Sunday, April 30, 2006
A big element of the so-called “American Dream” is this idea of lifting yourself up, that anyone can succeed with hard work. That the United States is the land of opportunity, a class-free society. There may have been, for some people, just such opportunities. Many of us can look at friends or family and see people who moved upwards in social station, both economically and socially. As Ezra Klein points out, those opportunities are being foreclosed for more and more people:
The Center for American Progress just released a comprehensive study of economic mobility and income volatility. And, according to its data, Andy’s right about the American lack of fatalism, the belief in opportunity and mobility. When asked if people get rewarded for their effort, 61 percent of Americans agreed, versus 49 percent of Canadians, 33 percent of the British, and 23 percent of the French (weirdly, the Philippines win this one, with 63 percent agreeing). But of all these societies (save the Philippines), America is one of the least mobile, which is to say the least dependent on hard work rather than social station. In Denmark, the relationship between your parent’s income and yours is 15% percent or so. In Canada, it’s 19% percent. In France, it’s 41 percent. And in America, it’s 47 percent. The only country more hidebound and hierarchal is Andy’s native England (50 percent), also the country most closely approximating the American economic model.
The American model.
Just what has that model become? It’s certainly NOT one that rewards hard work, but rather one that rewards capital, and ONLY capital. Perhaps it never came close to what it once promised to be, especially for minority members of our society, but the crony capitalism that we all labor under now has locked this country into a harsh and unforgiving feudalism. In many ways, an institutionalized form of indentured servitude has been established for entire populations of people. The contracts now aren’t labor in return for room and board, or in return for training for a trade. Instead of signing away freedom for a short amount of time in return for passage, today one signs contracts for credit: credit for a home, credit for education, credit for for the proper clothes and accessories to be presentable for work. Credit for a vehicle to get you to the job, a job that serves mainly to feed those lines of credit that were necessary to get the job in the first place.
Bootstraps have been replaced by invisible chains, chains locked in place by signatures on a line marked by an X. Thanks to a political class that serves only owners, not workers, breaking free of those chains has become much harder, while obligations that are supposed to flow down to workers, like healthcare and pensions, are increasingly being abandoned by the corporations. Unlike the contracts that old indentured servants labored under, today’s workers have no end date in sight. There is no contract with an employer, because the contracts have been threaded into the warp and woof of everyday life.
Have a problem with your credit? Well, obviously the problem is with YOU. YOU didn’t restrain yourself, or weren’t disciplined enough, or didn’t network effectively. Here, buy some books that will teach you how to fix yourself. It’s not the system, it’s not that over-priced college degree or anything else that YOU chose to buy with credit, the problem is you. Workers are the problem. Always the problem, and interlocking institutions work in concert to reinforce this message. WE all work together to reinforce this message. It’s a strange and insidious thing that has grown up over time, and now those who benefit from it are buying and selling political access to ensure that it never changes.
What of those who don’t or can’t get on the treadmill, those who’re too poor, or too uneducated thanks to our eviscerated schools, or too dark for our still racist nation to welcome into even this fold? They are left to labor in less essential jobs, still out in the fields and held out as an internal threat, used to frighten middle class workers with stories of crime or threats of a bottom waiting to swallow them up.
In short, most of us are left to fend for ourselves.
The only way out is to help keep the system in place. If you want to climb the ladder, you need to be either preternaturally disciplined, magically lucky or (and this is how it is usually done) you must not look too closely at what you’re doing and step over any and all in your path.
As we have done increasingly over the course of our history, Americans (and our British cousins) have become evangelical about spreading our cold, harsh and selfish system throughout the world. William Pfaff writes in the International Herald Tribune (tip of the hat to Jerome a Paris for the link):
Advocates of the new model capitalism, and the globalization project that goes with it, like to present it as an expression of historical necessity, rooted in classical economics and embodying irrefutable laws. It is progress itself, they say. Those who do not conform to the rules of modern market capitalism, and do not offer the human sacrifices of lost employment and diminished living standards that the market demands, will fall by the wayside of history.
This is simply untrue, although most of those who say it undoubtedly believe it.
The new American and British market capitalist model, which dictated deregulation of industry and privatization of state enterprises in the 1970s, and globalization of international markets in the 1990s, exists as a result of free political decisions and ideological choices that were anything but inevitable. History may one day describe them as having been perverse and socially destructive.
