Remember Haleh Esfandiari, the scholar who was detained for eight months on a recent trip to Iran to visit her elderly mother? She's just co-authored a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education titled "When Promoting Democracy Is Counterproductive."
A longtime advocate of reconciliation between Iran and the United States, Esfandiari points to some unintended yet entirely predictable consequences of bellicose posturing combined with the U.S.'s recent $75 million appropriation for "democracy promotion" in Iran. U.S. policy has succeeded in nothing so much as inflaming paranoia among elements of the Iranian government—some of it justified, arguably—which has in turn contributed to what the authors term "a broad crackdown on Iran's civil society." Of course, Esfandiari learned this the hard way when she was accused of conspiring against the regime and was thrown into Iran's Evin Prison. More from the article (which requires a subscription):
UCLA law prof Richard Sander has a resume that screams bleeding heart liberal. A former Vista volunteer, he has spent his whole life studying social and economic inequality. Lately, though, Sander has won a following from the Clarence Thomas fan club and other affirmative action foes. Sander has published research showing that only one in three African-Americans who goes to an American law school passes the bar on the first try, and that the majority never go on to be lawyers. For this, Sander blames affirmative action.
Sander has argued that black students, admitted with weaker academic records, are unprepared for the law schools that admitted them, and as a result, many dropped out or failed to pass the bar when they did graduate. Sander wants to investigate the phenomenon further, and recently asked the the State Bar of California for permission to mine its 30-years worth of data on student test scores, bar passage rates and law school admissions to learn more about how black law students are faring.
Civil rights groups support the study, but the bar apparently sees it as waaay too controversial, and voted recently to keep Sander out, even though it has given access to other researchers. Naturally, Fox News sees a conspiracy here....
This week, French techno duos get silly, Joy Division gets the dub treatment, Beirut gets, uh, weird, and who likes Radiohead? Everybody likes Radiohead!
10. Daft Punk & Various Artists 10-Minute Louis Vuitton Fashion Show Score (Video below, audio at Discobelle)
Where do they get the time for all this stuff? This stripped-down mix features rearranged Daft Punk hits as well as sly references to Kanye, Justice and Ratatat; it almost makes me kind of care about the silly fashions. What's next, Daft Punk score the Chili Cookoff?
9. Justice "D.A.N.C.E." (Live on Jimmy Kimmel, 10/9/07)
In the biggest electro-prank since the KLF had a metal group perform for them at the BRIT awards in 1992, Justice thumb their nose at pseudo-live performances, standing off to the side of the stage as a variety of Hollywood Boulevard celebrity impersonators mime along to the song. Look, it's Stevie Wonder on drums!
8. Jah Division "Heart and Soul" (mp3 at The Social Registry or listen at Jah Division's MySpace)
Okay here's what a nerd I am: hearing this buzzy, dubby cover instantly reminded me that New Order and reggae have come together at least once before: on the phenomenal "silver" Peel Sessions EP, where they do an extended cover of Keith Hudson's "Turn the Heater On." Man, so good! I'll have to get an mp3 up of that next week. Anyway this is good too.
7. Underworld "Crocodile" (from Oblivion With Bells on Different Records)
(mp3 from Are You Light Green)
What a long strange trip it's been for the British electronic combo. After lineup (and life) changes, it's surprising to realize this is only their fifth studio album in their "Mark 2" incarnation. They used to excel at a kind of ecstatic, hands-in-the-air release, but times have changed, and now they're more thoughtful. "Crocodile" has their standard driving beat, but Karl Hyde's filtered vocals are melancholy: "All these things/In me," he sings, unable to name them.
6. Cut Copy "So Haunted" (from In Ghost Colours out in March, 2008 on Modular)
(Stream at The Fader)
Australia's Cut Copy made a great, underappreciated album in 2004, Bright Like Neon Love, whose fashionable cover helped it get lumped in with all the other minimal electro/rock of that heady year, but the surprisingly solid songwriting made it something special. Now they're back, and, jeez, kind of different. "Haunted," for its first 2/3, is a full-on rock song, making the sweeping electronic breakdown all the more exciting. Plus, major bonus points for use of the tinkling xylophone we heard on LCD Soundsystem's "Someone Great."
Friday marked the anniversary of Christopher Columbus' chance landing in the Americas. To mark the occasion, Columbus Day has traditionally been celebrated throughout the hemisphere, yet these days in Latin America it is more in protest than in recognition.
We might have a few places that have chosen to change the holiday to reflect what Columbus meant to the native peoplein Berkeley it's officially Indigenous People's Day, in South Dakota it's Native American Day, and in Hawaii it isn't even a holidaybut for the most part the legend of Columbus holds strong and there have been few attempts, in our textbooks or statehouses, to change the day's intention.
In Latin America, though, it's national leaders who are working to readjust the public's view of Columbus and his impact on the Americas. In Venezuela, Hugo Chavez renamed Columbus Day and Avenue Columbus to Indigenous Resistance Day and Avenue Indigenous Resistance. Chavez has made Venezuela's 35 different tribes visible, literally, to the urban public by broadcasting television stations from their regions. Bolivia's Evo Morales marked the anniversary by attending a conference of indigenous people from across Latin America in Chapare, Bolivia.
