This morning somebody pushed my button and before I could finish my morning surfing I had to stop and get this off my chest. Rather than allowing it to sink into Facebook Oblivion I'm reposting it here in case I need to use it again.
Today's wave of violence, likewise, owes much more to a bloody-minded realpolitik than to the madness of crowds. As The Washington Post's David Ignatius was among the first to point out, both the Egyptian and Libyan assaults look like premeditated challenges to those countries' ruling parties by more extreme Islamist factions: Salafist parties in Egypt and pro-Qaeda groups in Libya. (The fact that both attacks were timed to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks should have been the first clue that this was something other than a spontaneous reaction to an offensive video.)
The choice of American targets wasn't incidental, obviously. The embassy and consulate attacks were "about us" in the sense that anti-Americanism remains a potent rallying point for popular discontent in the Islamic world. But they weren't about America's tolerance for offensive, antireligious speech. Once again, that was the pretext, but not the actual cause.
Just as it was largely pointless, then, for the politicians of 1989 to behave as if an apology from Rushdie himself might make the protests subside ("It's felt," he recalls his handlers telling him, "that you should do something to lower the temperature"), it's similarly pointless to behave as if a more restrictive YouTube policy or a more timely phone call from the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the anti-Islam film's promoters might have saved us from an autumn of unrest.
What we're watching unfold in the post-Arab Spring Mideast is the kind of struggle for power that frequently takes place in a revolution's wake: between secular and fundamentalist forces in Benghazi, between the Muslim Brotherhood and its more-Islamist-than-thou rivals in Cairo, with similar forces contending for mastery from Tunisia to Yemen to the Muslim diaspora in Europe.
Navigating this landscape will require less naïveté than the Obama White House has displayed to date, and more finesse than a potential Romney administration seems to promise. But at the very least, it requires an accurate understanding of the crisis's roots, and a recognition that policing speech won't make our problems go away.
Let us hope together that tempers are cooling in the Arab world. Responsible leaders on all sides are doing all they can to pour oil on the troubled waters even as our own retrograde elements continue churning conflict. Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown. It is with a spirit of reconciliation that I found this message at Fox News.
The Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, isn’t just for Jews. It is a Jewish celebration to be sure; one with roots going back to the Hebrew Bible, but it celebrates something fundamental to all human beings – the need for second chances.
The holiday begins at sundown on Sunday, Sept. 16 and at its core lays the teaching that God both gives second chances and invites us to do the same – to ourselves and to others. And after all is said and done, who doesn’t need a second chance somewhere in their lives?
Each of us has something we wish we could do over, start fresh or finish differently. Don’t you? Rosh Hashanah promises us that we can transcend the past and get that second chance that each of us needs in at least some part of our lives – whether you are Jewish or not.
By celebrating the birth of the world and of humanity, not the birth of the Jewish nation or of the first Jew, Rosh Hashanah celebrates that whatever particular faith we follow, we share a common origin and destiny. Part of that destiny is the promise of a second chance, even if it’s our hundredth one!
Each of us has something we wish we could do over, start fresh or finish differently. Don’t you? Rosh Hashanah promises us that we can transcend the past and get that second chance that each of us needs in at least some part of our lives – whether you are Jewish or not.
We are invited to see both ourselves and each other in light of that promise. In fact, Rosh Hashanah teaches that with a bit of work, there is no past that cannot be overcome, and no person who does not deserve the opportunity to do so. [More at the link worth reading.]
Along the same lines an Arab proverb says: Dogs bark but the caravan moves on.
Several times over the last few years I have linked to the following piece, thoughtfully made available at a link that is no longer active. I forgot how I came by it, but I post it here for future reference, both for myself and whoever has need of it. I posted this at my old blog and copy it here. I like to revisit it occasionally in the same way that others recall their favorite psalm or poem. And here is a Kierkegaard link to go with it.
I recalled it this week as I thought about the many innocent lives being sacrificed across the world in misguided attempts to advance a variety of agendas.
Informative interactive map of protestsagainst a movie which no one seems to have seen except for a few minute You Tube clip. This strikes me as something different from yelling "Fire" in a crowded theater.
I notice Bahrain is conspicuously absent, although I read a Twitter message a while ago by Maryam Alkhawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights that protests there were being staged by supporters of the regime. The timing and ubiquity of these demonstrations does not pass the "spontaneity " smell test. Sometrhing is not right about this picture.
