war and peace, politics, books, rants, the passing parade ...
Friday, November 07, 2003
Managing the News
For an excellent summary of how BushCo has been managing the news on Iraq, see Tom Regan's Daily Update. While he reports that several newspapers are now reporting all deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, rather than just combat deaths, there are several other disturbing decisions and actions on the part of the administration, clearly aimed at presenting a distorted picture of the situation.
Much debate has centered on the Pentagon's decision to ban media coverage of military coffins being unloaded at Dover AFB; Regan's article sums it up neatly, as well as mentioning the Pentagon's use of the term "transfer tubes," which have now replaced body bags.
Any discussion of the news coverage, or lack thereof, has to include the issue of the wounded. As Regan points out, Harley Sorensen muses about our wounded soldiers who never die.
As for the number of wounded, well, that's a bit confusing. The other day I heard the figure 1,900; WaPo is using the figure 2155; and yet I also read a story (can't find the link right now, will try) reporting that over 7,000 soldiers have been treated at Landstuhl in Germany. The latter figure sounds more likely to me. Some GIs are saying in e-mails that casualties aren't being reported unless there are media around or that deaths occur during attacks. When you consider that Walter Reed is in overflow condition, you have to wonder.
UPDATE: Another story has the number of soldiers treated at Landstuhl as "more than 3,400," with an average of 44 soldiers per day.
This morning I see that the LA Times has issued its reporters an edict:
The Los Angeles Times has ordered its journalists to stop describing anti-American forces in Iraq as resistance fighters, saying the term romanticises them and evokes World War II-era heroism.Reporters are supposed to use "guerillas" or "insurgents" instead.
Gee whiz. Aren't they resisting the occupation? Doesn't that make it a resistance? A rose by any other name ...
The Slough of Despond
I was wrong yesterday: the sun came out strong and beautiful, so that the lake was an almost painfully intense blue. In late afternoon I watched a flock of young birds, robins I believe, settle, take flight, swoop, curve, settle, and take off, over and over again, catching the light at one particular angle so that I saw an almost metallic gleam from their hundred or more wings, just a flash before they curved again and yet again landed among the dry corn stalks.
It's not surprising that I took the pessimistic view yesterday in predicting that clouds would prevail. Of late, my optimistic nature has been fighting mightily to get the upper hand, but it's been losing the battle.
Hard to stay optimistic given the news for lo, these many months. The war; the mendacity, greed, complete lack of integrity or ethics, and the selfishness we see from our "leaders"; the refusal of the masses to look at what is happening; the erosion of the progress that we once saw being made against environmental destruction; the very real threat to democracy itself--all these things take a toll on anyone endowed with a sense of social responsibility, anyone committed to a vision of peace and justice.
I don't know when or why I took on this sense of social responsibility, especially when I lack the personality to make much effective use of it. I've had my forays into local politics and feminism, but I'm not much good at group action. I tried leafletting once or twice, but it made me very uncomfortable. For one thing, I can never support a candidate without being quite aware of his or her shortcomings, which makes it difficult for me to go all out or to feel that glow of fanatical devotion that apparently makes it possible for some people to trumpet their candidate's superiority sincerely and passionately.
Unfortunately, sitting around writing letters, sending e-mails, and keeping a blog don't contribute much to social change, nor do these actions give me the sense that I'm actually doing anything to promote change. So I'm left with despair over situations over which I feel (and, usually, have) no control.
Nor can I seem to escape the oppressive weight of the world by turning my attention to personal life. For me, there is no personal life apart from the shared public sphere. I tend to internalize things so that they live with me day and night. In astonishment I see that most people live their lives oblivious to the massive sea-changes going on, and I feel angry at them and envious of them at the same time. Probably angry because of the envy. Oh, to be unconscious ...
God is of no help, either, as I haven't been able to come to any conclusions on that score. During those moments when I think there might be such a force as God, it is impossible for me to imagine God as an intelligence that cares about human lives. Recently I finished Charles Baxter's novel Shadow Play, in which one of the characters experiences a religious revelation in which she realizes that God is a watching intelligence indifferent to our individual fates, just curious to see what happens. This is a darker view than even I take, but one can easily see how she arrived at that point.
In the end, what helps are the people in my life and even the people with whom I find community on the web. I'm very grateful for the Internet. It proves to me that there are many, many people who share my same concerns and even despair, who want to bring about economic and social justice for all, who are appalled at the crimes being committed against humanity by our own nation. My friends and family in the real world provide a safety net of support that can lift me out of my darkest moments. In the end, we only have each other.
Luckily, that's usually enough.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Very autumnal out there, not that that's a surprise in November. The sun is peeking out at the moment, but it looks to me like the gunmetal-gray clouds will soon overtake it. We had nearly three inches of rain in the early part of the week, with more to come. Or perhaps snow ... Of course, we did have that 70-plus-degree day, so I shouldn't complain.
