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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Woman Seeking Song for Meaningful Relationship

I'm trying to find out who in heck performs this Arabic pop song: Bayeeni, the number 13 (natch) track on D.J. Jim #6 promo CD.

As soon as I can figure out how to upload a clip, I will.

I just edited my dance music for the very first time on the computer - not by pressing "pause" on a cassette player. *beams with pride*

Silly video but great song ("Fire of Jealousy") by Warda.

UPDATED: I found the singer of "Bayeeni" - Katia Harb! Stupid video, though (and audio is bad).

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Monday, July 30, 2007

I Hate the Taliban

UPDATED: RAWA's (Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan's) Photo Gallery. WARNING: Graphic photos of life under the Taliban and the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. The nightmare for the people, especially the women and girls, of Afghanistan continues. It's a testament to the women that they aren't extinct by now. It's a wonder anyone manages to live and find some joy in Afghanistan. (We had a chance to change things, and we're blowing it. Americans have forgotten about Afghanistan.)
Well, because I make nice noises about not hating anyone, this one will have to go into the "I'm not proud of it" folder, but may I say that I hate the Taliban!

I opposed the Iraq War from the start. I did not oppose the war in Afghanistan. We would never have closed our embassy in Kabul had I anything to say about it, and I wanted to arm women in that country ever since the civil war that began in the 1990s. If we had stepped in earlier we wouldn't have to be waging a larger war there now (a war that got forgotten in our foolish rush into Iraq).

Even women in the Dark Ages were allowed to walk in the sun. The Taliban are the most unimaginably barbaric collection of rotterers I've ever seen. Now they've killed a second hostage. And you thought I hated Jerry Falwell? They make me sick.

Cowardly, repulsive, sociopathic bunch of pig-ignorant bullies who know nothing and build nothing. Kill a helpless hostage – real manly. No wonder they have to force women to marry them. No wonder that even in ultraconservative Afghanistan they have to break down people’s doors and force fathers to hand over their daughters. They’re burning down schools. They’re beating men for cheering at soccer games and cutting off body parts because men shave their beards or women wear lipstick. I mean, these people are just unreal.

I’m not proud of it, but just before the fall of Kabul I read that these same lunatics who had run to the front lines yawping “Death to America!” had turned tail and were fleeing back to the Pakistani border as fast as their ugly legs could carry them, and I laughed. When I read that Mullah Omar was yelling over an open radio channel for the Taliban to stop running away “like chickens with their heads cut off,” I turned to my co-worker and gleefully reported, “The Taliban are running away like chickens with their heads cut off!” Yeah, Mullah Omar, what a winner – he murdered a man just to have his wife. And Ayman al-Zhawahiri, he’s a real piece of work, now his wife and daughters are dead, because he dragged their asses to Tora Bora (along with his favorite concubine, Osama bin Laden), and what does he have to say about their deaths? “Oh, they’re fine, they’re in heaven.” Lah-te-dah, al Qaeda and the Taliban love death more than we love life, so it’s no big deal to sacrifice your family for the cause, but I don’t see al-Zhawahiri and Mullah Omar and Osama killing themselves. I thought Osama wanted to die for the glory of Islam? It’s been five years and all he’s done is warn Americans not to go trick-or-treating again this year. (Or maybe he’s trying to bore himself to death.)

Stupid idiots. Who but a moron fights a B-52 or a Predator with a rifle? Who but a selfish ideologue extraordinaire brings his children along to the cave where he’s holed up, and teaches his kids to yell “Allahu Ahkbar” when he shoots off his rockets? I always felt sad when I read that, knowing that if these kids lived they would grow up to be like their dads. I saw some of the photos of kids that were left behind on CDs and on laptops in those caves – beautiful little faces, small innocent minds to be corrupted by the filth spewed by these people.

I keep reminding myself that once these awful people were those innocent kids, but it just makes me feel worse.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Outlaw Exorcism!

This is just outrageous. Police discover some 49-year-old total fucking moron strangling a young girl (three years old!) in order to "exorcise" her of her "demons," while some naked lady (who turned out to be the mother) chants. The police stun gun the guy, who dies. The mother may be charged. Let us hope so.

