John Furie Zacharias
having a bad day in a strange place
Thunderstorms Anywhere

Thunderstorms in the Imajica



 The different ways I don't like you 
 in a list that may never become organized
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Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Digi-Chix: Writing with 'tude


Some of the most interesting Art and Journalism I've seen on the net comes from women.  If you've clicked-through some of my links in blog entries on Thunderstorms, you know this too.  I'll save the eye-candy for another time and just point out a book of reference on the subject that I happened to name Digi-Chix, entitled Reload: Rethinking Women + Cyberculture, and two inspiring Digi-Chix.

Amazon review: Most writing on cyberculture is dominated by two almost mutually exclusive visions: the heroic image of the male outlaw hacker and the utopian myth of a gender-free cyberworld. Reload offers an alternative picture of cyberspace as a complex and contradictory place where there is oppression as well as liberation. It shows how cyberpunk’s revolutionary claims conceal its ultimate conservatism on matters of class, gender, and race. The cyberfeminists writing here view cyberculture as a social experiment with an as-yet-unfulfilled potential to create new identities, relationships, and cultures.

Annalee Newitz is a regular contributor on AlterNet and whose articles I always make a point to read.  To me, she is the Borg Queen of Digi-Chix, and I say that in the most admiring way.  Her commentary on cyberculture is spot on and comes from her respected work with the cyber-rights organization Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a group I've admired for almost a decade.

I could easily comment and fill up an entire year's worth of blog just on the issues about which Annalee writes in her articles.  I thought I'd introduce you to another new member of my Digi-Chix, first.  I found her article while doing some online research on workers' conditions in India.  Mari Marcel Thekaekara is a journalist whose insight and bravery in the face of the powers-that-be in India follows in the tradition of Arundhati Roy.  Read.

Journalist - Mari Marcel Thekaekara
Shock. Outrage. Middle-class morality suitably scandalized. The reactions were predictable. Even Mari Marcel Thekaekara wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a co-operative of sex workers – and in Communist Kolkata (Calcutta) of all places, where co-ops are usually of the Party, for the Party and by the Party.  Then she went to find out for herself.

As I enter the building the first thing that hits me is the sheer, raw woman power.  The office is a noisy, bustling, activity-filled place.  A few men, mostly behind desks – but the women are unmistakably and completely in control.  There are 60,000 women sex workers who are part of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC).  The name sums it up – durbar meaning ‘indomitable’, ‘unstoppable’.  Whoever thought that up was brilliant.  Listening to the women’s stories I am filled with admiration for their guts, their spirit and the manner in which they carry on with their lives, cheerfully and matter-of-factly.  There is no self-pity, no whining.  Theirs is a precarious, fragile existence often filled with violence and uncertainty. I see women with scars, knife slashes and burn marks.  Yet they take everything in their stride.  I am intrigued by their pride, the in-your-face attitude, especially in the context of India – a hypocritical society not known for its political correctness, much less its tolerance or sympathy.

"How did Durbar start?" I ask.

Continue reading: Sex Workers with Attitude by Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Annalee Rocks!
I decided to watch M. Night Shyamalan's latest highbrow horror-nerd movie, The Village, for reasons I can't properly explain.  I think it had something to do with the vague sense of doom I always experience when the Federal Communications Commission starts bending the electronics industry to its will by issuing gold approval stars to certain companies and not others.  In case you missed out, last week the FCC issued a list of 13 high-definition TV recorders (including several made by Sony, a new TiVo, and Microsoft's latest Media Player) that are authorized for the marketplace because they "protect digital broadcast television from the threat of mass, indiscriminate redistribution."


What that means is the FCC won't allow the sale of H.D. recorders that don't recognize a little watermark in the H.D. signal called the broadcast flag. The flag stops the indiscriminate consumer from making digitally perfect backup copies of HDTV programs by fucking up the digital output on your favorite Sony or TiVo device. Maybe we should issue a rule to rename the FCC. We could just add a few more letters and call it the FCFCC, or the Federal Communications for Cash Commission. Then we wouldn't need to wonder why the only "approved" technologies come from giant megacorporations.

