September 30, 2007

The Right Words from the Right Mouth

Having already wagged my proverbial finger at the dog pile of negative media coverage about Ahmadinejad's visit to New York, I would like to level some criticism his way. Well, not me exactly. I would like to highlight the condemnation of the Iranian president by actual legitimate sources. Who could be a more legitimate source on the subject of Iranian politics than the US media you ask. Why, Iranians of course.

You see, Tom Parker from the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times which includes excerpts from some prominent Iranian blogs. Iran has a thriving community of blogs by the way and they are more aware than anyone of the problems in their own government. Check out the op-ed; It's short.

My favorite quote is from the blog, Until the Polytechnic Students Are Released. It sums up my own feelings about this most recent word crusade/jihad pretty well.

"Last night, before the speech of my knowledgeable Ahmadinejad, I was so worried. O Lord, how are we going to be ridiculed now? How did we become who we are? The year of dialogue between civilizations seems so far away!"

Knowing that Iranians are looking at Ahmadinejad with the same sense of disbelief that I get when looking at Bush makes the world that much more sane.

US Women Finish Third in World Cup '07

The US lost their semifinal match to a stunning Brazilian side. While it was great to see the level of play that the Brazilian woman brought to the game, it's difficult for those of us with some national pride to see the American woman slipping from their place at the top. Brazil seems to be putting more effort into developing their woman's team every year.

That first own goal really took the wind out of the US who haven't lost in their last 51 games but it was the left foot of Marta final finished them off with a solid shot into the lower right corner. From that moment on, the game was all Brazil and even though the US got blown out 4-0 it was still a better game than the final which Germany won. It's upsetting to think that the Germans and Brazilians might dominate the woman's game in the future.

Consolation finally came in the form of third place for the US team.

September 29, 2007

The Italian Space Program

Here's a fun band from Rome that I've been listening to.

The name of the band is La Etruria Criminale Banda. Most of their music sounds like a parade on the international space station. You can go to their myspace page for the rest of the song and a few others.

September 28, 2007

Courting the Black Vote

On Thursday, the historically black Morgan State University hosted a debate among Republican presidential candidates to discuss issues of importance to minorities. Ironically, only the minority candidates (ie lower tier) showed up. Kudos to Morgan State for leaving the lecterns of Giuliani, McCain, Romney and Thompson as vacant as Republican concern for the perspective of anyone who isn't a white heterosexual male.

To some up, the top 4 out of 10 republican candidates for president didn't even care enough out black people to show up for free publicity.

On the other hand, the same guys missed the "value voters" debate in Florida. Back to the first hand again, UnivisiĆ³n was force to cancel a debate focusing on Hispanic issues when McCain was the only one who agreed to attend.

(via war room)

September 25, 2007

Not Quite Supreme Enough

The president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been visiting the US this week and he's really getting the red carpet treatment from the press and local politicians. For example, the president of Columbia, Lee Bollinger, acting as host to the Iranian welcomed the him to speak by calling him a "petty and cruel dictator" to his face. You'd think that a guy could find a little more love than that for a fellow president but I guess the anti-Ahmadinejad band wagon is so roomy and comfortable that no member of the established class can resist.

Now, let me make perfectly clear that I'm not exactly in the pro-Ahmadinejad tent but I do likes to calls um like I sees um. So, what's wrong with using the term "petty and cruel dictator"?

First of all, the position of president of Iran is elected. In order to say that Ahmadinejad is a dictator, you must be convinced that there was significant election fraud or some other formal electoral mechanism such as a one party system in order to cry dictator. While there was some controversy in the 2005 Iranian presidential election, it was about the same level or less than was seen in the last two US elections. There's a saying about glass houses that applies in this instance. The evidence as I see it says that Ahmadinejad had enough popular support to win the last election and could conceivably lose the next election if that support dries up. Dictators do not lose elections almost by definition.

Second, presidents of Iran are term limited to two years and there's no indication that Ahmadinejad has any plans to ignore those limits. No Iran president has thus far served more than two terms.

