Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"polite Democrats and fighting Republicans"

Good observation from Andrew Tanenbaum, "The Votemaster" at

The traditional media seem to have picked up on two themes for the convention so far. First, for some of Clinton's diehards supporters, the primary is not over yet and they say they won't support Obama. It is more than a bit ironic that some of the most ardent feminists say they will support John McCain (who they oppose on virtually every issue--especially abortion) rather than Barack Obama (with whom they agree on virtually every issue). The other theme is that the Democrats are letting McCain off easy. Long-time Clinton insider James Carville has been all over TV saying that the Democrats have let slip a golden opportunity to pummel McCain. Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA) compared Obama to Adlai Stevenson, another cerebral Illinoisian, saying that both of them liked to give long thoughtful answers to complex questions, when soundbites would be more effective. Sen. Chuck Schumer(D-NY) said the Democrats should throw more rabbit punches. Indeed, the keynote speaker, Mark Warner, emphasized bipartisanship and working with the Republicans to solve the country's problems. Of course, Warner is running for the Senate in a fairly red state, so he has his own reasons for making nice to the Republicans, but it is still odd for a keynote speaker not to throw any red meat to the party's activists.

In contrast, the McCain campaign was in full-bore attack mode. Not a word about bipartisanship. It was running ads attacking Obama as too young to lead and bellowing that he is too weak to be commander in chief. To a considerable extent, this looks like a rerun of 2004, with polite Democrats and fighting Republicans. When asked, the voters say over and over that they can't stomach these negative ads, but as Lee Atwater discovered a long time ago, they are immensely effective. Some of the convention speakers last night mocked the fact that McCain couldn't remember how many houses he had, but the suggestion was that he had too many houses. If the shoe had been on the other foot with an elderly Democrat vs. a young Republican, the Republicans would have harped on the memory loss aspect (if he can't even remember how many houses he has, how can he remember what happened in the last cabinet meeting?). Democrats don't like that kind of personal attack. It is just not in their blood.

Keeping the last two days of the DNC convention in focus, it should be noted that regardless of who the nominees are, as a party Democrats are more seriously fragmented than Republicans. Historically, this is not news. The history of American party politics seems to be the wealthy and powerful (and those who admire them) versus everyone else.

Obviously, not all Republicans are rich and powerful in the same way that not all who fought for the South in the Civil War (the Recent Unpleasantness or War Between the States, as we in the South like to say) were slaveholders. It's not called the "Southern Strategy" for nothing. Bedfellows. Politics. You know the drill.

So preparing for an election is a bit more time-consuming for Democrats. They have to make sure everyone is wearing shoes and has their socks pulled up, that personal hygiene is not going to be a problem and that all the people out in front have enough teeth to flash a toothpaste smile.

Underscoring that party quality, Daniel Nexon makes a good point.

Clinton gave a great speech. Lots of commentators say that it hurt the Republicans.

But they're wrong; this was a tactical victory, not a strategic one.

The Republicans won the last two days... the meta narrative was about Democratic unity, and not about the Democrats agenda or their critiques of McCain.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Obama on Niebuhr

Fifteen months ago I found out that Barack Obama was not only familiar with Reinhold Niebuhr but held him in high esteem. I blogged about it the time with a few remarks of my own. I'm leaving it archived where it now is, but here is a link if anyone is interested. I'm vain enough to think what I said is worth revisiting.

Well-read politicians are not remarkable. Reading and talking is what they do. It is the main part of their job description. But most politicians read and study to salt away information to advance a political agenda. They not only have to know what they like, they also have to know all the details of ideas they oppose in order to defeat or compromise them in the political arena.

Few read for introspection. Introspection is an alien impulse for most leaders. In their formative years, of course, all have to figure out what they believe about this or than in order to get their sea legs on the ship of leadership. Most biographies of great leaders catalog their intellectual underpinnings as they began a rise to the top.

At the time I was writing his chances of winning the nomination looked poor. It's now in the bag, which is another reason I'm leaving the original post in place. I urge newcomers to the Obama phenomenon to take a look.

London Times -- "Sex and the Olympic city"

Higgins has a great line in My Fair Lady's "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak?"

He's complaining that every other country in the world seems to know their native language better than the English know their own mother tongue.

"In France," he says, "every Frenchman knows his language from A to Zed..."

Then comes that great parenthetical line: "(The French don't care what they DO, actually, as long as they PRONOUNCE it correctly....)"

Okay, then, we now have a fine piece of recreational reading from London, written in the most delightful English prose, about the subtext of the Olympic games which everyone thinks about but no one mentions. From the drift of Matthew Syed's report it isn't just the French who do it. He's been reporting on the Olympics since Barcelona and come to the conclusion that it's the whole world.

Barcelona was, for many of us Olympic virgins, as much about sex as it was about sport. There were the gorgeous hostesses - there to assist the athletes - in their bright yellow shirts and black skirts; there were the indigenous lovelies who came to watch the competitions. And then there were the female athletes - literally thousands of them - strutting, shimmying, sashaying and jogging around the village, clad in Lycra and exposing yard upon yard of shiny, toned, rippling and unimaginably exotic flesh. Women from all the countries of the world: muscular, virile, athletic and oozing oestrogen. I spent so much time in a state of lust that I could have passed out. Indeed, for all I knew I did pass out - in a place like that how was one to tell the difference between dreamland and reality?


Ah yes, the swimmers. For some reason the International Olympic Committee insists on bunching the swimming events towards the beginning of the Games with the inevitable consequence that the aquatics folk get going earlier - sexually I mean - than everyone else. So much so that, at the outset of the Sydney Olympics, Jonathan Edwards, a Christian and triple jumper extraordinaire, caused a ripple by telling them publicly to keep a lid on it. Edwards was simply concerned about getting woken up by creaking floorboards, but given his biblical credentials, it became a story about morality. Not that his intervention made a blind bit of difference. There is a famous story from Seoul in 1988 that there were so many used condoms on the roof terrace of the British team's residential block the night after the swimming concluded that the British Olympic Association sent out an edict banning outdoor sex. Here in Beijing, organisers have realised that such prohibitions are about as useful as banning breathing and have, instead, handed out thousands of free condoms to the athletes. If you can't stop 'em, at least make it safe.

I don't want to spoil it for you. Go to the link and have your fill.
And thanks to Abbas and Asad at 3Quarks for the heads-up.

Michael J. Totten -- "The Truth About Russia in Georgia"

The story is too complicated to parse.
I put together a few remarks and the link at a previous post, Conversation with a Georgian "man on the street"

Monday, August 25, 2008

George Orwell is Blogging

Guess who's blogging?

George Orwell, of all people. His diary is being released one day at a time, online, seventy years later.

Thanks to Crawford Kilian for the heads up.

The Orwell Prize, Britain’s pre-eminent prize for political writing, is publishing George Orwell’s diaries as a blog. From 9th August 2008, Orwell’s domestic and political diaries (from 9th August 1938 until October 1942) will be posted in real-time, exactly 70 years after the entries were written.

Orwell’s ‘domestic’ diaries begin on 9th August 1938/2008; his ‘political’ diaries (which are further categorised as ‘Morocco’, ‘Pre-war’ and ‘Wartime’) begin on 7th September 1938/2008.

This man's writing is a rich repository of history. This is from today's entry:

Gipsies beginning to arrive for the hop-picking. As soon as they have pitched their caravans the chickens are let loose & apparently can be depended on not to stray. The strips of tin for cloth-pegs are cut of biscuit boxes. Three people were on the job, one shaping the sticks, one cutting out the tin & another nailing it on. I should say one person doing all these jobs (also splitting the pegs after nailing) could make 10-15 pegs an hour.

