Tina K. Russell

June 30, 2007

Suicide bombers

Filed under: afghanistan, war — Tina Russell @ 10:37 am

Boy, does this ever make me sad. The New York Times profiles Afghan suicide bombers. Next up, the Washington Post interviews malnourished babies orphaned by Hurricane Katrina before being abducted by aliens and forced to fight in the Kree-Skrull War. Anyway…

I guess what makes me sad is to learn that these kids… teenagers… are sort of convinced, at a young age, that nothing is more important than jihad, against America, against us… and if they don’t go and blow themselves up before infidels, then they aren’t going to heaven and getting the Tenchi Muyo smattering of virgins and all that.

It’s just… it’s sad because I know that feeling is very powerful, that feeling of belonging to something, that feeling of knowing that there’s right and there’s wrong and that you’re on the “right” side. I guess that’s pretty powerful, knowing that you’ve made your choice, you’re on the Autobots or the Decepticons or something, and that you’re going to stand by it, make it count. It’s just that these fanatics have stolen these kids’ childhood from them, their teen years… it shouldn’t be about blowing yourself up. Get into fights in the hallway, stay up too late talking on the phone, have massive videogame parties, slave away at math homework while listening to U2… spend evenings by the skatepark, I don’t know, I don’t care, I guess I just have a certain idea of what it means to be a teenager and I’m pretty sure strapping a bomb to yourself isn’t it…

And this stirs up another emotion in me, because America’s military recruiting machine is on overdrive thanks to the dwindling number of army volunteers (huh, I wonder why?)… regret. We tell our teenagers to fight and die for our country, for some vague, amorphous sense of duty, and that you’ll be rewarded, perhaps not with virgins but with career training and college money that seems to dry up as soon as you come stateside (just as Islamic suicide bombers tend to get pitiful, perfunctory burials rather than the grand send-offs they were promised). I mean…

Here it is. When you’re a teenager, and you’re lonely, and you don’t fit in, the idea that you’ll be invited in, you’ll be accepted, you’ll be given a mission and a duty, and you’ll be part of a team, a part of a movement… that’s incredibly powerful, and I can’t really describe it. When religious fanatics convince teenagers to do this… for some vague notion of “jihad” (which I detest)… it makes me sad because they’re using this kids, manipulating them, kids who could do great things but somehow have been led to believe that the greatest accomplishment a human can do is to become a bomb. That is… I don’t know, it’s sick, it’s tragic, and it makes me angry as someone who was an awkward teen herself.

Maybe it means we need to be providing alternative means for these kids to feel like they fit in, they have a mission and a duty, that they’re protecting their country from outside influence or whatever. It’s just… I feel like, in here, in America, we do the same thing. We dupe our own kids into fighting and dying for a cause that none of us believe in and nobody could really name if pressed… just something about duty and honor and “country.” I… that makes me sad, because nobody seriously believes we’re about to be invaded, and most people don’t even seem to know about America’s global, ubiquitous military presence, her hand in every pie, much less support it (as it goes against the carefree, easygoing nature of the American interior; no, I can’t really back that up, but I’d wager that us Americans are pretty accomodating people). It’s not like we desperately need new recruits for any other reason than to push up Bush’s approval ratings.

It’s just that… we don’t really tell these kids that they’re going to die, or that they could, easily, and their lives will be forfeit to the US military… they died for “the cause,” a cause that nobody knows what it is and certainly nobody believes in, any more. In ten years, if we’re not out of Iraq, people are going to wonder how this war got started. WMDs, huh? It will seem absurd, like the straw that broke that camel’s back. What extraordinary claim could justify sending our children, one by one, into such a collossal meat-grinder as post-invasion Iraq? Well… we haven’t figured it out, yet, but we’re trying.

