Support Austin Firefighters!
Please support your Austin Firefighters and vote FOR Proposition 1 on May 15th.
Early voting April 28 – May 11
City of Austin Special Municipal Election - Proposition 1
Adoption of the state law applicable to fire fighters that establishes collective bargaining if a majority of the affected employees favor representation by an employees association, preserves the prohibition against strikes and lockouts, and provides penalties for strikes and lockouts.
Support Austin Firefighters!
In other news...
Gaahl, vocalist for Norwegian black metal band Gorgoroth is on trial for beating a 41-year-old man and performing ritual violence that included tapping off the victim's blood and drinking it. In his defense, Gaahl's mother testified that
"My son is a vegetarian and very fussy about food. He eats absolutely no innards. That is why I do not believe this at all."
Hey, works for me.
I just got back from a service recognition luncheon for my job. I wasn't getting recognized since I only have 6 years (in July) on the job and it's a 10-to-get-in sort of deal. But, there was free pizza and, as free pizza is a fine thing, that was enticement enough. Things started off with a bang when - not my boss, and not the bosses boss - the director of my department asked my name. When I told him he paused and said, "Would you be that Seth?" Oh, probably. The President of the University had the exact same response upon meeting me. For better or for worse (more than likely the latter), I seem to be good at getting noticed around here. The rest of the ceremony was, well, kind of depressing. "So-and-so began working here twenty years ago as a Senior Office Assistant and still perorms the same duties to this day - only more of it!" That was actually part of someone's recognition speech. The food was good and I got to get out of the office, so I suppose it was worth it. I'll probably go to another recognition ceremony next week in order to get out of work for a little while. I hope they have pizza.
I have tickets to see Hans Blix speak this Wednesday night at the same time as the USA v. Mexico re-match. Poor luck! I'll be taping the game so I can watch it later, but inevitably I'll hear the results before I get a chance to watch the game.
Dallas Burn are playing Columbus Crew this Saturday at 6:30 pm. I'm going to try to put together a group of Burn supporters to watch the match and have some beer. If you're interested, let me know.
The "only democracy in the middle east?" Mordechai Vanunu has been freed from prison. Vanunu spent the last 18 years rotting in an Israeli cell after Cheryl Hanin, the agent who back in 1986 seduced Mordechai Vanunu in London, then lured him to Rome and into the hands of Mossad, who drugged him and smuggled him back to Israel for a secret trial which resulted in his spending more than 9 years in solitary confinement. His crime? Trying to tell the world about an illegal nuclear WMD program. Isn't that why we invaded Iraq? Oh, wait...
Yesterday, Sarah posted some interesting points about the current talk of reinstating the draft.
I think the draft is an interesting subject because it's fairly easy for me to come up with a conscription policy that I could support. But I don't think it's realistic that something meeting my standards of justice and equity would come out of Washington - I think we'd simply have another system of forcing poor kids to fight while rich kids get cushy exemptions - so I don't see myself supporting any conscription policy that gets proposed by the current crop of crooks at the Capitol.
For laughs, I think I would basically support something like this:
 Four years of mandatory public service for men & women at age 18.
 There would have to be a viable conscientious objector option for everyone - not just the rich - in which an individual could choose to perform either a non-combat role in the armed forces or serve the public in a non-military capacity (i.e. civilian conservation corps).
 Upon fulfilling the public service requirement, individuals would be eligible for free higher education at a public college or university. Individuals who volunteer for combat roles would also be entitled to hazard pay, a full pension, and free healthcare.
 Individuals who fail to meet the public service requirement would be ineligible to vote or hold public office.
Now, fire away...
Last night Sarah, Eman, Tim and I went to see Ehud Barak speak at the LBJ Auditorium on the UT campus. Sarah has an excellent re-cap here.
For me the entire evening was best summed up by a conversation I overheard standing in line waiting to get in to the auditorium. Standing in line in front of me were a 30-something Jewish dove and a group of 18 and 19-year old Hillel students. The dove was talking to a Palestine Solidarity Committee member and having a very interesting, intelligent debate. When the Palestine supporter left, the young Jewish guys told the dove that "that guy's always around."
"Yes, and he's very intelligent. He knows a lot about the situation - sometimes he teaches me things."
"I don't know. All he knows are facts. He doesn't understand the reality."
