Archive for September 13th, 2010
I feel compelled to speak out on the controversy surrounding the Israeli artists who have announced their refusal to perform in the territories. For the record, my career as a performer has spanned 68 years. In my 20s, I was a co-founder of the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv (of that group, I am the last one alive). I have resided in America since 1954, and as a concert artist I frequently work in the field of Jewish culture, performing in the languages of our people — Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino and even in English, the language spoken by the largest Jewish community in the world.
As president of the Associated Actors & Artistes of America (the umbrella union covering performers in the United States), I have often spoken out in opposition to cultural boycotts. I have argued that art opens minds and builds bridges, even when carried into the very heart of enemy territory perhaps especially then. But life, as we know it, often defies simple formulas. In the political arena, artists make a statement by their presence or their absence.
Pablo Casals, the world-famous cellist, who chose life-long exile from his native Spain because of the fascist dictator who ruled the beloved country of his birth, said this: “My cello is my weapon; I choose where I play, when I play, and before whom I play.”
My own choices have often been dictated by similar sentiments. For many years, when apartheid was the law of the land there, I refused official invitations and lucrative offers to perform in South Africa. Indeed, I have always refused to appear in halls that were racially segregated, whether in America or elsewhere in the world. More than two years ago, I refused an invitation by the mayor of Ariel to appear at the opening of the very same cultural facility then under construction and now at the center of the controversy.
There are weighty reasons why I find myself in full support of the artists’ refusal to perform in the territories. And it should be noted that I am not alone in supporting the courageous stand of our Israeli colleagues. There is a growing list of over 150 prominent artists and arts leaders from the U.S. who have expressed similar concerns to mine.
The cause celebre regarding the new performance facility in Ariel has given rise to statements from the leaders of that community as well as from Prime Minister Netanyahu and the culture minister, Limor Livnat. While the latter asserts that “political disputes should be left outside cultural life and art,” both the prime minister and the settlers’ council make it clear that the matter is not about art at all, but about what they call an attack on Israel “from within.”
The declaration of conscience signed by prominent Israeli artists among them recipients of the Israel Prize, the highest cultural accolade given by the state is characterized as emanating from “anti-Zionist leftists” and is described by the prime minister as being part of an “international movement of delegitimization.”
Clearly, anything that is connected to the settlers or to the settlements’ presence beyond the Green Line is political. And, if the refusal of the artists to perform in the territories is tantamount to delegitimization, it follows that any agreement to perform there would amount to legitimizing what many of us (in and outside of Israel) believe to be the single most glaring obstacle to peace.
This post originally appeared in Haaretz.
Monique Lhuillier has made it to the top of my must-see list because her designs are dazzling…and that’s it. I know that there won’t be much to think about as I’m jammed between one editor quickly clicking notes into her Blackberry and a woman pointing to the front row and repeatedly whispering, “Wait, which one is [insert starlet's name here]?” — Lhuillier’s bright gowns will dance before my eyes and make me debate my black and gray uniform as they have for each season I’ve been in attendance.
Her Spring 2011 show on Monday met my expectations. The first few looks screamed “First Lady” to me (belts, people) but by the end I was shopping for myself for the Oscars red carpet I will never walk. Full disclosure: there were a few sartorial slip-ups, such as a petal-like piece of fabric falling from a blue dress and a zipper bursting open on one of the green gowns. But this gushing writer is willing to overlook any faults in exchange for any one of the runway looks. Just kidding. Or am I? Take a look at some images from the show and tell me which is your favorite.
1 of 25
Victoria Beckham Spring 2011: Which Vibrant Frock Do You Want? (PHOTOS, POLL)
Christina Hendricks, Anderson Cooper & More Hit Fashion Week On Sunday (PHOTOS, POLL)
Rag & Bone Spring 2011 (PHOTOS, POLL)
Edition Georges Chakra Spring/Summer 2011 Collection (PHOTOS, POLL)
Fashion’s Night Out 2010 Takes New York, Los Angeles (PHOTOS, POLL)
BCBG Max Azria Spring 2011: Which Dress Would You Wear? (PHOTOS, POLL)
Total comments: 0 | Post a Comment
Rate This Slide
Rank #2 | Average: 8.6
Current Top 5 Slides
Choose your Top 5 Slides
| Become a fan
Picked These as the Top 5 Slides in the Slideshow
Top User Slides
| Become a fan
Picked These as the Top 5 Slides in the Slideshow
Users who voted on this slide
Follow Hilary Moss on Twitter:
Jobs, yes, but what kind? While Obama proposes to build highways (with some runways and railbeds thrown in), and the national GOP continues to say “no,” what are local politicians doing? Some crucial economic steps could be taken only by the feds, but is there anything to be accomplished meanwhile on the state or county levels?
One candidate who says yes is Jeff Golden, running for country commissioner in southern Oregon. His county (Jackson) has a population of a tad more than 200,000, plus the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Rogue River, mountain ranges. (Disclosure: I live there and, like many in the valley, know and support Golden.)
On his website the candidate has just posted what he calls his “local jobs agenda.” Detailed, starting with a chart, this document focuses on “clusters” poised, in his view, for exceptional growth. It’s routine to find “forestry,” long a leading industry in this area, but surprising to see “food and agriculture,” “energy conservation,” and “green construction.” According to a local economic consultancy, these three clusters could grow faster than any others in Jackson County, and could pay what are referred to as “family wages.”
Golden is proposing that county government not take over these areas, but rather assume the role of convening the players (the “stakeholders”) and thus helping to get things started, tailoring ordinances, buying local, bringing entrepreneurs together with investors.
Why these particular clusters?
According to the agenda, only 1-3% of the food eaten in the valley is grown here. As long as just-in-time sourcing from all over the globe continues to operate, no problem; but if for any reason localities had to assume more responsibility for feeding themselves, some of the 97-99% of food now trucked in would have to be replaced. The current situation is not food security; it is gross vulnerability.
Vulnerable to what? To a sharp rise in the price of oil, caused by the peak of global oil production, even without rising demand from Asia. Golden is not predicting a sharp rise, but his goal of growing perhaps 20% of food locally would help if a rise were to happen.
Analysts warning about peak oil (such as the Post-Carbon Institute) were regarded as a fringe movement as recently as a few years ago, but since then the official international body charged with predicting production figures has been drastically revising its figures down, from the fantastic toward the present output. Even Lloyd’s of London now acknowledges peak oil, which does not mean the exhaustion of oil supplies; it refers to the maximum global production, after which the graph starts sloping inexorably downward, whether or not demand is rising.
The peak is crucial, because for about a century our civilization has been increasingly built on oil. (The model-T Ford, in 1908, is a convenient starting point.) Oil yields gas and other fuels for civilian cars, trucks, farm equipment, planes, ships, and railroads; for military uses; pesticides; plastics; and many other modern conveniences. When oil gets expensive, we tend to have a recession, which is not a salubrious atmosphere for investment in energy alternatives.
Which brings us to a second of Golden’s leading trio of economic clusters, “energy conservation.” If oil gets expensive, we’ll need to do everything we can with less of it. It will pay, for example, to arrange cooperative use of vehicles. To the extent that oil is used for heating, it will pay to have tight buildings that don’t leak heat into the atmosphere.
The third of Golden’s top trio of clusters is “green construction.” Here our society will not only retrofit existing buildings but rewrite codes to encourage energy-efficient new construction. Thanks to some pioneering architects and clients, Jackson County already has some green homes. How can we encourage more, and not only for rich clients? What about commercial space, the health industry, schools?
The final item on Golden’s list is “business incubation and financing.” This is less a cluster than a service to the specific areas. The metaphor suggests fragile chicks that need warmth and special food until they get stronger.
Contrary to ideologues who would deny government a role, many big strong industries got their start as projects started or subsidized by a government. Examples in the U.S. include railroads that received land, and the Internet. The latter grew out of something called ARPANET, which at first mainly connected scientists and universities. Golden wants to encourage local business in part by making sure the county buys as much as possible from it.
Of course, this plan for exceptional growth in promising clusters depends on a revival of the general economy. However, to the extent that peak oil will force us to grow more local food, conserve energy, and “build green,” jobs in these clusters need to be encouraged in any case.
What can county government do? If you navigate to the website of your county, you will probably find departments such as sheriff and D.A., courts, assessor (of property tax), health and human services, library, parks, roads, perhaps a fairground and an airport, perhaps an office supporting economic development.
According to Golden’s agenda, the county government, “with very limited budgetary resources,” can nonetheless have a big effect not by raising taxes and proposing bond issues, but by buying locally itself, by convening stakeholders in strategic clusters, and by encouraging local financial institutions and investors to support local business. (For other ideas, start by checking out the Ash Center and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies.)
It is boilerplate for some Democrats to call for growth and jobs. As the midterm elections approach, the president is supporting more money for highways. What distinguishes Golden is the particular clusters he wants to encourage — not a revival of the usual, but support for businesses of the future, centered on local food, energy conservation, and green building.
Are any of your local candidates talking this way? If not, perhaps they need a group to remind them. If so, perhaps you can help.
The story of the week in Philly is Mike Vick. Damn, I don’t remember him looking that good back in Atlanta. And with K2 out for, well, we don’t really know how long at this point, could we see a QB controversy brewing? Probably not – Big Red has said definitively that K2 is the future. But Vick looked terrific – his wheels are back, he was accurate, he made good short and long passes and good decisions, and he took what the defense gave him. I know a lot of people are pissed he didn’t run it in mid-way through the fourth quarter when we took the 3 points instead, leaving us down by 7, but he was about 12 yards out and while there were no Packers DIRECTLY in front of him, there were several nearby between him and the end zone. Other than that (and I do think he made the right decision in attempting the pass, because the run was all or nothing at that point, and it had little chance of succeeding), he played a great game, jumpstarting our moribund offense and nearly bringing us back from an ass-whuppin’ that was a lot more one-sided than the 17 point (at its widest) differential reflected. Did you know that Vick is now one of only 3 QBs with over 4000 rush yards? The other two are Steve Young and our own Randall Scramble.
Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of good. Both teams start game day with a 45 man roster, and by the end of the first half, I was pretty sure one or both teams was going to run out of players.
