The Legend of Wooley Swamp

What ever happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right as they try to drag us into their Wonderlands. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. And from time to time, it'll be a place for more light-hearted musings.

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Location: Palms - L.A, California

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Being Your Own Editor, Plus Two Paris Items

Now, let me tell ya, being your own editor ain't easy. Typos, cuttin' and pastin', new ideas, hindsight, the temptation to add a point here and there, to tweak things just one more time...Yes, I too succumb to all of these vices and foibles, so if you're interested in a particular piece you might want to re-check it every so often (don't forget to refresh your browser, lest you get a stale n' cached version.) Major updates will, however, result in brand new posts with the necessary links. Right now, I'm trying to translate more of Lilian Thuram's eloquence. My own French is neither florid nor fluent (ok, that's an understatement,) but I'll get there.

In the meantime, I wanted to recommend two items that speak to the situation in France. First, Mathieu Kassowitz's 1995 cinematic masterpiece La Haine/Hate, starring a young, intense Vincent Cassel as well as Hubert Kounde and Said Taghmaoui. It recounts a day in the life of three friends from a Parisian banlieu. It will tear your heart out.

Secondly, Robert Leiken (who works at both the Nixon Center and the Brookings Institution, two non-partisan Washington D.C. think tanks) just wrote an excellent Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times on the unemployment and assimilation issues as well the contrast between the youth and their immigrant parents/grand-parents. A longer piece, written this summer, was published in Foreign Affairs. Aside from a too heavy focus on the religious aspect (btw, a sizeable part of the population in the banlieues are not Muslim but Christians of Caribbean and African descent) and the slightly alarmist conclusion, I'd have to say that he is right on the money. If I had read his pieces before I wrote mine, I could rightly be accused of blatant plagiarism. Instead, a Realist scholar - btw, calling Sarkozy a 'populist' merits kudos in my book - and I actually seem to be in agreement.

However, his claim that millions of Eastern Europeans have poured into Western Europe needs to be taken with a grain of salt. This was the fear sown by the Le Pens and Haiders as well as plenty of mainstream politicians like Sweden's Prime Minister Göran Persson, German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and of course Sarkozy and Chirac. The problem with the claim is that, with one major exception, it hasn't happened. The exception? Great Britain under Prime Minister Tony Blair - which along with Ireland and Sweden (despite Persson's shenanigans) were the only European Union members to agree to real labor mobility when the ten Eastern countries acceded last year - not only saw an increase in immigration but welcomed it. At least someone understood that the principles of the European Union are not really about subsidizing over-producing farmers or stuffing a technocrat constitutional treaty down people's throats.

I was reminded of Leiken since he was just on C-Span, the American public service channel that broadcasts Congress sessions and much much more. Just to recap one point he made, which I think illustrates his desire to be nuanced. He referred to how Marseilles in southern France, which has a larger minority AND Muslim population, had not experienced the same mayhem as in Paris. There they do not live in isolated, suburban hell-holes of festering alienation. In that sense, Marseilles sounds a lot like Berlin with sun, beaches, lham bel foul and croissants aux amandes.

You can watch the segment here. Just look for the 12 November 'Washington Journal' and the Robert Leiken part. If you do, be aware that you almost got to hear my staccato. For about 20 minutes, I tried to get through to pose a question or rant a little. The moderator had pleaded for some calls from old Europe. But when I got through a kindly voice regretfully told me that Mr. Leiken had 'just left the set.'
Shucks and dangnabbit. I'll be back.

UPDATE: Yours truly just figured out that he actually has to moderate and publish the comments that have been 'pouring' in. Accordingly, you'll now find your comments, and real soon my replies, below. Also, a couple of the posts have been track-backed (i.e. been linked to.) It'll snowball from here on in.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Why Thuram is Right about the Situation in France

It's been two weeks since more cars than normal began burning each night in the suburbs of Paris and elsewhere in France. 'More cars than normal,' that stings like the harsh truth it is. That no one should have been surprised by what's been taking place. The banlieues (suburbs) just outside of Paris have long been grim, depressing places to while away in, they are intimidating and segregated, no-go for outsiders and no-hope for insiders. Extremely isolated, they really are some of the worst places to live in all of Europe. But for millions they are simply home.