Continue reading: Fear is Good by Annalee Newitz




Monday, August 23, 2004
Swift Boys Noise


 Don't even go there, Dubya
Bill O'Reilly: "The Kerry camp blames Bush is behind it.  The Bush campaign wouldn't be that dumb."  O'Reilly's own words foreshadow the fact that he's smart enough to know the truth of the political game involved.  If the GOP, RNC, Bush campaign or related 527 group really wants to unzip both candidate's fly and measure their Vietnam-era hard-ons in some fratboy locker room fashion, George W. Bush couldn't win that contest even after the RNC drags Bob Dole in front of a national TV audience for a few soundbytes with a mouthful of veteran's viagra.

Unlike some fellow bloggers, I haven't blogged anything about the swift boat political advertisements or the muddy waters of political groups in which they seem to endlessly swirl on cable news, until now.  As University of Michigan history professor Juan Cole wrote very recently on his site, Informed Comment:
The debate that a handful of Texas multi-millionnaires close to the Bush family have cleverly manufactured over John Kerry's war record is absurd in every way .... But to address the substance of this Big Lie is to risk falling into its logic.  The true absurdity of the entire situation is easily appreciated when we consider that George W. Bush never showed any bravery at all at any point in his life .... Kerry saved a man's life while under fire.  Bush did no such thing.
So what was little Dubya doing during the Vietnam War?  Maybe the history professor can educate us further:
We all know by now that Bush did not even do his full service with the Texas Air National Guard, absenting himself to work on the Alabama senate campaign of Winton "Red" Blount.  Whether he was actually AWOL during this stint is unclear.  But it is clear that not only did Bush slack off on his National Guard service, but he also slacked off from his campaign work.

This little-noted interview with Blount's nephew Murph Archibald, which appeared on National Public Radio's All Things Considered on March 30, 2004, gives a devastating insight into what it was like to have to suffer through Bush in that period.
If I make this an open-book history quiz, you should read the entire post by professor Cole.  I haven't even bothered with the Dubya's cocaine use, born-again-on-the-wagon period, or the psychological effects that those things might bring to bear on the leader of the most powerful country in the world with a $400 billion annual budget with which he now can really play army.  Here are just two snippets from the interview.
GOODWYN: Far from Texas and Washington, DC, Mr. Bush enjoyed his freedom.  He dated a beautiful young woman working on the campaign.  He went out in the evenings and had a good time.  In fact, he left the house he rented in such disrepair--with damage to the walls and a chandelier destroyed--that the Montgomery family who owned it still grumble about the unpaid repair bill.  Archibald says Mr. Bush would come into the office and, in a friendly way, offer up stories about the drinking he'd done the night before, kind of as a conversation starter.

GOODWYN: According to Archibald, Mr. Bush would also sometimes tell stories about his days at Yale in New Haven, and how whenever he got pulled over for erratic driving, he was let go after the officers discovered he was the grandson of a Connecticut US senator. Archibald, a middle-class Alabama boy--who, by the way, is now a registered Democrat--didn't like that story.
Pencils down.  Dubya's Swift Boat Just Doesn't Float.  I'm a helluva lot more concerned with the fact that this entire GOP smoke screen hides current lies, secrecy, corruption and empire-as-usual in the Bush World administration.  Honestly, I don't care what little Dubya did during Vietnam, I care what he did to drunkenly drive the country into the mother of all quagmires in Iraq.

Look, quagmire is Vietnam era term, but it's truly an understatement.  Right now, we're only one bad day away from reaching 1000 soldiers killed in Iraq.  Since the Bush administration can't seem to pull Osama out of a hat, no matter how much it pays and pressures the Pakistani ISI to produce a high value target before the election, Bush and Cheney are hoping that they can swagger into the upcoming Republican National Convention in NYC with some good news from Iraq.  Hence, another push to go after their puppet government's most vocal 'insurgent' -- 'radical' Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al Sadr, in Najaf.

