hradzka: (plane)
On Monday, Columbia University is hosting a speech by Iranian president Mahmoud Amadinejad. Michael Barone had some related thoughts:

Columbia doesn't host ROTC or (I think) military recruiters on campus, because it would be just too offensive to do so, because the military obeys the law passed by a Democratic Congress and signed by Bill Clinton which bars open homosexuals from serving in the military. OK.

But Columbia does host Ahmedinejad who heads a government which executes homosexuals for the crime of being homosexuals.

So it's obnoxious beyond belief to exclude homosexuals from military service, but it's not obnoxious beyond belief to hang them from the neck until dead.

I'm inclined to think that Congress and the military should rethink their policy of barring homosexuals from military service. It's a long argument, which I'll omit from this post. But I don't have any trouble joining the 99.99% of Americans who oppose execution of homosexuals for homosexual acts. And who think it's a barbaric act, incapable of being supported by any decent argument.

Why does [Columbia president] Lee Bollinger think a man who heads a regime that executes homosexuals--not just excludes them from military service, but hangs them by the neck until dead, in public ceremony-- should be honored with an invitation to speak at Columbia?


My argument against banning of gays from the military would be shorter and far more pungent than Barone's, but I reproduce his comments because this is something that baffles me. A while back, Harvard hosted Mohammed Khatami, former Iranian president and still a major power player, and he defended executing gays in front of his Harvard audience. Nobody stood up and yelled "Bullshit!" or even walked out. NOBODY. That astounds and revolts me. So does this: Amadinejad is a Holocaust denier, and supports executing gay people as public policy, but Columbia University is rolling out the red carpet.

My father once taught at Columbia. I'm ashamed to even have that much of a connection to them, now.
hradzka: (plane)
This isn't what everybody else is doing (hat tip to [livejournal.com profile] marag, who tipped me to it), but I felt it was worth a mention.

Human rights activists in Pakistan are protesting theocracy in their own way. This takes real courage, because the mosque they're protesting is one whose theocracy is of the stripe that encourages the killing of infidels. It's called Lal Masjid, and the students at the madrassas affiliated with it have lately taken to the streets to threaten shopkeepers who sell goods contrary to their version of Islam. They go up to cars at intersections and tell the drivers to shut their music off (and if they're women, to quit driving); and the burka-clad devotees of the female madrassa kidnapped a woman they accused of running a brothel.

The Lal Masjid is within walking distance of Pervez Musharraf's presidential palace. The preacher there, one Maulana Abdul Aziz, is setting up sharia courts and threatening suicide attacks if anybody messes with him. He has decreed that the government has one month to close brothels and all stores sellling CDs or DVDs. At a recent rally, his students burned obscene Western material, such as HOME ALONE 4 and FREE WILLY. The cleric and his brother, Maulana Ghazi, have openly called for Musharraf's murder.

And hundreds of people in Islamabad came out to protest against them.

We tend to praise all kinds of stupid things as bravery -- going on talk shows and weeping copiously will get you called "brave" in some circles -- but going out to protest against real thugs who will really kidnap or really kill you? Folks, *that is what bravery looks like.* I have immense respect for those protestors, and I hope like hell their side wins, because the alternative is horrifying.

So my blog against theocracy is going out to those brave protestors in Islamabad who are standing up for human rights and against theocracy. Not what the folks organizing the thing are going for, obviously. But somehow I don't think they'll mind.
hradzka: (unfair to batgirl)
via BoingBoing, an art photo series that depicts illegal immigrants to the US from Mexico wearing superhero costumes, on the grounds that Mexicans illegally in the states basically keep the Mexican economy afloat by sending home more money than the country makes in tourist dollars.

