Monday, April 30, 2007

Lewis Lapham, Representin'

Check out L Magazine's typo-pockmarked but otherwise wonderful write-up of our Lewis Lapham reading tonight. Tickets are probably still available; check

Lewis is a very funny, very smart man, and his collection of anecdote- and pith-filled letters by great American letterists (letterers?) is second to none.

(Thanks, L: I love your train and your magazine.)

old Gladwell on Hate Speech

and if you are still thinking about imus/racism/hate speech/etc...i found this old blog by his gladwellness...i just think its worth looking a little deeper into the issue of hate speech or racism and his point about how all hate speech is not created equal is important...after all, quick, unconsidered judgment is what racism is all about...

by the way, anyone who likes to read gladwell in the new yorker or in book form should go to his site and check out his blog, you can subscribe to it on google reader to get RSS feed...but mr gladwell's unedited musings and wandering curiosities are quite interesting...

now, back to the bees...

Did Oldboy "Inspire" Me To Feed My Cat This Morning?

Oldboy is not the problem. Hostel II--as poor an example of art or taste as you may ever see--is not the problem. Movies, books, television shows, and Marilyn Manson are not turning America's little ones into gun-toting psychopaths.

From Michael Cieply's "After Virginia Tech, Testing Limits of Movie Violence," today's NYTimes:

Given [Hostel II's] subject matter and the marketing campaign that has already come with it — posters featuring a woman’s severed head and other grisly images are now scattered on the Web — the Lionsgate film is emerging as a test of continued audience enthusiasm for such onscreen brutality, which some commentators have connected with the Blacksburg gunman Seung-Hui Cho’s video and its possible echoes of the Korean revenge film “Old Boy.”

“What might have been traditionally acceptable exploitation in one period can be seen as stupendously bad taste in another,” said Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California, which examines the links among entertainment, commerce and society.

We know some commentators will always say some funny stuff about media and violence.

But the New York Times and its staff should better understand and, more to the point, since I'm sure they do understand, better represent the origins of art that deals with bloodshed. As I wrote earlier, there have always been works of art about violence because there has always been violence. Old Boy does not advocate, prescribe, inspire, or even really comment on violence. It is a movie about revenge (and incest, and potstickers, and eating raw octopus--again, a great movie). So is Kill Bill. So are many other movies--good, bad, and stupid.

We hope the Times more carefully addresses artistic violence in the future. For my part, I'm not going to see Hostel II, but not because I believe it will inspire me or someone I know to go on a shooting rampage. I'm not going to see it because it's going to be poorly written, badly acted, and probably more than a trifle boring.

(Kill Bill Vol. 3, on the other hand...)

THE BEES MAN! THE BEES (a rant on colony collapse disorder a.k.a. the rapture of the bees)

okay...seriously people...the bees...i know people are all really hot and bothered about imus and congress's vote(ish)ing against(ish) the war in iraq...but i mean if all the bees are gone who cares!...and if you don't think bees are political, look closer...

maslow's hierarchy of needs is pretty much the bottom of the pyramid...

i am going to introduce the idea of a bee awareness club called "SAVE MAYA: STOP COLONY COLLAPSE DISORDER!" after our own maya the bee...and if that puppet vanishes i am gonna freak out...

i am just saying people, big picture!...zoom out...bee rapture...bee rapture...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two Cities, Same Story

This is not a picture of New Orleans. Or a city anywhere near the Mississippi. In fact this is Baghdad. And the United States government has not only destroyed that city with bombs and insufficient security, we have botched even the most basic construction jobs.

Two stories hit the papers today and they cannot be unrelated, nor should they be taken lightly. The first story in today's Washington Post declares that the United States squandered or never collected nearly one billion dollars in foreign aid. Here is just a taste of the not surprising but outrageous story:

Allies offered $854 million in cash and in oil that was to be sold for cash. But only $40 million has been used so far for disaster victims or reconstruction, according to U.S. officials and contractors. Most of the aid went uncollected, including $400 million worth of oil. Some offers were withdrawn or redirected to private groups such as the Red Cross. The rest has been delayed by red tape and bureaucratic limits on how it can be spent.

In addition, valuable supplies and services -- such as cellphone systems, medicine and cruise ships -- were delayed or declined because the government could not handle them. In some cases, supplies were wasted.

