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February 25, 2005

Domestic Harmony

There's a story that Debbie's father, Herbert Notkin, used to tell....

John and Helen were held in high regard in their community for the solidity of their relationship and the absence of public friction between the two of them. friend remarked about this. "It's not just public," said Helen. "Our private life together is peaceful, too. We never argue."

"How can this be?" asked the friend. "I don't know anyone in a marriage, or any other relationship, where they don't have some quarrels or disagreements."

Helen answered, "It's actually quite simple. When we first married, we fought like cats and dogs, but we realized it was too much for us, and we came to an agreement: John makes all the important decisions, and I make all the unimportant ones."

"Like what?"

"I decide things like where we should live, what we should buy for food, whose advice to follow about raising the kids – the unimportant things."

The friend was bemused. "So those are the unimportant decisions. What are the important decisions, the ones John makes?"

"You know," said Helen, "What team should win the Superbowl, whether or not the Democrats need more backbone, what sort of person John Hinderaker is. Important things."

Posted by abostick at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

O For a Muse of Fire....

Avedon Carol explains why The Sideshow has tilted more to lists of links than to essays lately:

It's partly a result of the fact that I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the news. I mean, the whole torture-Negroponte-etc. business just leaves me speechless. What can you possibly say once these things are even on the table? "Torture? I'm against it. Why do you ask?"

Every single day, every time I am starting to write something in my head about the first administration outrage I heard about today, I hear about another one, and then another one, and then I feel like I'm drowning and can't seem to focus. That makes it really easy to just link to whatever Digby or Atrios or whoever had to say about things, instead. This situation may continue until I get my breath back, but in the meantime, I do want to call those good links to your attention.

(Of course, Avedon says this in a meaty, thought-provoking post. There's a mixed message here, something Arnold Mindell would call a double signal.)

For almost thirty years I've thought that Avedon's writing, when inspired by the fire of her anger, has a fierce beauty that is a joy to read. I'm willing to wait a while for her muse to flare up again. In the meanwhile, her "link farm" will still be the first thing I look at when I hit the Internet in the morning.

And, Avedon, you can write something pithy about the Bra of the Week, and everyone in blogtopia (y!sctp!) will know what you think about John Negroponte.

Posted by abostick at 12:18 PM | Comments (1)

February 23, 2005

Atrios Biased???

Atrios obviously only considers right-wing wankers for his Wanker of the Day feature, and doesn't bother to call attention to wankers from the left side of the aisle. How else could you explain his having overlooked yesterday's performance by the usually-sensible Kevin Drum?

Posted by abostick at 12:52 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2005

Bet You Haven't Done These

There's a meme going around LiveJournal that is worthy of wider propagation: List ten things that you have done that people on your LJ friends list probably haven't. I thought it was cute the first time I saw it; unlike the typical LJ meme (Which New York Yankee Are You?) it has appealed more and more with each example I've seen.

So here's my list. My readership extends past my LJ Friends List, but I still think the chances are pretty good that if you routinely read As I Please you haven't done any of these:

  • Defeated a bracelet-holding World Champion in a heads-up duel to win a no-limit hold'em poker tournament.

  • Defeated a Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning science fiction writer in a heads-up duel to win a pinball tournament.

  • Celebrated a birthday on the summit of a volcano, drinking tequila and singing.

  • Stood on the screw of a capsized German battleship.

  • Paid for a semester's tuition at graduate school with the winnings from a single hand of poker.

  • Collaborated on a short story with William Gibson.

  • Invented a formalism that could be used to apply perturbation theory to optical resonators.

  • Watched an ICBM and its warhead re-enter the atmosphere.

  • Barked like a dog at the opening of a graduate seminar.

  • Leaned back while sitting on the rim of a redwood hot tub, fell backwards onto the stairs leading down from the deck to the yard, rolled down those stairs in a reverse somersault, and stood up, completely uninjured. (Don't try this one at home.)

On my Friends List, either or both of Paul Phillips and Patti Beadles may have done the first one; if anyone in my wider readership has, post a comment, because I'd like to know about it.

