent with international treaties, said Captain Dan McSweeny of the Marine Corps, a spokesman for the Pentagon unit spearheading their introduction.

"We feel it's very important to offer our deployed service members and their commanders a greater range of options in dealing with increasingly complex operational environments," said McSweeny, of the Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate.

Okay...well, it is creative, that's for sure.

I mean, just the thought of some poor US soldier mistakenly letting some of that aphrodisiac leak out on the base. All exposed soldiers would have to go into solitary confinement for a while. And you know a few guys would make sure they had their own private stash to take back home.

And the halitosis bomb or whatever it would be called is pretty culturally centric. I mean, sure, in America, the land of Crest smiles, where tooth brushing belongs to a daily regimen, it would be an effective weapon...however, how many other countries have such an obsession with clean teeth and fresh breath as we do? I mean, Europeans are just getting onto the whole daily showers, female armpit and leg shaving, and deoderant bandwagon as it is...

The Evolution of Conservatives and Liberals

Via A Youth's View From the Right: Apparently beer was the catalyst of the division of humans into liberals and conservatives.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Separation of Church and State in 1916

Here is another interesting editorial from the archives of the Los Angeles Times:

November 21, 1916
The Ambition of the Church for Temporal Power (author's name not mentioned)

Recent ecclesiastical incursions into politics leave little doubt in the average lay mind that political influence is the ultimate aim of many branches of the Christian church. This cannot be too seriously deplored by those who wish to see thr church strong in spiritual influence, above and apart from the sordid political considerations which ever make strife, controversy, bitterness.
It is a historical fact that whenever the church has become so immersed in politics as to be influential in the political life of a nation it has brought concerted rebellion against it. Every nation has passed through this troubled and bitter experience at some time in history, always ending in a violent severence of church and state, to the detriment of the church. The most recent example has taken place in Mexico, where the church interfered so brazenly in politics and government that a violent reaction set against it. Francisco Bulnes in “Las Grandes Mentiras de Nuestra Historia” says in connection with the loss of Texas to Mexico:

“The truth is that we owe the loss of Texas to Lucas Alaman, a leader loyal and faithful to clerical interests and a man of the greatest credit with the church – a militarism personified in the vices, ambition, corruption and degradation of its general, Santa Ana.”

Speaking of the ambitions of the clerical party and their impositions upon the Mexican government, Gutierres de Lara, in his historical survey of Mexican affairs, says:

“Conditions in Mexico at this time were at their darkest. Special taxation had been imposed by the church-influenced Congress, from which, of course, church property was exempted; while nearly all of the coin in the country was the debased product of counterfeit mints owned and operated by officers of the army…Anastacio Bustamente, that faithful watchdog of the clerical interests, was elected to the Presidency of the republic. Appointed to the Presidency would more accurately state the case, for the exercise of the franchise was so hedged about that all trace of popular will was destroyed. And, be it remembered, this same clerical party in Mexico believed that its incursion into politics was atricly moral.”

And so it has always been when the church has sought and acquired political power. So soon as the church believes that virtue can come through legislation rather than spiritual upbuilding, corruption and graft are rampant in the land. So long as the church prefers temporal to spiritual power, so soon does the spirit of the nation decay.

Yet we find our American churches showing the same dismal, soul-wrecking tendencies. Pulpits everywhere were the most violent of political rostrums at election time. Not the laws of Christ, but the laws of man, were the perpetual theme of discourse. Not the beauty and sweetness of life as it can be, but the brutality of life as the church prefers to view it, was dinned into our ears.

Now our churches are exempted from taxation in this State because of their exclusively spiritual vocation. If indeed our churches are convinced that their place is in politics, controversial and liberty destroying, why should other taxpayers be called upon to support them? The churches, too, should, and assuredly will, be called upon to pay their share of the taxes of the nation, even as taxpaying members of each political party are called upon to contribute their share. In this fair country, in which justice and religious liberty are our pet boasts, the great body of the voting taxpayers will never concede that the churches’ can have it both ways. Either they are strictly and exclusively religious organizations, aiding the soul in its struggle against submerging materialism, or they are political organizations frankly maintained for the influence of special legislation. The first may fairly and reasonably be exempt from taxation on their property; the latter have no iota of claim on the whole community. A movement to so amend the State Constitution as to repeal all exemption of church is already afoot – the war cry being that the church properties are used for political meetings and therefore not entitled to exemption from taxes.

