Archive for October, 2008

Recent Reads from the New Yorker

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Some highlights from the past couple months of the world’s greatest magazine.

Lipstick on a Pig: a 2008 Campaign Quiz is the latest in a series of questionnaires Paul Slansky has produced to highlight the absurdity of election quotes. Test how good you are at identifying how low candidates and spokespeople will go. A hint: the real answers are generally the most outrageous.

Rock, Paper, Scissors, by Jill Lepore, explores how the practice of voting has changed in America since its inception. Many things we take for granted, from government-produced ballots to the secrecy of the voting curtain, are actually relatively recent developments.

Right Again, by Adam Gopnik, profiles the almost-saintly foresight and advocacy of John Stuart Mill. A dedicated feminist and champion of human rights, Mill’s positions still sound radical, and persuasive, today.

Finally, Aleksandar Hemon produces another punchy, evocative short story with The Noble Truths of Suffering. This one will especially resonate for writers, as it explores the way experiences are absorbed and then pulverized before being reframed on the printed page. Humor anchors a seemingly tossed-off, but surprisingly moving, story.

“We Do Not Torture”

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

From the Miami Herald:

In a first, a military judge ruled on Tuesday that a Guantánamo detainee’s confession was extracted through torture, and excluded it from the trial of a young Afghan detainee at the war court.

Afghan police threatened the family of teenager Mohammed Jawad while he was undergoing interrogation at a Kabul police station, said Army Col. Stephen Henley, the judge, in a three-page ruling.

Jawad, now facing trial by military commission, is accused of throwing a grenade inside an Afghan bazaar in December 2002, which wounded two U.S. soldiers and their Afghan interpreter. None were killed.

Henley found in the ruling that there was reason to believe Jawad was under the influence of drugs at the time of his capture and forced confession.

He also accepted the accused’s account of how he was threatened, while armed senior Afghan officials allied with U.S. forces watched his interrogation.

”You will be killed if you do not confess to the grenade attack,” the detainee quoted an interrogator as saying. “We will arrest your family and kill them if you do not confess.’”

Counterproductive and damned.

One Week Until Election Day – An Open Appeal

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

With one week left before Election Day, the Presidential campaign continues to be contentious. Senator Obama is ahead in the polls—fingers crossed!—but John McCain and his supporters are ramping up their attacks, tossing out accusations of un-Americanism, Marxism, and similar outdated nonsense.

While these attacks target Senator Obama, they also demean everyone who supports him, implying that a Democratic vote is equivalent to treason or terrorism.

That obviously isn’t the case. And the best response to these tired attacks is an overwhelming Obama victory on November 4.

How can you bring this about?

1. Vote. Encourage your friends and family to do likewise.

2. If you can, make a contribution to the Obama campaign. Each donation, now matter how small, helps to promote a message of competence and change.

The next Presidency will be a momentous one. It’s essential that the right person—Barack Obama—is in place to lead our country on a better, more hopeful, path to prosperity. You can help to make this happen.

Jon Stewart on “Real America”

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

The Daily Show in fine form, from October 20.

I Heard Obama Was Born in Kenya…

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Want to know the craziest stories that far-right true believers are spreading about Obama? Jon Swift breaks it down in his recap of “Great Moments in Election-Year Blogging,” covering the gamut from “There is a tape of Michelle Obama with Louis Farrakhan talking about ‘whitey’” to “Obama had cocaine-fueled gay sex in the back of a limousine with a not-very-attractive disabled man with a criminal background.”

It’s pretty funny.

The Impact of Powell’s Endorsement

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Anyone who opposed the war in Iraq is probably ambivalent to Colin Powell’s public pronouncements, given his role in promoting that war, with questionable assertions, on the world stage. Still, Powell’s recent endorsement of Barack Obama is important. The former general is viewed favorably by a large percent of the population (at least in this 2004 poll). Beyond that, though, he stands at the embodiment of a lifelong moderate Republican shivering as he stares into the abyss of today’s far-right party.

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Race in America

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

The Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece on the complexities and blind spots of race in America. “Frank Talk of Obama and Race in Virginia” details get-out-the-vote efforts in rural parts of the state and how they collide with voter prejudices and misconceptions. It’s a sad read; I can only hope the attitudes expressed in parts aren’t widespread enough to cost Obama the Presidency.

When Cecil E. Roberts, president of the coal miners union that shapes politics in much of this mountain region, talks to voters, he tells them that their choice is to have “a black friend in the White House or a white enemy.” When Charlie Cox, an Obama supporter, hears friends fretting about Obama’s race, he reminds them that they pull for the nearby University of Tennessee football team, “and they’re black.”

Union organizer Jerry Stallard asks fellow coal workers what’s more important: improving their work conditions or holding onto their skepticism of Obama’s race, culture or religion. “We’re all black in the mines,” he tells them.


Ben and Beth Bailey sat in the back and clapped politely, but they remained unpersuaded. They said they were likely to break from their tradition of voting Democratic and might well not vote at all.

Obama “just doesn’t seem like he’s from America,” said Beth Bailey, 25. Ben Bailey, 32, noted that Obama’s middle name is Hussein, “and we know what that means.”

Palin’s Debate Cheat Sheet

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

(Created by the foul-mouthed Aden Nak. I originally saw it on Boing Boing.)