republican platform fantasy

The nytimes brought us some of the highlights of the Republican platform today, which contained such absurdities as:
"There is no negotiation with terrorists. No form of therapy or coercion will turn them from their murderous ways. Only total and compete destruction of terrorism will allow freedom to flourish.''

"Iraq, which once had the worst government in the Middle East, is now becoming an example of reform to the region".

Perhaps the framers of the Republican platform will put their lives where their mouths are and hold their breath until the impending "destruction of terrorism", while sitting on the peaceful streets of any one of Iraq's reformed towns. Oh well, at least they struck home when they denounced those namby pampy terrorist therapists and soft hearted coercers. Next stop, rapture!


virtual sit in

If you would like to participate in a Virtual Sit In to protest the RNC in New York, please load this page and keep it open. The page simply loads and reloads pictures from the RNC website, hence using up some of its bandwidth.

new york report

Here is a photo weblogger's account of one stage of Sunday's protest that didn't make it onto the news:
After taking some pictures of Critical Mass riders getting arrested, I turned to walk away and suddenly was in cuffs, one of the 264 cyclists and random passers-by arrested Friday night. Rather than writing us summonses for the offenses we were charged with, which were violations (on par with a traffic ticket or an open container), not even misdemeanors, the cops decided to teach us a lesson by hauling us over to a bus depot-turned-holding cell where we got to sleep in cages on diesel-sludge-covered concrete. (Many people reported chemical burns from contact with the floor.)

The writer spent 30 hours in jail under terrible conditions. Three of my friends were also arrested. I will relate their stories as soon as they get out of jail. Not surprisingly, the police seem to be keeping people for as long as possible.

While Times Square was a sketchy place to be yesterday evening, everything seemed to return to normal today. I walked from Union Square up to 42nd st. along Broadway, then down to Madison Square Garden along 7th ave. I saw a few signs, some press and a Lot of cops, but nary a protest. There was one guy standing on a milk crate in Union Square talking about the history of oppression in America, with a crowd of a few dozen interested people, but that was about it.

I did not intersect with the Poor People's March, which may develop into something interesting.

quick glance

I am extremely curious to know how middle America receives these two stories:

On page A23 today, the nytimes printed an AP story about a man who lit a van and himself ablaze after hearing that his son had been killed in Najaf;

Arredondo climbed into the Marine Corps van parked outside his home and set it ablaze, suffering severe burns.
``This is his scream that his child is dead. The war needs to stop,'' Melida Arredondo, who had rushed home from work when she heard the news, said Thursday on ABC's ``Good Morning America.''

On a more prosaic, but deeply resounding note, the poor are getting poorer at a fast clip:

The number of Americans living in poverty jumped by 1.3 million last year as household incomes held steady, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. The percentage of the U.S. population living in poverty rose to 12.5 percent from 12.1 percent.

Poverty and immolation, a potent mix.


rnc not welcome

The Village Voice has published a succinct and powerful article that should convince every single New Yorker to take to the streets next week during the convention. It brings home the bitter irony of a fiercely democratic city being forced to pay (and pay and pay...) for the administration's foreign policy failures, and then being told that it would be 'disrespectful' to voice an opinion during the convention. All I can say is, Bush may be shielded from the fury in the streets, but his delegates won't be. Let the games begin?


death in virginia

Two weeks ago, the Supreme Court lifted a stay of execution for James Reid, a Virginia man convicted of stabbing an 87 year old woman to death in her house. Lawyers for Reid argued that Virginia's method of imposing the death penalty contituted a cruel and unusual punnishment, forbidden by the sixth amendment. The Washington Post wrote:
Reid's attorneys asserted that the combination of chemicals Virginia uses to carry out executions could cause the inmate to "consciously suffer an excruciatingly painful and protracted death."

In a 5-4 decision, the Court denied the appeal without comment, depriving us of a platform for discussion on what constitutes unacceptable cruelty in the modern age.

The spokesman for attorney general Kilgore, who had asked the Court to lift the stay, had no qualms about the requirements of justice:
Murtaugh also noted that Lester was stabbed 22 times. "If anyone had grounds to complain about undue pain, we believe it should be she," he said.

This brings up some interesting questions.

