And yet, the light.
It often appears we're all daily descending into a dark pit of terror and internecine religious conflict. Living under that kind of weight, good news is always welcome.
So I was cheered this morning to be greeted by the news that the Irish Republican Army has ordered its members to cease their armed campaign
. Although the heyday of IRA militarism is long past, today's announcement was an important symbolic step.
And, like most things, there's probably a lesson to be learned here. How did a group, convinced that violent opposition was the only way to effect political change, travel full circle and adopt institutional means? I don't pretend to know the answer. But if we are able to distill the operative principles, I'm pretty sure they'd be applicable in the modern world. The IRA/English conflict has a lot of similarities to the current 'war on terror'...especially the damaging influences of poverty, nationalism, imperialism and religion on political crises. The answer to fundamentalist, militant islam is somewhere between understanding and shooting, and we need to find it. I hope policy makers in the west will pay attention to the little piece of history coming out of Ireland this morning.
At the Mercy of Imbeciles
A pretty interesting/horrifying radio exchange took place between Rep. Tom Tancreda, R-Col, and radio host Patrick Campbell:
TANCREDO: "[If] we determine that [a terrorist attack] is the result of extremist fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites."
CAMPBELL: You're talking about bombing Mecca.
Dear God. I mean, I'm all for stopping terrorism...but bombing Mecca?
Such a statement betrays an almost total lack of understanding of Islam, Terrorism, Logic, Human Decency, etc....I could go on, but I set out to make this a short post.
I can understand why Americans are fearful, as it appears at least 75 per cent of their political leaders are RAVING MORONS. That would scare the $%#^ out of me. And I'm not here to say most of these morons are conservative...but well, like JS Mill said, "Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives".
Listen to the whole interview here
Ain't he cute?
I guess they do make things bigger in Texas. Steak, Oil, political failures and giant pleated flag-skirts.
A Fitting Farewell
Hunter S. Thompson's Ashes will be blown out of a cannon of his own design atop a tower on his sprawling Aspen ranch.
Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Thompson's work will immediately recognize the appropriateness of this memorial. Although the ceremony is closed to the public, Thompson's widow, Anita, has indicated there will be a public remembrance at a later date.
A special nod to Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas". He hired a prominent LA event planner to ensure Hunter is sent off in true gonzo style.
Read more at USA Today
. And thanks to Kathe for the link.
The New New New Journalism
Moments of intense tragedy have a way of violently birthing new ideas. The London Transit Bombings are no exception.
Several UK Media heavyweights speculate in today's Guardian
on the media mini-revolution that took place within Thursday's carnage. Within an hour of the bombing, news organizations were flooded with images and eyewitness accounts from digital cameras, mobile phones and blogs. Many heralded this new, instantaneous newsgathering as a 'media revolution' and the birth of the 'citizen reporter'. While it was no doubt revolutionary, I wonder at what exactly was revolutionized in the smoke and confusion under the streets of London.
The majority of modern newswork revolves around collecting information. Journalists are seldom at the scene of a tragedy, and must rely on eyewitnesses and other sources of primary information. Prior to the advent of portable and affordable digital technologies, reporters had to rely simply on the memories of their sources. Now, in a sense, journalists can access the senses- sight and hearing, anyway, until we figure out a way to transmit smells on wireless networks- of people at the scene. In this context, reportage is revolutionized into a more visceral, immediate experience.
What hasn't changed, I think, is the need for the professional reporter. The more information produced by an event, the more we need someone who can synthesize the disparate bits of an experience into a meaningful narrative. There are gifted storytellers among us, and their services are even more necessary in a digital age.
In any event, check out the Guardian article. Important perspectives for all us bloggers and erstwhile journalists out there.
Doth conscience makes cowards of us all.
