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Monthly Archives: March 2002

Camp X-Ray a-go-go!  §

Please read this, and this.

I’ve just been watching some television news and was struck by the nature of a rhetorical question, asked in a discussion about the prisoners at Camp X-Ray: “Shouldn’t we just lock them up and throw away the key?”

There is an implied community in this question (i.e. “we”) to which the audience members normally assume themselves to belong. But how safe is it to make this assumption? Arab-Americans have recently found themselves to be outside the collective “we” in new and unimaginable ways.

There’s nothing remarkable about the question, really, other than the obvious ease with which I was initially sucked into the unstated premise as well… and thus, the clear danger to open societies which rhetorical questions like this one represent — a given audience member is likely to believe that the lines of circumscription in the sand are obvious, until he realizes that they are not as he imagined them to be — and by then, at least for him, it may be altogether too late.

For the record, I think there is nothing wrong with being an Arab, and I also think that people ought to be allowed to practice Islam if they want to, at least as long as we also allow Christianity and Judaism to pollute our futures as well.

This is an unpopular view right now. I suppose I, too, have just been excluded from the “we” of the New America. I hope I’m not soon to be included in the “them” for having such views.

We must all be very vigilant.

And also: most people don’t seem to understand what a “cease fire” between Palestine and Israel means. A “cease fire” does not mean peace, it means only “stop shooting and leave things the way they are for now” — with Palestine still occupied and checkpoints still in place.

The Palestinians only want a cease fire if further negotiations toward a land-for-peace inpdendence are going to follow, something which Israel and the US will not promise. The point is that like the US colonists hundreds of years ago, the Palestinians are much more interested in independence than in saving their own lives.

So what they are being offered with a “cease fire” is effectively nothing — “you bring your terrorists back under control and we will stop shooting… but we will leave our soldiers where they are and you will still not have independence.”

The US colonists wouldn’t have agreed to such a “cease fire” either. Since the US envoy was only authorized to discuss “cease fire” and not “land for peace” the mission was really a non-starter from the beginning… yet another illustration of the truly broken foreign policy which has characterized the second Bush administration thus far.

Normally, I am very unconcerned…  §

Normally, I am very unconcerned about the little details of day-to-day life. But today I’m trying to clean a lens. A camera lens.

Yes, I have a lens cleaning kit. Sure. And no matter how many times I try, no matter how gently or how severly, no matter fast or slow… I always leave streaks!

It’s driving me absolutely nuts. Absolutely nuts.

Damn. More streaks!

All the world hates the anthropologists.

I was listening to a…  §

I was listening to a radio show today on which the host was saying that he thought that Israel should just go into Palestine and kill all of the terrorists and anyone who supports them. Self-defense, he said — this type of offense is the only way to defend against terrorism. A caller asked if the host really wanted all Palestinians to be killed. The host said that no, he thought 75% of the Palestinians were not in favor of terrorist activities and only the other 25% should be killed — only the evil ones. Let’s forget about the accuracy of his numbers for a moment or the fact that the Palestinians don’t consider themselves terrorists at all, even the ones who carry out bombings.

So… only 25% of the Palestinian population… this particular radio announcer thinks only a million or so need to be killed. Just a million. Because they’re evil. Of course, such a mass “enforcement” will create a health crisis, even for Israel nearby — a million bodies! We’ll have to be able to dispose of them in a sanitary matter. Really this can only be done by incineration. So — in the interest of “good” and defeating “evil” all we need to do is march into Palestine, kill a million humans and then dispose of them in ovens.

Hmm, I guess that’s only… what… 1/6th as bad as Hitler?

Oh… we’ve forgotten about margin of error — in that million, we’re bound to get some wrong… accidentally nail some innocent people, accidentally miss some terrorists… you know. So let’s be really generous and allow for a margin of error of only one percent either way in the midst of this chaos. No problem, we’ve only killed 10,000 people that all sides agree are innocent and let 10,000 of the “evil” ones go in the midst of our Oven Farm Mark II.