But that's only the tip of an iceberg. That link at "hop-picking" tells the reader more about hops and hop-picking than he ever imagined...

The process is extremely simple. The vines, long climbing plants with the hops clustering on them in bunches like grapes, are trained up poles or over wires; all the picker has to do is to tear them down and strip the hops into a bin, keeping them as clean as possible from leaves. The spiny stems cut the palms of one’s hands to pieces, and in the early morning, before the cuts have reopened, it is painful work; one has trouble too with the plant-lice which infest the hops and crawl down one’s neck, but beyond that there are no annoyances. One can talk and smoke as one works, and on hot days there is no pleasanter place than the shady lanes of hops, with their bitter scent – an unutterably refreshing scent, like a wind blowing from oceans of cool beer. It would be almost ideal if one could earn a living at it.

Unfortunately, the rate of payment is so low that it is quite impossible for a picker to earn a pound a week, or even, in a wet year like 1931, fifteen shillings[1]. Hop-picking is done on the piece-work system, the pickers being paid at so much a bushel. At the farm where I worked this year, as at most farms in Kent, the tally was six bushels to the shilling – that is, we were paid twopence for each bushel we picked. Now, a good vine yields about half a bushel of hops, and a good picker can strip a vine in ten or fifteen minutes; it follows that an expert picker might, given perfect conditions, earn thirty shillings in a sixty-hour week. But, for a number of reasons, these perfect conditions do not exist. To begin with, hops vary enormously in quality. On some vines they are as large as small pears, on others no bigger than hazel nuts; the bad vines take as long to strip as the good ones – longer, as a rule, for their lower shoots are more tangled – and often five of them will not yield a bushel. Again, there are frequent delays in the work, either in changing from field to field, or on account of rain; an hour or two is wasted in this manner every day, and the pickers are paid no compensation for lost time. And, lastly, the greatest cause of loss, there is unfair measurement. The hops are measured in bushel baskets of standard size, but it must be remembered that hops are not like apples or potatoes, of which one can say that a bushel is a bushel and there is an end of it. They are soft things as compressible as sponges, and it is quite easy for the measurer to crush a bushel of them into a quart if he chooses.

And that, friend, is only part of what he has to say about hops. Reading these pages is like walking through the bric-a-brak filled shop of relics from a bygone era, and picking up a stereopticon and getting caught in a big pile of viewing cards. Makes you not want to stop, but you know you have more pressing stuff to do today.

Thanks, Craw, I think...

The Jill Carroll Narrative Continues

When Jill Carroll's byline re-appeared six weeks ago there was no way to predict that a key figure in her kidnapping would be apprehended last week. My rambling post at the time is now drawing a rash of hits from Google searches for "Jill Carroll."
This is from the London Times...

The alleged mastermind behind the kidnapping in Baghdad of American journalist Jill Carroll in 2006 has been arrested along with a second, senior al-Qaeda suspect, the US military said last night.

Associates of Salim Abdallah Ashur al-Shujayri are also thought to have been involved in the kidnap and murder of Margaret Hassan, the aid worker seized by insurgents in west Baghdad in October 2004, and the kidnap of Norman Kember, the British peace campaigner.
Coalition forces captured Shujayri, known as Abu Uthman, on August 11. The US military described him as reportedly being the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader of Baghdad’s eastern Rusafa district.

"He is believed to be the planner behind the kidnapping of American journalist Jill Carroll," a statement said.

Ms Carroll, 30, who worked for the Christian Science Monitor in Baghdad, was taken hostage at gunpoint on January 7, 2006. Her interpreter was shot dead. She was released almost three months later.

Links here to the back story...
Jill Carroll is back at work
Israel: Peacemaker teams assaulted by settlers

Tom Fox -- Christian martyr

Settler attacks, domestic violence and tears

Christian Peacemaker Team's Kidnapping: Who Did It?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Old Testament Reading from Today's Lectionary

Exodus 1:8 ff

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, "Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. "Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land."

The Bakersfield Californian story gives a litany of criminals who are illegal aliens reason enough to enforce our laws against those who hire illegal aliens. Enough of a story to remind us that criminals action beget criminal action. It is cheaper to STOP hiring illegal aliens, STOP benefits for them and to ENFORCE trespassing laws. LINK

A 2006 study by Edwin S. Rubenstein, a former contributing editor for Forbes, commissioned by the National Policy Institute last year stated that, "Illegal aliens cost the American taxpayer $25 billion more than they pay in taxes." Titled "The Economics of Immigration Enforcement", the study concluded that they cost U.S. citizens an estimated $81 billion per year. “Amnesty would make things worse,” stated the study, "by adding another $44 billion to government spending for services." Something is very wrong when, given just these few facts, there are members in Congress seriously considering the granting of amnesty—no matter how they mask the true intent of the legislation—and that the President of the United States is one of its leading advocates. The tyranny of numbers is that they cannot be ignored. The U.S. faces a new torrent of illegal aliens; seeking to absorb them despite ample evidence we are endangering and burdening current native-born and naturalized citizens. The proposed legislation is a demographic time bomb. LINK

So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and the more they spread out, so that they were in dread of the sons of Israel.

‘The chief manager of our store knew what was going on,” said Pavel, a Czech who was deported almost immediately and later talked to the New York Times. "He knew that we were illegal." Pavel's story appears typical for the Eastern Europeans: Recruiters at home promised good jobs in America only to deliver them into the hands of subcontractors, who allegedly violated overtime, Social Security and worker's compensation laws. If nothing else, the Wal-Mart raids let us know that illegal immigration isn't all about Mexican and Central American border jumpers.

Listen to one cleaning subcontractor, Stanislaw Kostek, who admitted to the Times that he had hired illegal immigrants to work at about a dozen Wal-Marts: "It's a degrading job; very few people want to do it even though the salary is at least $2 above the minimum wage. ... But there are (immigrant) workers who want to do the job." LINK

The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.

The hand harvesting of fruit and vegetable crops in the United States is a labor-intensive operation that accounts for about 50 percent of total production costs. The number of crops and percentage of crop acreage that are mechanically harvested today have increased somewhat since the late 1970s. Most of these crops are used for processing. However, at least 20 to 25 percent of the U.S. vegetable acreage and 40 to 45 percent of the U.S. fruit acreage is totally dependent on hand harvesting. LINK

As for construction, the report suggests there was about a 13,000 drop in employment in that sector in May, about a 0.2 percent decline. That's about half the drop seen in construction employment in the April reading.

"It would seem that builders are keeping these workers on, even though construction has taken a hit," said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, which compiles the ADP report, although he cautioned, "I wouldn't be surprised to see more declines in the coming months."

Still, experts in the field suggest several reasons for the strength in construction employment despite the housing downturn.

Some of it is due to the shift of workers to non-residential construction jobs, some of it is due to employers not wanting to let go of skilled craftsmen in case the homebuilding market picks up.

And part of it may be due to the large use of immigrant labor in the construction industry. If contractors and subcontractors were not reporting off-the-book employees to the government during the housing boom, their absence now won't be missed in the figures. LINK

Then the king of Egypt spoke to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other was named Puah;and he said, "When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live."