Third, dictators don't blog.

Forth, Iran has a functioning legislative branch of government not beholden to the president. Again, proper dictators don't require the approval of elected officials to pass laws.

Fifth, the president of Iran does not have any control of the army. That is the province of the "Supreme Leader".

Sixth, there is a Supreme Leader of Iran who is unelected, generally rules for life, has near dictatorial powers, controls the army, "formalizes" elections, and is called the SUPREME LEADER! The current supreme leader is Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. If Iran is a dictatorship then Khamenei is the dictator not Ahmadinejad. As a general rule, dictators do not answer to even more powerful political entities in their own country. Of all of these points, this one should be the biggest smack in the face to anyone who clings to the failed notion that Ahmadinejad is some kind of Stalin or Franco of Iran.

In summation, Ahmadinejad is functionally the Iranian equivalent of Condi Rice. And like Condi, one can hold him responsible for developing and acquiescing to a lot of his governments more foolish policies but he is no more a dictator than she. They are further alike in that their main function is to get sent to other countries, to say ridiculous things, to get laughed at, and to get protested. That's both of their jobs in a nutshell. An Iranian scholar claiming that Condi was a petty dictator would only reveal his own confusion and ignorance.

So, since Americans are completely ignorant of how the Iranian government works, the president of a well respected American University can display incredible ignorance of a political lightning rod of a guest and not get laughed off the stage.

Notice that I'm not saying that Ahmadinejad is not entirely blameless for the policies of his country (I think that I stuck that triple negative but was it enough to impress the Russian judge?). He's plenty responsible for accepting and promoting these policies. He just not any kind of dictator.

UPDATE: The media's whipped people into a frenzy enough that this was heard by a caller to the NPR show "On Point" - I'm going to be honest with you. I know that I'm from the South and everything but I wouldn't care if somebody put a cross hair on [Ahmadinejad] and put him out.

Yup. Time to lynch some foreign statesmen. The history lesson for today should be that those things don't always work out as planned.

September 23, 2007

Share the Wealth

A comparison of societies with a static economy and societies with a growth-oriented economy reveals that significant accumulations of wealth by individuals, families, or groups are tolerated for long periods only in the latter. The prevailing outlook in these [growth-oriented] societies - whether conscious or subconscious - is that such wealth is not gained at the expense of others, but originates from one huge, inexhaustible source, from which every person, with sufficient effort, can and may withdraw as much as he desires. The situation is perceived quite differently in those societies in which the ... sources of livelihood [are believed to] yield approximately the same amount every year. Here it is generally felt that since the total amount available to society remains constant, any enrichment of one person, family, or group inevitably occurs at the expense of all remaining persons, families, or groups. All known societies in this situation have, as a result, developed social mechanisms that in some way ensure the orderly distribution of the total product among members.

That paragraph, which I found in Paul Unschuld's "Medicine in China" contains an idea peotent enough to move mountains. It directly correlates a fundamental and seemingly fairminded precept of modern society, the belief in growth and progress, with the widespread acceptance of inequality. The implications of such a connection are vast in scope and number. I hope to discuss some of them in future posts.

September 22, 2007

More Template Changes

I don't mean to confuse everyone with the seaonal changes to my blog template but until I find one that I really like I'm going to keep experimenting.

Lay Off the Brit

Britney Spears is the goose that's been force fed to death so that we can all eat her deliciously drowned liver as a spread over our crackers.

When clips of her performance at the MTV music video awards first started popping up on the internet, I didn't pay much attention to them. I have as little desire to see her perform now as I did when she was considered a musician and effort was put into making her music. When I heard that her act was an epic failure, I had to check it out. She struggled to get through the number - thats for sure - but it was the MTV music awards not Carnegie Hall. The biggest problem with the act is that she looked confused and uninterested.

