Some Thoughts on the War in Iraq and Terrorism

Was reading this outstanding article about how the word terrorism changes how states can act in the New York Times today “The Reign of ‘Terror'” and I had this response thinking about the War in Iraq that I posted in the comments:

If nothing else the War in Iraq was great at making terrorists. When the US took over Iraq militarily in a few days, a lot of people were prepared to like us. Then we made three terrible ill-considered decisions by morons like L. Paul Bremer. We didn’t protect the museums and sacred sites from looting; we fired the entire Ba’ath Party and removed the civil institutions of government, making things much less governed; and we disbanded the Iraqi Army. Instead of having a functional (if extremely corrupt) government and an army to keep the peace and rebuild, we had a population without governance, and hundreds of thousands of men with jobs and no work.

The war was good for the Kurds without question, and ISIS/ISIL makes it more likely in my view to see a Kurdish state. And we transferred power from the Sunni Ba’ath party to Shiite rule. Instead of being enemies, Iraq and Iran are closer to allies.

Hurting civilians to stop terrorism, just creates state terror, that “terrorists” fight back against like in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. It’s an Orwellian term that makes for many evils.

If you want to read more about the Iraq War see Charles Ferguson’s excellent documentary “No End in Sight.” If you want to see the effects of state terrorism from the Palestinian perspective I highly recommend Joe Sacco’s graphic journalism in “Palestine” and “Footnotes from Gaza.” Excellent piece by Tomis Kapitan in the New York Times.

While posting an update to Facebook about this I added a lot. Here are those thoughts:

It takes a surreal world for a “War on Terror” to create terrorists, but that is definitely what happened in Iraq. Was reading an excellent post in the New York Times earlier today called “The Reign of ‘Terror'” and this blogpost is mainly my comment. The Iraq War ended a strong dictatorial state run by a stalinist in Saddam Hussein and created a power vacuum with 3 people that don’t get along: the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunnis. With Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party the Sunnis had control and were vicious to Shiites in Iraq and Iran and evil to Kurdish people. The end of the Iraq War has created a virtual Kurdistan in Northern Iraq and a country ruled by the Shiites for now. And the radical Sunnis are now part of ISIS. Be careful of a power vacuum. I thought earlier it was the new Yugoslavia, Tito vs. Hussein but the current states of the former Yugoslavia, especially Slovenia and Croatia are much stronger states than modern Iraq. Will be curious to see what the coming years bring. It’s not good now.

Iraq is a mess. It’s not going to be pretty. I really hope that Kurdistan becomes it’s own state. Turkey helping the Kurds against ISIS now is a big deal. I think at some point the rest of Iraq may break up as well but that’s not clear. Kurdistan is already close to a self governed state already.

Tuesdays in Connecticut

Tuesday is one of my favorite days here.

A day off.

And a chance to have the car and explore. I got rid of the 99 Mercury Sable before leaving Maine due to a myraid of repair reasons.

But on Tuesday, I wake up, drop off Lanna at work, often go for a walk and eat breakfast.

So far I have discovered the Seaside Park in Bridgeport, the beaches in Stratford, CT, the Shelton Lakes Recreation Path at several points, the Ansonia Nature Center and adjoining Naugatuck State Forest.

Also the wacky Roosevelt Tower and the cool Books at the Falls both in Derby. The gorgeous fields of the Osbornedale State Park. The delicious bagels of Royal Bakery in Shelton, the amazing corned beef hash at Pagliaro’s Lunch. The little hole in the wall Jamiacan place, the Rootsman Kitchen in Bridgeport, CT.

Connecticut is a wonderful place to explore.

I would love to have a car again and eventually will, but the act of dropping Lanna off gives me the chance to explore. Maybe the Indian Well State Park in Shelton this morning after a delicious bagel at the Royal Bakery.

Tuesdays are good days for me. Although I do miss going to the Port Veritas poetry reading. I still get the invites and see a bunch of poets I would like to hear. Like John Sinclair tonight and my friend Robin Merrill last week.

Thirteen Ways of Looking at Greg Maddux

I had a wonderful day. Got up at 4am, which may seem crazy but it’s when I got to get up tomorrow (or today since I am writing this on Sunday evening and posting it for Monday morning).

