Now what?

May. 2nd, 2011 03:33 pm
jmc_bks: (Forward momentum)
I didn't have the television on last night, so I didn't see the President's speech.  Instead, I learned about the death of OBL via twitter.  

My first reaction:  is that a joke?  If so, it's not funny.

Because, frankly, after nearly 10 years, I assumed that he was never going to be caught, but would instead remain in Pakistan for the rest of his life, while America pumped trillions of dollars and thousands of lives into the mire that is Afghani and Packistani unrest.  (Oh, wait...)

My second reaction:  I hope this brings some sort of closure to people who lost loved ones on 9/11, and it's a powerful political symbol. So now what? 
 
I don't mean that in a flippant way.  I mean: what comes next?  OBL was the ostensible reason for our invasion of Afghanistan, which has no end in sight. (2014? I doubt it.)  It was the spring board for the shrub to invade Iraq; the WMD blather would never have been sold if we hadn't already had a massive build up of troops and equipment in the region.  It has made our relationship with nuclear-armed Pakistan much more fraught.  OBL is dead...but the US military is (presumably) not going to be pulling out of Afghanistan or Iraq now.  So what next?
 
Other thoughts on the subject:  
 
+ The burial at sea is bound to anger many Muslims, and give conspiracy theorists the opportunity to speculate that he is not dead and this was all just a political maneuver to bump Obama up in the polls.
 
+ I've read that OBL was given the opportunity to surrender but refused to do so; am very curious what would have happened if he had done so.  Would he have made it to trial?  Would the special ops group have made it out of the region with him?  Was he even triable -- meaning, what was the source of the evidence against him, how was it obtained and would it have been admissible?
 
+ All the reports I've read indicate that OBL's compound was located an hour outside of Islamabad, in close proximity to a significant military training center.  Not hiding in the mountainous border region, in a remote area in which it is easy to get lost.  In an urban/suburban neighborhood of what is essentially a garrison town.  Maybe I'm wearing a tinfoil hat, but the idea that ISI didn't know he was there seems questionable.
 
jmc_bks: (TCR Word WTH)
Libya.  Wisconsin.  Christchurch.

And all I could find on the fucking useless news yesterday was information about President's Day.  Because that's way more important than Koch Industries bankrupting Wisconsin and trying to break public unions, or Gaddafi bombing his own people or a huge earthquake in New Zealand.

Mainstream media in America, corporate owned, is useless.  Feeding citizens pap rather than doing their actual jobs of reporting on what's going on in the world.

The Mayans were wrong: the world isn't going to end in 2012. No, it's happening right now.

ETA: And let's not forget the Republican House declaring war on women, in which reproductive health care (not abortion, health care) is being de-funded, along with preschool programs, and senior citizen programs. Because apparently Republicans want to stand at the foot of my bed, and make me have babies. Except they don't want to actually provide health care or other social services for the babies they would like to force rape victims (er, accusers, since Georgia wants to refuse to call women who have been sexually assaulted victims) to have. Fundamentally, I do not understand the GOP. And I don't understand how any woman can be a party to the misogyny Republicans are writing into legislation.
jmc_bks: (GK_Bradabs)
+  \o/ for the Senate voting to repeal DADT

+  Check out this interesting discussion about whether language shapes thought.

+  Every time I've gone to B&N lately, I've bought things other than books.  When I look at books, I end up putting them on my wishlist or downloading a Kindle sample to decide if I really want the book or not.  Obviously B&N is still making some money off me as a consumer -- bought Elf on the Shelf, a puzzle, a Moleskin notebook, holiday cards, etc. -- but if I'm not buying their books, what does it say about their success in their primary market?

+  I'm contemplating writing fan fiction for the first time ever.  There's a plot bunny bouncing around my head and it just won't die.  Not even an emailed exchange with my sister got it out of my system.   I blame this tumblr.

+  Mailed a package to Texas today, and it should arrive in plenty of time for the holidays.  The line to mail packages?  Only three people long.  The line to pick up packages at the other window?  Wound around the waiting room and out the door.  Fortunately for me, all the packages I ordered were delivered by UPS and my neighbor signed for them (he's retired, and takes deliveries for several neighbors).  

