February 26th, 2010

Feb-26-2010 | Comments Off

Compiled and edited by Peter Marmorek                                                      
Year Seven; Issue 6

1. Current Actions
2. Insights Into Iran
3. Olympic Views
4. Greece, the Euro, and Democracy
5. Finance Explained
6. Notes on Survival
7. Reading and Writing Tips
8. Unbelievable Animals
9. Eyecandy: Travel
10. Quote of the Week

1.  Actions
* Israeli Apartheid Week runs from the 1st–14th of March (long week?… we guess only for one week per location) Check on events world wide
here, or in Toronto here. And read this powerful piece of writing by long-time Tikkunista! supporter and Israeli ex-pat. Avi Zer-Aviv, Apartheid Is An Act, Not A Theory

2. Insights Into Iran
An attack on Iran has been proposed or expected (or decried) for awhile, particularly by the same folks who advocated the Iraqi and Afghani adventures (Hey,
Bible Spice, how’s that WMDy changey thing workin’ out for ya?) Walt explores the mystery of Iranian politics, and both the impeccable Juan Cole and Fareed Zakaria in WaPo show why an Iranian attack by the US would be disastrous.

* What’s Going On In Iran? Who Knows? Stephen Walt
If you find the news from inside Iran somewhat bewildering, and if you don’t know whether to believe those who think the clerical regime is on its last legs or those who think it will easily contain the opposition, don’t feel bad. The reality is that nobody — including the leaders of the Iranian government, the opposition, and all of us watching from outside — knows where they are headed or what the timetable for change might be. We’ll know who guessed (yes, guessed) right some weeks, months, years, or decades from now, but right now trying to handicap events there is a mug’s game. Here’s why…

* “An Attack on Iran Would Lead to US Collapse” Russian General Juan Cole
The Obama administration wants stricter sanctions on Iran, and the Sarah Palin/ Daniel Pipes lunatic fringe wants a military attack on Iran. But Russia’s General of the Army Nikolay Makarov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, warned that an American attack on Iran now, when the US is bogged down in two wars, might well lead to the collapse of the United States. He said that such an attack would roil the region and have negative consequences for Russia (a neighbor of Iran via the Caspian Sea). And, he said, the Russian military is taking steps to forestall such an American strike on Iran.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was in Moscow earlier this week calling for ‘crippling sanctions on Iran.’…[The Russian response] “The term ‘crippling sanctions’ on Iran is totally unacceptable to us. … He also pledged that Russia would honor its deal to provide Iran S-300 air defense systems.

* Why Attacking Iran is Bad Politics Fareed Zakaria (who’s he?) Washington Post
But this does not change the powerful calculus against a military strike, which would most likely delay the Iranian program by only a few years. And then there are the political consequences….It is important to recognize the magnitude of what people like Palin are advocating. The United States is being asked to launch a military invasion of a state that poses no imminent threat to America, without sanction from any international body and with few governments willing to publicly endorse such an action. Al-Qaeda and its ilk would present it as the third American invasion of a Muslim nation in a decade, proof positive that the United States is engaged in a war of civilizations. Moderate Arab states and Muslim governments everywhere would be on the defensive. And as Washington has surely come to realize, wars unleash forces that cannot be predicted or controlled.

3. Olympic Views
Tikkunista! is pleased to offer, as the esteemed Stephen Colbert would say,
“Exclusive Vancouverage of the 2010 Quadrennial Cold Weather Athletic Competition”. We start with our editor’s own bilious screed, then explore the curious mystery of why women’s ski-jumping isn’t an Olympic sport, offer you a step by step breakdown on how to do a “double full full full” aerobic jump (Not responsible! Not insane!), and conclude with Big Picture’s first set of Olympic pictures

* The Olympic™ Games Peter Marmorek, Marmorek’s Mutterings
Hercules was never my favourite Greek hero; wily Odysseus has that medal sewn up. But legend dictates that we have Heracles to thank for founding the “Olympic” Games and establishing the custom of holding them every four years. Those ancient games were quite different from the ones we are battered with today; you are unlikely to be alone in your inability to imagine the Spartans doing ice dancing. Many of the adaptations are positive, such as the paralympic games, but some are perhaps less faithful to the spirit of the modern incarnation of this ancient tradition. When Baron Pierre de Coubertin helped to create the first modern games, in 1896, he decreed , “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” Somehow, that does not seem to be the way it has worked out….

