Monday, December 31, 2007

Book Review: Come Hell Or High Water

Michael Eric Dyson’s Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and the Color of Disaster is an ineloquent survey of the government’s response—or lack of it—to the hurricane that devastated the mostly poor residents of New Orleans. Dyson’s book examines the disaster at the intersection of class and race and how government neglect made a bad situation worse.

Nothing Dyson has written is new. New Orleans, a predominately black city, is one of the poorest, crime-ridden cities in the nation. Years of benign neglect by federal, state and local government have taken its toll. What Katrina did was to bring it to the fore. It was attention grabber when thousands of Orleanites, mostly black and mostly poor, were stranded waiting for anyone to help them.

Dyson places most of the blame on the federal government for not doing much before, during or after the hurricane. I would have to agree with Dyson that the federal government’s response—or lack of it—bordered on the criminal. But it’s unfair to place the whole blame on the federal government, in my opinion, when both the state and local government were equally sluggish in their respnse to Katrina.

And Dyson does not see the response to Katrina as an isolated incident, but as a problem with the system itself. Now this is where Dyson goes off the rails. He cites government cutbacks on welfare, housing and other social programs, starting in the 1980’s, after the election of Reagan, as the culprit. If this were so, then all blacks, regardless of geography would be worse off, right? But all social indicators say that blacks have made substantial advancements in many areas, leading many to enter not only the middle-class, but upper classes as well. Something other than institutionalized racism ails New Orleans.

I don’t think Come Hell or High Water is the best book on Katrina. For one thing, it’s badly written, which I found to be exasperating and tedious. Dyson is an academic and writes like one: though the book is straightforward, Dyson often veers toward the pedantic, and often gets caught in the thicket of acadamese. There is nothing intimate about the book; it’s all facts and figures, like a college textbook or delivering a paper at some symposium. You don’t hear the voices of Katrina victims aside from brief testimonials at the beginning of each chapter.

Cuba Accuses US Of Killing Fleeing Citizens

Cuba accuses the United States for the death of its citizens who try to flee the island. From Granma:
CUBA condemned Thursday the policies of the United States that incite illegal emigration by residents of the island to that country, with resulting human fatalities, as occurred this past December 22.

According to a communication from the Ministry of the Interior, read out yesterday on the Cuban “Roundtable” TV program, two Cubans perished on Saturday, December 22 after the speedboat in which they were attempting to leave the country capsized one kilometer off the northern coast of Havana province.

…At the same time, the communication concludes, investigations are continuing into this unfortunate accident whose root cause is the murderous U.S. Cuban Adjustment Act, which incites illegal emigration and the lucrative activities of the Cuban American mafia in South Florida.
Naturally, a mouthpiece like Granma, is not going to ask the first question that pops in one’s head when these incidents happen: why are people risking life and limb, including arrest, to flee to the United States, a bastion of capitalist exploitation, from a worker’s paradise like Cuba, where education and healthcare is free, and everybody is happy?

If you read the whole article, human trafficking seems to be the main motivating factor. Cuba is rationalizing that the “Cuban mafia” in Miami is somehow forcing people to flee, for the purposes of slave labor. If human trafficking is indeed the goal, it is half-ass way of going about it. In fact, it’s cheaper to bring people over the Mexican border than it is from Cuba.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Keeping It In The Family

In a previous post, I wrote that it was doubtful that any of Benazir Bhutto's children would take their mother's place since they are a tad young, spent their formative years overseas, and are only half-Bhuttos. I was wrong. Bhutto's 19-year-old son, Bilawal Bhutto Zaradari, has been appointed to lead one of Pakistan's major political parties. He has no political experience other than being his mother's son. Below is a video of a press conference announcing his appointment.

It seems like Bilawal's father, Asif Zaradari, a character in his own right, does most of the talking. Bilawal, when he does talk, speaks in a clipped, anglicized English, betraying his expensive private school education. He belongs on the polo field, not the bloodsport that is Pakistani politics.

The appointment of Bilawal proves that dynastic politics run deep in South Asia, which is a tragedy since it also proves that the PPP is a cult of personality, not a political party.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Capitalizing On Bhutto's Death

Bhutto’s body has barely been put to rest and it's already grist for America’s political mill:
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton on Friday accused the camp of rival Sen. Barack Obama of politicizing the death of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Sen. Hillary Clinton says she regrets that Sen. Barrack Obama's camp "would be politicizing this tragedy."