It is time that this country stops this crap. The government needs to step in stop all this bogus "therapy" (repressed memory, past lives, zygote trauma, etc., etc.) and these crap exorcisms. It's abusive, it's superstitious, and it's dangerous. It is about time people started living in the twenty-first century for pity's sake.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Galapagos Diary: Day Three - Fernandina

On Sunday morning, Mother's Day, we visited Fernandina, one of the youngest of the islands. We walked on the smooth and roping Pahoehoe lava, which emerges from the volcano as a liquid or close to it, en route inland to see the sharper A'a lava, which emerges less liquidy and therefore hardens into shards that are very difficult on which to walk.

Fabian, our guide, pointed out the many marine iguanas that lounged on the Pahoehoe, as well as a Blue Heron and Flightless Cormorants.

As we watched, one emerged from the sea with seaweed in her beak to lay it onto a nest right in the path and settle down; then the male emerged from the other end of the small peninsula on which we stood, carrying seaweed in his beak as well. She, sitting on the nest, squawked at him, and he, with his beak full, squawked right back as he waddled to the nest. He did his own nest building, and then they both settled down for a good joint squawking.

The lagoon looked fresh and inviting, but it was just a tunnel letting in salt water from the ocean. It was a hot, hot day, and soon I was exhausted from walking in the sun on that dark, heat-sucking Pahoehoe. When we finally reached the A'a lava I saw how it can play tricks on the eyes, and seem to hold animal shapes within it.

The skeleton (obviously neatly rearranged) of an unidentified whale are below left; the GPS marker for the Nazca Plate, on which most of the island ride, is below, and some intact sea urchin shells that we found and photographed (since beachcombing is forbidden) are below right.

More photos of the lava below.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Drinks All Around

Oh dear, oh dear, I think I bent the protractor of my good friend the very geometric/algebraic Rev. Barking Nonsequitor by blatting senselessly (but I hope not too stupidly) at his blog about the battle of the sexes, PLO versus Al Qaeda espionage, and being a spy in the house of love, and stuff – and then, at Breakerslion’s place, I bitched about married women bitching about their husbands, and complained that nobody does it the way Mary Shelley did it on the PBS Channel anymore, then stated that marriage was slavery and yet I’d throw my rose petals to the wind if someone played Chopin to my George Sand – and to top it off, Michael Korn, who is a creationist and a doorbell ring just short of a pizza delivery, is hurling invective at PZ Myers from an IP just a state away from Rev. Chimpy, and JanieBelle has a headache!

This crazy-ass world needs an infusion of my irreverent wit, to counteract the, er, recent infusion of my irrelevant wit.

To whit, here is a particle of my first novel, which deals with sexual espionage long before there ever was a PLO or an Al Qaeda, but happening quite after the colorful break-up of Franz Chopin and George Sand. Enjoy, you guys, and sorry.

(But it's really not my fault. I share the body with Richard Hughes at AtBC.)

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Tripoli Six Have Been Freed

They've left Libya and are in Bulgaria. Allegedly no money changed hands for their release, but I'm not buying it.

Their plight is over. The plight of AIDS victims in the developing world continues to overwhelm aid efforts, which now feel the chill of the possibility of false accusations, long and injust imprisonment, and tortured confessions - all for the sake of conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact.

Science is the greatest gift that we have. It isn't perfect - nothing is - there is no such thing as perfection - but until we learn to look at the world as it is, we don't have the right to just have faith that the world is as it should be. We need to work for that kind of world.

(Shimmies to Pharyngula)

Previous posts on this subject:

Free the Tripoli Six!

Remember the Tripoli Six

The Tripoli Six May Be Freed Soon

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Celebrating with Cheap Champagne

John and I had occasion to toast on Friday night. I can't reveal my details now - not until I get confirmation - but he also had something to somewhat celebrate. Both are bittersweet, his news and mine. I don't mean to be so mysterious - I guess I mostly wanted to talk about having a meal with great wine and my favorite, champagne - cheap champagne this time, in keeping with my recent vow of thrift.