Juventus Turin fullback Lilian Thuram grew up in this environment on the southern outskirts of Paris, and no mere French footballing icon. His two goals vs. Croatia in the 1998 World Cup semi-final, and all-around stellar defense, lifted the host country during their march to destiny. In fact, allow me to quote the great Zinedine Zidane himself (who together with Thuram and Claude Makalele recently - just in the nick of time for France - came out of international retirement:)

You write and write about me and Ronaldo, but you don't even see that the greatest footballer of all is right in front of you: Lilian Thuram.

Lilian Thuram strikes his famous impression of Rodin's "The Thinker" statue after scoring his first goal vs. Croatia during 1998 World Cup semi-final.

While Jean-Marie Le Pen and his ilk fumed about how these players were not 'really' French; the world, and much more importantly France itself, celebrated. The scenes when Zidane, Thuram and the others had their images projected onto the Arc de Triomphe during the mad-cap celebrations along the Champs Elysee are pure poetry.

The other day, Thuram made major waves in the French and international media when he directly criticized French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy who said that he ''...would clean the scum (racaille) off the streets with high pressure hoses." Thuram is an intelligent man and went much further than his initially sanguine retort of "I am not scum." This is not the case of a celebrity using their platform of fame to wax inane about war and peace. Not one to ignore idiocy, Thuram knows the world of the banlieues and is a member of the French Government's "Haut Conseil a l'Integration," an advisory body that suggests ways to help integrate minorities. He spoke of alienation and a yearning for respect, fueled by unemployment and discrimination:

I grew up in an estate, too, but I am not scum. People used to say the same thing to me. What I wanted was to find work...The situation makes me sick. It's always the same, it's always the fault of the youngsters in the suburbs...Nobody is asking the right questions. Nobody is trying to look at the real problems. People are talking about insecurity rather than unemployment. They are trying to convince the public that these people are nothing but rioters, which is not the truth. You need to ask why, stop putting people in boxes in nasty suburbs. The most dangerous people are not those who are messing up the suburbs. You really need to think deeply about the root causes. The real political debate is how to live together, how to provide jobs. That's fundamental.

Go, Lilian, go! This is not about condoning the violence and destruction. Please. We all prefer living in a society based on the rule of law, and know that criminals must be apprehended, prosecuted and sentenced, period. That includes the rioters and the butcher who murdered Jean-Jacques Le Chenadec. So anyone reading some kind of approval into his, or my words, is simply putting up a smoke-screen behind which they will cower until (temporary) calm returns. In these pieces, Denis Boyles and Bernard-Henri Levy unfortunately demonstrate all too well how French President Jacques Chirac seems inclined to do just that. Fortunately, at least Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has actually posed some serious questions.

There is REAL alienation in France and at its roots lies the issue of identity. Who are we? Trust me, this alienation exists in most West European countries - including here in my own neighborhood, copycat thugs burned cars elsewhere in Berlin during the last fortnight - and there are two main reasons why people experience this.

First, and most importantly, the labor markets of Western Europe lack any shred of dynamism in the form of job creation. Joel Kotkin offers a learned summary of the situation here. The powers that be reside in the early 20th Century, embracing statism while the unions play sad zero-sum games in their attempts to protect redundant jobs and prevent viable ones. Without even the possibility of gaining a foothold in the labor market, any hope of mobility is naturally in vein. If you think a super-market job is 'dead-end,' ask those bogged down, dehumanized and stigmatized in the welfare swamp. Ask Eric Abidal, now also a French national team defender, about what happened when his friends tried to get a job at the local supermarket in their banlieu of La Duchere, outside of Lyon. It didn't go very well.

It's a vicious downward spiral: Unemployment soars, poverty rises, consumption shrinks and no one buys what is produced...anywhere. Well, besides the U.S. that is. If Americans weren't buying German, or French, products (forget the silliness you might have bought into about Red State Bratwurst and Freedom Fries) then where would these folks be? If you dislike this world...well, there ain't no world but this one.