Reminds me of my crazy uncle. He’s wrong when he says that good and evil are real even on a large scale and must be dealth with by good men with good guns. This mentality is a recipe for disaster. There is no good; there is no evil. There is only a small planet in the middle of a large universe filled with a few billion humans and a few billion different motives. The belief in good and evil causes us to do things like rationalize the killing — on all sides.

Where does everyone think terrorism comes from in the first place? You think the average suicide bomber wakes up in the morning like a James Bond villian and says “Haha! I’m an evil, completely evil fiend and I’m going to destroy you all!”

No. The problem with the suicide bomber, as was the case with Hitler, as is the case with the settlers, is the certainty that he is going to heaven and his enemies are not.

Israel wouldn’t simply allow the…  §

Israel wouldn’t simply allow the Palestinians to become citizens in a large unified country because this would have threatened the “Jewish character of Israel.” Similarly, they wouldn’t allow right of return for refugees or return to 1967 UN borders or give east Jerusalem to the Palestinians because these things would also have threatened the “Jewish character of Israel.” Of course the Palestinians wouldn’t simply agree to live on an indian reservation, so the fighting continues to this day.

Why was the US okay with this? We would not have refused to liberate the slaves on grounds that such a move would have compromised the “white character of America.” Similarly, we would not have refused to admit Irish immigrants using the reason that to do so would have compromised the “Protestant character of America.” Would we have used our military to keep Native Americans confined to the reservations because it threatened the “western european character of America?”

So what made Israel so special that they could begin to practice apartheid and religious and ethnic discrimination with impunity, when we claim to hate these things so fully as a nation and indeed as the collective West?

Was turning a blind eye merely a matter of trying to make up for collective guilt? If so, maybe we can dispense with this nonsense in the future, since my generation suffers from no such guilt…

Of course, now it is too late for such considerations anyway. Now, there is too much hate and they must be kept apart.

I’ve been scammed by my…  §

I’ve been scammed by my credit card company, Capital One, who has managed to wedge me into a trap: I can never cancel the my card, because they have the right to re-open it every time a service I don’t want is re-billed. There is no way provided for me to cancel this service — which they sold to me. And I have been told by several institutions that this is common. So I will forever, for the rest of my life, pay for this service and the card will forever, for the rest of my life, continue to re-open each billing cycle and charge the service to my name, even if I’ve previously closed the account.

This is perfectly legal, apparently, and there is no way out but to refuse to pay, allow it to affect your credit rating, and have collections chasing you around. I’ve talked to Mastercard, and they say that there’s nothing they can do. I’ve forwarded the case to the Utah State Attorney General’s office, but I haven’t heard back from them yet. When I was 16 I swore I would never play the capitalist game because there were too many little traps to own you. Now I wish I’d listened to my own advice.

The lesson: don’t play. Don’t participate in this system of debits and credits, because it is designed only to capture and control you. You think it won’t happen to you? You think I’m making things up? Go to usenet and type in “Capital One” and see how many other people have been eaten alive by the same company’s tactics — they simply take your money without asking and then keep it, and they do this over and over. And because they are the large corporation and you are just some guy, the law is on their side. If you complain or refuse to pay, they will destroy your credit rating and hound you with collectors. Now type in your credit card company and see what other customers have to say about them.

Shocked? You shouldn’t be. We all know the truth about the western economies, we just try to stay in denial. It’s one thing to be sympathetic, it’s another to be a statistic.

Update — Carlos rules. Using his knowledge, skills, and access to a non-Utah phone system, he was able to connect me to a location at Capital One that I haven’t been able to talk to before who purport to have helped me out. We’ll see if it takes. I hope so. And if I ever need consumer protection help again, I may skip the state CPA and AG offices and go straight to Carlos. Proves once again, you can’t win by working within the system… You can only win if you know (or have best friends who know) how to transcend it.

Still stuck with a lot…  §

Still stuck with a lot of nagging wrongness in my right shoulder, neck, etc… So apparently this lifting injury will be with me for a while. Damn. I feel like the hunchback of Notre Dame. Makes it hard to get anything done, to take pictures, even to sit in some positions. Completely frustrating.