Ol' Shakespeare might as well have been talking about me when he wrote those words five hundred years ago. Ever since 9/11, I've been grappling with the immorality and illogic of the so-called 'War on Terror'. While criticising the hubris and stupidity of Dubya's foreign policies, I may have lost the plot and missed the point in the process. Like so many, I've forgotten that we have a serious problem here, and we need to face it.
The cowardly London attacks have completely changed my perspective. We must fight terror. We must use force. And Canada must become involved in a multilateral global effort to end all political murder around the world.
You cannot reason with these people. Any weak-minded fool who subsribes to fundamentalist dogma- be they Christian, Muslim or Jew- is unable to understand a rational argument because they have willfully abandoned rationality. What we are left to deal with is a herd of homicidal sheep led by twisted men who worship only themselves. Once someone decides their own sense of self-righteous purpose excedes the very basic value of human life, they are lost to humanity. They cannot be reformed. They must simply be stopped.
All of this is not to say I support either the principles or strategy of America's War on Terror. Iraq is a farce. The United States went in to satisfy the political and economic interests of the neo-conservatives, and created what could well prove an impossible nation-building project. Oh, and a giant recruiting office for terrorists. This is not the model we need to emulate.
So, how to fight a war on terror? First, we in the western world must take pains to excise hypocrisy from our foreign policies. We must not condemn acts we are guilty of committing. The west has perpetrated and continues to perpetrate acts of terrorism around the world, and are complicit in many others. We must immediately stop these practices and apologize to those affected. We must also not make requirements of others we ourselves are not prepared to fulfill. Only then will our pronouncements on freedom and justice not ring hollow.
We also cannot be selective in the terror we combat. To invade Afghanistan while ignoring Darfur is folly. It allows critics to (rightly) contend that western humanitarian intervention may be about more than just preserving and promoting human rights. Like oil, or votes, or a whole host of other things which tend not to win a lot of support on the ground.
We must attack the circumstances which give terrorists power. Poverty makes people desperate and open to dogma. Unilateral political action and the imposition of one nation's will over another appears as imperialism. Support for repressive regimes who tacitly co-operate with our international aims engenders anger and hatred. In other words, we must truly practice what we preach and work towards political and economic equality around the globe.
Any war against terror must be multilateral and international. In the interests of legitimacy, and indeed ultimate success, no one nation can be seen to lead the effort. More importantly, the war on terror must be fought within the rule of law. No Gitmos. No torture. Fair trials for all. We cannot fight the terrorists with the terrorists' tools. If we lose the central tenants of our civilization in our struggle against terrorism, there will be nothing left to protect.
And finally, we must be willing to fight, to put our lives at risk to eliminate terrorism. This is not a conventional war. Invading foreign nations with tendentious connections to terrorism may ape 'war as usual', but it is totally ineffective. We need new strategies, new methods. And we can never accept civilian casualties. If we do, we are no better than our enemies.
In short, fighting a war on terror is going to be hard. It will be expensive. It will involve serious soul-searching in Western nations, and a painful reckoning with history. It will take a long time. There will be casualties. But we cannot afford to be kept captive by mediaevally-minded murderers, or our own illusions, any more.
A US Federal judge has jailed journalist Judith Miller
for failing to reveal her confidential sources to a grand jury investigating the leak of CIA operative Valeria Plame's identity.
Since communication between journalists and sources is not privileged, Miller is indisputably in contempt of court. Nevertheless, Miller is to be commended for this bold ethical stand. Confidential sources are the lynchpin of investigative journalism, and without them this vital democratic work could not continue. I urge the US Congree to pass shield legislation to protect journalists, and of course to free a woman who is guilty of nothing but having the courage of her convictions.
The Loch Ness Monster: Mythical Beast, or bad liability?