And I guess I want people to guess. ;-)

UPDATED: Well, I can't make it public yet, but I officially have good news! Let me just say that I'm a big believer in unions, but it's the people in them that make the union work. I was looking on YouTube to see if anyone had posted the song "Are You Happy in Your Work?" from the abysmal message movie I Accuse My Parents via Mystery Science Theatre 3000 - and it's not there. So enjoy this, a MST3000-mangled 1950's short propaganda film about majoring in Industrial Arts! (This link is dedicated to you, Rev. Barking Nonsequitor.)

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

New Home for Kittehs?

Monado rescued two kittehs - Weez in yr couch, hidin' wid yr pennehs! - who need a home. I can't take them; I have two already, and I'm nowhere near the Greater Toronto area, but if you are, or if you're close to the region from the Niagara Peninsula to Oshawa or Barrie, you might consider giving one or both of these tykes (and/or their momma) a home. Assuming, of course, you can find camo kittehs.

Incidentally, Monado's Science Notes is a great blog - check out her post on rapid butterfly evolution (as opposed to punctuated equilibrium). It's nice to know that somebody as well informed as she is can make the same mistake confusing the two ideas, because I have, and have done it repeatedly. (I need to be more clear about P.E. before I can proceed with The Extended Phenotype posts.)

Monado gets massive sistah respect from me for her precision as a technical writer, whereas I am rather a mess. But I swear, Monado, I can have "arms and legs akimbo" - or at least arms and feet akimbo. I can prove it. I'll have to show people sometime (then I can go to Blanche's Halloween party as Helena.) Ah, the joys of being knock-kneed!

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Evolution: The Animated Short

My sweetie, in response to my pleas, has just completed his latest animated short, based upon a funny song by the talented Marla Goodman. And what did I do? I, in my senility and YWCA-induced exercise ecstacy/tanning-and-tequila stupor forgot to post it!

Well, I dare anyone to resist this charmer. It will warm the cockles of the heart of the most devoted creationist.

I must admit that there are times when I get a creepy sense of direction in evolution. I had it when I first read a piece by Jonathan Wells about intelligent design and cancer. PZ Myers took care of that one, but there have been other times. Such a perception always disintegrated upon closer inspection - until John told me about this video idea. As I learned in the Galapagos, most evolution is avoidance of a conflict rather than hooves crashing and horns tangling and blood flowing. So what if evolution does have a direction and a purpose, if not toward a distant goal, then away from something else?

What what could that something else possibly be? ;-)
UPDATED: Well, there's always gotta be one critic (although what it really seemed to have a problem with was me possibly fleeing to Oxford - awww, it would miss me, would it?). So I now issue this command - do not come here if you are no fun! I wouldn't want to press the "delete" button in my sleep. *Snore*

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Boxing Helena Fountain Scenes

It seems that nearly everyone hates the film Boxing Helena but me. The ending is a cop-out, otherwise I think it's a hilarious, sick, outrageous, and disturbing movie.

Naturally, my favorite scene is the infamous "Fountain Scene," almost universally panned as an over-the-top commercial. I don't care. I love what Sherilyn Fenn does - it tops Katherine Hepburn's swim in the fountain at Bryn Mawr just before she got expelled, as well as the fountain scene in La Dolce Vida.

The scene with the original music.

UPDATED: Jennifer Lynch is finally making another film, and already, they hate it.

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Amused Muse In Training

John wants to do the first annual Minneapolis Tour this September, and so do I - but first I must make sure that I can cycle 41 miles. I'm not sure if I can do it.

Well, John had a family reunion today and there was no room for me in the car (awww!), so I made good work today - biked from Northeast Minneapolis down the Midtown Greenway into Uptown, rounded Lake of the Isles and stopped to lie in the sun at Lake Calhoun. Ohhh, what a beautiful day it was today! Lots of families at the lake, cute kids - one little guy kept coming up to my spot to give me this adorable smile. Plus, some kids were selling kool-aid - and they made it the way I like it, strong, like melted cherry lollipops.

