Thursday, 30 August 2007

north antrim coast


Max is away



Good News

Monday, 27 August 2007

happy face


Okay, it may be going a little far to call it good news because it should have happened a long time ago. But better late than never. Alberto “Mr Torture” Gonzales has resigned from the post of US Attorney General.

Gonzales had fired some federal prosecutors for political reasons and then lied about it under oath.

Ironically, Gonzales had also signed a memorandum authorising the use of torture in defiance of the Geneva Conventions, but he never resigned over that.

In another matter, a mainstream journalist has declared that he too questions the official version of the events of 9/11. Robert Fisk is the highly regarded and rather controversial Middle East correspondent for The Independent. While stating that he is still not a conspiracy theorist, he is “increasingly troubled at the inconsistencies in the official narrative of 9/11.” The article is good and it’s here in case you’d like to have a look at it.

What has happened to Riverbend?

Monday, 27 August 2007


riverbend baghdad burning

Last October I noted that Riverbend had not posted to her blog for two months, and then 16 days later she did. I hope that works this time.

Riverbend’s last post is dated Thursday, April 26, 2007. In it she writes that she and her family had finally decided to leave Iraq. Her expression of what that means is bitter and poetic.

She discusses logistics. Where will they go? Their only two choices were Syria and Jordan, the only two countries that let Iraqis in without visas. Getting a visa to another country would not really be an option because of the shortage of functioning embassies in Baghdad. And even Syria and Jordan turn Iraqis back at the border. There are no guarantees.

How will they go? By car or by plane? As the whole world knows by now, travelling to Baghdad’s airport is not the safest of journeys. And, Riverbend reports, one is just as likely to be turned back at the airport as at a road border.

Will they all go together, or will they send Riverbend and her brother first? What do they take with them and what do they leave behind? A house full of memories – photo albums, books, a guitar, summer clothes, winter clothes, CDs…

The problem is that we don’t even know if we’ll ever see this stuff again. We don’t know if whatever we leave, including the house, will be available when and if we come back. There are moments when the injustice of having to leave your country, simply because an imbecile got it into his head to invade it, is overwhelming. It is unfair that in order to survive and live normally, we have to leave our home and what remains of family and friends… And to what?

It’s difficult to decide which is more frightening- car bombs and militias, or having to leave everything you know and love, to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.

Nice work, The New Amerika. I just couldn’t be more proud.



On the war in Iraq

Friday, 24 August 2007

iraq wounded child


Today whilst reading Strike the Root, I realised why I had not written anything about the war in Iraq for a long time. In fact, I think my last mention was in reference to the Democrats’ appalling performance in passing the Iraq spending bill back in May. And since I have signed up to the One Million Blogs for Peace project, I am supposed to at least once in a while write something in opposition to the war.

Just to make it clear – I am opposed to the war in Iraq and I think the United States and all of its partners, whether coalition of the willing or coalition of the coerced, should pack up and leave immediately.

So the reason I have not written about Iraq is that there is too much material. Which actually means too many lies, too much corruption, and too much evidence of exploitation and overwhelming unconcern for the human condition. “Pяesident” Bush and Darth Cheney and their satanic cohorts don’t give a shit about freedom, democracy or the Iraqi people. In fact, they don’t even give a shit about the American people.

Earlier this week I wanted to write about Bush’s asinine Vietnam comparison. Bush’s knowledge of history is disgraceful. But I never got round to it because it would have involved too much research, I don’t remember Vietnam, and I have a day job. It seems there was a good analysis in the New York Times, which makes me happy because the New York Times has a significantly larger readership than I do.

In the past I have written about the use of depleted uranium, the use of white phosphorus and the abhorrent actions of Americans in Abu Ghraib. I have written about the impending draft and about Sam, a young Marine I knew who died in Iraq.

Today on the radio I heard about a little girl who was collateral damage in a bombing raid and is now paralysed from the neck down and can’t breathe without a ventilator. She is 5 years old. Her mother, brother and grandmother died in the same attack. The little girl, Maria, was actually from Gaza, not Iraq, but the details don’t matter. The consequences are exactly the same.

To most of us, war is merely an unimaginable horror. But today try to imagine your life in a war zone. You have no running water or electricity, you often don’t have enough to eat or clean water to drink. Imagine being afraid of going out into the street, you are living in fear of the military, the insurgents and the counter-insurgents. You fear for your children’s lives. This existence is difficult, even humiliating, but you are surviving. And then one day your house gets blown up, your children are killed or maimed, their young lives destroyed in an instant, and you yourself will now have to live the rest of your life blind, paralysed or limbless.


Wednesday, 22 August 2007

american scream


I saw the flying Dutchman last night. Conversations with Dutch are usually odd, each for its own reasons, and last night was no exception. Dutch chose a topic seemingly straight out of his butt. We hadn’t even been discussing politics or current events or anything like that. I think we had been talking about sightseeing on the north coast of Ireland when Dutch suddenly switched the conversation to women’s rights.

Dutch’s first premise was that women are still not equal. I agreed with him. But since Dutch has a problem listening, he argued his point to great length in order to convince me. Dutch’s next statement was that women need to mobilise. The time is right for us to protest, march in the streets and demand changes from our governments. I immediately disagreed.

My point was that government is not the answer. Equal rights have already been legislated. Dutch spoke about the principle of equal pay. I pointed out to him that equal pay is guaranteed by the European Community Treaty*, but legislation does not create reality. Any action taken would have to be taken in relation to employers, not governments. Then while Dutch objected that you couldn’t get anywhere with corporations, I reminded him that I didn’t care, that equal pay was not an issue for me at the moment.

Dutch talked about “liberated” women going out to work all day and then returning home to do the housework, cook the dinner and take care of the children. I pointed out that this was an individual family problem and I had no interest in how the couple next door were dividing their household tasks.

