The next Carnival of the Liberals begins tomorrow at http://www.taytv.com/2006/02/carnival-of-liberals-vii.html . Please visit and check out the latest liberal opinions on politicians, the environment and evil corporations.
"He who dislikes the cat, was in his former life, a rat."
The next Carnival of the Liberals begins tomorrow at http://www.taytv.com/2006/02/carnival-of-liberals-vii.html . Please visit and check out the latest liberal opinions on politicians, the environment and evil corporations.
When it comes to family values, god, religion and anti-gay rhetoric, Republicans get away with some of the most outrageous utterances - see here. A few gems from a large collection.
"With all due respect to those dear people, my friend, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew."
Bob Dornan (Rep. R-CA)
"Don't use the word 'gay' unless it's an acronym for 'Got Aids Yet?"
George Bush Sr. (President of the United States)
"I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
George W. Bush (President of the United States)
"God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East.... "
Henry Morris (Institute for Creation Research)
"When science and the Bible differ, science has obviously misinterpreted its data."
James Watt (Secretary of the Interior)
"We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand."*
*Secretary of the Interior in the Reagan Admin. Responsible for National Policy regarding the Environment
"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."
"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."
Except for bloggers, hardly anyone in the mainstream media or the political arena takes the time to challenge this nonsense with either humor or outrage. Until now.
If a Youngstown lawmaker's proposal becomes Ohio law, Republicans would be barred from being adoptive parents.
State Sen. Robert Hagan sent out e-mails to fellow lawmakers late Wednesday night, stating that he intends to ``introduce legislation in the near future that would ban households with one or more Republican voters from adopting children or acting as foster parents.'' The e-mail ended with a request for co-sponsorship. On Thursday, the Democrat said he had not yet found a co-sponsor.
Hagan said his ``tongue was planted firmly in cheek'' when he drafted the proposed legislation. However, Hagan said that the point he is trying to make is nonetheless very serious. Hagan said his legislation was written in response to a bill introduced in the Ohio House this month by Rep. Ron Hood, R-Ashville, that is aimed at prohibiting gay adoption.
``We need to see what we are doing,'' said Hagan, who called Hood's proposed bill blatantly discriminatory and extremely divisive. Hagan called Hood and the eight other conservative House Republicans who backed the anti-gay adoption bill ``homophobic.''
Hood's bill, which does not have support of House leadership, seeks to ban children from being placed for adoption or foster care in homes where the prospective parent or a roommate is homosexual, bisexual or transgender.
To further lampoon Hood's bill, Hagan wrote in his mock proposal that ``credible research'' shows that adopted children raised in Republican households are more at risk for developing ``emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.''
However, Hagan admitted that he has no scientific evidence to support the above claims. Just as "Hood had no scientific evidence to back his assertion that having gay parents was detrimental to children", Hagan said.
Will other sane and sensible people please step forward to debate, challenge and mock the stupidity that passes for family values and public policy in these freakish times?
Honda has yet to make an official announcement, but rumors are flying all over the news that Honda will begin producing a low-cost hybrid car as early as next year.
Honda Motor Co. plans to sell a low-cost hybrid car, a version of its popular Fit subcompact, a Japanese daily reported, signaling the auto maker's long-term commitment to the fuel-sipping powertrain.
Japan's third-biggest auto maker aims to sell the Fit hybrid as early as next year for around ¥1.4 million ($11,790), or about ¥200,000 more than the gasoline-only version, likely making it the world's first hybrid to cost less than ¥2 million ($16,840), the leading Japanese business daily said Wednesday.
The model could be launched in the business year starting April 2007 and would be sold globally, the paper said.
A spokesman denied Honda had made any decision on whether to hybridize the Fit, but added it had the technological wherewithal to mount its hybrid system, which twins an electric motor and a conventional engine to save fuel, on most of its vehicles.
Chief Executive Takeo Fukui has long said the price premium for a hybrid over a gasoline-only car needs to fall below ¥200,000 ($1,680) for the powertrain to go mainstream.
This can only help Mother Earth with all the pollution problems we've been having (though not as much as any reasonable person would like). To-date the only people driving hybrids in large numbers are the hippie types with money to spend, and people who commute in a city such as Washington, DC, where they get to use the HOV lane without passengers if they drive a hybrid, fuel-efficient car. People who currently drive Audis and BMWs instead of hybrid Honda Accords will undoubtedly continue to do so, but for the first time people in the market for inexpensive automobiles will be able to purchase hybrids (a reduction of $4,000 on a previously $17,000 car type is nearly a savings of 25%). Moreover they will have plenty of purely financial incentive to do "go hybrid": the rising cost of petrol and the $2,000 tax rebate will make the Fit hybrid at $12,000 a better deal than any other car over $10,000 (and perhaps lower than that with gasoline costs figured into the equation).
Noam Chomsky discusses our so-called WAR ON TERROR at the Palestine Chronicle. I'm trying to be a good patriot by saying it in all caps for two reasons: (1) it's more frightening that way, and (2) if it's said loudly enough, it might come true. I like to think that King George would be proud of me; I know what speech is 'responsible' and what isn't.
It's amazing how when you look at the facts of the WAR ON TERROR it reveals itself to be incoherent many times over. Chomsky discusses, among other things, the first WOT and how by any American or international definition of 'terrorism' the United States is itself a leading terrorist state--both then (the Reagan years) and now (the Chimperor years). Furthermore we're left with the U.S. waging a War on Terror the intent of which cannot possibly be to reduce terrorism. This even if you accept the principle (the real principle to be gleaned from Nuremberg, incidentally) that we get to define ourselves as non-terrorists and our enemies as terrorists! Our actions do not make the western world safer from Islamic terrorism, and this was known way back in advance without the benefit of hindsight. Seriously, just go read the whole Chomsky lecture.
But speaking of our actions not making us safer from terrorism, even if we faultily define terrorism according to the rules of the corporate media shills and governmental neocons running this country: William S. Lind has this piece up at Counterpunch arguing that we're in the process of causing the "fall of Pakistan to militant Islam," which "will be a strategic disaster greater than anything possible in Iraq, even losing an army." I'm not an expert on Pakistani affairs (but then, none of us are: the blogger pundits, the television pundits like Bill 'Papa Bear' O'Reilly, we all comment far beyond our bases of knowledge), but Lind's argument seems plausible and well-supported to me.
I wrote this at my blog a day or two ago, and I'm going to reproduce it here--it sparked a couple of interesting comments, and I suspect Ruchira has a larger readership than I do:
Should men who are not soldiers be held to the same standards [as the Nuremberg precedent]? It's tempting when one feels oppressed by our rape culture to say yes, always. But is it ethically defensible, in either the war crime situation or the gang leader coercing rape situation, to demand that someone die to save another from assault?
After all, the bank manager who is coerced at gunpoint to open the safe for the armed robbers is not considered to be an accomplice to the crime, let alone charged with the crime itself.
My own gut reaction to rapists is to grab the blunt butter knife and fantasise about castration. In terms of social order I feel that even men who are coerced into rape should be punished for the greater good of women's safety in society. It's entirely justified pragmatically, but that's not always the same thing as ethical.
I left a brief comment at her blog stating my opinion that it would be unjust to punish people who are forced to commit crimes (reasonable minds may differ as to whether the defendants in the linked story were truly "forced," however--not all coercion is created equal). That the law has it right in this case. That furthermore I question the premise that punishment of men who are coerced into rape would even prove beneficial for women's safety (the reasoning being essentially that [a] I don't think it would be an effective deterrent and [b] if we don't punish people for coerced crimes, I still don't see this leading to an increase in those crimes or people staging coercion to get away with sexual assault).