* Let the Women Jump Southern Beale
I’ve always wondered why there is no women’s ski jump event in the Winter Olympics….It makes no sense: we can fly through the air on snowboards, do back flips on the moguls, yet we can’t ski jump? What’s up with that? Especially since men’s ski jumping has been an Olympic event since the 1920s….Although some very thin and lame excuses have been floated around, what it seems to boil down to is that the European men don’t want to be shown up by a bunch of girls, one of whom holds the record on the actual ski jump used at the Vancouver games. Yes that’s right, Lindsey Vonn beat the men’s record on the exact same ski jump the men will be sliding down to claim their Olympic medals this week…This quote cracked me up: ‘In 2005, Gian Franco Kasper, FIS president and a member of the IOC, said that he didn’t think women should ski jump because the sport “seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” ’

* Aerial Skiing: Interactive Graphic New York Times
United States Olympic aerialist Ryan St. Onge and science reporter Henry Fountain break down the “double full full full,” a jump St. Onge performed in Vancouver. (Editor’s Note: Not appropriate for humans from a medical point of view.)

* Vancouver, 2010 The Big Picture

4. Greece, the Euro, and Democracy
The core of the conflict is who’s running the country, Brussels or Athens? When a government is elected to follow a monetary policy that conflicts with the Euro-powers, does democracy get overruled? It appears the answer is yes, which is why there are riots in the Athenian streets. Put crudely, will a diet of stingy Brussels sprouts be survivable for the EU’s PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, Spain)?

* Greece and Brussels Clash Over Debt Crisis The Guardian
Athens and Brussels clashed today over whether Greece was doing enough to resolve the debilitating debt and deficit crisis that is imperilling the stability of the euro.
George Papaconstantinou, the Greek finance minister, pleaded for time and argued that the radical austerity programme aimed at slashing 4% from the ballooning budget deficit this year was unprecedented in his country’s history. But Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, cast doubt on the Greek package, demanding extra action…

* A Pretence of Democracy Gary Younge The Guardian
The prospect of Greece going broke poses a threat to the credibility of the entire eurozone. So in a bid to defend the currency – not the people – Germany and France, the eurozone’s two biggest economies, have rather reluctantly made it clear that they would be prepared to bail Greece out. But their help comes at a price. They are demanding massive government sector lay-offs, and cuts in state pay, pensions and other benefits. In other words, the very things that the Greeks have just voted for are about to be systematically dismantled….It is no small irony that the three countries (Portugal, Spain and Greece) that saw EU membership as a means of cementing democracy after rightwing dictatorship should have their leaders dictated to on economic policy by unelected officials and foreign leaders.

* The Nature of Banks…. Chris Spannos Znet
….Like much of the third-world and also workers in the first-world, Greece has been victim to global capital and financial speculation. Although the investigation by the EU statistics agency Eurostat revealed that Goldman Sachs “helped” Greece join the EU using a complicated “currency swap” in 2001, masking the extent of its public deficit and national debt, speculation against the euro and Greece continues.  Even German Chancellor Angela Merkel, quoted by Business Week at her Feb. 22 speech in Hamburg,acknowledges that Euro debt “is now becoming the object of speculation by precisely those institutions that we saved a year-and-a-half ago”.

5. Finance Explained
Wait! Don’t glaze those eyes! Simple clear and silly explanations of derivative markets, of why not to trust experts on stocks, why the US is going bankrupt, and why people pirate DVDs all lie just a click away. Trust us… have we ever lied to you before?

* An Easily Understandable Explanation of Derivative Markets
Heidi is the proprietor of a bar in Detroit . She realizes that virtually all of her customers are unemployed alcoholics and, as such, can no longer afford to patronize her bar. To solve this problem, she comes up with new marketing plan that allows her customers to drink now, but pay later. She keeps track of the drinks consumed on a ledger (thereby granting the customers loans). Word gets around about Heidi’s “drink now, pay later” marketing strategy and, as a result, increasing numbers of customers flood into Heidi’s bar. Soon she has the largest sales volume for any bar in Detroit .
By providing her customers’ freedom from immediate payment demands, Heidi gets no resistance when, at regular intervals, she substantially increases her prices for wine and beer, the most consumed beverages. Consequently, Heidi’s gross sales volume increases massively. A young and dynamic vice-president at the local bank recognizes that these customer debts constitute valuable future assets and increases Heidi’s borrowing limit. He sees no reason for any undue concern, since he has the debts of the unemployed alcoholics as collateral….

* Statistically Unsound Professions Cracked Magazine

Many of us find the stock market too intimidating to put money into, or at least we would if we had the money to invest in the first place. How do you decide what stocks to pick? We can’t even pick where to go for lunch half the time and we understand lunch. That’s when you call in a professional, or if you’re not rich, you buy a pre-set package of stocks and bonds that a professional has pre-picked for you, and then sit back and, uh… Watch your stocks grow more slowly than if you picked them at random.
Yes, as it turns out, the majority of professionally managed funds picked by stock market experts (70 to 85 percent) actually underperform the Dow or S&P indexes, which are technically supposed to represent the average performance of the market to begin with.