Two of the most important influences on the new capitalism were academic in origin, and the third, improbably, was an instance of romanticized egoism.
As we saw recently in France, and in the spreading leftist movements in Latin America, more and more people are seeing that our economic system is a political choice. Unlike the propaganda offered by our business media and corporate flacks, it isn’t a natural system, inevitable as the tides and the phases of the moon. Pfaff continues:
This is what underlay the transformation of American corporate culture, and of the American business corporation from an institution with national identity, constrained to reconcile interests of owners, employees and community, into the modern global corporation, effectively controlled by its managers and mandated to the single objective of producing “value” for stockholders, while handsomely rewarded its executives.
This change transformed labor into an anonymous commodity and put both blue-collar and white-collar staff into competition with an effectively unlimited global labor supply, resulting in employment insecurity, reduced or static wages, diminished or eliminated benefits and pensions, and the destructive social pressures of falling living standards.
In the United States, the new model of corporate business has evolved toward a form of crony capitalism, in which business and government interests are often corruptly intermingled, the system resistant to reform because of the financial dependence of both major political parties on contributed money.
Frequently described by its supporters as a progressive step in the development of a new international economy, the political-economic system that has evolved in the United States has proved regressive in crucial respects, as well as inefficient and abusive of the public interest.
Many workers KNOW that the current setup isn’t working for them and their families. No matter how often it’s banged over our heads that the economy is growing and creating jobs, more and more of us see no signs of it in our daily lives. Instead, we feel our wages stagnating (as Klein links to here) and our opportunities contracting. Given our collective lack of historical awareness, many of us don’t even realize that this iteration of capitalism isn’t even more than a few decades old. It’s not set in stone, it’s not a byproduct of some natural law. We can choose to change it.
Or we can keep on as we are, living with a system that, as Klein finishes his piece:
Americans may believe that hard work ends up offering great rewards, but the data shows that that’s simply not the case. Remember that next time you hear some conservative flack—maybe one named Tony Snow?—trumpeting the economy’s underreported strength. Why should folks appreciate a musclebound economy if it’s using those biceps to pummel the working class?
Both political parties serve this system. Both thrive on our continued servitude to capital and credit. One can realize this without calling for the end of private property. We can choose to order our system in a more equitable manner. We can put the needs of people wishing for better lives ahead of those of artificial corporate legal “persons” that exist only to exist and to grow. Look to the streets this coming Monday to see fellow human beings fighting for a more equitable system. They’re fighting not only for themselves, but for all of us.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
How Stupid Can He Be?
Bush jumped in head first into the fray blasting Hispanics from singing the national anthem in Spanish. That will surely win the Republicans lots of votes this November from the emerging Latino majority- NOT! From Yahoo:
President Bush said Friday the national anthem should be sung in English — not Spanish — in a blunt rejection of a new Spanish-language version. He also expressed opposition to a national work stoppage called for Monday to dramatize the importance of immigrants to the U.S. economy.
“I’m not a supporter of boycotts,” Bush said, while restating his support for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws. Bush made his comments at a Rose Garden news conference as a Spanish-language version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” hit the airways featuring artists such as Wyclef Jean, hip-hop star Pitbull and Puerto Rican singers Carlos Ponce and Olga Tanon.
Called “Nuestro Himno” — “Our Anthem” — the Spanish version rewrites some of the English version. For instance, the second stanza says, “My people keep fighting. It’s time to break the chains.”
“I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English,” Bush said. Acknowledging that it has become a highly charged topic, Bush said, “One of the things that’s very important is when we debate this issue that we not lose our national soul."
Funny that the last statement came from the man, who along with his cronies have spent the last 5 years collectively sucking the soul from America.
This is an unbelievably stupid move that will only whip up his racist ‘base’ and unite the rest of us against the Republican Party. Maybe Rove really has been sidelined before his indictment because this was one stupid move.
Friday, April 28, 2006
fri rdm 10 - poked and prodded edition
In spring, a forty-ish man’s thoughts turn to doctor’s visits, x-rays and blood tests. Good thing to have so handy amplified echoes of youth, one digital finger flick away ... keep one’s mind off the wait.