Posted by abostick at 09:34 AM | Comments (3)

February 20, 2005

Hunter Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson shot and killed himself today in his home near Aspen, Colorado. He was 67 years old.

(via Kevin Drum)

Posted by abostick at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

Why All the Fuss?

Why is there all this fuss about James Guckert/Jeff Gannon being a "fake" journalist? There have been fakes in journalism for years.

Heck, the New York Times, the Great Grey Lady herself, has a fake ombudsman.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)

February 18, 2005

Monkey Business

Quoth the SF Chronicle:

Two former employees of the Gorilla Foundation, home to Koko the "talking" ape, have filed a lawsuit contending that they were ordered to bond with the 33-year-old female simian by displaying their breasts. ...

The suit follows complaints filed by [Nancy] Alperin and [Kendra] Keller in January with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, in which they gave identical reasons for why they were fired: "I refused to expose my breast to perform acts of bestiality with one of the gorillas."

The lawsuit goes into more detail.

One example: "On at least two incidents in mid-to-late June 2004, [Gorilla Foundation president Francine] Patterson intensely pressured Keller to expose herself to Koko while they were working outside where other employees could potentially view Keller's naked body. ... On one such occasion, Patterson said, 'Koko, you see my nipples all the time. You are probably bored with my nipples. You need to see new nipples. I will turn my back so Kendra can show you her nipples.' " ...

The suit says the two women, who never did undress, also worked unpaid overtime and faced unsanitary conditions, including gorilla urine stored in the refrigerator where they kept their lunches, rodents in the food preparation area and exposed wires.

They notified the California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which conducted an inspection last Aug. 5 and issued $300 in fines for various violations that have since been corrected, according to Cal/OSHA spokesman Dean Fryer.

The two women were fired Aug. 6.

Posted by abostick at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

Traffic Came to a Halt When Other Motorists Stopped to Applaud

From the San Francisco Chronicle comes yet another report that the spirit of Justice is alive and working among us:

SUV burns on Bay Bridge – cigarette butt blamed

The 20-year-old San Francisco resident was cruising across the upper deck of the Bay Bridge at 10:40 a.m., smoking a cigarette. When he got near the Harrison Street off-ramp, he rolled down the window of his white 2004 Ford Expedition SUV and tossed out the butt, authorities said.

Instead of bounding along the pavement, however, the still-lit cigarette blew back in and set the interior of Fish's $30,000 SUV ablaze, he told police.

Black smoke filled the vehicle. Fish pulled over to the far left-hand lane about 100 feet from the Harrison Street exit and leaped from the Expedition -- leaving the SUV in neutral instead of park.

The flaming Expedition rolled driverless into a guardrail by the exit, where it crashed to a stop and burned to the frame.

Do you suppose he was yakking on a cell phone at the time he tossed the butt out the window? Naaah, that would be too perfect.

(via Patti Beadles)

Posted by abostick at 08:59 AM | Comments (4)

February 17, 2005

Jerry Brown Has a Blog

Jerry Brown has started blogging. Brown is formerly the governor of the state of California and currently mayor of Oakland, where the As I Please international world headquarters is located.

He's only got one post up so far, a response to attackers of a controversial city curfew for parolees.

(via Skippy's pal Cookie Jill)

Posted by abostick at 10:46 AM | Comments (1)

February 16, 2005

The Argument From Design

The Poor Man sees the hand of Divine Providence at work in the "Jeff Gannon" [link NSFW] story:

Think about it: what are the chances that a media whore like Gannon would turn out to be an actual whore? It's impossible. It boggles the mind how infinitely unlikely this is. It's like if you found someone pirating CDs, and it turns out he actually had a peg leg and a parrot on his shoulder and sailed around the Caribbean saying "arrrrrr!" and plundering booty. You wouldn't believe it. But there it is: impossible, but true. Impossible truths are miracles, and only God can work miracles. Ergo, God exists. Q.E.D.