* Why the U.S. Is Going Bankrupt (a simple single pie chart)

* Why People Pirate DVDs (funny picture)

6. Notes on Survival
People have always been saying that the end is coming. But there’s a new popularity to the imminent apocalypse (The Road, et al) and so a new interest in surviving it. We contrast the individualist perspective (and introduce “preppers”) and contrast that to Chris Hedges’ view of communal survival. And conclude with a cheerful (no, really!) story about real spiritual survival.

* Americans Stock Up To Be Ready For End Of The World The Guardian
Like a growing army of fellow Americans, Pennington is learning how to grow her own food, has stored emergency rations in her home and is taking courses on treating sickness with medicinal herbs. “I feel safe and more secure. I have taken personal responsibility for the safety of myself and of my family,” Pennington said. “We have decided to be prepared. There all kinds of disasters that can happen, natural and man-made.”
Pennington is a “prepper”, a growing social movement that has been dubbed Survivalism Lite. Preppers believe that it is better to be safe than sorry and that preparing for disaster – be it a hurricane or the end of civilisation – makes sense.

* Zero Point of Systemic Collapse Chris Hedges (Thanks, Gabe!)
All resistance must recognize that the body politic and global capitalism are dead. We should stop wasting energy trying to reform or appeal to it. This does not mean the end of resistance, but it does mean very different forms of resistance. It means turning our energies toward building sustainable communities to weather the coming crisis, since we will be unable to survive and resist without a cooperative effort.
These communities, if they retreat into a pure survivalist mode without linking themselves to the concentric circles of the wider community, the state and the planet, will become as morally and spiritually bankrupt as the corporate forces arrayed against us

* What Could You Live Without? Kristof, NY Times
Kevin Salwen, a writer and entrepreneur in Atlanta, was driving his 14-year-old daughter, Hannah, back from a sleepover in 2006. While waiting at a traffic light, they saw a black Mercedes coupe on one side and a homeless man begging for food on the other.
“Dad, if that man had a less nice car, that man there could have a meal,” Hannah protested….
“What do you want to do?” her mom responded. “Sell our house?”
Warning! Never suggest a grand gesture to an idealistic teenager. Hannah seized upon the idea of selling the luxurious family home and donating half the proceeds to charity, while using the other half to buy a more modest replacement home.
Eventually, that’s what the family did.

7. Reading and Writing Tips
We open with a wonderful collected list of hints collated by the Guardian (Our personal favourite? Roddy Doyle’s “
Do not place a photograph of your favourite author on your desk, especially if the author is one of the famous ones who committed suicide.”, then look at how (and how not) to read SF, and conclude with a funny and helpful array of hints on how to use the semi-colon.

* Ten Rules for Writing Fiction Guardian
…Geoff Dyer Have more than one idea on the go at any one time. If it’s a choice between writing a book and doing nothing I will always choose the latter. It’s only if I have an idea for two books that I choose one rather than the other. I always have to feel that I’m bunking off from something.

* On Reading SF Tor Jo Walton
A reviewer wanted to make the zombies in Kelly Link’s “Zombie Contingency Plans” (in the collection Magic For Beginners) into metaphors. They’re not. They’re actual zombies. They may also be metaphors, but their metaphorical function is secondary to the fact that they’re actual zombies that want to eat your brains. Science fiction may be literalization of metaphor, it may be open to metaphorical, symbolic and even allegorical readings, but what’s real within the story is real within the story, or there’s no there there. I had this problem with one of the translators of my novel Tooth and Claw—he kept emailing me asking what things represented. I had to keep saying no, the characters really were dragons, and if they represented anything that was secondary to the reality of their dragon nature. He kept on and on, and I kept being polite but in the end I bit his head off—metaphorically, of course.

* How To Use a Semicolon The Oatmeal

8. Unbelievable Animals
The World’s Tallest Dog
* Recycled 1213 pound Alien Queen
* Design Your Own Animal!

9. Eyecandy Goes Travelling
Travel Photography of the Year
* Indian Nomads
* Indonesia

10. Quote of the Week
“There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it’s only a hundred billion. It’s less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers” Richard Feynman


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.

