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This is the archive for April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Banner at Collins office, March 7, 2007
Banner hung out window of Senator's office at the Margaret Chase Smith Federal Building in Bangor, Maine on March 7, 2007; click image for blog coverage (Kelly Bellis photo)
Iraq Occupation Project protesters were acquitted today on a March 7, 2007 trespass charge at the Bangor office of Maine U.S. Senator Susan Collins

This is an incredible example of nullification and total repudiation by a public jury of the position of Senator Susan Collins and all other elected representatives who have continued to vote to fund the reprehensible war in Iraq. I will defer any further personal commentary until post-verdict statements of the six are available.

Note: Of twelve arrested that day, six elected to play out the entire trial process.

Below I am reposting the video I shot just prior to the occupation and arrests at the office of Senator Collins on March 7, 2007. See also THESE PHOTOS shot by Kelly Bellis that day.

These are not guilty men. Senator Collins belongs in this van.

VIDEO: March 7, 2007 Occupation Project visits prior to stop at Collins's office:

VIDEO: March 7, 2007 Shetterly statement:

VIDEO: March 7, 2007 Rawlings statement:

VIDEO:Statements from four of the Bangor Six one day prior to not guilty verdicts, April 29, 2008, from event at the Bangor Public Library arranged by independent candidate for U.S. Senate, Laurie Dobson:

Update: The Bangor Daily News has a story up.
the "surge" has shifted techniques of domination across Iraq from the direct application of violence against insurgents to indirect spatial incarceration, multiplying archipelagos of externally alienated and internally homogenous ethno-national enclaves through walls and checkpoints, under a blanket of aerial surveillance.
Steve Niva
"The New Walls of Baghdad"
Counterpunch, 4/29

I've often noted this comparison and occasionally posted remarks about Israeli-like tactics employed by the U.S in Iraq. This piece begins by laying out exactly what those population-control measures are, something complete lost on 99% of Americans. But, how effective will these crimes be? The U.S., like Israel, has set itself up to be a state "permanently at war with much of the Arab and Muslim world." Niva sees this as a trap, likely to have very bad long-term consequences for both the U.S. and Israel.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Today's review

Lilac emerging
Warm weather = Early

A few have been out a week or so, explosion coming soon

Monday, April 28, 2008

THIS is a superb examination of the faux "moderation" of Susan Collins. Thanks Guru, and thanks, Gerald, for the link.

Note below how Susan is to Olympia's right in "Buy the moderation" from last year's 4th July Solidarity Celebration at the Eastern Maine Labor Council in Brewer. It will be a major tragedy if Susan Collins is allowed by Maine voters to get away with her despicable voting record on issues concerning workers and issues of war, peace, and justice.

Susan & Olympia sales pitch, July 4, 2007

This is an op-ed from today's Bangor Daily News. I'm taking the liberty to post it in its entirety. Katrina is a regular at our Peace & Justice Center. The piece is excellent and fills out in much detail what is suggested in THIS Maine Owl post.

I might add that it is not just Collins who wants to shift the blame for the failure of the occupation onto the Iraqis. Many Democrats are perfectly happy to do the same while promoting the notion that it is the Iraqis oil revenue that should be attached, not our tax dollars, to pay American contractors in Iraq. This is an outrage.

Katrina Bisheimer: Don't shift the cost of war to Iraqis
Monday, April 28, 2008 - Bangor Daily News

Sen. Susan Collins has endorsed legislation that would restrict future reconstruction dollars to loans instead of grants in an effort to make Baghdad pay for more of the costs of the U.S. combat mission and reconstruction in Iraq. Shifting the costs of the war to Iraq should not make the war more acceptable to us. The human cost of the war will remain the same. We are actually an occupying power, so it seems simply wrong to even consider using Iraq?s oil revenue to pay for our combat costs. Should Iraqis have to help pay for us to drop bombs on them? Instead, we should consider compensating for the death of innocent Iraqi civilians on par with U.S. soldiers, not the mere $2,500 we offer their loved ones.