At the beginning of the game, I was thinking: “I’m really surprised Jamal Jackson is back! It seems awfully fast after a torn ACL and, although he’s clearly a better center than the other options (Cole and McGlynn), he and K2 have had NO time together.” Did you miss that he was even there? That’s because, basically by the time I finished thinking that thought, he was out (maybe for the season – again) with a torn triceps.
Packers rookie Clay Matthews had a great day, if by “great day” you mean “physically incapacitated every single Eagle he came within 10 feet of.”
K2? Out with a concussion for who knows how long.
Stewart Bradley? Same. Now, he did fall down after getting up because he tripped on his own feet, but he seriously got his clock cleaned, which you could tell by looking at his eyes.
I already mentioned our center.
And then there’s Leonard Weaver. That was literally a sickening collision. Knees are not supposed to bend like that. He had to pretty much be carried off the field, and it looked like he was crying. Think he’s out for the season? Yeah, me too. During the game Adam Schefter tweeted that the Eagles were thinking it was probably a torn ACL (it is). I quote @BleedingGreen:
My eyes reported that when it happened.
The Eagles sideline was starting to look like the train station scene in Gone with the Wind, only less cheerful.
I remember at one point, Clay Matthews had drilled Mike Vick and the Idiot Twins were blathering on about God knows what on TV and Vick’s holding his left arm and they’re not addressing it and I about flipped out. Because I saw Mike Kafka at training camp, and trust me, we do not want him to be our only option.
On to the game itself. K2, until he went down, looked like a rookie. He’s still keying on particular receivers and not going through his reads. I hope he’s able to fix that. Also, son, you’re not Big5. Don’t throw off your back foot. I also didn’t like the constant screwing around with taking him out and putting Vick in, because it seemed to me that he never got a chance to get comfortable. Just leave him alone and let him run the offense for chrissakes!
David Akers continues to be money. He was good from 45, and he’s pretty much the only guy on the team over 30 at this point. Something to think about. Of course, he is a kicker, and they tend to have long careers, but still.
I expected penalties from this bunch of young’uns. But more penalty yards in the first half than total yards? Only 7 total yards of offense? NO catches for Peanut? NO catches for Celek?
And then we started the half without K2. At least it made AR and/or Mornhinweg quit screwing around and just play a QB. But we still couldn’t seem to do anything right. Vick started with a solid run and a great pass – and then Charles Woodson knocked the ball loose as Eldra Buckley fights for more yards, and the Packers waltzed on down the field for another score, taking the score to 20-3.
After that, our offense starting to making things happen, but the defense fell apart. We got in the end zone – FINALLY – and then the Packer got a great run back on the kickoff and then 4 plays later, SCORED AGAIN. Were they just gassed in the second half, are the Packers that good (possibly), or can they just not cover anyone (I sure as hell hope that’s not it)?
I definitely didn’t like the draw call on our last chance to put together a drive on the 4th and 1. Vick’s a great outside runner, but he’s not big or powerful enough for the draw play. And the Packers clearly knew it was coming.
And, as usual, our clock management was a mess. In other news, gravity is still in effect.
I suspect Vick will start again against the Lions next week, given the concussion situation, and after that, we’ll have to see. But again, Andy’s 100% that Kolb’s the future, so let’s hope he can get over his beginner jitters soon.
Get the rest of the recaps here.
Follow Elizabeth Engel on Twitter:
We’ll look back at 2010 as a critical crossroad for climate campaign. The new U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres has made it clear that an International Climate Treaty is basically dead while at the same time she is urging the world leaders to take some practical steps to deal with climate change. And national approaches? It has failed this year both in Australia and the U.S. It is clear now that serious action on climate change is not possible through government actions, at least not anytime soon. In the U.S. we know far too well that big oil and big coal will try to kill whatever threatens their astronomical profits.
We ought to acknowledge that climate campaign is far more complex and far more difficult than any campaign for social justice humanity ever had to deal with. All justice movements of the past dealt with issues within a single nation (or few few nations at most) and primarily fought people’s prejudices and passion (some cases money was involved too). Climate campaign on the other hand is a planetary crisis for every inch of our earth, every human being regardless of race or class, all animals and birds… for all life, and the climate campaigners need to tackle the largest corporations, corporations who have very serious amounts of money at stake. But its us too — why would any American give up the quality of their life (even though this level of consumption is not sustainable no matter what clean technology one invents) and why would anyone in China or India give up their dream to have the American way of life? Go figure — we’re totally screwed!
So I’ve been thinking. While we continue and intensify our climate action of today, we have to think about the future. I mean the next generation, and the one after that… I strongly believe we need major overhaul of our education system. We must make climate education a top priority for all universities, colleges, community colleges, and K-12 schools. While there are pockets of climate centers at various U.S. universities (some of them even get funding from big oil and big coal to produce big climate deniers), but they focus primarily on climate science. I found no humanities based climate institute. We need to name these centers with climate at the banner, say, Institute for Climate Studies. There, students will learn all aspects of climate change — climate science, climate humanities, climate economics, and climate engineering. Climate science will give us the information and it is necessary, climate humanities will articulate for us the suffering that we’ll have to endure and what we must do to help each other out, and also teach us how to communicate climate stories, and the climate economics and climate engineering will help us chart a course for a clean energy economy. There has never been in the past and there may never be in future a planetary crisis like climate change and our educational institutions must step up to the plate now.
We must acknowledge that our youth will have to deal with climate crimes (I’ve been framing the climate events as crimes) much more than what we’re dealing with today. We must put in place the educational system now, so that today’s youth will be better equipped to fight for a liveable planet for themselves and for all other species with whom they’ll share this earth.
Since 2006 I’ve been a visiting scholar at the Environmental Humanities Graduate Program at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. This is the first graduate program in the country to teach environmental studies from humanities perspective. You can imagine whatever I’m writing here in part has been influenced by the vision of that program that Dean Robert Newman founded and where Terry Tempest Wiliams teaches.
You may laugh at me for proposing such a far-fetched idea of reform through education for an urgent topic like climate change. But I’m convinced that we need climate education at all levels of our education system and we need hundreds of Howard Zinns and Edward Saids to teach and prepare our youth for the climate-to-come.
I hope you’ll join me in taking a slightly longer vision for our climate campaign.
Copyright 2010 Subhankar Banerjee
Subhankar Banerjee is founder of ClimateStoryTellers.org
It’s not every day that a writer calls for a demonstration. But in this case, I was far from being alone. Sihem Habchi and the members of the French association, Ni Putes ni Soumises [Neither Whores nor Submissive] were there. There were some of the hundreds of thousands of invisible signers of the petition published in my review, La Rgle du Jeu. And as the event was in preparation, my friend Jean-Baptiste Descroix-Vernier’s “Ninjas”, those aces of the web, engineers of the soul of the Net, who ensured that the site remained on line so the appeal to demonstrate could continue to circulate, were also there. The result was a singularly moving moment. And when the thousands of Parisians present at the Place de la Rpublique on this beautiful September Sunday heard the voice of Sajjad, Sakineh’s son, on the cell phone, telling us, all the way from Tabriz, of his gratitude, of the risks he was taking by communicating with us this way, and the importance, in Iran, of a gathering of this kind, a few of us thought, with the sob of the Psalmist catching in our throats, “we have not worked for nothing, our plea was not in vain.”
Why Sakineh, the disgruntled ask? Aren’t there many other Sakinehs, in Iran and elsewhere, facing the same fate? Because Sakineh is a symbol, we replied in unison. She could well have done without being a symbol. She has become this symbol, oh how unwillingly. But that’s how it is, it happened as though dictated by destiny. It is an insane story whose consequences rained down upon the head of this simple, practically illiterate woman who is innocent in every sense of the word. Clearly, today, by defending Sakineh, we in fact defend the other Sakinehs waiting on Iran’s death rows, and perhaps we take vengeance, as well, for those who, alas, were granted no waiting time and who are dead. This is the face of all the women who have been stoned to death, burned alive, eviscerated–but those without faces and who disappeared, for that, in silence and indifference, just an abstract number.
Why stoning, ask the same spirits who would put a damper on all this? Aren’t there other methods of capital punishment in Iran? Because that is the most abominable of all. Because this attack upon the face, this pounding of stones upon an innocent and naked face, this refinement in cruelty that goes so far as to specify the size of the stones, so that the victim’s suffering will be long and drawn out, represents a rare concentration of inhumanity and barbarity. And because this way of destroying a face, of making the flesh explode and reducing it to a bloody magma, this gesture of bombarding a face until it has been rendered a pulp, constitutes something more than an execution. Stoning is not a death sentence. Stoning is more than a death sentence. Stoning is the liquidation of the flesh one has put on trial, in a sense retroactively, for having been this flesh, just this flesh–the flesh of a young and beautiful woman, perhaps one who loved and was loved, who perhaps once reveled in the joy of loving and being loved.
Aren’t there other crimes, then, in Iran? Other attacks on human rights of both men and women? Yes, of course. But this one is characterized by something all the others lack. Freud once said that all societies are founded upon a crime committed in common. Well, I hold that, in this affair of stoning, in this manner of killing together, in common, in this scene where each one rushes to the fore to be sure to cast the first stone and, if not the first, then the last, in this collectivization of crime, this democratization of torture, this permit to kill that tells each one, “come, come closer, you will all be assassins, you have, not only the right, but the duty to have your share of this blood on your hands”, there is something that grows from the very foundation of Iranian social ties today. And this it true to such an extent that, by denouncing stoning, by stopping the arm of the lynch mob in its Communion, by shielding the face of Sakineh, we are aiming, as well, at the heart of the regime.
