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{Thursday, October 31, 2002}

The Great Pumpkins

The Accordion Guy attended a kickass pumpkin carving party a few days ago. The results, like the Great Pumpkin over there on the left and Charlie Brown with Snoopy on the right, were stunning (via Team Murder).

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{Wednesday, October 30, 2002}

For Halloween

Song of the day: "Lake of Fire," performed by Nirvana (covering The Meat Puppets whose version is here)

Where do bad folks go when they die?
They don't go to heaven where the angels fly,
They go to a lake of fire and fry.
You won't see 'em again 'til the Fourth of July

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You can't hurt the dead

They are publishing a book of Kurt Cobain's diaries and letters, something pretty typical for famous dead people I suppose. His ex-wife, Courtney Love, and Frances, his daughter, are getting $4 million for the material. His bandmates recently settled a lawsuit with Love over control of the band's legacy. Which I presume means that in exchange for allowing the band to posthumously release You Know You're Right, Courtney Love gets to sell Kurt's private thoughts for $4 million.

Isn't it unsurprising how settling a lawsuit does nothing to settle the underlying acrimony that motivated it?

This is what Krist Novoselic, ex bassist for Nirvana, and a co-founder of the band, had his agent say about the journals that Courtney is allowing to be published: “He just feels it’s wrong to talk about something this private. He doesn’t want to be involved with these diaries on any level.”

Krist would probably not approve of this post.

I might not approve of this post.

In the two Newsweek articles that I am quoting from, stealing images from, but not linking to, one single quotation from Cobain's diaries stood out:
Within the months between October 1991 thru December 92 I have had 4 four notebooks filled with two years worth of poetry and personal writing ... The most violating thing ive felt this year is not the media exxagerations or the catty gossip, but the rape of my personal thoughts. Ripped out of pages from my stay in hospitals and aeroplane rides hotel stays etc. I feel compelled to say f—k you F—k you to those of you who have absolutely no regard for me as a person. You have raped me harder than you’ll ever know.
Fuck you, Jim. Fuck you.

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No War Blog
Stand Down is what the anti-warriors have been waiting for, a group blog. It is "an alliance of left and right-wing webloggers opposed to the military conquest of Iraq." As of 11:38PM on Wednesday night, there are 33 blogs on the list, with 22 on the left and 11 on the right.

I found Stand Down via Jim Henley, and he is the source of the quote above as well as the #2 blog on the right side of Stand Down's list.

The blog has a unity statement, but given that Stand Down has such an eclectic group of bloggers under its tent, it is a fair question as to whether there is any consistent statement that can be made as to why its members oppose the war.

Are we against aggression, or just unilateralism? Do we oppose all foreign intervention, or do we just lament our country’s inability to undertake the necessary nation-building in post-war Iraq? Is the issue that Hussein does not represent a threat, or is it that even though he is a threat, he should not be dealt with in the way that the Bush Administration hopes to deal with him?

According to the unity statement:
The members of Stand Down hold a wide variety of different and, indeed, conflicting political positions, but all are in agreement on a single proposition: that the use of military force to effect "regime change" in Iraq is ill advised and unjustified. We do not deny that the current Iraqi regime is monstrous, but we hold, following John Adams, that the United States need not go "abroad in search of monsters to destroy" unless they pose a clear and direct threat to American national security.
Even this statement is not something that I can get behind without equivocation. Is “regime change” in Iraq ill advised and unjustified under any circumstances? Certainly not.

But I am on board given the current situation, because it appears that the Bush administration prefers war to inspections, deterrence, and containment. Though I have doubts about all three policies, my doubts about war are greater.

Stand Down’s co-creators (Max Sawicky and Julian Sanchez) have built the foundations of a great thing: a non-partisan intellectual resource. Stand Down explicitly unites people whose political views are on opposite ends of the spectrum, but who share common cause in opposing this war. It unites them via the medium of the weblog – less effective than rallies and other mass actions in terms of mobilizing change, but far more effective in terms of catalyzing thought.

I am excited by both these aspects of the site. I think that our ideas will be strengthened by debate – not only with fellow anti-warriors on the other side of the political spectrum, but with the hawks as well. I am glad that the best results of our grappling will be preserved in one place as a reference for everyone seeking to make the anti-war case to other people of goodwill.

I hope that the record of our deliberations is one of both fairness and intelligence. If Stand Down can honor the reason and judgment of our opponents by honestly grappling with their strongest and most valid arguments, then we will have done a worthy thing.

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{Monday, October 28, 2002}

Making a list
The reason Santa is such a jolly guy is because he knows where all the bad girls live.

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{Wednesday, October 23, 2002}

bury my bones in the cold cold ground

An experiment to store large quantities of carbon dioxide emissions under the floor of the North Sea has been highly successful, according to seismic imaging data.

Over five million tonnes of CO2 have been pumped into sandstone under the Sleipner Field since 1996. The greenhouse gas had been separated from extracted natural gas and would normally have been released into the atmosphere...

"This method of carbon dioxide sequestration is probably one of the most powerful techniques we have for the next 50 years for reducing CO2 emissions," says Chadwick. "We believe it is safe, technically feasible and certainly has very little environmental downside." (more)

The New Scientist reports some good news on dealing with CO2 emissions (via Follow Me Here).

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Beware the Slippery Slope
"If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination."
-Thomas De Quincey, "On Murder Considered As One of the Fine Arts," 1839

[ Stolen wholesale from Norm Jenson, after I murdered him ]

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{Monday, October 21, 2002}

A fighter
I'd read and admired John Hiler's Microcontent News even before I met him for the first time on June 14th at a blog party. We spoke only for a little while, but I'd enjoyed it -- enough for me to recall and later write that he was "intelligent and fair-minded," like his weblog.

The day before the blog party, John had been attacked while walking home. It was a violent attack, three men ambushing him, one of them with a two-by-four. But John attended the Blog get-together the next day, where I was lucky enough to meet him. He appeared none the worse for wear; I would never have guessed what happened to him just a day earlier.

In his place, I would not have been at a party socializing. I would not have been that tough or that resilient.

Now John has been diagnosed with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. "It sounds worse than it is," he writes.

John is tough, and resilient, and a fighter. I wish we, the bloggers who admire his work, could've been in that street with him on June 13th. But we can at least let him know that he isn't fighting alone right now. John's post about the attack and his continuing recovery is here. His e-mail address is john@corante.com.

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Getting towards midnight, with beer: Damn it, I want to drink and dance and sing, with my friends, Rick's friends; I want to burn wood and smell the smoke and piss in the sea, shout at the moon, cry at the beauty of this world and swear eternal opposition to those who would paint it with blood, again, I want to hold you my friends in my arms and circle around our wounded brother and sing and weep and shout and break the shell of the words. I'm drunk again, by god, and I'm typing with tears running down my rugged goddamn manly cheeks, and I feel so useless. I want to bellow in pain like some big dumb beast, and I want to hold my friend and tell him that he has nothing to fear.
Those words were stolen from here. That site, the epersonae weblog, is by Elane Nelson. Elane Nelson designed the very blogger template used by this humble site, and one or two others. Hi Elane.

