Tuesday, July 27, 2004

repent for the end is near

No url link for this, it's from today'sReligion Bookline email newsletter from Publishers Weekly where Heidi Schlumpf reports:
Timothy Leary gets made over from hippie to hip in a re-release of a chapter from "The Politics of Ecstasy" as a new gift book titled "Start Your Own Religion" (Ronin, Sept.). The '60s philosopher's message to "turn on, tune in and drop out" is presented as a path of individual spiritual liberation free from the conformist trappings of religion. "Many people have a knee-jerk reaction to religion but still are hungering for something more," noted publisher Beverly Potter. "Leary was way ahead of his time on this."

It's the gift book angle that bothers me, the packaging and selling of what can't be packaged or sold, whether it's the Rapture of the Bushite or the liberation of a wanna-be-hippie.

Monday, July 26, 2004

new professional oj tool

Tool of the trade, in journalism.co.uk:
Freelancers pitching for work in the US can benefit from an online magazine database which now includes contact information, writing guidelines and reader demographics for more than 2,000 publications across the US and Canada.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Researchers uncover religious origins of binge drinking

Problem drinking originated in the 1660s as "an expression of loyalty to King and Church," according to paper from historian Angela McShane-Jones at the University of Warwick. "Drink and drunkenness went hand in hand with political allegiance as drink and song became linked with politics," reports McShane-Jones, observing a trend that continues to the present day.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Australia retaliates against creeping yellow peril

Yellow crazy ants (Anoplolepis gracilipes) have infested 5,000 square kilometres in northeast Australia, according to news@nature.com and threaten to destroy the ecosystem. The invaders "spray formic acid into their victims' eyes, blinding them and causing them to starve to death," thus beginning a chain of ill-effects that can ripple through the food chain, harming berries and other food products the ants share with aborigines. Officials plan an insecticide bliztkrieg to eradicate the foreign invaders.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Pro-life congressman urges death penalty for abortionists

The logic doesn't make sense to me either, even after reading this story.

Origin of speciousness & the descent of anchorman

Frank Rich traces the sad devolution of TV news journalism in a bittersweet column that covers the new movies, Anchorman and Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism:
In the now legendary White House press conference of March 6, 2003, not a single reporter, electronic or print, asked a tough question about anything, including the president's repeated conflating of 9/11 with the impending war on Iraq (eight times in that appearance alone). To some critics on the left, this Stepford Wives performance indicated a press corps full of conservatives, but I doubt it. This lock-step spectacle was at least in part an exercise of the Burgundy principle of pandering: don't do anything that might make you less popular with your customers. In that same month, Frank N. Magid Associates, still a major player in the news consulting business, released a survey telling its clients that war protests came in dead last of all topics tested among 6,400 viewers nationwide. In other words, if you're covering the news based on what's happening as opposed to what your viewers like, you're taking a commerical risk. Given that the ownership of local stations, networks and cable news alike is now concentrated in far fewer hands than it was in the 1970's, such thinking quickly becomes orthodoxy in much of the American news business.

Friday, July 16, 2004

All God's chillun got rhythm

So says a New Scientist story:
Babies exposed to sign language babble with their hands, even if they are not deaf. The finding supports the idea that human infants have an innate sensitivity to the rhythm of language and engage it however they can, the researchers who made the discovery claim.

No there there?

From ctheory.net, Being Nothing: George W. Bush as Presidential Simulacrum, an article by Carol V. Hamilton that
appropriates ideas from Being There and Baudrillard's Gulf War pieces in order to propose that George W. Bush is a simulation, a virtual figure upgraded from a prototype like that of Chance the Gardener. I am not interested in George W. Bush's corporeal being but rather in his flatness and in the way that his obvious deficiencies are "spun" by supposedly disinterested media pundits. Bush's estrangement from the real -- evident in his unfamiliarity with geography, history, ordinary English syntax and semantics, and a fund of common knowledge -- stems from his own lack of reality. George W. Bush does not exist...
What is the origin of simulacra like the current President of the United States? When I argue that Bush is not "real," I do not mean that he was manufactured in a secret factory, owned by a corporation like the Karp Cartel and controlled by a powerful conspiracy. But I will speculate that in a post-literate, hyperreal world, those accretions of historical time and psychological reflection that produce subjectivity tend to disperse before they constitute a deep, coherent self. The result can be a personality like that of Bush -- intellectually narrow, emotionally shallow, working with an abridged vocabulary, like a novice in a foreign language class. He is a commodity produced by contemporary American culture, with its bizarre admixture of consumerism, television, worship of celebrities, and glib Christian fundamentalism. Other cultures in other periods have produced personalities limited in different ways -- the provincial peasant, for example, who has never been more than a mile from his birthplace. Unlike the peasant, the contemporary flat personality knows that other countries, other cultures, other religions exist -- but in his solipsism they remain "unreal" to him, mere delusions to which other people, themselves mere figments, display an irrational attachment.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The birds of Guantanamo

If all you know about Guantanamo is the US concentration camp for suspected "terrorists", read Tom Crumpacker's essay at Counterpunch.org. Crumpacker finds scenes of beauty and hope next door to the US horror:
In the late afternoons after the washing is hung out, I like to rest on Augustina's flat roof and watch "las palomas." The teen age boys catch them, make homes for them on the roofs, and train them to carry inter-barrio messages (telephones being few and far between). They have a good life: comfortable homes, plenty of grain, they do useful work, and in the late afternoons they soar above the barrios in freedom in groups of a dozen or two, catching the fresh breezes from the bay, sometimes dropping down to taste the delicacies of the occasional mango tree.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Birdbrains advance study of depression

Read all about it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Forget mind, engage heart

Juan Cole reports the gutting of Voice of America's respected Middle East language news services in favor of youth-oriented pop music prorgramming, citing former VOA deputy director, Alan L. Heil Jr.

