Thursday, November 30, 2006

Is Michael Richards a racist?

Maybe he was just misunderstood.  You decide.

Posted by SPN on 11/30 at 12:21 PM
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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

My Life as a Dog By JONATHAN SAFRAN FOER

Interesting article on dog ownership

FOR the last 20 years, New York City parks without designated dog runs have permitted dogs to be off-leash from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. Because of recent complaints from the Juniper Park Civic Association in Queens, the issue has been revisited. On Dec. 5, the Board of Health will vote on the future of off-leash hours.
Retrievers in elevators, Pomeranians on No. 6 trains, bull mastiffs crossing the Brooklyn Bridge ... it is easy to forget just how strange it is that dogs live in New York in the first place. It is about as unlikely a place for dogs as one could imagine, and yet 1.4 million of them are among us. Why do we keep them in our apartments and houses, always at some expense and inconvenience? Is it even possible, in a city, to provide a good life for a dog, and what is a “good life?” Does the health board’s vote matter in ways other than the most obvious?

I adopted George (a Great Dane/Lab/pit/greyhound/ridgeback/whatever mix — a k a Brooklyn shorthair) because I thought it would be fun. As it turns out, she is a major pain an awful lot of the time.

She mounts guests, eats my son’s toys (and occasionally tries to eat my son), is obsessed with squirrels, lunges at skateboarders and Hasids, has the savant-like ability to find her way between the camera lens and subject of every photo taken in her vicinity, backs her tush into the least interested person in the room, digs up the freshly planted, scratches the newly bought, licks the about-to-be served and occasionally relieves herself on the wrong side of the front door. Her head is resting on my foot as I type this. I love her.

Our various struggles — to communicate, to recognize and accommodate each other’s desires, simply to coexist — force me to interact with something, or rather someone, entirely “other.” George can respond to a handful of words, but our relationship takes place almost entirely outside of language. She seems to have thoughts and emotions, desires and fears. Sometimes I think I understand them; often I don’t. She is a mystery to me. And I must be one to her.

Of course our relationship is not always a struggle. My morning walk with George is very often the highlight of my day — when I have my best thoughts, when I most appreciate both nature and the city, and in a deeper sense, life itself. Our hour together is a bit of compensation for the burdens of civilization: business attire, e-mail, money, etiquette, walls and artificial lighting. It is even a kind of compensation for language. Why does watching a dog be a dog fill one with happiness? And why does it make one feel, in the best sense of the word, human?

It is children, very often, who want dogs. In a recent study, when asked to name the 10 most important “individuals” in their lives, 7- and 10-year-olds included two pets on average. In another study, 42 percent of 5-year-olds spontaneously mentioned their pets when asked, “Whom do you turn to when you are feeling, sad, angry, happy or wanting to share a secret?” Just about every children’s book in my local bookstore has an animal for its hero. But then, only a few feet away in the cookbook section, just about every cookbook includes recipes for cooking animals. Is there a more illuminating illustration of our paradoxical relationship with the nonhuman world?

In the course of our lives, we move from a warm and benevolent relationship with animals (learning responsibility through caring for our pets, stroking and confiding in them), to a cruel one (virtually all animals raised for meat in this country are factory farmed — they spend their lives in confinement, dosed with antibiotics and other drugs).

How do you explain this? Is our kindness replaced with cruelty? I don’t think so. I think in part it’s because the older we get, the less exposure we have to animals. And nothing facilitates indifference or forgetfulness so much as distance. In this sense, dogs and cats have been very lucky: they are the only animals we are intimately exposed to daily.

Folk parental wisdom and behavioral studies alike generally view the relationships children have with companion animals as beneficial. But one does not have to be a child to learn from a pet. It is precisely my frustrations with George, and the inconveniences she creates, that reinforce in me how much compromise is necessary to share space with other beings.
The practical arguments against off-leash hours are easily refuted. One doesn’t have to be an animal scientist to know that the more a dog is able to exercise its “dogness”— to run and play, to socialize with other dogs — the happier it will be. Happy dogs, like happy people, tend not to be aggressive. In the years that dogs have been allowed to run free in city parks, dog bites have decreased 90 percent. But there is another argument that is not so easy to respond to: some people just don’t want to be inconvenienced by dogs. Giving dogs space necessarily takes away space from humans.

