Friday, June 17, 2005
Shake Hands with the Devil
There is an article in the Washington Post about the film Shake Hands with the Devil, a documentary about Romeo Dallaire, the head of the peace-keeping mission in Rwanda during the genocide in the mid-1990s. I saw this film a couple of months ago and am glad to see that it is starting to get a bit of a wider release. It's a brutally depressing film, as one would imagine, but striking in it's blunt honesty and depth (a credit to Dallaire, really). I just watched Werner Herzog's documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly, about a pilot shot down over Laos in the Vietnam War, and am struck by the ability of humans to do harm to one another but also the unbelievable ability of humans to survive. It inspires in me a strange mixture of hope and nihilism, I suppose, and I am often led to think of those people upon whom we, as Americans, are visiting great harm and trauma, and the lasting effects its going to have, and in general how oblivious we are to the whole process. I'm planning on seeing Herzog's most recent documentary, Grizzly Man, tonight.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Rock music tonight
As with every Thursday this summer between 10:00 pm and 12:00 midnight (Eastern Standard Time), my good friend David and I will be doing a radio show on WMUC (the fantastic radio station of the University of Maryland, College Park) tonight. If you want to check out the playlist from last week's show (to get some idea of what kind of stuff we play), you can view it here. You can also download the two hours of the show (after it's happened) by going here and downloading the mp3 files titled "Terrapin_Sexxxpress_2200.mp3" and "Terrapin_Sexxxpress_2300.mp3". If you want to make any requests, you can feel free to do so in the comments section here and I'll see what I can do.
Housing Discrimination in Israel
Ha'aretz has an editorial today focusing on the housing discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, especially in the Galilee region.
[T]he 29 community villages of the Misgav Regional Council do not contain even a single Arab resident. Council head Erez Kreisler says that Arabs do not apply, because they know that there is no "cultural infrastructure" for their absorption. It is possible that he is right and that Arabs are reluctant to apply for places in a community village whose other residents are all Jews. But it is more likely that this reluctance stems from a recognition of reality.Not that it should make a difference, but compounding the complicity of the Israeli government is the fact that these communities are built on "public" land (of course, whether or not you are considered a member of the "public" is also a matter of debate in Israel). That the state approved a practice where community council members are empowered to judge an applicant based on whether he or she is "socially suitable" is pretty damning as well. Anybody with a knowledge of U.S. history can easily draw the parallels, I'm sure, to the housing discrimination that continues to face African Americans (as well as Latin Americans and other minorities, though without the historical background).
Iman and Adel Ka'adan, who petitioned the High Court of Justice in 1995 because the community village of Katzir refused to accept them, are still not living there, even though the court ruled back in 2000 that they must be allowed to do so. Kreisler says that the court approved these communities' admission criteria and he stands by his right to pick and choose new residents, relying on regulations that allow such communities to examine whether residents would be socially suitable. Even if one accepts his argument, it is hard to believe that other Arabs, "socially suited" to life in Misgav's community villages, have not been found by this time.
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Adam Shatz has a very touching obituary of Samir Kassir available on the Nation's website. I certainly admire Shatz's desire to give Kassir the depth that he has not been treated with in the American press in general (where his ideas and merit as an individual seem to be disregarded, and instead he is cast as just another item of proof of how fucked up things are in the Middle East).
Monday, June 13, 2005
"Let them disengage already"
The disengagement from Gaza seems to be a concept that has been surviving purely on its own hype for quite a while now (I've always said personally that I'll believe it when I see it -- not that I think it's impossible, but I seem to have lost interest in talking about how important it is after about the first month that nothing happened). Zvi Bar'el writes in Ha'aretz discussing the extreme delays that have kept the Gaza disengagement from happening thus far and those factors that may continue to keep it in the world of the imagination and out of reality:
As the "determining date" (the term used in the Evacuation Compensation Law) draws nearer, it turns out that the disengagement is not being delayed by the blocked highways, by the sugar that destroyed bulldozer engines or by the glue that plugged the locks of government offices. Rather, this delay seems to be the result of a bureaucratic failure. There is almost no institution in the northern Negev that can report about an organized plan of absorption. Employment bureaus, schools and contractors building infrastructure on kibbutzim cannot say for how many people the infrastructure is planned, how many pupils will arrive and how many teachers will be needed. The pictures from the defense minister's miserable meeting with the settlers of northern Samaria spoke for themselves. None of those present at the meeting knew where they would be living two months from now, or where their children would go to school. And these are people who are dying to be evacuated, who would like to take advantage of the summer to prepare their new home.So what, one wonders, is the incentive for the Sharon government to send in the troops to face the hardcore militant zealots (making national and international TV, undoubtedly) when it hasn't even made arrangements for those who want to leave? I'm very interested to see how this plays out, but as to there not being a single settler left in Gaza by the end of the summer -- let's just say I wouldn't bet the farm on that.
Contracts in Iraq: A Rotten Mess
Thanks to Aunt Deb for forwarding me this article featuring some great investigative reporting by Deborah Hastings of the AP. The article is about high-ranking officers in Custer Battles (to read a bit about their business practices, go here) going on to be involved in other companies receiving big government contracts of doing work in Iraq.
Former executives of Custer Battles — an American firm accused of stealing millions from Iraq reconstruction projects and banned from further government contracts — have continued doing contracting work and have formed new companies to bid on such projects....Americans in Iraq are dying, Americans at home are being bilked out of millions of dollars by these fraudulent enterprises. But it's a good thing we took all those nuclear weapons out of the hands of Saddam, right? Umm... or at least we've managed to reduce terrorism by stabilizing the region, right? Of course, there could have been no other reasons to push for war, could there have been? The quote that closes the article is a fantastic way to go out:
The new companies (there are at least three) are all headed by Rob Roy Trumble, who previously was operations chief for Custer Battles, according to state records.
The fledgling firms have different names but all are housed in the same office as Custer Battles — Suite 100 on Hammerlund Way in Middletown, R.I., 3,000 square feet on the ground floor of a squat building in an industrial park.
Meanwhile, Custer Battles' former chief financial officer Joseph Morris, accused of submitting fake invoices to the government, has been working for another American contractor in Iraq, according to interviews.
The military was not aware of either the new companies or Morris' new employment, a Pentagon official said, speaking only on condition of anonymity. Military investigators would have to decide whether these actions violate the suspension order.
"They are extremely clever. They are extremely brazen. They've never let truth get in the way of their economic ambitions."