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Archive for the ‘World politics’ Category

RIP Jay Ward

Dreamt I went to a “Rocky” convention. Walked in just as shouts of “Yo! Adrianne” commenced. Realized my “I ❤ Bullwinkle" placard was inappropriate. Ooops! Wrong Rocky.

I have NO idea where that intro comes from, but it was in my mind this morning when I woke up. Does rather sum up recent life, however, so I led with it.

Once again, I have no internet connection and haven’t since yesterday morning. Add that to the election furor going on here and it is a case of annoyance prevailing.

Any drive now, including those the kids and I do to school each day, comes avec a parade of faces … the same ones over and over again plastered on posters tacked to every power pole in the country, and … sheesh … am I glad I’m not in any present need of plywood since every square inch of the stuff must have been used for politics. Really now! There are only something like 40,000 voters in the country and everyone actually does know what the candidates look like.

Attached slogans are predictable: the peeps who’ve been running the show since the ’70s tout “new”, while the opposition parties are promising the vague “better” or going with ethnocentric pandering with claims of “Seychelles for the Seychellois”, whatever that means.

I have never understood politics, either in general or how the heck such a system ever managed to catch on in the first place. Sure, I can follow the historic breadcrumbs from feudalism to federalism, but that doesn’t mean it makes much sense.

What is it about humans that has us handing over our “us-ness” so easily in favor of someone whose name we recognize, then arguing over pre-digested interpretations of actions we’re usually clueless to the ins and out of?

Seems to me political parties are little more than intentionally divisive creations whose machinations work unity into messy little packets of self-rah-rah and manufacture politicians often more flash than substance, and preferably so.

As the ramping-up begins in the US, I’m even more confused. Donald Trump, after all! WTF can that be about? Sarah Palin? (I’d so much rather see Michael on a ticket!) And how ’bout them folks who cast votes based on single none-of-their-fucking-business issues like gay marriage and abortion?

One step forward, two steps back seems a dance most countries can’t bow out of, and with all the preaching to the choir going it’s hard to hear the beat when there is one. After all, if half the people think … as an example … that climate change is a result of greed and the other half think greed is good and global warming is fiction (or WTF does it matter since the world is ending in a couple of weeks, anyway … ) what possible use is it to build huge office buildings and fill them with vampiric officials who suck the blood out of those lining up to send them there?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to have politics a part-time, unpaid job where positions would be filled by generous, community-caring individuals willing to share their time, effort and knowledge for the betterment of all?

Yeah … right. Like that’s gonna happen …

As a species, we just may not be smart enough for Democracy.

And now, for a bit of light entertainment, we step into the WayBack machine and take a look at another time … that looks pretty much exactly like today. (The bit in Congress is not to be missed … )

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Dinner and a show?

Yeah … I get it.

I understand the outcry for proof that Bin Laden is dead, even that he died in that compound in Pakistan the other day and not years ago while gardening in Tora Bora. After all, taking anyone’s word for it seems naive in today’s world when we’re all just too smart and clever and can damned well figure it out for ourselves if only we’re given real info we can trust … whatever that might be.

And what could be more satisfying than setting our own eyes on his mutilated corpse, gazing into coagulated contusions and measuring dimensions of mortal wounds? Recognizing those features we’ve come to know so well over the years in a dead form putting to rest our anger and our angst might be anticipated, and we might even, for a minute or two, get the idea going that an end to something horrible is wrapped up in that white sheet he hit the water in.

As the Powers That Be debate whether or not to release photos of the dead Osama, I’m thinking history … another time, another dead Public Enemy Number One.

It was 1934 when John Dillinger was shot down outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago after a long manhunt and much organizing.

Late in the afternoon of Saturday, July 21, 1934, the madam of a brothel in Gary, Indiana, contacted one of the police officers with information. This woman called herself Anna Sage; however, her real name was Ana Cumpanas, and she had entered the United States from her native Rumania in 1914. Because of the nature of her profession, she was considered an undesirable alien by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and deportation proceedings had been started. Anna was willing to sell the FBI some information about Dillinger for a cash reward, plus the FBI’s help in preventing her deportation.