"No, no, I think you have to understand that they come into the conversation with different premises behind the facts because they live in a completely different reality from you and me. They come from a different situation so they understand things differently - that doesn't make them wrong."
The Hillel kids thought that was rubbish.
That was about the tenor of the evening. Everyone was respectful and civil, even in their disagreement, but everyone talked and no one understood what the other side was saying. The Zionists present believed that "Israel" was their birthright because God said so. How do you argue with that? Oh, God says so! I see! Arabs and Muslims were dismissed wholesale as potential terrorists while Jewish terrorists were lauded as "heroes."
At the end of it all, I was unimpressed with Barak. He's little more than an Israeli nationalist who frames his arguments in such a way as to ignore history and reality in order to defend Israel's "right to exist" as an apartheid state. Sure he said some things I agreed with, but I'm not going to pretend like those few statements made up for the rest of his nut-job rant.
I'm glad I went because it's important to hear people first hand and to give them an opportunity to explain their position. I listened closely to Barak. He said some things I agreed with and many things that were so stupid that I had to stifle my laughter. At the end of it all I came away with less respect for Barak than I had going in, but, hey, you can't please everyone.
Some people dedicate their lives to defending our nation. Others exploit those men and women by sending them to fight unnecessary wars while making deals with states that aid and abet our enemies in a cynical display of power and greed. Of course, this isn't the first time certain people put the defense of friends before the defense of country.
If you think the Bush administration is really looking out for you, you'd better think again...
I spent this past weekend in the lovely Woodlands, Texas. While I had a good time visiting people, my general distaste for suburbia was reinforced - not by anything in particular, mind you, just the uneasy feeling that accompanies trips to those wastelands of unbridled consumerism and conformity. Once I arrived back in Austin, however, Darren and Sheri wisked me away to a Texas Rollergirl crawfish boil for a ritual cleansing of the soul. The party was a lot of fun and any opportunity to attend future events should not be ignored. Apparently, though, I did miss a couple of parties while I was out of town. This is unfortunate, but sometimes unavoidable.
Items of interest for this week:
Monday: Ehud Barak at UT
Wedneday: Democratic Meetup
Saturday: It's My Park!
Real McKenzies at Emo's
Sunday: Texas Rollergirls
What's next for Iraq?
The NYT reports that the expected pick for ambassador to Iraq once sovereignty is given over to a government in Baghdad on June 30 is...John Negroponte
What kind of experience does Negroponte bring to Iraq?
Negroponte served as Reagan’s Ambassador to Honduras from 1981 to 1985. He was personally responsible for carrying out the Reagan administration’s illegal policy of training and arming Contra rebels inside Honduras for the purpose of overthrowing Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. He also oversaw the build-up of the Honduran military, while turning a blind eye to their campaigns of death and torture.
Well, sure Bill Press says so, but he's a partisan hack. I bet a group of Christian missionaries wouldn't say such outlandish things.
In addition to his work with the Nicaraguan Contra army, Negroponte helped conceal from Congress the murder, kidnapping and torture abuses of a CIA-equipped and -trained Honduran military unit, Battalion 3-16.
I didn't watch Bush's speech yesterday, nor the press conference. It didn't seem terribly important as, based on his speeches and answers over the past four years, I didn't expect much in the way of honest dialogue. But reading through the transcripts today, this exchange really struck me as amazing:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?
THE PRESIDENT: I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet...
I hope I -- I don't want to sound like I've made no mistakes. I'm confident I have. I just haven't -- you just put me under the spot here, and maybe I'm not as quick on my feet as I should be in coming up with one.
Wow. That's great. George Bush can't think of a single mistake or any lessons learned. I mean, he's certain that there's probably something, like maybe he used the wrong fork at a fundraiser dinner - but he'd really have to think long and hard to come up with any "mistakes." After all, all of his policy decisions have had marvelous results.
George W. Bush - the man who never made a mistake. Any problems are someone else's fault. He's only the President, after all.
I think that's a great campaign slogan for Bush in '04 - It's not my fault!
