Sunday Reading

by zunguzungu

FBI training teaches that Muslims have been and  always will be agents of aggression.
and the (worst) graph of the year:

Joel Beinin: What have workers gained from Egypt’s revolution?

Affidavits Recanting Testimony or Statements Given in the Troy Davis Case (from the ACLU).

The Times-imposed “protections” led to some curious gaps in coverage of the Wikileaks cables.Much was made, for instance, about a salacious 2009 cable from American diplomats in Saudi Arabia describing the “fleshly pursuits” indulged at a drug-and-alcohol-fueled Halloween party hosted by a Saudi prince.

[T]he scene resembled a nightclub anywhere outside the Kingdom: plentiful alcohol, young couples dancing, a DJ at the turntables, and everyone in costume. Funding for the party came from a corporate sponsor, XXXXXX, a U.S.-based energy-drink company as well as from the princely host himself.

Wait! What corporate sponsor? Why is the Times (though the cable above wasn’t among those published on Times’ site, the redaction request was presumably relayed by the paper pursuant to the system Keller described) protecting the identity of a corporation that subsidizes Saudi royalty’s drug binges? The company, we now know, is Kizz-Me, a (contrary to the cable’s reporting) Belgium-based energy-drink firm. It’s not earth-shattering information (we would have preferred, say, Four Loko!), but it’s hard to see whose interests aside from Kizz Me’s were served by the rescission.

Senegal’s gold rush:

An amazing cartoon on “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” in San Francisco. CPC’s are organizations that sort of pose as reproductive health clinics, but are actually pro-life efforts to counsel women against having abortions (and, it seems, flood them with misinformation).

From the author/artist, on reporting on “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”:

I am ambivalent about the practice of “undercover” journalism. As a reporter I am not interested in deception, and so prefacing this project on lies — small ones, but still — was counterintuitive and sometimes troubling. I was not aiming to write an expose, but just to depict a woman’s average visit at one of these clinics. By posing as a would-be patient I was able to gain a perspective I wouldn’t have had if I’d said I was a reporter.

From the time I approached the building to the time I left, I took detailed notes and drew sketches in a small notepad, and took quick snapshots with my phone whenever possible. (First Resort requires patients to sign a waiver agreeing not to record within the counseling rooms.)

I didn’t know what to expect, but it wasn’t what I was expecting anyway.

The brilliance and danger of First Resort and other clinics like them is that they do not fit the image of “anti-abortion activist” that we have collectively formed over the last few decades. They are not screaming with pictures of dead babies; they are quietly buying Google ads and tiptoeing around telling you where to buy condoms. They are kind, intelligent, and generous. It is disarming, and effective.

At one First Resort clinic, I asked about acquiring Plan B emergency contraception. Plan B is over the counter for women 17 and over in the US — no prescription necessary. The counselor affirmed for me that yes, it was technically contraception, “not the abortion pill.” But, emphasized, “You have time to think about it. You have five days to take it.”

This is true of one of the three kinds of Plan B on the market. The others have to be taken within three days — and all of them are significantly less effective with each passing day. The medical suggestion for emergency contraception is “take it as soon as possible” not “think about it.” That advice could easily leave a woman pregnant.

This instance could be easily explained, but there were other, stranger omissions of fact that I found troubling…

Oh, progressive bloggers:

As Coates admits, his post was inspired by a series of posts from Matt Yglesias, who has spent the last however many months explaining to the rest of us that presidents are not all-powerful; they confront a ginormous apparatus of resistance in Congress, the courts, the states, and elsewhere.

Yet somehow, in the view of Yglesias and Coates, the left has a virtually Jacobin capacity to change the world: if we will it, it will be.  This is how Yglesias puts it, in a statement Coates quotes approvingly:

If you’re a progressive and you feel that the political system isn’t doing what you want, it’s misguided to look at this as a personal failure of elected officials. It’s, if anything, a personal failure of you and people like you. Justice and equality doesn’t just happen because it’s nice, people need to make it happen. If it’s not happening, then its advocates are failing.

