In the same sense that they endorsed John Kerry, are Al Qaeda now endorsing the NRA?
Monthly Archives: November 2004
We all know of the debate over whether a war on Iraq supports ‘The War On Terror’ or is in fact a dangerous distraction from it. One thing I hadn’t yet realised was that the fight against the International Criminal Court is also being used as a distraction from that same struggle against global terrorism. That all changed with this press release from Citizens for Global Solutions:
The omnibus appropriations bill scheduled for final House approval today contains a controversial amendment that will impose further sanctions on countries that have ratified the International Criminal Court (ICC) treaty. The amendment, originally included in the House version of the foreign aid spending bill in July, would prohibit assistance from the Economic Support Fund (ESF) for countries that have refused to sign a “bilateral immunity agreement” to shield U.S. citizens and certain foreign nationals from transfer to the ICC for investigation or prosecution for atrocities or genocide. The funds affected include support for anti-terrorism activities, peace building, democratization and counter-drug initiatives.
The full list of countries affected by this measure is perhaps most notable for the number of the US’ key allies it includes:
Andorra, Argentina, Austria, Australia, Benin, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Republic of Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Latvia, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Mali, Malta, Namibia, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Niger, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Samoa, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, United Kingdom, and Venezuela.
On my other hard drive (thanks to the collecting spirit of Tom Wills) I have a film made in the late 40s by the US government to promote the Marshall Plan. It spells out the need for America to support the redevelopment of Europe for fear that otherwise new generations will grow up fueled by resentment, becoming terrorists. I thought it a sadly ironic statement when I first watched it in 2002 and with each viewing that sense has increased.
The cancellation of 80% of Iraq’s international debt (that’s $31.1 billion) is to be welcomed, even if it’s something of a surprise that that figure is not 100%. Given that there has been so much condemnation of the corruption of the previous regime it would seem to me that the creditor nations would want to wipe out any evidence that they lent money to it. And I would express disappointment at the inclusion of the standard “completion of an International Monetary Fund economic programme” clause if I could imagine the “election” of a government in Iraq who would propose an alternative approach. But nevertheless, 80% is significantly better than nothing.
Where the irony strikes again is the timing of the announcement relative to the publication of Christian Aid’s new report. Taking a look at the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, the report is timed to coincide with a new study from UNAIDS that highlights the increasing severity of that pandemic. As the BBC report, Christian Aid argue that antiretroviral drugs alone will not solve the crisis.
As Dr. Rachel Baggaley, head of Christian Aid’s HIV unit comments in the BBC report:
Poverty is one of the key drivers of this epidemic. Unless we tackle issues of trade, debt and the lack of trained health care workers, we cannot begin to win the battle.
International debt is one of the lynchpins of poverty. For many years the power that debts provide to creditors have been used to impose policy on poor countries, and the struggle to pay back those debts within the boundaries of that policy have prevented governments from investing in the healthcare and education that would aid them in the fight for stability and provide trained personnel to ensure the HIV/AIDS crisis can be met head on by local people.
Perhaps it’s time someone made another of those films. We face those same dangers today, and we are seeing the results of a failure to spread the Marshall Plan more broadly. Recent moves on HIV/AIDS have been a beginning, but what will it take to persuade this government of the wisdom of their own sixty-year old film.
This one’s probably for serious New Testament studies and postmodernism geeks only, but I couldn’t let NT Wright’s “Taking the Text with Her Pleasure” slip by without mention (okay, so it was originally published in 1996, but I’ve only just found it online).
While reserving judgement on its critique of John Dominic Crossan’s “The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant”, I couldn’t help but fall for passages like:
Michelle turned her attention to her implied readers. There were lots of them, she thought with pride. The New York Times review had done its work well. But who were they? The natural assumption might have been that a book with a postmodernist implied author would have a postmodernist implied reader. So, indeed, it seemed. ‘In the end, as in the beginning, now as then, there is only the performance.’ ‘These words are not a list to be read … they are a score to be played and a programme to be enacted.’ Did this not send a signal to all implied readers that, if they weren’t already postmodernists, they had better become such at once? Michelle sighed with content. It is a comforting thing for a book to feel integrated, to have implied author and implied reader shaking hands with each other across the intertextual void.