+  Saw an intriguing recipe for potato chip cookies, must find it again and experiment tomorrow.  Must also go get one last gift -- a gift card to a restaurant, because I'm stumped for a better gift for my brother and SIL; I did send them doggie cupcakes from here, but wanted to give them something more.

+  I've been pretty good about not buying paper books, or any books except pre-orders done pre-holidays, but I broke down and finally ordered a copy of Yo, Juan de Austria from Abebooks.  I should have bought a copy when I first saw the book more than a year ago, when I was in Madrid, but I assumed it would become available sooner or later in the US and didn't want to add it to my luggage.  Mistake.  Still not available in the US yet or translated. (TBH, I doubt it will be translated, since I'm not sure that Juan of Austria commands a great deal of attention from English speakers/readers.)  So I ordered a copy from a Spanish bookseller online.  The shipping...is ridiculous.  My own fault.

Please vote

Nov. 1st, 2010 06:42 pm
jmc_bks: (TDS)
 Courtesy of BIE:


jmc_bks: (title2)
Today's SBD is a non-romance book.  Lots of brothers-in-arms affection, but no romance.  [Unless you are wearing slash goggles, like apparently many people are.  Go google "Brad Colbert/Nate Fick", I'll wait.  Personally I don't really see it, despite the constant sexual references in the book and miniseries, but the casting of the HBO miniseries probably has a lot to do with the GK slash that's out there.]
Anyway...

Generation Kill is the story of the Marines' First Reconnaissance Battalion and their participation in the beginning of the second Gulf War.  Evan Wright, a journalist with Rolling Stone, was embedded with the Second Platoon as they careened around Iraq, from Kuwait to Nasiriyah to Baghdad to Baqubah, basically riding head first into ambushes set up by the Iraqi Republican Guard and jihadists.  The narrative traces the path of the platoon, while trying to capture the ethos of the Marines and the tension of their situation.  

Recon Marines are, readers are told, the creme de la creme of Marines: trained to the nth degree with Jump School, Mountain School, Dive School, SERE, etc., they generally work in small groups away from their officers, doing reconnaissance and other less obvious, flashy things.  But in the invasion of Iraq, they were clumped together with their commanders (many of whom had never been in the field) and used to test a new doctrine of maneuver warfare in a new type of war -- the preemptive war.  And instead of doing recon, they were sent in a 70 vehicle caravan with only light armor (some vehicles with none) to run into ambushes and draw out the enemy.  Under-equipped and in the dark about their mission, the Marines managed to follow their commanders' orders, winding from hamlets in the desert to the urban landscapes between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

Wright introduced each Marine by age, rank, and origin, which struck me as a very journalistic thing to do, although a little odd in a book.  *shrug*  Since he spent the majority of his time in a Humvee with several troops, those guys got most of his attention and page space, but he seems to have become acquainted with most of the platoon.  And he shared the good and the bad about them:  Person's Ripped Fueled diatribes about the "retards" making this invasion necessary; Trombley's indifference to consequences of violence that made him good at his job; Doc Bryan's paradoxical concern about human life and the ease with which he's able to take away human life when he shoulders his rifle; Fick's balancing of his concern for his men with the orders from above to send them into sometimes unnecessary and unwarranted danger; and Colbert's isolation in the middle of the men he lead and tended.

In some ways, it feels like Wright romanticized the entire FRM ethos to me (YMMV).  The glorification of the uber-macho, ultra-testoteroned world view seems problematic, especially when writing about the Marine Corp as an institution that channeled and legitimated behavior that would otherwise get men jailed or killed in the civilian world.  On the other hand, their joint experiences have made some of the men friends for life and created a feeling of brotherhood that some of them had never experienced in their civilian lives.

Of course, he was also honest about the complete clusterfuck that the invasion was for this group of men.  Strategically, logistically, politically and socially.  For example, lacking the batteries to use the night gear for driving, they were often driving nearly blind in the dark.  Instead of setting up personnel in the south, they hit and rolled on, leaving power vacuums that would be filled by extremists and foreign jihadis.  The utter disassociation of practicality from their reality (grooming standards being emphasized in the middle of an invasion?) was kind of mind-boggling.  