Two hour walk around Ansonia and the Ansonia Brass and Cooper site (formerly The American Brass Company) which will be going away soon. Took maybe 100 pictures with my phone. Was beautiful to see the sunrise.

Wasn’t sure what I wanted to blog about.

Saw a link somewhere called “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Greg Maddux” I was a a big fan of his. Control pitcher, pitched fast. Didn’t get showy. Amazing to watch.

I liked him since he played with the Cubs. Although I am a Phillies fan always loved watching Greg Maddux even thought he was on the Phillies big rival team, the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s.

But this article was not about Greg Maddux. It was about an incredibly talented friend. A lost talent. So much potential. So much alcohol.

SCOUTING REPORT: Jason Kenney, age 19, by Boyhood Friend & College Roommate Collins

Height: 6’2, Weight: 216, DOB: 1/9/77. Home: Atlanta, Georgia.

Abilities: Three-Sport Athlete. Center Fielder, Georgia Little League World Series team, 1990; Fullback and Tight End, Atlanta Colts Pop Warner Football National Champions, 1991; Guard and Small Forward, Dunwoody High School, Georgia High School Basketball Champions, Undefeated, Ranked No. 3 by USA Today, 1995.

A “natural.” Hyper-competitive. Crazy instinctive touch and feel. Inspires envy.

Once bowled a 290 in Rome, Georgia while consuming 2 1/2 pitchers of Bud Light.

Weakness: Lacks control (drinking). Dismissed from basketball team two days before state title game — showed up drunk (again) to school. Binge drinking since age 14.

Jason and his friend Jeremy Collins loved the Atlanta Braves and Greg Maddux.

Greg Maddux who had such beautiful control as a pitcher and worked on it with a famous baseball coach when a scot at 18 said: “Weakness: Lacks control on all his pitches. Just has to get ahead of hitters more often.”

We have so many weaknesses as teenagers.

Seventy one days sober. Let’s celebrate. Six miles from their destination. Didn’t stop with just one pitcher. Car flips, he survives, his friend doesn’t, only 19.

Stunningly beautiful writing. A tale of control and loss of control. One night out, lost potential a lost friend. And Greg Maddux who had amazing control. Addiction hurts. So many lives and relationships are lost without control. I give my love to anyone working to leave addiction and to those lost. Powerful. #longform

15 Films That Have Stayed With Me

I saw this on Kayt Sukel’s wall on Facebook.

The Rules:
Don’t take too long to think about it. 15 films that you’ve seen that will always stick with you. List only the first 15 you can recall and in no longer than 15 minutes. Tag friends, including me, because I’m interested in what films you choose.

I have way overthought this over time and my top 10 plus. Here we go.

1. Brazil (1985 film) – Been my #1 for a longtime, surreal and fantastic
2. Intolerance (saw originally with a full orchestra) – I am curious to see this without the symphony in some ways, likely to not be as good.
3. The Empire Strikes Back – The Best of the Star Wars series, definitely better for the whizz bangs of the Special Edition
4. Raiders of the Lost Ark – Pure moviegoing fun
5. Citizen Kane – As good as everyone says it is. Masterful cinematography and writing
6. Singin’ in the Rain – Pure joy on film.
7. Casablanca – A wonderful movie.
8. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – I would love to be Mr. Smith myself in a lot of ways. We really need it in Washington. It’s a film that makes more sense now that ever in the era of People’s United
9. Vertigo – Hitchcock at his best
10. Rear Window – I said this would make a great date movie in film class at Rutgers. I’m weird.
11. GoodFellas – Easily my favorite Martin Scorsese movie. Incredibly rewatchable for an epic.
12. Apocalypse Now – My favorite version was the one I first saw cut for cable. The original version feels like a bunch of music videos put together. The redux is way, way too long. The French scene belonged on the cutting room floor
13. Beauty and the Beast – Joyous musical.
14, Monty Python & the Holy Grail – Incredibly hilarious and as Lanna knows, I have quoted it way too long
15. The Naked Gun – Definitely not in my top 15 all time, but my favorite movie in high school. Pure slapstick.

So many others I could say but will leave the 15 for now.

Lucy – 0* (full of spoilers)

This review is full of spoilers and plot summary. I highly recommend you skip “Lucy” as it may be the worst movie I have ever seen, but going to give that warning.

