7/30/2009 6:19:05 PM
Barack Obama has engaged in a delicate balancing act since he took office, continually placating the myriad special interest groups that take partial credit for getting him elected. The American Prospect reports “the ability to coerce, engage and, yes, distract his own progressive coalition has become one of Obama’s signature achievements.” The Obama administration places a priority on making groups feel included, inviting them into the White House, and, according to the article, blurring the line “between tourism and negotiation.”
The near-constant “babysitting” doesn’t always translate into concrete action, as many organizations have discovered. LGTB groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Human Rights Watch have all received personal attention, only to see their concerns go unaddressed by the administration. The question, according to the American Prospect, is “whether progressive groups know the difference between managing expectations and producing results.”
Source: The American Prospect
7/24/2009 10:04:37 AM
For millions of Americans, the housing crisis began well before last year’s front-page collapse. Bigotry and criminalization by an unjust system of policing and incarceration, combined with economic privation, have kept even the meager privilege of a subprime mortgage or slumlord lease out of reach for many. As the crisis unfolds, the number of homeless will grow.
That stark bit of analysis is courtesy of The Nation, whose recent monthly dispatch of “Ten Things” features crucial tips and guidelines from Picture the Homeless, a grassroots social justice organization in New York that was founded by two homeless men in 1999. Should crisis hit your own backyard, the group has assembled “Ten Things You Need to Know to Live on the Streets,” which covers everything from negotiating public bathrooms to learning police patterns to adopting successful panhandling techniques. Here’s hoping you never need to use it.
Source: The Nation
7/23/2009 3:14:39 PM
Last weekend, my two young sons and I attached twin booster rockets to their Burley bike trailer and shot like a comet through the streets of Minneapolis. Actually, the rockets were tomato cages encased in wrapping paper, with red streamers serving as flames. And when I say “shot” I mean we traveled at 2 to 3 miles per hour. We were part of the bike parade in the Tour de Fat, a traveling bike festival with a carnivalesque atmosphere sponsored by the New Belgium Brewing Company.
We had the only twin booster rockets in the parade, but we weren’t the silliest bikers by any stretch. There were cowboys, Vikings, a green bumblebee, an Elvis, and men in dresses. Propellers whirled atop beanies, crazy wigs struggled to stay on heads, at least one toga got caught in rear brakes, and a sound system in a bike trailer pumped out cheesy hits from the ’80s. A good half of the riders had taken to heart the suggestion to “come as a participant, not a spectator” in this “costumed celebration of human-powered transportation.” We looked ridiculous, and we had a blast.
It was a refreshing change from past mega-bike rides I’ve been in, notably the now-infamous Critical Mass, which I sampled more than a decade ago. In the Tour de Fat there were no hyper-aggressive “corkers” blocking traffic at intersections and holding their bikes in the air like triumphant WWF champions. It didn’t feel like a hipster clique, even though there were plenty of trendy bike fashions on parade. Bikers of all ages, sizes, and abilities were welcome. And it didn’t matter what kind of bike you were on, as long as it had pedals. For once I didn’t feel as if the twitchy, track-standing dudes on meticulously color-coordinated fixies were looking down their noses at my ancient Trek mountain bike repurposed as a commuter ride. (I’ve been riding since you were in training pants, punks.) Again, the atmosphere was written right into the guidelines: “Honor all other bikes: All bikes are good bikes, and all those who ride them are good people.”
As we circled Minneapolis’ Lake of the Isles, it was amusing to see bystanders’ reactions to this rolling mass of weirdness. Most of them couldn’t resist a smile, and even the lines of drivers roadblocked to let the parade pass seemed less hostile than drivers held up by Critical Mass—though I admit I saw one unmoved SUV driver wearing that unmistakable “I hate bikers and all they represent” scowl. Looping back to the Tour de Fat venue, we engaged in more silliness: neo-vaudeville stage shows, a ring full of crazy bikes for people to ride, afternoon beer drinking, a funeral for a car (which had been given up by the lucky winner of a deluxe bike).
