Friday, April 18, 2003
Watching Korea over the last few months, I couldn't help but find all the analogies between them and kids who behave poorly in order to get attention from an adult completely apt.
It seems to me that the best way to deal with these children is to not play their game, and to ignore them — not rewarding them for their nuisances. With Korea, much the same.
I think Iraq is a good example that this administration would sooner break your teeth out for you than play games of concessions and appeasement, and it seems that Korea got the message. They are not stupid or self destructive — if they discover that their current course of action isn't going to get them anywhere good, they'll change their course (I think.)
From reading Russian web forums, it's very obvious that Russians feel a strong connection to Arab people, and Iraqis in particular. Whether it's an outgrowth of Soviet alliances with Arab states (and the result of decades of propaganda associated with that) or whether it's a new-found empathy for people they see resisting the "Judeo-American axis" when Russia herself can't, I am not in position to judge.
The idea I am trying to get to is that Russia's aid to Iraq should not be viewed exclusively in terms of projected ROI. Russia sure did stand to make (and probably made) significant amounts of money from trading with Iraq in violation of UN, but that's not the end of it. I think that most Russians see these actions as "helping the Heroic Iraqi people and their unbending Leader" and not "trying to make a buck on the arms market." It's kind of like their stance on Serbia a few years back, it's about helping people you perceive to be like you or on your side, and not just about money.
I am afraid it's more than just leaders of the nations. On a thread about "forgetting Iraq's debt to Russia" a few weeks back, I suggested that we ought to be aware that the "Arab Street" is not the only street we should worry about, and that the "Russian Street" looks pretty alarming at the moment. When you "hear" well-off, educated, people in their late 20s and 30s (that demographic constitutes Russia's Internet community) call on their compatriots to "Sacrifice the comfort and trimmings of our new life in order to restore our fatherland to its (Soviet-era) might" in order to fend off the American invasion they are sure is comming in or around 2010, it's more than just alarming. In fact, I would say that this phenomenon is more alarming than dirt-poor arabs dancing in the streets with a burning American flag because their government thinks thats a good way to let em blow off steam without undermining the rulling powers. What if we have on our hands a hostile (for real) democratically elected Russian government which is more similar to Hitler's Germany (people united in resentment) than to old Communist rule (people too focused hating their own government.)
I have to say that I am not willing to claim that all or most Russians harbor heavy anti-American sentiments. For all I know the forums I've seen are about as representative of Russians at large, as Plastic is of Americans at large (ie, not very) — though perhaps not. Unfortunately, as you correctly noticed, the behaviour of Russian leaderships suggests this. They are trying to tread the thin line of cooperating with America just enough to not seem outright hostile — a behaviour we see with our Arab allies too, and in the later cases, we know it's because of the heavily anti-American sentiments on the street. I am concerned that the reasons for Russian behaviour are just that, too.
If this is right, I wonder what people of the "they hate us because we treat them like shit" camp will have to say. We didn't really do anything bad to Russia, did we?
Lest you take my post the wrong way, I must acknowledge my thorough fascination with archaeology and my belief that artifacts must be preserved when possible. To think about the meaning of the later, imagine how much progress would be impeded if certain artifacts were destroyed or lost between the moment of their discovery and the invention of radio carbon dating. We have no idea what technologies will be available in a decade, or a century. It's undoubtedly a loss to humanity that artifacts were looted and/or destroyed.
From the way I began the above paragraph, you know there's going to be a "but." Namely, I don't think the U.S. military should be blamed for what happened.
The commanders of the war kept Iraq's historical treasures in mind. Prior to the war, there was a well-publicized campaign to ensure that the war will not damage Iraq's museums, and the war commanders acknowledged it. I am certain that care has been taken not to damage the museums with our weapons. On the other hand, looting may not have been foreseen in our war plans (in fact, the general state of disorder in Iraq suggests that we were not prepared to have to do heavy policing) and as such there may not have been explicit orders to guard the museums and other such locations.
Now, imagine you're the nearest Army commander in the area of a museum that's being looted. Your orders are to take care of people firing AK-47s at you. Your priority is to not kill innocent civilians. Are you going to divert your resources and potentially lead to a confrontation with the crowd? Are you even aware that the building where the crowds are going apeshit is the museum and had valuable artifacts? The people who planned the bombing missions probably know where historically important buildings are. Do the ground commanders? Maybe not.
And what would happen if the GIs shot up a few hundred unarmed civilians/looters? Would the angry crowds on the streets of Syria and Egypt draw a distinction between the deaths "in protection of historical artifacts" vs. those killed in war? Would the peaceniks back in the USA throw these people into the overall body count and call the Army "murderers?"
