If you think America spreads misery, then how about we keep the billions and billions of dollars in aid we send to your ungrateful populations right here at home? After all, we've got a few messes of our own to mop up, and would probably be better off if we left you to your own devices.
You know what I'm going to do today? I'm going to hop into my non-renewable resource fueled automobile, cruise to Rodeo Drive, and pay fifteen dollars for a pair of socks - because I can. Then I'm going to pop over to my dad's house and throw a nice, fat steak on the grill. We will probably wind up making so much food that we will have to throw most of it away. I understand that some of you are starving, so I will feel a slight twinge of guilt as I feed the scraps from my plate to the family dog.
Now, I know that those of you out there who are lacking in any sense of humor and think that because you sit in your warm, Western home - complete with a stuffed refrigerator and DVD collection - that you are morally superior to me because you actually spend time being concerned about these people. The truth is, if I were to get upset at every revolting and filthy aspect of humankind and allow myself to seriously care, I'd spend my life with my head in my hands and a box of tissues at my side. There is nothing that can be accomplished by "talking" about these things in a university classroom or plush board room. Just like marching around, throwing curses, and carrying a big sign that says "America Sucks" may make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but your neighbors will still be hungry, we - all of us, not just Americans - will still rely on oil and timber, and the air in L.A. will still smell like an unwashed butt. People like our friends in the photograph above are a part of the problem. The worst part about them is their demand that someone else provide the solution.
The airlines are finally going to stop asking those ridiculous questions at ticket counters like "has anyone asked you to carry packages on board?" and "has your luggage been in your control blah blah blah?". To be honest, I've been tempted more than once to answer "Well, this dark man in a black dress asked me if I would carry a clock to Phoenix for him. Is that bad?"
The questions are being phased out because they create a hassle and have never prevented a bombing or hijacking, said James Loy, head of the Transportation Security Administration.
There's a fellow called Matt keeping a website on the Earth Summit. I'm linking it here because it's got tons of info, and I'm impressed at the hard work he's put into the thing. That, and he sent me a really polite e-mail asking me to.
UPDATE: Matt writes in, concerned what it might do to his reputation, being described as "polite". So I would like to add that I was a bit dishonest. In truth, he is a surly asshole who threatened to have me killed if I did not link his website.
Working to blunt the power of Muslim fundamentalism requires knowledge of Islamic traditions and teachings. While Lawal's (Nigerian woman sentenced to be stoned to death) sentence is nothing but a violation of basic human rights, in order to discredit those condemning her in the name of Islam, one must understand sharia law, and the Islamic tenets that inform it. The University of North Carolina's decision to promote understanding of Islam should be a model.
I'd prefer to call it "barbaric murder", but since this is the Boston Globe we're talking about here, I suppose "violation of human rights" will have to do. UNC's policy should be a model? I thought the Constition kinda said something about the government not forcing religion on us and stuff. I must be wrong.
The group trying to suppress the book, on the other hand, is promoting ignorance, while the Islamic court in Nigeria refuses to cede its judicial role to the nation's civil authorities. The best antidote to narrow and rigid fundamentalism is knowledge.
I haven't heard of anyone trying to suppress the book. The only objections I've heard of so far are regarding the university's policy of making the book mandatory reading. Let's see a public university require an incoming class to read the New Testament and watch what happens, shall we?
A friend of mine from high school went to a Baptist college in North Carolina, and was almost kicked out of student housing because she once got caught - gasp! - in a boy's room after 10 PM. I'm sorry, but Baptists can be very silly people.
Delegates will not solve world poverty, but at least we will be more aware of it
This, I'm sure, brings tremendous comforts to the world's hungry. "Hell, I may be starving to death, but at least delegates are aware of this."
An MEP spoke excitedly on the Today programme yesterday of a visit he had just made to a group of 50 Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert. The Botswana Government had refused to co-operate with his delegation from the European Parliament but, he reported dramatically, “despite those attempts”, this MEP had visited the Bushmen anyway, “breaking through” the Government’s resistance (ie. hiring a car) and doing “1,000km of driving over three days in the desert”. He found people on their last bowl of dirty water; and an elder refusing — as who wouldn’t — to leave his village and go to a city hospital to die. On return, the MEP was “immediately” tabling a question in the European Parliament about the Bushmen’s plight.
BUSHMAN: Go away, stupid European Bureaucrat! We don't want you here!
EUROCRAT: But, but, you need us, Botswana man! We only want to show you that we're aware!
BUSHMAN: Fuck off, man. I thought this "white man's burden" stuff was supposed to be all outdated and politically incorrect and shit?
