30 July 2006

Stop Killing Eacother, Then Worry About Sustainability

At least 60 civilians dead, at least 37 children, many who were disabled. Is it time to stop them yet? How many more "mistakes" will Israel make if they're allowed the additional 10-14 days they've asked Condi to condone this offensive. The've taken out UN observers, and now this attack on Qana. The civilians were warned to leave, they've claimed. But how are they to get out? They're poor, elderly, children, disabled...they simply do not have the means to evade Israel's assaults. Kofi, bless his heart, is pushing for an immediate cessation of fighting, but the Bushies still don't get it (not surprised). They still want a permanant solution to a decades (or maybe centuries) old problem, and they want it through war. Allowing the Israeli offensive to continue has simply brought about further escalation. As I've written before, Iranian and Syrian militants are starting to stream toward Lebanon to come to Hezbollah's defense. And now, Lebanese officials have cancelled talks with Condi in light of this latest violence on Sunday. We're quickly degenerating into a regional all-out brawl, and that's scary. If we allow this to continue as Israel would like, will we be able to stop it when we want to?

On an entirely different note, anyone have any tricks for getting crickets out of your house? This thing's driving me nutz!!!

28 July 2006

Israeli Intelligence...

Yep...that looks like a bull's eye.

Thanks to If-Then Knots for the image.

27 July 2006

Morning Drive...

Some interesting little tidbits from this mornings drive into work:

Al Qaeda's involved....there's a surprise. Didn't I just say something about other extremist groups last night??? Continuing the offensive is simply serving to incite other ‘jihadist’ (though I hate to use that word in this context) groups to come to the defense of Lebanon and Hezbollah. Israel is going to end up in it’s own version of the US’s Iraq with enemy troops funneling in from other Muslim nations creating a never ending reserve.

Here’s a great Robert Malley (International Crisis Group and former Clinton Middle East advisor) interview discussing problems with the let ‘em fight option of the Bushies. I totally agree.

Something’s fishy here, ‘nuff said.

And, last but not least, we have universal healthcare. San Francisco is signing into law the nations first universal healthcare program for citizens of the city. They’re hoping it will act as a catalyst for other cities and states and serve as the first real US experiment in universal healthcare…I’m lovin’ it!

Suicidal Nations cont...

European nations are essentially committing suicide by backing any plan that would call for an immediate ceasefire and “protect Hizbullah” – I’m struggling with this world view, as I am with this conflict in general. I can’t seem to get my head completely around any of it. I can comprehend this part or that part on its own, but I can’t pull it all together…and I have an inkling that I’m not the only one.

Here’s the way I’m seeing things right now…apparently there are two options on the table:

Option 1: W’s “let ‘em duke it out like we did back in Texas” solution.
Basically, what we’re looking at is a sanctioned ass-whooping in the Middle East. Condy swings by Beirut says, “I’m sorry, but ya’ll fucked up by trying to live with Hezbollah. We feel terrible (fake sniffle, force out a tear) that your countrymen are dying as a result of this (not to mention a few UN observers), but a ceasefire will simply reinforce the old status quo and lead to future outbreaks.” She then heads for Israel and says, “OK fellas, get after it. You’ve got about week to do as much damage as you can, and we ain’t gonna hold ya’ll accountable for any of it…and, oh yeah, don’t worry, we’ll send more bombs.” The idea here is that it’s time to abandon diplomacy because it’s failed to this point in the Middle East. We let Israel lay down the law and create “security zones” at the Lebanese border…and probably do something similar in Gaza (don’t forget, that’s where this all started). A longer-lasting peace can be imposed by establishing military might and taking an aggressive stance.

Option 2: The rest of the world (less Germany and GB) says, “STOP FUCKING KILLING EACH OTHER.”
This isn’t yet a fully developed plan (and probably won’t become one, b/c let’s be honest, even though the US has lost a lot of international clout, we’re still in the driver’s seat), but the gist of it is this: stop the fighting now, figure the rest out afterwards. There is too much collateral damage being done. Israel is not strategically striking Hezbollah targets, but instead mortaring Lebanese trying to escape embattled cities. They’ve over-reacted horribly to the situation and everyone needs to step back and take a look at what’s going on…in the meantime you should all stop killing each other.