So, we make our kids these grand promises, and don’t follow through on them as our streets fill up with homeless veterans begging for spare change and attention… I don’t know. I’m not saying that people who recruit teenagers for the US military and people who recruit teenagers to be Afghan suicide bombers are the same thing. (The Afghan recruiters are more honest; they say up front that you’ll die.) The US military is at least trying to do good… trying to stabilize Iraq, make life better for Iraqis, make Iraq a model for the Middle East (all pipe dreams, but worthy ones). You’ll just have to forgive me for feeling like US military recruitment and Afghan suicide bomber recruitment are arms of the same beast… we can’t, and shouldn’t, sign up our children for impossible tasks like stabilizing Iraq, and shoring up Bush’s approval ratings, and yet we do anyway. It’s a powerful force, that need to belong, especially when you’re a teenger, and to manipulate that… well, it’s beneath contempt.

I read Wolverine: Civil War yesterday… when Luke Cage–soon to be converted to the side of the doubters–tells Wolverine that maybe federal super-hero registration won’t be such a bad thing, Wolverine–memories of his whole life, stretching back to the early 20th century, recently restored–notes that he had good friends in Germany until they got registered. Luke Cage argues that you can’t compare the Nazis to the US government.

“Yeah,” Wolverine says, “we should know better.”

June 29, 2007

Sleep on the Bus — At Home!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tina Russell @ 2:42 pm

Wow, this is something I need.

June 21, 2007

Hamas and Abbas

Filed under: civil war, fatah, foreign policy, hamas, israel, palestine, us, war — Tina Russell @ 3:29 pm

Hamas wants to restore the Palestinian unity government. But they’re the terrorists! I must say with a tear that I’ve lost my respect for Mahmoud Abbas… and anyone trying to deepen the divide between the West Bank and Gaza. Remember the lessons of the American Civil War… a house divided against itself cannot stand. Abbas, Israel, and our lovely government here in the States seem to want to turn this particular house into split-level condos.

Meanwhile, Palestinians say that they have no confidence in either side, Abbas’s approval ratings are sinking to where Bush was about a year ago (and still sinking), and most Palestinians put lack of the rule of law far ahead (and poverty by a good margin) of any international meddling, including from Israel. Palestinians don’t hate Israel, they just want peace, the same as what most Israelis want for Palestine. For some reason it’s the people in power in this situation who are using terrorism as an excuse to take this lofty goal farther away than ever. Peace would be a challenge, but that’s no excuse to make the situation for it worse. The longer “our” side refuses to have peace talks the more civilians are going to die, and your personal dignity as a leader is not worth people dying for.

This isn’t an issue of whether Hamas is “good” or “bad;” nobody’s going to come out of this, exactly, smelling like roses. The issue is how to promote peace and stability so that we can save lives, and if that requires “working with terrorists” than so be it. Besides, I hardly think blustering military arrogance is a charge that any party involved can fairly level against Hamas, even if it’s a valid accusation (and I don’t really know if it is or not, I’m just making comments from the international peanut gallery).

Bitch, bitch, bitch…


Filed under: congo, kristof, war — Tina Russell @ 2:54 pm

I like Nicholas Kristof because, in his New York Times columns, he visits the world’s worst places and so he tends to have a worldview uncluttered by slogans or talking points or partisan dogma. He has a refreshingly cold view of the world and how to save it, and that kind of pragmatism and practicality is welcome in this era of manufactured reality being pumped into us by the military-media complex and by conventional wisdom.

The other day I spoke of how I wish we would spend our foreign aid and military dollars judiciously and where they could do the most good, and give up broad aims of fixing the world and making it perfect overnight. Well, good old Nicky Kristof (which I will call him from now on) (no I won’t, don’t worry) speaks of the war in the Congo, which is, of course, horrendous and a blight unto humanity. So, of course, if you wanted an example of the kind of place that the United States military could and should intervene (and remember, I’m a Quaker, so it takes effort for me to say this), here’s a good damned example, you lunatics. That and Darfur, of course, except everybody knows that. …Except for the people in power, and if I knew why that was I would surely be a rich mutha%&*#a.

On Enlightenment

Filed under: bioware, death, games, orgasm, rpg, sega, sonic — Tina Russell @ 2:09 pm

(Tina has an orgasm and dies.)

June 20, 2007

Hamas and Them

Filed under: hamas, israel, us — Tina Russell @ 12:37 am

The New York Times has some serious guts… here’s an op-ed straight from Hamas on the Palestinian civil war. It’s actually quite good, please read it. Our framing of Hamas may not be quite correct… (that is, the international perspective of “Fatah = good little collaborators, Hamas = filthy terra ists”). It looks to me like Hamas might be more legitimate than we ever thought.