The reason I think quagmire is an understatement is because as far as quagmires go, 1000 dead and 6000 wounded in Iraq is just the skinned-over top of a huge pit-o-quagmire on top of which our country is currently and precariously sitting, if the Bush World political gambling goes awry.  And don't even utter the words exit strategy, because if you think the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Iraq plan looked bumbling because they didn't seem to have any plan ... it's because there never was any exit strategy ever.  Bush isn't nation-building.  He isn't pulling troops out of the Pacific and Europe to come home.  The new Bush World term -- think enduring camp.  But for today, look at the monthly numbers of KIA and wounded readily available online, like the bar graph on Global Security.  The last largest spike in deaths was the last time we went into Najaf militarily.

Just so you fathom the situation -- not the battle for Najaf, but the no-win gamble with which Bush and Cheney are playing politics -- read some of Global Security's Najaf info:
An Islamic holy city, Najaf is home to the shrine of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet Mohammad’s cousin and son-in-law and fourth caliph (656-661). Najaf also contains one of the largest cemeteries in the world. According to Imam Ali, any Muslim buried here will enter paradise; as a result, the tombs of several prophets are found in Najaf. Shia Muslims especially consider it a privilege to be buried here. Like Karbala, Najaf became an important center of Islamic scholarship and theology. During his exile from Iran, Ayatollah Khomeini lived here for 12 years prior to the 1979 revolution in Iran. In 1999, the Iraqi Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammad Sadiq al-Sadr was assassinated in Najaf, sparking clashes between Shia and the Iraqi government.

In the nineteenth century, the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala in Ottoman Iraq emerged as the most important Shi‘i centers of learning. Najaf is known for being an Islamic center for scientific, literary and theological studies for the whole Islamic world and mainly for the Shiites, therefore Najaf is attractive for a large number of people, poets, authors and other visitors from China/India, Lebanon, Pakistan and Iran which is estimated annually over half a million.
I highlighted Moqtada al Sadr's grandfather's name. The reason al Sadr wears a black turban is because he's blood-related to the assassinated/martyred Islamic high holy man, not because he thinks it's fashionable this year.  I know what you're thinking.  The U.S. is being careful not to dent the shrine.  Fine.  That's smart, but:

Shiites from all over the world, not only Iraqis or Iranians, but Shiites from Pakistan, India, Bahrain, all over the world go to Najaf and they ask to be buried in Najaf close to that mosque. And historically and religiously it's a very important city and mosque for Shiite Muslims. Shiites aspire to bury their dead in its cemetery, which stretches for miles. To the north and east of the town there are acres of graves and myriads of domes of various colors and at various stages of disrepair. The cemetery of Al-Najaf is one of the largest cemeteries in the world. Perhaps the most extraordinary thing in Najaf is the graveyard. Millions of Muslims over the centuries have been brought here for burial from all parts of the world of Islam. So Najaf is embraced by a vast semi-circle of graves- by an immense City of the Dead.

Bush may not be a beer-guzzling fratboy anymore, but he's drunk with power if he thinks that Muslims will be happy over what has already been happening in Najaf, Iraq.  Look, it's like me walking into the Vatican to arrest a child-molesting priest hiding there, but all I do is spit on the floor and put my cigarette out on the face of Jesus' shroud of Turin.  Since Bush is too drunk on something to understand that, I personally don't want him around for his next power binge.




Sunday, August 22, 2004
Masked Thieves Steal Scream


JfZ - An Icon of Angst and Fear
Another theft of pricelsss works today has caused the art world to have a never-ending anxiety attack.  Masked and armed thieves snatched up two Edvard Munch paintings in a brazen daylight robbery of the Munch Museum, in Oslo, while stunned museum visitors stood watching in fear.  The brazen thieves reportedly just held museum guards at bay with hand guns and grabbed the two large 2x3 foot Munch masterpieces, Scream and Madonna.  What worries museum officals and the art world at large is the fact that the thieves reportedly dropped the two large paintings during the robbery, the frames were later found smashed in Oslo, and the priceless Munch works could never be sold anywhere on the planet due to their notariety.