—————————–

I went to see Lucy with my wife last night. The previews looked cool, I like Luc Besson and I like Scarlett Johannson. I read a horrible review of it but I thought I would give it a chance since it was the most interesting option at the movie theater.

It was absolutely horrible. Horrible, ridiculous setup. Seems like there should be much easier ways to transport drugs that with stomach surgery. Horrible druglord.

And when she becomes “enhanced” she just acts more and more like in a major mania where she should be hospitalized, while taking something like cocaine and angel dust. Kind of like Charlie Sheen when he was “winning.”

And she kept needing more, and was supposed to be somehow “enlightened” and could go through communication media.

Also if she had all this power couldn’t she stop the drug lords without a shooting sequence?

And all of the animal cut-outs were ridiculous and annoying too.

Luc Besson is a very talented director. This could have been a good movie but it was just horrible.

The idea that we only use 10% of our brains isn’t true. The concepts Morgan Freeman’s professor character gives for more “cranial capacity” are ridiculous. The idea that more brain power makes you worse to people is insane. Lucy’s lack of compassion for humanity is terrible.

Awful, horrible, ridiculous. Although I think this could use Rifftrax. There is so much to make fun of.

Thoughts on the Cost of College

I was reading an article in the New York Times this morning with the headline: “How the Government Exagarrates the Cost of College.”

I have already discussed before that the idea that 18 year olds should all go to college is absurd.

Here is my comment on the story:

When I went to college 20 years ago the caps on student borrowing were far, far lower. One major issue so many students have is crippling student loan debt. I know a lot of people who go to the University of Southern Maine and are taking out $10,000 year in student loan debt for a public college. I went to Rutgers for $2,000/semester and it’s skyrocketed since.

We also need to get rid of the absurd cost of intercolliegate athletics and move to club sports.

And the idea that everyone should go to college that is part of the American story right now doesn’t serve many well. A lot of 18 year old need to learn humility. There is a lot to be said for working out of high school and just getting by with your friends. There is no reason to pay tuition to get drunk, high and play Halo. Far too many college students do this.

Also college is not the place to “discover yourself.” Traveling overseas and working your way across the world for a year is a far smarter way to do it.

Also need to get rid of the idea that college is required for so many jobs where it’s irrelevant. Having a liberal arts degree for instance is totally irrelevant for selling insurance. The ones who would be good at that are popular kids in high school, naturally affable and good with people.

—-

We are moving toward a time where you can do most of your learning online. I think the college cost bubble is due to pop soon. I’m not sure it’s the way to go. Certainly if you don’t know what you are doing.

I think if you want success now you should learn to code and keep gaining credentials, languages and certifications. And try to find a job in the field you like. If you want to go to marketing and start at the entry level, you are better off with 4 years of experience and positive cashflow than a marketing or liberal arts degree, a ton of debt and no experience.

I also think that looking at default rates as a measure of “success” is absurd. Truthfully we need to move to a model where students pay debt as they can like the English model. Paying for rent, utilites, food and diapers is going to be ahead of student loans every time. The current system works great for banks and especially debt collection but not for students or America.

edmund

Things, People and Places I Will Miss in Westbrook and Gorham, Maine

Alex Steed — rare to find an activist who is in such great humor about the world and sarcastic — rare to find someone who can still dance like the silly idiot in Junior High School (which was me) as an adult
Allie Munier — Very cool, and one of the best blogs in Maine with Broke 207.
Keith Luke — Character, planner, fan of curling
Greg Daly — One of those wonderful distinctive artists characters you keep hearing about
Rick Hersom — A fellow man of skepticism and beer
Tod Gary — Good friend, better golfer than me (which doesn’t take much).
Dottie Maheux — It was great having my mother in law crosstown in so many ways.
and so many others.