He argues that Hamas’s control of Gaza is necessary, and that America and Israel have been arming Fatah soldiers to remove elected Hamas leaders from power by force, and that Hamas has been offering truces with both Fatah and Israel again and again while Israel continues to portray Hamas a party of stubborn extremists. The real “coup,” he argues, is Fatah attempting to remove, forcibly, Hamas from power, from its elected position, and the drumbeat portrayal in Western media of Hamas as terrorists. I think Barack Obama once said that there’s no point in talking to Hamas if they don’t want to recognize Israel… that makes me angry because he’s saying, essentially, that there’s no point in talking to people you disagree with. There’s value in discussion even if you cannot change an opponent’s mind… I’ve always felt that Israel is a legitimate state (if they aren’t, I mean, who is? It’s not like any country in the world has exactly rock-solid borders), but my impression is that Hamas has always offered a sort of grumbling, well-whatever acceptance of Israel as part of diplomacy deals, and I wish Israel would accept that as the real thing because it takes real effort to admit when you’ve been wrong.

Anyway, whatever you think of Hamas, please read the op-ed as it’s a nice position paper. Hmmm… I’ve always respected Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (of Fatah), but his dissolution of the Palestinian parliament kind of disturbs me. I mean, when the South seceeded from the United States, Lincoln didn’t dissolve Congress or purge the government of Democrats. He saw his job as to unite the country, and that’s why he picked a Democrat as his running mate for re-election on the “National Unity Party” ticket. Hamas and Fatah lining up and fighting as West Bank vs. Gaza Strip seems… disturbing, even if interesting in a “hmmm, let’s see where this goes” kind of way (if you ignore the fact that people are dying). It’s not as though Palestine vs. Israel has produced any results in the past umpty billion years. I hope Hamas and Fatah can work out their differences and restore unity to Palestine… and I hope that we, and Israel, stay out of it as such resolution is a necessary step on the path to statehood.

Remember that we cannot “fix” other nations, and that neither Fatah (removed from power–like the Republicans over here–largely over issues of corruption) nor Hamas are perfect parties. I cannot imagine supplying either side with guns will help the situation at all… we may want to work towards humanitarian aid for both areas, and focus on the security and well-being of dissidents (I’m pretty worried about, say Fatah supporters and Christians in the Gaza Strip, and Hamas supporters in the West Bank). Whoever “wins” should not be our concern, because an ultimate victory for one side–and a crushing defeat for the other–would only be a defeat for Palestine. We have to let them work it out, and work on protecting human life rather than exacerbating the problem with military support for either side.

June 19, 2007

Make Love, Not Gore

Filed under: esrb, games, gta, manhunt, ratings, rockstar — Tina Russell @ 1:19 pm

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is lobbying the ESRB to give Manhunt 2 for Wii an AO rating, and honestly, if they succeed, I’ll be very happy. Still, as their spokesman points out in the article, it’s likely their campaigning will be superfluous–that the game’s content is so raunchy, it will get an AO, stat, regardless of the Wii controller’s unique properties–but I’m glad they’re making the effort… even the official PlayStation Magazine was shocked when the original Manhunt got a tepid “M.”

Now, us cynical gamers tend to think that the ESRB lacks the nerve to rate a game “AO” for violence… that’s not true, actually. Console games get rated “AO” all the time, and then they are sent back to the publishers, which invariably poke around and try to figure out what the offending content was. I’m simply concerned that, in Grand Theft Auto you can beat a man to a pulp with a baseball bat and that’s “M,” but you can have cheesily-implemented, under-the-covers interactive sex with a woman in a hidden scene and that’s “AO.” Honestly, a decision by the ESRB that Manhunt 2’s violence is strong enough to rate an “AO” would make me quite happy. If Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, by God, had gotten the AO it deserved those years ago, there never would have been a Hot Coffee scandal, just as there had not been one in Europe, where GTA:SA is rated “18+.” (It also has to do with our culture; after all, UK news programs rebroadcast Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction uncensored when reporting on the US nipple firestrom of 2004, and nobody batted an eyelash. It’s just easier to send Americans into a sex panic, for some reason.)