Surprise, surprise!

Red Cross Fears U.S. Is Hiding Detainees
The international Red Cross said Tuesday that it fears U.S. officials are holding terror suspects secretly in locations across the world...."We have access to people detained by the United States in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq, but in our understanding there are people that are detained outside these places for which we haven't received notification or access," said Antonella Notari, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Death merchants flock to Iraq to service US puppet regime

Virtually ignored in US media outlets: last month's UN approval of the US puppet regime opened Iraq to the world's arms suppliers after a 14-year arms embargo against the country, according to a report from Inter Press News Agency which notes:
The Security Council's decision to end military sanctions on Iraq has triggered a mad scramble by the world's weapons dealers to make a grab for a potentially new multi-million-dollar arms market in the already over-armed Middle East. The former U.S.-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), which handed over power to the new Iraqi government Jun. 28, finalised plans for the purchase of six C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft, 16 Iroquois helicopters and a squadron of 16 low-flying, light reconnaissance aircraft -- all for delivery by April 2005. The proposed purchases were part of an attempt to rebuild and revitalise Iraq's sanctions-hit, weapons-starved military.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Exporting American values to Afghanistan

The Bush Administration hasn't succeeded in establishing anything like democracy in Afghanistan, but that hasn't stopped other American values from taking root in that ravaged land. The Guardian reports that an enterprising American bounty hunter - a US military veteran who still wears an Army uniform - set up a private jail and torture chamber in Kabul to aid in his quest for millions of dollars in rewards offered for al-Qaida members.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Imperial Amnesia

That's the title of a must-read Foreign Policy article by John Judis that argues the US should have known better than to embark on its Iraq adventure, given the results of past experience in Mexico and the Philippines.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Iraq occupation myths exposed

Historian Mark Selden explains why President Bush's comparison of the post-WWII US occupation and reconstruction of Japan to what his administration is doing to Iraq defies historical fact, in a thoughtful, in-depth History News Network essay. Elsewhere, a Baghdad correspondent examines the hospital horror the US invasion and occupation has created.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

How inscrutable are they?

Nearly half a million Japanese workers are on long-term leave due to mental disabilities, reports Kyodo News via Japan Today, which goes on to note:
The poll also found only a quarter of the firms allowed workers who had taken long-term leave to return to work on a trial basis. Many firms said they found it difficult to judge whether workers who had taken leave due to mental problems were ready to return to work.

Monday, July 05, 2004

"By the way, how do I look with this raw fish?"

That's the headline on a fun Japan Times story about "combat sushi".

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Doing unto others

Max "Das" Boot concludes a chauvinistic-bordering-on-racist editorial in today's Los Angeles Times, which slams our "enemies" (many of them, of course, fighting for their own independence in the face of a continuing occupation by nearly 200,000 soldiers of foreign armies and mercenaries) for not following the Golden Rule, with the following advice:
By all means, let's retain the moral high ground by treating our captives humanely. Give them the right of judicial appeal. Allow them to complain to the Red Cross. Hand them cozy slippers and fluffy robes. Just don't expect our enemies to reciprocate our kindness.

Here's the letter to the editor Online Journalist sent in response:
Dear Editor,

Boot omits a very important piece of advice in his concluding paragraph: If we don't want to have to worry about how US soldiers might be treated should they be taken captive, we shouldn't invade other countries, torture and kill innocent civilians, destroy infrastructure, and create enemies where there is no pressing need to do so.


"shoveling coal for Satan"

Courage is a willingness to face real risks—your neck, or at the very least, your job. The journalist with courage would have threatened to resign rather than repeat George Bush's justifications for invasion before it began. I don't remember anyone resigning last winter. The journalist with courage would threaten to quit rather than do a magazine piece about an advertiser's product, his fad diet book or his magic-bullet baldness cure. It happens every day, and nobody ever quits over it. [....] One friend I know describes working in the media as shoveling coal for Satan. That's about right. A worker in a tampon factory has dignity: He just uses his sweat to make a product, a useful product at that, and doesn't lie to himself about what he does. In this business we make commodities for sale and, for the benefit of our consciences and our egos, we call them ideas and truth. And then we go on the lecture circuit. But in 99 cases out of 100, the public has more to learn about humanity from the guy who makes tampons.

MattTaibbi uses Christopher Hitchens as a prime example, and defends Michael Moore, in a New York Press article worth reading.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

What have these shrinks been smoking?

Researchers say their new virtual crack house lets them study crack cocaine addicts without triggering dangerous flesh-world urges, reports Psychiatric News, in an article that fails to mention how many of the research subjects visit a real crack house after tripping through the virtual version. No word yet on who gets the videogame rights.

Friday, July 02, 2004

War just ain't what it used to be

Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of international relations at Boston University, compares Bush's "war on terror" to WWII and finds the two incommensurable. In a recent History News Service article, Bacevich observes:
For despite all of the high-sounding talk, the overriding aim of this war is not to march toward freedom, but to dissuade Americans from peering too deeply at the events of 9/11. Were they to do so, they just might pose discomfiting questions about the competence of our leaders, the organization and purposes of government, the rationale of U. S. foreign policy.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Bush & Co. do it French style

"The kind of torture inflicted upon Iraqi prisoners by the U.S. army followed methods France used during the Algerian war of independence in the late 1950s, several French historians and journalists say. Both the U.S. and the French armies had obviously studied Islamic traditions in order to devise torture methods aimed particularly at Muslims, they say. "It is obvious that the U.S. army has been applying in Iraq knowledge the French army picked up in Algeria in the late 1950s,” historian Claire Mauss-Copeau told IPS.

....continues at Iraq: How the French Inspired the Torture courtesy of Inter Press Service News Agency.