It struck me that perhaps this was a better approach to promoting bike power than the in-your-face confrontation of Critical Mass. By dressing in crazy costumes, encouraging diversity, and discouraging testosterone-charged grandstanding, we disarmed our potential foes and robbed them of any good reasons to tell us to get back on the sidewalks or, worse, back in our cars. Because, as more than one T-shirt proclaimed, Cars R Coffins. Long live bikes!
Sources: New Belgium, Critical Mass, Cars R Coffins
Image by dustinj, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/22/2009 5:27:36 PM
The Chavez government uses anti-Semitism to tamp down on political opposition, Claudio Lomnitz and Rafael Sánchez write for the Boston Review. “Over the past four years,” Lomnitz and Sánchez report, “ Venezuela has witnessed alarming signs of state-directed anti-Semitism.” That may be the reason why some 20 percent of the Jews in Venezuela have left the country in recent years.
In January 2009, masked gunmen raided and vandalized the Teferet Israel synagogue in Caracas. In late 2004, Venezuelan police stormed a Jewish community center allegedly in search of weapons that were never found. In 2005, Chavez himself said publicly, “The world has enough for everybody, but some minorities, the descendants of the same people that crucified Christ, and of those that expelled Bolívar from here and in their own way crucified him. . . . have taken control of the riches of the world.”
Jews may be the victim of the anti-Semitism, but the real targets are political dissidents, according to Lomnitz and Sánchez. Chavez seeks to paint all political opposition as anti-national, and blaming Jews as infiltrators into society, a traditional anti-Semitic trope, serves that purpose. In that sense, Lomnitz and Sánchez write that “Chavista anti-Semitism is a symptom of the weakness of the regime itself” and its struggles to control opposition.
Chavista political philosophy argeting Jews as scapegoats is “another element of classical fascism that Hugo Chavez has not hesitated to exploit.”
, New Republic
7/21/2009 5:01:20 PM
Amid news of a stepped-up Internet clampdown in China, we’ve learned that artist and blogger Ai Weiwei, whom Utne Reader called “China’s most radical dissident” in our recent international issue, has again provoked the ire of Chinese authorities. The Art Newspaper reports that Ai’s popular blog on Sina.com was yanked off the web last month, and several recent incidents indicate that he’s being closely watched.
It’s no secret that Ai is a thorn in the side of the regime, but the Art Newspaper implies that his most recent critique of the government may have hit an especially sensitive nerve:
Ai Weiwei has been running a campaign documenting the death of schoolchildren in the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008, alleging that the number of fatalities was due to local officials siphoning money from school building costs.
Ai has launched another blog at blog.aiweiwei.com, where he has promised to republish his investigations into the Sichuan disaster. Visit China Digital Times and China Geeks to find occasional translations of, and reports about, his blog entries.
Source: The Art Newspaper, China Digital Times, China Geeks
Image by Hafenbar, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/21/2009 10:05:55 AM
David French, a Captain in the army and a lawyer, shares some insightful thoughts about the Obama administration and war rhetoric over at Town Hall:
As long as Obama continues to draw the sword, I don’t care much what he says with his pen. It should humble our political classes to know that the important decisions— the actions that truly decide the fate of nations — are made by Americans who care more about the NBA playoffs than a speech on the floor of the Senate, who rarely watch a cable news broadcast, and for whom Facebook is the lifeline for all the news that truly matters . . . of first steps, birthday parties, and little league baseball games far, far away.
Read the whole article here.
(Thanks, Newmark’s Door.)
7/20/2009 1:45:22 PM
The National Weather Service predicts between four and seven hurricanes will hit the Atlantic basin this year. Just one of those storms could end the Cuban embargo, Patrick Doherty writes for the Washington Monthly. Cuba is currently in a precarious position: both cash strapped and perennially vulnerable to hurricanes. Last year, the island was directly hit by four hurricane-force storms that devastated the country’s economy and its people.