The struggle to apply foreign aid in the aftermath of the hurricane, which has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $125 billion so far, is another reminder of the federal government's difficulty leading the recovery. Reports of government waste and delays or denials of assistance have surfaced repeatedly since hurricanes Katrina and Rita struck in 2005.

The second story from today's New York Times concerns Iraq reconstruction. If you can call it that. A group of inspectors conducting federal oversight (shocking) found that 7 of 8 projects they assessed, projects our government had declared "successes", were no longer functioning for a variety of reasons. The first paragraph tells the story:

In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

Heckuva job, fellas.


Bill Moyers has a new series called "Bill Moyers Journal". This week featured an interview with Jon Stewart and my favorite blogger, Joshua Micah Marshall, who broke the US Attorney story wide open. You can watch these segments online now here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

We should just draft him.

Everyone wants Gore. Chris Rock endorsed him on "Saturday Night Live" a couple of weeks ago. I endorse him every chance I get. Now the Republican Mayor of New York City has seen the light:

“I hope Al Gore enters the race; I think it would be good for the country,” the mayor said.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Oh. My. God.

This is Michelle Malkin. Neocon who believed in (and wrote the book defending) the Japanese internment. This is simply....... amazing.

step off Supreme Court!

Planned Parenthood New York just sent an e-blast announcing

Moments ago Governor Spitzer announced his introduction of the Reproductive Health and Privacy Protection Act!

You heard it here first, but we haven't yet found any citation to confirm it...stand by for more news.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

ethel says women are canaries

With regard to Virginia Tech, Ethel Spiliotes (5th grade bloggstress) writes on behalf of the women:

Before killing the 30 people in the classrooms, he [Seung-Hui Cho] was ONLY involved in stalking two women and then killing two people in what they were (and are still) calling a DOMESTIC incident (as opposed to MURDER). Why do people think that "people" who only stalk and/or kill women are not dangers to public safety? Aren't women part of the public? First they kill small animals, then women, and then they go for the real people. So watch out!

While we dissect the ins and outs of whether this incident will re-capture the public's attention to gun control, wonder if violent Asian movies provoked the killer, and use it to demand attention to suffering in Iraq, Ethel draws our attention to one of the more relevant pieces of the story - the victims.

Overt Memetic Warfare

Well, the witches don't believe in you, Mr. President.

(Neither do Luminists such as myself, for that matter.)

In any event, we are heartened by the news that America's fastest-growing religion (don't believe Scientology's reports on itself, but look into CUNY's recent study of American faiths, and into this amazing book), Wicca, is now grave-safe, according to our ethics-meting G.I. spokespersons. Bravo, USofA. Bravo.

From the Times,"Use of Wiccan Symbol on Veterans’ Headstones Is Approved," by NEELA BANERJEE:

WASHINGTON, April 23 — To settle a lawsuit, the Department of Veterans Affairs has agreed to add the Wiccan pentacle to a list of approved religious symbols that it will engrave on veterans’ headstones.

The settlement, which was reached on Friday, was announced on Monday by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, which represented the plaintiffs in the case...

It normally takes a few months for a petition by a faith group to win the department’s approval, but the effort on behalf of the Wiccan symbol took about 10 years and a lawsuit, said Richard B. Katskee, assistant legal director for Americans United.

The group attributed the delay to religious discrimination. Many Americans do not consider Wicca a religion, or hold the mistaken belief that Wiccans are devil worshipers.

“The Wiccan families we represented were in no way asking for special treatment,” the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said at a news conference Monday...

There are 1,800 Wiccans in the armed forces, according to a Pentagon survey cited in the suit, and Wiccans have their faith mentioned in official handbooks for military chaplains and noted on their dog tags...

In reviewing 30,000 pages of documents from Veterans Affairs, Americans United said, it found e-mail and memorandums referring to negative comments President Bush made about Wicca in an interview with “Good Morning America” in 1999, when he was governor of Texas. The interview had to do with a controversy at the time about Wiccan soldiers’ being allowed to worship at Fort Hood, Tex.

“I don’t think witchcraft is a religion,” Mr. Bush said at the time, according to a transcript. “I would hope the military officials would take a second look at the decision they made...”

