September 8, 2004

Some people seem so obsessed with the morning

* The Provisions Library in Dupont Circle looks like a great place. Its mission is to "foster a creative environment for a diverse international community to explore and be active in social change and justice." Currently, there is an exhibtion by Roxanne Swentzell that looks pretty interesting. The periodical library has over 300 titles, including Tin House, the Believer, Dissent, and Cineaste, plus lots of international policy journals. And many books and journals that "offer voices from silenced communities." They have computer workstations with both pc and mac computers. And much more.

* James Carroll on The Unwinnable War. excerpt:

"George W. Bush finally told the truth. It happened last week when he said of the war on terrorism, 'I don't think you can win it.'

"We know it was the truth because of the way it embarrassed him, because of the way his handlers immediately required him to repudiate it ('I probably need to be more articulate'), and because the mass of Republicans were deaf to it. Just as Bush had inadvertently spoken the exact truth about the war on terrorism at its onset ('This crusade, this war on terrorism'), he had inadvertently done so again."
"Citizens of the United States are a decent, fair-minded people. The only reason we tolerate what is being done in our name in Iraq is that, for us, this war exists only in the realm of metaphor. The words 'war on terrorism' fall on our ears much in the way that 'war on poverty' or 'war on drugs' did.

"War is an abstraction in the American imagination. It lives there, cloaked in glory, as an emblem of patriotism. We show our love for our country by sending our troops abroad and then 'supporting' them, no matter what. When images appear that contradict the high-flown rhetoric of war -- whether of young GIs disgracefully humiliating Iraqi prisoners or of a devastated holy city where vast fields of American-created rubble surround a shrine -- we simply do not take them in as real. Thinking of ourselves as only motivated by good intentions, we cannot fathom the possibility that we have demonized an innocent people, that what we are doing is murder on a vast scale."
"Obviously, something else is going on below the surface of all the stated reasons for this war. The Republican convention last week was gripped with war fever, and the fever itself was the revelation. War is answering an American need that has nothing to do with the Iraqi people.

"Even though the war on terrorism is indeed, as the president said, a 'crusade,' it has nothing real to do with Islam either, although Islam is surely its target. Not Islam as it actually exists in dozens of different settings and cultures across the globe, but an imagined Islam that exists only in the troubled minds of a people who project 'evil' outward and then attack it. Alas, it is an old Christian habit.

"The war, meanwhile, answers the Bush administration's need to justify an unprecedented repressiveness in the 'homeland,' and simultaneously prompts widespread docile submission to the new martial law. But more deeply still, by understanding ourselves as a people at war, we Americans find exemption from the duty to face the grotesque shame of what we are doing in the world."

* The Economist speaks out against tougher comercial sex laws. excerpt:

"Two adults enter a room, agree a price, and have sex. Has either committed a crime? Common sense suggests not: sex is not illegal in itself, and the fact that money has changed hands does not turn a private act into a social menace. If both parties consent, it is hard to see how either is a victim. But prostitution has rarely been treated as just another transaction, or even as a run-of-the-mill crime: the oldest profession is also the oldest pretext for outraged moralising and unrealistic lawmaking devised by man.

"In recent years, governments have tended to bother with prostitution only when it threatened public order. Most countries (including Britain and America) have well-worn laws against touting on street corners, against the more brazen type of brothel and against pimping. This has never been ideal, partly because sellers of sex feel the force of law more strongly than do buyers, and partly because anti-soliciting statutes create perverse incentives. On some occasions, magistrates who have fined streetwalkers have been asked to wait a few days so that the necessary money can be earned."
"If those quasi-liberal experiments have not lived up to their proponents' expectations, they have also failed to fulfil their detractors' greatest fears. They do not seem to have led to outbreaks of disease or under-age sex, nor to a proliferation of street prostitution, nor to a wider collapse in local morals.

"Which brings us back to that discreet transaction between two people in private. If there's no evidence that it harms others, then the state should let them get on with it. People should be allowed to buy and sell whatever they like, including their own bodies. Prostitution may be a grubby business, but it's not the government's."


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