Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Meanwhile, somewhere that isn't Iran...

Monks killed in protests in Myanmar/Burma as the fascist government cracks down.

It is feared the regime will move to stop the protests with overwhelming force and mass arrests - that could further alienate Burma's leaders from the international community.

US President George Bush yesterday announced new sanctions against Burma's rulers.

Speaking at the UN General Assembly in New York, the US president accused the country's leaders of imposing "a 19-year reign of fear" that denies basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship.

But will we hear the vast array of neo-con commentators calling for a "liberation" - read "invasion" - there, too? Probably not.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An Open Letter to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (from '05)

I could say any number of things about the President of Iran visiting at Columbia, and the speech he gave, and the commentary about it. But I don't think I'd be saying anything that hasn't already been said, before.

Having said that, I find it tragic that people are conflating Iran, itself, with its President and his views, and finding both to be execrable at best, and worthy of atom bombing at worst. Need I remind anyone of the horrible excuse of a person WE have as President, and how terrible it would be if WE were judged by him, alone.

(And yeah, I know - we already are.)

So, I'm reprinting a piece I did back in 2005, when Mr. Ahmadinejad decided to let us all know that Israel needed to be wiped off the map. I did this in honor of my many Iranian students from the American University in Dubai, some of whom may have agreed with their President, but all of whom deserve a better future than the one this clown is manufacturing for them.

To the Honorable Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Dear Moron:

Like most of the civilized world, I was less than pleased to hear you say that Israel needs to be wiped from the face of the Earth.

That's not because I'm a big fan of how Israel conducts its business, or looks after its interests. And it's not just because I don't think it's a good idea to say that your neighbors (who have nukes, by the way) should be utterly destroyed if you want to be a part of the larger, global community, regardless of how they conduct their business or look after their interests.

Rather, it's because I have a very personal stake in this matter. You, sir, are putting my kids in jeopardy. And I don't appreciate that - not at all.

You see, sir, while I was in the UAE, I was employed at the American University in Dubai. I taught students from over 80 countries while I was there. They're all my kids. And I love them all, even if I wanted to strangle them from time to time - especially around finals.

Now, a large number of my kids - my students - were from Iran. I'm sure that's no surprise, since Dubai is right across the Gulf from you. I did the same things for my Iranian students that I did for my other students: helped them, cheered them on and wished them success when they graduated.

And I did not spend all those years teaching all those kids how to do academic research, and helping them achieve their scholastic goals, just to have you toss their future away with stupid comments towards your nuclear neighbor.

(I do not appreciate your playing dice with their lives while playing 'hide the breeder reactor' from the IAEA, either, but that's another matter.)

I doubt seriously that Israel is going to take your threat seriously - or at least any more seriously than they'd take any other threat from your theocracy, past or present. But I don't doubt that these kinds of dumb-ass pronouncements will only further estrange Iran from the world at large, and make being Iranian a stigma, rather than something to be proud of.

And that is not good - not good at all.

My kids deserve a chance to shine, you clown. They deserve to be a constructive part of the world economy. They deserve to be looked at as potential business partners, researchers, engineers, artists and architects.

They deserve a future.

They do NOT deserve to spend the rest of their lives being called "those people, over there," because fools like yourself just don't know when to keep your damn mouths shut.

They do NOT deserve to be stigmatized, discriminated against and denied chances to shine because your government's public image is the equivalent of an ugly dog with a shaved butt being trained to walk backwards.

And they do NOT deserve to die, in droves, because you said the wrong things at a time when my country's President (himself a moron who can't keep his mouth shut) desperately needs another country to invade, either.

Do you remember what it was like when you were young, and thought you could take on the whole world? Do you remember what it was like to see problems and have the energy and enthusiasm to fix them?

Well, it's their time to try, now. And in this age, one does not take on the world - much less succeed in it - by making stupid-ass statements. One works WITH people instead of around or against them.

You could help be the architect of their better future by creating a healthy, prosperous Iran that looks forward, rather than back. I realize that you came to power by promising the former while denying the latter, but surely even you know that you can't have one without the other, anymore.

(Just as I'm sure that you know most of the Iranian people don't agree with all your ideas, and that a counter-revolution is slowly brewing. but you don't want to talk about that, either, do you?)

So listen up, fool - lay off with the tough talk. Shut your damn mouth and work on improving things with your neighbors instead of making them worse. Start playing straight with the rest of the world, and be understanding of why you make them nervous.

If you don't care about my words, that's fine. But at least have the decency to care about the kids we share in common. They don't have the wherewithal to cash - or deny - the checks you're writing for them, yet. Give them the space to do so, please.


J. Edward Tremlett

Monday, September 24, 2007

Juan Cole on Iran

Food for thought on the rush to war.

When Bush called Iran one of the Axis of Evil, back in the day, my wife's Iranian officemate said that Bush handed the hardliners all the ammunition they needed. It is true that Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism and should be ostracized and embargoed by all sensible countries, but it's also true that an outside attack on Iran will galvanize even the pro-western population of Iran and set them against their "liberators."

This one's gonna take time to do right. Unfortunately, the people who want "liberation" for Iran seem to only have one word in their vocabulary - "Faster."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

MSU YAF To Sue SPLC Over "Hate Group" Classification?

Michigan State University's chapter of Young Americans for Freedom made national headlines last Spring when the Southern Poverty Law Center placed them on their Intelligence Report's list of hate groups, making them the first ever university-recognized student group to be so "honored."

