July 28, 2006

delayed newsworthiness

one of israel's first targets in lebanon (july 13 and again on july 15) was the power station in jiyyeh. jiyyeh is near sidon, the regional capital of the south, roughly halfway between beirut and tyre.

these attacks caused a 10,000-ton oil spill, but because lebanon's resources are being funneled towards the present internal refugee crisis, an additional 15,000 tons have spilled into the the mediterranean since then. the new york times reported this morning that oil reached the syrian coast yesterday as a result of the winds and the current.

the nighttime picture is my own -- a shot of beirut's southwestern coast during the second week of june. where the shore turns to sand is the location of the second picture, courtesy of a lebanese blogger.

according to the world peace herald, the material damage (infrastructure, buildings, etc.) from this conflict has amounted to over $2 billion. this does not include the approximately $200 million required to clean up this oil spill, or lost revenue from the closure of rafiq al-hariri international airport, failed businesses and the now bust summer tourist season, which was projected to bring 1.5 million visitors to a country of only 3.8 million people. adjusting for purchasing power parity, lebanon's gdp is $23.7 billion.

add usaid's most recent statistics -- 421 dead, 3,225 injured, 210,000 displaced to neighboring countries, and 500,000 displaced within lebanon -- and tell me how long you think reconstruction is going to take.

someone asked me a few days ago if i thought i would return to beirut and i couldn't answer the question. on a basic level, entry-points to the country are limited at the moment and will continue to be until a cease-fire comes into effect, money is raised or donated to lebanon, and then the airport runways, ports, and border crossings are repaired. more than that, though, this war has irreversably changed the city, both physically and emotionally. i received an email last week from the coordinator of international students at the american university of beirut. "the beirut you came to know," she told me, "no longer exists."

July 27, 2006

Why Is This Not News?

Try not to kill people wearing this

Apparently yesterday* Israel took a break from shelling/murdering Lebanese innocents to shell/murder four UN peacekeepers in a little booth. Here is a rough timetable of the incident:

1) Israel fires at, kills 4 people wearing UN hats in a UN bunker. There is no reason to assume these are Hezbollah guys or anything. Even though they have a lot of missiles, and the guys are only in a little booth, it takes them about 6 hours to kill all the people. Meanwhile, the four guys are apparently calling the UN up on the phone, telling them that they're being shot at and to maybe see if they can call off the guys shooting at them.
2) After the people are dead, somebody tells Kofi Annan that the whole thing smells a little fishy, and Kofi rushes out of a tremendously important comped dinner with Condoleezza and some other people to tell everybody about it.
3) Kofi changes his mind about the intentionality of the attack. Everybody agrees to "conduct an investigation," which doesn't sound much like "hold Israel responsible for the possibly-negligent-or-maybe-not homicide of 4 UN members." Noted jackass John Bolton, meanwhile, is caught cajoling the Chinese into dropping the "possibly-deliberate" rhetoric from their own shit.

Please somebody explain to me why
1) Israel expects us to believe that they really didn't know those guys were UN guys for six hours after repeated phone calls. Maybe the lines were tied up in NYC? Maybe the Israeli military, poor and destitute as it is, couldn't afford satellite phones? Who knows?
2) The probably deliberate murder of 4 UN peacekeepers by a whacko racist aggressor state is not front-page, headline news? I guess washingtonpost.com was busy running that picture of Nelly, and nytimes.com has that sweet Prey story. Portal technology sure is awesome!

Even the washingtonpost "World" section doesn't have it on the frontpage, but they sure as fuck have "Europe sweats through July," which is surely news to anybody who doesn't know that July is usually hot.

*(or something, I'm in Japan, it might have been 2 days to you people, or whatever look it was like 48 hours)

July 24, 2006

The Bush Administration & Civil Rights

This Boston Globe article is long, but it is an absolutely damning look at how the Bush administration has turned the Justice Department's Civil Rights division into a complete joke:
In an acknowledgment of the department's special need to be politically neutral, hiring for career jobs in the Civil Rights Division under all recent administrations, Democratic and Republican, had been handled by civil servants -- not political appointees.

