Thursday, September 28, 2006

A Rare Political Rant

Ryan was right. Google Analytics is fun! Also, free (at least for now). There's more information and it's not so disorganized. For example, if I want to know what search terms are bringing people to the blog, then I just find out, rather than clicking random links to see what the searches were. Oh, that's articulate. Still, 'tis cool.

I've been spot-checking the Washington Post this morning and reading about the Detainee Interrogation Law. I've got mixed feelings. On the one hand, Congress finally stood up to the President and made him compromise. On the other hand, is a bill that's such an affront to basic civil liberties and human rights something that I can even remotely consider a "victory?" On the one hand, I'm glad that the administration is going to have to make its interpretation of the Geneva Conventions public and won't be allowed to use the Torture Memos definition: "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death (which basically means that anything that doesn't cause organ failure or death is "a-okay" under the GC)." Under the new law, we're lowering the cap on what is allowed to "serious and non-transitory mental harm, which need not be prolonged." Gah! How can it ever be ok to do serious and non-transitory mental harm (also, how on earth do you determine when one has suffered non or transitory mental harm?)!

And, then, there's habeas corpus. I quote the Post: House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said terrorism suspects have enough rights without habeas corpus, including the right to a lawyer, to be presumed innocent, to cross-examine witnesses and to collect evidence. I don't even know how to react to such comments. I'm not the one to call something un-American, because, well, and because in a country as huge, as diverse, and as encompassing as the US, I don't think there's anything that can possibly be left outside the scope of "American." Stealing cars is American. Saluting the flag is American. Carrying guns is American. Going to baseball games is American. Sex (of any kind) is American.

Oh, right. I was on habeas corpus, wasn't I? ARRRGH! BILL OF RIGHTS!!! CONSTITUTION!!! ICCPR!!! Basic fundamentals of Western judicial systems!!! I've been reduced to stuttering out the names of the documents and ideals which define my core beliefs about society, justice, and rights. Dude, these things are holy! Saying someone has "enough" rights is like flushing my bible down the toilet. I don't know how else to express how big a deal civil liberties are to me and why I'm so not ready to come "home."

Also, it's still not a war. :-)

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wheeee! Two days of skating in a row! In fairness, it's about an hour on the bus each way and I don't know that I'd be doing it if I weren't a total bum, but I'm not complaining. I also love that the public "session" on weekdays is from 11am to 3:30pm. I am not insane enough to go for that entire length (also, I have little desire to KILL my feet as they are getting reused to my skates), but still! On Monday I had the rink to myself for awhile and a couple showed up later. Yesterday, there was just one other skater. She had gorgeous posture and extension.

Right, so I'm using the dance diagrams that my old coach gave me before I left to relearn the dances. They're coming back fairly quickly, although there are some sloppy control issues where I don't have the control that I once did. I suspect that'll come. Plus, it's not as though I haven't been exercizing at all; the running just seems to work different muscles! Like, not my quads. Am also back on MIF, but I can't seem to find any patterns online. Le sigh.

Sorry for the boring post about skating stuff. In other news, there were Nazis on tv! Ok, so it was a docudrama on Nuremburg, so you can be sure that I was watching! Hurrah!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Studio 60

Ok, so after the pilot, I was sorta goin' "Meh. I miss West Wing." This week, I still miss West Wing, but I rather enjoyed myself. It made me laugh and it made me look at the Quicktime time bar and go, awwww, I wish it were longer...just like I used to do with West Wing, back in the good days. It's still a Sorkin show and he's got thing thing for pissing off the Christian Right on his shows and making them look stupid (um, is that hard? don't hurt me!), but I think Josh and Chandler are a good couple and funny (ok, I can deal with calling Matthew Perry "Matt", but Bradley Whitford is probably always going to be Josh in my head). And I still <3 Danny ('cause how could you not)? I'm definitely more attached to the people who were on West Wing, but then I've been watching them for the past 7 years (well, 6. I wasn't a believer first season.) and I have to say that I think D.L. Hughley is a great piece of casting, as well. He makes the whole sketch comedy show thing work, because I instantly knew who he was and that he was a comedian of some stature, just the way that the SNL cast become minor (or major) celebrities in thier own right.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Just a few unrelated notes, arranged in a list so that I don't have to figure out ways in which they are related or use stupid transitions.