Niche Insurance Run Amok
Seems the competitors in the upcoming VisitScotland Adventure Triathalon will receive up 1 million pounds if they are attacked by the Loch Ness Monster
Now, as an amateur Nessie buff (listen to my CBC Radio Doc about the Creature, The Meaning of Monster
), I'm not sure if this is crazy or not. Odds are, there's nothing carnivorous living in Loch Ness. On the other hand, it's impossible to shake the vague feeling of dread you get when swimming in the storied loch. If some paleothic beast took a chunk out of my leg, I'd like to think my bets were hedged. What price peace of mind?
A Moving Testament to the Never-Say-Die, Never-Think-Things-Through Spirit of Republicans
An absolutely wizard article on Tompaine.com
today about some of the unintended consequences of Delay and Lott's proposed constitutional amendment to ban 'flag desecration' by constitutional scholar Jamin B. Raskin. Since the proposed legislation uses the ambiguous term 'desecration' rather than simply 'burning' (which is, in fact, an acceptable form of flag disposal under the US Flag Code
), Raskin astutely asks:"Will it be a crime when people wipe barbeque sauce from their mouths with flag-napkins on the Fourth of July? When swimmers dive into polluted rivers wearing Speedo flag-based bathing suits? When Jasper Johns-inspired artists paint mutilated flags? When politicians put flags on balloons that pop and deflate? When grandmothers make flag quilts with peace signs on them, when people let hot wax drip on flag cakes? When Woody Harrelson wears a flag diaper portraying Larry Flynt in the movies, or when Ralph Lauren places flag designs on sweaters and antiperspirant sticks?"
Essentially, flag police will be required to make a cavalcade of moral judgments about the legality of flag use in what raisin describes as "messy everyday life".
But the best part of this article-the sweet, sweet glorious music, if you will- is how the proposed amendment will theoretically make displaying the Confederate Flag a crime. Says Raskin:"Everyone knows, of course, that the Confederate flag was the banner of secession and treason, as the Union saw it. But most people don't know that the Confederate flag design itself was a taunting rip-off and physical desecration of the Stars-and-Stripes. It takes the physical elements of the Union flag and rearranges them in a provocative parody: five-pointed white stars, against a blue background, against a red field evoking blood or fire....If we are going to amend the First Amendment to criminalize thought crime, we should be certain to pick up enemies of the RepublicÂin addition to Republican enemies. The new laws can and should be used to ban all display of the seditious Confederate parody of our flag. After all, no other symbolic defacement of the U.S. flag has been more strongly associated with violent rebellion against the United States. No one died when the adolescent Maoist Gregory Johnson famously burned a flag in 1984 at the Republican Convention. But hundreds of thousands of Americans died fighting to stop the military imposition of the Confederate flag over us."
Besides the inestimable damage to Civil War Re-enactors and Dukes of Hazard enthusiasts, this sticky legal consequence may prove unpopular in Trent Lott and Tome Delay's home states of Mississippi and Texas, whose denizens make frequent and proud show of their Confederate heritage. Mississippians will have special cause to complain, since their state flag incorporates the ol' Confederate Navy Jack and would thus be a constitutional violation.
Say nothing of the fact that by making political flag burning illegal, the gesture is made more powerful. Who cares if you burn a flag now? If anything, it seems a little derivative or repetitive. But make it illegal, and as Raskin says: "Every publicity-starved performance artist on an NEA grant, every self-dramatizing high school junior who has just read Karl Marx or Ayn Rand for the first time, every militiaman with pyromaniac tendencies will be teased out into the streets to test the boundaries of our new flag regime. Indeed, we will see all of the brain-teasing borderline provocations that freedom-loving Americans develop to subvert thought control: the burning of carefully painted 49-star flags and red-white-and turquoise flags; the mass cancellation of flag stamps (government saboteurs?); the tattooing of desecrated flags on inappropriate parts of the body; and the staging of "virtual" flag-burnings on the Internet."
I'm not sure if it's because of the lack of education or thread-narrow worldview of their creators, but it is stunning how many ideologically right-wing policies end up producing results totally contrary to their stated goals. Stunning, and hilarious.