Todays AI-picked ditties:
- "Broken Arrow” - Neil Young
- "Satisfy Susie” - Lonnie Mack
- "Running Up That Hill” - Kate Bush
- "Something to Talk About” - Bonnie Raitt
- "Twilight Zone” - Golden Earring
- "To the Kill” - Violent Femmes
- "Me and Baby Brother” - War
- "The Arrest” - OC Jesus Christ Superstar The GOOD version, with Ian Gillan as Jesus and Murray Head as Judas.
- "Call My Name” - Allison Moorer
- "Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns” - Mother Love Bone
Not to worry, just finally paying attention after years of neglect. Hopefully I’ll be around for a good long while to watch the continued collapse of the American Empire, and to hopefully see Americans take back their country from the greedheads and bastards who’ve made this one of the more stratified countries economically in the modern world. like Marisacat says, opera glasses and popcorn (or in my case dark beer and peanuts) ... should be a good, bloody and violent show.
More on that later, but go read the Ezra Klein piece linked just above. It’s serious food for thought.
Harry Reid, Shameless Hack
Most of you won’t have heard of this most likely as the news doesn’t seem to be covering it. Today, a real hero Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon filibustered the Senate today trying to get an up or down vote on his amendment, which would have capped at $55 a barrel any tax breaks for Big Oil. It was a sight to behold, for 5 hours on C-Span2 today Wyden explained in depth why this was important as oil profits have skyrocketed.
All was great, Republican oil whores like Pete Domenici trolled for the oil interests and finally left the floor in a total hissy yelling all the way. This should be on every news program but sadly may only make it on Olberman or Jon Stewart tonight.
The worst though was when that hack Harry Reid, the worst excuse for a Democrat after Lieberman and Zell Miller took to the floor and forced Wyden to stop. The Republicans didn’t take Wyden down, a Faux Democrat did. This pitiful minority leader will keep the party forever in minority status, it’s time to boot him out of the Senate once and for all.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
When Is It Not So Funny Anymore?
I saw a piece that articulated something that has been on my mind a bit lately. Comedians in general have been using gay people for laughs more than ever lately and it is getting tiresome. From Jay Leno to Jon Stewart to the South Park boys we have been getting a ton of kicks in the past year or so. It’s time to move on to the next victim and as Donna Summer sang many years ago, enough is enough. It is articulated rather well in a link I found via HuffPo in Canada:
Tony-winning playwright Jeff Whitty has written an open letter to Jay Leno criticizing him for joking about gays. “I know you know gay people, Mr. Leno. Are they just jokes to you, to be snickered at behind their backs?,” he wrote to the Tonight Show host.
Whitty, writer of the Broadway musical Avenue Q, said Leno’s frequent cracks about gays are getting old. He singled out a segment with a saddle made for gay cowboys. “Man, that’s dated,” Whitty says of the Brokeback Mountain spoof. “I turned the television off and felt pretty f—king depressed.” Whitty used his letter to remind Leno about the oppression gays and lesbians have lived through – and continue to endure.
“Gay people, to you, are great material,” wrote Whitty. “When I think of gay people, I think of the gay news anchor who took a tire iron to the head several times when he was vacationing in St. Maarten’s. I think of my friend who was visiting Hamburger Mary’s, a gay restaurant in Las Vegas, when a bigot threw a smoke bomb filled with toxic chemicals into the restaurant, leaving the staff and gay clientele coughing, puking, and running in terror. I think of visiting my gay friends at their house in the country, sitting outside for dinner, and hearing, within hundreds of feet of where we sat, taunting voices yelling ‘Faggots.’
“I think of hugging my boyfriend goodbye for the day on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, and being mocked and taunted by passing high school students.” Whitty pointed out to Leno that many gay people have taken their own lives “because the world was so toxically hostile to them.”
I mean, even homophobes must be bored with the Brokeback jokes by now. That should tell you everything.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
The Bush Administration's Impotence Problem
Is it just me or is anyone else out there tired of an Administration that is long on torturing, incarcerating or extraordinarily renditing someone (is that even a word?) and yet these same idiots couldn’t prevent the destruction of the WTC, couldn’t keep the world’s support afterward and can’t catch the men responsible for planning it? It will be 5 years this September and zippo, in fact the perpetrators are getting more brazen than ever. Now We See the ever lovely visage of al-Zarqawi who now doesn’t even hide himself. Wonder how this plays folks? Try thinking of Zorro, Batman et al removing their mask in front of the cameras, what would that tell everyone? Basically it would say “I’m invincible and I’m fearless and I don’t have to disguise myself anymore because you idiots couldn’t catch me if you tried”.
