4/30/2009 3:51:13 PM
These are hard times for libertarians. Free-market solutions to the current financial crisis sound as credible as homeopathic solutions to the swine flu, and Barack Obama continues to ride high in the polls on his activist-government platforms. Their increasing marginalization has many libertarians rethinking the basic underpinnings of their philosophies. Writing for the Cato Institute, the libertarian stalwart think tank, Peter Thiel explains a fundamental shift in ideology. For example, Thiel writes, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.”
The great hope for libertarians, according to Thiel, lies not in politics, but in escaping politics through technology. He offers a metaphor: “we are in a deadly race between politics and technology.” He urges libertarians to harness the power of the internet and other emerging technologies to spread freedom, outside of the political realms of governments and voters.
(Thanks, Marginal Revolution.)
Source: Cato Institute
4/27/2009 2:13:36 PM
Sometimes you need science to crack the thick skulls in the business world. “Over the past several years,” writes Pepperdine University Marketing Professor Roy Douglas Adler in Miller-McCune, “my colleagues and I have tracked the performance of Fortune 500 companies with a strong record of promoting women to the executive suite. The correlation between high-level female executives and business success has been consistent and revealing. Any action that shows a consistent correlation to high profits would probably be of interest to companies struggling to swim against the tide of these perilous times.”
4/27/2009 1:44:45 PM
Critics of Afrocentric anything have traditionally displayed a sort of separation anxiety, as if there were no line between forced segregation and voluntary separation. Recent plans for an Afrocentric school in Toronto seem to have opened that wound. Critics fear the separation will lead to marginalization. "Lost in the ideological battles," writes Andrew Wallace in THIS Magazine, "is the key issue that the country must morally answer for: 40 per cent of black youth in Canada’s most populous and diverse city aren’t graduating from high school."
“We separate children based on education needs all the time,” says educator Carl James. “People are only seeing the ‘black’ part of the school. Education is not teaching subjects but teaching people. That means thinking of their race, their community, everything.”
“Sometimes people ask where is the evidence that it works,” says researcher George Dei. “But I want to know where is the evidence that it doesn’t work.”
Source: THIS Magazine
4/27/2009 12:28:31 PM
Russia has been victim to staggering death statistics for the last hundred years or so. Rapid transformations in governance and war has afflicted this country more than others in the west—Russia claimed the most casualties in WWII with varied estimates between 13-26 million dead. Since 1992, however, Russia’s population has been steadily declining, and unlike before, no social or political upheaval is to blame. World Affairs journal explains what’s causing lower birth-rates and excessive mortality rates in the resource-rich nation, and why in 2006, life expectancy is three years lower than it was in 1964. Changing ethics on marriage and children and an “explosive upsurge in illness and mortality” threaten the working population who are most at risk. A highly literate country where you can receive a good education is the same place where heavy drinking is the norm and a liter of vodka costs less than a liter of milk. According to this article, there’s no stopping the population decline until Russia saves itself—the question is when and how.
Source: World Affairs
4/23/2009 1:30:19 PM
"Almost like clockwork," writes Tom Engelhardt, "the reports float up to us from thousands of miles away, as if from another universe. Every couple of days they seem to arrive from Afghan villages that few Americans will ever see without weapon in hand ... Unfortunately, those news stories are so unimportant in our world that they seldom make it onto, no less off of, the inside pages of our papers. They're so repetitive that, once you've started reading them, you could write them in your sleep from thousands of miles away."
In his latest TomDispatch post, Engelhardt counts the dead in Afghanistan and wonders why he is so utterly alone in doing so.
"We forget these killings easily—often we don't notice them in the first place—since they don't seem to impinge on our lives," he writes. "Perhaps that's one of the benefits of fighting a war on the periphery of empire, halfway across the planet in the backlands of some impoverished country. One problem, though: the forgetting doesn't work so well in those backlands. When your child, wife or husband, mother or father is killed, you don't forget."
