December 31, 2004
America Is Getting Truly Creepy
One thing I noticed during my recent Vacation In America's Airports is that many of them now show Fox News, rather than CNN. Thank god we have broken the back of the Liberal Airports.
And on Wednesday, Fox was going berserk about some UN official calling the US "stingy" with relief funds. Neil Cavuto had two guests on so they could all wet their pants together. Meanwhile, little graphics ran underneath, trying to demonstrate how un-stingy we are.
Now, there would be nothing wrong in my book with calling the US "stingy." We are. But nobody did. As Joshua Holland points out, the "stingy" reference in question by the UN official was to "western nations" generally. The US was never singled out.
Why would Fox News and their pants-wetting brethren pick a fight like this? You can make some elaborate argument about how they hate the UN, and this fabrication gives them another opportunity to attack them, etc. But I believe it goes deeper than that. These people ABSOLUTELY MUST be constantly fighting with someone. It doesn't matter who, just that the fight continues. The never-ending battle serves some deep psychological need for them.
As Matt "Jesus" Taibbi puts it,
...permanent war isn't a policy imposed from above; it's an emotional imperative that rises from the bottom. In a way, it actually helps if the fact is dubious or untrue (like the Swift-boat business), because that guarantees an argument. You're arguing the particulars, where you're right, while they're arguing the underlying generalities, where they are.
Once you grasp this fact, you're a long way to understanding what the Hannitys and Limbaughs figured out long ago: These people will swallow anything you feed them, so long as it leaves them with a demon to wrestle with in their dreams.
UPDATE: Via Atrios, Raw Print notes that Fred "God Hates Fags" Phelps is celebrating the death of 2,000 vacationing Swedes in the tsunami. You see, God killed them because Sweden is a damned land of faggot-dykes.
This is a difference in degree, but not in kind, from the bizarre Fox stingy-palooza. Both are instances of people with a pathological need to always be persecuted, to always be fighting someone.
This Angry Planet
Whew. I just spent a week far away from normal life, and normal internet access. All my fascinating thoughts about life couldn't be put here. Instead, they had to stay inside my head or be expressed verbally to my family and friends. (And they voted for the "stay inside my head" option.)
Anyway, did anything happen while I was gone? Like, one of the greatest natural disasters of the past 100 years?
As it happens, Bob Harris is over in Southeast Asia himself right now. He has useful links to worthwhile relief organizations here, as well as further thoughts about the response of the US government. Tom Tomorrow also has links, lifted from Daily Kos.
When confronted with the calamities of this angry little world, I always find it useful to try to understand them. At least then you know why horrible things occur. Otherwise, you end up believing it's just god punishing us for unknown reasons.
Interesting fact: the tsunami caused by the legendary eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 killed 36,000 people, far fewer than have already died from this tsunami.
December 23, 2004
And Even Odysseus Met Those Hot Sirens
Anna points out there's recently been particularly great stuff over at "Doublequotes," the site of my doppleganger Charles Cameron. Of course, Charles claims that I'm his doppleganger. But that's what dopplegangers always say.
So in honor of Doublequotes, and because I am near-dead from exhaustion after holiday travel and can barely lift my fingers to type anything new, here's the greatest example of the Doublequotes concept ever. It is the greatest because it reduces the double quote form to single quotes.
Do not question me! Particularly, don't act like what I'm saying makes no sense. It is the greatest, and I will not accept any other views. Just because I am co-author does not mean I am not completely objective.
And speaking of tiring holiday travel, have you ever been to Memphis? Have you ever been been to Memphis because you went there for a connecting flight that was canceled nine times in a row because of an ice storm? And then have you tried to get a bus out, but found they were all canceled too and then you ended up spending the night sleeping on the floor of the Greyhound waiting area along with 300 would-be travelers, and perhaps 250 of these 300 would-be travelers were loud, cranky infants?
If you have, you understand why I am calling this: Worst Trip Since Odysseus.
by Michael Gerber and Jonathan Schwarz
May 9th, 2002
WHY THE _______S HATE THE ________S
A Guide To All Ethnic and Religious Strife Through Human History
1. They stole our _______!
2. At the Battle of _______ in the _______ Century, they used unfair tactics to defeat us. We cannot rest until the souls of our dead are avenged.
3. Their religion is absurd. Offensive, reallyÃ¢â‚¬â€did you know they actually believe __________? And they won't be happy until EVERYBODY believes it!
4. While it's not "politically correct" to say so, science has proven them to be _______.
5. They smell weird.
6. They live like animals. Children, education, the futureÃ¢â‚¬â€none of these matter to them.
7. Their music is primitive, and encourages people to _______.
8. Can you believe they eat _______? Think about that for a secondÃ¢â‚¬â€they actually put _______ in their MOUTHS.
9. They want to sully our women.
10. There are so many of themÃ¢â‚¬â€all they do is _______! If we're not careful, someday soon we'll be submerged beneath a flood of ________!
11. If there's anything worse than a _________, it's a _________-lover. These traitors are trying to destroy us from within.
12. Sure, there are a few good _________s. But better safe than sorry.
13. Yes, we killed ________ of them. You can't expect them to understand it was in self-defenseÃ¢â‚¬â€they're totally irrational. Sooner or later, they will seek revenge, and when they do, we must be prepared to kill more. That's the only language they understand.
14. Of course we seem prejudiced. The media is obviously pro-_______.
15. They're the reason we're so unhappy.
December 22, 2004
Some People Hold The Irresponsible View That Robots From Mars Aren't Coming To Eat Us
The New York Times loves to inform us what is and isn't "reasonable" regarding Social Security. Similarly, the Washington Post helpfully tells us that, when it comes to Social Security, certain people are "irresponsible" (via the Daily Howler):
AT HIS NEWS conference yesterday, President Bush restated his reasons for wanting to reform Social Security... This call to action puts Mr. Bush ahead of many congressional Democrats, who cling to the irresponsible view that little or no Social Security reform is necessary and that all future benefits are untouchable.
I had no idea people with my perspective were so unreasonable and irresponsible. But I guess that's no surprise. The Washington Post is like a wise, wise parent, while we are essentially children. Frankly, if left unattended, we would accidentally set the country on fire.
Thank goodness we have such parents to guide us. I know we benefitted from their extraordinary foresight on Iraq. For instance, here's a Washington Post editorial from an October, 2002 editorial (not online):
[No one should] demand that the challenge of Iraq again be postponed. Instead, critical Democrats, in and outside Congress, should be pressuring the administration to work harder on postwar planning, to take steps to head off trouble in Afghanistan and to ground its campaign more consistently on the enforcement of U.N. resolutions... It would unite Congress behind [President Bush] and offer a responsible way forward for those critics who worry about his course but have no other to offer.
$PECIAL BONU$ MATH $ECTION #2
As I pointed out below, Wall Street's trade group believes the financial industry will have revenues of $3.25 trillion over the next 75 years.
By coincidence, the Social Security Administration recently estimated that over the next 75 years the shortfall in Social Security revenue will be $3.7 trillion.
Of course, as gigantic as both these sums sound, they're not that big when compared with the US economy as a whole. At the same time the SSA came up with the $3.7 trillion number, they said this was only .72% of GDP during that period.
3.7 divided by .0072 equals 513.8889.