Will we succeed? And what can the silent prayers of a crowd of demonstrators do, in the face of stones? Contrary to general assumptions, totalitarian regimes are not irresistible. It is erroneous to think they are autistic and never back off. On the contrary, they do back off. They have always backed off, everywhere. All they need, to do so, is to encounter the appropriate resistance. Hitler backed off, when Dimitrov was to be tried. Stalin backed off in the face of a campaign of public opinion, led by Romain Rolland, forcing him to pardon Victor Serge. And, forced by international pressure, how many dissidents were the Soviets compelled to release in the 1970s? In the same manner, the Iranian regime may let go. And it will if the campaign does not lose its force, if others magnify it, and if, notably in the Islamic community, spiritual and intellectual authorities or simple citizens finally raise their voices to take up the cause. This is the task to which La Rgle du Jeu, under the authority of publication director Gilles Hertzog, is now committed. This is the campaign we are going to launch, now, in a few countries–Bosnia, Algeria, Turkey, Morocco–where there is a huge majority of Muslims who feel that stoning is also an affront to Islam and to the Koran. Iran will give in if it understands that, by persisting, it will be banished, once and for all and everywhere, from humanity.
It’s been a long and fascinating primary season, with most of the heavy action on the GOP side, and that’s largely how it will culimate with tomorrow’s eight-primary event (Hawaii will vote on Saturday, and Louisiana holds its runoff on October 2) in NH, MA, RI, NY, MD, DE, DC and WI.
The only competitive Senate primaries in this batch are in NH and DE, and both are interesting because surging hard-right candidates in both states are threatening settled Republican assumptions that these seats are in the bag. Public Policy Polling officially set off GOP establishment panic late last night with new surveys showing self-styled “only conservative in the race” Ovide Lamontagne pulling within 7 points of long-time front-runner and prize NRSC recruit Kelly Ayotte in NH, and Christian Right firebrand Christine O’Donnell actually taking a narrow lead over congressman (and former governor) Mike Castle in DE.
Ayotte’s still the favorite in NH, in part because her main tormenter during the campaign, heavy self-funder Bill Binnie, seems to be in a bit of a free-fall after running to her left on some issues (notably abortion), while a fourth candidate, another self-funder, Jim Bender, is taking some conservative votes away from Lamontagne. Lamontagne’s main ace-in-the-hole is the characteristically outspoken support of the New Hampshire Union-Leader, which has been running frequent articles and editorials boosting their candidate and excoriating Ayotte. Just this weekend, after Ayotte’s office released a boatload of emails to show she didn’t (as Binnie charged) deliberately stay out of a notorious Ponzi scheme fraud case that hurt a significant number of New Hampshire citizens, the Union-Leader found a 2009 email exchange between Ayotte with a political consultant discussing a potential campaign, and plastered the embarassing news all over its front page.
Outside forces appear to be a minor factor in the NH race; Sarah Palin, who endorsed Ayotte back in July when Binnie was considered the only threat to her, did some robo-calls for her Granite State Mama Grizzly, and Jim DeMint offered Lamontagne a last-minute endorsement. In the back of every observer’s mind is the fact that Lamontagne is the only candidate in the Republican field who has been running behind Democratic congressman Paul Hodes in general election polls.
In addition to the PPP poll, Magellan Strategies has just released a survey showing Ayotte up just four points over Lamontagne (35-31), with both Binnie and Bender fading in the stretch. Ayotte is still struggling against the relatively high negative perceptions fed by Binnie’s earlier (and massive) ad attacks, but is holding most of her vote; the big question may be where former Binnie supporters wind up.
In DE, the state GOP has weighed in heavily in Castle’s favor, buttressing a fairly broad establishment GOP attack on O’Donnell as something of a flake and a fraud (viz. a Weekly Standard article highlighting her 2005 gender discrimination lawsuit against the think tank of the campus-based conservative group ISI). Her shaky personal finances have also sparked some negative comments (perhaps aimed at Tea Party activists who are outraged at the mortgage-defaulting “irresponsible people” they think of as causing the housing and financial collapses). But unless PPP’s numbers are way off, O’Donnell’s achieved a major surge in support from conservatives long unhappy with Castle’s moderate voting record in the House, and particularly his vote for climate change legislation. He is also considered the embodiment of the status quo in Delaware, having served in statewide office for thirty straight years. The last-minute endorsements she received from Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint and the NRA have the aroma of pols jumping on a fast-moving bandwagon rather than risky assistance to an underdog.
If O’Donnell does win, Democratic county executive Chris Coons, who’s been running a respectable race against Castle, would probably become the instant front-runner in the general election. And even if Castle survives, the wounds of the increasingly nasty primary fight–PPP found 55% of likely Republican voters calling Castle “too liberal”–could give Coons some new momentum.
The other big statewide contest tomorrow is the GOP gubernatorial primary in WI, where Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former congressman (and the 1998 senatorial nominee who threw a scare into Russ Feingold) Mark Neumann are duking it out for the right to face Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. Walker has long been the front-runner, but Neumann has self-funded his way to a significant advantage in air time. Though both candidates appear to be conventional pro-life conservatives, Neumann has boasted of significant Tea Party backing, but Walker has focused during the stretch drive on the former congressman’s 1998 vote for a controversially expensive transportation bill. Walker remains the favorite to win, but it could be very close.
Space does not permit a full accounting of tomorrow’s House primaries, but Democrats have just a few competitive races in competitive districts. In NH-2, vacated by Senate candidate Paul Hodes, Anne McLane Kuster is favored to defeat Katrina Swett, the daughter and wife of congressmen who is perhaps fatally associated with Joe Lieberman’s political career. In MA-10, a potential Republican takeover seat, state senator Robert O’Leary and DA Bill Keating are in a close race to succeed retiring Rep. Bill Delahunt. In RI-1, where Patrick Kennedy is retiring, Providence Mayor David Cicilline is favored to win the nomination against two viable opponents for what could be a close November race. And in NY, embattled Rep. Charlie Rangel will likely survive a divided field of opponents to hang onto his House seat, though his struggle is bound to bring back poignant memories of his own upset win over Adam Clayton Powell forty years ago.
Republicans have a host of competitive primaries; in NH-2, free-spending Sean Mahoney has forced a close race with former Manchester mayor Frank Guinta. In MA-10, it’s a battle of scandals with former state treasurer Joe Malone seeking to overcome financial irregularities in his office by drawing attention to rival ex-cop Jeffrey Perry’s complicity in an illegal strip search of teenaged girls (Mitt Romney and Scott Brown are backing Perry).
In NY, there’s a bitter and complex three-way GOP primary to choose an opponent for vulnerable Long Island Democrat Tim Bishop, in which the Conservatve Party nomination is a factor as well. In NY-23, the site of the 2009 special election intraparty disaster for Republicans, conservative Doug Hoffmann will again wage a third-party campaign if he loses a close race to Matt Doheney.
In MD, the eastern shore district represented by highly vulnerable freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil features a very competitive GOP primary featuring 2008 GOP nominee Andy Harris, who beat incumbent Republican Wayne Gilchrist in that year’s primary and then lost to Kratovil, and self-funding businessman Rob Fisher, who’s been endorsed by Gilchrist.
And in WI, three very credible GOP candidates are battling for the chance to oppose sophomore Democrat Steve Kagan. Former contractor Reid Ribble has spent the most money and led in the one public poll of the race.
Finally, there’s the non-state primary tomorrow: DC’s definitive Democratic primary for the mayoralty of our nation’s capital. It’s a rather strange primary: DC residents atypically have a positive attitude about Washington’s direction, but seem to be leaning towards denying the re-election of Mayor Adrian Fenty in favor of District Council chairman Vincent Gray. There are significant signs of racial polarization in this contest, with the incumbent being accused of excessive concern for the interests of upscale gentrifying white citizens who have recently moved into the District, raising rental rates, while the challenger has also benefitted from a backlash against controversial school reforms. Given the strong national publicity linking Fenty to President Obama if the incumbent loses, and the equally strong national interest in Fenty’s school reforms, the outcome may be over-interpreted no matter who wins.
Like all of us, I’ve watched the horrendous disaster in the Gulf Coast continue to unfold in these five months or so since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded off the coast of Louisiana. As a narrative with many threads — the millions of dollars spent by the BP image machine, the president in shirt sleeves with furrowed brow, fishermen stifling tears on camera — it’s been a horrifying, never-ending train wreck of a disaster story. Then the oily birds, the limp fish, the oil slick — we knew which images were coming next, thanks to a well-honed TV news narrative formula. And then, even with the leak finally plugged, we got the next wave of narrative: How will the oil dissipate? Will it just go away? How do the chemical dispersants (kind of a fancy, extreme version of Windex, from what I’ve read) work?
Isn’t it in our cultural DNA to neatly “fight this thing” or “beat this thing” (fill in handy clich here) — or, in the words of BP’s slick campaign, “make this right” — and just move on as soon as the narrative has played itself out? The hole is plugged, and BP has created some lovely videos assuring us that they love the local folks and are committed to cleaning up the mess (or that it’s not as bad a mess as we think).
So, what about the aftermath? What about the ecological changes that have only just begun? What about the livelihoods of people with a way of life that’s largely dependent on an ecological environment full of healthy sea life? What about protection for the workers cleaning up the mess? Will these questions and answers continued to be covered by media? Can media help keep the public spotlight on BP to clean up the mess, which is a project that is many years in the making?
Not sure yet — it’s too soon to tell. But an article in the Washington Post brought back memories of my own loose connection to another oil spill in Prince William Sound, Alaska, and thoughts about the long-term aftermath. The Post’s Theresa Vargas wrote a very well-crafted, sort of hopeless story about the attempt by Louisianans to learn from the experience of the Alaskans affected by the Exxon disaster in 1989. It was the first article I’ve read in years about the long-term aftermath of the spill — that is, until the Gulf Coast spill ushered in all of the inevitable comparisons.
About five years ago, I worked as a producer on Sierra Club Chronicles, a documentary TV series about environmental justice. The unofficial mandate of the series (which aired on independent broadcast network, Link TV, and later on Sundance Channel), I believe, was to cover stories about environment justice that were inherently important, had an element of unrequited justice, and didn’t receive much media attention.
One of our episodes, “The Day the Water Died,” focused on what was happening in the present-day Alaskan community in which a drunk Exxon tanker captain spilled 11 billion gallons of oil in 1989. What we found was breathtaking — stories of suicide, poverty, destruction of families, a total shift in the ecology of the area (herring was to Alaska what shrimp is to Louisiana, and the former is now nonexistent 21 years after the Exxon spill). And it was only a few years ago — in 2008, 20 years after the spill — that the company was finally ordered to pay court-ordered punitive damages (about $1 billion, not the original $5 billion awarded) in a class-action lawsuit filed against Exxon by 32,000 fishermen. The accountability was two decades in the making, and the people interviewed for our episode were acutely aware of it.
