31st May 2005

Depression on my mind

The other half of that manic-depressive swing seems to be kicking in (not the manic one – actually I’m not convinced that ever happens to me). What this essentially means is that there’s a lot of molasses around. Molasses in my veins, making me lethargic – moving through my brain, making me think slowly. In the air around me, making it easier just not to move. I hate molasses.

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30th May 2005

Fantasy

It’s Memorial Day. The tune in my head is “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda” (the Shane McGowan/Pogues cover), which tells the story of a young soldier from Oz, drafted, swept into the First World War I. He is shipped off to Gallipoli, where the Ottoman Turks blast the ill-prepared Australian troops into smithereens. He returns home legless. “Never knew there were worse things than dying.”

So they collected the cripples, the wounded, the maimed
And they shipped us back home to Australia
The armless, the legless, the blind, the insane
Those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay
I looked at the place where my legs used to be
And thank Christ there was nobody waiting for me
To grieve and to mourn and to pity
And the band played Waltzing Matilda
As they carried us down the gangway
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared
Then turned all their faces away

Oh god (are you there yet?). And what do we celebrate? Yesterday I was listening to the radio, and the obnoxious pop-rock station told me to remember those who are “fighting for our freedom” over in Iraq. Is this always going to be true? No matter how worthless the conflict, no matter how meaningless the death, no matter how unjust our presence, will our soldiers always be fighting for our freedom?

Here is a memorial of words for those American soldiers who died in shit, feeling betrayed and alone, aware that their death could mean nothing. I remember you. I grieve for the folly that killed you.

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27th May 2005

Bill Frist will get right on that!

Activist judges much?


P.S. This has been a lazy week, I will readily acknowledge. Light on posting, thinking, brewing, brooding. I could protest innocence by reason of catastrophic weather-induced apoplexy: it dropped forty degrees in temperature here, this week. When your marrow is so chilled after several weeks of bliss (and you stupidly allowed yourself to hope), catatonia sets in quickly and firmly. But one shouldn’t make excuses. One should be a man of iron will and constitution, unmoved in a strong wind, relentless in the face of circumstance. I’m not willing to promise that, however: I’m sticking with the weather excuse.

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27th May 2005

Militia vs. militia

Very interesting article in Asia Times (via Today in Iraq):

Recent meetings of the so-called Higher Committee for National Forces (a grouping of Iraqi resistance bodies) and the 16th Arab National Congress held in Algiers played a pivotal role in building consensus among various Iraqi communist, Islamic, Ba’athist and nationalist groups on several issues, such as the right of Iraqis to defend themselves against foreign aggression and imperialism, and the right of Iraq to demand a political process untainted by occupation and which reflects the uninhibited will of the Iraqi people for a pluralistic and democratic Iraq.

On this common ground, the central command of the resistance reorganized its activities, a key to which was merging mohallah-level (street-level) Islamic groups scattered in their hundreds across Iraq to work toward a common goal – defeating the occupation. In turn, these militias would co-opt common folk into their struggle, so that, literally, the streets would be alive with resistance.

Aware of this development, the US has accepted that no conventional military force can cope with such a resistance, and therefore similar mohallah-level combat forces are needed.

According to Asia Times Online contacts, these US-backed militias will comprise three main segments – former Kurdish peshmerga (paramilitaries), former members of the Badr Brigade and those former members of the Ba’ath Party and the Iraqi army who were part of the Saddam regime but who have now thrown in their lot with the new Iraqi government.

All three segments have already been equipped with low- and medium-level weapons purchased from various countries, including Pakistan.

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26th May 2005

"… we create our own reality."

a.

CAIRO – Crowds of pro-government demonstrators attacked opponents of President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday while police looked on, staining a day of national voting that government leaders had touted as a major step toward democracy.

In some cases, pro-Mubarak protesters dragged unarmed men and women by the hair and beat them with police-style rubber truncheons. In other cases, young men who arrived marching in formation groped female demonstrators and used wood poles bearing cardboard portraits of Mubarak to beat rival demonstrators over the head in plain view of hundreds of uniformed police.

b.

GIZA, Egypt – With the pyramids as a backdrop, Laura Bush said Monday that building democracy was a slow process. But she praised Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for what she called an important first step toward open elections.

“I think he’s been very bold and wise to take the first step,” Bush said of Mubarak, who has served 24 years without facing an opposing candidate for re-election.

Thanks to ‘Bu Aardvark for the first link.

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25th May 2005

Obligatory Sith review

Okay. I admit: I saw the Star Wars movie last Friday night. It was terrible. Nuts to George Lucas. Christopher Lee dies in the first five minutes. Nothing about it makes any sense in terms of characters or plot.

