Blogs

Blotted Democracy in India or Just no Democracy at All?

| Wed Oct. 31, 2007 2:03 AM EDT

Recently, the Human Rights Watch, in collaboration with Ensaaf, an Indian human rights organization, published a report addressing the impunity given to the Indian government for its human rights violations during the Punjab counterinsurgency from 1984-1995. Tens of thousands of people died and thousands more were the victims of arbitrary detention, torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances. To hide the evidence of their brutal actions, Indian security forces secretly cremated its victims. In just one district of Punjab, more than 6,000 cremations were uncovered by two human rights activists. The Indian government itself confessed to having illegally cremated more than 2,097 individuals in Amritsar alone. No one has been indicted to date. The HRW points out that the Indian government looks to the Punjab counterinsurgency operations as a model to follow elsewhere in India.

There has been a frightening amount of impunity granted to the state and its security forces: the anti Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in which the state was complicit in the killing of more than 2,000 people; the situation in Kashmir, the site of the largest troop deployment during peacetime in the world, where an estimated 40,000-60,000 have been killed and thousands are missing; and the atrocities in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur, including rape, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings which have all been documented.

The irony is that every time a violation like this occurs, it is referred to as a "blot on Indian democracy." Yet these situations don't appear to be deviations from an otherwise functioning democracy, but rather, something far more symptomatic of a state which has not only evaded, but disregarded, accountability, justice, and equality for all citizens.

—Neha Inamdar

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New Media Frontiers: Arkansas Ho!

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 10:18 PM EDT

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It's the kind of hyper-local story that's always been the bread and butter of mid-sized papers like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: A homeowner in suburban Sherwood confronts a man trying to steal a four-wheeler from his residence, fires pistol shots into the dark and, two days later, the would-be thief is found dead in a nearby ditch.

That story, to me, screams out for a few dozen column inches of cold, smudgy newsprint. Which is why it feels so odd that the website of the Little Rock-based Dem-Gaz now features a professionally-edited video report on the Sherwood incident, with swooshing digital graphics and a spiffy "Arkansas Online" intro sequence. There's something incongruous about watching an old-time Arkansan (or, as the really old-timers prefer, Arkansawyer) in a camo shirt talking about "firing five times into the top of these pine trees and … [emptying] the rest of the magazine of the gun into the creek bank" on a web-only clip with such high production values. Maybe that's because, amid the chatter about newspapers' new media imperative and the flash that goes with it, we forget that local stories are often, well, unexceptional.

I can say it's definitely a milestone that the rock-solid D-G (disclosure: I once worked there), whose owners are notoriously stuck in their ways, has finally embraced online journalism. The paper's homepage, released earlier this year, is flashy and content-heavy and looks great. New media has officially arrived in Arkansas. Whether the model is sustainable hinges on two issues: Is this really how folks want to get their local news? And will the extra videographers and web designers prove financially feasible?

—Justin Elliott

All I Want for Christmas is a Biodiesel Hummer. No, Really.

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 9:30 PM EDT

Think there are no real inventors anymore? That would be news to Johnathan Goodwin, proud creator of the world's most fuel-efficient Hummer.

Read the rest of this post on Mother Jones' environment and health blog, The Blue Marble.

—Casey Miner

All I Want for Christmas is a Biodiesel Hummer. No, Really.

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 9:20 PM EDT

Think there are no real inventors anymore? That would be news to Johnathan Goodwin, proud creator of the world's most fuel-efficient Hummer.

By combining biodiesel and hybrid technology and reconfiguring engines, Goodwin can double the fuel efficiency of a number of giant American cars and nearly eliminate their emissions, using almost nothing but stock GM parts (OK, and the occasional jet engine). He's currently working on the Governator's 1987 Wagoneer, and is slated to overhaul Neil Young's 1960 Lincoln Continental.

As for the country's decaying car capital, Goodwin has little sympathy, pointing out that "Detroit could do all this stuff overnight if it wanted to."

—Casey Miner

Breaking: Supreme Court Halts Execution in Mississippi

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 8:27 PM EDT

Today seven justices voted to postpone the execution of Mississippi death-row inmate Earl Wesley Berry, with Justices Scalia and Alito dissenting (predictably). This move sets the stage for what could be a national moratorium on the death penalty until the Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of lethal injection next year.

—Celia Perry

Clear Channel Bans New Bruce?

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 7:16 PM EDT

mojo-photo-nobruce.jpgBlogs are atwitter with the news that Clear Channel radio, famous for issuing company wide no-play edicts, has apparently issued another. But this time it's against The Boss, and that's even got Fox News upset:

Bruce Springsteen should be very happy. He has the No. 1 album, a possible Grammy for Best Album of the Year for "Magic," an album full of singles and a sold-out concert tour. Alas, there's a hitch: Radio will not play "Magic." In fact, sources tell me that Clear Channel has sent an edict to its classic rock stations not to play tracks from "Magic." But it's OK to play old Springsteen tracks such as "Dancing in the Dark," "Born to Run" and "Born in the USA."