We have been having this latter debate, in different forms, for ages. Again and again we are confronted with the reality — some might say the problem — of sharing our space with other living things, be they dogs, trees, fish or penguins. Dogs in the park are a present example of something that is often too abstracted or far away to gain our consideration.

The very existence of parks is a response to this debate: earlier New Yorkers had the foresight to recognize that if we did not carve out places for nature in our cities, there would be no nature. It was recently estimated that Central Park’s real estate would be worth more than $500 billion. Which is to say we are half a trillion dollars inconvenienced by trees and grass. But we do not think of it as an inconvenience. We think of it as balance.

Living on a planet of fixed size requires compromise, and while we are the only party capable of negotiating, we are not the only party at the table. We’ve never claimed more, and we’ve never had less. There has never been less clean air or water, fewer fish or mature trees. If we are not simply ignoring the situation, we keep hoping for (and expecting) a technological solution that will erase our destruction, while allowing us to continue to live without compromise. Maybe zoos will be an adequate replacement for wild animals in natural habitats. Maybe we will be able to recreate the Amazon somewhere else. Maybe one day we will be able to genetically engineer dogs that do not wish to run free. Maybe. But will those futures make us feel, in the best sense of the word, human?

I have been taking George to Prospect Park twice a day for more than three years, but her running is still a revelation to me. Effortlessly, joyfully, she runs quite a bit faster than the fastest human on the planet. And faster, I’ve come to realize, than the other dogs in the park. George might well be the fastest land animal in Brooklyn. Once or twice every morning, for no obvious reason, she’ll tear into a full sprint. Other dog owners can’t help but watch her. Every now and then someone will cheer her on. It is something to behold.

Posted by rosevine69 on 11/29 at 12:26 PM
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Darfur children dragged from mothers and shot

by KATHARINE HOURELD, TINE, DARFUR
The Sunday Times November 19, 2006

WHEN the fighters came, the mothers of Jebel Maun could not protect their children. Screaming toddlers were ripped from their grasp and shot; older children who tried to save their brothers and sisters were hunted down. “Four children escaped in a group and ran under a tree for protection. An attacker came and shot at them, killing one of the children,” said a witness in an account to United Nations staff.

Another group, aged five, seven and nine, tried to run away. The five-year-old fell down and was shot dead. Another boy stopped and told the attacker: “You killed this child. Please let me go.” It was no use. He too was killed, one of more than 20 children who died that day.

Local people in the Darfur region of Sudan put the number of dead in the attack earlier this month at 63, mostly old men and children. The African Union, which has a peacekeeping force in Darfur, said 92 people died in the eight villages attacked. “They took the babies and children from their mothers’ arms, beat the women and shot the children,” said one witness, Adam Gamer Umar. “They said, ‘We’re killing your sons and when you have more we will come and kill them too’.” Mariam Abakr Yehya’s three-year-old was one of those killed. “They said they would kill this one next time,” she said, referring to the baby boy in her arms.

Details of the latest massacres emerged as a deal was brokered last week by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary-general, for a “hybrid force” of African Union troops with logistical support from the UN. However, there was no agreement on the timing or mandate of this force and the Sudanese government has continued to resist calls for 20,000 UN peacekeepers to replace a relatively ineffective African Union force of 7,000. 

The villagers of Jebel Maun say their attackers wore government uniforms and badges and carried new guns and satellite phones. A similar description was given by the inhabitants of Sirba, another Darfur village, where 30 people were killed. Last Tuesday militiamen with new weapons and Landcruisers barred the road to African Union investigators. Khartoum denies responsibility for the atrocities and blames a rogue Arab militia.

