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Democracy has been taken for granted at a time when it is most endangered. Neo-Conservatives are organized to replace it with oligarchy, to replace consent for the rule of law with fascistic allegiance to the executive branch disguised as "patriotism." As a team made up of a political philosopher and a writer, we consider otherwise repressed information from a critical perspective in the hope of elevating the quality of our political dialogue so that it is worthy of a truly democratic society.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Warm holiday wishes to all.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

An unsettling story in today's New York Times:

For Japan's New Homeless, There's Disdain and Danger
By NORIMITSU ONISHI

Published: December 17, 2003


"KAWASAKI, Japan--The memory of how three youths pounced on him one night with sticks and fists twisted Masahiko Sugai's face with pain. The homeless people living with him here, clustered under a bridge linking this city with Tokyo, avoided the topic.

"But the bruises around his eyes, visible for days after the beating, testified to a new kind of crime: attacks by young men and boys on middle-aged men who have become homeless after losing their jobs and who, in the cold logic of Japan's post-bubble-economy years, are useless.

"'We're most afraid of boys,' Mr. Sugai, 51, said one afternoon in early September as cars and trucks rumbled overhead on the Rokugo Bridge. 'They're the most dangerous.'

"A month later, in an unrelated case, 10 boys were arrested here for randomly assaulting three sleeping homeless men. The boys--the youngest was 10, the oldest 16--told the police that they were 'killing time,' 'getting rid of stress' and "disposing of society's trash." They came from normal homes and earned normal grades at school.

"'They didn't stand out at all,' said Kengo Honda, 54, deputy chief at the police station that investigated the case. 'They didn't realize they had done something bad until we brought them to the station and questioned them.'

"Mr. Honda, trying to explain the matter, spoke of the 'shameful tendency in Japan to target the weak.'

"The police do not keep track of such crimes, and most victims, like Mr. Sugai, do not report them. But Mitsuyuki Maniwa, a professor specializing in juvenile crime at Otani University in Kyoto, said such attacks had increased in the last five years and had become more violent.

"'Those who have no role in society are now considered trash, just like stray cats or dogs, to be disposed of,' Mr. Maniwa said." [...]

Read the entire story here.
(Requires a free, one-time registration).
Another nicely-written piece from the good folks over at Flak Mag:

Grendel on the Tigris
by Joshua Adams


"Opening his mouth for a tongue depressor, Saddam Hussein looked a bit like Grendel might have if Beowulf had given the monster a dental exam before rending his limbs. Hussein, the fearsome tyrant of the Tigris who murdered thousands of his own people and countless others, who defied the will of the international community for years, found himself saved from a hail of bullets but not the poking and prodding of a U.S. military doctor. How deliciously mundane the images were — a fitting end for a man whose lowly criminality was writ large in his final moments of freedom: boxed beneath the earth, trapped like a rodent fleeing a broom, he reportedly told the US troops, 'Don't shoot.'

"It is easy to glorify this scene, especially since it is some of the first good news from Iraq in months. And though even President Bush prescribes continued patience in Iraq, it's hard to say Saddam's capture isn't a major step forward. Indeed, those of us who doubted the war or outright opposed it will wake at night with the grainy video of the toppled dictator still dancing through our brains. Are we wrong? Does jailing Saddam Hussein for his crimes against humanity finally make this war worthwhile?

"Yes and no. The car bomb that killed six Iraqi policemen the day after Saddam's arrest makes it painfully clear that the insurgency will not automatically fade. Of more concern is the emerging expert consensus that Hussein's role in the insurgency has been primarily symbolic. Clearly, without communications equipment in his 'spider-hole,' it's doubtful he could have been a potent logistical resource for those whom the administration has labeled 'terrorists.' But symbols are relational things: they change their form, but not their function, and Hussein isn't the only one in Iraq. As long as the US military occupies the country, the insurgents will have all the twisted justifications they need to kill their countrymen, and ours."[...]

Read the entire essay here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Message From Montana's Elected Representatives: Gays Are Not Citizens

So, yeah, I'm one of those weirdos who actually bothers to write to my state's elected officials in Washington from time to time. I wrote to Congressman Denny Rehberg [R, Montana] on the subject of gay marriage rights. What follows is his response, which I received today:
--------------------------------------------------------

"Thank you for contacting me regarding the institution of marriage. It's good to hear from you.

"Marriage as the union of male and female is the most widely established social institution in the world. It cuts across all racial, cultural and religious lines. In virtually every known human culture, society creates ties between mothers, fathers and their children.

"As a people, Americans instinctively agree that every individual is worthy of respect and that the traditional institution of marriage is worthy of protection. While individuals form significant relationships of all kinds throughout our society, only one relationship has ever received a historic and internationally elevated status in our laws and our culture: the traditional marital union of one man and one woman.

"In 1996, Congress passed and President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). DOMA defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for purposes of federal law, such as entitlement to Social Security benefits and for taxation. DOMA also provides that states may refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. This Act did not set any new precedent, but rather affirmed the traditional definition of marriage that is reflected in the statutes, judicial precedent, common law and practice of all fifty states.

"I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman, and the benefits of marriage and family should be protected as a matter of law. As Montana's congressman, I will continue to support whatever safeguards are needed to uphold the traditional understanding of marriage.

"Thanks again for contacting me. For further information or to sign up for my e-newsletter, please visit my website at www.house.gov/rehberg/. Keep in touch."


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

BUSY BUSY

Crunch time, and my schedule is more pressed this term than i think it has ever been. The nice news is that i am about to reconcile with a friend with whom i have not spoken for nearly a year - the story of why things broke down between us is a sordid one of romantic attachment and the wisdom that sometimes keeps one just far enough above the fray to keep from being dragged down in a trajectory of unavoidable self-destruction. I was lucky, but barely. Time has passed, and i want to reconcile warm memories in some form of friendship. Political stuff tomorrow night, tonight is for reflection and sleep.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

From the crack Flak Mag folks:

The Simple Life
Fox
Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m. / 7:30 p.m. CST

By Bob Cook

"One episode of Fox's 'The Simple Life,' the so-called 'reality' show that places famous-for-nothing socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on an Arkansas farm for 30 days to let wackiness and 'Dueling Banjos' soundtracks ensue, is enough to convince you that — despite the political oppression, cultural deprivation and 30 million or so deaths — the late Chairman Mao was on to something when he forced certain urbanites to rural 'reeducation camps' to learn from the peasants." [...]

Read the entire (great) essay here.

Monday, December 01, 2003

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WOODY ALLEN! I LOVE YOU!

You are more philosophical than your critics understand. You have enriched my life by illuminating its complexity. Live on in health and happiness!

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