So, over the next 75 years, the US economy will produce $513.9 trillion in goods and services. I won't be satisfied unless I personally get at least half of it.
December 21, 2004
So There's At Least Something On The Site Today
I'm busy traveling. So, here's something Mike Gerber and I wrote a while back. Larry Summers was then Secretary of the Treasury; now he's the president of Harvard.
FROM THE DESK OF LARRY SUMMERS
by Michael Gerber and Jonathan Schwarz
The New Yorker
July 12, 1999
"Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]?... A given amount of health-impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost... I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that."
-- December, 1991 memo from Larry Summers, then chief economist for the World Bank, as reported in the New York Times
FROM: Larry Summers, Secretary of the Treasury
DATE: July 31, 1999
Thanks for your warm welcome last Friday. I must admit that I hate karaoke, but Bob Rubin's version of "Stone Free" is something I'll remember for a long time. ; )
To start the flow, here's a brainstorm I had this morning: just between you and me, shouldn't Treasury be encouraging pharmaceutical companies to test their RISKIEST new products on the people of the Third World? Sure, the domestic prison population is a good half step, especially when the subjects can't read well enough to understand the release form. But even some crank-head who killed his girlfriend over a lottery ticket is going to get out one day, and have some job dealing fro-yo at the mall. Then he'll be pulling down the American minimum wage, money that a Hmong tribesman wouldn't make if he lived to be a thousand. So it would be much more economically efficient to dose Zapatistas and Kashmiri yak herders with Merck's newest anti- baldness/impotence/prostate enlargement cream. Squirt it from cropdusters, or just dump it in the water supply. Frankly, these people's lives are so awful that even horrible side effects would be an improvement. We should face up to that.
FROM: Larry Summers
DATE: January 14, 2000
Just between you and me, wouldn't it make more economic sense if companies doing business in Less Developed Countries could BUY their workers' rights? Like, the right to strike? Or to criticize the company? Or to go to the bathroom? Right now these people make so little money that they (or their parents) would be glad to accept a small lump sum, in return for which they would give up their right not to be chained to the machinery. They wouldn't even miss it... The companies would get an orderly workforce legally forbidden from doing anything BUT work, and their employees would get perhaps US$5.00. Both sides benefit! This is what free trade is all about, and we should face up to that!
DATE: May 20, 2000
Just between you and me, there's only one way we're ever going to colonize the moon: Third World labor. Lots of it. And let's face it, there's going to be an INCREDIBLE rate of mortality, especially if we use that cheap, shoddy material for the spacesuits (see my previous memo, "Cutting Corners in Outer Space"). On the good side, life expectancy in the LDCs is already pitifully low, particularly now that enormous loads of toxic waste have been dumped there. "Listen, Champ, you're going to be dying soon anyway, so why not do it on the moon, with some money in your pocket!" We'd get so many applicants that we'd have to run some kind of lottery, possibly on the Internet. (Al Gore loves this angle.)
Also, I know you just started facing up to this Moon idea, but I just had a brainstorm about what to do with all those extra children in Ireland.
December 20, 2004
For The Good Of Mankind, The US Government Should Give Me Money
The Cato Institute, a think tank in Washington, is a prime proponent of Social Security privatization. Today their Social Security website features a study claiming privatization is "unlikely to produce a windfall for Wall Street."
Where did the study come from? Why, it would be the Security Industry Association. As their website explains, the SIA "brings together the shared interests of nearly 600 securities firms to accomplish common goals."
How odd that security firms have found privatization would not make them money... yet they relentlessly lobby for it anyway. I guess it's just their excess of goodwill toward their fellow man, something for which Wall Street is widely known. Wall Street always spends money on things that won't make a profit. I believe that's their raison d'etre.
Next up: the Defense Industry Association releases a study showing how massive increases in defense spending won't produce a windfall for the defense industry.
$PECIAL BONU$ MATH $ECTION
According to the SIA study, Social Security privatization would generate "only $39 billion in fees over the first 75 years, or just 1.2 percent of estimated revenue for the entire financial sector during that time span."
39 divided by .012 equals 3250.
So, over the next 75 years, financial sector revenues will be 3.250 trillion dollars.
Get Our Your Checkbook, Or The Checkbook Of Others
Along with Commondreams and FAIR, I hope you'll also consider contributing to the fundraising drive of Robert Parry's Consortium News. Or, scam an elderly neighbor out of their savings and send it to him. That would sort of be like a contribution from you. As I've said before, I think Parry's one of the greatest investigative journalists in the US today, and he deserves everyone's support.
A great example of the kind of thing Consortium News publishes that no one else will is available here.
Some good resources on bilking the elderly are available here.
December 19, 2004
The Crazy, Mixed-Up Minds Of World Leaders
Perhaps you've noticed that people are weird. And no people are weirder than those in positions of power. They believe the craziest things about themselves.
For instance, the most violent world leaders, when in public, always speak about their desire for peace. But it's not just in public -- that's truly how they see themselves. When it's possible to examine internal government deliberations, you find the biggest psychopaths describing their efforts to bring about peace on earth. I don't know for sure, but I'd bet a lot of money that the German WW II government archives are full of Hitler speaking to other Nazi officials about his deep yearning for peace.
More recently, here's testimony in the CIA's final WMD report from one of Saddam's top aides:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“He [Saddam] would say if only Iraq possessed the nuclear weapon then no one would commit acts of aggression on it or any other Arab country, and the Palestinian issue would be solved peacefully because of Iraq.
Uh... you bet, Saddam!
Now, here's someone else who wants peace for Israel/Palestine so, so much:
"I want you to know that I am going to invest a lot of time and a lot of creative thinking so that there will finally be peace between Israel and the Palestinians," Mr Bush said in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth.
"I am convinced that, during [my second] term, I will manage to bring peace."
I guarantee Bush says the same things in private. Yet somehow, lots and lots of people are going to end up dead.
In fact, if I had to say whose evaluation of the Israel/Palestine situation is closer to reality, I'd go with Saddam. (Not close, of course -- just closer.)
December 18, 2004
Ann Coulter May Want To Think This Through
For reasons I prefer to keep to myself, I just reread Ann Coulter's famous post 9/11 column. She calls for America to "invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
But who are "they," specifically? Well, come on! As the lovely and talented Ms. Coulter explains, it's obvious who they are:
We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.
So... cheering and dancing -- like that by these people -- automatically means an invasion by the US?
There was ruin and terror in Manhattan, but, over the Hudson River in New Jersey, a handful of men were dancing. As the World Trade Centre burned and crumpled, the five men celebrated and filmed the worst atrocity ever committed on American soil as it played out before their eyes.
The reason I'm wondering whether this is a hard and fast rule is that, if it is, Coulter believes we should invade Israel:
Who do you think they were? Palestinians? Saudis? Iraqis, even? Al-Qaeda, surely? Wrong on all counts. They were Israelis Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and at least two of them were Israeli intelligence agents, working for Mossad, the equivalent of MI6 or the CIA.