Barrels of rotten tomatoes had been flung at the Earth Summit before it even began. Those of us who attend party conferences are familiar with the idea of people earnestly fighting poverty over free drinks and canapés in five-star hotels. We are aware, too, that conferences never really decide anything. The point of them is the debates, the ideas aired and contacts made and, at least in the case of a Labour conference, in the promises and compromises made behind the scenes. No less with the Earth Summit. Too big, yes. Unmanageable, certainly. Embarrassingly extravagant, of course. But pointless? No.
How so, not pointless? Oh, here you go:
It is an honourable thing for world leaders to try to set the parameters by which their conduct should be judged, even if they fail. In all the fringe events in Johannesburg, and in hundreds of meetings and thousands of conversations in preparation for the summit, ideas will have been exchanged, issues debated, relationships forged. Vast new networks will have been created.
It's a hypocritical thing to sit around in high class banquet halls, sucking in the best of everything, while whining that life isn't fair and that it really stinks that there's poor people in the world because the U.S. "consumes too much". And networks will have been created! Lord knows how much networks help put food on the table!
If only for a month or so, questions about renewable resources and global poverty dominate the headlines. The summit has got people talking and thinking, and not only about the excesses of the delegates.
True. Some of us are laughing at how stupid they are.
The ten days of the summit itself and its resolutions are not necessarily the point.
Then why bother?
Most of the 2,500 recommendations from the Rio Earth Summit, ten years ago, are now gathering dust.
THEN WHY BOTHER?
Yet Tony Blair knows all that and knows it doesn’t matter, just as it doesn’t matter that he’s only going for a couple of days.
THEN WHY BOTHER?
Reports from the summit are jostling for front-page space with increasingly jarring war cries from the summit’s missing guest, the United States. If George W. Bush couldn’t be bothered to attend Johannesburg, couldn’t he and his acolytes at least have shut up for a few days to enable the rest of the world to concentrate?
I just knew you were going to have to fit that in here somewhere...Oh, never mind. Why bother?
The people of the United States, by the way, consume more than the people of other countries because we produce more, and the fact of that astonishing production serves humanity, making it more probable, not less, that the poor will dig their way out of misery.
The only thing the Kyoto accord will quell will be economic development. Even many of its proponents concede that its effect on climate over the next century would be just barely noticeable. The economic consequences in the meantime would be dreadful, and here is the beginning of wisdom about poor countries and the environment: Until stomachs are full, no one gives a hoot about pollution or does anything about it.
It's now officially less than four months before Martin Scorsese finally gives me my Christmas present. Prepare for me to get giddy, like those Star Wars geeks who camp out in front of movie theaters wearing Darth Vader helmets.
California appears to be in the cross-hairs of the U.S. Education Department for alleged failure to abide by the “No Child Left Behind” statute signed by President Bush.
I am so proud.
A federal functionary let slip that the department was displeased that California planned to place some 50,000 rookie, partially credentialed, teachers into classrooms. Many of them, the feds presume, would be teaching poor inner-city kids. State education officials have cried foul, claiming the whole thing a misunderstanding that will be rectified fairly soon.
Whereas, if they were teaching rich, suburban kids it would be okay?
Even so, the academic achievement gap persists between poor kids and those who live in the nicer part of town.
And that's because of bad teachers, not bad communities, bad parents, or a bad upbringing? Give me a break. I was "poor kids" once too, you know. There's not a damn thing a good or bad teacher can do that delivers you from a drunk mommy who doesn't give a shit.
The reality is that simply spending more money in poorer schools will not close the student-achievement gap. Rather, it requires a sustained commitment to guarantee that poor kids receive the best instruction. And that won’t happen until districts assign their best teachers to classes where kids need the most help.
I imagine that's not going to happen until those kids stop shooting and intimidating their teachers.
Sadly, most districts are hamstrung by collective bargaining agreements that enable highly qualified, experienced instructors to teach highly motivated students in affluent parts of town.
The best teachers want the best jobs! The horror and outrage! Get me the governor on the horn!
So long as this instructional deficit remains the rule, poor kids will keep falling behind. Until school policy makers and teachers unions deal with this issue, the chronic achievement gap will continue.
And so long as crime, deprivation, and ugliness remain the rule in crap neighborhoods, poor kids will fall even further behind. It's not a school's job to tidy up our 'hoods. Sadly, at least in my part of town, it's largely become their job to play baby-sitter and day care provider for gang bangers and criminals. No wonder we can't get decent teachers around here.
Speaking of Google searches, I'm number three for "Welsh Porn". What's so distinct about Welsh porn?. Do you suppose our friend might be looking for people dressed as coal miners doing weird things with leeks?
I hope that this fellow was looking for the comic book character, and not me. I'd like to offer him (her?) my assurances that their search shall be fruitless. I was wise enough to destroy the negatives years ago.