A website has posted a video message which shows unmasked a man who appears to be the Iraqi insurgency’s most wanted leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In the tape, the man says holy warriors are fighting on despite a three-year “crusade”. US experts told the BBC they believed the recording was genuine.
He has been accused of orchestrating attacks and suicide bombings against US-led forces and Shia Muslims in Iraq and has a $25m bounty on his head. Speaking Arabic in a slow monotone, the man lambasts the newly-formed Iraqi government as a US creation, designed to ease its predicament in Iraq.
You know what, it pisses me off that the guys who bombed my neighborhood here in Manhattan don’t seem too afraid of the US these days, in fact they seem more relaxed and confident than ever. Not only do I want these guys quaking in their boots but I want them caught yesterday damnit. Whether it’s al-Zarqawi, Bin Laden or al-Zawahri these guys run free while Bush and his cronies drown Iraq in blood and plan the invasion of Iran, both of which make more terrorists to exact revenge, most likely in my little island of Manhattan again while letting these bastards off scott free.
All of America is still caught between Insane Terrorists and Inept Neocons. I’d like an order of ‘Regime Change’ on both sides please. Take all these idiots off the world’s stage now, this play has run way too long already.
The Land of the Lost
In the United States, Answers in Genesis maintains a mailing list of 500,000 names and a monthly newsletter that goes out to as many as 120,000 readers, according to Mark Looy, chief communications officer.
Many of them have laid the financial foundation for the 50,000-square-foot, $25 million Creation Museum that Ham is building with donated money on a near-50-acre campus in the northern Kentucky countryside. As of March 31, almost $21 million had been raised, according to the Web site.
They promise a entertaining center for the celebration of psuedo-science, a playground where crowds of children can be ushered into this sick, twisted movement of backwards superstition. At a time where more and more American children go uneducated in science and mathematics, this new complex will enshrine ignorance.
While mainstream scientists shake their heads, marketing research indicates Answers in Genesis may be welcoming up to 250,000 visitors a year after the museum’s scheduled debt-free opening next spring, according to Michael Zovath, vice president of the Creation Museum. Admission fees remain to be determined.
“The 250,000 people going to it will go back to their legislators and pressure them to vote for Jesus,” said Volney Gay, director of the Center for Religion and Culture at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. “There’s a suspicion of science and a suspicion of intellectuals in general.”
Said Ham: “What we see is if you can get information to people, their worldview will be changed, and the way they vote on issues, on a school board or whatever, will reflect that change."
The destruction of this country proceeds apace. It is scary to watch a zealous minority of psychotic religious fanatics take a country founded on the principles of the Enlightenment back into an ignorant dark ages so damned quickly. They will only find more success as they use the media to drill their message of know-nothingism into the public conversation. More and more, the boilerplate of “faith” is pressed forward by nearly the entire political establishment as the measure of what makes a “good” American.
Inside, the museum will feature 31 rooms, 200 exhibit themes produced by a former Universal Studios designer and 55 video presentations, all offering creation science’s evidence for the Genesis account. There also will be a 2,600-square-foot bookstore with a medieval castle motif, a 150-seat Noah’s Cafe with dinosaur footprints embedded in the floor, an 84-seat planetarium, a 60-seat theater and a spacious refreshment area with palm trees and a waterfall.
The dinosaur replicas, many of them animatronic, are spectacular: Creationists say dinosaurs lived simultaneously with humans because their death came only after original sin. Some of the more compelling effects are in the key rooms depicting what are called “The Seven C’s of History.” They are: creation, corruption, catastrophe (the destruction of the world by Noah’s flood), confusion (Babel), Christ, the cross and consummation (his death and resurrection).
Along the Creation Walk
For instance, soft lighting, gentle sounds and pleasant fragrances will mark the Creation Walk, where Adam and Eve chat with God in the Garden of Eden before they are corrupted to commit original sin by an animatronic serpent. The dimly lit Corruption galleries, by comparison, will feature videos of pain and suffering, noxious odors and the heat, literally, turned up.
“We’re trying to make this the most uncomfortable place in the museum to show how original sin has corrupted the universe,” Zovath said on a tour through the site.
