Adam Ash

Your daily entertainment scout. Whatever is happening out there, you'll find the best writing about it in here.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

A new dawn coming when Bush goes

Take heart, America. The end of the Bush nightmare is a mere three years away. And maybe you don’t realize it, but there lurks an unforeseen dawn in the darkness of this nightmare.

The Bush presidency was all about the U.S. standing strong in the world, but the big irony is that it’s done more than any other administration to hasten the end of American power. This is the first administration in U.S. history that has worked – with brutal efficiency and focus, yet unbeknownst to itself – at undermining our power in the world.

Which may be the best thing it’s done.

Since the end of World War Two, U.S. world leadership has been sustained by three key supports: overwhelming military power, economic supremacy, and moral authority. Eight years of Bush leadership have successfully sabotaged all three. Our only leadership left is cultural -- movies and rap music -- and though these two world-dominating exports may be questionable forces for good, they can never cause the harm done by our military and economic power.

At present, the bluster of the Bush administration obscures the loss of our power. But the end of the Bush nightmare will mean the end of these things:

When Bush goes, the idea of another American war will be dead for all time. Since World War II, America has started over thirty wars. After Bush, this nightmare will finally be over. For a start, no other country will ever want to join us in another war again – especially not after our incompetent showing in Iraq. Blair is the last sucker left who's been able to force our last war partner, Britain, to follow us into a war that its people didn’t want.

Besides war partners, we’re also running out of excuses and places to have wars. The fall of the Soviet empire deprived us of our biggest excuse. There’ll be no more Vietnams. There’ll be no more wars in South America either, because our big corporations are successful enough not to need military backup anymore. That war excuse is gone forever, too. South America is now a region of democracies with independent economies, and the leftwing policies to successfully defy us (and perhaps even be role models for us).

Our one noble excuse for war, the humanitarian reason, ended in Kosovo. Africa is still full of humanitarian reasons for war, but we won’t go where we don’t have a strategic interest. If we couldn’t intervene in Rwanda, or now in Darfur, we won’t intervene anywhere else for humanitarian reasons.

That leaves the Middle East as the last place left to have an American war. Here our failure in Iraq very much looks like the end. Never has the difference between original intention and actual outcome been so starkly discordant: we went in there to establish a puppet state under Ahmed Chalabi who’d hand over control of Iraq’s oilfields to U.S. corporations, and allow permanent U.S. military bases in the Middle East. Instead, we’ve ended up with bringing “democracy,” which actually means establishing a Shiite theocracy in alliance with Iran, with the Kurds probably breaking off into their own warlord-controlled state.

We still have a good excuse to have a war in the Middle East – oil – but we’ve run out of places. Iran? They’ll have nuclear weapons within the next five years, and so be inoculated against U.S. attack. If Saddam had gotten himself nuclear arms, we wouldn’t have invaded Iraq. The reason we keep trying to turn Pakistan into an ally against terrorism is because they’ve got nuclear weapons, so we can’t invade them. Nuclear weapons are the one sure way to scare off the U.S. or any other country. It’s what’s keeping North Korea from being invaded. It’s why Pakistan and India have stopped having wars with each other. The spread of nuclear weapons among smaller nations will protect them from the bigger likes of us.

Another reason that the era of American wars will be over and done with, is that the generation of U.S. politicians who cut their warmongering teeth on the Cold War – the Kissingers, Cheneys, Wolfowitzes, and neocons – are getting old and toothless. After Iraq, expect the mothballing of our military to start.

When Bush goes, the idea of America’s economic supremacy will be over. By transforming America into the biggest debtor nation on earth (through cutting taxes for the wealthy and increasing our debt, doing nothing about our export/import imbalance, and putting corporate interests above our country’s), Bush has ended up selling us out to our global competitors. We owe China billions, for example. They’ve got our dollars, and they’ll use them to start buying us up. In the Engels formulation, Bush is giving China the rope to hang us with. Ironically, our own elite has hastened the end of our economic supremacy. With that power gone, we might start being a more responsible member of the world economy.

When Bush goes, another Bush will not arise. He’s a freak phenomenon: an almost absurd blend of born-again fundamentalist, oil man, East Coast Brahmin brandname, and downhome Texas redneck. For once, the Republican Party got totally lucky: its entire electoral base coalesced into one actual existing guy. They won’t get that lucky again.

When Bush goes, the big cleanup can begin. We’ll need to cut back on war expenditure; cut back on corporate power to help the American middleclass worker; cut back on religious fundamentalism to restore social tolerance and a civil consensus in our republic.

Our biggest job by far will be to reclaim our morality. We can forget about being a shining light on a hill for other nations to look up to. The world will never trust us with its moral leadership again. Bush & Co killed that for good with a combination of bullying unilateralism, warmongering, tolerance for torture, and coddling of the craziness of the religious right.

But if it’s impossible to restore our morality in the eyes of the world, we owe it to ourselves to do it in our own eyes. A new modesty born from our diminished role in the world will undoubtedly help. The essential decency of the average American will have a chance to reassert itself. When Bush goes, we may find ourselves looking back and sighing with relief. Just think of it: an end to all the secrecy, lying, hypocrisy, and all-around BS. Remember the Terri Schiavo circus? No more nonsense like that.

Get ready for it. When Bush goes, we shall be released into a new dawn.

Slogans of Paris in May 68

Some of the slogans graffitied on the walls of Paris in May 68's student revolution (which did do something: brought down De Gaulle). I find them quite beautiful and antiquely naively idealistic. Read and remember:

The Revolution must take place in men before occurring in things.

The thought of tomorrow's enjoyment will never console me for today's boredom.

It is forbidden to forbid. Freedom begins by forbidding something: interference with the freedom of others.

The more I make love, the more I want to make the Revolution, the more I make the Revolution, the more I want to make love.

Run comrade, the old world is behind you.

The walls have ears. Your ears have walls.

The act institutes the consciousness.

To desire reality is good! To realize one's desires is better.

A single non-revolutionary weekend is infinitely bloodier than a month of permanent revolution.

Beneath the cobblestones is the beach.

We are all German Jews.

Be salted, not sugared.

I am in the service of no one, the people will serve themselves.

The barricade blocks the street but opens the way.

Art is dead, liberate our daily life.

Life is elsewhere.

The restraints imposed on pleasure excite the pleasure of living without restraints.

Let the imagination rule.

The unbelievable shit women suffer

From the NY Times:
Another Face of Terror by Nichoilas D. Kristof

Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, is supposed to be our valued ally in the war on terrorism. But terror takes many forms, not all of them hijacked airplanes or bombed subways. For the vast majority of humans, terror comes in more mundane ways - like the violent hands that woke Dr. Shazia Khalid as she lay sleeping in her bed, and the abuse she's suffered at the hands of Mr. Musharraf's government ever since.

I mentioned Dr. Shazia briefly in June when I wrote about General Musharraf's quasi-kidnapping and house arrest of Mukhtaran Bibi - the Pakistani rape victim who used compensation money to open schools and start a women's aid group. But at that time Dr. Shazia was still too terrified to speak out. Now, for the first time, Dr. Shazia has agreed to tell her full story, even though this will put herself and her loved ones at risk. Her tale is simultaneously an indictment of General Musharraf's duplicity, a window into the debasement that is the lot of women in much of the world - and a modern love story.

Dr. Shazia, now 32, took a job by herself two years ago as a doctor at a Pakistan Petroleum plant in the wild Pakistani region of Baluchistan, after Pakistan Petroleum also promised a job for her husband there (that job never materialized). Dr. Shazia's family worried about her safety, but her residence was in a guarded compound and she felt strongly that the women in that region needed access to a female physician.

Then on Jan. 2, Dr. Shazia woke up in the middle of the night, and at first she thought she was having a nightmare. "But this person was really pulling hard on my hair, and then he started pressing on my throat so I couldn't breathe. ... He tied the telephone cord around my throat. I resisted and struggled, and he beat me on the head with the telephone receiver. When I tried to scream, he said, 'Shut up - there's a man standing outside named Amjad, and he's got kerosene. If you scream, I'll take it and burn you alive.' ... Then he took my prayer scarf and he blindfolded me with it, and he took the telephone cord and tied my wrists, and he laid me down on the bed. I tried hard to fight but he raped me."

The man spent the night in her room, beating her, casually watching television, raping her again and boasting about his powerful connections. A 35-page confidential report by a tribunal describes Dr. Shazia tumbling into the nurse's quarters that morning: "semiconscious ... with a swelling on her forehead and bleeding from nose and ear." Officials of Pakistan Petroleum rushed over and took decisive action.

"They told me to be quiet and not to tell anybody because it would ruin my reputation," Dr. Shazia remembers. One official warned that if she reported the crime, she could be arrested. That was a genuine risk. Under Pakistan's hudood laws, a woman who reports that she has been raped is liable to be arrested for adultery or fornication - since she admits to sex outside of marriage - unless she can provide four male eyewitnesses to the rape.

Dr. Shazia wasn't sure she dared to report the crime, but she begged for permission to contact her family. So, she says, officials drugged her into a stupor and then confined her in a psychiatric hospital in Karachi. "They wanted to declare me crazy," Dr. Shazia said bitterly. "That's why they shifted me to a hospital for crazy people."

Dr. Shazia's husband, Khalid Aman, was working as an engineer in Libya, but he finally was notified and rushed back 11 days later. Dr. Shazia, by then freed, couldn't face him, but he comforted her, told her that she had done nothing wrong, and insisted that they report the rape to the police so that the criminal could be caught. That was, perhaps, naïve, particularly because there were rumors that the police had identified the rapist as a senior army officer and were covering up for him.

"When I treat rape victims, I tell the girls not to go to the police," Dr. Shershah Syed, a prominent gynecologist in Karachi, told me. "Because if she goes to the police, the police will rape her." That's the way the world works for anyone unfortunate enough to be born female in much of the world. In my next column, on Tuesday, I'll tell how our ally, General Musharraf, then inflicted a new round of terrorism on Dr. Shazia.

