Tuesday, March 27, 2007

the dream is gone but the baby is real.

So, over the past couple of weeks, I've heard many people say "You don't need to be successful. Bill Gates didn't go to college, and look at him! blahblahblah"

He went to Harvard for three years. I hardly think that's "not going to college." Not going to college is working at McDonalds after graduation and not stepping foot in anything remotely resembling a post-secondary school--university, community college, etc.

It's frustrating that people think that they can get away with saying things like this that are based in absolutely no truth whatsoever.

He didn't "finish" college--but people who use this "Bill Gates did not go to college" adage are trying to prove that the most brilliant people fly outside of the radar of conventional norms. This may be true--but their posterboy went to the very symbol of an elite hotbed of post-secondary school thought--Harvard University.

So, if people try to prove a point to you with a blatant falsity, call them out on it. Sometimes, we have to let things go--but when it flies in the face of the point that someone is trying to make, it is in everyone's best interest to correct them.

Saying that Bill Gates didn't go to college offends the success stories of people who did indeed excel without stepping foot inside of a school after completing their high school education.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Richard Jeni 1957-2007

Richard Jeni shot himself in the face Saturday. He was a comic of skill--listed on Comedy Central's top 100 comedians of all time. He was a comic of variety--could do politics, impressions, slapstick, allegories, or song. But mostly he was a comic of that immaterial brilliance that defies description but makes it's home in familiarity.

Whoever heard so much as a snippet of Jeni could never forget it. First, because of the distinctive nasal Brooklyn twang that was Jeni's voice when he wasn't imitating an LA cab driver, or an airplane pilot; and second, because of the laughter it exacted from the depths of your being. There was no way around it: if you were listening, you were laughing. And though the varied repertoire played an important role in the universality of his appeal, the purity of his popularity stemmed from his ability to--like all great comics--tell it like it is, but with a twist. Jeni could appraoch a common joke topic, like the War on Terror, and with his perspective and wit--so fresh--he could make you see that section of life in a completely new light. He was a true oracle, and a hilarious one at that.

How many times, when esteemed and beloved entertainers take their own lives, do we ask the inanswerable questions of grief like how someone who created so much happiness could undertake the saddest act known to man? More, how such a sickness could coexist in the same self-core as the fountain that burst forth with a million and one jokes? And do they merely coexist, or are they codependant???

We are left with our neanderthal gropings at reason:

I can only wonder if he ever thought about what it would feel like beating someone to death with a microphone stand; or if he ever dreamed about falling off the stage and breaking his neck on a chair in the front row.

Yeah, life behind the deadly instruments of performance, scrutiny, masks, drinks, expectations.


Yeah, life behind ability.

He exposed himself night after night just to try to coax from the audiences a little exposure themselves. They say that if you can make someone laugh you have the keys to their soul. But I can only wonder what has to happen to the keymaker, that pimp, and the late nights in his workshop and the searing pain of doors that cannot be open and the responsibility of playing court jester to the kingdom of man...where can this man rest? where can this man heal?

Thursday, March 8, 2007

春休み--haru yasumi--spring break

It's Spring Break here at the JJ Collective. bsto is already in Chicago (en route to Palo Alto), Pdubbs is in London (and Birmingham and Cambridge) and Sarahzzle and I are off to New York City on in an hour.

We'll all be checking in, and I'll be back in the District next Friday.

And don't think that we're not writing. I saw today's news on Abe thinking about starting a new investigation that would go over the 1993 commission's finding on Japan's "comfort women."

Until then--

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Stop me if you think you've heard this one before

Today's Washington Post has an article in which China calls for Japan to "face up" to history about its World War II comfort women/sex slaves.

My stance is the same: Japan must apologize, and it's good that more and more countries are calling for them to. But China needs to tread lightly, especially because they are on quite thin ice when it comes to violating human rights. Everyone should be upset by what happened and even more so by Abe's reaction, but one has to question China's ulterior motives. Are they attempting to put up the facade that they are against human rights violations when they allegedly harvesting the internal organs of Falun Gong members? Calling for the right corrective action is one thing; doing so to hide one's own faults is another beast altogether.

I know every government has many human rights violations and that there are things that every government has done that are quite embarrassing and morally wrong.
But, when a country is in the position of outing and calling for another nation to apologize, they should be more than frank about their own indiscretions, like the Great Leap Forward. as well as their response to the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Japan needs to apologize. More countries need to get on their case for what was done, but after that, their definitely needs to be more worldwide transparency and honesty. I understand that my call is easier said than done, but if anyone is going to move forward, they need to come to terms with the past first.

China and the US are rightfully crusading against Japan's rape of thousands of women during World War II. They need to be willing to crusade against the ghosts of their own scoundrels, rapists and murderers afterwards as well.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Japan must address her misogynistic ways.

I’m proud that the US government is finally getting on Japan for denying apologies and reparations to women (primarily South Korean) who were used as sex slaves (I am not going to use the preferred term of “comfort women” because it takes away from the brevity of the situation and lets the Japanese off easy) by the Japanese military while on its Asia romp during World War II.