I think the understanding (including but not limited to the legal understanding) of offences committed when forced under threat of death would be that these offences are not crimes. And no just society can punish its citizens for crimes they did not commit, right? I mean, that's just a little too close to George Orwell's 1984. So where's the problem?
Well the problem is that we may want to hold these fellows morally responsible for these actions which in all other circumstances are criminal. I know that my knee-jerk reaction is certainly to say that nothing, not even coercive force, justifies rape (or, say, murder--it certainly would justify Tigtog's example of a banker giving the bank-robber money). I tend to be a deontologist like that. But my personal moral philosophy may be incoherent, because sometimes I also want to be a consequentialist. And if a guy holds a gun up to my head and says "shoot that dude or I'll kill you," and if I refuse, I'm probably going to end up dead and so is that dude. So what real good did sticking to my principle out of some sort of Kantian childish fit actually accomplish? Tigtog also seems to raise the interesting related question of if it would be ethically justifiable for X to sexually assault Y to save X's own life (which would draw a distinction with the scenario of X killing Y to save X's own life if we look at this like a utilitarian). Ordinarily I would say that rape is probably just as bad as murder, but in a very narrow situation like that maybe it weights out differently. As a man maybe it's not my place to say. Hell, as a human being maybe it's not my place to say, maybe the question's too difficult, and hence the sticking to my deontological principles.
In a Saturday New York Times editorial, "former neoconservative" (I didn't know he'd jumped off the wagon) Francis Fukuyama criticizes the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq. Fukuyama argues that:
"There are clear benefits to the Iraqi people from the removal of Saddam Hussein's dictatorship, and perhaps some positive spillover effects in Lebanon and Syria. But it is very hard to see how these developments in themselves justify the blood and treasure that the United States has spent on the project to this point."
"The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends [of spreading democracy], which are as American as apple pie, but rather in the overmilitarized means by which it has sought to accomplish them."
For those seeking guidance in interpreting Fukuyama and other defectors from the Bush camp, John Dickerson provides a guide to books by Bush critics with pro-Bush backgrounds in Slate. Dickerson roughly divides these critics into three thematic camps: 1) Bush is no conservative; 2) He's a bad CEO, and 3) He was hellbent on war.
Fukuyama's editorial seems to present a nuanced variation on 3). While the enemies of my enemies are not necessarily my friends, these tortured internal criticisms of the Republican agenda often contain compelling arguments. Because of his studiously affected "just folks" demeanor, Bush is easy not to take seriously, a luxury which those who have supported him in the past do not share. Though I often object to the revised agenda put forth by these Republican Bush critics, I prefer reading them, in measured doses, to slogging through some of the ineffectual, glib yapping that's emailed to me from groups on the Left that I've given money to because of our shared political goals (I do not mean to disparage all such email, or, heavens forbid, solicit conservative group-mail, which would no doubt be even more insufferable).
Plus, I have to admit to a sort of rubbernecker's glee. Let the Republican dog fights begin!
Yesterday marked the official Day of Remembrance for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the military to force Americans of Japanese origin from their homes, and to segregate them in detention centers (literally, concentration camps), for "the successful prosecution of the war" and "protection against espionage and against sabotage." Ultimately, more than 100,000 people were interned in ten camps spread across the Western desert.
The continuing relevance of this formative low point in the history of American civil liberties during wartime hardly needs elaboration. Yet I was struck by how little attention the event's passing received in yesterday's press. In Los Angeles, my home, and the home of a substantial Japanese American population both at the time of internment and today, the LA Times ran only a brief blurb (requires free subscription) in its "rearview mirror" section. The blurb focuses on a moving passage from Ansel Adam's book of photographs of Manzanar detainees entitled, "Born Free and Equal." In a letter to his editor, Adams stated his purpose that "through the pictures the reader will be introduced to perhaps twenty individuals . . . loyal American citizens who are anxious to get back into the stream of life and contribute to our victory." In the passage included in the LA Times, Adams worried, more broadly, about the affect of wartime incursions on civil liberties after "peace is established and the crisis of feeling is reduced":
We have the chance now—and never has a better chance been offered us—to establish the true American structure of life. The treatment of Japanese-Americans will be a symbol of our treatment of all minorities. . . . It is our task to retain the individual as the foundation of society, irrespective of his race, color, or religion. It is a problem we must face and solve. . . .
What is the true enemy the democratic peoples are fighting? Collectively, the enemy is every nation and every individual of predatory instincts and actions. We fight to assure a cooperative civilization in opposition to the predatory Nazi-Fascist-Militarist methods and ideologies of government. We must prosecute this war with all the ruthless efficiency, stern realism, and clarity of purpose that is at our command. We must not compromise or appease. We must assure our people that there will be no further human catastrophes such as the destruction of Rotterdam, the annihilation of Lidice, the rape of Nanking, or the decimation of the Jews.
We must be certain that, as the rights of the individual are the most sacred elements of our society, we will not allow passion, vengeance, hatred, and racial antagonism to cloud the principles of universal justice and mercy.
These ideals merit emphasis. I'm troubled, though, that such an important event is approached without context, as if it were an historical aberration (in the "rearview mirror") remediable by recourse to abstract values we effortlessly recognize. Granted, as our ongoing activities in Guantanamo Bay make clear, we seem to have a hard enough time with the basic message, historical context aside, that detaining people without trial vitiates our ideals of universal justice and mercy. But, as the Bush Administration has amply shown, terms like "freedom," "democracy," and "individual rights" are easy to bandy around. It's the hard cases, revealed by factual details, which give these terms meaning. History offers little but hard cases, and few real aberrations.
I'm not going to attempt a comprehensive overview of the long and ugly history of the politics of Asian exclusion leading up to Japanese American interment. A few things, though, strike me as worth pointing out, because of their continued relevance and too frequent absence from general public discourse.
1. The background of working class hostility toward economic competition from Asian immigrants, which gained synergistic force from the racist perception of Asians as perennially foreign. California labor organizers and politicians were seminal in pressing for the restrictions on Asian civil liberties leading up to the Internment. One origin of the "union label" was the practice of the Cigar Makers' Association of the Pacific Coast, which in 1874 placed a white label on cigar boxes to inform consumers they were patronizing white, rather than Chinese, labor. Pressing the case for struggling white workers in 1905, AFL-CIO president Samuel Gompers asserted that ""the Caucasians ... are not going to let their standard of living be destroyed by Negroes, Chinamen, Japs, or any others."
In California, at the time of Internment, Japanese American truck farmers were responsible for 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the state, including nearly 100 percent of all tomatoes, celery, strawberries and peppers. During the same period, economic refugees from the Dustbowl were flooding into California in search of agricultural work, a chapter of history memorably captured in John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath and Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother series (1936), as well as Ansel Adams's haunting "Trailer Camp Children, Richmond, CA" (1944). One rather untowardly cheerful take on this history is that Dustbowl labor became indispensable to fill the "labor shortage created by the US government" through "evacuation of Japanese farmers from the Pacific Coast." A longer view of the political forces that pitted poor native born white laborers against poor immigrant laborers and poor Asian laborers (immigrant as well as native born), reveals the dark underbelly of this means for relieving the pressure imposed by the mass migration of landless farmers to California during the Depression, and helps explain support for the Internment.
