Monday, April 30, 2007

Go Maine!

Mike Michaud, the democratic US rep from the Northern district of Maine, has introduced a bill into the House (HR 1992) to stop the United State's horrific practice of importing goods made in sweatshops. This is what happens when you elect congressmen who spent their lives working in a mill. Go Michaud Go!

One more Wal-Mart post

In the epilogue of The Wal-Mart Effect, Charles Fishman does something very interesting: he simply quotes at length manufacturers laid off at a plant moved to China, under increasing pressure to lower prices fromWal-Mart. The quotes are, as you can image, quite moving; the former employees of Nelson's (which manufactures sprinklers) tell amazing tales, about, for instance, the bosses of Chinese plants visiting their plant (at the behest of their boss, of course) with video cameras, learning how they did their job so they could snatch them away. I particularly liked one employee's answer, when asked if he still shops at Wal-Mart:

"Unfortunately, sometimes I have to. They have things cheaper than other people. I can't afford to pay $2 more for something. [...] The average person doesn't understand the consequences of these low prices. I went to get a spatula at Wal-Mart. They had six or eight different spatulas. I looked at every one of them; there was only one made in the United States. It was $1 more. I bought it. I do what I can."

"Cat's Cradle" not the quite the cat's pajamas

Betty is diligintly finishing up Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 classic "Cat's Cradle" today. While she likes the sentiments within it and finds Vonnegut's style both super influential and inimitable, she can't really get into this book, and isn't quite loving Vonnegut the way she did when she was eighteen. Perhaps this book is simply not as affecting as "Breakfast of Champions" or "Mother Night", which came later in the author's career. The plot is slow going, the characters (even the narrator) exist on a 2-D plane (almost Sims-like, if I may), and the overtones of science fiction in the allegory bog this reader down.

However! It is too early to cast judgment with finality. Betty is only on chapter 64 of this 127-chapter, 286-page novel! It IS kind of fun to watch those chapters fly by, and to wonder what each chapter title will turn out to mean as you find yourself suddenly starting a new one.

the smear campaign

a certain gentleman at a very questionable organization -let's just call him peewee- got very emotional today at a job meeting, and decried a smear campaign against him. all because peewee gave a small raise to his girlfriend, and got her promoted right to the s department. (the organization flow seemed ever more clear to me, the s dept is on top rather than say, other similarly disreputable orggies like the iXf, etc.) everybody at the bushies seemed to be fairly distraught about this, and we sincerely suspect that the "smear" accusations have been engendered first by charisma karl's snout.

we wonder what a smear campaign looks like.

of course, in art there are precedents for smear campaigns.i'm just thinking about questions of precursivity here: in america the first thing that comes to mind is jackson pollock's action painting. of course, this was no smear campaign, it was drip painting, that transformed the canvas into an arena (in critic harold rosenberg's words, the picture shows one of hans namuth's famous pictures of pollock at work for Life magazine).

this weekend, while v was in LA, a more to the point example showed up: shiraga from the gutai (or "concrete") group of japan in the early 50s, inspired partly by pollock, but also in a wild departure from the notion of canvas, literally swam in mud and paint.

i can think of another artist active in the early 60s, nikki de saint-phalle, and her amazing "tir" or "shoot" paintings, prepared canvases in plaster containing little sacks of pigment at which she would take aim with a rifle and shoot in public actions.

i can still think of quite a few more recent examples that could help us visualize smear. but the beeb carried in its note a quiet reference to a certain mr bennett in peewee's entourage. it reminded v of a certain blue gap dress.

You know you have a book buying problem if....

you sign yourselves up for one of these babies. Let the savings begin...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Raid and the kid

An interesting piece in the NYTimes more or less touched on a sensible issue. Of course, without saying it loud and clear...

Between the inept AG Beto "desmemorioso" Gonz (s0n of immigrants, mind you) less than satisfactory responses to his pale job performance, and the lack-lustered campaign 08, months of nerve racking raids across the country are taking place.

And the "law enforcement" is working overtime. Some even at 5 am. Chapeau to them! and let's not mention all the extra pay for those hours...
Sounds disgustingly familiar. South of the Rio Grande (and that wall...), it is common practice (mostly during dictatorships) to 'take into custody', the parent with the kid. Only in Chile, over 200 kids were tortured, 1200 'detained' and an unknown amount, died when their mothers were abused. Similarly, children all over the world live in constant fear.

When Gonz (let's not forget he's the main legal enforcement official in the US) say another "I don't recall", close your eyes and imagine you are 7 again, and locked up with one of your parents...

The Yanks are Not That Bad

Kei Igawa came through in a pinch tonight, and the Yankees won their first game in over a week, fending off suggestions from Magwitch and others that the mighty Bombers were headed for permanent cellar-dom.

Mariano Rivera's first save of the year still wasn't the brillance that we've come to expect over the years, but with time, I think these boys will come roaring back. And of course, it hasn't gotten nearly warm enough for the Sox to begin their annual wilt.

Are the Yankees this bad?

Maybe. But let's not worry about that right now. Instead, let's just assume they are, and do a few calculations. On this pace, the Yanks will win 67 games this season, which means they'll be spending about $3 million per win. That's not very good. How bad is it? Well, let's put it this way, if the Tampa Bay Devil Rays didn't win another game this season (and mind you, readers who know nothing about America's pastime, the season just started a few weeks ago), they would have spent about $2.4 million per win.

So what, you may ask, can the Yankees do to get back on track? I'm not sure, but one thing that could possibly help (though again, I'm certainly no expert) would be if Mariano Rivera--the Yankees' prized $10 million closer--could get his era down somewhere into the single digits. I'm not saying it needs to be 2.2, like the old days, but how about, say, 9.8? That'd be a nice improvement.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Walmart: a different model of corporate greed

Walmart epitomizes the American corporation: it's big--and it's greedy.