What did they do? According to deputy director of the Intelligence Project, Heidi Beirich, MSU YAF was investigated after "its November protest of a Lansing ordinance to prohibit the harassment of individuals based on criteria including race, sexual orientation, gender identity and religion. ... During the protest, several members held up signs with slogans such as "Straight Power" and "End Faggotry."

That, plus their proposals to end funding for minority student organizations, and establish an all-white student council, all but sealed the deal. MSU YAF was classified as a General Hate group, which put them alongside the likes of the Jewish Defense League, Resistance Records and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church.

Needless to say, they weren't thrilled. Their Adviser, William Allen said "It is evident to any fair observer that YAF does not deserve to be on this list ... Unfortunately, the standards Morris Dees adheres to clearly no longer apply in the work of what has been a highly valuable organization with exacting integrity."

YAF Chairman Kyle Bristow was less charitable, calling the SPLC "disgusting" and extremely "left-wing," and hinting they "might file a lawsuit for character defamation."

As of last week's YAF meeting, that lawsuit seems to be in the works. According to YAF Watch, a blog set up to monitor MSU YAF, David Holthouse of the SPLC tried to join the meeting, only to be told he wasn't welcome.

David Holthouse approached them for an interview for his article. He was told by Kyle that YAF was going to be suing the Southern Poverty Law Center and he had been advised not to speak to them. He also claimed it was a private meeting and threatened to have the cops called.

Does MSU YAF have a case in this case? Possibly. It wouldn't be unlike them to say that it's not fair for minority students to get funding and recognition for minority specific groups if White students can't get the same thing. It also wouldn't be unlike them to say that, if White Students can't get the same thing, then maybe minority students shouldn't either. Those are two points which can be made philosophically, without being hateful or prejudiced. And those are points which YAF as a whole has been making for years.

But that would stand only if the Court was willing to overlook the "end faggotry" signs MSU YAF was employing, along with the tons of evidence pointing to what appear to be skewed racial and religious views, and open prejudice against homosexuals, that all but litter the Spartan Spectator - MSU YAF's blog. It's almost as if they can't help but shoot themselves in the foot?

This one's definitely developing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Dilbert Deception

Yeah, I love Dilbert. I think just about everyone who has to work for a living does, with the exception of Tom Peters, who thinks he's breeding cynicism, and certain humorless left-wing economist types, who think he's a tool for the establishment. (But do any of them actually WORK for a living...?)

But... what if they're right?

One of the nice things about my secret identity - mild-mannered bookstore boi - is getting my hands on the joy known as Advance Readers Copies. These are the 'proofs' of books that are sent around, prior to publication, so that people like me can read them, get excited and recommend them to customers when they come in. Sometimes I read good things, sometimes I bust the Rule of 50 and fling the book after 5. Sometimes I get a sneak preview of cool stuff that I can then turn around and hand-sell to others, as planned.

And sometimes I find out something really interesting before other people do.

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, has a new non-Dilbert book due out this October: "Stick to Drawing Comics, Monkey Brain! (Or) Cartoonist Ignores Helpful Advice". I'm about 38 pages into it, and may keep reading if the humor improves. (Adams' true talent is turning workplace stupidity into comedy gold through cartoons, but his pure prose humor isn't nearly as funny).

But it's on pg 3 that we discover something... interesting as he's recounting his personal success stories, in order to make the case for doing the book everyone's told him he shouldn't write.

"Several years ago I was approached by some advisers for people in high places. I can't give you the details of this story, or even tell you why I can't give you the details. But the gist of it was that they needed help squelching some bad ideas that had taken hold in the public consciousness. They thought humor might be one part of the solution, and they were Dilbert fans, so they tracked me down."

Apparently, the "bad ideas sounded terrific to the uninformed person," rendering easy negation impossible, since any credible counterargument would have to rely on logic and an overly-complicated explanation. So Scott Adams - trained hypnotist - "suggested a few cleverly designed, hypnosis-inspired phrases that were the linguistic equivalent of kung fu.

"They were simple (that's my specialty), and once you heard those phrases, they made any competing ideas seem frankly stupid. ... The people in high places tried my phrases. The phrases became world headlines the next day. I could tune the TV to any news channel and hear the words coming out of pundits' mouths."

And, according to Mr. Adams, the phrases "smothered" the bad idea.

Now, if he can't talk about it, and can't even say WHY he can't talk about it, I'm thinking that's Federal, and probably National Security. And given the nonsense we've had to endure, courtesy of W and his gang, you can understand why I'm kind of concerned.

He doesn't give a time table, except that this happened "several" years ago. And since Dilbert's been published since 1989, that could mean it was sometime during the 90's, and Clinton's era, rather than W's time in office. But I have a hard time imagining Clinton's advisers seeking out humor help from Dilbert's creator.

(I can't even think of a bad idea they would have needed help squelching from that era - at least one they were ABLE to squelch.)

So, provided this isn't some joke on his part, I'm wondering what kind of funny - or not so funny - comeback the Bush-league pundits have dropped on us over the last few years that might have had its genesis in Scott Adams? Did he let them use his powers for evil? Or did he actually do the right thing and ally himself with Bushco on one of the few things they did right?

This may lump me in with the "self-important, humorless, autofellating ass hats" that make up Mr. Adams' critics (according to him) but I don't know if I'll ever look at a Dilbert cartoon the same way again until I have unraveled this mystery.