I am afraid that as valuable as the lost artifacts are, what happened is one of those unfortunate things that happen in a war. Could our troops on the ground have been more coordinated (assuming my scenario is correct?) Of course! Is it reasonable to expect such absolute perfection during war? I leave that question open, but with a hint towards the answer: does anything that goes wrong in war constitute a war crime?
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Here we go. I did this the first semester freshman year. Hope it's as much fun for you as it has been for me for the last 4 years
**** legal use only ****
The EduardoBongo has two parts. The piece, which can be smoked stand-alone, and the water-cooling part.
To make the piece, go into any hardware store and purchase a piece of thin pipe with screw threads on the end. Also purchase a small u-Bend such that one end of it screws into the pipe. Look at it with your eyes, does it look like something you'd smoke out of? If it doesn't, keep looking at different pieces.
Now you have the main component. Get a thin wire mesh and put it in the u-bend. Now you're good to go.
Now for the water cooler part. Go to your home depot or whatever. They sell clear plastic hoses for pennies a foot. Get 5 foot of it, just so you got something to work with. Make sure the hose is about the same diameter as the outher width of your pipe.
Also, buy a 2 little bottle of coke, drink that shit, and save the bottle.
Take the cap from the bottle, and cut out the flat top part of it so all you have left is the ring with the thread.
Measure a piece of hose such that it's long enough to reach the bottom of the bottle, and add about 2 feed to that. Cut.
Feed that piece of hose through the threaded/cut-away bottle cap. Make it reach the bottom. Have it be long enough to touch bottom of the bottle when the cap is screwed on.
The other piece of hose, feed it through the cap also, but only a small bit. You don't want it going deep into the bottle at all. have it stick out of the top of the lid also.
So at this point you got 2 hoses going through the lid. Grab some scotch tape, electic tape, plastic bags, etc, and wrap it all around it so that between the lid and the 2 hoses, it's airtight.
You're almost done.
Fill the coke bottle half-full of water. Screw on the lid so that you have the long hose reaching all the way down into the bottom of the bottle, while the short hose is in the bottle but not touching the water.
Put the short hose in between your lips and pull. There should be bubbles going through the water, and you should feel vacuum starting on the other side of the long hose. If this doesn't happen, your lid is probably not airtight. If it's bubbling, you're totally there.
Stick your piece into the other end of the long hose.
puncture a hole in the coke bottle towards the top, above water level. this is your carburator. If you don't know how the carb works, don't even bother with this step.
The next steps, I think you can imagine.
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
If the negative use of the word "gay" by kids is a serious problem, we should be out throwing rocks at Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park. You can't be a fan of the show and not adopt Cartman's style of calling everything that is wrong, "gay."
From the etymology point of view, it's quite a neat coincidence. The term "queer" (Deviating from the expected or normal) nowdays refers to "homosexuality" while the term "gay" (Showing or characterized by cheerfulness and lighthearted excitement; merry.) which for a longer period used to reffer to a faggot (A bundle of twigs, sticks, or branches bound together) now is used to reffer to "queer" things. I.E. "That call was gay" really means "that call was queer" while "the judge is queer" really means "the judge is a fag!"
What seems really spineless to me is to go and bomb the shit out a sovereign nation that hasn't attacked us, over the protests of everyone except the British PM and some backwater countries whose palms we greased, because we're afraid of something that they might or might not do in the future.
I don't think that's why we're bombing Saddam. Both the world, and the US, are better off with him gone, for sure. But really, we're not scared of him.
But then again, let me paint this, somewhat likely, scenario:
Saddam is left alone in 2002/2003. By 2005/2006 he buys or builds a nuke. He either nukes Israel, or threatens to, or is perceived to threaten to, and he's nuked, pre-emptively or in response, by Israel. Or by the U.S.
And then what? Well, an Arab-Israeli war, for one. With the U.S., probably, actively fighting in it. With a nuclear precendent, the first is over 50 years.
Now, after that scenario:
1.) How safe is the U.S.?
2.) How happy is the Arab Street?
3.) How many dead?
Makes bombing Baghdad seem like flowers and puppies in contrast, doesn't it?
Don't cry for Peter Arnett... ... I am sure he already has an offer to anchor "Selam Aleikum, Baghdad!" — Iraq TV's newest morning show.
It may not be the the most lucrative offer, but he probably should have thought of that before encouraging Iraqis to fight American troops.
