Congresswoman wants Carter’s passport revoked

A Republican congresswoman has called for the Secretary of State to revoke former president Jimmy Carter’s passport after he met with leaders of Hamas in the Middle East.

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) said in a written statement April 16 that Carter’s actions contradicted international agreements to isolate Hamas and defied U.S. policy.

“His actions reward terrorists, lend support, and provide legitimacy to their belief that violence will eventually get them what they want,” Myrick said.

Carter told NPR that he traveled to the middle east as a representative of his nonprofit Carter Center to gauge how involved minority parties are in the peace process.

Hamas is the party of the elected Palestinian government in Gaza. The United States lists Hamas as a terrorist organization. Therefore, U.S. officials are not to meet with Hamas officials, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported.

Carter told NPR that no one at the state Department specifically discouraged his trip or his meeting with Hamas leaders.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormick said Friday that he hopes that private people on the international scene will interact with the “legitimate forces for peace,” such as Palestinian President Abbas.

“It’s our view that you should focus on those who want to bring about peace, who have turned away from violence, who have renounced terrorism,” McCormick said.

In a meeting with reporters on Friday, McCormick said he didn’t think Carter had broken any laws or done anything punishable by visiting with Hamas.

Myrick, who as a member of the House of Representatives has no authority over passports, told the Fox News Newtork on Thursday that her call to revoke Carter’s passport was meant to sent a message.

“But, frankly, I wanted to send a strong message, because we have a policy in this country about Hamas. And he is just deliberately undermining the policy, and it’s wrong.”

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Thunderstruck

Just as a note, for posterity maybe, last night was the first thunder I heard this year. The National Weather Service says Bozeman (and most of southwestern, south central, and central Montana) are in the path of a monster Pacific storm. We’re to expect inches upon inches of snow, feet of it in the mountains. I suppose that last night’s freak April thunderstorm was a precursor to that big storm front.

At any rate, I thought it was worth recording.

Mainstream Green

Susan and I were talking the other night about the number of “green living” commercials that have flooded the channels we watch regularly — HGTV, Discovery, and Food Network.

In one hour of viewing, we may see ads for one network’s Green Home Giveaway, Wal-Mart ads for CFL bulbs, GMC hawking hybrid Yukons, and Brita asking the world to get more responsible (by using their filters and not plastic bottles). This doesn’t count the commercials for the various green-themed shows that are popping up all over the TV dial.

Susan said that the green movement has hit its tipping point, and that from here on out, it will be inevitably and unavoidably mainstream. I think we’ll have to wait for the energy-production methods to hit the mainstream (as opposed to the energy-saving methods presently on the mass market) before we see a big change in society. But any way you look at it, “green” is here to stay.

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones making such observations. Arizona State University’s business journalism center released a report last fall about the surge in “green” business journalism. The study shows that of the 154 “green” stories published between 2000 and 2007, more than half were published in 2007 and three-quarters since 2006.

Slate Magazine noticed the green swell last July. Columnist Jack Shafer compared green journalism to its more nefarious cousin.


Often as sensationalistic as its yellow predecessor, green journalism tends to appeal to our emotions, exploit our fears, and pander to our vanity. It places a political agenda in front of the quest for journalistic truth and in its most demagogic forms tolerates no criticism, branding all who question it as enemies of the people.

Shafer’s point is that, often, we fail to question the facts behind green, believing instead that anything labeled “green” is inherently good. This is called “greenwashing” (another definition here, from Greenpeace, ca. 1992). The Wall Street Journal points out that watchdog groups around the world are starting to take note but says few of those groups have the authority to punish the greenwashers.

So I guess the lesson here is that while there is a strong push to take green into the mainstream, we have to remember that some marketers out there know how to misuse it. And while criticizing any effort to “save the planet” may seem like heresy, we have to remember to keep our bullshit detectors turned on, even when everybody else turns them off to save energy.

You’d think they’d know better

First things first, some background. I’m a writing tutor. I work with graduate students at Montana State University in Bozeman. Usually, this means I read a lot of theses and dissertations from departments like Chemistry, Computer Science, Earth Science, Counseling, and Architecture. Usually this means I don’t read a lot of theses and dissertations from departments like English, Philosophy, and History.

The reasons for this are pretty obvious. Those last-mentioned groups already know how to write, presumably; so they don’t make appointments with me and I’m left to slog through 120 pages on Wilkinson power circuits or semantic text clustering or expected progeny differences in livestock. It’s not that I don’t like those topics… Well, actually I don’t. That’s why I majored in Literature and got a master’s in English. Yet I read them because I must and because I feel some duty to help other people improve their writing. It’s my calling in life, it seems. And they’re not all that bad.

But this week, a gem landed in my e-mail inbox. One of the English grad students wanted an appointment to go over a paper she’ll submit to a conference. Great! Wonderful! About damned time I got someone from the humanities into my office. Not only would this one be a breeze read, but it would deal with subjects I like. The pot only sweetened after I opened her attachment. It was an 11-page paper on problems of collaborative authorship in memoirs, autobiographies, and diaries — the very subject that formed the heart of my thesis two years ago. Joy!

But as I sat down to read it, I started tasting a familiar, metallic flavor. It was the flavor of her prose, which despite its grade-level, was trying just as hard to emulate the “official style” as any of the freshmen I taught back in composition class. One example: what should have been just an “uneven balance of power” turned into an “incongruous power ratio.”

I realized then and there that no matter who you are, you might need writing help, especially if you’re part of a department where you are expected to know how to write clearly. It’s not like I expected her paper to be spotless — I have read some of these English grad papers in class, after all. I know they can be just as weak as a freshman nursing student or engineer in certain ways. But I expected her to at least have her own voice and not feel like she had to emulate the current style-of-choice.

The experience reaffirmed for me that my job is valuable, that I can help people improve their writing. Now, all I have to do is make them see that they need help… That will be the hard part. More to come…