Guess what is happening to…  §

Guess what is happening to the thousands of Palestinian men being detained en masse by the IDF? ID numbers. That’s right. ID numbers on the arms of gender-segregated “preventative” mass detainees. Will people never learn from history?

Someone said to me “You…  §

Someone said to me “You people on the left, you have no solutions, only accusations.” In a way, it’s true. It’s a difference in philosophy. All of the right’s “solutions” are just escalations of violence. Rather than drop a bomb in response to a bomb and blow a few more innocent people up, why is it so wrong to try to change attitudes, to change cultures to frown on the dropping of any future bombs?

Tell me! Why is it so much better to simply drop a bomb in response, to which the response will be (yet another) bomb, and so on? Of course the right says “What makes you think they will ever stop dropping bombs?” Maybe, maybe not. I like to think so. In the end, isn’t it better to pray for peace than to continue to make war, paying tepid lipservice to peace only as an afterthought?

Note that I’m not complaining about defensible borders… But right now, the US is well beyond her borders, as is Israel. That’s not defense, that’s offense. Condoleeza Rice, one of Bush’s top advisors, was on Meet the Press yesterday. Anybody catch what she said when asked about the War on Terror? “The best defense is a good offense.” And yet at the same time we claim that the nations and peoples of the middle east are making unfounded accusations when they talk about American aggression.

That’s the problem with the right wing. There is no chance for peace — a pre-emptive offense leaves no room for it. The best defense is a good offense. Indeed. That’s a football strategy, not an ideology to be toying with when bombs, guns, tanks, planes and perhaps even nukes are involved.

A change of pace for…  §

A change of pace for today… A semi-technical entry about Linux. I keep getting told by others that I must be very dedicated because there is no software available for Linux, and I must be a very cheap person because as everyone knows, Linux users are basically people who want everything for free. Just for fun, here’s a list of Linux software I’ve bought (i.e. paid for!) over the last few years. I still use most of this software every day. Note that this is not Windows software running in some kind of emulator, but Linux software, for Linux, that runs on Linux, and is compatible with with Linux. Really. Get it?

Corel WordPerfect Office 2000 Deluxe
Corel Draw 9
Corel PhotoPaint 9
Corel WordPerfect 8 (now retired in favor of Office 2000)
ApplixWare Office 5

Civilization: Call to Power
Descent 3
Eric’s Ultimate Solitaire
Heavy Gear II
Heretic II
Heroes of Might and Magic III
Kohan: Immortal Soverigns
Myth II: Soulblighter
Quake II
Quake III Arena
Railroad Tycoon II Gold
Shogo: Mobile Armor Division
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
SimCity 3000 Unlimited
Soldier of Fortune

Netraverse Win4Lin 3.0 (basically for IE-only Web sites)
VMWare Workstation 2.0 (bought before Win4Lin, then switched)

Any of these titles sound familiar? Some of the games should sound familiar to people, at least. Also, I do use GIMP to produce this site and to edit most of my photos, but there are definite uses for the more press-oriented Corel Draw and PhotoPaint, so I did buy them and I do use them. Really, this is a pretty remarkable list, considering how much free software really does exist for Linux, not to mention Linux itself.

Note also that most of these games are not yet available for Mac OS, either Classic or X, and that WordPerfect has only just re-entered the Mac world after a very long absence, during which Linux and Unix software versions were kept current.

Just thought I’d take a moment to try to disspell some anti-Linux propaganda out there.

Too far.  §

Wow. Now here is proof that America has gone too far in its support of Israel… apparently the US is ready to use nuclear weapons against Arab countries in the event of an all-out Arab-Israeli war.

Why I wonder is BBC covering this when the American media is not? My crazy right-wing uncle would say that it’s because all Europeans have been brainwashed by the communists to hate America, but I have other suspicions.

If you believe the BBC here, it’s very frightening. The world is indeed closer to nuclear war than ever before because the Bush administration has it’s finger on the button and it’s more than a little itchy.