You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

       The Talmud

February 19th, 2010

Feb-19-2010 | Comments Off

Compiled and edited by Peter Marmorek                                                      
Year Seven; Issue 6

1. Current Actions
2. Canada’s Olympics: We Own the Odium
3. Cheering the Olympics
4. Israel: The Harbingers of Isolation
5. The ‘Anti-Semitism’ Epithet
6. Hitler: The Second Time as Farce
7. Food Issues
8. The News on the News
9. But in the Fantasy World…
10. Eyecandy: Festivals
11. Quote of the Week

1.  Actions
* Naomi Klein speaks on Climate Debt at the inaugural David Lewis lecture, in Toronto on February 25th at 8:30 pm. Tickets are only $20/$15: full details here.

* Israeli Apartheid Week runs from the 1st–14th of March (long week?… we guess only for one week per location) Check on events world wide here, or in Toronto here. And read this powerful piece of writing by long-time Tikkunista! supporter and Israeli ex-pat. Avi Zer-Aviv, Apartheid Is An Act, Not A Theory

2. We Own the Odium!
The Olympic Creed states, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” A number of media observers seem to feel Canada is not winning golds for maintaining this part of the creed.

* The Grinch Steals the Games Gerald Caplan, The Mope and Wail
Looking at the entire Olympic spectacle beyond the media hoopla and beyond the athletes, one finds crassness, greed, monopoly, nepotism, unholy backgrounds, vicious competitiveness, secrecy, corruption, unaccountability, venality, arbitrariness, deep-rooted sexism, fraudulent bookkeeping, dishonest numbers, and remarkably little good sportsmanship.
In the name of good sportsmanship and the Olympic spirit, the host nation enshrines patriotism über alles…. Canada – lovable, fair-minded, tolerant, decent Canada – has allowed its athletes to practice at venues denied to other countries’ athletes. Other countries are furious at Canada’s poor sportsmanship. If it were us being discriminated against this way, we’d scream about unfairness

* Games’ many glitches get global attention Toronto Star
Games troubles mocked by international media as assertive Canadians lose niceness crown. VANOC has problems and so does Sara Kneller, who is about to travel halfway around the world to get to Cypress Mountain. VANOC’s problems: wet weather; fog; concession stands breaking down; ticket cancellations; and criticism from the international media about poorly organized events.

* Critics slam ‘dangerous’ luge track Toronto Star
Already facing withering criticism for what some are calling a cursed Olympic Games, Vancouver organizers awoke Wednesday to allegations that the Whistler luge track where a Georgian athlete died last week was plagued by dangerous design flaws from the beginning.
The Wall Street Journal reported the Vancouver Olympic Committee (VANOC) chose Whistler as the luge site because of its lucrative post-Games tourism potential despite the steep and narrow terrain that produced unprecedented speeds of more than 150 km/h.The findings echo a growing chorus of concern….

3. Cheering the Olympic Winners
Let the whingers above kvetch to their sour hearts’ delight. There are real competitions in which all Canadians can feel pride, such as our having donated more money per person to Haiti than any other country in the world. Rabble celebrates the wonder and inspiration of the athletes, and we offer a challenge for those of us who only stand and clap. And if you missed the opening ceremonies, you can catch up here.

* Haiti: Who Gave What

* Making Do With Tarnished Spectacles — So Enjoy The Olympics Rick Salutin Rabble
There’s lots to protest at the Games that start tonight. About $1-billion for mostly stupid security, an amount that would be better spent on a city core with crying social needs. The usual baloney about economic gains that won’t materialize, aside from a faster ride to the airport and some high-priced condos. A “muzzle clause” for Olympiad artists that makes them promise not to say anything mean about the Games or the sponsors. And ugliest to me: ads with Donald Sutherland smirking and telling us to get into it, like those demeaning Make Noise signs at hockey games. So it does make sense to protest against the hypocrisy, hype and rotten priorities.
Yet, there’s also, always, the wonder and inspiration of the athletes. It slips through. It’s like the effect of last week’s Super Bowl on the bedraggled, maltreated people of New Orleans. 

* World Record for Clapping youtube

4. Israel: The Harbingers of Isolation
Juan Cole and Philip Weis are two mainstays Tikkunista! relies on for a reality-based view of middle Eastern politics. Both share a view to the left of the American center, so it’s interesting to see how closely their view of ongoing developments aligns with the Reut Institute (“a policy group designed to provide real-time long-term strategic decision-support to the Government of Israel.”) Whether you, dear reader, cheer or deplore these changes, they seem to be what is happening.

* The Decline of the Israeli Right Juan Cole Informed Comment
The great divide between liberal Jewish Americans and the Israeli Right has lurked as an issue since the Likud Party first challenged Labor dominance in the late 1970s. It is now coming to a boiling point, even as Israel’s reputation in the world is sinking. As rightwing policies more visibly fail, the Likudniks are flailing around making fools of themselves by smearing critics of those policies as racists.

