seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Wait - who did what now?

So I saw on some conservative blogs some allegations that Kerry cheated by using notecards during the debate which are prohibited under the rules they agreed to. There is some video that looks like he is pulling cards out of his pocket.

But then there is also a suggestion that Bush was actually wearing an ear piece and receiving talking points through it. This would explain his lame pauses before he said anything each time he spoke - but so would the way his brain functions - slowly (this is not a put down ... I would consider Bush to be more of a deliberate thinker than a quick thinker ... of course whether he thinks is up for debate).

In other news, Adam's brother Nathan has a blog from Turkey where he is currently studying. Good stuff.

I'm not really sure about this - looks like there is a book out with evidence that there was a plot to murder Wellstone and the others on that plane. More conspiracy theories? I still don't see the motivation. Wellstone was doing more than probably any other member of Congress to make the world a better place (by progressive values anyway). But honestly, he wasn't a threat to the order in any way. He was an honest man who fought for what he believed in ... not a saint. Though in times like these, maybe this is what saints do?

After Ethnic Cleansing

I wonder if there is actually a solution for the aftermath of ethnic cleansing. An article in the New Yorker caught my eye today as I was going through recent magazines at work. This article detailed the current situation in Kirkuk, Iraq where Hussein had carried out a policy of ethnic cleansing by bring Arabs into the city and driving Kurds out. I can't help but point out that Turkey, a strong U.S. ally, continues policies such as these with a military equiped by U.S. tax dollars.

At any rate, now that Hussein is out of power, Kurds are returning to the city to reclaim both the city as a Kurdish entity and their old property. The problem is that their old property sortof belongs to Arabs who have been living there. Some of these people are old Baathist party loyalists and deserve little sympathy. However, there are also children and people who have friends, family, and ties to that community now. To simply kick them out because of the circumstances of their arrival does not seem just either.

I have given this a fair amount of thought over the past 4 years - since I was in the Middle East. This is obviously a major issue there as well. There are middle-aged people in refugee camps that hold keys to houses that have been demolished, are occupied by Israelis, or are in abandoned villages to which they are not allowed to return.

Some want to see all Israelis forced to leave. I asked several where they would go. I don't care was a common response. I would ask what about the children that were born in Israel ... never got much of an answer to that. At what point does ethnic cleansing become irreversible? Few would suggest the American Indians will ever gain control of all North America again. Would anyone suggest that we should sort out which bands of ancient marauding European barbarians belong where now?

So what is there to do in a place like Kirkuk? Tell the Kurds to suck it up and build afresh - probably with money from international donors? Tell the Arabs to suck it up and move out, they were never really welcome there? Perhaps demolish the whole place and have Disney rebuild it as Celebration, Iraq?

There are people living there on all sides who want to see Kirkuk welcome all groups of people rather than go back to being a Kurdish enclave. This seems like a good start to me. Encourage those willing to live in a peaceful, heterogenous environment. As for the Kurds living in the refugee camps? I actually don't have a problem with U.S. and European tax dollars paying for their resettlement. Afterall, it was the government diplomatic games of the world powers that sometimes encourage Kurds to revolt and other times encouraged Hussein to brutally murder them. Years of a stable oil supply came at a brutal price to those living under the Middle East despotic regimes. Time to give a little back.

Before I go to work...

Gotta work today - no football for me. I took my day off yesterday so I could take photos of Macalester Football gaining its first victory of the season, scoring a late touchdown against Knox College to go up 27-20. I actually missed the 4th quarter though - went rock climbing with Russ.

Last night Russ and Lisa had an apartment-warming party. Good times - lots of politically charged conversations. I got to thinking about when I lived in the Middle East for 4 months to study the situation between Israel and the Palestinians. I finished off that trip with an 8 day trip to Lebanon by myself. Visited the relatives of a friend of mine and a few people I met through activist channels over the internet.

At any rate, this was in the spring of 2000. Israel was occupying southern Lebanon - much to the consternation of many Israelis and all Lebanese. Prime Minister Barak had pledged to pull them back across the border. Israelis called the area they occupied in Lebanon a "security perimeter" without ever comparing their "security perimeter" to the USSR's "security perimeter" created by the Iron Curtain.