Option 2 is scary because it doesn’t come with any answer for the big questions about what will happen in the future. No one knows how to make a ceasefire last in the Middle East, and there’s no plan for talking about who must take what posture once the bullets stop flying. It also comes with the suicide clause that seems incredibly outlandish to me. If we don’t allow Israel to kill Lebanese people now we’re essentially helping Iran and Syria gear up to beat on us in WWIII??? Not buying that story.

Option 1 is scarier because the basic idea is that Israel gets to kill until we decide that they’ve “disabled” Hezbollah, but there’s still no guarantee of a lasting ceasefire, and it’s anyone’s guess as to how long this fighting will last before Hezbollah is really disabled. Already, guerilla fighters from Iran are trying to enter Lebanon via Turkey and Syria to volunteer in this “holy war.” Continuing the fighting only serves to incite Muslim extremists in other nations to join the fight.

Option 1 also comes with some fun ulterior motives. There’s the end-timer theory…the end-time prophecy can only be fulfilled once Israel establishes itself and Solomon’s Temple is rebuilt. This obviously can’t happen with constant turmoil, so the Middle East must be redrawn to favor Israel. There’s also the Iran/Syria involvement theory…this is the start of a war with these nations and we must let Israel show its (our) strength and resolve. And I’m sure you can come up with others.

My choice? I say when you’re faced with two alternatives that both come with highly unpredictable results…choose the one that kills less people in the meantime. But hey, maybe that’s just me being simple minded.

For a more professional rehashing of the US position check out this NPR piece.

26 July 2006

Suicidal Nations?

This is the pathology of the West. For if one takes the ideology of appeasing unappeasable foes to its logical conclusion, appeasing states will eventually join forces with their enemies against themselves, or, as Portillo put it, they will become suicidal.

Some interesting thoughts on the conflict in the Middle East from an Israeli perspective. My comments are on the way sometime tomorrow...

24 July 2006

My Moral Voice...

SteveG had a post over at the Playground last week in which he asked commentors to talk about the unsung heroes who have influenced them academically. Since then I've been re-thinking this question with a slightly different connotation: Who has influenced me morally?

SteveG's a fan of saying that knowing right from wrong is the easy part...but from where do we get that knowledge? I'm sure there have been many in my life who have imparted bits and pieces of moral knowledge to me. My mom took me to church when I was young, yelled at me when I did something wrong, and praised me when I did something right. My grandparents and my Aunt Anne definitely guided me in moral ways. However, there's one voice that sticks out more than any other. It's the voice I here when I know I'm being an idiot, about to do something stupid, or something immoral. Uncle John was a pragmatist by necessity (he worked in the coal mines and then in the steel mills) and his morality reflected this. It was always simple...there were no debates over what's right and wrong and you always did what was right. He didn't take time to mull over questions of how he should act, he just knew. He taught me these lessons working in the garden, over fresh cucumbers in the shed, while cutting up an apple on the swing, or walking around our little hometown with me in a little red wagon. He taught me the value of hard work and, mostly inadvertantly and by example, the way I should act in life and the way I should treat others (with respect and modesty).

It wasn't until years later...years after his death, that I realized it was Uncle John's voice that was there telling me not to screw up. Honestly, I can't even remember for sure exactly what he sounded like, but I still know it's his voice that has became my moral compass, my moral voice...my concsience.

So how 'bout you?? Who's your moral voice??

Weddings Weddings Weddings!!!

Apperently I've reached a point in my life where all of my friends feel the need to get married...seems kind of early in the game to me, but to each his/her own. In any case, this has led to me becoming "wedding guy." I don't go to bars, frequent coffee shops, or wander around downtown or in the parks on weekends. No, that's for the common folk; I go to fancy country clubs, eat free food, and drink (lots and lots of) free beer. Mind you, I'm not at all opposed to this free beer, but with it comes the marriage ceremony itself. This gives me a plethora (just so you know, this is my favorite word in the English language and I try to use it in just about everything I ever write) of things to think about and will likely lead to a few posts starting with this one.