It's numbing to think how many children, wives, husbands, mothers, or fathers Afghanistan has lost. I remember, way back in 2003, one of those reports “you could write in your sleep.” American forces fired on a building near the city of Gardez. They believed that a renegade Afghan commander, Mullah Jalani, was storing weapons in the compound. Jalani himself may even have been sleeping there. So the compound was shot up. There were explosions. And the next day when troops showed up to assess the damage, six children were found crushed under a collapsed wall. And there were two dead adults. Neither of them were Mullah Jalani.
Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty was the man tapped to explain this one to the press. "We do make mistakes," he said. "War is an inexact art."
To the people who loved each of those six children, of course, war is not an "inexact art," it is murderous folly.
"And how exactly do we explain this ever rising pile of civilian dead to ourselves?," Engelhardt asks, five years and countless tragic blunders later. "It's being done, so we've been told, for our safety and security ... What a bad bargain it's been—and all in the name of our safety, and ours alone."
4/20/2009 11:06:20 AM
Marketers are doing some serious soul searching these days. It’s all over the pages of the January-February issue of the marketing industry magazine The Hub, as the people who sell stuff reflect on just what it is they’re supposed to be selling now. There’s a vague recognition that the correct answer is not “the same old crap,” but bold and definitive answers are scarce as the writers struggle mightily to break free of marketing speak and deeply embedded consumerist values. And every one of the essayists closes with a conclusion that only a marketer could concoct:
Spencer Hapoienu writes that marketing is in need of an overhaul in “The Obama Challenge.” Despite the crass subheadline—“One should never waste a crisis … and by all accounts this one will be a doozy”—Hapoienu asks a high-minded question: “Is there a way that every brand can participate in improving the lives of its customers beyond simply selling a product?” He suggests that being greener is a key goal, but undermines his point by positing that Procter & Gamble set the bar for value-added marketing with its repositioning of Pampers a few years ago. (Google “disposable diapers” and “landfill” to find out how much value they add to the planet.) Conclusion: “This time is a new opportunity for marketing to lead, leaving a mark every brand can be proud of, while creating a fan base of enthusiastic and grateful customers.”
Tim Manners also starts from a reflective position in “Crisis of Relevance”: “As marketers, we owe it to ourselves, our shoppers and, yes, our country, to take a good hard look at how we may have contributed to the sad state of our economy today.” He suggests marketers need to figure out how to “help solve people’s problems and … live happier lives.” But he too rests his case on specious examples: “Dunkin’ Donuts makes a difference by serving up a workaday pink-and-orange cup of joe. … Kleenex innovated its way to relevance by adding germ-killers to its tissues. … Levi’s innovated its way to relevance by coming up with wardrobe solutions for men.” If overhyped coffee, medicated tissues, and Dockers are the answer to our crisis, we’re in more serious trouble than I thought. Conclusion: “This is a painful moment for marketers, no doubt about it. But it is also a moment when those of us who live up to all our chatter about being relevant will flourish.”
Dori Molitor puts an upbeat motivational-speech spin on things in “Everyone Matters,” which posits that “we all want to know that our lives have a purpose that’s larger than ourselves.” She steps up and criticizes many companies for failing to change their ways, but again her vision of a better world fails to inspire. She notes two recent cases in which retail salespeople helped her and her daughter solve pressing fashion dilemmas: One employee delivered a missing belt to their house after work, and another went “on break” to help her find what she wanted at a competitor’s store. Apparently, the future of retail is low-paid employees doing customers favors while off the clock. Conclusion: “Every ounce of my being believes that the greatest opportunity for brands is to help us live better, more purposeful lives. Treating us like we matter is a huge step in that direction and sometimes it’s as simple as looking us in the eye and being yourself. Humanity is all it takes.”
4/14/2009 5:18:57 PM
Social entrepreneurs around the world have begun promoting a new kind of philanthropy, Alix Rule writes for Dissent. Social good has become the buzzword of today’s philanthropists, based on advanced “metrics” and “sophisticated techniques” designed for maximum “efficacy and effectiveness.” Philanthropy, according to Rule, is philosophically intertwining with business, and good is being reduced to a kind of currency.