While Bruce's left-leaning politics bring up memories of the recent blacklisting of the Dixie Chicks, I'm not entirely sure about this. First of all, "sources" say the memo was sent out to classic rock stations, which by definition are stations that play old music. We don't really have a classic rock station in San Francisco, but a quick look at San Diego's 101 KGB, "The Classic Rock Experience," shows their most played songs are "Ballroom Blitz," "White Room," "Rock & Roll All Night," and "Good Times Roll." Not even the rockingest of current rock jams are breaking through into the classic rock pantheon, to say nothing of stuff that sounds a lot like the Magnetic Fields. Clear Channel are probably reminding programmers that just because a standard classic rock artist has new songs, that doesn't mean they fit on the playlist.

This is of course not to defend radio, which at this point is kind of like a nearly deserted mall in a depressed Midwestern suburb: the last remaining stores are mostly selling trash. However, the Fox News article is mistaken on one point: it says tracks from Magic are "not being played on any radio stations, according to Radio & Records, which monitors such things. Nothing." Not true: in fact, "Radio Nowhere" is down from #2 to #3 this week on the Triple A National Airplay chart at Radio & Records, just behind Snow Patrol and KT Tunstall, and just ahead of Spoon. Triple-A radio's snowy-white "adult" brand usually annoys me, but that's not a bad Top 4, and people worried about Bruce not getting airplay should just change the station.

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Trumping Bush's Troop Card

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 5:40 PM EDT

We have more vets every day, and, when this endless war finally peters to a close, we'll have even more ex-troops, and many of them will be uninsured. A new study, which will appear in December's American Journal for Public Health, finds that nearly 2 million veterans (12.7 percent of non-elderly vets) were uninsured and ineligible for VA care in 2004, up 290,000 since 2000. An additional 3.8 million members of their households were also uninsured and ineligible for Veterans Affairs services.

Other findings:

(Not So) Neato Viddys on the Intertubes

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 3:00 PM EDT

UK electro duo Simian Mobile Disco are pretty darn good, and their now-oldish track "Hustler" is one of the best songs on their new album, Attack Decay Sustain Release. Its dark breakbeat backing is combined with a repetitive, stream-of-consciousness rap about being too broke to buy records and stealing them instead. It already had a pretty good (if eyebrow-raising) video featuring a circle of hipster girls whose game of "secret" turns into a makeout session, but for some reason the band (or their label) decided that wasn't exploitative enough. Now we get a new video featuring dancing models who, er, binge and purge, in Technicolor:

And if David Duke Could Sing Like Donnie McClurkin?

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:54 PM EDT

If you want to hear what Donnie McClurkin said at the Obama rally this weekend, here it is. Let's hope he's a better singer than theologian. Given the backlash, what can be the meaning of allowing him to repeat his controversial message?

I've been waiting for thoughtfully ardent gay rights activist Andrew Sullivan to weigh in on all this but he hasn't seemed very exercised about. Here's his lengthiest statement to date on the subject:

To my mind, this isn't ultimately about the difficulty of forging any kind of alliance between gays and African-Americans. It is the inherent danger of mixing religion with politics. That's called Christianism. Some of us have not spent the last few years trying to rescue conservatism from the toxin of theocracy only to support a candidate who wants to do the same thing on the left. I don't think Obama wants to go that far; I still believe that broadly speaking, his is the only major candidacy right now that offers the kind of change we need. But what happened on that stage was inexcusable, stupid, and damaging. I don't blame any gay American for jumping the Obama ship over it.

I think the salient issue is a black hyper-religiosity which gets a pass on its anti-intellectualism (even for something a-rational), hypocrisy, misogyny, and bigotry, all things we looked to Obama, the thinking person's black Protestant, to confront. There was a time, not so long ago, when he was going to show liberal Dems how to reclaim religion for the left:

There's Hillary

| Tue Oct. 30, 2007 2:25 PM EDT

As I noted minutes ago, this morning Barack Obama declared his opposition to Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general. Then John Edwards quickly did the same. Though Clinton, through a spokesperson, had recently said she was troubled by Mukasey's statements on torture and executive power, she had stopped short of saying she would vote against him. The question I posed in the previous posting was this: could Hillary Clinton be far behind? The answer turns out to be, no. At mid-day, Clinton announced she will vote against George Bush's A.G. pick. It's another sign that Clinton will not give an inch—or an hour—to her opponents.