None of this has any more relationship to reality than Sid & Marty Kroft’s kitschy Saturday morning fantasy show. Sadly, far too many believe these fairy tales, and they will stop at nothing to keep isolating America from the rest of the civilized world.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Drop In, Say Hello ...
Marisacat has a new home of the web. Make sure you stop in, say hi, and treat yourself to the snark and incisive commentary that you know and love. We were lucky to share this page here with her, and now we celebrate her new home.
I know it will be a daily stop on my most visited sites.
Condi's Big Fat Greek Welcome
It seems when Condi goes on a PR tour, the smell of teargas is never far behind. The damage Bushco does to the USA’s reputation will take years to measure after they have finally gone. From the BBC:
Athens police have fired teargas during a clash with anti-war demonstrators protesting against a visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Some protesters hurled petrol bombs, sticks and stones in return.
Ms Rice is meeting Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis as part of a five-day trip to Europe that also includes Turkey and Bulgaria. Thousands of protesters are said to have gathered in Athens. Some 5,000 riot police have been deployed. Television pictures showed protesters throwing petrol bombs and using sticks as riot police advanced, the air thick with tear gas.
“We are not protesting just against Rice, but the imperialist, war-mongering US government,” school teacher Panayiotis Hiundis told Reuters. A senior figure from Greece’s Communist Party accused Ms Rice of using the one-day visit to drum up support for an offensive against Iran, which the US accuses of trying to build a nuclear bomb.
At least six people were detained on Monday after they managed to unfurl a giant banner reading “Condoleezza Rice go home” on the Athens concert hall, adjacent to the US embassy, the AP news agency reported. The US war in Iraq has triggered strong opposition in Greece. In addition, say commentators, many Greeks are still bitter at Washington for backing the right-wing military junta which ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974.
It’s too bad we can’t send Condi (and Rumsfeld, Cheney etc.) into space as we don’t particularly want them ‘home’ either. They are like nuclear waste, there is nowhere to put them where they don’t poison their surroundings.
Goin' Down, Down, Down
Let the bells ring, Americans have finally got the message that Bush is bad for America. The new CNN Poll tell us something very important. These new numbers show us that even “Bush’s Base” the 5% of the wealthiest and the 30% Evangelical group is collapsing rapidly:
President George W. Bush’s public approval rating has fallen to 32 percent, a new low for his presidency, a CNN poll showed on Monday.
Bush’s poll numbers have languished below 40 percent in the last couple of months, hit by growing public opposition to the Iraq war, his support for a now-abandoned plan for a Dubai firm to take over major U.S. port operations and American anger over gas prices now topping $3 a gallon at the pump.
Bush’s approval rating as measured by CNN’s poll dropped from 36 percent in March. His lowest job performance measure has been 32 percent, in a Fox News poll this month. Bush has launched a shake-up of his White House staff in an effort to revive his popularity and stave off concerns of fellow Republicans that they could lose control of both houses of Congress in a November midterm election.
That would be a big yes, as Bush IS the Republican Party. This is what happens fellows when you march in virtual lockstep with your President and give him whatever he wants, and when those things that he wants drag the country down you go down with him.
It couldn’t happen to a worse group of Congresspeople.
Monday, April 24, 2006
It's a Sad, Sad Situation And It's Getting More and More Absurd
What ever one feels about the war in Iraq there is a statistic that saddens the soul and that is the one of the soldier who chooses to end his/her life before their time. It’s a disgrace because all of those who have their eyes and ears open should be able to stop, just like all of us in the civilian sector are on the lookout for our loved ones who are living with the water level up to their chins. A Piece to look at:
The number of U.S. Army soldiers who took their own lives increased last year to the highest total since 1993, despite a growing effort by the Army to detect and prevent suicides.
In 2005, a total of 83 soldiers committed suicide, compared with 67 in 2004, and 60 in 2003 - the year U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq. Four other deaths in 2005 are being investigated as possible suicides but have not yet been confirmed. The totals include active duty Army soldiers and deployed National Guard and Reserve troops."Although we are not alarmed by the slight increase, we do take suicide prevention very seriously,” said Army spokesman Col. Joseph Curtin.