And in the matter of voluntary contributions. How many church members are willing to make their donations for political purposes? At present, notwithstanding the incessant demand for money and still more money, the coluntary contributions to the churches are generous and colassal. Congregations everywhere find themselves exhorted to give, give, give. And the respond magnificently for the most part, playing their part generously in the maintenance of the House of God, and God’s spokesman. But when the House of God becomes a mere political auditorium – when the man of God becomes a mere political orator – they might as well make their contributions direct to an efficient and frank political party and done with it.
When, as in the case of exemption from taxes, the whole community supports an oganization it must essentially be non-partisan, nonpolitical. No man is prepared to suscribe to the funds of his political opponents unless only and when thez have been elected by a popular majority vote. As it is, church-goer and non-churchman alike support the religious organizations of the country, on religious, not political, principles. Agreed that the church has its important place in the nation, agreed are we all that religion is a basic need of civilization. But religion is one thing and politics another. If the church has nothing but the welfare of the soul, of the conscience, of the character at heart, its influential ministrations should assure our usuing our vote according to our conscientious convictions, without specific exhortations from the pulpit upon our duty. Duty is a matter of individual conscience. Given the conscience, we ourselves will make the necessary laws.

Once again, I find it fascinating how many issues of almost a century ago, are contemporary issues as well. What I find even further interesting is the fact that the LA Times was a pretty conservative newspaper, promoting the interests of the real-estate barons of the era, and also very anti-labor and anything giving a whiff of socialism.

Perhaps their (Republicans at the LA Times) strong opposition to politicking in churches at that time (in contrast to nowadays) was due the Progressives (Democrats) alligning themselves with moral issues, such as temperance (eventually leading to Prohibition). Pro-labor sentiment and women's suffrage were also couched in the Progressives moral stance. Churches had become their auditorium.

At the end of last year, Newsweek had an great interview with Barak Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, a Democrat and devout Christian. He mentioned that one of the problems with the Democratic Party today, was the fact that in distancing itself so much from religion its had lost its foundation. In the interview Obama said he wants the party to reconnect to its moral tradition: "This shouldn't be hard to do. Martin Luther King did it. The abolitionists did it. Dorothy Day [of the Catholic Workers] did it. Most of the reform movements that have changed this country have been grounded in religious models. We don't have to start from scratch."
The task now, Obama says, is for Democrats to "reclaim and reassert in very explicit language that our best ideas rise out of communal values."

I digress...don't really have much more to say about the article, still mulling over it...and I wanted to share it.

I love these kids!

I love checking out the teenie conservatives blog-site, A Youth's View From The Right. Their sense for hyperbole is really amusing. Here's a few nuggets.

  • "The Oil-for-Food scandal, the biggest scandal in history, is completely underreported."
  • When commenting on gun control: "Once we have nothing to protect us with, we will just have to give the burgler, rapeist (sic), or murder what he wants, and that would be retarded."

(The bold writing is my emphasis.)

There is also a post which mirrors my feelings on the criticism of America's donation to the tsunami stricken countries. I hear a lot about how much some countries have donated, and how the US's monetary donation is stingy in comparison. Well, actions speak louder than words for me, and the US military were one of the first there to help. Some of the first actual humanitarian aid in the form of clean water and food came from the marines of the USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Bonhomme Richard. I think immediate help counts for a lot. This sentiment is echoed in this article by a German journalist:

Europe has neither the power, nor the position, nor the material to make a logistic contribution worth mentioning. It is the strong, not the likable, who can provide effective help. Help is provided not by freighters, but by aircraft carriers. The starter’s gun for this massive humanitarian action was fired in Washington, not in Brussels or Berlin.