And, if the interactive element of dismembering somebody with a Wii controller (not simple hack-and-slash, where you’re essentially waving a baton, but an attempt to make the player the active perpetrator of acts of violence) gets the game an AO rating on its own, I’ll be happy because that’s the kind of subtlety and nuance I usually do not see in the videogame violence debate (“A generation of homicidal MURDER MACHINES!!!1!” vs. “Fat sacks of money clearly absolve us of any social responsibility“). (Link warning: bad words.) However, graphic violence of this kind should get an AO rating outright, and it probably will. If the game gets an AO rating and it sticks (no token concessions for an “M,” please, this game is “AO” at its core and can’t really be dumbed down without, say, adding cel-shading and calling it “Katamanhuntari Damacy”) I’ll be pleased, not only because it will mean we’ve finally started to become rightly disgusted by heinous acts of violence (maybe seeing them on the news each night from each side of the war in Iraq is doing the trick), and made a sincere commitment to keeping hyper-violent games out of the hands of children (and not just political posturing towards the center), but the Rockstar name will give the AO rating legitimacy that it’s never had before, keeping it from being de facto censorship. I’ve always been irked by the fact that big-box retailers sell plenty of “unrated” movies but will never sell an “AO” game… (under the premise that games are for “children,” which is, by and large, hooey and a weak precedent). If “Manhunt 2” gets the AO it deserves, we could finally see mainstream acceptance of AO games on store shelves (in their own little section, of course), so that us adult consumers can buy whatever we want (although, keep in mind, we’re not really endless, bursting bundles of maturity ourselves…).

I don’t like censorship… and that’s part of why I want Manhunt 2, for all systems (but even just Wii would be nice considering the nuance added by the controller), slapped with an AO postehaste. The other part is simply that I wish we weren’t so desensitized to violence, and I’d like dismemberment to be seen as the brutal, ugly crime that it is. People really get cut to pieces like this in Darfur, for instance… tortured in China, in Saudi Arabia, Guantanamo Bay, et cetera… I’m all about making art about the full range of human experience, but it’s not to be taken lightly, and it’s high time the flimsy excuse of “it’s just a game” were removed outright. We want games to be taken seriously, and we need to face the consequences of having our games taken seriously. Otherwise, we’re just being immature.

By the way, I’m squeamish and take a great amount of pride in that I want to ensure I stay, forever, disgusted and non-desensitized to the sight of heinous violence. Obviously, I cannot control what others do, and if you have a stronger stomach than me, good for you… it’s just that I think that the debate about GTA and videogame violence is seriously misaligned when we fail to realize that it’s impossible to play GTA without running people over like Pac-Man dots and hearing their spines snap beneath your tire. People who speak breathlessly about its openness and freedom rightly recognize its innovative gameplay, but fail to realize it’s a crime-spree simulator through and through, and it desensitizes children around the world to the horrors of violence by making it look routine, everyday, and the legitimate means to an end. Those kids who shot into a street, inspired by GTA, had no idea what they were doing… decision-making doesn’t develop fully in your brain until you’re an adult, and even though these kids seemed to be doing something particularly stupid, it’s easy to recognize the importance of keeping these games out of the hands of children so that they do not think of violence as something routine and laughable, or have it impair their ability to see the world in a just and moral way. Again, this isn’t a cry for censorship because videogames are immutably an art form, and parents need to make the ultimate choice about what is okay for their household and their children. I just think we need to get serious about GTA and Manhunt and set them apart from, say, Parasite Eve (long ago rated M for some skin and violence), Halo (rated M for full-blown gore in the context of war), or Dead or Alive X-Treme Beach Volleyball (rated M for the most salicious, pre-adolescent sexual content ever to be slapped upon a frail skeleton of gameplay–it’s beautiful, but it’s digusting) by giving AO-meriting games the AO rating they so richly deserve. You can’t–you shouldn’t–be able to dumb down either game to M. Their AO games to their core. Until we get serious about this, politicians who say that the ratings mislead parents are sadly right.