2. The role of Asians as a pawn in the battles over the rights of African Americans. For those who read legal opinions, perhaps the most famous example of this role is in Harlan's dissent to the case that established the separate-but-equal doctrine, Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Plessy upheld a law enacted by the state of Louisiana that required separate railway cars for blacks and whites. In 1892, Homer Adolph Plessy (who was seven-eighths white) took a seat in a "whites only" car of a Louisiana train. He refused to move to the car reserved for blacks and was arrested. The Supreme Court found that the Louisiana law did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. In his eloquent dissent, Harlan protested that "in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law." He made one exception, however, to this color blind scheme:
There is a race so different from our own that we do not permit those belonging to it to become citizens of the United States. Persons belonging to it are, with few exceptions, absolutely excluded from our country. I allude to the Chinese race. But, by the statute in question, a Chinaman can ride in the same passenger coach with white citizens of the United States, while citizens of the black race in Louisiana, many of whom, perhaps, risked their lives for the preservation of the Union, who are entitled, by law, to participate in the political control of the state and nation, who are not excluded, by law or by reason of their race, from public stations of any kind, and who have all the legal rights that belong to white citizens, are yet declared to be criminals, liable to imprisonment, if they ride in a public coach occupied by citizens of the white race.
Inversely, due to ambiguity about the term, "white," through the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, some Asians became naturalized under the 1790 criteria that "free white persons" were eligible for citizenship, notwithstanding an increasingly hostile climate in state and national legislatures (anti-Japanese bills, for example, were introduced in the California state legislature every year between 1909 through WWII). The Supreme Court clamped a lid on this ambiguity in Takao Ozawa v. US (1922) and U.S. v. Bhagat Singh Thind (1923). In the autobiographical brief that Ozawa wrote to support his case, he both attested to his assimilation ("In name, General Benedict Arnold was an American, but at heart he was a traitor. In name, I am not all American, but at heart I am an American.") and argued he was literally white, even more so than "the average Italian, Spaniard or Portuguese." The Supreme Court rejected Ozawa's argument, finding that "white" is a synonym for "Caucasian"; since Ozawa was neither Caucasian nor an African by birth or descent, he did not have the right of naturalization.
Rather ingeniously, Thind, a Punjabi by birth, argued that under Ozawa, he qualified for citizenship as white, since South Asian Indians are not only "Caucasian," but "Aryan." In response, the Supreme Court retreated to the following inpenetrable position:
"What we now hold is that the words 'free white persons' are words of common speech, to be interpreted in accordance with the understanding of the common man, synonymous with the word 'Caucasian' only as that word is popularly understood. As so understood and used, whatever may be the speculations of the ethnologist, it does not include the body of people to whom the appellee belongs."
Like the role of Japanese Americans, and other Asians, in the economy, their role as competitors for rights in America's entrenched racial battles helped lay the foundation for internment. With rising levels of economic and racial inequality, we have no reason to believe, complacently, that a scapegoating, violation of rights on this order is something we will find only in the "rearview mirror."
3. Internment of people of Japanese origin was not limited to America. In 1942 the Canadian government also interned its population of Japanese origin, roughly 22,000 people, most of whom lived in British Columbia. Joy Kogawa's novel, Obasan, recounts the experiences of a young girl growing up during this period. The tendency, illustrated in the LA Times piece, to see the Internment as an isolated example of American exceptionalism in the problem of racism, robs the event of its connection to a range of international human rights violations (witness the contentious debate over use of the term "concentration camps" to describe the "detention facilities"). In turn, I believe this isolation deprives us of our ability to understand the nature of event, and how to stop "it," in the larger sense, from occurring again.
4. It Doesn't Matter That Some Japanese Americans Were "Disloyal." No-No Boy (1957), John Okada's brilliant book about a young Japanese American man's struggle to reintegrate into post-war Seattle after his internment, captures the range of responses among Americans of Japanese origin to America and to World War II. Among these are the response of variations on the "loyal American citizens" highlighted by Adams and Ozawa; the understandable ambivalence of the narrator; and the rebellious, pro-Japanese fervor of the narrator's isei mother. The failure to distinguish between 1) members of an ethnic group who support their country of origin's political goals from those who do not; and 2) those who support an enemy's goals but pose no threat from those who actually pose a threat to national security, strikes me as a major, unlearned lesson of the experience of Japanese American Internment.
Author and journalist Maia Szalavitz has a guest column up at the London Times. Part confession, part social criticism, the piece is a moving look at the stigma attached to antidepressant use. Our culture--and I know, there is no "our culture," no "American culture" or "western culture"; there are too many subcultures, and this generalization will not uniformly hold true throughout all of them--doesn't like antidepressant use. It's easy for people who aren't depressed to demand of others (voiced or silently), "Why are you depressed? Get over it!" But depression is real, it's not something you just "get over," and sometimes talk therapy isn't the answer. Szalavitz wonders why the use of antidepressant medication in particular is seen as some sort of moral failing:
IF A PILL WAS developed that could restore the body after spinal injury without painful physical therapy, everyone would rejoice; well, everyone except unemployed physiotherapists. But the reaction is so very different to pills that restore the depressed mind without a need for emotionally-harrowing therapy.
Antidepressants are routinely dismissed as “Band-Aids” that merely hide the real problem, or they get smeared as being nothing more than nice little earners for “Big Pharma”. On the other hand, the talk therapists who oppose medication are portrayed as standing up for their patients, rather than as professionals protecting their own jobs and interests.
But why should those who already suffer from an illness have to suffer more to recover? Why, if medication works, shouldn’t they take a chemical shortcut to a healthier mind? Since mental health is not a struggle for most people, why do we demand extra work from those for whom it is? As a former addict who now takes antidepressants, I have long pondered this. My own story illustrates that suffering for its own sake can be counterproductive, while medication can ease pain without blocking emotional progress.
When I first snorted heroin I felt like one of the patients that the psychiatrist Peter Kramer quotes in his classic book Listening to Prozac, “better than well”. I was safe, warm, perfectly nurtured — for once, comfortable in my own skin....
Unsurprisingly, I soon added heroin to my coke habit and began a three-year descent that left me weighing 80lb and taking both drugs up to 40 times a day. I realised that I had to stop when I found myself begging a man I despised for heroin; I knew that the next step would be exchanging sex for drugs — that, somehow, jarred me into recognising the severity of my addiction.
[Cognitive therapy, effective at kicking the drug habits,] did not eliminate my bouts of depression, during which my self-hatred would return as furious as ever....
I began taking antidepressants about seven years after I kicked cocaine and heroin. Before that, both the self-help groups I attended and my individual therapist had discouraged medication. But I decided to try antidepressants when I declined into a state in which my ability to function at work was seriously threatened because I could not experience anything other than constant dread. Certainly, I thought, it was more likely to help than heroin, which was beginning to seem like a good alternative again.
Ten days after starting Zoloft I felt the first therapeutic effects. Soon, I again felt transformed, as I had in that seedy hotel, so many years before. Unlike heroin, Zoloft did not make me euphoric, but it provided a similar sense of comfort and safety. I felt like “myself again”, as another of Kramer’s patients reported. With antidepressants, I wasn’t “better than well”; I was the way I am when I’m OK.
Other opponents of antidepressants point to their side-effects, which can be a real problem, but the critics skate over that their preferred option of talk therapy can harm, too. Many widely used talk therapies for depression have been shown to backfire; while “recovered memory” therapy has split countless families by conjuring up false memories of abuse and “rebirthing” has killed people.
There is no moral superiority to talk therapy: sometimes “happy pills” really are the best fix.
It should be obvious in this day and age never to put something in writing if you would not want your words to become part of the public record. Among the non-published forms of writing, this is perhaps especially true of email, which is so easily forwarded from person to person. One would especially expect such commonsensical wisdom to be observed carefully among lawyers. Thankfully for those of us in need of a good laugh, some attorneys worry more about these things than others. Today's Globe has the story:
Once again, a friendly reminder: The next time you're tempted to send a nasty, exasperated, or snippy e-mail, pause, take a deep breath, and think again. Then consider the tale of local [Boston area] lawyers William A. Korman and Dianna L. Abdala.