One thing I will note: everything conservative blogs are saying about this movie is true. There ARE ham-handed comparisons between Palpatine/Anakin and Bush and Sith/Republicans. They ARE slimy and pointless and worthless jibes. They’re EXACTLY in the same vein as Fahrenheit 9/11, and Lucas’ joking reference to Moore’s statement (“Maybe the film will waken people to the situation.”) is apt and equally wrong. This is a partisan statement. If you agree, you will agree. If you disagree, you will disagree. No minds will be changed because of it. And it will turn your stomach if, like me, you hate people who gleefully engage in this kind of pointless jousting. You are not contributing to the dialogue, George. You’re just adding more noise.

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24th May 2005

Andijan report

Check it out: Nur al-Cubicle has a translation of a Le Monde story on the events of May 13 in Andijan. They take their accounts from refugees in camps in Kyrgyzstan, including Khassan Sharikov, the brother of two from among the twenty-three businessmen who were broken out of prison. He gives a very sympathetic picture of his siblings, and a rather horrifying one of the massacre itself. Sobering reading.

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24th May 2005

Worship

Do wolves have religion? When they congregate under the light of the moon, is it for midnight mass? When they send their howls up into the clear, dark sky, are they singing ancient hymns, passed down from one generation to the next?

        "Hail, silver goddess, on your circuit of the sky.
                We make ourselves your supplicants.
       Bless us, o goddess,
                that we may carry your pale light in our eyes."

When dogs howl at the moon, is it memory that provokes them?

        "Hail, pale one! We have not forgotten.
                Though our ways have changed, our hearts, our eyes,
        Our voices belong to you alone."

Or do only humans contemplate mystery, and feel the movement of stars and the tug of the breeze in the depths of their being?

Howl at the moon tonight.

posted by saurabh in Magic, Starry-eyed | 0 Comments

23rd May 2005

More on gay blood

When I posted that the Red Cross would rather promote discrimination than condoms, I didn’t realize that two years earlier, a the University of Vermont requested the Red Cross change or leave. A smart, concise editorial on the topic was published at the University of Connecticut in 2004. There was a resolution against the Red Cross at the University of New Hampshire back in February of this year. Representing Massachusetts, Harvard has had a little campus tempest on the topic. (It led to this hilarious editorial from Ladies against Women.) Leaving just Rhode Island behind in the all-New England pro-gay rally, just recently in April (on the anniversary of the “shot heard round the world,” of the Waco massacre, and of the Oklahoma City bombing) the University of Maine made the Red Cross instituta non grata* for their homophobic policies. I guess I was just channeling the good people of Orono.

A resolution was passed Friday by the UM Student Government Inc., urging student organizations to “end blood drives with the American Red Cross, and instead hold drives with blood collection organizations in support of striking down the ban against blood donations from gay and bisexual men.”

…Although all licensed blood donation organizations must comply with the FDA regulation, student leaders who support the resolution say that the Red Cross isn’t as willing as some to recognize the discriminatory nature of the policy.

This article by the Red Cross explains the current ban. As does this overly polite piece by the formerly fire-breathing giants at Gay Men’s Health Crisis. It makes some sense, but it doesn’t answer some important questions. Why ask about gay sex, instead of unsafe sex? Why ban gay men but not African-American women, who are also a very high-risk group? I think the answers are political, not epidemiological. It would be racist to ban African-American women; racism is less socially acceptable than homophobia. And what if nurses had to ask if people have had unprotected anal sex, rather than asking if they’ve had sex with a man? That wouldn’t go well with the Washington theocracy’s ideas about safe sex, which are basically to pretend that abstinence is the only answer.

Asking about safe sex would keep the blood supply safer than the current method, would provide a small dose of safe sex education, and would allow responsible safe-sex-practicing homos to take part in the communal ritual we call blood donation.

Finally, if you feel like doing something, LGBT Campus.org has some action ideas. Have fun, kiddies!


*Pardon the made-up Latin. Gender and case corrections are welcome.

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23rd May 2005

Empty spaces

Burrowing across the great states of California, Nevada and Utah, I learned a few little lessons.

California is wetter than you’d think. The rivers out of the Sierra Nevada are as grand and terrifying as any river in the world. It’s just they are like that for only a couple weeks per year, and only above the dams. But wow, the American River had to be going at 15,000 or more cfs, in a channel that all summer goes at about 1,500.

Nevada got its name from the Spanish word for snow, which makes sense because the mountains are all very snowy at this time of year. Even on Highway 50, which never goes over 8,000 feet, there was snow near the road. The higher passes were impassable, so I guess they were higher impasses.

Utah is a theocracy. I knew this intellectually before, but the pervasiveness of it never came clear. Like — the tallest building in Salt Lake City is the Latter Day Saints (LDS) church office building. Nothing can be legally built taller. This is similar to what Ottawa and Washington, DC do — buildings can’t be taller than their national seats of government. But somehow, an exclusive religion seems different from an inclusive civic government.

Time to hit the road again.

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