December 17, 2004
Bill O'Reilly Has Me Stymied
It's a common complaint that it's hard to satirize the world, because no matter how hard you try, you can't outdo reality. I had this feeling as I read this about Bill O'Reilly (from Media Matters, via Atrios):
In response to reports that actor and comedian Chevy Chase called President Bush a "dumb fuck" while co-hosting a December 14 People For the American Way awards ceremony in Washington, DC, FOX News host Bill O'Reilly asserted on the December 16 O'Reilly Factor that "you don't see this kind of thing on the right." He added: "You don't see prominent conservatives cursing out Democratic members of Congress, for example."
No, you don't see it, unless of course you consider the Vice President of the United States to be a "prominent conservative."
So O'Reilly claiming this is sort of like him claiming these things:
• "You don't see prominent conservatives who used to work for Halliburton, for example."
• "You don't see prominent conservatives invading Iraq, for example."
• "You don't see prominent conservatives with names like Bill O'Reilly, for example."
But as you can tell, none of that is really satisfying. Bill O'Reilly has gone head to head with satire, and won.
It reminds me of Mark Twain's famous comment about General Frederick Funston, one of the leaders of the US conquest of the Philippines:
No satire of Funston could reach perfection, because Funston occupies that summit himself. In his own person Funston is satire incarnated, and exhaustively comprehensive: he is a satire on the human race.
UPDATE: Bob Harris got here first.
A Joke About Social Security
You probably didn't think it was possible to make jokes about Social Security. Too boring. Au contraire!
One thing I've always enjoyed about the "debate" about Social Security privatization is that the first country to try it was Chile, under the Pinochet regime. So we're borrowing ideas from a notorious military dictatorship. Sometimes this is even acknowledged, as in this story about Chile's system:
The idea has caught on from Latin America to Eastern Europe, and Asia is expressing strong interest... Privatizing Chile's old bankrupt "pay as you go" pension system wasn't politically difficult because it happened during the rule of dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Yes, it wasn't "politically difficult." Unless you count the slaughter of thousands of Chileans as a political difficulty, which you really shouldn't. Killing them was easy!
Anyway, the fact that the institution of Chile's plan required killing Chileans should give you a clue about whose interests it served there. It should also give you a clue about who it's "caught on" with "from Latin America to Eastern Europe," and who exactly in Asia "is expressing strong interest."
This is why I like to say: If you LIKE mass executions in soccer stadiums... you'll LOVE the privatization of Social Security!
December 16, 2004
Jim Hoge: A Man With Exactly The Honesty Needed To Edit Foreign Affairs
In mankind's long annals of boredom, few things have been as boring as the Council on Foreign Relations. It was started in 1921 as a place for America's rich people to get together and hash out what foreign policy they wanted for the US. Being rich, they had better things to do than read books, so they often have farmed out the thinking to professor-types.
The wide spectrum of acceptable thought at CFR is illustrated by its board, which runs from former Reagan staffers on the right all the way over to Robert Rubin on the far far left. You can imagine how vigorous and fascinating CFR debates can be.
Recently there was a tiny kerfuffle at Foreign Affairs, CFR's magazine. It began with a book review of The Pinochet File: A Declassified Dossier on Atrocity and Accountability, edited by the beautiful humans of the National Security Archive. It covers the US involvement in the overthrow of Chile's Salvador Allende in 1973.
The review was written by Kenneth Maxwell, a Latin American historian and 15-year veteran of CFR. As explained in this Nation article, Maxwell made a serious mistake: he told the truth. Maxwell wrote:
As for the coup itself, there is no doubt that the United States did all that it could to create the conditions for the failure of Allende and his government... What is truly remarkable is the effort -- the resources committed, the risks taken, and the skullduggery employed -- to bring a Latin American democracy down, and the meager efforts since to build democracy back up.
As it so often does, the truth made certain people quite unhappy -- in this case, people like Henry Kissinger and William Rogers, one of Kissinger's chief lickspittles. Rogers fired off an angry response to Foreign Affairs, filled with the kind of rickety prevarication in which Kissinger & co specialize.
Maxwell responded; then Rogers responded to his response. According to tradition at Foreign Affairs, the author of the original -- Maxwell -- would at this point get the last word.
But it was not to be. Jim Hoge, the editor of Foreign Affairs, informed Maxwell that Rogers would have the last (mendacious) word. As Maxwell convincingly demonstrates in a new article (pdf file), Hoge made this decision under fierce pressure from Kissinger, delivered via higher ups at CFR. Maxwell, clearly a guy with integrity, severed his connection with CFR and Foreign Affairs.
This is the way the world works. It's the way the world has worked ever since we developed fingers to write and brains big enough to make the fingers write lies. So there's not so much shame in what Hoge did. Sure, he's a dog on a leash held by Henry Kissinger, but lots of people are on lots of leashes. At least Hoge has received all kinds of tasty doggy treats for his loyal service. Plus, according to New York City law, when they go on walks Kissinger has to pick up his poop.
The funny part, and the reason I tell this whole dreary story, is that Hoge has vociferously lied about the pressure from Kissinger. As Hoge put it, "I didn't talk to Henry Kissinger, I didn't talk to anybody...these are editor's decisions, which I made. Period."
But that's always the way with these people. You'd think they could tell the truth, or at least maintain a decorous silence. Instead, they loudly proclaim they would never give into threats, they're the captain of their own destiny, etc., even as everyone watches their owners give their leash another hard yank.
When Will Dennis Perrin Stop Arguing With His Intellectual Superiors?
Dennis tried to make some sort of silly case that US television systematically excludes certain points of view. Johnny A., a frequent TV guest himself, was too polite to deal with this nonsense... for a while. But finally, he was forced to take Dennis to school:
ALTER: You think you aren't on TV much because your views are too "far out there," or that you are smarter than the rest of the universe. But the real reason is that you never, ever seem to admit error of any kind.
Oooooh, snap! Dennis had no comeback to this obvious truth!
Let's face facts: television is overflowing with people with Dennis' political perspective. You can't escape them! They're everywhere! The only difference is, THEY'RE willing to admit error, and Dennis isn't.
There isn't enough space on the internet to list all of them, but here are just a few you may have heard of:
• Robert Fisk, co-host of Crossfire
• Scott Ritter, ubiquitous guest on Nightline
• Zeynep Toufe, has own long running show, Straight Up With Zeynep, on Fox
• Robert Parry, host of Parry In The Morning, nationally-syndicated radio show simulcast on MSNBC
• Noam Chomsky, anchor, ABC Evening News
I think we all agree: it's time Mr. Perrin stops embarrassing himself in public with his nonsensical, vacuous arguments.
December 15, 2004
"We Help Our Clients Find Value"
As I say below, everyone who knows anything about Planet Earth knows US concern about Iraqi WMD was always a joke. (Of course, this "knowing anything" requirement disqualifies many Americans.) As Deputy Assistant Secretary of State James Placke told Iraqi high-up Nizar Hamdoon in 1984, "We do not want this issue to dominate our bilateral relationship."
This never changed. All that happened is that Iraq's WMD switched from "embarrassing PR problem" to "valuable PR pretext."
But then... what issue DO we want to dominate our bilateral relationship with Iraq?
...a leading international advisory and consulting firm. It focuses on the energy industries: markets, geopolitics, structure, and strategy.
We help our clients to find value.
Uh huh. Among the Keynote Speakers at CERA's upcoming conference in Houston are top executives from Exxon Mobil, ChevronTexaco, LUKoil and SaudiAramco.