How does a just and civilized society address crimes of violence? Will a violent and painful punnishment deter violent crimes? What if that punnishment is in conflict with many people's conception of the requirements of the constitution? Can an inconsistent threat from the government hope to achieve consistent goals in crime prevention? Do we seek retribution, or peace?

Furthermore, what constitutes 'cruel and unusual punnishment' in our time? Where should that discussion take place, and how do we know when we have achieved consensus?



you are what you speak

Check out this absolutely fascinating article about a linguistics paper appearing in Science this month. Apparently, there is a tribe in the Amazon which has had contact with outsiders for 200 years, and yet still has no words for numbers, and also seems unable to count. Despite months of instruction, tribe members could not grasp the most basic concepts of counting, implying that their language has limited their ability to form new concepts.

Since falling in love with Wittgenstein in college, I have steadfastly defended the idea that the language you speak determines the conceptual framework within which you can operate. While fun to argue, this point of view has been difficult to substantiate, perhaps until now. I look forward to witnessing the fray as linguistics professors jump to explain the findings.

The Piraha people are fascinating for more reasons than one, reports the article:
Besides living a numberless life, he reports in a separate study prepared for publication, the Piraha are the only people known to have no distinct words for colours.

They have no written language, and no collective memory going back more than two generations. They don't sleep for more than two hours at a time during the night or day.

Even when food is available, they frequently starve themselves and their children, Prof. Everett reports.

They communicate almost as much by singing, whistling and humming as by normal speech.

They frequently change their names, because they believe spirits regularly take them over and intrinsically change who they are.

They do not believe that outsiders understand their language even after they have just carried on conversations with them.

They have no creation myths, tell no fictional stories and have no art. All of their pronouns appear to be borrowed from a neighbouring language.

So I suppose we have to broaden our ideas about what constitutes the basics of human culture. I wonder if anyone's asked them about their dreams...


spending time

New York mayor Bloomberg has made the surreal announcement that various businesses, museums and attractions will offer discounts to RNC protesters wearing a "Peaceful Political Activists" pin, says the nytimes today. "It's no fun to protest on an empty stomach," said the mayor as he made the announcement, explaining how businesses and protesters could get along swell. However, the article reveals a crucial flaw in the program;
But Mr. Bloomberg conceded yesterday that not everyone who wore a button would be strictly vetted for his or her peacefulness. "Unfortunately, we can't stop an anarchist from getting a button," he said, though he doubted any of them would want to wear one.

Damn those peace hating anarchists! Perhaps they should require an resistance to authority test before giving out the pins.


armchair journalism

Something tells me that the authors of today's nytimes article on the situation in Najaf wrote their story based on military reports rather than any eyewitnessing. The writing is painfully dry and full of technical terms, somehow missing the fact that we are bombing the Iraqi equivalent of the Vatican. Here is a mind numbing example:
The Second Battalion of the Seventh Cavalry pulled back from 1920 Revolution Square, away from the holy Shrine of Imam Ali, which is roughly in the center of the cordoned area set up around the old city by American forces on Thursday.
The cordon has been loosened, so it is now possible to enter by way of the square, to the far east of the perimeter.

If you want another version of events, checkout today's CounterPunch, with an article more appropriately titled: "Slaughter in Najaf." It's tough going, keeping up with the blood trails, but the alternative is complicity. Happy reading.


nelson mandela, terrorist

This week, Max Blumenthal points to a crucial article on Dick Cheny's 1986 vote against a resolution for Nelson Mandela's release and US recognition of the ANC. Twenty years later, he stands by his decision to thwart a "terrorist organization."

Perhaps the Kerry campaign should give that one a little play.


convention ka ching

An article in the nytimes today highlighted the real commitment republican national convention goers are going to have to make this august, as attendees will be expected to foot their own bills. Even the seriously invested rangers and pioneers will be coughing up, causing some to complain. This quote stuck out of the crowd:
"The price of playing the game has risen dramatically,'' said Fred Zeidman, a Texas fund-raiser who has brought in at least $200,000. "I don't think anybody is happy about writing the check. But it's a cost of doing business.''

Doing business? At least the man is candid.


return of the tree

Apologies for the long silence. While Ireland's recent economic boom is due laregely to the computer age, some villages have been left out of the high speed internet loop. And who wants to stare at the glowing screen while there are green hills and cliffs and singing fishermen right out the window? After a month of that, however, the internet beckons. So, back to blogging I go.


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