1) Rugby Right. I went to a rugby match yesterday. I had been studying my Rubgy Union for Dummies and roughly understood what was happening during actual play, but was flummoxed by anything the referee did. This is especially disconcerting because the calls that the referee makes are the things to which the crowd responds most loudly, whether by yelling or clapping. I confused! Still, I was rather amused by the big piles of people on the ground out of which a ball would come flying sooner or later. I liked that things kept going and moving, rather than the way that a tackle is the end of a play in American football. And none of that wussy stopping the clock. It was fast paced and fun. Just wish they'd won, so there wouldn't be grumpiness. Er....Go Quins.

2) Jane Eyre Watched the first episode of the BBC's adaptation tonight and rather enjoyed it. Americans, I'm sure it'll be on Masterpiece Theatre next year. Also, Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia (the recent one) was young Jane and very adorable. I'm a dork and have to admit that I've not read the book (and I promise that I will!), so I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next!

3) Leg & no 10K I think I'm not doing my 10K this weekend. My left quadricep continues to be annoying. This isn't new, but lately it has been reacting with more and more hurtiness, even after a long break and lots of ice and attention. I think it's more important that I figure it out (shoes?) than that I do the race. I haven't been able to train properly because of the muscle and I know that I would be likely to do something rather bad to it if I did the whole race. I did an exploratory short run yesterday and stopped when it started being bothersome. While I could still walk yesterday, it was pretty hurty last night. My other idea is to do lots of skating while I'm waiting for it to be better before running again, since strengthening it should help. 'Course, then I'll have blisters! Wheeee! Exercise is fun! Let's go shopping!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Party conference and other musings (with photos!)

I'm no longer a party conference virgin. Well, not really, anyway. Finding myself unemployed, footloose, and fancy free, I ventured down to Brighton on Tuesday on the advice of one Ryan, blogger extrordinaire, who seems to rather enjoy introducing me as "his intern." As I was, once upon a time. It was lovely to see Ryan and his fiancee Heather again, as well as some of the Brent crowd and to meet some new Lib Dems. Silly me probably should have gone for the whole time, but I haven't been getting my party mail (I've changed the address now) and honestly was too busy with my dissertation to think about it!

One thing that struck me, both while I was at conference (and to be honest the only thing I really sat in on in formal session was Charles' speech) and watching the proceedings on BBC Parliament (yes, dear, I am a sad ass) is how different the whole thing was in tone from conventions in the States. I've obviously gleaned most of my convention knowledge from watching the RNC and DNC ones on tv, but went to an Indiana Democratic convention back in the day as well and have been to my share of campaign speeches and rallies. All in all, the US stuff is very populist and very mean. Saying things about how evil your opponents are gets people worked up and excited and makes them feel like the cool kids in the class, but it doesn't do anything at all for real political progress and dialogue. And, sure, the Lib Dems were nasty at times (and I've seen downright giddy party members figuring out how to stick it to 'em), but they never really seemed to mean it. The speakers were sort of "well, guess I'd better say something about how Labour screwed up in Iraq or how David Cameron's all flash and no substance," but the audience also didn't react with the howls of laughter and self-righteousness that they would have had this been the DNC. All in all, I was touched by how much of the public stuff at conference was about us, our policies (and conference is, after all, technically all about making policy), our vision, what we have to offer the people of Britain, and not so much about how the other guys cocked it all up. I hate negative politicking, although I'm not naive and I recognize it's effectiveness, and it was yet another reminder of why this is my political party. Go Lib Dems!

It was also a nice change to see Brighton in the off-season. Very different than before, that's for sure! Still went for a sit on the pebbles, but it was much colder. Had time for a few fringes, one on refugees (why do questions on statelessness make people stutter?) where I had a chance to chat with the very cool UNHCR representative (from Ghana) in the UK and one on something that was more or less "WTF, 5 Yrs. after 9/11." They were awfully pessimistic, although Paddy Ashdown had some very interesting stuff to say. Ponder the concept of "global space," wouldja? Also ponder the fact that I have met exactly two people from Ghana in my life: the UNHCR rep. and one of my lovely coursemates. Both of them, upon mention of the Peace Corps, have immediately mentioned a volunteer who worked at their school, sometime during their childhoods. That's pretty cool.