Pregnant Third World women have discovered that the only thing they have to do is cross the U.S.--Mexico border. The Fourteenth Amendment is their ticket.... Coyotes dealing in human traffic are paid $1,500.00 to $25,000.00 per person to shuttle pregnant illegal aliens across our southern border. Our politicians and elites wink at this blatant law breaking and do nothing. The colonization of our country continues with the cooperation of our government. That means your senator and representative aid this illegal baby invasion. None dare call it treason. Most Americans mistakenly trust their politicians to do the right thing. Congressional members from every state betray that trust daily. Anchor Babies - Born In The USA

But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, "Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?" The midwives said to Pharaoh, "Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them."

Decades of scientific research have posited low income and lack of access to early prenatal care are the biggest predictors of unhealthy births. But when it comes to immigrant Latinas, a surprising and mysterious phenomenon kicks in: Although they get less prenatal care and are more likely to be living in poverty, studies show first-generation Latinas--especially those from Mexico--have healthy babies. Having fewer low birthweight and pre-term babies (those born before 37 weeks) means lower infant mortality. Nationally, the rate of infant deaths per 1,000 live births for Latinas is 5.6, compared to 5.7 for whites and 13.5 for African Americans.
The "Mexican Paradox"

So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, "Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive."

The U.S. military has provided legal immigrants a fast track to citizenship, and they are taking advantage of it in record numbers, even if it means facing the risk of death or injury in Iraq or Afghanistan. Interest surged after President Bush signed an executive order in July 2002 allowing immigrants with green cards to become citizens as soon as they are sworn in, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Since then, more than 25,000 immigrant members of the armed services have become U.S. citizens and another 40,000 are eligible to request naturalization, USCIS said in a statement.
Military Shortcut to U.S. Citizenship

Biden for President Debate Clips


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Susan Eisenhower likes Obama

Some of us are old enough to remember Dwight Eisenhower's quaint little tagline "I like Ike."
A few still wince when they hear reference to his warnings about the "military-industrial complex."
It's been a real dilemma for the war-mongers to have a decorated commander from World War Two who was elected president in the wake of his heroism start talking like a liberal when he was finally out of range of political blackmail.

Comes now Susan Eisenhower, Ike's grand-daughter, who is leaving the Grand Old Party to declare herself an Independent.

This is why...

I have decided I can no longer be a registered Republican. For the first time in my life I announced my support for a Democratic candidate for the presidency, in February of this year. This was not an endorsement of the Democratic platform, nor was it a slap in the face to the Republican Party. It was an expression of support specifically for Senator Barack Obama. I had always intended to go back to party ranks after the election and work with my many dedicated friends and colleagues to help reshape the GOP, especially in the foreign-policy arena. But I now know I will be more effective focusing on our national and international problems than I will be in trying to reinvigorate a political organization that has already consumed nearly all of its moderate “seed corn.” And now, as the party threatens to trivialize what promised to be a serious debate on our future direction, it will alienate many young people who might have come into party ranks.

My decision came at the end of last week when it was demonstrated to the nation that McCain and this Bush White House have learned little in the last five years. They mishandled what became a crisis in the Caucusus, and this has undermined U.S. national security. At the same time, the McCain camp appears to be comfortable with running an unworthy Karl Rove–style political campaign. Will the McCain operation, and its sponsors, do anything to win?

This week, I changed my registration from Republican to independent. The two political parties as they exist today, and the partisanship that they foster, reflect the many fights of the cold war, the Vietnam era, the post–cold war and the 9/11 periods. Today we are in a different place altogether, where our security as a nation is challenged not just from abroad but also close to home. The energy, health-care and financial crises threaten our national prosperity and well-being, just as surely as any confrontation overseas or an attack by radical terrorists.

She has lots more to say. Go read the rest.

H/T Ron Beasley at Cernig's place

Friday, August 22, 2008

New Profile -- Young Israeli War Resisters

Via Mideast Youth, this is encouraging.

New group of High School seniors refuse to serve in the IDF !!

Author: Eva (Israel) - August 22, 2008

I’m part of the mailing list of New Profile - A Movement for the Civil-ization of Israeli Society through which I get continuous updates about many events, articles, news that are mostly not published in the mainstream media. Today I received a message of particular interest, which I want to post here in it’s full extent:

CO Udi Nir sentenced to 21 days in military prison

Udi Nir

- Please distribute widely -

Dear Friends,

CO Udi Nir, 19, from the Tel-Aviv suburb of Hertzlia, has been sentenced yesterday (20 Aug. ) to 21 days in military prison.

Udi Nir is the first conscientious objector to be imprisoned among a new group of high school seniors, who signed a collective declaration of refusal to serve in the Israeli army of occupation. He has been called up to enlist this Monday, 18 Aug., but planned to delay his imprisonment (technically - by going AWOL) to join other signatories of the letter. This intention, however, was noted by the press (Udi appeared in a TV feature and a negative newspaper feature over the weekend). This resulted in what was arguably the quickest operation of its sort in Israel’s history. On Tuesday, one day after he has not showed up at the Induction Base, Udi Nir was arrested by civilian police (itself an unprecedented move), and was subsequently given a conditional sentence of 6 days in prison. The following day he was again tried, this time for refusing an order to enlist, and was sentenced to 21 days in prison.

A small demonstration to protest Udi’s imprisonment was organised by other members of the high school seniors group (see images below), and has received some media coverage.

From the New Profile website...

We, a group of feminist women and men, are convinced that we need not live in a soldiers' state. Today, Israel is capable of a determined peace politics. It need not be a militarized society. We are convinced that we ourselves, our children, our partners, need not go on being endlessly mobilized, need not go on living as warriors. We understand that the state of war in Israel is maintained by decisions made by our politicians - not by external forces to which we are passively subject. While taught to believe that the country is faced by threats beyond its control, we now realize that the words "national security" have often masked calculated decisions to choose military action for the achievement of political goals.

We are no longer willing to take part in such choices.We will not go on enabling them by obediently, uncritically supplying soldiers to the military which implements them. We will not go on being mobilized, raising children for mobilization, supporting mobilized partners, brothers, fathers, while those in charge of the country go on deploying the army easily, rather than building other solutions.

To date, Israeli law does not acknowledge men's basic human right to conscientious objection. We regard Israeli conscription law as discriminatory and non-democratic, and call for the recognition of the basic right of every person, men included, to act in accordance with their conscience. Young women too undergo difficult, degrading interrogations by the military Exemption Committee. We urge the examination and revision of exemption procedures on grounds of conscience for women too.Acting on one's conscience is the fundamental right of every man and woman. We call for the recognition of men and women's right to express their social commitment by means of alternative civic service, conducted through a broad array of community services including work with non-governmental, voluntary organizations.

For our part, we refuse to go on raising our children to see enlistment as a supreme and overriding value. We want a fundamentally changed education system, for a truly democratic civic education, teaching the practice of peace and conflict resolution, rather than training children to enlist and accept warfare.

A study day, organized by the "New Profile Movement" on October 30, 1998, offered a first ever public forum for openly discussing these matters, to about 150 men and women, adults and youngsters. The many letters and phonecalls we have been receiving since, clearly indicate the real need for further action and discussion. If you share these opinions, help give our vital movement a public voice. Write us, call us, add your name to the growing list, along with address & phone numbers (+ fax and e-mail address, if available).

Peggy Noonan on the Saddleback Church Forum

She's critical of my man Obama, but her turn of phrase is too good to miss.

...on abortion in particular, Mr. McCain seemed old-time conservative, which is something we all understand, whether we like such a stance or not, and Mr. Obama seemed either radical or dodgy. He is "in favor . . . of limits" on late-term abortions, though some would consider those limits "inadequate." (In the past week much legal parsing on emanations of penumbras as to the viability of Roe v. Wade followed.)