Is anyone surprised by this? The proverbial camera stole her soul a long time ago and the shell that is left can't dance so good. This was a fairly talented young girl who got into show business at the age of 13 or so and was a pop superstar at 17. So, at an age when most kids are starting to establish who they are, what they want out of life, and what kind of people they want to spend their time with, Britney Spears has been pushed through the looking glass. From this point on, no human interaction that she has is "normal".

She continued to produce music for a couple more years until she realized that no one is interested in her music anymore. Britney Spears herself is what sells magazines, albums and TV shows. She went with it for awhile. It's easy money for everyone involved. Then, she tried to put her career on hold and just live her life. Unfortunately, her life was no longer hers to live. I think she finally flipped out when she saw her own picture in a magazine and realized that the picture was the real her and the person looking at it was a mere reflection. The only way left to learn about herself was to read her own interview in People. Say goodbye to yourself as a person; Say hello to yourself as a product.

My guess is that she fell for K-Fed because he was one of very few who treated her like a normal person. My further guess is that the reason he treated her like a normal person was because he was so into himself that she was just some chick to him.

Why am I saying all this? Mainly I'm upset that the only person that seems to be standing up for her is this guy whom the media quickly added to the circus sideshow that gets dragged along in poor Britney's wake. The far bigger trend is to pontificate on her failure as a person and relish the chance to berate her. That exploded liver sure is tasty. To use another metaphor, we are the parents that gave her nothing but candy to nourish her infant brain and now we slap her around when she fails to read at grade level.

The other thing that set me off on this rant is a post from my friend Kimya who's struggling to stay true to herself while dealing with the increased fame that her music is bringing her. She is an amazing human being who has as strong a sense of self as anyone and even she has her moments of trouble with the spotlight. The good news is that she hundreds of real friends who'll support her no matter what she does. But, if you multiplied Kimya's situation by 1000 or so and took away the support of her friends and maturity, you can imagine the Britney Spears style meltdowns.

The worst part is that it's all downhill from here. Even if Britney starts dancing and singing again like a champ, she will never get back the quality that propelled her into stardom. Yes, she will never be a 17 year old girl again.

September 21, 2007

Free Speech, Free Press, Free Market

I always say that I don't understand economics and now it seems that I'm in "good" company.

But, here's something that makes some sense. The free market encourages powerful corporate interests to collude with the government to consolidate power. Disaster capitalism as written about by Naomi Klien.

Why does she keep talking about the last 35 years? Here's a graph from Paul Krugman's new blog that shows how to pin point the changes in economic equality. The graph tracks by year the percentage of capital gains that the richest 10% of America enjoys. High marks in the graph represent unequal income distribution. After a long period of stability, the graph rises steeply at about 1982 or 35 years ago.

September 20, 2007

A TV Minute

What I love about this clip is that it's three minutes long and therefore fits into the concision criteria of the TV media. Irony.

As long as we're on the subject of Noam, here's a clip in which he sweeps aside everyone's favorite conspiracy theories with a grand stroke of his hand.

In a sense, I agree completely with the Chompster. The strongest evidence against the theory that 911 was an inside job would be the lack of any leaked information from someone on the team involved in setting it up. Unlike Chomsky, I will admit that because of the covert nature of those kinds of operations I don't know how difficult it would be to stop leaks so I refuse to dismiss the possibility.

For what it's worth, the first place that I would look for those leaks would be at suicides among high level intelligence agents.

September 17, 2007

Completely Untrue Facts about Hitler

Neatorama recently posted some interesting facts about the great dictator and epitome of evil. Thus, I've been inspired to post my own "facts" (please note that the following facts are true only in spirit and in no way originate in reality):

- Hitler often wore the most ridiculous shoes he could find so that when other people stooped to get a closer look he could kick them square in the face.

- Hitler's knowledge of when to hold them and when to fold them was the little known inspiration for the Kenny Rodgers aural masterpiece.

- Hitler loved dancing to his favorite polka bands at the local beer hall. It was one of the few times that he felt he could drop his inhibitions and dance like no one was watching. Also, if he caught anyone actually watching they would be killed.