But in the fall of 2002, then-attorney general John Ashcroft changed the procedures. The Civil Rights Division disbanded the hiring committees made up of veteran career lawyers...

The profile of the lawyers being hired has since changed dramatically, according to the resumes of successful applicants to the voting rights, employment litigation, and appellate sections... Hires with traditional civil rights backgrounds -- either civil rights litigators or members of civil rights groups -- have plunged. Only 19 of the 45 lawyers hired since 2003 in those three sections were experienced in civil rights law, and of those, nine gained their experience either by defending employers against discrimination lawsuits or by fighting against race-conscious policies... Meanwhile, conservative credentials have risen sharply [details follow]...

At the same time, the kinds of cases the Civil Rights Division is bringing have undergone a shift. The division is bringing fewer voting rights and employment cases involving systematic discrimination against African-Americans, and more alleging reverse discrimination against whites and religious discrimination against Christians.
Sometimes you just have to be astounded by how callously nepotistic this administration really is.

You know, I don't like attributing malice where stupidity can be more easily attributed to an action or a policy. But this isn't stupid. It's evil, and I mean that in a very direct way. It is evil to take a bureau designed to protect the rights of those Americans who most need protecting from infringements of those rights and handing it over to one's hack friends and supporters. I would say that I'm kind of bowled over by how transparent the Bush Admin is in their disdain for the rights and well-being of minorities, but then again, why should I be at this point?

PS. Unfortunately, you can only read the first three pages before you have to register. But those first three pages lay things out pretty well.

July 17, 2006

A little more about Lebanon

I was in Lebanon about a month ago visiting a friend. Everyone I met there was extremely kind, generous, and hospitable. The terrain was beautiful, full of towering mountains, seaside havens, and lush forests. It was heaven.

Beirut itself was teeming with life during my stay. The nights were full of raucous celebrations, especially when Lebanon's adopted team for the World Cup, Brazil, scored. Strangers smiled as I passed by during the day. And the call to prayer was stunning. It would always put a smile to my face.

What is happening now is a tragedy.

To be clear, I am not endorsing either side. I am not sure what other response Israel could have taken. But perhaps I am not creative enough.

Sometimes we see statistics scroll along the bottoms of our televisions and don't really understand what they mean. Sure, fifteen people died during such-and-such bombing. And then we forget about it. But how does it affect those who are closest to it? Most importantly, how will this affect the younger generation of Lebanese? They will be the doctors, teachers, lawyers, and statesmen who will shape the Middle East in the years to come. And few media outlets have reported their reactions.

The friend I visited (who is thankfully back in the United States) has posted some of her own thoughts as well as the thoughts of her Lebanese friends about what is happening now. I believe more information is almost always better, and I hope you will take a moment to read it. I would encourage anyone with similar stories (whether Israeli or Lebanese) to leave a comment linking to them.

The Link

July 14, 2006

Proportional Response

Today's Cup of Joe:

This is honestly what Joe Malchow wrote today. I am not making this up.
There should be a large stone statue of John Bolton somewhere, soon — at least before it becomes taboo to depict the human form. At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, where every freedom-loving nation, hating Islamism, showed themselves too fearful to say so, Bolton cast the single no vote, blocking a proposition which would condemn Israel’s self-defense and, now, its freely-offered contribution to the War on Terror... To well-brook [wtf??] being so hated is a real talent that Mr. Bolton has.
Honestly, I'm not posting this just to be a jerk. I really feel that, if Joe is going to be the face of Dartmouth blogging (as he most definitely is), somebody should really call him out when his posts go this far off the deep end.

Joe Malchow: Now Entering Malkin Territory.

July 2, 2006

Catching up on the Alumni Constitution Battle

I've honestly not been following the recent coverage--in the Times, in the D, on the blogs--of the "long and tedious havoc," to borrow a line from Milton, that has been continuing to unfold over the past two or three weeks. I'll do a little catching up now, maybe some later.

Sara del Nido wrote "A Political Microcosm" for the D, in which she characterizes the defense of the constitution pretty accurately, I think:
Supporters of the constitution reply that the proposition is not a response to the particular claims of the three recently-elected trustees, but rather that it is a long-planned effort to, in the words of chairman William Neukom '64, create "a more democratic, more participatory form of alumni self-governance."
The latter part of this (everything after "not a response to the particular claims of the three recently-elected trustees") is quite true.