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Department of Nice Large Fonts
The lovely Jane Galt points to a blog by a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Chicago. I just took a peek, and I can say that the two posts on the main page are thought-provoking yet quite brief. Plus it has nice large fonts and a good deal of whitespace. What more could you ask for when delving into the murky world of philosophical discourse?

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Department of (Thoroughly) Debunked Theories
Jim Henley (whose blog had a birthday on Sunday) reports that pretty much everyone who has ever alleged a meeting between Mohammed Atta and Iraqi intelligence has retracted their story or been discredited.

In other news, Objectionable Content steals "Department of ______" -style post headings from Unqualified Offerings. Officials have no leads on the whereabouts of OC's mysterious proprietor, "Jim," but they warn that he may also have escaped with the first name of Unqualified Offerings' proprietor, ___ Henley. Police are advising other bloggers to use only their initials if at all possible.

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Good neighbors and double standards
Recently, the Israeli government announced its intention to dismantle a number of "illegal" settlements in the Occupied Territories.

Palestinians argue that all settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are illegal because they are based on an expropriation of land, but Israel recognizes the legality of settlements in general, so long as the government authorizes each new project and goes through the legal formality of zoning the land out of Palestinian hands.

When this zoning doesn't occur fast enough, groups of Israeli settlers often move to create outposts and new settlements even without waiting for the approval of the Israeli government. While all settlements are illegal in Palestinian eyes (and under the 4th Geneva Convention according to the Red Cross and others), these settler outposts are doubly illegal, as even the government of Israel does not condone them.

When Israel decided to remove one of the doubly illegal settlements in order to smooth over an upcoming meeting between Sharon and President Bush, the response was a settler riot involving 1,000 people, described by a spokesman for Israel's Judea and Samaria police department as "fierce and violent." Another article gave more details:

During the two days of evacuation attempts, 43 policemen were lightly injured, while 12 required medical treatment. The police arrested 15 settlers for violent behavior.

The policeman were instructed to act with utmost restraint, avoid confrontation with the settlers, and not use weapons or other means of riot control ... policemen and soldiers evacuated the settlers with their bare hands ...

settlers assaulted the policemen and soldiers, beat them, threw stones at them, and cursed them. The settlers tore off policemen's uniforms and slashed the tires of police and military vehicles. (more)

The instructions given to soldiers and police are illuminating: they went in bare-handed, without weapons or even crowd-control gear such as fire hoses and tear gas. We need not speculate as to how Israel would have acted had this violent mob been made up of Palestinians instead of Israeli Jews; we can just look at the history: in September of 2000, Israeli soldiers attacked Palestinian demonstrators with live ammunition.

Even if you make no distinction between Palestinian protestors and the settlers -- even if you call them both violent mobs -- the government of Israel has demonstrated its double standard. Israeli Jews are treated with restraint, Palestinians are met with deadly force. Twenty were killed in two days of rioting in September of 2000, versus not a single Israeli death in these two days of violent clashes.

Nor did the rioting settlers limit their attacks to soldiers and police offers. A Red Cross worker was assaulted, and when an Israeli television crew tried to document the violence, the cameraman was beaten:

A stone-throwing crowd of militant settlers protesting plans to dismantle an illegal outpost south of Nablus attacked a Red Cross worker, as well as a film crew from state-owned Israel Channel One television covering the event, including a cameraman who is a disabled IDF veteran, crew members said.

"They attacked the cameraman, kicked his camera, they threw rocks on us, and broke the camera," Channel One reporter Muki Hadar told Israel Radio. "When we retreated to our car, they continued with a salvo of rocks and broke the front windshield. This was a riot such as we have not seen."


"We, along with still photographers and others were forced to run for our lives ... How can one expect this from Jews, this kind of hatred, with clubs thrown at us and people beating [cameraman] Moshe Friedman, who is disabled. He even told them 'Guy's, I'm ... [an] IDF veteran,' and that made no difference to them." (more)

Doubly illegal settlements are an embarrassment to Israel in its relations with other countries, as their presence significantly undermines Israel's claims that it is willing to trade land for peace. Many of the most radical settlers are against any such trade -- not just with the Palestinians, but with all Arabs.
Far-rightist Michael Kleiner accused Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of being responsible for the clashes.

"The one to blame for the evacuation of outposts is Arik (Ariel)Sharon, who has returned to the Arik of Yamit," said Kleiner, referring to the forced evacuation of an Israeli community on the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, when the land was handed back to Egypt as part of a peace treaty between the two nations. (more)
Kleiner and those he represents would undo the peace treaty with Egypt if they could, and it is these people -- among them a number of violent fanatics -- that the Palestinians must live beside every day, on land that was once theirs.

It seems that every few months, one needs a reminder that radicals in the Middle East are not a uniquely Muslim or Palestinian phenomenon.

But the behavior of the radicals is less disheartening than the double-standard applied by the supposedly fair and reasonable majority in the Israeli government. Israel's decision in September of 2000 to respond to rioting Palestinians with lethal force triggered the violence that led to over two thousand subsequent deaths -- Israeli and Palestinian. We now see that Israel knows how to respond non-lethally when it wishes. The government should be called to account for not choosing to do so earlier, when the lives at stake were Palestinian.

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It takes a village

Eight-year-old Palestinian boy Naseem Sobih, center, cries, as does his younger brother Hazim, 4, while other family members grieve quietly, as they crowd into their car, and vacate their village of Yanun, under ongoing pressure from nearby Israeli settlers.
Israeli settlers are stealing Palestinian land one village at a time. Last Friday, the Palestinian village of Yanun was abandoned, succumbing to a four-year program of violence and intimidation by settlers from two doubly illegal outposts that surround it.

"Groups of masked Jewish settlers have charged into the village, coming at night with dogs and horses, stealing sheep, hurling stones through windows and beating the men with fists and rifle butts, Palestinian residents said."

This is the ongoing reality of Israel's occupation. Although the settlers that terrorized Yanun are living in doubly illegal outposts, even those settlements that are legal by Israel's standards are ultimately involved in the same project: taking land from one people and giving it to another. There is no way to do this peacefully. There is no way to do this without force. It is an inherently violent act.

The government of Israel is complicit in the anti-Palestinian violence that springs from the settlements.
"An Israeli army spokesman, who insisted his name not be used, said soldiers try to prevent conflict between settlers and Palestinians, but that forces are primarily in the area to protect Israelis from attacks by Palestinian militants." What this amounts to is that settlers can terrorize Palestinians with impunity, but Palestinian violence is punished harshly and collectively, with entire cities suffering for any crime committed by a single resident.