Five peace treaties have been signed and torn up since conflict erupted in Darfur in 2003. Local tribes, mostly “African” farmers, formed rebel movements to protest against the neglect of their region and the arming of Arabic-speaking nomadic militias. The government responded by encouraging the militias, known as the janjaweed, to target civilians it suspected of supporting the rebels. At least 200,000 people have been killed and 2m made homeless in the ensuing carnage. Since only one of three rebel factions signed the latest peace deal in May, the violence has worsened. Vast swathes of northern Darfur have become no-go areas for aid groups providing vital food, medicine and clean water for refugees. Thirteen aid workers have been killed in six months. Organisations that speak out against abuses, such as gang rape and intimidation, find their members arrested or permits to operate revoked. Laptop computers are confiscated and searched at the airport.

In El Fasher, the capital of north Darfur, one official tried to seize papers belonging to The Sunday Times containing confidential interviews with civilians who had suffered at the hands of government forces. There is plenty to hide. In a clear violation of the peace treaty, 1,000 janjaweed moved into the desolate outpost of Tine, on the border between Sudan and Chad, three weeks ago to support 3,000 government troops already stationed there. Almost all the 70,000 residents have fled. Now fighters sporting flip-flops, assault rifles and a mishmash of uniforms lounge insolently in the marketplace.

At their nearby camp the 200 African Union soldiers say there is little they can do. Outnumbered by government forces and lacking a mandate to intervene, they are calling in vain for UN action It is already too late for the children of Jebel Maun and there is no one left in Tine to protect. “This is a ghost town. All the people are dead or have run away,” said Virginia Mukuka, one of 30 civilian police attached to the African Union force in Tine. She says she has dealt with only one complaint in four months. “We came to help our brothers and sisters,” she said, “but they are gone.”

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/22 at 03:17 PM
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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Darfur Army

Why can’t we create an armed force of African peoples from all over the Diaspora going into Sudan and kicking the Jinjaweed and the corrupt Sudanese government out?  Everytime I read or see something on tv about the deliberate genocide of the Black Africans by the Arab Africans, my blood boils.  I am normally a very non-violent person but frankly I want to kick some butt.  If the rest of the world community is not willing to help the people in Darfut, why don’t we go ahead and do it ourselves?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Old school

I’m supposed to be inspired by women my age who run marathons and go back to college, but I’m too tired to be young. It’s too much work.

By Debra J. Dickerson in Salon Magazine Hilarious!  But then I’m right there with Ms. Dickerson.  I can truly relate.

Nov. 13, 2006 | Once I turned 47 last year, I contemplated moving every few months so that the AARP storm troopers won’t be able to sucker punch me with one of their unavoidable membership packages and assign me my very own congressperson to stalk about Social Security and hip replacement coverage. But I’m thinking now that I’ll just pull up a nice rocking chair in the shade and let the wrinkled bastards find me. I’m too tired to be young anymore. It’s just too much damn work.

Young people complain about the stranglehold we boomers have on the culture. But being forced to wait until our narcissistic parade passes by isn’t half as hard as being forced to march in it, let me tell you. Every month, More, America’s only magazine for “mature” women, is chock full of estrogen-fed Amazons in their 50s and 60s who can not only still fit into their Priscilla Presley knockoff wedding dresses but, two husbands later, are still friendly with the fool they married while they were wearing them. I stopped speaking to my husband before the reception was over. I was 40. We have two kids. I didn’t fit into my dress during the ceremony.

I’m supposed to be inspired by the free spirits of women my age who are joyfully running their first marathons, getting Ph.D.s in Klingon studies, starting wineries in the Loire Valley or rebelliously letting their hair go gray. But if they were really like me, they still wouldn’t know what to do with their hair, whatever its color, or even have a favorite brand of pantyhose yet. It’s doubtful, too, that like me they’re still getting most of their sustenance in the candy aisle at CVS.