But more participation, even more democracy, does not mean more fairness. Peter Robinson made an egregiously hyperbolic comparison to Stalin, voting, and Eastern Europe sometime recently, but one need not be that dramatic to realize that the constitution can both successfully involve more people in the process of governance and also just as successfully constrict the way that participation functions. The board giveth, and the board taketh away.

What the constitution gives is a static, idle democracy that seems focused entirely on collecting inputs, without much thought given to how some outputs might be gotten out, or even what those outputs might be. Sure, the Constitution would likely introduce a broader level of participation in alumni governance, but I cannot help but think that breadth in this case precludes the addition of depth as well. I mean, I'd like to think that the new structure(s) introduced in the Constitution will allow a significantly larger number of people the chance to be creative agents in the process of alumni governance, but I'm not entirely convinced that will happen, and I'm not sure it's even intended to do so.

The presidential power arc (going from vice president to president-elect to president to past president) really bothers me because it is, quite simply, the most blatant sign that there is a massive distrust among the drafters of this constitution of the dynamics of personal choice. This complete lack of faith in the alumni body of Dartmouth College is what this structure, or any structure so ordered, reveals. The presidential power arc takes the elected candidate and just, well, sort of holds him/her for consideration for awhile, until s/he is either changed or at least influenced by those further up on the presidential ladder, or until his/her campaign platform has become less relevant or less important. It's a cooling method, and while insulation from the passions of an inflamed public can be a great thing in government, the iciness of this particular measure is, I think, a little out of proportion to the danger of the situation.

This all is essentially my response to Josiah Stevenson's defense of the Constitution, which can be found here. Stevenson states, "The proposed constitution significantly improves the democratic processes of electing alumni trustees and creates a vastly stronger alumni organization." I have before outlined why the second predicate bothers me, but the first predicate is the key here.

To reiterate: Yes, the Constitution does have measures in it that will increase democratic participation. But yes, it does have measures that are both unfair and pretty obviously designed to be so. To put it bluntly, this is democracy with a fudge factor.

But I am not at all of the opinion that this fudge factor is meant to advance a specific agenda—this is a defensive strategy, I feel, not an attempt at setting up a junta or an effort to carry Dartmouth to new heights/depths of imitating Harvard. I am sick of the conservative insurgents vs. liberal insiders rhetoric, and I'm sick of the conspiratorial accusations coming from both sides. I feel that this whole issue is just one big petty pity party, though not for people who really have any coherent vision of what they want Dartmouth to be, but rather for people who have one of two visions of what they desperately want Dartmouth not to be. If it were the former—two groups of people who had actual, positive, albeit conflicting, visions of Dartmouth—I think we might actually get somewhere. But instead we have two competing Dartmouth Dystopias repelling people into two camps whose only internal cohesion comes from the fear and repugnance of a common bugbear.

C'mon Dartmouth, we can do better than that.

This is just too funny not to post about

The Right Brothers — Back Again

Brian with The Right Brothers was kind enough to send along the band’s newest release, “Remember: A Military Appreciation Project.” The new album was released on June 13 (and is available for purchase here). It is a collection of old and new songs from the heterodox rock group which a year ago made millions of bookmark lists with the addictive music video “Bush Was Right”.

The “Remember” disc is certainly more somber than previous albums—there are no tinkling, rhyming explications of trickle-down economics, for example—since it focuses on, primarily, the war in Iraq and the marital pain the war is causing. My favorite track from the disc, one which may be specially apt as Independence Day approaches, is “Native Son,” a soldier’s anthem. Unlike “Trickle Down” and “Bush Was Right,” this song does not lay out any line of argumentation. It is a little piece of atmosphere—of, as the song says, “man-made hell.” I include the first minute and a half of the song below.
You know, I'd really like to believe that Joe has his tongue firmly installed in his cheek here, but I'm kind of, well, skeptical.

But, anyway, count on conservatives to gain from and commodify patriotic angst--every time.