Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Morning reading sample

Nothing jumps out of the monitor this morning with burning importance, but there is a spate of items that caught my eye. (In the back of my mind I continue to be haunted by yesterday's post pointing to the degradation of the human mind when children are cross-trained to become warriors. Atavism at its most disgusting. But I will lay that one aside for the moment. )

Nur al-Cubicle, which I just discovered, has been patiently recording snips and reports gleaned, I presume, from assorted news releases, magazine and neswpaper articles. Copied without hyperlinks, these notes are being piled up like so many clippings for a scrapbook, in an archive going back to a year ago last April. Noted without much comment, this blog is a repository of information that in years to come will be a treasure trove for historians looking for minutiae as well as analysts trying to make sense of the current madness we call "developments in the Middle East."

I am reminded of a similar site, Today in Iraq, which is doing very much the same thing but with links. Yesterday alone the blogmaster amassed a breathtaking pile of data...
Bring ‘em on: Eleven Iraqi policemen killed and 15 persons...
Bring ‘em on: US forces in Ramadi targeted by three apparently coordinated car bombs...
Bring ‘em on: US troops and insurgents involved in fierce fighting...
Bring ‘em on: Eight policeman killed and 11 wounded in suicide bombing...
Bring ‘em on: Five Iraqis, one US soldier, and one US civilian contractor killed and twenty people wounded...
Bring ‘em on: Eight Iraqi police killed in bus ambush...
Forced constitution: Iraq's tentative efforts at consensus politics...
Vote postponed: Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and its Kurdish allies moved Monday toward fundamentally reshaping their nation...
Not enough: The head of the committee drafting Iraq's constitution said Tuesday that three days are not enough...
Killing the pacifists: Sufis transcend worldly existence...Their mysticism has contributed to their pacifist reputation...found themselves the targets of attacks.
Shortages: Water and electricity shortages...
Sabotage: Saboteurs...halted Iraq's entire oil export capacity for most of Monday...cost the country almost $60 million in lost exports and rattled already-jittery world markets.
An Islamic Republic, apparently: The United States has eased its opposition to an Islamic Iraqi state to help clinch a deal on a draft constitution...
With a constitution even less progressive than Saddam’s: The Iraqi constitution adopted in 1990 under Saddam Hussein ... made no mention of Sharia...although Islam was named the official state religion.
So we can expect this sort of thing to become routine: The executions are carried out at dawn on Haqlania bridge, the entrance to Haditha. A small crowd usually turns up to watch even though the killings are filmed and made available on DVD in the market the same afternoon.
One of last week's victims was a young man in a black tracksuit. Like the others he was left on his belly by the blue iron railings at the bridge's southern end. His severed head rested on his back, facing Baghdad. Children cheered when they heard that the next day's spectacle would be a double bill: two decapitations. A man named Watban and his brother had been found guilty of spying.
Not to say that the new constitution is all bad for everybody: If Iraq's National Assembly meets its deadline, it will release a draft constitution to be voted on by the people in two months.
After all, resourceful people do ok whether there’s a constitution or not: British officials are seriously concerned about the level of corruption in the Iraqi defence ministry, after the embezzlement of vast amounts of money earmarked for the country's security forces.
Screw the Geneva Conventions: One of the US soldiers convicted of mistreating prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison says his superiors made it clear those incarcerated were to be abused.
Screw inhibitions about cruel and unusual punishment: ...a new batch of photos from Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison ..reportedly far worse than the sickening originals...Pentagon is trying to block their release.
Screw due process: The Pentagon said on Monday it has released three Guantanamo prisoners...leaving about 505 jailed...
And still do nothing about a real terrorist threat: Ten years after the Oklahoma City bombing left 168 people dead, the guardians of American national security seem to have decided that the domestic radical right does not pose a substantial threat to U.S. citizens.
A draft internal document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security...lists the only serious domestic terrorist threats as radical animal rights and environmental groups...
At least one sector of the US economy is booming: Special Forces personnel ... re-enlistment bonuses of up to $150,000 ...are being spurned...because retention of key combat personnel is being eroded by far better money offers from federally hired "private security companies"...Once on board and back in the private sector of dangerous military operations in Iraq, these highly trained fighters and specialists can make up to a quarter of a million dollars or more (most of it tax-free) in a year's worth of salary -- certainly better than Army pay.
There are about twenty more citations including half a dozen stories about casualties gathered from local papers. Volcano, HI, Centreville, MI, Arlington, FL, Wildomar, CA, Indianapolis, IN, Elk Grove, CA.
It is hard to believe that with this level of documentation public opinion about the war can be so moribund. There was a time that I was amazed, but I have come to accept collective ignorance as part of the human condition.