And, because I'm an absolute sucker for free stuff, I rather enjoyed the stalls. Best bits: chocolates and a great book of postcards depicting letterboxes from the Royal Mail (yes, I'm planning to send the cards to Indiana, but ate the chocolates) and a Puppy! See, I'm always a bit jealous of Duchie because her parents have this fantastic tradition of giving both girls new stuffed animals on Christmas Eve and they're always ADORABLE. Seriously, I think they spend months looking for the cutest possible puppies and kittens. And, then they're soft and cute and I want one! But, there's something really a bit strange about buying cute stuffed animals for yourself. It's a bit desperate. So, I was absolutely delighted when the prize for taking part in the blind person organization game show was a seeing eye dog-type puppy! Golden retriever! Awwww! Juliana's going to hurl me across the room the next time I mention the puppy, I'm sure! However, I am an idiot and forgot Denmark on the EDLR quiz in which you had to name and label all the EU countries. I could do all of Europe, but I'd forgotten which ones were EU. Boooo. Still, at least it wasn't Poland. Poor Poland!


gratuitous shot of the Gherkin from last weekend's bimble 'round the City. Hee. She said Gherkin.

And, this one's for Juliana and all you government nerds (I know you're out there! Come on, you know/love me and it's probably because we have something in common.
Yes. 'Tis a chocolate Reichstag. Someone knows me very well.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

London, Year One

Gosh. I was getting my passport ready to mail to the Niger Embassy and realized that today marks the one-year anniversary of my arrival in the UK. Which means that as of yesterday it had been a year since I left the States and last saw my godparents. Wow. It's all sort of weird. I do miss that sense of wild-eyed enthusiasm that I had for everything when I first got here, comparing the things that were different, were improvements or were the same. I have to say that every day is not as full of excitement as it was a year ago, but I guess that's normal. It means that I have to try harder to find new things in London that are new, interesting, different. They're still there. Because getting tired of London is the one thing that I firmly resolve never to do. 'Cause, you know, that means that you're tired of life!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

I'm #55!

Woo! This just in! I am apparently #55 on the Top 100 Liberal Democrat Blogs list published in Iain Dale's Guide to Poltical Blogging in the UK. 'Tis available here (rather large PDF download, so beware).

Hurrah! Does this mean I have to talk about the party and not just about myself?

I did forget to mention that I called the Niger consulate in Paris and it was scary. Oh language barrier, how I love thee. Also, the phone line was dodgy. Niger, I get that the infrastructure's a bit dodgy (Jules always says that it's held together by Nigerien children and string), but Paris? Argh. France. C'est la vie.

Today's long e-mail update

I've been getting some pokes from people asking what I've been up to. The basic answer is "a whole lot of nothing," although I've been putting in some applications and it's been nice to spend time with friends. My plan for the moment is to submit my oh-so-close to finished Peace Corps application (I would love to be posted to Eastern Europe/Central Asia) and hopefully find some sort of internship here in London to do while that processes. I do plan to be home for Christmas, but probably as a trip, rather than permanent resettlement. Everything's very up in the air and I'm completely open to suggestions! The only trip currently scheduled is to see Juliet in Niger at the end of October. I'm so excited (and, I'll admit, a little nervous)!

I haven't been very good at sending these e-mails, so there's probably a lot to catch up on. I guess the most recent thing that I hinted at last time was the trip to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival, the world's largest arts festival (well, really festivals). It was the most wonderful experience! I am, for the record, bad at choosing things. I think that all of my solo choices were absolute flops and we had much better luck when things were decided upon mutually. I don't know if I can even describe the excitement and vibrancy of the EFF. There are posters EVERYWHERE and I loved walking the pedestrianized part of the Royal Mile where performers do snippets of their pieces and pass out post-card sized flyers to anyone who makes eye contact (and others who don't). Usually, I'm the first person to give flyer-ers a no thank you and shake my head, but at Edinburgh it becomes sort of a game to collect as many as you can, then sit down to plan what your days are going to be like. Well, with the help of the small town telephone book-sized (Richmond would be just about right) program. We booked some stuff in advance, picked up others at the door, and made several choices based on what was available at the half-price ticket booth (stuff which turned out to be our favorites). Then there's the fun of reading reviews and overhearing conversations to get recommendations. But, still, there are roughly 1800 performances every day on the Fringe and in the end it comes down to luck and a total crapshoot. Hurrah!