Secondly, when so few jobs are created, guess who DEFINITELY won't be getting one? That's right, the poorest segments of society. The working class, and it so happens that many belong to one minority or another. The children and grand-children of immigrants who had jobs now cannot find ones in the countries they grew up in. And next thing you know, hucksters start blaming it all on the 'immigrants.' Either they're accused of stealing the (few) jobs out there or living the high-life on welfare, take your pick. Leaving aside the non sequitur that people who are born and raised somewhere cannot be immigrants, you still have to wonder where these quacksalvers garner the gall to peddle this elixir. The simple reality is that none of these countries have what can justifiably be called an immigration policy. This, in and of itself, makes assimilation less likely. Add to that the nature of their assimilation philosophies - ranging from the unrealistic, oppressive requiring of people to forget about their origins (France) to pigeonholing them according to the very same (Germany, Sweden, Holland et. al.) - and you've got yourself places and people who have no clue how to deal with immigration. Well, aside from using 'immigrants' as scapegoats that is.

In Berlin, the equivalent of the Banlieues are the Plattenbau Settlements. Unemployment is rampant and extremism strives. But the difference - and this is the key point - is that in these former East German housing developments the population is white German. They are far more alienated - also lacking in identity after the disappearance of their DDR - than the minorities in my neighborhood. Here in Kreuzberg, we live centrally, people here have their little communities and the atmosphere is generally pretty friendly. On the rare occasion that I have reason to head into the Plattenbau world, I feel a million times more uncomfortable than here in my own supposedly dangerous hood. And if I feel uncomfortable there, you can rest assured that anyone not white, feels more so.

Yet, the media chooses to focus on the German Turks in Kreuzberg because they are minorities, rather than on the situation in Marzahn or Hohenschonhausen in East Berlin. And naturally more so because they are Muslim. Yes, there are problems - especially within the antiquated school system and the stagnant, rigid labor market - but to mention them in the same breath as the situation in France is pure and simple trivialization.

Isn't it obvious that the problem lies in the alienation and not in the ethnic origin of people? I guess not. By focusing exclusively on 'immigration' and 'Islam,' not only do you pose the wrong questions, but you risk turning it all into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tomorrow, France welcome next year's World Cup host Germany in a friendly match at the Stade de France in St. Denis north of Paris. Since St. Denis is known to be one of the infamous banlieues, the German media has been worrying themselves sick about safety and conjuring up doomsday scenarios. It's had this rather ridiculous result. And anyway, a little research would shown that the beautiful stadium - I was blessed enough to see two games there in 1998 - is 'safely' isolated between train tracks and a highway.

German coach Juergen Klinsmann is also a thinking man's (former) footballer and is more likely pondering other things. First of all, that his team might get steam-rolled by a reinvigorated French team that just qualified for the Big Party next summer. Thuram and Zidane were recently coaxed out of retirement and add some backbone to a great squad already featuring Thierry Henry and Patrick Viera.

But Klinsmann, now based in Los Angeles, has played and lived in many countries and knows exactly where German football is left lacking. Namely, in integrating young German born and bred players whose parents have non-German origins into the national team. When his team takes the field against Les Bleus, the contrast will be oh so obvious. Where are the Zidanes and Vieras of Germany? Well, among others they play for Turkey and Croatia.

Last month, when Turkey played Germany in Istanbul, half of the Turkish team was composed of players born and raised in places like Berlin and Gelsenkirchen. They were never asked to play for Germany. Recently, attitudes have begun to show signs of change, but when German born Nuri Sahin - a player Arsenal's coach Arsene Wenger ('discoverer' of Henry) has called the best young player around - was approached by the German Federation, he turned them down. Turkey had already asked and all his life he had been told that this was the country he was from. During the game in Istanbul, Sahin made his debut for the Turkish team (3rd in the 2002 World Cup) and scored the winning goal. German television interviewed him afterwards. Speaking in Ruhr-Gebiet German, the 17-year old sounded just like any other quietly confident German schoolboy, but emblazoned on his face was a big ol' grin. In his first game for Turkey, he had just scored his first goal, and to boot against Germany.

