To while away the hours until I return, I've posted a short story on an adjacent page. Read The Black Doll and have a good week.
See you in August!
The Blog of an Open Source Librarian, in which there is no shushing.
Baghdad - July 24, 2004
Time is flying here. I can't believe I have already spent almost three months in the Green Zone. Actually, the Green Zone is now officially called the International Zone. Why the name change? Who knows? Personally, I think it was a poor decision. It helps to undercut the sovereignty that is apparently in existence by implying that the zone is not under Iraqi control but under international or foreign jurisdiction somewhat similar to the foreign concessions in China or the International Zone in Morocco. At least that's my take on it. It is an area dominated by foreigners who enjoy certain immunities from the local government. What's in a name? Symbolism. Mere words are of tremendous significance especially when national pride is at stake.
It's a total love song to the evil that emerges the way a 'personality' emerges in a machine. A system of moving parts work together, and the minor malfunctions and interactions of these parts, so long as they don't threaten the machine with complete collapse, go on to form quirks that may not emerge in a machine made in precisely the same way from similar parts. For some, prone to religious analysis of world events, the beautiful quirks become God and the 9-11's and Iraq War 'Intelligence Failures' become the devil. In the end, the war on terror is really a war 'against evil,' against the glitches in the machine that cause us harm.
It's a war on the existential reality of any society that functions on the level of multiple, interacting mechanisms. The 9/11 Report advises patches to the system, whereas the Bush administration has analyzed weaknesses in the system and mistook it for the function of society itself. They've called it the devil, and they've declared themselves on the side of God, and everyone seems to forget that it is simply a machine, badly in need of repair.
It's like declaring war on the sun when your air conditioner breaks.
...My general thought is that yes, it's depressing, but not unexpected, when this stuff happens. And I do tend to think that, given the upsurge of the religious right over the last couple of decades, these are the last spasms of those dinosaur organisms.
Because they are standing in the way of history, trying to turn everything, politically and spiritually, back to a medieval vision of the world. Whereas they're perfectly entitled to have whatever worldview they like, I would suggest that humanity is moving in a forward direction. And that any attempt to turn the clock back to a mythical, simpler, or better age would probably be about as effective as Britain's ancient King Canute, who famously sat on his throne along the tide line and ordered the waves to go back. To be fair, he was only doing this to demonstrate the futility of expecting leaders and rulers to be able to command the forces of history and the world. But yeah, I tend to think that this conservative backlash that has been going on since the '70s is the final spasms of a dying creature; history is not moving that way, and no matter how much people dig their heels in and assume this is the 1950s or the Middle Ages, that's not the truth of the situation. No matter how powerful our political and religious leaders think they are, they are as dust before the immense and implacable forces of history and progress. I just hope that they don't make too much of a mess or take too many more people down with them.
At least one senator will ask the Bush administration to disclose its reasons for asking the current archivist of the United States, former Kansas Democratic Gov. John Carlin, to resign, before approving his potential successor, Allen Weinstein.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., pointed to the White House's responsibility to provide Congress with an explanation for its decision to dismiss a sitting archivist and urged the other members of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee to join him in his request Thursday at Weinstein's nomination hearing.
Weinstein told Lieberman no one in the White House had instructed him he would be expected to keep presidential documents secret if he took the position.
If that had been the case, he said, he would not have been interested in the position. "No job is worth my integrity," said Weinstein, founder of the Center for Democracy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping emerging democracies. "The archivist's job is to advocate for access."
But Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., said he had trouble reconciling that philosophy with Weinstein's stated intention to defend the president's executive order against court challenge.
"I think I know where your heart is, but I want to know where your lawyers will be. If your lawyers are restricting access to the presidential documents, I think you're on the wrong side," Durbin said.
In the original version of 'The Manchurian Candidate,' Senator John Iselin, whom Chinese agents are plotting to put in the White House, is a right-wing demagogue modeled on Senator Joseph McCarthy. As Roger Ebert wrote, the plan is to 'use anticommunist hysteria as a cover for a communist takeover.'