(via Avedon Carol)

Posted by abostick at 09:29 AM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2005

Poker Column in the Sports Pages

As poker is mainstreamed and turned into a spectator sport, it had to happen: Steve Rosenbloom, a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, now writes a column on poker, syndicated via Tribune Media Services.

I can't quickly find anyplace online that accessibly archives the column, but you can find todays installment at the San Jose Mercury News (requires registration; but BugMeNot is your friend):

At the table, just as in baseball, it's good to throw them a curve

Poker legend Doyle Brunson calls it ``changing gears,'' and it means changing your play to keep opponents guessing. You can change your tight image at the table by playing lesser hands. You can change your pattern of calling bets by aggressively raising. Sometimes you can change in the middle of a hand and pull off a stone-cold bluff.

That's what Gavin Griffin did last year at the final table of the $3,000 pot-limit hold 'em event in the World Series of Poker.

Griffin had used his bully stack to pound Gary Bush and Gabriel Thaler during the nearly three hours they played three-handed, but suddenly, with the blinds at $8,000-$16,000, he limped from the button, prompting Bush to say, ``That's the first time you've done that.''...

(via Zbigniew)

Posted by abostick at 10:37 PM | Comments (2)

Whack-a-Mole

Jeff Gannon/James Guckert has decided the heady excitement of asking questions at White House press gaggles isn't worth the mean things that Democratic political bloggers are saying about him. So the position of "fake reporter who gets Scott McClellan out of embarassing holes by pitching softballs" is open.

Then again, maybe it isn't. Atrios points us to evidence in Wednesday's White House press gagle, ferretted out by Holden, posting at First Draft, that quite possibly another mole has turned up in the White House press corps. One of Holden's commenters pointed out, You have to wonder how many of these ringers they have stored in the basement.

Skippy's pal Cookie Jill points us to American Idle, who in turn warns us that it could be easy indeed to find replacements as the moles successively get whacked:

Posted by abostick at 01:58 PM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2005

"Throat Rape"??

Catherine MacKinnon evidently made a complete and utter fool of herself at a panel discussion that took place at the New York premiere of the documentary Inside Deep Throat:

This time, the hapless lot of directing a post-screening panel fell to Elvis Mitchell, former movie critic at the NY Times. The panel was made up of HarperCollins publisher Judith Regan, journallist Peter Boyer, criminal defense attorney Alan Dershowitz (who defended Harry Reems in the famous obscenity trial), and feminist professor Catherine McKinnon.

Mitchell looked on helplessly as McKinnon did her thing, claiming that the film we had just watched was promoting the acceptance of rape. At one point, however, her righteous zeal became unhinged when she claimed that it was not possible to do deep throat safely, that it was a dangerous act that could only be done under hypnosis. "What's so funny?" she snapped as the audience rippled with mirth. Todd Graff's hand shot up – "I can do it," he said, and the room echoed with a chorus of gay men going "me too!" (Gigi Grazer – wife of Brian – later told Graff to stop bragging and that she could do it better than him and had the rocks on her fingers to prove it. Touché). But La McKinnon was not to be discouraged; she claimed that emergency rooms were filled with women victims of throat rape, not to mention the ones who hadnt even made it that far and had died in the act.

"Emergecny rooms are filled with the victims of throat rape." I guess that's why I had to wait so long to get my toe straightened and taped a year and a half ago.

(via Majikthise)

Posted by abostick at 06:59 PM | Comments (3)

February 08, 2005

The Disembodied Head of C.S. Lewis

It's like a Tom Lehrer song: I got this from Avedon Carol, who got it from Ken MacLeod, who got it from Farah Mendlesohn. Aslan Shrugged:

"It was Digory Ketterley. He said, 'Look, all of you, upon Aslan –'"

And here, a strange thrill passes through Lucy's heart, as if that name contained every beauty and every joy –

"'Aslan, supporting on his shoulders the suffering of the world. It is through his virtue that all of you may sin. It is through his pain and his labor that all of you are sustained. He is the cause for all your iniquity. Well, it's not fair! Why should he take it? What if the lion that bears up this sinful world were to . . . shrug?'"

"Oh," says Lucy.