Sen. Collins? endorsement also demonstrates a misunderstanding about the occupation and U.S. policy in Iraq and the consequences of those policies on reconstruction efforts and the responsibilities of an occupying power under the Geneva Convention. Before the occupation,

Friday, April 25, 2008

Spring in Maine

Forsythia in Veazie 4-25-2008

Eagle and crow over Veazie
About 30 meters directly above the house. What are they doing?

Seawall Beach, Phippsburg, Maine
Seawall Beach, Phippsburg

Morse Mountain, Phippsburg
Atop Morse Mountain

The blog has been quiet this week due to a number of system problems. No problems with Maine Owl. Nucleus has served this blog very well with minimal trouble. However, a nasty link spam attack on, the companion podcasting site, caused all sorts of malaise. Then, just as soon as I had that back together, I had some sort of Windoze glitch that led me to have to rebuild the system from scratch. So, I feel, patient reader, that you deserve four nice photos for Earth Week.
David Isenberg on Spinning Saddam

The story linked above is an important follow-up on THIS disussion that appeared in Maine Owl in February. At that time, I was interested in the infamous 2002 "Dodgy Dossier" that was the basis of many inflammatory pre-Iraq-war statements from a variety of officials, including President Bush, who in September 2002 said, "The regime has long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist groups, and there are al Qaeda terrorists inside Iraq."

A World of Fantasy and Half-Truths: Spinning Saddam
After prolonged bureaucratic labor the latest report of the Iraqi Perspectives Project (IPP) finally made it out to the larger world. Its primary conclusion, which has been making headlines since news of it was first reported March 10 by Warren Strobel of McClatchey Newspapers, is that an exhaustive review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents and several thousand hours of audio and video footage, archived in a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) database called Harmony, that were captured after the 2003 U.S. invasion, has found no evidence that Saddam Hussein's regime had any operational links with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network.
That's the word from the Pentagon itself. Isenberg does the important work of explaining why 180-degree spinning within the halls of wingnuttia currently going on about this report is dead wrong.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Not that I'd recommend these campaign tactics, but the little furry creatures may have been sending Senator Susan Collins a message:

Squirrels gone wild
Mainers identify a pesky home invader that can do tremendous damage and drive you nearly nutty
By RAY ROUTHIER, Staff Writer April 20, 2008 (Home & Garden section)
Susan Collins, one of Maine's two Republican senators, was literally run out of her four-room Washington, D.C., townhouse by squirrels in February.

It began when she heard little feet above her bedroom at night. One night she arrived home from work and saw that the kitchen had been "ransacked." A tin of cookies had been pushed off the counter, crumbs were all over the place, utensils were scattered.

It was too much for a mouse to have caused, she thought. But because she was leaving the next day for Maine, she decided not to take action.

Big mistake. When she came back from her trip, her townhouse was a wreck.

"There was a trail of droppings on every floor, there was urine on an upholstered chair, there were tufts of insulation on the kitchen floor," Collins said. "I decided to just leave everything as it was and spend the night in a hotel."

She hired a pest control company, which trapped three live squirrels and found a dead one trapped underneath her dishwasher. Collins estimates that hiring the company, staying in a hotel and repairing the damage made the cost of the squirrels' visit more than $1,000.

"When I see a squirrel outside, I no longer think, 'Aren't they cute?' " Collins said.

Mocking Susan Collins
Now seen as mocking Senator Collins

Friday, April 18, 2008

Veazie Dam in late afternoon

Veazie Dam late afternoon 4-18-2008
Water high and thundering

A few flood watches are up. With the temperature breaking 20C just about everywhere today, all the snow piles, much bigger just a hundred km north, are finally giving way. (All of our snow is gone.) That water makes its way down the Penobscot and over the Veazie Dam.