Alienation drives people into situations that are unnatural, leads to random violence and planned vandalism, and eventually into the hands of extremists. Nationalists in Turkey - for they certainly applied pressure to Sahin's family to make 'the right choice' - inadvertently colluded with those who discriminated him in Germany. For the individual an odd outcome and a loss for German football.

But while football is important for its hope and symbolism, the far more serious results of alienation were visible in France during the past few weeks. In search of something, the youth take anything. Still, riots are harmless nuisances compared to the logical conclusion that is reached when the Pied Pipers of Hate begin to play their tunes. It happened in Germany during the Weimar Republic and more recently, the tunes were played for Mohamed Atta in Hamburg and Mohammad Sidique Khan in Leeds.

French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy recently painted a dark scenario in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed:

Nothing will stop the movement. I'm not saying that it won't come to a stop, obviously. But I am saying that no gesture, no idea, no long- or short-term policy, will have, by itself, by magic, the prodigious power to break this spiral that will surely have to follow its logic to the end...It will necessarily come to an end, at some point. But for that to happen, this Telethon of rage, this suicidal, unprecedented tarantella, this meltdown of despair and barbarism, will first have to travel to the end of its own drunkenness... (then we need the kind of talk) those young people are waiting for, the ones who don't want to hear themselves treated like children of immigrants anymore, because they're simply French. Talk that will express, not rancor and mistrust, but equality, citizenship, consideration, and, as they say, respect...if there is to be renewed (belief,) in the lost lands of the Republic, something that will one day resemble a social bond. The other alternative is clear. We have had, in these past few days, a foretaste of it, and, for a secular country, it would be an avowal of ultimate failure: transferring the task of maintaining order and preaching peace to the authorities of the mosques.

Le Pen appeals to the unemployed and alienated white Frenchman while various other charlatans cater to minorities. Yes, when pushed and shove one time to many, some people will believe that salvation lies in deporting millions of 'immigrants.' And some will interpret the Holy Books in hateful and murderous ways. But this can only happen on a large scale when minds have been turned fertile in these kind of alienated environments.

Tomorrow, Lilian Thuram will be playing for himself, for his people, for the 'scum' and for his country. If you have the chance, watch him when he sings the Marseillaise - he always sings the proudest and loudest - watch him when he represents France in all its glory. Let's hope the Sarkozys are listening. The 'scum' will be doing just that, and they know that Thuram is one of them.


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Thursday, November 10, 2005

Introducing Ms. Foit

If you like your theories half-baked and conspiratorial, you've got a new friend. She's already on my mailing list, and she was so delighted with the RAI story that she baked me an underdone huckleberry pie.

Who would've thought I'd come across this kind of encouragement after only a day on the job?


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Update on RAI Story

Just read an interesting post on the American Constitution Society's blog. And this story on as well as the accompanying letters should also interest people. (Unless you're a Salon subscriber member, you'll need to watch a short ad before getting a day-pass.)

They offer some nuance regarding the usage and the legal status of the weapons and material in question. Balloon Juice, Confederate Yankee, and Ezra Klein also have debates going that actually take a serious look at the issue.

For those who like to highlight that the US media hasn't touched this story with a barge pole, I reiterate that it has also been almost totally ignored by their German counterparts. If it had ANY credibility, many here would gladly slobber all over it. Not only do they likely see its spurious nature, but they are well aware of the non-independence of Italian broadcast media. Here's an understatement: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Berlusconi have something in common.

BTW, the BBC has backpedalled and now refers to 'incendiary arms' and not 'chemical weapons.' Sign of a nefarious plot or that the Beeb did a LITTLE more research on the story? According to the BBC itself, and yours truly, it's clearly the latter. Better late than never, but hopefully next time they'll think twice before filing and making me choke on my muesli at the crack of dawn.