I saw Sin City once, and I nearly barfed… but it was a work of art, so it’s not my right to say people shouldn’t see it. It’s harsh content is why it’s rated R… which I think is a bit harsher than games’s M.
The ESRB needs to get tough and hold onto the AO rating when it’s warranted, and not let game publishers talk them down with token concessions. Otherwise, the game ratings system will be meaningless, and the industry will be ripe for the picking by opportunistic politicians eager to court the “family values” vote (and not afraid to look really stupid, since everybody in American politics seems to these days).

UPDATE: That didn’t take long. Hold firm, ESRB, hold firm.

June 18, 2007

Our Broken Foreign Policy Model

Filed under: ethopia, foreign policy, somalia, war — Tina Russell @ 3:59 pm

This article makes me a sad panda… a tiny rebel alliance–the kind we glorify in all our action movies here in the States–is fighting a ruthless, American-backed, violent Ethopian regime.

Now, I’m new to this situation, in the Horn of Africa. Until recently I was like most Americans in sort of considering Africa a country, a *$&^!ed country, and not realizing it’s actually a continent full of arbitrary borders drawn up by the British and the French way back when. (Yes, I mean, I always knew it was a continent, but still…)

But I’ve read, in the New York Times, about the situation in Ethopia and Somalia. Tell me if my summary is wrong: the American-backed, Christian, Ethopian establishment is fighting the militant Islamists in Somalia to maintain control in that area, to maintain their occupation of Somalia. (Portland, Oregon–my beloved city–houses many refugees from that bloody conflict.) My reaction was something like: I don’t like the militant Islamists one bit, and it scares me that they’re going around the world talking about vile American influence, when us Americans are actually quite kind, liberal people who generally don’t believe in the hideous international military misadventures committed in their name.

However, you can’t change a country on that fundamental a level. You’re not going to be able to march in and change Somalia from being a nation in which the militant Islamists are popular to being a peaceful, Christian nation full of churches and K-Marts (that never say “Happy Holidays”). If anything, you’ll just ignite nationalist tendencies and set back the cause of human rights by driving people to more violent forms of Islam raither than the more peaceful, mainstream variety. I got the impression that “Islamism” is sort of the lingua franca in Somalia, and while that scares me, it’s not something that you can just march in and change. If the Somalis ever drive the Ethopian army from their soil, I’d be surprised if Somalia didn’t start up a brutal regime of its own (it always happens). But, I’m not sure military intervention can stop that, rather than harm the natural process of a nation’s development. Indeed, all war does is strengthen and legitimize violent rebels and push the national dialogue further towards violence and extremism.

That isn’t to say military intervention is never useful… (I’m a Quaker, so I rather dislike it.) If we have a limited amount of money, though, to spend on our adventures in the world, I have to feel that…

Maybe we need a change of attitude. I think that we, in the US, have believed for a long time that we can essentially rule the world, we can have our fingers in every pie, and every conflict anywhere in the world will always have a side backed by the US (and that side, as in Ethiopia and Somalia, may not be all that pleasant). I think there are good, well-meaning people in the Bush administration who think that there’s no way we can stop supporting the Ethopian army, no matter how brutal they are, because otherwise, Somalia would descend into “Islamism.” I would doubt that we can prevent that, I would doubt that it’s our right to do so, and I would doubt that our efforts are helping rather than hurting. I also wish–as the conservatives often cry–that we would have some incontrovertible standard of decency… we don’t support armies that do X, period. We don’t support torture, indiscriminate killing, religious persecution, etc… I wish we could say that, essentially, with a straight face, with sincerity. I wish we had the nerve to say, at some point, “you’ve done too many bad things, you’re on your own.” But also, I think the conservative dream–a righteous one, but misguided–of a state-by-state pacification of the entire world is harmful, ludicrous, and counterproductive… you can’t make a country more peaceful by military force. All war does is legitimize thugs… that’s why it ought to be a last resort, and not the kind of rush it was in Iraq (rather than a careful, reasoned approach to the threat Saddam posed to the entire world, and not just us).