I digress...the Youth's View crew even commented on the story about Florida Rolf from here in Germany. These kids are doing research beyond the fishbowl...I'm impressed. [By the way, in addition to Florida Rolf, there are Viagra Kalle and Yacht Hans, also shining examples of abuse of Germany's generous social system: the former was an uninsured guy who had been on welfare for a while, and then got his doctor to prescribe him Viagra, and then get the prescription filled under his welfare coverage, the latter was a guy who had been on welfare despite the fact that he was pretty wealthy, owning his own apartment, car and sailing boat.]

Without a Paddle

On the plane back over here to Germany I saw a pretty funny movie: Without a Paddle. Okay, I should give a word of warning: I love slapstick...this movie is super cheesey, the plot is, well, almost non-existant...but I still laughed my ass an airplane...and a lot of other people did, too.
The movie has a pathetically immature humor...
And it's one of those movies, where when you try to explain to other people what was so funny, it just doesn't come over in the retelling. Like the time Seth Green's character is paralyzed with fear and can't move when a grizzley bear attacks their camp.
But if you watch it not expecting much, and watch it with a few friends and a lot of beer you are guaranteed to have a good time.

What Happened to Michael Moore?

I was just flipping through the news and found this picture of Michael Moore.

Um....did the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Fabulous Five get to him?

The beard is gone and a trim little goatee thing in its place...the scruffy clothes too...he got new trendy glasses frames...and the cherry on top? His hair has got "product" in it. Man, this is hysterical...I wonder why he has made such a transformation? I mean this was the guy, whose trademark was looking scruffy...and now he has gone all trendy. I can't figure it out. I mean, is he trying to get in with the cool kids again, after they dumped him as their pet mascot? Or is he trying to convince some serious investors? Did his wife give him an ulitmatum? What's the deal?

Oooh, just checked out the Queer Eye site and on their next showing they are going to make-over a Pcf. before he ships out to Iraq. I can just imagine the scenes where Carson is going to try to wear some of the guy's uniforms. I love that show...I am such a fag hag.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Workers and spoilers of work

I am a history major. Now, I am not one of those genius scholars who is able to develop new interpretations of past events...Nope, for me, it's all about the little nuggets. Currently I am writing my thesis...ahem...okay, not writing it yet, rather still researching it. And yesterday, while combing thru editorials in the digital (only .PDF files...arg) archives of the LA Times, I came upon this little gem...which I will have to painstakingly type in here:

[A little info for the historically impaired: Mexico was embroiled in a revolution/civil war from circa 1910 to 1920.]

May 31, 1914
Mexican Labor (the author's name isn't mentioned)

If the Mexican laborers are to be saved from the spoilers of work, if they are to get a fair reward for their labor: they will need to recognize the fact that the opportunities for turning manual labor into sufficient food and clothting and shelter are the results of the brain-work of pioneers - that the men, foreign or native, who bring capital into Mexico and spend that capital for opening up its mineral and agricultural resources are the real friends of the peon.
Not Villa with his armies of destruction; not Woodrow Wilson, who has identified himself with the cause of the rebels; not Hueta nor Zapata nor any factionalist can raise, single-handed the civilization of a backward country. The progress of a nation is the fruit of men who succeed in their work whether aider or hampered by the actions of their rulers. It is the sum of a mass of individual effort.
In the lonh run the worker will win, though schemers and dreamers for'a time get the ear of the multitude. Nations are kept sweet by undisturbed periods of work; any forcible interuption sours the milk of human kindness. The vast unrewarded work of the work establishes the theory of compensation. We have always had our workers and our spoilers of work: those who preach class hatred are the worst foes of all labor and all promise of prosperity. All work is good that is not destructive. To destroy is easy. From his latest interview, published in the Saturday Evening Post, the President of the United States seems to have allied himself with the spoilers of work in Mexico.
Certainly Mexico has suffered to a greater extent or less extent. The larger proportion of the world's work is hard and painful, and the hard jobs are too often paid at lower rates that the soft ones. The value of work is dertemined by the competition of buyers and for unskilled labor the competition is a negative quantity. Especially so in a country where 90 percent of the people come under the classification of unskilled laborers.
Villa's treatment is driving from the country the Spainards - whose brains and enterprise have helped at least to create a limited local market for unskilled laborers - will only plunge the peons into deeper mires of poverty. Sympathy will not pull them out if all enterprise is hounded from the Mexican Republic. Yet the President of the United States evidently approves of this doctrine, this weeding out of those he contemptuously dubs "overlords and aristocrats." In plain words, successful workers. We are fast approaching the era when to be a successful worker will be to carry a stigma of popular disfavor. Those who know better are doubly blameworthy for encouraging so wicked a misapprehension.
A leader whose policy is based on class hatred is an artist in high explosives; the man near the lowest rung on the ladder will suffer first, should some mischief-maker light the fuse.
The experiences of the adventurous pioneers, the soil tamers and ore extractors of Mexico, could they be collected, would be invaluable in throwing light on the present condition of things in that disturbed land. The eyes of these men are trained to see the actualities, not to spin theories of reform from a distance of three thousand miles. Their ears are attuned to catch notes throbbing with the dust and strife of the Mexican wilderness, inaudible to the man at the desk over the long distance telephone. [...]

