Thursday, July 30, 2009

Poetry break

Commonwealth

How odd of my wife
I thought at the time
to pluck bay leaves
to season her stews
from a tree that shades
the grave of a girl
in Kilclispeen.

Mary Dempsey
knew seventeen springs
before they laid her
into the earth,
before the bay tree
put down roots

before my mother
and father knew
fruit of the tree
of life.

Sitting at table
with wife and child
I relish the dish
and acknowledge the guest
who is part of the feast –

you’re welcome, Mary,
into my house
and you’re more than welcome
into my mouth

for this is the way
the world goes round
from the first kiss

to the baby’s milk,
from the first word
to the tongue’s last sound –

bread of communion
we taste in the mouth
is broken in commonwealth
under the ground.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Meanwhile in these United States...

From here: Police in Mobile, Ala., used pepper spray and Taser on a deaf, mentally disabled man who they said wouldn't leave a store's bathroom. The family of 37-year-old Antonio Love has filed a formal complaint over the incident on Friday. Police tell the Press-Register of Mobile that officers shot pepper spray under the bathroom door after knocking several times. After forcing the door open, they used the stun gun on Love. ... The newspaper says the officers attempted to book Love on charges including disorderly conduct, but a magistrate on duty wouldn't accept the charges.

Here is his testimony - in his own language... (you will have to excuse the punctuation - the man was mentally disabled)... From here.

I'm walked and arrive Popeye. I went into bathroom then I arrive, walk and run to General Dollar. My stomach need lost weight. I'm tired then I just look around. I went into bathroom again and lock the door. I wait and sit toilet. I think aboout someonme try break door. I hold door hard and umbrella open over me. The police arrive General Dollar and throw poison through under door. I can smell poison, and I'm amazing and shock and I'm turned the water still. I got tissue and put it in the water fill with wet. I'm get wet tissue on nose and get water bottle and drink water in my mouth. I'm throwed bottle on floor, I'm turned the water and get wet towels put water, I put it my wet hat on nose and mouth. I hold hat on nose and mouth with breath. I'm mad more more hard as wild as strong. Then I'm think someone gone - then again someone knock knock hard. Someone hit the door. My head hold the door and my hand put hold lock the door. I spit poison with water. Someone hit hard hard. I almost fall and surprise police here. The police get the tazz three strings in my stomach, chest and hand and hit my head. I'm falled. The police start to tazz gun my body and hand. My ler body moved and shaked more. I said Stop. The police stop tazz. The police drag me more and they checked my pant and rubber boots. Then the police put cuff back my wrists. The poice said move. Me go. I just see. The police and I go outside I shake my body. The police tell me that check rubber boots again. I said "deaf" . The police get my black wallet and check my black wallet. The police call Amlanee then Ambulance lady come over me then lady sign and I sign. lady dont understand that I sign hard because shake. Lady talk the police about me. I just look around police. Lady said "Get off cuff" Other lady check her shot my hand finger. Other lady said "My hand is OK". The police put me in police car. I saw boys laugh at me, I saw some ladies and girl. I'm ignored people. The police wait long. I'm patient. We go to building and the police said sit. I saw police laugh at me. I dont want escape. I just wait long. The police and I go other police building. I sign my name and then lady said "turn front wall". I turn wall and my hand up, I don't understand. The police said " my hand move on the wall then lady check rubber boots, belt and watch. The lady get me move into the jail. Lady luck me. I sit and feel sad. I don't see wall jail. I wait long. The the police get me out of jail. Lady give me belt to me. I put belt pant. The police and I go over around. I know that say "Mom". I think need know where. The police and I go over airport Blvd, I try said stop the police come over other street. The police stop the car and open the door and open other door. Then I sit still and the police tell me have to knock glass wall mean stop. I know where home, and I knock glass wall. Stop. The police saw sign number 4031. The police drive over my home and I just see he move slow then I knock glass wall and stop. I'm show the door #239. The police told me that I'm crazy. I don't understand OK. I go home. The police go him somewhere. I told that I'm scared of crime. My legs, body and arm and hand shake. I get bathroom fast, I lay and rest my bedroom. I'm weak and not strong. Someone and I go General Dollar, and someone talk other lady about me crazy mad. Someone and I go home. I just see them. Then they go somewhere. I'm sleeped. Rest. We go over General Dollar and see my mom stand. I'm surprised my mom stand too late. I think "OK, That's fine. Don't worry about my mom". I'm nice to my mom. We go over police building lock and close. Then we go over home. Then I rest more then sleep. Then I wake up and go to bathroom wash my face. The I eat. I just watch T.V. Bye.

Oh, I forgot to mention - he was a black man...

More wingnut chronicles

Rachel Maddow on teabagging, birthers and The Family's U. S. taxpayer funded Bible evangelism...

Quotable

Ghulam Nabi Azad, India's Health and Family Welfare Minister on ways to control population in India:

“If there is electricity in every village, then people will watch TV till late at night and then fall asleep. They won’t get a chance to produce children, When there is no electricity there is nothing else to do but produce babies. Don’t think that I am saying this in a lighter vein. I am serious. TV will have a great impact. It’s a great medium to tackle the problem. 80 per cent of population growth can be reduced through TV.”

Readings...

From a recent NYT article chronicling the life of George R. Tiller M.D. - who used to specialize in late term abortions. On May 31, 2009, Tiller was shot - execution style in the head - and killed by an anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder...

Tiller’s clinic Web site boasted that he had more experience with late-term abortions “than anyone else currently practicing in the Western Hemisphere.” Since 1998, interviews and state statistics show, his clinic performed about 4,800 late-term abortions, at least 22 weeks into gestation, around the earliest point at which a fetus can survive outside the womb. At 22 weeks, the average fetus is 11 inches long, weighs a pound and is starting to respond to noise. About 2,000 of these abortions involved fetuses that could not have survived outside the womb, either because they had catastrophic genetic defects or they were simply too small. But the other 2,800 abortions involved viable fetuses. Some had serious but survivable abnormalities, like Down syndrome. Many were perfectly healthy.

Wingnut chronicles...

Right wing nutjob and Fox news commentator Glenn Beck on the POTUS...
"Obama has a deep-seeded hatred for white people and white culture...this guy is, I believe, is a racist."
When, oh when are they going to change the name of the channel from 'Fox News' to 'Faux Opinions'?

Lighter side...

Noticed this bit on a Pynchon listserv that I was a member of...

Apparently the American Medical Association has weighed in on Obama's Nationalized Health Care Plan:
  • The Allergists voted to scratch it, but the Dermatologists advised not to make any rash moves.
  • The Gastroenterologists had sort of a gut feeling about it, but the Neurologists thought the Administration had a lot of nerve.
  • The Obstetricians felt they were all laboring under a misconception.
  • Ophthalmologists considered the idea shortsighted.
  • Pathologists yelled, "Over my dead body!" while the Pediatricians said, "Oh, Grow Up."
  • The Psychiatrists thought the whole idea was madness, while the Radiologists said they could see right through it.
  • Surgeons decided to wash their hands off the whole thing.
  • The Internists thought it was a bitter pill to swallow, and the Plastic Surgeons said, "This puts a whole new face on the matter," and the Podiatrists thought it was a step forward.
  • The Urologists were pissed off, but the Anesthesiologists thought the whole idea was a gas and the Cardiologists didn't have the heart to say no.
  • In the end, the Proctologists won out, leaving the entire decision up to the assholes who were opposing the whole plan.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Noted...