Places:
Westbrook, Maine
The Dancing Elephant — Legit Indian food around the corner
The Frog and Turtle — Awesome brunch, poutine and atmosphere. Although sometimes they have bands that are too loud.
Catbird Creamery — Andrew Bird is a genius. Some of the best ice cream you will find anywhere. If you haven’t been here yet (across from Bank of America on Main Street) go. Your taste buds will sing. It’s 100% on Urbanspoon for a reason. And five stars on Yelp, get there this week in the afternoon if you can. I think this might be dinner tonight. Just reading the reviews is giving me a craving.
Baker’s Bench — Legit baked goods. Their prairie bread with lots of seeds is awesome with peanut butter.
The Saccarappa Falls — I can see them from my window during the winter. Not so much with the thick green trees of July. Awesome to hear on the quiet morning or at night too. Unfortunately the drone of Main Street and the William Clarke Extension drowns them out.
The Presumpscot River Trail — Right by the house and a lovely walk.
Riverside Park — Enjoy seeing the ducks.
Sunset Ridge Golf Club — Underused, a lot of fun, great challenges, good prices. Cumberland Avenue near Windham border.
Digby’s Variety — I didn’t go here enough. They make a wicked good hot dog and cheeseburger sub. Drove by it way too many times before stopping. On New Gorham Road about 3 blocks or so from 25.
Walker Memorial Library — No idea how I almost didn’t think of this. Probably my favorite place in Westbrook, so many great books through the library and the Maine Minerva service that allows books from many of the best libraries in Maine. I really hope there is something similar to Minerva in Connecticut.

Gorham, ME
Gorham House of Pizza — Wicked delicous, simple Maine food. Odd that one of the biggest pizza “chains” in Maine is independently owned by Greeks all over the state. Wish they had more Greek food but a great place for Maine staples like pizza and sandwiches.
Gorham Country Club — Accessible, moderate price, good challenge, pretty open for a terrible player like me. Beautiful.
Bennett Farm — Great place to play Disc Golf. Very long and there is a lot of long grass between the holes. The best disc golf place I have found in the area (only other ones I have played here are Pleasant Hill in Scarborough and the one in Saco.) About 4 miles from USM on 114 towards Sebago Lake on the left. $5 cash with drop off box so bring exact change.
The University of Southern Maine — So many mixed feelings about USM since it is so poorly run. But great job for my wife at the School of Education and Human Development. And three of my favorite Maine sports memories. Watching Bowdoin vs. USM in a match up of two top 10 Division III Women’s Basketball teams put on a coaching clinic of great defense. Gary Fifield is a better coach (for USM) than most Division I programs have. And watching St. Joseph’s vs. USM baseball for a few innings on a beautiful day and having a hot dog, easily the best baseball experience I had in Maine.

Portland, ME: One of the best small cities in America
Port Veritas: Been with them a few years, even moved my schedule around to be out earlier on Tuesdays. Saw them a couple times at Acoustic Coffee, the last few months of the North Star Cafe (still missed), Blue, Local Sprouts and now Bull Feeney’s upstairs. Slam poetry has been probably my favorite reason to go out the last few hours. Planning to spend time at Poetry Slap in Bridgeport, CT when I move. If you are interested go to the website and sign up for the e-mails. Have seen so, so many great poets through PV. Lauren Zuniga, Theresa Davis, Billy Tuggle, Ryk McIntyre, Laura Lamb Brown-Lavoie, Heidi Therrien, Ellyn Touchette, Wil Gibson, Ryan McLellan, Brendan Constantine …

Rhythmic Cypher — The second poetry slam in Portland (amazing we have two of the 72 teams that competed in Boston/Cambridge for the 2013 National Poetry slam last year) designed for the outsiders. I have seen some amazing poetry here from queer, trans, the mentally ill, and just outsiders. Also great to have poetry with music behind you.

Miyake — Seriously amazing sushi. Expensive so don’t order everything. Hamiyake is one of the many delicious things here. I also discovered monkfish liver, which is so rich and full of umami, almost tastes like pork. Here is the Yelp on it.

How We Do by Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz

Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is easily my favorite writer and poetry discovery of 2014. I started with her last book “The Year of No Mistakes” which includes this poem “How We Do”. I have also read her first three books My Future Boyfriend, Hot Teen Slut and Working Class Represent. I will admit to having difficulty spelling her name, but she is fantastic and funny. “Hot Teen Slut” ***** is easily my favorite book so far this year. Bawdy, hilarious, raunchy about a recent college graduate and virgin who works as an editor at the porn industry. It’s fantastic and captures a lot of the awkwardness of porn, being a college graduate and the bizarre and short lived culture of the 1990s internet boom. It is easily the funniest book of poetry I have ever read. “Dear Future Boyfriend” *** is about being young and awkward. It’s amazing that Ms. Aptowicz even started the Urbana Poetry Slam in New York City at age 19, that one the 2000 and 2002 National Poetry Slam with Taylor Mali among others.