This is not an accident or a side-effect. The fate of Yanun, and all of occupied Palestine, is one of institutionalized injustice.

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{Sunday, October 20, 2002}

Drugs are bad, mmkay?
We dropped acid in the Flint Hills near Emporia. Driving home, along Highway 50, a debate ensued as to whether the car was moving. We decided that if, indeed, we were stopped, a cop was sure to come along and question us. But we couldn't pull on to the shoulder because we might be moving, and in Kansas it's against the law to drive on the shoulder.

What can we do? What are we doing? Those were the two questions acid-loaded groups were always asking themselves. For the longest time no one was able to convince a majority either that we were moving or that we were stopped. There was always a swing vote that never really knew. (more)

[ "Who could imagine that they would freak out somewhere in Kansas... Kansas... Kansas?" ]

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What European tribes think of each other (via Michel Vuijlsteke's Weblog)

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{Friday, October 18, 2002}

There is a side of me that wants to crush my opponents without mercy, to drag them to their knees in the dust and hear them scream my name as they are conquered.

Then there is another, darker side.

Two days ago, Matt Welch came up with an idea on how to blog for money:
Now that Amazon and PayPal tipping has become passé, while Blogads and other new schemes remain in infancy, I think the time is ripe for Targeted Blogger Fundraising (TBF). Create a hyper-specific project that the kids want to see, for a set price, and I think you can fund a new kind of something-or-other.

Image take from here.

I didn't actually read this on Matt's blog, I heard it from Evil Amy Langfield: "Matt proposes Targeted Blogger Fundraising, which would allow readers to pay a blogger (via an Amazon or Pay Pal tip jar) to write about a specific topic, presumably involving some amount of reporting." Amy goes on to flesh out the idea quite a bit:
How many times have you talked back to your newspaper or TV newscaster, asking why they don’t do a story on A, B or C? Or why don’t they ask X, Y or Z before ending the interview? What if you could commission your own stories and get your questions answered? You don’t have to be Rupert Murdoch or Bill Gates to have your own private think tank or newsroom, you could go to the web and hire your own journalist.

Now say you are Ken Layne and work as a freelance reporter. Or you’re music reporter Kate Sullivan and your publication was just shuttered. Or you’re Jane Galt, an MBA oddly working in a trailer at Ground Zero who’s written a couple stories for Salon because they liked your blog. You go about your day job and you go about your blogging. But in addition, you put up a box on your blog that says I’m interested in writing a story on the following three topics: violations at privately run prisons; whether NYC’s water supply is protected from terrorism; scuba diving in Cuba. You tell your readers that it would be worth your while to do a story once your tip jar reaches $350 for the topic. The money is returned to your donors via the tip jar within 30 days if you don’t produce, and you only take the money once you’ve posted – or whatever arrangement you decide to set for your donors. Every blogger sets up his own Wild West rules. Or a handful of bloggers/reporters come together under an umbrella not unlike BlogCritics, but with a model where readers can commission stories. How about having a couple reporters do the story together? What about art to go with it? Will people pay? Is it worth a try?
Yes, so, Amy's wuss idea is all well and good, but some of us are wading in cash as it is and who really cares? Not the American public, that's for sure. What they want is blood, competition, the epic struggle of titans. Teenagers singing.

OK, so the public isn't always reliable, but I think they're on to something this time.

I am not going to pay Jane Galt or anyone else to write articles for me. The bastards would just disagree with me anyway, or look smarter than me, and I can get that for free.

What I will pay for is battle. That's right, conflict. Celebrity Death Match. The WWF. Fight Club.

I would gladly pay you to write your views on any random topic if you have to work for it. And by work I don't mean going to the library and researching original sources, you pansy. I mean getting your hands around your enemy's windpipe and squeezing for all you're worth as the wrath of the Furies courses through your veins defeating another blogger in open, public debate.

Picture this: two bloggers have to go head to head on an issue, and only the winner leaves with his life gets the money. Yeah. Now we're talking.

After Amy floated her original idea to a small, elite gathering of Illuminati that I happened to have snuck into, I humbly and understatedly (as is my way) suggested my modification.

The result was food for the creativity of Evil Amy, Jane, Tim, Elizabeth, Asparagirl, and one non-blogger who will remain nameless.

The result was Iron Blogger.

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What is Iron Blogging?
I've seen about one episode of Iron Chef, so this is likely to be incomprehensible...

Iron Blogging is the unholy union of my love for conflict, Evil Amy/Matt's idea about making money with your blog, and Jane/Asparagirl's deep knowledge of the Iron Chef (see the post above for the brief but fascinating history). It is simple:
  1. The core group, the Iron Bloggers, are assembled
  2. The hungry upstarts, the Challengers, gather to make their fortunes
  3. The callow, bloodthirsty audience, the Hoard, congregate

  4. And it begins.

  5. The combatants are selected. The choice belongs to the Hoard, or to the mysterious god, Chance. It is always the same, in the age-old way of our ancestors: one challenger against one of the Iron Bloggers. Batman vs. Superman. Volokh vs. Sawicky. Yglesias vs. Reynolds
  6. The ingredient field of battle is chosen. The choice belongs to the Hoard, or to the mysterious god, Chance.
    • Jane Galt vs. D-Squared, the topic: America, sucky or the best?
    • Muslimpundit vs. Shi'a Pundit, the topic: (How) Should Western universities teach their students about Islamic law and culture?
    • Cory Doctorow vs. Dave Winer, the topic: Is Microsoft a monopoly?
    • Dawn Olsen vs. Tony Pierce, the topic: Bukake or Dirty Sanchez?
    • Wood S Lot vs. defective yeti, the topic: Stanley Kubric, Genius or Fraud?
    • Jim Henley vs. Steven Den Beste, the topic: Will deterrence work against Iraq?
    • Jay Manifold vs. Gary Farber, the topic: The invention of writing vs. the wheel, which is more significant?
  7. The treasure is gathered. The Hoard supplies its gold as an inducement to the combatants. The Hoard chooses the amounts, its will as inscrutable as the mind of Woman, its appetite as insatiable as the greed of Men. Treasure is offered in proportion to the fame of the Iron Blogger, the skill of the Challenger, the difficulty of the field of battle; or out of all proportion.
  8. The contest. For a week, the combatants duel, posting at least three times each, showing no mercy. The Hoard will jeer and cheer, giving its favor where it will.
  9. The Hoard determines the winner.
  10. To the victor go the spoils.
I am given to understand that this is exactly how every episode of Iron Chef goes. So people should get the hang of it pretty quickly.

When I left, we'd already come up with variations: (a) a one hour speed-blogging version, (b) team versions in two flavors: relay and simultaneous (I am very psyched about this. My team would 0wn).

I had to leave just as the tequila shots and girl-on-girl licking were getting into full swing... so I missed the implementation. Like the prophet who shows the way, I couldn't remain to see the birth of the new world I inspired. But I was there in spirit.

