Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The Wall: Prank Art

This is another piece by Banksy, who spent several days creating a total of nine murals on the barrier.

Banksy said he condemned the wall, adding that Israel was "the ultimate activity holiday destination for graffiti writers". [BBC]

The Wall

In Bethlehem, international artists have painted political murals laden with anti-Israeli, anti-American and anti-capitalist symbolism.

Many Palestinians resent the graffiti and artwork being painted on the wall, which is seen as an acceptance of its presence. [BBC]

Monday, August 29, 2005

Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien

The recent fire in a Paris apartment complex has inspired a storm of protest from Africans in Paris. The fire killed 17 people, including 13 children. This incident highlights the plight of many immigrants from Africa who enter France illegally. France does have the paperwork and the regulations to deal with this influx, but many Africans say they are marginalised due to racism.

"From the outside, France is the country of human rights, but the inside is less pretty," said Korotoum, 31, who did not want her full name published for fear her work colleagues would learn where she lives. "The rights are not for everyone."
[. . .]
Unemployment among Algerians and Moroccans, the largest immigrant groups, hovered at more than 30 percent, about three times the national average, a study by the Paris-based Montaigne Institute showed two years ago. About a third of them live in suburban ghettos filled with rows of crime-ridden housing complexes and have little hope of employment, let alone proper job training.
The most vulnerable are those who are caught in the administrative limbo that is provisional housing, as Friday's fire illustrated. Many of the 130 people living in the burned-out building had housing applications pending for 14 years. Meanwhile, they were crammed in a rundown building with aging plumbing and electrical wiring.
When they moved in, city authorities had assured them that they would not be staying longer than three years. That was in 1991. (from the International Herald Tribune.)

The story of immigration from African countries into Europe is fascinating to me, not only because it parallels the border situation in the US. When I was in Fes I had the experience of being taken for a ride in the back of a police van. I was reporting a stolen camera and this was the way they chose to transport me to the main police station. Also riding in the back were two illegal immigrants from the Ivory Coast. They were both around my age and seemed in good spirits. One of them spoke clear English and he talked to me about his experience crossing the border. He said that, back in his country, the choice was between a life of crime or crossing the border illegally. He had an education and knew of relatives living in Europe, people that could take him in.
A police translator was also there and listened good-naturedly to the discussion. He did not want to talk much about it, but it was clear he felt some sympathy, and perhaps some admiration, for the immigrants. He said that the two border crossers would be dumped in a no-man's land between Morocco and Algeria. The young immigrant shrugged and said that he would just come back into Morocco and keep trying until he could get across to Spain. Everyone smiled.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Too Bad, So Sad

Can I point out that just because the talking points from the President do not seem to give justification for staying in Iraq does not mean that justification does not exist. I agree that using lives lost as reason to go on is ridiculous illogic, but amidst all of the moaning and groaning from the left I have not heard any concrete arguments against staying.
Even though mistakes were made in and after going to war does not mean that good reason does not now need to be given for leaving. If we do leave I hope the rest of the world puts us to shame and gives the US a good flogging, whether the next President is Republican or Democrat. I also hope that strict attention is paid to what does happen after we leave (a vain hope, I am certain).

I do not accept "there is no plan" and "things are getting worse" as reasons. I am as angry as anyone about the lies that were told, and I'm angry that so many in this country believed those lies. But to see respected liberal journalists so eager to wash their hands of the whole dirty business turns my stomach. - "Oh well those poor Iraqis, not our war, just Bush's business. Good thing he'll be disgraced." And those same people accuse the Right-wing of taking war lightly!
Both sides are becoming anathema to me now. How about this? How about those liberal leaders and pundits who want so badly to withdraw come up with a good plan (since it is what they accuse the administration of not having) to withdraw and leave in place some semblance of a country.

This rant comes courtesy of Wolcott and his quote from Tom Watson:

"And folks, it's time to fold 'em. When the argument for continuing war is to merely to honor the dead that have gone before with more dead, with more wounded, with more destruction, you know the jig is up, that the military maneuver is merely in the form of a forlorn hope, destined to die for nothing. The Iraqi civil war will rage until there is no Iraq. There never was an Iraq, except as the construct of an empire and a dictator; we had no business in the squabbles of religious tribes. And we have no business in helping to write a consitution that places the lives of women at the mercy of a medieval code of sexist, moralist, symbolist system of humiliation and punishment. Conspiring with the mullahs against women may be George W. Bush's greatest act of treason against the world's people - and it will live in infamy.

"There is nothing to this but to admit failure, and save American lives. Perhaps that is not honorable. Perhaps it leaves a vaccuum in the east, into which the hard-core religionists can step. Too bad: it is done. And we need to be done."

Don't mistake me - I will be glad for many reasons if we pull out of Iraq. I am a military brat and have strong feelings about the military and how much soldiers and their families sacrifice. But I want some decorum, I want some more recognition that it will be a tragic decision - something more than "Perhaps that is not honorable... Too bad."