Wright finished the book convinced that this preemptive war was necessary, and expressed his anger and frustration with the American public for no longer supporting the war and the men and women fighting in Iraq, for essentially wasting a generation of American youth.  TBH, that kind of pissed me off even as I understood his perspective.  Frankly, I have a hard time believing that the American public would have had a 60% approval rating of the war at the time of the invasion if they had known that the WMD reports were fabricated, and that Iraq would become a quagmire that will absorb trillions of their tax dollars in coming decades.  If he wants to be pissed off, perhaps his anger should be directed at Bush, Cheney, et al., who began the waste in the first place.  

The larger issues alluded to in the book were not new information for me, but it was fascinating (if enraging and blood pressure-raising) to read this account.  I probably wouldn't go out looking for more written by Wright, but I'm going to borrow The Biochemist's copy of One Bullet Away, the memoir written by one of the Marines appearing in GK.  And I'll re-read Baghdad Burning.

Ironically, the book ends with a scene in which some of the Marines are marveling about the length of World War II, relieved by the brevity of their mission in Iraq, since "Mission Accomplished!" had already been declared.  As The Biochemist emailed to me last month when I wrote that I was reading GK, "Unhappy 7th Anniversary, First Recon Marines and Iraq."  Bet you didn't think you'd be doing another tour there again, did you?

As one Marine is quoted, "[I]t doesn't matter if you oppose or support war.  The machine goes on."

Other random thoughts:
  • tension between being good officer/soldier and being good human being (wonder if Fick's book addresses)
  • perhaps could use some proofing/editing -- one grunt's name changes in the afterword (oops!); also, there is no Louden County, Virginia, just Loudoun County
  • who adapted the screenplay for the miniseries?  did an awesome job
  • cracked up by insistence that one grunt couldn't be gay because he was married...because no gay man has ever had a beard...and of course, no badass recon Marine could possibly be gay
jmc_bks: (Nadasco - 08 Spain Davis Cup)
Saw Valentine's Day (the movie) this past weekend.  In a lot of ways it was a predictable romantic comedy.  The narrative style is like that of Love, Actually.  I imagine there are earlier movies that were more innovative, in terms of the mixed story lines, but that's the one that pops into mind.  (Love, Actually is better, I think.  Srsly, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy...it wins based on cast alone.)

Any romance reader would probably be entertained by the counting the typical genre tropes or stereotypes that were used:
  • first love and its tribulations
  • busy career woman too busy for love
  • successful career woman desperate for love who hates 2/14
  • player desperate to avoid commitment who hates 2/14
  • cheating bastard with wife and girlfriend
  • established couple who confront sudden relationship issue
  • friends to lovers
Here comes the spoiler part:

The storyline I enjoyed most, and which I TOTALLY did not see coming, was that of Sean Jackson (Eric Dane), the aging quarterback who is wondering about the next step in his professional career and bothered by the absence of his lover, who off-screen for most of the movie and shown only via the second toothbrush in the bathroom. (And presumably, who has left him.)  He calls a press conference when he's cut by his former team in order to announce not that he's signed elsewhere but that he's gay.  And he's going to keep playing football, because he's been playing for years as a gay man and the two things are not mutually exclusive.

His lover?  Well, I wasn't sure we'd see him in the film.  There were some threads that were about familial love or friendship rather than romantic love, and some characters who did not necessarily get an HEA.  (Queen Latifah's character, among others, frex.)  Plus, I'm still not sure how gay romance friendly mainstream Hollywood studios are, even in the aftermath of Brokeback Mountain.  So when a napping Jackson is awakened by a flower stroked across his cheek and the camera pans up the flower to his lover, Holden (Bradley Cooper), I was pleasantly surprised.  Most of the women* in the audience were startled enough to gasp or say "No way!" or something of the sort, but it made me grin like a fool.   