Korman was miffed that Abdala notified him by e-mail this month that, after tentatively agreeing to work at his law firm, she changed her mind. Her reason: ''The pay you are offering would neither fulfill me nor support the lifestyle I am living."
In his e-mail reply, Korman told Abdala that her decision not to have told him in person ''smacks of immaturity and is quite unprofessional," and noted that in anticipation of her arrival, he had ordered stationery and business cards for her, reformatted a computer, and set up an e-mail account. Nevertheless, he wrote, ''I sincerely wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors."
Her curt retort: ''A real lawyer would have put the contract into writing and not exercised any such reliance until he did so."
His: ''Thank you for the refresher course on contracts. This is not a bar exam question. You need to realize that this is a very small legal community, especially the criminal defense bar. Do you really want to start pissing off more experienced lawyers at this early stage of your career?"
Abdala's final three-word response: ''bla bla bla."
That's when the exchange, confirmed as authentic yesterday by Korman and Abdala, began whipping through cyberspace, landing in e-mail in-boxes around the city and country, and, eventually, across the Atlantic.
They differ on whether, at the end of the second meeting, Abdala accepted the job. Korman said he believes Abdala did, and that they even set a start date, which would have been yesterday. Abdala said there was ''no clear contract or agreement" and she still wanted to ponder the offer. She said she ultimately decided not to take the job because the reduced salary ''might have been realistic for other people to survive on, but I like nicer things. I like the finer things in life."
Abdala, who described herself as a ''trust fund baby," was admitted to the Massachusetts bar last year and said that since then she has ''just been taking it easy" because ''I worked hard in school." She decided to respond to Korman's job posting because ''I wanted to establish somewhat of a career for myself," she said. ''No one wants to be living off daddy." Abdala's father, George S. Abdala, is a Springfield lawyer.
Abdala said she is now working for herself by renting space from a lawyer on Franklin Street in Boston, where she will take court-appointed cases and do private criminal defense work.
Abdala said she has no regrets about the e-mail exchange.
That's right, she has no regrets about the exchange. I guess it's easy not to worry about these things when you're living off Daddy's money, and not working post-graduation because you worked so hard at your fourth-tier law school. Although if Abdala has no regrets and isn't worried about the repercussions of this incident, it's curious that she would report Korman for a supposed ethics breach. It's also amusing that she believes contracts are only contracts if written, and that the forwarding of a non-privileged email qualifies as unethical, considering that both positions are false--one might expect an attorney (or even a first-year law student) to know this! Of course, one might also expect a first-year law student to be able to spell "blah" correctly.
David Yas has more at Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
It did not quite last a month. Houston's Major League Soccer team "1836" is looking for a new name. It appears that there was widespread opposition to the moniker from Houston's Mexican-American community because of the historical connotation of the year 1836.
"Many Hispanics have voiced their dislike for the controversial name, claiming it carries an anti-Mexican sentiment and lends itself to be a divisive tool among Houstonians.
Although 1836 was meant to symbolize the year Houston was founded, it also has links to other significant events some Mexican-Americans might find offensive. Those include Texas' independence from Mexico, the Battle of the Alamo and the defeat of Gen. Antonio López de Santa Anna's Mexican army at the hands of Gen. Sam Houston in the Battle of San Jacinto during the Texas Revolution. The logo, a star with "Houston 1836" emblazoned on it, depicts a silhouette of Houston riding a horse.
"We believed, and many people still do, that 1836 was a great name because it symbolized the founding of the city, and we thought people would rally around that," Luck said. "But obviously we hit a bit of a raw nerve within the Mexican-American community."
"Roses are red, violets are blue.. " and all the rest of it. Many rhymed, passionate, clever and crass messages were exchanged yesterday between lovers, mediated largely by Hallmark. The ancient Sumerians, 4000 years ago, knew how to put a sexually bold love poem on paper - or rather in stone. The verses did not beat about the bush. The purpose of the lyrical amorous message was unambiguous and yet quite romantic.
"ISTANBUL, TURKEY - It is as tiny as the sleekest mobile phones that fit in the palm of the hand, but its message is anything but modern. A small tablet in a special display this month in the Istanbul Museum of the Ancient Orient is thought to be the oldest love poem ever found, the words of a lover from more than 4,000 years ago.
The ancient Sumerian tablet was unearthed in the late 1880s in Nippur, a region in what is now Iraq, and had been resting quietly in a modest corner of the museum until it was brought back to the limelight this year by a company that made it part of a Valentine's Day promotion.
The tablet in fact contains a daring — and risqué — ballad in which a priestess professes her love for a king, though it is thought that the words are in fact a script for a ceremonial re-creation of a fable by the priestess and the king, Su-Sin. The priestess represents Inanna, the Goddess of Love and Fertility, and the king represents Dumuzi, the God of Shepherds, on the eve of their union.
Muazzez Hilmiye Cig, 93, a retired historian at the museum who is one of only a few people in Turkey who can read the text, said she was fascinated by the way Sumerians perceived love.
"They did not have sexual taboos in love," she said. "Instead, they believed that only love and passion could bring them fertility and therefore praised pleasures."
In the agriculture-based Sumerian community, she said, lovemaking between the king and the priestess would have been seen as a way to ensure the fertility of their crops, and therefore the community's welfare, for another year."
Read the whole story to see the text of the poem.
The last time I read a full length book by Cynthia Ozick, it was more than thirty years ago. It was a collection of her short stories (The Pagan Rabbi ?) which had one really memorable story - the rest of the book is a blur. The story, "Yiddish In America" ended with one of the characters screaming with outrage, lamenting the death of Yiddish. Only much later did I learn that the two young American writers of Yiddish portrayed in that story were slyly modeled on poet Jacob Glatstein and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Since then I have read an occasional essay by Ozick and not very much else. I had immensely enjoyed "Yiddish In America" and on the strength of that memory alone, I recently decided to read her 2004 novel, "Heir To The Glimmering World".
Cynthia Ozick is a Jewish writer who writes about the Jewish experience. This book too is about a Jewish family in America, refugees from Germany. But their story is not so much about their Jewishness as it is about their Germanness. The Mitwisser family, headed by Rudolph and Elsa Mitwisser leave or rather are made to leave Germany with their five young children in 1935, a few years before Hitler unleashes his full fury on Europe. They are a scholarly couple - he an expert of the obscure Jewish heretic sect, the Karaites and she a brilliant experimental physicist and colleague of Erwin Schroedinger of the famous Schroedinger's equation of quantum mechanics. The escape from Germany is facilitated by a quirk of religious nomenclature. An American Quaker group mistakes Rudi Mitwisser's Jewish Karaites for the Christian Charismites and brings the family to Albany, NY where it is hoped he will continue his research unmolested by the Nazis. Once here, the mistake is discovered and the Quakers do their best to keep the wolf from the Mitwisser door through charity and hand me downs although they can no longer offer an academic stipend to the professor. The Mitwissers' uncertain fate becomes a matter of some consternation and embarrassment for both the hosts and the recipients ("parasites" according to Mrs. Mitwisser).
The refugee family's path soon crosses with that of the young orphan Rose Meadows, who is hired by the Mitwisser family as an assistant to the husband. Rose is a resolute young daughter of an irresolute father who has the mercy to die early in the story and leave her to fend for herself. Poor but reasonably educated and self sufficient, Rose's role within the family takes several twists and turns. She ends up acting in turn as a nanny to the Mitwisser children, a nurse and confidante to the increasingly sick mother as well as the occasional typist and transcriber for the father. But most of all, Rose is the observer of the family's transformation from proud and frightened refugees to well heeled but conflicted Americans.