We certainly didn’t see media images or find stories about that suffering all those years later. How could a story this big be untold?
I hope things will be different for Louisiana. I hope Anderson Cooper heads down there again in a year — and then five years, and seven, and 10 — to visit the local folks and find out what’s really happening with the long-term clean-up and recovery. I hope that the de facto gag order on reporters trying to legitimately cover the real environmental destruction will lift — or that tenacious journalists will continue to just bang their heads on the door to get in. Oprah Magazine’s editor-in-chief, Susan Casey, wrote a particularly breathtaking story about the spill (and the difficulties facing reporters trying to cover it) in the September issue. She writes:
I’m grateful for her coverage, and I also hope that the rise in independent digital media sources and citizen journalism will keep the spotlight on the disaster, which is certainly not finished, but really only just beginning.
Or — if I’m a cynic — I might think that maybe the next environmental disaster in ten or more years will invite a kind of retrospective re-examination of the Gulf Coast to find out what happened to all of those folks down there.
Follow Caty Borum Chattoo on Twitter:
In the early 1970s, I spent two summers slinging pork loins in a Chicago meat-packing factory. Rose Packing Company paid a handful of college students $2.25 an hour to process pork. Donning combat boots, yellow rubber aprons, goggles, hairnets and floor-length white smocks that didn’t stay white very long, we’d arrive on the factory floor. Surrounded by deafening machinery, we’d step over small pools of blood and waste, adjusting ourselves to the rancid odors, as we headed to our posts. I’d step onto a milk crate in front of a huge bin full of thawing pork loins. Then, swinging a big, steel T-hook, I’d stab a large pork loin, pull it out of the pile, and plop it on a conveyor belt carrying meat into the pickle juice machine. Sometimes a roar from a foreman would indicate a switch to processing Canadian pork butts, which involved swiftly shoving metal chips behind rectangular cuts of meat. On occasion, I’d be assigned to a machine that squirted meat waste meat into a plastic tubing, part of the process for making hot dogs. I soon became a vegetarian.
But, up until some months ago, if anyone had ever said to me, “Kathy Kelly, you slaughtered animals,” I’m sure I would have denied it and maybe even felt a bit indignant. Recently, I realized that in fact I did participate in animal slaughter. It’s similar, isn’t it, to widely held perceptions here in the United States about our responsibility for killing people in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Iraq and other areas where the U.S. routinely kills civilians.
The actual killing seems distant, almost unnoticeable, and we grow so accustomed to our remote roles that we hardly notice the rising antagonism caused by U.S. aerial attacks, using remotely piloted drones. The drones fire missiles and drop bombs that incinerate people in the targeted area, many of them civilians whose only “crime” is to be living with their family.
Villagers in Afghanistan and Pakistan have little voice in the court of U.S. public opinion and no voice whatsoever in U.S. courts of law. Aiming to raise concern over U.S. usage of drones for targeted killings, 14 of us have been preparing for a trial here in Las Vegas, where we are charged under Nevada state law with having trespassed at Creech Air Force Base, in nearby Indian Springs, Nevada.
The charges stem from an April, 2009, action when several dozen people held vigils at the main gate to Creech AFB for ten days. One of our banners said, “Ground the Drones, Lest Ye Reap the Whirlwind.” Franciscan priest Jerry Zawada’s sign said: “The drones don’t hear the groans of the people on the ground, — and neither do we.” Jerry carried that sign onto the base on April 9, 2009, when 14 of us attempted to deliver several letters to the base commander, Colonel Chambliss.
Nevada state authorities charged us with trespass. We believed that international law, which clearly prohibits targeted assassinations, obliged us to prevent drone strikes. “It is incumbent on pilots, whether remote or not, to ensure that a commander’s assessment of the legality of a proposed strike is borne out by visual confirmation,” writes Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, “and that the target is in fact lawful, and that the requirements of necessity, proportionality, and discrimination are met.”
The United States isn’t at war with Pakistan. U.S. leaders repeatedly stress that Pakistan is our ally. Nevertheless, U.S. operated drones are used for targeted killing in North and South Waziristan. “Targeted killing is the most coercive tactic employed in the war on terrorism,” according to the Harvard Journal. “Unlike detention or interrogation, it is not designed to capture the terrorist, monitor his or her actions, or extract information; simply put, it is designed to eliminate the terrorist.”
The Pentagon claims that the drone attacks are an ideal strategy for eliminating al Qaeda members. Yet in the name of bolstering security for U.S. people, the U.S. is institutionalizing assassination as a valid policy. Does this make us safer?
General Petraeus may perceive short-term gains, but in the long run it’s likely that the drone attacks, as well as the night raids and death squad tactics, will cause blowback. What’s more, drone proliferation among many countries will lessen security for people in the U.S. and throughout the world.
With the usage of drones, the U.S. populace can experience even greater distance and less accountability because U.S. armed forces and CIA agents, invisible to the U.S. populace, can assassinate targets without ever leaving a U.S. base. Corporations that manufacture the drones and technicians who design them celebrate cutting edge technology and rising profits.
In a Las Vegas courtroom, on Sept. 14, the judge who hears our case has an unusual opportunity to help accelerate that process by allowing expert witnesses to speak about citizen obligations under international law and our protected rights under the constitution of the U.S., all in relation to our duty to abolish drone warfare.
Recalling my own involvement in slaughter, I’m ashamed that I took the job for no other reason than to earn a few dimes more, per hour, than I might have gotten at a job that didn’t involve killing. It took me four decades to realistically assess what I’d done. Will it take 40 years for us humans to acknowledge our role in slaughtering other human beings who have meant us no harm
Kathy Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org) co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
I’m absolutely fascinated by the public’s disgusted reaction to Lady Gaga’s meat dress. If she had come on stage clad in “leather” no one would have given it a second thought. Umm… what do we think leather is peeps? Hello, it’s meat.
Skin is considered to be one of the most significant economic by-products of the meatpacking business. The leather industry tans the skins and hides of billions of animals each year. Most leather sold in the US is made from the skins of cattle and calves that have suffered in factory farms. High-priced calfskin is actually a by-product of the veal industry. How luxurious! But leather doesn’t only come from cattle, it’s also made out of horses, sheep, lambs, goats and pigs who are slaughtered for meat.
“Oh, I just LOVE your leather coat.” “Thanks, it’s horse!”
Other species hunted specifically for their skins include zebras, kangaroos, dolphins, seals, turtles and frogs. Isn’t that the cutest thing EVER?!
Now, unlike Gaga’s meat dress, animal skins turned to leather need to be treated so they don’t rot off your body. The chemicals used to make sure maggots don’t start eating away at your favorite handbag are some of the most noxious on the planet. They pollute soil and water, and have been linked to various human diseases, namely cancer.
Some of the other fabulous by-products of the leather industry include lead, cyanide, chromium, and formaldehyde. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidences of leukemia among residents in an area surrounding one tannery in Kentucky was five times the national average. Arsenic, a common tannery chemical, has long been associated with lung cancer in workers that are exposed to it on a regular basis. For a look at the real tragedies this industry causes watch A Civil Action with John Travolta. Netflix it, stat.
So, while we all pretend to be shocked and appalled and scandalized by the antics of a pop star, perhaps we should simply take a look in our own meat racks, I mean, closets. Wearing leather is a choice and there are some fantastic alternatives. And no, I’m not just talking about pleather, which I realize has its own set of issues (though there are some new versions of PVC that are much less harmful to the environment, to people, and certainly to animals than leather). I’m talking about things like cotton, fleece, canvas, linen, rubber, and hemp — hell, even rice paper is being made into fierce handbags by companies like Matt & Nat.
For more information on leather and animal skins click here.
Follow Ari Solomon on Twitter:
Imagine the most perfect tree on Earth: one that out does all others in magnificence, size, height, productivity, architecture, ability to draw thousands of gallons of water, yet marvelously resist drought, fire, insects, disease, mudslides, flooding, wind; and they possess exquisite biodiversity in their crowns. Then, and only then, as John Muir put it, “you’d know the king of their race” — the immortal Sequoia sempervirens, otherwise know as the coastal redwood.
Coastal redwoods direct lineage can be traced back to 144 million years ago to the beginning of the Cretaceous period. At the time when Tyrannosaurus rex was beginning to rule for over 40 million years as no reptile nor animal has ever achieved since. Redwoods belong to the plant group known as Taxodaciae and they were the most widespread of all conifers inhabiting planet Earth.
Redwoods are considered unique for many reasons. They are able to reproduce from both seed and a lignotuberous organ at the base of the tree just beneath the soil. No other conifer possesses this dual mechanism — shooting roots from its base; a trait that is widespread amongst the more advanced race of trees called angiosperms (broadleaf trees) evolving some 80 million years after redwoods were born. The angiospersms or broadleaved trees owe their existence to pollinators — like bees, moths, bats and birds.
The tallest living tree on planet Earth is a coastal redwood at 379.3 feet, called Hyperion. That’s twice the size of the Statue of Liberty or the equivalent of a 38-story skyscraper. That tree was probably born at the time Jesus Christ walked the Earth. It carries well over 1 billion needles enough to cover an entire football field.
Redwoods store thousands of gallons of water, so in the dry summer months they never run out and consequently they probably grow 11 months but probably 12 months of the year. The wood doesn’t contain gooey pitch like pines, firs, spruces and larches and so it doesn’t burn easily. The 20-inch or thicker bark is an excellent insulator — in the north of its range fire frequencies are in the order of 600 to 800 year events. The bark is high in tannic acid and the wood is filled with volatile essential oils which make it very rot resistant. Though insects do infest redwoods, none can singularly kill mature trees.
Coastal redwoods have survived climate changes, geologic upheavals and ice ages. Today they exist only along a narrow strip of land of about 435 miles long reaching from southwest Oregon to the Big Sur. There are three distinct populations: northern, central and southerly.