People are fond of calling…  §

People are fond of calling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an “eye-for-an-eye” battle of retaliation. Of course, this is completely incorrect. In case anyone has lost count, it is a “three-eyes-for-an-eye” battle with Palestinians taking the brunt of the punishment, in large part at the hands of American weapons. Someone tried to tell me that there was no American aid sent to Israel. Let me clear that up for you right now. Nothing wrong with sending aid… but this is a lot of aid for a country only eight miles wide who we support uncritically, regardless of policy or activity, much to the antagonism of the much larger Arab population, with whom we were generally allied before the creation of Israel. Why? Are we determined to contribute to a world war?

Meanwhile, I just got Churchill quoted at me again: “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

I ask: is this really an argument in favor of capitalism in the long run? Show me two people sharing their miseries and I will show you bosom friends. Show me two people of unequal, unshared wealth and I will show you bitter enemies, one powerful and one weak. Even if I were to stipulate that Churchill’s sentiment is true (and, by the way, I do not), is it really so obvious that unequal weath is better than shared misery?

Andrea Russin and other WTC…  §

Andrea Russin and other WTC families wailing about money are crooks trying to exploit the deaths of their loved ones to get rich. The premise that “we should be able to collect a huge life insurance settlements, full workers’ compensation, full September 11th fund compensation and be able to sue the airlines for everything they’ve got” is offensive enough. Couple that with “my husband’s September 11th fund package should be worth millions more than the settlement some janitor’s family gets because my husband was a CEO and not just a janitor” and you have what amounts to a bunch of greedy New York capitalists completely addicted to their disgusting lifestyle running around hoping to make corpses they obviously never loved anyway into dollars.

It’s disgusting. Compensation should be based on need and the right to sue should be suspended; if every September 11th family files a multi-billion dollar lawsuit against the airlines (whose culpability in this matter is dubious at best), the airlines will all go bust and no-one will get any cash — or the US government will bail them all out and the rich (who else files these damn lawsuits) will get richer once again on the backs of the taxpayers.

Andrea Russin says “it’s the American way.”

Maybe so, but it’s greed plain and simple, and evil as well.

My back is a little better; I can walk and everything now… but it looks like I’ve torn a ligament somewhere against my spinal column and will be sore and weak for months. Damn.

My camera has arrived at Olympus, where they will add a few little things here and there. Cool. Now I just need to afford some extra glass and the hefty battery pack and my system will be all decked out for what I do with it.

As if to drive home…  §

As if to drive home the point that I am now a year older, my nagging back pain of the last week has turned into serious back pain. I can barely move at all this morning and everything hurts. Dammit… All from lifting a little too hard about a week ago (I haven’t done anything strenuous since). I guess I will have to stop lifting weights? Anyone have any suggestions for serious back pain right behind the shoulder blades that keeps you from: turning your head, leaning forward, straightening up, lifting your arms above your shoulders, reaching forward, moving your hand close enough to your mouth to eat or drink…

I look like a fscking 90-year-old, walking all crooked and slow, wincing every step, popping pills. Probably it’s really funny and I’d laugh like an idiot if it wasn’t me.

The Israelis and the Palestinians……  §

The Israelis and the Palestinians… They reap what they sew. Could any two peoples be more blind than these two? I only hope we in the US don’t follow down exactly the same path as Israel by hating all Arabs and all Muslims, trying to prevent a war with Islam by preemptively waging a war on Islam — with superior weapons. Stupid. Stupid.

I havefFound out that I really dodged a bullet in mid-February. Wow. I could have been in some serious shit, but luckily I followed my instincts and got out while the getting was good. It’s true what they say: if it sounds too good to be true…

Yeah, what makes our system…  §

Yeah, what makes our system so great is that it is enjoys such information openness. How wonderful that we do not depend on government propaganda and misinformation to keep us in line. Okay, so maybe Enron-like destruction of the common man happens a little to much, but it’s all worth it for the truth we get.