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Berlin and the 9th of November

UPDATE: In the original post, I wrote of "Himmler's SS murderers." The exact details of who was involved in the planning and carrying out of Kristallnacht are somewhat more complicated. From Goebbels' incitement to the activities of the various Nazi paramilitary and police organizations, this involved the whole Nazi murder machine. Please see here for more information. Another detailed account of November 9, 1938 can be found here.


There's a beautiful autumnal blue sky over Berlin today. A day to be thankful, but also a day to mourn and reflect. For this date in German history is one of unspeakable tragedy and unbridled joy.

In 1938, Himmler's SS murderers (see update above) set out to squeeze the last breath of Jewish everyday life all over Germany and Austria. It is forever known as Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, during which Berlin and Vienna were targeted with added brutality. The assimilated German and Austrian Jewry - despite the 1935 Nuremberg Laws and increasing restrictions on daily life - had held on to hope that their fellow citizens would wake up from the nightmare. That hope was crushed that night.

In 1989, a bureaucratic error by the DDR Politburo member and minister of Information, Günter Schabowksi, lead to a storming of the Berlin border crossing on Bornholmer Bridge. At some point, the East German border police was overwhelmed and interpreted Schabowksi's words as effectively opening the border. East Germans streamed into the West Berlin district of Wedding. The Berlin Wall had become redundant, several other inner-city crossings were opened, and the next day checkpoints betwen East and West Germany began to let people through in what became two-way traffic. Soon the monstrosity was hacked to pieces. The trapped West Berliners could leave their island prison and the East German their country cell. The Berlin Wall, and the rest of the Iron Curtain, claimed hundreds of victims as well. They are remembered today.

In 1918, the Great War had come to an end, and on November 9th, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated and the Weimar Republic was born. This noble experiment in democracy ultimately failed and was followed by crime and disaster, the Holocaust and more war. The claim that the Nazis chose November 9th intentionally is not mere speculation. Hitler's first attempt to seize power was also on this very day in 1923.

All of this history is still omnipresent in Berlin, and from my base in the West Berlin area Kreuzberg, I can touch it by reaching out my arm. It is humbling.
On my jogging route along the Landwehr Canal, a mere half mile from my front door, I pass by the ruins of the old synagogue on Fraenkelufer. It was once one of the city's largest and most beautiful. It was burned down during that night of infamy.

As I continue to run the loop along the water, I soon cross the former inner-city border. Depending on the direction, I go from Kreuzberg into to the 'death strip' between the outer and inner walls, to the East Berlin district of Treptow, then back into another 'death strip,' before heading into West Berlin's Neukoelln and finally back into Kreuzberg. It is hard to describe to random route of the Wall as it atomized and then marginalized these formerly quite central areas.

On other days, I walk around Kreuzberg and sometimes enter one of the many cemeteries. Morbid? Perhaps, but there is so much history there. The one a quarter mile from my place, is home to the tomb of Gustav Stresemann, Weimar's arguably greatest democrat. He passed away four years before Hitler came to power, but even then the signs of impending doom were there for all to see. I wonder about what he thought and went through, sitting in the Reichstag, listening to Goering and Goebbels preach their hatred.

Many locals want November 9th as German National Day instead of the somewhat arbitrary October 3rd, which was the day of reunification in 1990. Having dealt with the dark past to great extent, and with the most joyous November 9th fresh in mind, I can understand this. A new synagogue on Fraenkelufer (see photo) has been built and dedicated, the Jewish community is one of the fastest growing in the world, the former Wall is stepped across by millions every single day, and the Republic and democracy are strong. But while I can understand, I have a hard time seeing how this day can represent the true aspirations of Germany. Yes, the Nazis appropriated and desecrated it, but on a day of mourning, celebration still seems wrong.

The words of Albert Meyer - a prominent member of the Berlin Jewish Community and one of the few remaining descendants of a family that lived here before 1933 - ring out. On this day last year, he spoke (in German) about his own father's experience in 1938:

Some claim that using the term 'Kristallnacht' is inappropriate since it somehow brings up connotations of something festive and joyous...Be assured that my father, Erich Meyer, certainly felt no joy when the shopwindows of his department store on Frankfurter Allee were smashed that night; nor on the next day, when he - despite the efforts of his employees to sweep away the glass - on his knees, was forced by the mob to clear the shards himself.

