Tag Archives: military

Questioning Equality

You’ll notice the red equal signs all over Facebook today. An example of resistance (as opposed to reform):


“Against Equality is an online archive, publishing, and arts collective focused on critiquing mainstream gay and lesbian politics. As queer thinkers, writers and artists, we are committed to dislodging the centrality of equality rhetoric and challenging the demand for inclusion in the institution of marriage, the US military, and the prison industrial complex via hate crimes legislation.”

I’m somewhat with it because I’m really pretty ‘meh’ about the necessity and value of marriage. But on the other hand I do think that if we’re going to have the idea/institution we ought to present it with at least a semblance of equality of opportunity. The other two issues seem similar – yes, we should reduce (or in some views eliminate) the military and drastically alter the prison system – but if we do not have the power to take these actions (because we must compromise in a democracy that includes the radical right) we ought at least strive for equality of opportunity. Maybe it’s just the name I have a problem with – against equality – instead of considering, questioning, critiquing and understanding society in our efforts to achieve equality of opportunity.

Military application for segways

Anyone who knows me knows about my not-so-well-hidden penchant for Segways. The self-balancing personal transportation device is, for me, half retro-futurist fantasy and half ridiculous human tragedy. Regardless of how you feel, for something that tech-prophet Steve Jobs predicted would be “as big a deal as the PC,” the Segway has fallen pretty spectacularly short of the hype. The only people who seem to really use the Segway are tourists and law enforcement and it doesn’t like that will change any time soon.

Except maybe in China, where these pictures show Chinese military police training on combat Segways in anti-terrorism drills for the upcoming summer Olympics.

For more about Segways, read the “Segway Wikipedia page”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segway and for more about this, read Kevin Kelly’s “Street Use blog”:http://www.kk.org/streetuse/archives/2008/07/guns_on_segways.php.

The silver lining is sweaty

This is a fun story coming out of Iraq. According to “this NYT article”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/05/us/05race.html?ex=1341288000&en=1a84e3d445c85239&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss the Atlanta-based Peachtree road race didn’t just take place in Atlanta this year. Deployed soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait were permitted to enter the 10k footrace, laying out their own courses and keeping their own times. You know, it sounds like a lot of fuss for nothing but I bet this was fun. After all, I really like the idea of running 10 kilometers in a place where the temperature is 95 degrees farenheit at 6 in the morning.

Dissolvable Plastic

One of my favorite “podcasts”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podcasts, “60-Second Science”:http://sciam.com/podcast/ (available at “Scientific American”:http://sciam.com/ and “iTunes”:http://www.apple.com/itunes/download/), spoke about research being conducted by the “University of Southern Mississippi”:http://www.usm.edu/index.php to make stretch wrap plastic that is dissolvable in saltwater. In a nutshell, by incorporating “hydrophilic molecules”:http://www.wordconstructions.com/articles/technical/hydrophilic.html like “carboxylic acid”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carboxylic_acid into the plastic, the saltwater can break it down within 5 months to CO2 and water. The US military is funding the project so that on-board storage of plastic waste can be reduced by safely dumping it overboard after some minor preparations. For a more complete run-through of the application and hurdles of this research, please check out “this article”:http://www.sciencefriday.com/news/040307/news0403071.html from “sciencefriday.com”:http://www.sciencefriday.com/.

Mercenaries and more

To understand Iraq, we need to know more than the headlines and the sound bites. We need to hear what people there have to say and what they think is happening. Well here’s part of that puzzle. If you care at all about what’s happening in the world, you need to watch this video:

Incensed? Outraged? Well, you probably should be. A lot of what’s going on in Iraq with private contractors is still coming to the surface. I didn’t know that one of the big reasons for poor soldier retention is contractor presence in Iraq, I didn’t even know about the contractors. If you find yourself looking for more information, the rest of the documentary can be found “here”:http://iraqforsale.org/ and of course there’s the new award-winning book from Jeremy Scahill, “Blackwater”:http://www.amazon.com/Blackwater-Rise-Worlds-Powerful-Mercenary/dp/1560259795.