"I just regret that [Obama and his chief strategist] would be politicizing this tragedy, and especially at a time when we do need to figure out a way forward," Clinton said Friday in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
Politics is such a brutish business.

Death Of An Icon

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto is tragic but hardly surprising. The Bhuttos are streaked with fatalism. Their history reads like a Greek tragedy. Benazir’s father, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by President Zia ul-Haq on bogus charges, purportedly to get rid of a potential rival. Both of Benazir’s brothers, Murtaza and Shahnawaz, are dead: the former in a police altercation, and the latter on the French Riviera, under mysterious circumstance, presumably through poisoning. The only Bhutto remaining is a younger sister, Sanam, but there is little information about her except that she’s married and has two children. Will she carry the torch for the PPP, a party founded by her father?

Many critics are saying that this will be a blow for democracy in Pakistan. Really? I don’t think so. The democracy practiced in Pakistan has been a half-hearted affair, at best. Democratic institutions were never allowed to mature beyond what their power hungry leaders—and the military—wanted. Benazir Bhutto was equally guilty of this, and she was Prime Minister not once, but twice. In fact, Bhutto was no more democratic than her rival, Nawaz Sharif. To say that democracy in Pakistan is in danger is utter foolishness when democracy was never there to begin with.

The only thing that an assassin’s bullets and bombs accomplished was to splinter the PPP, which was essentially a cult of personality for the Bhutto clan. Who will lead them now? Party workers are already on the prowl, looking for the next Bhutto to lead them to the promise land. Benazir’s children, perhaps? Doubtful. Since they’re not only young but are half-Bhuttos, and their father, a likely candidate, is not only unremarkable, but a grafting charlatan to boot.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book Review: We Are All Suspects Now

There is a lot to like about Tram Nguyen’s book, We Are All Suspects Now: Untold Stories from Immigrant Communities after 9/11, and there is plenty not to like. Nguyen writes an intimate book about the plight of immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, in post-9/11 America. The maltreatment of illegal immigrants at the hands of the U.S. government is revealed in painful personal testimonies and vivid profiles.

Nguyen covers a lot of ground in her svelte volume: arrest and disappearance of illegal immigrants, harassment of asylum seekers, special registration for young Muslim men, racial profiling, the militarization of the border, and those fleeing the United States for safer pastures.

Naturally, most of the victims are Muslims. They have borne the brunt of the government’s war on terrorism given the fact that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Muslims in the name Islam, even though most Muslims had nothing to do with it. Hysteria ruled the day. And it still does. Nguyen treats this and other issues well with her straightforward writing.

Nevertheless, while reading the book, I sensed an undercurrent of contempt for the sovereignty of the United States. The problem with Nguyen is that she’s a bleeding heart; and what goes unsaid is that she is also a supporter of open borders. She treats those who oppose this as, well, hicks. Take, for example, her treatment of Chris Simcox, whose only concern is to defend America’s borders from illegal immigrants and criminal gangs who smuggle drugs. Not a violent fellow at all, but Nguyen treats Simcox like a racist and a right-wing kook, even though a majority of Americans support his opinion.

Another thing I dislike about Nguyen’s book is that she conflates both illegal immigration and terrorism into one issue, when, in many cases, they are mutually exclusive. In her mind if an illegal immigrant (or, in her parlance, “undocumented’) is cleared of any links to terrorism, they should be simply released. This is wrongheaded and muddled thinking. Just because an illegal immigrant doesn’t have a connection to terrorism he or she does not cease to be illegal!

Illegal immigrants may not be violent criminals like murderers and rapists, but they are lawbreakers; people who skirted the law to get to this country illegally. Nguyen shamelessly treats them as victims. This is a slap to the face of all those legal immigrants who followed the law and patiently waited their turn. Of course, they are nowhere to be found in her book.

This being said, I don’t want to thought of as some cold-hearted idealists. I’m a realist and pragmatic. I do believe that the United States needs a sensible policy on immigration, but opening the borders is not the answer.

India: No One Writes Letters Anymore

Excellent article in The New York Times about the dying industry of professional letter writing in India. The article profiles one G.P. Sawant, who claims he hasn’t written a letter in three years! The culprit? Globalization, internet, and high mobile phone penetration.