It was not festive, joyous or entertaining, and these were not mere shards. This was crystal soaked with blood, and this was not just a pogrom...Kristallnacht was the beginning of the Crime against Jews, first against the Jews in Germany, against the German Jews, and then against European Jewry.

The sky is still blue as dusk begins to set in. There are so many ways to commemorate this day and I am off to do just that.


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Chemical Weapons for Breakfast? No Thanks

On most mornings, I let the BBC wake me up. Some of the presenters on their morning show "The World Today" are loud and entertaining, but what usually gets me going is their praise for English football and much more importantly, their slant. I know that the Beeb is holy to some folks, but like the New York Times they have recently, and very openly, been left wanting. And before then, it's not like editorializing was absent from their news reporting. But that's a whole other debate. They are still worthy sources of record.

This morning, the cheerful voices highlighted the 'documentary' that Italian state TV, RAI , had offered up on its own breakfast program. This Reuters piece in the NYT provides the necessary links (some of the footage is rumored to be very gruesome.) And this Christian Science Monitor dispatch provides some perspective.

The gist was that the US military had supposedly used 'chemical weapons' during the November 2004 siege of the Iraqi city of Fallujah. Take it from me, this claim will fall flat on its conspiratorial face. Not even the usually gung-ho German media has (so far) given it much attention. It conveniently comes out as Italian Prime Minister Sylvio Berlusconi steps up him campaign to win reelection next spring. If he loses, his immunity may be waived. And since Mr. Berlusconi is one politician whose legal problems are very real, this does not bode well for him.

The Iraq War is not popular among the Italian population and, unlike his infinitely more principled Spanish counterpart former Prime Minister José-Maria Aznar, Berlusconi has now decided to change his tune. It really began when US soldiers accidentally killed an Italian intelligence agent who had just helped secure the release of the hostage Giuliana Sgrena. Accusations about assassinations and ransom paying ensued, and the Prime Minister did little to dissuade people from believing patent lies. And since he controls the media, including RAI, the puppermaster just has to pull his strings. Last week, ahead of his trip to Washington DC, Berlusconi used his media platform to suddenly claim he had been misled about Iraq and that he had tried to 'warn' President George W. Bush. During his DC visit, this populism worthy of soon former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder cost him the usual press conference with the President. This routine event was NEVER denied to even the staunchest Iraq War opponents, Schroeder or French President Jacques Chirac.

The reality behind Italy and Iraq is likely far more nefarious and goes to the heart of the Yellowcake story. It turns out that Italian intelligence forged documents that they then peddled to MI6 who in turn passed it on to the CIA. Faulty intelligence indeed, but with Berlusconi's fingerprints all over it. In the famous 16 words of the 2003 State of the Union speech, President Bush only claimed that 'British intelligence has learned...' about the yellowcake uranium and to interpret that as willfull lying - when Berlusconi's lackeys were behind it all - is nothing but partisan wishful thinking. Sorry folks.
Besides, given Iraq and Saddam's history, the notion that he would TRY to acquire fissionable material was not terribly outrageous. And considering the sanctions regime, such an attempt would be for a second-grade material like Yellowcake. Even former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix would sign on to that.
And now this latest attempt to discredit the US with ludicrous assertions that the military intentionally used white phosphorus on civilians. Please. As was the case during the Saddam years, and post invasion, many see fit to still downplay the nature of his regime. Some, only some, people will grant that the real users of chemical weapons, Saddam and his thugs, fired them on Iranian troops and later killed thousands of Kurds in Hallabjah with Sarin nerve gas. The RAI story was aired this morning on the VERY day that the first democratically elected President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, a Kurd!!!, began his five day visit to Italy. Talk about tasteless, cheap politics.