(Note: I am bringing this six year old post to the front in view of the recent events that are unfolding in Egypt, Libya and now Yemen.)
Anna posted her sensible thoughts on the brouhaha over the Danish cartoons which have inflamed passions in the Muslim world. The result has been protests in several Islamic countries, some of them violent. Danish embassies have been attacked, burnt and Danes and Norwegians (and the EU) have been threatened with kidnappings and other bodily harm. I categorically condemn all violent protests. Muslims are justified in expressing disgust and outrage at these silly cartoons but they are not justified in burning buildings and threatening violence. Having said that, there is an issue here that has not been adequately addressed in this context. PZ Myers of the immensely popular science blog "Pharyngula", an unswerving proponent of free speech and unapologetic opponent of religious fundamentalism of all stripes, had two very good posts on this matter. He asked a subtler question than most have asked. He wondered whether the outrage on both sides (Muslim and non-Muslim, especially in Europe) had only to do with free speech and Muslim overreaction. Or did it to a fair extent, also result from racism and socio economic deprivation of Muslims in Europe and the generally impoverished condition of Muslims in Islamic nations . The comments on both posts ran fast and furious and I would guess that opinions were equally divided on this issue. There was some commentary that I interpreted as self serving explanations of European sensiblities, openness and secular democratic values clashing with the backward mentality of European Muslims. I posted a comment there regarding this matter - my own take on why European racism is indeed a player in this latest conflagration. My comment addressed primarily the opinions of a Danish reader who in my view, was somewhat disingenuous in his insistence that the Danish society is bending over backwards to accomodate the Muslims among them while also protecting freedom of speech and secular values and that racism had nothing to do with the latest uproar. I am publishing my comments for the readers here. I was a bit angrier in my tone than is my usual style in public.
Ruchira Paul said:
"Freedom of expression is paramount in democratic societies, including the right to criticize, vilify and mock religion - all religions. No contest there. Having said that, so is the wisdom to not waste this freedom in making trivial and predictable points. What did the Danish cartoons accomplish in establishing? That medieval religious fundamentalism permeates Muslim societies much more deeply than any other religious group? That Muslims consider themselves under siege almost to the level of paranoia and are likely to resort to violence for real or perceived threat/insults to their faith? That most Islamic nations curtail freedom of speech in their own countries and want to do the same in others, in the name of religion? Ho hum. Which one of these came as a surprise to anyone? To all the freedom of speech purists here, PZ Myers and Nullifidian have it right this time. Their nuanced take on the issue is not a zero sum game - it is neither anti-free speech nor pro religion. To prove an intellectual point, when the adversary is operating on a purely emotional level, is not only unwise, it is a waste of energy. Islamic fundamentalism (like all others) has to be resisted, attenuated and eventually eliminated. But it will not happen by engaging in juvenile displays of provocation through theological football as Jyllands-Posten was attempting to do. The resistance will have to take place in the realm of universal human rights, rationality and common decency. "My democracy can beat up your prophet" is hardly a strategy that is likely to work. Mr. Lund, don't waste your breath.
While we are discussing fundamentalism, let us not ignore the context of racism which PZ Myers alludes to. It is perhaps worthwhile for most Americans to recognize the prevalent zeitgeist in Europe. Mr. Lund's erudite sophistry notwithstanding, Europeans as a whole, are much more racist and xenophobic than the average American. I say this as a brown skinned person (not Muslim, not uneducated) who has lived in both continents. European secularism and pacifism are results of exhaustion from four hundred years of oppressive colonialism (the Bible in one hand and a riding crop or gun in the other) and two great wars which nearly annihilated the continent. All the calls for assimilation - "you are here - you must be like us" is BS. The non-Europeans are marginalized, ghettoized and the implicit message to them is "stay in your place." In spite of all overt racism in the US, an immigrant can hope to realize professional and social ambitions in the US - not in Europe. Mr. Lund would argue that the Scandinavian countries were not involved in either colonization or warfare. True. But the mindset of these homogeneous countries is not very different when faced with people who are "different". In fact, George Bush's disastrous action in Iraq and the middle east, is at some level, more honest than what the Europeans are up to vis-a-vis their immigrants. Kill a hundred thousand Iraqis to impose your values? Why not? How is that worse than treating minorities within your borders like s--t with the vestigial hauteur of ex-colonists? A much more honest course of action will be to deport all those whom you are not going to assimilate anyway -ever, and go back to the idyllic existence of Hans Christian Andersen, milk, cheese, football and Lego. Why the pretense? Only to feel holier than thou - especially, holier than those unsophisticated cowboy Americans? Mr. Lund's casual crack about dating one of the last ten Parsis notwithstanding, his "secular" countrymen are much less likely to date a Parsi, a Hindu, a Buddhist and god forbid a Muslim than the average "religious" American. 'Nuff said."