I remember when my mother use to write letters to Bangladesh and India on those familiar blue air mail paper slips, and receive them in turn. Those days are long gone, of course: now calling costs pennies a minute, IM and e-mail are equally intimate—as a result, no one writes letters anymore. Hence there is no need for professional letter writers like Mr. Sawant, who, long retired, idyllically passes his time away at his stand, just in case that one person might need a letter written.

[via kottke]

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Watching Football Is Not A Human Right

I didn’t know that watching a football game was a human right the way some politicians are bleating about it. So what if many New England Patriots fans will be unable to watch their team make history simply because of geography. The answer is simple: get cable, or a satellite dish, and subscribe to the NFL Network, who is broadcasting the game; or better yet, go to someone’s house who already has the NFL Network, bring some beer and/or food as compensation; or, finally, just visit your neighborhood tavern, who will undoubtedly be broadcasting the game in order to drum up business. There is no paucity of choices, just the will to seek them out.

In the meantime, we have politicians threatening the NFL with fire and brimstone if it doesn’t put the game on “free television”, threatening to eliminate the NFL’s anti-trust exemption. Yeah, like the NFL still needs anti-trust exemption these days. I believe Congress should just butt out and let the NFL (a private business), NFL Network (a cable network owned by the NFL), and the fans (a private group) sort it out.

[via alarming news]

Book Review: Reporting By David Remnick

A writer of immense talent, I’d much prefer David Remnick write for The New Yorker rather than wasting away editing it. In the meantime, I’ll be very content rereading his collection of articles, Reporting: Writings From The New Yorker. Most article and essay collections are tedious bores, assembled as vanity pieces, often as fillers between publications of new books.

Not this book. Each article is a joy. Written in a simple, elegant and personal style that is Remnick’s hallmark: intelligent without being pedantic; sophisticated without being pretentious; serious without being taken too seriously—the comparisons are almost endless.

The volume is divided over five sections—politics, writers, Russia, Israel, and boxing. An eclectic mix of subjects, to be sure, but in the fine hands of David Remnick there is a rare chance he won’t dazzle you with his witty journalism and keen insights. His profiles on Philip Roth and Don Delillo, both iconoclastic American novelists, provide a glimpse of these very private people yet reminds us of their aloofness. Remnick’s articles on boxing are a remarkable commentary on the sports fading glory while describing its moral degeneracy personified by the rather loathsome, though talented, Mike Tyson.

The articles contained in this collection are to be savored and enjoyed, not consumed like fast food. Read them (and reread them) at your leisure, and for your pleasure. They demand it.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Modi, Media And Lies

Dawn is arguably Pakistan’s most sensible newspaper, so I was dismayed when they wrote this editorial about upcoming elections in Gujarat. An excerpt:
THE Indian state of Gujarat is back in the international news. Five years ago in 2002 Gujarat had received a lot of media publicity — of course of a negative kind — for a horrific carnage which saw over 2,000 Muslims brutally murdered. The same party, the BJP, which was then in the government has once again swept the state polls much to the horror of many who stand for secularism, non-violence and inter-communal harmony. Whatever implications this may have for Indian politics, the BJP’s win is certainly disturbing. With the general elections in India due in 2009 — they could be held sooner if the Congress-Left coalition at the centre fails to hold — Mr Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s BJP chief, could make a leadership bid in Delhi. That would certainly have a profound impact on India’s foreign policy, especially when Mr Modi’s brand of politics and ideology is not of the same kind as that of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee who had led the BJP to power in New Delhi for the first time.
This is utter nonsense. Dawn is implying that if Modi somehow becomes prime minister (which is a big question mark, at the moment) India will descend into a communal hell, ending with the wholesale slaughter of Muslins and other non-minorities (genocide, I think they call it). Yet Congress-led government have less than a stellar record in communal harmony, including the mass killings of Sikhs after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Of course, not even the Indian media would dredge this up so I don’t expect much from the Pakistani media.

At the same time, it was Vajpayee who sued for peace with Pakistan (visiting Lahore), while its armies were occupying Kargil. It was Vajpayee who invited Musharraf to Agra for a summit. All the while, the media was branding Vajpayee as a chauvinist, bigot and communalist.

Monday, December 24, 2007

A List Of Unheralded Films For 2007

FirstShowing.Net has a list of 17 movies that were ignored and deserve a second look. Do what I did: add them to your Netflix queue.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

My Name Is Smith, Just Smith

Some recruiter simply named Smith left a message on my cell phone about a job I might be interested in Connecticutt. He didn't leave his first name, or even called himself Mr. Smith, just Smith. Weird. And the man sounded like a desi, not some random native American. It was a deeply-accented English too, the kind spoken by Indian code jockeys that come to the United States, don't communicate much (except with each other), and pretty much keep to themselves, so their language skills, to say the least, are a bit stilted.