“I was just aghast that someone who would fight for their country and die for their country would not get the symbol he wanted on his gravestone,” said John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, which litigates many First Amendment cases. “It’s just overt religious discrimination.”

Monday, April 23, 2007

Points Missed Amid Other, Stupider Points

From A. O. Scott's "Drawing a Line From Movie to Murder" in today's Times:

“Oldboy,” Stephen Hunter wrote in The Washington Post on Friday, “must feature prominently in the discussion” of Mr. Cho’s possible motivations, “even if no one has yet confirmed that Cho saw it.” If he did, Mr. Hunter notes, “he would have passed on the subtitles and listened to it in his native language” and perhaps developed a feeling of kinship with its persecuted, paranoid hero.


Scott goes on, in his toothless, meandering way, to down-play the role of movie violence in "inspiring" shootings like the one at Virginia Tech.

But an over-arching note of connection between movies and violence persists.

It is as if Oldboy--a wonderful retelling of The Count Of Monte Cristo by one of the world's great living directors, Chan-Woo Park--could really somehow be blamed for the actions of a single confused young man.

Oldboy, for the record, isn't about shooting schools, or shooting anyone at all. It's about revenge. (Well, and incest.) Its hero uses, among other weapons, a hammer. It's mythic, hyperbolic, beautifully made, and a little ridiculous (with intention). It is not any more violent than the Iliad, or than The Red Badge Of Courage. If the same confused young man who saw Oldboy had been born one hundred years ago, perhaps he would have frequently referenced Poe, or H. G. Wells, or Melville instead of C.-W. Park.

Many people, in fact, abuse metaphors and misappropriate symbols every day. When I say "I was as sad as Gilgamesh when my first cat, Oscar, died," I know that I was not really as sad as that mythic Babylonian king was when his best friend died. I know that the two events are only related symbolically. I am simply very sad. Did Gilgamesh "inspire" me to be sad?

Ask yourself: Did a movie about revenge make the VA Tech killer take revenge? (On whom was he taking revenge? Why?) How could a popular movie, a movie I and many of my friends have seen several times, have "inspired" anything so epic? Had it not existed, would perhaps the Iliad--a tale all about revenge, insane, civilization-breaking revenge--have "inspired" the same actions?

We walk a very slippery, stupid slope when we conflate metaphors with the things they describe. The Deconstructionists pointed this out often, and I think it's worth remembering now. Oldboy no more "inspires" violence than the Iliad, or than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Art, it has been known in all cultures throughout all times, is cathartic. It essentially fights against violence by allowing us to live the arc of anger, release, and forgiveness without actually having to, say, invade Ilium, or to defeat Shredder.

Stupid people will always misuse art for evil purposes (see Germany, the late 1930s, or listen to Fifty Cent), and other stupid people--not necessarily Mr. Scott of the Times, but many people who read his piece today--will misuse the fears of the masses against art.

Because we cannot control all the information that our children absorb every day, we must teach them to discriminate between the true and the untrue, the loving and the dangerous. We must explain why Achilles fought in the Trojan War, why we root for Donatello to dismantle Shredder's Terrordrome, and why the titular Oldboy is not a model of morality, though neither is he a totally unsympathetic murderer.

Oldboy is like all of us: He would rather not get in a fight... until he's pushed "to the limit." What pushed the VA Tech shooter past his limit, what made him feel akin to Oldboy (who, like the Count of Monte Cristo, had been truly and horribly wronged--had been given a clearer grounds for revenge than the young man who murdered his classmates), I do not pretend to know.

But I don't think we should blame--or even hint around blaming--artists Mr. Park.

The Intolerant--Guess What--Do Not Tolerate Theater, Either...

Extremism hits home in the New York theater world.

This makes me want to go see Invincible Summer right away.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Sheryl Crow is so scary....

She must be, cuz Karl Rove freaked when she touched his arm. He's a real piece of work!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

the sanctity of human life

The front page of the NY Times said it all this morning.
President Bush commended the Supreme Court's

protecting human dignity and upholding the sanctity of life

as nearly 200 more people died in Iraq.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

more schoolkids in the news!

so a handful of kids from the Beacon School, here in NYC, head to Cuba for spring break with a teacher and a couple of parents.

no one knows how they got there, no one will own up to having sanctioned the trip to a leftist country!