As I watched I thought: How about "Let the baby live"? Don't parse it. Just "Let the baby live."

As to the question when human life begins, the answer to which is above Mr. Obama's pay grade, oh, let's go on a little tear. You know why they call it birth control? Because it's meant to stop a birth from happening nine months later. We know when life begins. Everyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins.

To put it another way, with conception something begins. What do you think it is? A car? A 1948 Buick?

Ouch! Go read the rest.



A style of popular music combining the features of Barack 'n' roll and hillbilly music.

Waiting for the text message -- Youth Radio

The Fish -- Friday Poem from 3 Quarks Daily

Okay. So I'm a sentimental old sap.
Read this anyway.

The Fish
Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fishPerson_poet_elizabeth_bishop

and held him beside the boat

half out of water, with my hook

fast in a corner of its mouth.

He didn't fight.

He hadn't fought at all.

He hung a grunting weight,

battered and venerable

and homely. Here and there

his brown skin hung in strips

like ancient wallpaper,

and its pattern of darker brown

was like wallpaper:

shapes like full-blown roses

stained and lost through age.

He was speckled with barnacles,

fine rosettes of lime,

and infested

with tiny white sea-lice,

and underneath two or three

rags of green weed hung down.

While his gills were breathing in

the terrible oxygen

--- the frightening gills,

fresh and crisp with blood,

that can cut so badly ---

I thought of the coarse white flesh

packed in like feathers,

the big bones and the little bones,

the dramatic reds and blacks

of his shiny entrails,

and the pink swim-bladder

like a big peony.

I looked into his eyes

which were far larger than mine

but shallower, and yellowed,

the irises backed and packed

with tarnished tinfoil

seen through the lenses

of old scratched isinglass.

They shifted a little, but not

to return my stare.

--- It was more like the tipping

of an object toward the light.

I admired his sullen face,

the mechanism of his jaw,

and then I saw

that from his lower lip

--- if you could call it a lip ---

grim, wet, and weaponlike,

hung five old pieces of fish-line,

or four and a wire leader

with the swivel still attached,

with all their five big hooks

grown firmly in his mouth.

A green line, frayed at the end

where he broke it, two heavier lines,

and a fine black thread

still crimped from the strain and snap

when it broke and he got away.

Like medals with their ribbons

frayed and wavering,

a five-haired beard of wisdom

trailing from his aching jaw.

I stared and stared

and victory filled up

the little rented boat,

from the pool of bilge

where oil had spread a rainbow

around the rusted engine

to the bailer rusted orange,

the sun-cracked thwarts,

the oarlocks on their strings,

the gunnels --- until everything

was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!

And I let the fish go.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


I never expected to go there.

When Barack Obama first started to run I didn't give him the chance of a snowball in hell. But as he stayed on task, winning the excited support of young people as well as disillusioned old liberals like me whose hopes have been dashed so many times over the last forty years we have callouses on our eyes, I finally allowed my self to imagine he might make it.

I even had a flash of fantasy that 2008 could be a replay of 1964, with Obama sailing into office on a avalanche of disgust with the last twenty-five or thirty years with his Republican opponent moving on to a well-earned retirement from politics altogether.

My hopes that this might be the first time in my life to see an election conducted with civility and intelligence have now gone fro weak to dim to gone altogether. The attack and counter-attack ads have just started and the conventions don't even happen until next week. We don't yet know who the vice-presidential picks will be and already the well is being poisoned by vitriol from both sides. Yes, I said both sides. The Obama camp is doing it with more finesse, but if they fail to respond in kind there will be so many nails in their coffin that the Devil himself couldn't pry it open. I expect the trend to only get worse as November gets closer. Adieu, comity... perhaps another time.

I recall hearing, back in the days of innocent idealism, watching the contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, that if they would just stop quarreling and run on the same ticket together they would be a "dream team." Maybe so, I said to myself, but here's the rub: If Clinton comes out ahead she will pick Obama as her vice-presidential choice in a New York minute because she understands the way politics really works. Whatever differences they may have are pliable enough to be mended. But if Obama comes out ahead, he will never pick her because it would be a betrayal of all he stands for.

As it turns out that second scenario is playing out, and it appears that Obama is not, in fact, about to pick Clinton to be his vice-presidential running mate, for much the same reasons that I imagined. And the issue is being made worse by the PUMA Democrats. As he slips in the polls from way ahead to dead heat, as the race slips from principles to politics as usual, I have come to the conclusion that Obama would do well... no, I said that wrong... he would follow a practical and politically expedient course, to announce Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

There. I finally said it. I hate it. I don't want him to do it. But in the same way that I know a doctor will stick his finger up my backside during the course of a physical exam, I know this political expedient may be necessary for him to win this election.

I have read a lot of pros and cons, but the piece at Rom Watson's place pushed me over the edge.

Make no mistake: I am proud to support Obama, proud to have him as the nominee of my party, and whomever he chooses for VP, I will work my tail off for his election. Obama is incredibly intelligent and authentic, substantive and thoughtful. He is an orator of the highest quality, a superb organizer, and has a knack for building coalitions. While I have lately had disagreements with some of his moves towards the center, he has progressive instincts and core beliefs that have been equaled by few major American politicians in recent years. He is clearly still a work in progress – how could he not be? – but he has the potential to be a great President

My concern right now – and this should be the concern of all Democrats and progressives – is that he get the chance to be a President at all, whether a great, good, or indifferent one. I am concerned that Barack Obama will not win the election.

The writer lays out his reasons and they are compelling. I'm left with the idea that it is better to be safe than sorry.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Did someone say "Military Draft"????

Somebody mentioned the draft?

Well, I did, some time ago.

Looks like the idea is coming up again... hmm...

John McCain stepped into a pile of shit more or less mentioned it today.

Today at a townhall meeting, an audience member praised Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for his vow to “follow bin Laden to the gates of hell.” After a long question about veterans’ care, the questioner said she believed we needed to reinstate the draft, to which McCain seemed to readily agree:

QUESTIONER: If we don’t reenact the draft, I don’t think we’ll have anyone to chase Bin Laden to the gates of hell.


MCCAIN: Ma’am, let me say that I don’t disagree with anything you said.

So did the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan.
He's not in favor of the idea, but he sees the writing on the wall...

The United States of America is in terrible shape right now. The country is teetering on the brink of an economic collapse, but the government makes you think that you really have a lot of money. But the money is not supported by anything of value. The gross national product of the country supports the dollar bills that you have in your pocket. But one day, in the twinkling of an eye, the economy will just collapse. The wise of the country know that this is coming and they’re trying to hedge against it. But the poor Blacks and Hispanics, and even poor Whites, they don’t really know what is going on with their country.


The President of the United States, in his misadventure in Iraq, is raping the treasury of a government that already has a half a trillion dollar deficit. Then, he spends $100 billion to send troops into a country that could, in no way, threaten the United States of America.

Next year, the military is going to impose the draft. You beautiful, young men, you don’t have a job and you barely graduated from high school, if you did. So, they are going to give you an offer next year that you can’t refuse. In fact, when you turn 18 now, they are at the high schools telling you what a future you would have by joining the armed forces of the United States of America.

So next year, you will have to decide: Am I going to go into the military because they called me or should I stand my ground? If you never thought of standing your ground against the president of the United States and an invitation to join the military, you might as well start entertaining that thought. Look at how strong you young men are, how powerful you are in beating each other up, but what we want to do is give you some legs that allow you to stand, so when the president writes in a draft letter, "Greetings. You can report to such and such place for induction into the military," you will say, "Not me."

