Adam Howard is the former Assistant Web Editor of The Nation and currently the News Editor of The Grio.
You would think that V for Vendetta, a movie jam-packed with post-9/11 themes, deserved a serious response. Instead, some of the most prominent media outlets have chosen to insult anyone who might believe the film worthy of debate.
The New York Times' review opened with the line: "Thumb-suckers of the world unite." It concluded by wondering how anyone over the age of fourteen could find the movie subversive. David Denby in the New Yorker speculated that the movie would mainly appeal to "aging kids."
This infantilizing line of attack is sadly nothing new.
The British government memo on Iraq, reported in today's New York Times, is perhaps even more important than the Downing Street memo. The five-page memo--of a January 31, 2003 Oval Office meeting between Bush, Blair and six of their top advisers--reveals the Bush Administration's fierce determination to invade Iraq even without a second UN resolution, and even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons. Indeed, confronted with the possibility of not finding any weapons before the planned invasion, Bush talks of ways to provoke a confrontation with Iraq, including, the Times reports, "a proposal to paint a US surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein."
Reminiscent of the Downing Street Memo's famous line, David Manning, British Prime Minister Tony Blair's foreign policy adviser at the time, writes, "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning,"
Bush's mendacity in taking America into this illegal, unprovoked catastrophe is already well known. But it's still horrifying--especially on a day when the US Ambassador to Iraq states that "More Iraqis are dying from the militia violence than from the terrorists"--to read Bush's arrogantly ignorant prediction that it is "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." (For the record, the British memo shows Blair agreed with Bush's assessment.)
The largest mobilization in the history of--and in favor of--immigrants stretched for a mind-boggling twenty-six blocks through downtown Los Angeles Saturday, bringing somewhere between a half-million and a million people into the streets.
Politicians, police and even organizers of the pro-immigrant rally were amazed by the massive turnout--five to ten times bigger than the still-talked-about 1994 rally against Prop 187--and surely the biggest political demonstration in LA history.
Labor, religious and civil rights groups worked for months to put this event together, but no one expected such a massive outpouring. "We're just blown away," one union organizer told The Nation. "This thing just snowballed on its own and became humongous."
To paraphrase that great line from Bogie: I remember the night of March 24, 1976 like yesterday. My wife was wearing blue. The Argentine military was in gray.
Exactly thirty years ago this weekend, the Argentine military seized power and installed a regime whose dimensions of barbarity overshadowed those of all other Latin American dictatorships: 30,000 dead or disappeared; massive torture; the stealing, bartering and selling of the children of the victims.
Living in Buenos Aires at the time,I had a front row seat to this sad spectacle as well as my own terrifying brush with the death squads. I recount those experiences here.
Remember when opponents of affirmative action argued that it hurt blacks' self-esteem because they'd never know if they had succeededon their merit? According to this theory, first-rate students whowould have been accepted anyway are stigmatized by being lumpedtogether in the public mind with students accepted only because oftheir race, and this is stressful and anxiety-producing all around.Much better not to take race into account, and let excellence be theonly criterion.
I wonder how those champions of meritocracy feel about gender-based college preferences for men. Yesterday, Dean of AdmissionsJennifer Britz confessed on the New York Times op-ed page thatKenyon College accepts inferior men over better qualified womensimply because they are men, raising the obvious question : Whatabout the self-esteem of these poor boys? Surely some of them wouldhave gotten into Kenyon without the genital advantage, but how can agiven Kenyon male know it was his brains and not his penis that wonhim a coveted thick envelope? Thanks to Dean Britz's candor, thevalue of a woman's Kenyon degree has soared--a girl must be reallysomething to have made the cut--and that of a man's degree hasplummeted. He went to that college that takes the dumb guys!
If I was a man at Kenyon, I'd be thinking about transferring. Iwouldn't want people to think I needed a boost just because I wasmale. And I wouldn't want to wonder if maybe I DID need a boost. Imight even feel guilty that I had deprived a better candidate--youknow, one of those brilliant poetry-writing future-vaccine-discovering change-the-world-for-the better girls Dean Britzdescribes rejecting. I might have to go to a slightly less-selectivecollege, but that would be okay: I would have my self-esteem!
It isn't often that someone owns up to flagrant sex discrimination inthe op-ed page of the New York Times, so I suppose we should begrateful to Kenyon College dean of admissions Jennifer Britz for herhonesty. In "To All the Girls I've Rejected" she admits what manyparents of girls suspect: Boys have an edge in college admissions.In order to preserve "gender balance" and avoid the dreaded "tippingpoint" of 60 percent female enrollment, which supposedly makes acampus less appealing to applicants of both sexes, Kenyon puts thethumb on the scale for boys. The villain? Why feminism, of course:"We have told today's young women that the world is their oyster: theproblem is, so many of them believed us that the standards foradmission to today's most selective colleges are stiffer for womenthan men. How's that for an unintended consequence of the women'sliberation movement?" Right: if only more parents had discouragedtheir daughters' aspirations, Ms Britz wouldn't have to reject themnow. Why not: if only more boys worked a little harder in high schoolthey'd deserve a place at Kenyon?
