Jesurgislac’s Journal

June 1, 2009

On saying sorry

It was a lovely sunny day. I was wearing sandals. So was the nice lady right behind me as we both browsed along the bookstall. Unfortunately, I’m a hundred kilos of muscle and fat (“I’m big-boned!” – ed) and I was wearing solid sandals of the kind you go for long walks in hot weather, while she was wearing light sandals of the kind you wear between car and beach.

I noticed a new Who novel in the box below the stall, and, not realising she was there, I took a quick step backwards to kneel down for it – and felt my heel come down quite heavily on someone’s toes, as someone behind me let out a loud gasp of pain.

It occurred to me later that it was an interesting game to play: How would various prominent bloggers have reacted to this situation? Someone’s hurt: they were responsible: they didn’t do it on purpose.

Kathryn Cramer would have stomped on the woman’s other foot, and snarled at her for not being nicer about it.

Will Shetterley would have apologized, stomped on the same foot again, and demanded to know why she wasn’t more appreciative of his apology.

The Nielsen Haydens would have …well, considered as a team, Patrick would have run away at top speed to avoid having to say he was sorry, and Teresa would have spent fifteen minutes upbraiding the woman for being so nasty to poor Patrick, outraging his delicate ears with her noise. She would then have banned the woman from the bookstall, and demanded an apology from everyone who sympathised with her.

BitchPhD would have first of all explained to the woman that she wasn’t hurt, then claimed she was probably just hanging around the bookstall on purpose to get her foot trodden on, then explained at length that it wasn’t that bad a stomp and she hadn’t meant to hurt the woman’s foot and she really didn’t think she had, but she was sorry now she’d trodden on it since it was causing her so much trouble.

(Update: “Anonymous Coward”, er, yes. Very funny comment, but I’m the only one who will ever read it, because WordPress justly sent your sockpuppeted comment to the spam queue and I figure I kinda agree, regardless of what I think of the person you were attacking. If you’re going to launch a personal attack on someone, do it from your usual Internet pseud. )
(more…)

April 8, 2009

Obama: for or against torture?

It would appear that President Obama has till May 11 to decide whether he does, in fact, actually oppose the US military torturing prisoners… or if he would just rather not know what the US military does to prisoners.

On May 11, Clive Stafford Smith, Binyam Mohamed’s lawyer, director of Reprieve, will appear in court to be charged with the crime of telling President Barack Obama that the Privilege Review Board had redacted the whole of a memo Smith wrote to Obama describing Binyam Mohamed’s treatment in Guantanamo Bay. (See Glenn Greenwald’s interview on Salon Radio.)

For that crime, Smith may spend up to six months in jail: that is, for the crime of telling the President of the United States that a secret committee in the Pentagon did not want him to know exactly what had been done to Binyam Mohamed.

Obama’s preference with regard to torture is clearly and explicitly to do nothing – that was unfortunately clear from November 22, when he announced he would keep George W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense in the position he had held for two years. That’s an improvement on the pro-torture policies of the Bush administration, certainly – as King Log is better than King Stork.

But merely deciding to do nothing – neither to authorise torture techniques, nor take steps to prevent ongoing torture (prisoners were still being tortured at Guantanamo Bay in February this year, as Binyam Mohamed – and the doctors who examined him on his return to the UK – can testify), nor to prosecute those who committed torture with President Bush’s authorisation – is a complex balancing act, absolutely dependent on no one pushing.

Many Americans who objected to torture under Bush appear content now to not push – not to ask why Obama did not act to stop torture at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere as from January 21, not to ask why Obama is not setting in motion an investigation of torture under Bush, not to ask why the current Secretary of Defense, who may be implicated in the torture of prisoners under Bush, has been allowed to retain his position into Obama’s administration.

It’s true: Obama is so much better a President and a man than Bush that it’s actually hard to compare them: and the US and the rest of the world dodged a bullet when McCain lost so comprehensively last November. (Two bullets, in fact: President Palin.)

But because Obama is so much better than Bush, he should be pushed harder. Now it’s come down to a decision Obama has to make: is he going to take the position that people should be prosecuted and jailed for telling him about prisoners being tortured by the US – and let that happen to Clive Stafford Smith and others at Reprieve? Is he going to ask to read the unredacted memo? Is he going to begin the investigation of torture in the US military that should have begun in 2004?

