Thursday, July 27, 2006

Distressing media morning

I got up early this morning, and spent my time reading the news on the BBC, and watching the wannabe news on Good Morning America.

BBC Mideast round-up

One of the more infuriating stories from the Mideast:
Israel says the decision by a summit of world powers not to call for a halt to its Lebanon offensive has given it the green light to continue.

"We received yesterday at the Rome conference permission from the world... to continue the operation," Justice Minister Haim Ramon said.
Great. The USA prevents the summit from resulting in a clear call for a cease-fire, and this gets read as "permission" to do this:
He said that in order to prevent casualties among Israeli soldiers battling Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon, villages should be flattened by the Israeli air force before ground troops moved in.
Marvelous. And here is the brilliant defense of this plan.
He added that Israel had given the civilians of southern Lebanon ample time to quit the area and therefore anyone still remaining there could be considered a Hezbollah supporter.

"All those now in south Lebanon are terrorists who are related in some way to Hezbollah," Mr Ramon said.
With some nice Bush-esque rhetoric thrown in just to make it extra-palatable:
"everyone understands that a victory for Hezbollah is a victory for world terror".
And Al-Qaeda is happily playing along.

From the infuriating to the merely nauseating:

L&J on GMA

After getting through the latest on the BBC, I watched in exasperation as LaHaye and Jenkins, the authors of the Left Behind series, were interviewed on Good Morning America. The interviewer genially asked them about the Rapture, and their views on current events in the Mideast and Hurricane Katrina. They explained how this was all predicted in the Bible, and how Jesus is probably coming back Real Soon Now. And at the end of the interview they were thanked for their "insight".

Someone watching this interview who didn't know any better would naturally assume that the views of LaHaye and Jenkins must be pretty central, mainstream, orthodox, uncontroversial stuff in Christianity. After all, GMA is hardly a forum for controversial opinions and debate. If it's on GMA, it must be pretty humdrum.

With media exposure like this, you'd never guess that the theology of the Left Behind series presents a profound distortion of Christianity. (Slacktivist is currently in the process of the doing the admirable public service of exposing the first Left Behind book, page by dull-yet-agonizing page.)

Maybe you don't really care about the health of the Christian religion, but you should still care about these guys anyways. Millions of Christians think that they've got things spot on, and these people have the ability to vote, which they tend to exercise poorly.

Boo hoo hoo. Wah wah wah.

Thus spake Wal-Mart and Target in response to this news.
Chicago's city council has approved a measure that would force major American retailers to pay an increased minimum wage to their employees.

The council backed a starting salary of $9.25 an hour, well above the existing $5.15 minimum despite opposition from retailing giant, Wal-Mart.
Well, OK, to be fair, the response was more like this:
Wal-Mart and chain store Target both said they may no longer build their stores in the city of Chicago.
In other words: "Boo hoo hoo. Wah wah wah. I'm going home and taking my marbles with me and never coming back ever. Wah."

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Free food and whatnot

Once again I found some foodstuffs in the lobby, presumably left by a departing tenant. It was a curious collection.
  • 1 jar of tomato-based pasta sauce
  • 1 jar of grape jelly
  • 1 jar of peach preserves
  • 1 jar of jalapeƱo jelly (mild)
  • 1 box of Rice-a-Roni (Spanish style)
  • Several loose pieces of almond Kisses
  • Several loose pieces of Dove chocolate
  • Several loose pieces of Chinese "White Rabbit" candy
  • Several loose pieces of some other form of Chinese candy (I'm pretty sure the name is not "autumn foot", though it kinda looks like that's what it says)
  • 4 cans of tomato sauce of varying brands and sizes
  • 1 can of cranberry sauce
  • 1 can of condensed milk
  • 1 half-empty box of plastic spoons
  • 1 package of "Good Vita" crackers
  • 1 bottle of ranch dressing, open and half-empty
  • 1 box of non-lubricated Trojan condoms
Some of these items I claimed with great joy. Others I passed over in silence.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Unique, frozen, and...

So Bush trots out his presidential veto as a gaggle of snowflake babies looks on.

Of course Bush's stated rationale for using the veto is pathetically stupid. That goes without saying.

But I thought I knew what it meant to call a person a "snowflake". It has at least one well-established slang meaning with which I am familiar, according to which it is typically used by a black man to refer to a passing white woman, intimating a charming cocktail of racism and sexual predation.

But the Christian Right is shockingly ignorant of black urban slang. Now, apparently, "snowflake" also refers to adopted babies originating as unwanted frozen embryos that would otherwise have been destined for destruction. (Such embryos are still destined for destruction, but at least they won't be doomed to use in stem cell research--evidently a distinction that concerns the baby Jesus deeply.)

Why "snowflake"?

Perhaps because each snowflake baby is unique--though that hardly distinguishes them from babies of other sorts.

Perhaps because snowflake babies started out as frozen--that seems fair enough.