They have adaptations enabling them to live at least a couple thousand years. Redwoods have the ability to suck water out of fog so that during summer dry periods they can continue to grow. Their roots have — as all trees have — a partnership with a soil fungus called mycorrhizas whereby the fungus feeds on the sugars of the tree root and in return provides additional moisture and nutrients for the roots. The particular mycorrhizae that associates itself with redwoods also confers drought resistance to redwood roots. Just in case an unforeseen prolonged dry spell sets in.
The real story occurs way up in the tree-tops. Redwoods can sprout a forest above a forest — scientists think that this is in response to mechanical damage and to seek more available light needed to be captured to make more food.
Branch to branch, branch to trunk and trunk-to-trunk fusions are common in many of the ancient northerly trees. These become sources to store and share water and nutrients and they stabilize the crown during winter storms. These forest’s above forests promote biodiversity.
In the tree-tops, there are 500-year-old saturated fern mats (small lakes) the size of large mini-vans weighing over 551 pounds. Banff and Los Angeles-based conservation institute Global Forest Science along with scientists from Humboldt State University have found aquatic copepods (miniature fresh-water critters) some 230 feet above the Earth living in the moss fern-mat lakes. Prior to their discovery these critters were only know to live in the stream beds on the forest floor. Scientists believe that they crawled some 230 feet up the rain-drenched trunks during the winter months — the human equivalent would be to crawl up Mt. Everest!
These ancient redwood forests and their tree-tops support myriad lichens, bryophytes and mosses as well as other vascular plants like salmonberry, huckleberry and Rhamnus trees growing some 240 feet above the earth.
These canopies or tree-tops are also home to endangered animals like spotted owls — each breeding pair requires at least 2,500 acres of undisturbed forest to successfully breed and they are being dislodged by baird owls. The endangered marbles murrelet, that was only discovered in 1974, that can fly at speeds in excess of 85 miles per hour and lives at sea for up to 9 months, coming ashore only to breed on moss draped branches in the ancient redwood forests.
Redwoods are quite simply the most productive ecosystems on Earth, producing a staggering 4,500 cubic meters of wood per acre.
There are only .007 percent of huge ancient redwoods ecosystems remaining. The world is a very different place today from when the Taxodiacea were one of the most broadly distributed group of plants on earth. Tyrannosaurus is gone, but the redwoods remain. Barely.
Although the extinction of the coast redwood species in the near future is doubtful, the sensitivity of the redwood ecosystem is undeniable. Global warming is beginning to bite into these forests too; it’s reducing the number of hours of fog by three hours a day, and in the hot, dry summer — missing fog is a significant factor impinging upon tree health, longevity and ultimately the distribution of this species.
Conservation biologists must be given the opportunity to study and understand these magnificent forests. Their health and longevity will undoubtedly benefit all humankind. Therefore, a moratorium on all future logging in any ancient remaining redwoods is of paramount importance.
Dr Reese Halter is a Science Communicator: Voice for Ecology, conservation biologist at California Lutheran University and public speaker. His latest book is The Incomparable Honeybee. Contact him through www.DrReese.com.
Follow Dr. Reese Halter on Twitter:
The brain is the organ of intelligence and emotion, yet it doesn’t automatically function with mindfulness, empathy or compassion … And maybe this fact helps explain why so many tremendously smart people seem to lack wisdom when considering the proposed mosque in Manhattan.
In the days around September 11th, I’m especially sensitive to the actions of people who publicly profess their passion for justice and personally express bigoted anti-Muslim sentiments. This disconnect is jarring and destabilizing, in part because some bright, well-educated and generally progressive-leaning members of society are among the most outspoken opponents of religious tolerance at Ground Zero.
I’m referring to people who usually stand up for the rights of the oppressed and argue against intolerance. Only now, some of them seem to be standing on the other side of the line. What’s particularly troubling is that they don’t seem to recognize what’s happened. Has the line separating ethical action from self-serving behaviors actually shifted? Or have these people crossed over and, if so, why do they not seem to have noticed? Where’s the mindfulness?
To most of us media-savvy modern folks, the term Ground Zero refers to a particular location in lower Manhattan. Some of us were physically there on September 11, 2001; the rest of us were emotionally and spiritually close. The term identifies the geographic center of the searing events nine years ago. As such, the term is historical and it reminds us to remember.
The question I ponder today is, “remember what?” Obviously, we recall the victims and their loved ones. We might also reflect on all who have suffered in the fall-out, and in that number I count people — not nationalities. Then there are questions of place, the significance of what is rebuilt and that which is built anew, albeit at a symbolically charged location. And, there is something further to remember: that Ground Zero can be understood as a space of mind, a destination that invites us to attend with humility and humanity.
Ground Zero in the mind is the place from which a phoenix can rise. Getting there psychologically and/or spiritually is a journey through pain and fire. There is no other way, and there is often little choice … it just happens. Sometimes outer tragedies trigger this inward journey and other times inner upheavals pave the way. Movement toward Ground Zero of the mind does not ever, in any way, justify (or diminish) the reality of the trigger. In other words, that healing can rise up out of hatred does not make the hatred less hateful. It just “is,” in much the same way that September 11th, 2001, “was.”
When you hit Ground Zero in the mind, there’s only honestly left and nowhere to hide. And from there, you can choose to rebuild purposefully, mindfully and compassionately — or not. Having visited Ground Zero is no excuse for choosing to leave behind ethics and morality, and move in the direction of fear and loathing. This is true for the inner movement, just as it is in the public domain.
Those who reference the physical place of Ground Zero in justifying their bigotry against Muslims and their opposition to the proposed Mosque, neglect the deeper lessons of Ground Zero in the mind. In ignorance, they fuel the momentum of devastation.
In contrast, those who speak out in favor of religious freedom and support religious tolerance honor the journey to the inner Ground Zero. In their wisdom, they create peace for the world.
In some way, these issues can help us understand pilgrimage — both to a place on the map and to a realm in the mind. Lower Manhattan has become a present place of pilgrimage for those who remember the past and hope for a more gentle future. Perhaps thinking about Ground Zero, on the map, can launch the rest of us on a pilgrimage of the mind — to the inner Ground Zero – to the space in which we face what “is” and decide how to carry on.
Religious structures symbolize both the process and outcomes of pilgrimage. They are places to which we go in body, so that we may travel in spirit. I can think of no better place for a Mosque — and any, even every, other type of sacred structure than Manhattan’s Ground Zero. And, where better, than such a space, to make and return from an inner pilgrimage of the mind — bringing peace, compassion and tolerance back home.
The time has come to get our financial situation in order. I’m not talking about the pros and cons of another stimulus or if the Bush/Obama plans “worked” or not, but a more substantive proposal. Let’s get some of our gold back from the International Monetary Fund, monetize it, and put it in the Social Security Trust Fund.
My colleague Robert Naiman suggested we cut our IMF funds when they suggest cutting Social Security benefits. (He and I worked together opposing the IMF quota increase several years ago.) His idea was in response to Dean Baker’s article, “The Attack of the Real Black Helicopter Gang: The IMF is Coming for Your Social Security.” I think we should call it the “Anti-Geithner Plan” in honor of the “Washington Consensus”/US Treasury/IMF/New York Federal Reserve maestro.
Here’s my proposal: let’s cash in some of our SDRs from the IMF and “restitute” our Bretton Woods gold back. The money came form the generation of taxpayers that are now depending on their Social Security checks. According to the IMF,
Our gold held at the IMF was deposited there at SDR35/oz and held on the books there at that rate so there would be only a simple accounting transfer at the IMF with 35 SDRs from one side of the ledger to the other. The IMF has not returned my calls or emails questioning exactly how much this would be under the first Articles of Agreement. With gold now at 35 times the $35/oz when it was deposited, the Social Security Trust Fund could have reaped a sizable profit on its investment. (If the IMF does not vote to restitute our gold, we should give our six month notice and unilaterally withdraw taking our gold with us.)
We could then monetize our IMF gold into gold bonds under the plan floated by Alan Greenspan in his September 1, 1981 Wall Street Journal article “Can the US Return to a Gold Standard.” The gold bonds should then be deposited in the Social Security Trust Fund to offset the demographic time bomb as well as the soft default of the fund by the impending inflation (in the classical sense of the economic term) by the Bush/Obama deficits.
Follow J. Bradley Jansen on Twitter:
People have been burning the Quran since the early days of Islam, but they haven’t always been its enemies.
The third caliph, Uthman, became famous, or rather infamous, for Quran burning. Distressing reports had filtered to him from battlefield generals who were fighting against the Armenians and other nations on the edge of his burgeoning Islamic empire: different versions of the Quran were overheard being recited.
Caliph Uthman had a bold idea. He made a new edition of the Quran and demanded that all other editions be surrendered and burnt. Not everyone liked this. After all, Uthman was not one of the four people Prophet Muhammad had said Muslims could trust to issue the Quran. Ibn Mas’ud, on the other hand, was. He refused point-blank to surrender his collection of the Quran, which he claimed he got directly from Muhammad.
Ali, the famous one who was Prophet Mohammed’s son-in-law and the soon-to-be fourth caliph, at first refused to surrender his Quran to the flames. He finally gave in under pressure, but he was not pleased.
Some claim Ali’s displeasure led him to participate in the assassination of Uthman — staged while Uthman was reading his new version of the Quran. One report has the assassins dramatically screaming, “You changed Allah’s Quran!” as they plunged knives into the fading caliph’s body. Ali’s followers, who became the Shiites, to this day feel that Uthman tampered with the Quran to deprive Ali’s family of the hereditary right to lead Islam.
Caliph Uthman’s bonfire dealt a blow to textual criticism of the Quran. Fortunately, some hidden pre-Uthmanic manuscripts survived and have slowly come to light, although access to them has been limited: their very existence goes against the party line that the Quran has never been changed. We know that Ibn Mas’ud’s version was different from the modern Quran. For example, it did not include the important first sura, known as the “Fatiha.”
The fact that the chief religious and military leader of Islam in his day, Caliph Uthman, burnt the Quran does not mean that he established a tradition that we should follow. The Topkapi Secret, my novel released in September 2010, has an example of the profound hurt modern Muslims feel when seeing the Quran burn. According to strict Muslim tradition, the Quran should be revered not just because of its message, but as an object, to the extent that the believer’s hands must be clean, and the unbeliever’s hands should not even touch it.
