Friday, 30 April 2010

brown sugar on an M&S egg custard tart, microwave for about 30secs; hardly pastel de nata, but q tasty nonetheless (egg just bubbled a tad)
Kevin Huffman rightly takes down Elizabeth Chang for her stupidly rigid view on Obama and how he filled in his census form. (he checked the box that says Black, African Am., or Negro.)

Let me start by suggesting this may slightly over-value the deep personal meaning of the Census form. I viewed the form as a seven-minute exercise in ensuring that the District of Columbia gets to count my whole family as residents. Maybe we can even get enough funding to fix the Metro escalators. I hadn’t realized the need to express solidarity with my relatives and ancestors, living and dead.

Anyway, like Chang, my kids are half Asian and half white, which led me to identify them on the Census as… Asian. My brother is half black and half white. He went with biracial. Somehow neither of these decisions has resulted in meaningfully different personal connections for my family.

The question of race as biological or sociological construct is complex. While Chang may wish Obama took a more literalist perspective and identified as biracial, I’m quite sure she doesn’t have the right to judge.

Growing up with my biracial brother and now raising biracial kids has given me a couple of insights. First, the world today is very different than the world was 30 to 40 years ago. Second, there is a difference in this country (still) between being biracial/half black and biracial/half Asian.

I remember back in the fifth grade when a kid called my brother the N-word, right there on the Montrose Elementary School playground. I can assure you that my brother’s response was not, “That young man is mistaken. Biologically, I’m half part of the dominant racial hegemony in this small town.” No, the N-word was a marker, a line in the sand about what race meant in the starkest and most subjective of terms. (The other kid left with a busted nose and his own lesson in social etiquette).

My oldest daughter, on the other hand, has made it through elementary school in two different regions of the country without enduring a single disparaging remark about her race. Do I think this is because the country is in a better place on issues of race today? Yes. Do I think it’s because she is half Asian rather than half black? Yep.

the Belgian parliament's lower house has provisionally banned the burka (the upper house would have to endorse this proposal before there could be any effect at all on Belgian law).

Modernity says it all.

This is a very bad proposal...What a terrible mistake...30 women and a whole law against them, not a good idea.
Jeff Weintraub in rare oul form highlighting an aspect of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by simply excerpting a story and giving it his own headline: 'One possible drawback to "Drill, Baby, Drill"'.

i heard an interview w a US Coast Guard man on BBC radio yesterday and he explained they were burning off surface oil. they were doing this because the surface slick could start to lump together and create more problems.

Weintraub is also splendid here w more excerpts and another spirited personal headline in the form of a question that obviously answers itself, How seriously should we take Wall Street whining about the dangers of regulation?

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

i fly like paper get high like planes

if you catch me at the border i got visas in my name

everyone's a winner

bona-fide hustler

all i wanna do

and take your money

no one on the corner has swagger like us

hit me on my burner pre-paid wireless

M.I.A. 'Paper Planes'
RIP Fred Halliday

normblog has a short appreciation here.

Fred was one of the outstanding scholars and political commentators of his generation, his writings of a range, astuteness and erudition that won readers all over the world. He wrote with a directness and clarity that were always a pleasure to read. His commitments to internationalism and human rights were at the centre of his recent work.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

All available evidence suggests that Shell's destruction of the Niger Delta is informed by near-total disregard for the welfare of the local people.

Okonta and Douglas, 2001

Friday, 23 April 2010

Deibert: Haiti's Peasantry Key to Reconstruction
Alemayehu G. Mariam's The Voodoo Economics of Meles Zenawi.

this piece on how Addis cooks its books contains the startling observation that - outside of Zimbabwe and some island nations - Ethiopia has seen the worst food inflation on earth in recent years.

But there is a more fundamental question to be answered: Could a nation's economic health be reduced to a single statistical summation?