Also, I just joined the YWCA for two months at $99 - I usually join just for the summer, because I can't get motivated in the winter (however, I hope to take advantage of the free facilities at my grad school so I don't develop library butt again this winter) - and it's been weight training and swimming for the Muse for the past two weeks. I recommend the Y to everyone, not only for its sports facilities and inclusive, polite atmosphere but also for the sauna and whirlpool. Ahhhhhh! Not quite the companionship that I had on the M/V Santa Cruz, though - and no pina coladas. :-(

(I miss my beautiful boat! I miss Lobo waking us up at 6 a.m.! I miss the doctor speaking in Spanish with the crew and all of them thinking that I can't understand. *Wink* I miss being rocked to sleep by the waves and the sounds from the depths of the ship. I miss giggling with Toni over random stuff. There are no sea lions playing with me in the YWCA pool. There is no bar next to the whirlpool at the Y, and no view of the Daphne Islands or the sunset. There is no iguana poop anywhere. I have been working on my tan (I now have very strange tan lines, so I may as well do the whole thing, considering that I've a belly dancing gig coming up), but the sun in Minnesota doesn't do half the work in three days what several hours on the equator can accomplish. (In short, I love aloe.) There is no dashing scientist walking around with a totally hawt young cameraman in tow and me following around hoping that they don't mind how I'm always there whenever they turn around. There is no bartender and a few shipmates making goo-goo eyes at me in my bikini. No heated political discussions in the whirlpool. No chug-a-chug of the engines in the library in the evening. No sea lions or pelicans traveling alongside me at night. No frigate birds hovering in the sky. I miss the Galapagos as if it were a lover. Don't you feel sorry for me?)

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Ham Lake Fire Reveals Ancient Meteorite Debris

Nearby (?) Sudbury, Ontario boasts the second oldest and second largest meteorite impact crater in the world. Now, a local geologist has found debris from this ancient impact in northern Minnesota.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Tripoli Six May Be Freed Soon

We hope.

Read the story at Pharyngula.

UPDATE: It's a mixed bag: their death sentences have been commuted to life, with possible extradition to Bulgaria. We can only continue to hope that behind-the-scenes diplomacy will eventually free them.

I think this entire affair will have a chilling effect upon aid work, however, which will eventually overtake the benefits of all the blood-money that Libya got paid for making false charges against people who only wanted to help the world's children, and essentially holding them for ransom.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Like I Care (That I Was Wrong)

UPDATED: You know what? I was wrong. This is a big and important story. Look at what I found on what Senator Vitter's wife said in 2000:

Vitter won a special election to Louisiana's 1st Congressional District in 1999, succeeding Republican Congressman Bob Livingston, who resigned after an adultery scandal. Vitter said about Livingston's decision to resign, "It's obviously a tremendous loss for the state.... I think Livingston's stepping down makes a very powerful argument that Clinton should resign as well and move beyond this mess", referring to the Monica Lewinsky scandal of President Bill Clinton. In 2000, his wife, Wendy Vitter, commenting on the same scandal, "I'm a lot more like Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary. If he [Vitter] does something like that, I'm walking away with one thing, and it's not alimony, trust me", referring to the incident of Lorena Bobbitt severing the penis of her husband and to Clinton's wife, Hillary Clinton.

Forget what I said below. What I denied overpowered me. Thank you for pointing out my transgressions, people!

SECOND UPDATE: Now, see? The scandal has snared one on our side - and me, too...
A Louisiana Senator had (and hopefully still has) male sexual feelings, and he expressed them with a prostitute. Did he pick up drug addicted girls on the streets? Did he rape an acquaintance? No, he went to a $300 an hour brothel.

Well, aside from the question of how prostitution treats women, and the issues within his marriage, who fucking cares? Not me. I'm relieved to find out that guys like this have normal sexual feelings. It's his problem and his wife's, not mine. I don't know, maybe they should go to the brothel together - spice things up a little. I'm also relieved to find out that Ted Haggard is a human being, too. If he wasn't so ashamed of his true self he would not have been living a double life. What you deny overpowers you.

This was "a very serious sin in my past," says Senator Vitter of the prostitution. You know what? I can think of a lot more serious things. Like closing libraries.

Like the pyramid scheme that is our health care system.

Like kids without any health care coverage. Homeless kids. Abused kids.