In America we have the freedom to make mistakes. We may be allowed to burn the sacred books of others, but how does that reflect on those who burn them?
American aid workers were thrown out of Morocco this spring because an inspection found non-Muslim religious material on their premises, and health-care workers were shot in Afghanistan this August largely because one of them had a Bible. Granted, Quran burning is much less aggressive than these injustices, but shouldn’t Americans behave better than the communist and Muslim nations that ban and burn religious texts on a daily basis?
On the other hand, we do have the precedent of Muslims burning the Quran themselves, set by Caliph Uthman, as well as present-day Muslim apostates who, disgruntled with Islam, want to destroy their Qurans. Here’s a suggestion to Christians who would burn the Quran: let only the hundreds of former Muslims won over by your godly character and loving message burn their own Qurans.
For references, see www.TerryKelhawk.com.
From Prague to D.C. the new rage in tourist attractions is torture museums. Is that thanks to the Bush administration?
The closest I had ever come to torture was seeing it on “24,” reading about it at Abu Ghraib, in the news, or in Arthur Koestler’s classic about the Stalinist purges, “Darkness at Noon”. So a story like the one about torture museums would have stayed at arm’s length until recently, when I experienced torture myself.
Trying to track down a persistent throat problem I’d been having, an ENT specialist had me consult with a neurologist to rule various possibilities out. She found I had no signs of Parkinson’s, but wanted to be sure there wasn’t some neuropathy she was missing. She described the procedure she wanted me to have as “they’ll stick some needles into you.” “You mean like acupuncture? Will it hurt?” Her reply: “There’ll be some discomfort.” That didn’t sound so bad to me, and because I was so busy, I didn’t bother to explore what the test would entail. My mistake.
In an electromyogram (EMG), doctors insert electrodes into your muscles to test their electrical activity and see if you have nerve or muscle damage. For about an hour, I had needle electrodes stuck into various places on my legs while a nurse moved my limbs as instructed, or I did. The machine recording information crackled like a Geiger counter.
At first I felt almost nothing, then it was like a nasty pin prick, then each successive jolt was more and more painful, sometimes so much so that I gasped or groaned “Wow!” or “Jesus!” At more than one point my leg shot in the air because the current was so strong.
This went on and on in a kind of nightmarish rhythm: fear, pain, relief the pain was over, fear of more pain, then pain again. When the doctor finally told me that the next part of the test didn’t involve current, I thought I was over the agony, but it actually got worse. He stuck needles into my hand at the joint of my index finger and thumb, in my arm, in my shoulder, and each time I had to move my hand or arm in certain ways to provide the information they were looking for. My hand and arm were sore and bruised for weeks afterward.
What added to the nightmare was the wall that suddenly shot up between me and everyone in the room as soon as the test began. I was a source of data and they weren’t people, either: just soulless technicians who never responded to my obvious distress.
I don’t really remember the short consultation that followed, but I do remember feeling exhausted and humiliated when everyone filed out: neurologist, test administrator, intern, nurse. I was so stunned by what had happened that I didn’t even check out after changing back into my clothes. I wandered the halls till a nurse pointed me to an exit. I managed to drive myself home.
When I told a dancer friend of mine about the test, she said she had walked out of hers halfway through. “You can’t do this to me,” she’d said to the doctor, “I’m not a criminal.” And when she described the scene, I felt like an idiot. Why hadn’t I stopped the test? Why hadn’t I told the doctor to turn the f***ing machine off and let me go?
I couldn’t. I was paralyzed and not thinking straight, barely thinking at all. In “Darkness at Noon,” the high-ranking communist committed to prison has a lot to say about torture, including this: “every known physical pain was bearable; if one knew beforehand exactly what was going to happen to one, one stood it as a surgical operation … really bad was only the unknown, which gave one no chance to foresee one’s reactions.”
A different version of this piece appeared on The Jewish Writing Project web site.
Follow Lev Raphael on Twitter:
Every food has a “cheater” ingredient, a sort of killer-app component of a recipe that can bail out even the most disappointing piece of work. While baking scones and muffins at Great Harvest Bread Co. in Portland, Oregon, I determined quite early that enough butter could save even the most over-mixed or under-flavored baked good; brown sugar was also effective at making people clamber for more. Cadillac used to feel this way about enormous trunks and spoked rims. The cheater ingredient in a burrito is guacamole, whose etymology the good people at Burritophile claim is based on a combination of the Nahuatl and Spanish words for testicle and lawyer, respectively. Guacamole is some serious business.
To Dos Toros Taquera in New York, then, to try the burrito judged by the New York Times to be “simple and succulent,” “bright and balanced.” This is pretty good alliteration, but fancy phrasing does not a good burrito make, and to be honest, the only real basis on which to judge a burrito is the quality of the burrito itself, not by the floridness of a particular restaurant critic’s review. I mean, no one ever vouched for the Detroit Lions’ prowess on the football field just because Paper Lion’s prose is so good. You have to read Paper Lion and then watch the team on the field in order to form an opinion about them. In fact, you probably don’t even have to read Paper Lion at all.
At Dos Toros, the guacamole is outstanding. It’s so good in fact, that with its 92-cent price point, eating it feels like robbing a bank and then escaping scot-free on a school bus. Seriously, you feel like you’re getting away with two things when you order it: the robbery and the lam in the hyper-conspicuous vehicle. In my experience, most guac doesn’t have enough lemon, salt, and pepper — a little confusing as these are the simplest and most readily-available ingredients in the sauce. With the possible exception of a minor pepper deficiency, though, Dos Toros gets the green right.
But at this point the taquera gets lazy, leaning on that guacamole to prop up an otherwise B/B-Plus burrito. The primary problem with Dos Toros is construction; these burritos are the Mexican-food equivalent of McMansions in a Sunbelt subdivision. It’s impossible to work more than one-third of the way down the burrito before having it succumb to the pressures of being eaten. Food shouldn’t succumb to consumption; isn’t delivering a worthy culinary performance its job?
Most Dos Toros work is defective from the get-go: bean-leaking fissures formed before the tortilla is even rolled; half-melted cheese that really ought to make up its mind regarding its status as a liquid or solid; and puzzling wrapping techniques that don’t allow for a foil exoskeleton that, at least in Dos Toros’ case, would be an overwhelmingly welcome set of training wheels. According to the Times, Dos Toros boasts a “Californian” attitude, which in this case means a “laid-back confidence.” Confidently laid-back is a more appropriate descriptor, though, because food always tastes better when it feels like the person preparing it actually wants you to enjoy it. Here, you get the distinct sense that the enjoyment sought by the staff is that of watching Dos Toros workers work at Dos Toros.
Don’t get me wrong; the burrito is still an above-average creation, but since it devolves into a burrito salad three minutes into its eating, the unmerited cockiness with which it was prepared engenders some understandable resentment. It would be nice to see at least a little effort and industriousness behind this otherwise quite tasty product.
Obviously, there are better jobs in New York City than rolling burritos on Fourth Avenue, and I’m sure the good folk at Dos Toros would rather be soaring above Manhattan in hot air balloons, but to celebrate being “laid-back” when laxity that is the prime contributing factor in a product’s dereliction just doesn’t sit right. Now, though I am concerned that being a Mexican-food Puritan could be translated as being a chauvinistic New World friar fresh from Spain, when burrito quality is at stake, it’s a risk I’m willing to take.
The recent IPO of SKS Microfinance, India’s largest microfinance institution (MFI), was a watershed event whose ripples are affecting the public perception of microfinance. When an organization originally founded as a nonprofit first attracts some $75 million in successive waves of private equity capital and then raises $358 million in a public offering of stock, it seems natural to ask: is there any remaining role for donor funding — or for nonprofit engagement — in this industry?
Despite the fanfare associated with public listings that attract commercial money into microfinance, only a handful of the largest MFIs are traded on stock exchanges. Moreover, outside the MFIs’ home exchanges (Mexico for Compartamos, Kenya for Equity Bank, or India for SKS) these shares are generally only available to institutional investors. The vast bulk of the microfinance industry relies on socially motivated funding in a mix that includes grants, loans and equity investments. Anyone who wants to support microfinance can select from a multi-hued array of funding opportunities to find one that matches his or her wishes.
For those who want to lend their money and get it back, there are socially responsible investment funds like Microplace, Calvert Foundation and Kiva. They specialize in microfinance and pursue a double social and financial bottom line. These funds often select a financial return target that varies depending on how socially focused they want to be. If these funds track the social performance of their portfolio companies along dimensions like client poverty levels, transparency, and responsibility to consumers, investors gain confidence that their money is being used as desired.
For grant makers, there are nonprofit organizations – like ACCION (disclosure, my employer), Opportunity International and Grameen Foundation – devoted to starting and growing MFIs that maintain a social mission. While such organizations share many aspects of best practice in microfinance, each one brings a unique development philosophy and emphasis, which allows prospective supporters to find the best fit.
With all the choices, how can a donor or investor interested in microfinance decide?
Let’s assume three kinds of funds: straight commercial funds that obey the rules of the marketplace, social investment funds that explicitly combine social and financial aims, and pure grants. Each has its own niche. Two closely related decision rules suffice to sort out their different roles.
Rule One. If the market can fund it, let it.
Rule Two. For grant makers, find the frontier and help push it out.
These rules come from the reality that grants and social investments are scarce and need to be deployed where they will make the most difference. It helps to think back to the late 1980s when the U.S. Agency for International Development and the InterAmerican Development Bank together invested something less than $5 million to help ACCION launch Prodem, the precursor of BancoSol in Bolivia. Today, BancoSol is a commercial bank with a loan portfolio of $340 million, serving 127,000 borrowers and 254,000 savers. It would not make much sense give BancoSol a grant to cover operating expense or loan capital today. Both the bank and the microfinance field have evolved. In response, donor support has evolved – and needs to keep evolving. Today’s challenge is to figure out where today’s industry frontiers actually lie. Below, a brief roadmap.
At the absolute frontier, grant funding is needed. The unfilled needs are many:
Microfinance services for marginal groups, including rural and remote populations, the disabled and others who have not yet been served with commercial models. For example, BRAC and Grameen Bank in Bangladesh support urban beggars while CARE and Oxfam create savings groups in sparsely populated rural Africa.
