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 01, 2006
Iraq: Pop Quiz

Iraq - worse than Palestine?

Pop Quiz:

  • What date did the U.S. invade Iraq?
  • Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?
  • Who is in charge of Iraq today?
  • What is the military mission in Iraq?
  • When will the mission stop changing?
  • When does that mission end?
  • Who, besides al-Qaeda and Iran, benefits?
  • How much will the occupation in Iraq cost?
  • Have occupations ever succeeded, anywhere?
  • Will Americans care enough to demand answers?

This may seem simple-minded, but I think in order to begin to get answers to some of these questions concerning Iraq, you have to care enough about the issue to ask the questions in the first place.  After that, the difficult work of actually pursuing the answers can begin.

On a personal level, when it was apparent that the U.S. was going to invade Iraq, I had two basic thoughts.  My first reaction was that this wasn't actually a new war, but simply an extension of the Gulf War.  After the official end of the Gulf War, the Iraqi government basically lost control of two-thirds of the country through the implementation of the "No-Fly Zones" in the northern and southern regions.  Years of U.N. sanctions also had an effect on the Iraqi government to provide for its people.

My second thought was that the escalation from a cold war style containment operation to a hot war in Iraq was going to distract from the mission in Afghanistan.  It was as simple as thinking, "finish what you start before you go off on another project."  Then, the Bush administration started publicly stating its reasons for going into Iraq and I honestly thought that anyone even paying a little attention to the dynamics of the Middle East will see these arguments as total bullshit.

The U.S. Congress authorized the use of military force, anyway.  How could hundreds of supposedly intelligent people do this, I wondered.  Despite my opposition to the Iraq War, or Operation Iraqi Freedom, I can understand why some may have thought it would be easy to do, militarily.  I still believe it was the wrong thing to do.  I deeply despise the people in power who sold apples to the American public, when they wanted to steal oranges.

It's failure of leadership at the highest levels when people among them who asked the tough questions, or opposed the core neo-con group in the administration, were marginalized, ostracized and ultimately ignored.  In order to move forward as a country, though, it is helpful to understand how we got where we are.

Recently, I found some PBS Frontline specials that I had never seen before.  I was amazed at the level of investigation in these programs.  The details and interviews of personnel in the administration, intelligence and defense are extremely eye-opening.

If you wish to understand more fully why we are where we are today in Iraq and in the prosecution of the so-called War on Terror, make a little time to watch these shows online with Windows Media or RealVideo, high speed or dialup:

Look, I understand you are a busy person with a busy life.  There are hours of video listed above.  Make the time to watch one video at a time.  It's the least you can do when people are dying horrible deaths everyday.  We all need to be able to move forward and find answers to the difficult and troubling questions facing all of us.  That's why I think the most important question in my Pop Quiz is "Will Americans care enough to demand answers?"

Well, do you care?  Feel free to discuss the general topic or specific PBS Frontline programs in the comments.  We need to find a way forward.

[Headphones] :: Democrusader [Download] [Lo-Fi Stream] by JfZ



Friday, July 28, 2006
Anglican Bishop Speaks Out

 Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

Shown above: Clergy from the Espicopal Diocese of Jerusalem in happier times.

U.S. President George Bush has often said he makes decisions based upon advice from his commanders on the ground, rather than basing his policies on public opinion polls or political in-fighting in Washington.  That strategery has apparently served him in Iraq and Afghanistan, since things are going so well in those conflicts.  So, whatever.  He's the Decider.

When it comes to Israel and foreign policy, I believe Dubya not only ignores the international opinion on the situation, but also reports from boots on the ground.  Perhaps he doesn't get all the reports.  Perhaps he only pays attention to the reports he likes to hear.  Perhaps his mind is occupied with plans to clear the brush on his Crawford ranch during his upcoming vacation.  I don't know.

I found this link on Juan Cole's Informed Comment blog under a little paragraph:

A Christian Bishop in Jerusalem would get a better hearing among American Christians than would non-Christian leaders, right? Wrong.

It was linked to a website that I wouldn't normally ever visit because of the obvious lack of any porn on it -- the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.  The Gaza Report July 2006 describes the dire situation for the diocese since Israel's military offensive called "Summer Rains" began.  Then, in the following diocese news item, this Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem finally spoke out about the current Israeli / Lebanese situation:

We have seen and we have been the recipients of the generosity of our American and British friends. We cherish the support of everyone throughout the world who stands with us in solidarity. Daily, I hear from many of them who express outrage at the arrogant and aggressive positions of President Bush, Secretary Rice, Senator Clinton, and Prime Minister Blair. I am saddened to realize just how much the deserved prestige of the United States and Britain has declined as a result of politicians who seem to devalue human life and suffering. And, I am disturbed that the Zionist Christian community is damaging America's image as never before.