“We have increased the number of combat stress teams, increased suicide prevention and training, and we are working very aggressively to change the culture so that soldiers feel comfortable coming forward with their personal problems in a culture where historically admitting mental health issues was frowned upon,” Curtin said. Of the confirmed suicides last year, 25 were soldiers deployed to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars - which amounts to 40 percent of the 64 suicides by Army soldiers in Iraq since the conflict began in March 2003.
The suicide rate for the Army has fluctuated over the past 25 years, from a high of 15.8 per 100,000 in 1985 to a low of 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001. Last year it was nearly 13 per 100,000. The Army recorded 90 suicides in 1993, with a suicide rate of 14.2 per 100,000. The Army rate is higher than the civilian suicide rate for 2003, which was 10.8 per 100,000, according to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the Army number tracked closely with the rate for civilians aged 18-34, which was 12.19 per 100,000 in 2003.
When suicides among soldiers in Iraq spiked in the summer of 2003, the Army put together a mental health assessment team that met with troops. Investigators found common threads in the circumstances of the soldiers who committed suicide - including personal financial problems, failed personal relationships and legal problems.
Since then, the Army has increased the number of mental health professionals and placed combat stress teams with units. According to the Army, there are more than 230 mental health practitioners working in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with “about a handful” when the war began, Curtin said. Soldiers also get cards and booklets that outline suicide warning signs and how to get help. But at least one veterans group says it’s not enough.
Obviously those soldiers are right if the number of suicides is escalating.
“These numbers should be a wake-up call on the mental health impact of this war,” said Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “One in three soldiers will come back with post traumatic stress disorder or comparable mental health issues, or depression and severe anxiety.” Rieckhoff, who was a platoon leader in Iraq, said solders there face increased stress because they are often deployed to the warfront several times, they are fighting urban combat and their enemy blends in with the population, making it more difficult to tell friend from foe.
“You don’t get much time to rest and with the increased insurgency, your chances of getting killed or wounded are growing,” he said. “The Army is trying harder, but they’ve got an incredibly long way to go.” He added that while there are more psychiatrists, the soldiers are still in a war zone, “so you’re just putting your finger in the dam."
One in three come back with PTSD, many don’t come back because they are killed or commit suicide. Who knows what diseases they may come home with either after Agent Orange and Gulf War Syndrome afflicted their fellow soldiers in Vietnam and Kuwait. If only the government and VA system were their staunchest advocates but too often in the past they have been a large beaurocracy for these poor men and women to scale when what they need is an open set of arms.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
"At Least We Had More Freedom Then"
This is something that we’ve seen precious little reporting on, the 10% of Iraq’s (and every society’s) gay population and how they are faring. It’s not pretty. From the BBC:
“I don’t want to be gay anymore. When I go out to buy bread, I’m afraid. When the doorbell rings, I think that they have come for me."That is the fear that haunts Hussein, and other gay men in Iraq.
They say that since the US-led invasion, gay people are being killed because of their sexual orientation.
Islam considers homosexuality sinful. A website published in the Iranian city of Qom in the name of Ayatollah Sistani, Iraq’s most revered Shia cleric, says: “Those who commit sodomy must be killed in the harshest way”.The statement appears in Arabic section of the website, in a section dealing with questions of morality, but not in the English-language equivalent.
Read on for more.
Ahmed is a 31-year-old interior decorator who used to live in Baghdad with his boyfriend, Mazin.Ahmed fled to Jordan nine months ago after Mazin was murdered outside a gym.
After his partner was shot dead, Ahmed hid in the gym toilets then slipped away and later flew to Amman, the Jordanian capital.He says it was well known that they were a couple and Mazin was targeted because of his sexuality."I fled from Iraq because of the threat to my life, because I was a gay man,” he told the BBC.
Ahmed also said that, before the gym shooting, he and a gay friend had survived a grenade attack and he still had fragments of shrapnel in his face.The friend was killed a week later by gunmen who raided his house, he added."Saddam was a tyrant, but at least we had more freedom then,” said Hussein. “Nowadays, gay men are just killed for no reason."
That last quote says it all.
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Rebel Rebel, You Tore Your Dress
So THIS is how out of touch the Catholic Church is with the world. News is being made because a Cardinal is talking back to the Church and here’s what he is rocking their world with:
One of the Roman Catholic Church’s most distinguished cardinals has publicly backed the use of condoms among married couples to prevent Aids transmission. Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini said that in couples where one had HIV/Aids, which could pass to the partner, the use of condoms was “a lesser evil”.