I think it's fair to say James Placke was always helping his clients find value. Now he's just doing it a little more directly.
Great Moments In Shameless Hypocrisy
Do you remember when we invaded Iraq, on the off chance they might someday give WMD that didn't exist to groups they hated, which the groups might use on us? Remember when we issued veiled threats to use nuclear weapons against Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, if they used chemical weapons against US troops?
So, just imagine if Iraq had actually INVADED us, launched missiles that hit our cities, and used chemical weapons against us. Then imagine if another country (probably those French jerks) had blandly asserted that, sure, they condemned Iraq, but the REAL problem was our attempts to overthrow the Iraqi government... and at the same time, they criticized our invocations of morality and religion.
Boy, then we'd really be mad! Bill O'Reilly would probably call for us to blow up the world, and, if possible, the solar system.
Fortunately, that never happened to us. It only happened to Iran, and as we know, they're not a real country. So in 1984 we were the ones blandly asserting this:
"While condemning Iraq's chemical weapons use... The United States finds the present Iranian regime's intransigent refusal to deviate from its avowed objective of eliminating the legitimate government of neighboring Iraq to be inconsistent with the accepted norms of behavior among nations and the moral and religious basis which it claims."
Note that earlier that year the Iraqi government had helpfully explained what it would do to "insects" like Aliakbar Afshari's brother:
"...the invaders should know that for every harmful insect there is an insecticide capable of annihilating it whatever the number and Iraq possesses this annihilation insecticide."
Huh. It's almost like our whole professed concern about WMD was a gigantic fraud. Thank god we know it was real, just like we know Santa Claus is real.
Appalling News From Iran
Anna Ghonim writes,
To all interested in Iranian issues, Amnesty International UK has a heartrending case and action alert on their front page about a 19 year old girl with mental capacity of an 8 year old sentenced to death for sexual indecency committed when she was a child (apparently she was prostituted by her mom). Please consider helping by sending letters to the Iranian authorities by fax or e-mail.
The Amnesty International UK page, with more background along with fax numbers and email addresses, is here. They ask for letters to be sent IMMEDIATELY.
One of the loveliest things about America's threatening policies toward Iran is that they help the psychos who do this kind of thing consolidate their power. In the same way, we may have Osama bin Laden to thank for George Bush's reelection. It's like all the world's lunatics are part of one big, secret alliance.
December 14, 2004
Presents For Progressives
As we know, progressive political types have no desire for material goods. If necessary for the cause, we will dress in rags. Indeed, we sometimes dress in rags when it's not necessary, just to make a point. Or because our fashion sense isn't so hot.
But this makes it difficult for friends and family at this time of the year. What should they get us for Christmas, etc.? Cleaner rags?
Fortunately, there is an entire galaxy of causes we can ask them to give money to. (If you haven't noticed, ending sentences with a proposition is something I don't have a hangup about.)
So, if your spouse, parents, children, relatives, beloved robots, etc. need help, consider pointing them to the year-end fundraising drives of Commondreams or Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. I think everyone would agree both places have done extremely important work for years, and show no signs of slowing down.
CORRECTION: Dennis Perrin, himself a former FAIRista, points out I called them Fairness and Accuracy in Media above rather than Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting. (Now corrected.) How embarrassingly ironic that I got wrong the name of an organization with the word "accuracy" in it.
Next up: I refer to the National Speling Be.
And On A Personal Note
Does anyone know whether Afshari, the name of the family I just mentioned, is common in Iran? And what does it mean?
I ask because, back in ninth grade, I had a low grade crush on an Iranian-American classmate of mine whose last name was Afshar. Indeed, my friendship with Rob Weisberg began with a conversation about our mutual appreciation of her, uh, attributes. If I remember correctly, we examined the feasibility of constructing a 100-foot tall statue of her naked outside our high school.
December 13, 2004
Dear Afshari Family: If There's Anything Else We Can Help With, Just Let Us Know! Signed, The US Government
Via Doug Henwood's mailing list, here's a story about the federal government firing a married Iranian immigrant couple from their OSHA jobs. Aliakbar and Shahla Afshari are 18-year residents of the US with three children (one born here), and both worked for OSHA for almost a decade. They were told they'd failed new "secret background checks":
No explanations were offered and no appeals allowed... They have been told they were fired for national security reasons that remain secret. When their lawyer requested the documents used to justify the action, he was told none existed.
Okay, the US is taking on the tinge of a Kafka-esque nightmare. So what else is new? Well, my eye was caught by this:
Robert C. Creese, a professor of engineering who was Mr. Afshari's doctoral adviser at West Virginia University, described Mr. Afshari as a pacifist who was appalled by the devastation wrought by Iran's decade-long war with Iraq. Mr. Afshari's younger brother was killed by mustard gas in that conflict.
Wow, we've really done right by the Afsharis! First we give Saddam Hussein a green light to invade their country (talking point #5 here), later on we fire them, and in between we help Saddam kill Aliakbar's brother. Hopefully we can draft the Afshari children soon, then make them invade Iran and kill their own grandparents.
No need to thank us, Afshari family, we will say modestly. We're just doin' our job.
December 12, 2004
Sanctions Apologists Fight Math; Are Defeated
If you believe there's anything significantly wrong here, please comment below or write me at tinyrevolution*at*yahoo*com.
Supporters of the sanctions on Iraq will never admit the sanctions should, according to international law, have been lifted years ago. In fact, as I said earlier, they will never even notice this is an issue.
BUT -- they have been dragged, kicking and screaming, to admitting the sanctions had a horrific effect on Iraqis. (By conservative estimate, 350,000 children died.) Fortunately, they have a fallback position. I'll give you one guess what it is.
Well, you guessed right. IT WAS ALL SADDAM'S FAULT. It's amazing the things that are all Saddam's fault. He's probably also responsible for global warming and the cruel cancellation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Here's a representative sample of this perspective:
Saddam Hussein's regime always had enough resources to provide the Iraqi population with adequate food, medical care, and other necessities -- and this was especially true after the Iraqi regime finally agreed to institute the UN-run oil-for-food program after 1997. It simply chose to divert these resources to other uses...
Theoretically, this could be so. But let's leave the realm of theory and enter reality.
According to the CIA's final WMD report, the Iraqi regime received -- via smuggling, manipulation of the Oil for Food program, etc. -- $10.9 billion in illicit oil revenue from 1990 to 2003. The Senate Governmental Affairs investigations subcommittee calculated it differently, at $21.3 billion.
Let's assume this money provided no benefit to Iraqis generally. Saddam just took the money and ate it. (In fact, this isn't true -- even Saddam constructing monstrous edifices to his own ego would put money in the pockets of any Iraqis doing the monstrous-edifice construction.)
We'll also assume this money would otherwise have been used for the well being of Iraqis. (Again, not so: under properly functioning sanctions, this money would mostly not have gone to Iraq AT ALL.)
Now let's do some calculations, using figures from the CIA World Factbook. These numbers aren't exact for many reasons, but it gives us an idea of the scale of the situation.