The NY Times writes:
Former Councilwoman Eva S. Moskowitz said she had tried to help parents after rumors that the trip would not be allowed. “I can’t imagine why this is a bad thing,” she said. “I think you would want kids to travel, even to leftist countries, and have them understand their social and economic systems, their human rights violations.”
um, leftist countries? what does that mean exactly?

listen to this!

musician Peter Buffett thinks we need voices of reason and has decided to amplify this one:

rock on MLK.

america at a crossroads

If you haven't yet seen any of PBS's documentary series America At A Crossroads this week, do find the time to watch it or record it.

Last night's interviews with soldiers on different levels of the chain of command, followed by dramatizations of the troops' own writing, was the most down-to-earth, heartbreaking representation of the realities of this war that I've seen yet.

Simply through the words and experiences of U.S. soldiers, without putting on interpretations or using editing to tell a story, the agony of their experience - and the absolute horrors of the Iraqi experience - is palpable.

Tonight Richard Perle is allocated the first hour to jam his foot down his throat. Not to be missed.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Our primary homeslice Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower just won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

We congratulate him with all our hearts.

The man is a double paragon of journalistic thoroughness and good prose style. He is also one of the easiest-to-work-with people you could ever meet. And a snappy dresser.

(For those of you who missed Wright's My Trip To Al-Qaeda, stay tuned for a very short remounting of the show some time in June.)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

War of Water

Former US Military leaders including General Anthony Zinni and Bush's former Middle East chief, have joined forces to call for serious efforts to commence to stop global warming. These leaders explain the impact of continued non- action in global warming: tens of millions of refugees, civil strife, genocide and increased terrorism, major security risks across the country, and the inevitable wars over lack of water. Yes, we will be at war over water.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

How much?

How much is an Iraqi life worth? Well, to the US Government, somewhere between $700 and $3000 it seems. See, US Soldiers (who we support, really, we support our troops, okay?) maybe because of duress or inadequate training, or inadequate security, or inadequate leadership - well they keep murdering innocent Iraqis. We don't read about it much over here (we don't want to waste the beautiful mind of Barbara Bush, for heaven's sake!) but over the past four years, our government has paid out 32 million dollars to the families of innocent, non-combatants that we have 'accidentally' murdered. Not all the innocents we've murdered get compensated, however. There was that shepherd that was tending his flock when we detonated a few tons of explosives on him 'by accident'. But that was considered by the US military to be 'combat-related'. Uh huh. If you really want to read more (and why would you, it's so friggin' horrific?) you can read a great post on another fantastic blog called Firedoglake, here. They also link to the actual records the ACLU collected which outlay each victim and the measley payments we doled out to their families. It truly made me sick to my stomach.

Friday, April 13, 2007

forgiving but not forgetting

this just in from the women of Rutgers and Coach Stringer:

We, the Rutgers University Scarlet Knight basketball team accept — accept — Mr. Imus’s apology, and we are in the process of forgiving. We still find his statements to be unacceptable. And this is an experience that we will never forget. These comments are indicative of greater ills in our culture. It is not just Mr. Imus. And we hope that this will be and serve as a catalyst for change. Let us continue to work hard together to make this world a better place.

Imus is boring; Stringer rocks

C. Vivian Stringer, coach to the Rutgers women's basketball team sums up the state of the union pretty well, I'd venture:
Have we lost a sense of our own moral fiber? Has society decayed to such a point that we can forgive and forget because you know what, it was just a slip of the tongue? I'm going to suggest that bright, thinking people give thought before they speak.

She's right dammit. As tired as I am of all this Imus coverage, I'm equally tired of forgiving and forgetting. Call me PC, call me overly sensitive, but he's a jerk and I'm glad they fired him. Freedom of speech is one thing; turning a blind eye to racist and sexist "casual remarks" is another.

My colleagues may disagree with me...the door is open for debate...

But briefly, on another note, the Duke players were let off this week. It may go down in history as one of the most royally botched cases of all time. It was definitely the right move to throw out the case, but it does raise a red flag for those of us concerned with the cases of future rape victims. As the editors of Salon's Broadsheet write:
Those who see every rape charge as a probable false accusation may read the Duke case outcome as validating their position; assault survivors may worry that the Duke case outcome erodes their credibility...Going forward, we're hoping this unusual, unfortunate case won't become a cultural touchstone for future rape allegations -- but we're not terribly optimistic.