So, you’ve got to clean that behavior up now, in order to justify saying “I’m a conscientious objector.” How are you going to have an AK-47 in your house, saying "any ni---r come up in here, he’s going to get it." No, you have to show the world that you are a people of peace.

The Honorable Elijah Muhammad was such a wise and masterful teacher. He took away from us all weapons. He forbade us to carry weapons, or even have them in our homes. We didn’t need any weapons to protect us. Usually, when you’ve got a weapon in your house, and you get angry with your wife or your husband, one of you will end up dead, or both of you. That’s who’s in prison today, victims of domestic violence.

But you do not need weapons if you have The God. We, in the Nation of Islam, have never relied on weapons. When we were attacked by those who had weapons, Allah (God) delivered their weapons into our hands. You don’t need them. You have to show the world that you are a people of peace, and you can’t wait until next year to do it. You need to start doing that right now. Clean up your act.


Frankly, I'm at a loss for words.

A day has past and yet another gaffe has been overlooked by the popular press. Too bad. Perhaps enough ordinary people heard about it that it will pop up again in another inquiry from another crowd.

Barack-and-bull story

Barack-and-bull story
An absurd, improbable Obama story presented as the truth.

Take a look at the widget in the sidebar...)

An excellent Barack Obama impression.

Respect or reverence paid to Obama.

Executive orders issued by President Obama.

Healthy alternative to Baratwurst.

Describing a political strategy based on a recurring emphasis on unity and hope, as first laid out in Machiavelli's The Obama.

Goodwill and lighthearted rapport at a campaign rally.

An Obama supporter who resorts to extortion and blackmail to get Barack Obama elected.

A computer that is highly likely to identify the owner as an Obama supporter.

An excellent Barack Obama impression.

Obama, when investigating complaints by private citizens against other officials or government agencies.

Of doubtful authenticity, in reference to a statement or story about Barack Obama.

The practice among editors of putting only Barack Obama on the cover of their magazines.

Barack exchange
A building or other place where political allegiances are bought and sold.

Baracking horse
A toy high horse, often made of wood, on which a young Barack Obama would compose stump speeches.

Barack Obama 1995

That's Part I.

Parts II & III at this link.

Waiting for the text message -- Youth Radio

I heard this morning that Obama's running mate will be announced via text-message to those with their names on the list. Thanks to today's technology all the rest of us will know about it about two seconds later, but there's something magic about being on the list.

I started tracking Youth Radio a few months ago because the smart youngsters represented there will be our next generation of professional journalists. My Obama widget added last night to the sidebar was the result of a post I read there. Nico Savidge, who will be among the many bloggers reporting from the conventions, put up a post with the link.

So, which of the two will play out a week from now? Well, if the pick is a “safe” one (someone like Tim Pawlenty, whose name has been on veepstakes shortlists since the beginning), I think McCain’s worst-case scenario of a media that’s completely Barackupied come August 29th, will become a reality. And I think even a more unexpected pick (someone like Joe Lieberman) could have the same result. John McCain ’s decision to announce his running mate the day after the Obama speech was a mistake - he’s taking a big risk, and I don’t think it will pay off.

Then again, I predicted these candidates would announce their picks a few weeks ago…

Love that word: barackupied.

It turns out to be a product of the latest BHO campaign spin -- neologisms making use of his name to create imaginative variations on the language.
It's a phenomenon that is big and still growing.
Take a moment to play with the widget in the sidebar and watch the new words pop up as you click on the upper right hand corner.
I'm sorry it's so small. I had to squeeze it to fit it into the sidebar and I knew the fad would soon pass. It, along with the EC map will be gone in a few weeks, but until then it's great fun.

Heelless shoes made entirely of soft leather, useful for long hours of door-to-door canvassing.

A person who gives rousing stump speeches for pleasure rather than financial benefit.

Any mechanical Obama supporter constructed to act as if by its own motivation.

In state of deep slumber, dreaming of Barack Obama.

A favorite nickname that thousands of supporters all believe they came up with themselves.

If this keeps up the mother tongue will get to be an Obamanation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Conversation with a Georgian "man on the street"

Follow-up, August 26

Michael J. Totten's pristine, first-person, on the scene narrative is a must-read for anyone concerned with this issue. This free-lance reporter, in my opinion, has more credibility than all the officials on any "side."
Be prepared to follow a very complex backstory and come away with as many questions as you started, although they may be different questions than when you began reading.
I must confess my own loss of interest when I realized the roots of this conflict are far more tangled and too deeply embedded in both ancient and modern history for any outsider to truly appreciate. We in America have no more understanding of ancient Asian conflicts than newcomers to America have of our own Civil War, or the nuances of American Colonial history. In fact, our own history is, by comparison, a mere footnote (less than three or four centuries) compared with the thousand and more years predating Asian conflicts.

Proceed with care, then, as you wade into some very deep waters. And do not overlook this man's report.

The Truth About Russia in Georgia


A thoughtful commenter from Georgia responded to my post about the Russian incursion a few days ago. The handful of regular readers to my little blog will not likely notice what has developed into a worthwhile exchange of ideas and opinions in that comment thread, so I am publishing them here for easy access.

The post is coming up in Google searches so more people are looking at it than normal. One of my stat counters that tracks where hits originate lists ten visitors to that post, with myself and one other being the only ones from the US. The others are from Romania (2), Canada, Czech Republic, Georgia (3), Spain and Moscow, Soviet Federation.

This is a small sample but I think it is noteworthy. Canaries are also small but miners once paid close attention to the health of caged canaries when they were deep underground. Need I say more?

It's not necessary to reprint the other post content. Here is a link to that rather lengthy post and the map to which the writer refers in his first remark.

I'm honored and pleased that someone with a good command of English who obviously lives in Georgia has taken the time and interest to share these important and insightful comments. I expect more may follow, so anyone who interested is invited to join in. What we have access to here is the rare human element tha complicates but often helps to resolve nearly all conflicts.

◄►COMMENTS TO South Osetia and Georgia -- Homework◄►

daikide said...

Well heheh, not so fast:

1) You have a map there that shows that majority of population in disputed regions of Georgia are not Georgian, true. BUT, what about a pre war map??? 85% of Abkhaz population and over 90% of South Ossetian population were Georgians, before brutal ethnic cleansing by Russian military in 1993-94. (As for current map, even in todays shape it is not accurate. All Georgians are cleansed from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and majority of population consists today of Russian military and not of civilians, as crazy as it may sound it is true)

2) South Ossetia:

There NEVER was south or even north ossetia. In fact there was only one Ossetia on the territory of North Ossetia and it was called "Republic Alaniya"(were all those Ossetians lived) before 1989 (or so) After Soveit Union collapsed Russians renamed "Republic Alaniya" to "North Ossetia" as for "South" ... LOL just look at geographical map, there is a HUUUGE wall of mountains between so called "North and South" Ossetias. A Huge tunnel which lies under a mountain called a "Roki" tunnel connects Georgia and Russia (North and South Ossetia)
So in 1994 Russian tanks started to flow into a Georgian territory called "Samachablo" and ethnically cleansed a small city of Tskinvaly and proclaimed it a capital of "South Ossetia"
In 2004 elected Georgian president Saakashvili agreed to call that region "South Ossetia" and proposed a full autonomy within internationally recognised borders of Georgia. Russians rejected and tried to simply use that territory to stall Georgia's progress in development and integration into Europe and NATO.