* Eroding Israel’s Legitimacy in the International Arena Reut Institute
In recent years, Israel has faced a dramatic assault on the very legitimacy of its existence as a Jewish and democratic state. While the ideological framework for this delegitimacy was solidified after the first Durban Conference in 2001, the trend has been given a boost by the perceived lack of progress in the political process, coupled with Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.1 The aim of these groups is to internationally isolate Israel and ultimately turn it into a pariah state through demonizing the country;2 promoting a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS); and waging a legal struggle against the state and its citizens.
This issue of ReViews tracks this strategy and its components.

* Goldstone on Israel’s Being “Singled Out” Philip Weiss Mondoweiss
[Goldstone] said, “Israel isn’t the only nation that’s being treated disproportionately and, let me say, in my view, unfairly… It’s a matter of politics, not of morality. The United Nations has a dominant group of the non-aligned movement, and the issue of the Palestinians has assumed a tremendous importance to them, and they’re using it.” This group used to harp on the South Africans, he said. There were as many or more UN resolutions passed against South Africa as Israel.
But he heard this very same grievance, we are being singled out, from the Serbian foreign minister. And yes it is unfair. But does that mean that we don’t prosecute war crimes by powerful countries? Here Goldstone made the analogy to 9 murderers getting away in New Haven, and one being prosecuted. The one defendant can rightly claim that the law is unfair. But we don’t release him on that basis. And he threw in this idea also: If Israel considers itself a democratic nation, then it must not complain if it is held to a higher standard.

5. The ‘Anti-Semitism’ Epithet
Like “Nazi” the term “anti-Semitic” has been watered down till it has become almost meaningless, a term of disapproval to be used towards anyone who does not support an action by Israel that you do support. It was used for Walt and Mearsheimer, and their ground-breaking work on the influence on US foreign policy of the Israel lobby; it was used for Justice Goldstone, and his report on Israeli war crimes in “OPeration Cast Lead”; it was used when IJV said that the Canadian Jewish Congress doesn’t speak for all Jews. This week, Leon Wieseltier called Andrew Sullivan (The Atlantic) anti-semitic…and things started happening differently.

* Anti-Semitism, Again Joe Klein, Time Magazine
It’s not much fun when your friends get into a deep, personal, cage-match sort of fight. In this case, the fight is between Andrew Sullivan and Leon Wieseltier–people I respect, love and admire. Leon has launched a nuclear attack on Sullivan’s writings about neoconservatives and Israel:
“Criticism of Israeli policy, and sympathy for the Palestinians, and support for a two-state solution, do not require, as their condition or their corollary, this intellectual shabbiness, this venomous hostility toward Israel and Jews.”
The trouble is, I’ve never seen the slightest hint of venomous hostility toward Israel or Jews from Andrew Sullivan; indeed, I agree with much, though not all, of what he writes on the subject.

* Wieseltier’s Wild Piece Has Served The Other Side Philip Weiss, mondoweiss
…the threat of the anti-Semitism accusation as an effective bar to folks’ speaking out is over. Walt and Mearsheimer began to break it years ago; at some level they were willing to accept the scarlet letter A in order to say what they had to say. Now that Wieseltier is affixing it to his former colleague in a fit (a piece that Greenwald justly dispatches as “ugly, reckless and at times deranged”), he’s made the charge absurd and revealed it for what it is, a way that Israel lobbyists stifle discussion.

* Not Quite Anti-Semitism, But Almost (Image)

6. Hitler, the Second Time as Farce
Always willing to go beyond the edge, your editor explores the strange meme of Downfall, and tries to figure out what it all means. The title comes from a quote by Marx (Karl) “History repeats itself: First as tragedy, then as farce.”

* The key scene from the film Downfall that the craze built around shows Hitler launching into a furious tirade on realizing that the war has been truly lost, going through denial, anger, depression and acceptance. You can see that scene, with its original English sub-titles, here on Youtube. But the meme that started was to take this scene and re-subtitle it, so that Hitler is reacting to a contemporary event. Here is an example in which (same film, different subtitles) he explodes on learning Kennedy’s senate seat in Massachusetts was won by Republican Scott Brown, (“How do you blow a 30 point lead? And in liberal Massachusetts of all places?…Everything Obama touches turns to crap!“) or one in which the tirade (according to subtitles) is over installing Vista (“I tried to install my printer driver FIVE TIMES”) and here (for whatever else our world is, it’s postmodern) an example in which he discovers that the very clip which we are watching is being distributed over the internet and orders a DMCA takedown immediately, only to be told that parodies are protected as fair use. (“Fair use! Don’t give me fair use! That is our movie!“)
A very strange thing happens as one watches these parodies ….