"And when he heard these words, it was as if a great burden fell away from the king of beasts, and his shoulders, that had slumped, grew high. And he roared, and it was full of joy and sorrow. And then he turned. And he walked away from us, then, away from the talking animals and the fauns and the women of the wood and the wells, and left us alone, and one by one the humans followed, until there were no more Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve in all of Narnia."

Don't forget to read the Author's Note and parts Two and Three

The home of the piece is well worth exploring. Is it a blog? Is it a game? Is it a developing fiction in blog format? All I can say is that if Fafnir, Giblets, and the Medium Lobster regularly took their stabilizing meds and developed an interest in philosophy and theology, the result might look something like Hitherby Dragons.

Posted by abostick at 01:49 PM | Comments (3)

A Handful of Magic Beans?

Ask Jeeves Acquires Bloglines

Oakland, CA – February 8, 2005 – Ask Jeeves®, Inc. (Nasdaq: ASKJ), a leading provider of information retrieval technologies, brands and Internet advertising services, today announced it has acquired Trustic, Inc., the company that owns and operates Bloglines (www.bloglines.com). Bloglines is the world’s most popular free online service for searching, subscribing, publishing and sharing RSS feeds, blogs and rich web content. Bloglines will continue to operate as an independent brand in the Ask Jeeves portfolio and retain its name and unique URL: www.bloglines.com.

Ask Jeeves bought Bloglines? With what?

(And is there any truth in the rumor that LookSmart, Ltd., is in negotiations with Nick Denton to acquire Gawker Media in exchange for all future recording royalties from Evan Thornley's garage band?)

Posted by abostick at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2005

I've Suffered for My Art, Now It's Your Turn

I had been thinking that my term paper was going to be due soon. Then on Tuesday night I found in my inbox the email from the instructor saying that the paper was due on Friday. The good news was that I had blocked the thing out in my head; the bad news was that I had to actually write it.

So I pulled it together and wrote it, finishing it late last night. Debbie very kindly gave it an editorial once-over to catch the inevitable doubled words and infelicities of prose.

So what's a blogger to do when he's just sweat some blood over an 1800-word essay for a class? Why, post it on his blog, of course! I have just done so for your delectation and delight.

(What is it about that dreary, dry style of academic exposition that is so damnably seductive to writers?)

Posted by abostick at 11:05 AM | Comments (0)

Interest-Based Conflict Resolution, Worldwork, and the Strife in Iraq

I - Introduction

The elections held in Iraq on Sunday, January 31, 2005, hold out the promise that a peaceful government and society will emerge from the present violent situation under American occupation. In spite of this promise, though, now that the elections have concluded, the divisions in Iraqi society remain deep, and the cycle of violence continues. (Cole, 2005b)

In this essay I summarize my understanding of the violent conflict in Iraq, and describe how the fulfillment of the promise of peace might be approached by two schools of conflict: interest-based conflict resolution, as advanced by the Harvard Negotiation Project (Fisher et al., 1991); and worldwork, as developed by Arnold Mindell (Mindell, 1995, 2002) and his colleagues.

II - Conflict in Iraq

Three ethnic groups make up the bulk of the population of Iraq: a majority of Shiite Muslims throughout the country but concentrated in the south around the city of Basra; Kurds who live in the northeast, concentrated around the cities of Kirkuk, Mosul, and the border with Turkey; and a minority of Sunni Arabs, some scattered throughout the country, with most concentrated in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" in the vicinity of Baghdad. A small Turkmen minority also inhabits the Kurdish areas.

Prior to the American invasion in 2003, Saddam Hussein headed the Sunni-dominated, secular Ba'ath Party, which controlled the government and maintained power along Stalinist lines. In recent decades, Iraq has fought a bloody but inconclusive war with its neighbor Iran, and suffered a painful and humiliating defeat by the American-led allies in the Gulf War. Saddam Hussein's ruling government bloodily put down uprisings by Iraq's Kurdish and (in the aftermath of the Gulf War) Shiite populations. After the Gulf War, the Kurds had been living in semi-autonomy under the protection of American air power.

