Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cruelty of Ignorance, redux

Meteor Blades at dkos quotes Juan Cole expanding on the ramifications of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's absurd denial that homosexuals exist in Iran. First, he agrees with me:
The ultimate in denying people their rights is to deny they even exist (the nonexistent obviously have no rights...Of course, gays are punished very severely in Iran, in reality.

But here's the money quote-- Cole compares this denial to the American right:
It would be nice for the US Right to have us forget that they pull the Ahmadinejad act with regard to gays every day. Denying gays the right to marry is a way of erasing them from civil society. It is a way of denying that they really love one another, as straights do. It is a way of asserting that they do not exist.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the US military (so unlike the one followed by many NATO allies) is also a way of erasing gays. They don't exist unless they themselves press the case that they exist. In order to remain in their jobs, they are forced to erase themselves by their silence. The 'don't ask, don't tell' policy is a way of pretending that there are no gays in the US military. For if it could be proven that anyone is gay, he is immediately expelled. It is just as silly as what Ahmadinejad said, and just as pernicious. That policy is supported by the entire American Right, which is no better than Ahmadinejad in this regard.

My sentiments exactly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shades of Brown

The BBC is reporting that Shah Rukh Khan, the Indian megastar, is promoting a skin-lightening cream called 'Fair and Handsome.' Predictably, activists are up in arms-- and just as predictably, distributors defend the product wholeheartedly, citing the demand (skin lightening products are apparently a $200 million dollar industry in India) and its efficacy, saying rather stupidly, "It does what it says. It makes you fair and handsome."

Whatever. It's clearly a stupid, superficial product that reinforces racial (and in India, caste) stereotypes. But to me, it's also not appreciably worse than any number of stupid, superficial products Westerners consume in huge quantities-- Botox, breast enhancements, and (irony, anyone?) cancer-causing tanning salons come to mind.

So: Shah Rukh is certainly not to be lauded for appearing in this commercial--I find it unfortunate and uncomfortable-- But I also think that Fair and Handsome has every right to sell its products, as long as they're not harmful. If activists want to stop the sale of skin-lightening creams, they should target the source-- lingering cultural prejudices and the (light-skinned) beauty norms promoted by the (almost exclusively light-skinned) Bollywood machine. So yes, criticize Shah Rukh for doing the ad. But if you ban the products without eliminating the cultural preference for lighter skin, people are going to resort to other, much more dangerous, methods of attaining 'fairness'.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The cruelty of ignorance

So Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia university today. I don't like the guy, especially when he's denying the holocaust or suggesting Israel get wiped off the map. That said, he gets completely ignored on the points he gets right-- particularly on the Iraq war. His statements on Palestine today- particularly questioning why the Palestinians are being punished for a Holocaust they did not commit- are also valid and well within mainstream Middle Eastern thought(though they're made much scarier by his support for Holocaust deniers and David Duke).

Interestingly, the Times has a piece today that suggests that the US media is placing way too much importance on Ahmadinejad's role in the Iranian government. I agree, and I would also argue that he's been made into a caricature, a larger-than-life Bad Guy, to help prepare the American public for a (possible) invasion of his country. That's not fair, to Iran or to Ahmadinejad.

But then there's this. According to Mr. Ahmadinejad, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon."

I don't even know how to respond to that. Communities all over the world exclude and oppress minorities, particularly sexual minorities. But denial that the community even exists -- that's far, far more dangerous. Because if gays don't exist, then how can anyone claim they're being prosecuted for being gay, if the government says otherwise? And if they never existed in the first place, what's stopping Ahmadinejad, or some other hard-line lunatic, from killing them all?

The shadow army

Anyone who has more than a Fox News-level understanding of the ongoing quagmire in Iraq should not be suprised that mercenaries from the huge paramilitary group Blackwater USA have gotten themselves into, um, a little bit of trouble for murdering iraqi civilians.

These guys are ruthless and answer to virtually no one, and they've been doing the "dirty work"in iraq for quite a while.

The iraqi government tried to kick them out, and then, presumably chided by their puppetmasters in washington, thought better of asserting their independence.

But the wingnuts are going to have a hard time spinning this one-- they've got video.

Remembering Adam Smith

El Cabrero has an excellent post up at progressivehistorians on the appropriation of Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations author and free trade advocate, by the corporatist/capitalist global elite.

Smith, as any right wing hack will tell you, was an advocate of independent businesses, unregulated by the government; he argued that with unfettered competition, the
public good is often promoted as if by "an invisible hand."

Sounds like a great icon for global capitalism-- except that, as always, the people who quote Adam Smith seem to be picking and choosing pretty carefully from Smith's body of work. Get this: he believed workers deserve a living wage, that the rich should pay more taxes, and he didn't trust capitalists or monopolies.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A different kind of Christian

Just ran across an old favorite of mine, Back in 2002 and 2003, when no one in the mainstream press were nothing more than cheerleaders on the Iraq war, the freeway bloggers were out there, putting up signs like this one and this one.

But my new favorite, which I'd never seen before, is this:
'Quit Bombing My Children' --God."

Makes me remember when 'Christian' and 'Right' didn't automatically go together...

"Sorry W, I'm the Decider; Dems in '08"

I've never liked James Carville. I don't trust people who claim to be hard-core Democrats-- and then marry Bush Repbulicans. Nor do i think he's a very good actor. But i do like this slogan. It's a lot less wimpy than those the Dems generally come up with; it attacks Bush directly; and it doesn't tie us down to one particular signature issue this far before the election.

Cheers to the DSCC for actually asking Democrats what they think.

"Giuliani's Princess Bride"

Vanity Fair has a blistering
article about Rudy Giuliani's third wife, Judith.

If it weren't so horrible, it'd be hilarious.
This is a woman who, quite literally, reserves a seat on her private jet for her handbag.