I find all of this fascinating, for the same reason I find history so fascinating: it always parallels the present. Things change, but things also never change. I remember watching Robert McNamara in The Fog of War, and he was describing how humans deal with situations...and it went something like this: they look at it from all angles, circle completely around it, and when they come back to the beginning, it's like they are seeing it for the first time.

Reading these editorials is fascinating...most of the time they could have been written today, if you just put in different names here and there.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

The End of an Era...the End of Brad and Jen

I'll admit it: I am a sucker for tabloids and Hollywood royalty. And I really loved Brad and Jen. They seemed so in love with each respectful and encouraging of one another. I didn't want to believe the tabloids when they whispered of Brad and Jen's impending downfall. But now it's official. Well, I guess the good news is that Brad is back on the market!

Friday, January 07, 2005

Nature is what kills you... a sentence in this great posting on our "frenemy" Mother Nature that I found through Trying to Grok. Here's a tantalizing excerpt:

Nature's vagaries have made extinct 99.99% of the 30 billion species created since life began. The Ordovician and Devonian extinctions wiped out 80-85% of all living species. The Permian extinction (245 million years ago) wiped out 95%. Humans have done their bit too. Estimates of man-made extinctions range from two per month to 600 per week. Yet, even the high figure pales besides nature's own extinctions. Humans have survived only by squeezing through a series of closing doors over millennia.

I definately don't think humans should feel free to blast holes in the ozone layer, because Mother Nature is capable of way worse...but I also think that we have a tendency to overestimate our ecological footprints.

This posting reminded me of another link I found at Trying to Grok a few weeks back on Junk Science written by Michael Crichton.

Oh, and I got a little riled up with the scathing comments left by one of the site's visitors:
This is one of the dumbest articles I've read in a long time. Predicting tomorrow's weather has little to do with predicting longterm climate change. Why don't you try looking up "weather" and "climate" in a dictionary, and note the difference before you endorse this drivel? But hey, a hack author of science fiction knows a lot more about the topic than people who actually, you know, study the subject as their life's work.
Then later follows up with:
Crichton is a NOVELIST, fool. Do you get your information on the tax code from John Updike?

This comment reminds me of one of my favorite authors: Roald Dahl; I have forgotten how many times I have read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
After his infant son's accident, he worked with Stanley Wade, a hydraulic engineer friend of his, and his son's neurosurgeon, Kenneth Till, to develop a better and cheaper shunt for children with hydroencephalitis. In the Wade-Dahl-Till (WDT) valve, the mechanism took the form of two metal discs, one set in a restrictive housing at each end of a short length of silicone rubber tubing. Movement of fluid under pressure from above moved each disc to an open position, but any pressure from below pushed the discs back and prevented retrograde flow. Once it was patented and approved in 1962, they released it to the world and many people still have it in their heads today. Now this is truly a case of someone going way beyond their sphere of learning.