Little more than a week ago, we were focused on the plight of the Palestinian people. In Gaza, four and five generations have been victims of Israeli racism, hate crimes, terror, violence, and murder. Garbage and sewage have created a likely outbreak of cholera as Israeli strategies create the collapse of infrastructures. There is no milk. Drinking water, food, and medicine are in serious short supply. Innocents are being killed and dying from lack of available emergency care. Children are paying the ultimate price. Even for those whose lives are spared, many of them are traumatized and will not grow to live useful lives. Commerce between the West Bank and Gaza has been halted and humanitarian aid barely trickles into some of the neediest in the world.

Movement of residents of the West Bank is difficult or impossible as "security measures" are heightened to break the backs of the Palestinian people and cut them off from their place of work, schools, hospitals, and families. It is family and community that has sustained these people during these hopeless times. For some, it is all that they had, but that too has been taken away with the continued building of the wall and check points. The strategy of ethnic cleansing on the part of the State of Israel continues.

This week, war broke out on the Lebanon-Israeli border (near Banyas where Jesus gave St. Peter the keys to heaven and earth). The Israeli government's disproportionate reaction to provocation was consistent with their opportunistic responses in which they destroy their perceived enemy.

In her recent article, "The Insane Brutality of the State of Israel," American, Kathleen Christison, a former CIA analyst says, "The state lashes out in a crazed effort, lacking any sense of proportion, to reassure itself of its strength." She continues, "A society that can brush off as unimportant an army officer's brutal murder of a thirteen year old girl on the claim that she threatened soldiers at a military post (one of nearly seven hundred Palestinian children murdered by Israelis since the Intifada began) is not a society with a conscience." The "situation" as it has come to be called, has deteriorated into a war without boundaries or limitations. It is a war with deadly potential beyond the imaginations of most civilized people.

Now, that may not make sense to you if you watch American TV news, but there it is.  I just included an excerpt of this man's plea to the western world at-large, so I encourage you to read his entire piece here.

[Headphones] :: They March and They Sing - Louisiana Red

Some inspirational music for your troubled mind or the troubled world.


Thursday, July 27, 2006
Iraqi PM gets pink'd

click for video
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki spoke to a joint session of Congress Wednesday.  With Speaker Dennis Hastert and Vice President Dick Cheney sitting behind the speaker's podium, Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki addressed the joint session in his native tongue while the audience carefully listened to a translation on their headsets.  About ten minutes into his speech, al-Malaki was heckled from the upper gallery for about a minute before Speaker Hastert called for the Sargeant-at-arms to remove the protesting woman.  She was carried off, screaming.

You can watch Nouri al-Malaki's entire speech with RealVideo via C-SPAN here.  I was actually embarrassed to hear supposedly grown men and professional politicians boo this woman.  These Bush Rubber-Stampers loudly booed.

By regulation, C-SPAN cameras are not allowed to pan around very much.  Commercial news media cameras caught the action though, as security personnel yanked the woman out of the gallery.  She was arrested for disrupting Congress.  You can watch a short 2-minute clip via YouTube here.

Now, I'm sure mainstream media had fun playing video clips of this incident on nightly news, but they probably didn't bother telling you the backstory.  Who is this woman and why did she do this?

Medea Benjamin, 54, is from California and founder of the outspoken anti-war group called Code Pink.  She is also heading up the Troops Home Fast effort that has people all over the country participating in various forms of protest, including a hunger strike.

The reason Medea Benjamin decided to disrupt al-Malaki's speech was because her group had been promised a meeting with al-Malaki previously at the Iraq Embassy by the ambassador, but had been ultimately blown off.  She tells the whole story in a video interview via Democracy Now!  here. [transcript]

click for video
In other news, two other women were removed from the Senate committee hearing considering the formal confirmation of U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton.  Senator Dick Lugar chairs the hearing.  Like any politician, he plods along, ignoring the voice of the people.  I fiddled with the C-SPAN link to fast-forward you to the action, since the entire video clip is over 3 hours long.  Both women stand up and start yelling within about two minutes of each other.  Watch it here.

I applaud all these vocal women who stand up for peace.  Sadly, I honestly think the only thing that is ever going to change things in Washington is the next election, unless Jesus arrives in Santa's sleigh with a presidential impeachment sooner.