7. Food Issues
Whether it’s the lowest or highest, food is our common denominator. We’ll start at the high end, with Michael Pollen’s talk about his new food rule. Then hover around the middle, with twenty interesting facts about beer, before descending to the depths: 40 ”eat it all and it’s free“ contests that Tikkunista! advises you not to enter, (and not just because we don’t want the competition.)

* Michael Pollan on Food Rules
* 20 Things Worth Knowing About Beer
* 40 Gut-Busting Restaurant Challenges for Free Food

8. The News on the News
Some of you get your news through Tikkunista! (not responsible! not insane!) but most —we’d guess— read papers, watch TV, surf the net, or listen to radio. Here’s a batch of newsworthy factoids about that , as the news media does what it does best and most often: talk about itself.

* How to Watch the News: a Short Video
* 17 Best Newsphotos of the Year
* Newsday Puts up Paywall…Readers Flee
Three months after Newsday erected a paywall around its revamped $4 million web site, only 35 people have paid the $5 a week needed to breach it.

9. But in the Fantasy World…
What you see sometimes isn’t what’s there, it’s just what you think. You can use that to make art… or at least amusing pictures

* The Art of Shadow People
* Fractal in the Snow
* HELP!!!…oh.
never mind.

10. Eyecandy: Different Festivals on The Big Picture
* Carnivals, World Wide
* Year of the Tiger Celebrations
* Olympic Opening in Vancouver

11. Quote of the Week
“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.” Margaret Young


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.

You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

       The Talmud

February 12th, 2010

Feb-12-2010 | Comments Off

Compiled and edited by Peter Marmorek                                                      
Year Seven; Issue 5

1. Current Actions
2. SCOTUS and the Corporations
3. Hope for the World
4. Olympic Politics
5. Working Lives: Different Stokes for Different Folks
6. Science News
7. Writing, and the Literary Life
8. Your Life in Perspective
9. Variations on a Theme
10. Eyecandy: Festivals
11. Quote of the Week

1.  Actions
* Uganda has introduced a bill that would even make not reporting a gay person a capital crime, let alone being gay. It is so extreme that even evangelical Rick Warren has come out against it. Read about it, and sign a petition at Avaaz; at this point worldwide condemnation has the bill “under review”. Signing the petition can only help with this.

* Over 500 indigenous women have been murdered or gone missing – most  over the last 30 years. To protest this, join The 5th Annual Rally for Our Missing Sisters
on Sunday, February 14, 2009 at 12 pm (Toronto)

2. SCOTUS and Corporations
The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) has decided that corporations can make unlimited political donations. We have a political summary, two cartoons, and perhaps the most brilliant political theatre ever.

* Supreme Court Rolls Back Campaign Cash Limits MSNBC
In a landmark ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down laws that banned corporations from using their own money to support or oppose candidates for public office.
By 5-4 vote, the court overturned federal laws, in effect for decades, that prevented corporations from using their profits to buy political campaign ads. The decision, which almost certainly will also allow labor unions to participate more freely in campaigns, threatens similar limits imposed by 24 states.

* Toon Response One

* Toon Response Two

* Supreme Court Ruling Spurs Corporation Run for Congress Video
Editor’s Note:
THIS IS A MUST WATCH VIDEO!Following the recent Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow unlimited corporate funding of federal campaigns, Murray Hill Inc. today announced it was filing to run for U.S. Congress.
“Until now,” Murray Hill Inc. said in a statement, “corporate interests had to rely on campaign contributions and influence peddling to achieve their goals in Washington. But thanks to an enlightened Supreme Court, now we can eliminate the middle-man and run for office ourselves.”

3. Hope For the World
Too many comments from readers that they find the Tikkunista! political content depressing? Perhaps we fall into the same trap as the MSM in thinking that only bad news is news. So this week we lead with some good news (from Haiti, no less) and a wonderfully inspiring piece by the late Howard Zinn.

* There’s Real Hope From Haiti Johann Hari, The Independent (HT, Gabe!)
The IMF agenda has often been forced on populations when they are least able to resist – after a military coup, a massacre, or a natural disaster. For example, the people of Thailand fought for years against clearing their locals off their beaches to make way for holiday resorts, and voted against the privatisation of water and electricity. But immediately after the tsunami, both were pushed through.
…But something new and startling happened this month. For the first time, the IMF was stopped from shafting a poor country – by a rebellion here in the rich world. Hours after the quake, a Facebook group called “No Shock Doctrine For Haiti” had tens of thousands of members, and orchestrated a petition to the IMF of over 150,000 signatures demanding the loan become a no-strings grant. After Naomi Klein’s mega-selling exposé, there was a vigilant public who wanted to see that the money they were donating to charity was not going to be cancelled out by the IMF.
And it worked. The IMF backed down.