If a natural disaster were to strike Cuba this year, President Obama could use an obscure U.S. law to end the embargo. The 1961 Foreign Assistance Act gives the president the authority to “furnish assistance to any foreign country” in times of humanitarian disaster “notwithstanding… any other act.” That means President Obama could unilaterally lift the embargo for a specified term to assist the country. Once the American people see that lifting the embargo won’t restart the Cold War, Congress could move more easily to end the embargo permanently. “One hopes that it would not take a significant uptick in human suffering to force a change in an antiquated piece of U.S. policy,” Doherty writes. On the other hand, it could work.
Source: Washington Monthly
, licensed under
7/17/2009 11:30:53 AM
Writing for Foreign Policy, Reihan Salam makes the bold claim that the male created recession, or “he-cession,” will lead to the death of the “aggressive, risk-seeking behavior that has enabled men to entrench their power.” People will realize, says Salam, that “the cult of macho” is “destructive and unsustainable in a globalized world.”
The combined effects of the gradual shift in power from men to women and the fact that men lost the majority of jobs lost since November has led to the end of male dominance. Men have two choices, points out Salam. One, they could simply accept the equal partnership of women, or two, they could resist.
You won’t be surprised to learn that when faced with economic hardship men have historically chosen option number two. After the Soviet collapse, for example, Russian men increasingly turned to alcohol, leaving women to do the work.
Salam’s claim that the “axis of global conflict”—one found in hearts and minds, not on battlefields—will be gender is certainly uplifting. The death of macho, after all, will undoubtedly lead to more equality. However, one has to wonder just how quickly macho will die.
Source: Foreign Policy
Image by Elsie esq., licensed under Creative Commons.
7/16/2009 3:12:47 PM
The Dallas City Council thinks it has a strategy for ending homelessness in the city, and it's fabulously uncomplicated: housing for the homeless. Not shelters, but actual apartments. Next American City reports:
According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, it costs more to maintain someone in homelessness than to offer permanent shelter. The group's study of 65 cities found that support services like hospitals, courts and police intervention cost between $35,000 and $150,000 per person per year. Providing housing runs between $13,000 and $25,000.
So Dallas has approved "a multimillion-dollar plan to provide 700 housing units over five years as permanent shelters throughout the city for the homelessness." The price tag for the plan could be as high as $18 million.
A recent study focusing soley on medical care for the homeless found hospitals that reach out to help homeless people before they pass through emergency room doors can save hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
There's a pattern here. All roads lead to giving a damn.
Source: Next American City (Article not available online)
Image by Franco Folini, licensed under Creative Commons .
7/16/2009 12:10:18 PM
There’s something they didn’t tell you in your high school civics book: one in every ten congressional representatives is a dunderheaded nut. That’s unfair: one in twenty.
Bill Posey, a Republican from Florida, is one of them, and he’s identified at least nine more: they are the co-sponsors of his so-called ‘Birther Bill’ now worming its way through the halls of Dunderheaded Nuttyville.
The bill would require presidential candidates to provide proof of citizenship, something he doesn’t seem to believe Barack Obama has squirreled away in his files.
The Washington Independent has been following the bill, and reports that Posey has “admitted speaking with ‘high-ranking members of our judiciary committee’ about the chances of Obama ‘being removed from office.’”
It's too bad you can't hire people like Posey for parties. It would be such a better use of their gifts. Or maybe they could take up singing:
(Thanks, Daily Dish.)
Source: Washington Independent
7/16/2009 11:23:16 AM
Television coverage of the war in Afghanistan is often little more than a voice over a string of generic shots of soldiers running, ducking, and shooting. This short piece from Al-Jazeera English looks at a temporary American outpost near Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and provides a rare opportunity to pause and have a good look at the physical terrain of the Af-Pak war and the young Americans who are fighting it.
