My pattern-matching brain at work again

Have you ever noticed that there seems to be more hot-headedness coming out of warmer climates whereas people in the chilly places tend to keep their cool? I mean, you don’t see Sweden taking over Norway. The Kiwis are pretty laid back people and seem to have worked an a mutually agreeable arrangement with the Maoris. The suggestion of Canada invading the Middle East seems so anti-thetical that it’s farcical. I don’t know my South American geography and politics, but I have the impression that most of the unrest that I’ve heard about there has come from closer to the equator. (OK, so Argentina has its problems.)

Am I on to something here? Is it the weather or the difference in magnetic fields relative to the polls or …? Could the worlds’ political and social unrest perhaps be solved by sending aggressors on an all-expense paid vacation to Greenland?

More from the “Ashamed to Be a Member of the Human Race” department

I forget who said it, but I remember learning once that if you ever want to gauge the level of economic disenfranchisment in society just look at the level of anti-semitism and hatred of gays in the underclass.

News story: Organized gang of disaffected and poor French underclass kidnap and brutally torture young, Parisian Jewish man for nearly one month. He lives, only to drag his mutilated body out of the woods by crawling and die near a Bagneux train station. Don’t read this story while eating. I about vomited. In fact, you may not want to read this story at all.

* Access to story is by registration with the NY Times. It’s free and totally worth it and they don’t annoy you with solicitations afterwards.

What is it with reactionary small-mindedness in France? I can’t help look at this and then remember, on the anti-immigrant side, Le Pen keeps resurfacing with suprising support in French politics. Is there something in the water over there? I’m not saying Americans are exceptionally enlightened either, but I just gotta wonder what’s going on when the same kinds of sentiments keep coming out of the same places.


Yesterday was a low point in my faith and pride in my country and citizenship. Although I pay attention, I’m not much of a political activist. I tend to prefer dialogue and compromise. But, yesterday, this was just more than a sensitive person like me could bear …

From the battle to corporatize the internet (see the latest AOL controversy and the thwarted attempt in, I believe, Pennsylvania to supply all residents with free access) …

To the release of a video documenting that Bush knew about the inevitability of the levee breaches DAYS before he did anything about it …

To the nurse who got charged with sedition and had her computer seized by the FBI for simply writing an editorial letter about how Katrina and Iraq are being handled …

To the Egyptian man (a resident in the US) who was detained for several months, physically abused, and sodomized in a Brooklyn lock-up long after he was cleared of terrorism charges …

I had to fight off tears last night. It’s just too much. I have lost my patience for the glossing over done by NPR‘s Morning Edition but not sure I can stomach the stark realities on Democracy Now.

I’ve felt for a long time that I’d live overseas one day. That option is looking more appealing by the day. I’m taking suggestions on where I should move to. Requirements:
(0) Not a despotic state (although you might talk me into Singapore).
(1) Access to clean, modern health care.
(2) Access to the internet.
(3) People are friendly or at least not afraid of strangers.
(4) People don’t see independent women as a threat.
(5) Pace of life is slower.
(6) Climate isn’t largely subzero or swelteringly humid.

I did some of my undergrad overseas and I’ve traveled to about 20 countries, including uninsulated forays in India, Jamaica, and Morocco, and loved them all (except, maybe, pre-war Yugoslavia which was just creepy). I have graduate degrees and employable skills. I can acquire more, if needed. I’m willing to learn another language. So far, New Zealand, Italy, and Costa Rica have crossed my mind. But I can go even more foreign than that since I’d be taking a friend with me. (I have a feeling he’d probably be talking me into it just as much as I would him.)

Suggestions anyone?

Keep the Internet Free

In case you haven’t heard …. In February 2006, AOL announced that it would accept payment for incoming emails. For these certified emails, it would skip its usual anti-spam filters and guarantee delivery for cash. They tout it as a “guaranteed delivery” service. Sounds good. Who wouldn’t want that? But what it means is that institutions that have the money to spam indiscriminately will get preferred residence in your Inbox over those sent from the unfunded people you really want to hear from (e.g., friends, family, grass roots organizations, critical alerts from underfunded but valuable agencies). AOL is already infamous for its difficulty in distinguishing real email from spam. (Of my 4 email addresses, the only ones that consistently get through to my friends with addresses is the one from my place of business. Hmmmmmm.) So, rather than fixing the problem, AOL is positioning themselves to charge for a service that the rest of us have come to expect is a given.

The internet is the biggest revolution in communication since the Gutenberg Press in 1450. And it holds the biggest potential as a tool for unregulated grass roots world-wide social transformation. Do you really want that to be controlled by the people that can pay the most for it? Charging for something that is already fundamentally free is the first step down the slippery slope of undermining what’s most precious about the internet.

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The Protocols of Zion

Last night, I saw this documentary on the rise of anti-semitism since the 9/11 attacks. That there had been a rise was total news to me. What’s more, there are people out there that vehemently believe that the Jews were the ones who masterminded the 9/11 attacks and that no Jews died in the attacks because they all got phone calls not to go to work that day. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over?

It doesn’t stop there. Apparently, the piece of “evidence” that these loonies cite as proof is a 1917 document, supposedly written by Jewish elders, that lays out their plan for world domination and extermination of other races. Sphincter says what? This document, it turns out, was written by Russian propagandists and debunked in the mainstream over 80 years ago. But for some reason, it’s flying off the bookshelves today, republished by an Arab American Muslim publishing house that is OK with their decision because (1) there’s high demand and (2) they’ve added a little piece at the end that indicates that this book is a work of fiction.

Not sure how I feel about the film as a film but the director does a good job getting us thinking about the issues and has big cajones for being willing to go talk to all sorts of folks from NYC mourners to Hollywood elite to angry extremist groups like certain Muslim groups, white supremacists, and black separatists. Jews don’t come off looking particularly great in this film either, which just perhaps shows that self-righteousness, protectionism, and extremism breeds self-righteousness, protectionism, and extremism.

I’m not sure if I’m glad I live so isolated from regular exposure to such hatred (because this thankfully allows me to keep my heart open) or if it makes me nervous to be so naive as to be this shocked. So, help me out here, folks. Anybody have any experience with what this director is talking about? Have you noticed or sensed a rise in anti-semitism since 9/11?cer