I decided against returning his call because I wasn't interested in going to Connecticut at all. Nevertheless, as is the practice, the recruiter followed up on his voice mail with an e-mail, which was asimply signed 'Smith'. I kept asking myself: is that really his name? Or is it an attempt by the recruiter to ingratiate himself to candidates without scaring them away with an ethnic-sounding name? But why rest with just one name.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Book On A.Q. Khan

Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan is becoming a popular subject these days as there is another biography about him called The Nuclear Jihadist: The True Story of the Man Who Sold the World's Most Dangerous Secrets...And How We Could Have Stopped Him. Here’s an excerpt of a review from The San Francisco Chronicle:
Upon hearing mention of people who have caused death and destruction in our world, such as Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, most decent people will react negatively. While Dr. Abdul Qadeer (A.Q.) Khan may not elicit the same reaction, it's high time to include him on that list.

Khan played a major role in constructing Pakistan's nuclear program, bringing atomic bombs to the Islamic world and to various rogue states. He's regarded as a hero by some in his native country, and a national disgrace by others. Time magazine dubbed him the "Merchant of Menace" in February 2005. And his controversial actions mark him as a real threat to liberty, freedom and democracy.

Two prominent reporters, the husband-and-wife team of Douglas Frantz and Catherine Collins, spent four years examining Khan's life, views and possible reasons for selling nuclear secrets. Their efforts have yielded "The Nuclear Jihadist," which details Khan's rise in terror circles and points fingers at various sources, including U.S. government officials, for not stopping him earlier.
A.Q. Khan in the same league as Hitler and Stalin! Even I think that’s a bit much. If A.Q. Khan wasn’t selling nuclear technology, someone else would. I doubt it was Khan’s intention to kill anybody, he just wanted to be famous: a flamboyant and vain man who enjoyed the role of playing a hero, who not only delivered the goods, but was (and still) worshiped for it.

And why exclusively blame A.Q. Khan? Why isn’t Pakistan being raked over the coals for its involvement? Each subsequent government not only indulged him but condoned his activities and, at times, actively participated in them. Nuclear technology was not being sent via Pakistan International Airlines but on air force transport aircraft planes. At the same time, that Pakistan would deny any knowledge of A.Q. Khan’s activities was laughable. I’m sure A.Q. Khan is not happy in his place in life: made to admit on television his crimes, banished into exile, forced to keep his mouth shut, and to live out his life with the indignity of being thrown under a bus by a country that greatly benefited from his work.

I’m sure A.Q. Khan, conceited and vain as he is, is almost chomping at the bit to say something, anything to clear his name. Now that’s a book I would like to read.

What's More Dangerous: Iran Or A Dirty Bomb

What’s more scarier: a nuclear-armed Iran, or this?
An underreported attack on a South African nuclear facility last month demonstrates the high risk of theft of nuclear materials by terrorists or criminals. Such a crime could have grave national security implications for the United States or any of the dozens of countries where nuclear materials are held in various states of security.

Shortly after midnight on Nov. 8, four armed men broke into the Pelindaba nuclear facility 18 miles west of Pretoria, a site where hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade uranium are stored. According to the South African Nuclear Energy Corp., the state-owned entity that runs the Pelindaba facility, these four "technically sophisticated criminals" deactivated several layers of security, including a 10,000-volt electrical fence, suggesting insider knowledge of the system. Though their images were captured on closed-circuit television, they were not detected by security officers because nobody was monitoring the cameras at the time.
I think the world community should focus its attention and energies on these kinds of incidents rather than attack Iran. I’m not defending Iran or its odious regime, of course, but the right of a sovereign nation to defend itself by any means necessary, including nuclear weapons. I have a hard time accepting the argument proffered by the United States and its allies that Iran has no right to possess nuclear weapons while the P-5 (China, France, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States) are allowed by virtue of the fact they had it before everyone else.

The world should be more concerned about low-yield nuclear weapons like “dirty bombs”. As the attempted theft has proven, a “dirty bomb’ going off is a more viable possibility than, say, Iran blowing Israel off the map. Iran will never do such a thing because they realize Israel—and the United States—would retaliate ten-fold, it’s mutually assured destruction for the new millennium.