From this outpost, built of sandbags in the midst of impassable peaks and endless cover for fighters, the absurdities and complexities of the war come into focus. But that's not how 1st Lieutenant Jake Kerr sees it. From the report:
To an outsider, fighting the Taliban in these mountains along the Af-Pak border might seem like a nightmare mission, but to this 25-year-old West Point grad, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. “This is a platoon leaders dream. You can’t get any closer to the bad guys. I mean, Pakistan is spitting distance from us so…”
Kerr takes Al Jazeera on a tour of his outpost and the village nearby. We've seen the village shots before: young Americans loaded down with guns and gear trying for some version of constructive dialog with locals who are only tentatively engaged. It's the "hearts and minds" game at work, and it looks just as hollow as it sounds.
The war is much more than this lonely outpost, of course, but the piece has the distinct feel of a parable. Have a look for yourself:
(Thanks, Informed Comment.)
7/14/2009 3:24:38 PM
American audiences were shocked last week to see a photo of their commander-in-chief with French President Nicolas Sarkozy giving what looked like lecherous glances toward a young woman. French audiences, on the other hand, likely knew what they were getting into when they elected their president. Sarkozy’s electoral victory displays “the collective desire of the French people to be represented by a dominant libidinous male,” Lucy Wadham writes for Prospect Magazine. The French people elected Sarkozy because he is a “libidinous sex dwarf.”
The lascivious French attraction to Sarkozy goes back to Napolian Bonaparte, according to Wadham. She writes, “Sarkozy, like Bonaparte, has all the characteristics of a sex dwarf: he is short, shamelessly flirtatious and tireless in his pursuit of women.”
Newsweek leapt to Barack Obama’s defense, saying that he was “in the midst of an entirely gentlemanly maneuver,” while “proving again that chivalry is not dead.” Sarkozy’s leering appears less defensible. The video below allows people to draw their own conclusions.
7/14/2009 11:00:54 AM
On San Francisco’s Haight Street, “the Wal-Mart of bongs” is squeezing out good old-fashioned mom-and-pop head shops, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The city has responded to this double-pronged hippie-capitalist threat by enacting a three-year ban on new head shops in the Haight Ashbury district.
The paraphernalia behemoth in question is Goodfellas, which is described as an “uber-giant bong shop” by Joey Cain, president of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council. Cain says Goodfellas, with shelves of bongs that stretch from the floor to the rafters, is “what set everyone off.” Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius tallies the damage and the paradoxes at work here:
There isn’t any question that the bulk bong folks are hurting business for the old timers. Distractions has a for-sale sign over the door—“legendary head shop for sale”—and other stores admit to feeling the pressure. …However, the irony of head shops campaigning for regulation of head shops isn't lost of some of the residents.
Praveen Madan, co-owner of the Booksmith store on Haight, asks, “Do you really want the government to step in and decide which is a good business and which is bad?”
Image by Stallio, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/10/2009 10:12:52 AM
We’ve heard isolated stories of federal officials interfering with activist groups along the border, as in the case of No More Deaths volunteer Dan Millis, who was ticketed for littering after leaving a canister of water for migrants crossing the desert. Unfortunately, it seems these incidents are part of a broader crackdown against activists by a variety of federal agencies, a disturbing pattern brought to light in an excellent piece by Tim Vanderpool for the Tucson Weekly.
“Officially, migrant deaths here [in the desert south of Arivaca, Arizona] each year number in the hundreds. Humanitarians who hike this country call those numbers bullshit,” Vanderpool writes. “They say the desert is haunted by thousands of unfound dead people.”
And in the last year or so, as Vanderpool documents, activists with several groups who provide water, food, and other supplies for migrants have noticed increasing interference with their work from "federal agencies ranging from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management to the Border Patrol."