In the areas of Humor and Random Thoughts & Idle Chatter I'm not to be outdone easily. In digging around at my old place looking for a different post, I came across this. I only vaguely recall posting it and as I watched I kept hearing sounds of the Chick-fil-a tempest in the background. Those echoes were only in my imagination, but a last minute appearance of chickens toward the end was not.
Gore Vidal who died a couple months ago wrote a memoir back in 1995 titled Palimpsest. No, I didn't read it. I wasn't that interested at the time and I had my hands full running a cafeteria. But I took notice for two reasons. First the name -- Palimpsest was a new word for me. It refers to one of mankind's oldest recycling practices, scraping the writing off parchment or wax tablets, replacing it with new writing (now called content) in the same way a blackboard is used. Second, I read somewhere that he explained the title by saying nobody does anything original after the age of thirty. After that everything we do is a repeat of something done in our past, updated and recycled in a way appropriate to new environments and maturity, but looked at closely it's the same activities, thoughts, themes and conclusions again and again. Whether he said exactly that I'm not sure. But I've thought about it as the years passed and realize that was one of life's little aha! moments.
All this is an attempt to put fresh paint on a couple of old readings to persuade new readers to discover them. In Mohammad Cartoon Madness and Understanding Abbas Raza was responding in 2006 to a global Muslim response to some Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammad, which in turn triggered a reactionary uproar, the same kinds of arguments and discussions we see playing out again in today's news in the aftermath of yet another provocative event, a shitty amateur film ridiculing Mohammad, deliberately produced as a cinematic insult to Islam.
Even in 2006 Abbas' message seems to have a note of tiredness, the weariness that comes from repeating the same message for the umpteenth time when so many people still don't get it. It is clear why he simply posted it again as written. He wrote it perfectly the first time, suspecting by then that it would, like a palimpsest, need to be recycled, again and again. I know that feeling well. I've experienced it most of my adult life, from my teen years as a civil rights rookie with stars in my eyes to where I am now, having accepted that when I pass away the progress mankind made during my lifetime will be measured more in millimeters than miles.
As I read his words again they seemed strangely familiar. The theme is as familiar as an old shoe. Not until I got to the comments did I realize that the post was a repost. The number of comments seemed excessive for a new post, but when I came to the one I had left there myself six years ago the penny dropped and I knew I had to do it again. So Abbas, here it is. Again. And thanks for an outstanding post. Again. And consider yourself blogged. Again.
Since John Ballard has gone silent after a burst of energy, it's time for some Random Thoughts & Idle Chatter and what better way is there than turning to cat antics? Here is a photo and a video of cats doing ... well whatever it is that cats do.
What appealed to me particularly about the photo is that the feline duo here are doppelgangers of my erstwhile cat companions, Raja and Ali.
I have seen cats do the darndest things but never sitting like this for so long!
I love the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, - loved them from the moment they arrived on the scene and shook up our notion of how women's tennis is played ... and much more. Ever since they made their debut on the Grand Slam circuit, I have heard it said, in different grudging ways, that the sisters are ungracious, un-sportsmanlike, arrogant and amazingly enough, too good and too strong for other players to beat! I rarely saw any evidence of the the first three characteristics while the last two were on display again and again. So what is it (or is not) about Venus and Serena that it took so long for sports fans to cheer for them and their extraordinary playing skills, even their fellow Americans? After all, Americans love winners.
All the while that I was watching Serena play and win yesterday's US Open final, I was telling my husband that these two superb athletes have been asked repeatedly to "behave" just so that their presence in the upper class white milieu of professional tennis can become acceptable to an audience who took notorious tennis nasties like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors in their stride with a shrug and awe. While no one will admit it, the Williams sisters faced the same racial barriers to their mainstreaming as did Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis and Tiger Woods in the sports arena and as does Barack Obama in the realm of politics - discomfort with a physically and socially alien person, no matter how good they may be at what they do. Implicit biases are hard to overcome even when excellence is undeniable. This article by Brian Phillps in Grantland examines the Williams Sisters (Serena in particular) phenomenon and the tennis public's discomfort with their larger than life presence on the courts. Excerpted in the article is Tony Hoagland's The Change, a controversial poem that minces few words.