[Headphones] :: They March and They Sing - Louisiana Red

You could always put your same old troubles in a new bag.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006
Summer Boredom

Have you been bored out of your mind lately?  Has the extreme Summer heat kept you inside during the day?  I know some of you online phreeks and shut-ins have been spending hours playing video games, getting headaches from scanning the schizophrenic crap on MySpace, and wasting time by watching hours of stupid-people-trick videos on YouTube.  If you're going to just sit there in front of the computer anyway, why not get paid to do stuff online?

Big companies spend millions and millions of dollars doing market research for their new products.  They want to know if something is good or bad before they spend even more money putting it out on store shelves.  Companies also know that in order to get honest opinions about their products and services, they have to pay people for it.

I found two reputable online survey sites that work with hundreds of large companies.  One is Survey Annex and the other is Survey Payoff.  While each one is a little different, they both basically work the same way.  You sign up with them and get access to lists of companies that are doing market research.  You choose what survey to take, spend five or ten minutes taking the survey, and get paid for it.  Your payment might be cash via PayPal, check mailed to you, promotional products, or credits based on some point system.

For example, when surveys earn you points -- you might take several surveys and then cash in your accumulated points for an iPod.  Each survey is different, but you choose the ones you want to fill out.

I've read some people take online surveys in their spare time and make a part-time living at it.  Other people do it just long enough to get some cool electronic gadget, like a new iPod or cellphone.  I do know from my own research that these survey companies love to have input from two main groups of people -- teenagers/college students and home makers with children.  If you fit into one of those two demographics, you'll have the opportunity to fill out more surveys than other people.  I guess grouchy male bloggers, like myself, don't buy as many things at the store!

So, what the heck?  If you're just sitting there this Summer anyway, go ahead and check out those two survey companies.  They've been around quite awhile and they are the real deal.  When you do sign up, feel free to come back here and tell me what cool stuff you earned, so people can be jealous of you.

[Headphones] :: Sharecropper's Sun - Louisiana Red

If you're really bored, you could always go get a job.

Sunday, July 23, 2006
Newt Greengrinch

Selling his book
"We're in the early stages of what I would describe as the third World War and, frankly, our bureaucracy's not responding fast enough and we don't have the right attitude. And this is the 58th year of the war to destroy Israel and, frankly, the Israelis have every right to insist that every single missile leave south Lebanon, and the United States ought to be helping the Lebanese government have the strength to eliminate Hezbollah as a military force not as a political force in the parliament but as a military force in south Lebanon."

Newt Gingrich on "Meet The Press"  [MTP video clip]

Even though the United States military is already engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan and stretched to the maximum, this crusty old neocon wants more war with more nations.  He believes the Bush administration is being too soft concerning Islamic extremists and dictatorships that help them.  He is the carnival barker for those neocons in Washington who are calling for a wider war in the Middle East, namely against Iran and Syria.

The warmongers main argument is that Iran and Syria are the Hezbollah puppet masters.  They continually point to the fact that the Katusha rockets raining down on Israeli towns are developed in Iran and made in Syria.

I ask, "so what?"

Katushas have killed 30 people in Israel and U.S. made bombs and mortars have killed 300 Lebanese.  I just don't understand the neocon logic here, except for the fact that they want a larger war and are trying to float out some reasons for it, like they did with the Iraq WMD argument.

Russia supplies arms to Iran.  Should we go to war with Russia?  The majority of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi.  Should we go to war with Saudi Arabia?  The U.S. supplies billions of dollars worth of arms to Israel.  American taxpayers have given about $3 billion every year to Israel in "foreign aid" for decades.  What most people don't know is that the "humanitarian" portion of those aid dollars are, by policy, diminishing to zero -- while at the same time -- the "defense" portion of those billions grow to 100% of the aid package.

Newt Gingrich is not only selling his WW III neocon bullshit here in America, he is also selling a version of it in the United Kingdom.  [BBC video clip]  I imagine it didn't go over as well there as it does to the U.S. audience here hoping to push to the world toward Armageddon and their promised "rapture."

The Greengrinch may have more personal reasons for his talk show appearances, in my humble opinion.  His last book "Winning the Future" just came out in paperback and he's simply seizing the moment to make a few more million dollars for himself.  I can understand that motivation, but the upshot is that he has once again become a carnival barker for war at the expense of other people's lives.

[Headphones] :: Democracy Now - Democracy Now

Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it.

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