- Hitler invented cigarettes.

- Hitler originally proposed the invasion of Poland as a joke to keep office morale high but when his fellow Nazis seemed to take the idea seriously he scratched his head and thought that there might be something to the whole invasion of Poland thing.

- In the early days, whenever he rode the bus, Hitler would pretend to be reading a copy of Mien Kampf and laugh inappropriately loudly as a form of guerrilla marketing.

- Hitler was well known in Vienna as a virtuoso flutist. But he never played. Not after the "accident".

- In 1934, Hitler published several romance novels under the name Brigette McBoyboi. The most famous of these was "Chained to the Forecastle", a sleazy thriller about how a male slave and a female slave ship captain fan the flames of a forbidden love as they troll the coast of West Africa always one step ahead of the British Navy.

Please, submit your own completely untrue facts about Hitler in the comments.

("Third-grade pupil acting the part of Hitler in a program produced by his class." by Marjory Collins via American Memory)

September 14, 2007

I Keep a Spare Joke for Emergencies

I've never been big on jokes. Guy walks into a bar and all that. But, I do keep one joke ready to go in case I need it. Every few years, the old joke gets stale and I'll switch it out for a new one.

It was my friend Mike Noe who inspired me to adopt this policy in 1991 and I haven't looked back. Here's the first joke that I used (slightly updated since original use):

A guy and a girl are lying in bed after sex. They're just relaxing and the guy turns to the girl and says, "that was great now get in the kitchen and make me a sandwich".

A little annoyed, the girl says, "Wow. That's more than a little presumptuous."

And so the guy says, "It restores my faith in the public education system when a 12 year old girl knows the meaning of presumptuous. Now, go make that damn sandwich!"

(wait for laughter and applause)

The girl finally responds, "Well, I'm losing my faith in society when a 10 year old boy has such an entrenched chauvinistic attitude."

Ha. Babies having babies. Thanks, Mike.

September 11, 2007

Historic First

When I lived in Phili, I used to walk down to the Greek Diner for lunch, grab myself a booth and read the daily news. Now, ordinarily, I don't find The Daily News to be a riveting read but when you're sitting eating a chicken cheese steak and you just want to catch up on the latest scandal or indictment the paper delivers.

After a couple of weeks of this routine, I stumbled across an article by the op-ed contributor Michelle Malkin. I don't remember exactly what she wrote but I do remember thinking that she was exactly 100% wrong about whatever it was. I took a mental note to read anything else by her. I expected to eventually find her saying something that I agreed with. It got to the point where I sifted through the Daily News each day in eager anticipation of a Malkin column that wasn't diametrically opposed to my thinking.Well, for the 2 years that I read that paper, I never felt a single thing that she wrote was less than completely ridiculous. I finally stopped reading her articles when I found out that she wrote a book defending Japanese internment in WWII and I nearly broke my jaw when it hit the ground.

Which leads me to today... when I announce... that now... thanks to her statements in the clip below... for the first time ever...

I don't completely disagree with Michelle Malkin.

September 7, 2007

Pop Goes the Corn

Microwave popcorn lung (which I like to call golden buttery lung) is for real. It first started showing up when workers in microwave popcorn factories started to develop breathing problems. The main symptoms are difficulty breathing especially exhaling.

The blame for this disorder is said to be a flavoring agent called Diacetyl which delivers the buttery taste. When vaporized and inhaled, the chemical damages the lungs.

But don't worry it's perfectly safe for consumer consumption. Maybe. Well, not for one guy but I sure it's safe for everyone else.

September 2, 2007

The Fellowship of the Union

Last night, I dreamed that I was negotiating a contract for a labor union at some kind of foundry. Somehow characters from The Lord of the Rings were all mixed in. Gimli was the foreman, Legolas the VP at the company, Gandalf the old man about to retire and so forth. Hillary Clinton also made a cameo.