CIA: $10.9 billion
Senate: $21.3 billion
YEARS UNDER SANCTIONS (mid-1990 to mid-2003)
IRAQ PER CAPITA INCOME (2004)
$10,900,000,000 divided by 13 divided by 25,400,000 equals:
$33.01 EXTRA PER IRAQI PER YEAR
$21,300,000,000 divided by 13 divided by 25,400,000 equals:
$64.51 EXTRA PER IRAQI PER YEAR
Thus, Iraqi per capita income would have increased by either:
33.01 divided by 1500 equals 2.2 percent; or
64.51 divided by 1500 equals 4.3 percent
So, that's the argument by sanctions apologists. That's the difference between 350,000 children living and dying.
Iraqi per capita income is $1533/1565 = 350,000 children alive, every single one
Iraqi per capita income is $1500 = all 350,000 children dead
You can judge for yourself how likely this is. For my part, I'll just say: thank god we put those sanctions on. If Iraqi income had been much higher, there'd be so many Iraqi children we wouldn't have space on earth to put 'em all.
December 11, 2004
"Heart of Darkness": Prescient Masterpiece of World Literature, Or Airy-Fairy Egghead Nonsense Like All Books Everywhere?
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad is a remarkable book. I'd have to check, but I may be the first person to point this out. (I also think the Mona Lisa is a fine painting. I don't care whether anyone agrees with me or not.)
If you haven't read it, the book takes place in the late 1800s, and is mostly a story told by a British seaman named Marlow. He's such a famous literary creation that Raymond Chandler named his central character, the detective Philip Marlowe, after him.
Marlow tells a tale of traveling to the Congo to work for "the Company." He travels up river to the interior, where he meets Kurtz. Kurtz is one of the Company's stars... but in the interior, he has indulged in insane violence and "unspeakable rites." He lives in a house surrounded by stakes topped by the heads of decapitated Congolese.
There are two things that are revelatory about the book. Or at least, they're revelatory for those who haven't been on the receiving end of European colonialism.
First, those engaged in colonial endeavors always feel the world is full of darkness. To these people, the "heart of darkness" is located in the lands they colonize. Heart of Darkness subtly says: No. The heart of darkness is everywhere people are -- but definitely it's part of colonialism. The last sentence of the book, describing the Thames, is:
The offing was barred by a black bank of clouds, and the tranquil waterway leading to the uttermost ends of the earth flowed sombre under an overcast sky -- seemed to lead into the heart of an immense darkness.
In other words, England, then the heart of the "civilized" world, is also the true heart of darkness.
Second, and most relevant for us today, Heart of Darkness examines how colonialists always believe they're doing something wonderful for the people they're colonizing. (See: the White Man's Burden.) Here's how Marlow describes Kurtz's writings about uplifting the natives:
The peroration was magnificent, though difficult to remember. It gave me the notion of an exotic Immensity ruled by an august Benevolence. It made me tingle with enthusiasm. This was the unbounded power of eloquence -- of words -- of burning noble words.
Specifically, Kurtz had written:
"By the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power for good practically unbounded."
Of course, it doesn't work out that way. At the end of Kurtz's philanthropic blather, he has scrawled this:
"Exterminate all the brutes!"
Nevertheless, as Marlow explains, colonialists must hold onto the idea they're doing something wonderful and good:
"The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea -- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to..."
So, is Heart of Darkness just a dumb 100 year-old book, totally irrelevant to the present? Or... does it have something extremely important to say about today's America, something we'd better pay attention to RIGHT NOW?
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Trent Lott:
I ask Mississippians of all faiths to pray for all our coalition forces and the Iraqi people as they engage in an intense but noble battle against what is nothing but sheer evil.
-- Trent Lott, March 27, 2003
We went in there to free those people.
-- Trent Lott, April 15, 2003
If we have to, we just mow the whole place down, see what happens.
-- Trent Lott, October 28, 2003
From The Archives
Approximately seventy years ago, Mike Gerber, Rob Weisberg and I did a 20-page parody of the Wall Street Journal. From a certain point of view, the endeavor was a catastrophe, since it crushed us financially, physically and morally. But from another point of view it was a success, since I still think it was pretty damn funny.
UPDATE: I was wrong. The introductory page is there, but the excerpt itself is still missing. So I'm sorry to say you can't see the parody, unless you break into my apartment and rummage around in the closet.
The Sacramento Bee Is Funnier Than I Suspected
December 10, 2004
"I Don't Expect To Get Anything From The Kurds... They're Not Going To Be There," Said Saddam
Yesterday Kevin Drum mentioned a CBS story about Social Security that interviewed a man on the street named Tad DeHaven, saying he "could be the poster child for Social Security reform." DeHaven mournfully told CBS, "I don't expect to get anything from Social Security. I don't consider it in terms of my long term planning. It's not going to be there."
A problem, Drum mentions, is that DeHaven is not just some guy, as he was presented. He's a long time advocate of Social Security privatization. He worked for the Heritage Foundation, Cato, and now is employed by the National Taxpayers Union. Yup, just a regular fellow off the street, who happened to write a book called "War Between the Generations: Federal Spending on the Elderly Set to Explode."
So DeHaven forgot to finish what he was saying. It should have been: "I don't expect to get anything from Social Security. It's not going to be there... because lots of people like me are paid lots of money to make sure it's not."
December 09, 2004
According to my website software, .99% of visitors in December are from Moldova. This is up from 0% in November, and at current traffic levels, means 13-15 people a day.
This is a wonderful thing, of course. I'm just... confused. Currently Moldovans are the third most frequent nationality visiting here, behind only Americans and Canadians.
So if you've one of these Moldovans, could you write me at tinyrevolution*at*yahoo[dot]com? I'm curious how you first found this site. (Perhaps via Zeynep?) Also, whether all the visits are from you personally using different IP addresses, or if there's an entire squad of visitors stopping by.
If you have an opinion about recent events in your large neighbor Ukraine, that would be another plus.
Nice Liberals: AAAAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGHHH!
Part I of the continuing "NL:A!" series can be found here.
I once was a certain type of nice American liberal. Perhaps you yourself have encountered this type. It is the type that reads the New York Times, often listens to NPR, and enthusiastically voted for Bill Clinton. The type has good intentions. The type wants the best for all. But the type has the unmatched ability to miss the WHOLE FUCKING POINT OF EVERYTHING.
If this type had a giraffe living in its kitchen, it would not see it. Instead, the type would sit there, carefully reading the day's New York Times story about awful people in third world countries with giraffes living in their kitchens. What's wrong with these people? the type would think. How can they allow giraffes to live in their kitchens? From time to time the type would wonder why their house smells so musky lately, and why all the food on high shelves mysteriously disappears.
This type of nice liberalism is on full display now, regarding the various ways Iraq evaded the UN sanctions and sold oil during the nineties.
On the one hand, there's the frothing right wing. They demand that Kofi Annan's head be delivered to Dick Cheney, so Cheney can make a goblet out of his skull. On the other hand, there are well-researched articles in nice liberal publications. The articles delve into the minutiae of the issue, and report back the truth: that the sanctions "leakage" was always known by everyone, including the US, and consciously ignored. Good examples can be found here and here. See also a piece by Joy Gordon in the December issue of Harper's (not online).
These articles tell us all about the height, weight, and mating habits of giraffes in Indonesia. Which is interesting. But maybe the nice liberal publications could, just once, mention the giraffe IN OUR KITCHEN.