This trend is troubling if not dishonest, writes Rule. There is a near total disregard in this money-as-good philosophy for collectivity and public discourse. It focuses instead on individuals and what they can return for the investors. The recent trend toward corporations accepting responsibility for their actions is undoubtedly a good thing, and the new philanthropists have produced some impressive results, but mixing the goals of philanthropists with the profit-seeking motives of business is not a good long-term strategy for creating a more just world.
For more on rethinking charity in today’s economic crisis, read Giving When It Hurts from the March-April issue of Utne Reader.
Source: Dissent (Subscription required)
4/14/2009 4:41:51 PM
The Baby Boomers were never bestowed the honor of being named the “Greatest Generation.” They got to witness the beginnings of the tech revolution, only to realize that an 11-year-old kid could do more with a computer than they would ever be able to. Now, in what should be their golden years, they’re being attacked.
Writing for This Magazine, RM Vaughan takes a shot at the increasingly helpless Baby Boomers. He writes:
While I don't condone violence, I can condone a reasonable, humane culling of the aging herd. They don't have to actually die, just virtually pass away. And here's how: if you are a boomer, stop. Just stop. Stop working, stop acquiring, stop micro-managing your (and my) universe, stop sucking the life out of popular culture, stop going outdoors in those ghastly Crocs and Tilley Endurable hats, and, please, stop talking about how you're eventually going to stop and, instead, stop. Now.
A similar point was made by Joseph Hart in the September-October issue of Utne Reader, when he wrote:
They promised a revolution and boy did they deliver. Safety net: shredded. Social Security: squandered. Liberalism: perished. Fairness: forgotten. Great Society: whatever. Do I even need to mention climate change? AIDS? The Monkees? So now they want to pass on their wisdom to the rest of us. Uh-huh.
Poor Boomers. They just can’t get no satisfaction.
Sources: This Magazine, Utne Reader
4/14/2009 3:58:27 PM
Amanda Follett rebelled against the culture of disposability in dramatic fashion: She gave up all new clothing. For one month, Follett vowed no more retail therapy, no more fashionable outfits, no more trips to the Gap. Instead, she opted for a rotation of three thrift-store and hand-me-down pairs of pants, and found some comfort in her total lack of glamour. Writing for Geez, Follet explains how she was overwhelmed when returning to the world of new jeans and shirts after a just a month of not worrying about fashion. “Because once you’ve walked a month in a stranger’s pants,” she wrote, “it can be hard to go back.”
4/14/2009 3:22:52 PM
Unlike the trendy activity of hombrewing beer, homebrewing liquor still conjures up the image of backwater hayseeds drinking out of clay jugs labeled with XXX. That notion is beginning to change, Paul Clarke writes for Imbibe, as craft bartenders and chefs have begun fashioning high-class moonshine to fit with their discerning tastes. Many of these renegade liquor makers don’t like the moniker “moonshiners” either, according to Clark, opting instead for the more epicurean title of “private distillers.”
Whatever they call themselves, homebrewing liquor is still illegal in the United States, and Canada, too. The subjects of Clarke’s article, many who are identified by their first names only, warn readers that U.S. authorities have the option of seizing equipment, and assets. “If you want to do this, you need to make sure you don’t talk about it openly in public,” suggests distilling expert Mike McCaw, “and share the information only with a small number of very close and very trusted friends.”
4/13/2009 11:24:47 AM
How do you mark the 50th anniversary of China taking over Tibet? If you were China, you’d create a national holiday, of course. On March 28 the Chinese government officially forced “Serf Liberation Day” onto the citizens of Tibet, its awkward answer to commemorations of the Dalai Lama’s exile and the Tibetan uprising of 1959.
The government stated through Xinhua that this new holiday would “offer Tibetans an occasion to remember history and remind themselves to cherish the good days they have enjoyed since the democratic reform 50 years ago,” while the website of the Tibetan government-in-exile countered that “Tibetans consider this observance offensive and provocative.”