Well, sort of. One thing we can say for sure is that it's big--so big that now 97% of Americans shop their at least one a year, and it is now by far the biggest private employer in America. But is Walmart greedy? This, it seems, is a more complicated question. Walmart, as everyone knows, only pays its employees about 10 dollars an hour, but, according to Charles Fishman, author if The Wal-Mart Effect, it only makes about $6,400 per year on each of its employees--that is, if Walmart gave all its employees a $6,400 raise, it would not make any money. Compare this to a company like Microsoft, and the notion that Walmart is greedy--by corporate standards, anyway--no longer really explains the Walmart phenomenon. Microsoft makes (wait for it) $200,000 off each of its employees, 30 times what Walmart makes.

So, any way you slice it, Microsoft is worse at sharing its profits than Walmart. What's amazing about Walmart is that, just as it sells things in bulk, it makes profit in bulk; for everyone $3,000 of stuff it sells, it makes less than $100 profit. Where, then, has all the money gone? Who is it that's really being greedy here?

Of course, it has gone back to the consumer. Our low prices account almost completely for the low wages. Literally everything is passed onto the consumer. So, we have a very different model of greed than one we see in the standard evil corporation. If Walmart can be blamed for anything (which it certainly can) it is getting us all (even those of us who never go to Walmart, but go to other stores that have had to slash prices to keep up) to expect low prices.

Or maybe the employees are just being greedy. Don't you know how far your 10$ an hour can go in a Walmart?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

before the end, the other end of the world

When we saw the happy-go-lucky pair with their wealthy and pilates-toned bodies approach Rove at that insanely boring correspondent dinner, our "there goes the environment" radar went off. Sky high.

One tends to forget that all success stories are built on a base of mass quantities of failures. Yes, it's true that the USA consumes a lot of energy. And that other countries, mainly China, are racing to become more 'developed'. Its also true that before the US, England was the main power house, and before them, France and Germany, and before them the 'italianos', and Spain, and...

Today, you can see the northern part of Spain (formerly known as Castilla La vieja), completely devastated and barren. No crops and no water. You can travel the Black Forest and see dead trees. The industrial part of Milano, makes New Jersey look like Nirvana. Or just take the train on the northeast, and see whole neighborhoods abandoned or in plain poverty.

The point is that to obtain all this 'success', something had to be destroyed. In short, our natural resources. And with OURS we mean, all humans, before and after us. The big countries of Europe could not have become what they are today without the resources ("bought" for a song) from the Americas and Africa. Hundreds of years of digging and shipping have left enormous scars on the planet.

The question is HOW do one revert 500 years of global economic policy?

Using only one piece of the toilet paper? Or drinking water from the faucet instead of fancy but fully depleted aquifers in the world (see Fuji/Evian etc)? Stop eating meat? Or Monsanto beans? Or putting more advisers in the White House (as Crow and David suggested...)?

Some time ago, during the hectic anti-nuclear 70's, a certain new world model was put in place. Some call it the Bretton Woods (IMF and World bank) and the 'Washington Consensus', others 'Postmodernism'. Basically, and behind doors, they gave an offer no one could refuse. The 'Consensus' gave a few practical guidelines to HOW to deal with any Nations affairs (privatization of natural resources). 'Postmodernism', on the other hand, gave the theoretical background: no need to ponder, everything is more or less possible. And, forget about IDEAS on what KIND of world you want because, from here and on, each country can 'develop' in sync with the role models.

It took the model less than 10 years to be fully implemented on all levels. A big success story that's now called 'globalization', where Nations compete for investments. Gone is the original State, or at least, the Idea of a institution that cares fully, in present and future, about their citizens.

The current 'environ-mania' is kind of scary. It's as if hundreds of million of people, that struggle for clean water, food and roof over their head ON A DAILY BASIS have nothing to do with it, and never had an 'environmental' thought in their life. And because of all this, the need to act that many feel, can easily be guarded by other interests;

'Energy dependence' becomes "search for new sources of energy", that in turn becomes "corn based fuel", that in turn becomes "more subsidies and use of land" by the farmers, and "let's import more from abroad so they have to destroy their forests" and "use land formerly for food consumption to feed our cars"...

Or, it comes down to "substituting" petroleum for nuclear energy.

Both "options" are highly concentrated in the hands of a few companies (AREVA, ADM)

'Lack of water' becomes "need for access to water" and so, 3 or 4 companies have global control over the drinkable water, after major privatizations.

'Carbon neutral' becomes "use your Hummer/SUV but remember to plant a tree", or "continue emitting toxic gases but remember to buy 'carbon emission' elsewhere". The 'carbon market' -only in 9 months in 2006- traded unregulated over $22 bn.

'An inconvenient truth' becomes a million dollar industry for Al Gore and pals. Everybody wants a piece of it, even our dear leader HE Bush.

end of the first world

Perhaps some of you comfort yourself with the notion that, if the first world collapses due to lack of resources, it will be rebuilt. Well, I saw Jarrod Diamond speak yesterday, and he assured us that it's not so. In response to a question about the future of the world if a collapse--which he sees an inevitable if we do not shape up, and fast--he said, "Here's probably what it will look like: an end of the first world as we know it. Who will survive? Places like New Guinea, countries that are self-sustaining. Is the USA self-sustaining? Obviously no, not even close. Will the first world be rebuilt? Impossible, because our complex systems necessitated copper, tin, and other metals which we've fully mined. They are no longer in the earth."