Here's hoping.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So it goes....

Kurt Vonnegut died today. You can read the first of what I'm sure will be an avalanche of obituaries and columns and retrospectives on his brilliant and often misunderstood work - here.

A brief passage from "Slaughterhouse Five" :

“You know — we’ve had to imagine the war here, and we have imagined that it was being fought by aging men like ourselves.... We had forgotten that wars were fought by babies. When I saw those freshly shaved faces, it was a shock. My God, my God — I said to myself, ‘It’s the Children’s Crusade.’ ”

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Got outrage ?

Well the 'rightwingers' are mad at Naked Angels. A character in one of our plays opening tonight gets assassinated. And he's the president. Of some country. I guess that means all liberals want Bush dead. Or something like that. Read all about the outrage here.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Friday, April 6, 2007

Our Only Real Diplomat?

Nagging questions of political decorum aside (and since when did decorum, I dunno, prevent a chlorine bombing?)..., who the fuck gives somebody flak for trying to reconcile hostile powers in the Middle East?

The fact that Pelosi is not a member of the Executive branch merely underscores that branch's failures.

If Bush cannot reach out to "Axis Of Evil" leaders, he cannot hope to entice them to change their policies towards Israel, sectarian rivalry, or falafels, which, as stated earlier, must be safe to eat if the Middle East is ever to recover from its long slide back into Medieval violence and state-choking autocracy.

Anyway, here's a little blurb about our Madam Speaker's controversial trip:

From the NYTimes, April 6, 2007, "Pelosi Nudges Saudi Arabia to Give Women a Role in Politics," ASSOCIATED PRESS:

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 5 (AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday visited Saudi Arabia’s unelected advisory council, the closest thing in the kingdom to a legislature, where she tried out her counterpart’s chair — a privilege not available to Saudi women because they cannot become legislators.


Ms. Pelosi and King Abdullah discussed at length the Arab peace initiative, which offers Israel peace with Arab states if it withdraws from lands seized in 1967 and allows the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has said it will accept the proposal only if some changes are made.

“I explained to him that this can be a very important and historic proposal if he is prepared for a discussion and a dialogue and not a presentation on a take-it-or-leave-it basis,” said Representative Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who is also part of the American delegation. “His reaction was very positive.”

Of course Bush should value diplomacy, too.

But if he doesn't, I vote we send in Pelosi, Jimmy Carter, the A Team, and Sam Jackson, who, as we all know from Snakes On A Plane, is a master of both conflict resolution and off-the-cuff toxicology.

Also, this is something that should get more attention/political pressure: Many Iraqi refugees in Syria (and probably in Jordan, Iran, Saudia Arabia, Yemen, etc.) are being forced in quasi-slave positions as "cabaret dancers" or domestic servants... So besides the number of deaths/serious injuries in Iraq, one must, when one appraises America's intervention there, consider the number of less enumerable vilenesses that have come to pass since April, 2003.

From the (rather dark, X-Files-chic) CIA website:

current situation: Syria is a destination country for women from South and Southeast Asia and Africa for domestic servitude and from Eastern Europe and Iraq for sexual exploitation; women are recruited for work in Syria as domestic servants, but some face conditions of exploitation and involuntary servitude including long hours, non-payment of wages, withholding of passports and other restrictions on movement, and physical and sexual abuse; Eastern European women recruited for work in Syria as cabaret dancers are not permitted to leave their work premises without permission and have their passports withheld; some displaced Iraqi women and children are reportedly forced into sexual exploitation
tier rating: Tier 3 - Syria does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so

We should engage Syria diplomatically if for no other reason than to pressure them to reform/transform/abolish their domestic servant/sex trade.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Tom Paine/Obama In 08


1. Iran sends home their 15 pet sailing-Brits, one plus a hijab. Here's a great fish-eyed picture of the vicious Anglo-trespassers in their second-hand Persian suits. (I want one!)

From today's NYTimes:

“Throughout, we have taken a measured approach, firm but calm, not negotiating but not confronting either,” Mr. Blair said. Britain bore no ill will toward the Iranian people, he told reporters, and respected Iran’s “proud and dignified history.”