Last week city officials in Caracas confirmed that a statue of Columbus that was toppled in a square three years ago will not be restored. That statue could very well have been that of any dictator, torn down by the masses as they take to the streets as a new voice begins to emerge.
Under fierce attack by Democrats over the children's health insurance plan, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said Sunday Republicans will unveil their own health care plan over the next few months.
"Republicans are working on a plan that will provide access to all Americans to high quality health insurance, make sure that we increase the quality of insurance that we have in American, and we want to foster a sprit of innovation," said Boehner on "Fox News Sunday." "This is a plan we'll see over the next coming months where we put the patients in charge of their health care."
I agree with Steve Benen's analysis: "I'm well aware of the fact that the Republican plans for universal coverage aren't going to be very good. That's the not the point. It's more important to realize the big picture we'll soon have Dems and Republicans arguing not over whether to have every American insured, but how best to have every American insured."
Yup. The debate is shifting in the right direction. Soon, it will be very easy for a Democratic president to put a universal health care plan forward to the American people, because the need for such a plan will already be well-established.
The same can be said for global warming, in large part thanks to Nobel laureate Al Gore. It cannot be said for the Iraq War. It feels like that issue is still being fought on Republicans' turf.
Getting out of Iraq will enable us to play a constructive role in a renewed Middle East peace process that would mean security and normal relations for Israel and the Palestinians. The fundamental elements of a final agreement have been clear since 2000: a Palestinian state in Gaza and the West Bank in return for a declaration that the conflict is over, recognition of Israel's right to exist, guarantees of Israeli security, diplomatic recognition of Israel, and normalization of its relations with Arab states. U.S. diplomacy is critical in helping to resolve this conflict. In addition to facilitating negotiations, we must engage in regional diplomacy to gain Arab support for a Palestinian leadership that is committed to peace and willing to engage in a dialogue with the Israelis. Whether or not the United States makes progress in helping to broker a final agreement, consistent U.S. involvement can lower the level of violence and restore our credibility in the region.
It will be nice to have a president come into office with this mindset. In comparison, George W. Bush announced at his first National Security Council meeting, "We're going to tilt back toward Israel." When Colin Powell warned that such an attitude might lead to excessive uses of force by the Israeli army and a victimized Palestinian population, Bush responded, "Sometimes a show for force by one side can really clarify things."
So we're miles ahead of nonsense. In fact, a commander-in-chief with Clinton's position on the issue would mean that we're roughly back to the attitudes that led to the last serious shot at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, under President You-Know-Who. Which begs the question, if Bill is looking for role as First Gent ("If Hillary wins, I want to do whatever she wants me to do."), maybe he can be America's lead negotiator on this issue. Lord knows he's got the gravitas and the experience.
The ocean will likely nurse a hangover from our fossil fuel use for hundreds of thousands of years. Researchers at Southampton University modeled the movement of carbon through the ocean and the atmosphere. In the model, they dosed the planet with 4000 gigatons of carbon to simulate the burning of all fossil fuel reserves between 1900 to 2300, reports Environmental Science and Technology. At first, the ocean became more acidic. But over many millennia, it became more alkaline and had higher levels of dissolved inorganic carbon, finally achieving a steady state with atmospheric CO2 levels exceeding those prior to fossil fuel burning. As a result, the researchers suggest, Earth probably won't ever completely recover, as it did in the past when CO2 levels were high. "The system converges to a new equilibrium," the authors write.
In my office, I have 18 or so people there, and I ask them to compute line 63, which is their tax, and then add payroll taxes, and compare it to line 43, which is their taxable income. And these people who make anywhere from $50,000 to $750,000 a year ... and the lowest person in the office pays a higher rate than I do. I paid 17.7 percent last year, counting payroll taxes. ... The [employees'] average was twice mine. [Private equity managers] say they fix up companies and they get paid for doing that. On balance, they're paying a 15 percent tax rate on that and no payroll taxes, and somebody that fixes up the restroom is paying 15.3 percent in payroll taxes, just to start with. [The janitor who works] for peanuts pays a higher tax rate than people who fix up companies [for] hundreds of millions of dollars annually in income [emphasis added].
That's right: on average, Warren Buffett's employees pay twice as much of their income in taxes as he does. That means you probably pay a higher percentage of your income in taxes than the second-richest person in the world. Thank God the new Democratic Congress is ignoring the fact that the industry gave "77 percent of its $8.2 million in donations to Democratic candidates" and cracking down on unfairly regressive taxation anyway. Oh, wait:
In Washington, D.C. last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's office confirmed that the Senate will take no action this year on closing the tax loophole that saves private equity and other private investment fund managers an estimated $12 billion a year.
So what does all that money buy besides huge yachts? Well, it looks like there's a sale on politicians! Get them while the getting is good!
Yet another reason to procrastinate about house cleaning. A new study from Spain shows that using household cleaning sprays and air fresheners as little as once a week can raise the risk of developing asthma in adults, reports the American Thoracic Society. The risk increased with frequency of cleaning and number of different sprays used, but on average was about 30 to 50 percent higher in people regularly exposed to cleaning sprays than in others. Air fresheners, furniture cleaners, and glass-cleaners, had a particularly nasty effect. Sprays have been associated with increased asthma in cleaning professionals, but not amateurs. Until now. Good enough reason to retire my spray gun. Or get a respirator.