At Kenyon, more girls apply, so more are rejected--not becausethey aren't brilliant , but because they are girls. Let me put thatanother way: inferior boys are accepted, because they are boys."Gender balance" looks a lot like a quota system to me, the sort ofextra-credit-for-testicles that the Supreme Court has specificallyoutlawed for public universities. If Kenyon was a public college,Britz would be on her way to court right now. Anyone for a lawsuit?
Britz asks "What are the consequences of young men discoveringthat even if they do less, they have more options?" How about: thoseyoung men will do less than ever, because why put down that Game Boywhen Kenyon College will take you anyway? then, armed with their not-quite-deserved diplomas, they get jobs they don't quite deserve, andpromotions they don't quite deserve either. Exactly the sort ofthing that opponents of affirmative action claim happens to blackswho benefit from affirmative action. Except, oh I forgot, the boys ofKenyon (and other colleges that favor males in admissions--and Ijust hope to God that Wesleyan, where my daughter is a freshman,isn't one of them) aren't black! They haven't been the victims ofcenturies of discrimination continuing up to the present moment,didn't grow up in segregated neighborhoods, go to overcrowded under-resourced schools without extracurriculars or AP courses or maybeeven science labs, and have families who couldn't afford mathtutors, SAT Prep classes, and maybe even a hired consultant to helpthem write a killer application essay. They're middle-class whiteboys! Whew.
I'm in a secure and undisclosed location for a 52 hour break from thebrutal beast called a political weekly. That's why I'm on e-mail at 11pm Tuesday night. (And scouring the local papers for news of CondeeRice's imminent visit to this island, for a meeting to repair raggedrelations with the Caribbean Community Alliance known as Caricom. Most of the foreign ministers from the 14 Caribbean nations are--like the rest of the world--angry with America over the War in Iraq, and even angrier over the the US role in Haiti.) That's also why I hunted down a newspaper Tuesday morning, and found the Miami Herald. Good paper. Its front page featured an interesting story about Venezuela, "Caracas Emerging as New Capital of the Left." Later that afternoon, I tracked down a New York Times and discovered the same Juan Forero story on the Times' front page. (The NYT opted for--what seemed to me--a snarkier headline, "Visitors Seek a Taste of Revolution in Venezuela.")
What's interesting about Chavez and the "Bolivarian" revolution, as writer/activist Chiesa Boudin notes in the Times/Herald article, is that it has little to do with the fact that some on the left glorify the Venezuelan President because he has positioned himself as the anti-Bush leader in Latin America. It has more to do, Boudin observes, with the fact that "many people who had been dismayed by the advance of globalization saw the possibility of a better world in Venezuela. The fact that we have a country that's trying to create an alternative model is bold and ambitious and unique, and that's why people are wondering, 'Is this possible.'"
These are times for progressives, for the left to unshackle its imaginations and create an alternative politics. The alternative probably doesn't exist in Chavez's Venezuela--for reasons some on the democratic left have pointed out. (Though his use of the country's oil profits to help poor citizens is a model for all oil-rich countries.) But there are many alternative models and movements out there--ones we can support and build. (In the short-term, I say let's nationalize the 2006 elections around three things: Defend the Constitution; End the War; Pass National healthcare.)
Hope and fear are always the polar forces at work in Americanpolitics and this Texas-macho President has brilliantly orchestrated thenation's fear of terrorism into a winning position. Support him, hewill protect us, take the fight to the treacherous enemies and crushthem. He has reminded us relentlessly of what we most fear. For many, itfelt reassuring to hear his resolve. But the brave-cowboy act is over. Hefailed himself yesterday in the White House press room.
George W. Bush called the press conference to sell hope--givepeople a reason to keep on believing--but trampled his own objective.Instead, he deepened the public's fear--not of Muslim terrorists--but of his own leadership at war. Does this guy know what he's doing? He got us into this mess; does he know how to get us out?
A fatal admission was revealed when Bush was asked whether he couldenvision a day when US troops were out of Iraq. The Presidentshrugged, as though the question does not apply to him. "That'll bedecided," Bush said, "by future presidents and future governments ofIraq." When I heard this, I thought, that's going to be tomorrow'sheadline. Sure enough, it was in the Washington Times, a conservativenewspaper that always rallies to Bush's side. "Bush commits until2009," the banner headline declared.
The rhetorical war over immigration has suddenly become a ground war in Southern California. While some towns in conservative Orange County are now encouraging their local police to roust the undocumented, one small city in Los Angeles County has taken the opposite tack.
The city council of Maywood, more than 95% Latino and with a population of 45,000, has vowed to declare itself a "sanctuary city" for undocumented immigrants. And the council majority, which took power a few months ago, is going way beyond symbolism.
The city has dismantled its traffic division and changed the laws for towing and impounding cars. What's that got to do with illegal aliens? Plenty, it turns out. Under the previous city administration, the city was apparently feeding off of large fines and vehicle impounds imposed on the undocumented who got snared in Maywood's often ubiquitous ‘sobriety checkpoints' – in reality an organized shakedown operation run out of City Hall.
There is not a lot of debate anymore about the fact that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is the loosest cannon in the arsenal. Consider his claim, made in a Sunday oped piece in the Washington Post that, "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis."
So who agrees with the Don's attempt at analogy?
Er, well, no one -- at least, no one in their right mind.