The axiom is that "art imitates life", but not so much in terms of that small story.  I do wonder though, when/if an active NFL player will come out?  A few have come out after retiring, but none while playing.  But, y'know, if a Welsh rugby player can do it, an American football player may...sooner or later.  (I'm guessing later.)

And on a happy note, same sex couples began lining up in DC to get their marriage applications today, even though they can't be married until next week.


*The theater was peopled by about 50 women...and 2 men.  When they first walked in, I wondered if they were in the wrong theater, because I let gender stereotypes about pop culture and romcoms rule my brain.  Bad JMC!

Unrelated:  saw the trailer for The Runaways.  May have to set aside my dislike for Kristen Stewart because Joan Jett is a rockn'roll heroine.  Also Sex & the City 2, for which I am not the target audience since I didn't watch the show or the first movie.  And Date Night, which could be funny because of Tina Fey or just awful because all the funny parts have already been shown in the trailer.

$83,000?

Jan. 6th, 2010 05:49 pm
jmc_bks: (Default)

It has been announced that Mayor Dixon will be resigning by February 4th. Her resignation is part of the settlement agreement and Allford plea entered. Essentially, she's admitting prosecutors had enough evidence to get a guilty verdict, but is avoiding a conviction. Why does that matter? Well, it means she can keep the $83,000/year pension. And work for or be re-elected to city or state office after her probation expires.

I'm guessing the pension was a primary concern.

As a Baltimore taxpayer, that just pisses me off. $83k annually? In a city where services are being cut, the public schools are a disaster, the median income is $30,000 (according to the 2000 Census), and 23% of the population lives below the poverty line...is $83,000/year really appropriate here?

jmc_bks: (blue)
Colleague of conservative political bent indicates that only al-Qaeda-type attacks (a la NYC, London, Madrid, Bali, Bombay) are terrorism.  Timothy McVeigh? Not a terrorist.  Right to life killer of abortion performer?  Also not terrorism.

And maybe water boarding was torture, but other "interrogation techniques" used by CIA are not.

Uh, I had to walk away from the conversation before my head exploded.
jmc_bks: (Default)

The jury found Mayor Dixon guilt of one count of embezzling gift cards. It was only one count of four, I believe, but any guilty verdict by a Baltimore jury is remarkable. I'm wondering what will happen next? Assuming it isn't overturned on appeal, I think she should not be able to remain mayor.

I'll admit, though, to being biased. Dixon's public persona as mayor makes me cringe, with the horrendous grammar and non sequitors and inability to speak or answer questions without a script. Except to spout platitudes, of course.

Explain to me again why city tax payers should pay for a trip to Egypt for her? Or for her defense counsel?

Censorship

Nov. 17th, 2009 06:25 am
jmc_bks: (Default)

Fellow commuter is ranting about how the American government is just as bad as the Chinese government when it comes to censorship. Well, I don't know, I can't compare the two. But his reasoning is that as a government employee, there are certain websites he can't access from his work computer, like Yahoo! and Hotmail.

Okay, that's not government censorship of a private citizen and the web. That's an employer's decision about how to use assets. Not permitting personal, web-based email to be read during work hours, restricting personal browsing during work hours, these are not censorship.

jmc_bks: (Default)

Congrarulations to Barack Obama for being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize!

Am curious about how Afghanis and Iraqis feel about the award.

And also what this does for his (waning) domestic political capital.

jmc_bks: (Stupid)
This morning my neighbor locked herself out of her home when she went running.  So she knocked on my door at 5:30am -- because my house was the only one on the block with lights on. 

Did I have a ladder?  No, just a two-step stepping stool.  Could I boost her up?  No, too high.  But we double checked, just in case.

Twenty-four hour locksmiths?  Not so much -- after three tries, we found what appeared to be an answering service that promised a call-back within five minutes.  Nope, never called back. 