The Pull-Out Method

I was just reading this Op-Ed piece by Frank Rich and I was struck by something that's been in front of my face all along.
Of course, everyone has heard and talked about Pat Robertson's recent quote regarding assassination of Hugo Chavez. He advocates it, in part, because "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. [. . .] We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

Well, besides the obvious problems with this statement and the arrogance it shows, it also points to a complete lack of understanding (perhaps deliberate?) about why this war cost $200 billion and many lives.
The truth is, when a big, powerful country swaggers into another country and tries to change what is wrong, or, I'm sorry, evil about it, then they better damn well stick around to clean up the ensuing mess.
We could have left after Hussein's regime was toppled and the result would likely have been the same as if some assassin had come in the night and slit his throat. No, this way was worse because it destroyed much of the infrastructure of Iraq.

Guess what those of you who are changing your minds now about the war - WAKE UP! Especially if you voted for this President, or didn't vote at all, you have some complicity in this. We, as a country, own this now. Many who knew better tried to warn you about what happens when we take a hand in another country's affairs (Gee, has this happened before?) - the cost in money and lives. This is especially dangerous when done unilaterally (though we can't forget Poland).
Yes, mistakes were made along the way and there should be accountability. I would like to see more transparency. But do those of you who are liberals really believe leaving Iraq to stew in the boiling pot we created will bring any real shame down on this administration? Or bring any more questions about why we were there in the first place? I doubt it - at least not in this administration's lifetime.

Most everyone is marginalizing Robertson, even hawk Republicans. And some of those people are the same people who are now backing away from Iraq. Assassination is 'crazy talk' but pulling out of a country with problems that we caused or exacerbated is 'good politics.'

I guess, in the end, what I object to most is Republicans and voters changing their minds now that they know things they should have known before. I also object to liberals acting as if the situation over in Iraq will get better if we leave (there is no evidence of this, from what I have seen) and that it would be a success in some way if we pull the troops out. I think no matter what side people are on, such a withdrawal is a defeat and an embarrassment at best - at worst it is irresponsible and inhumane.

Niger: He Said, They Said

The news has been covering starvation in Niger for the past several months. Now this coverage includes much finger-pointing and analysis of "what went wrong." This coverage is sometimes conflicting, sometimes confusing.
Note the article that appeared in The Economist last week, 'The Worst Is Over', in which it is stated that

"Indeed, Niger's government has been accused of trying to cover up the extent of food shortages in order to save face. It was mounting pressure from opposition parties and local NGOs that finally forced the prime minister, Hama Amadou, as late as the end of May, to acknowledge the "severe food insufficiency" in the country and ask for international help. It only recently started distributing free food..."
The article goes on to say that Niger's government needs to address their handling of crops and distribution of food.
But, according to a Knight Ridder article, published in the Times Union, Niger's government was acting under advice given by organizations that, generally, are supposed to know what they are doing.
Nor was Niger's government the obstacle. Leaders there did not resent the U.N. or IMF. They were following IMF advice -- agreed to by U.N. agencies -- to put the free market economy first, and the starving people second. Even as thousands were dying of starvation in June, the Nigerien government was reducing its grain supplies and imposing a value added tax on such staples as meat and produce. All this at a time when the government should have been giving food away to starving citizens.

Both articles do agree that the media arrived late to this issue, but say that is no excuse for the lack of action by organizations that are supposed to monitor such problems.

Broadening the Scope

Since my fervor for writing about news has waned a bit since the election I think I will do what I intended all along, which is to make this site more about international news than American politics.
I'll be heading off to Scotland soon and though I will be busy with my Master's Degree program I intend to keep up with events and to keep writing as much as I can.
I am right now Googling to find some good country and continent specific news sites. I have already linked Africa Daily in my sidebar. It looks like a good place to find headlines as well as news source links from the various countries.

Pants on Fire

I really wish more people, especially those in the middle of the political spectrum, would take a look at Media Matters. Despite the fact that it suffers from a certain amount of bias, at least it cites its sources and quotes directly from them. It even provides links to those sources! So any lie told by Limbaugh, or fudge perpetrated by Sean Hannity can be exposed.

On a slightly more pleasant note, visit James Wolcott's blog for a good discussion on Chickenhawks.

Saturday, August 27, 2005


Great, if depressing, story in Salon about the White House Press Corps and how it's balls have been hacked off by this administration. It's not so much analysis as it is anecdote, from a reporter inside the press room. It's fascinating, like a car wreck.

Friday, August 26, 2005


I am right now reading an article by Phillip Robertson (a great correspondent) on Salon.com. I love Robertson's articles because they always give a complex and interesting picture of culture in Iraq. This particular article is about a certain literary street where men used to gather to discuss literature and dissident ideas. Now the whole makeup of the area has changed and ideas are not discussed, foreigners are not welcome. This is due to the threat of terrorism and attacks by religious fundamentalists. It is interesting to note that people no longer feel as safe as they did even under Saddam.
And before anyone yells at me, I am not saying that Hussein was somehow not so bad - but the country of Iraq is complex just as this country is - just as any society is. I also want more people to realize that even with some 'steps in the right direction', this is a culture and a people that are being forced to change and their lives are profoundly affected in ways that will likely not be repaired in one lifetime, if ever. I think some Americans do not understand this. The positives that some look to for justification are certain numbers and small anecdotes of something being built or someone being captured. But the picture is much wider than that and I recommend Robertson's articles, even older ones that he wrote earlier in the war, to get a better idea of Iraqi culture and life and the ways it is changing.