So... Britain wouldn't negotiate or confront? Meaning the only option left to explore was... to ignore the situation and hope cooler heads prevailed in Tehran. Gotcha. Isn't that basically "chance-based engagement" (a term I just made up that I will continue to apply to this hope-it-goes-away brand of diplomacy, such as Bush's/America's re: Hamas, DPRNK, Castro, &c.).

I don't know which was lamer, the Brit's faith/head-in-sand-based conflict resolution or the Iranian's lame video/pictorial propaganda about how "sorry" the sailors were (really, for real, guys), which featured a much be-Sharpied map of the Iran/Iraq aqua-divide and a dour-looking Revolutionary Guardsman pointing to the obviously offensive Brit-boat coordinate.

(In other news, Russia plans to build a GPS system to rival our own... Competition is a good thing.)

2. Again we favour Israel bearing arms rather than brown people bearing them. Also from today's Times:

WASHINGTON, April 4 — A major arms-sale package that the Bush administration is planning to offer Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf allies to deter Iran has been delayed because of objections from Israel, which says that the advanced weaponry would erode its military advantage over its regional rivals, according to senior United States officials.

This is the other backbone of American policy: Fucking things up. To prevent dictatorships, Communism, religious radicalism, and anti-selling-us-oil governments in general, we prop up crazy dictators. To prevent war, we sell arms to side X, which makes side Y want to go to war, meaning we have to give more arms to side Z to create an "equilibrium," though it's easy to misinterpret how to do that, and with whom...

3. John Edwards is "roaring" with Christ's power.

Actually, I'm not going to make fun of him, even though I'm all about some Age Of Reason non-theistic (i.e., non-carrot-&-stick-based) morality. Check out this:

I think he would be happy with the fact that I have focused on people who live in poverty here and people without healthcare. And the suffering of others in other parts of the world, like some of the work that I've done on humanitarian issues in Africa, for example, and going to the slums outside of Delhi and India.

Focusing on problems in a very personal way that exist, and without regard to my own selfish ambitions, talking about things that may not seem so politically powerful, but are important to me, and I think important to God.

That sounds about right. Except that talking about morality should be a part of politics, as it once was (see below; buy the book).

Possibly even better is:

Do you think that America is a Christian nation?

...I never thought of it quite that way. There's a lot of America that's Christian. I would not describe us, though, on the whole, as a Christian nation. I guess the word "Christian" is what bothers me, even though I'm a Christian.

Correct/bravo. Can you imagine Pres. John Edwards (and I am an electorally-monogamous Obama man mydamnself) talking to Middle Eastern leaders? I can--more than I can imagine Bush, another serious Christian, doing so. Because, unlike Bush, Edwards seems to have a grasp on the idea of many faiths/one nation, or of the continually self-revising nature of history... Which leads me to:

4. Paul Collins is THE MAN, as is Tom Paine. Best recognize.

You should buy this book by the former/about the latter.
Right now.

flat-top mountain's chinese brothers and sisters

to lend a global addendum to wythe's post last month about mountaintop removal mining in the U.S, here's an amazing narrated slideshow about the effects of mining in Linfen, China:

really scary. really worth watching.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

on another note

looks like it's not just Culture Project staff with an abiding interest in the art of karaoke:

the economist again:

Yanji, a town predominately of ethnic Korean Chinese, then had something of wartime Casablanca about it. The place was crawling with South Korean, Chinese and North Korean spooks; snakeheads promising to get refugees, for a sum, into safe third countries; and starving North Korean women willing to sell themselves for a song in return for protection.

I had wanted some of the story, but, as a journalist, I came away feeling a fraud. I had met a Korean Chinese—a Communist official, indeed—who had promised I could meet two young North Korean women whom he was sheltering; they would tell me their story. But when I saw them the following evening, it was clear that whatever their past sufferings, these two large plump women were now party girls. They insisted we hire a private karaoke room. They knew all the South Korean songs. And with a show of considerable force they pushed me on to my back on the sofa, cramming grapes into my mouth. I tried, I swear I tried, but I never did get their story, though I remember charging the experience to expenses.

women are center stage

while we're stuck in the U.S. talking about Hillary (is it important to vote for a woman for prez even if her politics are f**ked?), the economist reminds us about some real progressive women out there fighting the good (political) fight:

Ségolène Royal is a Socialist candidate for president in France (even though it may mean she needs to spend a little more on babysitters), joining the ranks of Helle Thorning-Schmidt of Denmark and Mona Sahlin in Sweden, also Social Democratic leaders who are out there in the battle.

these are the kind of strong women with a people-centered political agenda that we should be taking our direction from.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007


I felt really bad when I smoked pot in front of my dad's grave. Now..... not so much.