At a meeting with Anna, Cowley and Purvis were cautious. They promised her the reward if her information led to Dillinger’s capture, but said all they could do was call her cooperation to the attention of the Department of Labor, which at that time handled deportation matters. Satisfied, Anna told the agents that a girlfriend of hers, Polly Hamilton, had visited her establishment with Dillinger. Anna had recognized Dillinger from a newspaper photograph.

Anna told the agents that she, Polly Hamilton, and Dillinger probably would be going to the movies the following evening at either the Biograph or the Marbro Theaters. She said that she would notify them when the theater was chosen. She also said that she would wear an orange dress so that they could identify her.

On Sunday, July 22, Cowley ordered all agents of the Chicago office to stand by for urgent duty. Anna Sage called that evening to confirm the plans, but she still did not know which theater they would attend. Therefore, agents and policemen were sent to both theaters. At 8:30 p.m., Anna Sage, John Dillinger, and Polly Hamilton strolled into the Biograph Theater to see Clark Gable in Manhattan Melodrama. Purvis phoned Cowley, who shifted the other men from the Marbro to the Biograph.

Cowley also phoned Hoover for instructions. Hoover cautioned them to wait outside rather than risk a shooting match inside the crowded theater. Each man was instructed not to unnecessarily endanger himself and was told that if Dillinger offered any resistance, it would be each man for himself.

At 10:30 p.m., Dillinger, with his two female companions on either side, walked out of the theater and turned to his left. As they walked past the doorway in which Purvis was standing, Purvis lit a cigar as a signal for the other men to close in. Dillinger quickly realized what was happening and acted by instinct. He grabbed a pistol from his right trouser pocket as he ran toward the alley. Five shots were fired from the guns of three FBI agents. Three of the shots hit Dillinger, and he fell face down on the pavement. At 10:50 p.m. on July 22, 1934, John Dillinger was pronounced dead in a little room in the Alexian Brothers Hospital.

The agents who fired at Dillinger were Charles B. Winstead, Clarence O. Hurt, and Herman E. Hollis. Each man was commended by J. Edgar Hoover for fearlessness and courageous action. None of them ever said who actually killed Dillinger.

That, of course, was huge news at the time … the plastic surgery he’d had to change his face and fingerprints added to the fervor, of course. The FBI maintains the event “marked the beginning of the end of the Gangster Era”. It most certainly was the beginning of the FBI. (You may have noticed it did not mark the end of organized crime, however, although hats lost some popularity.)

The media did it’s thing …

As Dillinger lay dying, passersby dipped hankies in his blood for keepsakes. His body was put on public display and people flocked to get a look. (Original photos of his corpse sell online for a mere $975.00.)

Rumors began, and continue to this day, that his penis had been removed and preserved sometime between death and internment, and although the Smithsonian denies having it, it’s possible it could pop up somewhere sometime.

He wasn’t buried at sea, but in Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, and the stone marking his grave has been replaced many times due to people chipping pieces off for souvenirs.

We’re an odd species, we humans.

Okay, so maybe I don’t get it …

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Hat NOT optional

A couple of caveats lead into this post, the first being that, yes, I have lived outside the good old US of A for going on twenty years now. The second, perhaps even more obvious to frequent readers, is the fact that my take on most Republicans is that they’re morons, evil or self-centered assholes, or, often, all three. The point in putting provisos in paragraph one? Fair warning.

I’ve managed to ignore most of the issue that’s now referred to by the unlikely title of “birtherism”, but in my time off from writing about annoyances this one has grown beyond the boundaries of ignorance … ignorability … whatever … into that dimension we used to call “The Twilight Zone”, but now has gone really scary.

An article in Slate that reports 45% of Republicans saying President Obama was not born in the US had me giggling … at first … with the thought that about that wide a margin in the GOP hasn’t quite got the scoop on Hawaii actually being a state. Although that’s probably true, it gets worse:

Among Republicans, 45 percent believe he was born abroad, while only 33 percent say he was born in the United States. More than a dozen state legislatures have discussed or are discussing “birther bills” that usually seek to force presidential candidates to prove their birthplace, although at least five states have been reluctant to actually turn the bills into law. Oklahoma could soon become the first with a vote expected next week.

What a fucking waste of time and money! And that’s not even bringing up the idiot factor.

As mentioned, I’ve not followed the the buildup to this pile of smelly residue, so followed this link to, TA DAAAA!, “Where it all began”, and am forced to admit it makes even less sense now.

