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Monday, October 13, 2008

Meanwhile, in England...

posted by on October 13 at 3:53 PM

The Guardian:

In an unprecedented outpouring of anger, 42 of the UK's most celebrated writers will each publish a short story, essay or poem tomorrow attacking the government's determination to proceed with legislation to hold terrorist suspects without charge for 42 days. The list of writers taking part reads like a literary 'Who's Who' of modern Britain. They include Philip Pullman, Julian Barnes, Monica Ali, Ian Rankin, Alain de Botton, Ali Smith and AL Kennedy...

What has until now largely been a political row is fast becoming a cause célèbre for Britain's literary establishment, who are flexing their intellectual muscles in a manner not seen since leading figures in the arts world regularly clashed with the Thatcher government in the Eighties.


Friday, October 3, 2008

The Only Way to Slow Immigration

posted by on October 3 at 12:44 PM

Not with a fence, not with patrols, not with vigilantes—the only effective way to slow immigration is to have a shittier economy.

And we're succeeding. Two headlines, the first from MarketWatch:

Payrolls sink 159,000, worst job loss in 5 years
Hidden unemployment rises to 11%

And from the Wall Street Journal:

Latest Immigration Wave: Retreat

(To be fair, the article credits Congress's defeat of the bill to legalize illegals—as well as the slumping economy and construction sector—as responsible for the retreat. But clearly, the clever shittier-economy strategy is working.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Mighty, Falling

posted by on September 30 at 9:35 AM

From the BBC:

The political philosopher John Gray, who recently retired as a professor at the London School of Economics, wrote in the London paper The Observer: "Here is a historic geopolitical shift, in which the balance of power in the world is being altered irrevocably.

"The era of American global leadership, reaching back to the Second World War, is over... The American free-market creed has self-destructed while countries that retained overall control of markets have been vindicated."

"In a change as far-reaching in its implications as the fall of the Soviet Union, an entire model of government and the economy has collapsed.

"How symbolic that Chinese astronauts take a spacewalk while the US Treasury Secretary is on his knees."

Across the playground of the world, presidents and parliaments are watching us—the king of the school—teetering. And whether you are a king's ally or enemy, watching a king fall is thrilling.

Monday, September 29, 2008

From the Archives

posted by on September 29 at 11:54 AM

It's been five years and six months (plus a couple days) since the Iraq War started. (Second-best line from Friday's debate? "John, you like to pretend the war started in 2007... It started in 2003.") Anyway, these are from 2003--the May 15, May 22, and May 29 issues of The Stranger.




Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Crazy Goings On at the Discovery Institute

posted by on August 13 at 1:07 PM

I like to stay on top of the crazy propaganda promulgated by all branches of the Discovery Institute. (By the way, Chicago Fan, it's a commonplace that propaganda is officially a product of governments, but that's not really true. Here are the applicable OED definitions: "2) An organization, scheme, or movement for the propagation of a particular doctrine, practice, etc.; 3) The systematic dissemination of information, esp. in a biased or misleading way, in order to promote a political cause or point of view. Also: information disseminated in this way; the means or media by which such ideas are disseminated." Surely Northwestern gives you free access to the OED?)

For those of you still convinced that the Discovery Institute only has a "Real Russia Project" as a means of injecting intelligent design into Russian schools, you need only look at the collective response of the Russia Blog to the conflict in Georgia. There are some impressive Putin apologetics going on there:


I'm not commenting on the conflict itself, since I am not even remotely qualified to evaluate the competing claims, but this post is clearly quite a bit outside the mainstream of American opinion. How did the Discovery Institute come to represent this bizarre mishmash of interests? I am flummoxed.

Seattle Man Barely Busted in Beijing

posted by on August 13 at 12:50 PM


That's Mark Siano—local theater and comedy guy of Soft-Rock fame—at the USA vs. China basketball game in Beijing yesterday.


That's Mark Siano just a few minutes later. From his blog:

It is expressly forbidden to display political signs in Olympic venues, or on Olympic grounds, or anywhere in China for that matter. But I would not be deterred. (Damn it I blinked!)

He'd snuck down to the press-photography area to unfurl his sign, which was contraband. (Security, apparently, is insane and he couldn't have snuck it in. So he made his protest sign after he entered the stadium, from a Beijing subway map and some markers from a kids' souvenir shop.)

I let the sign out over the guardrail, and it took nearly 10 minutes for Chinese security to see it. In the meantime cameras from CCTV, CBC, and other organizations all took pictures of the sign. NBC refused as I kept yelling at them, "C'mon NBC, take a picture, it's an election year!"