Like veterans who can't get adequate treatment, or soldiers who come back from Iraq and end up living on welfare.

Sins like that. When are Americans going to grow up about sex?

Well, at least we're not Iran, where a man was stoned to death for adultery after being imprisoned for 11 years.

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Rat's Zinger

Here's the latest poop from the Pope - you are all heretics! Well, that's news.

Wake me when something really happens - like when the church cures cancer.

(I love how the media are calling him "Benedict" now. Makes me think of a certain traitor from American history.)

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Monday, July 09, 2007

What About Afghan Women Today, Laura Bush?

Afghan women and girls are "traded like currency."

Several years ago in nearby Momand Dara district, a taxi driver hit a boy with his car, killing him. The boy’s family demanded a girl as compensation, so the driver purchased an 11-year-old named Fawzia from an acquaintance for $5,000 and gave her to the dead boy’s relatives, according to the Afghan Women’s Network office in Jalalabad.

Three years ago, Fawzia was shot to death, according to a two-page report kept in a black binder of cases of violence against women.

The story of Malia and the nine sheep illustrates the suffering of girls forced into such marriages.

Where is Laura Bush and her radio address on the status of Afghan women now? And what about the fact that even non-Muslims in Iraq must cover themselves or risk being attacked?

Tell us more about our glorious wars for democracy, President and Mrs. Bush.

UPDATED: Iraqi girls now work as prostitutes in Syria. The "liberation" continues.

I don't understand how Bush and Wolfowitz were so excited about the Iraqis' so-called "secularism" when they don't approve of American secularists. No, yes I do understand. Obviously they just thought that the supposed secularism of Iraqi society (when in fact it was Sunni Muslim) was a blank slate upon which they could write an evangelical Christian future for Iraq. Kind of like how "Buddhism is a way of preparing people for Christ," etc. (Yes, I've actually heard that.)

SECOND UPDATE: Fighting for women's rights in Iraq.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Twin Cities Leads Nation in Volunteerism


Midwesterners are more likely to volunteer their time than are people elsewhere in the United States, according to a government study being released Monday. The highest rates were in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, where more than four in 10 adults volunteered.

“It’s really about Minneapolis’ commitment to the quality of life,” said Michael Weber, president and chief executive of Volunteers of America of Minnesota.

Yesterday I spoke to a woman who's librarian sister had recently gone to Germany. "You Americans are so involved with your libraries," a woman had told this librarian, whereas there was only one library in the region, with a populace of 100,000 people. I was surprised by this.

I encourage everyone to get involved in one issue or program that they believe in. And naturally, I encourage everyone to support their local library!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

Amused Muse in "Mouth Movie"

I completely forgot to post this! It was filmed during our friend Blanche's major mucho Halloween Party - she throws the ultimate bash every year - at which I went as the Black Dahlia. (At my first experience of Blanche's parties, I went as a belly dancer, made my first and only dollar dancing, and got chased by a lesbian pirate. ;-) Which was scary at the time, but hilarious now.)

Unfortunately, my sliced mouth was covered with an animated one for this film, but what the heck, a comeback is a comeback for poor Beth Shortstuff. (True, I am not tall. Take it up with my Designer, Mr. Zanuck.)

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Bad Excuse!

I'm enjoying my new CD that I bought for my belly dancing gig in August: Talakik, by Hakim. I already have one-third of it choreographed (but it's a hot night to be dancing, and I had to take a 2+ mile walk along the river just to decramp my legs).

According to Shira, Talakik means "finding reasons or excuses to do a bad thing," a rather surprising theme because goody-goody little Muslim or Christian pop singers in the Middle East never shock conservatives, right? ;-)

If you're curious, a translation and a transliteration for Bad Excuse is available here. (If the RealAudio doesn't work for you, listen to track 3 on the Amazon link.) Hey, I think I may have found my sound clip for this blog, although something romantic by Warda or Amr Diab would be more appropriate.

UPDATED: Fact or Fantasy? Misguided Beliefs about Belly Dance via Shira.

I have no good excuse for this either, but here's a photo of Lynn and me, goofing off with our feather boas at the SNO Ball. I occasionally dance at Lynn's art gallery. I guess I just like this photo.