"Heir To The Glimmering World" is an interesting story with several twists of fate and turns of human nature. From the beginning to the end of the book, most of the major players undergo several upheavals of character as well as hierarchy. The changes have a lot to do with money, for which they become dependent on the whims of a wealthy young man who takes a fancy to them because he sees in the Mitwissers, a family of misfits like himself. The "heirlooms" in Ozick's book have to do with many metaphorical bequests as well as real money.
Ozick's story is full of the strange and the unusual, but fortunately, she keeps her flights of fancy within check and there is not a "golem" in sight. The Mitwisser family drama involves mainly the Mitwisser couple, their beautiful and solemn eldest daughter Anneliese and their unlikely young benefactor, James the Bear Boy. James is a lot like A.A. Milne's Christopher Robin (Christopher Milne in real life) of Winnie the Pooh fame. Rose's own life, although entangled with her employers, has its separate storyline. Motherless from a young age, she is brought up by a negligent father who teaches high school math and lives his life by lies, deception and a loaded dice. She has a mild mannered cousin, a pharmacist named Bertram who comes to play a crucial role within the Mitwisser family in an unexpected way. And among all these slightly odd characters and the vicissicitude of their fortunes, pop in and out others, who are even more strange. Like the fiery feminist communist radical Ninel (Lenin spelt backwards) and Dr. Tandoori, who used to be an eminent Indian philosopher in Bombay of the "Nastik" (atheist) school but who for some inexplicable reason, becomes a tailor in the Bronx.
Then there are the heirs. The most obvious one is James the Bear Boy, who owns fabulous wealth but is discomfited by it because of his unhappy and reluctant role in its acquisition. He wants to shed it although it gives him capricious power over others. Mrs Mitwisser, whose brilliant mind weaves in and out of insanity, should have been an heir to the Schroedinger fame but is denied due to her gender, her motherhood and not to a small measure, her Jewishness. But perhaps she does triumphantly retain a bit of Schroedinger's legacy in her life after experimental physics is no longer available to her. The paternity of one of her three sons, the beautiful Heinz, is an enigma to the readers and also Professor Mitwisser, who loves Heinz the best but cannot look him in the eye. Rudi Mitwisser, himself an heir to the vast wealth of the obscure history and scholarship of the ancient Karaites, strives and fails to bring them back to life (like "fireflies") and make them a part of mainstream conversation in Judaism. Rose and Bertram too inherit small and big fortunes. But in the end, it is a new born baby, an heir in the true legal sense, who restores the focus of the family both physically and emotionally at a time when it comes precariously close to tragic fragmentation.
I enjoyed "Heir To The Glimmering World", but not as much as I had relished the rascally "Yiddish in America".
I haven't seen this reported by the mainstream media anywhere, which is troubling because (a) there's supposed to be a "liberal media bias" (if you listen to the conservatives, that is), and (b) I think it's a big deal. And yes, I glance over Google News and CNN (among other newspapers/sites) fairly frequently. I have seen it in the blogosphere, at Pandagon, and I've briefly posted on it at Unreal City and Liberal Avenger as well.
Rob Anders, an airline industry employee, recently won free airfare for himself and "a companion." Northwest Airlines refused him to cash in the tickets for himself and his registered domestic partner. A Northwest representative told Anders that they would only recognize a spouse, dependent child, or another airline employee as a travel companion. The representative specifically stated Northwest Airlines would not recognize a registered domestic partner as a "spouse" for the tickets. Besides simply being insane or absurd, this is illegal.
If you give me a choice between flying Northwest and flying Jet Blue (or any other airline of your choice) in the future, I know which one I'm flying. Here's hoping this becomes a big story and puts Bigots Air out of business.
This is breaking news. Dick Cheney has accidentally shot a man during a quail hunt in Texas. I am posting this without extensive commentary except to remind readers that as we already know from the misguided war in Iraq, Bush-Cheney do tend to go after the wrong target.
Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said today.
Harry Whittington, 78, was "alert and doing fine" after Cheney sprayed Whittington with shotgun pellets on Saturday at the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas, said property owner Katharine Armstrong. Armstrong said Cheney turned to shoot a bird and accidentally hit Whittington. She said Whittington was taken to Corpus Christi Memorial Hospital by ambulance.
Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, said the vice president was with Whittington, a lawyer from Austin, and his wife at the hospital this afternoon.
I had assumed that Egyptologists, as a subsection of anthropologists, were a dying breed. There are no new hieroglyphics to translate; there are no new sites to raid; there are no new dead kings to defile. (I actually love knowledge, and think it's good that we learn things from Egyptian tombs--but you have to admit that from the ancient Egyptian perspective on the dead and their afterlife, "defile" is the appropriate word for what is done to mummies and their pyramids.) Did I say the academic and intellectual field was dead? Turns out, I was wrong. Seriously, how cool is this discovery? The story, I think, speaks for itself:
LUXOR, Egypt -- The 3,000-year-old face of a woman, her eyes lined in black kohl, stared out from a funerary mask through the freshly unsealed door of a tomb.
The five mummies inside, possibly members of a pharaoh's court, are already celebrities amid archeologists' excitement over the first tomb discovered in Egypt's Valley of the Kings since that of King Tut more than 80 years ago.
Egyptian authorities gave the world a first peek yesterday at the treasures, which were discovered by a team of American archeologists while working on the neighboring tomb of Amenmeses, a late 19th Dynasty pharaoh.
''It's a dream come true," said Edwin Brock, co-director of the project, affiliated with the University of Memphis.
He and his colleagues have not yet entered the single-chamber tomb, believed to be about 3,000 years old and dating to the 18th Dynasty. But they have made a hole about a foot high in the door and peered through to see five wooden sarcophagi and about 20 alabaster jars.
''It was just so amazing to find an intact tomb here after all the work that's been done before," Brock said. ''This was totally unexpected."
Yesterday, Egypt's antiquities authority allowed journalists a first look into the tomb, located across a pathway from Tutankhamun's, the last burial site discovered in the valley on Nov. 4, 1922 by British archeologist Howard Carter.
Inside the 12-foot-by-15-foot chamber, one sarcophagus had fallen on its side, facing the doorway. The funeral mask showed the painted features of a woman, with long black hair, thin eyebrows, and kohl-ringed eyes. Gold patterns of a thick necklace or breastplate were visible, but the lower half of the coffin was splintered and rotting, the result of termites, Brock said.
In one corner of the chamber, a coffin seemed to have been partly pried open. The brown cloth below the lid probably belongs to a mummy, the archeologists said.
At the back of the chamber was the silhouette of another sarcophagus, the stately face painted on its funeral mask staring upward, and hands folded on the chest.
Large pottery jars, some cracked, lined the chamber. Egypt's chief of antiquities, Zahi Hawass, said the jars held food and drink to sustain the deceased in their journey to the afterlife.
Hawass said archeologists hope to find hieroglyphs on the coffins that will identify the mummies. ''Whoever they are, they should be very important people," he said. ''Nobody can be buried in the Valley of the Kings unless they are important."
Brock and Otto Schaden, who heads the US team, pointed out that the mummies were not necessarily royalty; other tombs in the valley belong to favored royal servants or top officials.
The discovery broke the long-held belief that there is nothing left to dig up in the Valley of the Kings, the desert region near the city of Luxor, 300 miles south of Cairo, that was used as a burial ground for pharaohs, queens, and nobles in the New Kingdom, which dated from 1500 B.C. to 1000 B.C.
Sidelined by the NBA? Benched by the Seattle SuperSonics? Not to worry. Now there is Petrochimi. Or Saba Battery. Basketball is gaining popularity in Iran, with help from imported players. Foreign players, mostly from the US whose hoop dreams are not realized at home, are descending on the fledgling Iranian circuit to play basketball. Garth Joseph, Andre Pitts, Eddie Elisma are among some twenty Americans who play pro-basketball in Iran. They are paid paid between $60,000 - $200,000 to help popularize a game which lags behind soccer, wrestling and volleyball on the Iranian sporting scene.