The Vatican says condoms should never be used, even to stop Aids spreading from one married partner to another. The Church teaches that abstinence is the best way to tackle disease.
Someone pinch me, is this what passes for rebellion within Pope Rat’s house? Oh my aching Opus Dei, could they look at the calendar and see it’s not 1540 AD?
Here are some more pearls from Pope Rat last summer:
The spread of HIV and Aids in Africa should be tackled through fidelity and abstinence and not by condoms, Pope Benedict XVI has said. Speaking to African bishops at the Vatican, the Pope described HIV/Aids in Africa as a “cruel epidemic”. But he told them: “The traditional teaching of the church has proven to be the only failsafe way to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids."
A hearty NO from this writer, condoms (when used correctly) are quite a failsafe method for prevention of AIDS, thank you and should be easily available everywhere on the planet. The decision about whether to conceive children or how to prevent sexually trnasmitted diseases is between a couple, between they and their physicians and not between religious leaders and the attendees of their church. Leave their physical beings to their physicians, whom you’ll notice are not trying to advise patients about their souls.
Friday, April 21, 2006
fri rdm 10 - tell me a story edition
So again I wonder how I got by without this marvelous little device, (though the nagging little music nerd in my head whines we should have gotten more gigs!). Anyway, this narcissistic exercise of posting random 10’s, or cat pictures, dog pictures or whatever is one of the silliest things about blogging, but also one of the funnest. It’s pretty neat to get a little glimpse into what people love, what motivates them.
Some time ago, when I was still buying for a store, my manager crushed my self-image a little. I’ve always thought of my tastes as being fairly eclectic, the “more music snobbish than thou” syndrome, yet prided myself on being able to enjoy “Free Ride” when it came on the radio. Snobbish, yet not. Call it the midwestern boy in me. Anyway, we were sittin’ around on a day when the orders were pretty much done, and he looked at me and said that my tastes were “conventional”.
I was pretty crushed, but I guess in a way he was kinda right. I’ve never been one to be way out front on music trends. Maybe more so than people who bought top 40, but I frankly hated punk when it first came out, still hate most dance music and emo sounded like a pathetic regurgitation of yet another wave of DIY neo-primitivism. Learn how to play your fucking instrument, dammit!
Anyway, here’s today’s random ten, with some more pontificating about music and taste after the jump.
- "9th & Hennepin” - Tom Waits
- "Little Johnny Jewel” - Siouxsie & the Banshees
- "3rd of June” - Yello
- "The Things You Leave Behind” - Amy Rigby
- "(Get a) Grip (on Yourself)” - Stranglers
- "Got My Mojo Working” - Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown
- “Promise" - Violent Femmes
- “Sugarlight" - X
- "Third Eye” - Tool
- "Tonight’s The Night” - Neil Young
The whole trend chasing thing always left me a little cold. I tend to resist trends, and the people who look down their noses at people who don’t “get it”, which is admittedly hypocritical, but what can I say ...
I’ve always enjoyed a wide range of genres, of artists, though my friends have pointed out to me that I have a propensity to like people who talk as much as they sing, like Matt Johnson, Johnny Cash, Stan Ridgeway and Kris Kristofferson. I have a definite bias for music rooted in the blues, from blues to soul to country and into metal. I’m not a huge fan of pop, power pop, guitar pop, girl pop ... quick little clever ditties have to work hard to earn my love. I like big grand gestures, people who spin big myths, or tell intricate stories, or who weave mysteries who’s clues aren’t always immediately apparent.
I miss drama in music. From Kate Bush to Queen to Tool and so many other musicians and bands I love, there used to be some majesty in music. It doesn’t have to be a big kind of majesty: I like the quiet magnificent disintegration of Townes Van Zant as much as I enjoy Freddie Mercury’s bombast. There are still artists around that have it, Neko Case being a current favorite, but most music seems paltry and empty and ... boring. Jam bands make me want blow my brains out, and the umpteenth generation of now formulaic “punk” makes me want to scream, especially now that I’ve gone back and fallen in love with so much that I’d missed when it first came out decades ago.