Mr. Sullivan's complaining - and this time it is w.r.t. immigrants rights... Some inherent truth's here...

I backed Obama because I believed he wanted to roll some of this back. It increasingly appears that I was wrong. The 9/11 police state is with us. Obama is slowly legitimizing it, despite being elected to unwind it. This country is no longer as free as many others in the world - and unrecognizable compared with the free country I found in 1984. And it's getting less free every day. I expected this if Giuliani or McCain got elected. But Obama? Watching him continue their policies in so many ways is somehow even more painful.

Retrograde chronicles...

Gawker has a great post on Alaska's slow motion train wreck - Sarah Palin...

Shatner of Star Wars/Priceline combo one ups them all with this one...

Monday, July 27, 2009

But seriously....

Could not resist posting this headline from a newspaper in Mumbai, India.

Man’s 6th marriage to woman who had 11 husbands foiled by 5th wife

Full story here. Via.

Quote

"I believe that drugs are basically of more use to the audience than to the artist. I think that the illusion of oneness with the universe, and absorption with the significance of every object in your environment, and the pervasive aura of peace and contentment is not the ideal state for an artist. It tranquilizes the creative personality, which thrives on conflict and on the clash and ferment of ideas. The artist's transcendence must be within his own work; he should not impose any artificial barriers between himself and the mainspring of his subconscious. One of the things that's turned me against LSD is that all the people I know who use it have a peculiar inability to distinguish between things that are really interesting and stimulating and things that appear to be so in the state of universal bliss that the drug induces on a "good" trip. They seem to completely lose their critical faculties and disengage themselves from some of the most stimulating areas of life. Perhaps when everything is beautiful, nothing is beautiful." - Stanley Kubrick

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saturday Music



Retograde innovations...

LRB on acoustic torture...

Cusick calls them ‘acoustic weapons’, and one way or another they’ve been in use for a long time. The Greeks and Romans used brass and percussion to send messages, and to rattle their opponents’ nerves; Joshua’s trumpets probably helped to wear down Jericho’s Canaanite defenders. In Sound Targets: American Soldiers and Music in the Iraq War (Indiana, £16.99), Jonathan Pieslak argues that music has played an increasing role in psy ops ever since the 1989 US invasion of Panama, when Manuel Noriega, an opera connoisseur, was driven from the Vatican Embassy, where he had taken refuge, under a deafening barrage of Led Zeppelin and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas (‘nowhere to run to baby, nowhere to hide’). Just before the siege of Fallujah in 2004, Pieslak writes, hard rock ‘was played so relentlessly. . . that the Marines renamed the city “LalaFallujah”’; Iraqi mullahs attempted to resist the sonic blitz by blasting Koranic chants on their own loudspeakers. What made it possible for the 361st Psy Ops company to bombard Fallujah with AC/DC’s ‘Shoot to Thrill’ was the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD), designed by the American Technology Company and sold to the US army and marines, the coast guard and a number of US police departments. Attached to an MP3 player, the LRAD can project a ‘strip of sound’ that can be heard – and can’t be ignored – for 500 to 1,000 metres. Why is the American military using music this way? After all, it could as easily use white noise, or ‘sonic booms’, Israel’s weapon of choice whenever it has wanted to frighten Lebanon without going to war. Moustafa Bayoumi, in an article in the Nation in 2005, suggested that music is used to project ‘American culture as an offensive weapon’. But if the use of American music is a blunt assertion of imperial power, why are metal and gangsta rap the genres favoured by interrogators at Gitmo? One reason, Pieslak suggests, is that metal is uniquely harsh, with its ‘multiple, high-frequency harmonics in the guitar distortion’, and vocals that alternate between ‘pitched screaming’ and ‘guttural, unpitched yelling’. ‘If I listened to a death metal band for 12 hours in a row, I’d go insane, too,’ James Hetfield of Metallica says. ‘I’d tell you anything you’d want to know.’ (One interrogator told Pieslak that he tried Michael Jackson on Iraqi detainees, but ‘it doesn’t do anything for them.’)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Political correctness

On a recent change in the name of an American state...

From here: Last month, Rhode Island’s Legislature approved a proposal to allow a ballot referendum in 2010 to change the state’s official name from “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” to simply “State of Rhode Island.” According to The Providence Journal, “Proponents of the name change say the word ‘plantations’ is offensive to the African-American community because it conjures up images of slavery.”... The whole shebang appears as the official name Rhode Island and Providence Plantations on the royal charter of 1663. African and American Indian slaves were eventually forced to work in towns and on farms both in Providence Plantations and on Rhode Island. The ports of Providence and Newport were both major points in the slave trade triangle.

Ideas



A system that can deliver power to devices without the need for wires.

The system is based on work by physicist Marin Soljacic at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). It exploits "resonance", whereby energy transfer is markedly more efficient when a certain frequency is applied. When two objects have the same resonant frequency, they exchange energy strongly without having an effect on other, surrounding objects. For example, it is resonance that can cause a wine glass to explode when a singer hits exactly the right tone. But instead of using acoustic resonance, Witricity's approach exploits the resonance of low frequency electromagnetic waves.

Todays WTF

An 8 year old girl was brutally sexually assaulted and gang raped by four juvenile boys in Phoenix AZ. The girl's parents then criticized her after the attack and blamed her for bringing shame on the family. The father told the attending case worker and an officer in her presence that he didn't want her back. He said 'Take her, I don't want her,'...

Readings

Pynchon in Against the Day describing a father and daughter roaming the American heartland, the girl’s mother having run off with another man, seemingly on a whim...

Planted rows went turning past like giant spokes one by one as they ranged the roads. The skies were interrupted by dark gray storm clouds with a flow like molten stone, swept and liquid, and light that found its way through them was lost in the dark fields but gathered shining along the pale road, so that sometimes all you could see was the road, and the horizon it ran to. Sometimes she was overwhelmed by the green life passing in such high turbulence, too much to see, all clamoring to have its way. Leaves sawtooth, spade-shaped, long and thin, blunt-fingered, snowy and veined, oiled and dusty with the day—flowers in bells and clusters, purple and white or yellow as butter, star-shaped ferns in the wet and dark places, millions of green veilings before the bridal secrets in the moss and under the deadfalls, went on by the wheels creaking and struck by rocks in the ruts, sparks visible only in what shadow it might pass over, a busy development of small trailside shapes tumbling in what had to be deliberately arranged precision, herbs the wild-crafters knew the names and market prices of and which the silent women up in the foothills, counterparts whom they most often never got even to meet, knew the magic uses for. They lived for different futures, but they were each other’s unrecognised halves, and what fascination between then did come to pass was lit up, beyond question, with grace.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Annals of Colonial rape

The NY Review of Books has a great article on the slow motion wreck that is Congo. It is indeed sad - Western colonialism (in the case of Congo, it was the Belgian King Leopold) destroyed this country - utterly and completely destroyed Congo. Now the unmentionable guilt surrounding colonialism is tempered in Western consciences by these nations who now pay large sums and ‘dues’ to the United Nations who in turn use the monies to pay peacekeeping troops from poor countries like India and Nepal who themselves were victims of colonialism to keep the peace in the failed states like Congo. At least this way, India and like countries manage to make some money from their huge standing armies and Western nations are placated by the 'at least we are doing something for these states' kind of idealism...