Checking through Crichton's biography I came upon some interesting tidbits: he graduated from Harvard Medical School...okay, so this might indicate some grasp of science, and that he is not just 'merely' a novelist [probably also helps when he wants to pen something for his series ER]. What else? He also ran a company which developed software for motion pictures...which earned him an Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Technical Achievement Award in 1995. Okay, so I guess he has some grasp on computer sciences, too. Let me see...what else? Oh, he also spent one year as a post-doctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences, La Jolla, California from 1969-1970 and was a Visiting Writer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1988. Yes....that's know the place where all those really smart scientists work.

So you know what? It's not totally inconceivable that Crichton actually might have some sort of grasp on the whole junk science thing.

The commentator's statement is very narrowminded. He represents that portion of society which believes people can only be one thing, and have no business giving their two cents anywhere outside of that sphere. Basically, he is telling us to shut up and know our places.

A Youth's View From The Right

I found this through 2Slick. What do you do when you are a conservative teenager, and don't find much intellectual stimulation from your peers? You start a blog with some like-minded buddies.

Their preamble reads: Everyday we're thrust into the belly of the beast, public education, and fight against seemingly insurmountable political odds; thankfully we've escaped with our ideologies intact. In fact, this political oppression has only strengthened our belief in truth, justice, and the capitalistic way.

It's really cute, spelling mistakes and all. They have posts like Communism is Evil?, Liberal Talk Radio, and cute little signatures like 'Fighting for truth, justice and the capitalistic way' and 'Take it or leave it, these are my beliefs.'

They also chronicle their daily battles with their liberal counterparts:
My favorite angry phrase I heard that day was “You Conservatives are so stupid!” This line truly unveils liberals’ hatred and elitism. Again I asked the accuser to back-up this claim and once again all they could say was, “Just because.”

Sounds like little liberals aren't much different than some bigger liberals...

DaMassPhilosopher, TokenYoungConservative, RecoveringLiberal and YoungRightWinger kick butt.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The Left as Chicken Little

This is one of my favorite blogger posts ever, found via Athena. Before I had a blog, I had sent this to a few friends, read it outloud to others, even printed it out. It is a really amusing rant about the Left, and starts off with this preamble:

Let’s stipulate for the sake of argument that everything the Left claims to fear about the Bush admin and mainstream red-state America is true.

And follows up with little gems like this:

We’ll cram the landfills (which will be more numerous than ever) with deadly silicon breast implants, and we’re going to wipe our asses with copies of the Kyoto Treaty, after which we’ll staple the soiled pages to your foreheads. Halliburton will be sending you the bill for that, too; we’ll call it “cosmetic surgery” and charge a rate tied to the market price for the harvested, tanned, and cured pelts of starving homeless Americans, whose numbers will be rocketing even higher than those for the aforementioned landfills, which is where said homeless will be forced to live while we hunt them down for sport.

It's a highly amusing read, and a must to forward to all of your left-leaning friends in hopes that they might see the error of their ways...hope springs eternal!

Hot or Not penpals

After reading this post at blonde sagacity, and another one I read a few weeks ago at Sminkie’s, I was prompted to write about my experience with deployed soldiers and Hot or Not.

Now for those uninitiated of you, Hot or Not is this fabulous eye candy website…okay, that might be promising too much, but it is a lot of fun. It was originally conceived as a website where people can put up their photos and have total strangers judge their studliness/babeliciousness. Alternately some people are really really not hot…and that can be equally amusing. The website owners had the fabulous idea of making it a cyber meeting site, where for something like $5 a month, you can communicate with your matches, and you can have a unlimited amount of matches…and only one of the communication partners has to be a paying member to communicate.

So, I was looking to meet someone (and no, people who look for/have found love in the internet aren’t pathetic social pariahs…at least this is the mantra I repeat to myself). I had met people through different sites over the years, and although nothing romantic had really ever come of my matches, I did make a lot of friends. It had basically come to the point where I was doing it just for the fun of it, and for meeting people who don’t gravitate in my social sphere. So, starting in March of this year I started communicating with three US soldiers deployed to Iraq. One was a tanker, and two were infantry, one of the infantry was a 1LT. At first I was just thirsting for any information they could give me on their day to day life…I wanted to hear from a different perspective how things in Iraq were. I was reading many different Iraqi blogs, from Riverbend to Iraq the Model, but I wanted to also see an American perspective that wasn’t the media’s or the Stars and Stripes. And boy, they didn't let me down.