R&D to develop new products like savings, microinsurance and specialty credit products (like loans for renewable energy, home improvement or education).
R&D to apply new technologies to bring services closer to clients.
Capacity building for MFIs in countries where microfinance is lagging, such as in
Development of the “infrastructure” that keeps the industry healthy, such as credit bureaus and client protection.
Financial education for clients.
There’s a second frontier that I call the risk frontier. This is the home of social investment. The risk frontier includes institutions that operate profitably but are still viewed as risky by the market, either because they are young, or are operating in difficult environments, or are testing the commercial viability of new products or client groups. There are dozens or possibly hundreds of MFIs in this category, often known as second and third tier MFIs. Also in this group are top tier MFIs that operate in frontier markets. For example, because Bolivia is regarded as a risky setting, BancoSol still works with social investors to raise debt and equity.
Off the frontier, the market can take it away. Commercial sources can now supply much of the debt and equity in top tier MFIs, either directly or through specialized microfinance investment funds. And even for second tier MFIs, especially in less risky countries, much of the debt finance can be purely commercial. Many MFIs work with a blend of pure commercial and social investors. And finally, profitable MFIs that become licensed banks, can increasingly be funded locally through deposits – an important and fully commercial source.
Microfinance is about building in a future in which the world’s poor have access to financial services. Individual donors and investors, as well as those controlling public or institutional capital, need to balance their assessment of social impact with their needs for investment returns and risk. Like any other donation or investment, a little research and due diligence beforehand can bring assurance that funders and those they entrust with their money share the same goals.
The Betrayal of American Prosperity is the best book in its genre. Clyde Prestowitz masterfully and meticulously explained the reasons behind an ailing American economy.
The book opens with a theme – recurrent thereafter – that the American economy was in fact not as strong as many Americans believed it to be. Prestowitz captured this in page 139: “The American myth: American analysts often disparage Japan’s lost Decade, so I bet you’ll be surprised to learn that during the 1990s Japan’s 1.4 percent GDP per capita growth rate was only slightly less than America’s 1.6 percent.”
Taking life expectancy as an indicator of economic prosperity, he added: “In France it’s 80.98 while in the United states it’s 78.11, despite spending of double the French level on health care.”
He concluded: “If Americans know one thing for sure, it is that America is a lot more competitive than France, except that in the wake of the crisis of 2008-9, the French economy has been outperforming the US economy on virtually every measure.”
Prestowitz blamed the American understanding of economics for giving a false sense of prosperity over the past couple of decades. “Debt funded boom: As demonstrated by the 2008 financial meltdown, [superficially] the US economy… looked great, but behind the faade was debt piled on debt and a false understanding of how the world was actually working,” he wrote [P.134].
“Key among the problems was that the low long-term interest rates which Greenspan thought had resulted from the efficiencies stemming from deregulation and innovative derivative instruments were actually caused by the ever-growing trade imbalance between the United States and the export-led economies of Asia and the Middle East oil producers,” he added.
Prestowitz drew a parallel between the demise of the British superpower and its dislocation by America, and the still ongoing decline of the American superpower and its possible replacement by China.
In both cases, Britain and the US, economists argued in favor of moving away from manufacturing as the base of the economy towards a services-based economy. The result for America, like for Britain for it, would certainly be the loss of its world supremacy.
He described China’s ascendency at the expense of the US: “China now holds power in its relations with the United States that no other country has had since Great Britain in the earliest days of the Republic. By selling dollars, China could force the US military to withdraw from its far-flung deployments such as those in the Persian Gulf, and Afghanistan.”
He argued: “China can use its dollar to corner markets of key commodities like copper and molybdenum or soybeans. And of course military might can be ignored. China is using its wealth to build a blue-water navy with quit subs that will be able to counter the US Seventh Fleet, which would have to withdraw from the western Pacific anyhow if the Chinese were to begin dumping dollars”. [P.142]
Prestowitz also debunked the rightwing myth that companies compete, while countries don’t. He wrote: “For [this school], trade was said always to be cooperative and mutually beneficial… [But] countries most definitely compete for power, and power does not accrue to nations of taxi drivers.”
He added: “China had comparative advantages under its old regime, but it was poor and weak. China is powerful today because it changed the composition and structure of its economy, and did so expressly in order to compete.” [P.181]
The biggest challenge for America’s superpower is that “with industrial decline, America will eventually lose its military superiority.” According to Prestowitz: “Do we bit care if China, or Russia, or Iran has leading-edge rocket technology? Such technology involves leading-edge semiconductor, materials, and processing technology. Do we not care if we lose those technologies, which is exactly what happens when US based production and R and D close and move to China or Singapore for better tax breaks or better engineers?” [P.182]
Commenting on the meltdown, the book argued that “measures such as regulation of derivative instruments that could have stopped the 2008-9 economic crisis but would have limited financial sector profits, were prevented… So why did finance become so favored? From 1998 to 2008, the finance industry spent $1.78 billion on political campaign contributions and another $3.4 billion on lobbying.” [P.270]
Not to close on a gloomy note, Prestowitz believes that there is still room for America to recover. His recommendations were as such: “We must revitalize the productive base and keep it competitive. But doing so will require that, from the president on down, our leaders declare that they understand that countries do compete and that they are going to ensure that America is competitive in a broad range of key industries.”
America’s leaders, Prestowitz concluded, should also “declare their intent that America will indeed produce things like advanced batteries, wind turbines, solar cells, computer chips, advanced search engines, cyber systems and much else. They must make it clear that they will match the financial investment incentives, infrastructure investments, and government encouragement of other countries with regard to promising industries and that, in the spirit of Alexander Hamilton, they intend for America to make more than dung.” [P.281]
Follow Hussain Abdul-Hussain on Twitter:
In my story entitled “Mad Men: A Congress Out of Control” (8/10/10), I promised to provide information on how the public can help our first responders pass the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2010″ or HR 847. This bill would provide medical and economic assistance to the men and women who helped save thousands of Americans on September 11, 2001 in New York and Washington D.C.
HR 847 was shot down in the House of Representatives on July 30th of this year because of partisan politics on both sides of the aisle. However, this bill is up for consideration again on September 20th, and here is what you can do to ensure that it passes this time around.
This Wednesday, September 15th, there will be rally and press conference on the West Lawn of the Capitol at 10:30 a.m. co-sponsored by the FealGood Foundation (FGF) and the New York State AFL-CIO. Thousands of attendees from the tri-state area will be taking buses from various pick up points in Long Island, NYC and NJ. If you are interested in attending this rally, you must call either Anne Marie Baumann, VP of the Fealgood Foundation, at 516-551-0986 or Suzy Ballantyne of the NYS AFL-CIO at 518-436-8516 by 6 p.m. today.
After the press conference at 12:15 p.m., members of the FGF, AFL-CIO and their supporters will divide into groups to lobby congressional offices. Co-sponsors of the bill will be there to answer any questions or concerns you may have regarding HR 847. At 3:00 p.m. there will be a “remembrance ceremony” to pay tribute to the thousands of Americans who perished on 9/11/01, and the first responders who subsequently died from medical diseases related to the terrorist attacks.
If you are unable to attend this rally, the next best thing you can do is to call your local house representative, and demand to speak to the Congressman’s 9/11 health representative (all 50 states have one). Their info is provided at http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW.shtml. When you call, let the contact know that you want your Congressman to vote for HR 847 on September 20. You may click on your state to see who is the proper representative is for your district – or you may search alphabetically if you know your local Congressperson’s name and district.
The New York Police Department, Fire Department, Port Authority, Emergency Medical Services, construction workers and volunteers from all over the country inhaled over 250,000 toxins at Ground Zero after the World Trade Centers fell. Doctors are discovering diseases that didn’t exist before this disaster … especially pulmonary (lung) illnesses. This bill will fund medical research that can save the lives of over 25,000 men and women who are still suffering from the effects of the toxic air.
As of 9/11/10, 973 first responders have died from heart, lung and cancer-related illnesses from exposure to the air at Ground Zero. There are four additional first responders that are dying as of the print date of this article.
The Zadroga bill would provide $7.4 billion in medical monitoring and treatment to WTC responders and survivors (workers, residents, students) who were exposed to the toxins at Ground Zero. It would expand on the existing monitoring and treatment program at Centers of Excellence, which provide medical testing, research, blood work, pulmonary function testing, MRI’s, X-rays and specialized care to the WTC responders. And it would reopen the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) to provide compensation for economic losses sustained by all those affected by illness/death of WTC workers at the site and their families.
On a positive note – this time there will be a straight up and down vote on HR 847, so if more than 50% of the House votes “yea” the bill goes on to the Senate for revisions. In July, there was a “suspension” vote requiring 2/3 of the House to approve the legislation, which did not happen.
If you care about our American heroes, start dialing those phones and contact your local Congressman or woman. This is an issue we can all agree on.
Follow Danielle Parker on Twitter:
Sampling the local street food when traveling can be a tasty (and memorable) experience. What’s not to love? It’s almost always yummy, portable and cheap. When times are tough, something picked up from a street vendor can fill in for an entire meal. At other times, it can just keep you happy between meals.
As I’ve traveled around Europe during the past 10 years writing about budget travel, I’ve bit into, licked and burned my tongue on a delicious range of snacks purchased from outdoor vendors. So, which city offers the tastiest treats on the streets? Read on…
Have a favorite street food? Send photos our way!
Find a picture, click the participate button, add a title and upload your picture
St. Petersburg: Fried Pirozhki (30 rublesabout $1)
1 of 9
40 Destinations With Great Value In The Fall (PHOTOS)
8 Great Last-Minute Rentals Around The World (PHOTOS)
The 5 Best Cities For Pizza In The U.S. (PHOTOS)
7 Best Wine Regions In France (PHOTOS)
Is an All-Inclusive Resort for You? (PHOTOS)
9 Brand New NYC Hotels (PHOTOS)
I thought I was ordering a freshly fried sugar donut when I pointed to my first pirozhki last year in St. Petersburg. Imagine my surprise, then, to find a savory meat treat tucked within that pastry pocket! Mine was filled with minced meat, but they can also be filled with chicken, potatoes, mushrooms or sweeter fare, such as cherries.