(I’m not saying our soldiers are “thugs,” I just think that when we declare war on a country we legitimize its thugs by making them look like soldiers. That’s why I wish we never took a military approach to 9.11… al Qaida, before then, was both dangerous and pathetic. They were criminals bent on overthrowing every world government that didn’t conform to its brand of radical Islam, a criterion met by the Taliban and few others. It would have been hard to win the enormous show of support they’ve had by ordinary, young Arabs after 9.11 if we hadn’t legitimized them as an enemy by declaring war rather than persecuting them as criminals, and given them their most powerful recruiting tool possible–the romance of a battle against pervading Western influence–which has been a setback for human rights worldwide.)

So, I have to wonder. With limited money to spend on the world, and the general ineffectiveness of military intervention in even the worst situations, perhaps our military budget ought to be spent on, instead of trying to change the world in broad strokes, trying to prevent the worst atrocities from happening. The genocide in Darfur is an obvious example… I have no idea why our troops aren’t on the ground in full force there, no matter what the government of Sudan says. That’s the sort of thing we should care about. I would vastly prefer that to any attempts to overthrow leaders or change the nature of countries, no matter how brutal that nature may be. Overthrowing Saddam is the kind of delicate operation we performed with an icepick and a sledgehammer… when we try to change entire countries like that, the unintended consequences are enormous and often horrifying. Trying to change the world like this… it hasn’t worked, it never works, I’ve never seen democracy flower following American bombs. (…Actually, I take that back. Germany and Japan are famous for their successful occupations and periods of rebuilding, and for their Comeback Kid rebounds into the international scene. I would say they met two criteria–a clear and imminent danger to the United States, and an enormous and sincere commitment to the region by us in the form of the Marshall Plan–but I’m a bleeding-heart liberal, what do I know.) Perhaps we should be like Spider-Man, more judicious, finding where atrocities are happening and going to happen and stopping them. There’s an enormous ethic to going around the world playing superhero, an ethic I felt we violated with our unilateral approach to Iraq (and subsequent attempts to dissolve the government and army and turn the country into a neoconservative playground, a testbed for a hyper-liberal economy without any concern for the welfare of the Iraqi people or of the differences or nuances between Iraq and the United States). You can’t change the world, not in a night, anyway, or in one conflict… you can’t just back one side in a war and feel like you’ve done the right thing. But we can change the world, one good deed at a time…

I have to wonder, thinking about our enormously bloated military budget its many nasty international side-effects, if we ought to be more frugal, more judicious in our military spending. Maybe we ought to find the places where we know it would help, and apply it, rather than justify our thorough, ’round-the-globe military presence by saying, “well, if we weren’t there, country X would descend into madness!” We have to consider the ethic that we can’t just fix a foreign country, and when we can do something it has to be done carefully and methodically, with delicate precision, and we have to take care to win the hearts and minds of the people rather than just rack up numbers in a meaningless military battle that has nothing to do with who will win the ultimate political situation in a country.

I wonder if, instead of leaping gung-ho at things we may or may not be able to accomplish, delicate situations like in Ethopia and Somalia, if we should start with things we definately can accomplish–stopping the genocide in Darfur in its tracks, for one–and go from there… we can’t just take a direct “those guys are bad” policy, that’s an abdication of our responsibility to see color and nuance in the international scene. Our claims to be pacifying the world are hollow if we cannot fight the more obvious battles… and being stuck in Iraq has brought down our military effectiveness drastically. I worry that Iran is laughing at us as it builds up a nuclear stockpile. We look silly. We look damned ridiculous… and we have to put a stop to that.

I’ve said before, and I still believe this, that the Marshall Plan to the extreme is the only thing we can do in Iraq that can do any good… I think that the new commanders in Iraq and our new Secretary of Defense really are taking a nuanced and considered approach to the war, rather than the heinously bumbling legacy of Rumsfeld and company. It looks vaguely effective but I’m not sure how much it will work overall… a smarter military is one component, an important component, but only one. I’d like to see the military in Iraq evolve into something more like a civilian police force, again, trying to prevent the worst things from happening and then building up from there. In the meantime, nation-building is serious work and it takes quite the financial commitment… the war in Iraq is over, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve overthrown Saddam, toppled his statue and done everything we can to fight the insurgents… if we keep framing this as a fight against the terra-ists then the only logical conclusion is for us to nuke Iraq outright, to fight to the last man, and I think that’s a bad idea. Instead, the military must hold down the fort while we rebuild and make Iraq a nicer, safer, more livable place. I know that’s a pipe dream, but we’ve thrown so many hundreds of billlions at this problem to no avail already, so we should at least try my way before we give up. (And I know I said we can’t just fix other countries, but though Iraq is not like Germany or Japan in that those countries actually posed an immediate threat to us, we could at least get some kind of Marshall Plan underway before we pack our bags and head home. By the way, that’s the most important thing: we are going to leave sooner or later, and the sooner, the better. Bush is still pretending like he can fight this war forever… Whatever pragmatic solutions need to be put into place before we leave, we need to be in that mindset of we are leaving, inevitably, and we need to put those solutions into place fast.)