The tanker told me how it would get to about 150 degrees (sometimes almost 200 degrees) in their tanks; the first time we chatted he was waiting to join up with his unit again, because his tank had been damaged in Sadr City…he later went to Najaf. He would write about not showering for days/weeks sometimes…the time the mortar hit right next to him while he was working on the tank, and shrapnel went everywhere around him, but didn’t touch him…the day his best friend was killed. He was only 20 years old, and would complain about how stupid he was for being patriotic and turning down the college ice hockey scholarship to join the Army. But when he was on his way home, he said he was kind of glad that he had the experience of the war under his belt. He would also talk about missing his girlfriend back home. Every time I chatted with him online, or got an email from him, I was worried it would be the last time.We met up for beer in Frankfurt a few days after he got back. When he went on leave, he also stopped over to meet the parents of his best friend.

The 1LT was in the Green Zone for a while, and then was later posted to a FOB. He was more detailed about his experiences there, explaining the intricacies from his point of view. A former professor of his posted something he wrote about his experience with the media there . He was also involved in the renovating of Iraqi schools, and other projects belonging to the humanitarian efforts. He described the shock of the poverty in certain areas, and how foot patrols were sometimes ineffective because they were all too worried about where they were putting their feet in some of the areas lacking proper sewage systems. He would also pine for his life back in Germany. He couldn’t wait for the day where he could decide what to wear, drive aimlessly, decide where to eat and to spend time with a “female.” When he came back from Iraq, he came to visit me with his girlfriend (whom he had met thru Hot or Not). We also ran a race together in September, which I signed us up for while he was still in Iraq…he said it was his incentive “not to get his legs shot off.”

The third soldier was a gunner. We chatted quite often about everything and nothing: music, movies, beer (or the lack thereof). He would email me pictures of himself, his friends, and his fiancée. When he went home in July, he got married.

I was so relieved when all of my little ducks made it home in July. It’s funny, because they are all younger than I am, but seemed so much wiser and older, because of their experiences and decisions. What began out of pure curiosity on my part, and a desire to communicate with someone outside of Iraq on theirs, grew into something more over time. Suddenly I became very attatched to these guys, who were thousands of miles away, whom I had never met, and would have never met were it not for the internet.

I am kind of wary of doing something like that again, because it really tugged at my heart-strings. I never knew if every letter/chat/email would be their last. However, the experience was so fulfilling. And I definately will be doing that again, because I did end up meeting someone through Hot or Not, a soldier stationed in Germany who had recently returned from Iraq. And soon he will be deploying again.

Progressive Humor

What is a Progressive? found at One Fair-haired, One Gray-Haired. [A little more conservative than I am, but I agree with a lot]. Fav lines include:

In the 1970's he believed that we were on the verge of a new ice age while today he is a fervent believer in global warming;

He thinks everything would be better if we just put more money money into it;

Whatever it was, he voted for it before he voted against it;

He believes that Christians are underdeveloped zealots who sit around all day playing banjos while waiting for Jerry Falwell to tell them how to vote;

He hates prejudice but believes that Texas is inhabited by Neanderthals and totally misses the irony;

He instinctively concerns himself with the rights of the accused before considering the welfare of a victim of crime;

He believes that Viet Nam was Nixon's war;

He thinks that Republicans were to blame for the voting fiascos in South Florida even though the vast majority of the confused voters were Democrats who claimed problems with a ballot designed by other Democrats;

He panics at the thought of running out of French wine and worries himself sick over whether the French really, really like us;

And last but not least, he believes that if we'll just down-size our military, the rest of the world will let out a collective Kumbaya and never study war no more.

Europe - your family name is appeasement: Henryk Broder Strikes again

Redleg posted this translation of a German commentary written by a journalist inspired by a comment made by Henryk Broder in November in the same newspaper.

Plus check out Redleg's Feminine Humor post...I liked it...I really did.