I believe Iran getting nuclear weapons is a fait accompli. Pakistan not only has nuclear weapons, but sold the technology to whoever wanted it, including, ironically, Iran! In my opinion, Pakistan is more dangerous than Iran, yet there are no plans to defang Pakistan of its nuclear weapons (and the subsequent punishment were laughable); in fact, the United States is giving Pakistan billions in aid. Iran knows it’s just a waiting game.

Knowing this, isn’t it better to enlist the Iranians in securing existing supplies and hunt down and arrest would-be thieves? After all, Iran could just as easily be a target of a “dirty bomb” as the United States.

[via connecting the dots]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Corruption At United Nations

More evidence from James Kirchick, over at Contentions, that the United Nations is nothing more then a den of thieves:
In what’s unlikely to be a surprise even to casual observers of the United Nations, an internal audit conducted by the international organization has discovered corruption involving hundreds of millions of dollars regarding the disbursement of contracts for peacekeeping missions. The UN these days seems to be little more than an elaborate racketeering organization for wanna-be crooks and gangsters—too cowardly to participate in actual crime in their home countries, and thus taking advantage of the miserable and oppressed people entrusted into the organization’s care. This latest scandal is only rivaled by the Oil-for-Food heist of some years prior.

The results of this latest investigation are the latest fruit of the Volcker Commission, established in 2004 to investigate similar kickbacks and bribes disbursed under the ill-fated UN program in Iraq. The task force that uncovered the peacekeeping abuse had hired some of Volcker’s investigators, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, to his credit, has requested that the investigative body’s mandate be funded further. Unsurprisingly, developing nations are using parliamentary tactics to hold up the reauthorization process.
It’s must be noted that a majority of members of the United Nations are venally corrupt: when they’re not stealing from their own people, they steal from others, and the United Nations, with its loose controls and open pots of gold, seems like a good a place as any for an ambitious grafter on the make.

But corruption in the upper echelons is only the tip of the iceberg for the United Nations. It extends all the way to the peacekeepers themselves, many of whom engage in various illicit activities like smuggling and gun running; and many of them pray on refugees themselves through rapes, intimidation and outright extortion.

Is it any wonder why many donor countries, especially the United States, are so reluctant to fund peacekeeping missions?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Bangladesh Independence Day

December 16th is Victory Day in Bangladesh and I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about it, busy as I am. This day is celebrated with great fervor by almost everyone in Bangladesh. For them, the creation of Bangladesh is the fruit of a long struggle, whose seed was planted long ago by a bigoted West Pakistan government. But there’s one group that regrets the creation of Bangladesh, and they’re members of Jamaat-e-Islami.

Collectively, the independence of Bangladesh was a calamity for Jamaat and other Islamists. They tried to keep Pakistan whole, and even invoked Islam to do it—but to no avail. The thirst for independence could not be slaked by religion alone, so Jamaat and their minions resorted to violence instead. Thousands were killed, of course, and most of the killers got off scot-free.

Today, Jamaat has been rehabilitated into a major political force, courted by both major parties for their discipline and ability to bring out the vote. However, this does not mean the past has been forgotten, or forgiven. After all, Jamaat has history to answer to. This is why several Jamaat members and it supporters made some well-publicized gaffes about the independence movement and Jamaat’s role in it. They called it a civil war when it was no such thing. They said Jamaat had a positive role to play when, in reality, it tried to suffocate the movement, including murdering intellectuals, raping of women, and supporting marauding Pakistani troops.

In essence, it was an exercise to whitewash history. Fortunately, reaction from many quarters came swiftly and strongly. I was glad to read editorials, articles, and listen to public utterances denouncing Jamaat for the liars they are.

And what does Pakistan have to say about this day? They played the biggest role in Bangladesh’s independence. Very little from what I’ve been reading. This day is like a bad memory, better to be forgotten then remembered. But I believe this Pakistan Observer editorial says it best, as it’s the voice of the establishment:
WE are glad that barring the crisis generated by the infighting of two Begums that brought political and economic instability in Bangladesh, the brotherly country was otherwise doing well in all spheres of life. BD is progressing well and is considered a respectable member of the comity of nations. This is a source of satisfaction and encouragement for people of Pakistan, who have best of relations with Bangladesh.