US Priorities = Fucked

1. Africa

...should be a huge priority. Easy-to-slow down or stop human rights crises abound. See: Yesterday's post about Central African Republic. Or check out today's NYTimes, "Showing Mugabe the Door," by PETER GODWIN:

Zimbabwe lacks the two exports necessary to interest the United States in direct intervention: oil and terrorism. International sanctions on Zimbabwe are now minuscule. We could ramp up “smart sanctions” against Mr. Mugabe and his coterie, for example by freezing their ill-gotten external assets, but any wider sanctions would probably only hurt those at the bottom of the food chain, not the elite kleptocracy. Megaphone diplomacy tends to feed Mr. Mugabe’s portrayal of Western powers as shrill, hectoring, imperialist bullies.

Long story short: Zimbabwe is the poorest, most messed-up country on the planet. And Democrats and Republicans aren't going to do anything to help the people there.

(Check out Alex Cockburn's perfectly motley, perfectly reasoned discussion of latter-day Radicalism, and why he's not a card-carryin' Dem. Then go out and vote Freak Power Party, when I run for NY Senate...)

2. Iraq

Read George Packard's excellent, excellent discussion of how we treat our own allies--or, rather, how we grossly mistreat our own allies in Iraq.

From the article:

From the hotel window, Othman could see the palace domes of the Green Zone directly across the Tigris River. “It’s sad,” he told me. “With all the hopes that we had, and all the dreams, I was totally against the word ‘invasion.’ Wherever I go, I was defending the Americans and strongly saying, ‘America was here to make a change.’ Now I have my doubts.”

Laith was more blunt: “Sometimes, I feel like we’re standing in line for a ticket, waiting to die.”

3. America

From the NYTimes' "Relatives of Interned Japanese-Americans Side With Muslims," By NINA BERNSTEIN:

In recent years, many scholars have drawn parallels and contrasts between the internment of Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the treatment of hundreds of Muslim noncitizens who were swept up in the weeks after the 2001 terror attacks, then held for months before they were cleared of links to terrorism and deported.

But the brief being filed today is a rare case of members of a third generation stepping up to defend legal protections that were lost to their grandparents, and that their parents devoted their lives to reclaiming.

“I feel that racial profiling is absolutely wrong and unjustifiable,” Ms. Yasui, 53, wrote in an e-mail message from San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she works as a writer and graphic designer. “That my grandmother was treated by the U.S. government as a ‘dangerous enemy alien’ was a travesty. And it killed my grandfather.”

Meaning history repeats, because we turn our eyes from it.


We must at least consider--as a nation, from the highest benches of government on down--that the starving, oppressed peoples of Africa might just be worthy of our help, even if such help does not result in any financial or political gain for us. We must consider that we might really have to help them, just because it is the right thing to do. It is the right thing to do in the MLK II/Faulkner/Mos Def sense--the sense that does not take explaining or theorizing or justifying--just doing.

We must consider the fact that, by treating our Iraqi allies in Baghdad badly and replacing them with Jordanians and Uzbeks, we might be harming both the Iraqi people and the American people. We might be placing ourselves at a continually greater risk of terrorist attack by neglecting to follow the advice of the Iraqis who want to help us fix Iraq.

And finally we must treat each and every American citizen as a citizen; in fact, we must treat as citizens even those proto-citizens who are prevented from joining this Union by right wing xenophobics. We must not treat Muslims like terrorists simply because they are Muslims.

Sure, the Quran and Bible and Torah and other religious/doctrinal texts advocate or don't advocate violence against various groups and for various reasons and via various metaphors and with various room for diplomatic out-bowing... But more important than all that hogwashing is the fact that most US Muslims--must Muslims everywhere--aren't "violent" and shouldn't be treated as dangerous outsiders. They pay taxes, watch the Super Bowl and eat at frickin Chucky Cheese, just like everyone else (except Tax Skippin Jimmy) in New Jersey.

