We stand by: a Thanksgiving meditation

There has never been anything, nor will there ever be anything, which so frightens those in power as a great demographic shift among the powerless.

Because the powerless, when they see themselves in the powerful, can delude themselves into thinking they share in the power. After all, they have the same interests, the same concerns, the same ideology. But when the powerless look up and see something that looks so unfamiliar, they begin to feel restless. They clamor for change. They know that these strangers, who purport to speak for them, in no way have their best interests at heart. Ultimately, they threaten the powerful — not overtly (necessarily), but covertly. Not with conflict and protest, with guns and violence, but with that most subversive act of all. With their vote.
Continue reading


On Syria, from someone who knows more than many and less than some

Since Syria doesn’t seem to be magically disappearing as a global disaster, I suppose I should say something about it. Because we all know I have an opinion that I wouldn’t want to keep to myself, and not just because this is so much like the plot of this season of Newsroom.

Let me preface this by saying the use of chemical weapons is reprehensible. If you disagree, you should find some humanity or just go off to a cave and die. But somehow, the use of such weapons isn’t a thing that seems to bother us as a country. And I think that’s shameful.

I’m certainly not much of an interventionist: if we could morally and ethically and humanely sit on the sidelines of all conflicts that don’t directly concern us, well, I think that’d be swell. But we don’t; we pick and choose and we pick and choose bizarrely and, frankly, unethically. And by the fact that we do choose to intervene at all, I don’t think it morally allowable to stop intervening when the ethical case is so clear cut.

Not that we have a stellar track record for ethically-minded intervention: we, like a rational actor, take action when it suits our political needs, which is at least intellectually consistent if not admirable, as in Iraq in 2003. But when it makes no difference to us, as in Sudan or central Africa or Burma, we are conveniently and conspicuously absent. As much as we might like to think of ourselves as moral protectors of the free world, we are far more politically-driven than anything.

What makes Syria particularly prickly is that it matters to us somewhat as a regional issue, but not as much as Iraq, and it is mass murder, much closer to Sudan or the Kurdish genocide, neither of which received so much as stern words (maybe some stern words) from Team America World Police. So do we react to Syria like we did Iraq, as a matter of regional import, or like we did Sudan, as a human tragedy that is, unfortunately, outside the scope of our concern?

Then how do we rectify our prospective courses of action in Syria with our strikes in Libya and Yemen? These are both instances where we have specific targets, Qaddafi and al-Qaeda respectively, and we take action, relatively quietly, on a small scale. So why can’t Syria fall into this category?

Then, of course, there’s our inconsistency in weapons issues: we launch a pre-emptive strike against Iraq when they MIGHT but probably DON’T have “weapons of mass destruction,” instead launching the country into what we might kindly refer to as disorganized chaos, yet we do nothing but yell really loudly at and emptily threaten Iran when they DO have nuclear weapons capabilities. This logical inconsistency is proof enough that Iraq never had these things: Iran does, and we know better than to provoke them. Had Saddam Hussein actually possessed such capabilities, we probably would never have dared provoke him, either. He was, after all, a genocidal maniac.

Just like another good friend of ours: Bashar al-Assad. So what do we do when this G.M. (genocidal maniac) has and USES weapons like this? Do we just sit on the sidelines and wait for him to attack a country we actually “care” about? Because don’t get me wrong, we don’t really give much of a flying **** for Syria. Not like how we do give two ****s for some of its neighbors (not that we get anything out of that relationship either).

A recap on weapons:
1. Iraq might but probably doesn’t have scary weapons. We launch a nearly-decade-long war.
2. Iran does have nuclear capabilities, but we’re not sure about weapons. We talk loudly.
3. Syria definitely has nerve agents and it’s highly likely that they’re being used against the rebels and civilians. What we do is TBD.

Are we so afraid to take action in Syria, despite the clear moral case (it would, certainly, be a just war by Thomas Aquinas’s criteria), because it’s a civil war? And is it that civil war is, by its nature, an intractable conflict? Do we not meddle in domestic affairs of other states? That last question is tongue in cheek: pre-Revolutionary Iran and Lebanon, for starters, might beg to differ. Of course, last time we put troops in the midst of Middle Eastern civil war, Americans died. Did we, shock, learn our lesson??

Syria is a confounding anomaly: it matters regionally, it’s a clear-cut ethical case, they have scary weapons, it’s a civil war, and its ruler is, by all accounts, a terrible human being. So is it Iraq 2003, is it Iran, is it Sudan, is it Lebanon or is it Libya? In three out of five cases, we act. And the jury is still out.

What I’m suggesting isn’t necessarily intervention: only logical and ethical and behavioral consistency. If we’re going to be Team America World Police, we need to be Team America World Police. Perhaps we ought to be a more ethical version of TAWP. And if we want to stop trying to be TAWP, is this really the right moment?

Know your audience.

Theme of the day:

The first hilariously this-isn’t-me piece of junk mail arrived addressed to me, from a local-ish bank (who, incidentally, is represented for their PR by a former colleague — whoops). “Cheap” bank account? Credit card? What goodies did they have in store? Well, aside from an insert advertising a “free” $100 to open a financially-not-feasible checking account with them sometime in the next eight weeks, it included a letter beginning “Dear Audrey” and which continued “Congratulations on your upcoming wedding!” and went on to describe how many couples-to-be neglect to think about the combining of finances during the wedding planning and this bank was here to save the day! Hooray! Well, No Name Bank, not only am I very much not getting married, but if I were, the first thing I would do would be to think about finances and their combination, or not.

The next instance of Know Your Audience came with the second piece of junk mail I decided to open.