I’m an almighty boomer: I’m supposed to have it all figured out, rewrite the rules, then force it on the rest of the country, but I’m just realizing that I don’t even know what the questions are. More, which I usually devour and for which I have happily written, is the prime cheerleader for the “kick ass” old broad. I love it, but some months just the table of contents makes my ass feel pretty thoroughly pummeled. None of the women in the “Over 40” model search look a day over 25 and the chick making a six-figure living selling popsicle villages on eBay (post-cancer, post-divorce, post-sky diving of course) is schtupping a Brad Pitt look-alike half her age. I may be exaggerating a tad ... Still, guys like that call me “ma’am” and worry that I’ll pass out trying to mow my lawn.

Granted, I discovered More when it featured Jamie Lee “killer bod” Curtis as she really looks along with her public apology for helping—by being airbrushed and perfect—to make us normal chicks feel bad about our cellulite and flatulence. But now, I’m becoming suspicious. Is More becoming the once-devoted “ya-ya” girlfriend for life who lost weight and suddenly won’t stop asking if I’m ever going to the gym again?

This constant bombardment of the power of the menopausal is making me feel like a flat-chested 16-year-old eyeing the bustiers and garter belts all the cool girls are wearing to church: just what every woman needs, another way to feel inadequate. I remember the exact moment when I stopped reading glamour girl magazines like Vogue and Cosmo. It was two articles in the same issue: One said “Red is out. Do not wear red lipstick this season.” The second said that, rather than settle for pantyhose that are less than a perfect match, you should, you must, go barelegged. It was a January issue. I clearly remember thinking, “Bite me.”

Those two words buzzed anew in my head as a recent More cover warned of humiliation to come: “13 Things You Should Know by Now.” I may not know much, but I definitely knew to rip that article out, unread, and burn it because I’m pretty sure I don’t know. I’m equally sure that y’all need to back the “f” off with those never-ending self-improvement programs. A generation and three dress sizes later, I also know that there’s just no hiding place from the female need to make ourselves crazy. The epistle intended to make me feel good about my gray chin hairs produced what can only be described as the involuntary skyward movement of both my middle fingers. The fact that the subtitle was something like “And if you don’t we’ll explain it to your dumb ass” did little to mollify me.

Now that a little time has passed and the Zoloft has kicked in, I realize that the girls at More just caught me on a bad day (fully medicated, I enjoyed the offending issue a week later). But, at 47, with two kids under 5, a bad divorce under my belt and a roller-coaster freelance writing career, I wouldn’t mind reading more about women who are still struggling and less, frankly, about women who love their new macrobiotic lifestyles. These days, I can barely stay either awake or afloat, but I’m treated like I’m on the same subscription list with the perky Katie Couric and in the same tax bracket with Oprah Winfrey; I’m feeling a little cheated and not very polite.

To be fair, More always contains true-to-life pieces on women reduced to near poverty caring for elderly parents or making lattes after that Loire Valley winery went bust, but I guess what I’m asking for is not one “misery loves company” issue per year but maybe more stories about age not equaling wisdom. Where are the 50-year-olds who got crabs from that boy toy or the chick who saved all her life to afford that pied-à-terre in Paris only to learn that she loathed France? All I can say is, give up already, grannies of America! Where are the articles like “You Still Filing the 1040-EZ, Too? Right on, Sister!” or “Skip That Surgery: Sequined Appliqués for Those Varicose Veins.”

Born in 1959, I was jumping rope during the civil rights movement and too busy learning to cook for a family of eight to notice the “libbers” burning bras. Vietnam? Much too gory for a preteen. Worse, by the time I was a teen in the mid-late 1970s, women were back to being whores for liking sex. By my mid-20s, when the “real” boomers had come down from their LSD trips and were making millions oppressing the masses, I got to have all the sex a slutty feminist could ask for, as long as I didn’t mind risking herpes, AIDS, hepatitis C and the brimstone of the conservative Reagan revolution; no free love for me, yet I have to take the rap for Woodstock and Jane Fonda.