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No Right To Be An Atheist

In the Christian Soviet Union, formerly known as the United States of America, your school can get involved in your having loaned a friend, upon his request, a copy of Dawkins The God Delusion. The friend's father has the right to threaten you, and the principal of your school, who let the trashy Gideons hand out Bibles in the parking lot in violation of the separation of church and state, gets to keep your book and "sleep on" the decision whether or not to punish you.

For loaning a book.

When you're eighteen years old.

Because you don't believe in something that doesn't exist. And why is this controversial?

Apparently, the First Amendment doesn’t mean shit if the majority doesn’t agree with your free speech. Can forced deprogramming for atheists and re-education camps be far behind in our shiny new theocracy?

Shimmies to Pharyngula, and to Reed Braden, and to deprogramming survivor Jim Dew.

UPDATE: The book was eventually returned.

SECOND UPDATE: Well, Legion didn't take the bait regarding my crack about reeducation camps. Hey, Legion! I mentioned your favorite subject! Where are you, you coward? You owe me a post (plus an apology, Honey).

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Cleansing the Palate

Tequila and beer after a long bike ride should be enough to wash away the taste of that awful Left Behind flick, but if that doesn't do it, the Twilight Zone marathon will.

John and I rode the Midtown Greenway today, and I'm now sore and pleasantly buzzed. Happy Fourth.

UPDATED: Hermagoras just sent me this patriotic video (not safe for work).

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At Last, An Answer for Iraq

The Star Tribune is, frankly, on the decline as a newspaper but its opinion/commentary page today was excellent (being that it was copied and pasted from other sources).

Tom Friedman's latest opinion piece offers the United States some measure of success in Iraq by focusing our efforts upon building a democracy in Kurdistan. It's a good idea. We owe the Kurds big time, and we simply can't afford to lose Iraq entirely, and despite whatever withdrawal that will, eventually, happen, we are not leaving Iraq altogether. We'll be there for the next twenty years if not more. Therefore, a small victory in Kurdistan - like the small but influential country of Dubai - can have an enormous impact upon the Middle East.

Also, Jack Vessey writes about how all Americans can make a difference.

When the FBI came out with its list of top domestic threats in 2005, John and I looked askance at each other to see animal rights activists as the number one pool of domestic terrorists. Even after a break-in at a University of Minnesota lab by animal-rights "activists," I still had no clue as to the real agenda and tactics of these groups. Now, through online discussions with other liberal, progressive people who have been harassed by animal rights activists, I am no longer surprised. This is a frightening story.

Have a happy and safe Fourth of July.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

"President" Bush Commutes Lewis "Scooter" Libby's Sentence

The rule of law is officially broken in the United States of Amnesia.

This is an outrage among many outrages committed by this rogue administration.

It's time to impeach, people.

UPDATED: For the record I was also outraged by the pardon, by President Clinton, of Mark Rich. And incidentally, who was Mark Rich's attorney? Lewis "Scooter" Libby!

SECOND UPDATE: Keith Ellison joins the effort to oust Vice-President Dick Cheney.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

What I Wrote on April 14, 2003

UPDATED: It's interesting, in contrast, to read what our buddy Bruce Chapman of the Discovery Institute wrote on March 14, 2004 regarding Iraq.

I was not working for the museum at the time, but for a private consulting firm, one of the clients for city government, for which I had previously worked. It is strange to look at this piece now, over four years since I wrote it.

What made me think of and post this is, I blatted my brains out off-topic at someone else's blog about Iraq and unfortunately, since my blood was up, got into all the harassment that I went through in 1999 (long story) culminating in my call to the FBI. Another commenter called me a liar, essentially. Well, I did my duty as a citizen and there's a record of my call out there somewhere at the FBI. I put two-and-two together about a past bombing and notified the FBI in early 2001. [UPDATED: The Ritz Theatre today is a thriving dance theatre.] No connection, as it turns out, to Moussaui or the KKK (there was a note with "KKK" left at the scene) or anything like that - and no resolution to the case of the bombing of a then-Asian cinema - but the people behind the harassment of me and other city employees and officials have left the neighborhood, and at least one of them has been charged with another crime (extorting sex from his female renters).