The biggest adjustment the Americans have to make is getting used to the lack of night life, parties, beer and bacon. Iran's straight laced Islamic society frowns upon all four - at least in public. But the players have discovered that things are not as bleak as they appear. Almost everything is available - behind closed doors and for a price.
TEHRAN, IRAN - Making himself as inconspicuous as a 7-foot-2 black man can be in Iran, Garth Joseph sidled up to the store counter. His air was at once playful and furtive. "Give me that good stuff," he whispered. The clerk, a bespectacled woman dressed in a black head scarf, reached under the counter and brought forth a slab of pork: It was black-market bacon, absolutely illegal in the Islamic Republic of Iran and priced like the contraband it was.
"Fifteen dollars for bacon!" Joseph squawked, reaching into his sweats for his wad of green Iranian currency. "It's so much money, but I love bacon. I eat about two pounds of bacon a day in America."
About 20 Americans play hoops for a living in Iran. They nurture pro careers that might not exist in the States, navigate a culture that offers precious few diversions in public — though a lot more behind closed doors — and, as much as possible, avoid politics. For offshore ballplayers working for a paycheck, Iran is just another stop on an international circuit that quietly counterbalances the NBA's burgeoning import of players.
"One of my friends — he's really like a caveman — he says, 'Are they walking around with AKs?' " said Andre Pitts, a Texan from Seguin, who plays point guard on the same team with Joseph, Saba Battery. "I said, 'If you came here, you wouldn't ever want to go back, the way they treat you.' "
"It's like being at a camp," said Eddie Elisma, a New York native drafted in 1997 by the Seattle SuperSonics and now a Petrochimi team leader. "It's not as bad as you think."
In fact, inside a private home, life in Iran can be exactly the opposite of the public image. In Joseph's six months in Tehran, his most striking discovery has been the nation's double life. He first noticed it during Ramadan, the month when observant Muslims fast during daylight hours.
"They eat," Joseph declared. "They don't eat in public, but they eat".
About two weeks after arriving, he was invited inside an apartment in the prosperous, generally liberal area north of Tehran.He watched as female guests arrived and peeled off their cloaks. "Nice miniskirts," Joseph said, smiling at the memory. And behind closed doors, the liquor flowed freely.
The players say the primary risk to living in a country run by conservative Muslim clerics is being bored to death. But such strictness has its upside. "It prolongs my career," Pitts said, recalling the night spots of secular Syria, where women sometimes danced on the bar. "I'm getting good rest."
The canaries are beginning to sing - must sound like a discordant cacophany to Bush - Cheney. Some with their backs to the wall, reputation in tatters and possible jail term in sight and some just angry erstwhile friends and officials of the Bush Administration are spilling their guts. Will Bush's legendary luck run out at last? I am not sure. With all three branches of government in GOP hands, he and Cheney might go unscathed inspite of gross incompetence and obscene transgressions. The singers:
Scooter Libby who has been indicted by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzerald for leaking classified information about Valerie Plame, the undercover CIA operative whose husband Joseph Wilson rubbed the administration the wrong way by questioning their case for the Iraq war. Libby's defense apparently will be that he was following orders.... A former top aide (Libby) to Vice President Dick Cheney told a federal grand jury that his superiors authorized him to give secret information to reporters as part of the Bush administration's defense of intelligence used to justify invading Iraq, according to court papers.
Michael D. Brown (Brownie), the embattled former chief of FEMA has testified before congress that he was railroaded, scapegoated and abandoned by the Bush White House after Katrina. According to Brown, the newly formed Homeland Security Department to which FEMA was reassigned, was chaotic and its head Michael Chertoff was incompetent. One interesting fact to emerge from the hearings is a statement by Brown that directly contradicts the White House's claim that the breach in the levees in New Orleans came as a surprise to them. Brown asserted that on the night of the breach, he had contacted the presidential ranch in Crawford where Bush was vacationing when Katrina struck. ... Brown said not only did he inform the White House, but he also informed top Homeland Security officials about the situation on the same day. His comments contradicted previous statements by agency officials, who said they did not know the levees had been breached until the following day. "For them to claim that we didn't have awareness of it is just baloney," Brown said.
Ex-CIA Official Paul R. Pillar, the former coordinator of US intelligence on the Middle East has written an article for the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign affairs in which he exposes the intelligence scam that was run out of Cheney's office in preparation for the war in Iraq. Pillar's criticism is the most withering since Richard Clarke blew the whistle on the White House's singular obsession with Iraq and Saddam Hussain. This is also the first time that an intelligence official of such seniority has criticized the Bush administration so publicly. .... "(The) administration "went to war without requesting -- and evidently without being influenced by -- any strategic-level intelligence assessments on any aspect of Iraq."... "It has become clear that official intelligence was not relied on in making even the most significant national security decisions, that intelligence was misused publicly to justify decisions already made, that damaging ill will developed between [Bush] policymakers and intelligence officers, and that the intelligence community's own work was politicized," Pillar wrote.
Jack Abramoff, the uber lobbyist who stole shamelessly from the Indian tribes to give to GOP congressmen, is now the biggest pariah in Washington DC - especially for those who knew him well. George Bush and his spokesperson have denied that Abramoff was anything but one among the hundreds of visitors who have their photo taken with the president. Abramoff claims a little more intimacy than that... The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids," Abramoff wrote in an email to Kim Eisler, national editor for the Washingtonian magazine.
"Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows?" Abramoff added that Mr Bush also once invited him to his Texas ranch.
All this is music to my ears. I hope Colin Powel and officials at the Justice Department and the NSA are taking voice lessons.
A few interesting and uplifting items from the world of science. Always refreshing to get away from the acrimonious world of politics, war and religious cartoons.
A Found World : A team of scientists from the US, Inonesia and Australia have discovered a patch of pristine natural world tucked away in the Foja Mountain region of Papua - New Guinea. This may be one of the very few places on earth which has seen little or no human impact and as a result, could well be a preserved image of what New Guinea was like 50,000 years ago. Unmolested as it is suspected to be, the investigating scientists believe that they have indeed stumbled upon an ecological treasure trove or a Garden of Eden. They have discovered a world " of rare plants, giant flowers and bizarre animals -- including a new species of honeyeater bird, a tree kangaroo and an egg-laying mammal -- on a mist-shrouded mountaintop in a remote province of Indonesia". When you read the story, please make sure to watch the accompanying slide show. Now let's hope that builders of luxury resorts and condos can be kept away from Foja Mountains!
Forget The Steelers - It was Budweiser and Michelob: Last Sunday's Super Bowl win by the Pittsburgh Steelers is riddled with controversy about bad referee calls. Many are still questioning the outcome and are demanding better "Instant Replay" rules for the NFL. But alongside football, another competition takes place every Super Bowl Sunday - for the best/funniest /most memorable/ most expensive TV commercial and the winners in that arena are beyond dispute. The purpose of advertisement is to make suckers or believers out of viewers and if those empathy neurons in our brain are to be believed, this year's winners for the "most effective" ads were Disney and beer. According to the "Instant Science" experiment conducted on viewers of the Super Bowl, Marco Iacoboni a neuroscientist at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and his team came to the following conclusion.
"Who won the Super Bowl ads competition? If a good indicator of a successful ad is activity in brain areas concerned with reward and empathy, two winners seem to be the 'I am going to Disney' ad and the Bud 'office' ad. In contrast, two big floppers seem to be the Bud 'secret fridge' ad and the Aleve ad. What is quite surprising, is the strong disconnect that can be seen between what people say and what their brain activity seem to suggest. In some cases, people singled out ads that elicited very little brain responses in emotional, reward-related, and empathy-related areas.
