Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

Posts Tagged ‘United Nations

Sunday Night Links

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* The New World Order One World Government wants to ban golf! Wake up, sheeple!

* …if we look closely enough, we’ll have to conclude that poverty is not, after all, a cultural aberration or a character flaw. Poverty is a shortage of money.

* From Aaron’s latest Sunday Reading:The Intellectual Situation of n+1. For U.S. universities, a failing grade in economics. The Irish Begin to Wake Up to the Fact That They are Repaying Money That is Then Burned. The Hand That Feeds. Historicizing the Conservative Think Tank. A short history of the vibrator. The Inside Story of How John Carter Was Doomed by Its First Trailer.

* Longform.org flashes back to another This American Life truth panic.

* Roland Barthes’ last doctoral student describes the writing of his dissertation. Via MeFi.

* Scientists think they’ve figured out what’s causing Colony Collapse Disorder (again). Surprise! It’s pesticides. Also via.

* Crooks & Liars has some advice for Lakoff-style reframing.

1. Never say Entitlements. Instead, say Earned Benefits.
2. Never say Redistribution of Wealth. Instead, say Fair Wages For Work.
3. Never say Employer Paid Health Insurance. Instead, say Employee Earned Health Insurance.
4. Never say Government Spending. Instead, say The People Are Investing.
5. Never say Corporate America. Instead, say Unelected Corporate Government.

* And here comes the Romney shadow cabinet. It’s even worse than you think!

‘The Strong Do as They Wish, While the Weak Suffer as They Must’

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A third principle is that virtually every use of force in international affairs has been justified in terms of R2P, including the worst monsters. Just to illustrate, in his scholarly study of “humanitarian intervention,” Sean Murphy cites only three examples between the Kellogg-Briand pact and the UN Charter: Japan’s attack on Manchuria, Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia, and Hitler’s occupation of parts of Czechoslovakia, all accompanied by lofty rhetoric about the solemn responsibility to protect the suffering populations, and factual justifications. The basic pattern continues to the present.

The historical record is worth recalling when we hear R2P or its cousin described as an “emerging norm” in international affairs. They have been considered a norm as far back as we want to go. The founding of this country is an example. In 1629, the Massachusetts Bay Colony was granted its Charter by the King, stating that rescuing the natives from their bitter pagan fate is “the principal end of this plantation.” The Great Seal of the Colony depicts an Indian saying “Come Over and Help Us.” The English colonists were thus fulfilling their responsibility to protect as they proceeded to “extirpate” and “exterminate” the natives, in their words – and for their own good, their honored successors explained. In 1630, John Winthrop delivered his famous sermon depicting the new nation “ordained by God” as “a city on a hill,” inspirational rhetoric that is regularly invoked to this day to2 justify any crime as at worst a “deviation” from the noble mission of responsibility to protect.

Chomsky on the responsibility to protect, via @zunguzungu, who also has similar thoughts from Jean Bricmont and Ngugi wa Thiong’o.

Big Monday Links

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* Lost Back to the Future audition tapes. You win this round, SNL.

* Then and Now with Goofus and Gallant.

* zunguzungu has some final thoughts on the Rally to Restore Sanity taking Andrew Sullivan’s glowing endorsement as his departure point.

Americans who want to emphasize that “politics isn’t all there is to life” are people who don’t feel very keenly the sting of injustice or the anxiety of uncertainty or the horror of what this country does in our name. When you lose your job because of politics, or can’t afford to go to school because of politics, or are denied full citizenship because of politics, or die because of politics, the idea that “politics isn’t all there is to life” will be cold comfort to you.

But what if, for example, you look out into the world and see not a basic normality of everyday justice and brotherhood and comity and happy cookies but, rather, a massively inequitable system getting both steadily worse and more deeply enmeshed into our everyday reality? An America which has, for example, rendered it normal to be conducting military operations in multiple theatres for no publicly acknowledged or agreed upon purpose? Where 10% unemployment is normal? Where immigrants are presumed guilty until documented innocent? What if you think things actually are completely fucked up?

* On not being obliged to vote Democrat. We voted last Thursday, straight ticket as always, but I confess I didn’t take much pleasure in it.

* What happens after Republicans win tomorrow? For one thing, Virginia’s climate witch-hunts will go national. Via Boing Boing.

* What happens after Republicans win tomorrow, Nevada edition: Angle victory means return of Yucca nuclear waste dump.

* Should the left try to use our democracy’s systemic biases towards military spending to drive a progressive spending agenda? Ezra and Matt take aff and neg. I give the decision to Ezra—let’s take our victories where we can get them.

* Corporate synergy, the Fox News way.

* UN Convention on Biodiversity: Climate-related geo-engineering activities [should not] take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts.

* Cornell President David Skorton wants to save the humanities.

* How can this many colleges charge over $50,000 a year for tuition? That’s completely insane.

* From the campus newspaper: What’s Duke’s policy towards undocumented immigrants?

* Another great Strange Map: an alternate New York City with a filled-in East River where Manhattan and Brooklyn merge. Via Kottke.

* And rest in peace, Ginny Sack.

Star Trek

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Call it the soft bigotry of low expectations or heretofore unexpected reserves of good will for the franchise—or maybe J.J. just nailed it—but I found Star Trek surprisingly good. And “good” is an amazing accomplishment given the self-contradictions inherent to the project:

1) innovate and revitalize a franchise that, let’s face it, is built almost entirely on the bedrock of nostalgic repetition;
2) do so while further hamstrung by the excruciating prequel format.

But Abrams strikes a more or less successful balance, aside from a few hamhanded “R2-D2, meet C-3PO” moments and a little too much handholding and lampshade-hanging.