And here's another scary idea. Diamond believes there are 12 crisis-level problems dogging the earth now. Here are a few: climate change, population expansion (especially in developing nations, where more resources are consumed), top soil erosion, overfishing, over-logging, lack of fresh water. When asked, "Is climate change the number one problem facing the environment today?" he replied, "No, I don't believe so. All 12 problems I've outlined are equally earth threatening." Got that? Climate change is 8% of the problem.

Here's one more scary piece of information for you. Whose fault, would you guess, are all these crises? Well, they're everyone's fault--but mostly, they're ours. Why? Well, we Americans consume on average 32 times (yes, thirty-two times) as much as people in the developing world. That means that every child born in the USA is 32 times worse for the environment than every child born in Kenya. In other words, we are ruining this planet for everyone. What can you do to stop it? I don't know, though I hear quitting meat can help, since meat is a complete waste of resources--a cow, after all, uses 10 times as much food as it produces. Also, you can recycle--unless you live in New York, where recycling is nearly impossible. Do you know where people recycle well? In Europe, where, amazingly, living standards are just as high as America, but they only consume 1/2 of what we do.

Okay, I feel somewhat better now.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


In case anyone missed this "breaking news" on MSNBC.COM!!!!!

NBC: Vice President Cheney visiting doctor's office for checkup

I need to stop going to this website....

A Modest Proposal

I nominate A-Rod to be the starting pitcher against the Red Sox on Friday.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Petty Peeves

Betty is frequently accused of being "too nice", or "sweet, to a fault". Betty finds these labels, which follow her across cultures and continents, to be flawed, because she always feels like she's complaining (or at least crying) about something.

So instead of blogging about cute little dogs this time, Betty will here list all her known PET PEEVES. In the interest of getting to know our contributors better, everyone is hereby *officially* encouraged to likewise gripe.

Remember the parameters: pet peeves cannot be seething hatreds or long-repressed (or currently-elected) icons of fear, injustice, and malignance. But they *must* draw out your inner Larry David, that is, your inner heartless bastard. And now, without further ado, Betty challenges you to match the total irritatingness of:

1. BOOK JACKET SUMMARIES - Betty despises book jacket summaries. They always give some critical surpise away, even if the hack who wrote it thinks he's hidden the twist somewhere between pointless thesaurus words for "soaring" and "transcendent." After reading a book jacket summary, Betty finds that great books become trivialized, good books get ruined, and just fine books become unreadable. Also, this PR drivel makes every book -- even books where terrible, terrible stuff happens! -- sound like a laundry list of Oprahrific pap. Betty would rather read Cliff's Notes - at least the writers of those had to actually, you know, read the book.

2. MANNY RAMIREZ - This weekend, Betty watched Manny "the green monster is my co-pilot" Ramirez actually try to stop a ball that had caromed off the wall -- with his foot! He never runs out ground balls or tries to catch outfield flies that would require him to move, violating every code Betty learned in Portland sports camp all those years ago. So smug, so arrogant, so intentionally provocative, Manny is the .203 hitting all-star Betty loves to hate. But maybe this is a Freudian doppleganger thing -- just look at how he "wears" his pants.

3. PEOPLE WHO HOLD OPEN SUBWAY CAR DOORS - Why do you do this, people? When you do this, you hold up every single car behind you, and there is another train coming in two minutes! And I'm hungry.

4. DVD COMMENTARY TRACKS: With rare exception, these "extras" are totally inane. They should call them "suxtras". The actors don't want to be there and so understandably crack in-jokes with each other while your favorite movie, now sullied, rolls. And the film historian people effortlessly show us that academic pursuits actually decrease one's ability to use the English language.

5. DVD "CHAPTER" TITLES: See BOOK JACKET SUMMARIES. Thanks for calling the last chapter "Teary Homecoming"!! You really kept me guessing where this was going, spoilers!! And so poetic, too! Assholes.

6. PEOPLE WHO ASK FOR LIKE 40 MILLION LITTLE DETAILS WHEN ORDERING FOOD - Dude. This is Chipotle. Just take the burrito and chill out. No one signed up to be your sour cream slave. Back away from the sneeze guard.

That's all Betty come up with right now. Hmmmm...maybe she is too nice.

Boris Yeltsin, still alive in our hearts and on youtube

In celebration of the life of Boris Yeltsin, I will take the liberty of linking to a video of this very fat and often drunken Kremlin doing what he did best--that is, merrily dancing around. A big belly, a bigger heart--we'll miss you, Boris.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

oh some cocktail action

from the hufpo, more proof that darling karl is so warm and charismatic he could make an iceberg melt.

Karl Rove Gets Thrown Under the Stop Global Warming Bus

Reflections on graying early

"Going gray is like ejaculation. You know it can happen prematurely, but when it actually does, it's a total shock." -Anderson Cooper

A few years ago, I noticed one or two gray wisps in my head of thick dark brown hair. Of course, everyone is liable to a few gray hairs--even young children. So I put it out of my mind. But then, a few weeks ago I was sitting with the high school freshman I tutor, and she suddenly blurted out, "You're going gray!" She was right. I have enough gray hairs now to safely say it: I've reached the graying tipping point.

The first thing MT said to me when I told her was that she had noticed it long ago. Examining my hair more closely, she couldn't help saying, "But it's moving faster than I thought!" before quickly adding, "but at least you aren't balding." Yes, at least I'm not balding. But nevertheless, like the bald man, the gray haired man has, in a very real sense, one foot in the grave. Graying/balding is, after all, part of the bodily decay one associates with the end. Like shrinking, and liver spots, there's no going back from a gray head of hair.