Update: Iron Blogger is currently in beta. If you're interested in contributing to Release 1.0, or just want to be notified when it goes live, send an email to jimsblog -at- yahoo.com.

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{Thursday, October 17, 2002}

If you've time and money
Sometimes I have to resist my crusty hermit instincts. So many other bloggers are talking about doing nice things for the Balinese that my automatic reaction is to stop paying attention. If there was a bandwagon involving free eternal youth and good looks and money, I'd think at least three times before getting on it.

But bombings that kill hundreds are henceforth excepted. So let me relay Conrad's idea for how to help the Balinese (via the daily dose).

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The ultimatest superhero ever
Yes, it's God Man, and his arch-nemesis, Dr. Moral Relativism (via defective yeti).

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The Sarah that I know
This is not the Sarah that I know.

The one that I know isn't fifteen. But she does have a novel on her lap-top, just like this Sarah. Or she used to. Once, on what might've been our third "date" (everything is so postmodern these days that you have to put it in quotes) -- anyway, it was in April. On our date her lap-top was stolen from the trunk of my car while we were eating dinner. Along, of course, with her novel. And her tax forms.

Later a bunch of things happened that don't matter, or that make me look bad.

I did see her again. We went to an organic food place for an early dinner. The food was horrible.

She would call me at random times during the day and we'd talk. This is after she'd moved to another city. We were not meant for each other. You should probably have found that out a paragraph or two ago. But so. We weren't and we both knew it. So it wasn't a big deal, her being in another city. It wasn't romantic when she called and it wasn't lonely when she didn't call. That's not fair, though.

It was nice when she called. We asked each other boring questions and replied with interesting answers.

We haven't spoken in a while now. She just dropped off the face of the earth one day. I e-mailed (once) and called (once), but I'm not the kind of person to be persistent about stuff like that.

And I wrote this post.

It was pretty amazing that we even saw each other again after the theft, really. Once, later, she said "Your blog is the best blog in the world."

It mostly isn't. But she wasn't trying to sleep with me, so her opinion counts for a lot even if she is wrong.

The thing about Sarah is that she can write. One of the things.

She isn't this fifteen year-old girl from Maryland. But they're both named Sarah. And this one, she reminds me of her.

sarah: say, hi pumpkin
bobby: hi pumpkin
sarah: hows life?
bobby: it's ok
bobby: how are you?
sarah: i'm happy
bobby: why'd you go to the hospital?
sarah: i tried to kill myself saturday
bobby: how?
sarah: it was dumb
sarah: pills
bobby: what pills?
sarah: lots of pills
sarah: like aspirin and ibuprofen and allergy stuff
sarah: it turns out i just damaged my liver
bobby: did you write about it?
sarah: not yet
sarah: well i wrote a suicide note, but it was really dramatic
sarah: i thought i could get away with it since i was gonna die
bobby: i wanna read it


sarah: i felt stupid in the psychiatric unit because everybody had real problems
sarah: they had the kind of parents who hit them and do drugs and leave depression
sarah: and i have the "my neighborhood has an abundance of trees"-induced depression
bobby: i don't get depressed, i get bored
sarah: ever?
bobby: i was depressed in high school
bobby: but the day i graduated i felt better
bobby: i get sad sometimes but it only lasts a day
bobby: then i am invincible again
sarah: :-) i'm actually smiling its not an internet lie
sarah: maybe i'll feel better after high school
sarah: (or college)


sarah: do you think i'm stupid?
bobby: honestly?
sarah: thats not a good sign
bobby: honestly i think you're smart, and i save our conversations because i like the things you say
sarah: thanks
sarah: i felt really stupid
sarah: after doing it
sarah: and somebody told me "everyone knows tylenol doesnt kill you"


sarah: i finished "into the wild"
bobby: when?
sarah: in baltimore, wednesday
sarah: or tuesday
sarah: the psych unit
sarah: all week
sarah: it was fun because it was new and interesting
sarah: until my parents kept visiting me
sarah: they were like, reality
bobby: how could you try to kill yourself when you were in the middle of a book?
sarah: lol
sarah: it didnt really matter
sarah: because i'd be dead
bobby: if i ever write a book and someone commits suicide before the last word, i'm going to hold myself responsible


sarah: guess what
sarah: i was a 13-year-old girl when i was 12
bobby: girl, you done lost your mind
sarah: i was a year early but thats good because i was over it by the time i was 13
bobby: this means you're going to leave a year late
bobby: did anybody who read your note ask who the hell bobby was what does a laptop have to do with anything?
sarah: nope
sarah: nobody talked to me about what was in it
sarah: the doctor just said "you're very organized"
sarah: then he said "you're a very good writer?"
sarah: and i said "really?"
sarah: and he said "well, you're a good writer"
sarah: i swear, he really said that, it was mean
bobby: haha, editors
sarah: the cover page of my note said
sarah: "i have the beginning of a 'novel' saved on my computer. you can find it under 'my documents.' it's called taxi"
sarah: but i forgot if i had really died my computer would have locked itself and no one would have known the password and it would've been lost forever
bobby: i have it
sarah: thats good
sarah: but you wouldn't have known that i was dead
bobby: i find out everything
sarah: :-)
bobby: your suicide note had a cover page?
sarah: lol yeah
sarah: kind of


sarah: whos the last person that you touched
bobby: my mother
bobby: she hugged me this morning
bobby: i wake her up by placing cats on her
sarah: me too, my mother
sarah: "you're not talking to that guy in his 20s are you?" -my mom
bobby: what'd you say?
sarah: "no"
sarah: before i said "some 20-year-old guy recommended it to me" about "into the wild"
sarah: but i'm not an idiot
sarah: my parents think i'm an idiot
bobby: being scared of the internet is like being scared of the dark. oh no, there could be monsters, but it's weird: if you tell somebody you met your girlfriend in a bar while you were drunk, they're like, oh, cool, but if you meet her in an irc channel, somehow that's seedy.


There's more. It's via Oblivio. And there's a sequel, in the post below.

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if we instantly felt better upon taking in the words "everything is ok" it would be etched into the moon. everything is not okay.
- Bobby

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{Tuesday, October 15, 2002}

Why Women Have Breasts
Because they hate it when we make eye-contact? That was my theory, until I read this genuinely fabulous and surprising essay (via d-squared digest).

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Song of the day: "No One Knows," by Queens of the Stone Age.

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{Monday, October 14, 2002}

Haikus of the News
Senior high school boys
It seems they put the "do" in

Our meeting was fate
I like people who have arms
You have two of them!

