yep, again

i know, i know, i said i would go away... but i keep finding interesting, well-written pieces that i just feel i need to share with other people. no commentary, just links, which i very highly recommend you click on and read.

like this one, from william saletan at slate, with a very reasoned analysis of the "contagious shooting" phenomenon.



just spreading some love for the Center for Public Integrity and their fabulous muck-raking:

Divine Intervention: U.S. AIDS Policy Abroad
A year long investigation into how rigid rules and restrictions of President Bush's initiative to fight HIV/AIDS have affected countries struggling with the pandemic

their work is way too good to ignore. inform yourselves, people!

now back to my cave...


leave a message

this will be my last post for a while. between lots of work and life turning basically upside-down, leaving new york without knowing yet where i'll end up, i just don't have the time to do what i want to do with this space. and, to tell you the truth, i'm a little tired of feeling guilty about it. though it's possible no one reads this thing anyway...

so, off i go for some unspecified period of time. the content will stay up as is, and--who knows?--you might get a duke post now and again. other than that, you'll just have to hold your breath until i (a) settle myself down somewhere new, and (b) figure out what i really want out of a blog. check back every so often if you're interested, though, 'cause i doubt i'll put out a PSA or anything when the writing part of my brain starts functioning again.

thanks for reading. it's been fun. bye for now.


Dear Nancy: Stop screwing around. Love, Sai.

Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), our brand-spanking-new Speaker of the House of Representatives (actually, she won't formally take the office until the new session starts this coming January), seems to have started off on the wrong foot. Pelosi backed John Murtha (D-Penn.) in the race for House Majority Leader, even though the Speaker traditionally stays out of such things. In a nice twist, the House went the other way, electing Steny Hoyer (D-Mar.) instead.

So what does the Speaker of the House do anyway? Wikipedia tells us that the Speaker has two main roles: (1) to be the head of the majority party in the House of Representatives (outranking the Majority Leader) and when the majority party doesn't control the White House, to effectively act as the "leader of the opposition"; and (2) to act as the presiding officer in the House, controlling the flow of the debate, ruling on points of order, and appointing committee members. The Speaker is also third in line for the Presidency, after the Vice President.

The papers are frothing over this, each giving its own take on what this says about Pelosi and things to come for the Democratic majority come January. As the LAT says, "Pelosi's failed effort to anoint her own chief lieutenant fueled doubts among critics about the political skills she brings to leading her fractious party. It also sent a clear signal of what kind of leader she is: an old-style politician who puts a premium on personal loyalty, even at the risk of high-profile defeat." The LAT goes on to quote people who wonder why the leading Democrat would choose to do something so divisive to a new majority party desperately in need of consensus. LAT's take: "Pelosi is a strong believer in rewarding those who are loyal to her, through thick and thin." The paper stops short of my first thought: aren't those same words still used to describe President Bush?

The NYT goes a bit further, saying in a strongly-worded editorial that Pelosi "has managed to severely scar her leadership even before taking up the gavel." A Slate column by Timothy Noah recommends putting Pelosi "on probation" and describes the ethics cloud around Murtha as well as Pelosi's probable (loyalty-based) choice for Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Alcee Hastings.

What is Pelosi thinking? Is she drunk on her newfound Speaker power? Does she have mad-cow disease? Is she a Republican operative gone deep undercover? All possible scenarios, but not very encouraging news for a new Democratic majority that has a lot to prove.


my name is drew barrymore...

Sarah Hepola, A Good Writer, has a new series on The Morning News: "Celebrity Magazine." It must have slipped through the cracks of TMN's recent redesign, and I just saw it today. The first installment is here, and two more have been written since. Take a look! They're each just long enough for a pleasant five-minute diversion between emails at work.

In the same vein, Daily Candy introduced me to DailyLit, a service that will send bite-sized portions of classical works of literature to your email inbox every day. I'm currently reading Pride and Prejudice in 149 parts (though I usually end up reading 2 or 3 each day). I tried reading it before, in traditional book form, and couldn't get through it. But it's more than tolerable at less than 10 pages at a time. Maybe next I'll try Ulysses.


goodbye dear. hello, lover!

for all you slowpokes out there, our beloved defense secretary, donald rumsfeld, is O-U-T out. let's all go have a drink to celebrate, shall we?

Slate has a whole series of articles on Rumsfeld, including a catalogue of his catastrophes. the WP has a tribute of sorts--the kind where you reminisce about that time you locked your keys in the car at 2:00AM in a foreign country and it's only funny 'cause it was like four years ago.

in other news, the democrats win the house (!) and are all but done winning the senate (!!), as montana's in the bag and george allen is expected to concede as early as today. this all begs the question: now what? this should be fun.


bizarro news roundup

So on Wednesday, New Jersey's Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples are entitled to the same rights as heterosexual couples, and gave the Legislature 180 days to figure this out legally (either "marriage" or civil unions). The Bush response: “Yesterday in New Jersey, we had another activist court issue a ruling that raises doubts about the institution of marriage."

Call me crazy, but WTF is so activist about giving people equal rights? The judges didn't say they had to be able to get married, just that couples were entitled to equal rights. Now it's up to the elected fools to put that into the law, however they feel best represents their constitutents.

For the record, Slate's Dahlia Lithwick agrees with me: "If you care at all about states' rights and state autonomy, read this decision. If you believe in judicial minimalism, read this decision. If you think judges should engage in careful scrutiny of state law, read this decision before blasting it as activism. This was a state court taking care of state business. Memo to Karl Rove: Those who oppose this decision aren't opposed to judicial activism. They are opposed to judges."