The security perimeter wasn't really secure. Hezbollah gained fame by attacking Israeli forces daily. Hezbollah - a very militant group with its mission being the destruction of Israel was quite popular among everyone in Lebanon - no mean feat considering Lebanon was less than 10 years out of a brutal civil war. Hezbollah's popularity had nothing to do with its extreme mission - most Lebanese that I talked to (and I talked to many) wanted Israel to leave them alone and end the apartheid system against Palestinians than wanted to drive Israel into the sea). Hezbollah became popular because they were seen as defending the country against the invading Israeli force. There were of course extremists who supported Hezbollah because of its broader mission against Israel but most supported it for the reason I cite above.

Meanwhile in Israel, many people argued that if the Israeli Defense Forces withdrew back into Lebanon, it would allow Hezbollah more opportunities to strike directy at Israel rather than striking in the "security perimeter." I actually left Lebanon the day the Israelis did also.

Now here I sit thinking back over the past 4 years. Remarkably, Israel's northern border quieted quite quickly. Yes, there were still a few rocket attacks across the border, but from what I have seen, the border has been much quieter than most thought. Hezbollah has all but faded from the news. Those who predicted doom and gloom following an Israeli withdraw from occupying Lebanon went on to talk about how Israel could never withdraw from the occupied terroritories for the same reasons they used in arguing about Lebanon.

Of course, the occupied terroritories are different from Lebanon and offer a different dynamic, but offer a similar lesson. When you occupy a country or a people that opposes you, you unite most against you. It may not happen at first - sometimes it can take time.

This is what is happening in Iraq. Each day the U.S. is there, it makes more enemies (yeah Mr. President, I forgot Poland too). Saddam Hussein was never a large supporter of global terrorism, he was content to brutalize his own people. I never thought his weapons of mass destruction (yes, I, like everyone else, assumed he actually had them) were a threat to anyone but his own people. Thus, I did not oppose the war against Iraq. I thought that anything would be better than the status quo where sanctions were killing thousands of children and wiping an ancient culture off the planet. It looks like Mr. Presidente proved me wrong.

As someone who opposes the American Empire, I am happy to see the world uniting against Team America: World Police. I am not happy that President Bush's actions have created more terrorists and fundamentalist enemies of the United States across the globe. There is an anarchist saying: "Your leaders cannot protect you, but they can get you killed."

At this point, the United States is stuck. Poor decisions, greed, and an idealistic neocon vision that is just plain wrong have combined to create a situation in which the U.S. has not only lost 1055 soldiers, but also 4083 soldiers who are wounded and not returning to duty. (DefenseLink.mil)

What has the United States gained from losing 5000 soldiers? Swelled ranks of those willing to join terrorist groups. Yes, if the U.S. would have succeeded in Afghanistan and Iraq, the people in the Middle East would not be so hostile and angry toward the U.S. However, the U.S. has utterly failed - the elections in both countries will not be legitimate in the eyes of those who matter (the Iraqis and Afghans) and the U.S. will continue losing troops and creating enemies.

Government is far better at creating problems than cleaning them up. Although I'm sure Halliburton would disagree with me.

1 - Nil to Macalester

Mac Men beat Colorado College tonight in an exciting soccer match. I may have captured some good photos - won't know for several weeks at the rate I am going at scanning right now.

Had fun at work talking about the debates. It seems to be official that Kerry has finally figured out how to present his position on Iraq. It is also official that no human being could look more like Alfred E Neuman than Bush did at that debate. Yowzers.

I'm tired, so this a short one tonight. The Strib has a good editorial about the real situation in Iraq.

I didn't forget Poland

I purposely left it out. If you don't get what I'm talking about, you didn't watch the Presidential Debate. Interesting stuff. I thought Bush looked pretty bad - although, I'm biased against him. This is not to say I like Kerry, but I certainly find Bush to be a fool. This is not to say he is unintelligent. I think he is fairly intelligent - probably a little above average intelligence. But the man is deluded.

At any rate, even the right wing bloggers over at Powerline Blog are concerned with Bush's performance. The very fact that we are talking about his "performance" is disturbing enough for me.

