The historical powerhouse that is South African Rugby won the World Cup on Saturday, defeating England 15-6 and bringing pride to this rugby-mad country. But the decision yesterday to drop Soweto from the team's victory parade itinerary is making people question whether the squad meant only to bring pride to the Afrikaners for whom rugby has been a whites-only tradition throughout South Africa's tumultuous history.

Soweto, a black township outside of the largest and most populous city in South Africa, Johannesburg, has been the epicenter of social justice movements and a thriving black culture since the first anti-apartheid uprisings, which occurred there in 1976. Despite the fact that South African rugby has historically been a white sport, this year's World Cup rallied the whole nation behind the Springboks (the nickname of the national team). Said African National Congress lawmaker Tsietsi Louw, "During the finals, the fan parks were filled with black people. The Township shebeens [bars] ran out of drinks with blacks supporting their team."

South African Rugby Federation officials blamed the omission of Soweto on time constraints and logistics, but this is an unconvincing excuse considering the team's history of not actively recruiting young blacks or trying to build popularity in the black community. What makes this so ironic is that although the Springboks only have two black players, one of them is Bryan Habana, who was just named 2007 World Player of the Year.

—Andre Sternberg

What did the famous British parliamentarian and political philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-1797) have to say about the internet and our current political circumstances? Quite a bit, it turns out.

Burke is beloved by conservative intellectuals. George Will, for instance, mentions him all the time. Quoting Burke gives their pronouncements a nice glossy sheen.

Yet their Burke-worship is genuinely bizarre. Few people understand this, since few people (including conservative intellectuals) bother to read what Burke wrote. Anyone who does, though, will immediately understand how strongly Burke would have opposed today's conservative movement, since he strongly opposed their 18th century equivalents.

This is particularly clear in Burke's 1770 pamphlet, "Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents." It's not merely that Burke was writing during a time of uprisings in overseas colonies, and in opposition to a monarch named George who was trying to expand executive power and neuter the legislative branch. Almost every sentence Burke wrote applies precisely to today.

For instance, in one passage Burke sounds like he's describing current efforts by MoveOn and blogs to prevent Congress from granting telecom companies immunity for violating FISA:

When it comes time to commemorate the pop culture of the '00s, I sincerely hope it doesn't happen via a VH1 "I Love the '90s" clone. I hope it is online, viral, and ADDed to the extreme—in short, I hope it befits this glorious decade.

Maybe it'll look something like this...

If you can identify over 75 percent of the references in that video, you are basically Perez Hilton. If you can identify 50-75 percent, you win a free Nintendo Wii and a case of Sparks. If you can identify 25-50 percent, you need to use YouTube more. If you can identify under 25 percent, you can return to your volume of Elizabeth Barrett Browning poetry and not worry about it.

(This has nothing to do with social issues or political commentary. But if the squares at The Corner can post it, so can I.)

Daniel Siebert, who was convicted of capital murder in 1987, was scheduled to be executed yesterday at Holman State Prison in Atmore, Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court upheld his execution even though Siebert's lawyers argued that it should be postponed until the U.S. Supreme Court determines the constitutionality of lethal injection next year.

Alabama's determination to execute Siebert comes despite the fact that he is suffering from terminal cancer and only has a few months to live anyway. Locking up criminals is supposed to serve four aims—rehabilitation, retribution, deterrence, and societal protection. But Siebert's case surely proves that Alabama seeks only one of those ends when it comes to capital punishment: retribution.

The southern state claims it shouldn't have to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether lethal injection is cruel or unusual because it has already changed its procedure in order to ensure that the condemned is not experiencing pain while he is being put to death. But the new safeguards are hardly adequate and they really don't address the problem. The Birmingham News reports that the adjustments consist of calling out the inmate's name, pinching his arm, and brushing a finger against his eyelash in order to see if he's conscious enough to feel pain. But the inmate cannot respond to such stimulation because one of the three chemicals used during lethal injection paralyzes him and makes it impossible for him to flinch when he's pinched, let alone cry out when the third deadly chemical pumps through his blood.

Thankfully the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals recognized the absurdity of all of this in the nick of time. On Wednesday it found that the changes to Alabama's procedure were insufficient, and delayed Siebert's execution until the U.S. Supreme Court makes its ruling. Maybe by then Siebert will have died from natural causes, rather than state-inflicted vengeance.

—Celia Perry

Jon Stewart has been a consistent supporter of gay rights on the Daily Show. From a website called, here's a collection of his "greatest gay moments." Worth checking out; includes video.

bsr_logo_white.pngYesterday I swung by the 2007 Business for Social Responsibility's annual conference. A BSR coordinator told me that more than 1,300 people had registered, and when I arrived, it looked as if most of them were milling around the imposing lobby of San Francisco's Grand Hyatt Regency hotel.