This crackdown could keep untold numbers of migrants from completing their journeys. Julianne Ong Hing wrote in a recent issue of ColorLines that last summer, volunteers from just one of these organizations, No More Deaths, "had face-to-face contact with 580 migrants, giving them food, water or medical attention. It’s a statistic ... that does not count the untold numbers who empty the canisters of water and supplies left along the trail by humanitarian aid groups every night."
Sources: Tucson Weekly, ColorLines
Image by benketaro, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/9/2009 4:52:25 PM
The U.S. Senate’s inflexible adherence to a 220-year-old rule—that senators must be physically present to vote—has kept under-the-weather senators Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy from casting a good deal of votes in this Congress (which, in turn, is keeping Democrats from obtaining a true filibuster-proof majority). Perhaps it's time to revisit the rule and allow senators to vote remotely under certain circumstances, as Jason Zengerle argues convincingly in The New Republic.
“Why, in this day and age of teleconference and videoconference and now even telepresence technologies, do senators need to be physically present to cast votes anyway?” Zengerle asks.
He’s not suggesting that senators should start working from home full-time; remote voting should be a “carefully regulated privilege,” he writes, with a series of safeguards to ensure that it is "safe, legal, and fair."
“After all, if Will.i.am can analyze the presidential election by hologram on CNN, isn't it about time Ted Kennedy be allowed to vote by videoconference on the Senate floor?”
Source: The New Republic
Image by Andres Rueda, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/9/2009 11:45:20 AM
Russia’s tepid response to Barack Obama’s recent visit to Moscow reveals the shortcomings of the current administration’s “president as policy” strategy, writes David J. Rothkopf for Foreign Policy magazine. The lack of "bro-ing down" between Vladimir Putin and America’s rock star president indicates Obama’s campaign-era charm in the U.S. doesn’t necessarily translate to people who are not “pre-disposed to like us,” says Rothkopf. He writes:
In these instances, the new president is discovering that something much more than personal diplomacy and smile from the genuinely appealing Obama clan is needed. In these instances, we are going to need to go back to the drawing board and do the grunt work of foreign policy, the tough negotiations, the nuanced position changes, the threats, the cajoling. It's a very different game from American politics and, in fact, is often completely unconnected to it. What works here, very often does not play at all overseas.
The key to building a successful structure of foreign relations, adds Rothkopf, should rely less on the president and more on the delegation of power to members of his team, primarily the all but invisible Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
It's time to move out of campaign mode and into governing mode. It's time recognize that it really does take a big team of empowered leaders to make the complex foreign policy of the U.S. work and evolve in the right directions. It's time to recognize that it does not reflect badly on the president if we all agree he cannot transform the world single handedly, that however different he may be from his predecessors, that alone is not enough.
Source: Foreign Policy
Image by AlexJohnson, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/9/2009 11:26:51 AM
Image of White Castle Tapas, from
Fancy Fast Food
Penny pinching is in fashion in the current economic crisis. Many people simply can’t afford expensive food, clothing, and consumer goods anymore. The extravagance of 2006 seems gauche and out of touch today. Science Daily reports that economic pressures are forcing people to rethink their desperate need to differentiate themselves from others using expensive consumer goods.
“Cheap is having a moment,” Noreen Malone writes in the American Prospect. Buzzwords like “recessionista” and “frugalista” have crept into American vocabularies and companies like Wal-Mart and McDonalds are enjoying profits in the down economy. In reviewing the book Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture, Malone explores the ways “we’ve been seduced by low prices into forgetting our best interests.” Quality and durability are being sacrificed in favor of cheapness and convenience, often to the detriment of the environment and our own budgets.
Frugal extroverts don’t have to give up all the pleasures in life, though, just because people are cutting back on their budgets. In a hilarious piece in the latest issue of Utne Reader, Mark G. Hannah shows how people can entertain during the recession. His advice: Fake it. Cheap Smirnoff vodka can be poured into the expensive Grey Goose bottle. And Spam can replace the more expensive Virginia ham, with none of your guests the wiser.
To prove the point, the intrepid folks behind Fancy Fast Food give step-by-step instructions on turning White Castle, Taco Bell, and Dominoes into attractive, if not tasty, dinner party fare.
Sources: Science Daily, American Prospect, Fancy Fast Food
7/7/2009 4:17:14 PM
Eight years of scientific repression under the Bush administration gave progressives an overly idealized view of science. President Obama was hailed after issuing an order promising that his administration would “base our public policies on the soundest science.” Taken to an extreme, Marcy Darnovsky writes for Democracy Journal, that the subjugation of policy to science threatens progressive ethics. Biomedical advancements from cloning to sex selection, racially targeted drugs to commercial surrogacy, demand ethical and political discussion and consideration.
Progressives were right to fight against the Bush administration’s suppression of environmental research and the undue influence that fundamentalist Christians had over the public policy, Darnovsky writes. The problem is that eight years of fighting against those policies has left progressives with a kind of dangerous reflexive libertarianism that, according to Darnovsky, has the tendency to “discount the importance of regulation and oversight of scientific practice and application.”
The idealization of science, and the discounting of moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in biomedical advances, also gives fodder to progressivism’s opponents. According to the conservative journal The New Atlantis, “Obama never articulates any moral principle other than the absolute sovereignty of scientific activity.” The journal attacks Obama’s politics as “a kind of techno-aristocracy—hypereducated elites with specialized politico-scientific expertise are singled out to manage the benighted rest of us.”
The United States, in fact, remains an outlier for its lack of oversight for genetic modification, assisted reproduction, and other biomedical technologies, according to Darnovsky. Such medical advances could yield benefits, but ethical considerations should come into play. Instead of insulating science from politics, Darnovsky writes that progressives should seek out an ideology that “welcomes the benefits of human biotechnologies while opposing their harmful, excessive, and unprogressive uses.”
(article not available online), The New Atlantis
7/7/2009 1:39:39 PM
The little box where people are supposed to check “male” or “female,” ubiquitous across medical and legal forms, is little more than an afterthought for some and creates enormous problems for others. Writing for Feministe, guest blogger Queen Emily recounts some of the horrifying experiences in doctors offices, customs lines, and even traffic stops she has had as a trans person. She writes:
The problem is this, my birth certificate says I am male, my gender presentation is female. They do not match. Until I can afford expensive genital surgery, I cannot change the marker on my birth certificate. No matter what I put, in a cissexist world, I am situated as a liar.
This little box is a political battleground, one that we trans people are fighting on for the right to not be outed at every single crucial moment of our lives. In essence, to have our identifications treated as real, as worthy of respect as yours.
(Thanks, Obsidian Wings.)
7/7/2009 1:17:30 PM
Millions of tweets sounded off in support of Iranian protesters in Tehran last month, but nary a Washington-borne tweet has sung out from the recent healthcare hearings in Congress, or in political protest of Obama’s actions in Afghanistan, writes Alexander Cockburn for The Nation. Nor did the Twitter phenomenon (aka: “Twittergasms”) come to the aid of the estimated 20,000 killed and hundreds of thousands of displaced Tamil people of Sri Lanka earlier this year.
Could it be because Iranians are better looking, asks Cockburn? He writes:
I don't recall too many tweets in Washington or across this nation about a methodical exercise in carnage. But then, unlike those attractive Iranians, Tamils tend to be small and dark and not beautiful in the contour of poor Neda, who got out of her car at the wrong time in the wrong place, died in view of a cellphone and is now reborn on CNN as the Angel of Iran.
Source: The Nation
7/2/2009 4:24:47 PM
This is the era that brought us Barack Obama Is Your New Bicycle, so perhaps one could have seen this coming. Nonetheless brace yourself for some awesome/dreadful portraits, courtesy of website Bad Paintings of Barack Obama.
Image by Ed Yourdon, licensed under Creative Commons.
7/2/2009 3:13:42 PM
Fireworks: Who could hate them? Plenty of people, it turns out:
Chris Conway hates fireworks for their “toxic consequences to our personal and environmental health.”
Troy Patterson at Slate hates fireworks for their “pomposity, aggression, triumphalism, and hubris.”
The U.K. campaign Ban the Bang hates fireworks because “all kinds of wild and domestic animals, but also children, the elderly and those of a nervous disposition can be seriously affected by modern, excessive fireworks.”
And finally, the blogger TexasLiberal hates fireworks because they’re dangerous, there’s a drought in his area (Houston), and you ought to be reading a book instead.
Or making fireworks out of yarn.
Happy Fourth of July. Kaboom!
Sources: Toxic Fireworks, Slate, Ban the Bang, TexasLiberal, Craft
Image courtesy of Chris Conway.
7/2/2009 12:33:20 PM
In June, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced his support for the banning of wearing burqas in public. Speaking to the French National Assembly, Sarkozy said that “The burqa is not welcome on French territory. In our country, we cannot accept that women be prisoners behind a screen, cut off from all social life, deprived of all identity...It is a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French Republic.”
Needless to say, in the blogosphere these comments have set off a round of fiery debates reminiscent of the conversations about the 2004 French law that banned Muslim head scarves, Jewish yakamas, and large Christian crosses in public schools.
Writing for the Huffington Post, Liesl Gerntholtz, the director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, argues that we need to look beyond controversial burqas: “Women's oppression is universal. Those who want to help address this sorry state of affairs should start not by telling Muslim women how to dress, but by tackling the root causes of this oppression both at home and abroad: discrimination, lack of access to services, and unequal economic opportunities.”
Newsweek senior editor Lisa Miller and a professor at the Chicago Theological Seminary, Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, warn on the Washington Post blog On Faith that any government decision about which religions’ traditional clothing is offensive and very dangerous.
Over at the fantastic blog Muslimah Media Watch, Krista points out that the problems surrounding sexual oppression aren’t going to simply go away with the burqa:
So when these women make the “choice” to wear the burqa, they are not necessarily choosing between imprisonment and freedom, or between subservience and empowerment; they may be making this choice between multiple forms of imprisonment (symbolic or otherwise), or multiple options that still place them in subservient positions, or they may even be making this choice in a context where the burqa represents the positive side of those dichotomies.
Sources: Huffington Post, Newsweek, Washington Post, On Faith, Muslimah Media Watch
Image by fabbio, licensed by Creative Commons.
7/1/2009 12:48:02 PM
When Dick Cheney and his minions defend torture saying, “it worked,” they are channeling Joseph Stalin, according to Andrew Brown in the American Conservative. “One of the first disconcerting things to discover when you inquire into the interrogation habits of the KGB” Brown writes, “is that their practices weren’t defined as torture at all.” Leaving aside the infamous waterboarding, practices like sleep deprivation and stress positions were cornerstones of both the KGB’s terror and that of Bush and Cheney.
Of course torture “works” in getting information, Brown concedes, but that information is inherently unreliable. The confessions extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other targets of U.S. torture have the same evidentiary value as confessions that Trotskyists were responsible for sabotaging the Soviet economy in the 1930s. Brown writes, “Torture is a means of forcing people to lie to us, under circumstances that compel us to believe them, because otherwise we would have to face the truth about ourselves.”
The arguments made for torture, including the ones made to the continuation of torture policies under President Obama, are couched in the language of pragmatism. “Pragmatism is not a substitute for philosophical rigor, however,” David Schimke wrote for the latest issue of Utne Reader, “and it cannot be used as an excuse to ignore the past.” In this case, an absolute abolition of torture is both pragmatic and moral, since torture cannot reliably deliver the truth and undoubtedly serves to hurt the U.S. moral standing in the world.
Sources: American Conservative (subscription required), Utne Reader
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