08 September, 2007

Happy Birthday, Marie!

My friend Marie Elizabeth Wiegenstein O'Connor is turning 99 on September 10th. Yes, ninety nine. It's not just the accomplishment of grazing the century mark. Marie is one of the kindest, funniest, and downright pleasant people I've had the pleasure of knowing. She is a rare bird, a genuinely good soul. She's had quite a life. She and her husband lived in France as part of the reconstruction following WWII and traveled Europe extensively in a time when most Americans still spent most of their lives in hometowns. She raised three sons, is a proud grandmother, and never misses Mass. When she tells stories of the years she spent living out west or growing up on her family's farm, the margins of her stories are peppered with modest references to history that launched many a Google search.

Looking back at history, the world we know today has grown up with her:
1918: WWI ends; the Spanish influenza pandemic; the execution of Czar Nicholas II and his family; first documented interracial jazz recording made;
1928: Fleming discovers Penicillin; Hirohito becomes Emperor of Japan; first regularly scheduled television programming aired; Mickey Mouse makes debuts in Plane Crazy.
1938: The Anschluss; Kristallnacht; Oil discovered in Saudi Arabia; Atatürk dies; the ballpoint pen patented; Orson Welles causes chaos with War of the Worlds radio broadcast.
1948: Mahatma Gandhi murdered; establishment of the State of Israel; World Health Organization founded; Italian film The Bicycle Thieves released.
1958: Treaty of Rome signed establishing the European Economic Community (later the EU); 5,000 U.S. Marines land in Beirut; Radio Rebelde begins broadcasting from the Sierra Maestra in Cuba; Hitchcock's Vertigo.
1968: Dr. Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert Kennedy assassinated; Baathist take power in Iraq; Tet Offensive; Nixon elected President; Cash's Folsom Prison Blues and The Beatles White Album.
1978: First IVF baby born; Cardinal Karol Wojtyla becomes Pope John Paul II; Camp David Accords signed; Steve Martin premieres song King Tut on SNL.
1988: Soviet Union begins withdrawing troops from Afghanistan; Halabja; Iran-Iraq War ends; Hawking's A Brief History of Time.

Congratulations and much love, Marie. Here's to your 100th candle next year.


07 September, 2007


So, he's back after several years. He's looking less gaunt and has picked up a box of Just for Men to wash that gray right out of his beard. Last time we heard from him was just before the 2004 elections:
"And know that: "It is better to return to the truth than persist in error." And that the wise man doesn't squander his security, wealth and children for the sake of the liar in the White House."

After all these years and all those billions of dollars we have yet to find a 50 year old with a possible litany of health issues who depends on dialysis
, walks with a cane, and lives in a cave.

My favorite comment came from Anderson Cooper last night:
al Qaeda's production company -- and, yes, they do have a production company -- posted the following banner ad. "

The whole "hunt" has gotten surreal and ridiculous at this point. Apparently, most in the U.S. now believe he'll never be caught.


A Public Service Announcement for Women

I hope all the you women out there saw this story. I don't know about you, but I'm willing to "live in sin" for equality in the home. I am seriously disinclined towards domesticity and domestic pursuits myself.


The Strange Bedfellows of Turkey's Creationists

This story aired on PRI's The World last night.

Why does this partnership remind me of the "Christian" extremists, "Christian Zionists", etc. who rabidly support the Israeli government and are fervently courted and welcomed by some Israelis and Jews, even though their Rapture visions include the slaughter anybody who doesn't covert to their way of doing things, so to speak? I just want to sit them down and say "you do realize these people still think you're evil and going to hell, right?"

And no mention of the related WordPress ban.

As I keep telling people, usually after watching a little TBN, I hope Jesus is coming back and soon because he really needs to have a sit down with some of the folks claiming to be part of his organization. Speaking of which, has anybody ever seen the Saturday Night Live Skit with the late Phil Hartman as Jesus confronting an overzealous follower? Classic.


06 September, 2007

The Next War - Updates

This is troubling, but doesn't strike me as out of the realm of possibility. Keep checking the Global Affairs blog, which updates this topic regularly and includes many good links.


Riverbend and Her Family Made It!

I was so happy to finally see a new post today from Riverbend at Baghdad Burning, her first since her family made the difficult decision to leave Iraq. Everybody, especially in the US, should read this post. She and her family are lucky they made it into Syria before September 10, when Syria will begin requiring visas for Iraqi refugees.

Meanwhile, please explain to me why Iraqis cannot apply for refugee apply for refugee status at the shiny, new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and instead must risk a border crossing to Syria or Jordan? How will they apply in light of Jordan and Syria changing their entry policies? Read this to see just how difficult the process is.

