Monday, November 27, 2006

Iraq 002


Two Sunday's ago, November 19th, Lisa Jensen and husband Bill Trimarco decided to hang a wreath in the shape of a peace symbol on the side of their Pagosa Springs house, which is part of the Loma Linda Homeowners Association.

"I just wanted to put a message of peace out there," said Jensen, who said that she put the wreath up to honor the Biblical call for peace and goodwill toward men.

Shortly thereafter, they received a letter stating, "Loma Linda residents are offended by the Peace Sign displayed on the front of your house." Fellow residents were reportedly disturbed by the message of peace while our country is at war in Iraq and thought the wreath to be unpatriotic. The letter also stated that unless they remove the wreath, they would be charged $25/day in violation of a Housing law that states: no-signs/no-billboards without prior committee approval.

But when the five-person committee was asked to approve the decision for the requested removal and fine, all five opposed and were consequently fired by Homeowners Association President Bob Kearns.

"The peace sign has a lot of negativity associated with it," Kearns told the Durango Herald. "It's also an anti-Christ sign. That's how it started."

Journalism 004

Joe Sacco's comic,
The Fixer, is a behind the scenes look at one of the most overlooked, yet invaluable, positions in foreign reporting...the fixer. A fixer is more than just someone that can translate between the native language and whatever language it is that you speak. A fixer, quite literally, fixes things, by understanding local law well enough to know how to move within it and around it.

While we, the readers of a conflict, view journalists as our inside men and women, fixers are a journalist's inside man. They are the currency-exchanger (preventing you from getting ripped off), local mobile phone-getter (people don't like to call foreign numbers when they need to call you back), affordable lodging-finder (I mean the Holiday Inn's great and all, just not when it's being shelled), beat-up car driver and most importantly the fixer usually serves as a form of bulletproof-ness. Which is not to say that a fixer would be willing to take a bullet for the journalist, but only that a good fixer will make it possible for the journalist to avoid getting shot at while simultaneously getting him the story that he needs.

It is only in the reporting of the Iraq war that fixers have started to get bylines in italics at the end of the article, usually saying that they contributed to the piece. But, truth be told, if the craft of journalism was sweatshop labor, the fixer would be the six-year-old kid or the pregnant single mother. They are the legs that make foreign reporting possible. But most times, they don't do it to help provide a voice for the voiceless. For them it usually just comes down to survival.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Journalism 003

Atlanta --

Kathryn Johnston was killed last week. In her own home. By police. She was 92.

"You don't know who's in the house until you open that door," said Assistant Police Chief Alan Dreher last week. "And once they forced open the door, they were immediately fired upon."

Police officers claimed that they were serving a warrant on a man known only as "Sam", who had allegedly sold drugs to an undercover officer earlier and was believed to be in Johnston's home. He was not. But Johnston was. And she was holding the six-shot revolver that her niece had bought her for protection in "Georgia's worst neighborhood."

Johnston shot and wounded three of the officers in their legs and arms -- one officer was shot in the leg, on the side of his face and his bulletproof vest -- before they returned fire and shot her to death.

Al Harley, a 50-year-old homeless man who hangs out in front of a neighborhood convenience store, said residents follow a sort of credo: "Don't let anyone disrespect your door."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Personal 002

The other day, for the first time in a while, I pulled a spontaneously dope move: I was in class doing some gold-diggin and got caught by a girl from across the room, and instead of acting all embarrassed and immediately switching course, I froze and just stared at her, finger still embedded, until she felt uncomfortable and looked away and perhaps even started to doubt what she had just witnessed.

P.S. Was there ever really any doubt as to why I'm single?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Poetry 001

Chestpounding (pt.1)

As I witness sunsets
Grant Jersey a power
Neither Edison nor Watt could have ever fathomed,
I'm visited by candlelit memories
Of solitary sparks,

Singular moments
Where the light of the heart
Was able to eclipse a mind
Accustomed to the dark,

And waves run
Their salt-scented fingernails
Across the backdrop of big-city
Nightlife blackboards...