And like 'Gorgeous' George Galloway, most never mention mass graves, wholesale slaughter, the police state and the REAL torture that occurred in Abu Ghraib pre-2003.
By getting RAI to broadcast these claims, a sick attempt is made to equate US Forces with Saddam. A well-known tactic to those who follow the Israel-Palestine conflict closely, where the extremists just love to portray the young conscript soldiers of Israel and their democratically elected leaders as the heirs of the SS and Hitler. Now, that's not just malicious but historically dumb.

Ask yourself, why would the US use an illuminating agent/smoke screener as a chemical weapon? This photo, published in the NYT and International Herald Tribune, tells a different story.

Original caption: U.S. marines scurried for cover Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2004 to avoid being burned by "white phosphorus," which was fired as a smoke screen for U.S. tanks but landed on their own positions. From the Photographer: "Have to be really quick, filing photos now under fire, and been in what is definitely the worst battle of my entire life. Nine guys of 40 were injured on a gantlet we had to run. This is really hard, and been on our feet for 36 hours with 100-pound packs." (c) Ashley Gilbertson, New York Times

By all accounts, it is a simpler and more banal story, and in accordance with ol' Occam's Razor, the likelier one. A savage, bloody battle in a controversial war. No more but certainly no less. But I suspect after being led to believe that Abu Ghraib is now run by the modern-day Torquemada, that Guantanamo is a vision of hell and that Cheney is part of a 'cabal,' people might believe anything. The conspiracy consumption of Europeans and some Americans now seems to match that of the infamous Egyptian media. To me this speaks volumes about an odd need to believe anything just because you were against the invasion of Iraq. The latter was an honorable position to take, one that I continue to disagree with, but swallowing the likes of this RAI propaganda drags you half-way to Wonderland.

Update: click here

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Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Greetings and salutations!

I can hardly turn on the news, pick up a newspaper or click on a web page without tearing my still angelic locks. My mind is brimming over with Dennis Milleresque (Come back Dennis!) rants. Sometimes it's the biased and ignorant reporting that will wind up influencing good folks. Sometimes it's the story itself that opens my own eyes to an injustice. Of course, there are plenty of human interest stories that bring a smile to my face, and on occasion there will be mention of good news instead of an incessant focus on the bad. But it's never enough. I have no plans of emulating the esteemed Dr. Pangloss but every intention of naming and shaming Malthusian prophets.

So, what happened to nuance? Jabberwocky is being spewed up by the left and right, who are trying to drag us into their Wonderland. This blog charts a path out of this swamp of simple truths and false certainties. From my current base in Berlin, I will shed light on machinations buried by the mainstream media and expose the fraudulence of the Michael Moores and Pat Robertsons. People yearn to believe and that's ok. Trust me - or as Fox Mulder would say "trust no one" - I really empathize with him, and that's why I cannot twiddle my thumbs when people chow down on outrageous conspiracy theories for breakfast, fuel up with power bias for lunch and chug a pitcher of lies before tucking in for the night. It's nice to be part of a choir, but who's your preacher?

The scope aims to be global, but I will drift towards Euro and Americocentrism. I welcome course corrections and navigational assistance. Our world suffers greatly from anti-Americanism, anti-Semitism, anti-capitalism, anti-secularism; from racism, misogyny and homophobia; from anti-Catholic, anti-Islam, anti-immigration and anti-globalization sentiments. Under the guise of challenging the powers that be, the Wonderland purveyors of this kind of propaganda are really backward-striving xenophobic Luddites with no plausible alternatives. Reason enough to go on a rant, I would think.

Other than the random heavy political musings, occasional insights into the weird life in Berlin should provide respite. Fanatical ravings about sports may drive you nuts. Did you know that I will be supporting Tunisia during the World Cup here next summer? That's what the tickets tell me. And in hope of attracting advertising euros, I will shamelessly plug good movies, books, food and BEER. This might make up for the ones I skewer.

On a more personal note, I hope this effort brings friends and family up to date on my worldview. So here's a disclaimer of sorts: some of you may be shocked or even offended. If you are, you really shouldn't be. If our opinions differ, take a deep breath. Then get back to me in the spirit of dialogue. That naturally goes for the rest of you as well.

Finally, life really is about love and surfing. And one day I will face the swell of the North Shore.

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