FEMINISTS have a lot of work to do in the U.S. But the biggest shitload is in Muslim countries and Africa.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Nude Thoughts 12

Eat your heart out, handsome. I’m very beautiful, I know. But you can’t have me. Life is full of unattainable ideals. I’m your unattainable beauty ideal for today. You ask, why can’t you have me? Good question, simple answer. See that guy over there? That’s my boyfriend. Look, he’s coming right over. Walking very fast. I think he wants to talk to you. Oh dear. You might be attaining something you didn’t expect. That’s the thing about beauty, fella: it often comes at a price.

Is surfing the Net better than sex?

I woke up alone this morning, so I click onto a favorite litblog Maudnewton, and read about the Bulwer-Lytton winner of the worst first sentence of an imagined novel. Which sends me hurtling to google the site itself, where I read the winning entries, as well as past winners.

Two samples:
"The countdown had stalled at T minus 69 seconds when Desiree, the first female ape to go up in space, winked at me slyly and pouted her thick, rubbery lips unmistakably--the first of many such advances during what would prove to be the longest, and most memorable, space voyage of my career." (1985 Winner)

"The lovely woman-child Kaa was mercilessly chained to the cruel post of the warrior-chief Beast, with his barbarous tribe now stacking wood at her nubile feet, when the strong, clear voice of the poetic and heroic Handsomas roared, "Flick your Bic, crisp that chick, and you'll feel my steel through your last meal." (1984 Winner)

Then I click on NY Times, where an article about film director Sergio Leone gets me to thinking that his films are some of my all-time favorites, although I'd never have thought of putting him on any Great Directors List (my usual suspects are Bergman, Godard, Truffaut, Fellini, Welles, Bunuel). So I wonder why not, and I think about old Sergio's particular greatnesses -- those grungy face closeups half-blotting out vast sun-drenched landscapes, the slowing-down of climactic time in the final shootouts, the brilliance of casting the most original film composer, Morricone, and the most charismatic leading man, laconic Clint Eastwood, with the amazing Lee Van Cleef -- and I google old Sergio, and now I'm inspired to write an article about him, and then I think of my favorite director, Ingmar Bergman, and his favorite film of mine, Persona, and then I think, hey, what are the absolute touchstones of art in my life? and now I'm about to list them right here, because I'm thinking of them now: Matisse (about 6 or 7 paintings), Bergman (Persona, Cries and Whispers, The Silence, The Shame, Seventh Seal, Scenes from a Marriage), George Elliot's Middlemarch, Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks, Pink Floyd's early instrumental albums, Klaus Schultze ...

It occurs to me that being on line, and being able to google, is like having a right arm for your brain, or the wind under it, or wings to fly thought on, or having your most useless, vacuous daydreaming suddenly hyperpowered.

Look what can happen to you one morning in your apartment: you end up in front of your screen contemplating your favorite works of art, and see where I've beached: I get hit as I'm writing, in real time, by this final stillpoint of a morning's webmusing: a meme for you guys, the My-Twelve-Favorite-Works-of-Art meme, that you can email to friends, with my own answers to set you thinking about your answers:

What is your favorite ...
1. film?
Bergman's Persona (runners-up: Spinal Tap, Some Like It Hot, The Mummy and the Whore, four other Bergmans, Andrei Rublev, Jules et Jim, Bertolucci's 1900, A Woman under the Influence, Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Chimes at Midnight)
2. novel?
George Elliot's Middlemarch (runners-up: One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Red and the Black, Cousin Bette, The Great Gatsby, Par Lagerkwist's The Dwarf, Lolita, Nostromo, The Golden Notebook, House of Mirth, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Love in the Time of Cholera, Midnight’s Children, Vanity Fair, Sons and Lovers, J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, Lucky Jim, Waugh's A Handful of Dust, any P.G. Wodehouse)
3. play?
Hamlet (runners-up: A Streetcar Named Desire, King Lear, Long Day's Journey into Night, A Delicate Balance, Buried Child, Waiting for Godot, The Odd Couple, The Bald Primadonna)
4. painting?
Matisse's Red Studio (runners-up: at least seven others of Matisse, and maybe five Rothkos)
5. poem?
The Wasteland (runners-up: Ode to Autumn/Grecian Urn, Duino Elegies, Sunday Morning by Wallace Stevens, Lowell's To The Confederate Dead, at least four by Yeats, especially Sailing to Byzantium)
5. song?
Phil's Spector's Righteous Brothers' Alex North's Unchained Melody (runners-up: Beatles' A Day in the Life, Julie London's Cry me a River, Mahalia Jackson's He's Got the Whole World in His Hands, Willie Nelson's Always On My Mind and his Stardust, Bridge over Troubled Water, Gimme Shelter, Hotel California, George Michaels' Careless Whisper/Never Gonna Dance Again, Elvis' One Night With You, Whiter Shade of Pale, I'll Be There, Dylan's Lay Lady Lay and I Shall Be Released, sorry, they beat his Like a Rolling Stone hands down)
6. album?
Van Morrison's Astral Weeks (runners-up: Blood on the Tracks, Sgt Peppers, Pet Sounds, Dark Side of the Moon)
7. musical?
Sweeney Todd (runner-up: My Fair Lady)
8. symphony?
don't know (Beethoven's 5th? Finlandia? something by Arvo Pert? John Corigliano's Of Rage and Remembrance?)
9. piano concert?
Tchaikovsky Piano Concert 1, 2 or 3, I forget which one (runners-up: Grieg, Rachmaninov)
10. sculpture?
don't know, maybe any big Henry Moore
11. building?
Frank Gehry's Bilbao Museum
12. book of criticism?
Susan Sontag's Against Interpretation (runnners-up: Pauline Kael's I Lost It at the Movies, Inga Clendinnen's Reading the Holocaust, Edmund Wilson's Axel's Castle)

I've actually listed them in descending order of favorites (i.e. I think Persona is heavier than Middlemarch, which is a greater favorite than Hamlet, if you can believe it. Does that mean I prefer films to novels? No, novels are my favorite art, and I prefer plays and poems to movies.) This listing of favorites into a favorite order was maybe what I thought would be very hard, too many apples and oranges, but it turned out to be incredibly easy -- took only seconds.

Over to you. What is your favorite film, song, album, novel, etc? (You can leave out those that don't interest you.)

Anyone's meme list that's riveting/stimulating/controversial, I'll pull out of comments and blog for all to see, with a link to your blog if you have one.

White House suffers sudden attack of subtlety

From the NY Times:
The Bush administration is retooling its slogan for the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, pushing the idea that the long-term struggle is as much an ideological battle as a military mission, senior administration and military officials said Monday. In recent speeches and news conferences, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the nation's senior military officer have spoken of "a global struggle against violent extremism" rather than "the global war on terror," which had been the catchphrase of choice. Administration officials say that phrase may have outlived its usefulness, because it focused attention solely, and incorrectly, on the military campaign.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club on Monday that he had "objected to the use of the term 'war on terrorism' before, because if you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." He said the threat instead should be defined as violent extremists, with the recognition that "terror is the method they use." Although the military is heavily engaged in the mission now, he said, future efforts require "all instruments of our national power, all instruments of the international communities' national power." The solution is "more diplomatic, more economic, more political than it is military," he concluded.

Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Rumsfeld spoke in the new terms on Friday when he addressed an audience in Annapolis, Md., for the retirement ceremony of Adm. Vern Clark as chief of naval operations. Mr. Rumsfeld described America's efforts as it "wages the global struggle against the enemies of freedom, the enemies of civilization."

The shifting language is one of the most public changes in the administration's strategy to battle Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and it tracks closely with Mr. Bush's recent speeches emphasizing freedom, democracy and the worldwide clash of ideas. "It is more than just a military war on terror," Steven J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said in a telephone interview. "It's broader than that. It's a global struggle against extremism. We need to dispute both the gloomy vision and offer a positive alternative."

The language shifts also come at a time when Mr. Bush, with a new appointment for one of his most trusted aides, Karen Hughes, is trying to bolster the State Department's efforts at public diplomacy. Lawrence Di Rita, Mr. Rumsfeld's spokesman, said the shift in language "is not a shift in thinking, but a continuation of the immediate post-9/11 approach. The president then said we were going to use all the means of national power and influence to defeat this enemy. We must continue to be more expansive than what the public is understandably focused on now: the military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq."

By emphasizing to the public that the effort is not only military, the administration may also be trying to reassure those in uniform who have begun complaining that only members of the armed forces are being asked to sacrifice for the effort. New opinion polls show that the American public is increasingly pessimistic about the mission in Iraq, with many doubting its link to the counterterrorism mission. So, a new emphasis on reminding the public of the broader, long-term threat to the United States may allow the administration to put into broader perspective the daily mayhem in Iraq and the American casualties.

Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy, said in an interview that if the nation's efforts were limited to "protecting the homeland and attacking and disrupting terrorist networks, you're on a treadmill that is likely to get faster and faster with time." The key to "ultimately winning the war," he said, "is addressing the ideological part of the war that deals with how the terrorists recruit and indoctrinate new terrorists."

HOLY SHIT, the things you do when you feel helpless and incompetent. How about spending some time, money and effort on trying to catch Osama Bin-Laden, guys, instead of leaving it up to Pakistan?

Weird world: man keeps severed foot on porch, cuts off toes to give as presents

Ezekiel Rubottom now has his left foot back exactly where he wants it - in a bucket on the front porch. Police in Kansas have returned the amputated foot to him after seizing it during the weekend to check out just how it got there. The 21-year-old man's foot was amputated three weeks ago after a series of medical problems, and he started keeping it in a five-gallon bucket filled with formaldehyde. It came to the attention of police after a call from a parent whose child reported seeing the severed foot. Officers who went to the home late Saturday night found the foot, and some of Rubottom's friends, but no sign of Rubottom himself.

Unsure of what to make of the unusual discovery, police confiscated the severed foot and put it into evidence storage. "We had to make sure that no crime had been committed," Sgt. Dan Ward said.

Rubottom, an artist, recovering methamphetamine addict and occasional hip-hop master of ceremonies, said he was born with a clubbed foot and has dealt all his life with pressure sores and infections. An infection this summer became so severe that doctors at Lawrence Memorial Hospital decided it should be amputated. Rubottom asked to have the severed foot. A pathologist at the hospital checked to make sure it wouldn't be a hazard and told him he could have it, provided he kept it in a container labeled with instructions for handling the formaldehyde.

Karen Shumate, a vice president at the hospital, said people can keep parts removed from their bodies if they want them. "They've had women that want their uterus," she said. "People take tonsils. They take appendixes. I think it's unusual that someone would want a foot, but it's within their rights because it's theirs."

After a friend picked up the bucket at a hardware store, Rubottom added several objects as well as the severed foot - including a porcelain horse and can of beer - to make what he called "a collage of myself." He also cut off two of the toes, saying he was considering giving them to friends.

On Monday, police returned the foot to Rubottom after taking him to the hospital, where he signed a release allowing them to see his medical records. "It's cool. It's all good," said Rubottom. "Now I've got my foot back. That's all I wanted. I'm not sick or, like, a danger," he said of his decision to keep and display the foot. "I just wanted my foot ... I just figured I'd do with it whatever I pleased."

The joke of a level global playing field: 1st World farm subsidies oppress 3rd World farmers

From the NY Times:
A Third-World 'Farm Aid,' So to Speak

Late last year, in hotel rooms and photo studios in Los Angeles, New York and London, a group of celebrities agreed to get doused with buckets of coffee, milk, cocoa and sugar. It was messy, sticky and sometimes smelly, but it was all in the name of easing world poverty. The photo shoots were organized by the nonprofit advocacy group Oxfam America as part of an ad campaign to raise awareness of what they say is the unfair nature of agricultural subsidies. The campaign urges wealthy nations like the United States and European countries to stop dumping agricultural products onto the world market, which Oxfam argues makes it impossible for farmers in poor countries to compete.

The celebrities who agreed to be dumped on - the actors Minnie Driver, Colin Firth and Antonio Banderas; U2's lead singer, Bono; Coldplay's lead singer, Chris Martin; R.E.M.'s lead singer, Michael Stipe; Alanis Morrissette; and Radiohead's lead singer, Thom Yorke - say they donated their time for the campaign because they believe it is important to level the playing field for developing nations.

"People think more aid will help, but it won't," said Ms. Driver, an actress who is working on her second music CD. "Trade is the surest way of decreasing the savage amount of poverty in our world. These countries have got to be able to trade fairly." Ms. Driver, whose ad features cotton, said she was inspired to participate in the Oxfam campaign after traveling with the group to Cambodia and Thailand last year. She toured clothing factories where women, some in obvious poor health, worked in substandard conditions for menial wages. Cambodia and Thailand are not cotton-producing nations, but Ms. Driver said she chose that agricultural product because she needed to remain relatively clean after her photograph, since she was in the middle of a press tour for a London play.

The ads, shot free by the celebrity photographer Greg Williams, will run this fall in national magazines. The campaign is being produced by Benenson Janson Advertising, a small agency in Los Angeles whose recent work has included a series of ads for the American Civil Liberties Union and a voter registration campaign for a group started by the film producer Norman Lear.

Oxfam's efforts come amid increasing criticism of the some $190 billion in annual crop subsidies that governments in places like the United States, the European Union and Japan pay to their domestic farmers, according to estimates by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This year the United States will spend $14 billion on subsidies to cotton, rice, corn, wheat and soybeans farmers, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

In the United States, Oxfam is primarily focused on the impact that cotton and rice subsidies have on global markets. Oxfam contends that multibillion-dollar subsidies, which they say go primarily to big companies, not small family farmers, encourage overproduction and lower the price American producers charge on the global market. "A cotton producer in the U.S. might produce a pound of cotton for 70 cents, whereas a West African farmer produces it for 45 cents," said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, an affiliate of Oxfam International, which is based in Oxford, England. "The West African farmer should have an advantage, but our subsidies allow the U.S. farmer to undersell the African farmer. He's selling it way under his production costs."

Originally created during the Depression to help farmers survive and to promote the stable growth of American agriculture, subsidy programs have continued in part because of strong lobbying by farm groups. These groups argue that, in addition to helping farmers, subsidies serve consumers by keeping the prices of manufactured goods low. Oxfam, however, says the impact of subsidy reduction on consumer prices would be miniscule.

United States trade officials and cotton producers suffered a blow in June 2004 when the World Trade Organization ruled that American cotton subsidies violated international trade rules by depressing world prices and harming farmers in Brazil and elsewhere. A trade appeals court affirmed this ruling in March, but the subsidies have continued. Government payments to American cotton farmers have totaled $16 billion in the last seven years.

Last August, during the World Trade Organization meeting in Geneva, wealthy nations showed signs of willingness to make changes to their practice of supporting generous subsidies. The United States agreed to have talks with four impoverished, cotton-producing West African nations - Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali - about reducing its $2 billion to $4 billion in annual cotton subsidies. Oxfam America estimates that from 2001 to 2003, the presence of artificially cheap American cotton on the world market caused an estimated $400 million in losses to farmers in these West African nations. American producers account for roughly 40 percent of the world's cotton exports, giving them considerable influence over prices, according to the International Cotton Advisory Committee, an association of the governments of cotton producing and consuming nations.

The greatest scandal of the Bush presidency: it almost makes them war criminals

A NY Times Editorial:
The Roots of Prisoner Abuse

This week, the White House blocked a Senate vote on a measure sponsored by a half-dozen Republicans, including Senator John McCain, that would prohibit cruel, degrading or inhumane treatment of prisoners. Besides being outrageous on its face, that action served as a reminder of how the Bush administration ducks for cover behind the men and women in uniform when challenged on military policy, but ignores their advice when it seems inconvenient.

Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who has shown real political courage on this issue, recently released documents showing that the military's top lawyers had warned a year before the Abu Ghraib nightmare came to light that detainee policies imposed by the White House and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld violated American and international law and undermined the standards of civilized treatment embedded in the American military tradition.

In February 2003, Maj. Gen. Jack Rives, the deputy judge advocate general of the Air Force, reminded his civilian bosses that American rules on the treatment of prisoners had grown out of Vietnam, where captured Americans, like Mr. McCain, were tortured. "We have taken the legal and moral 'high road' in the conduct of our military operations regardless of how others may operate," he wrote. Abandoning those rules, he said, endangered every American soldier. General Rives and the other military lawyers argued strongly against declaring that Mr. Bush was above the law when it came to antiterrorism operations. But the president's team ignored them, offering up a pretzel logic that General Rives and the other military experts warned would not fool anyone. Rear Adm. Michael Lohr, the Navy's judge advocate general, said that the situation at the American prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba might be so legalistically unique that the Geneva Conventions and even the Constitution did not necessarily apply. But he asked, "Will the American people find we have missed the forest for the trees by condoning practices that, while technically legal, are inconsistent with our most fundamental values?"

General Rives said that if the White House permitted abusive interrogations at Guantánamo Bay, it would not be able to restrict them to that single prison. He argued that soldiers elsewhere would conclude that their commanders were condoning illegal behavior. And that is precisely what happened at Abu Ghraib after the general who organized the abuse of prisoners at Guantánamo went to Iraq to toughen up the interrogation of prisoners there.

The White House ignored these military lawyers' advice two years ago. Now it is trying to kill the measure that would define the term "illegal combatants," set rules for interrogations and prohibit cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The president considers this an undue restriction of his powers. It's not only due; it's way overdue.

LISTEN, WE WHO COUNT OURSELVES AS CIVILIZED PEOPLE: what accounts for the Bush Administration's laxity about torture (that's the nicest way I can think of putting it)? IMO, three things:
1. Macho rage about 9/11. Pure lust for revenge. Which stretches all the way to torture, although weirdly enough, not as far as actually trying to catch Osama Bin-Laden, on which we spend no time or effort. Passing strange.
2. Macho fear of being seen as weak.
3. Fear of being prosecuted or maligned or taking responsibility -- in other words, cowardice. Having condoned torture, all they can think to do is cover up, and keep people unaccountable who should be prosecuted, like General Miller, who brought Gitmo torture to Abu-Ghraib.
The torture scandal, and the way the Bush Administration deals with it, says one thing loud and clear: We have us the most IMMORAL presidency ever. These guys stink to high heaven. May that stink follow them to their graves, and sully their memory and legacy forever.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Quote of the week

"I would believe only in a god who could dance." --Nietzsche

Liveliest comments of the month, by far

From Eurotrash:
32: I too am a lurker around these parts, and this is my first entry. What I can't figure out is why people make such a big thing about injustices when they occur in the western world and not on the injustices the western world inflicts on other peoples.
Posted by Jenny at 4:23 pm on 07.08.05
33: Hey Jenny, fuck you. I seem to remember global rallies protesting the injustice in Iraq and a bunch of people working to get aid for Africa. Hey whatever.
Posted by Cranky at 4:35 pm on 07.08.05
34: What's with the Lurkers? Christ, they're all suddenly coming out of the shadows for some reason or other. And each one is as mealy-mouthed as the other. To think that there's a whole festering crowd of like-minded cunts constantly gawking at us and now all of a sudden they've decided to emerge with their fucking Dickensian platitudes. Enough to give one the shits!
Posted by Trevor at 5:19 pm on 07.08.05
Posted by Lurker at 6:28 pm on 07.08.05
37: Hey Lurker, BITE ME!
Trevor RULES. You however are the cunt in cuntish, you are the apex of cuntishness, your flaccid micropenis is more flaccid than the most flaccid of all micropenii.
You are the the opening chord in a symphony of CUNTS, you are a veritable sonnet of CUNTISHNESS, your cuntishness is not exceeded even by the most perfect of CUNTs, yes even Plato's ideal cunt pales in comparison.
Oh yes, I'm drunk in case you could not tell.
Oh yeah and all you whining cunt lurkers, just shut up. Or as we say in New Yawk, STFU.
The real question for Jenny and her ilk is not why no one cares when stuff happens in the non-western world ... why does she not care when stuff happens to people that are of the non-western world.
Do you think that some person that got blown up yesterday has any more control over the actions of Bush/Blair than your average Muslim has over the actions of Bin Laden? Does one of yesterday's victims bleed any less, is any less frightened, is any less innocent than some poor bastard in Baghdad. Because if you believe that, your CUNTISHNESS is beyond cuntish, there is no longer even a word for it. Why can't you feel empathy for some regular person just going to work yesterday who got blown up.
Like some Limey said, the flaw is not in our stars dear somebody or other, but in ourselves or something like that. You know those Limeys are good with the words, but they got a point. You need to look in the mirror stupid JENNY lurker and people who think like Jenny. I know when the chimp started bombing Iraq, people here were like oh my god, what the hell is he doing? I bet when idiots bomb Western places, you just laugh. CUNT!
Posted by Cranky at 10:49 pm on 07.08.05

Beware of Arabs who smell good

From the NY Times:
According to a January 2004 handout, the Department of Homeland Security advises United States border authorities to look out for certain "suicide bomber indicators." They include a "shaved head or short haircut. A short haircut or recently shaved beard or moustache may be evident by differences in skin complexion on the head or face. May smell of herbal or flower water (most likely flower water), as they may have sprayed perfume on themselves, their clothing, and weapons to prepare for Paradise." Suspects may have been seen "praying fervently, giving the appearance of whispering to someone. Recent suicide bombers have raised their hands in the air just before the explosion to prevent the destruction of their fingerprints. They have also placed identity cards in their shoes because they want to be praised and recognized as martyrs."

The bodies of the London suicide bombers were recognized by their identification cards. And on the eve of the 9/11 attacks, the hijackers shaved and perfumed themselves with flower water in a pre-martyrdom ritual called ablution. But don't expect the federal authorities to screen for these indicators on Amtrak, which pulls into Penn Station in New York and Union Station in Washington, two of the biggest commuter-rail depots in the country. Not only is there no passenger profiling on Amtrak, but there's no screening or mandatory searching of carry-on bags. The only restriction on bags is a 50-pound weight limit - and that's not much comfort when you recall that the bombs used in London weighed only 10 pounds.

Once an Islamist suicide bomber is sitting next to you on the train, your chances of escape are slim. The only solution is for the police to stop him well before he boards your car. But with the system as it stands, that terrorist could easily slip in through the numerical window of random security screening. By not allowing police to profile the most suspicious train passengers - young Muslim men who fit the indicators above - Mr. Bloomberg and other leaders not only tie one hand behind law enforcement's back, but they also unwittingly provide terrorists political cover to carry out their murderous plans. Call it politically correct suicide.

Blogger on London cops' shoot-to-kill policy

Hey Una - A lot of people seem to be outraged that policing isn't a logical, binary and mathematical discipline of triaging out the psychos from the innocents.
Not me. I expect the police to make A LOT of mistakes. That's exactly why they shouldn't be running around with weapons.
Using hindsight we are all getting outraged that extreme force is now being used by the police and spewing out what the police should have, shouldna' have done at the moment of truth.
I wasn't using hindsight when I first heard about the Stockwell incident. All I knew was that a single man had been brought down by police and that while he was already on the floor had been shot five times. Even before I knew they had the wrong guy I was shocked at what sounded like an execution. The moment of truth came (I hope) many hours later when the police realised they had fucked up. Now suddenly we are supposed to overlook that an innocent man was killed because he COULD have been carrying a bomb. That simply doesn't wash with me.
A line has been crossed now in that locals, Brits, are doing suicide missions, and so how we respond to that risk needs serious quiet thought by us all before reflex outrage.
I've been giving this serious quiet thought since the initial blasts and not once did it occur to me that the best way to deter future attacks was to arm the police and give them a shoot to kill policy. The threat is slight and does not justify that kind of response.
I don't think Mike you can turn a blind eye and continue in a Jerry Cornelius like daze oscillating between work, rest and espresso blogging as if nothing has happened.
Ohhh now I'm all horny for a dart-gun. Where is my blind eye again? Yes something happened - something very similar has happened in London MANY times. These attacks knock the bombings in London up around the 120 figure. I can carry on working, resting and blogging for the next ten years in London and the only way that this new wave of terror will affect me is by offering me plenty of fodder to write about.
If we were looking at a constant wave of attacks like the poor bastards in Iraq then I'd probably be more afraid, but at the time of writing 8 easily lead fuckwits with crappy bombs are about as scary as Paris Hilton flavoured horror movies.
Lord Stevens admitted last week in the NOTW that the police have taken training from Israel on new policing techniques, and that training played out at Stockwell. Only a matter of time before CAT heavy machinery arrives too no doubt.
Well that's the fucked up thing. Israel should have been coming to us for advice on how to sort out its problems and not the other way around. All that Israeli training has led to is one dead guy from Brazil - sending the bulldozers into Leeds is on the same level as armed police swarming the tube.
New York has not yet to cross this line as their enemy is foreign, their closest experience is the Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a loner with a bomb. Now we have Egyptians killing Egyptians, Brits killing Brits, and so on ... this new mindset hasn't been written in to the Eastenders and Corrie scripts yet.
Oh give it time. I'm surprised no Americans have realised how easy it would be to blow up a bus or subway yet, but the fact that it hasn't happened only points to how SMALL the threat is. If there were really so much to worry about from homegrown terrorists there or here we'd be numb to this kind of thing by now. The FEAR far outweighs the numbers.
I don't like the idea of my police force killing my citizens because they acted in a rash manner. With hindsight (which I HATE using because it's silly) we would NEVER have gone into Iraq in the first place and given these guys the motivation to come to London two weeks or so ago. I think you'll find the EASY option is simply to let the police and politicians do whatever the fuck they like. I hold the terrorists responsible for their actions, but I also hold the police responsible for theirs. Perhaps more so. The terrorists were doing their 'job' while the police were doing quite the opposite.
I find it easier to live with terrorism because it's rare. I find it difficult to swallow extreme police measures because that kind of shit will be around long after the terrorists are gone.

There's more to terrorism than Al-Qaida

From Blogcritics:
Terrorism and Its Enemies - An Alliance of Civilizations
Posted by Aaman Lamba on July 27, 2005

In the past, the more enlightened of us could comfort ourselves with the thought that poverty and social repression produce malcontents and terrorists. Unfulfilled aspirations of statehood were also considered as contributing factors. Even then, though, this was not entirely true. While the rank and file of guerrilla movements might come from economically or socially deprived sections of the society they rebelled against, their leaders and financiers were invariably educated, well-off citizens, if not of the same society, then of some other.

Things are very different today. Especially after the attacks in London, where it seems "Paki is a dirty word" once more, and memories of the race riots seem fresh once more, the perpetrators of the attacks were educated British citizens, who "completed"' their schooling by betraying the society that fulfilled their aspirations rather than reforming/changing the one that failed them.

The blanket assumption that terrorists are trained or at least influenced by the madarsas or Islamic schools of Pakistan and elsewhere, though valid in part, is misleading as it masks some realities. As William Dalrymple points out in his recent column in The Guardian, "there is an important and fundamental distinction to be made between most madrasa graduates - who tend to be pious villagers from impoverished economic backgrounds, possessing little technical sophistication - and the sort of middle-class, politically literate, global Salafi jihadis who plan al-Qaida operations around the world. Most of these turn out to have secular scientific or technical backgrounds and very few actually turn out to be madrasa graduates."

At the same time, it may be informative to look at various aspects of modern Islamic terrorism, before exploring possible solutions.

Intelligence services, and the cognoscenti, have long known the term Al Qaeda is pretty much a misnomer today, and has been for a while. After the "terrorist summit" of 1998 in the Phillipines, where the Islamic International Front was formed, knitting together as disparate groups as the Egyptian Brotherhood, the Islamic Jihad, the Uzbek nationalists, and at least five Pakistan-based terrorist organizations, the base of Al-Qaeda was replaced with a loosely knit confederacy of sinister groups. The key members are known to be:
The Al Qaeda, and its military wing, the 055 Brigade
The Jamatul Jihad of Egypt led by Dr al-Zawahiri, and other Egyptian groups
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan led by Jumma Namangani
The Hizb-e-Islami Turkistan, also led by Namangani
The Abu Sayyaf group of the Southern Philippines
A few Chechen groups operating out of Pakistan and the Chechnya region
An organisation of the Uighurs of Xinjiang in China
The Harkat-ul Mujahideen of Pakistan
The Lashkar-e-Tayiba of Pakistan
The Sipah-e-Sahaba of Pakistan, an extremist Sunni organisation which has been campaigning for the proclamation of Pakistan as a Sunni State, and their militant wing, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi
The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami of Pakistan
The Taliban : Originally talibs, or students from the madrasas, and then Afghanistan

These organizations have separate, distinct objectives and interests. The Al Qaeda claims to fight for the overthrow of the Saudi monarchy and for the withdrawal of the US and British troops from Saudi Arabia. The Egyptian groups want Islamic rule in Egypt and tighter control in the region. The Harkat and Lashkar want the merger of J&K with Pakistan and, subsequently, the "liberation" of Muslims in other parts of India. The Sipah-e-Sahaba wants a Sunni State in Pakistan and the declaration of the Shias as non-Muslims. The Uzbek group wants an Islamic State and the Turkistan group wants an Islamic Federation of all Central Asian republics and Xinjiang. The Uighurs want independence from China. The Chechens have been fighting for independence from Russia. The Indonesian groups, led by Hambali want an Islamic Caliphate stretching from Southeast Asia to Iran.

The military operations in Afghanistan broke up the Arab Muslim base, the Al Qaeda, and since 2003, the Lashkar-e-Tayiba have been coordinating most efforts. It is to be noted that at least five of the organizations have Pakistani bases and sources of support. Also, after the Afghanistan war, these groups retreated to Pakistan where they regrouped, before making their way in small groups to Iraq in late-2003, under the guise of Haj pilgrims.

The Iraqi movement is nominally headed by Ahmad Fadil Al-Khalailah, better known as Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, a Jordanian terrorist who saw action against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and later organized against King Hussein of Jordan. He has been affiliated with the Jamaat al-Tawhid wa'l-Jihad. which has a strong European presence, and has helped at least 70 British Muslims travel to Iraq since last year. It is not known to be a member of the IIF.

The Western governments have mistakenly strengthened the puppet masters of these groups by building up their leadership into iconic figures. Similar mistakes were made by Indira Gandhi in India with Bhindranwale in Punjab and the LTTE leader Prabhakaran in Sri Lanka. Post-World War II, the covert coordination of intelligence agencies that proved effective against earlier terrorist movements, lost ground in the 1980s, allowing these non-state actors to gain prominence as self-proclaimed representatives of their societies. Political interests allowed them to flourish, and an inability to keep the focus on their state sponsors has let them gain much ground in these communities.

In one example of this, the continuing inability of the West to bring Pakistan's failed house to order reminds one of similar support of General Pinochet, and others that led to much grief. While General Musharraf has much more intelligence and many of his counter-terrorist actions have borne fruit, his earlier support for the same groups and failure to root out terrorist sympathisers and supporters from his own army and governments is troubling at the very least. Pakistan has faced much terrorism itself, and he was the target of numerous personal assassination attempts. More needs to be done, as we shall see.

Locations and Bases:
The IIF has various concentrations in Pakistan, apart from the NWFP (North West Frontier Province) and FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas) that house the remaining Taliban, the Uzbeks and Chechens, the larger groups have been based in Karachi and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Various seminaries and madrasas such as the Tablighi Jamaat in Raiwind, the Muridke madrasas and the Binori madrasa are center-point. A few were recently cracked down on by Gen. Musharraf post the London attacks.

The key group, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), originated from the Markaz Dawat-ul Irshad (Center for Religious Learning and Social Welfare). It was established by Hafiz Saeed and Zafar Iqbal of the Engineering University, Lahore, and Abdullah Azzam of the International Islamic University, Islamabad, in 1987. They operate close to a 100 madrasas in the town of Muridke outside Lahore. The sleeper cells busted by the FBI in Maryland and Virginia were run by the LeT. They renamed themselves to the Jamaat ul-Dawa to circumvent bans, but this is only cosmetic. They are linked with the Snakehead syndicate, as well as supplying fighters to Iraq. There are indications that at least one of the 7/7 London bombers visited a Muridke madarsa (PBS report). They are autonomous and coordinate the IIF.

The Jaish-e-Mohammed have links with the Binori madrasa complex in Karachi. This is allegedly where Osama bin Laden was treated for splinter injuries after Tora Bora. This is a hardline Deobandi group, originator of most of the policies of pan-Islamic terrorism. The chief imam, or mufti, of the Binori madrasa was Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai. He was killed by unknown assailants on May 30. He was second only to the chief Mufti of Pakistan. He was the chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology and issued nearly 2000 fatwas, mostly against the US, India and Israel. as the mentor and godfather of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its militant wing the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and the Jaish-e-Mohammad. He was designated patron-in-chief of the Jaish and was a member of the shura of Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Maulana Fazlur Rahman's Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam.

External to Pakistan, the Jamaat-e-Islamiya are based out of Indonesia, and reportedly Bangladesh. The Jamaat-Ul-Fuqra operate out of the US and Carribean, and are dedicated to cleansing Islam through violence. They have acquired various rural compounds across the US, sheltering various cadres and elements. Their head, Sheikh Mubarak Gilani is now in Pakistani custody.

The list could go on, but it should be clear that pan-Islamic terrorism is much more than an Arab Muslim movement.

The global war, it has already been found, is not a single-focus war, with pure military objectives. It requires covert action, psy-war approaches and social engineering, similar to the multi-lateral, international "alliance of civilizations" that arose post-World War II, and which was fostered by the global terror of the War itself. As B Raman, erstwhile counter-terrorism head of RAW (India), put it, in a prescient column in 2001, "In the 1950's and the 1960's, when a large number of democracies in the Western as well as the non-aligned worlds were faced with armed Communist insurgencies sponsored by Moscow and Beijing, all the affected countries fought this menace jointly through a mix of overt and covert actions in a discreet, non-spectacular manner. That is the model to be emulated after updating it, where necessary."

These thoughts seem to be coming true, as evidenced by Tony Blair's statement on meeting with the Spanish prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, that, "We discussed the proposal that the Spanish prime minister has made for what he calls an alliance of civilisations, which is the idea that we join together, our countries with Muslim countries - Turkey is particularly involved in this - to form a coalition of civilised people from whatever race or religion to combat the barbarity of terrorism."

(Worth reading: Al Jazeera's piece "The World Faces One Threat" and the Times of London's "War on Words", as well as "Pakistani is a bad word in Britain" by TVR Shenoy, that quotes Harry Potter, saying, "'It is our choices, Harry, that show what we really are, far more than our abilities.'" Sources: South Asia Intelligence Review, B Raman, The Dudley Knox Library of the Naval Postgraduate School.)

What the FUCK is it with NASA that the same tiles fall off AGAIN? Fuck me with a 1,000 shuttle designer SHITHEADS.

Jeez. Like we don't have enough to worry about here on earth, now we gotta worry about the shuttle astronauts up there in space. If this shuttle can't come back, have they got another shuttle ready to go and get them? Like one with foam tiles that DON'T fall off? The NY Times shares what must be a nation-wide irk:

When a piece of insulating foam more than half the weight of the one that doomed the Columbia broke off from the shuttle Discovery's external fuel tank during ascent this week, it not only raised questions about the safety of future shuttle flights, but also called into question the competence and engineering judgment of NASA, its contractors and its oversight boards. This was the very problem that NASA had spent two years and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to correct.

The agency took the only reasonable step by announcing that it would ground the shuttle fleet indefinitely while it tried to identify and fix the foam-shedding problem. It should use that time to re-examine whether the shuttle program and the international space station that it serves are worth the risk and enormous cost to keep them at the core of the space program. The shuttle is looking increasingly like a jalopy that has gotten too expensive to keep repairing and may be ready for a trade-in.

Fortunately, that piece of foam seems to have missed the shuttle, but this may have been a very close call. The foam broke off at a point in the ascent when it drifted harmlessly away. Had it broken off 40 seconds earlier, as the foam that doomed the Columbia did, it could have hit the orbiter and poked a hole in the shuttle's fragile protective skin.

If that had happened, the astronauts would have been in grave peril. They would have been unable to fly back through Earth's atmosphere, lest superheated gases penetrate the hole and destroy the shuttle, as happened to Columbia. They would have been able to try to repair the damage with the tools and materials they are scheduled to test on this flight, but nobody considers those repair kits ready for real use, and a clumsy repair might fail or make things worse. Alternatively, the astronauts could have taken refuge on the space station and waited to be rescued by another shuttle, which would itself face a risk of foam damage.

This incident says nothing good about the supposedly meticulous process by which the shuttle was repaired, upgraded and determined to be ready for flight. In the wake of the Columbia disaster, the external fuel tank was redesigned to reduce the risk of foam debris. NASA pronounced the tank the safest and most reliable ever built. As it turned out, NASA had identified the area on the tank that shed the foam as a potential risk, but as one that could wait to be corrected. Either NASA's process for reaching engineering judgments is still flawed, or the aging shuttles, with their millions of parts, are just too complex to be fully understood.

As NASA struggles to figure out what went wrong and how to fix it, Congress and the Bush administration need to reassess whether the costly shuttle program is worth the effort. The shuttles are scheduled to be retired in five years, and the main purpose of the remaining flights is to finish building the international space station. Leaving the station half-finished would diminish its scientific value and anger some partner nations. But if the next phase of shuttle repairs looked daunting, a half-finished station might look pretty good.

Bookplanet: homeless writer scores agent

Cadillac Man has been homeless in New York City for about a decade. But now the Queens street dweller is banking on an unlikely ticket off the street: a book deal.

Sounds crazy? Tell that to his agent.

Cadillac - who is 56 and won't reveal his birth name - caught the eye of the book industry after Esquire magazine published parts of his memoirs in May. "I thought it was stunning," said Sloan Harris, an agent with International Creative Management Inc., which represents literary stars Carl Hiaasen and Toni Morrison. "He certainly has both the writerly skills and the experience to have a career as a writer." Although Harris never heard of a homeless man getting a book deal before, he added Cadillac to his roster of talent last month. The agent said a "major publisher" is courting his client, who spends his days squatting beneath an Astoria viaduct, scrawling his adventures longhand into notebooks. At night, he crashes in local parks and garages.

"I write every day. I'm writing a book that I've been working on for about two years," Cadillac said, sitting on a chair beside his "Cadillac Mobile," a shopping cart crammed with sweaters and paperbacks. "My book will be published some day and people will learn from it. Maybe treat us differently," he said. "It's strictly autobiographical, and it's about my life out on the streets."

Cadillac grew up in Hell's Kitchen and was married once, fathering three daughters. In the late '80s, he lost his job managing the Pepsi bottling plant in Long Island City, and his life veered out of control. He started drinking, telling lies. His family cut him off and he found himself sleeping in alleys. He says his daughters and ex-wife will not talk to him today.

He took the name "Cadillac Man" after claiming he was hit by a handful of Cadillac sedans a few years ago. He refuses to go by anything else.

"I just want to remain Cadillac. My past is dead," he said recently beneath a 33rd Street bridge in Astoria, where he has lived for the past four years. Cadillac is beloved in the Greek neighborhood. He seems to know everybody's name, and they support him with meals, used clothes and empty bottles. Despite the man's imposing presence - he's a beefy 6-foot-1 with a weathered face and long mane of graying hair - many stop and chat. "He's my neighbor," said George Psillides, 37, who has lived down the street from Cadillac since 2001 and was thrilled that he might publish a book. "He's like the guardian angel of the block. I think it's great." One local resident, a former Esquire editor, befriended the street dweller last year and connected him with the magazine. Executive Editor Mark Warren was intrigued by his story and came out to visit Cadillac last year. Warren was blown away by his manuscript.

"The more that we got to read, the more we became convinced that this was a story worth telling," he said. The magazine paid Cadillac $7,500 and dedicated 10 pages to his writing.

"I have lived homeless in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, all the boroughs of New York City save Staten Island," Cadillac wrote. "I have been urinated on because some people find that amusing and I've been shot at for the same reason, I have been given food mixed with bleach and food with scouring powder as garnish, I have fought dozens of fights using fists, feet, knees, elbows, blackjacks, ice picks, tire irons, chains, pipes, bricks, cans of soda, rocks, M-80 explosives, garbage cans, and even other people as weapons, never guns."

In the wake of the article, Cadillac got a flood of e-mails from all over the world. He was tickled, responding to just about all of them. "It still hasn't sunk in," Cadillac said. "I'm just writing from my heart and stuff like that. It looks so strange when it's type-written."

Now he's looking for a place in Astoria. "All I want is a room," he said. "Basically, just to bed down. I'll still be out here every day, meeting and greeting people."

It's the kids -- lock up the china! Grown kids steal their parents blind

From the NY Times:
April Wilkner literally got caught with her pants down.

She was traveling with her mother in Japan, visiting a spa in Tokyo. The two of them were stuffing their clothes into lockers and slipping on robes when her mother saw the cherry-patterned underwear her daughter was wearing. "Where did you get those?" Ms. Wilkner's mother said. "Those are mine." "Huh?" she replied. But it was pointless to deny it. The red cherries were unmistakable.

Ms. Wilkner, 24, a fashion model in Manhattan, had come across the brand-new Brazilian-cut briefs in a basket in her mother and stepfather's home in Providence, R.I. Assuming her mother had accidentally bought sexy underwear instead of her usual granny style, Ms. Wilkner had simply helped herself. It was not the first time Ms. Wilkner had swiped something from her mother. She often appropriated socks, spices, oatmeal, once even a chest of drawers she found in her mother's bedroom that had yet to be assembled. "That was a pretty good steal," Ms. Wilkner said. "Oh, I took a bookshelf, too. Clocks. I took artwork, a bunch of Monet prints. But my parents have plenty of artwork."

A generation ago, adult children visiting their parents' homes might have left with a Tupperware container of lasagna. Today, many of them stealthily make off with toiletries, groceries, sometimes clothing and even furniture. It is an apparently widespread practice, born of a sense of entitlement among young adults - and usually amusedly tolerated by parents - that gives new meaning to the phrase "home shopping." Like most adults, the pilferers have set up their own households, but they seem not to have given up the expectation that their parents should provide for them in certain ways. They loot their parents' houses to cut costs, or because they would rather not pay for incidentals. Or because they want things with sentimental value.

Sometimes the children ask if they can take things. Often they do not.

Dan P. McAdams, a professor of psychology and human development at Northwestern University, said this kind of filching was one more example of the way grown children were putting off adulthood: living at home longer than they did a generation ago, staying in school longer and getting married later. "A lot of people in their mid and late 20's do not think of themselves as adults," Dr. McAdams said, "even if they make a lot of money."

The result is a period of life that has come to be known among some sociologists and psychologists as emerging adulthood. "It's like a new stage in life," Dr. McAdams said. "They're not teenagers, and they're not really adults."

Stephen Kunken, 34, an actor in New York who is an admitted "pillager" of his parents' possessions, said he rationalized that his parents had too much stuff and that he was both "trimming the fat" and "liberating" things. "I thought: 'These poor things. These are never going to get used. I'm going to liberate them and bring them into the city,' " he said.

Through the years Mr. Kunken has taken briefcases, a slide projector, an electric toothbrush, razors, blank tapes, paper towels, soap and bottles of wine.

His parents did not know their wine was missing until he served it to them at a party at his Brooklyn apartment. "We had our own wine that he stole," his mother, Ginny Kunken, said. "It was very nice that he invited us."

His parents are accustomed to finding things missing. "What have they taken?" said her husband, Fred Kunken, a dentist from Upper Brookville, N.Y., referring to Stephen and his 37-year-old brother, Jeffrey. "What haven't they taken? They've taken just about every bit of my clothing, from my underwear and socks to --"

"Bathing suits," his wife interjected, laughing.

"All of a sudden my razors disappear," Dr. Kunken said. "Shaving cream disappears. It's gotten to the point that if I see them coming, and if it's something I just got that I want to wear, I hide it."

That parents find their grown children's thieving humorous is a reflection of how family dynamics have changed, some experts said. Parents of previous generations maintained an authoritative stance toward their adult children, but now relationships are more equal, more like friendship, said Frank F. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania and the chairman of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood, which examines the changing nature of early adulthood. "That's been a secular trend throughout the whole 20th century," Dr. Furstenberg said.

Having grown up with a feeling of friendship with their parents, Dr. McAdams said, many young adults may feel comfortable taking their things. And parents, wanting to maintain the camaraderie, look the other way. Some even keep their cupboards full so there is plenty to go around.

Today's empty nests, especially those in affluent neighborhoods, are also generally bigger and better stocked than ever before, Dr. McAdams said. Some are almost like warehouses, especially if the parents shop at discount stores like Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club.

Replacement razors for the Gillette Mach 3 are expensive if you buy them in small packages, Stephen Kunken said. But his father buys them in bulk. "He goes to Costco and has 40, so I'm like, 'I'll take eight,' " Mr. Kunken said.

Ms. Wilkner said her mother hoarded things and had "a wall of toilet paper" in the bathroom. "They're not going to miss six rolls," she said.

Toilet paper is typically the first quarry in a life of petty thievery from parents' homes, many filchers said. During a visit the grown-up child notices an abundance of Charmin in a parent's bathroom, is perhaps reminded of the inferior brand in his or her own apartment, and suddenly decides to tuck a few rolls under an arm and deposit them in a knapsack. Soon the thief is taking other provisions. Toothpaste. Windex. Band-Aids. Electronics and home furnishings are not far behind.

"Ketchup and toilet paper are those things that you just really don't want to pay for," said Nicole Atkins, 26, a musician who lives in Brooklyn, adding that her parents "are generous to let me take their peanut butter and paper towels."

Debbie Jaffe, a 31-year-old actress, takes her mother's camera film. "She always has excess of everything," Ms. Jaffe said. "I took a printer recently. She had an extra."

Naomi Finkelstein, 24, a campus recruiter for a financial institution, said, "My parents are very giving." She has taken bags of marshmallows, batteries and other "little things that I just end up tossing into the bag," as well as groceries that her parents freely hand over.

Some parents balk at the practice of home shopping. They may remember reaching their own independence earlier in life, and how their parents had gone through the Great Depression and were extremely frugal. Taking things from them was out of the question.

"I think there is some resentment older adults might have," Dr. McAdams said, adding that these parents may see their children as "lacking focus."

But these are generally not the parents whose homes get looted. The filchers often say they would never take items their parents truly valued. Many parents say they are amused, or even flattered, by the pilfering. "It means they need us," said Dr. McAdams, a father of two. "It's nice to be needed."

Robin Hoffman of Manhattan has a daughter, 26, who took family photographs, and a son, 24, who took a cushy chair that used to belong to her father. "I'm happy that they want it and that they'll use it," Ms. Hoffman said. "I think it's great."

The phrase "emerging adulthood" does imply that these sticky fingers will eventually become independent. Is there a specific age by which one should finally accept the responsibility of paying one's way? Psychologists and economists point to the early or mid-30's.

"By the early 30's the assistance that kids are receiving from their parents dissipates strongly," said Robert F. Schoeni, an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "The kids are establishing their careers, they're getting better-paid jobs, getting married."

Ms. Atkins, who has decorated her Brooklyn apartment with shot glasses, candles, Mexican marionettes and boxing gloves from her parents' house in Neptune, N.J., says she will cease her home shopping once she gets married and has a family.

"If I had kids and a husband, and I was still taking stuff from my parents," she said, "that would be really lame."

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Journalist finds sex toys undesirable

From the South African Mail and Guardian:

Take me for a spin by Mil Millington

They can be cute and fluffy or coldly minimalist--some even display the odd facial feature. So how come sex toys are so naff?
I’m irritated partly on aesthetic grounds. Have you seen these things? More often than not, they’re an emetic purple and bring to mind nothing so much as a deformed limb. And that’s if you’re lucky.

Increasingly, sex-toy production seems to be under the influence of some kind of paraphiliac dadaism. Take the Mr. Craby (sic) Strap-On. Never mind that it’s bright orange, looks like a cross between a cartoon crustacean and a Space Invader, and has a “cute pincer design’’. The really chilling thing is, IT’S GOT EYES. Listen to me -- THEY’VE DRAWN EYES ON IT. Why would you feel compelled to paint eyes on something you’re going to attach to your genitals?

These sex toys are the grotesque, misshapen offspring of the most repellently cutesy instincts of a seven-year-old girl and impatient porno consumerism. I spurn the “Wittle Wabbit’’ as I would the merciless head of a multinational corporation who’s got a bedroom full of fluffy toys and dots her “i’’s with tiny hearts.

Fair enough, there are other kinds of toy available: the expensive ones, such as the jade wand ($330), target a design-led ideal of class and elegance ... but in some ways this type is even weirder. For one thing, they are curiously asexual. Cool and minimalist -- as though Bang & Olufsen had decided to move into butt plugs. I can only imagine that these self-consciously upmarket toys appeal to the woman who is aroused by the combination of expense and smooth, flowing lines alone: the woman who looks at an Audi and thinks, “Phwoar -- I know where I’d like to stick that.’’

Moving beyond form and on to function, I find yet more irk. It’s not that I have anything against orgasms, but vibrating devices are not required to achieve them. No, their main benefit is to serve up quicker orgasms. Well, call me an old hippie, but I reckon that the traditional methods of reaching climax have an awful lot to be said for them. Is speed that significant a concern?

“Fancy a climax, dear?” “OK. But I’ve got yoga in 10 minutes, can you pop it in the microwave?”

Is a sexual experience enhanced by being quick and easy? The whole mindset is depressingly indicative of a society that’s too idle to masturbate.

Yes, I’m aware men sometimes buy vibrators for their partners. It’s the gift that says, I’d like you to reach sexual ecstasy -- but I’d prefer it if I didn’t have to get too involved. “I’ll use this, dear, it’s less faffing ... Or you use it -- I’ll watch ... Actually ... I’m just going on eBay while you get started. I’ll keep my phone on, though — text me when you’re getting close.”

A further extraordinary thing is that the majority of toys are for women. This isn’t a cause of envy: it’s simply odd. Sex and gadgetry. You’d think the area would be overwhelmingly male-focused: myriad pulsating orifices on offer, compared with only a few devices for women. For the situation to make sense, we must conclude that men need a subtle and sensitive sexual experience, while women are happy with a mechanical, perfunctory one.

So, here and now, I make a call for sex toys to end. Let’s stop producing these ugly, soulless things. And divert the money saved into developing hot robot women like the Sean Young character in Blade Runner. Man -- that’d be ace.

The other insurgency: Iraqis resist U.S. takeover of their oil

From the good old Guardian:
Iraq's Other Resistance -- Oil Workers in Basra are Ready to Fight Privatization by Greg Muttitt

Faced with daily reports of car bombs and kidnappings, it's difficult to feel optimistic about Iraq. But a few weeks ago in the south of the country I heard a very different story. A story of the movement that has formed to rebuild the country's economy and national pride, to create an Iraq with neither the tyranny of Saddam nor the pillage of military occupation.

A few weeks ago, Basra saw its first conference on the threat of privatization, bringing together oil workers, academics and international civil-society groups. The event debated an issue about which Iraqis are passionate: the ownership and control of Iraq's oil reserves. The conference was organized by the General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE), which was established in June 2004 and now has 23,000 members. Focused as much on the broader Iraqi public interest as on members' concerns, its first aim was to organize workers to repair oil facilities and bring them back into production during the chaos of the early months of occupation. This effort by the workers required both courage - often in conflict either with coalition troops or remnants of the Ba'athist regime - and considerable ingenuity, putting back together a working oil industry with minimal resources.

In maintenance too, the Iraqi workers have outmatched their private-company counterparts. Walking round the Basra refinery, I pointed to the creaking and rusty equipment and asked the manager whether there were a lot of accidents, arising from failures of equipment under high pressure. The refinery manager said that accidents were rare, because however old the equipment it is constantly checked. "For an Iraqi refinery operator, the refinery is part of him," he said. Contrast this with the disastrous safety record of British and American refineries. There, the frequent accidents are caused largely by lack of maintenance and inspection - which are in turn caused by the drastic downsizing of the workforce.

The occupation forces and their allies in the Iraqi government see things differently. Plans are now afoot for sweeping changes to Iraq's oil sector, to give western oil majors access to its reserves for the first time since 1972. But they will face a challenge. While the workforce has shown itself to be quite capable of running the industry, it has been equally effective at shutting down that industry when threatened by the authorities.

In August 2003 oil workers' unions organized a strike that stopped all production in southern Iraq for two days. The resulting bargaining power has been impressive, with the unions - which later merged to become the GUOE - successfully pushing for foreign workers to be replaced by Iraqis; the role of US companies in the reconstruction to be reduced; and wages to be raised to livable levels. And the GUOE is uncompromising in its views on oil privatization. As one oil worker told me, he and his colleagues have rebuilt their industry after its destruction in three wars, and in the face of extreme adversity. As a result they have a deep sense of ownership, which they will not willingly relinquish.

Women of Gitmo

Here's a feminist issue, starting with that poor chick Lynndie England, who got shafted because she was in love with a bastard, and bore his child, while superiors like General Miller go scot-free. From the NY Times:
The Women of Gitmo
There are countless reasons to be outraged about the abuses of detainees at American military prisons. But there is one abuse about which there can surely be no debate, even among the die-hard supporters of President Bush: the exploitation and debasement of women serving in the United States military. This practice must come to an immediate end, and the Pentagon must make it clear that such things will never be tolerated again.
Surely no one can approve turning an American soldier into a pseudo-lap-dancer or having another smear fake menstrual blood on an Arab man. These practices are as degrading to the women as they are to the prisoners. They violate American moral values - and they seem pointless.
Does anyone in the military believe that a coldblooded terrorist who has withstood months of physical and psychological abuse will crack because a woman runs her fingers through his hair suggestively or watches him disrobe? If devout Muslims become terrorists because they believe Western civilization is depraved, does it make sense to try to unnerve them by having Western women behave like trollops?
Yet those appear to be the operative theories at Guantánamo Bay, where military jailers developed the "aggressive" interrogations that were later exported to the Abu Ghraib prison. A Pentagon report released Wednesday contained page after page of appalling descriptions of the use of women soldiers as sexual foils in interrogations. One officer ordered a soldier to buy some perfume at the PX and rub it on the arm of a detainee "to distract" him. The report said that in response, the prisoner tried to bite her, "fell out of his chair and chipped his tooth." It doesn't say that he was moved to divulge any secrets.
There were several instances when female soldiers rubbed up against prisoners and touched them inappropriately. In April 2003, a soldier did that in a T-shirt after removing her uniform blouse. Following up on an F.B.I. officer's allegation that a female soldier had done a "lap dance" on a prisoner, the report described this scene from the interrogation of the so-called 20th hijacker from the 9/11 attacks: A female soldier straddled his lap, massaged his neck and shoulders, "began to enter the personal space of the subject," touched him and whispered in his ear.
To us, that sounds a lot like what Mayor Rudolph Giuliani tried to ban from Times Square. But the Pentagon seemed utterly unconcerned with the fact that women in uniform had been turned into sex workers at Guantánamo. The report's only conclusion was that whatever the female soldier might have done, it wasn't really a lap dance. Another instance, in which a female interrogator touched a prisoner with red ink and told him it was her menstrual blood, was judged out of order - but only because the interrogator had cooked up the scheme to get back at the prisoner for spitting at her. The report said "retaliatory techniques" had to be approved in advance.
The report talks about how guards forced a captive to wear a bra, put thong underwear over his head, made him stand naked in front of women guards, put a dog leash around his neck and forced him to do stupid pet tricks. If that sounds familiar, it should. We all saw photographs of this exact behavior at Abu Ghraib.
Indeed, the abusive interrogations at Guantánamo Bay were developed under Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, who later reorganized Abu Ghraib. To their credit, the authors of the report suggested that General Miller should be "admonished" over the interrogation of the 20th hijacker. But they were overruled by his commanding officer, Gen. Bantz Craddock, whose previous job was as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's military aide.
Religious conservatives have made their presence felt in so many other parts of the Bush administration, but they have been strangely quiet about these practices. And where are the members of Congress who wring their hands over the issue of women in combat? It's obvious that the Bush administration will never offer a real reckoning on the prisoner abuse, or that the Republican Party will demand one. But surely the dehumanizing of America's military women is a nonpartisan issue.

How species separate to become separate species

From the BBC, an evolutionary puzzle explained:
Why one species branches into two is a question that has haunted evolutionary biologists since Darwin. Given our planet's rich biodiversity, "speciation" clearly happens regularly, but scientists cannot quite pinpoint the driving forces behind it. Now, researchers studying a family of butterflies think they have witnessed a subtle process, which could be forcing a wedge between newly formed species.

The team, from Harvard University, US, discovered that closely related species living in the same geographical space displayed unusually distinct wing markings. These wing colours apparently evolved as a sort of "team strip", allowing butterflies to easily identify the species of a potential mate. This process, called "reinforcement", prevents closely related species from interbreeding thus driving them further apart genetically and promoting speciation.

Although scientists have speculated about this mechanism for years, it has rarely been witnessed in nature. "The phenomenon of reinforcement is one of the very few mechanisms that has natural selection playing a role in speciation," said Harvard co-author Nikolai Kandul. "It might be very widespread but it is hard to find good evidence of it." For speciation to occur, two branches of the same species must stop breeding with one another for long enough to grow apart genetically.

The most obvious way this can happen is through geographical isolation. If a mountain range or river divides a population of animals for hundreds of generations, they might find that if they meet again they are no longer able to breed. But geographical isolation is not enough to explain all speciation. Clearly, organisms do sometimes speciate even if there is no clear river or mountain separating them.

The other mechanism that can theoretically divide a species is "reproductive isolation". This occurs when organisms are not separated physically, but "choose" not to breed with each other thereby causing genetic isolation, which amounts to the same thing. Reproductive isolation is much hazier and more difficult to pin down than geographic isolation, which is why biologists are so excited about this family of butterflies. The Harvard team made the discovery while studying the butterfly genus Agrodiaetus, which has a wide ranging habitat in Asia. The females are brown while the males exhibit a variety of wing colours ranging from silver and blue to brown.

Dr Kandul and his colleagues found that if closely related species of Agrodiaetus are geographically separate, they tend to look quite similar. That is to say, they do not display a distinctive "team strip". But if similarly closely related species are living side-by-side, the researchers noticed, they frequently look strikingly different - their "teams" are clearly advertised. This has the effect of discouraging inter-species mating, thus encouraging genetic isolation and species divergence. "This butterfly study presents evidence that the differences in the male's wing colouration is stronger [when the species share a habitat] than [when they do not]," said the speciation expert Axel Meyer, from Konstanz University in Germany. "This pattern would therefore support the interpretation that it was brought about by reinforcement, hence natural selection."

The reason evolution favours the emergence of a "team strip" in related species, or sub species, living side-by-side is that hybridisation is not usually a desirable thing. Although many of the Agrodiaetus species are close enough genetically to breed, their hybrid offspring tend to be rather weedy and less likely to thrive. Therefore natural selection will favour ways of distinguishing the species, which is why the clear markings exist.

"For me, this is a big discovery just because the system is very beautiful," said Dr Kandul. "As much as we can we are showing that [reinforcement] is the most likely mechanism."

Pigeons can tell impressionism and cubism apart

A series of experiments with pigeons carried out in the 1970s piqued researcher Vokey's curiosity about tacit learning. In the experiments, pigeons were shown two photos, one of which contained a particular feature that the other did not -- for instance, a human, a tree or a body of water. The birds could choose between the photos by pecking at a button, which would reward them with food if they chose the picture that contained the feature of interest. It turned out that the animals were quickly able to distinguish between the photos, even when they were shown new sets of pictures.

Experiments with wild pigeons that had never been handled by humans demonstrated that wild birds could also learn to distinguish between sets of photos that were projected on to an office window. In a later experiment, pigeons were trained to discriminate between a set of paintings by Pablo Picasso and a set of paintings by Claude Monet. After a brief training period, the birds were shown entirely different paintings by the same artists, and they were still able to make the distinction between the artists' works. Further studies suggested that if other cubist or impressionist artists replaced the Picasso and Monet paintings, the birds were still able to choose the correct painting.

"The research suggests that they learned something about elements of style," says Vokey. "We like to think that this is an intellectually deep exercise, but the fact that pigeons can do it suggests that judgments of style may be much simpler."

Bookplanet: winning Faulkner parody casts Bush as Benji the idiot

The 2005 Faux Faulkner winner stars President Bush as Benji the idiot in The Sound and the Fury:

The Administration and the Fury by Sam Apple

Down the hall, under the chandelier, I could see them talking. They were walking toward me and Dick's face was white, and he stopped and gave a piece of paper to Rummy, and Rummy looked at the piece of paper and shook his head. He gave the paper back to Dick and Dick shook his head. They disappeared and then they were standing right next to me.

“Georgie's going to walk down to the Oval Office with me,” Dick said.

“I just hope you got him all good and ready this time,” Rummy said.

“Hush now,” Dick said. “This aint no laughing matter. He know lot more than folks think.” Dick patted me on the back good and hard. “Come on now, Georgie,” Dick said. “Never mind you, Rummy.”

We walked down steps to the office. There were paintings of old people on the walls and the room was round like a circle and Condi was sitting on my desk. Her legs were crossed.

“Did you get him ready for the press conference?” Dick said.

“Don't you worry about him. He'll be ready,” Condi said. Condi stood up from the desk. Her legs were long and she smelled like the Xeroxed copies of the information packets they give me each day.

“Hello Georgie,” Condi said. “Did you come to see Condi?” Condi rubbed my hair and it tickled.

“Don't go messing up his hair,” Dick said. “He's got a press conference in a few minutes.”

Condi wiped some spit on her hand and patted down my hair. Her hand was soft and she smelled like Xerox copies coming right out of the machine. “He looks just fine,” Condi said.

Fine day, isn't it, Georgie, Daddy said. Daddy was pitching horseshoes. Horseshoes flew through the air and it was hot. Jeb looked at me. Stand back or one of his horseshoes is going to hit you and knock you down real good, Jeb said. Jeb threw the horseshoe and it went right over the stick and Daddy clapped. Run and get me that horseshoe, Georgie, Daddy said. I ran and picked up the horseshoe. The metal was hot in my hands, and I held it for a little bit and then I dropped it. I picked it up. It was hot in my hands and I started running away from Daddy and Jeb. Come back with that horseshoe, Daddy said. I was running as fast as I could. Jeb run after him and get me my horseshoe before he throws another one in the river, Daddy hollered. Jeb was chasing after me fast. Come back with that horseshoe, Georgie, Jeb hollered. But I was fast and I kept running until I got to the river. Don't you dare throw that horseshoe in the river, Jeb said. I threw the horseshoe in the river. Jeb fell on the ground. Jeb kicked and cried and then I cried.

“He needs his makeup,” Dick said.

“I'll do it,” Condi said. She put a little brush on my check and it tickled and I laughed.

Rummy walked into the room. “Jesus, what's he laughing about,” Rummy said.

“Don't you pay attention to him, Georgie,” Dick said. “They're going to be asking you all about Social Security. You just remember what we talked about.”

“He can't remember anything,” Rummy said.

I started to holler. Dick's face was red and he looked at Rummy. “I told you to hush up already,” Dick said. “Now look what you've gone and done.”

“Go and get him Saddam's gun,” Condi said. “You know how he likes to hold it.”

Dick went to my desk drawer and took out Saddam's gun. He gave it to me, and it was hot in my hands. Rummy pulled the gun away.

“Do you want him carrying a gun into the press conference?” Rummy said. “Can't you think any better than he can?”

I was hollering and Dick was turning red and then white and the room was tilted.

“You give him that gun back, right this minute,” Condi said. Rummy gave me Saddam's gun back and I held it my hands. It was hot like a horseshoe.

“You got the gun, now you stop that hollering,” Rummy said.

Condi patted me on the back. “It sure is hot in here,” she said. She fanned herself and took off her jacket. She smelled like perfume.

(Sam Apple's first book, Schlepping Through the Alps, was published in March 2005. His freelance nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times,, and the Forward. Apple is currently a contributing book editor at and at work on his second book.)

Poem of the week: e.e.cummings

this is the garden:colours come and go by e.e. cummings

this is the garden: colours come and go, 
frail azures fluttering from night's outer wing 
strong silent greens silently lingering, 
absolute lights like baths of golden snow. 
This is the garden: pursed lips do blow 
upon cool flutes within wide glooms, and sing 
(of harps celestial to the quivering string) 
invisible faces hauntingly and slow. 

This is the garden. Time shall surely reap 
and on Death's blade lie many a flower curled, 
in other lands where other songs be sung; 
yet stand They here enraptured, as among 
the slow deep trees perpetual of sleep 
some silver-fingered fountain steals the world.

Quote of the week

"When ideas fail, words come in very handy." --Goethe

Man's greatest fear: wife cuts off husband's penis

It's happened again. I'm amazed it doesn't happen more often. Women have much more power than they know. In Thailand, a Thai woman cut off her husband's penis after he asked her to make love one more time before he left her for another woman. But she would still want him back, even without his penis. After cutting it off, Saithong Wantha, 53, asked neighbours to take Udom Phorit, 35, to hospital while she turned herself in to police. The neighbours could not find the severed organ, and had to call Saithong on her mobile phone. She told them she'd tossed it behind the fence in the front yard. Nearly two hours went by before surgeons could operate. Finally, they reattached Udom's penis, but said there was only a 50-50 chance it would function properly. Saithong told the police that she cut off Udom's penis in a fit of rage because he was leaving her. She hoped he would stop philandering and stay with her if he could no longer function sexually. "I love him and I don't want him to leave," she said.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Nude Thoughts 11

Of course you want to fuck me. Who wouldn’t? Lots of guys want to fuck me. If I fucked all the guys who wanted to fuck me, I wouldn’t have time to eat. Often I look at myself, and I want to fuck me, too. But listen, how can I be sure you REALLY want to fuck me? If you really wanted fuck me like you say -- right now at this very moment -- you’d have a hard-on, wouldn’t you? So where is it?

My application for a White House job

Dear Mr. Karl Rove:

I would love a job working for you at the White House, or if you were forced to leave it through any unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances, to replace you with my services.

I have sound electioneering credentials. I’ve proved myself in managing two successful elections. In the first one, a friend of mine ran for sheriff, and I engineered a rumor that our opponent was a gay with a taste for black boys. Our opponent was lucky not to get run out of town. In the second election, our opponent was mysteriously accused of being a lesbian with an illegitimate black child that got fathered on her by a colored pimp and that she tried to abort at Planned Parenthood.

In both elections these rumors could not be traced back to me, or to my candidate. In fact, when the media approached me about these rumors, I placed my hand on my heart and said it was a pity that these rumors were around, and even though they might well be true, I for one would never interfere with our free democratic political process, or demean it with such rumors, even though they might well be true, according to verifiable sources which could be verified after due investigation, which is the job that the media should be doing, instead of making unsubstantiated accusations.

I have a proven record of telling the right lie at the right time for the good of my country and my candidate, and I know how to cover my tracks and work through paid surrogates. My candidate is always clean.

I think it is wrong to tax rich people because otherwise they won't have the money to give people good paying jobs in our service economy, like nannies, chauffeurs and dog walkers. I believe in the oil industry and that it should be supported at all costs, not only by cutting corporate taxes, but also by starting wars to gain overseas contracts. We should trust the oil business and other big corporations to care for our environment, because they know best how to keep this important legacy productive. They also know better what to do with the money wasted on Social Security that could be used to build weapons systems to defend our beloved country against terrorists in Iraq where it is good that we are fighting them, because then we don't have to fight them here, because it's always better for Muslim Iraqis to die than pro-life Christians on American soil.

I believe Democrats are traitors who coddle terrorists. It is not enough to beat Democrats. They should be crushed. I picked up some useful torturing tricks in Baghdad under General Miller. I know how to sexually humiliate Arabs, and I’m sure I can migrate this knowledge to the torture and humiliation of Democrats.

My patriotism cannot be questioned. Nothing will stand in my way when I punish those who try to embarrass our President, our policy, our party or our country -- not even leaking the name of a covert CIA agent. I know where my loyalties lie.

I believe that abortion is a terrible sin and mothers who murder their children in the womb should be prosecuted. I don't believe in condoms, and agree that all overseas programs to fight AIDS should be cut if they advocate using condoms. People who run the risk of getting AIDS should follow abstention, and not be allowed to interfere with God's plan for them by the indiscriminate use of condoms, which is something you can expect from decadent liberals who pollute our Christian traditions with their lifestyle, and are a plague on our nation worse than AIDS.

As for gay persons, far from abominating the sanctity of marriage by getting married to each other, they should be put on sex offender lists and never be allowed to teach children in our schools, or allowed to have dogs, because you never know what these sickos might do to their animals.

In conclusion, like you, I am a devout Christian who believes in the Holy Bible. I would be honored to be invited to pray with you in the White House, and pledge our lives anew to honor God in everything we do.

Hoping to hear from you soon,
Your brother in Christ,
Adam Ash.