As you might expect, it's not exactly subtle, but some of the photos are pretty good; the best shots are Green Lantern (Roman Romero, night watchman) and The Flash (Alvaro Cruz, cook), though Aquaman (Juventino Rosas, fish cleaner) is pretty funny just because it's Aquaman. For metatextual reasons, though, I'm fond of this one, of José Rosendo de Jesús, who works in New York as a union organizer (!). He's billed as "The Saint." Except -- oh, no, wait, he's not "The Saint," he's EL SANTO, the most iconic luchadore of ALL FRIGGING TIME. Wrestler, film star, restauranteur, god among men, Mexican cultural hero. Dunno if they've made comics about him, but if they have I wouldn't be surprised. (ETA: They have. I'm not surprised.) EL SANTO, guys. Get it right.

(I just find it amazingly funny that this whole portrait series is conceived and undertaken to show solidarity with Mexicans working illegally in the states -- and then misbills Mexico's most famous superhero! Way to show you're hip'n'with it, daddy-o.)

(And for [livejournal.com profile] monkeycrackmary: what does Ernesto Mendez, the guy dressed up as Robin, do? Guess.)
hradzka: (plane)
[livejournal.com profile] webpetals posted some pictures of her trip to China recently, and got me thinking about the future of that country. via BoingBoing, I recently read a fascinating piece on China by a guy looking to get some manufacturing work done there.

What is shocking is what China really is. China is all at once communist, capitalist, rude, and innocent. It’s the fearsome global economic powerhouse, yet shockingly third-world. It’s a people denied religion, yet cities festooned with Christmas decorations. Communism is essentially gone, and in its place has grown the most terrifyingly capitalistic place on Earth: I think they took Deng Xiaoping to the heart when he declared that “to become rich is glorious.”

His notes on morality and the one-child policy are particularly interesting. In the author's view, the enforced absence of religion in Communist China led to the family becoming the sole arbiter of morality. He argues that the one-child policy has done a lot to undermine that remaining moral guardpost, leading to moral standards in China becoming far more fluid. He also notes that the one-child policy means that China has a lot of potential military men.

According to the CIA world factbook, China has an excess of 44 million males in the age range of 0-64 years old; 17 million of them are in ages 0-14 alone. This is thanks to the one child per family policy, which is still in place. The ramifications of this are pretty astounding. 10 million military-aged men without spouses means 10 million men who have no obligations to a family or a loved one. Combined with the indoctrination of life being cheap, I suppose China has a pretty significant base of effective military mass to throw into a ground war.

This is pretty noteworthy, I think. In the recent era, China has made major use of massive manpower -- remember the Korean War, where they sent often untrained soldiers to die in droves? -- but excess numbers of young men often lead to dreams of Empire. That's what fueled the British Empire at its height, and what has led Iran to start feeling its oats. China will definitely start making major plays. The flip side of this is that 10 million military-aged men without spouses means 20 million parents who only have one child, and thus will be more affected by that child's loss in battle. You have five, six kids, the loss of one isn't easy -- but you haven't lost *everything.* That might affect how the Chinese people react to heavy battle losses. Though the government-controlled media will certainly minimize the effect of protests. Of course, now there's the (heavily-censored) internet...

Ah, well. Interesting times!
hradzka: (lobo sam)
Random political stuff: everybody has their pie-in-the-sky dream of one institutional change they’d like to make to politics. Mine isn’t fancy or glamorous, or even ideological. I’m just mildly annoyed by the ability of Congresscritters of all parties to redraw the borders of their districts to minimize their chances of being voted out. This is not so much a problem in the Senate, for the simple reason that Senators run statewide races and you can’t redraw state boundaries. But in the House, it’s pretty bad.

So here’s the Hines solution to gerrymandering: *require all Congressional borders conform to existing borders that aren’t likely to change.* ie, make Congressional districts correspond to the borders of existing geographical units that have built-in institutional resistance to gerrymandering.

I have two suggestions that would fit the bill: a) counties and b) zip codes.

Read more... )
hradzka: (plane)
Your scary-as-hell story for the day comes from those well-known alarmists at National Public Radio, who bring us the news from Dearborn, Michigan:

Daily protests occur in Dearborn. At one recent demonstration, organized by the Congress of Arab-Americans, about 1,000 people attended. College-age men asked, in call and response fashion, "Who is your army?" Protestors responded: "Hezbollah." "Who is your leader?" they were asked. "Nasrallah," the chanters responded. Many carried placards of the Hezbollah leader. A few days earlier at an even larger demonstration, more than 15,000 turned out, about half of Dearborn's Arab community.

Those who regularly attend the demonstrations tend to be the most strident.

"Oh, Jews, remember Khaibar," the marchers chant. "The army of the Prophet will return."


Not "Oh, Israel." Not even, "Oh, Zionists." "Oh, Jews." Remember that.

What's Khaibar, and why should the Jews remember it? Glad you asked! NPR enlightens us.

The line is a reference to Khaibar, a Jewish town north of Medina that, according to Islamic tradition, was overtaken by the Prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. Once defeated, the surviving Jews of Khaibar were forced into serfdom. Two decades later, they were expelled from the Arabian peninsula.

...

You'd think the media would make a slightly bigger deal out of this. If I were the NPR reporter on the spot, I think I'd be slightly curious about the organization sponsoring a demonstration including such a grotesque public display of intimidation. But, y'know, that's me.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
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hradzka: (archie skull)
[livejournal.com profile] johnxjohn may be going strong, but John Kerry fanfic is now officially bipartisan. (For an explanation, see this Mark Steyn op-ed.)

Not being a slasher, my preferred satirefic is the ongoing "In My World" series by Frank J. Frank's a conservative, but in his stories President Bush is a cheerful moron, Condi Rice is a supervillain-in-waiting, Karl Rove manifests from the shadows ala Emperor Palpatine, and Donald Rumsfeld's press conferences are even more... well, Rumsfeldian:
Rumsfeld smashed the reporter's head into the podium. "That's your head being smashed against wood," he said. Rumsfeld then slammed the reporter’s head through a window, breaking the glass. "And that's your head hitting against glass. Do you feel the difference?"

"Yes," the reporter said weakly.

"Let's continue to drive this point home," Rumsfeld said. He smacked the reporter into the brick wall. "That's your head against brick." He grabbed another reporter and slammed both their heads together. "That's skull against skull. Feel the difference?"

"I don't feel much of anything anymore."

Rumsfeld dropped his victim. "Then I think I'm finished making my point. See, while all those things seemed similar in that your head was getting smashed against something, they were different too. In the same way, Iraq is different than Vietnam, but it was an interesting analogy you tried to make. Any other questions?"

Read more... )
hradzka: (plane)
I try to keep politics off the LJ (though I do get tempted to rant occasionally), but I will post interesting news stories. When a Washington figure creates a scandal by putting something into his trousers, that's news. Especially when the something is classified material. Sandy Berger, former National Security Adviser to President Clinton and until recently adviser to Senator Kerry (he was angling for a post as Secretary of State in a Kerry administration), is in big trouble.

One thing that has struck me about the story (other than, okay, the socks) isn't the leak of the investigation (I agree with Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum, who suspects a Democratic leaker), but who knew about it before the leak. In the Denver Post's coverage of President Clinton's book tour, there's a small stunner:
Clinton said he has known about the federal probe of Berger's actions for several months, calling this week's news a "nonstory."
Meanwhile, Senator Kerry was asked about it Wednesday night by Tom Brokaw:
Brokaw: "Did you know that [Berger] was under investigation?"

Kerry: "I didn't have a clue, not a clue."

Brokaw: "He didn't share that with you?

Kerry: "I didn't have a clue."
I believe that. Kerry would've been crazy to keep Berger on otherwise. But here's the thing: Sandy Berger knew he was being investigated, and didn't tell Senator Kerry. And President Clinton knew Sandy Berger was being investigated, and he didn't tell Kerry.

If I were Kerry, I would be very, very, very pissed.
hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
In an age of partisan bickering, it's nice to get some sweet, funny bipartisan satire. (Flash, with sound; 3.7 Megs. Now at a link that actually works!)
hradzka: (plane)
Expatriate Bruce Bawer has a long and fascinating article on European anti-Americanism, with reviews of pro- and anti-American books. Well worth your time.

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hradzka: Cassidy, from Garth Ennis's PREACHER. (Default)
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The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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