Government as a system of organized theft goes back to King Leopold II, who made a fortune here equal to well over $1.1 billion in today's money, chiefly in rubber and ivory. Then for fifty-two years this was a Belgian colony, run less rapaciously, but still mainly for the purpose—as with colonies almost everywhere—of extracting wealth for the mother country and its corporations. The grand tradition was continued by Mobutu Sese Seko, heavily backed by the United States as a cold war ally, who over three decades starting in 1965 amassed an estimated $4 billion, buying grand villas all over Europe (one, on the Riviera, was almost within sight of one of Leopold's).
...
Into the void of the world's largest failed state has stepped a wide variety of organizations wanting to help. In Goma it sometimes seems as if every other vehicle on the deeply rutted streets is an SUV with a logo on the door: Oxfam, Action Contre la Faim, World Vision, Norwegian Refugee Council, HopeIn Action.eu, and dozens more. Many also sport a window sticker: a red slash mark across a submachine gun and the legend NO ARMS/PAS D'ARMES. But the biggest foreign presence consists of people who do have arms: more than 17,000 United Nations troops and military observers. They are quickly visible in blue helmets, blue berets, blue baseball caps, or blue turbans worn by Sikh soldiers from India. Almost all are from poor countries, where UN peacekeeping is a big moneymaker for their armies. The wealthy nations, although they contribute a few higher-ranking officers and civilian specialists, have been generally loath to risk their soldiers' lives in someone else's civil war. However, they pay most of the cost......
... "What pushed me into this work," says Kamate, speaking softly in a mixture of Swahili and hesitant French, "is that I am also one who was raped." This happened a decade ago; the rapists were from the now-defunct militia of a local warlord backed by Uganda. "Their main purpose was to kill my husband. They took everything. They cut up his body like you would cut up meat, with knives. He was alive. They began cutting off his fingers. Then they cut off his sex. They opened his stomach and took out his intestines. When they poked his heart, he died. They were holding a gun to my head." She fought her captors, and shows a scar across the left side of her face that was the result. "They ordered me to collect all his body parts and to lie on top of them and there they raped me—twelve soldiers. I lost consciousness. Then I heard someone cry out in the next room and I realized they were raping my daughters." The daughters, the two oldest of four girls, were twelve and fifteen. Kamate spent some months in the hospital and temporarily lost her short-term memory. "When I got out I found these two daughters were pregnant. Then they explained. I fainted. After this, the family [of her husband] chased me away. They sold my house and land, because I had had no male children." From time to time Kamate stops, her wide, worn face crinkles into a sob, and she dabs her eyes with a corner of her apron.

An excerpt from Henry Louis Gates' writing

From “THIRTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT A BLACK MAN,” published in The New Yorker on October 23, 1995.
The author, Henry Louis Gates was recently arrested inside his own home after a white neighbor allegedly called up the cops on him on suspicion that he was a thief...

Yet you need nothing so grand as an epistemic rupture to explain why different people weigh the evidence of authority differently. In the words of the cunning Republican campaign slogan, "Who do you trust?" It's a commonplace that white folks trust the police and black folks don't. Whites recognize this in the abstract, but they're continually surprised at the depth of black wariness. They shouldn't be. Norman Podhoretz's soul-searching 1963 essay, "My Negro Problem, and Ours'' - one of the frankest accounts we have of liberalism and race resentment - tells of a Brooklyn boyhood spent under the shadow of carefree, cruel Negro assailants, and of the author's residual unease when he passes groups of blacks in his Upper West Side neighborhood. And yet, he notes in a crucial passage, "I know now, as I did not know when I was a child, that power is on my side, that the police are working for me and not for them." That ordinary, unremarkable comfort - the feeling that "the police are working for me" - continues to elude blacks, even many successful blacks. Thelma Golden, the curator of the Whitney's "Black Male" show, points out that on the very day the verdict (here he is referring to the O J Simpson's guilty verdict) was announced a black man in Harlem was killed by the police under disputed circumstances. As older blacks like to repeat, "When white folks say 'justice,' they mean 'just us'."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ideas

The case for making geriatrics training mandatory during a doctors residency program (esp. in our country which has such a large percentage of baby boomers)...

Often even experienced doctors are unaware that 80-year-olds are not the same as 50-year-olds. Pneumonia in a 50-year-old causes fever, cough and difficulty breathing; an 80-year-old with the same illness may have none of these symptoms, but just seem “not herself” — confused and unsteady, unable to get out of bed.
She may end up in a hospital, where a doctor prescribes a dose of antibiotic that would be right for a woman in her 50s, but is twice as much as an 80-year-old patient should get, and so she develops kidney failure, and grows weaker and more confused. In her confusion, she pulls the tube from her arm and the catheter from her bladder.
Instead of re-evaluating whether the tubes are needed, her doctor then asks the nurses to tie her arms to the bed so she won’t hurt herself. This only increases her agitation and keeps her bed-bound, causing her to lose muscle and bone mass. Eventually, she recovers from the pneumonia and her mind is clearer, so she’s considered ready for discharge — but she is no longer the woman she was before her illness. She’s more frail, and needs help with walking, bathing and daily chores.
...
All medical students are required to have clinical experiences in pediatrics and obstetrics, even though after they graduate most will never treat a child or deliver a baby. Yet there is no requirement for any clinical training in geriatrics, even though patients 65 and older account for 32 percent of the average doctor’s workload in surgical care and 43 percent in medical specialty care, and they make up 48 percent of all inpatient hospital days. Medicare, the national health insurance for people 65 and older, contributes more than $8 billion a year to support residency training, yet it does not require that part of that training focus on the unique health care needs of older adults.

Quotable

Henry Louis Gates, a Professor at Harvard University was recently arrested inside his own home after a white neighbor allegedly called up the cops on him on suspicion that he was a thief...

From here: "If I had been white, this incident never would have happened. He would have asked at the door, "Excuse me, are you okay? Because there are two black men around here try'na rob you [laughter] and I think he also violated the rules by not giving his name and badge number, and I think he would have given that to one of my white colleagues or one of my white neighbors. So race definitely played a role. Whether he's an individual racist? I don't know-I don't know him. But I think he stereotyped me."

Question

What does it say about a culture when a large budget movie for little children (G-Force) is marketed by Walt Disney with a poster that shows small furry animals decked out with submachine guns, night vision goggles, rows and rows of man hunting bullets and other assorted battle gear with AH-64 Apache attack helicopters flying in the background?

When?

Noted

On new ideas and the incredulity that accompanies them for those who cannot see the future...

In 1783, when the Montgolfier brothers sent a sheep, a duck and a rooster over the rooftops of Versailles, held aloft by nothing more substantial than “a cloud in a paper bag.”
“What’s the use of a balloon?” someone asked Benjamin Franklin, who witnessed the launching from the window of his carriage. “What’s the use of a newborn baby?” he replied.

Great starts

Loved the first paragraph from a recent article on English pubs in the Sunday Times...