3) Abkhazia:

It was just a amazing resort were absolute majority of population were Georgians and now there are no Georgians after brutal actions of Russian military and Chechen mercenaries, Shamil Basaev being a war hero of that was hailed by Russian media for those atrocities he has committed against Georgian civilian population. Basaev turned against Russians in a very brutal war in Chechnya just a little later.

4) Basically that ethnic map you got there, is still very inaccurate.

5) And well I just could not take this BS :

" first lady of Georgia, explained that her husband aspires to follow in the long tradition of strong Georgian leaders "like Stalin and Beria"."

- I understand that for as anyone who has not hared anything about my country words like Stalin, Beria and Georgia might be self explanatory, BUT you must at least know something about history of those people and the reality on the ground.

Stalin was NEVER a hero of Georgia in fact he was a simple bank robber who got arrested and sent to Siberia(to end his life) This happened in his early life and since than he has revenged himself by slaughtering hundreds of thousands of Georgians. The fact that highest amount of deaths(in percent) during second world war were Georgians was also a "gift" for Stalin. Georgians always hated him and he could never forgive that, so he sent EVERY Georgian man to war.
As for Beria he was and is widely hated because he was the man who was coordinating those killings by Stalin. Georgians are not Russians and they value their lives much higher than Russians value lives of their citizens.(comes simply from the history)

So this words are impossible, the first lady who is from the Netherlands btw, would NEVER have said them, this is a simple lie from a news source.

In Geri there is a very small grope (25-35 people or so, literally) of 90+ year old people who still like Stalin, most of them are ethnic Armenians, Georgians and Russians
(they are citizens of Georgia) but this view is not shared by the rest of the country. I mean by more than 99 % of population.

6) I'm sorry since I did not read and analyze everything you wrote there, too much for me but in majority while it may seem true to you, your facts are false, because you don't know the details THAT DO MATTER!

7) As for Georgian "Invasion" to Tskinvali well...
what else would they say? We invaded Georgia just because?

They did this in response to the Kosovo thing and they also feel rich and successful right now...

Who stared what:

1) Russians a finished rehabilitation of the military rail road in Abkhgazia just a week ago before invasion. The Russian military rail road personnel was working over few months, in Moscow they called it a "Humanitarian" mission, but today Russian tanks move by that military.

2) Russians had a large scale military exercises Just Outside or "Roki" tunnel from the Russian side of the border. "Caucasus 2008" every soldier was given a paper with war propaganda, wich ended up on the Internet. It was finished just a week or so before war.

3) The usually anti Georgian Russian media reached a new level of propaganda just few weeks before war.

4) A serious fact that Russians started to evacuate the civilian population from Tskinvali three weeks before war. This was very official in Russian media, but not in the western.

5)Read "The Human Rights Watch" report about this war.(They have been to Tskinvali) Russians claimed 2000 dead civilians, read the report and conclusion.

6) There's also a small fact that two weeks before the Russian invasion, cyber war has damaged many of Georgian news web sites. This is also indication that Russians were preparing it for a long time, but I guess if you want to believe Putin and the rest ofg the KGB like Ivanov or Lavrov go ahead...

I hope it's more or less clear, sure everyone can have their view, but then there are also things that are called facts.

Hoots said...

Thanks for your comments. It looks like my post hit a nerve. Please excuse my American ignorance, but give me a little credit for reading more than just what's been fed to the press.

Before I posted material from JOTMAN's Blog I first checked his list of impressive credits. And that quote from Sandra Roelofs is from the Guardian of London. It's left wing, but not without credibility.

It is clear from the enthusiastic demonstrations we see on TV that the Georgians are very supportive of their president and what he has said and done. It is not clear, however, that the populations of South Osetia or Gori are equally enthusiastic.

daikide said...

"Thanks for your comments. It looks like my post hit a nerve."

- Well one day I wake up and there are Russian tanks, so how do you think I feel. Heheh...

"Please excuse my American ignorance, but give me a little credit for reading more than just what's been fed to the press."

- I understand your opinion, you don't like that most of media is criticizing Russia and I understand why this may sound suspicious, but you should also understand that Russia is NOT a democracy. There is NO freedom of press in Russia. So you have to judge it for what it is.

"Before I posted material from JOTMAN's Blog I first checked his list of impressive credits. And that quote from Sandra Roelofs is from the Guardian of London. It's left wing, but not without credibility."

- I understand, but this thing here sounds like complete BS, no seriously. If she anyone has ever said anything like it I think the opposition would start seriously biting.

"It is clear from the enthusiastic demonstrations we see on TV that the Georgians are very supportive of their president and what he has said and done."

- Well there are many different views in Georgia, this is a democratic state no matter how it may seem from outside.Sure it is not a Switzerland, but it simply lacks any conditions to have a shiny democracy, but this country, it's government and people are trying hard.
There is an serious opposition, there is powerful opposition media and sure they have their impact. But everyone understands that this is a moment for unity or the country might not take such pressure from Russia.

"It is not clear, however, that the populations of South Osetia or Gori are equally enthusiastic."

- It depends which population do you mean? In Gori there are many Georgians , Ossetians and many other ethnic groups that have full access to media and different views. Most of them support Georgian government.
In South Ossetia about 50% of territory(before few days ago) was still populated by Georgians, Ossetians and they supported Georgian government. The other 50% or so is under informational blockade, they have only Russian media and their only job is to serve in the Russian financed anti Georgian militia's. So they probably Support Putin.(They even have a banner in Tskinvali "Putin is our president") But the real problem is a HUGE change in a demography because of the horrible violence in the past years.


As for Ossetian people, they live in EVERY part of Georgia even today their population is 4 times more in the rest of the country then in those disputed territories.
There never was a ethnic problem here, the problem is in Kremlin, in Prime minister Putin's head.

Many officials in Georgia have Ossetian origin, in government, military and even in Beijing at the Olympics.

Hoots said...

Again, thanks for returning with comments. Your description of Georgia and Osetia as places where a mixture of ethnic groups live all mixed together with "never an ethnic problem" reminds me of similar descriptions from places all over the world. I'm thinking of such diverse places as the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Rwanda, the old British Raj which divided into India and Pakistan, and the list can go on forever.

Your link to RSF is telling. As of last year's report Georgia ranks well ahead of Russia on their list which comes as no surprise. And cyber-attacks targeting Georgian websites only adds to a growing pile of evidence incriminating Russia.

My interest in this conflict is more a spinoff of our presidential election than any personal involvement. I'm just an ordinary American trying to make sense of a lot of confusing information, trying to decide which of two candidates for president will better serve the cause of effective conflict resolution in foreign policy.

It's clear to me that military actions, though sometimes unavoidable, are at the very bottom of the list of ways to resolve conflict. My suspicions of John McCain were raised when I learned that one of his top foreign policy advisers formerly served as a Georgia lobbyist. It's no accident that his instant response to the Russian incursion was, like most conservative and isolationist Americans, sword-rattling.

Interestingly enough, the Obama response was more circumspect and, I might add, more in line with the equally cool response from Washington.

Most Americans are ignorant about these matters and show no interest in learning. Popular entertainment, sadly, gets more attention from the US electorate than foreign policy. Nevertheless a few of us are trying to do the responsible thing by putting a man into office who appears to be more open to creative conflict resolution than others in recent years.

