Random (but not really)

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Random on Last Night’s Forum

A couple of random comments on last night’s forum.

First, is that I had not been into the Met since I was a kid–all my dance recitals were held there, so I have both fond and vivid memories of the place. Upon walking into the theater, I turned and asked my parents “Was this place always to small?” In my memory the place was huge and rather grand. In reality it was rather small, actually, and showing its need for the ongoing renovations. It was an odd feeling, being in this building that held such a place in my memory, and finding it didn’t live up to my memory. But I still hope they finish the renovations.

Second, was that Robert Bastress reminded me of an early stage of one of dried apple dolls. He looked to me like in a few years he’ll be ready for a hat and a corncob pipe. This mental image was particularly amusing as he spoke well and eloquently and the law and civil rights.

Thirdly, I can’t believe that the place where the reception was held has gone through yet ANOTHER change of ownership and design. It is now called the “Lazy Lizard” (a particularly horrible name in my opinion). For those who don’t often go down high street, this is the store that was the last incarnation of Ali Baba’s, that was a number of different bars, was Space Port, and when I moved to Morgantown was Morrison’s Coat Store. I’m thinking that the Lazy Lizard incarnation won’t last too long.

Written by Michelle at 12:47 pm      Comments (4)  Permalink
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Campus and Community Civility in a Time of Unrest

Last night I went to the “Campus and Community Civility in a Time of Unrest” forum at the Met Theater. The moderator, I was delighted and somewhat surprised to discover, was Juan Williams (and I discovered that he did in fact write the book on Thurgood Marshall I have) Perhaps Morgantown isn’t as small as it sometimes feels. The panel members were: Professor Robert Bastress, WVU College of Law, Dr. Jamie Jacobs, WVU Department of Political Science, Ibrahim Iba N’Diaye, a WVU doctoral candidate in Economic History, Asra Nomani, a lifelong Morgantown resident, journalist, author and founder of Daughters of Hajar, Jared Towner, a combat veteran of Iraq and WVU senior, Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley.

In opening Juan Williams called this civility event, where we would get to see “dialog in action”, and unlike the presidential debates, in this even people should be open to seeing and hearing different points of view. Such openness is increasingly important, as Iraq continues to polarize the US and the world, making people less interested in hearing ideas that challenge their preconceived notions. Such a forum is an opportunity to look at American policy and how it impacts the way we walk, react, and interact with each other.

The first question to John Unger was “what does it mean to be an American?” Senator Unger told of being in Iraq several years ago, and going to the Tower of Babel, where people wanted to climb to heaven without God. He found it interesting that God did not destroy the people, but instead changed their language. He also said that since 9-11 we are redefining what it means to be an American, and unfortunately are developing a destructive dialog.

Ibrahim Iba N’Diaye (I apologize if I mistake who said what, my notes are slightly confusing on that point) responded to the question of how global citizenship has changed. He said that the US is refusing to assume its role in the world.

Jamie Jacobs was asked whether in America’s role as a superpower made it inevitable that we could be viewed or targeted as an aggressor? She responded that although the US does have responsibility as being a superpower, we have a fear of stepping up to the role. We are ignoring the fact that with great power comes great responsibility. She said that as we have this dialog, we are going to knock heads with each other, but that this is a good thing, and we need to keep trying to keep dialog open. She later made the point that the war on terrorism doesn’t necessarily make sense. How can we have a war on a strategy/tactic? We need to consider the context for action, and question the reality of the threat.

Jared Towner, the WVU senior who served in Iraq, was asked how his time in Iraq affected his ability to communicate. He said that his experience had of course changed him—he learned a great deal about a beautiful culture and a beautiful religion, but that the Arab culture is the least respected culture in the US. He said that as the world becomes smaller, individuals play a larger role in the world, and that we need to take advantage of the melting pot in US culture, and learn more about others. He also said that in his experience in Iraq, it was those who were uneducated who were more likely to demonize others, but that such demonization did not represent the whole population.

Morgantown resident and Muslim activist Asra Nomani was asked whether there were people in the Muslim community who were beyond persuasion. She didn’t directly answer the question, but said that after 9-11 she knew that she had to stand up for moderation; that people need personal courage and conviction to change the world. Islam has the same challenges as every other faith, and that Islam must stand up to fundamentalism.

Law professor Robert Bastress was asked to discuss how civil liberties impact this discussion, and how 9-11 has impacted civil liberties in the US. He said that in a time of crisis, we still need to balance civil liberties and freedom with the need for security. He mentioned the cases of Yasar Hamdi and Jose Padia, how they were placed in detention as “enemy combatants” but the supreme court disagreed with this, and that Justice O’Connor said, ” a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens.” He is also concerned about the Patriot Act renewal, and how it is affecting the 4th amendment. We need to balance our freedoms, and be careful of warrantless seizures where we are restricting our freedom. He talked about how the US used to be held up as a model for human rights, but now we are losing respect for rights of those who we see as a threat to security, thus our role as leader has diminished. He mentioned how Charles Taylor used the actions of the US to suppress foreign journalists. That governments all over the world are classifying people as terrorists as an easy way to garner world support.

Asra Nomani and Ibrahim Iba N’Diaye both talked about scrutiny of those who are foreign or Muslim. N’Diaye said that there are really two different sides in Morgantown, the campus community and the townspeople. That after 9-11 there was an effort on campus to make sure that people could express their feelings, while in the community this was not necessarily the case, with actions taken against Muslims and Arabs and the Morgantown by Morgantown residents. Nomani said that she feels that many students are coming to the university with an attitude of intolerance.

When asked about the political climate in this state, and whether there was an openness to diversity, Unger said that there was more suspicion of all visitors entering a community, and a fear that anyone could be a terrorist. He also emphasized that after the OK City bombing, people began to fear strangers of any sort, and reminded us that terrorists in the US are just as likely to be white as Arab. He also said there was a problem as Americans struggled with the war in Iraq, and that was that people want simple answers, but that those simple answers don’t exist, and that we can not just point out “the enemy.”

Jared Towner also talked about the fact that we’ve never dealt with such a security threat in the US, and Americans are not used to constantly dealing with fear—there is a backlash here, and a fear of “those people” (those who are not from this country) but we need to be reminded of home grown terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, and that groups like the KKK functioned as terrorists for decades. This point was reinforced by Senator Unger, who mentioned that during the Civil Rights struggle, those who were targeted by the Klansmen could pass those people on the street during the day and not know who they were. That although our fear is natural, we must consider our values and how we treat other Americans.

Jamie Jacobs was asked whether the politics of fear that pervades the US is justified. She responded that the goal of the terrorists is to incite fear, and that rather than facing that fear, we are using it as an excuse to retreat—we are becoming isolated, which in turn makes us more insecure. This fear and retreat also does our security a disservices, because we should instead be building a strong community.

Robert Bastress stated that the debate over increased security versus freedom is nothing new, that we had these same debates during the cold war, during WWII, and that society must protect liberties. The premise of the Bill of Rights is that we need a functioning democracy, despite the risk of attack, we need to have balance. Individuals have certain rights, but those are not being followed, especially if we look at the situations in Guantanmo Bay and Abu Gharib. The values and principles of human rights are being ignored.

During the question and answer period, only one obnoxious woman got up and tried to make a political statement instead of asking a question. Luckily Juan Williams cut her off rather quickly. I hate it when people do that. It’s rude, obnoxious, and wastes the time of the panel and audience.

The point was made by Ibrahim Iba N’Diaye, that forced democratization rarely works. That the people must be involved if such attempts are to succeed. He said that strength and power are not just about war, but are about standing up for what’s right. He emphasized also that the words “Islamic terrorist” do not go together—the rood of Islam is peace, and that is incompatible with war. Both he and Asra Nomani emphasized that Islam is a war of peace, but that Islam has been hijacked by extremists, and that moderates must stand up to these extremists, and that violence is unacceptable. They also mentioned that this extremism is not solely the province of Islam, but that there are also Christian fundamentalists who are attempting to do the same thing with Christianity, and that Christians must stand up to these extremists just as Muslims must.

All in all it was an interesting forum, and I am glad that I was able to attend. I particularly enjoyed the comments by Ibrahim Iba N’Diaye, who made statements both enlightening and amusing. (I’d relate the elephant story, but I fear I’d get it all wrong.) It’s good to see community discussion and involvement, and I hope that, as was said in closing, this is the start of community interaction and discussion, and not simply a single event.

Written by Michelle at 12:20 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Major Geek Alert!

We just got handhelds for work! The reason is because so many people are using them, we’ll need to be able to support them, which we can’t do if we’ve never touched one.

So I now have in my possession a Palm Tungsten, which my manager says is a nice handheld. As I couldn’t afford one, I don’t know a thing about them, so let’s hope I have a steep learning curve.

I feel so geeky! I love it!

Written by Michelle at 4:29 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Women on the Web/What Makes A Liberal

There’s a new weblog dedicated to promoting progressive woman bloggers, What She Said.

She has links to a variety of websites that I already read, and is right now posting “interviews” with different bloggers.

I did, however, read one thing that irritated me, and that was in her criteria for inclusion:
…they have a feminist slant- pro-choice, size acceptance, pay equity, etc.

I find abortion as a litmus test for political affiliation incredibly irritating. The general attitude seems to be that if you do not support abortion rights, you’re not a true liberal. Well, sorry, but I’m pretty damned liberal, and I’m pro-choice.

What frustrates me further is that I find some who hold the pro-choice position to be hypocritical. Let me clarify: I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan, but I don’t eat mammals and eat minimal poultry. I firmly believe that animals should be treated humanely (Can you treat an animal humanely? Humanely: 1 : marked by compassion, sympathy, or consideration for humans or animals 2 : characterized by or tending to broad humanistic culture. The answer is yes.), and because much of the food industry fails in this regard, I refuse to support an industry I find reprehensible. I find it hard to accept that a strict vegan could be pro-choice: if eating chicken eggs is morally unacceptable, then why is aborting a fetus acceptable?

I also have problems with the “liberal” stance that finds abortion acceptable but condemns the death penalty as morally reprehensible/unacceptable. Setting aside technical problems with the death penalty, why is it unacceptable to kill someone who has killed others, sometimes horribly, yet acceptable to end the life of a fetus?

As far as I am concerned, life should be treated with respect, be that life a condemned criminal, fetus, or cow. I don’t believe that we have the right to arbitrarily decide who lives or dies, and if we must take life, be it in war or for dinner, there should be rules and guidelines in place that are followed if the situation arises.

Does that mean I’m not a liberal? I’m pretty certain it doesn’t make me a conservative.

Written by Michelle at 6:11 pm      Comments (2)  Permalink
Categories: Politics  


There is a woman who works in my building who has we have helped on several occasions. She’s an absolute delight to help, because she’s always nice to us, and really appreciates our help. (There’s nothing like a customer who calls demanding your help, while at the same time treating you like a lowly peon. The type who is never happy with whatever answer we give. I despise working with people like that.)

Anyway, about year and a half ago, this woman told us that she was having problems, that her husband had started drinking, and wasn’t a very nice drunk. She said that her first husband was abusive and she was not going to that kinds of treatment anymore. But then he wanted to work things out, and stopped drinking, and things we’re better.

But for the past month things haven’t been so great: when I talked to her, she said he’d started drinking again. Then last week she told us that she was taking a job in the north east where her daughter lived. She’d put in her two weeks notice at work, and was looking forward to being close to her daughter and grandchildren again.

But she hadn’t yet told her husband she was leaving. Last I talked to her, she said she was getting ready to pack her stuff and tell him, but was pretty sure she’d be living out of a hotel her last days in town. I suggested that she have someone to help her—to know what she was doing and when, so that she could call them and let them know she was safe. She said that was a good idea, so I’m guessing she’ll arrange something with her daughter.

I’m glad that she’s taking control of her life, escaping from a bad—and possibly dangerous—situation, but the situation makes me mad. Here is a beautiful, kind, and intelligent woman, yet she has had two marriages to abusive men. Why do these things happen? In a just world, things like this wouldn’t happen, yet the do happen.

I truly hope that she finds happiness when she moves back home—moves to live closer to her children and grandchildren that she obviously adores. I just wish that there was some way that I could guarantee that happiness for her. That I could say to God, “Okay! Enough already! Give her a happy life from here on out.

But I don’t think that God is taking my calls anymore, if he ever did, and so I’m left with nothing but hope that things will work out for her, and a wish that there was someone to blame when things don’t turn out the way they should.

Written by Michelle at 12:15 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Religion & Philosophy  

Monday, September 27, 2004

Details, Details, Details

We had an absolutely wonderful weekend in Cincinnati. The wedding, as I said before, was marvelous. Heather was beautiful and radiant, as all brides are supposed to be, and Andy was handsome, but then I’ve always thought that he looks good in a tux. I loved Mary’s outfit—her sisters had brought her a shawl from Spain—absolutely beautiful. And I finally got to meet Andy’s aunts, although we couldn’t understand a word we said to each other, since we lacked a common language, but they were very nice.

I danced a lot: with the groom, with all the groomsmen: Daniel, Tony, Oz, and Nathan. Funny thing was that Daniel, Tony, and Oz all cursed me soundly when I drug them out onto the floor (Daniel even insisted several times that he definitely hated me) but by the end of the evening Daniel and Tony were dancing to everything, and even Oz was out on the floor a couple more times. Of course the several bottles of champagne might have had something to do with that (I believe the aunts brought the bottles with them from Spain, and both Andy and Daniel love the stuff.) Heather and I even drug Andy’s dad out onto the dance floor, which was quite an accomplishment, since he also insisted that he absolutely was not going to dance.

The food was excellent, despite the fact that everything was running late due to traffic being backed up due to an accident. The wine was also apparently very good, since Michael drank at least a bottle and a half of it (I had half a glass of champagne for the toasts, and then stuck to soda and water for the rest of the evening. Which is good, because otherwise Susan might have had to drive.

And Brian (yes, even my brother and Stacie were there) and I were the cause of Andy getting a “Those are YOUR friends!” comment, as we kept banging the silverware against the wine glasses till they kissed. And a couple of times we refused to stop until they gave each other a real kiss. I have to say that Heather’s exasperated look was priceless. I’m thinking, however, that she did forgive me.

Also, I learned about a tradition that I’d like to know more about if anyone can provide anymore information. Mary said that in Spain, the couple’s godparents essentially take the place of the best man and the maid of honor. Susan said she had seen that at a Catholic wedding for a couple from South (or was it Central?) America, and thought it was a Catholic tradition, but I’ve never heard like that before, so my guess it is a Spanish tradition that moved to the new world, but I’d really love to know more about it. (I’m pretty certain it’s not a tradition in Lithuanian or Polish Catholic traditions, but I’ll ask my grandmother anyway.) I learned this because Mary told her sisters that in my wedding Andy was my “Godmother” which is rather amusing to say the least.

Mostly though, I was just so happy to be there, to see Andy get married, and to see them so happy together.

Written by Michelle at 3:23 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  

Sunday, September 26, 2004


Congratulations Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Jacobs!

Written by Michelle at 12:56 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  

Saturday, September 25, 2004


The wedding was *fantastic*. I danced my butt off, and am very tired.

And of course we forgot the charge the battery for the camera, so I didn’t get too many pictures.

Oh, and Daniel danced A LOT!

Written by Michelle at 11:10 pm      Comments (0)  Permalink
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Ends and Beginnings

It’s a week of ends and beginnings.

In the past week two friends lost family members. Kim’s grandmother died last weekend, and Del’s mother died yesterday.

In both cases, it was hard, knowing that a friend was suffering, and there was nothing I could do.

But this week is also a week of beginnings, as Andy (finally) gets married. (Yeah, I find it hard to believe as well!) The wedding is today, and hopefully I’ll remember to take lots of pictures, so there’s proof that it actually happened!

Seriously though, Heather is a wonderful woman, I think they’re wonderful together, and I’m glad they found each other.

Written by Michelle at 8:42 am      Comments (0)  Permalink
Categories: Non-Sequiturs  

Banned Book Week

Happy Banned Book Week

The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000
(Books I have read are in italics)

Written by Michelle at 6:00 am      Comments (1)  Permalink
Categories: Books & Reading  
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