You wind up running all around the city, trying to get from show to show, even though they may be on opposite ends of the earth. Oh, and grabbing sandwiches on the way, because that's all there's time for. It becomes sort of odd that you can sit through something very intense or very funny and walk out, talk about it for five minutes (while walking) and then be ready to face the next thing with a clear mind. I think it helps that performances are short. There's also none of the anticipation involved with going to a normal production, in Edinburgh, you stand in line until five minutes before the scheduled start, file in, and as soon as everyone's seated, the performance starts. And I love the ingenuity with which places are turned into theatres and performance spaces. We saw things in pubs, church halls, railway arches, a giant upside-down inflated purple cow, gymnasiums, and a Quaker meetinghouse (yay! Friends!) fitted with bleachers. We went to the Assembly Rooms for both the Amnesty comedy benefit and Muppet improv (seriously! It was great, apart from some hilarious culture gaps…the cast was all from the US). I'd last been there in 2000 with my parents for First Minister Question Time, when it was serving as the temporary home of the Scottish Parliament. I loved the irony. Also, my parents would have been really amused.

Speaking of the Scottish Parliament, I can't say that I loved or hated the building (which was the subject of great controversy, both because of its cost and design). I do think that it will look dated in 20 years time, one of those great "what were they thinking back then!" buildings. On the other hand, it was exciting to climb Arthur's Seat, the great craggy rock pile that sort of sits in the middle of Edinburgh and at the base of the Royal Mile. It was my only tourist goal and luckily we went on the one day that it was really sunny and clear. There are wonderful views from up there and it was actually a pretty short climb, if fairly steep. But, then, not everyone had a mountain goal in tow, like I did. And, there's very little theatre that starts before 11am, because the point of Edinburgh is apparently to play late and sleep late.

In the end we managed 17 shows (theatre and comedy) in the four days, impressive, but probably amateurish by Edinburgh standards. I have to say that my favorites, by far and away, were the original pieces. One was just a pair of guys talking, trapped in an off-license by the apocalypse. Things only really got bad when the Pringles ran out. Then, there was the piece for which the Holocaust rule was broken, which really spoke to me because it refused to ignore the Roma genocide, too. It came just as I was in the depth of my Roma research for the dissertation and was broiling mad at how much they were ignored as victims (then and now). The one-man play about the life of Robert Maxwell (the publisher) was AMAZING, as was "My Name is Rachel Corrie," which has been unable to find backers to allow it to be produced in the States. It's based on Corrie's diaries and e-mails, leading up to her murder by an Israeli bulldozer while in Palestine as part of the solidarity movement. Also, I saw SNAPE (ok, Alan Rickman)! Eeeeee! Granted, he was the director, so it was a coincidence or anything, but I was still really excited! I definitely spent the rest of the festival, once back in London, wishing that I was still there (well, when I wasn't writing my dissertation, of course)!

London continues to be London. Summer officially ended at the end of August, with the last of the summer bank holidays and the weather conceded the point as well. It's turned cooler and we're getting a lot more rain. More and more friends are moving out or moving home and that's sort of sad. Next week, a new crop of MSc students will move in to the LSE and take our spots. I'm taking German again at King's this fall and am sort of planning to sneak into one of classes that I couldn't take last year to my great disappointment (because the professor was on sabbatical for Michaelmas Term). Luckily, our student IDs don't expire until the end of October, so I can keep getting discounts on the rare occasion that I'm not at one of the subsidized theatres already. Once the dissertation was over, the theatre-going started up again, but never at the crazy pace of 2003. My best friend's little sister is over for study abroad and I'm keeping a rather distant eye on her, as well. My friend Kat from high school, who moved over with her band, went home to start grad school and although I miss her, the band's still fun to go and see. And, we've had a string of MSc birthdays to celebrate, too. This all sounds sort of mundane, but I guess that's what the real world is supposed to be like. ☺

In the next week I'm going to: go to Lib Dem conference in Brighton for the day, maybe go and see The Outside Royalty tomorrow, attend my first rugby game (for which I must study the copy of Rugby Union for Dummies that I was handed in preparation, and complete some more internship applications. I've also almost got a plan for Christmas.