"I liked Venus better. Not that you had to pick one, in a John vs. Paul sort of way. The real question, back when they first appeared on the semi-serious tennis fan's radar screen in the mid- to late '90s, was whether you liked them, period — whether you thought "the Williams sisters," that strange collective being, were something worth rooting for. They were going to overthrow women's tennis; that was clear from the very beginning. They were too big, too powerful, too fast, and too fierce for everyone else. The entire established order of the Hingis-Davenport era was under threat from the moment they arrived. After the 17-year-old Venus reached the final of the U.S. Open on her first try in 1997, the old guard subtly reconfigured itself, became a concerted, doomed effort to stop them from breaking through. It's hard, now that they've been so dominant for so long, to remember the kind of low-grade panic they caused, so let's put it this way: The day before Venus and Serena arrived, the game was a fully functioning system complete with plots and subplots and rivalries. The day after Venus and Serena arrived, all that seemed about as relevant as political squabbles in Constantinople right after the Turks showed up.
And they were controversial. I mean, John Rocker was "controversial"; the Williams sisters were divisive in ways that almost defy analysis. Simply by virtue of being black, confident, from Compton, and physically on a different plane from their competitors, they raised a swarm of issues — about race, class, gender, who was inside, who was outside, what we were supposed to identify with in sports — that society, much less the WTA Tour, barely had the vocabulary to address. Tennis, in its unimportant way, had long since become one of those numb zones in which everyone more or less means well but also tacitly agrees that certain things are nicer not to discuss. Semi-serious tennis fans, as a class, were whiter, richer, and better educated than society overall.2 After the Williams sisters appeared, it was no longer possible for these fans to stay pleasantly unconscious of the fact that their chosen sport trended almost ludicrously white and upper-class, and that most of them, without being in any way self-identifyingly racist, were actually pretty OK with that. A lot of white tennis fans, in other words, suddenly felt besieged by an enemy they hadn't even known they were against."
Thanks to Steve Hynd, my former blog host, the video below provides a good place to start for anyone seeking to understand better the backstory and other angles to the conflict in Syria. It is being called a civil war but that simple description is misleading. There are many players on the field, most of whom have living (and dying) representatives inside Syria, but a few of which have money in the game but no skin at all, hoping to tip the balance one way or another for an outcome having more to do with interests than any purported humanitarian concerns.
This is a lengthy article which takes an excruciatingly long time to get to the point, so I will cut to the chase.
Grave Problem 1
No breakthroughs in economic restructuring and constructing a consumer-driven economy
Grave Problem 2
Failure to nurture and grow a middle class
Grave Problem 3
The rural-urban gap has increased
Grave Problem 4
Population policy lags behind reality
Grave Problem 5
The bureaucratization and profit-incentivisation of educational and scientific research institutions shows no indication of being ameliorated and it continues to stifle creativity.
Grave Problem 6
Environmental pollution continues to worsen
Grave Problem 7
The government has failed to establish a stable energy supply system
China’s current development model can only be sustained by large amounts of energy.
Grave Problem 8
Moral lapses and the collapse of ideology. The government has failed to build an effective and convincing value system that can be accepted by the majority of its people
Grave Problem 9
‘Firefighting’ and ‘stability-maintenance’ style diplomacy lacks vision, strategic thinking and specific measures
Grave Problem 10
Insufficient efforts in pushing political reform and promoting democracy
Not to put to fina a point on it, when I compare this list of priorities in China with what has come to pass for a political progress in America it makes me want to look away and pretend I never saw it. That one-party totalitarian nation, which sets the global gold standard for bribery, corruption and political malfeasance, is able to articulate the challenges they face more clearly than most of what passes for leadership in the Good Old U.S.A. I, along with most readers, could write a paragraph or two for every one of these Grave Problems sketching an American equivalent. And we could do it quickly, without notes.
This message just begs to be included...
Know the consequences of cutting Medicaid latimes.com/business/la-fi… || Crazy country subsidizes corn, not its people. How's your public health?
Therein truly lies the rub, as Hamlet continues to muse in his famous 'To be or not to be' soliloquy.