Why were they there? Cynics will always say that where business is concerned, social responsibility is useful only for PR purposes. In some cases, that still might be true, but these days, this idea is (thankfully) quickly becoming outmoded. At one session I attended, "Women's Health: The Key to Development?," the overall message was a no-brainer: When young female factory employees have access to medical care and information about workers' rights, absenteeism declines and overall morale improves. The logistics of such initiatives, though, can get hairy. In China, for example, factories typically won't allow any programs that could prompt workers to organize, so educators have to sneak lessons about labor rights into their health classes. Clever.

Music News

  • OiNK founder Alan Ellis posted bail after his arrest on Tuesday and gave a defiant interview to the Daily Telegraph, saying "I haven't done anything wrong... there is no music sold on the site," adding, ominously, that the music download directory was "no different [than] something like Google." Really, so I'm a moron for not buying OiNK stock too?

  • The B-52's are inspired enough by my collecting of a few of their videos here on the Riff that they've decided to record a new album, their first in 15 years. "Hey," they said to each other, "if the Riff likes us, I bet we still got it!" Well, actually, no, that's not how it happened, they say was a vacation in Maui or something that inspired them, but still, maybe we helped.
  • 1,730 guitarists strummed in unison at a stadium in Guwahati, India today in an attempt to break the world record for most guitarists playing together at a stadium in India. Or just "biggest guitar ensemble." Their song of choice? "Knocking on Heaven's Door." An organizer told Reuters, "Though we set a new world record, we are sad as we were expecting more than 2,000 guitarists." Talk about a negative Nelly.
  • San Francisco officials have withdrawn a planned honor for Snoop Dogg. What? No! Apparently a representative from mayor Gavin Newsom's office was supposed to present a proclamation for the rapper and a party promoter at the Exotic Erotic Ball, an annual Halloween- and sex-themed event this weekend, but the Newsom administration is a little jumpy after all the bad publicity they received for "Colt Studio Day." So this probably nixes my idea of an official "Fuck with Dre Day?" That settles it, I'm voting for Quintin.
  • Spotted in an American Spectator article (via Andrew Sullivan):

    Gov. [Mike] Huckabee [of Arkansas] had a propensity to be almost as prodigal with pardons as was his famous predecessor by the name of Clinton. Indeed, Hillary Clinton's campaign team is probably licking their chops at the prospect of Huck as the nominee, because one of his pardons, in particular, was so outlandish as to make Willie Horton's case in Massachusetts seem almost child's play by comparison. After Huckabee helped secure the release of already-well-known rapist Wayne Dumond, the released convict sexually assaulted and murdered a woman in Missouri.

    Yikes. The 30-second spot writes itself.

    harveyjohnson.gifYesterday, in response to the wildfires that have displaced more than a million people in California, FEMA's deputy administrator, Vice Admiral Harvey Johnson, called a last minute press conference. As Al Kamen recounts in today's Washington Post, it soon became clear that there was something very odd about the briefing. It seemed that the reporters in attendance were teeing up softball questions for Johnson to hit out of the park. One reporter asked, for instance, "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration." As Kamen put it, "the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness." That's because the "reporters" Johnson called on weren't reporters at all, but members of FEMA's PR shop, including the agency's deputy director of external affairs, Cindy Taylor, and its deputy director of public affairs Mike Widomski. Shameless.

    Update: Johnson has officially apologized for yesterday's PR stunt, saying "We can and must do better, and apologize for this error in judgment. Our intent was to provide useful information and be responsive to the many questions we have received." Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has called the episode "inexcusable and offensive to the secretary." Are heads going to roll?

    In the middle of a long and mostly sane Q&A with Slate, man-of-the-moment Mike Huckabee has this insane moment.

    Slate: Why is it unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon?
    Huckabee: They've already announced their intention to destroy Israel. They've already announced that they would love to invade Iraq and take its oil... This is not a nation building up nuclear arms to defend against somebody, because there is no one threatening them.

    I guess Mike Huckabee isn't aware who our vice president is. Or who our president is. Or who Rudy Giuliani, a man vying to be the next president, is. Nobody here is saying Iran should have a nuke, but pretending that Iran isn't threatened by the rhetoric of the United States, when that rhetoric is expressly designed to threaten Iran, is an act of willful denial.

    And there's also a moment where Huckabee, as a Christian evangelical, demonstrates the illogical reasoning people of his ilk use to justify discrimination against gays while professing to oppose discrimination against racial minorities.