Tina K. Russell

February 29, 2008

Pervez-ive Developmental Disorder

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:38 pm

U.S. Embrace of Musharraf Irks Pakistanis – New York Times

This bugs me: we never hedged our bets in our dealings with Pakistan. We placed all our chips on Musharraf, and now we’re desperately trying to buy back in. Now, the new Pakistani government doesn’t even want to play with us. We have no leverage in dealing with them because we assumed, unpleasant as he may be, Musharraf would cling to power forever and he was our best bet. Now that we know that’s not true, we’re screwed; but what bugs me is that we never even prepared for a situation where it might not be true. Now Pakistan associates America with Musharraf, and we’ve lost all our influence in one of the world’s most important conflict hotspots. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and al-Qaida has its HQ on the border, and everybody hates the US government.

Hey, maybe we ought to elect the one candidate in the presidential race whose foreign policy does not hinge on proving how tough he or she is. Hmmm, I wonder who that might be. …Any takers?

Maybe the one who doesn’t want to bomb Iran! Argh! Anyway…

The whole Pakistan thing makes me sad ’cause I’ve gotten really interested in Pakistan over the past year. I might want to visit there, sometime. It seems like a really modern, really developed country, but al-Qaida in encroaching upon their borders, smashing record shops and demanding that women cover themselves. When you’re somebody like me who doesn’t fit in, that makes you… sad… I guess. When I hear of terrorists attacking massage parlors and accusing the women of being whores, it makes me sad ’cause I think I could be one of those women, even if I can’t massage worth a damn. Benazir Bhutto seemed like a really modern woman… even if she didn’t do enough to fight extremism when she was prime minister, in her last days (she was so young! aaaagh!) her whole shtick was resisting extremism from Musharraf, resisting extremism from al-Qaida, and bringing Pakistan into the developed world, where women can wear or not wear headscarves as they damn well please.

Obviously… al-Qaida hurts everybody. They want to bring the world back into the Stone Age with them. It wouldn’t seem like a viable option for angry youngsters in the Middle East if the United States hadn’t made such an unbroken string of global PR mistakes. We never should have declared a “war on terror…” that legitimized the terrorists as soldiers rather than condemning them as criminals. We never really even realized that al-Qaida is hardly a centralized organization; it’s more like a movement, a really scary one that wants to kill all of us because, yes, we love freedom. They want all of us to give up our beliefs and our lifestyles because they think ours are inferior to theirs. It underscores why we must be careful not to make the same mistakes, and not judge people by how they look or what they believe. But, I’ve gotten off the subject.

We should have been more hands-off with Pakistan, spreading good will towards the US around the country… instead, we threw in entirely with Musharraf, and cemented our image over there as international meddlers rather than the persistent do-gooders we aspire to be. Perception matters… Abraham Lincoln knew that when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation and instantly turned the Confederacy
from plucky rebels being picked on into obstinate enemies of freedom. Lets meet a bad ideology with a good one… and let the best one win. (…Which is ours, and Pakistan’s.)

The Blog of War

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — Tina Russell @ 12:48 pm

Air Force Blocks Access to Many Blogs | Danger Room from Wired.com

I’m rather annoyed by the military treating its own soldiers like children, as in this case, when the Air Force decreed that its officers cannot visit sites with “blog” in the URL. They’re also missing out on an incredibly valuable PR tool by not letting soldiers pen blogs for the public.

I hear the same argument about Wikipedia and about the Internet in general, about how it’s unreliable and you can’t trust it, blah blah blah. We ought to give our students, our soldiers, our citizens the measure of respect they deserve and assume they’ll dig deeper and find the facts, and not just trust anything they find on the Internet. But besides that, blogs and the Internet are a valuable tool for terrorists, but they’re just as valuable for the good guys as well. Using modern technology, soldiers can share important and interesting data and highlight things that are a little strange, a little out of place… the kind of data that can help uncover terrorist plots before they happen.

Obviously, nobody ever gave military top brass too many points for adapting to modern times; just look at Iraq, where we had a perfect plan for fighting a different war. But we can’t keep our soldiers handicapped in the information age while the terrorists are adapting easily and swiftly. Besides that, it just makes me angry to see the military treating our soldiers like babies.

February 28, 2008

In Veto Veritas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tina Russell @ 9:37 pm

Heralded New Law Is Vetoed by Iraq’s Presidency Council – New York Times


Well, I can say that the strength of Iraq’s democracy is showcased in the fact that they are mired in the one hallmark of competitive democracies all around the globe: partisan gridlock.

Maybe another surge will produce Iraq’s first filibuster. Now that would be a benchmark.

A timely warning

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tina Russell @ 7:43 pm

There Will Be Floods – New York Times

Yeah, the nation’s crumbling infrastructure kind of is a life-or-death issue.

Black is the New…. whatever

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:35 pm

Go Back to Black – New York Times

What a great and emotionally stirring call for an embrace of pan-Africanism. My dad’s from Norway, so I’m very proud of my Scandinavian heritage. I hope we can all learn from this guy that sometimes, meaning well, we slice and dice ourselves into ever-smaller categories that slowly eclipse what we have in common. Hearing the pundits kick Barack Obama’s race around like a balloon at a party, you’d never realize that black people across America and all over the world see Obama as one of them.

And hell, I think it’s high time we had a black president. I think it’s about time for a woman president, too, so it’s nice that history wins either way. It’s just…

I tell this story a lot: I love Milestone Comics, the short-lived, black-owned comics label in the late nineties that portrayed a truly diverse slate of black heroes and villains. One of their series was Icon, about a wealthy lawyer with superpowers who fought crime alongside his impoverished-but-plucky teenage sidekick.