What does that have to do with all maladies? It might sound more than a bit far-fetched, but in my opinion, every chronic condition that develops in priorly healthy people - diabetes, cancer, auto-immune diseases, Alzheimers (regrettably not HIV/AIDS) have a common starting point in that they have been preceded by sleep disturbances and circadian rhythm disruptions of some kind. Some studies investigate whether Sleep Disordered Breathing(SDB) is a symptom of those conditions, but there is increasing evidence that it is a precursor.
(Full disclosure, I work in a medical device company that makes ventilators and sleep therapy devices. My musings are a result of much reading on the subject, not a substitute for actual medical advice.)
Let's take an example.
Bob is born a healthy 8 lb baby. He grows into a healthy young man who is quite active and athletic well into his late 20's. He becomes a successful employee, working his way up the ladder, paying the penalty of less exercise on the way, even as he continues to eat like the average American, a relatively well-balanced-if-heavy-on-meat diet. His hours of work start to stretch into the wee hours of the morning, and his sleep is no longer restorative. He becomes mildly irritable and consults a doctor to account for this loss of energy and tiredness. The doctor does all the requisite tests, which show insulin resistance building up, increased cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. He is prescribed a regimen of pills to help with lowering these, and a dietary regimen to match, with recommendations of increased exercise. He starts off with the best of intentions, but falls by the wayside a few weeks later. It is just too stressful, along with the miscellaneous side effects of the medications, to try and revert to the previous state of unconscious 'wellness' . A few years later, one of his doctors has the presence of mind to ask about whether he snores - he is at least 50 lbs overweight at this point, with medication not adequately controlling his other health issues. His wife affirms that he is a champion snorer. Out comes the prescription pad, with a recommendation for a sleep study, where he is diagnosed with severe Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). He is prescribed a CPAP (abbreviation for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine, which is basically a blower that maintains a near steady pressure to prevent pauses in breathing (apneas) that occur when he sleeps, due to collapse of soft tissues in his throat. It's cumbersome, inconvenient, having to wear a mask and be tethered to a machine while one sleeps. But it currently presents Bob with his surest bet at starting to get restorative sleep,and regaining energy and brain power to reverse the slide of his overall health.
If this sounds too infomercial-like, consider the alternative, which happens more frequently than not. Bob tries and fails to use the CPAP. He goes back to his medications and snoring, develops a heart condition a few years down the line and dies of a massive heart attack by age 55. Or, he develops an aggressive cancer that rapidly worsens (the deoxygenation of blood that occurs during apneas is conducive to feeding tumors) and dies after much chemotherapy/relapse of a secondary cancer.
Substitute Bob with Mary, gynecologic conditions/ breast cancer as one of the health bugbears, breathing problems during sleep not necessarily because of OSA, but issues with small upper airway anatomy, called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome. A very similar scenario to the above could play out, in her case, even if she is of normal weight.
The more I read, the more I am convinced that it has all to do with a good night's sleep, or the lack therof. Once diagnosed, the treatment options are few and inconvenient with poor patient compliance (CPAP) or effectiveness ( about 50% at best, with oral appliances and/or surgery). So let's look at prevention. Is it possible to nip this in the bud?
As it turns out, there are doctors and dentists who are convinced it is possible to do so, based
on the perfect dental arches they have seen in ancient skeletons vs. modern. They theorize that proper jaw alignment and dental occlusions are a major contributor in maintaining what is called 'patent airways' i.e. being able to breathe without any obstruction or restriction in air flow. Our modern lifestyles of artificial feeding for babies leads to poor craniofacial and jaw development which may be worsened by dental/orthodontic treatments to align teeth into 'perfect smiles'.
As a net result, we end up with airways that are prone to complete collapse, worsened by accumulating fat around the throat and/or loss of muscle tone with age.
So it is perhaps part of the human condition, with preventive measures that must be applied before the kid is out of the cradle.
Either way, if you suspect a sleep problem with excessive drowsiness and/or snoring, it is well worth of checking to see if sleep apnea or UARS is a possible cause, treating it with CPAP (optimal) or dental devices or surgery, before taking the route of medication to control the conditions that are aggravated by the breathing problems. Many a patient has found that treating the apnea has mitigated the need for other medications to control blood pressure, blood sugar, heart conditions, etc.
The post title is somewhat misleading for two reasons. First, although I have been aware of Bahrain's activists since early 2011 and keep up with what's happening there from a couple of Twitter feeds, I have not posted or reported simply because it seems to be a protracted stalemate, with non-violent activists pushing the civil disobedience envelope to attract outside support as the authorities remain tough and unbending. Second, except for a few blips, there has been little in the way of news.