I'm sitting here waiting for the furnace tech to call. We just had the circuit board replaced after the lightning strike that took out all our electronics, but here the darned thing isn't working again. James rigged up some way for it to work, but there's a red light on the thermostat that means "Emergency Heat." Not sure exactly what that entails, but at least we're staying warm.
I ordered some books and CDs I've been meaning to buy. Have you heard Cassandra Wilson? She is amazing. I think I have two of her CDs coming. I'm also getting some Elliott Smith, of whom I hadn't heard until I read Margaret Cho's blog memorializing him. Honestly, I rarely listen to the radio any more. When I do, it's usually satellite radio, where there are more choices and you can hear all kinds of genres. But the upshot is that I no longer keep up with what's current in music.
As for books, I'll be getting the paperbacks I need for my book group. We're reading Erdrich's The Master Butcher's Singing Club next, something I'm looking forward to. I also bought The Essential Agrarian Reader, a collection of essays that critique our society's current relationship with the land. It features a forward by Barbara Kingsolver, which appeared in the Nov. 3 issue of The Nation (alas, it's not available on-line). I'm sure I'll be talking about the book over on my other blog, Feast or Famine, in the days and weeks to come.
Another nonfiction book I ordered is Nonviolence in Theory and Practice. I want to know more about nonviolence, to be able to answer, at least for myself, some of the questions about it. I don't see nonviolence as idealistic, but as exceedingly practical. It's quite apparent that violence breeds violence, on the personal level and on the international level and everything in between, yet humanity continues to depend on violence as if it were a solution. It is not a solution. And I don't think nonviolence is for sissies. I think a real commitment to nonviolence entails a great deal of courage and, sometimes, sacrifice as well. I'll probably be posting about the book as I read it here on what used to be called Let There Be Peace.
I'm not crazy about winter coming on. From now until the Christmas holidays I'll be busy with Thanksgiving dinner, making gifts, and planning for a possible party (haven't decided yet), but I'll miss the gardening that kept me busy all summer. (Actually, though, I still have some harvesting left to do: a few beets, carrots, and onions, and a lovely, big crop of leeks, not to mention the kale and chard). January, February, and March are tough months for me. They seem to go on forever, and it seems spring shows up later every year. I really need to take the Buddhist attitude here and live in the moment, letting it be what it is without wishing it were something else. So easy to advise, so difficult to do.
Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Just Call Me Ms. Doom and Gloom
This is from Salon.com:
Not since the early days of the Reagan administration in 1981 has the Defense Department made a push to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots. Recognizing that even the mention of a draft in the months before an election might be politically explosive, the Pentagon last week was adamant that the drive to staff up the draft boards is not a portent of things to come.
I had thought there was a battle going on in the Bush administration between purely political characters like Rove, who would want to end the occupation of Iraq before the next election, and the hard-core neocons like Wolfowitz, who would want to stay the course come hell or high water. But I'm not so sure anymore. Bush is so arrogant, his hubris might be insurmountable, even for Rove. How would they get him to withdraw if, say, Hussein still had not been found? Also, I don't hear anyone in Bushco implying we gotta get the hell out of dodge except maybe Bremer, and if they liked Bremer, they wouldn't have sent him to Iraq.
Increasingly, however, military experts and even some influential members of Congress are suggesting that if Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to consider a draft to fully staff the nation's military in a time of global instability.
And then, you run across stuff like this:
"On Sept. 9, the nearly 300 members of this Army Reserve company, which has been transporting tanks to Baghdad and other hot spots since last April, received orders that their overseas stay had been extended to January 2005."The way the draft works is, they start with 20-year-olds, and as needed they add 21-year-olds, 22-year-olds... 25-year-olds. I guess we all know it's done by lottery, using birth dates. I didn't realize that being in college only gets you a one-term delay, not an exemption (or one full year if you are a senior).
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Father Knows Best
Trying to eliminate Saddam... would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible... we would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq... there was no viable 'exit strategy' we could see, violating another of our principles... Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.--George H. W. Bush, 1999
Monday, November 03, 2003
Sign Up for the New NRA Blacklist!
Yes, the NRA has a blacklist, and lots of people, including Dustin Hoffman, were enraged to find out they weren't on it:
Actor Dustin Hoffman was so dismayed to find his name missing from the NRA's shadowy 19-page list of U.S. companies, celebrities, and news organizations seen as lending support to anti-gun policies that he wrote to the powerful pro-gun lobby group begging to be included.
A couple of activists started a website urging Americans to add their names to the list; so far around 25,000 have signed on.
"As a supporter of comprehensive gun safety measures, I was deeply disappointed when I discovered my name was not on the list," Hoffman wrote in a letter to the NRA that was released Tuesday.
"I was particularly surprised by the omission given my opposition to the loophole that makes it legal for 18- to 20-year-olds to buy handguns at gun shows," he added
The NRA at first denied having such a blacklist, but later, Executive VP Wayne LaPierre said that NRA members don't want to to support the careers of those who back gun control.