UPDATE: The Justice Department announced a settlement in this case. More background on the case. I wish to stress that I am not one of these plaintiffs. I am a homeowner who was harassed by the group that this man supported. To this day I do not know if they were involved in the bombing but I have my suspicions. Also, it was ironic that about the time of my phone call to the FBI the KKK rallied at the State Capitol, and I invited Senator Paul Wellstone speak at a counter-event sponsored by the YWCA the night before. (I spoke to Tom Lapic, who also died in the crash that killed Wellstone.)

Painful memories, really, painful and scary memories of this time. But I stood up. I did something. I accomplished something, even if it was little in the ultimate scheme of things. This is what I was doing in the months before September 11 turned my workplace, located right next to the Federal Reserve Bank. into an obstacle course of chain-link fences and men with submachine guns. I must say my family has been much more fortunate than the families of other military personnel.

Iraq was the wrong war. Afghanistan was a country that we neglected all through the 1990s, the country that I had fervently wished the United States to engage militarily during the civil war, and we are losing the crucial war there now. And we will pay for both mistakes.


No, I am not talking about the supposed end of the reign of Saddam Hussein. Though I have no love for Saddam, I am not cheering the interior decorating that we have accomplished in Iraq.

This is why: Since 1982 I have opposed and protested America’s support for Saddam Hussein. I stood up in class at North High and denounced our President—then Ronald Reagan—for giving money and weapons to a man who invaded Iran, stifled dissent, and slaughtered his own people. When I said that if we shipped chemicals to Iraq Saddam would gas the Kurds, my classmates thought I meant cheese curds. They taunted me for caring about people so far away. (Many of these kids subsequently joined the military, and some may even be in Iraq at this moment.)

In 1988, after using chemical warfare against Iran, Saddam did gas the Kurds. I wrote yet another letter to President Reagan urging him to finally punish this brutal dictator. In the Senate, Jesse Helms and Al Gore sponsored a bill to strip Saddam of his favored status. It passed the Senate in one day, and I was heartened. But the Reagan Administration worked with Republicans and conservative Democrats to defeat the bill, and America continued to give Saddam $700 million a year. It wasn’t until 1991, after Saddam invaded Kuwait, that America went to war with Saddam Hussein.

I will remember this day in history because it is the day—after the tragedy of Iraq’s Museum of Antiquities being looted—that the Iraqi National Library, one of the greatest libraries in the world, burned to the ground.

I am a writer who works for historic preservationists. You may not know that I have been studying Arabic and Islamic cultures on my own since I was fourteen. It’s more than just taking belly dancing lessons! It means learning an elaborate system of honor and tradition. It means learning the many contributions that Arabia gave to Medieval Europe, enabling the Renaissance. It means understanding that Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization and the birthplace of the West.

Secretary of State Colin Powell certainly knows that one can’t just go to Wal-Mart to replace Assyrian or Babylonian artefacts. But his promise to “repair” the damage done, while well meant, is naïve. Any preservationist knows how difficult, time-consuming, and costly it is just to maintain ancient works due to normal wear and tear, let alone repair them due to vandalism. To repair smashed artefacts will be impossible. Some things simply cannot be restored.

It is worse with the Iraqi National Library. That is completely gone. Archives from the Ottoman Empire; written correspondence of the 16th Century Royal Court; military diaries, photographs, microfiche of Arab newspapers dating back to the 1900s—they are gone forever. Hand-written notes from King Hussein of Mecca were rescued by Robert Fisk, a British reporter currently in Baghdad. Scraps were all that he could preserve—tantalizing snippets relating to a British soldier whom I consider to be a kindred spirit, T. E. Lawrence, otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia.

Think of trying to “recover and repair” the treasures of a sacked Vatican. Think of Oxford or the Library of Congress burning to the ground. Think of losing the entire collection of Michelangelo’s or da Vinci’s works. Some things are irreplaceable.