Given such incidents as Iraqi soldiers surrendering to Western press, I suspect people of Iraq see reporters as representatives of their countries, and hearing "resistance is working" from an American probably qualifies as giving "Aid and Comfort to the Enemy" indeed.
I am sure he didn't mean it that way, and I am sure the US government won't go after him with treason charges. I can't blame NBC for letting him go, though. He's a liability for them, even if he's one of the few remaining Western reporters in Baghdad, now.
This isn't about whether the Iraqi people should or shouldn't repay Saddam's debt, but how the people of nations to which money is owed, are going to respond.
Russia, for example. Iraq owes them money (among other things, for UN-banned weapons. But that's a different discussion.) What's going to happen when Iraq doesn't pay? Well, for one, hundreds or thousands of Russians are going to get laid off, and probably not paid for their work. The blame will be placed squarely on America.
Allow me to diverge from the topic at hand, for a moment. We've lately been very concerned about the Arab Street. Essentially, we're worried that falling out of good graces with poor, uneducated, people in the Arab world will increase recruitment for Al Quada, etc.
What about the rest of the world? Do other "streets" cause concern to us? Hypothetically, would a "Russian Street" cause a problem to us? Much of the adult population in Russia grew up under a system that taught them to dislike and fear America, and the economic conditions, overall, make for fertile ground for "America made us poor" sentiment to spread.
There's a decently sized proportion of Russians who are convinced that the U.S. is interested in fighting a war of conquest and enslavement against Russia. They, by the way, aren't peasants or religious extremists. They are educated people who do analysis of Russia's economic condition, the state of its nuclear arsenal, and conclude that by 2010 America can nuke Russia and not fear reprisals (because Russian nukes will be few, and out Star Wars will improve to the point of being able to pick them off — don't argue this with me. I am quoting their sentiments)
These people also see our wars in Iraq and Serbia as rehersals for 2010.. to see how our military will fare against enemies using Russian equipment.
[obviously these things aren't translated into English by their authors. Those fluent in Russian may be interested in reading this]
So back to the point and the topic at hand. Imagine the U.S. creates a situation where Iraq's debts to Russia are forgotten. How are the Russians going to react? As is, many are chearing for any American casualties (other headlines include If only Iraq had MIG-32s, Today Baghdad, Tomorrow Paris, Moscow Whores Fight for Peace [by refusing to serve American tourists]", and Soldiers of the US AGAIN execute innocent Iraqis.)
Well, I don't imagine they're going to like us any more if we let Iraq not pay its debts, and the conspiracy theorists will note that these unpaid debts weaken even further Russia's arms (and other defense) manufacturers, making Russia all the more ripe for conquest.
Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say that Russians are among America's enemies (though some things I read are rather unexpected) — merely raising the question of whether we should be concerned about the Russian "Street" — and in particular, by letting debts go unpaid we would promote the sentiment that "this war was fought against us, too" among Russians.
Just something to consider.
On a personal note, I think we can do whatever we please with Iraq's debt to Russia, given that Russians owe us money anyway. We can just say "we'll take what Iraq owed you, out of what you owe us" — though I doubt they'd like that much.
Well, the thing about "the street" in a Democracy is that they can exercise their electoral rights.
I am not expecting russians to strap dynamite to their chests and visit the American embassy or McD's or to fly Aeroflot planes into the Whitehouse.
I do see them voting for someone who runs on the platform of Russian superiority and paranoia toward America.
this gentleman for example.
Coincidentally, I had the privilege of watching a video of Zhirinovky, drunk, in Baghdad, calling Bush a fucking cowboy and saying "Don't fuck with Moscow. Our scientists can change the earth's rotational axis a few degrees and your country will be under water."
He also made fun of the US because "Clinton had his fly unzipped right in the oval office".. Though presumably this restores dignity to the Russian nation.
I have in mind that famous picture of an Iraqi being given water by one American, as another American appears to hold his rifle to the Iraqi's head.
(You'd think I could easily find this picture by searching yahoo news for Water or Bottle and Gun. But no! Thanks to Mad Clown for finally finding this link
I recall that Arab media (maybe Al Jazeera) seized on this image to show that an American is denigrating an Iraqi (civilian or captured soldier)
We looked at that pic in the #plastic chat channel, and agreed that it only appears that the American is pointing his gun at the guy's head. The rifle is being pointed at the ground, and because the soldier is closer to the camera than the Iraqi is, it looks like the gun is pointed at the guy's head. It's not even realistic that it was pointed at the head, because if this gun was fired, the bullet would go through the Iraqi's head and into the other American.