The Mad Canuck takes a close look at the proposed new Iraqi constitution.
From the preamble...
We, the Iraqi people now rising from suppression and looking forward to a future in a republican, federal, democratic and pluralist system, have made a pact to respect the rule of law, reject the politics of aggression, give attention to the rights of women, men and children, spread the culture of diversity, and uproot terrorism.
The preamble, of course, carries no legal weight, but it rings with an idealism that inspired the creation of this document.
The Canuck makes a good many ovservations including this...
Article 36 The State guarantees:
1. Freedom of expression by all means.
2. Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.
Very good. This seems a lot broader than the wording in the last version I saw. This should definitely protect activities like blogging.
I cannot understate how important freedom of expression is in a true democracy. If people are not free to criticize the government, there is no accountability.
There is an inciteful comment already in the comments thread, pointing out the importance of language specificity. Differences between the definite and indefinite articles are USUALLY clear in English, not so clear in other languages. And many languages don't have articles at all, or divide them in different ways. In Russian or Latin, for example, you would say, "Islam main source for legislation" and the question of which article should be used in English translation would be debatable. Is there ambiguity in the Arabic?
We don't know, do we?
But that's not our problem.
Ruling castes, and ruling classes, never know how to bow out graciously.
This latest wrinkle in instant messaging is VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone service.
In time I may get used to it, but so far I am not tempted to play in that yard. For one thing, the people I would like to speak with are not available in real time when I am, I very much doubt that I would be able to understand their use of English without a lot of practice, and most of all, I don't think as fast as I would like.
Writing, I have time to develop thoughts as I go. I can even edit out stuff that I really don't want to say. But when I'm speaking (or banging out typo-plagued IM's) I am very apt to say something that I would regret. But damn! It's too late. Somebody already got it in writing already (or stored in an audio file?) and I can't do anything about it.
Besides, there was a time when I did have IM several years ago.
I didn't like being interrupted when I was busy.
Like Henry Fonda was called by Kate Hepburn, I guess I'm just an old poop.
It is not my place to evaluate the various explanations and origins of homosexuality in individuals, though I believe that the Biblical worldview clearly leads to the conclusion that sexuality is twisted in every possible way, including genetic and psychological predispositions. An enlightened and compassionate view of homosexuality would certainly embrace the fact that every gay person did not choose to be and does not choose to remain homosexual in orientation. (That can be said while affirming that many persons DO choose such behavior and do make choices that influence their orientation.)So it isn't difficult to know exactly what is going on with a Focus On The Family web site entitled, "Is Your Child
Becoming Homosexual?"
Following a list of signs to look for that your male child (not concerned with girls, I guess) might be growing up queer, he comments...
I remember sitting in the theater and being offended at the stereotypical lengths Hollywood was stooping to in order to make the audience buy the idea that large numbers of people really were gay, and just didn't know it because they weretrapped in small town America.
I'm feeling somewhat the same way reading this list. Exactly what is Focus On The Family trying to do with these stereotypes? I'm sure homosexuals felt "different" than other boys. So do millions of boys who aren't homosexuals. Could we get a bit more specific than "different," since such a term must need a wink to be understood.
Crying easily is gender confusion? I guess that means we need to tell boys not to cry. Be a real man. Suck it up. Real boys don't cry, and all that. Archie Bunker, your phone is ringing.
It's a good piece and not altogether destructive. But it points to a good many contradictions. At the conclusion he says...
Focus On The Family is to be commended for its constant efforts to help families with children. There are many good resources linked from this site that encourage the positive involvements of fathers in the lives of their children. Information about the effects of distant and conflicted parents is very helpful. The information in this list, however, leaves me with the impression that the evangelical war on homosexuality is sometimes manifested by looking at our own children with very biased and fearful eyes.

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