President Bush, opposed to judges? Yep, that sounds about right.


A Muslim cleric in Australia, Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, said, on the topic of "adultery": "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it..whose fault is it - the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem... If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred." The paper says he called women "weapons" used by Satan to control men, and implied that victims of gang rape have only themselves to blame: There were women, he said, who 'sway suggestively' and wore make-up and immodest dress "and then you get a judge without mercy and gives you 65 years. But the problem, but the problem all began with who?" he said, referring to the women victims.

People in the country are now calling for him to be deported for inciting violence. I'd rather people just mock his ridiculousness. I'd be more offended, actually, if I were a man: how dare he take away their agency! How dare he imply that men, who control a good portion of the world, are equivalent to starving cats smelling meat! Men can't help themselves--they need mercy from the courts to understand that women are responsible for their violent, repulsive acts! Men have no control over their lustful instincts! Men are just penises with arms and legs, and it's the responsibility of women to avoid tempting them!

Well shit, I guess it's only the generosity and humility of women that keeps them from taking advantage of this overwhelming sexual power to take over the world.


In other news:

The commissioner of internal revenue has ordered the IRS to delay notifying and collecting back taxes from victims of Hurricane Katrina until after the November elections and, oh yeah, the holidays too.


Donald Rumsfeld's response to detractors of the Iraq war has started approaching chill out: "You ought to just back off, take a look at it, relax, understand that it's complicated, it's difficult." Yeah man, you're killing my buzz!


in brief

wired magazine has a neat feature: six-word short stories. my favorite five:

I’m your future, child. Don’t cry.
- Stephen Baxter

The baby’s blood type? Human, mostly.
- Orson Scott Card

“I couldn’t believe she’d shoot me.”
- Howard Chaykin

It’s behind you! Hurry before it
- Rockne S. O’Bannon

Rained, rained, rained, and never stopped.
- Howard Waldrop

PS: the wired story also references Hemingway's famous short short story, which i had never read before. it breaks my heart.

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."


"Baghdad has become the capital of death."

The LA Times has a heartbreaking piece by Patrick McDonnell, a correspondent who was based in Iraq for 2 years, gone for 1, and has just returned to find a shit-ton more chaos than when he left. It's rare that news articles about the war take on such an intensely personal tone as this one. It puts the terror and futility of people's lives there into such glaring light.

One man says, "I forced my son to leave school. It's more important that he be alive than educated."

"A Shiite Muslim religious party controls the main morgue near downtown; its militiamen guard the entrance, keen to snatch kin of the dead, many of them Sunni Muslim Arabs. Unclaimed Sunni corpses pile up."

"The U.S. mission here is now defined largely as training Iraqi police and soldiers. But Sunnis don't trust the mostly Shiite security forces, often with good reason. The question lingers: Are U.S. troops equipping Iraq's sectarian avengers?"

I found that article, and most others I read each day, through Slate's Today's Papers feature, which, if you don't already, you should really, really start reading. Really.

Today, TP ended with this blurb, which almost had me in tears.

This USA Today graph says that 47 percent of Iraqis think that the country is going in the "right direction." TP thought that either Iraqis had lost their minds or that the pollsters didn't speak Arabic until we spotted the qualifier underneath the graph: "Note: 93% of Sunni Arabs say the country is going in the wrong direction."


hot potatoes

Despite ever-louder calls for closing Guantanamo from high-ranking officials in European countries, said countries have been refusing to take in detainees that hold legal residency (but not citizenship) there. See the WP article here.

I find this article a little confusing. For instance, there are 10 legal British residents locked up at Guantanamo (according to the US). US officials floated a proposal to see if Britain would be willing to take them back. "Court papers show that Britain nixed the idea, saying it would be too costly and difficult to meet US conditions to keep the men under constant surveillance." So, are these guys terrorists, or not? If they are, why are we releasing them? Why don't we try them and sentence them? If they're not, why do they have to be under "constant surveillance"? Are we not sure? After four years of detention, we're not sure who these guys are or what they mean? That doesn't really build confidence in the way that we're going about this whole "war on terror" thing.

Take another case from this article: Murat Kurnaz, Turkish citizen, German resident (born and raised). He failed to renew his German residency while he was locked up in Guantanamo and that is the official reason Germany gave for not taking him back after the US suggested releasing him. The article says that "US military intelligence and German law enforcement officials had largely concluded there was no information tying [Kurnaz] to al-Qaeda or terrorist activities". New-ish German chancellor Angela Merkel reopened the case and wanted to take him back, but the US still insisted he be under 24-hour surveillance. The German government refused, the US eventually relented, and the guy was finally released in August, after four extra years in Guantanamo. Poor, poor guy. The question still remains, though: why would the US insist he be kept under such constant surveillance if they had concluded he wasn't a terrorist?

Maybe the US is afraid that Guantanamo will turn people into terrorists. That's the best idea I can come up with.

The saddest case in the article, I think, is the 22 unfortunate Uighurs. China wants them back so it can treat them even worse than it treats the rest of the Uighur population there. After lots of begging, Albania agreed to take in 5. European governments and others ("100 other nations") are balking because of pressure from China. The US seems not even to be considering giving them political asylum in the US. Meanwhile, through all the political cartwheeling, these 17 people get to just sit, day after day, in a pen in Cuba, NOT GUILTY.