Here's my problem with this:
If the picture is being used to misrepresent what's happening, would it be all that different if they went one step further and Photoshoped the water bottle that the other American is placing into the Iraqi's mouth into...
The barrel of a pistol.
An erect phallus.
A ham sandwitch, with strips of bacon.
Clearly this scenario would be considered beyond acceptable journalism. But what's the major difference between doing this, and just misrepresenting an unaltered photo where prospective makes it look like an American is about to pop an Iraqi in the head (as another American is, inexplicably, giving him water.)
If you believe Russian Press (and I would take them with a large grain of salt on these things, to be honest) there are already Russian operatives in Iraq who're working to make sure certain records do not fall into American hands.
This situation may change now that Russian officials evaquated Iraq (but not before we shot up their motorcade) — since there's no more Russians with diplomatic immunity in Iraq, the intelligence service must have a much harder time getting documents out.
I think they were mainly interested in two things: destroying any proof of the extent of Russian cooperation with Iraq in breach of UN resolutions, and obtaining names of Iraqi intelligence officers in the West — such that Russians can approach them for recruitment now that their former masters are (soon to be, anyway) out of the picture.
Now that getting documents out safely is not easy, I can imagine Russians working to simply destroy them. Aside from covering up their own mideeds, the Russians wouldn't pass up the opportunity to complicate things for the Coalition if they see one — and if they perceive destroying the archives as such an opportunity, they'd probably go for it.
I remember when statues of Lenin were coming down all over the former USSR. They were one, very visible, sign that "things are not the same."
When an Iraqi sees that a statue that was once there, is no longer standing — it's not difficult to associate that very symbolism with the real downfall of the regime.
What is Saddam's power if not the fear/knowledge in his people's hearts and minds that he's the leader and that he can hurt them. A man who can't even prevent statues of himself from being torn down does not appear very menacing or powerful. I am sure people realize that only a month ago, they would have been killed if they even spat in the vicinity of a statue. But not now. The more statues come down, the more people will think Saddam is not relevant — the less relevant he will actually be. The fact that his statues are being torn down is a sure sign of his impotence — and who the hell is going to fear an impotent tyrant?
I think that the statues coming down at the rate they are is not the product of some tank driver's desire to see what happens if he rams his tank into one. I would be surprised if the people who're concerting the war didn't put destruction of symbols as well as instruments of Saddam's power high on the objective list.
I noticed that quite a few posters in this thread questioned the ability of women to physically endure the difficulty of combat. That is a valid question, but in my opinion it does not further the current discussion. The question posed here is not whether women 'can' serve in combat, but only whether 'it is right' that they do.
The heart of the matter is summarized here: 'The placing of mothers of young children in or near combat violates the most fundamental rules of civilized behavior.... We should give them the chance to opt out of a call-up.'
There are two things to note here. The first has to do with "mothers of young children." We're not being asked to decide if women can fight in a war. The conext is narrow: mothers of young children.
The second is "opting out." We're not being asked whether women should be "allowed to" fight. The question is "can they chose not to fight" based on their family status. I picture this as someone becoming a reservist when she has no children, and then being asked to go fight in a war, years later, when her family situation has changed.
Should she be allowed to not go into combat?
The instinct is to say "of course." We have a volunteer force, and it seems counter-intuitive that someone (especially a young mother) to have to go to war against her wishes.
It's not so easy, though. If we go and say "a woman can opt-out of combat" then why not say "a person can opt-out of combat?" Can a new father use the same argument? If not, is it fair? Women serving in the military is a sign of gender equality — but it goes against gender equality to give them special priveleges.
Opting out of combat is a big deal. In fact, when someone decides that they have better/safer things to do than go into combat, it's usually called 'desertion.' I am sure most soldiers, especially reservists, would rather not go fight in any given war. They have families they'd rather be with. But they have to go, they're soldiers. That's the whole thing about it. If there's an opt-out clause of being a soldier, then the whole system disintegrates.
And this takes us back to the beginning. We don't want new mothers to fight and die in wars. We don't want soldiers to "opt out," either. So what do we do? The choices are:
Let soldiers opt out — not desireable
Make new mothers serve and risk their lives — not desireable
Keep women from combat in the first place — not desireable.
We need to figure out the lesser of these evils, I guess. I have no clue how to go about it — but it certainly seems more complicated than "a man can lift more than a woman" that many posters used as an argument to this.
Is there a number or mark planned for the hand or forehead in a new cashless society? YES, and I have seen the machines!
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