The invasion of 2003 quickly led to American control of Baghdad and British control of Basra. Although direct military engagements between the invaders and regular army forces ended at this point, an insurgency built around Ba'athist internal security forces has been waging a "fourth-generation-warfare" guerilla campaign (Hammes, 2004) against the American and British occupation forces and the interim government installed by the occupiers.

Factions working to shape the course of Iraqi society either through political activity or armed struggle include (Cole, 2004):


  • Shiites led by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is working through the political system for resolution of Iraq's future. Militant Shiite followers of Moqtada Sadr seek to secure their future through force of arms

  • Kurdish nationalists, working both politically and militarily for autonomy and/or independence for Iraqi Kurdistan under such leaders as Massoud Barzani and Jalad Talibani.

  • Sunni Arabs, feeling disenfranchised by the majority-rule electoral process demanded by Sistani and the Shiite majority, wishing to keep their stake in Iraq's government and natural resources.

  • Ba'athists fighting to expel the invaders and restore the secular Iraqi state that existed prior to the invasion.

  • Radical Islamists such as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who are in the short term also fighting to repel the invaders but may also be working for the larger al Qaeda program of renewing Islam and uniting the Islamic world, possibly through restoring the caliphate in Baghdad.

  • Americans and their allies. America's stated motivations for the invasion have changed over time, and it is not clear where American interest really lies, beyond access to the output of Iraq's oil fields. American leaders describe their hopes for a liberal secular democracy. America's critics fear the aim is really a colonial possession laid open for economic exploitation.

Other countries in the region have a stake in Iraq's future: Israel is concerned about its own security, and viewed the previous Ba'ath regime under Saddam Hussein as a significant threat. Turkey is greatly concerned that an independent Kurdistan on its borders could be used as a staging area for a Kurdish insurgency within its own borders. Iran could well share the same concern, and in addition would be well-disposed to a Shiite-run neighbor.

Modern-day Iraq is the location of the valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the birthplace of Western civilization. The sites of the oldest cities in the West are here. The oldest known written story (the Epic of Gilgamesh) was written here, as were the oldest known written laws (the Code of Hammurabi). Baghdad
was the capitol of the empire of the Abbasid caliphs during the flowering of Islamic culture, before its conquest by the Seljuk Turks. Babylon and Baghdad are important locations in contemporary Christian mythology of the Apocalypse and the ending of the world. (Lavender, 2003)


III - Interest-Based Conflict Resolution

Interest-based conflict resolution is an approach to making agreements that is based on rational analysis in consensus reality. Fisher et al. (1991) lay out four principles of reaching good agreements: (1) separate the people from the problem; (2) focus on interests rather than positions; (3) invent options for mutual gain; and (4) insist on objective criteria. The second principle is what gives the interest-based approach its name, and it is the essence of the approach.

Positions are rigid demands, e.g.: "American forces must be withdrawn from Iraq," "The city of Kirkuk and the surrounding oil fields are to be part of the integrated Kurdish canton," or "Iraq must remain a unified country under a single government." It is difficult to shift or change a bargaining position – and perhaps that's the point, to make it difficult to give ground in the negotiation.

To focus on interests is to look at what purpose a supposed negotiating position actually serves: to be free from the intimidation and threat of violence by foreign troops, for example, or to not be cut off from economic resources.

An interest-based approach to the situation in Iraq would involve bringing together representatives of the various factions, persuading them to put aside or work separately on grievances and emotional issues, and encouraging them to work together on finding ways to meet the needs of all the factions together. This requires getting the participation of all the factions.

The proportional representation of the elections, exacerbated by Sunni Arab abstention from voting, appears to have resulted in a parliament dominated by Shiites and Kurds (Cole, 2005a). The parliament may therefore not be the right forum for this purpose. Mediators hoping to help Iraq find a comprehensive solution to its divisions and strife would face a major challenge in getting the Sunni Arab community to constructively engage with the Shiite- and Kurd-controlled new government.


IV - Worldwork

Among the ways worldwork differs from the interest-based approach to conflict two stand out. One is the domains in which the two approaches work; another is the means by which the approaches operate.

