Headline Haiku, politics

Sunday's Reading

The pastor recites the reading
“Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s
And unto God what is God’s”
But he mangles the meaning

He says that Jesus taught us to
be obedient to two masters
and to serve the heads of state
wherever they are leading

Serving under arms when called
to kill foreigners on foreign soil
who worship God a different way
A cross all Christians carry

But to speak up respectfully
when the church says God’s law is higher
like when babies are aborted
or homosexuals marry

Baltimore, politics

Can't Keep Teachers? Import Them

With a spouse who’s about ready to enter the teaching profession (and as the son of two retired educators and the parent of a city middle-school student), I’ve been following the adventures of Epiphany in Baltimore with some interest. His recently-deleted diatribe about how bad things are getting for Baltimore City teachers has convinced Paula that perhaps she should look elsewhere for a job. Too bad for the city.

But the city schools apparently have a solution to that problem. Yesterday, I was glancing at the Baltimore Sun and spotted a dual-byline story about how the city is using a recruiter to import as many as 45 teachers from the Philippines. Amused, I alerted Paula to it when she got home from student teaching. She looked at it online, and did a quick Google on the recruiter’s name–something they still can’t do, apparently, in the Sun’s bullpen, because the results were interesting.

Last November, KGO-TV in California reported on how the same recruiter was charging Filippino teachers $3,000 each for placement–and then Oakland was firing them, and going back to her for more teachers, after only a few months. Some of the recruited teachers were left stranded, without enough money to return home to the Philippines, because they had paid their way to the US on assurances that the jobs were long-term.

This article from a Georgia paper from last June suggests that the recruiter was under investigation by the FBI, and a school district in Georgia had severed its ties to her as a result.

Then there’s this article from SF Weekly, published four years ago. While still an employee of the the San Francisco Unified School District, Ligaya Avenida had apparently violated a number of Filipino laws and US labor regulations.

But, no matter. Just think about how those highly-qualified Filipino teachers will feel when they show up for their first day of school in an uncontrollable classroom in West Baltimore somewhere…that alone will be enough for them to file a human rights abuse.


Can't we all just get along?

“I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I HATE people like that!” – Tom Lehrer

couple of weeks ago, I was at a toddler birthday teaparty (actually, I
was in the next room at the time, drinking a beer and watching college
basketball with the other parents). One of the moms who was there was
telling me, for one reason or another, how her outgoing and blunt
demeanor didn't usually yield a favorable first impression. “People
either love me or they hate me,” she said.

“I can't hate anybody,” I replied.  “It takes too much energy.”

true. Generally speaking, I can't even stay angry at people for very
long, if I know them.  And I tend to give those I don't know the
benefit of the doubt when they run afoul of me; never mistake
incompetence for malice, I always say.  Odds are that, if I had a
non-alchoholic beer or two and some pretzels with George Bush, I'd
probably find something to like about him.

And there's the
rub.  America is full of people who hate other people right
now.    And for the most part, we can thank so-called
religious leaders for that; the lack of tolerance preached in Jesus'
name is such that, had he not risen from his tomb on Easter, he'd
certainly be spinning in it now.

There's the hate that comes
from dissonance–people learn one set of Truths for their whole lives,
and naturally they respond negatively when told those Truths are, in
fact, Lies.  There's no room for debate over fundamental
assumptions about the Underlying Truths of the Universe, especially
when one of those Truths is that all who believe otherwise are Evil.

there's the backlash hate.  There's the hatred that comes from the
righteous anger that the gay community feels because of the intolerance
directed against them in the interest of political gain (thanks to
those Klansmen posing as prophets at CBN and elsewhere); there's the
hatred spawned by anger at the boldfaced lies told by political leaders
daily, which are taken by their followers as gospel.

The whole
tenor of political and religious hate-speech as discourse has spread
into so many other aspects of our lives, too. It seems that our default
response to anything that vaguely threatens our sense of infallibility
is the middle finger.

What ever happened to “Live and let live”?
To “Love thy neighbor”? Why is so much of our lives defined by who we
can't stand? Maybe it's because it's easier to hate people we don't
understand or agree with than it is to actually learn about them as
people and understand their point of view.

It's time for the
whole country to just step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and
get over itself. Get your nose out of Leviticus, and start looking
around at the human condition; judge not lest ye be judged. Agree to
disagree, but find common ground.  And if you can't be nice, as
Bill O'Reilly would say, “SHUT UP!”


Things don't change

John Pilger, filmmaker, journalist and antiwar activist, writes in the Mirror:
WE HAD a great day,” said Sgt Eric Schrumpf of the US Marines last Saturday. “We killed a lot of people.”

He added: “We dropped a few civilians, but what do you do?” He said there were women standing near an Iraqi soldier, and one of them fell when he and other Marines opened fire. “I'm sorry,” said Sgt Schrumpf, “but the chick was in the way”.

Pilger recounts how he was told almost the same thing by a Marine sergeant in Vietnam after the shooting of a pregnant woman 30 years ago.


Righteous Sin, Good Intentions, And Why It's Easier Being The Bad Guy

I continue to oppose the war because of the almost certain geopolitical implications it will have, as well as for moral reasons. But I think that the folks on the ground there are doing remarkably well, considering the can of shit they were handed and asked to turn into a sundae. War is a brutal business, an unclean business no matter how it is sold, or how honorable the intentions. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and…well, everybody knows the well-worn cliche made popular by one of the great road-pavers of all time, William Tecumseh Sherman.

The civilian casualties are only going to get worse. The graphic pictures Al Jazeera has broadcast will only become more numerous and more graphic. And we will never have a real sense of the actual horror there (particularly with Salam Pax offline for the forseeable future).

