March 2010 News
March 26, 2010
Questioned by his interviewers about the Nazi era, [Sebald] describes the “conspiracy of silence” that prevailed while he was growing up after the war; he is convinced that his parents, who had been supporters of Hitler, never spoke about what had happened even when they were alone. “But then pressure eventually saw to it that in schools the subject would be raised,” he tells the writer Joseph Cuomo. “It was usually done in the form of documentary films which were shown to us without comment. So, you know, it was a sunny June afternoon, and you would see one of those liberation of Dachau or Belsen films, and then you would go and play football.”
He talks, too, about his discomfort, later on, as a student at Freiburg University — a sense of some falseness he could not exactly pin down. Eventually, he realized that all his professors had received their doctorates in the 1930s and early ’40s; he even hunted up their dissertations: “If you . . . looked at what their Ph.D.’s were about, your hair stood on end.” When Wachtel asks him about his feelings for Germany, Sebald begins, “Well, I know it’s my country,” and winds up by saying, “in a sense it’s not my country. But because of its peculiar history and the bad dive that history took in this century . . . because of that I feel you can’t simply abdicate and say, well, it’s nothing to do with me. I have inherited that backpack and I have to carry it whether I like it or not.”
— Evelyn Toynton, from her 2008 Harper’s review of The Emergence of Memory
March 24, 2010
The assassination of Mahmoud Mabhouh, a Hamas commander, in Dubai is a watershed moment in the long history of the Mossad.
Israeli officials who ordered the assassination did something that Zionists have always done – underestimate their Arab opponents. In his first impressions of Arabs, David Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, compared them to children. Ahad Ha’Am, an essayist considered to be the father of cultural Zionism, described the merciless beatings that Arabs were subjected to for no reason by Zionist settlers – the pioneers of the movement – in the late 19th century. Other Zionists have compared the Arabs of Palestine to animals. All this prejudice would in the 1960s and 1970s benefit the rise of sophisticated Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements which would plan operations keeping in mind that the Israelis would likely underestimate their chances of success. — As’Ad AbuKhalil, author of The Battle for Saudi Arabia, on Mossad and the perceived power of Israeli intelligence operations vs. the reality
March 23, 2010
The health insurance legislation is a major political symbol wrapped around a shredded substance. It does not provide coverage that is universal, comprehensive or affordable. It is a remnant even of its own initially compromised self — bereft of any public option, any safeguard for states desiring a single payer approach, any adequate antitrust protections, any shift of power toward consumers to defend themselves, any regulation of insurance prices, any authority for Uncle Sam to bargain with drug companies, and any re-importation of lower-priced drugs. — Ralph Nader, in the New York Times
March 23, 2010
In 2001, Ted Rall, financed by the Village Voice, traveled to Afghanistan to cover the newborn United States invasion. Now, Rall intends to return to Afghanistan to tell the story of what has become of the region between 2001 and today, after eight and a half years of war. But this time, no newspaper or magazine is willing to cover the cost of his traveling directly into a war zone — so Rall has asked his readers, through Kickstarter, to make the project possible.
March 16, 2010
Howard Zinn has been posthumously awarded the 2010 Ridenhour Prize for Courage, “presented to an individual in recognition of his or her courageous and life-long defense of the public interest and passionate commitment to social justice.” Past recipients have included Gloria Steinem, Bill Moyers, Daniel Ellsberg, and former President Jimmy Carter. From the Ridenhour website:
Howard Zinn is awarded The Ridenhour Courage Prize for his determination to showcase the hidden heroes of social movements throughout history, his refusal to accept the history of only the powerful and victorious, his steadfast belief in the potential for a better world, his unflinching moral stance on fighting whatever he perceived was wrong in society, his fight to inspire students to believe that together they could make democracy come alive, and, in the words of his former student Alice Walker, “his way with resistance.”
Again — forever — congratulations to Howard Zinn for his life and work.