I find marriages in themselves to be incredibly interesting...the Christian chruches often refer to them as the greatest of God's mysteries...and there's probably some truth to the sentiment. But for now, I want to talk just about the ceremony. I've been to three weddings this summer...two Catholic and one Methodist. Of those three, the two Catholic weddings had the traditional "flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone" reading that just makes my stomach churn when I'm forced to listen to it. The Methodist ceremony was much more egalitarian in this respect, using readings from Corinthians and Romans focusing on love and charity (both very beautiful readings). All three, however, ended with prayers for the newlyweds that were baffling to me (as well as slightly infuriating). The prayers unwaiveringly beseached God to help the female partner be a loving wife, successful in all endeavors in life, a good mother, and to care for her new husband and family. The prayer for the male partner, in every case, asked that God guide him to remain faithful to his wife...that's it, nothing else. What the hell is this? We're asking the Almighty to help the woman do every task we can think of, piling on her all sorts of responsibilities. The guy get's to do whatever the hell he wants...so long as he remains faithful? Or is it that he doesn't need help being successful and it doesn't matter if he's a good father, as long as he's faithful? This just irks me.

I got a wonderful antedote out of my parents when I discussed this inequality with them over a post-wedding / pre-reception beer back at our hotel. It's a tradition in the Eastern Orthodox church for the priest to take the bride and groom to up to the alter during the ceremony and impart to them a few words of wisdom not shared with the gathered family and friends. Among other things, the priest told my parents that, since they were married, it's now my mother's job to make sure my dad gets into heaven. Of course some great jokes ensued, but let's think about this. Is this not the ultimate task to assign someone? You, wife, are responsible for your children, for taking care of the emotional work of your family, and for your husbands soul! He gets to walk up to the Pearly Gates and say, "Sorry Pete, I really didn't think much about what I was doing b/c they told me it was my wife's job to get me in this joint. You're not gonna hold my life against me, are you? She's the one that screwed up." That's an awful lot of responsibility, no wonder Big Pharma's busy selling Prozac to women!

21 July 2006

How flexible is "the line?"

You all know what I'm talking about...sexual harrassment. Something happened in the office the other day that made me start to think...again. Where's the line?? Every work environment has its policies, but every work environment also has its own personality and its own norms. Something that many in one office may call harrassment most, or all, in another may not...right? So who draws the line. I would give an ultimately subjective answer here...whoever is on the recieving end gets to decide whether s/he feels "harrassed." But that still leaves a gray area the size of Montana...

So here's the situation...I work in an office that's extremely laid back. There are about 70 of us in the company, our boss brings his dog to work, we wear jeans and flipflops to the office on most days and shorts on Fridays. We party together, we drink together, we make fun of each other. We're generally playful (in an asexual way)...throwing things at each other, making paper airplanes, ripping on eachother in emails...you get the picture, not the most mature environment, we get our work done and have fun. However, last week a female coworker had crawled under her desk to plug something into her computer. Our manager happened to come out of his cubicle at the time and quickly reached back in, grabbed a handful of rubberbands, and handed some to me. He then proceeded to shoot them at her backside... I kind of watched in awe, thinking the line had DEFINITELY just been crossed. At this point, a male coworker turns from his desk w/ a response something like "What ARE you doing?" The manager laughs and says, "It's ok, I'd do the same if you were there." The female coworker's reaction was to laugh it off and shoot a few back, seemingly entirely comfortable with the situation.

So two questions...was the line crossed?? And would it have been crossed had it been the male coworker under the desk?? I feel like it was, b/c her reaction may have been veiled...hard to know for sure. But the second question I'm very unsure about.