Last year, the Bahraini government praised the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) into institutional failures that caused the death of 35 individuals between 14 February and 15 April 2011. It committed to the professionalisation of the police force and the introduction of greater accountability for those charged with torture. Ten months on, the BICI's recommendations read as a hollow reminder that little progress has been made. On Tuesday, an announcement was made that the convictions of 20 prominent dissidents were being upheld, despite widespread condemnation over the politicised nature of the judicial process.
Note: This is a post I put together the morning after the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. I know it's not timely at the moment, but it's like that apocryphal story about Picasso who had painted a picture of Gertrude Stein.
It was at this time that he was beginning his cubist experiments and his interest in African masks. I truly believe that that influence and the conversations with Gertrude planted the seeds of Cubism and his “Demoiselles d’Avignon”. Picasso delivered her finished portrait to her, which hung among the other paintings. When someone looked at the mask-like face and suggested that it didn’t look like her, he replied, “Don’t worry, it will”.
I don't know when it will come up again, but it's like predicting the weather. No matter what you predict, sooner or later it will happen.
A San Diego woman identifying herself as the mother of Colorado theater shooting suspect James Holmes told a news crew that authorities "have the person," ABC news reports.
The woman, who said her name was Arlene, had awoken unaware of the news of the shooting and had not been contacted by authorities. She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved.
"You have the right person,” the mother said, speaking on instinct. “I need to call the police. I need to fly out to Colorado.”
This snippetamong the first hours of yesterday's reports of Colorado's latest mass killing spree says more than any of the other reports.
►ADDENDUM: Arlene Holmes now states (Monday, July 23) that when she spoke to the reporter she was not implicating her son but was identifying herself as the correct person they were trying to reach. Like so many early reports and speculations, this may or may not have any bearing on the final outcome of this tragic course of events. That said, I am leaving the rest of this post as is. Just as the link to a story about Jesse Jackson, Jr. is not about him, this post is not about James Holmes.
This post is about the problems and tragedies of deinstitutionalization.
Whatever the outcome, I sense that this year's election cycle is a study in historic milestones. First, I have never before heard and read so much about credibility and fact-checking on the part of investigative journalists, pundits and others no longer able to hide behind the fig leaf of "some would say..." or "critics, on the other hand observe that..." Thanks to the large number of public figures who traffic openly in outright lies we now see published headlines like Paul Ryan Repeats Auto Bailout, Medicare Lies and Obama Campaign Shreds ‘Lies’ in Ryan Speech. The NY Times even has a long list of Articles about Lying.
Second, thanks to the ubiquity of lies, part of the blowback has been a clarifying of issues and positions that is a shocking new development in American politics. On the surface it presents as polarization. But one person's polarization is the next person's clear thinking. The process is not complete, but the two main parties are finally showing their true colors on social issues (although they both remain captive to the big players that still have most of Congress bought and paid for). This year, 2012, will be remembered as the year that Big Money finally figured out that social questions have little or nothing to do with business profits. And if the election of the first black president has done nothing else, Obama's one term has made it clear that everybody's money is the same. Currency, checks and credit card transactions all look the same. Whether they came from gays or straights, women or men, brown or white folks, or even people who cannot speak the mother tongue -- once it gets in the bank it's all the same. And that, my Republican friends, is the New Reality.
Unfortunately, the Republican Party, historically dominated by rich old white guys, finds itself on the wrong side of social issues that now threaten to sink their yachts boats. Women, gays, immigrants both legal and otherwise, and a host of non-Abrahamic faiths are finally reaching a critical mass that is coming to the realization that the shoulders on which they stand will more likely be those of Democrats than Republicans (who don't like footprints on their blazers).
Too late the GOP is trying to reach out to those constituencies that have traditionally been Democrats -- minorities, hourly workers and middle-class arrivals who remember their roots. And in their lame attempts this year, the historic duplicity of their past is bringing the GOP more problems than solutions.
Charles Pierce -- who must have Art Buchwald and Molly Ivins in his veins -- in The Things That Julian Castro Can Say puts his finger on exactly this point when he contrasts two Latino speeches presented this week. Marco Rubio spoke to the RNC and Julian Castro to the DNC. Both could have said the same things, but Rubio had a disadvantage bigger than he could overcome.