I suppose that’s important; but, strictly speaking, modernists have holes, and positivists have nests, but the Son of Postmodernism ought to have nowhere to lay his head.
I suspect that if I’d spent time tallying the responses to the news I was moving to Michigan, questions about the weather would top the list. The three days of snow I experienced here last winter was the greatest accumulation I had yet experienced, but it didn’t leave me in a position to adequately say how I expected to respond to the infamous Michigan winters.
I was rather bemused a few days ago to learn that the first snowfall in England had preceded that in Michigan. But then today came. Six months and a day since I officially moved to Michigan, the snow has begun to fall. Somehow I don’t think I’ll escape with a mere three days this time around.
The essay is well written, and a number of this blog’s readers will enjoy the biblical references to the role of art that pepper its introduction. It makes an interesting riposte to the comments by DJ Danger Mouse at Web 2.0 and reported at veen.com that:
Artists are responsible, because for some reason we think we should be millionaires for making people smile. But I don’t worry too much, because it will be over soon. There won’t be a market for making people smile because kids will just do it for free.
Certainly some artists are paid far too much for what they do. Often it’s those with the most “manufactured” results who get paid the most, and the art of “amateurs” can often be superior to much produced by “professionals”. But as Bricklin’s essay points out:
Some types of art, especially if they require full-time devotion for proficiency, lend themselves to full-time careers if one wants to be at the highest level
As many, many people become disillusioned with the music industry, restrictive copyright practices and their like, it’s very easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Initiatives like Creative Commons and Bricklin’s essay, while far from the last word, illustrate the need for a reasoned, more nuanced debate about how the arts are to be supported.
Last Friday night, Starflyer59 and Pedro The Lion played at Calvin. It was a very good show. I definitely prefer Starflyer on record, where the melodies come through more clearly and the wall of sound carries better, but Pedro were on top form.
The most amusing part of the evening was when initially just one, but eventually just over a dozen Starflyer fans began raising cigarette lighters above their heads during a quieter moment. It’d been a while since I’d seen such a phenomenon since these days the mobile phone has usually stolen that spot, but somehow it seemed like those holding these lighters had forgotten what they were supposed to do.
The lighters went up. The lighters stayed up. Straight up into the air. No swaying involved. It began to feel like the children of irony struggling to deal with its aftermath. Feeling as if they ought to be raising cigarette lighters during slow songs, but not quite sure what to do next.
At least it’s safer this way.
Hot on the heels of Kava House’s Wifi, Common Ground on East Fulton (note the nice new URLs at grwifi.net) has started to offer free connections. For me, that’s great news as it means there are now two cafes with connectivity within ten minutes’ walk. And the connection seems pretty good too. dslreports.com reports 1167kbps down and 269kbps up and in use it’s felt pretty speedy.
There is of course the great selection of music (Mermaid Avenue followed by Patty Griffin thus far) and coffee that is (for me) on a par with Kava. That should keep drawing me in for quite some time. Power outlets are numerous. Quite a few are in use for lamps and the lighting behind a few of the stained glass display pieces, but no-one seemed to mind when I started re-arranging plugs so as to get a socket.
I must remember to spend at least a little time at home.
With a couple of weeks now between us and the election, it seems everyone involved is on a feedback kick. Moveon have just held their house parties and now the Democratic Party is asking for feedback. I’ve spent the past quarter-hour enjoying the opportunity to hold forth on the numerous mistakes I felt like they made. It’s quite cathartic.
My main comments were about language (in a nutshell: “be assertive”) and about my perception of their failure to properly take advantage of local volunteers. I offered to help early on, specifying that I was available during the daytime most days, but the calls were always looking for evening telephone support. I mentioned in the feedback that they should do more to use volunteers outside of the traditional door-knocking/cold-calling/fundraising space. It certainly seems to me like one of the reasons moveon has been so popular is that its members really feel a connection and they’ve utilised skills beyond those.
So I was a little saddened to get to the page thanking me for the feedback. It offered three opportunities to get more involved. And they basically boiled down to “tell your friends” or “give us money”. There’s no real attempt to build a picture of the skills available amongst their supporter base. No indication of ways to get involved in more creative ways on a local level. No true indication of a meaningful engagement with grassroots politics.
This was supposed to be the election that re-shaped the political landscape. I can’t help but feel like this feedback mechanism could have reflected that better.