Nor does it cheer me up that Anderson Cooper is prematurely gray. What, you don't think Anderson is hot? Indeed, Anderson is quite attractive, but I have no problem admitting that, no matter how gray I get, I'll never be an Anderson Cooper. It's all well and good to gray if you have those Vanderbilt/aristocratic features, but what about me? What is this big-nosed, jew-face to do?

I don't know. But the short term answer is: stop using my dandruff shampoo, so no one will be able to tell if I'm going gray, or just have really bad hygiene.

Saturday, April 21, 2007


the new york times carries today an article on the rise of infant mortality rates in the south. the article suggests a causal relationship between cuts to medicaid under the bush admin and this phenomenon

i call this a great example of the "well, duh!" moment. what really interests me, though, is the way that the otherwise excellent graph provided excludes information on poverty rates, esp with regards to child poverty. i wonder about what would happen if we could include data that showed the parallel rise in child poverty rates, broken down by region and ethnic group.

so, i've been looking for other graphs online to fill in the holes, maybe we can have a little graph-tini (shaken, not stirred), so we could point with greater accuracy the obvious but not so visible.

A Feline Smarter than Superman?

Apparently, there is a cat that can navigate a British bus system in Wolverhampton...A feat that foiled Superman...This is outrageous..What next?...Cougar or "Killer" the raccoon rolling in a convertible!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Here Comes the Sun

At the end of one of the worst weeks we can imagine, the sun came out today.
Out for a spin with Cocoa, we ran down the sidewalk and she chased breathlessly on her leash. It felt like flying a kite.
Teenagers were playing handball on the courts behind our building and girls in uniform skirts were walking home together.
We tried to steer Co away from foul smelling and stained patches of pavement, but then we saw that she doesn't mind at all. She just likes to smell, no judgments.
When we came inside our vision blurred, and it took time to adjust to the darker light.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The upcoming B&B book event: Remembering KV

For those of you who haven't been paying attention, the powers that be (let me give you a hint--I'm not one of them) have now decided to do an eclectic Vonnegut book event: each blogger (who wants to participate) should read one--any--Vonnegut book and post on it, during the weekend on April 28th-29th. Don't worry if that seems too close to now: any Vonnegut novel will only take you a few hours to read at most. MT and I are planning on reading the new book, but for those of you who have never read a Vonnegut, I recommend "Slaughterhouse 5," "Cat's Cradle," or "Mother Night." If you feel like it, post on the blog which Vonnegut you are planning to read.

Jewish Genius? No thanks to that logic.

In 1891, Joseph Jacobs, a prominent Jewish intellectual living in England, published a book entitled Jewish Statistics. When one opens the book today, the first thing that comes to mind is, could a Jew really have written this? On the inside cover, there are pictures of four Jews, each one a representative "type" of Judaism, according to Jacobs. In the back of the book are graphs, which plot the intelligence of Jews. Jacobs graphs Jewish intelligence alongside gentile intelligence, and infers that, though Jews are not smarter per se, their bell curve is more spread out; that is, there are more "insane" and "brilliant" Jews--there are more on the extreme ends of the curve--than with gentiles. This logic holds less water than it did in 1891, when the notion that race determined intelligence was widely believed. After all, we no longer believe in scientifically different "races," but rather we know now that everything is just genes. If you are smart, it is because you have good genes, and if you're dumb, you don't. More important than the flawed science of Jacob's reasoning are the social and political ramifications, which, after the eugenics of Nazi (and even American) scientists and thinkers, are now apparent to us.

But wait--for some sick reason, some people are still interested in pursuing this kind of repulsive reasoning. One Jewish friend of mine has recently sent me an article by Charles Murray called "Jewish Genius," published this month in a Jewish journal called Commentary. This terrifying article boasts statistics about the high Ashkenazi IQ, and myriad pseudo-sociological reasons for Jews' remarkable brilliance. This article, which I encourage you all to read, is not only offensive politically, but also intellectually. Race science? Aren't we beyond that already? Read and prepare to vomit.

Take a Letter

Worth 1000
is hosting a "One-Letter-Off" movie poster photoshop contest! We're having a fun time perusing the entries. Our favorites are above.

Rookie Pitchers and a Rookie Candidate

With all the terrible news from all over the world, Betty was slouching numb yesterday, and even left work early with a psycho-somatic headache.

But this morning on the subway platform, she saw back-page headlines about the Yankees and Mets, and felt a little better. In short, Betty ALWAYS feels better when it's baseball season.

And here's something more: Two Yankee rookie pitchers, Chase Wright and Kei Igawa, have kept scores low and won games with the team for two nights in a row. Betty never thought she would feel so elated to see someone younger than her (Wright is 24) winning games for her team.

From today's New York Times:

Catcher Jorge Posada said that he had to talk to Wright early in Tuesday’s game to calm him down.

“It seemed like he wasn’t even breathing at times,” Posada said.

“I’m a rookie, but I don’t feel like a rookie,” Igawa said through an interpreter. “There are a lot of expectations.”

Of course there are. This is a team that feels like the have to apologize for not winning championships. But there's a reason the Yanks can average 5 or 6 runs per game and still not win-- because the other team scores 7 or 8.

The Yanks' problem has always been pitching. Specifically, the team seems to love shelling out money for big names who don't deliver. Randy Johnson was an embarassment. Mike Mussina and Carl Pavano can't stay healthy. Pettite is throwing well, but he doesn't look like Peter Asen anymore. All of this is a problem.

Where does that leave us? With rookies. And who says that's a bad thing? It's not like the pitcher is out there all alone:

“This team consists of the best lineup in the world,” Igawa said of a lineup that had 14 hits, three by Derek Jeter. “I’m happy to have that support.”