Click above to listen to the sound of frogs & blackbirds looking for love in the spring!
Today Democracy Now! had this story:

US to Release Iraqi Prisoners, Teach Them About Islam
The Wall Street Journal reports US commanders in Iraq have begun releasing hundreds of Iraqi prisoners after concluding the military?s detention policy might be harming US goals in Iraq. The US is currently holding about 23,000 Iraqis, many without charge. The US military has begun building a pair of large halfway houses in Taji and Ramadi, where detainees will undergo vocational training. The Wall Street Journal reports the US military also plans to teach religious courses to the former prisoners about how to be a moderate Muslim. Imams will be brought in by the military to teach courses that highlight the Islamic precepts that bar the killing of innocents and offer alternative interpretations of jihad. [emphasis added]
Somehow I get the feeling that Iraqi Muslims will not respond well to the "re-education" efforts of their occupiers.

Patrick Cockburn's new book on Iraq

New from Patrick Cockburn
THIS in a way is a related story:

Muqtada and the Mahdi Army
A Cleric, a Pol and a Warrior

The iraqi government has decided that the moment has come to crush the Mahdi Army and the followers of Muqtada Sadr once and for all. Despite its failure to eliminate his militiamen in Basra at the end of March, the government, with American backing, is determined to try again, according to senior Iraqi officials.

It is a dangerous strategy for both Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and the U.S. Sadr remains one of the most powerful and revered leaders of the Shiite community -- and the Shiites make up 60% of Iraq. What's more, the 34-year-old Sadr is not exactly the mercurial "firebrand" or "renegade" cleric portrayed by journalistic cliche-mongers; rather, he has repeatedly shown himself to be a cautious and experienced political operator. ...
In other words, the U.S. strategy in Iraq is shifting. It's evolving into a "hearts and minds" effort. But as Cockburn points out again and again, the Americans are half-assed. They don't understand the cultural depth of the Iraqi people and the notion that resistance to the cultural destruction the Americans have brought can't just be wiped away by trying to eliminate Sadr and doing a little re-education.

Cockburn's book, Muqtada, is an amazing, revealing path through Iraqi history and consciousness. Highly recommended.
Bangor Daily News puts "rumors" on front page

H/T to Contrapositive at Collins Watch for this one. First, the newspaper puts up a highlighted page one headline with a glowing portrait of Senator Susan Collins reporting her invite to the Pope's birthday dinner at the Italian Embassy in Washington, D.C.:

Bangor Daily News page A1 Mon 4-14-2008

Ooops, the dinner came off, but the Senator was denied her papal audience when the Pontiff failed to show:

Bangor Daily News Fri 4-18-2008 pA6

This is how the Senator's re-election campaign operates here in the northern district of Maine. She gets a wall of free, positive media while she traipses around being Santa Claus with Homeland Security money, relief funds, economic development, and so on, as she also is shown "in" with the Pope. The newspaper is shameless in its promotion of her agenda. The BDN should be running a correction to the Monday story, and should be more careful about the "rumors" it publishes.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

HOPE Festival symbol
HOPE Festival logo, created for 1st event in 1994
Saturday April 19, 10am–4pm
U Maine Field House, Orono

The Weekly had a good front-page story today:

14th annual HOPE Festival set
By BDN Staff - Bangor Daily News
ORONO, Maine - The 14th annual HOPE Festival - Help Organize Peace Earthwide - Saturday, April 19, at the University of Maine Field house will offer activities for all ages to celebrate Earth Day, their connections to the Earth and to each other and to learn how to reduce their "carbon footprint."

The festival will feature a Green Expo, live entertainment, films and a fair with more than 80 organizations.