So let's imagine an update - not the remake with Denzel Washington, which I haven't seen, but my own version. This time the enemies would be Islamic fanatics, who install as their puppet president a demagogue who poses as the nation's defender against terrorist evildoers.
Iyad Allawi, the new Prime Minister of Iraq, pulled a pistol and executed as many as six suspected insurgents at a Baghdad police station, just days before Washington handed control of the country to his interim government, according to two people who allege they witnessed the killings.
They say the prisoners - handcuffed and blindfolded - were lined up against a wall in a courtyard adjacent to the maximum-security cell block in which they were held at the Al-Amariyah security centre, in the city's south-western suburbs.
They say Dr Allawi told onlookers the victims had each killed as many as 50 Iraqis and they 'deserved worse than death'.
The Prime Minister's office has denied the entirety of the witness accounts in a written statement to the Herald, saying Dr Allawi had never visited the centre and he did not carry a gun.
But the informants told the Herald that Dr Allawi shot each young man in the head as about a dozen Iraqi policemen and four Americans from the Prime Minister's personal security team watched in stunned silence.
The double standard relentlessly promoted by opponents of gay marriage -- and attacked just as relentlessly by supporters -- is that marriage is about having children. Since gays and lesbians can't have children, according to religious conservatives, we shouldn't be allowed to marry. It has been almost comically easy to punch holes in this argument. Not all married straight couples can have children (the elderly, the sterile); many straight couples who can have children choose not to. And it's not exactly a secret that thousands of gay and lesbian couples have had children or plan to have children through adoption or insemination. If marriage is about children, how is it that childless straight couples can marry but same-sex couples with children cannot?
By promoting this double standard social conservatives have unwittingly exposed the shocking truth about marriage in America today: The institution, as currently practiced, is terrifically hard to define. Marriage is whatever two straight people say it is. Kids? Optional. Honor? Let's hope so. Till death do us part? There's a 50/50 chance of that. Obey? Only if you're a female Southern Baptist. Modern marriage can be sacred (church, family, preacher), or profane (Vegas, strangers, Elvis). What makes a straight couple married -- in their own eyes, in the eyes of the state -- is their professed love, a license issued by a state, and the couple's willingness to commit to each other publicly. How a straight married couple chooses to express love, exactly what it is they're committing to, is entirely up to them. It's not up to the state, their reproductive systems, or even the church that solemnizes their vows.
This is the reason so many defenders of "traditional marriage" sputtered their way through appearances on "Nightline" and the Sunday morning news programs. Traditional marriage is just one option among many these days. A religious straight couple can have a big church wedding and kids and the wife can submit to the husband and they can stay married until death parts them -- provided that's what they both want. Or a couple of straight atheists can get married in a tank full of dolphins and never have kids and treat each other as equals and split up if they decide their marriage isn't working out -- again, if that's what they both want. (It should be pointed out, however, that a religious couple is likelier to divorce than atheists who marry in a tank full of dolphins.) The problem for opponents of gay marriage isn't that gay people are trying to redefine marriage but that straight people have redefined marriage to a point that it no longer makes any sense to exclude gay couples. Gay people can love, gay people can commit. Some of us even have children. So why can't we get married?
You say you've got a story to tell? Well, why does it have to be a book? You'll burden your life with a tedious project for a couple of years, you'll probably overstretch your material, and then no one will read the results. Why not realize your project in a manageable and pleasurable way instead? Put in a month of writing, keep it to a compact length, and post it to the Web. (There really aren't many stories that need more than 50 pages.) It's certainly true that no one may pay attention to your work despite its being out there on the Web. But at least you'll have told your story, enjoyed the process, made your work available -- and you won't have ruined your life, or broken your heart.
Next job: United States Navy (age seventeen). Served on three different ships; ran ship's library, was drunk in many foreign and domestic ports. Read all of Shakespeare, Milton, Faulkner, Conan Doyle, Fitzgerald, Jane Austen, a few dozen others and as much of the Brontes as I could take.