I can still taste you
And our last morning alone
Love you, Cap'n Crunch

Seven-minute bliss
I'll be late for work again
Snooze-button lover

Bag boy obsession
I have bought extra groceries
So you'll touch my eggs

The battery's dead
I thank you for jumping me
Fixing the car, too

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

The one endeavor at which they excel
Regions of Mind quotes an interesting article from Pat Buchanan's new magazine, The American Conservative. Sadly, none of the article is available on-line, so this excerpt is all you get:
Just as Israel’s invasion of Lebanon ignited a guerrilla war that drove her bloodied army out after 18 years, a U.S. army in Baghdad will ignite calls for jihad from Morocco to Malaysia. [Buchanan communicates his old-school sensibility by using a melodramatic feminine pronoun (“her bloodied army”) to refer to a country.-- GS]

Pro-American regimes will be seen as impotent to prevent U.S. hegemony over the Islamic world. And just as monarchs who collaborated with Europe’s colonial powers were dethroned by nationalists in Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Teheran and Addis Ababa, pro-American autocrats will be targeted by assassins. ...

With our MacArthur Regency in Baghdad, Pax Americana will reach apogee. But then the tide recedes, for the one endeavor at which Islamic peoples excel is expelling imperial powers by terror and guerrilla war.
Time to go read some biographies of Nasser. (Thanks to Eve T for the link to Regions of Mind)

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I've been finding a lot of good liberal blogs lately (someone please stop me before I turn left again!). Yesterday it was CalPundit, today it's uggabugga (via Eve T). Sure he may be a Keynesian, but Objectionable Content is nothing if not generous in overlooking the flaws of its fellow blogs (and appropriating their writing styles).

So, check out uggabugga's handy Chart of the Possible Outcomes of Winning a War with Iraq. Yes, everything that might happen in one handy-dandy graphical decision tree, from "Arab world sulks (but that's all)" to "Worldwide recession" to "U.S. transforms region into Western-style capitalist democracies," to "pigs fly." Take a look-see.

For the less visually-oriented, uggabugga also offers some cogent thoughts on Iraq, including:
  • Rebuilding Iraq: "Everybody" is saying that it will take plenty of time and lots of money. That might be the sensible or moral thing to do, but we predict that beyond a token amount of aid (probably in the form of loan guarantees to businesses), the current administration doesn't care much about a post-Saddam Iraq. After all, in 2001 Bush was content to abandon California to the tender mercies of Texas energy firms. Why should they give a damn about the people of Iraq? Also, there is the issue of money. It's too risky to the U.S. economy to spend money on Iraq, so it won't happen. And a post-Saddam Iraq, no matter how chaotic, will probably pump the same amount of oil as before. We predict that after Saddam is out, Bush will:
    • Say to the world, "We did our part, now you do yours."
    • Secure a few key areas (ports, refineries, oil fields) and leave the rest to the UN.
    • Use backchannels to keep Turkey and Iran out of the area.
  • Claims by Democrats that invading Iraq would be costly will be shown to be incorrect, and will be used against them in 2004.
Of course, uggabugga's Iraq thoughts came out before the U.S. announced its intention for a long-term military occupation, a la Japan, but uggabugga gets credit for being wrong in an interesting way.

Props too for uggabugga's analysis of domestic politics. "Upon reflection, we think that the judicial appointees are the real prize being contended for."

Go, pay the blog a visit. We'll leave the light on for ya™.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Sunday, October 13, 2002}

Pay no attention to the language behind the curtain
Congress has approved, and President Bush II has signed, a bill that recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Israelis have long talked about Jerusalem as their "eternal, undivided" capital, but until 1967 much of what Israel now calls its capital was not even within the borders of the country. Arab East Jerusalem is occupied territory, and its status is something that Israel has tried to deny, ignore, and alter for decades.

After the 1967 war, Israel made it a top priority to settle East Jerusalem with Jews, and to cut off the Arabs who had been and continue to live there. According to a report from the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) [PDF]:
"At least 66% of today’s Jerusalem is territory seized by force (5% of the old Jordanian municipality and 61% of former West Bank territory). Within this area, Israel has expropriated more than 23,380 dunums of mostly Palestinian-owned land – over one third of East Jerusalem - for the construction of Israeli settlements since 1967 (FMEP, Report on Israeli Settlement, May-June 1999). These settlements - with a population of approx. 180-200,000 - are intended to secure Israeli superiority over the entire Jerusalem region. They form two rings around the city - the inner ring in East Jerusalem and the outer ring (‘Greater Jerusalem’) reaching far into the West Bank - isolating Arab East Jerusalem, cutting the West Bank in half, and imposing economic strangulation as the city is the natural center for all trade and movement routes in the Palestinian Territories.


Almost half of the area of Arab East Jerusalem has been slated as ‘Green Areas’, i.e., public space, on which construction is not allowed. In fact, these areas serve as land reserves for the construction or expansion of settlements. The first such case was Shu’fat: 2,000 dunums of its land, designated as a ‘Green Areas’ in 1968, were rezoned in 1973 to allow for the building of the Ramot settlement. The most recent case was Jabel Abu Ghneim (1991), where Har Homa settlement is now constructed on land formerly - in 1968 - classified as ‘Green Area’."

By keeping their embassies in Tel Aviv, and recognizing Tel Aviv, not Jerusalem, as the capital of Israel, other nations sent a message -- albeit a mild one -- that the occupation and land expropriation would not stand. The new U.S. law undermines this message dramatically, perhaps irreparably. Recognizing this, the Arabs have protested, and the Bush Administration has had to resort to verbal gymnastics to appease them.

According to the Voice of America, "the White House says it will ignore the bill's language." Apparently, Bush thinks that the language "impermissibly interferes" with his ability to conduct foreign policy in the region, and so he would construe the language as advisory rather than mandatory.

State Department officials insist that "the United States still considers the status of Jerusalem an issue to be settled by Israel and the Arabs in negotiations." Does this mean that U.S. government documents won't list Jerusalem as the capital of Israel from now on, and passports for U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem won't specify Israel as the country of birth? For now, yes.

But if the President disagreed with the language, why not veto the bill? The administration's argument is that a veto of the entire bill would have been too costly. Despite their disagreement with the Jerusalem language, the bill was too important to veto on the grounds of the Jerusalem language alone (it authorizes the State Department's $4 billion 2003 budget, and the payment of back dues to the U.N.), which is the reason for their Janus-like posture on the issue.

James Zogby seems happy to take the administration at their word. While noting that the bill also authorizes $360 million of new aid to Israel (almost 10% of the State Department's budget, though who knows where the funds really come out of), Zogby writes that the policy on Jerusalem "in fact, has not changed." Congress is not to blame either, according to Zogby. Not most of it anyway:
It is, however, important to note that most members of Congress had no idea what was in this bill. Many voted on what they believed was merely an appropriations bill to fund the activities of the Department of State and to pay long owed back dues to the United Nations. Some of the disturbing sections of the bill were the mischievous work of a few extremists. They were added after Congress voted and were not known until after the process was completed.

While some of these provisions were a surprise to the administration, others, like the Jerusalem sections, were known.