I didn’t really know what Dutch expected from me. I asserted that I am doing just fine as a woman**. That, in fact, I don’t make any less than men doing similar work, that I don’t do my own housework, and that I don’t in any way feel oppressed or taken advantage of. But he didn’t lay off until I presented him with a bigger problem. It went something like this…

Dutch, do you want to know why I won’t give any energy to the problem of European women being paid less than men? Because right now in The Amerika, fundamentalist Christians are brainwashing American women to be literally submissive and to stay home, to do the cooking and cleaning and bear lots of children. I don’t actually care if Belgian female factory workers are getting a few cents less than Belgian male factory workers whilst my compatriots are being turned into Stepford wives.

I had to put in a little too much effort, but finally Dutch got it and allowed me to steer the conversation to the problem of religious fundamentalism that crosses all borders – whether geographical, political or even religious. I was then able to tell him about fundamentalist Christians from The New Amerika meeting with fundamentalist Muslims from the Islamic Republic of Iran. They occasionally meet at international interfaith conferences where they discuss approaches and strategies because they have an awful lot in common with each other. Subjugation of women is only the tip of the iceberg.


* Article 141(1) – Each Member State shall ensure that the principle of equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value is applied.

** I have always been a woman and intend to remain so.

Max is not away

Friday, 17 August 2007

amsterdam gracht


I should have been on a flight to Amsterdam at 6.40 this morning. This weekend was supposed to have been Juicy’s hen party, but she dumped the guy so it became just a generic girls’ weekend instead. I haven’t been to Amsterdam since 1993, so I was kind of excited about going. And about seeing my friends.

Max plays tennis

But on Tuesday night on a clay tennis court at Cibulka, a bug bit me on the side of my foot. I felt it and it hurt. I had a feeling right away that it was going to be trouble, and I was right. It started swelling up and itching almost immediately, but it was nothing out of the ordinary. By Wednesday morning it had got worse so I bought some topical antihistamine. By Wednesday evening I was having trouble walking and my lower leg had started to resemble the leg of a small elephant. I had trouble sleeping Wednesday night because of the itching and the internal discomfort. It felt like there was poison slowly spreading up my leg. On Thursday morning, the skin around the bite had blistered, my whole lower leg hurt and I could barely walk.

I went to the doctor. He gave me a shot in my arse to stop the allergic reaction, some more topical antihistamine, and penicillin tablets. He told me to rest and keep my foot elevated and to walk as little as possible. Which is why I am not currently in Amsterdam.

Max watches tv

I don’t generally watch tv, my adult attention deficit disorder won’t allow it. And I usually ignore people when they tell me how great certain tv shows are and offer to lend me their dvds. But AG brought a boxed set of every single episode of West Wing ever aired back with her from The Amerika, and I was finally talked into taking season one home with me. I’ve watched about 14 episodes so far and it’s very good.

The last episode I watched touched on hate crimes and gay rights, the latter being an issue very important to me. Not that hate crimes are insignificant, it’s just that I tend to lean towards the side that says alike crimes should be treated alike, and not distinguished because of what the perpetrators were thinking. Shooting me in the face to steal my wallet, for example, should be no different from shooting me in the face because I’m a Jew.

So in this West Wing episode, a gay teenager had been tortured and beaten to death by other children. His parents went to the White House for the signing of some hate crimes legislation. Because the father seemed reticent, they questioned him as to whether he was embarrassed that his son had been gay. And then he let them have it. He was not embarrassed that his son had been gay. But he was angry that his son had been murdered and he was angry that the government had not been doing nearly enough for gay rights. He mentioned marriage, he mentioned the military, and he mentioned adoption, among other things.

I appreciated that the show had taken that slant, and it made me wonder what the demographics of West Wing watchers had been.

Hypocrites without balls

Friday, 10 August 2007

gay marriage


…or 3 degrees of marriage

As you might already know from my previous post, I am reading Michelle Goldberg’s Kingdom Coming and it’s scaring the shit out of me.

This morning on BBC I heard a news story about the Democratic candidates’ LGBT Hollywood campaign forum and it made me angry. Not that it’s hard for politicians to make me angry or anything. But how do people who are for equality and civil rights – who have a woman and a black man as the leading candidates in their party, for fuck’s sake – come out against the rights of gays to marry?

I am sure Hillary Clinton knows the history of women’s suffrage in the United States and how women had to fight just to be able to vote. I am sure she is aware that there are still countries where women don’t have the vote and are treated as chattel. Yet she, a woman, is able to run for president of what may or may not still be the greatest country in the world.

Just as I am certain that Barack Obama knows that blacks in The Amerika used to be slaves and that people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King made great personal sacrifices to win equality for those who came after them. Yet he, a black man, can run for president.

How dare they – Clinton and Obama – try to draw boundaries around other people’s rights.

I know how they would answer that – that they cannot afford to alienate the majority of voters who are against gay marriage. Yet Clinton described herself last night as “pro civil unions”. And Obama declared that civil unions “wouldn’t be a lesser thing”.

Before I reach my crescendo of anger and disappointment, I feel I should include the information that two candidates, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich, neither of whom have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the Democratic candidacy, do support gay marriage.

Here’s the thing. There is marriage, then there is covenant marriage, which is a little more something, and then there is civil union, which is a little less something. It’s all fucking marriage though, isn’t it? There shouldn’t be different degrees of it – it’s not murder or burns. Politicians – supposed progressive politicians – are taking a question of equal civil rights and turning it into a disgusting little game of semantics. Clinton and Obama are leaders of a gang of no-ball hypocrites.

The Democratic candidates are worried about alienating voters. I guess it doesn’t matter. The people that actively oppose gay marriage probably wouldn’t vote for a woman or a black man anyway.