Knowledge and Skills Obtained: Learned many impressive new curses in English and other languages; found out why the rest of the world craves American cigarettes; discovered that most of the world is poor. Avoided sexual relations with prostitutes around the globe. Managed to quit smoking. Found that they still have a silence rule in Australian libraries.
Gay Marriage Ban Headed for Senate Defeat
A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage was headed for defeat in the Senate today, doomed by nearly solid Democratic opposition, sharp divisions within Republican ranks and a lack of consensus among voters over how best to deal with the issue.
Even with the strong backing of President Bush, the measure could have trouble attracting a simple majority of the Senate, GOP leaders acknowledge, let alone the two-thirds 'super majority' needed to adopt a constitutional amendment. Yet GOP strategists hope the issue will help them in selected regions, and with crucial conservative voters, this fall.
the tax form comes
fill out 'married'
but I'm tellin you
that I'm not married
I'm not single
I'm still me
I say 'wife'
because it stops all talk right away
about the way we be
but 'wife' sounds like you're mortgaged
'wife' sounds like laundry
I still don't think this is part of any nefarious plot to turn America into Amerika, but there's not really much point in arguing about it. If you believe this, nothing I say is going to change your mind.
What's intriguing, though, is that the paranoia is so thick that no one is bothering to talk about whether this is a good idea on a substantive level.
To Anacreon in Heaven
(sung to the tune of The Star-Spangled Banner)
To Anacreon in Heaven, where he sat in full glee, A few sons of Harmony sent a petition,
That He their Inspirer and Patron would be; When this answer arrived from the Jolly Old Grecian "Voice, Fiddle, and Flute,
"no longer be mute,
"I'll lend you my Name and inspire you to boot, "And, besides, I'll instruct you like me to entwine "The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's Vine.
The news through OLYMPUS immediately flew; When OLD THUNDER pretended to give himself Airs "If these mortals are suffer'd their Scheme to perfue, "The Devil a Goddess will stay above the Stairs. "Hark, already they cry,
"In transports of Joy,
"Away to the Sons of ANACREON we'll fly,
"And there, with good Fellows, we'll learn to entwine "The Myrtle of VENUS with BUCCUS'S Vine.
"The YELLOW-HAIRED GOD and his nine fusty Maids "From Helicon's Banks will incontinent flee, "IDALIA will boast but of tenantless Shades, "And the bi-forked Hill a mere Desert will be "My Thunder, no fear won't,
"Shall soon do it's Errand,
" and, dam'me! I'll swinge the Ringleaders, I warrant, "I'll trim the young Dogs, for thus daring to twine "The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS'S Vine.
APOLLO rose up; and said, "Pr'ythee ne'er quarrel, "Good King of the Gods, with my Vot'ries below: "Your Thunder is useless." - then, shewing his Laurel, Cry'd, "Sic evitabile fulmen, you know!
"then over each Head
"My Laurels I'll spread;
"So my Sons from your Crackers no Mischief shall dread, "Whilst snug in their Club-Room, they jovially twine "The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS'S Vine.
Next MOMUS got up, with his risible Phiz, And swore with APOLLO he'd cheerfully join "The full Tide of Harmony still shall be his, "But the Song, and the Catch, & the Laugh shall be mine "Then, JOVE, be not jealous
Of these honest Fellows.
Cry'd JOVE, "We relent, since the Truth you now tell us; "And swear, by OLD STYX, that they long shall entwine "The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS'S Vine.
Ye sons of ANACREON, then, join Hand in Hand; Preserve Unanimity, Friendship, and Love! 'Tis your's to support what's so happily plann'd; You've the Sanction of Gods, and the FIAT of Jove. While thus we agree
Our Toast let it be.
May our club flourish happy, united and free! And long may the Sons of ANACREON intwine The Myrtle of VENUS with BACCUS'S Vine.
Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador appears as a heaven-bound figure besieged by snakes, sharks and dark-hooded politicians in a new comic book distributed by his administration: The Dark Forces Against Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The 16-page book is the administration's most recent attempt to fight off what Lopez Obrador has described as "a plot" by federal officials and other prominent figures to undermine him ahead of the 2006 presidential election.