May 11th. Obama has a deadline.

December 31, 2008

About me

I got this idea from Renaissance Guy. Herewith a list of random items. Comment to let me know what you can identify with.

I purposely kept all my political opinions off this list, or almost all, because that’s something I’m fairly sure we already know about each other if you read here regularly.

1. Learned to read at the age of three and have seldom stopped since.

2. My favourite kind of novels are the sort that include large amounts of expository information in the narrative – Victor Hugo, J. R. R. Tolkien, Robert Graves, Octavia E. Butler, K. J. Parker, C. J. Cherryh.

3. Milk chocolate should be at least 40% cocoa. Dark chocolate should be at least 70% cocoa. White chocolate is not actually chocolate at all.

4. I hardly ever get around to watching a movie when it first comes out. I’m much more likely to watch it 2 years later when it’s on TV or someone loans me a DVD.

5. Though going to the cinema or the theatre with people who want to sit down and talk about it afterwards is a treat.

6. I’m fascinated by ancient writing: by the invention of writing and the development of the concept.

7. I’m fascinated by writing – by the ability to convert thoughts in the head to symbols on the page and vice versa.

8. I eat peanut butter on bread with tomato ketchup.

9. I like Marmite.

10. I’m a lifelong vegetarian, and while I try to be polite about it at all times, i really don’t understand how people can enjoy eating meat.

11. I loathe having a meal with someone who feels they’re entitled to make negative comments about what I – or anyone else at the table – chose to eat.

12. I love making bread.

13. Once Willie Nelson has sung any song, it’s a wonder to me that anyone wants to listen to anyone else sing it.

14. Good dialogue is the single thing most likely to attract me to a new TV series.

15. I’ve only been to one live music event in my adult life (not counting church services with choirs) and I came away thinking that it worth having had the experience of hearing Willie Nelson sing live, but I couldn’t understand people who actually wanted to go to events like that on a regular basis, what with the amount of time spent hanging about, the people in the audience singing along so you can’t hear the person we all paid to hear very well, etc.

16. Wine is better than grapes. Beer is usually a waste of good grain.

17. Very dark rich real ales and beers are totally worth it, though.

18. Amy should have died after she fell through the ice. Beth should have lived to grow up and keep house for Jo, who should have continued to write thrilling stories and never married anyone.

19. People who think Fanny Price should have married Henry Crawford and Edmund Bertram should have married Mary Crawford have really not been paying attention.

20. Russet apples are the best apples there are.

21. But any apple is good except for those big mushy ones, red or yellow.

22. The perfect fruit is a mango.

23. I read XKCD three times a week and always click on random to view some past XKCD when I do.

24. I try to use cloth bags or my backpack instead of plastic bags whenever I go shopping.

25. The arrival of the post used to be an exciting moment. Since e-mail was invented, the paper mail has become less and less interesting, but I remember when the sound of the letters falling through the door was a thrill.

26. I think Shakespeare’s comedies tend to be at least as scary as his tragedies.

27. I prefer cats to dogs, both aesthetically and as pet/companions.

28. But think a well-trained well-behaved dog is a pleasure to see, particularly a working dog.

29. But feel a cat leaping up onto my lap, curling up and purring till it falls asleep, is better than any pack-loyal dog.

30. While ordinarily I manage to separate my feelings about a writer’s political views from my ability to enjoy their writing, Orson Scott Card managed to make himself one big exception over the past four years, speaking as someone who was an enthusiastic fan for over twenty years before 2004. It’s not just that I disagree with him: it’s also that Card seems to be unable to tolerate widespread disagreement with his politics without becoming a jerk.

31. Favourite poets; Marilyn Hacker, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rudyard Kipling. I find this combination as weird as you probably do, but those are genuinely the three I’m most likely to sit down with and read their poems purely for the pleasure of it.

32. Allergic to dust/dust mites. Hate housework.

33. Keep favourite t-shirts till they have noticeable holes in them.

34. Prefer growing herbs to flowers.

35. Love the moment on any flight when the air flowing under the wing of the plane pushes the plane upwards away from the ground.