The fact that Congress is close to adopting a resolution on the matter that will pressure Japan is very significant. This proves that the government believes in human rights and doing right—and that it will chastise even its closest ally if necessary.

Shinzo Abe said that the Japanese government would not apologize under him. This is uncalled for, but it is not unexpected. Abe is a strong nationalist who will undoubtedly visit Yasukuni Shrine, which is a memorial to the war criminals in Japan. This is a sore point for China: China’s government has said that the Japanese people and the Emperor are not to blame for what happened in China during World War II at the hands of Japan. But, when prime ministers visit the shrine, they are celebrating primarily the Japanese officers found guilty of war crimes in front of international tribunals.

Most Japanese people are calling for Japan to apologize, and it is unfathomable that the country would refuse to do so. Japan—South Korea relations are improving (thanks to—no joke—South Korean soap operas, among other things) and with China and North Korea already making East Asia unstable, why would the Japanese government try to drive a wedge between the only other major American ally in the region?

What Abe’s government is doing is sick and wrong, and America is doing the right thing by taking a stand against Japan’s actions. After it pushes the Japanese into expressing apologies, condolences and paying reparations, though, it needs to look at itself as well.

HR 662 deported Latin-American citizens of Japanese descent to Axis countries during World War II. This is an occurrence hardly documented and never taught. While the American incarceration of its own citizens during World War II was wrong, this is even less talked about and even more frustrating.

I am not trying to piggyback issues here at all. What Japan did to most of Asia after being opened up to trade in the 1700s has been mostly wrong. Asia served as Japan’s experiment in imperialism, and Japan’s current government needs to redress these wrongs—especially the “comfort women” issue, which dehumanized women and made many choose against marrying because they wanted to keep their bodies in the exact state that they were in so that they could be “living proof of the evil that was committed against them by the Japanese government.”

Abe said today that no one could be sure that these women were forced to be sex slaves. This is a slap in the face, and anyone that claims to care about humanity and human rights should be appalled.

The US government is rightfully going after Japan for this. It’s time that our allies stopped getting free passes. But, it’s hard to throw stones when one lives in a glass house. We can’t talk about free governments when one of our biggest allies is Pervez Musharraf, who is going to suspend democracy in Iraq. The US government is in no place to talk about wrongdoings when it imprisoned its own citizens without due justice, experimented on black men with syphilis and sterilized mentally-challenged men without ever properly addressing these issues. Houses appear to be in order when everything is swept under the rug, but really, the dirt just compounds until the situation is out of hand--in this respect, both the United States and Japan are in the same boat.

But, first things first: Washington must go after Abe and Co. expediently. The “comfort women” must be apologized to and must be paid reparations. Japan also needs to be held accountable for Unit 731, which Japan continues to gloss over.

Then, though, the US government has a lot of explaining to do, including why it sprayed biological weapons over Hawaii in the 1960s. Even though it may sound naïve, we have a lot of questions to ask our government, and they definitely owe us quite a few explanations.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Ann Coulter Calling People Fags Again.

Ann Coulter continues to shock me. To Democrats, her name is typically synonymous with pure evil and ignorance. I suppose I simply underestimate just how far she will go.

The headline goes like this: "At CPAC, Ann Coulter Calls John Edwards A 'Faggot'" The article from The Nation continues with, "Discussing black Republicans, she declared, 'Our blacks are better than their blacks.'"

Here's some advice for you, Ann. Hateful, cheap comments diminish credibility, even among the people who could receive your message (see: http://www.earnedmedia.org/cdc0303.htm). Bigotry should not be part of your political agenda.

Ann Coulter's ignorance (and large following) is scary. But possibly more striking is her gross manipulation of the truth:

"There are more reputable scientists defending astrology than defending 'global warming,' but liberals simply announce that the debate has been resolved in their favor and demand that we shut down all production."

In this sentence she:

1) Denies the credibility of scientific research on global warming (in quotes to emphasize it as an idea and not a reality).
2) Uses "liberals simply announce" to play on partisanship.
3) Makes the completely false claim that liberals "demand that we shut down all production"

I can sum it up as simply an outrageous (http://www.anncoulter.com/)


Honestly, more than probably anybody else I would like to say, "See! This proves it! All Conservatives are hate-filled liars!" But as the last (almost) two months have brought me to see Republicans from a different perspective, I must concede this point: Neither party should use one extremist as representative of a whole. Sure, we can hate CPAC for allowing her to speak (and therefore condoning her historically hateful views), some Conservatives for laughing and cheering at her highly offensive comment, and of course her and her views. But playing the "my party is better than yours" game is petty.

I have seen too many politicians (thank you, CSPAN) speak simultaneously of bi-partisanship and play the "we rule, they drool" game. It is dangerous. Elected officials are representing only a fraction of their constituents. Really think about that, really think about the cycle of representation that dictates your life and your America. I want a candidate who will take each issue, each bill, each vote for what it is and what's best for Americans. It's the reason I can simultaneously admire Russ Feingold and Susan Collins.