The larger picture to me indicates simmering tensions and political ferment in many parts of the world formerly held in place by heavy-handed, autocratic regimes. When totalitarian regimes come apart, whether in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or, yes, Iraq... the aftermath is not always pretty. The challenge of what we like to call "freedom" is not freedom at all. It's really how best do we cope with the tensions of a painful past and learn to live together looking forward rather than backward?

Of course that's easy for me to say from a safe distance. It's like telling the alcoholic or cancer victim to "get over it and get on with the rest of your life." And I don't want to sound that insensitive. But somewhere between that place and today's suffering there has to be a middle ground.

I read your glowing description of Baku, awash with oil wealth and looking for all the world like the next Dubai or whatever. In a way I can almost hear the same expectations for Tblisi in the background. And that's good. That's evidence of positive thinking and hope for the future. Even in the darkest days of Saddam's ugly tyranny the people of Kurdistan were making the best of a bad situation (from what I have read) and building a social and economic model that would be comfortable for most world travelers. It helped, of course, that the Peshmergas are among the world's best warriors, but their role in the picture is probably less important than the role of -- we have to say it -- OIL.

Give me your opinion, then, of two questions:

1) How much of the Georgia/Russia/Osetia/Abkhazia confilct derives from the control of oil (either extraction or control after extraction)?

2) Have you any opinion about which of our two presidential candidates will better serve both the future of Georgia and US realtions in that part of the world?

daikide said...

“Again, thanks for returning with comments. Your description of Georgia and Osetia as places where a mixture of ethnic groups live all mixed together with "never an ethnic problem" reminds me of similar descriptions from places all over the world. I'm thinking of such diverse places as the former Yugoslavia, Turkey, Rwanda, the old British Raj which divided into India and Pakistan, and the list can go on forever. “

- I really don’t like how you are putting this. Each problem and each conflict is very unique, I don’t like how you are putting all this in a row. The problem is really not about Ossetian vs Georgian people, the problem is that Kremlin wants military bases in a very strategic locations, just across the HUGE Caucasian mountains that separate Russia and Georgia. The Ossetian people and protecting Russia’s citizens is the same pretext that was used by Germany during invasion of Poland, they also wanted to “protect” the minority. Russian citizens live everywhere in Georgia and we are not eating them alive. (On the contrary in Russia last week only 17 people with Caucasian origin were killed, few Georgians, few Armenian and even few Ossetian… we are not so distinct from each other.)
At least 200(yes 200) ethnic groups live in Georgia, it’s a HUGE number for such a tiny country that is of the size of South Carolina and has population of just 3,5 million.

“Your link to RSF is telling. As of last year's report Georgia ranks well ahead of Russia on their list which comes as no surprise. And cyber-attacks targeting Georgian websites only adds to a growing pile of evidence incriminating Russia.“

- Well not only that, Georgia is trying hard to become a real “beacon” of democracy in the region and if you look for other world indexes like “Ease of doing business” by world bank or “economic freedom” or such you will see how hard this country is trying to be better. Sure it has still ways to go, but it never had any conditions and having all this in the neighbourhood that we live in is a real achievement. I am not a Russia hater, in fact I like many things about Russia, like their writers, composers and their beautiful girls, but Russia is heading to dangerous place and the world has to do something or tomorrow it has to face MUCH worse problems that will also be “closer” and more personal for the west.

“My interest in this conflict is more a spinoff of our presidential election than any personal involvement. I'm just an ordinary American trying to make sense of a lot of confusing information, trying to decide which of two candidates for president will better serve the cause of effective conflict resolution in foreign policy.”

- Well it is a “spinoff” for me too. I don’t dream about geopolitics myself. I am a physicist and I have completely different interests in life, it’s just hard to say “OK this does not bother me” when you see so many Russian tanks in your country.

“Most Americans are ignorant about these matters and show no interest in learning. Popular entertainment, sadly, gets more attention from the US electorate than foreign policy. Nevertheless a few of us are trying to do the responsible thing by putting a man into office who appears to be more open to creative conflict resolution than others in recent years.”

- Well this is the case for whole world actually, when there are no Russian tanks
(Not this much) Georgians are sitting in Café’s and Restaurants and eating delicious Georgian food with their guests and friends or drinking red wine. They are in no way thinking how to resolve the conflict in Darfur for example either… People want to have happy thoughts nobody wants to think about others problems 24/7.(at least not many people do) Like elsewhere people in Tbilisi would better buy third ipod and a Jeep for 80 000USD that they don’t really need than spend this money to help the poor, so it’s a global thing and maybe that is even normal…

“The larger picture to me indicates simmering tensions and political ferment in many parts of the world formerly held in place by heavy-handed, autocratic regimes. When totalitarian regimes come apart, whether in Eastern Europe, Asia, Africa or, yes, Iraq... the aftermath is not always pretty. The challenge of what we like to call "freedom" is not freedom at all. It's really how best do we cope with the tensions of a painful past and learn to live together looking forward rather than backward?”

- True, but this does not matter that much. World today is much more dangerous than before war in Iraq. While Saddam had to be removed and I’m sure that Iraq will succeed in the end. I have met one young Iraqi in a bar in Geneva few months ago and was so surprised to see how optimistic he was. He told me “Yeah just give us 10 years and we will be one of the richest nations on this planet, we just have to get through this.” But that war had very serious side effects like making Russia Insanely rich, which would have been not a serious problem if there was a normal democratic government. But with Vladimir Putin and Ivanov and such
KGB style rulers… it’s going to turn into MUCH bigger problem than Georgia quite soon.

As for the west, I do not up rule the fact that for some blaming Georgia may sound like a good idea. While I’m often very critical of my people I know most of good and bad they are capable of.
As for the west, it really is a bit unfortunate situation. Their ally (And Georgia was the third country
After US and UK by the military presence in Iraq about 2000 soldiers that were recalled after Russians invaded)
has been marched on by Russia, so saying “Hey but Russian’s say that Georgia did wrong” actually may be even more politically correct right now. Sure west really can’t do anything to stop Russia doing what it wants to it’s
neighbours so idea that those neighbours where also quite guilty is a good way of masking the west’s inability of protecting small democratic Georgia from it’s big autocratic neighbour and inability of West’s punishment of today’s Oil rich Russia.

“I read your glowing description of Baku, awash with oil wealth and looking for all the world like the next Dubai or whatever. In a way I can almost hear the same expectations for Tblisi in the background. And that's good. That's evidence of positive thinking and hope for the future. Even in the darkest days of Saddam's ugly tyranny the people of Kurdistan were making the best of a bad situation (from what I have read) and building a social and economic model that would be comfortable for most world travelers. It helped, of course, that the Peshmergas are among the world's best warriors, but their role in the picture is probably less important than the role of -- we have to say it -- OIL.”

- Well in Baku there is a soft autocratic regime, quite comparable to what is in Saudi Arabia, only much softer I guess. People there are really nice, but by god it is so corrupt and still very unreformed. Like in Russia Oil is a blessing and a curse.
As for Tbilisi, it’s economy and construction was booming unlike I ever expected, until few days ago. The many constructions seem to go on, but I don’t know how long this can go on with the Russian tanks rolling just in 30km from it. Even if they pull out. They will never go far. Their huge military bases are few months complete in Ablhazia and South Ossetia so now they seem to think that they have legal reasons to have those tanks and stuff on our soil. To protect their “peacekeepers” or whatever…

1) How much of the Georgia/Russia/Osetia/Abkhazia conflict derives from the control of oil (either extraction or control after extraction)?