36. Ever since I first understood how the depth of the atmosphere, the angle of light through the atmosphere, and the human eye’s ability to perceive light, is why we perceive sunsets, I’ve appreciated sunsets all the more. Knowing how it works increases my aesthetic appreciation, not only for sunsets but for almost anything.

37. I like scented candles, but not candles whimsically shaped into amusing statues of wax to be destroyed by burning.

38. When reading Little Women I always identified with Jo. When reading Mansfield Park, I always identified with Fanny Price. When reading Ballet Shoes, I always identified with Petrova.

39. I hate all fizzy soft drinks, cola or sodapop or ginger.

40. I prefer still wine to fizzy wine, too.

41. I am an atheist.

42. I have read the Bible from Genesis to Revelations, and re-read most of the more interesting books multiple times in more than one translation.

43. I keep trying to do the same with the Qu’ran, and keep finding it less interesting, though I’m working on achieving a basic familiarity.

44. I don’t like celery.

45. I dislike mint: I still wish it wasn’t the default flavour for toothpastes.

46. Wikipedia annoys me greatly, even when I make use of it.

47. I love dunking a chewy cookie into a hot cup of tea.

48. About the only thing I think I would consider killing myself over is if the alternative were a protracted and painful death.

49. Goldfish are not pets, they are decor.

50. Blueberries are overrated.

November 16, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 11

What’s next?

11 Establish a single-payer health service

The US health system is the most expensive and the least effective in the world. Taking health care provision away from health insurance companies is the first step towards remedying that.

Okay, break’s over!

November 15, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 10

Filed under: My Obama Wish List,Pets — jesurgislac @ 8:31 am
Tags: , , ,

What’s next?

10 Getting the First Puppy

Take more time to choose and vet the puppy for the First Daughters than McCain did when he chose Sarah Palin.

Okay, break’s over!

November 14, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 9

What’s next?

9 Repeal the global gag rule.

The Global Gag Rule was re-instated by George W. Bush on his first day office. It was a promise of symbolic support to the misogynistic Christians who are the backbone of the forced pregnancy movement, and it was a warning to people round the world who regard women as human beings and care about human life.

The global gag rule is a rule that no recipient of US aid may advise women on where they can get an abortion. They may not even talk about the need for safe legal abortion, or the damage that lack of safe legal abortion does to women.

In a world where lack of access to safe legal abortion kills over 60 000 women each year, the global gag rule is a monstrosity, justified by hypocrites who claim “each life is precious” – and who don’t care how many people die because of it.

Okay, break’s over!

November 13, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 8

What’s next?

8 Give Joseph Darby the Medal of Honor.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty, when serving in Abu Ghraib.

Not only because Joseph Darby deserves to be honoured for what he did: but also to send the clear message to Americans who support torture that Darby is a hero.

He deserves more from the US military than a personal letter from Donald Rumsfeld telling him to stop talking about how Rumsfeld outed him on the news while he was still serving in Iraq.

Okay, break’s over!

November 12, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 7

What’s next?

7. Investigate the Department of Defense for all those implicated in the torture of prisoners held by the US military.

Everyone who worked there during the Bush administration who could have known about the torture of prisoners before they read about it in the papers, must be investigated to discover if they did.

If they knew about the torture of prisoners and did not speak out, the minimum penalty exacted should be to be fired from their post and banned for life from any government employment: prosecution may follow. And yes, that includes the officers whose crime was “merely” to ignore the reports of lower-ranking soldiers that US soldiers were torturing prisoners. The more senior the position held, the more strongly an investigation should push for prosecution. Neither Donald Rumsfeld nor Robert M. Gates should be exempt.

Okay, break’s over!

November 11, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 6

What’s next?

6 Withdraw all US troops from Iraq.

Well, okay, even McCain would have had to do that. Bush was supposed to set a timetable for withdrawal a year ago. The US military is overstretched, exhausted, and so near breaking point it’s not even funny.

Better Dunkirque than Thermopylae.

Okay, break’s over!

November 10, 2008

My Obama Wish List: 5

Filed under: Bad Stuff Happens,My Obama Wish List — jesurgislac @ 8:39 am
Tags: ,

What’s next?

5 Repeal the USA-PATRIOT Act.

Does anything more really need to be said?

Okay, break’s over!

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