(And I think those solutions need to be more infastructural than military, making sure Iraq can support an economy, education and such, secular education for all, imports and exports, industry, opportunity, technology, etc…. all those things require basic things like running water and electricity, and functioning roads. We can’t end the Iraqi civil war since we’re not players in it, but we could at least create conditions for it to end more easily. Shiites and Sunnis really did live in peace before now, even while Saddam oppressed the Shiites and slaughtered the Kurds. The vacuum we created by dismantling the Iraqi government had pit brother against brother, rich against poor, Sunni against Shiite and we have only ourselves to blame. Anyway….)

Yes, again, I have sympathy for Obama’s position that if other peoples want to have a civil war, we can’t throw away our childrens’ lives to stop it… all we can do, I think, is stop the worst atrocities from happening; or, at least, we have the moral obligation to do so, and any other attempts to save the world will be hollow if we do not. I wish our government did not think it could rule or fix the world, but that’s been its mindset since our victory in World War II.

Meanwhile, what happened to the UN? My impression is that it’s basically run, now, by the countries its supposed to be persecuting, that each country (including us) that is abusing human rights claims that human rights somehow apply to other countries, but not them. Anyway… yes… I hope, like the conservatives, that we can establish some standard of decency, in Iraq, Somalia, Ethopia, and here at home… I also hope that the conservatives begin giving this standard some decisive action rather than just more talk.

EDIT: I want to be clear that I’m not endorsing the rebels in Ethopia… remember, I’m a Quaker, I don’t like violence. I just hope we remember that these are the kinds of rebels we glorify in our culture… I’m all for a moderate, considered approach, I just hope we don’t villify the rebels as “terrorists” without taking into consideration the excesses of the brutal Ethiopian regime (the one, you know, that we support with weapons, financing and intelligence).

June 9, 2007

Tel Aviv I Said Hi

Filed under: information technology, israel, occupation, palestine, war — Tina Russell @ 11:40 pm

This makes me a sad panda. No, it makes me happy and sad. …Bittersweet. Israel has lots of brilliant young engineers that will make their country worth lots of money. That makes me happy because I want to see Israel succeed, and set an example for the rest of the world (like, say, us, though we seem to be perfectly happy to let our educational system degrade into nothingness while our dollar slips endlessly downward), and I think Israel would be a wonderful catalyst for getting IT infastructure out of the US-dominated rut it is in now (our online infastructure gathers dust while IT execs go to flashy conferences about “Web 2.0”). I think Israel has a lot of brilliant minds that I want to see brought into global discourse, and I want to see technology have that kind of major success story that allows people to see how it changes lives and the faces of countries, even countries staring down the threat of open hostility from its neighbors (and worst, the threat of a nuclear Iran going bonkers and pooshing da button).

It’s just… I wish that Friedman, in that article, had mentioned Palestine… I’m sure there are brilliant young minds over there that need nurturing, too. (To Friedman’s credit, he has been admirably pragmatic on the issue, saying that “if the US can talk to Iran, Israel can talk to Hamas.”) It’s not that there’s no opportunity in Palestine, it’s that the opportunity is limited by the Israeli government… I think the forces that partition Palestine, build walls through it, cripple its economy and generally make life miserable for Palestinians are far removed from the forces in Israel that start these wonderful new technology companies and those that educate its budding young talent… I just read about Israel and I’m happy for them and I have a bit of a lump in my throat because I feel like Palestine could be there, too, celebrating with them, on the same level, if it weren’t for meddling Israeli bureaucrats that can’t accept that, when two countries both claim “holy land,” they’re going to have to share no matter how illegitimate you think the other party’s beliefs are.