Igawa = Obama?!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Cho Seung-Hui's predictably unintelligible "manifesto"

It is not particularly surprising the Cho Seung-Hui, the VT murderer, sent myriad documents, photos and videos to NBC news in between his two killings--in fact, it's strange that no other school murderer has done something like this until now. After all, one doesn't have to have a degree in psychology to see that murdering 32 people is a call for attention, and so it makes perfect sense to me that Seung-Hui would send his "manifesto" out for us all to see. Watching the video of Cho Seung-Hui's rant, I became deeply depressed--even more depressed than I was when I first heard about the killings. What comes across right away is that Seung-Hui has no idea what he's talking about; his logic is completely confused. He bandies around terms like "revolution" without even knowing what they mean. He compares himself to Jesus in a way that makes no sense. In short, the "manifesto" is everything you imagined it would be. He is a parody of himself. He is a 14 year old in a 23 year old's body, pointing a gun at the camera as if he's pretending to be the bad guy in a James Bond movie.

It's 1:00am as I write this, and I'm sure this is sounding like a pretty trivial point to make about this travesty, but, for some reason, it terrifies me to think that someone would commit such an act, attract the attention of the entire world (which, as is the case with all these shooters, totally ignored him before) and this is all he has to say. Could it be that these murders were carried out so he could declare this ridiculous manifesto to us? Now that is a really terrible notion.

Don't tell this story to your boss

Thanks to my friend and fellow blogger Pat for this one:

A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted," Excuse me, can you help? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don't know where I am."

The woman below replied, "You are in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You are between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."

"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.

"I am," replied the woman. "How did you know?"

"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to make of you, and the fact is I am still lost. Frankly, you've not been much help so far."

The woman below responded, "You must be in management."

"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"

"Well," said the woman, "you don't know where you are or where you are going. You have risen to where you are, due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise which you have no idea how to keep, and you expect people beneath you to solve your problems. The fact is you are in exactly the same position you were in before we met, but now, somehow, it's my fault!"

a theory of extinction, anyone?

some sort of extinction anxiety seems to grip the glib-lib. a need to america, but whither?
the cynics smirk, their arms falling like zombies' after dawn. the sensitive retreat into cocoa-fuelled smooching. others (the earnest) write paeans to an enraged gaia, rapture literature for the no-longer-new left, gloating righteously in their newly fashionable we-told-you-so smorgasbord.

a theory of extinction, anyone?
it may be worthwhile coming up with one. thinking is difficult. philosophy tells us it only happens when the body is encountered with the threat of failure. the bee's issue (and this is elizabeth grosz speaking) is to find the flower, failure to conceptualize how to get there and back to the beehive implies its death.

amazingly, or maybe not so, we (who?) seem to have forgotten the value of rage and a whole array of other emotions, when discussing the res publica. the result is ever more interesting: either a complete evacuation of emotion from policy debate, or a deployment of emotion that flattens out or paralyzes rather than enables a more complex articulation of social problems. all in the name of so-called democratic dialogue and consensus, what in this country reactionaries call "being non-partisan."

we should be angry about what happened in vatech, rightly so. we should be angry at the way that any proposal of gun control will be bogged down and confused by the murder lobby-- they now circulate the fabulous idea of giving college students handguns so they can "defend" themselves -- but anger needs to be directed, channelled through a movement, or else it is worthless.
maybe facing the threat of extinction will finally make us all think.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Reflection on Yesterday's Events

I'm sure someone will lose their job for saying this on one of the countless Cable TV talk shows, and in no way do I mean to minimize the lives (and deaths) of the students and faculty at VTU, but I wonder if people may take from this some lesson: what America felt today is what people in Iraq and other war torn countries feel every day. Colleges get bombed in Baghdad and Sadr City, killing hundreds of people, and we hear reports of this sort on the news, "Two U.S. soldiers were killed today in a bombing that killed hundreds of Iraqis." Why is it that we do not grieve for these people as much as we will for the people in Virginia? The death toll of Iraqi civilians is somewhere in the 60,000's.

In the same way that we as a nation recognized (and soon after forgot) our great racial and social inequalities in the aftermath of Katrina, surely any public reflection of this sort on yesterday's will soon fade away with the crowning of the next "American Idle" or Bush Administration scandal. In October '05, we saw video of people dying in the streets of New Orleans, and it reminded us of two things. We saw that work that needed to be done to make sure we are all protected in the same ways; we are all equal but some remained far more equal than others. Yet we also recognized how lucky we were to live in America, where this sort of thing is a "disaster" and not a regular occurrence. It is with the same outlook that we should look at the shooting that occurred yesterday.
I just watched "The Weather Underground" in my American History class and perhaps that is serving as the function of my thoughts on these issues. Of course, it seems like the crazed gunman who killed the thirty-three innocent people in Blacksburg was simply acting violently in the response to a fight with his girlfriend (this is what I have read); so he was not "bringing the war home" as the Weathermen claimed to do in response to the atrocities committed in Vietnam. But can one be blamed for connecting the two?

After some personal reflection, I have written this post, and also made myself a commitment. The next time I read an article about a civilian death in Iraq (whether it be at a college or in a market place), I will force myself to think about the fear, terror and anguish that I (and millions of Americans) felt today, and will feel in the following days and weeks. The lightness of murder should not be felt simply because it is being committed (by either side, mind you) across the ocean. We must all take responsibility for the deaths of civilians and troops in Iraq. History teaches us to learn from events so that we can better ourselves for the future (at least that is what I have been told). If yesterday did not serve as a wake-up call, then I do not know what will.

The death toll of Iraqi civilians since our invasion in 2003 could be as high as 650,000 (as of October 2006). Is it going to take 20,000 Virginia Techs for us as a country to see the horror of our actions overseas?

The flag on the Trinity College Quad is at half-staff today (and well it should be), but where are those flags for the 600,000 Iraqis?

Baby Ducks

As concerned as I am about global warming, I just couldn't handle that bleak picture at the top of the blog any more. Even if it's true. That and the young engineers dying in Virginia. But we must press on.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Could this be our country one day?

Jarred Diamond thinks so. I'm working through Collapse, which seems to imply that the fall of America--due, mostly, to our own destruction of our environment, is inevitable. Take a look at Easter Island: at one point, this was a flourishing island, with vegetation and trees galore. That's before the soil went bad, and the cannibalism started...

Mo Blows the Show

Mariano Rivera, of whom B&B are fans, blew yesterday's Yankee near-win over Oakland. Our heads were in our hands, then they were bouncing off the walls while the chihuahua looked on, appalled.

The Yankees had hustled so much in this game, making the best of runners on base, knocking in sac flies at every opportunity. Even after the bad news about Mussina and Pavano, Pettite had pitched seven complete innings, only to have his win undone by one misplaced pitch from the lanky Panamanian. Sportswriter Will Leitch quipped:

We would have liked to have seen the Vegas odds on Mariano Rivera vs. Marco Scutaro in the ninth inning on Sunday. We probably could have secured 2,000-1, and that house in the Hamptons would have been ours (complete with horses Snoopy and Prickly Pete). The scene: Two runners on, two outs, Rivera ahead in the count 0-2 on Scutaro, who is hitting .050 for the season so far. Even Scutaro's mom is in the parking lot to beat traffic. But Marvelous Marco drove the next pitch to the screen just inside the left-field foul pole for a three-run homer, giving Oakland a 5-4 win over the Yankees. Sweet Fancy Moses.

These kinds of situations are what makes Betty hate the idea of the one-inning pitcher that Mo and Joe have so honed in the Bronx over the last decade. Mo is good and sweet and all, but what the hell? At the risk of sounding like an old fogey and a child of the 80's, pitchers used to pitch until they couldn't pitch any more, or until they were strategically removed for not being ambidextrous. Pitching one inning per game does not impress me. I'm fine with Mo not pitching much because he's frail, but he should be used strategically, not just inserted into games to build his save numbers. It's a particular Yankee problem that big numbers and starbuilding seem to be prized over strategic, commonsense play. This game seemed to be going against this trend until Mo came jogging in for no reason. Joe should have left Proctor in.

Let's hope the rookie starter we just called up to replace pretty boy Pavano will fare better. The lack of ego should help.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A message of peace and memoriam

This from friend of the blog Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth Kucinich, on the occasion of
Holocaust Memorial Day:

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Batten Down the Hatches!

Even though the Great Nor'easter of Oh-Seven isn't set to commence till after midnight this evening, Betty and Cocoa are already settled in their nest, watching epic films and munching on ginger snaps and carrot sticks. The windows are shut, the kettle is on, the blankets are out, and the pile of books and DVDs is stocked and growing higher. Only this much is certain: it's going to be a cuddly next few days.

Friday, April 13, 2007


I feel like I've been waiting all week for someone to say something intelligent that will make this whole Don Imus thing -- not worth it, exactly -- but will at least teach us something. I think today's column by Harvey Fierstein is the best reflection I've seen yet.

Update: Here's another interesting angle, courtesy of Juan Williams and Andrew Sullivan.

A Betty and Bimbo book event?

I've been meaning for a long time to propose that Betty and Bimbo hosts a book event, a la I think this would be a good time to try it, considering the recent death of Kurt Vonnegut. So, I'm proposing that in two weeks time (over the weekend of the 28th-29th) everyone post their thoughts on Vonnegut's fairly new book, Man without Country. That should give us all ample time to read this very short book--even those of us with many other things on are goodreads!

By the way, if most of you have already read this, and therefore find my idea boring (or if you find the whole notion of a B & B literary event ridiculous) let me know.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gore's vacation in South America saved?

So, apparently, and after much ado (and a good deal of pressure from the environ-terrorists) Gore's vacation is somewhat "saved". He will not speak and be payed by the world's largest gold mining company BARRICK GOLD CORPORATION. Last night, Barrick decided that they would withdraw their sponsorship to his global warming conference in Santiago...

This tells us two things:
-Annoying lobby works and,
-that the "internets" have a certain power to inform and revert dubious political tendencies, currently underway...

Still, Gore can't claim that he didn't know. That's not even an option.

He also plans (the day before the Santiago thing) to speak at a biofuel congress in Buenos Aires, payed for by...Dynamotive & their best friend, Monsanto...and one of the world's largest oil company, Repsol...

Sound familiar? Pass us the corn, please.

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

The great Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. So it goes.

The Economics of Climate Change

I had the opportunity to see Sir Nicholas Stern, British economist and writer of the Stern Review on Climate Change, give a lecture yesterday in Morningside Heights. Sir Nick, as his friends apparently call him, was asked by Tony Blair to write a report on the cost of curbing climate change. According to Stern's calculations, it will only cost the world 1% of its GDP to keep our carbon levels between 450-550 ppm (which is still a lot of climate change, but an amount with which our species can probably continue to survive). To do that, we'll have to cut the world's carbon emissions by 30%, and developed countries--who need to make room from China and India to develop--need to cut about 60%. What's the alternative? According to Stern, if things go on like they are for another century, the earth will be 5 degrees Celsius warmer than it was in the pre-industrial world. To give you an idea how much that is: when the world was 5 degrees Celsius colder than the pre-industrial world, Europe was under miles of ice.

The great thing about Stern--an admittedly controversial character--is that he is optimistic. His 1% GDP calculations prove that the world can curb global warming and avoid economic crisis--indeed, the world's economy can continue to grow. These numbers, however, are based--as economist Jeffrey Sachs, who spoke alongside Stern, pointed out--on one major unknown: we are assuming that Klaus S. Lackner's theory--which posits that we can catch carbon emissions from coal in the air and bury it underground--is correct. Lackner's theory has only been tested in small amounts--never on a mass scale. What will be the ramifications of burying 100s of trillions of tons of carbon in the ground? Who knows? Welcome to the 21st century.

The point is this: it's time to act now. Stern argues that any chance we have of saving the world is predicated on us--the whole word--acting within the next 15 years.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Animal House

"New Tricks" Charles Seibert's sobering piece about animal shelters in this week's New York Times Magazine comes as a welcome counterpoint to their cover story two months ago on posh animal breeding. If you are interested in animal welfare, nature, massive cultural change or human psychology, check it out. The ending is beautiful, even if one of the accompanying photos is completely unexpected and heartbreaking.

Seibert does a good job describing the state of domestic animals in the United States, many of whom are given up when owners lose interest or don't want to work to correct common behavioral issues. The only factor he leaves out is the role of money --even if they're cheap to acquire, dogs can be expensive to maintain, indimidatingly so. Last week at Animal Care and Control of New York City Betty encountered a sweet little chihuahua whose Bronx-dwelling owners had taken her to the vet, were told she had a rash that required they purchase some perscription cream, and gave her up that same day. It happens.

Is there a solution to this problem? I realize that human health and welfare is a priority that comes before that of animals, but why can't we prioritize both? I posit that animals play a huge role in enhancing human health and welfare, and programs like Puppies Behind Bars and hospital visitation programs with animals are a testament to this, as are snuggly little bedbugs like Co [pictured].

Is more funding for animal shelters the thing? On a municipal level, yes. But what about health insurance that extends to pets? It may sound excessive, but its effect would be just the opposite, serving to actually curb the excess of unwanted pets dying in shelters. It would also allow many more people to keep, or just consider keeping, a live-in animal friend. Now let's get those people health insurance, and go from there.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A Day at the (Pennant) Races

Obamarama, Betty, Koko, Co-Love and Friends attended the Yankees vs. Orioles spectacle today at the "old" Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, NYC. Disregarding the fallling SNOW that grazed us in the fourth inning and the kind of pitching that just gets you nowehere, a fun time was had by all. Happy Easter, everybody!

Friday, April 06, 2007

David Brooks: Neomoron

MT drew my attention to an article on the American Leftist by "Joe", who muses over a two-week-old David Brooks op-ed on the state of The New Republic. The Brooks article is about The New Republic's shift leftward; Foer is bringing some real progressives onto the staff, such as the "neopopulist" Tom Frank, whose column Brooks clearly isn't looking forward to perusing. Nor should he be: as Brooks surely realizes, Frank trashes Brooks repeatedly in "What's the matter with Kansas?" Indeed, Brooks becomes an embodiment of everything slimy and devious in the conservative movement (my favority Frank point is when he quotes David Brooks on class; to Brooks, America is not hierarchical, but like a "high school cafeteria," in which different groups choose to sit at different tables).

But Joe's piece on the American leftist really isn't about any of this. Primarily, Joe just can't believe that David Brooks doesn't know what the word "neoliberal" means. The "liberal" in "neoliberal" refers not to the American left, but to classical economic liberalism (laissez-faire economics--the word liberal just comes from the latin word "liber," meaning "free"). But for Brooks, the term seems to signify "centrist democrat." Writing about The New Republics move away from "neoliberalism," Brooks says, "On policy matters, the neoliberals were liberal but not too liberal. They rejected interest-group politics and were suspicious of brain-dead unions. They tended to be hawkish on foreign policy, positive about capitalism, reformist when it came to the welfare state, and urbane but not militant on feminism and other social issues."

Now, it is true that many of the politicians and pundits Brooks is talking about support neoliberalism, and that Tom Frank does not. But Brooks clearly has no idea what this word means. I see Brooks' mistake as more than a silly botch. This makes me think of Walter Benn Michaels' point that neoliberalism is so pervasive in American thought that we no longer have any organized resistance to it. In other words, maybe Brooks doesn't know what the word means because he never has to argue against anyone who isn't classically liberal. Enter Tom Frank, whose column in the mainstream New Republic is a positive sign of possible changes to come.

Thursday, April 05, 2007 low on news/Headline writers high?

[At Left: A coyote, subject of yesterday's dramatic story "Coyote enters Chicago Quiznos sandwich shop; lies down in cooler."]

Do you guys ever read You would never know there was a war going on everday in Iraq if you did. But that's not even the point. is so oddly not-newsy that its headlines verge on the surreal. Even Betty's favorite section, Arts & Entertainment, is no good at covering either Art OR gossip. Yesterday they had an article/interview about how Hillary Duff feels pressure to be thin. That is not a story,! Make some Hollywood contacts for crying out loud! Sheesh.

Today's top A&E stories are not much better:

• EW review: 'Reaping' a bad movie
• Who will be the next host of 'The Price Is Right'?

I will not even explicate the humorous role played by the modifier "a" in the former, and let you draw your own conclusions.

BUT! these headlines do become their own special form of entertainment once you've accepted that all you're going to read at are these side-splitting (and this has got to be intentional, right? RIGHT?!?) one-liners. Betty imagines a cult of campy headline fans out there just waiting for to add new faux-naive zingers by the hour.

Today, under "U.S." news we face:

• CNN shooting highlights safety in public workplaces
• Lost dog found four years later, 1,100 miles from home
• Veteran files claim after wrong testicle removed

And in "Business" headlines we learn:

• Ford CEO: $28M for 4 months work
• Pimp my jet: A mansion with wings

The crowning glory of headlines-as-art, however, are the "Most Popular Videos". Betty was introduced to this crazy list last summer, when these were the most popular news videos at

1. Making millions between classes (2:57)

2. How do you hide a painted whale? (1:36)

3. Judge rules lettuce can be litter (1:48)

4. Moving house (1:09)

5. Giant lizards invade Florida (2:17)

6. KABOOM! (1:04)

And just yesterday, the headlines were nearly as grand:

1. Coyote in Quiznos (1:34)

2. This is what meth does (2:23)

3. Hungry robber returns for food (2:04)

4. Woman accused of faking AIDS (1:13)

The moral of the story: Re-adjust your expectations and you'll find art all around you.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

why I dislike Al Gore

It's not the fact that he gained ridiculous amount of weight, nor his slooooow way of talking. I just can't stand this whole "global warming" being one of these nice fronts of the nuclear business and friendly mine companies...

1. Except for some crazy nuts, the climate change is evident. It's true that if everybody did their thing, some energy could be saved. However, does this mean that the majority of peeps will leave their SUVs, or use less water, or refuse packing materials (amen to the internet and online shopping), etc.? No. If there's a "energy crisis" on the horizon, most common unsuspecting folks would probably prefer some kind of "alternative" to the war and US "oil dependence"...Enter nuclear energy that today, all re-fashioned, claims that it's "safer" than ever before. So, post-Oscar winning, Gore set out on a global tour. And he's VERY EXPENSIVE.

2. Gore will descend in Santiago (Chile) -one of Americas most polluted cities- on 05/11. He'll stay for some hours (enough to make a speech) and briskly leave on his private airplane. He's charging $200.000 for it. Now, this is all cool. Have nothing against making a buck or two, but this "conference" is in part payed for by THE WORLDS LARGEST GOLD MINE COMPANY, our dear "glacier-killing machine" Barrick Gold Corp. (yep, the same that currently is using acid to remove annoying "frozen ice", as they call it). Barrick is famous in Chile and also the object of full-blown attacks by the newly-born environmental movement. When pictures of destroyed glaciers were put on the web, Barrick used, as a very suggesting argument, the global warming as their defense...Still, even after they put down tehir cash for the "conference", tickets are sold for above minimum wage in Chile, $180. No "truth" for ordinary people...

3. Gore has yet to reject his new patrons...

This is why I don't like Gore.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Play Bol!

Betty and Bimbo are SO happy that baseball season is underway, and that the Yankees won their first game, despite some pokey pitching from prodigal staff hottie Carl Pavano. As Bimbo put it, "Baseball gives you a reason to come home every night." Amen, hun!

Betty would like to add that it's fun to read about Las Grandes Ligas in Spanish. Betty reads El Tiempo from Bogotá, but there's also ESPN Deportes for those who did not grow up eating Zucaritas (Colombian Frosted Flakes) with that paper on their lap. For the even more regionally-inclined there's El Heraldofrom Barranquilla, which will make you believe that Edgar Rentería and Orlando Cabrera are the only two players in the league!

Fun vocabulary to know before you begin (all taken from today's El Tiempo article about Rentería's great performance last night against Philadelphia):

jonrón = home run

jardín central = center field (but don't tell Barry Bonds he was a gardener!)

pizarra = score

recibió pasaporte = walked

los Filis = The Phillies

Monday, April 02, 2007

Injection of Common Sense into Immigration debate

(Rhode Island State Rep. David Segal, with microphone, and Providence Councilman Miguel Luna, directly behind him, at a Justice for Janitors action in Providence.)

My friends David Segal and Miguel Luna have a courageous editorial in today's Providence Journal suggesting that our immigration debate must consider the role of American foreign policy in forcing people to consider moving to the US, whether legally or illegally. Segal and Luna write:

To have an honest debate about immigration, we must recognize that many of the people who come here from Latin America are driven by horrific events in which our government had a hand. Immigrants want the same things most Americans do: decent jobs, basic rights, and a life free of violence and coercion.

Unfortunately, our government has helped make that impossible in their homelands, so they come here. To put it plainly: Many undocumented immigrants’ violation of U.S. immigration law is a direct consequence of our government’s unrelenting violations of international law.

As we look at ways to reform our immigration system — and, abhorrently, suggest throwing immigrants’ children off RIteCare and out of our schools — we must acknowledge that changes in our own government’s behavior would improve the terrible conditions that compel so many people to emigrate in the first place.

I strongly encourage folks to read this entire op-ed and share it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

watch out, gmailers

As Slate pointed out this week, Google has a long tradition of remarkably good April Fools pranks. This year, Google has introduced Gmail Paper, a service through which Luddites can receive their emails via mail. Actually, it sounds believable enough--this is the genius of the Google April Fools prank--but it gets preposterous once you delve into the testimonials (one mother raves: "Gmail Paper is a scrapbooker's dream. I paper archive all of my son's emails, cut them out in creative shapes, and paste them in my binders") and the fine print ("Is it free? Yes. The cost of postage is offset with the help of relevant, targeted, unobtrusive advertisements, which will appear on the back of your Gmail Paper prints in red, bold, 36 pt Helvetica. No pop-ups, no flashy animations—these are physically impossible in the paper medium").

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure none of our readers fell for this one. But do feel free to click on the above link and contemplate the intelligence of the joke.