That theory first emerged in the spring of 2008, as Clinton supporters circulated an anonymous email questioning Obama’s citizenship.

“Barack Obama’s mother was living in Kenya with his Arab-African father late in her pregnancy. She was not allowed to travel by plane then, so Barack Obama was born there and his mother then took him to Hawaii to register his birth,” asserted one chain email that surfaced on the urban legend site Snopes.com in April 2008.

Another early version of the theory, reported by the Chicago Tribune in June 2008, depended on a specious legal theory that was, for a time, the heart of the argument: that Obama was born in Hawaii but had a Kenyan father, and his mother was only 18 years old. Therefore, under existing immigration law, he was not eligible for automatic citizenship upon birth — a claim that depended on an understandable, but incorrect, reading of immigration law. Other theories suggested that Obama lost his U.S. citizenship when he moved to Indonesia or visited Pakistan in violation of a supposed State Department ban as a young man. (There was no such ban.)

A birth certificate was produced — produced as in “handed over by the State of Hawaii”, not “run off with the help of Photo Shop” — but apparently proved about as much to “birthers” as any old piece of paper might, not surprising when many dedicated to the concept of Obama being foreign-born most likely have fake diplomas from Whatsamatta U hanging on their walls.

FactCheck.org, the non-partisan website, was allowed to examine the physical copy of the birth certificate in August 2008, and concluded it was real, that it had a raised seal, a signature and met all the State Department criteria for proof of citizenship. Combined with the state’s recognition that the record was real—and contemporary newspaper announcements of Obama’s birth, submitted by the hospitals —they concluded that he was a natural born citizen.

Hawaii has repeatedly confirmed the document’s authenticity.

“I, Dr. Chiyome Fukino, director of the Hawai’i State Department of Health, have seen the original vital records maintained on file by the Hawai’i State Department of Health verifying Barrack (sic) Hussein Obama was born in Hawai’i and is a natural-born American citizen,” one exasperated state official said in 2008 and again in 2009 in a statement.

“Of course, it’s distantly possible that Obama’s grandparents may have planted the announcement just in case their grandson needed to prove his U.S. citizenship in order to run for president someday,” FactCheck concluded. But, “those who choose to go down that path should first equip themselves with a high-quality tinfoil hat.”

As 2012 looms … as an election year or the end of the world, you make the call … those tinfoil hats should be mandatory.

Of course, not all Republicans have fallen under the lobotomy blade …

Some Republicans take the position out of a basic respect for facts, but they also worry about its consequences for their party.

“It makes us look weird. It makes us look crazy. It makes us look demented. It makes us look sick, troubled, and not suitable for civilized company,” one of the first conservatives to turn against the birthers, talk show host Michael Medved, said in 2009. “I’m not a conspiracist, but this could be a very big conspiracy to make conservatives disgrace themselves.”

Hm.

What if …

Donald Trump has been hired by the Dems to stoke the fire under the bonkers birthers … cuz just maybe he’s needing a few extra bucks for those hair plugs he’s needing … so finds it worth it to make a complete ass of himself on the alter of complete assdome in hopes of either fooling all of the people all of the time or just enough idiots for long enough to be president or make the GOP a laughing stock.

There’s a theory …

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What do Emperor Nero, Warren Beatty, Rev. Jim Jones and a guitarist known as El Prickito have in common with Muammar Gaddafi?

They’re all narcissists.

The NHS definition of NPD:

Narcissistic personality disorder is a condition in which people have an inflated sense of self-importance and an extreme preoccupation with themselves

The causes of this disorder are unknown …

A person with narcissistic personality disorder may:

* React to criticism with rage, shame, or humiliation
* Take advantage of other people to achieve his or her own goals
* Have excessive feelings of self-importance
* Exaggerate achievements and talents
* Be preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence, or ideal love
* Have unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
* Need constant attention and admiration
* Disregard the feelings of others, and have little ability to feel empathy
* Have obsessive self-interest
* Pursue mainly selfish goals

It’s this article that had me researching narcissistic personality disorder again today, even though it has been a topic here on the blog recently.

Given the present circumstances in Libya a revisit is timely.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has a narcissistic personality disorder which makes him feel all-powerful and rebel against those who criticise him, a Libyan exile said on Tuesday.