* A Marvellous Victory Howard Zinn, Zspace
In this world of war and injustice, how does a person manage to stay socially engaged, committed to the struggle, and remain healthy without burning out or becoming resigned or cynical?
I am totally confident not that the world will get better, but that we should not give up the game before all the cards have been played. The metaphor is deliberate; life is a gamble. Not to play is to foreclose any chance of winning. To play, to act, is to create at least a possibility of changing the world.
There is a tendency to think that what we see in the present moment will continue. We forget how often we have been astonished by the sudden crumbling of institutions, by extraordinary changes in people’s thoughts, by unexpected eruptions of rebellion against tyrannies, by the quick collapse of systems of power that seemed invincible.

4. Winter Olympics
Like a Rorschach ink blot, what you see when you look at the Olympics says as much about you as them: to the Guardian they’re “
heading for disaster”, but the Globe and Mail calls thatcomplete rubbish”. So what do we know? We know there’s division amongst Vancouverites, that there’ll be protests that will be repressed, that advertisers are making a lot of money, and that there’ll be lots of beautiful eyecandy.

* Vancouver 2010: A City Divided rabble.ca
As thousands prepare themselves to attend Olympic events, there are thousands of others who have been totally neglected by the advance of the Olympic project.  Polls show the public at a tepid 50 per cent support, which is strange for a host city.

* Olympics Battle Rattle rabble
With now just under two weeks to go before the 2010 Olympics officially open, behind the scenes preparations are feverishly happening in the two opposing camps: the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) with its myriad elements and the anti-Olympic convergence with its own diverse collection of groups and issues. I’ve spent enough time in the military to have a pretty good sense where the police and military must be in their pre-Games preparations. And, as a member of the resistance, I know how things are shaping up on this end as well.
So are my thoughts about where everyone is as the countdown clock runs out….

* The Ad Games Are On Already Toronto Star
Olympic-branded Petro-Canada drinking glasses roll down icy chutes; an Egg McMuffin-chomping McDonald’s employee encounters speed skater Cindy Klassen at the airport; Samsung phones fill with pictures carried over the Bell network of flag-waving Canadians: These are some of the images bombarding TV viewers in the run-up to the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver….The value of Olympic sponsorship has soared in recent years, nearly doubling to $5 billion in 2005 from about $2 billion in 1993.

* Olympic Torch Relay Almost Complete Photos from Big Picture

5. Working Life: Different Strokes
It’s universal; we all have jobs. But while the guy in the next cubicle might have a job pretty similar to yours, some jobs are so different as to be almost unimaginable. Explore the diary of a Toronto exotic dancer, an interview with a Nigerian spammer, and a Big Picture selection of working people world wide.

* Diary of a Toronto Exotic Dancer (thanks, Luna!)
The second I walk through the doors of the club, I am “reduced” to my body. I am stripped of both my identity and individuality. What I believe myself to be or what my family knows me as, my university transcripts or the lines of text on my resume,—everything I “normally” am is checked at the door long before a single piece of clothing leaves my body. Ancient Sumerians had a myth, in which Inanna, their young ambitious goddess of love and war, decided one day to descend into the Underworld and conquer it. What Inanna had not foreseen was that, as she walked through the gates to the Underworld, she was being stripped of all her powers and riches….

…This is where the irony of stripping lies exposed: with each piece of clothing that leaves my body, with every inch of skin that is shown, I become less individualized, more anonymous. More disguised. When I stand under the stage lights fully naked, I am more dressed than I am ever in my ‘real’ life—I am wearing the fantasy of every man inside the club at that moment, living dozens of lives simultaneously, embodying every emotion, desire and fear of my audience. Numerous times, I’ve stared from the stage into the faces of the men whom I knew in my ‘normal’ life. Very rarely, have I been recognized.

* Interview with a Scammer
Scam-Detective: How did you get involved in scamming people on the Internet?
John: I come from a poor family in Lagos, Nigeria. We did not have very much money and good jobs are hard to find. I was approached to work for a gang master when I was 15, because I had done well in school with my English, and was getting to be good with computers. The gang master was offering good money and I took the chance to help my family.
Scam-Detective: Do you think that your teachers at school had reported your talents to the gang master?
John: Yes. There is a lot of corruption in Nigeria and the gangs pay well to find people with good English skills to work the scams.

* Pictures of People at Work Big Picture

6. Science News
A fine triple play: a new dangerous discovery, an old dangerous “discovery” rescinded, and a fascinating theory that Bruce Cockburn may have been right all along— we are living in a hologram!