Among the ads that seem relatively successful, I want to single out the Michelob ad. Above is a picture showing the brain activation associated with the ad. What is interesting is the strong response indicated by the arrow in 'mirror neuron' areas, premotor areas active when you make an action and when you see somebody else making the same action. The activity in these areas may represent some form of empathic response. Or, given that these areas are also premotor areas for mouth movements, it may represent the simulated action of drinking a beer elicited in viewers by the ad. Whatever it is, it seems a good brain response to the ad."
Global Warming: Two new developments on the global warming front - both encouraging. One involves the departure of George C. Deutsch, the 24 year old Bush political appointee at NASA whose job description appeared to be the "Politicization of Science - Bush-Cheney style". Now it has been revealed that he also lied about his science degree from Texas A&M (remember the resume padding by Michael Brown(ie) of FEMA?). Here are a few examples of Deutsch's ham handed efforts at serving his master's political agenda:
"....(Deutsch) tried to prevent senior NASA career scientists from speaking and writing freely, especially when their views on the realities of climate change differed from those of the White House. Mr. Deutsch prevented reporters from interviewing James E. Hansen, the leading climate scientist at NASA, telling colleagues he was doing so because his job was to "make the president look good." Mr. Deutsch also instructed another NASA scientist to add the word "theory" after every written mention of the Big Bang, on the grounds that the accepted scientific explanation of the origins of the universe "is an opinion" and that NASA should not discount the possibility of "intelligent design by a creator." Congratulations to all the scientists who raised a hullaballoo about the presence of an ignoramus like Deutsch among them.
The other news (unqualified good or not - my jury is out on this one) on the "global warming / climate change / trash the earth" front is that Bush and many of his right wing supporters who treat the world like a grab bag of goodies for themselves and their cronies, have a new set of challengers. No, they are not tree huggers, liberal scientists or even Al Gore. A group of evangelical Christian pastors and their flock have come out in favor of earth friendly Christianity. They believe that humans, while benefiting from the earth's resources, must also act as its steward. This group operates under the banner of "Creation Care" as distinct from "Environmentalism" which connotes liberals, secularists and Democrats. Will wait to see where this one is leading and not without some trepidation.
"Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" for the first time, emphasized every Christian's duty to care for the planet and the role of government in safeguarding a sustainable environment.
Cancer death lowest in 70 years: And last of all, there is a downward turn in the number deaths from cancer in the USA. This is the first time that a decline in cancer deaths has been recorded in seventy years. Experts credit advances in early detection, cure and changes in life style. The decrease although slight, is remarkable because of the increase in the percentage of the aging and the elderly (the group most susceptible) in the general population.
Usually I like controversial subjects, which is why it is so odd for me not to have commented on the Danish cartoon controversy. What I couldn't figure out was why I didn't have an opinion on the subject. Why was I one of Saul Levmore's agnostics? As a liberal concerned especially with social liberty, do I value free speech? Of course. Well I've finally isolated some points I wish to make:
Did these cartoons cross that invisible line which separates the acceptable from the unacceptable? A free speech purist would undoubtedly insist that there is no line; I disagree. Let's say that a 7-year-old girl is raped in south Florida, and a Miami cartoonist draws a cartoon mocking the girl--any reasonable person will likely agree that such a cartoon crosses the line. I'm not going to judge whether these Danish cartoons crossed the line--given my own position and biases, it's not my place to do so. I will say, however, that these comics weren't subversive, and that as such we're not talking about the censorship or free expression of actual criticism (think: The Daily Show). What we're talking about is the pointless mocking of a people and their most sacred beliefs. Blasphemous? Yes. Substance beyond mere profanity? Not to my knowledge. To put this in the terms of a more local example, a public Nazi rally this fall (in Ohio, I believe) predictably drew a violent response. If you ask, you might get me to recognize that the right of public assembly and free speech extends even to neo-Nazis, and I'll certainly say that violence is not a response I approve of... but I understand it and maybe even sympathize with it.
Another issue is the facial hypocrisy and underlying racism of the people who suddenly support free speech and condemn violent responses. Cartoonists Ted Rall and and the Liberal Avenger's Sirkowski responded to this issue. Their reactions share the commonality that they have been told to shut up and have been threatened by the same people who are now "just supporting freedom of expression." Death threats, even, by God-fearing (the Christian God, of course) Americans. Why the sudden U-turn? It's quite clear that the "Christofascists" are simply being political opportunists wishing to use any- and everything they can against the "Islamofascists." Related is the issue of European racism, which Ruchira has previously commented on.
Another problem is that the "angry Muslim" angle is being overplayed--in my opinion criminally exaggerated. Plenty of Muslims condemn the violent response, and it seems obvious to me that if people have been offended they have a right to boycott whoever they want. All of Islam might or might not have been offended by the cartoons, but the burning buildings and waving guns we see
belong to a small, vocal minority. Condemning Islam in general is like condemning all Americans for Timothy McVeigh. Moreover, condemning Muslims en masse makes it that much easier for George Bush &c to go murder more Muslims, start more wars in the Middle East, for the purported purpose of spreading "freedom" and "democracy." Hey, look at them now, they need our liberation!
Conflict is about "good guys" vs. "bad guys," right? Well where are all the good guys in this scenario? I'm seeing lots of badness; not so much on the goodness. So what's the proper reaction? I think a nonreaction.
Evo Morales, the newly elected president of Bolivia is a colorful character and the first Bolivian president of indigenous Andean Indian origin. He is a socialist and a good friend of Hugo Chavez. If that was not enough to send alarm bells ringing through the corridors of the White House and US Congress, he has also threatened to legalize coca farming, directly challenging the US war on drugs (Morales is a former coca farmer). Now Morales is making waves in the halls of fashion - by refusing to submit to the tyranny of the suited, booted, necktied world of men's professional attire (go Evo!).
In fashion conscious Latin America of Armani suits and designer dresses, Morales routinely wears black jeans and the jacket of a sweat suit (and never a tie). For more formal occasions, such as his meetings with other world leaders, he wears a multi-colored sweater over slightly crumpled dress pants. His unconventional sartorial preferences have raised a few stern eyebrows. In Spain, uptight fashion commentators scoffed at his lack of style when Morales chose to meet with both the king and the prime minister wearing his sweater, calling it the "garment of discord, far from official protocol." But the fiery populist leader's "signature look" is quite a rage in his native Bolivia where colorful striped sweaters are flying off the shelves like the proverbial hot cake.
Men in politics do tend to dress in a conservative (boring) manner for the most part. Until we have more women in leadership positions around the world, gatherings of presidents and prime ministers will continue to look, well, boring. The fashionistas here concentrate on the first ladies and don't waste a second glance at presidents (things will change dramatically when a female president is elected). Indeed, why should they bother? I mean, think back to all the US presidents during your life time. Can you name one with a memorable personal style? All dark suits and ties and the occasional jeans and plaid shirt favored by Reagan and George Bush while playing out their macho, outdoorsy, wood chopping fantasies. In fact the most famous piece of clothing associated with the US presidency in recent years was Monica Lewinsky's blue dress!