Painted in 1893, both masterpieces would be worth tens of millions of dollars at a legitimate auction.  Strangely, another version of Scream -- Munch painted four -- was stolen from the nearby National Gallery during the Olympic Games by a Munch-obsessed soccer fan.  However, the UK Guardian reports:
Suspicions for yesterday's raid focused immediately upon the perpetrators of a series of armed bank robberies elsewhere in Norway this summer.  They were characterised by careful planning, frequently involving gunmen pushing their way into banks shortly after they opened and before staff had time to get organised.  According to reports, the gang was at times 15-strong and several members appeared to have had military training.

Why anyone would want to steal a painting as well known as Edvard Munch's The Scream is a mystery.  The belief that masterpieces are stolen to order for wealthy private collectors is no longer widely credited.  A ransom demand at some future date seems more likely.

"We're following all possible leads ... but we don't know who did this," Detective Chief Inspector Kjell Pedersen told a news conference yesterday.  One of the thieves spoke in Norwegian during the robbery.
Not only is Scream the most famous Edvard Munch painting, but also has since become a cultural icon used to express angst and fear.  Uk Guardian reporters may more appropiately describe it as "an icon representing humanity's existential alienation," and Adrian Searle can give you a proper art-phag analysis of the work, but I hope you can understand the symbolism from my dumb-ass-bricklayer pixel-monkey image above.


Saturday, August 21, 2004
Dear George Letters



They deserve you

Dear George:

I despise you. As far as I am concerned, you stole the last election and are not a legitimate president.

You took us into a war under false pretenses. Hundreds of young Americans have been killed and thousands of Iraqes. How can you say we are safer? You opened the door to thousands of terrorists.

You do not care about the little people only those in the upper 2% who support you. I deal every day with people who have not health care and are desperate--I actually work for your baby brother who helped you steal the last election.

Personally, I am working hard to defeat you. For the first time I am actually involved in an election--I think it is a matter of this country's survival to defeat you. I look forward to your retirement in Crawford. Having lived in Texas, they deserve you.

Jean
Age 66
Sarasota, Florida



I actually stumbled onto this interesting project via an advertisement while researching a future blog entry I wanted to do on India.  I figured since the Bush Administration and his Commerce Department are actively promoting the exportation of Bush World jobs to places like India, I might want to know something about the people with whom I'll be competing to get any available work in the service industry, for example.  I'm too old now to re-enlist in the military and work overseas for Bush World ventures.  Not that being a veteran would help.  Since the Bush World Veteran's Administration is so currently overwhelmed, I'm not able to use any VA Benefits anyway.  Maybe I can be buried in a veteran's cemetary if I lose it and drive my electric scooter into the path of a speeding citrus semi-truck rumbling down the road out front.  I imagine even there, space is becoming filled up.

Anyway, the Dear George Letters are the bright idea of Marcus Woollen of West 50th Street Productions in New York.  There was such an overwhelming response to the project, they are now limited to selecting some letters and posting them on their BlogSpot site.

There are pro-Bush and anti-Bush letters posted on the site.  Here are some of my favorites, some not for obvious reasons, recently posted in August:

What happened to my tax cut?

World of Trouble

God doesn't take sides

Results do matter

If I were to sit down, think, and write a letter to George, I think it could sound similar to this, but would end up sounding like this.


Friday, August 20, 2004
Split Ticket Issues?


The infamous Hanging Chad man
As a Libertarian for many years now, I have voted across political party lines or 'split my ticket' in elections based upon issues that are of concern to me personally.  More often than not, those issues are related to our U.S. Bill of Rights or basic constitutional principles: Free Expression versus Censorship, Seperation of Church and State, The Right to Keep and Bear Arms (RTKBA), Privacy, and State's Rights.  Voters with strong beliefs on a particular issue, while not going so far as to vote for an independent candidate outside the predominately Democratic and Republican political parties' stronghold on modern politics, will sometimes 'cross party lines' when they feel strongly enough on an issue.