Guiliani was on the Daily Show tonight talking about the debate. I used to dislike Guiliani, then I started thinking he wasn't such a bad guy, and now I am back to disliking him. He said several things which indicate he is either 1) a blithering idiot, or 2) a shameful partisan with no regard for the truth.

The main beef I have with him is his assertion that Kerry remained unclear tonight about his position on the war in Iraq. This is absurd. Tonight, Kerry finally cleared the air. He said over and over again, that he believes Hussein was a threat that needed to be dealt with, but that Bush bungled it. This is not a difficult point to understand - now that Kerry has finally found a way of arranging english words to describe his position in a manner that other english-speakers can understand it. But Guiliani - possibly reading from a Fox News talking points memo, claimed it was still unclear. For the love of God man, it is finally clear! I dunno - maybe his interview was pre-taped?

I realize that my blog entry yesterday regarding my continued to decision to steer clear of the ballot box come Nov 2 angered a number of you. In fact, my friend klink, said I should "shit or get off the pot." I responded - you can read it if you will. However - it was a misuse of that phrase. I am not undecided. My decision is made. Responding in kind, it would sound like this: I refuse to continue sitting on a pot of broken glass.

Have I encouraged anyone else not to vote? I cannot think of a time in which I seriously encouraged anyone else not to vote. I have made a few jokes - but ever since I decided not to vote, I have not encouraged others to abstain. I think it is a decision people should make for themselves. If they have any doubts about whether to vote or not, I encourage them to vote - but actually pretend this is a functioning democracy, and keep tabs on whoever you voted for should (s)he win. Actually watch what they support and what happens as a result of their actions.

Do not make up your mind based upon what party affiliation your parents' have . Don't make it up based upon who looks "more Presidential" (or Senatorial or Mayorial). Don't even make it up based upon what their party affiliation is. If you think voting makes a difference, then the onus is on you to actually research what this person will do once they are in the government.

I remain true to the anarchist proverb, "Few men are wise enough to govern themselves; no man is wise enough to govern another." Does this mean a group of people cannot come together to establish common rules they all agree to live under? No.

Is this a practical rule to start living by in today's society? No. What am I doing about it? Hell, I'm just an egg. I'm still researching past human experiments - including the Founding Fathers of this country who would likely be taking up arms against it if they lived today. At the same time, I participate in actions that I believe will help bring about a more anarchical world in the future. I am not looking for a utopia - just something better.

One Sad Quiz

Regular reader "Dead Fingers" reported an article which shows Daily Show viewers to be more politically aware than those who watch other late night TV shows. I took the little quiz and got 6 out of 6 correct.

Honestly, this is embarrassing. The average Daily Show viewer got a little over 3 if I remember correctly. Why don't I vote? Because I don't want my vote tallied with a bunch of people who know nothing of the issue.

The "democratic system" in the U.S. has utterly failed to produce a watchful, aware public. The vast majority of voters (let's just focus on those bothering to cast a ballot) are totally clueless when it comes to the supposed issues. Honestly, I had wavered a bit it deciding if I would continue not voting in the face of Bush's total incompetence. I've ceased wavering.

The ballot box will not bring about any meaningful change to the problems I see. This doesn't mean I will ignore the debates - quite the contrary. I look forward to Thursday's debate. Why? In the not-so-irrelevant words of George Carlin: "Cuz it's fun!"

Return to St. Paul

We have returned to St. Paul. We made it fairly high spirits given the long ride home. PA Recap: We ate tons. We succeeded in paying for a meal that Jabbour ate. That would be our big victory of the trip. We took him to the Tik Tok Diner in Easton, PA for his upcoming birthday. Had lunch at a good Chinese place in Westcosville (I think). Dinner at the possibly the best pizza joint I have ever eaten at: Ruffino's in Allentown.

We left Aunt Cheryl and visited family friends Marie, Larry, and Adrienne in Stroudsburg. Sucked down minimal soda and left around 9:30 pm EDT. After a few snags in Chicago, we arrived at my apt at 3:00 CDT.

PA is a swing state, much like MN. But they have Bush billboards. I don't know if I just haven't seen them here or if they don't exist here. I don't see many billboards on my bike routes. At any rate, one of them floored me. It read: "Remember, it's your money." WHAT???