Pretty please?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Response to DOD Essay, Our Administration

If you feel that by replying to this essay and taking a few minutes time from my readers I am "part of the problem," then so be it, please stop reading.

But if you, like me, had some kind of reaction to what Mr. Haynes (http://www.dod.mil/dodgc/gc/gcbio.html) wrote, please read on so we can continue a debate that isn't just "worth a read," but substantially relevant to our lives as Americans and global citizens.

You see, as impressed as I am by Mr. Haynes's eloquent historical references and straight-to-the-point tone, I can't help but point out the shiny incongruities of his essay. The fact of the matter is that as a Defense Department official, Mr. Haynes writes from the perspective of our government, so his essay provides a neat little microcosm for us to dissect: What is it EXACTLY that we should find incongruous (maybe), farfetched (closer), or straight up unfair (bingo) about our government's stance on the matter?

What’s initially apparent is a blatant contradiction. Mr. Haynes derides the “silent majority” of peace-loving Muslims who do not act out against the fanatics dominating their religion, yet ends his essay with a call for unity beneath our leaders. Isn’t this a double standard? It seems to be that we would better fulfill his advice if we CONTINUED mocking and hacking at our leaders, who aren’t so far from fanatics themselves. Remember, there is such a thing as Christian and Jewish fanaticism.

Despite what Mr. Haynes would have us believe, HISTORY IS NEVER SIMPLE. Never forget that Hitler was democratically elected. Never forget that those who represent freedom can be as tyrannical as those who represent oppression.

Of course, the main problem of Mr. Haynes’s comments is that he is blaming those without power for not getting power instead of holding those with power responsible for its use. This makes sense because to do so would invariably incriminate himself and the administration. So instead of saying “The fanatics are unfairly implicating the moderates,” he says that the moderates are at fault.

This is the same as holding an entire classroom responsible for the unruly actions of a few bullies. But the bullies here are not just tugging pigtails, they’re holding the entire room hostage. Maybe instead of attacking the bullies we should be working to free the innocent and imprisoned classmates, not persecute them equally.

Unfortunately, our administration’s idea of safety involves attacking (verbally or otherwise) EVERYBODY and maintaining the kind of tension the bullies themselves would admire.

Yesterday (Saturday, February 24), newspapers announced that the Canadian Supreme Court had deemed illegal the holding of terror suspects without a trial: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/23/AR2007022301882.html
I can only imagine how Mr. Haynes reacted. He and his Defense Department colleagues must have grimaced when they found out that our nearest neighbors had effectively ruled out what we rely on as a major weapon in our War on Terror.

Therefore, I say that instead of blindly admiring the leaders that “are trying to protect the interests and well being of the world and its citizens,” we do one better. I say that we congratulate our neighbors to the north for setting a positive example for the way this War could be worked out:

Instead of reducing the deep, sophisticated strands of history that make up the complex cultures of the world today; instead of relying on bogus logic; instead of appealing to emotion via sloppy historical references—we begin to think real hard about who EXACTLY the enemy is here. Who is really putting us in the most danger.

I, for one, certainly am not scared of peace-loving Muslims.
As a matter of fact, I feel a sort of kinship with them because both of us are represented by people we don’t support.

Am I hurting our country?


Essay from the DOD

This is an essay being forwarded around. It was written by a DOD official. It is worth reading only so we can see the way the people in charge of this country view other people in the world. My comments are on the post above.

The Peaceful Majority by William Haynes

I used to know a man whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War
Two. They owned a number of large industries and estates. I asked him how
many German people were true Nazis, and the answer he gave has stuck with
me and guided my attitude toward fanaticism ever since.

"Very few people were true Nazis "he said," but many enjoyed the return of
German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who
just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat
back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we
lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything
I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories."

We are told again and again by "experts" and "talking heads" that Islam is
the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to
live in peace.

Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely
irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and
meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the
globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at
this moment in history.

It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50
shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter
Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over
the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb,
behead, murder, or honor kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque
after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and
hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard quantifiable fact is that
"peaceful majority" is the "silent majority" and it is cowed and extraneous.

Communist Russia comprised Russians who just wan ted to live in peace, yet
the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million
people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was
peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70
million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War 2 was not a
warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across
South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder
of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.
And, who can forget Rwanda , which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be
said that the majority of Rwandans were "peace loving"?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our
powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points:

Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.
Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up,
because like my friend from Germany , they will awake one day and find
that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.

Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs
Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many
others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it
was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold; we must pay attention to the only
group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Lastly, I wish to add: I sincerely think that anyone who rejects this as
just another political rant, or doubts the seriousness of this issue or
just deletes it without paying heed to it, or sending it on, is part of the
problem. Lets quit laughing at and forwarding the jokes and cartoons which
denigrate and ridicule our leaders in this war against terror. They are
trying to protect the interests and wel l being of the world and it's
citizens. Best we support them.

William Haynes