Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Marta and the Iowa State Fair Corndog Queen

Monday, August 25, 2008

Brian Conley leaves China

photo of Brian Conley(on the right) and Jeff Jarvis, c. 2006, courtesy somethingtobedesired.com

from a sequence of emails from Eowyn Rieke, Brian Conley's wife:

1.Brian Conley, founder of Alive in Baghdad was arrested Tuesday, August 19th while in Beijing. Press inquiries may be directed to press@aliveinbaghdad.org

2. According to the US Embassy (last update received 11:30 pm US EDT Saturday, August 23) there has been no big change. They still anticipate that the 8 US detainees will be deported on August 30. They are advocating for earlier release, but have not received a response from the Chinese authorities.

We can increase the likelihod of early release by continuing to apply political pressure. If you are close friends or family of any of the detainees, or have good contacts in the offices of US Representatives, US Senators or the State Department please contact them and ask them to press the issue with the State Department and the US Embassy in Beijing.

We can also continue the pressure via media coverage. The Washington Post published an excellent editorial on Friday, August 22 and an article on Saturday, August 23. That should help elevate the issue of Tibetan repression and Chinese intolerance of free speech. But more is better! Please, keep talking to any press contacts you have, especially those in major media outlets.

We're in a dangerous time in the press cycle -- the Democratic National Convention is about to start and the Olympics are about to end. As a result the Beijing detentions and issues of human rights in China may just get lost or ignored.

If you want to get really mad, listen to "Reviewing the Beijing Olympics." At about minute 04:30 they discuss freedom of the press and repression of protests, stating "we believe that the police here are under orders not to detain people immediately if they are not causing a public disturbance." How utterly ridiculous and totally irresponsible. That section of the report ends with "It looks like the iron fist is increasingly gloved in velvet." Please please consider writing a letter to NPR asking them to produce a story that presents the truth about press freedom in China during the Olympics.

If you are in the New York Area, there are a bunch of solidarity events planned for tomorrow (Sunday, August 24). See the end of the email for more information.

There will be a special episode of Alive in Baghdad this week, with a short segment on Brian and his detention. Thanks to Students for a Free Tibet for helping us gather some information and footage.

And finaly, I've spent a lot of today pondering a question that came to me sometime last night -- If this is how the Chinese government treats US citizens when the eyes of the world are focused on China, what do they do to Tibetan and Chinese activists, who have no real rights, when no one is watching? I can't even imagine.

Keep an eye on the Free Tibet 2008 website, where you can get the most recent updates.

3. and finally,
We just got word that Brian and friends are on a plane to Los Angeles, arriving Monday morning. He was released with 7 other US citizen detainees: Jeff Goldin, Tom Grant, Mike Liss, James Powderly, Jeff Rae, John Watterberg and Jeremy Wells.

They have been released 6 days early, largely (we believe) because of political pressure and media attention that forced the US Embassy to take action.

The fate of the other 2 international detainees, Florian Norbu Gyanatshang a Tibetan with German citizenship, and Mandie McKeown from Britain, is not clear. Please feel free to call their respective embassies and urge their immediate release. For more info on phone numbers and other action steps, see the Free Tibet 2008 website.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Some recent items 8-17

Aziz in City of Brass, "Obama's Muslim Outreach Advisor Resigns":

Chalk up another victory for the scalp-hunting Islamophobe right: Mazen Asbahi, appointed as national coordinator for Muslim American affairs by the Obama campaign, has resigned from his volunteer position because of claims that he has "ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood, and served on the board of advisors for an Islamic fund at the same time (8 years ago) as another member, Jamal Said who is a fundamentalist imam. Asbahi actually resigned from that position after only a few weeks, once he learned of allegations against Said. In other words, Asbahi got the jihadi cooties, which are kind of like a mixture of anthrax and herpes.

Obama continues to disappoint on this score. He still remains unable to state publicly that "no, I am not a muslim but it would make no difference even if I were." It would have truly been a hope-inspiring change to see him defend Asbahi and take on the whisperers, because caving to them makes them all the stronger. That would be audacity I can believe in.

Yes, 12% of voters still think Obama is muslim (incidentally, 1% think he's Jewish). So whats the better strategy? Try to distance yourself from muslims at all costs to try and make that 12% think, "hmm. ok so he threw his volunteer outreach guy under the bus. I'm convinced!" ? Or to try and undermine the reasoning that says "if Obama is muslim, then I cannot vote for him, because muslims are not acceptable" ?

If any politician had the power or the pulpit to take on the ugly, dark side of American culture that Islamophobia represents, it's Obama. Given the confluence of events of war and energy and security, a sane outreach to Islam is in our collective best interest. Yet Obama runs away. Again.

This item from "Dr iRack" of Abu Muqawama very succinctly frames the issue of the fight regarding provincial elections in Iraq, which are tentatively scheduled for this fall:

Back on June 23, a guest poster on Abu Aardvark (now revealed to be Sam Parker at the United States Institute of Peace) usefully framed Iraq's central political cleavage as a clash between the "Powers That Be" (PTB: Dawa, ISCI/Badr, IIP, the Kurds) and the "Powers That Aren't" (PTA: Sahwa/tribes/SoIs, Sadrists, independents, secularists, etc.). This paradigm overlaps with, but greatly complicates, the standard Shia vs. Sunni and Arab vs. Kurd dichotomies typically used to define ongoing communal struggle in Iraq.
He goes on to recommend:
1. Reidar Visser's excellent discussion of the Kirkuk issue, provincial elections, and the PTB/PTA paradigm.

2. Michael Gordon's NYT Magazine article on the PTB/PTA clash within the Shia community.

3. A very good WaPo piece by Sudarsan Raghavan and Ernesto Londono on how the PTB/PTA conflict plays out regionally across Iraq.

The security improvements in Iraq are real but reversible. They cannot be sustained if the PTBs lock the PTAs out of politics. Period.

Joe Bageant quotes an anonymous political consultant regarding the Obama phenomenon in "Life in the Post Political Age"

Insofar as the style-over-substance post-political age we supposedly live in is a construct imposed on voters by elites, the degree to which people buy into it is debatable. Large numbers of people don't vote, and large numbers of the people who do vote do so in spite of lacking confidence in the basic health of the system, thinking they have no other choice. But it's worth reading-- an excerpt:

The underlying social change that led to the Obama victory is the unprecedented extent to which the narrative of popular consumer culture, and the media that drives it, has become the dominant influence on how Americans think, formulate their ideas and understand the world around them.

The most important result of this process has been the steady and consistent depoliticization of American society, to an extent that we can make the case that we are living at the dawn of the post political age.
The two primary features of the post political age are a politics completely drained of all its contents and ability or willingness to be used as an agent of change in social or economic policy, and its full integrations into the world of American popular, consumer and entertainment culture.[...]

It is a result of this dynamic that the two consistent winners in American politics over the last 30 years have been the cultural left and the economic right.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Onion teevee: the election, apathy, and you

Monday, August 11, 2008

11 Aug

11 August is Angry Old Guy Day. Or it's Make Stuff Up Day. I forget.

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

hugozoom snoozes, loses

It seems somebody else has the address hugozoom@gmail.com. Maybe it's a disgruntled bunny. C'est la vie. Anyway, in the unlikely(?) event you get an email from said address, it ain't me.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Onion teeve: "spokesdrone""

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Was the Iraq war worth it? --UPI video

Although several of the respondents are clearly buying into the myth that the US presence is preventing greater instability, at least the UPI is asking people a question that remains mostly unspoken on American television news.

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