(Please note: I'm not blaming the authors of these pieces, which are excellent. They did the best they could. The problem lies much deeper, in the liberal squishy willingness to allow the right to control the terms of all debate.)
That giraffe in our kitchen is the fact that the sanctions on Iraq were not supposed to be there in perpetuity. According to the relevant UN resolutions, the sanctions would be lifted when Iraq was disarmed of WMD. We now know Iraq met these requirements in 1991, or arguably 1995 at the latest. (Details on request.)
120 World Trade Centers full of children. That's a big damn giraffe.
And I don't make the World Trade Center comparison lightly. Because -- as even the Bush administration believes -- the 9/11 attacks were in retaliation for the sanctions (plus our troops in Saudi Arabia). A "senior administration official" even argues that without our nineties policy toward Iraq, Osama bin Laden would just be hanging out, telling boring stories about his days in the Khyber Pass.
To make the story even more gruesome, we also know the Clinton administration ignored numerous peace feelers from Iraq. But that shouldn't be surprising -- as the US government has repeatedly said, our only interest was in ousting Saddam. The sanctions helped, in our minds. So we had to bloviate constantly about the WMD as a pretext.
Thus, hand in hand with Saddam, we spent almost thirteen years strangling the people of Iraq. Leading us right to the terrifying world we live in today.
So as a former nice liberal, let me plead with my former compatriots: open your eyes. There are lots of giraffes in our house. They're multiplying and getting bigger. And giraffes can even kill lions, with just one kick.
Oh, Erica! Not only do I know it, in spring, 1999 I wrote a new verse for it:
When Clinton went to Guatemala
He was right to say we'd been wrong
A million are dead now in Baghdad
I'm beginning to have some real qualms
But let's talk about those bastards in Belgrade
Those fuckers, they've GOT to be bombed
Love me, love me, love me, I'm a liberal
As you can see, I can't go a day without using profanity.
December 08, 2004
I Believe This Is The First Web Site Ever To Link To The Onion
If, like me, you are a bad person, you will find this very funny.
It reminds me of an (unused) joke Mike and I once wrote for Weekend Update:
FDA scientists say a new drug shows great promise in the treatment of cancer, eliminating tumors in 95% of mice tested. Reached for comment, the mice said they were very happy to be cured, but less happy to learn they were still going to be dissected.
UPDATE: Oyster in comments requests more jokes. Well... okay. But if you get buried in the deluge, you have only yourself to blame.
Here are two more to start with (the first was unused, the second aired):
This week Sotheby's auctioned off JFK's cigar box, where he kept Cuban cigars even after the embargo was declared. In fact, Kennedy smoked so many Cuban cigars, he was often heard to say, "Man... one of these days those Cubans are gonna KILL me!"
Lenoria Walker, Houston's director of affirmative action, has resigned after referring to a city councilman as a "midget" instead of using the politically correct term, which is "dwarf." Said Walker, "I guess I have a lot to learn about sensitivity. So, it's hi-ho, hi-ho, away from work I go."
Imad Khadduri Online
Go now to visit the new blo... uh, the new thing on the internet of Imad Khadduri. (This site uses the most vile profanity, and lots of it. But it will never use that wrong, wrong word, because I have moral standards.) Khadduri's site is at http://abutamam.blogspot.com -- "Abu Tamam," because his son's name is Tamam.
Khadduri is an Iraqi nuclear physicist who escaped to Canada with his family in 1998. I'm a great admirer of his book Iraq's Nuclear Mirage. It's part autobiography, part relentless criticism of the WMD sham, and all fascinating.
Be forewarned, though: particularly if you're American, it may be an uncomfortable experience. I don't agree with everything Khadduri says, but certainly hearing his perspective has been bracing and necessary for me. It was his book that made me aware that if you listed the people responsible for killing the most Iraqis, Saddam Hussein would be in SECOND place. Due to the relentless sanctions the US insisted on during the nineties, the honor of Most Iraqis Killed goes to Bill Clinton.
December 07, 2004
Dear New Yorker: You Are "Said To" Be A Better Magazine Than This
The New Yorker article I just mentioned is by Jeffrey Goldberg. Goldberg is... well, he's lots of things. But in particular, he's someone with a tendency to source his writing to no one nowhere. In that article alone, he managed to give six instances of things "said to" be true.
1. "[The 1983] suicide bombings, in Beirut, of the United States Marine barracks and an apartment building housing a contingent of French peacekeepers... occurred just twenty seconds apart; a third part of the plan... is said to have been jettisoned when the planners learned that the Italians were sleeping in tents."
2. "[Hezbollah] publishes newspapers and magazines and owns a satellite television station that is said to be watched by ten million people a day."
3. "According to both American and Israeli intelligence officials, [Hezbollah] maintains floating "day camps" for terrorist training throughout the Bekaa Valley; many of the camps are said to be just outside Baalbek."
4. "In the past year, Hezbollah has also been stockpiling rockets for potential use against Israel. These rockets... are said to be moved by truck from Syria, through the Bekaa Valley, and then on to Hezbollah forces in South Lebanon."
5. "...according to intelligence officials, [Hezbollah's] operatives, with the help and cover of Iranian diplomats, have been making surveillance tapes of American diplomatic installations in South America, Southeast Asia, and Europe. These tapes, along with maps and other tools, are said to be kept in well-organized clandestine libraries.
6. "The eight members of Hezbollah's ruling council are said to meet in the Dahiya once a week."
If I'd turned this in to my ninth grade English teacher, she would have circled each of these in red and written "unclear, weak -- avoid passive voice." At the end she would have written, "usually the overuse of the passive voice indicates you're covering something up."
I know this is a crazy, utopian dream... but I would like the New Yorker, particularly when it publishes journalism about matters of life and death, to be as rigorous as my ninth grade English teacher.
"Keep People In The Mood Of Suffering"
One thing that makes me vomit (figuratively) is anyone who's obsessed with his or her "group"'s suffering. Obviously we should remember horrible events of the past -- but only as examples of what all people are capable of, not to prove "we" are righteous victims and "our" "enemies" are pure evil.
The irony is that every horrible event of the past has been carried out by people who justify their hideous actions on the basis that THEIR GROUP HAS BEEN VICTIMIZED. (See: Hitler, Adolf.) The people they massacre later often support leaders who use their group's genuine victimization as justification for awful actions of their own. (See: Israel, if you really want, but I don't recommend it. Better to See: The Soviet Union's justification of its post-WW II subjugation of Eastern Europe.) It's a perpetual motion machine of human misery.
So you really need to keep an eye on politicians who play the victim card. And they do it constantly -- because it's one of the time-tested paths to power. In fact, politicians become concerned if their chosen herd shows signs of letting go of feelings of victimization.
This was expressed with admirable honesty by Hassan Fadlallah, the news director of Hezbollah's satellite channel Al Manar. Al Manar, Fadlallah explained in a 2002 New Yorker article, is "trying to keep the people in the mood of suffering." According to the article, one weekly Al Manar show is called "Terrorists" and "airs vintage footage of what it terms 'Zionist crimes.'"
Boy, thank god our leaders are completely different from Hezbollah.
Republican National Convention: "September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11... September 11, 2001"
December 06, 2004
I Was Right! Right! Right!