Friday, September 08, 2006


"I've finished my dissertation and now I'm going to Disneyworld Niger! Oct. 17-Nov. 1 to visit my beloved Julesapunk. OMG!

Done...and now a bum.

I can't believe that a week ago at this time, I was going to the LSE to do one last check, print, bind, and turn in my dissertation ('An Outlaw by Definition': Re-understanding the Relationship Between the State and the Stateless). In the end, I was really proud of it, a rather far cry from that piece of shite that I turned in at Earlham a year ago. So, yeah, I hope that the graders like it as much as I do and I hope that I was able to make some slightly interesting points.

One of the professors warned us that by the end we would be questioning whether what we said was in any way original because we had spent so much time with it. I know what he meant, but I just had to keep the panic attacks under control, try to sleep and eat and get through it. That last week was pretty darn intense and I wrote the conclusion last Friday morning. Still, I love the personalness of it; it says all the things that I think are wrong with the way we deal with human rights and what I would like to see done differently. There's a real sense of me and whether that's good or bad, it's there.

A Proud Joyce!

Hannah Arendt wrote that the stateless person “was ‘an anomaly for whom there is no appropriate niche in the framework of the general law’ – an outlaw by definition. (Arendt 1966, p.283)” Her use of the word “outlaw” helps to illustrate why statelessness is such a complicated problem and why states and activists have had a very difficult time working together to solve it. States understand that anomalous nature and feel threatened by it, as they would by the presence of any outlaw. Human rights activists and international lawyers are perplexed by the animosity that states exhibit, because their understanding of the nature of statelessness arises out of the principles of international law and the human rights violations that are inflicted upon the stateless. It would be nice to write that states and activists each need to understand the perspective of the other, but that is simply not true. Within the context of the Westphalian world order, only the state matters and it is the activist who must be forced to adapt.
It should not sound as though the human rights person needs to abandon all the principles of the regime, the principles which have shaped the post-World War world for the better. Human rights needs more supporters, not deserters. Instead, lawyers and activists must use their re-understanding of the state’s statelessness phobia to become more effective advocates for change. As with any advocacy, those who want to help the stateless will be far more valuable if they can find ways to combat statelessness that directly address the reasons why states are reluctant to act. The goal is to find solutions that do not frighten or threaten the state or seem to undermine its legitimacy.
Sadly, this is more difficult than it would seem, since fear and perceived threats are fundamental elements in the state-stateless relationship. This is especially true in cases of denationalization, the way in which the vast, vast majority of people are rendered stateless. Denationalization is no accident, caused by a gap between domestic legal systems the way that original or marital statelessness are, but the result of a deliberate decision. Some factor prompted the state to act and, although the specifics of the case may differ, they are all rooted in fear. Sometimes this is fear of a political threat, whether from reorganized émigrés, majority political power, or old civil war enemies. At other times, it comes from a fear of the Other, the religious, ethnic, and cultural groups, who, instead of enriching a diverse society, are expelled precisely because of their differences.
Not only must activists learn to address statelessness in ways that alleviate the threat faced by individual states, but they must also learn to work with (and not against) the community of states. For many human rights people, this is a difficult prospect, since it is often so much easier to imagine a world in which human rights were the only ideal, than it is to learn to adapt to a confusing and frustrating world in which sovereignty, territorial integrity, and freedom of action are the principles upon which order is based. Statelessness threatens this order, as a whole, too, by creating an entire class of people who exist in the dangerous, and theoretically non-existent, no-man’s land between states. The creation of better international law (or the enforcement of the already existing law) depends upon state cooperation, while at the same time threatening their sovereignty. Voluntary renunciation of citizenship presents a conflict between the individual’s right to change their nationality and protest the acts of their state, while adding to the number of “scary” stateless people and undermining that state’s legitimacy as a member of the international community.
Fear, unfortunately, exerts a massive amount of influence upon the acts of both the state and the community of states. This is not a new war on terror paradigm, but one which has shaped state behavior for centuries. The stateless person, like other outlaws (including pirates and terrorists), “serve the state by signaling who will not be entitled to its protection, and throwing fear into the rest of us. (Kerber 2004, p.745)” Human rights activists are perfectly positioned to help citizens understand that stateless people are victims, not outlaws, and should continue to do so, but must go further and do work that helps convince states of this very same fact.