“He feels grandiose and omnipotent… he thinks only of his own interests,” David Gerbi said at a presentation at the University of the Witwatersrand.

“He’s killing people in pursuit of power,” he said.

Yes, much like another famous narcissist, Adolph Hitler, and as with Hitler there is no dealing to be done, no sense to be made, no compromises possible, as is shown in a definitive look at narcissistic personality disorder:

Trying to reform narcissists by reasoning with them or by appealing to their better nature is about as effective as spitting in the ocean. What you see is what you get: they have no better nature. The fundamental problem here is that narcissists lack empathy.

Lacking empathy is a profound disturbance to the narcissist’s thinking (cognition) and feeling (affectivity). Even when very intelligent, narcissists can’t reason well.

Gaddafi had managed, through some pretty typical narcissistic practices … lies, schmoozing, bribery … to “charm” his way out of his previous incarnation as the epitome of evil, but the present circumstances that throw himself in his face are completely intolerable and “deserve” nothing less than everything he can lob at those with the audacity to find him anything other than the perfect leader.

Yesterday’s declaration of a ceasefire is followed today by a full-scale attack on Benghazi, and no matter what he says, what promises he may make under whatever duress the international community may actually … eventually … exert, this man will never do as much as acknowledge a single fault.

It’s worth some time to examine how it is that some so obviously suffering such an obnoxious personality disorder manage to so often get what they want. The fact that they’re tenacious certainly works for them, as does a complete lack of ethics which allows employment of anything it takes to get ahead.

Complicating matters considerably, however, is the healthy person’s incomprehension … disbelief, even … that such heartless cruelty can actually exist in another human being.

Could millions of pre-WWII Germans have signed on to Naziism had they been able to conceive of the true mind of Hitler? Of course there were many reasons his shit floated, but had he not the compulsion to feed his ego machine things could have been much different.

Would those hundreds of People’s Temple folks have served up the Kool-Aid if they’d noticed early on that Jim Jones had a bit of an issue with power and control and put him in his place?

The Reverend, Hitler, Gaddafi … Warren Beatty, even … with their grandiose come-ons, promises of whatever and outright lies lull the unsuspecting into the fold, then hammer them into the ground in hopes they never raise their eyes or voices again.

“Normal” people who see the world as a somewhat ordered state where actions make sense assume others recognize right from wrong without understanding that in the narcissists mind the only “right” is theirs and everything else is just wrong.

That’s not an easy mindset to grasp for the empathic, the healthy, but when the narcissist has an army at his beck and call others need to realize what they’re dealing with. I can only hope … with little faith … that the UN and nations now contemplating Libya are getting the picture.

As for the run-of-the-mill narcissist … well …

Now, it is possible to have a relatively smooth relationship with a narcissist, and it’s possible to maintain it for a long time. The first requirement for this, though, is distance: this simply cannot be done with a narcissist you live with.

Well … yeah … but even the distance thing gets old …

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Although I understand the BBC feeling the need to place a few items of “good news” on their website since there’s so much nasty crap going on in this world of hurt, they shot wide of the mark with this story on a “baby bin” in South Africa.

As if the photo alone doesn’t provide quite enough bleak, the copy in the report is gag-invoking on many levels and was very obviously written by someone who has no clue to the sensitivities of the adoption world.

Most people would not give a second glance to the metal hatch on a wall in Hillbrow Street in Johannesburg’s tough Berea suburb.

But the “Door of Hope” is saving the lives of scores of unwanted babies.

Mothers can place their babies, usually newborn, inside and leave them anonymously to be found and cared for.

Awww. How warm and fuzzy, heh?

Well … no.

The reality being that much of Johannesburg is dirt poor, AIDS infected, drug-riddled and that many pregnancies occur outside the realm of ability to care for a child, there are many, many babies born in conditions that offer few options.

Yes, putting a baby in a “bin” that will lead to food and warmth, rather than death, is an option and it does save lives, but the fact that an average of sixteen babies per month are being deposited is not “good news”.

These are the lucky few – they are alive and have someone to care for them.

And if the orphanage has its way, they will soon be adopted by families who can provide for them.

The lucky few … hm …

Sure, when paragraphs like that are juxtaposed against the following, it can warm some cockles …

Child Welfare South Africa (CWSA) – the country’s largest non-governmental organisation – says more than 2,000 children are abandoned in the country every year – a 30% increase in the past three years.