Strange things have been happening to England. Still reeling from the dissolution of the empire in the years following World War II, now the English find they are not even British. As the cherished “United Kingdom” breaks into its constituent parts, Scots are clearly Scottish and the Welsh, Welsh. But who exactly are the English? What’s left of them, with everything but the southern half of their island taken away? Going back in time to trace roots doesn’t help. First came the Celts, then the Romans, then Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes. Invasion after invasion, until the Norman Conquest. English national identity only seemed to find its feet later, on the shifting sands of expansionism, from Elizabethan times onwards. The empire seemed to seal it. But now there’s just England, half of a green island in the northern seas, lashed by rain, scarred by two centuries of vicious industrialization fallen into dereliction, ruined, as D. H. Lawrence thought, by “the tragedy of ugliness,” its abominable architecture.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Game time

In light of new evidence that National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, decided not to make public hundreds of pages of research and warnings about the use of phones by drivers, it is instructive to play this game to gauge your reaction time as it is being affected by distractions...

From here: The former head of the highway safety agency said he was urged to withhold the research to avoid antagonizing members of Congress who had warned the agency to stick to its mission of gathering safety data but not to lobby states

Noticed...

I noticed this particular reader's comment in response to an article on the NYT covering Clinton's recent visit to India... (where she also happened to drop hints about India's so called 'emissions problem').

For the first time, Indians are standing up for their self interests (at least in economic matters) with a similar kind of ruthlessness that Americans have mastered in pursuing their interests. Good for them. As several readers pointed out, it is ludicrous to ask India to lower their emissions for at least another 25 years or until they become a developed nation. The current climate mess is caused by the current developed countries. They own it, so they should fix it. No use bullying countries like India which had nothing to do with creating this mess. They are not fools to bend over. The best that the developed countries can do with regards to countries like India is, give them green technology (for free) so that their development in the next 25 years will not be as dirty as that of the current developed countries. Some readers think that India's large and still growing population is a big problem. Obviously, they have not taken Econ 101. Large population is not a problem, it is an asset. However, the trick is to educate the population and make it productive. India, for decades after its independence from the British, has done a lousy job of educating its population, which became a liability. But it is changing now; in the coming decades, India's large, productive population is going to be its best asset.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Then that ogre called Capitalism found India...

On the new elites in India and life in Delhi...

Contemporary Indian society is transfixed by wealth. A new genre of popular magazine is filled from cover to cover with features about gold-plated bathtubs, diamond-encrusted mobile phones and super-de luxe vacations, allowing readers to wallow in what they can never afford. Television game shows give weight to the seductive whispers of the market, showing working people in the very moment they are transformed into millionaires. People love to read about the possessions, opinions and talents of India’s leading industrialists, some of whom have succeeded in creating quasi-religious cults around themselves. Criticism of the rich results in astonishing waves of rebuttal by ordinary people who feel it is an attack on their national pride.
...
Driving past Delhi’s sole dealer of Bentleys and Lamborghinis, I stop in on a whim and ask to speak to the manager. He’s not around and I’m sent to have coffee with the PR girls. They are appropriately attractive and, judging by their diamonds, from the right kinds of families (‘I’ve driven a million Porsches and Ferraris,’ says one. ‘They’re nice cars. But when you get into a Lamborghini it’s something else’). For them, Delhi is a place of infinite money-making and they fall over themselves trying to express this fantastic fecundity.
‘When someone comes in here looking to buy a Bentley, we don’t ask him what he’s driving now. Just because he drives a BMW doesn’t mean he can afford a Bentley. We ask if he has a jet or a yacht. We ask if he has an island.’
‘Are there many people with jets in Delhi?’ I ask.
The girls wax apoplectic.
‘Everyone has one. And not just one – they have two, three, four.’
We chat about nice cars and expensive living. A Lamborghini is driven into the showroom: the noise is so deafening that we have to stop talking until it’s in place. I ask the philistine’s question: what’s the point of spending 30 million rupees ($635,000) on a car that can do over 300 kilometres per hour in a city where the traffic doesn’t move? They tell me about the car club that meets at night in the diplomatic enclave, where the roads are straight, wide and empty.
‘You have to have at least, like, a BMW or a Mercedes to join. They meet at midnight and they race their cars. The Prime Minister’s office is always calling us to complain.’
‘Why?’
‘Because the Prime Minister can’t sleep. These engines make so much noise they keep him awake. So he calls us to complain, but obviously there’s nothing we can do.’
As I drive away, I cannot help thinking of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tossing and turning in bed, his snowy hair un-turbaned on the pillow, his dreams interrupted by the rich boys’ Ferraris screaming up and down the roads outside. Manmohan Singh is of course the man who, long ago, as finance minister, opened up the economy and set the course for a new market elite.

Moon landing - another perspective...

A POW remembers...
I, too, remember where I was and what I was doing on that day, However, I did not hear the news of the moon landing for several more years. I was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and on July 20, 1969, I was in a small box that sat out in the sun in the third month of a prolonged interrogation about what the Communists were convinced was an escape attempt. Although we did not hear any news about the actual moon landing, the Apollo program did affect us in an interesting way because we thought the landing had happened several months earlier. One morning in late December 1968, we heard the customary hiss as the loudspeaker system began warming up for what we anticipated would be the usual propaganda session from radio Hanoi. To our surprise, however, at 8 a.m., instead of radio Hanoi, we heard a man with a British accent say, "This is the BBC Hong Kong. The American astronauts become the first human beings to come under the gravitational influence of another celestial body." And then the radio went dead. We never knew whether they wanted us to hear this or if it was a terrible mistake by someone who had been surreptitiously listening to the BBC. An hour later, we were taken out to wash. The first man out of our cell was Air Force Capt. Kenneth Fisher. We had not rehearsed what happened next. Ken looked up and could see the moon in the clear winter sky. He came to a stop, snapped to attention and saluted the moon. Instantly, the rest of us caught on. As each of us left the cell, we came to a stop, snapped to attention and saluted the moon.

Readings

From Thomas Pynchon’s latest novel Inherent Vice, scheduled for release on August 4th.
Doc took the freeway out. The eastbound lanes teemed with VW buses in jittering paisleys, primer-coated street hemis, woodies of authentic Dearborn pine, TV-star-piloted Porsches, Cadillacs carrying dentists to extramarital trysts, windowless vans with lurid teen dramas in progress inside, pickups with mattresses full of country cousins from the San Joaquin, all wheeling along together down into these great horizonless fields of housing, under the power transmission lines, everybody’s radios lasing on the same couple of AM stations, under a sky like watered milk, and the white bombardment of a sun smogged into only a smear of probability, out in whose light you began to wonder if anything you’d call psychedelic could ever happen, or if—bummer!—all this time it had really been going on up north.
Vine

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Photo

Sky

Noted



From here.
More broadly, the fundamental crisis we face is of globalization itself. We have globalized the economies of nations. Trade, travel and tourism are bringing people together. Technology has created worldwide supply chains, companies and customers. But our politics remains resolutely national. This tension is at the heart of the many crashes of this era—a mismatch between interconnected economies that are producing global problems but no matching political process that can effect global solutions. Without better international coordination, there will be more crashes, and eventually there may be a retreat from globalization toward the safety—and slow growth—of protected national economies.