...They both have similar stories to tell. Both of their lives can stand for the best this country has to offer. I think, if they sat down together, Julian Castro and Marco Rubio might disagree on tax policy, but, otherwise, they'd have a lot more in common than their respective political parties would have you believe. And therein lies the difference.
What the president did in allowing the children of undocumented immigrants to become citizens was Marco Rubio's idea, but only Julian Castro got to brag about it at a convention. Only Castro got to make the incontrovertible point that, "In the end, the American Dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay. Our families don't always cross the finish line in one generation. But each generation passes on to the next generation the fruits of their labors.... My mother fought for civil rights so that instead of a mop, I could hold this microphone."
Marco Rubio could say that, but his party won't let him, because to admit that someone had to "fight for civil rights" is dissonant with the party's message that the simple incantation of "America" is enough to make all the bad things in our history disappear, and because to admit that being an American occasionally means calling bullshit on "America" would give the lie to the entire phony narrative thrust of last week's convention.
Marco Rubio could say, without a shred of hypocrisy or dishonesty, what Julian Castro said on Tuesday night about his grandparents: "They believed that opportunity created today would lead to prosperity tomorrow. That's the country they envisioned, and that's the country they helped build. The roads and the bridges they built, the schools and the universities they created, the rights they fought for and won — these opened the doors to a decent job, a secure retirement, the chance for your children to do better than you did."
But Rubio's party wouldn't let him say that because the party's mythology insists these days that the roads and the bridges, and the public schools and universities, essentially built themselves. (It also apparently is of the opinion that Monsanto or someone runs the armed forces.) The difference is that Julian Castro's party admits the existence of a political commonwealth, that there are some things we own in common, if only a "property in our rights," as Mr. Madison put it. And that was why he could say all those things that Marco Rubio could say, if his political party weren't utterly demented. And as I realized that, I came to the conclusion that, if we can pass through this period in our history, and if our political future turns into simply Julian Castro, a Democrat, and Marco Rubio, a Republican, arguing about, say, tax policy, I feel pretty good about the future.
It is with no disrespect that I point out that Republicans now have a lot more to worry about than temple garments and tax returns. By allowing the party to be captured by the most extreme quarters of their base, the Grand Old Party has painted itself into a corner, trapped by what the Brits call dog whistle politics. In Republican-speak immigrant implies illegal immigrant, welfare is shorthand for welfare queen or moocher, poor often means looking for a handout, entitlement implies undeserving beneficiary and references to birth certificates are appeals to the birther crowd (just jocking. you know).
Ta-Nehisi Coates' Fear of a Black President (which I notice received a Hillman Prize) in a massive tour de force describes a bigger elephant in the room than that of the Republican Party. As I have said elsewhere, when Republicans accuse opponents of "playing the race card" it is a transparent attempt to avoid the content of an argument resting on the Slick New Prejudice, a kind of basic white with a string of [black] pearls, nothing more than the old "some of my best friends" comeback. Cheney's daughter and Reagan's son may signal that the GOP has nothing against gays. But a few black political types, even a Supreme Court Justice, are looking more like tokens as the old Southern Strategy continues to flourish (despite an orchestrated attempt on the part of today's ultra-Conservatives to scrub the term by adding the word "myth," as in Southern Strategy Myth).
Beginning last night and affirmed by the party platform, Democrats are now squarely in favor of gay marriage, the right of women to have abortions as well as wage equality with men, universal health care, a full panoply of energy alternatives and the necessary role of government in the affairs of its citizens. Unless something changes over the next two nights, I expect this election to be the last which turns on social questions. Even if they don't say so out loud, too many smart Republicans have learned the hard way that a full-throated answer to the social questions that have been answered by Obama's first term will be essential to any future electoral success.
For those who don't know me, I'm a newbie here at Ruchira's generous invitation. More about that later when I have time, but at the moment I want to post a timely video from last night's DNC Convention. I don't have the durability I once had to watch days of speechifying, but I'm good for two or three hours when they're like those last night. I was specifically iterested in two other than that of Michelle Obama: Julian Castro, mayor of San Antonio, one of the party's rising young stars, and Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, who has had his differences with the party in the past.
Everyone speaking last night was obviously trying to hurry along and the effect struck me as somewhat off-putting becuase live crowds simply don't hurry when they are really fired up. In this day of sound-bites and broadcast journalism, three-, five-, sometimes ten-minute ovations and demonstrations on the convention floor that were once part of the fabric of the national conventions, are as obsolete as rotary phones. But thanks to state-of-the-art jumbo video and sound systems everything that happens on stage has become bigger than life.