The administration made its displeasure clear during negotiations over the bill, but not forcefully enough, it appears, to have dissuaded a willful few from doing their work. As a result, a handful of pro-Israel members of Congress were allowed to impose their extremist positions on the rest of the legislation body.
Zogby may well be right that the bill was hijacked -- this kind of legislative terrorism is pretty standard in Washington. And Bush II's opposition to the Jerusalem language is welcome, as long as it lasts. But I find it hard to believe that the President is a staunch opponent of this misguided policy who has been forced to accept it due to the legislative machinations of his enemies.

Chalk it up to my natural mistrust, and to this reminder from the Voice of America: "In his campaign for the White House two years ago, George W. Bush had pledged if elected, to start the process of moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in line with an act of Congress approved in 1995."

As a wise man once wrote, "you can't say they didn't warn us."

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"The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

This quotation is from a report called REBUILDING AMERICA’S DEFENSES: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century (here's a PDF version).

The document was put together in September of 2000 by The Project for the New American Century, a conservative think-tank fathered by Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard. According to an article in the Irish Sunday Herald, the report "was drawn up for Dick Cheney (now vice-president), Donald Rumsfeld (defense secretary), Paul Wolfowitz (Rumsfeld's deputy), George W Bush's younger brother Jeb and Lewis Libby (Cheney's chief of staff)."

Let me be clear on why this report and others like it are important.

The strongest arguments for an invasion of Iraq, from a theoretical point of view, are those that focus on the danger that Iraq and Hussein pose to the United States. In speaking to the people, our government's rhetoric has emphasized the themes of threat and defense. But if there are non-defensive motives for war (whether ulterior or plainly articulated), their existence matters -- because the same people who are telling us that we must go to war since we are threatened are those who secretly or openly prefer war even in the absence of a threat.

"From an American perspective, the value of such bases would endure even should Saddam pass from the scene. Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to U.S. interests in the Gulf as Iraq has. And even should U.S.-Iranian relations improve, retaining forward-based forces in the region would still be an essential element in U.S. security strategy given the longstanding American interests in the region."

William Burton has argued that motivations don't matter, and I think he's half right. If a threat exists, it exists regardless of our politicians' motives for going to war. Documents like Rebuilding America's Defenses do not automatically disprove hawkish arguments that we are in danger. But they cast doubt on the evidence as well as on the notion that military force and regime change are the best responses to a threat should one exist.

It is proper that the bulk of the debate about going to war with Iraq was focused on empirical questions: the existence of a threat, its imminence, its magnitude, and the possibility of dealing with it through methods other than war. But the food of any debate is information, and our primary information source -- the government -- has a conflict of interest.

This is part of the danger of pre-emptive war. While retaliatory war relies on the obvious fact of an attack as its casus belli, pre-emptive war opens the door to myriad other justifications. It's hard to fake an attack, but it's easy to hype up an argument about why we should go to war without having been attacked.

It is getting easier all the time.

(thanks to adnan for the post that led me to dig this up).

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Childish and petulant
What's the problem with fisking? Kevin Drum demonstrates by taking on the Gettysburg address:

Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new Nation,
Jesus H. Christ, does Abe seriously think that our country got started by the Declaration of Independence? Since he obviously has trouble with anything that happened before he was born, I'll clue him in: it was the constitution that got us started, big guy. That was 73 years ago, not 87.
conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
"Created equal"? The author of his beloved Declaration of Independence owned slaves!

Now, we are engaged in a great Civil War, testing whether that Nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

This is more of the kind of self-doubting "blame America" whinging we've come to expect from Ol' Stovetop. I guess he doesn't realize that 73 years (or 87!) already counts as "long."
We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
Tell us something we don't already know, genius.

Yes, debate requires that people address their opponents' points and highlight disagreements. What it doesn't require is the shrill, high-pitched emotionalism that many fiskers bring to the task. Kevin is dead-on when he sums up the characteristics of the worst offenders:
Childish, petulant, ignorant, and willfully trying to miss the bigger point. Almost autistic in the certainty that their hyper-rationalism has dealt a devastating logical blow to their safely-out-of-sight opponent.

Folks, there's a reason you don't see "real" pundits do this kind of thing in the New York Times, and it's not because of liberal media bias. It's because it's stupid. Knock it off.
[ Critique of pure fisking, by Kevin Drum | CalPundit ]

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CalPundit appears to be an excellent blog on all accounts. He's tracking the chess battle between Kramnick and Deep Fritz; the White House's efforts to keep any 9/11 inquiry from having teeth; American misperceptions about race and sexuality; the Nobel Prize, experimental economics, and perceptions of risk vs. gain; and three brief views on the UN's irrelevance. Varied, interesting topics. Some of them worthy of their own posts, which I might get around to soon.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Saturday, October 12, 2002}

Defending your rights
Stan Shivell notes that a 'spread eagle' is holding the dildo ;)
Image by hoopty
Dawn Olsen:
Gun enthusiasts may perhaps be the most paranoid group of "ists" in this country.

How is it that someone who owns a gun, uses a gun and seems to have a proclivity for it's purposes is not a gun enthusiast?

What are they - a gun dabbler, a gun poseur, a gun tinkerer?

I own a dildo. I like my dildo. I use my dildo - and as soon as I become an expert at my dildo proclivities - I will be considered a dildo enthusiast.

I will begin collecting them in an effort to raise my status in the dildo enthusiast community. I will consult experts, I will go to dildo conventions that have a wide variety of dildos on display with instructors demonstrating how to properly pack, load and maintain your dildo.

Mr. Lion:
I agree. Gun enthusiasts are usually rather paranoid.

Of course, dildo owners would probably be rather paranoid as well if they came to be regarded as "dildo happy freaks" and had to listen to endless arguements about how dildos make it easier to fuck and are responsible for increased child pregnancy. This followed by extensive dildo regulation and licensing to keep dangerous dildos off the streets.
You can be pro-gun and pro-dildo, you know. And we'll see how reasonable you will be if some politicians try to take your dildo away:

"You can have my dildo when you pry it out of my wet, sticky hands!"
Classic Dawn (via Special Agent Vas Deferens).

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Friday, October 11, 2002}

Dear human beings
Fuck you. Would the news be so aggravating and depressing if so many of you weren't assholes?

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Wonder of wonders
Who does Roll Call say voted against the Use of Force Resolution? One of my Senators, John "I bought the election fair and square" Corzine. Does this make him not an asshole? Hard to say.

(thanks to The Talking Dog for the heads-up)

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

{Wednesday, October 09, 2002}

I'll go even further

W Talk

... with Weir & Wright

Show aired: 9/9/02


Rob Weir: Hello everybody, I’m Rob Weir.

Rod Wright: And I’m Rod Wright. This is W Talk, where you get double the Ws ...

Weir: ... and double the talk. Rod, the big issue on everybody’s mind is Iraq. Will we or won’t we?

Wright: I think we will.

Weir: I think we will, too. But I’ll go even further and ask ... will we?