Palin poetry

Sublime poetry from Palin's arcane prose (actual pronouncements - at that)...

"On Good and Evil"
It is obvious to me
Who the good guys are in this one
And who the bad guys are.
The bad guys are the ones
Who say Israel is a stinking corpse,
And should be wiped off
The face of the earth.

That's not a good guy.

(To K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)


"You Can't Blink"
You can't blink.
You have to be wired
In a way of being
So committed to the mission,

The mission that we're on,
Reform of this country,
And victory in the war,
You can't blink.
So I didn't blink.

(To C. Gibson, ABC News, Sept. 11, 2008)

"Haiku"

These corporations.
Today it was AIG,
Important call, there.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)

"Befoulers of the Verbiage"
It was an unfair attack on the verbiage
That Senator McCain chose to use,
Because the fundamentals,
As he was having to explain afterwards,
He means our workforce.
He means the ingenuity of the American.
And of course that is strong,
And that is the foundation of our economy.
So that was an unfair attack there,
Again based on verbiage.

(To S. Hannity, Fox News, Sept. 18, 2008)

Sunday funk

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Chart

Full article here...

Tongue in cheek department...

An internal memo from the Goldman Sachs CEO to its employees...

Internal Memorandum No. 8121b

ATTN: Employees of Goldman Sachs

We did it. Bottom of the ninth, down by three, bases loaded, and we cranked another grand slam to the moon. They may have shot Lennon, but nothing can kill the Beatles.
I admit things looked bleak for a minute there. We had to convert to a bank holding company and were forced to accept a taxpayer bailout. It felt un-American. Terribly unbanksmanly. But we accepted the money, knowing that we could magically weave it into a much larger mountain of money.
We had a few hard months there, didn’t we? They regulated our corporate jet so that we could no longer use it to fly from hole to hole on the green. Dave had to drain his money pool to half capacity. I stopped injecting gold into my blood. They don’t call it a recession for nothing. One day, we’ll look baTongue in cheekck on the year we received only five-figure bonuses and laugh.
Wanting to celebrate our renewed success is natural, but it’s important that we don’t go crazy here. Remember, ten per cent of the non-bank country is unemployed, and even those who are working have “real” jobs, where payment is proportional to the creation of a “product” or a “service.” Those poor bastards. So I ask that, in celebrating our raping of the stock market, we show restraint in the following ways:

  • Please limit high-fives and chest bumps to a dozen a day.
  • Don’t wear your crowns, except around the office.
  • Stop paying for things in Monopoly money—I understand it is the same as real money to us, but there have been some complaints.
  • For now, let’s take down the giant scoreboard that reads “Main Street: zero. Wall Street: a billion gazillion bajillion.”
  • Furthermore, to avoid drawing criticism from the press, this year the bonuses, expected to be comically large, will be distributed in blood diamonds, which can be easily concealed in a briefcase so it looks like we’re working.
I’d like to thank everyone who made this possible—for a second time. Respect to President Obama for keeping us in the green. Thanks to the big guy upstairs (me). And let’s not forget all the ordinary Americans, who, for some unfathomable reason, have refused to put us behind bars. We are literally taking money out of their wallets. Seriously, with these returns we are making Madoff look like a little kid with his hand caught in the cookie jar. Amateur!

Yours in money,

Lloyd Blankfein, C.E.O., Goldman Sachs

Pat Buchanan on behalf of the oppressed white people

"White men were 100% of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100% of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100% of the people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, probably close to 100% of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built basically by white folks." - Pat Buchanan speaks to Rachel Maddow on race...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quotable

“After all, I have the blood of Africa within me, and my family’s own story encompasses both the tragedies and triumphs of the larger African story. Some of you know my grandfather was a cook for the British in Kenya, and though he was a respected elder in his village, his employers called him boy for much of his life.”
--- President Obama in Cape Coast, Ghana on July 11, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday songs




Photo

'Drops'

Throwing our weight

A most recent New Yorker article minces little when it comes to our ever expanding girth...

Men are now on average seventeen pounds heavier than they were in the late seventies, and for women that figure is even higher: nineteen pounds. The proportion of overweight children, age six to eleven, has more than doubled, while the proportion of overweight adolescents, age twelve to nineteen, has more than tripled. (According to the standards of the United States military, forty per cent of young women and twenty-five per cent of young men weigh too much to enlist.) As the average person became heavier, the very heavy became heavier still; more than twelve million Americans now have a body-mass index greater than forty, which, for someone who is five feet nine, entails weighing more than two hundred and seventy pounds. Hospitals have had to buy special wheelchairs and operating tables to accommodate the obese, and revolving doors have had to be widened—the typical door went from about ten feet to about twelve feet across. An Indiana company called Goliath Casket has begun offering triple-wide coffins with reinforced hinges that can hold up to eleven hundred pounds. It has been estimated that Americans’ extra bulk costs the airlines a quarter of a billion dollars’ worth of jet fuel annually.

The tricks employed:

In the early nineteen-sixties, a man named David Wallerstein was running a chain of movie theatres in the Midwest and wondering how to boost popcorn sales. Wallerstein had already tried matinée pricing and two-for-one specials, but to no avail. According to Greg Critser, the author of “Fat Land” (2003), one night the answer came to him: jumbo-sized boxes. Once Wallerstein introduced the bigger boxes, popcorn sales at his theatres soared, and so did those of another high-margin item, soda.
A decade later, Wallerstein had retired from the movie business and was serving on McDonald’s board of directors when the chain confronted a similar problem. Customers were purchasing a burger and perhaps a soft drink or a bag of fries, and then leaving. How could they be persuaded to buy more? Wallerstein’s suggestion—a bigger bag of fries—was greeted skeptically by the company’s founder, Ray Kroc. Kroc pointed out that if people wanted more fries they could always order a second bag.
“But Ray,” Wallerstein is reputed to have said, “they don’t want to eat two bags—they don’t want to look like a glutton.” Eventually, Kroc let himself be convinced; the rest, as they say, is supersizing.

Of course, the others are not far behind...

while Americans were the first to fatten up, they no longer lead the pack. “Like it or not, we have no choice but to face up to the numbers: current data reveal that in Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Malta, and Slovakia, the proportion of overweight adults is actually higher than in the U.S.,” they write. In Asia, Africa, and South America, too, obesity is on the rise.

Linkage

An annotated set of Feynman's physics lectures.

Meanwhile in Israel

It is documented that of all living species only human beings kill for fun. Here Israeli soldiers do their part in making sure that facts like the above stay true.. Here is testimony from Israeli soldiers who took part in the Dec 2008 Israeli Palestinian war... Youtube video of account here.

