B.I.F.F. Day 3

Last night’s films were quite a change from the bing-blang-blaow extravaganza that was Dogtooth, A Prophet, and I Killed My Mother. These two were also different in that both had Q&A sessions afterward with the film’s director. I’ve also used some forward-thinking and bought tonight & tomorrow’s tickets ahead of time so I can stop showing up 75 minutes early and still only get mediocre seats.

Petition - Poster2Petition

Country: China / France
Director: Zhao Liang
Length: 123 mins
Grade: B

Synopsis: “Since 1996 Zhao Liang has filmed the “petitioners,” who come from all over China to make complaints in Beijing about abuses and injustices committed by the local authorities. Gathered near the complaints offices, around the southern railway station of Beijing, the complainants wait for months or years to obtain justice. Peasants thrown off their land, workers from factories which have gone into liquidation, small homeowners who have seen their houses demolished but received no compensation, all types of cases are represented. The film was shot right up to the start of the Olympic Games, showing the persistent contradictions of China in the midst of powerful economic expansion.”


Torture Follow-up

Someone living out Luke 6:27?

I forgot to link to these yesterday in my post on torture & Christianity:

Terrorists and Torture

Give Me Liberty is an underground student newspaper here at Cedarville University designed to give voice to, apparently, the extremely marginalized conservative voice. It’s an outlet for Republicans & Libertarians to join forces and decry the U.S.A.’s obvious devolution into the U.S.S.R. (this was seriously an article). Also in this April edition, there was an article entitled “Terrorists and Torture” by Nathan Dollison, a junior. Here is that essay as printed (ie, unedited by me):

In today’s world, the issue of torture is at the forefront of the struggle against terrorism, and the debate has been only deepened by President Obama’s closure of the controversial Guantanamo Bay detention center and the uproar surrounding what has gone on behind its doors since the beginning of the Global War on Terror.

On the face of the issue, it would seem that the Christian standing on the debate would be clear, that torture is wrong and that as a Christian, one should not be involved or support such measures. But when one delves deeper into the debate, the lines become much grayer. (more…)

Interventionism for Fun and Profit

Yesterday I came across this Congressional Research Service report listing “Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2004.” I took the data and made a graph:

It would appear Presidents Clinton & Bush enjoy playing chess with armed forces. It will be interesting to see the updated report through the present year since the first 5 years set us on pace to out-do the military extravaganza of the ’90s.

Why I Pay My Taxes

Dear Taxpayer,

Your contribution this fiscal year was put toward the maintenance of an F-15 fighter jet, which on October 16 dropped a bomb on the town of Ramadi, in Iraq, killing, among others, Muhammed Salih Ali (age six) and Haifa Ahmed Fuad (age eight) and Saad Ahmed Fuad (age four). Little Haifa and Saad were sister and brother; you helped accomplish their deaths by a jet very similar to, if not exactly the same as, those that fly over the stadium after the American Idol winner sings “and the home of the brave” at the Super Bowl.

Thank you and congratulations.

— from “Why I Pay My Taxes” by Ben Metcalf in Harpers magazine, April 2008.

Military-industrial complex

“[The] conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower (January 17, 1961)


Electoral Compass USA

-> Electoral Compass USA: analyzes your position on “the issues” compared to the presidential candidates.

Issue : Candidate I’m closet to
Gun control: Obama
Environment: Edwards
Iraq: Paul
Economy: Richardson
Income: tie Obama/Clinton
National Security: Richardson
Family: Giuliani
Immigration: Richardson
Healthcare: Clinton
Law and order: tie Obama/Paul
Education: Edwards
Terrorism: Obama

All issues:
1. Barack Obama
2. John Edwards
3. tie Bill Richardson / Hillary Clinton

Farthest from:
1. Fred Thompson
2. Mike Huckabee
3. Mitt Romney

Speaking of Obama, he recently co-led a bipartisan effort to make government spending more transparent by founding USA Spending.Gov. The massive website allows anyone easy access to all federal spending records with unprecedented openness & detail.It allows me to discover, for example, that in my Ohio district (#13) the single largest contract in 2007 was from the Department of Veterans Affairs for $56.2M awarded — after open competition and 4 competing bids — to Microtechnologies LLC to perform “automatic data processing and telecom services.” I also learned that the Department of the Interior paid Envirocom Construction $455k to replace an aqueduct and that General Services Administration paid Jeter Systems a nice $243k for furniture.

Nationally, the Lockheed Martin Corporation scored biggest in 2007, snagging $24.5 billion, or 7.6% of the federal budget. Those bastards at KBR Inc. weaseled their way into a mere $3.9B.

It was also interesting to compare states — noting, for example, that Virginia has 2.6% of the US population but gets 9.8% of all federal money; not surprisingly, Maryland (home to Lockheed Martin) & D.C. (home to Matt Shiraki) also fare well. New York is the biggest loser, home to 6.4% of Americans but only getting 2.6% of the payout pie; Illinois and Michigan follow behind NY.

The Wrong Surge

I highly recommend reading The Wrong Surge by Lawrence Kaplan; published in The New Republic originally, I’m linking to this off-site reproduction because TNR has pesky registration. TNR also did an interview with Kaplan that’s worth reading. “The Wrong Surge” also provides good background for this Newsweek article: “In For the Long Haul” by Michael Hirsch. Lastly, another TNR article that may or may not require registration: “A Different Country” by Peter Beinart.

These articles confirm what I’ve thought since Bush’s announcement of the 20k troop surge: it’s too damn little. Before the invasion General Eric Shinseki predicted we’d need hundreds of thousands of troops in Iraq… the White House scoffed (Wolfowitz & Rumsfeld in particular). Army secretary Thomas White was fired for defending Shinseki. Four years later this administration has been forced to eat crow and admit that Shinseki was right all along. We currently have a bit over 150,000 troops in Iraq. General David Petraeus, now in charge of US forces over there, has estimated we’d need 120,000 to take Baghdad alone. So what does Bush suggest? 20,000 to Iraq total, though most are going to Baghdad (the one place in Iraq that Kaplan argues we can’t realistically win anytime soon). Since Congress and the American people are highly unlikely to support more than doubling our troop levels in Iraq, where does that leave us?

One last note — in Kaplan’s article you’ll notice the repeated discussion of al-Qaeda in Iraq. You win +10 points if you understand why this is deeply, tragically ironic.

The Ground Truth

“Things Overheard In the Only Coffee Shop In Town” was a better idea in theory than it actually turned out to be. I posted it because I can’t post what I really want to. Because I can’t really find the words. It’s 0 degrees outside, I’m listening to Van Morrison, and I’m absolutely livid. I have been in a state of suppressed rage for 24 hours because I simply cannot believe how much shit is going down in Iraq. I can’t even wrap my mind around it, can’t process it. How, realistically, do you deal with the sick waste of life occuring there?

I should probably point out that my anger is, more or less, a result of viewing the documentary The Ground Truth. Needless to say, the film is powerful.