- Oil, well that’s the point that there are MANY MANY small pile of reasons for this war. As there are many small reasons why it happened right now. Oil is the only one of this details. Georgia does not have lots of oil, but Azerbaijan does as do other central Asian counties like Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan or Iran. Georgia could serve and is serving as only alternative transit route bypassing Russia and reaching EU. So by controlling Georgia Russia gets a complete monopoly over Oil going to EU from this continent.

- But Oil is only one part of the problem. For many years Russia has launched an unprecedented scale propaganda against Georgians and especially against president Saakashvili. The main reasons are that he got his education in US, not somewhere else but US. Also his will to get Georgia to NATO is also a reason for their hatred. I’m absolutely sure that even 8 year old child in Russia that has never seen any real Georgian or does not even know were that country is full of hatred towards our people. Russian media does a amazing job here, that’s why it is scored so low in that index. And trust me there is not a very big difference between how much free independent opinions can Russian citizens get or how much say people of north Korea. Sure Russia is still not NK, but it is not as far from it as you may think. I watch Russian media myself and can tell you that they are messing with their heads. Idea’s like “Russia is surrounded by enemy” is blown on their screens and in their papers every day.

- Russia is such a huge country that it can create it’s alternative world vision for it’s population. As you know all the media is controlled by Kremlin so they can totally manipulate what the population thinks and they are doing this 24 hours a day. Even my Russian friends that live today in Russia have emailed me and wrote how they hate all of us. I’m so shocked… I thought that they were friends. So their propaganda is “Russia is strong like never before, thanks to the leadership of Putin”, “Russia is going to revenge for it’s humiliation in the end of the cold war” and “The world has to understand that we are a superpower and there should be a new world order”.Today Russian people are in euphoria, they are being told that they have saved the day and they want to turn it to a demonstration of return of their might. Also the president of Georgia has been portrayed in Russia like a complete madman that has been appointed by Americans and that is being paid by Americans. Well to be honest I have lot’s of young Georgian friends in the best Universities across US, EU and I can’t say that any of them are working for CIA or whatever…
- Where else should they learn in Russia where skinheads might kill them, just because they are not Russians? If Russian government acted differently they could have achieved everything through soft power and “friendship” but I guess sophisticated politics are too difficult for the soviet style leadership of current oil giant.

2) Have you any opinion about which of our two presidential candidates will better serve both the future of Georgia and US relations in that part of the world?

- Well it’s a tough question, but in any case I think the next leader will be much better than the current one. Georgia and the US will probably stay in good relationship no matter who gets elected.


I would still prefer him, because I think in the time when the autocratic leaders are so reckless and aggressive there is only one language that they can understand. The world needs a new Reagan. US stance should be very principled or the future will hold far grater threats. What’s important however is striking a balance and not going back to the full scale cold war. But still the party’s don’t fight if the both sides do not want that, I think the pragmatism is not always the key, sometimes the principles should be protected or the next day autocratic regimes will have more and bigger demands.


I like Obama for many reasons, I like how he does his speeches and he seems very pragmatic and very open, but still this are not the only qualities the US president might need. I think that you can’t always strike the balance and sometimes you have to chose between left or right path.
I don’t like when politicians are just too careful, yes I really mean it. Sometimes you have to make a choice and defend you opinion and not emulate Coffi Anan Or Ban Ki Mun of the useless organisation that UN is. You can’t make everyone like you.

Probably you now like ex president Clinton… well as successful as he was inside US politicly/economicly as failed he was as a world leader. Russia was on it’s knees.(1992-1997) US could have done ANYTHING to it. Instead the world was making jokes about Boris Yeltsin and laughing at “poor and drunk” Russia. Well that was the time to help Russia’s democracy. That was a moment for action and I’m not sure if there will be another chance for hundreds of years now. Clinton shockingly did absolutely NOTHING to turn Russia to an ally and there was a real chance for that. That was a time for a war in Iraq and pulling out Russia from the economic hole. Instead what happened was that Russia was pulled out by Oil prices but that was already very different Russia, under KGB and under Putin. Make no mistake, under Yeltsin Russia was NOT a democracy, but it also was not a real authoritarian country. It could have evolved into a democracy if only US did something.

Future of your country: (Well my opinion lol)

I think that US will manage to get out from the current economic and political hole under a new president. The problem will be to play a role of a one single leader of the world. China is coming actually slower and is acting more careful than Russia in the global politics.


Well Russia will continue it’s triumphant march towards “Return of power”, however I have seen huge flaws in their military. They won because they invaded y country with an absolute overwhelming force, but their soldiers have a low morale and are equipped really poorly compared even to Georgian army. I have seen a video done by Russian soldiers that captured a military base.
They say “Look, look at them! They have everything and we live like bums. Clean nice beds, nice uniforms…” They were saying all this as they were looting everything from that city’s like Gori, Senaki, port city of Poti and such…(I’m sure that video should be online somewhere) So I think that their army is still way behind because of the horrible corruption and still quite soviet approach to everything governmental. Also there is no doubt that Russia is really trying hard to rival US and European media power, it is limited even today but they have many people on the pay check even in the most respected media outlets of the west. Not to mention a strange array of new web “analytical centres” that post very strange propaganda style articles… (Like “Crossfire war” web site) Don’t remember the link…
This is how they do this and the rest of the world tries to balance the things, problem is that they are balancing a mixture of truths and direct lies… in the end they got something that is hard to understand… And often it is hard to understand that Russia is bad, if you need Russia for many other reasons like Iran, North Korea, Nuclear safety or yes… oil.
In the future it seems that PM Putin will once be back as a president again. I guess during the next presidential elections in Russia.

Georgia’s Future:

Georgia is a democracy today, a very venerable democracy and fragile. While the opposition and the government are not fighting right now. I’m sure that the lack of democratic experience will play it’s role as soon as Russian tanks leave the country. I think that there might be a change of the government and if that happens, this will mark the end of the European future for the region. Also probably there will be far less relying on the US and EU as partners as for Russia, she has chosen it’s role for this country once and for all.
I mean that unlike Putin and other Russian officials Saakashvili will have to face some tough questions from the opposition in his country and that may be a catalyst for some unrests. Besides Russian minister of foreign affairs has stated in a phone conversation that “Saakashvili must go” and “change of government” was high on the agenda in UN security consul sparring between Russia’s Vitalii Churkin and US representative. So I think Russian’s will do their best and inexperienced Georgian political system might be used to topple the current government.
This country will have to drift, the west will not accept it because Russia will not let it be part of EU or NATO. Russia will simply do it’s best to show others what might happen to them if they try to be like Europe.

As you can see I am not very optimistic here.

Georgians are very religious people, if you ever visit Tbilisi, you will see that every corner, every mountain has a church or a monastery. Georgia is one of the oldest Christian countries in the world, to be honest I believe that this is just the way of living between the crossroads were Georgia lies. People that are desperate need something to believe. I’m not a religious person myself, but from the history that I have seen with my own eyes, I understand why my people need god so much, they need something to rely on.

... phew, well I guess I better get back to other things.

Good luck.


Follow-up (or cop-out, depending on which way you want to take it)

I have decided to leave this matter alone for the moment. I want to remain neutral until I learn more. Others are free to engage in arguments in the comments as long as they remain civil, but I'm dropping out. My discovery of JOTMAN's blog seems to have been the best outcome for me from these events.

Here are additional links regarding the Russian incursion for readers who want to know more.

Pictures from Georgia v. Russia DO NOT OPEN IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN WAR (NSFW)

And from a commenter at that site...

Another commenter left this link...

Stalin statue in Gori