I just want to be pragmatic… with all the horrors going on in Palestine, a lousy economy and educational system and constant meddling by a corrupt and inept occupying government (that rather wishes they hadn’t taken Palestine in the first place; hey, you get what you pay for), I keep thinking, there’s got to be some way technology, new businesses, new ideas can solve this problem… Education, not money, is what brings people up from lower social classes, it sets the baseline for how much you’ll be able to achieve in life (vaguely; there are exceptions, but you’re not one). With the Internet, information is becoming closer and closer to free… I bet it would be easier than ever to establish a good educational system in Palestine… in fact, even with Israeli occupation education is becoming easier and easier, I would think, especially the kind of education that teaches young Palestinians that there is hope for them in the world and that they will not have to become the kind of deluded suicide bombers that blow themselves up in Israeli bakeries. (That’s what tees me off about Israel’s Palestine policy the most… if you want to bring down the number of suicide bombers, increase the amount of opportunity for young Palestinian citizens. That isn’t to forgive their heinous deeds, it’s just that a problem that’s really killing people needs a realistic approach and response, and anything that stops people from killing each other is good in my book.) Information will never have to be brought through an Israeli checkpoint or filtered through layers of occupational bureaucracy. I want to see an information economy succeed in Palestine, even when a physical economy cannot…

So, the next time Thomas Friedman rightly praises Israel for its successes in IT, I hope he gives a shout-out (and he might) to neighboring Palestine and its unnecessary suffering… I really admire Israel for its educational system and for its bustling technology hub in Tel Aviv. It’s just, whenever I read about it, I think, man, I bet Palestine could totally have a similar information economy with the right amount of investment and an easing of restrictions, and together with Israel they could achieve wonderful things for the whole world. So, when you cheer for Israel–and rightly so–give a thought to Palestine and help achieve the day when they can stand together in peace and prosperity.

(Yeah, I don’t like the terrorists in Palestine either… I just do not think Israel’s hard-line approach is working, especially when most Palestinians are like most Israelis and want a two-state solution. I wish Israel would try and support development and opportunity in Palestine, rather than choke it economically through checkpoints, double taxes, and bureaucracy, not to mention misguided military misadventures of mowing down innocent Palestinian citizens on their home turf, which all create the kind of environment that spawns terrorists and maintains them. I hope that Israel learns to distinguish between groups like Hamas, who are willing to negotiate but are, unfortunately, unwilling to give up the collateral of violence that Israel wants a monopoly on, and the kind of death-to-Israel fanatics who train those suicide bombers. I would lump those fanatics in with the fanatics in the Israeli government who think that a hard-line occupational approach can possibly succeed. There’s value in talking to Hamas as long as they are willing to talk… and there’s value in helping Palestine grow and succeed because it’s that kind of success that cuts off the terrorists. I don’t blame the average Israeli for this… this is the fault of people at the top who need to go… and the fault of the terrorists in Palestine who keep those chumps at the top of Israel’s government by shifting the debate just enough to keep them in power by firing rockets over Israel’s stupid wall.)

(That wall, by the way, goes _through_ Palestine, not around it… Israel has a right to defend its borders, of course, I just dislike their practice of partitioning Palestinian cities. Bitch, bitch, bitch…)

Of course, I hope people in Palestine know to ignore Israel as much as possible and be successful in spite of the occupation… living well is the best revenge, as they say, and the best way to protest Israeli bureaucracy is to live within it and still be successful, aggravating the hard-liners in the Israeli government who want to see the life squeezed out of Palestine. So, I hope, and I imagine, that an information economy can grow and prosper even under a violent and unnecessary occupation. So, support Palestinian growth, and invest in peace!

I wonder how big an open-source movement there is in Palestine. That would be a good thing! Information wants to be free! Help young Palestinians learn and grow, and you help make terrorism, war, and occupation a thing of the past. When I hear about a hot new Palestinian tech start-up, I’ll be happy… and I’m sure it won’t be long until then.

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