In the May issue of In These Times, Stephen Asma takes a decidedly middle path on the situation in Tibet (article not available online), and recommends a cooling of the rhetoric on both sides. He cites problematic “doublespeak” from both China and the Tibetan exiles, influencing how the West has framed the debate:
“The Dalai Lama and his own propaganda machine have been effective in setting the parameters of discussion and reflection in the West. Most Americans know one simple story, when it comes to this vexed region: Tibet = mystical, peace-loving, good guys. China = godless, pugnacious, bad guys. The reality is more complicated.”
Asma states that the Dalai Lama’s views on Tibet’s future are more pragmatic than most reports acknowledge: “He wants an ethnically controlled, autonomous region together with the massive benefits of being part of China.”
He then takes the risky position that “If it wasn’t for China, Tibet would have no infrastructure or modern development to speak of. Roads would still be rudimentary; education would be largely theological; drinking water and medical facilities would be closer to the medieval condition they were in during the 1940s.”
Asma illuminates the fraught history between China and Tibet and then recommends that “The two sides could sit down and negotiate an honorable accord, in the spirit of the Seventeen-Point Agreement [which established Chinese sovereignty over Tibet]...The real issue worth working toward is the fair distribution of economic, educational and political opportunities for both the Tibetan people and the more recent immigrant Han population.”
Sources: In These Times, the website for the Central Tibetan Administration, Xinhua
4/6/2009 2:46:57 PM
What to do with policy recommendations “too crazy conservative” for even the Heritage Foundation? The New Republic has an idea: Heritage Foundation RAW, where members feast on meat-and-potatoes breakfasts while advancing an “outlandishly reactionary platform in a room so smoke-filled it is said that members can only identify each other by their hacking coughs.”
HFRAW is just one organization brought to life in “The Lesser Known Think Tanks of Washington,” a satirical jaunt for politics geeks penned by screenwriter Yoni Brenner. Also of note: the Council for Innovative Alliance (“A liberal, international-minded body dedicated to matching countries that have no political disputes or shared interests but just might get along”) and the Def Jam Think Tank (“credited for introducing the adjective ‘weezy’ to Beltway parlance”).
Source: The New Republic
4/6/2009 2:45:56 PM
The war in Sudan continues to rip apart families and communities. The Canadian International Development Agency, with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross, is trying to help them find each other. Heba Aly reports for The Walrus that the ICRC in Sudan is attempting to track down missing persons and deliver messages to separated family members. The impact of war is illustrated through the devastating simplicity of the tracing requests and their responses.
Here is one message:
Greetings. I am so happy to be able to hold pen and paper in my hands and write this message. How are you? We ask God that you are fine and in good health. The only thing we miss is seeing you. It has been a long time since we heard from or about you. I’m writing this Red Cross Message because we don’t have any means to communicate. Pass my greetings to all your sons. Thanks.
This is one of two messages from a camp south of Nyala city in Darfur to reach Adam Ibrahim El Hag, the owner of a construction company in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, 900 kilometers away. “They found my relatives in the middle of the mountains!” El Hag cried, his eyes beaming behind large red-framed glasses, as the ICRC field officer handed him the notes. After reading them, he sat at his desk to reply.
In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. My respected uncle, I hope that this message finds you in good health and that the whole family is happy and blessed. All the family members in Khartoum are okay and are asking about you a lot. And they ask God to make life easy for you and remove all your hardships. May peace be upon you. Your brother, Adam Ibrahim El Hag”
Source: The Walrus
4/6/2009 2:34:09 PM
The vast, fleshy diversity of human gender identity and sexual expression is certainly amazing, and so is the human ability to create ever-longer acronyms. Thus have we arrived at the construction LGBTSTGNC, the most extended variant yet on the already sprawling sexual identity descriptor LGBT.