Many of them are found near death in rubbish bins, wrapped in plastic bags, inside toilets, shoe boxes, open fields and parks and often die within hours of birth from dehydration, starvation or hypothermia.

Horrific thought, heh? Sure. An orphanage is certainly a better fate, and those who get the baby bin rather than the rubbish bin can be considered “lucky”-ish, but stories like this miss the point by so wide a margin.

For starters, the issue isn’t one of babies, but the entire shredded fabric of South African society, and a piece here and there about a few babies being “saved” does nothing but provide a tiny diversion from the truth of the matter that is life in Johannesburg.

As adult adoptees will point out through the benefit of their experience, there’s nothing lucky about being stripped of all history, and although I have often taken issue with those who state they’d “rather be dead than adopted”, starting life in a loss as great as abandonment is devastating at a cellular level.

Orphanage care, no matter how compassionate, is still institutional, and orphanages in South Africa are far from well-funded. The more babies they have, the more institutional the care out of necessity.

We then come to specifics on the adoption thing, of which even a mention is ridiculous to the point of cruelty. South Africa is such a bloody mess that potential adoptive families in the country are almost nonexistent. As for adoption by families from other countries … well … here’s how it looks from the USA.

South African law recognizes two kinds of adoptions by foreigners:

1) Local adoptions of children resident in South Africa by foreign residents of South Africa, and

2) Intercountry adoptions of children resident in South Africa by foreign citizens residing abroad.

The first category (“non-Hague adoption”) requires the foreign adoptive parent(s) to be resident for five years in South Africa, and the adoptions are handled by an accredited agency and finalized by the Department of Social Development under laws relating to local adoptions. Note: Under applicable U.S. laws and regulations, children adopted in non-Hague adoptions will only be eligible for immigration to the United States after a waiting period of two years’ residence and two years’ legal custody with the adoptive parent(s).

The second category (“Hague adoption”) is only available to citizens of countries with a working agreement between the prospective adoptive parent’s country of origin and South Africa. As of this writing, there have been no working agreements finalized between South African and U.S. adoption service providers. Please contact the U.S. Consulate Johannesburg Immigrant Visa Unit (contact information below) for the latest information regarding adoption in South Africa.

There have been a number of cases in which American Citizens have been issued “Guardianship Orders” from the South African High Court. These orders do not constitute “irrevocable release for adoption and immigration” as required by United States Immigration Law. As such, they cannot be used for immigration purposes.

In other words … uh … nope.

Bottom line on the BBC’s “feel good” efforts?

Show us something on real efforts tackling AIDS prevention, controlling drug cartels, rights and education for women, stemming violence and alleviating poverty.

Yes, I know. That’s not easy, is it?

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A thought pondered publicly on my facebook page yesterday:

Hard to decide which is worse today … mother nature or human nature …

Since my thoughts were bouncing around between the hell in Japan going on now, the mess in Libya and the safety of friends in Bahrain … and feeling bloody helpless on all fronts … it seemed a valid point to focus upon.

Responses provide perspectives, as always …

Claire: nah – mother nature does not know spite – revenge – greed. She is an equal opportunities destroyer. Human nature picks off the weak, the frial, the least able to defend themselves.

Wow – that was a bleak thought!!

Bill: Gotta vote for human nature. Mother Nature is great. As Claire pointed out, she is equal opportunity. Do something stupid you get what you probably deserve. Act responsibly, sustainable and with the flow instead of against it and you’re golden. Mostly.

Yes, it does boil down to a case of Nature vs Nuture Murder.

There’s so often very little kind in mankind, as today’s world shows only too well. At a time when thousands upon thousands of fellow humans are suffering the consequences of living on our natural world, the best other thousands can come up with is beating the crap out of their neighbors.

Can we even imagine a world where dealing with the mindless harshness of our planet would be a group effort of global dimensions?

We all know shit happens … quakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, fires, floods, droughts, avalanches, polar shifts, incoming asteroids, solar flares, and on and on and on … and that we are frail, furless creatures at the mercy of said shit. Doesn’t it seem that should be enough to bond us together as a species?