Oh, how I love being right.
I've had a theory for some time, and it has been proven to be burningly correct. The fact that I was right makes no difference to anything, and certainly doesn't make the world better. Yet I find it deeply satisfying.
My theory was based on a standard behavior of extremists on both "sides" of any dispute. Such extremists seek out the most threatening statements by the other side's extremists. They then publicize the threatening statements. This is to make the case to their "side" that the other "side" as a whole is implacably evil. And you better support your side's extremists, because they're the only ones who take this terrible threat seriously.
Note that none of this has to involve lying. The extremists can choose real, but unrepresentative statements.
A truly sophisticated example of this is the odious MEMRI. As you probably know, MEMRI combs through the Arab press for vicious anti-Semitism, insane conspiracy theories, etc. Then they translate it and regurgitate it into the mouths of the media's hungry baby birds.
So... my longtime theory was, the same thing was happening in the Arab world with one very specific statement by my favorite extremist on our side, Ann Coulter. Coulter, when she was able to take time out from her demanding career as a whippet-impersonator, famously wrote:
We should invade [Arab] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
a fundamentalist, pro-jihad Muslim web site which... contains Ann Coulter's column in its entirety, with bold, red letters highlighting the sentence which reads, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
The webmaster comments on Coulter's column by saying, "We told you so. Is anyone listening out there? The noose is already around our necks. The preparation for genocide of ALL Muslims has begun... The only safe refuge you have is Allah."
Dear lord, I'm so happy. Have I mentioned that I was right?
December 05, 2004
And On The Seventh Day, The Lazy Website Mostly Just Posted Links
What is Semitism.net? A view from the Jewish left... A main focus right now is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and Jewish opposition to the occupation. An additional aim of Semitism.net is to help build bridges between the Jewish and Muslim communities. The site can host multiple blogs. I hope to feature posts from bloggers living in Israel and in the occupied territories, and from Arab and Jewish voices in the U.S. and elsewhere.
Yes, my kind of peoples.
Schamess speaks of Romagoza running into a man on the street in Washington whom Romagoza knew from El Salvador -- because the man was part of the military squad that tortured him. Emily Post really has no pointers for this awkward situation. But apparently Romagoza "took him into the clinic, gave him work to do, and helped him get over the trauma of the war."
Schamess jumps off from this to provide these wise words:
Paulo Friere said that it is the task of the oppressed to liberate not only themselves, but also the oppressor. The oppressor is so entrapped by his own need to control everything, that he cannot see things for what they are, cannot speak the true words needed for liberation. I find this very true of dominant classes - we are obsessed with self-protection, insulating ourselves from injuries, intrusions and chance events. We consider this our prerogative, regardless of who pays the price. Our media and our politics consist of a monologue that justifies our dominance and largely drowns out divergent voices.
2. Some time ago I came across Lawrence of Cyberia, the site of a former translator and analyst for the British counterpart to the National Security Administration. (She now lives in Maryland with her family.) The site focuses mostly on one of her professional interests, the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Besides being damnably well-written, the LOC is beautifully designed. In this sense, IT MOCKS ME. But I am flattered indeed that this site appears on the LOC bl*groll.
You should go there now, although I fear I may lose you forever. In particular, don't miss "Why Haaretz is a Piece of Crap."
3. I want to believe that all leaders in every country are repellent sociopaths. This saves me valuable thinkin' time that I can then use to defeat the insect overlords of Halo 2. Unfortunately, there are occasional exceptions to my leader belief, and I resent this.
One such exception is Avraham Burg, former speaker of the Israeli Knesset. Via Lawrence of Cyberia I came across this interview with him. Of course, the fact he's become an exception is connected to the fact he's no longer the Knesset speaker:
"My attempt to seize the center and my refraining from going all the way to the end with my views made me a cosmetic candidate lacking true positions. So in the final analysis, the lesson I drew was that in such a difficult period, I have to speak my truth unvarnished. If there is no other choice, I prefer to lose over truths than to be elected for emptiness."
December 04, 2004
No Reasonable Person Is Suggesting Nothing Be Done About The Danger America Will Be Attacked By Giant Squirrels
I am a fan of the New York Times' tendency to designate what is and isn't "reasonable." For instance, in a recent editorial they explained that "no reasonable person is suggesting that nothing be done" about Social Security.
So, it turns out I'm not reasonable. Either that, or I'm not a person. Because I will stand before you today and "suggest" that nothing be done about Social Security.
You probably already agree. So we can all be unreasonable (or inhuman) together. But if you're a believer in the desperate need to do something about Social Security, just let me know, and I'm happy to explain it in all its gloriously boring detail. I took a wrong turn in life and unfortunately learned an enormous amount about this, Earth's dullest subject.
Or... you can just skip a step and take my word for it. Seriously, this would save everyone a bunch of time. If you're wavering, let me remind you how all the same people now furrowing their brows and agreeing something needs to be done about Social Security, were the same people agreeing we had to do something about the danger of Iraq's WMD. And let me tell you -- the threat we face with Social Security is every bit as terrifying as the one we faced with Iraq.
It really is quite a power, this ability to determine who's reasonable and who isn't. I suspect the New York Times could write "No reasonable person suggests we shouldn't eat at least some of our young," and 80% of America's Ivy League graduates would agree.
UPDATE: Here are some examples of the New York Times helping us understand what reasonable people believed about Iraq's WMD:
William Safire, "Irrefutable And Undeniable," February 6, 2003
Defenders of Saddam Hussein demanded absolute smoking-gun proof of illegal Iraqi possession of terror weaponry...
To their surprise, Colin Powell made the case, with a half-dozen smoking guns, of a huge Iraqi cover-up...
Reasonable people take as a clear indication of underlying crime such activity as lying about that crime, suborning perjury about it in others, and intimidating scientific witnesses.
But unreasonable or fearful or self-interested people... do not want to find the crime that would necessitate war.
Elizabeth Bumiller, "President Notes Dissent on Iraq, Vowing to Listen," August 17, 2002
[A senior administration] official also said that there was increasing evidence that Iraq possessed or had sought to build chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, although there was still much the administration did not know. "But this is just not something that reasonable people would disagree about," the official said.
December 03, 2004
As you probably know, today is the twentieth anniversary of the terrible accident at Bhopal caused by Union Carbide's appalling negligence. Here are two good articles about it:
"Justice for Bhopal Survivors" by Mark Hertsgaard
"Bhopal's Poisonous Legacy" by Gary Cohen
If you want more information or to get involved with this issue, an excellent resource is Bhopal.net.
Last year I was fortunate enough to meet Rashida Bee and Champa Devi Shukla, two of the main survivor-activists, and speak with them for an hour or so. (They're mentioned in the story by Hertsgaard.)
I can't put the experience into words well. I'd heard people say certain things like this are "a privilege." But before meeting them I didn't understand exactly what that meant. Now I do. It was a privilege to meet them.
The amount they've suffered -- many of their family are dead, and they both have serious ongoing health problems -- is staggering by itself. Even more incredible is that they've gone through this, and as poor women from India have, through their own patience, ingenuity and faith, challenged those at the very apex of world power. Most astonishing of all, they don't just work for their own benefit, but insist on helping others (including in the US) who've gone through similar catastrophes. It turns out there really is such a thing as the human spirit. It is indomitable.