Listen to two great reports on the crisis in Damascus and the challenges facing the refugees seeking to immigrate to the U.S. from National Public Radio, which reports a mass exodus in anticipation of the deadline.

Shame on us.


Israeli Airstrike On Syria?

This morning on NPR I heard about the supposed intrusion on Syrian airspace by Israeli jets. Israel is saying they didn't, Syria says the Israelis did, dropped their fuel tanks and/or munitions, and Syrian forces fired on the jets. Tried to check the U.S. television news channels this morning, but they were tied up, as usual, with a useless local news story (another standoff with police). Josh Landis weighs in. He links to this article from Haaretz, which has some follow-up links at the bottom of the article.

According to Haaretz, Al-Arabiya is reporting the location as "North-Eastern Syria, near the Turkish border". The jets came in from the sea. Jerusalem Post says it happened near "Abyad".


02 September, 2007

Turkey and the U.S.

Just some random thoughts on Turkey that I am late in posting.

It was interesting to hear the commentators talk about the Gül Presidency and what
it means for Turkey. I say "was" because Gül and the election quickly dropped off the U.S. news radar. This discussion and analysis on The Newshour last week between Söner Çağaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, and Bülent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, seems to be typical with one side seeing it as the end of Turkey as we know and the other taking a wait-and-see attitude.

I am not Turkish and I am not an expert on Turkish politics, but in the U.S. when you call somebody an "Islamist" you are essentially equating them with Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama bin Laden, and
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who are for most Americans are the poster boys for Islamic extremism. So far as I can tell, Gül doesn't seem to belong in that club and doesn't appear to be applying for membership. It strikes me as somewhat amusing, and sad, that I've had people here ask me if I am afraid about going to Turkey "now that the Islamists have taken over the government."

I have read commentators who blame the rising number of Turks with unfavorable views of the U.S. policy on some sort of conservative Islamic resurgence. However, it may be much simpler. Many Turks I talked to wanted to know why the U.S. government and military would not let Turkey deal with PKK camps in Iraqi Kurdistan. They asked why the U.S. was allowed to deal with its terrorists, but Turkey was forced to sit by idly. Some expressed a feeling of being used by the U.S. for very little in return.
The news earlier this month about guns from the U.S. intended for Iraqi forces ending up in Turkey, even being used in criminal activities there according to the Turkish government, will certainly and understandably not help things.


The Next War

UPDATE: Everybody should be keeping up with the Informed Comment Global Affairs Blog. There's more on this each day.

A U.S. attack on Iran is starting to sound like a matter of when, not if.

Average people I talk to here do not believe the Bush administration would attack and/or invade Iran for a variety of reasons: the U.S. military is already spread too thin; the growing public unease about the war in Iraq; lack of public support for a third war; it's just too crazy an idea, even for these loons...
I usually nod and acknowledge the logic of those arguments, which would certainly give better leaders pause. However, I do not believe this administration acts on logic. I think they have proven that time and again.

While the idea of an attack on Iran has been brought up before, the tone seems to be changing from the theoretical to the inevitable. Recent weeks have brought some disturbing writings concerning a U.S. strike on Iran. These are not the rantings of wild-eyed, tin foil hat-wearing conspiracy theorists. Read Juan Cole, Barnett Rubin, McClatchy, The New Yorker ("Test Marketing"), Scott Horton of Harper's, Glenn Greenwald of Salon, and Chris Floyd for yourself. Maccabee on Daily Kos has an interesting entry in his diary, as well.

The Raw Story has a piece about a report issued by Dr. Dan Plesch, the Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies' Center for International Studies and Diplomacy, and Martin Butcher, an international security politics consultant, that analyzes the potential for a U.S. war with Iran and how it might unfold. You can download the actual report from a link in the story.

The administration, neocons, and their supporters are ratcheting up their rhetoric and it is sounding somewhat familiar. This follows Senate passage of the Lieberman amendment to the defense spending bill and revelation of U.S. plans to label Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.

As Jon Stewart says, "cue the fear music"...

Bill O'Rielley was again claiming on his show this week that what war critics really want the U.S. to lose in Iraq. The "dissent is treason" thing is so tired, absurd, offensive. At this point, I am not even sure what the U.S. losing means in practical terms. What to we call the situation now? Bill, I would love to be proven wrong. I would love to have a stable, safe, functioning Iraq where people can return home to live in peace. I just don't see that happening. And I wouldn't believe the people running my government telling me they had to fight the school bully because he was taking milk money from the other kids if I saw it with my own eyes.

I was in Morocco in 2004 and the question friends kept asking was "why are the people in your country not out in the streets (about the Iraq war)?" That was before many of the big reveals of lies and manipulations. I didn't have many good responses for that question then. I don't feel I do now, either. I just hope it's not too late to stop the next war.