After the opening ceremony with Penobscot Elder Arnie Neptune and drumming with Eh Pit Sisok (Little Women) from Indian Island, attendees may browse information tables and pick up buttons, bumper stickers and T-shirts. Activities include:
  • The lively jazz of A-Train, 11:15 am
  • International Student Dancers, 12:15 pm
  • The peaceful music of the UMaine Classical Guitar Ensemble, 1:45 pm
  • The amazing juggling of Zackary Field, 2 pm
  • Nasruddin Puppet wisdom stories, Richard Merrill, 3 pm
  • In the children?s area, youngsters will learn and play with miniature solar panels provided by the Maine Energy Education Program and learn how to start an environmental club from Green Team Maine... [and much more!]
More information from the Peace & Justice Center of Eastern Maine HERE. Some pictures from previous events HERE and HERE.
What's happening in Gaza?

Nothing good. Looks like war.

22 killed on day of bloodshed in Gaza
By Tim Butcher in Jerusalem
Last Updated: 2:11am BST 17/04/2008
At least 19 Palestinians died in military operations in Gaza on Wednesday in a day of bloodshed sparked when militants ambushed and killed three Israeli soldiers. The pre-arranged ambush raised fears that the militants had received training from one of Israel's most successful military opponents, the Lebanese group Hizbollah.

It prompted a series of air raids on Gaza by Israeli forces attacking what they claimed were legitimate military targets. In the biggest single loss of life, a missile strike killed at least 11 Palestinians. Local medics said that two of the dead were children.
My thought is to look at who has the biggest American-made missile, and who apparently is allowed to attack civilian areas with hardly a shake of the international finger.

The Israel card in the Democratic show

Much has been made about how the ABC News moderators in the Clinton-Obama Pennsylvania debate last night, Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, did a terrible job while drilling Obama on his over-rehashed response to his pastor's remarks and his "bitterness" comments. Atrios goes as far as to say Gibson Stephanopoulos were "gang raping democracy."

Okay, fine, I suppose that's what these guys are about. Atrios has it just about right, Gibson's "heart bleeds for the capital gains earnings of $200,000+ earners, and Snuffleupagus is a Sean Hannity sock puppet."

But here is something from the debate that largely has been ignored in liberal commentary: a virtual declaration by Obama (Clinton concurring) that Iran is an enemy state against whom the U.S. will be willing, in the manner NATO, to go to the mat to defend Israel after an undefined Iranian "attack":
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Obama, let's stay in the region. Iran continues to pursue a nuclear option. Those weapons, if they got them, would probably pose the greatest threat to Israel. During the Cold War, it was the United States policy to extend deterrence to our NATO allies. An attack on Great Britain would be treated as if it were an attack on the United States. Should it be U.S. policy now to treat an Iranian attack on Israel as if it were an attack on the United States?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, our first step should be to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians, and that has to be one of our top priorities. And I will make it one of our top priorities when I'm president of the United States.

I have said I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons. I believe that that includes direct talks with the Iranians where we are laying out very clearly for them, here are the issues that we find unacceptable, not only development of nuclear weapons but also funding terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as their anti-Israel rhetoric and threats towards Israel. I believe that we can offer them carrots and sticks, but we've got to directly engage and make absolutely clear to them what our posture is.

Now, my belief is that they should also know that I will take no options off the table when it comes to preventing them from using nuclear weapons or obtaining nuclear weapons, and that would include any threats directed at Israel or any of our allies in the region.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So you would extend our deterrent to Israel?

SENATOR OBAMA: As I've said before, I think it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one that we -- one whose security we consider paramount, and that -- that would be an act of aggression that we -- that I would -- that I would consider an attack that is unacceptable, and the United States would take appropriate action.
Evidently, there is Cold War nostalgia for 1946, when the U.S. had a nuclear monopoly. Except this time it's a furtive assumption that it is only Israel that has a right to defense. No one seems to think it worth mentioning that Israel itself possesses an advanced nuclear arsenal. It's shrouded in secrecy, but it is thought that Israel maintains a full-blown nuclear triad of sea, land, and air-launched nuclear weapons.