One could say that the looting and the destruction are just the unfortunate side effects of war, but the vastly more difficult task of securing oil fields has been accomplished by the Coalition with a minimum of destruction. Likewise, while hospitals are overrun by armed gangs, Baghdad’s Oil Ministry is untouched because it has U.S. soldiers guarding it. In addition, observers in Baghdad report that accelerant was used on the library, and that the stealing of larger pieces from the museum bespeaks of a professional job. That said, it should be remembered that historians and archaeologists repeatedly pleaded with the Pentagon to follow international procedures for safeguarding these institutions.

As for me, I certainly can’t blame ordinary Iraqis for raiding palaces and government buildings. But I cannot believe that they would take up arms in order to raid hospital maternity wards, or the museum, or the library. The artefacts in the museum were stolen not from their display cases but from the locked vaults in which they were placed to protect them from the bombing—which, ironically, they survived.* The gangs involved in the library burning were armed and particularly violent, destroying copies of the world’s oldest Quar’ans as well as inventories and records.

I personally suspect—and this is my own theory—that Saddam Hussein himself could be behind the destruction, that he exhorted his men to destroy the hospitals and cultural sites. Saddam warned of “an inferno,” after all—and he knew that this administration, in its zeal, would not listen.

I know all the stated reasons for this war, and I do not accept them—not after I lobbied for so long for the United States to quit supporting the same brutal dictator we now claim to have toppled. Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 was on its last legs, no threat to the U.S., and the relative ease of the Coalition’s rout is evidence of that. That the Iraqi people are grateful to be pawns in our hypocrisy sours any pleasure I have at seeing the statues of Saddam pulled down amongst cheering crowds. It was the looters who cheered—now, although one must tune in the BBC to learn this, thousands are protesting the occupying soldiers for not protecting their cultural heritage. No weapons of mass destruction have been found, and if they are so mobile as to have easily been spirited into Syria, they can be taken anywhere, rendering a futile a geographical-based war. None of the September 11th terrorists were from Iraq. (Indeed, most of them were from Saudi Arabia, a similarly brutal regime whose ruling family, along with the family of Osama Bin Laden, enjoys close ties to George W. Bush.)

After the completion of my first novel I was developing several new writing projects: one on the life of Edgar Allen Poe, and one on the destruction of the Library at Alexandria. The accidental burning of that library by the Romans during a war between Julius Caesar and his rival Pompey robbed the world of many works by Aristotle, Socrates, Aristarchus, and countless other great thinkers from Greece, Rome, and the Orient. It was a disaster from which the world has never recovered, despite the efforts of Jewish and Islamic scholars who preserved and translated the few scrolls that survived two subsequent destructions. So is the loss of the Iraqi National Library a disaster from which the world won’t—can’t—recover.

In the words of Donny George**, the Director of Antiquities at the museum and an Assyrian Christian, “We waited there for about four hours until we met a colonel. And that day, he promised that he would send armored cars to protect what’s left of the museum. That was three days ago. But until now, nobody came…. It’s too late, it’s too late, it’s no use.”

You may disagree with my opinions about the U.S.-lead war against Iraq. You may not consider this destruction much of a loss compared to the U.S. having (hopefully) deposed a vicious and elusive dictator. One could make the argument that torture and death is worse than the loss of art and knowledge. But one could also argue that countless writers, historians, journalists, and scholars have endured torture and death to defend the survival of art and knowledge, of human thought and human endeavor, because it is the writers, historians, journalists, and scholars who believe that life is much more than mere survival.

But whatever you believe, this is my prediction for the future: As few people now remember the battle between Caesar and Pompey whereas many people remember the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, few in the future will remember the demise of Saddam Hussein whereas many will remember the world’s great loss of this unique and vital repository. History transcends battles and leaders and governments, even religions and ideologies and accepted truths. We have witnessed an immense violation of humanity’s soul, comparable to the sacking of Rome or the loss of the Alexandrian Library. Remember this day in history, for future generations even unto millennia are unlikely to forget or forgive it.

*Some artefacts were removed by museum personnel and subsequently returned. Though the destruction was not as bad as initially reported, it is still very serious, and the search for antiquities looted from Iraq goes on.

**My hero Donny George left his post in 2006 due to threats to himself and his family. He fled Iraq altogether. The fate of the museum remains precarious.

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