We ended up borrowing a tall ladder from another neighbor.  As I braced the ladder so she could boost herself up onto the roof, I thought for a moment that it was a good thing we were both white, otherwise we too could have ended up like Dr. Henry Louis Gates, arrested as we tried to get her into her own home.  We live in a mostly white neighborhood in a predominantly black city.  Would one of our neighbors have called the police if they'd noticed us skulking around in the alley?  I don't know.  Certainly she in her running gear and me in a ratty old sundress with bedhead did not look threatening...but neither did Dr. Gates.
jmc_bks: (Stupid)

One of the front page stories on the Washington Post online described the whole Sanford debacle as not the ordinary sex scandal, but being instead a Shakespearean love story.  As if comparing the real life embarrassment that this man caused to his family to the classic story of Romeo and Juliet, Heloise and Abelard, Antony and Cleopatra makes the entire situation any less tawdry. 

Also, yay for Al Franken and Minnesota!

And lastly:  I get that Michael Jackson is a cultural icon and touchstone for millions, but JFC, there's more going on in the world than his family soap opera.  Hello, coup in Honduras; continuing developments in Iran wrt the election; the pull-back of US combat forces from cities and the turn over of "control" to Iraqi authorities; etc.  

Dear DC: you are made of win

Dear Colleagues:  there is a distinction between an order vacating a judgment (in its entirety) and an order affirming judgment and remanding for clarification the calculation of the money award.  Pls to be learning this before you attempt to lecture me on civil procedure again. Kthx?

jmc_bks: (Imperfect 2 by LJ Ase)
Today's theoretical fictional character question (forgive me if others have already asked this): if DC's council passes the proposed law and same-sex marriages performed elsewhere are recognized in DC, do you think Suzanne Brockmann would have Jules and Robin return to DC?

There are are reasons for them to be in Boston, in terms of employment and office politics, but the ability to get married was a key reason for the two to relocate to Boston. If they could live in DC and have their marriage recognized, would Brockmann have them move back, and return Jules to the HQ chain of command?

Just wondering.

Relapse

Jan. 27th, 2009 06:05 pm
jmc_bks: (star fort kinsale)
From 2001 through January 19, 2009, I suffered from Bush Derangement Syndrome.  I thought that this illness was cured by the election of Barack Obama.  Sadly, I realized yesterday that BDS is rather like malaria -- I will be suffering relapses for years to come based on the behavior of the Bush administration.  Yesterday's relapse was the result of Alberto Gonzalez's statement to NPR that he should've been more engaged while he was the Attorney General.  JFC!  He was the Attorney General!  The head lawyer charged with enforcing the laws of the United States!  How could he not be engaged by that job?  It's not like that lame summer job you took in high school for gas money, the one you didn't really care about, just marking time till college or whatever your future plans were/are.  My theory -- his "disengagement" is either a) a result of being overwhelmed and unqualified to actually be the AG, or b) yet another attempt to pass the blame on to others for the politicization of the DOJ (the subject of the interview).  I'm leaning toward b.

Also, my copy of The Sharing Knife: Horizons is waiting for me.  In the box.  It was waiting for me when I arrived home 5 hours ago, but I had the monumental will power to do work before indulging.  The will power was strengthened by the fact that I didn't actually open the box.  If the box had been opened, there is no way I'd've completed any work.

Off to read.
jmc_bks: (McCain 08)


A line from Terry Bellefleur in last night's episode of True Blood: 
 

"I can't listen to politicians talk no more; it makes me have seizures."

Well, that's the line more or less.  But it made me do a double take, since I suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome and other assorted political-related illnesses.

jmc_bks: (Book on table)
Okay, one commentator last night said something about Obama being sworn in with his hand on a bible. Why? I mean, what if he weren’t christian? Well, probably he wouldn’t have been elected in the first place since as a whole America is very provincial and insular, and believing in something other than the Big Three is a sign of being Different or Foreign or Other. Look at the brouhaha in NC with Dole and Hagan, Dole losing in a landslide after calling her rival godless and being rebuffed by Hagan's response about her religious faith.  You can be sure that if Hagan had come out and said, No, I'm not christian, I'm Wiccan that she would not have won that election.  But assuming that he jumped that hurdle, what do you get sworn in on if you think the bible is a piece of fiction?
jmc_bks: (McCain 08)

85% voter turn out in Maryland.  Wow.  I read in the Baltimore Sun (I think) that Md's usual turn out is about 70%.  The increase is attributed to Obama and to a state-wide issue on the ballot -- early voting and slots.