Think about that last sentence: if justice and equality are not happening, it’s not because liberals and progressives face all sorts of roadblocks to making it happen; it’s that they’re simply not doing their job. They’re talking to each other on the interwebs instead of getting out there and doing the hard work.

Reading these two, you get a rather remarkable picture of the political universe. If Obama makes a call to a conservative Democratic senator from Delaware, it’ll go nowhere. But if little old Mrs. Murdle from Wilmington, quietly getting by on her Social Security, makes a call to her senator, mountains will move.

via Phil, a Metafilter thread with a bunch of great links to Malian photography, fabrics, music.

He also sent me to Sahelsounds, which threatens to commandeer the heck out of my audio-space if I’m not careful. And also, this:


Ten Years Later: The History of Possibility:

The attacks on September 11 had an unforeseen consequence for the Left. The “anti-globalization” movement abruptly entered public consciousness after the 1999 World Trade Organization protests in Seattle and disappeared just as quickly. But, for a moment, radical politics appeared pregnant with possibility.

One Thing the Ecological Left Must Do:

Naturally I agree with every item on the Ten Things Obama Must Do on the Environment checklist,(via) but the problem as always comes in the failure to think through what should happen when Obama doesn’t do these things, or worse, does the exact opposite—as he already has on #1, #2, #3, and #10 at least. At some point the ecological left has to move past thinking of Obama as its ally and begin thinking of him more like its opponent; only when we give up the notion that Obama is fundamentally “on our side” can his “mistakes” on the environment be understood. They’re not mistakes, they’re policy choices, made solely at Obama’s executive discretion without anywhere else to point the finger. Making checklists for him to continue to ignore won’t save the planet.

Fred Clark points out that:

Mega-church pastor, televangelist and “Bible prophecy” peddler John Hagee really needs to update his stock sermon about how America is turning into Sodom and Gomorrah due to the secular humanism threatening the safety of our good, godly children. [it] reads like he wrote it during the Clinton administration and hasn’t bothered to change any of it since then. He gave this sermon last month, but is there a single reference here that couldn’t have been made in 1999?

“Secular humanism is a pagan god and America is bowing at the shrine. It has filled our drug rehab centers, it has filled the divorce courts, it has filled the shelter for battered wives, it has filled the rape crisis centers, it has filled the mental hospitals and single bars, it has filled the penitentiaries and the roster guests for the brain-dead television shows you see from New York. Think about that, we’re in a moral free fall where your children can be taught witchcraft by Harry Potter; that Heather has two mommies; you can substitute Christmas for a midwinter holiday, call it anything you want to but don’t call it Christmas, kick God out of the Christmas event; you can let your daughter go to school and she can get an abortion without your permission or without your knowledge but she cannot get an aspirin without your knowledge. Something is dreadfully wrong when you as the parent cannot control the destiny of your own child. America has turned its back from the God of the Bible and it is time for the church of Jesus Christ to stand up and speak up and say we have a right to the destiny of our own children!”

Heather Has Two Mommies was first published in 1989. The 10th anniversary edition is more than 10 years old. The little kindergartener in that story would be 27 years old by now. I think it’s long past time for Hagee to find a new shorthand symbol of the Big Gay Menace and the general moral decay of American Babylon.

How hard would it be for Hagee to keep his shtick a bit more current by tossing in a Lady Gaga or a Jersey Shore reference? Is that too much to ask? Just look at the video for Lady Gaga’s single “Judas” — she’s doing everything she can to get her name into sermons like this one from Hagee, and yet he utterly fails to pick up on that.

Eric Stoner’s latest “Experiments with Truth” roundup, at Waging Nonviolence:

‘s banking blog:

So what is a Dutch anthropologist doing talking to bankers in the City of London? That was certainly the first thing bankers themselves wanted to know before they would even consider meeting with me in secret.