Obviously Iran's point of view on this is irrelevant, oh, unless you are Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who in his December 5, 2006 confirmation hearing offered some analysis that seems to be far beyond the capability of the Democratic candidates. While Obama competes with Clinton and the Republicans on who can be most reactionary against Iran, Gates had what I found a very thoughtful response to a question about the bad-ass Iranians:
U.S. SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): The president of Iran has publicly disavowed the existence of the Holocaust, has publicly stated that he would like to wipe Israel off the map. Do you think he's kidding?

GATES: No, I don't think he's kidding, but I think there are, in fact, higher powers in Iran than he, than the president. And I think that, while they are certainly pressing, in my opinion, for nuclear capability, I think that they would see it in the first instance as a deterrent. They are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf.
Wow, there Gates stated, without the "ambiguity" in which Israel so dearly loves to couch its arsenal, that Iran may actually face a threat from an Israeli-American axis to wipe it "off the map."

Wouldn't it be grand if the Democrats could discuss world affairs from a balanced perspective and without the pro-Israel assumptions?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Damn it! The ungrateful wretches don't collaborate enough in their own occupation!

Basically, I'll just say what Gerald said. The news story this is based on is an AP release that also appeared on the front page of the Bangor Daily News, under the title "Collins behind effort to end Iraq's free ride." The Boston Globe posted it with a nice little graphic:

Iraq reconstruction funds by year

Iraq's financial free ride may end
By Anne Flaherty
Associated Press Writer / April 15, 2008
WASHINGTON?Iraq's financial free ride may be over. After five years, Republicans and Democrats seem to have found common ground on at least one aspect of the war. From the fiercest foes of the war to the most steadfast Bush supporters, they are looking at Iraq's surging oil income and saying Baghdad should start picking up more of the tab, particularly for rebuilding hospitals, roads, power lines and the rest of the shattered country.

"I think the American people are growing weary not only of the war, but they are looking at why Baghdad can't pay more of these costs. And the answer is they can," said Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

Nelson, a Democrat, is drafting legislation with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Evan Bayh of Indiana that would restrict future reconstruction dollars to loans instead of grants.
This just indicates a certain desperation going on underneath the occupation. It is a colossal failure and people like Collins know it.

Now with the credit crisis and the economy nosing into a dive, it's getting a little harder to hang all the paper they've been using (off budget) to pay for the damn thing. No wonder Democrats and Republican alike in the U.S. covet the oil money. Yes, the Democrats are just as politically craven on this, for the most part unwilling to look in the mirror to assign blame for who is responsible for the taking and destruction of Iraq. It's just too easy to shift blame to the Iraqis.
Maine taxpayers pay for war

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Are violent terrorists just mental defectives unwilling to see the light of Western liberation? (Note: click "Read more" to see updates.]

I'm certainly all for preventing criminal acts that hurt and kill innocent people. But is this task best left to Western clinical psychology? An Ideas piece in today's Boston Globe examines how "specialists" are interested in how to get Middle Eastern defectives to give up their "thoughts and feelings that drove them to support violent strains of Islam."

Certainly, an ideology that promotes force, violence, and fear as the way to achieve goals and influence the behavior of others would seem on the face of it to be wrong. But the article does not propose that anyone look in the mirror and ask if policies described as "capture and kill" have any effect on the ideologies of their targets. In fact it dismisses with two words that these extremists we are worried about are "not aggrieved," but rather likely engaging in the "allure" of terrorism because "their friends are doing it."

One thing I find kind of amazing in the article is how the U.S. has been running these "deradicalization" programs in Iraq: "Major General Douglas Stone, commander of detention facilities in Iraq, says that since the US program was set up last September, only 12 of more than 6,000 released inmates have been rearrested."

What? Six thousand released? So, how many have they put in their dungeons? It's well known that the U.S. has rounded up tens of thousands of Iraqis for no other reason that they accidentally crossed paths with operations based on "bad intelligence." Lots has been written on this, but the Winter Soldier testimony was replete with stories about how there is no rhyme or reason to why Iraqis are detained. The article can't bring itself even to discuss the possibility that the Iraqi people are detained arbitrarily, admitting only that there can be "marginal members, imprisoned for supporting extremist groups or (in the Iraqi program) supporting the insurgency in relatively minor ways."