Some of us were just getting used to the interchangeability of LGBT and GLBT, depending on whether you were talking to gays or lesbians, and to the occasional tacked-on Q to reclaim the beloved “queer.” But this LGBTSTGNC thing has us confronting a whole new level of acronym intimidation.
LGBTSTGNC refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people, according to an article in Left Turn magazine’s April-May issue (original article available here). The odd thing is, the piece refers to “LGBTSTGNC people of color” without taking the whole enterprise to its logical conclusion:
Don’t they mean LGBTSTGNCPOCs?
4/6/2009 2:01:19 PM
How does a country even begin to address the wrongs of genocide? That is the task facing The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), as it tries Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, the first former member of the Khmer Rouge to answer for the killings of untold numbers of people during the regime’s reign. For many in the West, war crimes tribunals are a symbol of international justice. But in the March issue of Harper’s, Ben Ehrenreich illuminates just how complicated, and unresolved, this process can be.
The Cambodian truth and reconciliation process has been mired in international politics and complicated by a frustrating lack of information, according to Ehrenich. “The debate over what occurred and what it means often has more to do with Western ideological divides than with anything that could optimistically be called truth,” he writes, citing the vast differences in official death tolls as an example. The United States backed the Khmer Rouge during the cold war, so Ehrenich writes: “Ultimately, the number of deaths you want to attribute to the Khmer Rouge depends on how many deaths you are comfortable pinning on the United States.”
The apparent ambivalence of the Cambodian people toward the tribunals presents another problem, according to Ehrenreich : “No Cambodians I met, however, expressed the faith so uniformly voiced in the West: that trying the surviving Khmer Rouge leadership represents the country’s ‘last chance’ for justice, and that prosecuting four old men and one old woman could being to settle history’s debts.”
Source: Harper’s (Subscription Required)
4/5/2009 11:04:39 PM
Alt Wire is a morning digest of links and information collected and explained by a different guest blogger every weekday. Today's guest is Phil Yu of Angry Asian Man. We asked him for five links and here's what happened:
Japanese American Relocation Digital Archives: An extensive, comprehensive online collection preserving the photographs, letters, art and oral histories of the Japanese American internment experience. Fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes haunting, it's an invaluable resource for the kind of American stories I never got to read about in my high school history textbook.
A Song For Ourselves: DJ Phatrick's companion mixtape to Tad Nakamura's short documentary 'A Song For Ourselves.' The film is a tribute to the life and legacy of revolutionary folk singer Chris Iijima, an early titan in the Asian American activist movement. Blending Iijima's songs with the music of conscious hip hop statesmen Blue Scholars and Native Guns, the mixtape drops a serious soundtrack for a new generation of APA activists.
I Know Where Bruce Lee Lives: I can't really explain this, except that this "Ultraineractive KungFu Remixer" takes my favorite cinematic icon and lets you mash up music, sound effects and flashy graphics to make your own little visual/aural Bruce Lee symphony. I came across it years ago, and it still provides ridiculous loads of fun.
Disgrasian:Jen Wang and Diana Nguyen are the smart and sassy ladies behind this ingenious, hilarious spin on the Asian American issues blog. Taking on politics, pop culture and current events with thoughtful wit and a healthy dose of snark, they often say the things I can never quite muster up the courage to say myself. And they're damn funny.
Secret Identities: The first ever Asian American superhero comic book anthology, due out this month from The New Press. Co-editors Keith Chow, Jerry Ma, Parry Shen and Jeff Yang have assembled stories from an impressive array of the comic book industry's Asian American talent. These are the superhero stories I always wanted to read as a kid. Instead, I was stuck with the stereotypical Samurai from the old "Superfriends" cartoon.
Previous Alt Wire Guests: Matt Novak, Jason Marsh, David LaBounty, Jen Angel, Will Braun, Regan Hofmann, Josh Breitbart, Andrew Lam, Jessica Valenti, Jessica Hoffmann, Noah Scalin, Rinku Sen, Paddy Johnson, Melissa Mcewan, Fatemeh Fakhraie , Joe Biel, Anne Elizabeth Moore
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