So as a Southerner I was especially impressed with Lilly Ledbetter herself. Great movies have been made with actors playing the parts of real people such as Julia Child or Erin Brokovitch. But last night the real Lillie Ledbetter took the stage and delivered one of the best speeches of the evening.
Promoting a film and a family member here. I haven't seen the movie and don't know whether I will be able to unless it is released on DVD. It is being shown in the Indy film circuit in India, Canada and the US. My interest in it is that my niece, my sister's daughter, Saba Joshi plays the female lead Saroj. Saba is not a career actress. After some modeling and a bit of acting, she finished a master's degree in international reltions in Geneva where she is currently working for a non-profit labor organization.
One of the patents Apple successfully defended against Samsung recently is one on the pinch gesture to zoom using a multitouch interface. It has been pointed out that, given multitouch, this gesture is about the most obvious imaginable to accomplish a zoom, and you shouldn't be able to patent such obvious things. Pointed out too that Apple didn't patent a particular implementation, but the very idea of a pinch zoom, which is like patenting the notion of a steering wheel. And that if implementation-free ideas are to be granted patents, movies like Minority Report exhibited the idea well before Apple.
But here's something else:
An NYU professor working on human computer interfaces demoed every touch technology Apple would market (plus a lot more) at an extremely prominent technology conference. That talk is from February 2006, and was widely circulated at the time because of how exciting and cool the technology and its applications were. Apple filed its patent application in December 2006. Nor is it like Han was the only person at the time working on such things.
Apparently Samsung actually brought up the Jeff Han video in court, but for some reason this wasn't deemed a decisive consideration. Much is said about how the patent system is broken in terms of trivial things being patented, like obvious gestures. And that's all correct, or that's how it seems to me at any rate. Here though, it sounds like the bigger problem is prior art and invalidation of patents for that reason. How on earth did Apple win this patent to begin with, and why didn't the court quash that patent when contested?
New posting has been sporadic at best for some time. Rather than leave the pages static for long periods, I plan to bring to the front older non-time sensitive articles that are either interesting in themselves, generated a lively discussion or both.
Here is one about dying languages. The comment section (do read the thread) in the original post is closed. If you wish to express an opinion on the subject, please do so here.
The media have been all atwitter with the news of congressman Todd Akin's (R-MO) radio interview where he claimed that a woman cannot get pregnant as a result of a "legitimate rape."
"If abortion could be considered in case of, say, a tubal pregnancy [which threatens the mother’s life], what about in the case of rape?" asked KTVI host Charles Jaco, in a clip that was disseminated by Talking Points Memo. "Should it be legal or not?"
"It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that's really rare,” Akin said, referring to conception following a rape. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let's assume that maybe that didn't work or something, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be of the rapist, and not attacking the child."
I haven't heard the expression before. Most of us know what constitutes rape and so does the law and it is never legitimate. So what was Akin thinking? I have a suspicion that for many men, rape occurs only if the victim is first beaten to a bloody pulp before she submits to non-consensual sex. If she is not brutalized during the process, rape could not have taken place. Why, the woman may have actually enjoyed the encounter or just changed her mind about consent after the fact.
Congressman Akin is among many others on the right who oppose abortion under most circumstances, including rape and incest. Some of them suspect that women seeking to end unwanted pregnancies will cry rape if that constitutes legal grounds for abortion. So in order to leave rape out of the abortion debate it would be convenient if it can be proved "scientifically" that a woman cannot get pregnant as a result of rape. (Incidentally, Akin is a member of the House science commitee. That should give us pause)
The Republican Party (even its Tea Party wing) is sufficiently embarrassed by Akin's "gaffe" to demand that he pull out of his senate race against Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO). I wonder why the GOP is acting with such alacrity. After all, it is not the first time that a right wing politician has opposed the exemption for rape when legislating abortion laws or made flippant and ignorant remarks about it. It is widely believed that the Republicans fear that Akin's opinions if aired in the media for long will also shed light on Romney's running mate Paul Ryan's views on rape and abortion. Ryan has worked closely with Akin in the House to co-sponsor an anti-abortion bill. Only in that bill, the expression was "forced rape." Well, I guess we can now legitimatley ask Ryan what the definition of "voluntary rape" is.