The domain of the interest-based approach is consensus reality: it is a very rational framework for dealing with conflict. While its proponents stress the importance of the emotional dimension of conflict and negotiation, solutions are found through analysis, and their value is judged by "objective" criteria. In worldwork, in contrast, participants' emotions, feelings, and dreams are necessary parts of the solution as well as being dimensions of the problem. One might go so far as to say that worldwork is dreaming-based conflict resolution, in contrast to interest- or needs-based conflict resolution.

While worldwork and process work can be brought to the bargaining table as part of participants' or mediators' sensibility (analogous to a metaskill), the primary arena of worldwork is the group process that takes place in an open forum (Mindell, 2002).

(In the jargon of process work, "group process" has two distinct meanings. One is the interaction that unfolds in any group of people, whether the group is negotiators at a bargaining table, worshippers praying in a mosque, passengers on a bus, friends talking over coffee, or any other group of people interacting for any reason. The other meaning of "group process" is the specific format for group interaction practiced by process workers.)

Worldworkers in Iraq would hold and facilitate group processes, seeking to engender in the participants awareness and understanding of each other, across whatever divisions there are between them. Some of these group processes would be open forums, with participation by anyone who cared to attend; others might be facilitated for government officials and/or community leaders. The goal would be to grow awareness among the populace and leadership alike. Worldwork doesn't explicitly work towards comprehensive solutions, so much as it spreads understanding so that the people involved can find such solutions more effectively, solutions that work on dreaming and essential levels as well as in consensus reality.

It would be an ambitious project indeed to get as many as one person in every thousand in Iraq to attend an open forum. If it could be done, though, it could result in a significant change in the country's political and emotional climate.

Another difference between worldwork and the interest-based approach is the attitude towards personality in the course of negotiation. The interest-based approach calls for dealing with emotional and psychological issues separately; even in a formal setting, far outside the group-process format. A process-oriented approach would tend to integrate working on psychological issues with working on ones Fisher, et al. (1991) would call "substantive."


V - Discussion

The interest-based approach of Roger Fisher and William Ury does not stand in opposition to worldwork. The interest-based approach is geared specifically to the negotiating table or the political caucus, focused on reaching agreement. Worldwork aims at sharing understanding on deep, meaningful levels. A worldworker at a bargaining table could do a lot worse than to apply the interest-based approach while cultivating awareness of roles and polarizations, signals, rank, and states of consciousness. Process work adds to the repertoire of the conflict resolution professional.

With respect to Iraq, the sad truth is that outside help is almost certainly not going to be effective, whether it is a cadre of professional mediators or of worldworkers who offers it. Unless the answer to Iraq's troubles comes from Iraq, the many Iraqi peoples have every reason to reject it as being imposed through foreign domination.

References:

Cole, Juan, 2004: "Welcome to the quagmire," Salon, March 19, 2004, http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2004/03/19/iraq/.

———, 2005a: "Religious Shiites claim victory", Informed Comment, February 2, 2005, http://www.juancole.com/2005/02/religious-shiites-claim-victory-abdul.html.

———, 2005b: "Guerrillas kill 11 as Mosul & Ninevah demonstrate," Informed Comment, February 3, 2005, http://www.juancole.com/2005/02/guerrillas-kill-11-as-mosul-ninevah.html.

Fisher, Roger, William Ury, and Bruce Patton, 1991: Getting to yes: negotiating agreement without giving in, 2nd ed., Penguin Books, New York, New York.

Hammes, Thomas X., 2004: The sling and the stone: on war in the 21st century, Zenith Press, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Lavender, Rick, 2003: "Armageddon? some say war means end is near", The Times, March 30, 2003, Gainesville, Georgia.

Mindell, Arnold, 1995: Sitting in the fire: large group transformation using conflict and diversity, Lao Tse Press, Portland, Oregon.

———, 2002: The deep democracy of open forums, Hampton Roads Publishing Co., Charlottesville, Virginia.

Posted by abostick at 10:30 AM | Comments (1)
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