Ezra over at Pandagon explains it in a way I wish I would have:
He told us of his commitment. He told us of his resolve. He told us of his values and concern and sympathy. But he never told us anything about our government. John Stewart likes to say that Bush isn't stupid, we are. He couldn't talk like this to us if we weren't. That's exactly right. Bush stood up there for an hour and ran for President the same way he did 4 years ago; as if he wasn't the President. The advantage of being the challenger is you get to talk about visions and ideals and intent and desire. When you're President, you have to defend a record. That apparently isn't so with George W. Bush. He stood there for an hour answering questions as if no policy he put into place required an honest defense, no consequences from his actions merited note. Rather, he casually threw aside whatever the situation was, expressing sympathy for the suffering contained therein and reiterating how much he loved freedom and how the bad guys don't.
" Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom...
States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."
- President George W. Bush, 2002 SOTU
The United States has made a formal request to Iran to help ease mounting violence in Iraq and Tehran is now making an effort to mediate in the conflict, Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharazi said Wednesday.
Iran has sent a top foreign ministry official to Iraq for talks with coalition officials, Iraqi politicians and religious figures in a bid to help mediate an end to the current wave of unrest, the official IRNA news agency said.
The foreign ministry's director for Gulf affairs, Hossein Sadeghi, left for the Iraqi capital to "examine events there and to look into finding the means to solve the crisis," the news agency said.
Iran has been fiercely critical of the US-led occupation of its neighbour but has kept its distance from Shiite Muslim radical leader Moqtada Sadr, who has been leading an uprising against coalition forces.
Sometimes something so cool happens that it actually leaves you at a loss for words. Today I got home from work and found a package from Amazon.com I was confused, because I hadn't ordered anything and wasn't expecting a package. My birthday isn't for another six months, so I shouldn't be getting any gifts. But there, sitting on the coffee table, was what was most definitely a package from Amazon. I opened the box to find a DVD copy of Herzog's incredible 1977 film Stroszek. I couldn't figure out how in the world this thing got to me. Sure enough, my name was on the invoice. Then I noticed who sent it - my friend Meikel who I met at the EFF party during SXSW! I have to say that this is the coolest thing that's happened in a long time. My faith in humanity is restored for at least two hours.
I gave in and ordered digital cable. I have conflicting emotions regarding cable television - at times I want to disconnect it and throw the television out with the garbage. Then I realize that without television I couldn't watch Law & Order marathons, cartoons, and international football. I do wish that the cable companies would allow subscribers to order channels a la carte, rather than having to pay for a prix fixe menu containing so much filler.
In other, more meaningful, news - I'm growing more and more concerned about the state of things in Iraq. General Abazaid is asking for more troops while the current seige in Falluja seems to be uniting Iraqis against the US forces. I don't know if US plans to kill Moqtada al-Sadr are really going to help much since word on the street is that this new wave of uprising is increasingly manned by the average Iraqi and not a finite number of al-Sadr supporters. That and the disturbing number of kidnappings is sure to make for a confusing and difficult war.
That, too, I think, is something that is sorely needed in the conversation - an admission that we are still at war. Yes, the President delared an end to major hostilities, but just because we're not lobbing missiles into urban areas doesn't mean we're not at war. I think a lot of people here believe that we're in a sort of clean up phase and there are a finite number of "bad guys" who have to be dealt with to ensure a smooth turnover of power at the end of June. Of course, the problems are much deeper - the US is essentially an occupying force with no one to whom they can turn over power. This much was backed up by Paul Bremer on Sunday's Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: June 30: You're going to turn the keys over to the Iraqis. Who do you turn them over to?
AMB. BREMER: Well, that's a good question, and it's an important part of the ongoing crisis we have here now. We've always said that there are two dimensions to dealing with the problems of Iraq. One, of course, is the military dimension, which we're working on right now, but the other is to give a political perspective for the Iraqis to have more and more responsibility. We've been working on that for months. We are now working with the secretary-general of the U.N.'s special representative here, Mr. Brahimi, to figure out the best way to get a representative government in place before the end of June so it has a little practice and then turn over sovereignty to it on June 30. And I'm confident that working with him and with the Iraqi people, we, in fact, will get that. We'll get a representative government in place before June 30.
Now, I don't want to be a naysayer - but June 30 is less than 80 days away. I don't think it's reasonable to assume that there's going to be a legitimate, democratic, representative government ready to takeover the country of Iraq in less than 80 days. And wasn't that the whole point of this operation? We were going to "bring democracy to the middle east?" Balls.