“Working Class Represent” ***1/2 is about being a young poet with a day job. And includes the poem “Ode to People Who Rejected My Work” which any writer and poet would recognize. And “Ode to My Morning Cup of Coffee” which is perfect for someone waking up at 4am for work (an hour earlier than I planned) and enjoying local Silvery Moon Creamery yogurt (Westbrook, ME) with coffee.

“The Year of No Mistakes” is about breaking up with a long term partner and finding next steps in your life. It shows her growing as a writer and is wonderful. ***1/2

How We Do by Kristin O’Keefe Aptowicz (With Permission from the Author)

I tell my best friend, See?
This is proof of how close
friends we are,

that I am telling you
all this stuff in such
graphic detail!

And she said,
And my proof is
that I’m still listening!

—————

I think we have all experienced this.

You can buy Ms. Aptowicz’s work at:

Her publisher Write Bloody Press:

And I get my copies through Bull Moose a local record store chain (NH and Maine) that started Record Store Day and offers 35% off new books. Hooray for independent bookstores and record stores. Now more than ever. They actually have “Hot Teen Slut” and “Working Class Represent” in stock now. I guess it’s good to buy books through your local shop.

You can also read some of her best poems published by the Legendary. A total of 10 poems.

The first group is from “The Year of No Mistakes”, the second from “Hot Teen Slut” (warning NSFW) my favorite is the “Sass Manifesto”, and the third from I am not sure but I love “Crack Squirrels”.

Her website is: www.aptowicz.com.
Twitter is @coaptowicz
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/Aptowicz

Bad Houses **

Bad Houses by Sara Ryan (story) and Carla Speed McNeil (illustration).

Story just didn’t grab me.

I think there definitely could have been more there.

I think graphic novels are most interesting when they either embrace the spare in a beautiful work like Jeff Lemire’s Essex County. Or if they provide a snapshot of an unknown world in Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang or Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”.J

There is also the power of work like Palestine by Joe Sacco. But for relatively standard storytelling the effect can actually be pretty thin.

I feel like this could have been more interesting in more traditional narrative, like the characters live richer lives that what is shown in the book. The central couple’s story is just beginning in the book, and I think can get richer.

Ok at best. Definitely disappointing.

Numbing Agents

We are often uncomfortably numb.
Not engaging.

Using crutches
pain pills
alcohol
Facebook
cigarettes
pot
TV
Radio
Internet.

Keeping feeling internal
hard to shar

Afraid to say what we feel
Worried about offending others.

Wanting to be the good guy.

Not connecting to people in person,
social media isn’t that social.
It’s a lot of words,
a lot of noise
not much connection.

Texts
for hours
for hundreds of messages
while driving
while with an actual person
in front of you.

There are a lot of things out there
retail therapy
commercialism
you need more crap, more stuff,
more shit.

We live in bizarre times.
Don’t know out neighbors,
have hundreds or thousands of “friends” we hardly know.
That are at most acquaintances.

I like social media,
I can like TV,
like beer.
But there is just too much noise right now,
too much static.

We need to connect,
need to talk,
need to interact,
with people in-person,
not just online.

Need to connect with people,
of different classes,
races,
ages,
genders,
backgrounds.

Realize we have more in common,
than different.
That those with a difficult life,
little money,
families in jail,
addiction,
illness,
madness,
need love.

What a better life we would live if
we could just be
“Excellent to each other.”

Don’t be a dick,
listen,
too many people are bogus.

Love people for who they are,
“party on dudes,”
listen,
cry,
laugh,
love.

The world needs you.
Needs you to love.
To listen, to write, to create,
to be only the person you can be.

I am trying,
it’s not easy,
there is so much shiny, so much debt, so much hardship.

We are all in this together, kid.
Cliches and all.

Love. Love. Hug. Cry. Listen. Or just be there.
There is someone who needs you,
and someone you need,
blessings to you all.

Peace.

edmund