Wright: Well, I’m not so sure about that. And I think there’s no question we should, because, let’s face it, Saddam is downright evil. And I wouldn’t be averse to just dropping a nuke on Baghdad and getting it over with.

Weir: I’d go even further. I think Saddam is downright evilly evil, I think we should drop 10 nukes on Baghdad, and, uh, sterilize all Muslims.

Wright: Rob, I'll go even further. I think Saddam is downright eviliciously evilly evivi-vie-vah-vil, I think we should drop a jillion nukes on Baghdad, I think we should build a time machine to go back and assassinate Mohammed, and I think we should shoot the directors of Rand-McNally as traitors for even putting Iraq on their maps and globes.

Weir: Heh, heh. Okay, you got me there.

Wright: Speaking of shooting traitors, Rob, do you think we should shoot leftists as traitors?

Weir: No question about it. In fact, I’ll go even further. I think we should shoot LEFT-HANDED people as traitors.

Wright: Well, I’d go even further. I think we should shoot MY WIFE as a traitor for serving me LEFTOVERS the other day.

(so much more)

[ theSpleen | W Talk, by Damon Poeter ]

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{Sunday, October 06, 2002}

Long may he reign
Happy Blog Birthday, Ken Goldstein.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

die puny humans
Warren Ellis' die puny humans is a Blog of Note on the blogger main page and deservedly so. It's a collection of links, nearly every one qualifying as a rare find.
  • Mass human sacrifice unearthed in Peru - "The ancient sacrificed remains of 200 fishermen have been excavated from a beach in Peru. Archaeologists believe they were kneeling, tied and blindfolded, facing the waves, then stabbed through the heart as an offering by their conquerors to Ni, god of the sea." (story, die puny humans link)
  • Swede Researchers Apply for Psoriasis Gene Patent - "Swedish researchers who have identified the gene that causes psoriasis, a skin disease affecting some 100 million people worldwide, said Friday they had applied for a global patent on their findings." (story, die puny humans link)
  • Lunar Base Design Workshop - "This lunar base concept would be located near the Moon's equator. The design of this particular structure is geared to produce elements of a solar power system. It can handle mining and production operations, storing and shipping activities. The areas where humans would be present are connected by inflatable tunnels covered with lunar regolith." (story, die puny humans link)
  • Babylon - "The goal of the Babylon program is to develop rapid, two-way, natural language speech translation interfaces and platforms for the warfighter for use in field environments for force protection, refugee processing, and medical triage" (story, die puny humans link)
  • Nasal spray for female sexual dysfunction - "Scientists last week revealed they had successfully tested a nasal spray, PT-141, that sent 'healthy, normal women' into states of high sexual arousal." (story, die puny humans link)
The world is so interesting, isn't it?

PS: Plep is as eclectic as die puny humans, and has been doing it since at least January of 2000.

posted by Jim Somewhen | Link | Guestbook | Add Comment

Opposed to an immediate, pre-emptive war in Iraq? Then join Alas, a blog's blogburst tomorrow.

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{Friday, October 04, 2002}

Why Melly is Going to Hell: Exhibit B (via inkgrrl)

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In seventh grade (around 1987 I think, for you curious types), our teacher had us write letters to ourselves, that would be held by the school and delivered to us in 1993, our senior year of high-school. My letter had a list of all my friends, and their nicknames, which was great because a lot of the gang hadn't changed seven years later (isn't that amazing?) and we were reminded through my letter that we used to call a certain member of the bunch "muscles." Those are the kinds of priceless nicknames you can't let time swallow.

One of the other things that seventh-grade-me took care to do in the letter was remind my older self that I planned to go to MIT. I smile, thinking about it now. See, MIT was obviously the place you went if, when you grew up, you wanted to make robots, rocket ships, or sharks with freakin' laser-beams attached to their heads. I was pretty sure that this beat all the other possible choices I'd have, unless there was some kind of Spaceship Captain School by the time I was ready for college.

There wasn't, and I ended up going to one of the few schools that looks down its nose at MIT, but I always wondered 'what if...?'

I no longer need to wonder. According to adnan, MIT is making much of its course materials available on-line, for free. MIT OpenCourseWare is releasing materials for 37 different courses, in a pilot that began in September. The goal is to eventually have all of MIT's course materials accessible to anyone via the internet.

Here's the page for a course I'd probably never take, but wouldn't mind reading about: 5.61 Physical Chemistry: Quantum Mechanics. The page includes lecture notes with gems like this Brief History of QM [PDF].

My geeking days are far from over!

PS: Apparently Wired has an article about this.

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{Thursday, October 03, 2002}

Baby Steps
Today, Jane Galt linked to a Salon piece about the Germans and the Holocaust. As Jane writes, "This excellent, chilling interview shows that Nazi Germany wasn't a nation of monsters; it was a nation that became monstrous, baby step by baby step."

The interview, called Rethinking the Nazi Nightmare, is with Debórah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt, the authors of Holocaust: A History. Jane highlights this quote from it:

We all know the term "final solution" to the Jewish problem, and we think, usually without thinking, that the final solution was there from the beginning. If you look closely at the history of Nazi policy and practice with regard to the Jews, one sees that the Nazis developed their solutions until ultimately they came to the final solution -- the annihilation of all the Jews in Nazi-occupied regions. The Nazis never wanted the Jews; they always wanted to get rid of the Jews. The question is: What does "get rid of" mean?

Initially, it meant sending them off, enforced emigration. Then, when the Germans conquered larger and larger tracts of Europe, millions more Jews came under their control. The original solution was no longer working. So they devised other solutions that took care of larger numbers of people and that are workable during wartime. The next solution is some kind of reservation. Such a reservation was created in the Lublin district [in Poland]. Then the Germans got this idea that they would send the Jews off to Madagascar. They really believed that might happen; it was on the drawing board. . .

The Nisko reservation in the Lublin district was a disaster; even the Nazis recognized that. The Madagascar option never materialized because Britain did not fall so the Germans never controlled Madagascar. They turned to other solutions. But the practice of killing Jews came before the policy decision to murder the Jews of Europe. (more)

Naturally, this made me think about Palestine.

I've never been a person for movements. I'm most comfortable in small groups: four, six, eight people who know each other well. Intimacy. But when you care about an issue, there's no escaping movements. Nothing gets done without numbers.

So I'd find myself in a church hall listening to people recently returned from the Gaza Strip talk about what they saw, and someone next to me in the audience would stand up and say, "This occupation can't be addressed on its own. It has to be considered in the context of the global struggle of peasants and workers against the corporate interests." Or the e-mail I get inviting me to the event is from anticapitalist@something.com. Not exactly my bag.

But causes have their good points.