20 July 2006


The number of Lebanese civilian deaths reported today by Lebanese security forces, plus another 582 injured. I know I've been here once already this week...but it's been occupying my mind for a great part of each day for the last couple weeks, and I'm still not seeing / hearing enough dialogue about it. Kofi has called for a cease fire, and though I don't think a ceasefire in itself solves anything, seeing these numbers makes me believe that it's outright necessary right now. But will the Bushies back this sentiment?? Of course not, because...all together now..."Israel has the right to defend itself." I don't buy it. Israel had the option, right from the get-go, to go into Gaza (and then later Lebanon) covertly and extract their kidnapped troops, then go to the UN and work from there to reprimand Hamas and Hezbollah. The kidnapped troops never mattered...Israel got dramatic about it in order to be allowed by the world to enter into this uncalled for offensive. Why do we find it impossible to ever criticize this country? Is it the historical, biblical struggles of it's "people?" Is it a fear of being labelled anti-Semetic? I just don't get it. They're being overly aggressive, maybe even terroristic in their response...and we're content to let it happen. There's a lot of baggage to unpack in the Middle East, without a doubt...but we're not even ready to help them undo the latches. 65% of 633 American's polled think we should stay out of this scuffle. Do 2/3 of us really have our heads that far up our...ok, nevermind. There's just too much at stake to sit back and watch it happen.

19 July 2006

My Foreign Policy

I just got home from The Saloon down on U Street. First time I've checked it out, and it's definitely my kind of place. Great selection of microbrews and Belgian beers. Great atmosphere: no TVs, low music, great little corners to have a conversation in...and the owner tends bar. If your in the DC area, definitely check it out.

Here's something I wrote a few weeks back to a friend. It was in response to a question she asked a bout US foreign policy. I decided, should I ever run for office...this is my platform.

1. We absolutely WILL talk to anyone who wants to talk to us…one on one, in groups, while they're building nukes, while they have missiles pointed at our allies…I don't give a shit…enough of the games, we can't solve any problems if we don't at least talk to them! If you don't want to talk to us, but continue causing problems, we'll pursue you and pester you until you're ready to sit down and talk.

2. Our number one point to make to the world: STOP FUCKING KILLING EACH OTHER! Stop shooting at each other, stop bombing each other, stop shooting missiles at each other, stop throwing rocks at each other…it's fucking pointless…stop killing each other so we can talk about what the problems are.

3. NO, WE WON'T SELL YOU WEAPONS! I don't care who you are or what you're cause is…See # 2.

4. Leave religion at the door. We all know you feel strongly that your god is the only god and the rest of us are fucking idiots for not seeing that…but it's not helping us get anywhere…And, for my God's sake, stop using it as an excuse to kill each other! Again, see # 2.

5. If you still insist on killing each other and you continue to refuse to talk about it, let us know. We have bigger bombs than the rest of you…we can finish the job quicker. One big boom, you're entire country and that of the people you insist on killing can both be gone.

18 July 2006

When are we really gonna talk about it?

Kudos to Lindsay for linking to this blog by a Lebanese jazz musician attempting to cope with the craziness going on around him.

This conflict is scary and Mazen cuts right to the heart of it. People of the region have learned to live with the constant conflicts, the constant fear. The feelings he describes are almost numbness. He can't bring himself to react except w/ explatives, and who can blame him? Bombs, attacks, peace talks, cease fires...then do it all again. And again, with this conflict, the world reaction is the same. Rally up some troops, drop 'em in the middle, and force everyone to back off. It seems that the only other existing camp is the few that are calling for the US/UN to use it's "influence" to force a ceasefire and let things cool off. (What's that pop-definition of insanity, again...doing the same thing over and over expecting different results?)

This conflict has roots that run much deeper than a kidnapped Israeli soldier or Syria pulling out of Lebanon last year. We're talking roots in the Biblical sense, here. And until we start talking about them and working through them we're doomed to this cycle...that is...unless the other extreme occurrs first. Religion can't be brushed aside as a footnote to the "political" or "economic" forces as play in the region. Religion is the culprit...so let's hash it out. Trouble is...who's going to be the first to bring it up in a meaningful way???

17 July 2006

Something New

I've been a little bored with myself lately and I've got a lot of random thoughts rattling around in my head. This is, hopefully, going to be my attempt at getting them out of my head and onto "paper." Maybe, if anyone reads this, someone (or a few someones) will help me sort out the myriad thoughts that trail through my feeble brain on any given day. We'll play with ideas in philosophy, economics, world and domestic politics, feminism, life in DC, life in general, being 20-something and just out of college (but desperately wanting to go back), spending too many nights drinking and not enough sleeping, religion, and whatever other fun idea with which we come up.