17 October 2010

Fuck Cancer

This month bring the anniversary of my late husband's passing. I've made the best of things, and I am surrounded by caring, supportive friends and family, but this has been an experience I wouldn't wish on my worst possible enemy.

Cherish your loved ones.

Fuck cancer.

11 October 2010

U.S., U.K. Far Right Hook Up?

According to a story in The Guardian, The English Defence League, a far-right, anti-Muslim group, is joining forces with Tea Party figures in the U.S.A. The English are concerned that Tea Party-funding would find its way to the EDL, thereby facilitating "wider recruitment and activism." Because the EDL is often associated with violent activity, England's unease is understandable. But why is the Tea Party, or figures within the Tea Party, associating itself with this group? In the words on one human rights expert,
"As we move farther and farther away from the Tea Party origins, that were ostensibly around debt and bail-outs, social issues like Islamophobia are replacing that anger, that vigour. The idea that there is a war between Islam and the west is becoming commonplace."
Of course, as the economy improves and Americans begin to feel better, many won't grow less angry--they'll simply appoint a new cause for the anger. Paul Starobin's National Journal article on paranoia in politics in offers a fairly thorough examination of the phenomenon.

Update: In the article "Mainstreaming Hate" in Foreign Policy, Ferry Biedermann profiles Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is famously anti-Islam. Biedermann quotes an analyst who draws a link between Wilder and the Tea Party:
[Alfred] Pijpers says that Wilders has more in common with the Tea Party activists in the United States than with any old-style European right-wing party, because he can't really be classified as either right-wing or left-wing. His party has also embraced a left-wing populist defense of the Netherlands' besieged welfare system, and he scores points with his tough stance against crime, which he often links to immigrants.
Although the analyst's comparison ends at "he can't be classified as either right-wing or left-wing," the undefined cries of "I want my country back" imply an affinity to the ideas that Wilders gives voice to.

10 October 2010

Crybaby Culture

I missed this, but a few weeks ago This American Life dedicated an episode to revealing the current trend of public whining in America.

The show, available online, includes contributions by Dave Weigel (on the politics of victimhood), Adam Davidson (on bankers' complaints after they've benefited from government largess), Alex Bumberg (on basketball's "the flop"), Alex MacInnis (on folks who make a living suing businesses incongruent with the ADA), and David Sedaris (who provides a fable).

Teh all-around awesome.

Unsafe . . . sticking

At Slate, an article on malware-infected USB drives warns "Don't Stick it In."
Just a rec.

04 October 2010

Oh, Those Quirky Doctors

The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group "formed in 1943 as an alternative to the American Medical Association, which some conservative doctors didn’t think was protecting their rights,"has some rather--interesting--ideas.

According to an article by Joseph Gerth in the Louisville, Kentucky Courier-Journal, the group has published within the pages of its journal claims that HIV does not cause AIDS, that nicotine is not addictive, and that the WTC fell because asbestos was outlawed during the Towers' construction. On its website, the group features articles that question whether President Obama hypnotized crowds (see the highly scientific, and persuasive, claim that: "the Obama campaign logo 'might just be the letter ‘O,’ but it also resembles a crystal ball, a favorite of hypnotists'"). The group also perpetuates the soundly discredited theories that abortion leads to breast cancer, and that vaccinations lead to autism.


** The AAPS has been in the news periodically because one of its current, and long-time, members is Dr. Rand Paul. Dr. Paul's father, Dr. Ron Paul, is as member as well. According to the article,
Rand Paul’s campaign declined to answer questions about whether he supports the association’s positions. Instead, it highlighted the group’s opposition to abortion and to Democratic initiatives, including Obama’s health care law.

“Dr. Paul is member of AAPS because they believe that any health care reform should be market-oriented and embrace more freedom, not more government,” Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager, said in a statement.
Certainly "more freedom, less government" is a good thing, as is questioning medical theories, but the group's positions do smack of conspiratorial, and kind of whacky (Obama's "O" and a crystal ball?), thinking.

03 October 2010

The Paranoid Style--Redux

"the spokesman of the paranoid style finds [the hostile and conspiratorial world] directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others." -- Richard Hofstadter
In The National Journal, Paul Starobin explores the re-emergence of an arch-conservatism akin to The John Birch Society (famously, the leader of that group asserted that Dwight D. Eisenhower was "a dedicated, conscious agent of the communist conspiracy"). Conspiracy theories about an imminent Communist coup-from-within provided the bedrock of that nativist association. Similarly, The question of "who is an American" has run throughout our political discourse recently. Conservative luminaries, including Newt Gingrich, have roused suspicions against President Obama by identifying him as "Kenyan," and opportunists (both political and commercial) take full advantage of people's anxieties by reciting unconfirmed claims (beheadings in the Arizona desert), amplifying far-fetched "what if" scenarios (sharia law replacing our current legal system), and insinuations that Caucasians' rights are floundering under the presidency of a bi-racial man. Certainly, a national paranoia seemed to reach a boiling point over the summer with the accusations of varying degrees of anti-Americanism targeting supporters of the Park51 development, legal and non-legal immigrants (and their children), and so on.

Starobin's argument about the contemporary "nativist agenda" certainly rings true. Triggered by 9/11 and the financial meltdown, people have grown paranoid. People clamor that they "want their country back" without defining what that might be. Yet these groups, Starobin suggests, will be met by a re-emergent Radical Left, similarly energized by recent events . . . and then? Who knows. Of course passions will ease, suspicions will recede, but we will have changed. Anyway, I recommend highly Starobin's "The Radical Right Returns," for a solid, and dispassionate, historical overview and analysis of "the paranoid style" in contemporary political discourse.

02 October 2010


O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

--Robert Frost

It Took Germany How Long?

The BBC presents an excellent summary explaining why it took Germany nearly a hundred years to pay off its World War One reparations. The final payment is due on Sunday, which is also the 20th anniversary of German reunification.