A phrase I never expected to read:
A phrase I never expected to read:
The UN Security Council has issued a statement on Burma. OK. a statement is better than nothing, but it’s basically just meaningless words that will be ignored by the Burmese junta.
But you wouldn’t get that from the [BBC report](http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7040371.stm). They say:
The statement – which, unlike a resolution, requires the consent of all 15 council members to be adopted – was issued by Ghana’s UN Ambassador Leslie Christian, the council’s president.
Yep, they totally skip the detail that a resolution actually, well, resolves something. Reading this report, you could easily get the idea that a statement is more significant than a resolution (it’s unanimous, right? that has to count for something…).
Aren’t journalists supposed to cut through all the bureaucratic, procedural crap for us, so that we can have an idea of what’s going on without having to understand diplomatic doublespeak?
Sy Hersh is supposed to have incredible knowledge and attention to detail, right? Writing about “the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown” must really help that reputation.
[The Yorkshire Ranter](http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/) is well worth reading, for the incidental comments as much as for the main thrust of the posts. His [Review](http://yorkshire-ranter.blogspot.com/2007/08/review-ak47-story-of-peoples-gun.html) of a history of the AK-47 nicely explains:
Mikhail Kalashnikov’s background as the son of kulaks exiled to Siberia, and his running away to join the engineers – he fled the penal colony and jumped a train, eventually landing an apprenticeship in the Turk-Sib railway yards. This is something a lot of people fail to realise about the Soviet Union; as well as a bureaucratic tyranny, it was (especially up to the 1940s) a continent on the move, full of transients and orphans and bastards and geniuses.
Finally, I’m now back with broadband, a [room of my own](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Room_of_One’s_Own), and enough free time to read the news. There might actually be another post here inside the next couple of months.
I’m now in Berlin, tryng to learn German and drifting around Kreuzberg. I’m here for at least the next three months, although I might extend that if Berlin continues to rock as much as it has for the week I’ve been here.
This medieval bestiary feel very much like the etymologies in Sanskrit works like Yaska’s _Nirukta_. Both of them shift between what we’d now think of as etymology (i.e. finding plausible historical roots for words), and a more alien sense that the word, through etymology, somehow captures the entire nature of the thing described. I suppose in the West this goes back to the “Platonism without Plato” that drives medieval scholasticism, and there is something pretty similar in India.
The he-goat is a wanton and frisky animal, always longing for sex; as a result of its lustfulness its eyes look sideways – from which it has has derived its name. For, according to Suetonius, hirci are the corners of the eyes. Its nature is so very heated that its blood alone will dissolve a diamond, against which the properties of neither fire nor iron can prevail.
Also, like all these books, it is a very pretty thing.
Wow. Drop what you’re doing, and go read this article:
The only thing that sets these students apart from kids at any other school in America – aside from their special-ed designation – is the electric wires running from their backpacks to their wrists. Each wire connects to a silver-dollar-sized metal disk strapped with a cloth band to the student’s wrist, forearm, abdomen, thigh, or foot. Inside each student’s backpack is a battery and a generator, both about the size of a VHS cassette. Each generator is uniquely coded to a single keychain transmitter kept in a clear plastic box labeled with the student’s name. Staff members dressed neatly in ties and green aprons keep the boxes hooked to their belts, and their eyes trained on the students’ behavior. They stand ready, if they witness a behavior they’ve been told to target, to flip open the box, press the button, and deliver a painful two-second electrical shock into the student at the end of the wire.
Now, this is already astoundingly nasty stuff. The justification is that these are severely disabled children who would otherwise be locked up, drugged to the eyeballs, or killing themselves. I can’t accept it – because I wouldn’t want anybody to have that power over anyone, certainly not in such a regimented system – but at least I can see the defence. Only, read on and it gets far worse:
Sometimes, the student gets shocked for doing precisely what he’s told. In a few cases where a student is suspected of being capable of an extremely dangerous but infrequent behavior, the staff at Rotenberg won’t wait for him to try it. They will exhort him to do it, and then punish him. In these behavior rehearsal lessons, staff members will force a student to start a dangerous activity – for a person who likes to cut himself, they might get him to pick up a plastic knife on the table – and then shock him when he does.
New York state inspectors concluded that “the background and preparation of staff is not sufficient,” that JRC shocks students “without a clear history of self-injurious behavior,” and that it uses the GED “for behaviors that are not aggressive, health dangerous, or destructive, such as nagging, swearing, and failing to keep a neat appearance.”
[crossposted from [my livejournal](http://oedipamaas49.livejournal.com)]
I’m temporarily turning off comments on this blog, because of the ridiculous amount of comment spam I’m getting right now. No promises about when they’ll come back; probably when I’m sorted out enough to put a bit more content around here.
Long time no show.
Apart from getting ready to leave Cambridge and become a hobo, I seem to have spent a lot of the past few days squeeing over steampunk. There’s Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age on the one hand, and Miyazaki’s Castle in the Sky on the other.
I adore the almost Heath Robinson aesthetic of massive machines patched together from scraps of metal. It makes everything seem functional, compared to the gleaming, polished steel of most futurism.
The thing that bugs me is: where on earth does the ‘punk’ come in. Cyberpunk as a genre stripped out all of the politics and most of the rebellion, but there was at least a glimmer of connection between the cyber and the punk. But what politics there is in steampunk is a hearkening-back to empire, occasionally scattered with a bit of affection for the people being destroyed by it. Steampunk made with real punk: there’s something I’d enjoy reading.
Last week, I planned to force myself into writing daily updates here, and it just isn’t working. It’s a pity, because I’m sure I’d be a lot happier if I forced myself to do something every day. When I’m in a foul mood I tend to gnash my teeth at politics, and I need a bit more coherence to write about anything else. It does help to know that nobody’s reading, though!
Anyway, today has been a crappy day and so I’m taking the coward’s way out: a collection of interesting links, with no theme beyond the usual focus on Iraq and the former Soviet bloc.
In the Atlantic, Fred Kaplan has a [subscription-only article](http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200606/kaplan-iraq) about Enduring Bases in Iraq – nice to see that meme gradually picking up steam, and moving into the mainstream.
[Chernobyl](http://vilhelmkonnander.blogspot.com/2006/04/chernobyl-myth.html) means ‘wormwood’ in Ukranian. That gave an apocalyptic flavour to the disaster, because Revelations says:
“And there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters. And the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter.”
Much talk of Russia [using energy sales for political ends](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/04/22/AR2006042201026.html); so what’s new? Ditto for [Uzbekistan closing down NGOs](http://uzbekistan.neweurasia.net/?p=91)
New Eurasia is doing cross-regional commentaries on [HIV](http://neweurasia.net/?p=231) and on [Islam as a political force](http://neweurasia.net/?p=425)
And that’s it. Now I’m going to post this, crack open a can of beer, and mope!