I haven’t so much been marching in the boomer parade as sweeping up after its elephants. With the wisdom of age, and the prodding of my high-heel-induced aching bunions, rather than the witness protection program to avoid my dotage, I’ve decided to embrace geezerhood. I’ve earned it, goddamn it! So come and get me you old biddies. Bring some orthopedic shoes and some licorice with you, but hold off on those “empowering” mature women’s magazines. Medicare Part D is damned stingy with the Zoloft.

About the writer
Debra J. Dickerson is the author of “The End of Blackness” and “An American Story.”

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/13 at 05:32 PM
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Gas Prices Rising!  How soon before it’s $3, again?

I never believed that crap that gas prices weren’t decreasing because of the election—so much inventory, no hurricanes, etc.  Since the election gas has risen 6 cents in one week.  Are other parts of the country experiencing the same or is it just New Mexico?  If the oil companies are going to gouge us, stop the subsidies and tax breaks. 

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/13 at 05:24 PM
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SPN - Are we our own echo chamber out here?

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/13 at 05:21 PM
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Friday, November 10, 2006

Gerald Levert Dead at Age 40 from heart attack!

Why? How did that happen?

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/10 at 10:52 PM
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

‘60 Minutes’ correspondent Ed Bradley dies at 65 of leukemia

A man I thought was both classy and good-looking has died today.  He will be missed.

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/09 at 12:44 PM
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George Allen to Concede

I feel all giddy inside because the darkness has started to lift.  It has been pretty dark in this country since Nov. 7, 2000.  I hope that Nov. 4, 2008 is the final chapter of a very dark time in US history.  I think I’ll put on my dancing shoes now that we’ve gotten in the end zone!

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/09 at 12:38 PM
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Several Questions for Black Republicans

In the interest of full disclosure, on both sides of my family we have had our fair share of Republicans.  In fact several now deceased family members where leaders in Black Republicanism.  I am now asking the following questions not out of disrespect but because I truly want to understand how Black Republicans justify their allegiance to a party that has repeatedly used dirty tactics in order to suppress the votes of Blacks (see VA Senate race) and other minorities?  Were you proud of this administration and it’s handling of the poor, elderly and disabled who were left behind during Hurricane Katrina?  Do you continue to support a war that is going hopelessly wrong and is responsible for the deaths of nearly 3000 US troops and over 650,000 Iraqis?  Do you think the ever changing goals in Iraq are more important than standing by and watching the people of Darfur either enslaved or killed in an apparent ethnic cleansing? 

I could kinda understand embracing Republicanism after Nixon through Bush Daddy (personally I despised Reagan), but when the neo-cons took over the party didn’t you start to question whether or not it was a good idea to get into bed with those thugs?  Based upon my own world view (Evangelical), I hold many common beliefs with the “stated” platform of the party but since many of the party leaders are dishonest, immoral, disingenious and hypocritical I have never been able to feel comfortable taking up their flag.  Can anyone please explain why you have chosen that particular team?

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/09 at 11:23 AM
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

RUMSFELD OUT!

‘The end of a six-year nightmare for the world,’ EU parliamentarians say.  Hear hear!

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/08 at 01:50 PM
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Hacking Democracy

If you don’t have HBO, then this is a public service message you should heed.

Posted by SPN on 11/08 at 10:07 AM
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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

I did the best I could to effect change in my own small way.  I volunteered for the campaign and spent 2 days including today canvassing voters.  I also sent some money to my candidate of choice.  If my candidate loses, at least I can complain righteously.

Posted by Nuttshell on 11/07 at 02:59 PM
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Friday, November 03, 2006

The Q’ewar project.

During the late spring of 2004 I took my second vacation to Peru.  During that time we stopped in a little village in the Andes called, Andahuaylillas.  There, I met a man named Julio Herrera who started a social initiative project called Q’ewar.  This project is dedicated to raising the social and economic standing of the local women through projects that involve the local economy.  This is a video that will allow you to see some of the principal players in the project.  Although the video is in German, you will see the area and some of the crafts that the women create.  I hope you enjoy it.  The video can also be viewed on Google Video as well as the Q’ewar website.

Posted by SPN on 11/03 at 10:02 AM
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