This from the candidate who turned the budget surplus into a war profiteer opportunity for Haliburton?? If there were truth in politics, the billboard would have read, "Remember, at one point, it was your money." The Republicans in charge have no credibility when it comes to fiscal conservatism, but they still use the same slogans. At some point, this will catch up with them. They'll do a lot of damage in the meantime.

In past years, Adam and I have made the trip in a sedan. This time we took an SUV - a Mercury Moutaineer which is basically a Ford Explorer. It was quite comfortable and averaged somewhere in the vicinity of 18-19 mpg. Better than we hoped. I don't really have a problem with taking an SUV across the country when it has 3 people in it.

I think sometimes people get caught up confusing social problems with technology. SUVs are a problem because they are made to guzzle gas. The companies which manufacture them do not feel any pressure to make the economical. Then people buy them to carry one person across town and back each day. This is not the fault of the SUV. Even if SUV's had a higher fuel economy (which they certainly should!) we would still have the problem of people driving themselves across ever widening highways alone to work.

Ultimately, the problem lies less with the vehicle itself, and more with our use of it. Be responsible - share rides, ride the bus, or BIKE! Each car in a city has something like 7 parking spots. That's right, for each car, there are 7 parking spots (and not all of them are close to the supermarket). Just think of all that wasted space. Bikes take up less room.

In other news, Not all forgeries are equal. MSNBC has an article detailing an ironic situation at CBS. CBS chose to forgo pushing a story revealing Bush using forged documents to lead the country to war in order to push a story that relied upon documents that have been revealed to be forgeries themselves. I'm waiting for the right wing bloggers to seize upon this other forgery story with the same zeal they did the first one.

I'm done. This was a semi-coherent rant brought to you by driving all night across the midwest. Also, in the past 6 days, I have listened to 2 Left Behind books on tape. Woof. Reviews of them are coming.

MSP in PA

I found out that Adam, Kim, and I are not the only MSP folks in PA. On yeah - there are more... It would appear that a group of neo nazies from Minneapolis is visiting Valley Forge. I suppose a deluded few would call them ambassadors of good will. Great. First the suburbs and single issue voters turn MN into a swing state, and now the National Socialist Movement is recruiting bigots. Minnesota needs a new travel slogan. I suggest: "Minnesota, not quite Indiana, but trying."

On the lighter side, it seems that the State Department has decided not to deny the obvious on one particular issue anymore. Secretary of State Colin Powell revealed that U.S. actions in Iraq and Afghanistan have created more anger against the U.S. He feels that this will cool following successful elections in both areas. I think he would be right - however, I wonder if he'll be using the same metric as they will to judge the elections.

On a personal note, Kim, Adam, and I arose early this morning, bade Margot farewell and headed Southwest to Pennsylvania, land of the Fairview House steak sandwiches and perogies. Yum. Grabbed lunch at the Bethlehem diner with Mom Mom and dinner at the Fairview House with Aunt Cheryl and Jabbour. Good times.

We are halfway through our Left Behind ration for the trip. Haven't started those reviews yet, but hope to soon. I don't know if we will finish Book 6, Assassins, due to revulsion at what we have already heard. We will try though.

As always, the prospect of returning home is difficult. These annual trips to PA and New England are so much fun. We always wish we budgeted more time for everything. But soon we will return to MN. Tomorrow night we'll start the return trip.

Go Eagles.

Back in Boston (Again)

Nothing political today - just a recap of recent travel events.

Left Boston early Friday. Drove right to the Diner on Main Street in Plymouth. This place is an amazing diner. Best I have ever been to, and I enjoy diners. For 3 years, Adam and I have come back to this place each fall. Kim and Margot came this year also.

We spent the rest of the day climbing in Rumney (white moutains, 1 hour north of Concord). We climbed a few easy routes to get Kim and Margot confident and warmed up. Moved on to a climb Adam and I did last year on the Main Cliff. This is a multi-pitch climb which means everyone climbs a long ways (not all at once), then hooks into an anchor on a ledge, and climbs again.

We climbed a slightly different version that turned out to be more difficult than expected. Kim and Margot both came through really well, but it tested their faith in our judgement. Kim showed remarkable grit and self-abuse in several sections as she flailed at the rock.

We ended up running out of light as the sun sets quite quickly in the mountains this time of year. So we rappelled down the cliff in darkness. This is hard. Kim and Margot had practically no rappelling experience between them - but they both did well under Adam's expertise. We packed up using the one flashlight Margot had remembered (I had chosen not to bring a flashlight earlier - it was not an omission...learning lesson). Then we stumbled down a rough trail through the woods to the car.

Although Kim had come quite unglued during the difficult climb, she returned to high spirits and was soon excited at the prospect of climbing again the next day - but no multi-pitch climbs.

We returned to the Baker River Campground for the night. I love this place, we've been there 3 years in a row, they remember us and are always quite helpful.

The next morning (in fact, this morning), we arose early, got breakfast at the diner and headed back to the hills. Adam tried Waimea and fell in a slippery spot (it is a climb that is always wet). Margot was learning to lead belay and caught him nicely. Throughout the day, I begged off belaying so I could take photos.

We moved on to the Jimmy Cliff, which has some incredible climbs, especially on a day like today, when the leaves are changing colors. I climbed Lonesome Dove, a wonderful long climb that goes from vertical to slab. Had to rest once but overall, was happy with the climb. Lots of fingertip pullups.

Kim and Margot climbed a slightly easier route next to that one which was still difficult. I was not at all sure they would be able to complete it, but we wanted to give them a shot since it is a really fun climb. Throughout all of this, we were talking with folks around us who were really fun. A bunch of students from Amherst College were there and in good spirits.

While Margot was climbing, many of us were encouraging all the climbers to hurry to the top, as Donald Rumsfeld would do (this one is for freedom!) where we assured them, they would be greeted as liberaters by Iraqi children that would offer them sweets.

At any rate, Margot successfully completed it. Kim followed and also completed it. This was fairly amazing given their collective lack of outdoor climbing experience. I think I have several good shots of each on this climb. We'll find out in a few weeks.

So here I sit, back in Boston. Margot is again letting us stay with her and she has cooked us dinner for the second time. Good dinner too. Now we are going to watch a movie and eat fresh brownies with ice cream.

I posted a review of Carl Hiaasen's latest book, Skinny Dip, tonight. Tomorrow morning we head to PA to visit relatives, friends, and a TV for the Eagles.

Eastbound and Down

Jerry Reed anyone? Adam, Kim, and I arrived in Boston tonight at 8:00. Started with a jaunt down to Rochester to kick off the trip right with some John Hardy's BBQ. My old friend from high school, Chris Gulden met us there. Got some red tape to repair a broken tail-light and headed out. Blurs: Chicago, Indiana, the few parts of Ohio I was awake for. Long long drive on 90 in NY.

Stopped in Syracuse at the Clinton Park Cafe (take 81 South I think from 90 and follow the signs for Clinton str. Good sandwiches and soup. Took a quick look at that area of Syracuse as I am considering applying to grad school there. Nice enough place - better than I was led to believe by a few. And they have Orangemen basketball!
Can't go wrong there.

Listened to the 4th book of Left Behind: Soul Harvest. We listened to the Dramatic Audio edition where it is like a radio show. Will be doing a review later with Adam. Good stuff. Had more than a few yucks at the expense of people who take this seriously.

It is nice being back on the East Coast - I feel more comfortable when driving on roads cut into rock surrounded by little mountains and valleys. Growing up in the Lehigh Valley, PA didn't prepare me for driving surrounded by crops as in MN.

We happened to be changing CDs in Western NY State and chanced upon a talk radio show. Was talking about issues of public nudity. Said some guy in San Fran who is 58 does yoga in the nude and the DA (I think it was the DA) won't prosecute because it isn't "lewd." So apparently they do not have a crime for it. The host pointed out that seeing a 58 year old guy naked is one thing - but doing Yoga?? With one leg behind his ear? I think he had a good point - this is not why we build sidewalks.

Tomorrow we head up to NH early morning to start our 2 day climbing fest. Sat night I hope to be able to post again.

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