This plea for monetary support was addressed to my father, but reading the envelope which announced its intention to secure financial SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL on behalf of some foundation named after some old presumably Jewish guy, I just had to open it. I knew he wouldn’t care, but sorry anyway, U.S. Government. OopsFelony.

I can’t really describe the letter, except to say there were some embarrassing grammatical errors, so here’s what happened in visual re-enactments (I apologize for the wonky quality of these scans):

The third junk mail I opened was Obama campaign mail (what a lovely infographic they included on job growth) — free sticker! — and the fourth junk mail was actually not junk mail at all, but a notification telling my mom it was time to get her car serviced. So, mom, add it to the to-do list.

Announcement of Intention to #occupyUSA

I have decided, perhaps rashly, to go to an #occupy protest in every city I find myself in over the next few weeks.

I went to the original #occupywallstreet protest (and the 20,000+ person march with the labor unions) yesterday, and I was astounded by how truly universal it felt. I will post here and on midthought as I try to make this happen. If you know anyone who is interested in reading about what these protests are like, please feel free to let them know I am doing this and to follow along!

Here’s my tentative schedule:
Wed., Oct. 5: #occupywallstreet (NYC)
Sun., Oct. 9: #occupydc
Mon., Oct. 10: #occupyphilly
Then maybe:
#occupymn (Minneapolis/St. Paul)
And if they’re still going:

If you want to check one out near you, they are going on in a crazy number of cities.

Standing with signs, Zuccotti Park, #occupywallstreet

Red White and Blue. With Love.

This holiday is already bad enough, what with the drunkards out in full force and not even pizza shops open to save them from their own inanity.

Why I felt the need to indulge in my bitter, self-righteous loneliness and complete unfeelingness twoards this day of eminent pointlessness (my uncaring is so strong I even had to hover over the Goog-icon until my Homer Simpson “doh” moment hit) is beyond me. Maybe sometimes you really just need that tiny push, that extra excuse, to grab a six of mediocre belgian-style wheat beer and two-day-old strawberry shortcake. Well, the strawberries were already macerated so it’s not as if I put any effort into this fandango.

What are we celebrating, anyway? The day a bunch of old (now dead) white guys signed a crinkling piece of parchment, announcing their grand intentions to cease, and I mean absolutely desist, paying any more representation-free taxes to the oppressive colonial powers that be? What, so we’re celebrating some version of our libertarian roots? Hallelujah.

Besides, it seems terribly ironic to celebrate what is ostensibly a holiday about America and freedom and independence and over-indulgence when ships full of people are being detained (for example) in Greek ports (yet another irony, o bastion, motherland of democracy) en route to protest against the inhuman suffering of one group of people at the hands of another, far more powerful group of people.

O, the humanity.

Woe, the humanity.

Independence from nothing but our own moral compasses and human responsibility. I’ll drink to that.

Today’s Awesome Spam Emails.

Today I came into work to the distinct pleasure of these spam messages in my “probable spam” folder. This is thrilling to me, because it demonstrates the increasing ability of spam generators to write coherent, if not perfect, English.

From: Mr Tom Westbrook.
Private & Very Safe!
Kent TN11 9DZ,
United Kingdom.

I humbly and sincerely wish to solicit for your assistance to transfer the sum of £250,000.000.00-[Two Hundred And Fifty Million GBP Only} to any safe account with your honest assistance. I have every possibility for the accumulated proceed to be paid in your favour and then both of us will share the value equal percentage.

Although, necessary steps has been made regards to this issue confidentially with key Bank Personnel’s and they have agreed to help if I found honest and capable person to handle this transaction to enable us transfer the value Asset out from UK. I guarantee that this will be executed under a concrete special arrangement that will protect us from any breach of law. I will not fail to bring to your notice that this transaction is total hitch-free and you should not entertain any fear because good arrangement has been outlined for successful conclusion.

If you are willing and capable to handle this business with me in full confidence & trust, please do not hesitate to send me the following information for documentation purpose:

Full names:
Private phone numbers: /Current residential address:
Occupation: / Age and Sex: / Your Full Banking Coordinates.

I look forward hearing from you ASAP.


Mr Tom Westbrook.

This second one is quite interesting, because I would be the kind of person to care about the PKK.

From Yusuff Ocalan
EMAIL: yusufoc@hotmail.co.uk

How are you today?

Peace be unto you my good friend. I am the only surviving child of Abdullah Ã-calan,The leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).My father actively fought for the liberation and unification of our people (The Kurds) under one sovereign nation which earned him the support of many and being branded a rebel by others.He amassed a lot of money garnered fromsupporters and sympathisers alike from which he kept quite a lot for his family’suse.l will want you to go through this site and know more about Abdullah Ã-calan.


Before his sudden arrest in 1999,he confided in me the where abouts of this money which is ($45Mand)Fourty five Million united State Dollars and instructed me to find means of investing the funds far away from the reach of the Turkishgovernment who have frozen most of the accounts and assets of the PKK.I need you to invest this money for the benefit of my three year old son Hassan.He is all that is left of the Ã-calan family.A few months ago I was diagnosed with cancer and was told by doctors that I have no long time to live.My dear father will not be released by the Turkish government any time soon.All I ask of you is to assist in the transfer and investment of the funds in a neutral country on behalf of my son hassan untill he is of age.

l want you to send to me your contact address,your phone number,your Occupation and your Age.Once you get back to me,l will tell you on how you can contact the bank where the money is deposited. Right now i am in the hospital where i ran to with my only son in london here is the address and my phone number Please help me.

here is there address;
The Whittington Hospital NHS Trust
Magdala Avenue
N19 5NF

Yusuff Ã-calan.
Please make sure your send your reply here:

Tel: +447031997551