On the other hand, perhaps this use of the term also has a racial connotation, as a visual survey of the snowflake babies in question suggests.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The colors of a rainbow, so pretty in the sky

Some classmates took a trip into Toronto not too long ago, and I was interested to hear them remark on how they perceived the quality of ethnic diversity there: more integration in the neighbourhoods, less of a sense of underlying racial tensions.

I've been here in Chicago for almost a year, so I'm used to the place. I guess I've forgotten what it was like the first time around. When I visited as a prospective student last spring, I apparently felt some culture shock.
One of my first acts in the city was to catch a cab at O'Hare. They have a pretty nice set-up for cab-catching, complete with a shelter, place for a line up, and friendly attendants. When I joined the line, it was pretty short, consisting of two people (including me). So I stood there with an Asian businessman, and two attendants, one black and one middle eastern. It turns out some white guy wasn't familiar with the procedure at O'Hare, and had gone up the lane trying to catch a cab without standing in line. As they called him back, the black attendant made a joke something along the lines of "Isn't that the way, white guys always act like they run the place."

And that's when I realized I was in America.
Of course, that's comparing Chicago to Vancouver. As a good Vancouverite, I've never been able to imagine any reason why I'd ever want to visit Toronto, so I can't speak from personal experience as to how things work out there. But I guess it's an all right place, too.

(I grudgingly note that Toronto is statistically more ethnically diverse than Vancouver. Or so claim Torontonian websites.)

Forget anecdotes, though. It's been decades since segregation got kicked out of the law books, but according to the stats Chicago hasn't done a very good job of figuring out how else to organize itself.

Now, that's Chicago as a whole. I live in Hyde Park, and here in Hyde Park, we're all integrated. a city that's among the most segregated in the U.S., the crowd here is incredibly diverse -- African American, white, Asian and Latino. Well-off and poor. Jewish, Muslim, Christian. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Hyde Park is about 46 percent white, 38 percent African American, 11 percent Asian and 4 percent Latino, making it one of the truly integrated communities in the city.
And it is indeed an integrated community, if by "integrated" you mean: people of different races living on the same block.

Because people of different races do live on the same block here. Hell, yeah.

Not only do people of different races live on the same block, they also pass each other on the street.

And sometimes they even have conversations with each other. For example, sometimes a non-black customer will exchange small talk with the black clerk while paying for groceries.

You can't trust stats sometimes. As far as I can tell, the population in this neighbourhood is split into the University Community (students, faculty, in some cases staff, and those living with the above), and Everyone Else. The University Community is pretty diverse. The vast majority of Everyone Else is black. Members of the University Community interact with each other, and race is not as much of an issue here. But there is vanishingly little genuine social interaction between the University Community and Everyone Else.

Though they do often live together on the same block.

(Full disclosure: unlike Stephen Colbert, I do not have a black friend. I came close once, but I wasn't properly focused on establishing my liberal bonafides at the time, and I let that chance pass me by.)

Sunday, July 16, 2006

BBC versus ...

...American network news

I just watched BBC World News on PBS, and they spent 10 full minutes (plus an update mid-broadcast) on the absurd mess developing in Israel, Gaza, and Lebanon. Correspondents checked in from multiple locations in each area, letting us see slices of the stress and suffering being inflicted all-round.

Before that, I caught a segment on the same business on one of the local network news stations. I wish I'd timed it. It was definitely over in under than two minutes. I think more time was spent on some story about baseball coaches.

Dear BBC: you are far from perfect, but still you set an embarrassing standard.

...the White House

On Afghanistan, the White House says: "the United States is working to build a safe, stable society that meets the needs of its people and eliminates an environment that breeds terrorism."

The BBC says:
A quarter of the children born in this country still die before reaching the age of five.

If they live longer than that, they can expect, on the whole, to find little healthcare, no safe water, no sewage system, no jobs, no security and no future.

The roads that the American ambassador boasts about all too soon enter Taleban strongholds.

In provinces like Helmand and Zabul, those fabled schools have been taken over by mullahs who have learned to hate the West and its values and who firmly believe that their classrooms are no place for girls.

Outside l'Atmosphere ["Kabul's premier French restaurant"], I chatted to one of the guards, a friendly old chap whose name I will withhold.

He was cradling his AK-47 and smiled at me, with his set of yellow and broken teeth. I had got to know him a little, stopping at the guard hut for a chat when I had time.

"I earn $47 a month," he said, "and I work every hour I can for my three sons and my wife."

He gestured towards the entrance to l'Atmosphere: "Do you really think that if the Taleban came, I would stay and fight?"

Not for $47, I said. "No," he said, "I would take off my uniform and join them."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Patriot man hates irony man

I had some overnight news program on in the background, and because nothing more important is going on in the world, there was a segment about some dork's list of the top ten songs to play during 4th of July celebrations. Springsteen's Born in the USA was number four on the list.

A different news show actually played that song during a montage of 4th of July firework displays. I kinda think Springsteen enunciates pretty well, but apparently no one in the news office was able to make out such lyrics as "sent me off to Vietnam, to go and kill the yellow man".