I was never a ground-pounder, though I did some training for that unlikely eventuality once, and spent some time working as a REMF for a special ops unit. Most of my training was focused on a much more clean fighting environment–the ship-to-ship naval engagements of missile and submarine warfare, and supportive arms combat like shore bombardment and river patrol. Aside from my brief encounter with the PDF in Panama once, and the pursuit of an Omani smuggler's dhow that got too close to our resupply point in the Gulf of Oman, I never got close enough to anybody I might have to kill to see them that well, and never really had to think about it.

But after Panama, I certainly did think about it. And it wasn't anything pretty to think about. I had studied major modern land battles like Stalingrad, and knew that urban combat was a meat grinder; but having walked the streets of Panama City and knowing the people and terrain that were in harm's way, I understood why hundreds of civilians were killed in the raid on the PDF's commendancia. And that was in a relative footnote in the annals of urban combat.

I thought back to the brief ground combat training I had as a midshipman visiting Camp Pendleton, and the mock “raid” we staged on a built-up area called “Combat Town” there. I had five blanks in my magazine, and there were Marines scattered about the “village” playing the role of “militiamen”. I spent all of my ammo keeping one “militiaman's” head down on a roof while the rest of my squad advanced. I ended up having to yell “bang” as instructed by the referee. Climbing through windows with an M-16 and full gear was…educational.

The description I heard one Marine officer give his “embedded” journalist of urban warfare was accurate– “a knife fight in a phone booth.” Even in its most abstract form (on a practice battlefield with no civilians, no live bullets, no boobytraps), it was evident to me how totally screwed I would have been in a real combat setting.

Another thing I learned in my military schooling was, that when given the choice in a wargame, to choose to be the “bad guy.” Even in the relatively clean, pure world of naval combat, it was obvious to me that “asymmetrical” forces could extract an extremely high toll from the “good guys”, even if they were eventually destroyed. A pair of missile patrol boats, lying in ambush at a choke point, could knock out a frigate, or a destroyer, or a cruiser if they were lucky. Using coastline, cover of night, deception and tactics not in the “rules of engagement” playbook, you could always succeed in your mission; and a pair of patrol boats for a cruiser was always a trade worth making in defense of the motherland.

The Iraqis have read the same books I have. They know their history. The US expected a replay of the first Gulf War, but this time we're fighting a different war, and instead of playing by the rules of the last game, the Iraqis are taking pages out of the playbooks of both the Soviets at Stalingrad and Ho Chi Minh. “This isn't the enemy we wargamed against,” said one general.

Because Afghanistan welcomed the overthrow of the Taliban, somebody in Washington thought that Iraqis would toss Saddam just as quickly. But the administration forgets–despite his brutality, the Russians fought for Stalin; they didn't cave and surrender to the Germans, but died by the millions in defense of their homeland against foriegners until their blood and the Russian winter sapped the German's strength. Iraq isn't Russia, but Iraqis won't roll over–and if they can hold off American troops until the arrival of the hot Iraqi summer that we wanted to avoid (the whole reason for Bush blowing off the UN's will was because waiting would have meant fighting in the summer), then all of the strategic advantage the US and UK had going in might be lost. Hello, quagmire.

This is why I opposed the war: not because I thought Saddam should stay in power, or out of abstract pacifism (though I abhor war and consider myself a semi-pacifist, I would not hesitate to take up arms in self-defense).but because I felt that the Bush administration was lying about the stakes–either to us or to themselves–and that the war was only the opening round in what will no doubt be a long and bloody occupation. The US now has its own Gaza Strip, West Bank, and Golan Heights all wrapped into one California-sized package, and I have little doubt that the US will have to adopt Israeli tactics before too long just for “force protection” reasons. I am convinced that they knew it would be so, and that this is the first step in a greater war. We are being walked in increasingly larger steps toward force being the first resort of foreign policy rather than the last, and a remilitarized state that serves as the enforcer for global corporate capital.

The “weeks, not months” statement from Dick Cheney (when Tim Russert asked him about how long the war would last) was a pipe dream of epic proportions. Our troops will do their job, as they were trained to do it. Our leaders will keep sending them to do it until they are satisfied that the job is done, or they are deposed by election or impeachment. But Pandora's Box has been opened, the worms are out of the can, and there's no neat and clean way to put everything away.

There are only two ways to end this war now; a total victory over Iraq, or a change in the policy of the US and UK resulting in some brokered, compromised peace. I see neither on the horizon. Our troops will do their job, as they were trained to do. More will die, more will be sent, and more will be called to service. We must do our jobs as citizens as well–we must defend the Constitution, defend our nation, and find some way of changing the character of our misguided leadership. If not, our children will have to live with the consequences of the sins of our government, and their children after them; we will never really be a free people again as long as those above us rule others with impunity.


VP's Daughter: Human Shield, Cease-Fire negotiator, or home baking cookies?

Here's one of the wildest rumors of the last week:

Al Jazeera claims that a delegation is on the way to Baghdad to negotiate a cease fire, as of last Wednesday. The report is based on an article from the United Arab Emirates' “leading semi-official daily newspaper, Alittihad”. Allegedly along for the ride with the delegation is “Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of the US Vice President Dick Cheney, representing the US Department of State, where she works as an Assistant to the Deputy of the Secretary of State for Middle Eastern Affairs.”

There had been reports in other foriegn press and alternative media that Liz Cheney was on her way to become a “human shield”. Those reports appear to have been denied by the administration, saying that the VP is not headed to Amman to stop his daughters as had been reported elsewhere. “Everyone, including Dad, is stateside,” reported the right-wing rag The Washington Times.