I remember that one woman wrote to the letters page referring to herself, offhandedly, as “black,” noting that “I’m not African-American, I’m black and I’ll be black until the day I die.” That really stuck with me, and to this day is the example I cite for why I staunchly refer to myself as “transsexual,” and instruct others to do the same for me, rather than the softer “transgender” that is becoming the more accepted term. “Transgender” is a much broader word and I do not doubt its utility, but it irks me to think of people calling me by a word created so that people wouldn’t squirm so much when they talk about me. I’m transsexual, and if you don’t like it, you can stuff it. (I guess part of that is that I also often like to stuff it in people’s heads that, actually, no, my gender does not exist on a fanciful spectrum sprouting forth from the ether and seeding beautiful, wild geraniums which smell like sensual mermaids bathing in the Rhine. But, that’s another discussion. You can write to me, if you want, if all this went over your head.)

Yes, I do have a big concern (though I’m not sure it’s what this columnist was trying to express, so don’t attach it to him) that, in well-meaning attempts to be politically correct, we fragment ourselves into tinier and tinier categories. Look at us, uh, queers: there was gay, and then it was gay and lesbian, and then gay, lesbian, and bisexual, and then that plus transgender or transsexual (though you know which side of the fence I’m on there, I am aware that “transsexual” excludes a lot of people who ought to be included in such diverse arrangements), and then it became a series of initials (not an acronym, those are pronounced as words), and started including queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, pansexual, lettuce, tomatoes, onions and spicy Italian salami. I hear a similar dogpile is taking place in minority recruitment, where university officials weary of talking openly about “racial minorities” (and how, yes, they are probably underrepresented at your school, so get to work), have arranged various minorities into an ever-lengthening initialism obfuscating whatever it was they were trying to accomplish.

I say, let’s ditch the political correctness and tell it like it is! You can’t unite around common themes when they’re longer than could feasibly fit on a poster or billboard. Besides… I’ve always been irked by “transsexuals” being lumped in with gay groups, eager to add a “T” to their missions without stopping and taking the effort to learn how to represent us… and as a result, transgender rights has failed to coalesce into a single political movement and has instead ended up in the back closet of gay rights, gathering dust next to old rainbow flags. I’m more comfortable around straight friends who don’t give a flying damn who I am than around gay friends who want to be seen next to me in Stephen Colbert-like photo ops. (Obviously that kind of stuff goes both ways, straight and gay, I’m just saying I don’t appreciate being used as a poster child if it’s not backed up with serious commitment.) I don’t really feel “left out” by organization titles that don’t include me if they include gay people. After all, transsexual rights are not included in the mission statements of the NAACP, or the Anti-Defamation League, or, uhhh… the Free Software Foundation… groups are organized around specific goals, and I’m okay if mine ain’t in them. I’d much rather see organizations struggling to look “LGBT” get serious or drop the “T.”

…That said, I was doubleplus creeped out when I saw a campaign message from Hillary Clinton that emphasized her support in the “LGB” community. That was just weird. Who says that?

Raúls of Engagement

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tina Russell @ 6:27 pm

Cubans Wary of Raúl Castro’s Hints at Change – New York Times

I think it’s pretty clear that, though Raúl Castro is no democrat and will likely not change the despotic nature of Cuba’s government anytime soon, he has a certain pragmatic bent that we can exploit for the benefit of the Cuban people. This is why I would like to see US-Cuba talks, soon; if we make the first move, we make ourselves the good guys and get to frame the issue. We just want what’s best for the Cuban people, and that’s 100% true. I hope those in power here in America know that trying to run Cuba like a plantation did not work out so well last time we tried it, and helping Cuba become a successful independent country is the best scenario for both nations.

And American commerce would be a wonderful healing balm for the Cuban people, if done properly (that is to say, ensure that the benefits don’t simply go to the wealthy and well-connected). American tourism and patronage of Cuban goods, such as their trademark cigars and outstanding (and juice-free, as far as I know) baseball players could send the Cuban economy soaring to new heights, allowing to build a local economy that can sustain itself with or without the US’s help. In order for this to happen, the Cuban people must be able to reap the rewards of their own hard work, and so the interests of the Cuban people are the direct interests of the United States.

No games this time… we need to be sincere in helping the Cuban people because their success and independence would be good for us as well. Hillary Clinton called Barack Obama naïve on foreign policy when he said that he would hold talks with Raúl Castro, without preconditions. I think that Clinton is naïve for thinking that Cuba will magically change overnight, or that suspending Cuba in a diplomatic vacuum while its people suffer is sound foreign policy. The best way to bring down the Castro regime is to show how good we are by comparison, and use Raúl’s pragmatism as a wedge to move the country away from the simplistic despotism it suffers under now and towards the open society model it must embrace to prosper. If we don’t talk, the Castros get to paint us however they want… and that’s bad for both countries.

(By the way, don’t forget that Christopher Colombus landed in what, today, is Cuba. So, it has historical significance for us as well. …Obviously, Colombus shouldn’t have been a jerk and proceed to take the land away from the people who were already living there, but Colombus, tell your kids, was kind of a jerk in general.)

This is the start of a new format. I have that fancy “bookmarklet” thing up in my bookmarks toolbar, so I’ll be posting these more easily and regularly, I think. I’ll try to get that blogroll more complete and up-to-date, so that you can see who, in general, I’m reading from.

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