Friday, April 11, 2008

This today from Democracy Now! headlines:

ACLU Calls for Probe of Admin Torture Talks
Two former senior intelligence officials have come forward to confirm reports top Bush administration officials personally discussed and approved how top al-Qaeda suspects would be interrogated by the CIA. This week, ABC News revealed a Principals Committee on the National Security Council agreed on controversial interrogation techniques including physical assault, sleep deprivation and waterboarding. The officials included Vice President Cheney, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as CIA Director George Tenet and Attorney General John Ashcroft. In an interview with the Associated Press, a former senior US intelligence official said the group met in the White House Situation Room and deliberately insulated President Bush from their discussions. The meetings were said to include live demonstrations from CIA officials of the interrogation methods in practice, including waterboarding. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling for a congressional investigation. ACLU legislative director Caroline Fredrickson said, "With each new revelation, it is beginning to look like the torture operation was managed and directed out of the White House. This is what we suspected all along."
In the old blog, there are many posts on torture. Generally I assume that my opposition is to "torture and killing being done in my name by the leadership of my own country." However, there is precious little confirmation that infamous documents, like the Bybee memo of August 1, 2002, that clearly indicate top-level involvement in covering up torture, were actually discussed by senior officials. Now we have that.

See also, this extraordinary April 3 interview on Democracy Now! with British journalist, Philippe Sands. Excellent reporting by Seymour Hersh (see the book "Chain of Command") plowed this ground. Sands recent article in Vanity Fair on the Green Light also describes the real workings of the Torture Administration:
PHILIPPE SANDS: Well, I think that the administration?s narrative has always been they really didn?t authorize these things; what happened was it started on the ground at Guantanamo, they faced a situation with individuals who they thought presented a threat to US security, and from the ground, from the people at Guantanamo, new security, new interrogation measures were requested. And so, it?s a bottom-up theory that the administration has always pushed.

What of course emerged, as many I think suspected, is that that?s not an accurate narrative. It in fact came from the top down, and there was a small group of lawyers coalescing around the President, around the Vice President, around the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Rumsfeld, who basically drove the whole thing through.
What really struck me in the Sands interview is his statement about how foolish it has been following the Supreme Court Hamden vs. Rumsfeld decision for the political branches of the U.S. government to immunize themselves on torture through the onerous Military Commissions Act of 2006:
Justice Anthony Kennedy put in a separate opinion. He was with the majority. And he opened the door to war crimes possibilities. He said this means that war crimes violations may well be investigated in relation to situations in which the Geneva Convention was not followed. The administration recognized the threat that it faced, and within three months it had adopted legislation in the Military Commissions Act which created an immunity for any person who was involved in the interrogation of al-Qahtani, as well as many other people. That immunity applies within the United States.

But, as I write in the article in Vanity Fair, it doesn?t go beyond the United States. And I describe in the Vanity Fair piece, in much more detail than in the book, the meetings I?ve had with a European judge and a European prosecutor, who basically said the fact that the US has created a domestic immunity significantly increases the prospects of international investigational prosecution, if any of these people set foot out of the country. And as the prosecutor said to me, that was a very stupid thing to do, to create an immunity.
No one will cheer louder than I if Rumsfeld, Cheney, Bush, Gonzales, and others one day are forced to face justice for their crimes against humanity.
Crocus again

Crocus 4-11-2008
Four blooms up today!