Copyright 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Iraq 001

James Barker pleaded guilty today in Kentucky court to raping Abeer Qassim al-Janabi, a 14-year old Iraqi girl, and murdering her and her family. The 23-year old former soldier received 90 years in prison as part of a plea deal with prosecutors in which he promises to testify against the others that participated in the rape and murder.

Barker was stationed at a security checkpoint with three other soldiers on March 12th. They decided to go in the middle of the night to the nearby home of a local family in Mahmoudiya, a village 32km south of Baghdad, where they proceeded to rape fourteen year-old
Abeer Qassim al-Janabi who they had seen earlier in the day while on patrol. Former Private Steven Green, the ringleader, then shot the girl to death after first killing her mother, father and six-year old sister. They then tried to burn the house down to destroy the bodies and any evidence of them being there and threw the gun in a nearby canal.

Barker's Attorney, David Sheldon, attributes the actions of these men to a dehumanization pressure that soldiers in Iraq are undergoing. "The dehumanization that took place for Barker was real," Sheldon said. "The dehumanization that occurs throughout Iraq today that is causing these types of incidents is a responsibility that the United States must bear."

Asked why he did what he did, Barker said that he hated Iraqi's, "They can smile at you and then shoot you in the face." After sentencing Barker, weeping, said, "I want the people of Iraq to know that I did not go there to do the terrible things that I did. I do not ask anyone to forgive me today."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Journalism 002

Yesterday, Dexter Filkins of the New York Times spoke at Boston University about his experience as a journalist in Iraq for the past three and a half years. War journalists are a different breed of person, able to ensconce themselves in strife indefinitely and leave thoughts like, "maybe I'll get shot today" back in their bed as they chase story after story in a land whose language and culture is almost always completely foreign to them.

When someone asked Filkins, "What makes it all worth it for you?", he replied, "I don't know that it is. Maybe it's like Churchhill said, '
There's nothing quite so thrilling in life as to be shot at without result.'"

While in Iraq, Filkins lived in the New York Times' "fortress" of a compound, which has 45 armed guards, mounted 50 cal. machine guns on the roof, 3 armored cars (worth $1 mil) at their disposal and of course some barbed wire.

Filkins said that there doesn't appear to be any real leadership to the insurgency, or if there is, then it's horribly unclear who it is. "Everyone's just going around and causing as much mayhem as possible."

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Journalism 001

In this month's issue of CJR, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, David Halberstam, writes about his friend and fellow journalist, Peter Arnett, who is most recently known for his controversial comments on a state-run Iraqi television show, while employed by NBC in March of 2003, the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq:

"Now America is reappraising the battlefield, delaying the war, maybe a week and rewriting the war plan. The first plan has failed because of Iraqi resistance. Now they are trying to write another plan...
So our reports about civilian casualties here, about the resistance of the Iraqi forces, are going back to the United States. It helps those who oppose the war when you challenge the policy to develop their arguments."

...he was fired.

But, as Halberstam writes, Arnett is anything but foreign to challenging our government. There are those that would argue that as a New Zealander it's easier for him to point his finger of blame...but they would not have done their homework. Arnett knows American foreign policy better than most Americans, for he has been covering America's wars since Vietnam, literally. He was one of the few AP correspondents who reported from the South-East Asian region many years prior to the war and who continued to file stories throughout the entirety of the war, reporting facts that the government in its desire for propaganda denied until it no longer could. He is truly a rare breed. Not only to have survived amidst war for so long, but to have not lost his edge or to have gotten complacent with cynicism as war-reporters often do. If nothing else please read the last two paragraphs of Halberstam's piece...they inspire me to be a better journalist.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Personal 001

So this right here is my first blog posting...What to say? What to say? I love to love and I love to swing on the pendulum that shows me just what loving really means...