Other times, people vote for candidates that espouse a belief that they share on broader topics, like the state of the economy, environmental issues, or foreign policy.  An even less specific description in our current two party political world might simply be liberal and conservative.

I wanted to follow up on a blog entry from last month, Dukesville - 2nd Amendment, because the dynamic graphic image I put in it and also on Dukesville tells us there is a only 4 weeks left until the Assault Weapons Ban Sunset occurs.  One of the reasons I made that entry into a link list was just in case the AWBsunset site folds up shop and goes offline, after the particulars of this RTKBA issue are no longer around.  That would be a shame as that site has a lot of useful info easily available to visitors.

Here's the current state of gun control in politics (in a nutshell), found on AWBsunset:
After the Democrat's stunning defeat in the 1994 elections following the passing of the "assault weapons" ban, the party began to rethink their strong anti-gun stance. Though the issue of gun control once was an effective campaign issue for the Democratic Party, it has fallen out of favor over the past several years.  After Al Gore's defeat in 2000, largely due to his anti-gun positions, Democrats have practically abandoned the issue altogether.
Personally, in 2000, I was interested how union members in the Detroit area who continually rattled on about being died-in-the-wool Democrats freaked out on the RTKBA issue and abandoned Al Gore.  Almost to a man, my fellow bricklayers were deer hunters.  While not a deer hunter myself, working daily in the some of the worst neighborhoods in Detroit where square mile automotive factories sit across the street from crime-ridden neighborhoods might make you think twice about the right to keep and bear arms, too.  The Democrats really stepped on their dick with that one, in 2000.

When I looked at the likely position House of Representatives members might take on the RTKBA issue, it is mostly split along Democratic and Republican lines.  What is curious to me, then, is when it is not neatly going down party lines -- when a Democrat is pro-gun and a Republican is not.

For example, when I looked at Michigan I found two pro-gun Democrats and when I looked at Florida I found two gun-control Republicans.  Why?  After some quick digging, it's easy to see.  In Michigan, Bart Stupak, 1st district, and John Dingell, 15th district, both represent pro-hunting areas. Stupak's district is huge, encompassing the entire U.P. and the NE region of the lower penninsula.

In Florida, then, why would a Republican be a gun control advocate?  Bill Young in the 10th district and Ilena Ros-Lehtinen in the 18th district are.  Both of these Republicans' districts are small and urban.  Young in Tampa, and Ros-Lehtinen in Miami.  It seems the RTKBA issue is first a traditional stance for a political party and then an urban/rural issue.

AWBsunset's Bottom Line:
If a replacement ban were voted on in the Senate, there is a good chance it would pass (if ban supporters were able to get it to the floor for a vote).  If it reached the President's desk, he would probably sign it. In the House of Representatives, however, the ban has a much tougher road ahead, and this is where our best chances for success are.  For an in-depth illustration of these factors, take a look at our AW Ban Scoreboard.

Republicans generally are pro-gun rights, so we can assume that the leadership in the House will not go out of their way to bring a renewal or replacement bill to the floor unless incredible pressure is brought to bear.  Because regaining control of Congress will be a top priority for Democrats in 2004, and they are no doubt acutely aware of the blow dealt to them in the past on this issue, they may not want to risk pushing for a renewal.

This would be a best-case scenario for us... majority party has no interest in the issue, minority party is afraid of it. Neither wants it to come up and force them to publicly take a position on it. Both would prefer that it simply be ignored, and remain bottled up in some dungeon committee.  The real bottom line is this: the more intelligently written, reasonable sounding letters our congressmen receive from us, the greater the chance the above will happen.

They have hit the nail on the head. I searched, and searched, and found nothing about any RTKBA issue on the four representatives' official house.gov web sites.  Perhaps, if this is a non-issue this election year, that is a good thing for the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

What are the issues that would cause you to vote a 'split ticket' if your favored political party candidate expressed a view contrary to your own?


 
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