Can't resist posting another crocus frame, as two more have appeared.
Squirrel at bird feeder

Squirrel 4-9-2008
Another one for Pink

They're just too hungry to feed. A swarm of squirrels and Common Grackles (the latter are back in huge droves this year) can empty the supply inside an hour.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


Crocus 4-10-2008
Only ones in yard

These two blossoms come up reliably year after year.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle over Veazie Dam
Long shot

I'm kind of amazed this turned out at all. It's shot with a Nikon D40 & 55-200 VR lens, wound full long. The speed is 1/1000 at f5.6. It's a 100% crop over quite a small portion of the image. Give that lens some credit!
Sinan Antoon gave two talks at the University of Maine on Thursday April 3, 2008:

12:30 "The Destruction of the Modern State of Iraq" (audio only, 72 minutes)

19:00 "Debris and Diaspora: Iraqi Culture Today" (audio only, 67-minutes)

I am pleased to make these available at and as a BitTorrent download. DIVX-encoded video of "Debris and Diaspora: Iraqi Culture Today", packed along with the audio from the noon talk is available in a BitTorrent version. (What's a torrent? See HERE for information. You must install client software in order to download files shared as torrents.)

The programs both were produced by

These are gripping talks that paint a devastating picture of what has happened to Iraq and its people. The tragedy of Iraq hits home for Sinan. It once was a country with great potential that has been eviscerated by America and its "student," Saddam Hussein. It is rare in America to see Iraq from an Iraqi point of view. Sinan Antoon helps us do that. Highly recommended.

SINAN ANTOON is an Iraqi-born poet, novelist, and translator. He studied English literature at Baghdad University before moving to the United States after the 1991 Gulf War. He did his graduate studies at Georgetown and Harvard where he earned a doctorate in Arabic literature.

His poems and essays (in Arabic and English) have appeared in various journals and publications around the world, including as-Safir, an-Nahar, al-Adab, and Masharef, as well as The Nation, Middle East Report, al-Ahram Weekly, Banipal and the Journal of Palestine Studies. He has published a collection of poems, (A Prism; Wet with Wars, Cairo 2003). A translation of his poems appeared in English in May 2007 by Harbor Mountain Press entitled ?The Baghdad Blues.?

His debut novel I`jam: An Iraqi Rhapsody (published in Arabic in Beirut in 2003) was translated and published in English in May, 2007 by City Lights Books. It was chosen by Kirkus Reviews for its special edition on debut fiction ?2007: New and Important Voices.? His poetry was anthologized in Iraqi Poetry Today. He has also contributed numerous translations of Arabic poetry into English. His co-translation of Mahmud Darwish?s poetry was nominated for the PEN Prize for translation in 2004.

Antoon returned to his native Baghdad in 2003 as a member of InCounter Productions to co-direct/produce a documentary About Baghdad about the lives of Iraqis in a post-Saddam occupied Iraq. He is a senior editor with the Arab Studies Journal, a member of Pen America, a contributing editor to Banipal and a member of the editorial committee of Middle East Report. Antoon is currently an Assistant Professor at New York University.

Sinan Antoon spoke in 140 Little Hall on the University of Maine Orono campus Thursday, April 3, 2008. The program was sponsored by the Maine Peace Action Committe with support from Student Government at the University of Maine and the Dean of Students Programming Funding Board.

The brief music excerpt you hear in the background is from a performance by Iraqi musician Amer Tafiq recorded for the film, About Baghdad.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Last year, winter started in April

Big April Snow, 4-5-2007

That's what we woke up to the first week of April last year. Much nicer this year, sunny and 10C.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dying snow

Dying snow
1 cm of rain shrinks it

It's the season for dirty snow piles. But I recall a year ago today when the snow was just getting started. Maybe I'll post a retrospective tomorrow.
King & Gandhi on assassins
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., January 15, 1929–April 4, 1968
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, October 2, 1869–January 30, 1948