Some women world leaders have exhibited distinctive personal styles. Golda Meir, with her rumpled, harried look of the sensible leader of a nation under siege, comes to mind. Margaret Thatcher of the perfect coiffure and severe suits, which, had it not been for the occasional flash of color, would have blended her in with the men she was surrounded by. Indira Gandhi was probably the most elegant of all modern day women leaders. Cool as a popsicle in her tasteful saris, she was never overdressed, never dowdy, often aloof and always confident. That Mrs. Gandhi made the sari a familiar garment in far flung places, I can testify from personal experience. In the 1980's, despite officially being a "non-aligned" nation, India was in reality aligned with the USSR. Indian movies, music and political leaders were hugely popular in the Soviet bloc nations of eastern Europe. In 1982 I was in Bulgaria with my husband and two young children. During an afternoon foray into a village outside the city of Varna near the Black Sea, we met some cheerful Bulgarian women. I was wearing a sari. The women surrounded us, pinched the kids' cheeks and then proceeded to unwrap my sari with the perfect ease of familiarity, in order to investigate how the sari stays put. While I fended them off, they were chattering jovially and I could not understand a word - except "Indira Gandhi, Indira Gandhi"!
In all fairness to male world leaders, some have shown a flair for fashion and even set clothing trends, as the linked article in NYT points out..... "President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan was once named by Tom Ford, then at Gucci, "the chicest man on the planet today" because of his dramatic capes, caps of sheared Persian lamb, and loose but elegant trousers. Nelson Mandela struck a note of optimism in South Africa with his colorful, flowery shirts, while the élan of India's Jawaharlal Nehru is embodied in jackets still popular today. Closer to home, who could imagine Fidel Castro without camouflage?"
Other than making a fashion statement, clothing of popular leaders occasionally symbolize political movements. Many black civil rights leaders in the US including MLK Jr., often donned white Gandhi caps popularized by Indian freedom fighters during their battle against British colonial rule. Ukraine's Orange Revolution was I believe, set in motion by an orange scarf worn by Viktor Yushchenko during a pro democracy rally. The drab Mao jacket was the uniform of the fierce peasant revolutionaries in China. The more charismatic the leader, the more likely is his/ her style to be emulated. That is why I feel very relieved that the minimalistic (half naked) dress style of Mahatama Gandhi, arguably the most influential Indian leader, did not catch on among Indian males.
Boston's very own deadly disease factory: coming soon to a neighborhood near you.
Boston University won final federal approval Thursday for a controversial plan to build a research laboratory in the city's South End that would handle some of the world's most dangerous and exotic germs.
The decision by the National Institutes of Health secures $128 million in federal funding for the lab, which will be part of a national group of facilities that will study infectious diseases such as ebola and the West Nile virus.
University officials said the lab will be safe and will provide needed research into contagious illnesses and the risk they might pose in the hands of bioterrorists.
But opponents have criticized the decision to build the lab in a densely populated urban neighborhood.
Oh, right, Boston's too densely populated to handle this. Funny, I don't recall living a block away from the CDC in Atlanta being much of a problem in the 2001-02 academic year. Seriously--if they do this right this is absolutely fantastic for BU, and very good for Boston (economically) and people all over the world (healthwise), and a problem for no one. There's no reason that security should be an issue, and the geographic area should face no increased health risks. I remember freshman year there being discussion of what would happen if terrorists attacked the CDC. After all, they kept all these dangerous things there: anthrax, ebola, smallpox, etc. Could they sneak stuff out? No; security protocols. Could an explosion release diseases? No; an explosion big enough to break stuff like that out from deep underground where it was buried would kill the germs instantly. I trust Boston University and its governmental money dispensing onlookers not to do anything foolish--people will be safe.
I'm not about to assert a causality in this specific situation, because undoubtedly it's complicated and I don't have all the facts. For example, his room is adorned with swastikas--of course Hitler was a Christian, too. But as a general rule, the Christian right's religion (interpreted "correctly" or not) tells them that gay people are evil, that their behavior is an affront to God. They tell us that homosexual marriage can't be allowed because that would legitimize the "nontraditional" lifestyle. Their holy book is full of examples of a spiteful, avenging God--Sodom and Gomorrah, anyone? As Kevin Naff asks, should we really be surprised by this latest incident of anti-gay violence?
A bartender said it was around midnight when a teen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants walked into Puzzles Lounge, a gay nightspot in this historic seaport city of 94,000 people, about 80 kilometres from Boston.
[Suspect Jacob Robida] flashed an apparently fake ID and ordered a drink, then asked if the place was a gay bar and was told it was, said the bartender, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Phillip, because of fear for his safety.
The bartender said the teen finished his drink and walked back to where two men were playing pool. He shoved one of them to the ground, then pulled a hatchet from his sweatshirt and began swinging at the man's head, cutting him, Phillip said.
Other patrons tackled the man, sending the hatchet sliding across the floor, the bartender said. Then the attacker pulled a gun, shot a man, and then fired another bullet into the chest of a patron who was leaving the bathroom, the bartender said.
He then ran off into the night.
So, how about it, Pat Robertson? Where's your public statement, be it one of condemnation or praise? Wasn't Robida a good avenging angel? Didn't he do exactly what you wanted him to? Remember, you've already told us that God sent Hurricane Katrina to kill those gay people in New Orleans.
Funny how hateful people without a sense of humor always ask those who've offended them to apologize. When a group of evangelical filmmakers make a film about American missionaries killed by an indigenous tribe, whose relatives later convert and befriend the tribe, other evangelicals jump for joy, right? Wrong, when the filmmakers have the temerity of casting an openly gay actor in one of the lead roles. Instead, some evangelicals have taken the filmmakers, Every Tribe Entertainment, to task for their choice. Reverend Jason Janz, a Baptist minister in Denver, Colorado, has demanded that the filmmakers apologize. Demanding apologies from those who say or do things that are allegedly blasphemous. Sounds...familiar, no?
But, perhaps you think Christian fundamentalists are somehow inherently less militant or violent than Muslim ones? Referring to the filmmakers, Kevin T. Bauder, president of Central Baptist Seminary in Minneapolis, wrote in his weblog (Jan. 13, nossobrii.blogspot.com):
"Granted, we must not overreact. And it would probably be an overreaction to firebomb these men's houses. But what they have done is no mistake. It is a calculated strategy."
This is no way apologizes for violent Islamic stooges (or violent Israeli ones, or violent Hindu nationalists), but let's get real: we can't, as a country and culture, argue against Islamic fundamentalism out of one side of our mouth, while we tiptoe around or praise these elements in non-Islamic culture.
Compare and contrast the visuals accompanying this article with those accompanying the piece on the Danish cartoon protesters. Here we have a nice, low-frontal portrait of Rev. Janz, face exposed with a look of confident seriousness, hands in pockets: Concerned Dad. Just watch your back if Dad comes upon you kissing your same sex partner in a dark alley.
It's not just the Danes in trouble over the Mohammed caricatures, now. No doubt the American Right, with no sense of self-irony, will take this as evidence to support their arguments for curtailing our First Amendment freedoms and fuel for the War on Terror. The AP photo accompanying the story in all the media outlets seems deliberately provocative of this effect, an upward facing perspective of two menacing goons. I'm certain the goons would be thrilled.
When I see stories like this, my impulse is in an opposite direction: to reaffirm my distance from thugs like these by embracing freedom of speech. Repeatedly, I've seen this debate characterized as a careful balance between "freedom of expression and respect for faith." Not only is this not even a close call, in my mind, it's incoherent, since most monotheistic faiths do not respect each other, and certainly do not respect polytheistic faiths, or faith in non-theistic principles such as science...or freedom. In preemptive response to the inevitable "How would you feel?", I'll add that I'm an occasional, but dogged, reader of anti-Semitic rants in fringe American journals, etc., linked to by Anti-Semitic webroom posts or by accident in response to some unlucky "I feel lucky" Jew-related search on Google (I read a real doozy in a Russian paper a year ago or so) and the answer is: I feel hurt and angry as a Jew, and glad that the system is working and these losers have a forum for their beliefs. I respect faith, but hardly think it's an endangered species, particularly at this time and in this country. Thinking about the state of our civil liberties on the other hand, fills me with terror.