One of the most wonderful things that has happened to me in the course of my obsession with Palestine was my introduction to the Jewish peace movement. From Israel to the rest of the world, Jewish people and organizations have taken a stand against the occupation. Meretz is the third-largest party in Israel's Knesset (which is a bit better than being the third-largest party here in the US), and they push for peace with the Palestinians and equality for Israeli Arabs. IDF reservists refuse to serve in the territories, Jewish women hold vigils for peace, Jews Against the Occupation organizes here and in Israel. B'Tselem tracks human rights abuses. Matzpun suggests a boycott of Israeli goods, as was done in South Africa. Gush Shalom is the hard-core of the peace movement. Shalom Achshav tracks the continuous expansion of settlements in Israel, Peace Now mirrors them in the U.S. and Canadian Friends of Peace Now does the same up North.

Almost the first thing I discovered after being introduced to these groups is that Jewish peaceniks have problems with big-tent coalitions too (via the fine Alas, a blog), though for different reasons than I do. As Jews, it's hard for many people to protest the occupation when the people standing beside them at rallies hold up signs that read 'Sharon=Hitler,' or 'Israel is a Terrorist State,' or 'Israel is Nazi.'

Jewish people who think the occupation is abhorrent naturally feel alienated from a cause they want to support. Sure, not every criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, but extreme views like the ones expressed in those slogans push the line, or even cross it, say Jewish peaceniks. Those slogans dishonor the Holocaust victims by likening the murder of millions to an occupation that, while brutal, is not genocide.

I think the distinction between genocide and lesser crimes is an important one. And I do not classify Israel's treatment of the Palestinians as genocide (nor do I see Palestinian terrorism in this light).

But here's the thing: I understand why some peaceniks liken the Israeli government to the Nazi government. It has to do with what Jane wrote, with baby steps.

Atrocities happen gradually. Today in Israel, though there is no genocide -- nothing remotely on that scale -- there are baby steps. There are signs that people who identify with the Palestinians, people like me, are genuinely frightened of.

Signs like these:
  • An annual public opinion poll conducted by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies of Tel Aviv University at the end of February 2002, showed that 46% of Israeli Jews favored transferring Palestinian Arabs out of Gaza and the West Bank. Worse, nearly a third (31%) favored transferring Israeli Arabs out of Israel proper. If the question was posed more generally, 60% of respondents said that they were in favor of encouraging Israeli Arabs to leave the country.

    "Attitudes regarding Israeli Arabs were highly negative, with a majority opposing the inclusion of Arab parties in the government and viewing Arabs as disloyal to the state. Eighty percent opposed allowing Israeli Arabs to participate in decisions on essential issues related to determining the state’s borders." [PDF, see page 10].

  • A document called The Logistics of Transfer that argues for the transfer of Arabs (Israeli Arabs and those living in occupied Palestine) out of Eretz Yisrael. In the language of the most religious and/or radical Israelis, Eretz Yisrael (or Greater Israel) is used to refer to an Israel that includes the occupied Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank. The article proposes that Israel annex the occupied territories and "[define] as her strategic aim the relocation of the Arabs."

    The article begins with the notion of compensating the Arabs to be transferred, but what about those who don't wish to leave? You can only compensate a willing emigre. As for those Palestinians who prefer to remain in their homes, the last section of the article finally reveals their fate: "Israel must make clear to the world community that, if a decision cannot be made within 3 to 5 years to establish a state for the Palestinian Arabs in some viable location [not Gaza and the West Bank, which would be part of Eretz Yisrael], she will be forced to start the forced expulsion of Arabs into Jordan and the Sinai." Forced expulsion, exactly the sort of ethnic cleansing that led us to war in Yugoslavia in defense of Kosovar Albanians.

    According to the document, "The dream of the great Jewish prophet has materialized. The Jews have built their state. To be more precise, they have made many important steps on the road to its realization. However, without the final step - the transfer of the Arabs - the task of building the Jewish state cannot be considered complete." This 'final step' is much more benign than Hitler's 'final solution,' but it echoes the baby steps that were discussed and then carried out in Germany before the ultimate horror of the Holocaust was conceived.

    Is this just a radical fringe proposal? The Electronic Intifada did a report on this article, and the group that produced it, Gamla. According to EI, "Gamla receives tax-deductible contributions from Americans through a New York-based charity called PEF Israel Endowment Funds (www.pefisrael.org) which states that it was established in 1922 by Justice Louis Brandeis and Rabbi Stephen Wise. Among its stated purposes is 'promoting greater tolerance and understanding between religious and secular communities and between Arabs and Jews.' " This extremist group is being funded by a mainstream Jewish charity that one might even think of as liberal.

  • Two political parties in Israel, Moledet and Tehiya, advocate expulsion of the Arabs (Tehiya proposes that all Arabs be expelled, whether they are citizens of Israel living within the Green Line, or Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, while Moledet may limit the transfer to Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza only). Again, like Gamla, the transfer parties talk of compensation, but are those Palestinians who refuse to be expelled allowed a choice?

    While neither of these parties won seats in the last Knesset, their allies have. Herut, once allied with Moledet, has a seat in the current Knesset. Herut does not openly advocate expulsion today, but its platform states that "Israel should be Jewish," which sounds benign if you're not an Israeli Arab.

  • Some Israelis, worried about the "demographic threat" posed by Palestinians with high birth-rates, propose a Chinese-style rule to limit the number of children that Arab women -- and only Arab women -- may have. ("Birthrates alarm Israel," Chicago Tribune, April 21, 2002, pay for archive copy)
Some opponents of Israel's occupation call it genocide, they use the word holocaust. They're wrong, and the comparison is a sensitive one. But holocausts don't happen with the flick of a switch. Years of baby steps are needed.

Just as most Israelis are frightened of Palestinian terrorists, Palestinians have their own fears -- of being spirited away from their homes, of being kept as subjects without rights in a government that does not want them. Of baby steps.

Though fear drives cries of "Hitler" and "Nazis" -- and there is an important difference between hate and fear -- this does not make such talk constructive or helpful when trying to build coalitions and actually get something done to benefit both sides. It is insensitive to the history of the Jewish people, but it is not necessarily anti-Semitic.

In the end, I'm divided about it. I think that, at times, alarmist reminders are valuable -- if the situation is alarming. But one cannot cry 'holocaust' at every injustice. This charge has been leveled at some Jewish people, and it is ironic now to see it leveled at Palestinians too. I like to think of it as a testament to the best dreams of Holocaust survivors: that the specificity of Hitler's crime would take on a universality, that the Jewish victims of Germany would come to represent all humanity, and the world might learn something from their suffering.

Baby steps are real. But the Israel of today may not be the Germany of the 1930s. The conflict is different in significant ways, not least of which is the existence of Palestinian terrorism. But most importantly, the present is different from the past because Israelis have the knowledge of history, where the Germans did not. Perhaps that grim memory of what is possible will prevent Israel from taking the further steps toward that ultimate evil.

While I have doubt and worry, I would rather draw hope from the Israeli peace movement. They aren't winning, not now. But they are there, and I think they will keep getting stronger.

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