Via “Truthdig”:http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/20070510_legal_stealing/

VideoVets: interviews with veterans

http://moveon.org have teamed up to create a 30-second TV spot focusing on "bringing the troops home" from Iraq. The project, called "VideoVets":http://pol.moveon.org/videovets/ will be composed by Stone, himself a veteran, from the most popular interview voted on by the viewing public. My personal favorite interview is with Sgt Sam Schultz of the Indiana National Guard. When he arrived in Iraq, he was given a white Chevy pickup truck as his primary fighting vehicle which he later modified to carry a machine gun in the bed. Says Sgt Schultz: "It's important to end this war, because we are the wrong people to fight this war... we're doing more harm than good."

Thanks to the folks at “Truthdig”:http://www.truthdig.com/ for their “article”:http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/stone_moveonorg_join_forces/ about this project.

Iraq: the pay-off

“2/27/2005 Taji, Iraq Claim on behalf of Iraqi [Redacted] by father. Father was driving his family towards Taji. Near a gas station, a US convoy pulled up beside him and behind him. A convoy shot into the car, killing his daughter and wounding his wife and other daughter. The car was also damaged. Finding: lack of evidence of US involvement. Claim denied for lack of evidence despite the presence of three eyewitnesses (father, wife, and daughter).”

The above excerpt comes from “records”:http://www.aclu.org/natsec/foia/log.html obtained by the “ACLU”:http://www.aclu.org/ relating claims of compensation by civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been in some way injured by the armed forces in their countries. With all the bombing, convoying and raiding we do over there, it’s no surprise that civilian property gets destroyed or even that people are occasionally killed. What I didn’t count on is that we have a system for dealing with that. It’s called the Foreign Claims Act and so far the United States has awarded over $32 million to Iraqi and Afghani civilians for injuries, wrongful death, and damage to property.

The above picture by New York Times photographer Joao Silva shows just how cruel the idea of monetary compensation for life is. This “New York Times report”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/world/middleeast/12abuse.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin details in full the way in which civilians can file a claim and provides a number of examples of just how much an Iraqi life is officially worth to the United States, sometimes as little as $500. It’s well worth reading, as well as looking over some of the claims at the ACLU “website”:http://www.aclu.org/natsec/foia/log.html/.

The starting gun goes off for another nuclear arms race

Despite being the single largest nuclear power in the world, the United States is building more missiles. Maybe it’s an echo of the saber-rattling going on in Iran or North Korea off the Oval Office door, but this is just disgusting. The goal is, according to this “NYT article”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/03/washington/03nuke.html?ei=5088&en=ed161959958c796a&ex=1330578000&adxnnl=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&adxnnlx=1172936294-dgS7tY5dDxejG69oMkkkMQ , to replace the arsenal of aging warheads with a generation meant to be sturdier, more reliable, safer from accidental detonation and more secure from theft. Nuclear weaponry has absolutely no place at all on the modern ‘battlefield’, if we can use such a term. Is the US actually considering using these weapons, and if not why would billions of tax dollars go to such a program? Does anyone remember what happened last time somebody used a nuclear weapon?


As if the US re-arming wasn’t enough to get the whole world back in the nuclear market, Col. Khadafi of Libya adds another disincentive. In a rare interview with the BBC, Khadafi complains that western countries never followed-through on their promises of development aid in exchange for his country’s nuclear disarming. For more on that story go “here”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/6414387.stm

Iraq war continues unimpeded, soccer players at risk

The BBC recently ran an article on the Iraq war with a slightly different take than most. The piece, which can be found “here”:http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6401839.stm , related two stories of youth soccer games interrupted by bomb attacks. In both cases there were fatalities. The whole situation reminds me of this anti-landmine advertisement put out by the UN. It was never aired in the US for obvious reasons, but the message is an important one.