An Israeli sniper killed a Palestinian man in order to mark a “score” with his gun. Soldiers fired at houses out of boredom. A commander expressed satisfaction that Gaza hospitals were full. These are some of the testimonies given by Israelis soldiers who fought in the recent Gaza war in a report released Wednesday. “One guy said he just couldn't finish this operation without killing someone. So he killed someone, apparently some sort of lookout,” one soldier reported. “I can definitely say [the Palestinian] was not armed. I can definitely say the soldier regarded this as some children's game and was delighted and laughing after this.” During the past few months, 26 Israeli soldiers – both regular and reserve – shared their most troubling experiences from the war with the organization Breaking the Silence, creating the first large collection of Israeli testimonies from the battle.
...
One soldier reported that a colonel told his battalion before entering Gaza that they would be going into Gaza aggressively and added: “Fortunately the hospitals are full to capacity already, so people are dying more quickly.”
...
According to the soldiers who talked to Breaking the Silence, combat almost never happened. The army used massive firepower from tanks, artillery, air and sea to prevent soldiers from facing Palestinian fighters or risking injury from a booby-trapped house. For some soldiers, the lack of combat led them to fire on houses or water tanks in frustration or boredom.

Painting Post : Triptych

'Hope', Oil on unstretched canvas in three parts. Combined size: 50" X 170"

Vicariously...

From here:
A Web site — WeChooseTheMoon.org — goes live at 8:02 a.m. tomotrrow, 90 minutes before the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. It will track the capsule's route from the Earth to the Moon, ending with the moon landing and Armstrong's walk — in real time, but 40 years later. Internet visitors can see animated recreations of key events from the four-day mission, including when Apollo 11 first orbits the moon and when the lunar module separates from the command module, as well as browse video clips and photos and hear the radio transmission between the astronauts and NASA flight controllers. The site also connects the mission back to Kennedy, who first set the goal to have a man on the moon by the end of the decade during a May 25, 1961, speech before Congress.

Photo


From the Hayden Planetarium website and Wikipedia: On Sunday, July 12th, one of only two occasions when the Sun sets in exact alignment with the Manhattan grid, fully illuminating every single cross-street for the last fifteen minutes of daylight. Manhattanhenge (sometimes referred to as Manhattan Solstice) is a biannual occurrence in which the setting sun aligns with the east-west streets of Manhattan's main street grid. The term is derived from Stonehenge, at which the sun aligns with the stones on the solstices.

Photo from a good friend of mine, George Lewycky.

Painting Post

The third in the 'Hope' triptych is finally complete. 1 of 3 here, 2 of 3 here... All of them were painted from photographs taken by volunteers for the organization Doctors Without Borders in documenting the aftermath of the killing of 800,000 Tutsis by Hutu militia using clubs and machetes, with as many as 10,000 killed each day...
'Hope, No. 3', 50" X 70", Oil on canvas, 2009

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday, July 13, 2009

Quote...

"Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher." --Flannery O'Connor

Monday Poem

Master and Slave by Carl Phillips

For the longest time, he said nothing. I looked
through the glass at what he was looking at: brindled
dog shaking the rain free of herself in a field of flowers,
making the colors stir where, before, there’d been
a stillness like what precedes a dangerous undertow or
a choice that, for better—and worse—will change a life
forever.

If you can’t love everything, he said,
Try to love what, in the end, will matter. Not the dog,
doomed to fail, but the rain itself; the rain, getting
shaken . . . There are days when, almost, I think I know
what he meant by that. I can understand—I can at least
believe I do—his face, his mouth, that last time: for once,
unferocious; done with raging at his own regretlessness and confusion.

No, really...

Noticed on bookslut's blog.

A federal prison in Colorado has prohibited an inmate from reading two books by a popular American author because they supposedly contain information "potentially detrimental to national security." The author's name? Barack Obama.

Audio Card

Life of a crab fisherman from Maryland here.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Painting Post

'Hope, No. 1', 50" X 50", Oil on canvas, 2009

Viewpoint

On Indians being opportunistic and the reasons behind it... (again, this is filed under 'viewpoint').

Max Weber explained the success of capitalism in the US, Germany and Britain as coming from their populations’ Protestant faith. This ethic, or culture, was missing from the Catholic populations of South America, Italy and Spain. Protestants, Weber said, extended Christianity’s message of doing good deeds, to doing work well. Industry and enterprise had an ultimate motive: public good. That explains the philanthropists of the US, from John D. Rockefeller to Andrew Carnegie to Bill Gates.
What explains the behaviour of Indians? What explains the anarchy of our cities? To find out, we must ask how our behaviour is different.
Some characteristics unite Indians. The most visible is our opportunism. One good way to judge a society is to see it in motion. On the road, we observe the opportunism in the behaviour of the Indian driver. Where traffic halts on one side of the road in India, motorists will encroach the oncoming side because there is space available there. If that leads to both sides being blocked, that is fine, as long as we maintain our advantage over people behind us or next to us. This is because the other man cannot be trusted to stay in his place.
The Indian’s instinct is to jump the traffic light if he is convinced that the signal is not policed. If he gets flagged down by the police, his instinct is to bolt. In an accident, his instinct is to flee. Fatal motoring cases in India are a grim record of how the driver ran over people and drove away.
We show the pattern of what is called a Hobbesian society: one in which there is low trust between people. This instinct of me-versus-the-world leads to irrational behaviour, demonstrated when Indians board flights. We form a mob at the entrance, and as the flight is announced, scramble for the plane even though all tickets are numbered. Airlines modify their boarding announcements for Indians taking international flights. ...

The question is: Why are we opportunists?

In his great work Crowds and Power, Elias Canetti observed that the rewards religions promised their faithful were all far off, in the afterlife. This is because a short goal would demand demonstration from god and create sceptics instead of believers. There is an exception to this in Hinduism. Hinduism is not about the other world. There is no afterlife in Hinduism and rebirth is always on earth. The goal is to be released entirely and our death rites and beliefs—funeral in Kashi—seek freedom from rebirth. Christianity and Islam are about how to enter heaven; Hinduism is about how not to return to earth, because it’s a rotten place. Naipaul opens his finest novel with the words “The world is what it is”, and Wittgenstein ( “The world is all that is the case”) opens his Tractatus similarly.
Hinduism recognizes that the world is irredeemable: It is what it is. Perhaps this is where the Hindu gets his world view—which is zero-sum—from. We might say that he takes the pessimistic view of society and of his fellow man. But why?
The Hindu devotee’s relationship with god is transactional: I give you this, you give me that. God must be petitioned and placated to swing the universe’s blessings towards you. God gives you something not through the miracle, and this is what makes Hinduism different, but by swinging that something away from someone else. This is the primary lesson of the Vedic fire sacrifice. There is no benefit to one without loss to another. Religion is about bending god’s influence towards you through pleas, and appeasement, through offerings.
Society has no role in your advancement and there is no reason to give back to it (in any way, including leaving the toilets clean behind you) because it hasn’t given you anything in the first place. That is why Indian industrialists are not philanthropists. Rockefeller always gave a tenth of his earnings to the Church, and then donated hundreds of millions, fighting hookworm and educating black women. Bill Gates gave $25 billion (around Rs1.2 trillion), and his cause is fighting malaria, which does not even affect Americans. Warren Buffett gave away $30 billion, almost his entire fortune. Andrew Carnegie built 2,500 libraries. Dhirubhai Ambani International School has annual fees starting at Rs47,500 (with a Rs24,000 admission fee) and Mukesh Ambani’s daughter was made head girl. An interesting thing to know is this: Has our culture shaped our faith or has our faith shaped our culture? I cannot say.

