Archive | 4:58 pm

The Iraq War, A Disgrace

18 Mar

Victims of the Iraq WarAbove all, when Iraqis – and an American Special Forces officer – criticize the United States’ performance in the Iraq War and in Iraq’s reconstruction, I’m embarrassed.

I’m embarrassed as a former Intelligence analyst.

The obvious example is President George W. Bush’s preemptive attack in Iraq. Prior to its start, the estimated cost of the Iraq war was less than $2 billion. There were even claims that it would pay for itself through oil revenue. The actual price to date exceeds $1 trillion with the final bill expected at $4 trillion, of which $1 trillion will be interest payments alone.

I’m embarrassed as a student of International Relations.

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Feminism’s A Fightin’ Word

18 Mar

Who Needs Feminism?Laurie Penny has a robust notion of feminism – and she’s not shy about what wrong with compromising.

“Feminism” is the one F-word that really will make eyes widen in polite company. Saying it implies you might have demands that can’t be met by waiting politely for some man in charge to make the world a little bit fairer. It’s a word that suggests dissatisfaction, even anger – and if there’s one thing that a nice girl isn’t supposed to be, it’s angry.

Often, fear of the word “feminism” comes from women ourselves. In many years of activism, I’ve frequently heard it suggested that feminism simply needs to “rebrand”; to find a better, more soothing way of asking that women and girls should be treated like human beings rather than drudges or brainless sex toys. It’s a typical solution for the age of PR and the politics of the focus group: just put a fluffy spin on feminism and you’ll be able to sell it to the sceptics. It turns out, however, that while a watered-down vision of women’s empowerment can be used to flog shoes, chocolate and dull jobs in the service sector, real-life feminist politics – which involves giving women and girls control over our lives and bodies – is much tougher to sell.

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The Evolving Stonehenge

18 Mar

StonehengeThe one fact about Stonehenge scientists have figured out is, that its multi-ton sarsens have really gotten around.

Detailed radiocarbon dating of Stonehenge has shown that work on its construction probably began with the huge circular ditch that still surrounds the monument. Inside several dozen bluestones were erected along with various timber posts and other structures. It was a relatively modest construction by the standards of the remains we can see today. Then, around 2600BC, the site was transformed. A ring of giant upright stones called sarsens were erected and capped with huge rock lintels. Inside five huge trilithons – pairs of rock columns capped with a single slab – were erected and many of the magical bluestones from Wales that had been erected near the edge of the monument were moved inside this inner sanctum. Crucially, the rays of the setting midwinter sun and the rising midsummer sun would shine through the heart of the monument and down the avenue that leads into it.

Over succeeding centuries, the bluestones were rearranged for purposes that still mystify scientists. In short, Stonehenge is not one monument, built at one moment in history, but many built and rebuilt over many centuries. By that definition, it had no single purpose but had many. Even today it performs many functions – as a tourist attraction, a religious site (for Druids), and a place for scientific study, for example.

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