So please spare a thought for these two beautiful women, along with the other tens of thousands of sick survivors of Bhopal, and the tens of thousands who died twenty years ago today and in the two decades since.
For some time I've been reading the Live Journal site of Chris aka lonestaryankee, who's currently stationed in Iraq. I learned about it via his comments at Under the Same Sun. If you don't know it already, you should check it out.
In My Culture, We Cut Off Books' Spines And Put Them On Spikes As A Warning To Others
So Gerald Allen, a state representative in Alabama, wants to prohibit libraries from using public money to buy books that "recognize or promote homosexuality." Such books already on the shelves would be destroyed.
In an interesting twist, however, Allen does not want to burn the offending books, like the Nazis did. He wants to take them all home so he can furtively examine them late at night with the door to the bathroom locked.
Whoops -- sorry, no, my mistake. Actually, Allen suggests that rather than burning the books, they'll just "dig a big hole and dump them in and bury them."
So, this makes me wonder... clearly there are people everywhere who want to suppress books, but could it be they express this differently from culture to culture?
1. European Fascists: Book Cremation
2. Southern Religious Fundamentalists: Book Burying
3. Ancient Egyptian Authoritarians: Book Mummification, with a retinue of dozens of librarians and editors sealed in the tomb with the books to accompany them to the afterlife
4. Close-Minded Pirates: Book Burial At Sea
5. Totalitarian Uruguayan Rugby Players Trapped In Andes: Book Cannibalism, in which books are eaten by other, more deserving books
Thank God Our Leaders Are Completely Different From I'm Getting Tired Of This Concept
You might have noticed I'm obsessed with the unwholesome similarities between the Bush administration's worldview and that of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, etc. (If you haven't noticed, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here or here.)
But even I am getting tired of this. Unfortunately, there's a seemingly endless supply of new material. So I stuck the latest installment over on Under the Same Sun, where I'm sitting in while Zeynep is in Venezuela.
December 02, 2004
What Kind Of A World Are We Leaving For Our Children?
What kind of a world is it where my mother -- a nice middle-aged lady who only hates America a little and only sort of wants the terrorists to win -- calls me and suggests I listen to an interview with Noam Chomsky? Clearly, it is a world gone mad.
So I listened to the interview, and it's interesting, although with few surprises for the Chomsky-heads among us.
Whenever I hear Noam Chomsky, and the berserk reactions to him, it makes me think of the character of Goldstein in 1984 -- and the berserk reactions to him. Goldstein is Oceania's symbol of all that is evil, and the focus of their daily Two Minute Hates:
Goldstein was delivering his usual venomous attack upon the doctrines of the Party -- an attack so exaggerated and perverse that a child should have been able to see through it, and yet just plausible enough to fill one with an alarmed feeling that other people, less level-headed than oneself, might be taken in by it. He was abusing Big Brother, he was denouncing the dictatorship of the Party, he was demanding the immediate conclusion of peace with Eurasia, he was advocating freedom of speech, freedom of the Press, freedom of assembly, freedom of thought....
The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out 'Swine! Swine! Swine!' and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein's nose and bounced off.
For instance, whenever I see David Horowitz's denunciations of Chomsky, I imagine Horowitz's feverish concern that others, less level-headed than himself, may be taken in by the devious linguistics professor. And then when Andrew Sullivan was on Bill Maher's show with Chomsky, Sullivan was one second away from shrieking "Swine!" at him. If Sullivan had done so, he probably would have then -- not having a Newspeak dictionary -- thrown his own poop.
It's too bad George Orwell can't come back to life for a moment or two, so he could see characters from his book walking around in 21st century American. Then, if he had an extra second before he had to return to the grave, he could give Andrew Sullivan the finger.
Dear Israel: You Should Hire Liars Who Are Less Funny
Perhaps you read about Israeli soldiers recently forcing a Palestinian violinist to play them a song at a checkpoint. This has certain unfortunate... undertones... to it, just like Israelis writing numbers on the arms of Palestinian prisoners has unfortunate undertones.
But guess what? It turns out they didn't force the Palestinian violinist to play! The Israeli army has investigated, and this Palestinian guy, for unknown reasons, decided on his own to play a song! All the soldiers did was make him STOP playing!
True, this makes no sense whatsoever, as the violinist himself points out. But the important thing is to find some lie to tell, no matter how unintentionally funny.
Likewise, it will probably turn out that Iman al-Homs, the 13 year-old Palestinian girl who recently died mysteriously in the vicinity of Israeli soldiers, was not shot by them. Instead, an investigation will determine she stole dozens of the soldiers' bullets and forced them into her own body.
Yes, there are few things more amusing than people nervously telling transparent lies. And that's why Israel is becoming more hilarious every day. I'm surprised the Israeli army hasn't claimed Iman al-Homs is alive, and her total lack of movement is due to her "pining for the fiords."
December 01, 2004
If Andrew Sullivan Were Kryptonite, Thinking Would Be Superman
Matthew Yglesias points here to some particularly dense snideness of Andrew Sullivan, in which Sullivan links to a story on the website of Reporters Sans Frontieres about the arrest of several Iranian bloggers, and asks, "You think the Europeans will protest?" As Matthew says, RSF is based in France, which our best information indicates is in Europe. (RSF says it also has sections in "Austria, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.")
But Sullivan's characteristic dippiness is funny in other ways too:
1. Obviously "the Europeans" in the sense of European citizens are already protesting. But I would guess European governments will also protest. Whether that protest is anything more than pro forma is up to regular Europeans. We will see what they are capable of.
2. One thing we know for sure is that if Sullivan were Iranian he'd be first in line to arrest these people. Sullivan would justify it based on the enormous threat Iran is under from the US and Israel, and would fulminate about how the arrested bloggers are part of "a decadent Left" that "may well mount what amounts to a fifth column."
All this said about Sullivan and his non-functioning noggin, it's still important to support our Iranian brethren and do whatever possible for them. I will keep an eye on this and report back.
We Need More Rap By Rich White People
A friend of mine grew up in Chester, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Chester is mostly African American, although many of the police are white.
My friend once told me a story about a time he went to a McDonald's and all the (black) kids behind the counter were talking about a big police raid the night before. "Man," one of the kids said, "the police were after them like Israelis after Palestinians."
Ha ha! Excellent. We see yet again how people with less power are usually more politically sophisticated than 99% of those with money and white skin.
I thought of my friend's story when I read this BBC article that mentions a right-wing Israeli rapper calling himself "MC Subliminal." I'm going to run right out and get his album, because history teaches us the best art comes from the most powerful members of any society. After all, who can forget the seminal rap album, Straight Outta Darien, Connecticut?
MC Subliminal is a descendant of this proud lineage, with his clever wordplay about how Israel is "still dangling like a cigarette in Arafat's mouth." Wow! That works on so many levels! For instance, there's... well, at the moment I can't think of any level on which that works. Unless he means Arafat was addicted to Israel and it finally killed him. But I'm sure the depths of Subliminal's skillz will soon become apparent to us all, unless he has to take time out from his career to pilot attack helicopters over Gaza. And even then he can write a song about it, a song which will speak deeply to all of us who pilot attack helicopters.