Readings

An Atlantic correspondent on IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

It's hard to appreciate how devilish these devices are until you watch one blow. I first saw a controlled explosion of an IED ten years ago, when I worked at The Cambodia Daily. An occasional trick among Phnom Penh goons was to rig up one of the country's millions of scattered landmines and put it under a rival's tire, to be driven over when he pulled out of his parking spot. The rival spotted the device, and hours later a bomb squad came and detonated it in situ with spectators gathered a few blocks away. I expected a loud firecracker-boom, followed by a little puff of dust and golf claps from the assembled onlookers. Instead, the boom arrived like a thief, stealing my senses from two hundred meters, rattling my eyes in their sockets, and flinging a huge cloud of dust and sand over me and the rest of the fleeing crowd. It was, quite simply, a concentration of force unlike anything most of us have ever seen, unless we work in demolitions.

Voices

Carine, 14 years old from Masisi (a town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Obama is in Ghana today.

From here: "I live in the centre of Masisi town, near the hospital where Médecins Sans Frontières works. I go to primary school and am in year five. I really enjoy school. My favourite lesson is geography but actually, I like all my classes and particularly my teacher. Lessons are really interesting and this is very important to me. I’d like to become a nurse. So, I have to study hard. My dad works in the Masisi health centre and I can see that he helps a lot of people. I’d like to do the same.
I have a lot of friends at school and I get on very well with everybody. But I don’t have a boyfriend. My dad would never accept it! School is much more important and he thinks that I should not have that kind of distraction!. I’m scared that one day the war will start again here. When there was fighting nearby a lot of people were wounded and killed. I am afraid that something could happen to my father or my mother. All this fighting could start again and this worries me a lot. If the war returns, I won’t be able to go to school anymore and then I’ll never be a nurse and maybe I won’t get married. At school, there are children from the nearby Kilimani camp for displaced people. These people live with barely anything, and I really pity them. If the war starts here again, nothing good will happen.” All this fighting could start again and this worries me a lot. If the war returns, I won’t be able to go to school anymore and then I’ll never be a nurse and maybe I won’t get married. Summer holidays started just a few days ago. This means that I won’t go to school for two months. But I won’t be bored! I have to help my mother with the housework. There is a lot to do as I have an older brother and four little sisters. The youngest one is one year old and I look after my little sisters when mum is not at home, or for example, when she goes to the market. I don’t mind. Later, I want to have children and to get married too. Besides housework, I’ll be able to play with my sisters and my neighbours! We play ball and jumping skipping rope, we walk around Masisi and we talk a lot…"

From Wikipedia: Masisi is a town and administrative district (territory) in the Nord-Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a centre of the conflicts between the Congolese army and militias such as that of Laurent Nkunda which has plagued the eastern Congo since the ending of the Second Congo War and which threatens to start a third Congo war. Hutu and Tutsi militias originating from the Rwandan genocide and civil war are involved, and the conflicts relate to Rwandan border security and the control of eastern Congo's minerals.

Perspectives in capitalism

The cheap tricks private health insurance companies sometimes use to screw the rest of us... This one is called 'rescission'.

A House oversight subcommittee took a close look at a particularly shameful practice known as “rescission,” in which insurance companies cancel coverage for some sick policyholders rather than pay an expensive claim. The companies contend that rescissions are rare. But Congressional investigators found that three big insurers canceled about 20,000 individual policies over a five-year period — allowing them to avoid paying more than $300 million in medical claims. The companies typically argue that the policyholders withheld information about pre-existing conditions that would have disqualified them from coverage. But the subcommittee unearthed cases where the pre-existing conditions were trivial, or unrelated to the claim, or not known to the patient. When executives for the three companies were asked if they would be willing to limit rescissions to cases where the policyholder deliberately lied on an application form, all said they would not. This tactic will not be ended voluntarily.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

From a photo essay


Majid Fateh Abdil Aziz El Najjar unlocked the door of his home to allow me to see the damage caused by Israeli tank fire and phosphorous shell attacks. As we entered the foyer I noticed a small, decaying bouquet of flowers leaning against a wall. That is where Majid’s wife of sixteen years, Hanan Fateh Abdil Ghani Qodeh, was killed.

“She waited eight years for me,” he told me. “When I was in an Israeli prison, she waited eight years so that we could marry. We were in love.”

We walked around the house for some minutes, looking to see what could be salvaged, but rubble covered the entire house.

Portraits of Survival by Asim Rafiqui in Gaza taken during the last days of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead that was launched on December 27, 2008, the last day of Hanukkah.

New eats: Try BK's Lakshmi ham sandwich

Innovative marketing techniques from Burger King...

From here: How's this for a global marketing strategy? Each month target a different international market with an ad that offends some segment of the population, then, after earning a lot of media attention, apologize and pull the ad. Burger King has removed the in-store advertisement that has offended some. That's the pattern of offense Burger King has established in the past few months. Most recently, the fast feeder had cultural and religious groups screaming today in the latest installment of what has become a series of monthly melees. A few hours after an ABC News reported that ads in Spain depicted the Hindu goddess Lakshmi atop a ham sandwich -- with the caption "a snack that is sacred" -- Burger King announced that it would pull the ads. Many Hindus are, of course, vegetarian.

via: Image here.

Reverse momentum

Now, about our lady Palin - the gift that never stops giving...

Sarah Palin's bombshell that she is resigning as Alaska governor actually has boosted her a bit among Republicans, a nationwide USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, though it also has dented her standing among Democrats and independents.
Two-thirds of Republicans want Palin, the party's vice presidential nominee in 2008, to be "a major national political figure" in the future. Three-fourths of Democrats hope she won't be.
Ow, ow, ow! That just makes my damn brain hurt!
Let me get this straight. The woman QUITS because of ETHICS complaints filed against her by her CONSTITUENTS and that makes her MORE Presidential?
I knew the GOP was in bad shape but this is absolutely unbelievable.

via @here. Letterman says it well here.

Readings

On the forgotten ethic of working with ones hands...

The summer of my 13th year I stayed with relatives in central Ohio. When my Aunt Beth saw a classified ad for a local farm in the newspaper, she asked if I'd like to earn a little extra spending money picking blueberries. With visions of new clothes breakdancing in my head, I set an early alarm so my aunt could drop me off at the farm by 7 am. I picked and picked and picked, crouched under a canopy of branches to shelter myself from the sun, working to perfect the technique of pulling an entire cluster off the bush without crushing a single blueberry. With the morning sun just beginning to emanate a kind of heat foretelling the coming of a scorching afternoon, I proudly presented my first full bucket of blueberries to the field foreman just before 11 am.

"Good work," he said. "You've earned three dollars and sixty-seven cents."

After nearly four hours crawling through the field, sweat drenched my hair; dark brown mud painted my long pants and tennis shoes; purple stains speckled my face and covered my fingers; scratches marked jagged red scrawls across my hands and face; my back and neck ached from the hours hunched under the bushes. I'd never known such exhaustion. The only reason I had no thoughts of hunger was because I'd eaten every blueberry accidentally crushed by the clumsiness of my inexperienced fingers. All that work wouldn't even buy me a McDonald's super-value meal. "This is bullshit," I thought, abandoning my bucket by a truck and sneaking away from the farm so none of the other workers would see me giving up. I walked about a mile to the nearest payphone and called my grandmother to come pick me up. The rest of the afternoon I spent lounging on her couch in the air conditioning, watching MTV and nursing wounds aggravated in their seriousness by my own perception of the hardship I'd endured during four hours in the field.