As is probably to be expected, the prequelization provides both the worst parts of the movie and its primary source of narrative pleasure. As a certified member of the Nitpicker’s Guild I confess I was a bit annoyed to see how little effort was made to stick with the original continuity, even granting the timeline shift. Many of the gadgets had different behaviors and limitations than in the original show; no one knew Romulans were related to Vulcans until part of the way through the original series; Chekhov didn’t join the ship until later; Pike wasn’t the first captain of the Enterprise; etc, etc, etc. (You can fanwank most or all of these away with “The USS Kelvin Changed Everything,” but that’s not very satisfying. Clear lines of cause-and-effect matter, especially in time travel stories.)

That this cherished original continuity is essentially bulldozed permanently by the film is pretty unfortunate and will, I think, permanently damage the franchise in the eyes of its loyal and notoriously defensive fanbase, especially as fifty years of strict adherence to Roddenberry’s particular Utopian vision has not prepared them well for our heroes to lose a planet, much less the entire timeline.

But at the same time it is quite fun to see these characters meet each other, and Abrams does an amazing job of capturing the feel of the original series (all the way from aesthetics right down to the level of contrivance and occasionally nonsensical plot points). That the actors playing McCoy and (especially) Spock are very good mimics of the original actors helps things along a lot as well.

It’s also astounding how apolitical the film tries to be; I went in with the idea of writing a post about neoliberalism and Star Trek and it just didn’t give me much to work with. Now, this is a neoliberal, United Nations fantasy of the future, to be sure, in which difference only exists to be flattened out—but that’s really true of almost all Trek, DS9 and some other choice episodes excepted. (There’s also a making explicit of the longstanding metaphorical connection between Vulcans and Jews, with a Vulcan Holocaust followed by a choice between diaspora, assimilation, and resettlement in a “new colony,” but I don’t know what to do with that yet.)

Star Trek (2009) is no better or worse, politically speaking, than what Star Trek‘s always been: a fantasy of what the world would be like if consumer capitalism had no labor or environmental costs and American military-cultural hegemony was pure, stable, and uncomplicatedly good. It remains our defining ideological fantasy, in other words, the thing that blinds us still to the sort of world we’re really living in and the sort of future we’re actually creating.

So it’s no surprise that at this point my thoughts turn to the mediocre, to the unchosen, to the radicals and the subaltern and the dissidents. What becomes of difference in this future? We see these people only sometimes, in the background: Sisko’s dad, Picard’s brother. Usually they exist only to be made Star Fleet officers or good Federation citizens by the end of the episode, and we see no one like this in this movie at all. The lack of flexibility in this narrative template has grown, I think, exhausting, and it’s for this reason that over the years I find myself much more drawn to presentist and mundane SF, or apocalyptic futurity, or to anti-Trek futures like Firefly, the first few seasons of BSG, or Samuel Delany’s Triton.

But all the same every so often it’s nice to come home again.

Just one request: no more product placement, please; there’s no money in the future, much less corporations…

Another Round

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Another round: religion and politics.

* The U.N. has apparently passed a resolution banning the defamation of religion. In the U.S., at least, truth is absolute defense to defamation…

* Don’t tell the U.N.: quantum theory may make omniscience mathematically impossible.

* Richard Nixon analyzes an episode of All in the Family. Those White House tapes are a national treasure.

* Truth commissions vs. prosecutions.

* A visitor’s guide to Chinese conceptions of hell. Via MeFi.

* And are video games teaching kids the skills they need for the Apocalypse? The Onion reports.

Written by gerrycanavan

February 27, 2009 at 4:33 pm

Sunday, Sunday

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Sunday.

* Uncool: A U.N. resolution on the right to food passed 180-1. Via Lenin’s Tomb.

* Lots of links floating around to this revisionist interpretation of It’s a Wonderful Life:

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. It is also a nightmare account of an endless home renovation.

… Take the extended sequence in which George Bailey (James Stewart), having repeatedly tried and failed to escape Bedford Falls, N.Y., sees what it would be like had he never been born. The bucolic small town is replaced by a smoky, nightclub-filled, boogie-woogie-driven haven for showgirls and gamblers, who spill raucously out into the crowded sidewalks on Christmas Eve. It’s been renamed Pottersville, after the villainous Mr. Potter, Lionel Barrymore’s scheming financier.

Here’s the thing about Pottersville that struck me when I was 15: It looks like much more fun than stultifying Bedford Falls — the women are hot, the music swings, and the fun times go on all night. If anything, Pottersville captures just the type of excitement George had long been seeking.

* Will Obama gut NASA? Nice followup to last week’s discussion on Poli-Sci-Fi Radio.

* On the plus side, Obama pledges allegiance to science.

* Ultimately, these disputes can’t really be resolved until Obama is in office. Only then will we know whether Obama’s embrace of every establishment and even right-wing figure he can find is a reflection of what the substance of his governing will be, or whether — as many of his supporters claim — it’s a master strategy designed to diffuse tension and hostility in order to enable easier enactment of his progressive agenda. If Obama devotes genuine efforts to repealing DOMA and don’t-ask-don’t-tell, I doubt anyone will care how many times he hugs Rick Warren — just as if Obama really closes Guantanamo, withdraws from Iraq and forges a diplomatic peace with Iran, few people will care how much he embraces Joe Lieberman — though obviously those are very, very large “ifs.” Only time will tell. Via Open Left.

* Arctic melt 20 years ahead of climate models. Response to global warming 20 years behind rational policy-making.

* Hadley Center study warns of “catastrophic” 5°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path. Did I mention we’re screwed?

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