If resources were poured into hedging bets against the forces of nature instead of building weapons stores, our response to catastrophic events would look nothing like it does today. We’d live in safer, stronger places, have plenty of food and water set aside for emergencies and take care of each other, our children, and our futures.

After all, are we not sentient beings? Don’t we have the intelligence to see big pictures, understand consequences and make plans?

How can it happen that, given the instability and unpredictability of the rock we spin through space upon, the total stupidity of placing enough importance on ever-so-slight differences of opinion to have us killing each other makes any sense at all to anyone?

Sure, there were times when Japan was as if another planet and what happened there impacted no one else, when some asshole despot could wipe out a good percentage of his population and nobody would be the wiser. That, however, is no longer the world we live in, and we must be really fucking stupid if we think what happens over there can’t be biting our own personal ass within days or hours or minutes.

And maybe that is the answer: We ARE that fucking stupid.

We’ll continue as humans to be perpetually taken unawares when shit happens, to abuse each other in any way seems fit at any given moment, to foul our own dens and kill our own kind over things that don’t matter in the slightest in any big picture. We’ll learn little from disasters, continue making the same mistakes over and over again and suffer the consequences while shocked by events.

Yep. We are THAT fucking stupid.

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On his way to the Theatre of Pompey (where he would be assassinated), Caesar saw a seer who had foretold that harm would come to him not later than the Ides of March. Caesar joked, “Well, the Ides of March have come”, to which the seer replied “Ay, they have come, but they are not gone.”

Well, we know how that turned out …

(And if somehow you don’t, read some history, or some Shakespeare and get with the program.)

Caesar:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.

Caesar:
What man is that?

Brutus:
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

Yes, today is the Ides of March … the 15th … and given all going on, a bit of bewaring sounds like a plan.

Between recent revelations on personal betrayals and news updates from the wider world, I’m reeling, and suggesting those with an option to spend a day under the covers with a diverting novel should bloody well do exactly that.

While there, some counting of blessings might happen, too, since if you have covers to hide under you’re better off than thousands of others today. Sometimes it is all about perspective.

Anyone whose Ides do NOT include impending assassination, mass destruction, incoming artillery, hourly earthquakes and a forced hunt for food, water, shelter and loved ones should actually be feeling pretty fucking lucky about now.

Of course, that’s no need to push it. What happens next is anybody’s guess, and assuming you’re cool because you don’t happen to be in Japan or Libya or Ivory Coast or Bahrain … pick a mess, any mess … could be an assumption based on quicksand.

It is crystal clear today that we could all easily be within hours of anything from getting hit by a bus to a nuclear event with global consequences, and as depressing as that though may be, it should also set the wake-up call bell ringing.

What we have is what we have, and when we have it is now. If it sucks, we deal with it it. If it’s great, we damned well should appreciate and enjoy.

Spending the little time we have on the Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda cha-cha-cha of the past while hoping for the Tomorrow Tango to start very possibly could be last thing we do.

Yes, the Ides of March have come, and those of us still standing can and should take comfort, but as the seer said, “Ay, they have come, but they are not gone.”

It ain’t over ’til it’s over.

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May You Live In Interesting TimesHappy 12th of March 2011.

Today is not a holiday that I know of, nor does it mark any specific event. Nope. It just happens to be a Saturday in Seychelles that found me thinking we’re not even a quarter of the way through the year yet, but OH! what an amazing amount of shit has already gone down.

We’re 71 days into 2011 … SEVENTY-ONE DAYS … and already the world has been burning and flooding and rocking and rolling and … well, you know.

Should we be surprised when the first 12 days brought at least:

* Earthquake magnitude 6.9 Argentina-January 1

* Earthquake magnitude 5.2 – Southern XinJiang, China-January 1

* Earthquake 7.1 magnitude Chile-January 2

* More Than 1,000 Dead Birds Fall From Sky in Arkansas-January 2

* Dead fish cover 20-mile section of Arkansas River-January 2

* Uganda yellow fever outbreak kills more than 40-January 3

* Earthquake Near Japan Triggers Tsunami Warning-January 3

* Powerful earthquake hits south-east Iran-January 3

* Earthquake 7.0 magnitude hits northern Argentina-January 3

* Hundreds of dead blackbirds found in Louisiana-January 3

* 10,000s of Birds found dead in Manitoba-January 3

* Thousands of Birds fall from the sky in South America-January 3

* Major Flood in Rockhampto,Australia-January 3

* Dead Birds Found In Kentucky-January 4

* 100 tons of dead fish wash up on Brazil’s shores-January 4

* Hundreds of dead birds found in East Texas-January 5

* Dead birds in Sweden, millions of dead fish in Maryland, Brazil and New Zealand-January 5

* Shift of Earth’s magnetic north pole affects Tampa airport-January 5

* 40,000 crabs found dead on England beaches-January 6

* Heavy floods leave at least 35 dead in Brazil-January 6

* Earthquake 4.5 magnitude in California-January 12

* Huge Waves Destroy Homes in E. Indonesia-January 12

Since then we’ve had floods and fires in Australia and the Middle-Atlantic states of America, monster snow storms in the US and Europe, and far too many earthquakes, including the February devastation in New Zealand and what’s happening right now in Japan.

The shaky ground in Northern Africa and the Middle East came with less warning than the tenuous quake predictions we’ve grown accustomed to, but the damage is huge and the aftershocks will continue for a long time, and although civil war in Africa is no surprise, what’s happening now in Ivory Coast is still a bit of a shocker. And, of course there’s Libya.

That it’s just now that thirty-seven priests are busted in Philadelphia for sex abuse almost figures, but adding it to the ever-growing pile of daily crap going on makes it all smell a bit worse.

Even all this is just a small piece of a much-submerged iceberg when it comes to the suffering going on in the world, and with the global media so busy covering what must be covered today, a lot of what else is going on, was going on, or will be happening soon is off the radar of most of us.

I can’t help having that assumed version of a Chinese curse come to mind:

寧為太平犬,不做亂世人

Translated commonly to go something like this:

May you live in interesting times.

(And by the way, this is thought to be one of three curses, the others being, “May you come to the attention of powerful people,” and, “May your wishes be granted.”)

Interesting times these are, and considering the fact we’re only 71 days into the year so far, my plan is to make the most of what I have, enjoy this lovely view and the ground being still beneath my feet, hope the sky doesn’t start raining dead birds and that we get through this year’s elections with nothing more going on than the usual grousing.

There are 294 days to go … so hang on with me and let’s see what happens on the rest of this ride, shall we?

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Ancient Mexican Bert. Ernie may have been looted ...

Although there is much happening in life and the world I would like to vent thoughts about, I’m under deadline on a book at the mo and employing mental and finger skills there, so the blog suffers.

Squeezing the work in between one big job and another bigger one means I have only weeks to go from zero to done and I’m feeling the pinch. Add to that the fact that the weather is stunning and the beach beckons big time and composing blog posts jumps to the bottom of the to-do list.

There is, however, time this lovely morning for a bit of H&H (Harvest and Harangue), so let’s get to it, shall we?

Starting with this … the usual limp dick of the UN attempting to insert itself:

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the body’s Security Council to take “decisive action” over the Libya crisis.

That’ll do it, heh? Sure … form a committee.

My fav line in the story, though, is from Gaddafi Junior, the colonel’s son, Saif:

Visitors to Tripoli would not hear gunfire but might hear fireworks, Mr Gaddafi said.

Hilarity!

A look at Saif’s former impersonation of reasonable is interesting as well. From just two years ago:

Having just donated £1.5m to the university to fund its Global Governance Unit, he was introduced in glowing terms by the university’s Professor David Held, who said:

“I’ve come to know Saif as someone who looks to democracy, civil society and deep liberal values for the core of his inspiration.”

Funny what £1.5 mil and a load of crap will get you …

One the “Hey, that’s kinda cool” front, a new theory on gravity has some pull this morning.

A controversial theory that challenges the existence of dark matter has been buoyed by studies of gas-rich galaxies.

Instead of invoking dark matter, the Modified Newtonian Dynamics theory says that the effects of gravity change in places where its pull is very low.

And if you think you’ve got issues getting your head around this stuff, check out the take of a scientist involved in the work:

“Sometimes I wish I didn’t work on this,” Professor McGaugh said. “If your own data don’t get in your face about this, it’s easy to say ‘so-and-so screwed up’.”

No kidding, Dude.

Having experienced the wonders of Mexico’s rich history, this story on looting of historic sites there is disturbing.

Mexico signed an international treaty in 1972 that prohibits the extraction and trade in archaeological artefacts, with punishment of up to 12 years in jail for such a crime.

But, almost four decades on, experts say the demand from abroad for pre-Hispanic pieces, especially the US, shows no signs of abating.

Not surprising since selling heritage has been a going concern all over the world, but still a regrettable loss … just ask the Greeks.

I was recently introduced to the wonders of incognito British graffiti artist, Banksy, so was drawn to this program on him “leaving his social commentary” in L.A.. Very cool stuff.

And speaking of things British, I can’t end this post without a mention of the Covent Garden restaurant now serving up breast milk ice cream.

The dessert, called Baby Gaga, is churned with donations from London mother Victoria Hiley, and served with a rusk and an optional shot of Calpol or Bonjela.

At £14 ($22.50) a serving, Baby Gaga must be udderly delicious …

And that’s it for today. Thanks for dropping by …

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The assault on CBS News chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan in Egypt stunned the news community, but it also drew attention to a growing problem: the world is becoming a far more dangerous place for reporters.

Uh … HELLLLLLO!

The quote is from the BBC and one of the more simplistic bits of “news” I’ve read in a while … and that’s saying something.

Yes, folks in Britain and America might be forgiven for thinking covering the news is all about straight, white teeth and proper enunciation, since, after all, that is pretty much what it IS about since Fox and Sky took over the world, but the point needs to be made that there is a difference between the infotainment served up tidily by pretty peeps and NEWS.

There’s so little journalism happening these days that consumers have taken to preferring the predigested pap they’re being fed daily. Tasty little tidbits served up by the attractive and well-dressed are so much easier to swallow than the rough grit of real-world happenings that require thorough chewing.

Given the popularity of reality TV, is it any wonder viewers have trouble spotting the difference between Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise and mass rapes along the Congo? With that being the case, it makes perfect sense that pretty girls with microphones should be sent into unpredictable masses of angry, armed people with the expectation they deliver the story through perfectly glossed lips.

Much of the rest of the world understands the dangers of reporting news, a comprehension that tends to garner respect for those who actually do that … who put their asses on the line to gather information, distribute it, and get the word out so those not in-the-know know something.

It’s not simply a case of Anderson Cooper being punched up, either, as made clear by Reporters Without Borders on a regular basis. For example, according to that organization (and reliable it is), so far this year … and we’re not even done with February yet … there have been five journalists killed, one media assistant killed, 152 journalists imprisoned along with 9 media assistants and 116 netzens.

This list of journalists killed in Russia since the 1990s gives a taste of how dangerous reporting the news can be in that country.

Those in power know the power of the press … they always have:

I fear three newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets.
~Napoleon

The Middle East is no New Orleans Square these days, and although the pretty blonde is getting a lot of coverage by those shocked at her treatment, not so much has been said about the dead journalist in Iraq, but it should be a very hot topic.

Iraq ranked first on CPJ’s [Committee to Protect Journalists] 2010 Impunity Index, which lists countries where journalists are murdered on a recurring basis and governments are unable or unwilling to prosecute the killers. Not a single journalist murder since 2003 has been seriously investigated by authorities, and not a single perpetrator has been brought to justice, CPJ research shows.

But back to Lara Logan for a mo …

For all I know, she may be the toughest news hound since Margaret Bourke-White, in which case she knew the risks and went for the story regardless. Maybe she even studied at Columbia under a Ms Matloff, who teaches a war reporting course at Columbia University’s prestigious school of journalism who gives this list of “precautions to minimise the risk and gravity of sexual assault in danger zones”:

* Wear a sturdy belt
* Don’t wear a ponytail or necklace that can be grabbed
* Buy a door alarm for use in hotels
* Don’t take hotel rooms with balconies or easily accessible windows
* Keep a can of deodorant by the bed
* Move furniture in front of hotel room doors
* Don’t drink alcohol alone with men, particularly in the Middle East
* Carry a rape whistle
* Take male colleagues with you in volatile situations
* Tell an assailant that you are pregnant, HIV positive or menstruating
* Urinate, vomit or defecate on yourself

Sounds like good advice for someone exiting Main Street after dark and parked all the way out in Goofy, but the world isn’t Disneyland. Really. It isn’t.

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