After voting (missed the long lines!), I walked home and turned the TV on immediately.  And what did I see?  That McCranky has 21 electoral votes while Obama has only 3.  This despite the fact that Obama leads in the popular vote.  I understand how that happens, but it still makes my stomach hurt.

ETA:  switched to the repeat of last night's TDS and then back to see that the electoral vote is now Obama 81 (woohoo!), McC 39.  Please to be continuing with this trend.

ETA #2:  Democracy Now!'s streaming video has crashed.  Or maybe it just doesn't like me.  BBC America's coverage is by far easier to deal with than the other networks.

I left the office at the normal time.  Usually there are a few people leaving, a steady trickle.  Today there were floods of people leaving.  Going to vote?  I hope so.

ETA #3:  A copy of  Salvation in Death was waiting on my doorstep, along with Demon Bound, Moonlight, and the new Erin McCarthy book.  But I can't read anything.  No, instead I'm sitting on the couch, refreshing WaPo and flipping between election coverage. 

Why is FauxNews calling Ohio for Obama already?  Seems awfully early for that.

ETA #4:  Jon Stewart just called it for Obama.  As did CNN and BBC-America. 

jmc_bks: (McCain 08)
Y'know where I often forget to scrub when doing the weekly mop up? The little bit of tile behind the base of the toilet. Noticed a couple of dust bunnies last night while sitting on bathroom floor, head leaning on the edge of the tub, wishing I could just be finished with being ill so I could curl up in bed.

Had lunch with M yesterday, and by 3pm was feeling very, very bad. Barely made it home before the fireworks started; they lasted until ohmygod o'clock (at which time I noticed said dust bunnies). It was ugly. As a result, I took a sick day, sleeping until 10am. Made a quick trip to the drugstore, then returned to sit on the couch and drink mint tea while The Goofy Cat sat on my lap. No kneading please, my stomach is still feeling touchy.

Stopped by Borders (on my way back from the fun lunch that turned out to be not so fun). Had a 20% coupon, sent because I haven't been in awhile. Presumably sent to lure me into the store. It worked. I haven't been in a Borders store in awhile because my local store closed, and the next closest stores are all at malls I avoid whenever possible. There's a free-standing store off the Metro a few stops away from work, hence yesterday's stop. Yes, yes, I could shop at Borders.com...but I'm not impressed with the site. Everytime I've tried to order using the site, it has frozen or had problems, so I've ended up ordering elsewhere.

Also, yesterday Borders had the new Meljean Brook book, Demon Bound, out on shelves even though the street date isn't until Nov 4. They did not have the new JD Robb book Salvation in Death, though. There were multiple copies of the paperback release of Strangers in Death, which has an excerpt of Robb's February release, Promises in Death -- the intro says it is an excerpt of the "next" book, though. Accident?

Unrelated: the bit on The Daily Show the other day by Wyatt Cenac, saying please just let us vote and get it over with? Exactly how I feel. I'm exhausted by two years of campaigning. And demoralized by the ugliness and pettiness exhibited, sometimes by the candidates and sometimes by voters.

3 of 50

Oct. 10th, 2008 02:35 pm
jmc_bks: (Imperfect 2 by LJ Ase)
The Connecticut Supreme Court has "ruled that gay and lesbian couples cannot be denied the freedom to marry under the state constitution, and Connecticut's civil unions law does not provide those couples with the same rights as heterosexual couples." Article here. The majority opinion can be found here.  There are three dissenting opinions, also available at the court's website.

The governor of CT said, "The Supreme Court has spoken.  I do not believe their voice reflects the majority of the people of Connecticut...."

My gut reaction to that: the Supreme Court’s job is not to reflect the will of the majority of the people of Connecticut. Its job is to interpret the laws and constitution as they exist at this moment (or at the moment that the matter was originally filed). The two are not necessarily the same thing.


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