Which all leads me to one more short mosaic-piece of information for you to ponder over. O ye who saw Guantánamo: Honorbound to Defend Freedom here at CP, weep! Then stop weeping. Then write your senator, your rep, your local judges, your PTA people, and your President. Just copy the paragraph below and X it out with chicken's blood. (That's called "Bad Bird" houdou.) Anyway, here it is:

5. Sad, Sad Tidings

From the NYTimes' "Supreme Court Denies Guantánamo Appeal," By LINDA GREENHOUSE:

WASHINGTON, April 2 — The Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear urgent appeals from two groups of detainees at Guantánamo Bay. The 45 men sought to challenge the constitutionality of a new law stripping federal judges of the authority to hear challenges to the open-ended confinement of foreign citizens held at the American naval base in Cuba and designated as enemy combatants.

Monday, April 2, 2007

What a pair!

Rudy's a cross-dressing, racist cop-defending, adulterer and Judy's a dog killer. Nice.

Preventable Tragedies

From the NYTimes' "Wedged Amid African Crises, a Neglected Nation Suffers," by LYDIA POLGREEN:

The crisis in the Central African Republic is now more than two years old, and the fighting has killed thousands of people and caused hundreds of thousands of the country’s four million people to flee their homes.

Their flight has been so desperate that those who can have run across the border into their troubled neighbors’ territory. About 50,000 people from the northwest have fled into southern Chad, and thousands of residents of the northeastern town of Birao, in a perverse twist, have even fled into the Darfur region of Sudan, where a struggle over power, land and identity has raged since 2003.

Toby Lanzer, the United Nations humanitarian chief in the Central African Republic, said that despite the nation’s desperate poverty, saving lives here, with enough resources, would be relatively easy.

Chad and Sudan are vast, arid nations that have complex ethnic problems, and aid workers have been attacked and stymied by government bureaucracy. Sudan and Chad have both refused United Nations peacekeeping troops, but the Central African Republic has said it would cooperate with an international force.

“This is a place where the international community is welcomed,” Mr. Lanzer said. “It is a country of four million people. We should be able to fix this.”

His lonely way back home...

James Moore, co-author of "Bush's Brain" and an upcoming book on the long-term effects of Bush and Rove's deplorable policies on America, has a 'must read' in today's Huffington Post.

If you read or watched anything yesterday, you heard about Matthew Dowd, Bush's former chief strategist, who overnight tried to mea culpa his way out of 6 years of war mongering and Constitution shredding. This is the guy almost single-handedly responsible for both Bush victories (he was Rove's right hand) and now, just as his son is about to be shipped off to Iraq, he's suddenly had a crisis of conscience. Well, it's just a little too late.

Safer than Phoenix ?

See Saint McCain take a "stroll" through the marketplace in downtown Baghdad.

You may recall that at the beginning of the week, the "maverick" got into a little trouble for saying that some parts of Baghdad are so safe one can take a stroll without any worries for their safety. He went so far as to lie, I mean say, that even General Petraeus often goes out in un-armored humvees. But when CNN told him that, in fact, the General never goes without fully armored humvees, heavily armed, the "straight talk express" went off the tracks. Not to be outdone by a little 'truth' however, St. McCain decided to visit inside the Green Zone, and then he went out shopping in downtown Baghdad - to prove that we silly Americans are just not understanding how much better things are going over there.

Only problem? When Johnny went walking through Baghdad today he was accompanied by 100 armed soldiers, with three blackhawk helicopters and two apache gunships circling above. And in a totally Dukakis-in-the-tank moment, he took his stroll in a bulletproof vest. Wow, it's just like Main Street in Flagstaff.

It's just too bad that those 6 U.S. soldiers who were killed in Baghdad while McCain went shopping didn't have 100 armed soldiers, three blackhawk helicopters and two apache gunships in tow. Maybe if the U.S. Army wasn't so concerned about protecting the maverick's photo op, they would have protected our soldiers instead. Maybe McCain should call their families personally and apologize for his despicable war.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Monty Python rates the Iranians "uncivilised"

If you didn't see Terry Jones' piece in today's Guardian, you missed a truly brave editorial on the UK sailors being held in Iran. Inserting tongue firmly in cheek, Jones took the hypocrisy of the Bush-Blair torture principle to task. You just gotta read this.