* China threatens world health The Telegraph
Chinese doctors routinely hand out multiple doses of antibiotics for simple maladies like the sore throats and the country’s farmers excessive dependence on the drugs has tainted the food chain. Studies in China show a “frightening” increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as staphylococcus aureus bacteria, also know as MRSA . There are warnings that new strains of antibiotic-resistant bugs will spread quickly through international air travel and international food sourcing.
…“There is a real risk that globally we will return to a pre-antibiotic era of medicine, where we face a situation where a number of medical treatment options would no longer be there. What happens in China matters for the rest of the world.”

* Lancet retracts Wakefield’s Vaccine/ Autism Link
The Lancet has retracted the 12 year old paper that sparked an international crisis of confidence in the safety of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine when its lead author suggested a link between the vaccine and autism.
Andrew Wakefield was found guilty by the General Medical Council last week of dishonesty and flouting ethics protocols.

* Our World May Be A Giant Hologram New Scientist
The idea that we live in a hologram probably sounds absurd, but it is a natural extension of our best understanding of black holes, and something with a pretty firm theoretical footing. It has also been surprisingly helpful for physicists wrestling with theories of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.
The holograms you find on credit cards and banknotes are etched on two-dimensional plastic films. When light bounces off them, it recreates the appearance of a 3D image. In the 1990s physicists Leonard Susskind and Nobel prizewinner Gerard ’t Hooft suggested that the same principle might apply to the universe as a whole. Our everyday experience might itself be a holographic projection of physical processes that take place on a distant, 2D surface.

7. Writing and the Literary Life
We lead, self-indulgently, with a piece by our editor on the changing role of a writer, then follow it up with a fine website of literary tattoos that may be to your taste, even if we didn’t find the Nabokov one we’d get: (picnic, lightning)

* Writer, Writing, Reader: Un Ménage à Trois Peter Marmorek, Tikkun Daily Blog
I have always thought my best writing happened when I didn’t think about the audience, but instead got taken over by the words I was shaping. When I became so involved with the passion of what needed to be said, so entranced by how best to birth it into the world that I lost my sense of self and there was only the process of trying to shape the words on the page so that they embody the idea that lay just the other side of perception. The audience didn’t enter into it at all. Perhaps on a later draft, I’d look at the piece and recognize a reference that was so obscure that no reader would get it, and so it had to go. But for the most part, the dance was between the words and my ideas, and the audience were wallflowers, watching perhaps but obscured by shadows.
I think of this because of a recent encounter that brought home just how out of touch this attitude of mine is with the way things are done these days….

* Literary Tattoos

8. Your Life in Perspective
that’s what we all want, innit? So we start with a simple site into which you put your annual income, and find out what percentile you are by world standards, follow with the always delightful Clay Shirky debunking information overload, and conclude by explaining (at least one thing) a pig can do that you can’t.

* How Rich are You, by Global Standards?

* It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure Clay Shirky
This Clay Shirky talk from Web 2.0 Expo NY (“It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure”) challenges the idea that we’ve got information overload problems (we’ve had more books than any human could read for hundreds of years), what we have is a series of filter failures, as our systems for managing information abundance are swamped by the growth of information.

* Five Reasons Pigs Are More Awesome Than You Oatmeal

9. Variations on a Theme
What variations? A series of photos of the same couple, looking different; 15 variations on the phrase “The first day we met” (just in time for Valentine’s day!); and 15 faces sculpted from toilet paper rolls.

* Same Couple; Different Images
* 15 Variations on “The 1st Day We Met”
* 15 Faces Sculpted from Toilet Rolls

10. Eyecandy: Festivals on The Big Picture
Fiery European Festivals
* Dogs and Sleds
* Colorful India

11. Quote of the Week
“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.” Salman Rushdie


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.

Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.

You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”

       The Talmud

Sample Post

Feb-11-2010 | Comments Off

Once again, a bungled terrorist attack results in bungled security responses. Somewhere between tragedy and comedy, the security agencies start to reveal their final solution: make flying so difficult that no one flies… and thus eliminate all airborne terrorism. And how long before voyeurs start applying for those scanner jobs? (Worth noting: a statistical study shows you are 20 times more likely to get killed by lightning than air terrorism.)



Blog Roll

Al Jazeera
Bernard Avishai
Broadsides: Antonia Zerbisias
China Matters
Informed Comment
Lawrence of Cyberia
Rabble.ca: Canadian leftish voices
Stephen Walt Foreign Policiy
The Big Picture
The Guardian
Tikkun Daily Blog
Tikun Olam


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