GDP numbers, for instance, tell us nothing about the enormous disparity in incomes between the rich and poor in Ethiopia. By overstating economic welfare, GDP calculations do not tell us the magnitude of environmental damage that is taking place. GDP is certainly not a measure of the sustainability of growth, a point repeatedly made in numerous IMF reports on Ethiopia.

to return to de Waal, i must note de Waal discusses how, between 1991 and 2000, Ethiopia saw an average growth in GDP annually of 2.9%, a stat that obscures significant ups and downs. (during the same period, one year saw a contraction of 3.64%, whilst in other years the economy grew by up to 9.4%.)
citing Easterly, he continues, observing 'Macro-economic figures show that more people are plunged into poverty by an economic contraction than are lifted out of it by a comparable expansion.'

"An average of 6% growth in a volatile economy may lead to little or no decrease in the poverty headcount whatsoever."

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Apart from air pollution from the oil industry's emissions and flares day and night, producing poisonous gases that are silently and systematically wiping out vulnerable airborne biota and otherwise endangering the life of plants, game, and man himself, we have widespread water pollution and soil and land pollution that respectively result in the death of most aquatic eggs and juvenile stages of life of finfish and shellfish and sensible animals (like oysters) on the one hand, whilst, on the other hand, agricultural lands contaminated with oil spills become dangerous for farming, even where they continue to produce any significant yields.

from the NGO memo of the Rivers Chiefs and Peoples Conference of Port Harcourt submitted at the Rio conference

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

photo receptor
limbs and curves and a white vest and hair and the application of pressure and heat and sunlight and chemical reactions and groundwater and unsalted butter and eating

Monday, 19 April 2010

The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians.

Sunday, 18 April 2010


Saturday, 17 April 2010

excellent sounding bass heavy night in Hyde Park, Chicago next Friday

Friday, 16 April 2010

after the same bank sponsored his course at NYU, Garzón's dropping charges against Santander execs after he got back home to Spain is clearly going to look fishy, however you slice it.

but what a stirring quote from supporter Pedro Almodóvar!

Society has a moral debt to those who lost the war and to the families of those 113,000 bodies that lie along the sides of roads. If the Falange puts Garzón on trial, it is as if Franco had won again.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Gering & López Gallery

MATTHEW McCASLIN; He or She; 2009; Flexible electrical conduit, porcelain
light sockets, mirrored 60 watt light bulbs, electrical hardware; 74 x 34 x
11 inches; Unique.

Gering & López Gallery
730 Fifth Avenue
New York NY 10019
Tel 646 336 7183
Fax 646 336 7185
Hours Tue-Sat 10-6


A gorgeous MATTHEW McCASLIN piece on Gossip Girl, airing Monday, April 19.
Don't miss it!

Although this piece may belong to the fabulous Humphrey family on the show,
in reality you can view it at 730 Fifth Avenue. Stop by to see He or She
in our offices next week.


Current Exhibition:
February 26 - April 17, 2010

Upcoming Exhibitions:
April 24 - June 4, 2010
Opening reception: Saturday, April 24, 6-8pm

Summer 2010
Opening reception: Thursday, June 10, 6-8pm

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Good for Sudan

Alex de Waal writes

The last two days I have been in Khartoum, on the phone and email to people in all corners of Sudan. Places like Bor, Renk, Damazin, Aweil, Geneina, ed Da’ien, Hamush Koreb, Kadugli.
Names seared into the memory. Places where I took photographs of burned villages and disfigured survivors, or wrote accounts of misery and destruction. Some places that I never visited, but which were described to me by escapees who detailed their imprisonment, violation, hunger and despair. As Deborah Scroggins wrote of the displaced camps along the railway line to the south in 1988, these were “places so sad that the mind grows queasy trying to understand them.” For the last 24 years, since I spent Sudan’s last multi-party election day in the village of Nankose, south of Zalingei, whenever I received a message from one of these places, it was usually to report a story of execution, starvation, or forced displacement. My questions were, who is dead and who is alive, who is in prison and who is still free?
Today the questions are, did the ballots arrive in time? Were all the names on the electoral roll? What was the voter turnout?
Quietly, with dignity, with apprehension and sometimes with confusion and frustration, millions of Sudanese are voting. Good for them.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

today boasted one of those letters you only ever get in the Times or Telegraph, in this case, the former.

Sir, After entertaining an American guest for lunch at his London club, my late father and his companion were ushered out through the entrance door to a cold and wet street by a shabby-looking fellow in a well-worn overcoat. “I admire the politeness and understated dress of the staff here in England,” said the American on the pavement. “That was the Duke of Devonshire,” replied my father.

(the Duke's one of the 0.3%, maybe?)

side note: waitstaff in the USA are exempt from the USA's (already pitiably low in many states, AFAIK) minimum wage law.

if nobody tips a waiter or waitress or barkeep in the States, they don't get paid, pretty much. (like say it's a slow week for custom in the diner.)
an appalling situation.

and think of how long they're on their feet! the lifting! the well-worn banter and friendliness, and world-weary therapy a barkeep offers, and general charm of a waitress or waiter etc.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

pretty damn mind-blowing stat from Vim on thread: in Britain 0.3% of the population owns 69% of the land
I love this war and I love guns

well worth a read: the fabulous Una Moore's ranty pop at Malou Innocent, a Cato Institute bod blogging in a guest capacity at the Huffington Post ("wants you to know she doesn’t give a sh*t about Afghans").

(to appreciate her tone better, bear in mind that Moore is an aid worker in Afghanistan, doing good on the ground. she presumably might not care too much about the overall strategy aims of the USA in southwest Asia, but she does care about the very real, if clearly limited *, gains, there have been from unseating the Taliban government in Afghanistan.)

the bit where Innocent brings up 9/11 terrorists finding sanctuary in prosperous democracies is the same as a piss-poor point i once heard Johann Hari make on a BBC panel, though i'm not sure left-leaning Hari would appreciate being compared to somebody from libertarian tools Cato.
tough, because on this specific point, they both talk decontextualised stupidity, although Innocent is more honest about the very likely outcomes of her overall recommendations than Hari has been when i've read him.

as noted here before, Hari is a fellow leftwinger who implies that Malalai Joya and RAWA are the only Afghan opinions of apparently progressive stock worth seeking out on the knotty topic of international engagement in the country.

whatever your views, at least have the honesty to admit this isn't the case, in the slightest.

to repeat myself, i've seen Hari do this before (in print and live), which doesn't really surprise me, and various people who take their cues from the SWP do it before, which definitely doesn't surprise me.

& those fine Canadian military sorts at The Torch flag up some clear-eyed sounding WaPo and TIME pieces on Karzai.

It should come as no surprise, then, that in the endgame, Karzai has revealed an agenda quite distinct from that of Washington — just as Pakistan has done. The premise of the U.S. policy, after all — just like that of the Pakistanis, Karzai, the Taliban and every other player in the game — is that sooner or later, the Americans will leave. And it's that reality, now more than ever, that is shaping everyone's game.

of course, Innocent's talk is i'm sure popular across DC. i don't know, but it seems likely to me, right down to a love of drones in some quarters.
(Biden likes his drones, doesn't he?)

* it's come to something when i have to insert this embarrassingly obvious "limited" caveat, but you do get fuckwits these days disputing even limited progress on healthcare, infant mortality, education, female parliamentarian participation, civil society group uptick, refugee return rates, etc, indicators, in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Geeta: Thoughts on ‘10 Ragas To a Disco Beat’
people work!
couple of letters in the press over the weekend wrt the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers, one from John McDonnell, MP.

The media treatment of RMT and Bob Crow over the last 48 hours over the Network Rail strike ballot has been the worst example of a concerted campaign of media bias against a trade union that we have seen since the 1980s miners' strike. John Humphrys's interview of Bob Crow, with his references to ballot-rigging, and the BBC's subsequent headline of "RMT's Bob Crow denies ballot rigging", was that disgusting classic of the old hack lawyer's tactic of asking the defendant: "When did you stop beating your wife?"

Even the Guardian's editorial (2 March) ignorantly weighed in with "No union that conducts its ballots properly according to the reasonable requirements of the law … would be in danger of being injuncted." This reference to "reasonable requirements of the law" is patent rubbish. To hold a ballot the union must construct and supply the employer with a detailed and complex matrix of information setting out which members it is balloting, their job titles, grades, departments and work locations. The employer is under no obligation to co-operate with the union to ensure this is accurate. If there is the slightest inaccuracy, even where it did not affect the result, the ballot is open to being challenged by the employer and quashed by the courts.

There can be no question of the union ballot-rigging or interfering in the balloting process because it is undertaken by an independent scrutineer, usually the Electoral Reform Society, and all ballot papers are sent by post to the homes of the members being balloted, and returned to the ERS for counting. The union at no time handles the ballot papers.
two splendid replies at normblog today.

the first is toward the rather fine blogger, Paulie at Never Trust a Hippy, and discusses the responsibility democratic voters bear for their government's actions.

the second is toward the writer and journalist Geoffrey Wheatcroft, who has demonstrated a political tin-ear down the years in a few areas, frankly, just from what i've noticed.
(he can write very well about bicycles and appreciates classical music, mind.)

Geoffrey Wheatcroft responds to the beginning of the general election campaign with the stunning declaration that he doesn't care.
Just imagine the election being called off, with electoral politics replaced until further notice by the rule of some unelected body...To be disillusioned with democratic politics is within anyone's rights. To attempt to spread such disillusion is politically immature.
there's a provocative letter in the Express today referencing the nurse in Exeter mentioned here recently, so i thought i'd reproduce it below (can't find it online).

the writer's name and town address were published in the paper but i don't see the need to post them, though suffice to say they give their address as a town in southeast England (not a million miles from Exeter in southwest England).

AS a trained, Christian nurse of 36 years, I have no sympathy for nurse Shirley Chaplin ("Archbishop attacks 'silliness' of cross ban", April 5). Our uniform policy has always stated 'no jewellery other than a wedding ring'.
Patients have been known to pull at necklaces and break them should they be worn.
Jesus said abide by the rules. If Shirley wants to openly proclaim her faith a cross is not the best way as many people wear a cross and chain who are not Christian.
I have for many years worn a fish lapel pin. The fish was the secret sign of the Christian and I have had more chats about faith with patients and the public since I started wearing it.


having read up about Chris Grayling (in typical somedisco style, i read one headline and thought he was talking about something else entirely) i see he was going on about some bed and breakfast run by faithful Christians wanting to refuse entry to a gay couple.

nobody is logically and morally consistent all the time, but some people are better than others, and i wonder if Grayling would defend bed and brekkie proprietors in a similar situation if the custom being turned away happened to belong to, say, some of the following groups of people (for the sake of argument, let us hypothetically assume they are also all straight): black Britons, people who look over the age of 50 of any ethnicity, a young wife and husband of any ethnicity, or Britons of white Anglo-Saxon heritage.

or, indeed, two out Christians who are of the same gender, and partners, but in a relationship with their Christian faith too.

to be fair, the logical outcome of a libertarian position would presumably defend all the above, but i am not sure if some of the letters to the editor i have already read myself - defending Grayling - would hypothetically defend, say, Britons of Eritrean heritage turning away all potential customers to their b&b who have ginger hair and freckles.

i rather suspect it is more to do with some people not being too bothered about it because it doesn't affect them personally and who could - even if they are not violently raging homophobes - ideally do with thinking more deeply about difference and tolerance in society, and the fact everybody bleeds red (or, as one open-minded Christian i personally know has said in the past, 'we are all God's children').

all the above could be summarised by a critic as standard, intolerantly tolerant fare, i'm sure, but there's not much more to say really, is there?

