Monthly Archives: December 2008

Collective Innocence

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A few weeks ago while running at the gym, I was listening to a podcast of an interview on the Leonard Lopate Show with the now infamous William Ayers . While I am not qualified to comment on the veracity of Ayer’s accounts of the 1960s, I did find the following remarks by Ayers to be thought provoking:

We have never come to terms with the war in Vietnam, what we really did, what was lost there. in terms of purpose and so on. We haven’t learned what it means to invade and occupy a country. We haven’t accounted for responsibility. So while I get held up as somebody who was violent which I reject. I was not violent. Henry Kissinger gets a pass. There is something wrong with that. We ought to really have truth and reconciliation process if we want to understand what went on.

His words reminded me of another podcast I had listened to last year in November at the airport in Paris on my way back to Madrid. It was the Bill Moyers Journal podcast, and James H. Cone was talking about the history of lynching in America and how as a nation we refuse to recognize our collective guilt. For whatever reason, we take ourselves out of the historical context of our nation’s sins, and think of ourselves therefore as collectively innocent. How can I be responsible for slavery, the genocide of native Americans, or any serious of morally reprehensible actions committed by the nation before I was even born? As a matter of fact, even bringing up any of these matters can often times be considered anti-patriotic. Continue reading

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Why Bombay?

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I have noticed over the past few weeks since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai that the press in Spain always refer to Mumbai as “Bombay”. At first I thought it was just El Pais where my friend, Teo, works, and that it was probably his fault. Then I looked at other newspapers like El Mundo and El ABC. None of them seemed to have gotten the news that in 1996 India officially changed the city’s name to Mumbai.

Then when I complained about it to my my girlfriend (who lives in Paris), she said that the French press also widely refer to the city as Bombay. When I then went to check Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, I was first distracted by the abundance of scarcely dressed women all over its website, but then saw that Mumbai was most commonly used.

But for Spain and France, Continental Europe’s most prolific colonizers, why “Bombay”? It’s not like the case of Burma where for political reasons one may refuse to call the nation “Myanmar” in protest of its totalitarian regime. And while I understand that the average Joe may take more than 12 years to adapt to a distant city’s name change, you’d at least think the press could get it right and respect the will of a nation of one billion people.

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Christmas with the Rat Pack

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So I have decided that it’s time to start annoying my neighbors like I do every year in December. This time, though, I am starting off in style with the fantastic Christmas with the Rat Pack. If you’re a fan of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr., then you should definitely get yourself a copy. It is upbeat and has a fun early 60s feel to it.

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Tea in the Harem

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After a two month hiatus, due in part to the presidential election and podcasts, I am finally back in the saddle again. Over the past few days, I finally finished Morocco Since 1830 and then Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Saleh. I am now about half way into Medhi Charef’s Tea in the Harem, the first “beur” novel in France. There is a rawness to Charef’s novel that reminds me of that of Ryu Murakami’s Almost Transparent Blue and Coin Locker Babies, though Charef’s main character is a bit more empathetic. Perhaps, though, any attempt that Charef might have had back when the story was first published in 1983 to shock French society no longer feels so shocking today. On the other hand, Saleh’s 1969 Season of Migration to the North is much fresher and more poignant today.

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Bolívar’s Lesson to the República Bolivariana

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. . . nada es tan peligroso como dejar permanecer largo tiempo en un mismo ciudadano el poder. El pueblo se acostumbra a obedecerle y él se acostumbra a mandarlo; de done se origina la usurpación y la tiranía.

While Hugo Chavez, the former failed golpista and present day Venezuelan president a la Fidel, is doing his best to change his country’s constitution again. This time it isn’t to extend the number of terms he may serve in office, but to extend his “mandate” indefinitely.  One of Mr. Chavez’s first acts as president was to change the official name of Venezuela to the República Bolivariana de Venezuela, in honor of Bolívar, the Latin American champion of independence from Spain. Ironically, protest groups have been banned from hanging the above sign quoting Bolívar on the tyranny of extended presidencies.

Even more ironic, it appears that Spanish president Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (“ZP”) may actually follow in the groundbreaking footsteps of his predecessor and political rival, Jose Maria Aznar. While Aznar’s presidency may have turned to shambles and his legacy ruined as a result of his handling of the March 11, 2004 Atocha train bombings and what has been widely perceived as his subsequent arrogance, Aznar should be remembered for his singular willingness to voluntarily step down from power. From 722 with Don Pelayo until Felipe Gonzalez lost in 1996, Spain has not been a country defined by voluntary transfers of power. Even after Franco’s +40 years in totalitarian control, the new Spanish constitution did not establish mandatory term limits for its chief executives. Aznar was the first Spanish leader in the nation’s history to make the promise and not seek reelection.

Rumor has it that ZP is considering following Aznar’s example. Maybe ZP, a Chavez apologist who tried unsuccessfully to resell U.S. military technologies to the supreme Bolivarian (probably in exchange for cheap oil), has been reading the anti-Chavez propaganda with an open mind. In the U.S., we’ve got George W., but at least we have a sure-fire system that safeguards us from having W. or others like him for more than 8 years.

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The Price We Pay for Cheaper Food

I just finished watching the latest edition of the Bill Moyers Journal about the politics of food with Michael Pollan. Forget about the economic crisis and the Wall Street bailout, America’s bipartisan, socialist (though it is government intervening on behalf of corporations not people) love affair with macro-farms is as interventionist as it gets.

The result of our government’s massive and ongoing intervention into the market to provide us with cheaper food is in reality much more costly than one would imagine. According to the Bill Moyer’s essay,

As “Time” magazine recently put: farm policy is “a welfare program for the megafarms that use the most fuel, water and pesticides; emit the most greenhouse gases; grow the most fattening crops; hire the most illegals; and depopulate rural America.”

According to Pollan, these policies have a dangerous affect our health: Continue reading

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