The best part was that as the American athletes were exiting a few of them looked up to see my sign and they loved it. Cappie Pondexter (#4), pointed at it, smiled and mouthed what I think was "hell yeah!"


When security finally caught up with Siano, he talked his way out of being ejected and convinced them to let him keep his sign—otherwise, he'd get lost on the Beijing subway.

Mark Siano: smooth criminal.

Friday, August 1, 2008

And You Thought Your Last Trip on Greyhound Was a Drag...

posted by on August 1 at 1:57 PM


Canadian police today identified the 40-year-old man who witnesses say stabbed and decapitated a fellow Greyhound bus passenger Wednesday night on a remote stretch of highway.
Reports from the scene of the ostensibly random attack describe Li as boarding the bus, which was en route to Winnipeg, without incident. After pulling out a hunting knife and stabbing McLean as many as 40 or 50 times, witnesses said, Li displayed the victim's severed head to horrified passengers who had already fled the bus.

It's the remote stretch of highway that elevates this story from the (sadly) forgettable violence of cities to something memorably grotesque and macabre.

The countryside is shocked by any violence. Cities are only shocked by gruesome violence.

But gruesome violence in the countryside? That's the most shocking of all.

The rest of the story, with even more horrible eyewitness details, here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Olympics Not Magically Fixing All of China's Problems

posted by on July 29 at 1:05 PM

Remember when people said it was a good idea to have the Olympics in China—despite its lousy environmental and human-rights record—because the eyes of the world would be on Beijing and they'd clean up their act and clean up their air and blah blah blah?

It hasn't worked out that way. According to Amnesty International, human-rights violations are getting worse:

The human rights situation in China has deteriorated in the run-up to its hosting of the Olympic Games this year, Amnesty International says. It documents the use of "re-education through labour", the suppression of rights activists and journalists, and the use of arbitrary imprisonment.

And, according to the BBC, the air is still bad:


(Notice that Beijing isn't just failing to meet the WHO's ideal target, it's not even meeting WHO's adjusted-for-longstanding-filthiness target.)

These photos come from my friend Erika, an anthropologist who lives in Beijing. She writes:

Here are comparison shots of the view from my bedroom window. The first is after a rain (very, very rare here)...


...the second is an average day -- that isn't clouds you see, just soot.


One day in December the air pollution index reached 500, the maximum measurable level (at numbers above 300, it is recommended that you avoid spending time outside).

The runners had better pray for rain.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hate Hurts

posted by on July 28 at 8:57 AM

Another result of the Bush decade:

More Americans now say that the United States is less respected in the world than it has been in the past, and a growing proportion views this as a major problem for the country. More than seven-in-ten Americans (71%) say that the United States is less respected by other countries these days, up from 65% in August 2006.
What's significant is not that Americans are aware of the sharp drop in international respect but that they think it's a problem.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Straight Out of Tehran

posted by on July 20 at 12:07 PM

Here's some Iranian rap for your Sunday:

And here's some commentary from a blogger in Tehran:

i really enjoyed this video clip from Hitch-Kas (Nobody), self-assumed Godfather of Iranian rap. the video is worth watching to get a glimpse of what Iranian rap sounds like. i just have some comments about the clip and Persian rap.

1. rap singing has become so popular among youth in the last 4-5 years. most rappers in this clip haven’t entered their 20s i bet.

2. hitch-kas is one of the most professional Iranian rappers; the first rapper who has released an album ‘Jangal-e-Asfalt’ with a label. despite his appearance, with that shaved head and mustache that is really rare and rustic among trendy Tehranis, he is popular. his lyrics are comparatively less explicit, and i think his beats and texts are the most polished.

3. the video is captured in Tehran. but I wonder how :-O. rap is an underground music in Iran; pretty natural when many rappers sing about sniffing coke, having sex or duping girls at the parties etc. of course ‘sterile’ raps can be sometimes heard in TV.

4. hitch-kas starts his song with praising the god. in one part he pays tribute to martyrs of the war. in another part of the text he says he and his gang will give their lives for four things: God, country, family and pals. i think Iranian rappers have succeeded in tailoring the genre to Iranian culture.

5. i like this part: ‘we’re a bunch of soldiers, [our] lives at our hands, so Ezra’eel [the Angel of Death] is a pal with our gang!]. witty.

6. in Iranian-scale the video is really professional.

7. the musical instrument flashed for some seconds at the end the video clip is santur, it’s got a really beautiful sound and is played by two wooden delicate sticks.

P.s. I'm not linking his blog because it wouldn't be so good if he got overrun with Slog traffic. He's reported in the past that the Mullahs are watching.