Monday, 5 April 2010

pah silly me, i don't mean a break at around 35" in, i just mean a period of silence.

definitely like someone on the verge mind you, that delicious moment just prior to losing it, earth move style

so i had better also repeat a link to Mr Finney, for his unpicking last autumn of the track, and some other songs
i liked what Oliver Kamm had to say about that latest eruption of lamentable rubbish from the Vatican.

under the heading, The Vatican excels itself, he writes

Just for the sake of argument, let's leave out the entire history of the 20th century. How does the demand for papal accountability for the Church's cover-up of the rape and torture of children equate to, say, the pogroms and antisemitic laws in Imperial Russia after the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881? Apologists for this blame-shifting and evasive pontiff are invited to answer below.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

my absolute favourite fictional telly programmes, no particular order, the ones that mean more to me than i can articulate with words

my so called life

The Wire

The Shield

The Sopranos

Battlestar Galactica
(the new one)

northern exposure

Homicide: Life on the street

the Kenneth Branagh Wallander
YouTube clip of a man describing sexual attacks that took place against him when he was a boy in the care of the Irish Catholic Church.

(h/t: Sectionfive)

the always superb Graeme has a look here about a very worrying move wrt Canadian immigration and asylum welfare systems made by the genuinely disgraceful Canadian Immigration Minister.

i had to laugh the other day when one of the down-market papers publicised the (admittedly ridiculous sounding) story of a woman shop owner fined and given a criminal record for selling a kid a goldfish (rules about pets and children or something). they headlined it BRITAIN'S SHAME.

this is the same paper that has consistently berated the Labour government for not being tough enough on asylum seekers, despite that the Labour government is in fact very tough on asylum seekers. you might have thought the gentleman that Britain deported back to Sudan (he told them he would be murdered for political reasons in Sudan if he was deported) who was executed by government agents in Khartoum after Britain deported him would be a better case for BRITAIN'S SHAME, but apparently not.
how much money is the boss of Network Rail on?

i don't know but i bet it's a good sit.

i bet it is a lot more than the track lads, the ones who are out there in all weathers, doing the heavy lifting and the dangerous work, you know, the ones that actually do the graft.

oh aye.

(ETA: this is obviously in no way meant to diminish executive stress, white-collar administrative and leadership skills, etc. but even so.)
so Chris Grayling thinks religious sensibilities should be respected and all that.

pandering to organised religion (which is a bad idea) is obviously not something that the Tory party have a monopoly on in the UK: look at the Labour government.

but it is instances like this that illustrate really well how the new Tories are in fact the same old Tories.

it's all very well for Cameron with his bicycle and his radiant wife and his slick PR, but he has an army of small-state ideologue fundamentalists behind him, men like John Redwood, who i wouldn't trust to run a free bar.

i say fuck the Tory party and the horse they rode in on.
"my heart is beating like a Protestant drum"
some bloke offered my little brother bugle in downtown Manchester (he declined).


brilliant, i love language.
The Pope’s preacher today likened recent attacks on the pontiff over the Catholic sex abuse scandal to the “most shameful acts of anti-Semitism”......
Father Cantalamessa, noting that this year the Jewish festival of Passover and Easter fell during the same week, said that Jews throughout history had been the victims of “collective violence” and drew a comparison with current attacks on the Church over the scandal.

are you having a laugh?

do me a fucking favour.

i often think pogroms are in the same moral category as people rightly criticising an oppressive institution for systematic evil that that institution has perpetrated down the years on a wide-ranging scale. they're basically the same really, when you think about it.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

David Osler's 'The poverty of the Porsche-driving classes'.

co-signing this, spot on.

What you would not guess from either article is that 60% of Britons – that’s a clear majority of the population – are now actually better off in taxation terms than they were under the Tories.

(genius opening from JOHNNO in comments "It always amuses me when some fuckwit in a pin stripe suit claims the unions are holding the country to ransom".)


a piece from the local paper interviewing a Strangeways prison leader, with some frank, brutal details