Total comments: 0 | Post a Comment
Rank #2 | Average: 8.6
Current Top 5 Slides
Choose your Top 5 Slides
| Become a fan
Picked These as the Top 5 Slides in the Slideshow
Top User Slides
| Become a fan
Picked These as the Top 5 Slides in the Slideshow
Users who voted on this slide
Jackson, WY — You have to express thanks after spending three days in this magic valley, with the stunning views of the Teton Range soaring out of the sagebrush. It’s a wildlife heaven — saw hundreds of pronghorn this particular trip. But if you look a bit further, it’s clear that this iconic place is still wild precisely because it is so fragile, and that we are putting a level of stress on this landscape and wildlife that they have not evolved to handle.
Moose populations are down — probably because of drought reducing the nutritional value of the willow browse they depend on. As long as drought is periodic, not continual, the browse will bounce back, and then so will moose populations. But the other big change — the initial stages of a massive die-off of pine trees — is a more alarming signal. Trees are succumbing to beetle infestation at an unprecedented rate — not only here in Wyoming, but all up and down the interior west from British Columbia to New Mexico. There have been local epidemics before — but never a continental one. We don’t know as much as we need to about the complicated biology of the problem. But the core cause is clearly warmer winters, giving the beetles a chance to survive longer in larger numbers, producing a massive population explosion. Add to that drought-stricken trees — another companion of warmer winters — and the table is set for tree death at the 70-90% level over much of the Mountain West.
And these die offs are resulting not from the catastrophic climate change we may yet unleash, but from the much more modest climate disruption already underway. It’s going to be essential, even if we curb our waste of carbon in time, to manage our landscapes in an entirely new way — one which respects the fact that extreme weather is going to be more common, and climate less stable. We will have to recognize that animal and plant species are going to need room to roam. We’ll need to manage landscapes for resilience, for their ability to evolve with changing climate. Fortunately the Obama Administration has opened the doors, and hopefully the ears, of federal land management agencies to this imperative.
The Departments of Interior, Agriculture, EPA and Council on Environmental Quality have just completed a nationwide listening tour, and the Sierra Club has submitted a comprehensive plan for how America’s wild lands need to be nutured in a climate changing world. In an accompanying news release, the Club’s current executive director, Michael Brune, wrote, “Today, America’s wild legacy faces its biggest challenge. Global warming is stressing wildlife like grizzly bears and lynx and threatening habitat with forest fires and drought. Fortunately, our leaders can take steps to protect our public lands and wildlife from the worst impacts of climate change.” The Sierra Club’s recommendations focus on protecting public lands and wildlife from the worst impacts of climate change. Part of this effort includes limiting outside stresses like irresponsible oil and gas development, off-road vehicle abuse, and logging, which will make it even harder for wildlife to survive global warming. The Sierra Club plan also recommends identifying and protecting key corridors that allow wildlife to migrate and adapt to changing habitat.
Follow Carl Pope on Twitter:
If you are a woman over a certain age I am here to tell you that you are hot and it doesn’t have anything to do with hot flashes or menopause. American women are beginning to understand what their European counterparts have always known: The older woman is incredibly sexy. Menopause and getting older are just a natural part of life and does not mean you stop being sexy.
It wasn’t until I went back to Italy as a “mature” woman, a woman over 40, that I realized what a sexy creature I was! The Italian males gave me appreciative glances in fancy restaurants and gallerias. Comments of “bellissima, bellissima!” were a common occurrence, boosting my self-esteem and making me feel that 40 and over might not be so bad at all. (Of course the first time an Italian male smiled at me and said the word bellissima in my direction I looked over my shoulder to see what sexy Italian lady was behind me. To my utter delight, he meant me!)
The comments made my husband, who has always found “older women” very sexy, feel good, too. After all, I was with him! He was showing me off. It made me feel, and I want to kick myself for saying this, but it did make me feel like a “trophy wife.”
Men, not only in Italy, but in all of Europe and Latin American countries appreciate the woman who has a little “mileage” on her. Like a well-preserved vintage car, a good piece of 18k gold jewelry, or a fine patina on a silver tea service, women who have lived are a premium in other countries. They are valued for their beauty as well as their intelligence. Getting older in those places is a plus not a handicap!
What has taken us so long to realize something that Europeans have always known: That older women are hot, hot, hot? Believe it or not, this ill-conceived notion we had in America had a lot to do with our Puritanical ancestry, Mom and apple pie.
We are a unique society in America; Puritan beliefs die hard here. As open-minded as we like to think we are, we simply weren’t when it came to sexual attitudes and woman of “a certain age.” How many of us, as teenagers, really liked to think that our parents were having sex? At their age? Ooooo, yuck! Puh-leeze! We wanted our parents to be celibate and sleeping in separate beds a la 1950s TV sitcoms.
Yet our European cousins, from very young ages, always accepted the fact that sex was a natural part of life and took it for granted that their parents, and even grandparents, were indeed enjoying a sex life, as was their right. Their attitude has always been that sex isn’t only for the young and they are absolutely right.
We Americans, on the other hand, clung to the Puritanical view, albeit subliminally, that sex was for procreation. The idea was that sex for any other reason was somehow a forbidden act. That once you became a parent, sexual activity and the desire and need for it, disappeared along with sports cars, sexy lingerie and staying up past 8:30 p.m. Mom and apple pie went together not Mom, sensuality and Dad. Dad and the lawnmower went together, not Dad and irresistible urges for Mom. Sex was something that went with youth, not anything you did after 40 and, of course, no woman past that age was sexy.
But sexiness has more to do with just looking good and having a healthy sex life. Europeans appreciate the older woman for her experiences and her well-earned attitudes. She has learned things in her life and has opinions of her own that are well-respected. Add to that the accumulation of some of the material benefits that working over the years has to offer and you find a woman who can stand on her own feet. This is a woman who takes excellent care of herself, physically and mentally. Best of all, she is valued for all of this, not put out to pasture. After all it is experience that creates who we are and makes us interesting.
Perhaps Brandon, 32 and recently married, puts it best when talking about mature women. Referring to his 45-year-old bride he told me this:
So, hot and sexy, mature and valued — sounds very good to this woman of a certain age. How about you?
To read more from Kristen Houghton, peruse her articles at Kristen Houghton.com and visit her Keys to Happiness blog.
And Then I’ll Be Happy! Look Inside the Book
Copyright 2010 Kristen Houghton
Follow Kristen Houghton on Twitter:
In the days of the Wild West — at least the West according Clint Eastwood and Hollywood — the pinnacle of a challenge was the high-noon, quick-draw showdown. “Let’s do it then, high noon, tomorrow.” And two men, starting back-to-back, would count fifteen paces and turn around to fire at each other. Things would be settled; results would be final.
Today’s quick draw doesn’t have quite the same drama and stakes as Colt pistols and cowboys. It has moved from the quick finger on the trigger to the quick thumb on the smart phone to win a digital sparring contest in search of facts or verification. Now, allow me to explain:
There used to be a time when you could go to have a lunch or dinner with someone and you could have, well, lunch or dinner. During that lunch or dinner you could reasonably expect uninterrupted conversation. Such Mad Men-like days are long over, just as the concept of it being rude to bring a cell phone or BlackBerry to a dinner is so early 1990s. The quick message peek, the quick text, and the occasional answering of an incoming call seem increasingly acceptable, even expected. This is not even to mention Tweeting out real-time doings and checking in with Four Square. One of my closest friends, a partner at one of the most respected venture firms, recently remarked that in the Valley (the Silicon one) it is almost considered impolite NOT to let your guest text, call, message, tweet, check in or whatever during a meal or meeting. While I may be as guilty as anyone of trying to sneak a glance at new messages or discretely thumb an under-the-table text during a dinner, I am feeling the need for us to return to the concept of a natural conversation, uninterrupted by technology. (More on that in a bit.)
Conversations today are constantly hijacked by digital fact-checkers. Every fact or statement, it seems, must be checked or augmented in real time with at-our-fingertips online information. We no longer trust each other to come up with good-enough facts or allow each other add colorful embellishment to our stories. Let me give a recent example to make my point. Over lunch the other day, I shared a story with my colleagues — the surreal experience of being accidentally given a presidential suite at a Four Seasons Hotel. “This was an amazing room, probably 3000+ square feet with over-the-top appointments everywhere,” I said. No more than two minutes after making the statement, an associate checked on his BlackBerry the size of the presidential suite, correcting me that it was closer to 2000 square feet.
What happened to natural conversations, those based on what is already in our heads, unburdened by verification? As the fast food movement has seen an opposing slow food movement take hold and shape, I predict we’ll soon see a similar desire for putting down for a moment all the “information enhancements” that come with mobile, digital-sparring tools.
Even those of us who fund, embrace, and love technology may want to push for this, because the free flow of ideas is more important to us than technology. While precision and perfection are important when it comes to raising funds or closing a deal, big ideas don’t thrive amid constant critique and an obsessive focus on the minutia. When we want innovation, we must focus on open and free thinking and the storytelling that often accompanies it.
This article first appeared on Harvard Business Publishing on July 2, 2010.
Follow Anthony Tjan on Twitter:
There have been lots of stories about how the Democrats can rally from two plus years of perceived ineptitude and salvage the November elections. Well, Senator Minority Leader McConnell has promised to filibuster any extension of the Bush tax cuts that do not include Americans making over $250,000.
He wants to protect Americans millionaires from paying their fair share of taxes. He promises to filibuster any bill that doesn’t protect them. Make him.
Clear the slate of the Senate and bring in the cots. Bring the bill to the floor of the Senate as soon as possible and make them filibuster all day every day from now to the election. Make them defend the massive impact the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Make them defend the independent studies that show wealthy Americans save their tax cuts.
Make them filibuster.
After a week, or two, there will be the temptation to drop the filibuster, to go onto other issues.
Don’t do it.
Make them defend their tax cuts for the wealthy all day every day for the next seven weeks and maybe, just maybe there will be a window for the Democrats.
Thanks Mitch, just when we needed a lifeline, you just tossed us one.
Follow James Boyce on Twitter: