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9.03.2005 ||>   Fruit for the crows to pluck, for the rain to gather, for the wind to suck

There's already been so many beautiful and moving things written on New Orleans, that I feel like my own contribution will be paltry in comparison. I could write about the rage I feel that about so many people left in a disaster area have waited for days for any food or water. Or the rage at what looks an awful like our President eating cake with John McCain while people were dying. (He should really read up on Marie Antoinette - she suggested something similar.) Or the despair and sympathy for the people who are suffering.

So here's a roundup of particularly moving stuff:
- Tony, as always, points out the bullshit where he sees it and refuses to back down.
- Stratfor reminds everyone about exactly how important New Orleans is to us.
- I just read an incredible story of heroism that's being portrayed as a criminal act.
- Condi had some fun in New York before hecklers forced her to do her job.

And before anyone tells me to get off my ass and do something rather than writing more about politics, just remember that I gave two years of life while you all got to see the last season of Angel. I'll donate when I can (payday's still a week away), and until then, I'll do what any other political science graduate does.

Sepra was livin' easy on 11:38:00 PM || Site Feed ||

9.02.2005 ||>   It's the white gold, not the black, that's a problem

To answer my mom's question, because I'm sure others are asking it:

The idea of a cotton embargo came up via Craig Murray, which I read over at On Sept. 1, a bunch of bloggers were set to postulate as to why this is a good idea (by the law of averages, Mr. Murray was bound to have one). You can read the other posts here: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

It all comes down to, I think, convincing the government that this is a viable option. Unlike Saudi Arabia, we don't have to put up with the human rights' abuses because of oil, as Uzbekistan doesn't have much, if any at all. They're also not really helping us out at all on the war on terror (or whatever the name is these days). I say, now that there aren't any hindrances, let's go for it. For the average American, the help can usually be done through the right channels: getting it publicized, writing to senators and congressmen, etc.

Although right now, I think most Americans are concerned with Louisiana and Mississippi, as they should be. So please help out there, but when you're done take a little time out to write a letter or two.

Sepra was livin' easy on 7:17:00 AM || Site Feed ||

9.01.2005 ||>   When he said go back to your cotton sack I left him dying in the dirt

Today is Uzbekistan's Independence Day. It's the day that children begin school again, and a month and a half before they have to leave school again to go to forced labor camps in order to pick cotton for little or no money. As one student put it, "I earned 500 soum (equivalent to 50 cents), but the bus back cost 750."

kids picking cottonThe reason I mention this is that Nathan wanted bloggers to do their bloggy thing in regards to cotton and a proposed embargo against cotton as a way to protest Uzbekistan's human rights abuses. I'm all for it, and I like the idea for several different reasons. I am sure that there will be plenty of posts today about how one crop systems don't work and how it will punish the elite who take the profits from forced labor. So, I will talk about it from a humanitarian position, and use the things I have seen personally to drive home the reality of the situation for the people.

Because I was a teacher and it hit me very close to home, I'll start by discussing the children. In Uzbekistan, children are used for lots of tasks. They help their parents at the bazaar, they clean the school and they help out their mother anyway they can with chores. Typically, if there was something that needed to be done and it didn't require an adult, the response was to say, "get the children to do it!" I don't have a problem with kids doing chores, because I saw how responsible the majority of kids were. However, making the 11 year old peel potatoes for dinner is a completely different animal than forcing them to stand bent over for 10 hours a day picking cotton by hand and then go sleep on a cold floor in a school with no heat and no running water. Usually, they only get to eat runny soup with some chunks of sheep fat in it. And they have to pay for this pleasure. They are "paid" a certain amount for each kilogram of cotton they pick a day (10 kilograms - or 22 pounds - is the quota per day), but they are charged an equivalent amount for shelter, food and transportation to and from the farm. Which turns it into slave labor.

farmers picking cottonThe farmers don't have a very good time of it either. Most of them are forced to grow cotton, and not foodstuffs that could keep them fed for the year with the food they grow and also the profits from selling that food at the bazaar. As I've said before, Uzbek produce is the best I've ever tasted. Cotton, as anyone who has ever read The Grapes of Wrath knows, kills the soil. So, since the Soviet Union, they have been planting this rather destructive crop without rotation and killing the soil that they depend on.

They irrigate the crops from the Aral Sea, thereby draining it and spreading all sorts of diseases to the farmers and other innocent people who are exposed to diseases. It has spawned a tuberculosis epidemic as well as expose people to chemical agents such as anthrax. Because... they need to use the desert to grow more crops. I mean, who doesn't use the desert to grow a water-hungry crop?

In the end, an embargo might force the government to halt the way they do things, and that includes the dependence of cotton. It can do nothing but help the people.

Sepra was livin' easy on 7:08:00 AM || Site Feed ||

8.30.2005 ||>   Whatever doesn't kill me... had better run pretty damn fast

According t o a medical journal that I read earlier:
In 1900, the leading causes of death were in this order: pneumonia, influenza, tuberculosis, diarrhea, enteritis and ulceration of the intestines, heart disease and stroke.
This of course leads me to a rather ghastly conclusion. Perhaps it's not that heart disease and stroke are such a huge epidemic. Maybe we just beat everything else and now they're next on the list.

Two more to go before we all become immortal?

Sepra was livin' easy on 6:51:00 PM || Site Feed ||

8.29.2005 ||>   Playing Hooky

Even when I was a kid, I would always make sure to do my best at whatever I was doing. I would show up at school even when I was sick, and there was only one time I ever played hooky from school. Even then, I got permission from my mother the day before.

So today, I feel pretty good, like the truant I never was as a kid. Even though missing work meant that I have to give up a vacation day, it's nice. Plus, it'll give me more time to clean my apartment and look for a new job.

Sepra was livin' easy on 10:30:00 AM || Site Feed ||