I want artists to tell me a story. Help me get a glimpse of the world through fresh eyes. These days, that tends to come from roots artists for me, though I have to admit that I’m a sucker for Shakira’s stuff, both the spanish and english langage recordings. She actually seems to have something to say, though that might be her hips talking. Some study or other claimed that men’s judgement is affected by hot chicks, so who am I to argue?
So anyway, just some things that came to mind regarding taste and music as I looked at the latest incoherent list spit out by my “DJ - random tracks” choice on my Zen. What are you listening to?
Making a Whole Future
There are many reasons to oppose the right here in America, but one of the most dangerous things about the religious wing of the movement is their continual assertion of their brand of “traditional” family: man as head, wife and children as subordinates. No matter how much you dress up this attitude from the middle ages with flowery language about shepherding and stewardship, about how the man “serves” his wholly owned family by ruling it over them, it’s unavoidable that allowing this backwards subculture to solidify their beliefs back into law would rob this country of so much.
After all, women have only had the right to vote, to own property, to act as independent people for a relatively short time in this country. The fight for women’s rights has advanced by fits and starts, and there is still so far to go. Here, in the twenty-first century, on the cusp of actually making the humanist dream of true equality something approaching reality, it unconscionable that the ruling political party is in the grips of a social movement that wants to undo all of the gains of the last half century.
How many insights, how many good ideas, how much art and science and engineering have we failed to gain because of all of the talent wasted by keeping women subordinate? This is in no way an argument that women are superior to men, or that we should institute some kind of goddess-worshipping matriarchy. What we need to embrace is a truly secular, humanist vision for our future: that there is potential in ALL individuals to contribute some ineffable talent or value or contribution that can’t be anticipated, because no one has presented it yet. We depend so much on our interconnections, or shared opportunities and limited resources. Can we really afford to silence or ignore half the human race?
It can be argued that when women have more freedoms, societies do better economically:
In particular, there is strong evidence that educating girls boosts prosperity. It is probably the single best investment that can be made in the developing world. Not only are better educated women more productive, but they raise healthier, better educated children. There is huge potential to raise income per head in developing countries, where fewer girls go to school than boys. More than two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are women.
Of course, it’s easiest to make the argument about money, about economic prosperity, but the loss of talent due to “traditional” treatment of women impacts us in so many ways, including robbing us of new perspectives:
Making better use of women’s skills is not just a matter of fairness. Plenty of studies suggest that it is good for business, too. Women account for only 7% of directors on the world’s corporate boards—15% in America, but less than 1% in Japan. Yet a study by Catalyst, a consultancy, found that American companies with more women in senior management jobs earned a higher return on equity than those with fewer women at the top. This might be because mixed teams of men and women are better than single-sex groups at solving problems and spotting external threats. Studies have also suggested that women are often better than men at building teams and communicating.
Those fresh perspectives could as easily contribute in government, in academia and in the arts. This is not to say that women are less prone to error than men, or that their point-of-view is superior to men. If we accept that reason is our greatest tool for our survival, that an open and frank exchange of views is the best way to find error and determine the best course of action, it is clear that more voices, more minds might help us consider ALL of our possible courses of action.
It is a serious problem that a frightening number of people would rather proceed into the future grasping to the security blanket of tradition, to their particular faith. We are seeing a resurgence of magical thinking, that there is some “right” or “good” way of doing things that we can determine through some version of prayer or divination. The rights’ counterattack against feminism is of a piece with their assaults on science, on rational debate, on the entire idea that our government and way of life are best served when we find solutions in a secular civic marketplace of ideas. They tell the lie that a secular meeting place between people of different faiths and beliefs finding common ground is somehow “discriminating” against them. The right refuses to accept that faith, in a multicultural, multiethnic and diverse country, needs to inform their personal decisions, that they can let it inform the suggestions they make, but that it isn’t acceptable for them to impose their traditions on others.
This is a battle over whether or not this country will actually inhabit a future it creates for itself, or will we allow a frightened, insular, angry and superstitious minority drag us back into the dark ages. This is not to say that women and men shouldn’t have the opportunity to choose a more “traditional” relationship, but it is imperative that they NOT impose it one women and girls who choose other paths.
Modernity depends upon the full participation of women. With all of the challenges we face: global warming, peak oil, a declining manufacturing economy and disappearing jobs, we must open up our commonweal to all who might have solutions and observations to offer. We’ve come too far to shove women back into the role of servant.