March 16, 2010
Nat Hentoff, author of The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance, talks about the recent Liz Cheney/Bill Kristol ad on the “Al-Qaeda Seven”, called “Keep America Safe”:
In angry reaction to the Cheney-Kristol ad, Col. Davis said, “You don’t hear anyone refer to John Adams as a turncoat for representing the Brits in the Boston Massacre trial.”
On March 5, 1770, civilians in a crowd harassing and threatening British troops were fired on, and five were killed. Among the defendants in a subsequent trial was the commander of the troops, Capt. Thomas Preston. At first, no lawyer in Boston would represent Preston or the other defendants on trial in Paul Revere’s widely circulated description of this “horrid massacre.” An exception was a young lawyer, John Adams, determined that this emerging new nation would be known for its justice under law.
Adams interviewed and presented eyewitnesses, and convinced the jury that Preston did not give the order to fire. He was acquitted. As a result, Adams later wrote, he himself had incurred “clamour and prejudices, anxiety and obloquy” that nonetheless prevented a “foul stain upon this country.”
Had Cheney and Kristol’s Keep America Safe been operating at the time, would they have gone after this young lawyer as a disgracefully unpatriotic Tory?
March 10, 2010
Courtney Gillette: … Is there a queer sensibility to your music/your performances? How would you describe it?
Sabrina Chapadjiev: Well, all of the songs off the album are about exes, which have been women, so in that sense, yes, there is a queer sensibility there. Although it sort of surprised me that some people haven’t gotten that [my songs are queer]. I play with one particular band quite a bit—they open up for me and I open up for them. The main singer knows I’m queer, and finally he was like, “But you don’t say that in your songs.”
Now, there are songs where I straight up am talking about a woman— I mean, I couldn’t get more specific in “Idiom.” But then there are songs like “Little White House,” where I have the lyric:
A kid on the way
due sometime in May
we’ll dance in the kitchen while the radio plays
You’ll bring home the bacon
I’ll try a new recipe
In our little white house with a key
I was like, “Oh. . . I guess I could see why you were confused. . . but I was still talking about a girl there. I just like butch girls. And I like to cook.” He was like, “Oh.”
March 9, 2010
… At the annual techno-hip TED conference in February, Myhrvold decided to up the ante, tapping into the misery of millions of rural African women and their families to wrap his business in a cloak of moral urgency. “Every 43 seconds a child dies of malaria,” he told the crowd. And current anti-malaria interventions, many of which target the rural African women and children who are malaria’s main victims, don’t work that well, he said. Insecticides can be environmentally dangerous and some people use anti-mosquito bednets to catch fish instead.
That’s why Myhrvold came up with his latest invention: A mini-”Star Wars” weapons system that tracks mosquitoes in the air and shoots them down mid-flight–with lasers, of course. Like a Death Ray. All you need to make one is a Blu-ray player and a laser printer, plus a few months of processing time on a supercomputer, and voila!: you’re on your way to eradicating malaria in Africa for good.
March 3, 2010
Another 120 species went extinct today; they were my kin. I am not going to sit back and wait for every last piece of this living world to be dismembered. I’m going to fight like hell for those kin who remain—and I want everyone who cares to join me. Many are. But many are not. Some of those who are not are those who, for whatever reason, really don’t care. I worry about them. But I worry more about those who do care but have chosen not to fight. A fairly large subset of those who care but have chosen not to fight assert that lifestyle choice is the only possible response to the murder of the planet. They all carry the same essential message—and often use precisely the same words: Resistance isn’t possible. Resistance never works.
Meanwhile, another 120 species went extinct today. They were my kin.
March 2, 2010
… Bechtel paints an excellent portrait of these colorful racers and their Scotch-Irish culture, in which Rebel flags are not rare. So why on Earth were Leonard W. Miller, founder of Miller Racing, and his son, Leonard T. Miller — successful, educated members of the black elite — obsessed with NASCAR racing? It’s a question that perplexed their fellow African Americans, who regarded their quest as “a suicide mission into the country’s deepest pockets of racism.”