Two higher education link dumps:

Racism, Sexism and Lonely Planet India:

It’s likely that a (loose Western) women travelling in India during the hot season might wonder why she’s still sweating beneath that (culturally authentic) shawl when she has plenty of (slutty, skimpy) vests in her backpack. It’s possible she might get angry at the fact cross-cultural patriarchy has made her so uncomfortable. It’s possible she might connect this discomfort with the fact there are more stray dogs out on the street than women, despite her travel guide’s seeming inability to make this link. She might even notice that, no matter what she wears, men still stare at her, yell at her, grope her, take photos of her without asking, ignore her and give her boyfriend the bill. She might even feel a sense of solidarity with the Indian women who have to put up with this shit and much, much worse all the time. She might look around her and notice that all the backpacker dudes aren’t all that much better, and are often a lot worse, especially the total stranger who shouted that she should use her boobs to help him hitchhike. She might think fuck this, I’m putting on my fucking vest and it’s not to help you fucking hitckhike. And the guy? Maybe he likes his shorts, or maybe he doesn’t feel comfortable making wardrobe decisions on the basis of caste prejudice, which a few pages ago was being discussed as a terrible but thankfully fading custom.

There is an ever-so-subtle difference between promoting cultural sensitivity and chauvinism. It’s not so hard to spot the distinction, if you try. Cultural sensitivity might mean both sexes covering heads and removing shoes when entering a mosque. It might mean not wearing a bikini to dinner. It might mean refraining from passionately kissing someone in public. Generally, cultural sensitivity just means approaching each unique social situation with intelligence, kindness and respect. People from other countries aren’t actually aliens.

This doesn’t mean women should feel bad about adapting their clothing or behaviour if doing so makes life easier while in India. If you feel OK about covering up, and if it genuinely stops all the unwanted attention, do it. But the Lonely Planet should stop perpetuating stereotypes about ‘loose Western women’ founded on the erroneous belief these stereotypes are rooted in ‘Indian culture’. At best, this is ignorance; at worst, it’s both racist and sexist, advancing a colonialist myth about inherently lustful Indian men that (a) fails to acknowledge the complexity and cultural specificity of the situation and (b) completely ignores all the Indian men who are perfectly respectful of women.
Hard and fast rules telling female tourists to disguise the contours of their bodies and behave meekly and obediently are nothing but an attempt to rebrand patriarchy as an ancient tradition that outsiders must respect.

Answer the question, republicans (via):

Angus Johnston does some crunching of the numbers put forth by a group called the Center for Equal Opportunity purporting to show that minorities are stealing all the college slots from good hard working white people: Do Black Students Really Have a 576-to-1 Advantage in University of Wisconsin Admissions?, How Did CEO Arrive at Their Admission Rate Numbers?, and Final Thoughts, For Now, on the CEO Study of Wisconsin Admissions

Links harvested from Jody Ranck’s twitter feed:

Via @noompa:


Who speaks in my name?:

“How is it that by virtue of being Palestinian I am told that my ‘sole legitimate representative’ is an organization I have never subscribed to, am not a member of, and have never voted for?”

Joseph Dana argues that

“Publicly, Palestinians appear unified in their support of statehood but in private conversations a different picture emerges. Many don’t subscribe to the opinion that statehood will bring real changes to their lives, which have been dominated by Israeli occupation. The general sentiment is that any attempt to gain a state without an end to the occupation is a frantic and poorly designed ploy by the Palestinian Authority (PA) – the governing authority of Palestinian life in the West Bank – to maintain what little legitimacy it still has, both in the international community and on the Palestinian street. Due to failed negotiations with Israel and the general mismanagement of Palestinian resources, the PA, led by Mahmoud Abbas, is currently not well received among the majority of Palestinians.

Joseph Massad argues that

“whether the UN grants the Palestinian Authority (PA) the government of a state under occupation and observer status as a state or refuses to do so, either outcome will be in the interest of Israel.”

Novelist dumps publisher:

Novelist Polly Courtney has dropped her publisher HarperCollins for giving her books “condescending and fluffy” covers aimed at the chick lit market.

The Interrogator.

The Soldier Who Killed Herself After Refusing to Take Part in Torture:

“Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.”

The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: “She said that she did not know how to be two people; she…could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.”

She was then assigned to the base gate, where she monitored Iraqi guards, and sent to suicide prevention training. “But on the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle,” the documents disclose.

The official report revealed that a notebook she had written in was found next to her body, but blacked out its contents.

“[S]even years later, and he’s aged like a president.” Tom Junod on Jon Stewart, and on the denial of power upon which his power depends:

He’s not so funny anymore, and it’s not only because he’s come to take himself seriously. It’s because in the Obama era, we’re starting to see the price of refusing to stand for anything.

As Johan Palme points out, Victorian cricketers are pretty much the most bad-ass people there are:

M.G. Vassanji’s Tanzania: land of constant complaints

In Tanzania, is it that they complain too much, or they expect too much? Since the beginnings of economic and political liberalization in the 1990s, the nation has charged forward; the print media is bold and vociferous in both of the national languages, English and Swahili—especially the latter. Paved roads connect every part of the country, reaching towns and villages previously cut off during the rains; cellphones are in evidence everywhere. The country is connected. It’s as if an engine turned on one day, and the once laid-back country, known as “the land of not yet,” woke up. So what are the complaints about? Or, as a slick, modern voice on the radio says in an angular Swahili, “Wapi ni beef?

On self-licking ice cream cones:

Neoliberalism, with its audit culture and fetish for short term quantitative indicators, is a mass production facility for self-licking cones. Everywhere bottom line measures of “efficiency” shape the activities of organisations and determine career advancement, selecting the kind of people and personalities who prosper in the system.

In the British National Health Service, general practitioners are assessed in part by the number of completed patient visits. Consequently, one has to go to the doctor several times for simple ailments so that statistics can be massaged. In Iraq and Afghanistan, much of the development aid provided by the US was outsourced to the private sector. In one electrical generation project outside Kabul, $40m of $300m were lost to contractor delays and other difficulties in order to build a plant that mostly sits idle. Without competitive bidding, the same contractor somehow has been given a new contract to the tune of $266m.

From the point of view of those living in Kabul, the reality is a melting cone that cannot be licked; for the contractors, it is like a bottomless tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream, reward for inventing indicators of “progress” amid farce. As with the USAF’s bombing in Vietnam, the corruption of development assistance is a recruiting sergeant for insurgency.

The shame of college sports.

“Why,” asked Bryce Jordan, the president emeritus of Penn State, “should a university be an advertising medium for your industry?”

Vaccaro did not blink. “They shouldn’t, sir,” he replied. “You sold your souls, and you’re going to continue selling them. You can be very moral and righteous in asking me that question, sir,” Vaccaro added with irrepressible good cheer, “but there’s not one of you in this room that’s going to turn down any of our money. You’re going to take it. I can only offer it.”

Is the Georgia Works Program a Failure, How Could We Tell and Would We Even Care?

I’m fascinated by the terms under which people might justify this as a good program or would say it is a failed program. Its ideology works well for people who are concerned that our workforce lacks the training for 21st century jobs: it allows workers to brush up their skills at no wages so they’ll be prepared to take on a job at the end. But even a quick glance at the underlying data shows that, instead of a program to jump-start education and training for skilled jobs, it looks like the Georgia Department of Labor is running a low-skills temp agency out of its UI fund for the benefit of employers.

Edinburgh’s recent spate of mysterious paper sculptures. via @bilaltanweer

BART lays on the astroturf:

For the press conference, BART wanted riders to step up to the microphone and stick closely to a script prepared by its communications department explaining how the demonstrations had affected their lives. The script, according to one of the emails, would be:

“My name is __________. I take BART from _______(eg, Hayward) to downtown San Francisco. I depend on BART to get me to my destination safely and on-time. Whatever your message is, it is completely lost on me because you’re putting my life at risk. Furthermore you’re making me late. That’s preventing me from being able to (explain hardship such as pick up my children from child care, which means I have to pay an extra __________, or miss my doctors appointment, which means I will be sick for xxx time or miss my job interview, xxx). We riders demand an immediate end to these illegal acts that make us late and put our lives at risk!”

To ensure that a protest wouldn’t delay the commuters on their way to the press event, Johnson instructed his staff to coordinate with BART police to “make sure they can get to the news conference location safely and on-time (maybe get a van, or a special train, etc.).” BART police vans were already in use, so the transit agency instead hired two SUVs with drivers at a cost of $872, according to BART spokeswoman Luna Salavar.

Tony Judt’s Final Word on Israel