Unvarnished

Harpers provided some 'spin-free' facts about the imbroglio unfolding in Honduras here. An excerpt below.

Based on his response to events in Honduras, Barack Obama may as well be Ronald Reagan or George Bush when it comes to coups in Latin America. The Obama administration initially managed to muster “concern” about the coup, and has been acting in a cowardly fashion ever since. The only reason it has moved at all was that it was forced by the united front by Latin governments of left and right. If Zelaya is returned to power, it won’t be because of anything Obama did.

Readings - then and now

From a 1948 New Yorker article reviewing the then published Kinsey report on sexual behavior.

The Kinsey report also reveals a widespread failure to live up to the popular ideals of virginity until marriage and monogamy thereafter. Eighty-five per cent of all men who marry have had some sexual relations with women before marriage. Nearly one-half of all married men have extramarital relations. Moreover, more than one-third of all men have engaged in homosexual practices at some time or other after the start of adolescence. There is a definite difference between the patterns of sexual activity of men who go to college and the patterns of those who leave school at an early age, which means, roughly, between the patterns of the well-to-do and the patterns of the poor. The latter are much more likely to engage in premarital sexual activities, though rarely with the girls they marry. They are also far more intolerant of most types of perversion. (Such practices, the report indicates, are so common that "perverted" begins to have a slightly ironical sound.) It is often said that the sex impulse can be sublimated —turned aside into artistic or other forms of creative endeavor. This volume shows no evidence that this is true; on the contrary, it justifies a strong inference that it is not. The sexual power of each individual appears to be an inborn characteristic; evidently it is diminished neither by extensive sexual activity at any one period of life nor by the expenditure of energy in other directions.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Anatomy of an execution

From a New Yorker article about platoon dynamics and American infantrymen in Iraq...

Two infantrymen performed the executions. One of them was William Hunsaker, the specialist. Just before Operation Iron Triangle, he was told that he would be promoted. His platoon sergeant considered him to be "one of the better soldiers that I had." He was admired for his discipline and work ethic - he once cleaned up the remains of Iraqis who had been shot in a truck. He read voraciously, and quoted Nietzsche: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." At some point, Hunsaker decided that the three detainees were monsters, and that killing was "a lesser evil for a greater good." He has since said, "The men I killed were terrorists, men who would have done worse to us if the situation was reversed." Even today, he says, he has not lost sleep over the killings. The other soldier, Private First Class Corey Clagett, was known for his lack of discipline and for bragging, and he seemed to take lightly the idea of shooting the detainees. "I thought it was basically like an initiation," he later testified.
Hunsaker and Clagett used a knife to cut the zip ties on the detainees' wrists, and then partly lifted the men's blindfolds. Hunsaker looked each detainee in the eye, and gestured for them to run. Al-Jemi and the teen-agers did not understand him, or perhaps they were reluctant to run, so Clagett yelled, "Yalla!" - "Hurry," in Arabic - at which point they fled. Clagett threw the knife in their direction, hoping to create the impression that one of them had dropped it while escaping. Hunsaker shot the youngest detainee first. "I was going to make it quick and as painless as possible for him," he later testified. "So I took careful aim and shot the first one through the heart and the back, and shot him in the head." Hunsaker shot a second detainee through the chest. Then, he recalled, "Clagett opened up fire, and just sprayed bullets, eventually fatally wounding the third, before I could get a shot at him." Hunsaker felt disoriented. He removed his helmet, walked back to Komar - Abdullah's house, and squatted in the doorway. He put his face in his hands to control his feelings. "1 was angry at Clagett," he recalled. "If you are going to do it, you know, do it right. There is no sense in causing the extra suffering by just spraying bullets." Clagett who had not killed anyone before, later told a psychiatrist that during the shooting his "mind just went blank." At the sound of the gunfire, the rest of the squad ran over, when Girouard saw the bodies, he turned pale. One of the detainees had somehow survived the shooting, and Graber - one of the infantrymen who had objected earlier - recalled Girouard telling him, "Put him out of his misery." Graber, focusing on the dying detainee's strained breathing, fatally shot him.

One of the detainees captured by the Charlie Company as part of Operation Iron Triangle before he was killed on May 9, 2006. Photo ripped from the June 6th edition of the New Yorker

Comparing two architects of war (and death)

Comparing two war architects Rumsfeld (Iraq) and the recently deceased Robert S. McNamara (Vietnam) in a review of a new book about the former.

Asked to assess Mr. Rumsfeld’s tenure, Mr. Graham reports, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger gave him “high marks as a secretary of defense trying to revamp the U.S. military but scored Rumsfeld low as a secretary of war,” noting that the same was true of Robert S. McNamara, the only other Pentagon chief with an equally controversial term in office. Mr. Graham points out that both Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. McNamara came from the corporate world, both had keen analytic minds and “insatiable appetites for data,” both sought tighter civilian control of the military and both presided over long, costly and unpopular wars. The big difference between the two men, Mr. Graham adds, is how they ultimately viewed their own tenures: “despite his public cheerleading for the Vietnam War, Mr. McNamara privately became dubious about its wisdom and effectiveness while still in office” and came to recognize “that he had failed as defense secretary because of mistakes he and others had made in Vietnam.” In contrast, Mr. Graham writes, Mr. Rumsfeld “did not leave office doubting his handling of the Iraq war” and “has acknowledged no major missteps or shown any remorse on the subject to date.”

Today's dose of irony

Racist senator from Virginia, George 'macaca' Allen is writing a book called 'The Triumph of Character'. For more on his macaca background, see here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Big Brother chronicles

Scanning and grading workers smile's to boost customer satisfaction...

From here: More than 500 staff at Keihin Electric Express Railway are expected to be subjected to daily face scans by "smile police" bosses. The "smile scan" software, developed by the Japanese company Omron, produces a sweeping analysis of a smile based on facial characteristics, from lip curves and eye movements to wrinkles. After scanning a face, the device produces a rating between zero to 100 depending on the estimated value of the fulfilled potential of a person's biggest smile. For those with a below-par grin, one of an array of smile-boosting messages will op up on the computer screen ranging from "you still look too serious" to "lift up your mouth corners", according to the Mainichi Daily News. A growing number of service industries are reportedly using the new Omron Smile Scan system for "smile training" among its staff. Workers at Keihin Electric Express Railway will receive a print out of their daily smile which they will be expected to keep with then throughout the day to inspire them to smile at all times, the report added. (via)

Quote

From the draft report of the president’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board:

“If the U.S. fails to adopt an economywide carbon abatement program, we will continue to cede leadership in new energy technology. The U.S. is now home to only two of the ten largest solar photovoltaic producers in the world, two of the top ten wind turbine producers and one of the top ten advanced battery manufacturers. That is, only one-sixth of the world’s top renewable energy manufacturers are based in the United States. ... Sustainable technologies in solar, wind, electric vehicles, nuclear and other innovations will drive the future global economy. We can either invest in policies to build U.S. leadership in these new industries and jobs today, or we can continue with business as usual and buy windmills from Europe, batteries from Japan and solar panels from Asia.” (via).