We've shown the powerful documentary At the River I Stand a couple of times in recent years:
Memphis, Spring 1968, marked the dramatic climax of the Civil Rights movement. At the River I Stand skillfully reconstructs the two eventful months that transformed a local labor dispute into a national conflagration, and disentangles the complex historical forces that came together with the inevitability of tragedy at the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Democracy Now! had an hour-long remembrance today, with extensive, incredible interviews:
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated forty years ago today. He was in Memphis, Tennessee to march with sanitation workers demanding a better wage. We spend the hour on his life and legacy. We hear from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was with King at the Lorraine Motel, where he was killed; Harry Belafonte, who was with Coretta Scott King at the King home in Atlanta on April 4, 1968; Dr. Vincent Harding, a close friend and colleague of King?s who wrote King?s major antiwar speech, ?Beyond Vietnam;? Taylor Rogers, a former sanitation worker in Memphis; Charles Cabbage, a longtime activist and community organizer in Memphis who met with King hours before he died; Jerry Williams, one of the only African American detectives in the Memphis Police Department in 1968; Judge D?Army Bailey, a circuit court judge in Memphis and co-founder of the National Civil Rights Museum; and we hear King in his own words, giving his major speech against the war in Vietnam and his last public address given the night before his death in Memphis, Tennessee.
Both of these are recommended highly by Maine Owl.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Shaming a know-nothing, do-nothing Congress

This is a ten-minute excerpt from a longer speech, text below. Keep up the pressure, Senator!

The infamous and costly KBR towel
KBR embroidered towel: 4x the cost, but "doesn't matter," the taxpayer has it covered

Here is another installment on Iraq waste by North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan. This stuff makes me just as mad as the Senator and I am an enthusiastic supporter of his campaign. Below I can reproduce his floor speech because it appears in the Congressional Record. HERE is a reference to an article by Donald Barlett and James Steele in Vanity Fair magazine that provides much detail about the Pentagon's so-called Iraq "accountant" operating out of a home in San Diego that Senator Dorgan discusses in the speech. More later...

Our state is biggest dissenter on national social control system

Cold warriors used to critique the Soviet Union for its internal passports. "Real ID" is the American security state answer to this. In my interview with Maine Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Shenna Bellows last month, she describes the uses of the "swipe" card for tracking people's movements as we go "to the doctor's office, to Wal Mart, or for a variety of activities."

I don't know about you, but I don't want Feds to be to print out a history of my trips to the store or the doctor.

This week, there was a supposed deadline from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on states applying for extensions on compliance with Real ID. Maine more than any other state has been reluctant to cooperate with this very-poorly thought out federal boondoggle.

It's suggested in the article cited that DHS has punted. Good for now, but I'd prefer Governor Baldacci just tell DHS to go screw permanently.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Yesterday just may have been a joke. Today was the worst day of dsl performance we've had since we installed it in September 2007. Helllllllllo FairPoint!!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Stock plunge accompanies FairPoint takeover of Maine phones

But everything is hunky dory according to the CEO, as he cavorted with Governor Baldacci and other officials.

AP Interview: FairPoint CEO aims to prove skeptics wrong
by Clarke Canfield - Associated Press Writer / April 1, 2008
SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine?Fairpoint Communications Inc. CEO Gene Johnson dismissed a plunge in the stock price as he talked up his company's plans a day after completing a $2.3 billion deal for Verizon's wired telephone and Internet business in northern New England.

Johnson said Tuesday that skeptics will be won over in the months ahead as FairPoint takes over Verizon's land-based assets in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Investors, he added, should be pleased with the stock performance.

"The proof is in the pudding, and we're going to make some pretty good pudding," Johnson told The Associated Press in an interview at one of FairPoint's regional offices. ...

Looking forward, the biggest risks in the deal are now past, Johnson said. FairPoint has already resolved the regulatory risk of not having the sale approved, the financial risk of not being able to raise capital, and the labor risk of not reaching contract agreements with employee unions.

A major task ahead is to develop and test a complex new operating system for the network, he said. Nobody expects the transition to be perfect.

"Something will go wrong and we know it," he said. "We don't know what it'll be, but when it does we'll be ready for it and we'll fix it."
The dsl seemed peppy today, so maybe the guy is right. They'll be able to service the $2 billion debt, be a good worker daddy, and be dsl Santa Claus. April Fool!!