However, as far as people of Pakistan are concerned December 16 is day of recollection as the then united Pakistan met with a great tragedy on this day in 1971. Regrettably, barring a few statements and insignificant events taking places here and there was no worthwhile function to remember the day when the country was dismembered due to internal and external factors. No one – neither political leaders nor governmental personalities or media took any significant notice of the most tragic and shameful incident of surrender at the Paltan Maidan in Dhaka where commander of the Pakistani forces was insulted publicly. We have also forgotten contemptuous remarks of the then Indian Prime Minister that her country has taken revenge of 1,000 years of Muslim rule in the Sub-Continent. It is very important for the Government and the political parties to realize that what led to the addition of one of the blackest chapters in the Muslim history. Of course, India too played a crucial and decisive role in the fall of Dhaka by abetting feelings of people of the then East Pakistan and by imparting training and providing funds for destabilization in that part of Pakistan. However, it is also important to remember that the perception of injustices and trampling of the mandate of the people were the other major factors that culminated into dismemberment of Pakistan. We must not forget this lesson.
It sounds like it was written by some Foreign Office PR flack. Nevertheless, it has been the official view of every government since 1971, following the same script. First, it plays up the supposed “brotherly” relations between Bangladesh and Pakistan when no such relation exists. Relations are cordial, but hardly brotherly. In fact, it can be argued, that Bangladesh has more “brotherly” relations with India.

Second, that the independence movement was a vast conspiracy, engineered by India, instead of an indigenous movement. This is a total fabrication. The Pakistan Movement began in what was then East Pakistan and ended there, as well.

If Pakistan wants to have better relations with Bangladesh, it must do two things: first, take full responsibility for its actions that let to Bangladesh’s bloody independence; and second, take back the thousands of Bihari refugees who are currently stranded in Bangladesh, which has created a humanitarian crisis that is Pakistan’s making.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Review: Fabric 01 By Craig Richards

210zrrfbv5l_aa_sl160_.jpgCraig Richards is a British tech house DJ that I never heard of before listening to this CD, I'm sorry to say; but he kicks off this new series by Fabric, a famed dance club in London, England. Unfortunately, I came to this series a bit late (Fabric has well over 30 releases to date, and an equal number of their other series, Fabriclive). Like many of my musical choices, I accidentally stumbled up on it. How, I don't remember, nor does it matter.

Fabric 01 is a progressive mix of richly-layered, dubbed and filtered techno and house, with minimal vocals, seamlessly blended together. Filled with deep atmospherics, it puts you in the mood to dance the night away. It's also well-suited as a sort of after party aperitif-listening to it while going home, or lounging around with your friends, waiting for the sun to rise. Since I don't go to clubs anymore, or lounge around with friends, I listened to the entire CD in my car while driving to and from work. It's very relaxing and a great way to get rid of the stress. I often find myself gently bobbing my head back and forth.

The selection of tracks on this CD is, for the most part, a mix bag; but my favorite tracks are Dubby Disco by Antonelli Electr. and Wavescape by Silicon Jazz. They are most danceable tunes of the set, with complex layers and a driving beat that just seems to get faster and faster with every passing second. It may be an illusion on may part, and it may not, but it's all bliss.

  1. Gemini - At That Café
  2. Cpen - Pirate's Life
  3. Antonelli Electr. - Dubby Disco
  4. Dub-Tech Soundsystem - Sugar Rush
  5. Jamie Anderson - Montage
  6. SCSI-9 - Cozmoport
  7. SCSI-9 - Cologne
  8. Lo-Kee - Sinners
  9. Ernst Viebeg - Nightlife
  10. Bushwacka! - Bluntski
  11. Swag - Drum Hydraulics
  12. Roman IV - (14x7x4)
  13. Wavescape - Silicon Jazz
  14. Terry Francis - Took From Me
  15. Helmet - Early Riser
  16. Schatrax - Mispent Years

New Music From Portishead

Here’s a video of Portishead performing new songs at a concert.

It’s definitely harder and edgier than what they did with Dummy and Portishead, both classics, in my opinion, as is their live album, Live: Roseland NYC.

Portishead are a bunch of creative recluses, living in the English countryside, producing an album every now and then - a definite sign of genius, madness, or both. Hopefully, these songs are an indication that a new album is in the works.

Their sound can only be described as a combination of downtempo, trip-hop, acid jazz, and psychadelic pop. Similar artists include Massive Attack, Tricky, Cocteau Twins, etc. Dreamy - somtimes nightmarish- soundscapes pervade the senses. It's the type of music I listen to while lying in my bed, unable to sleep. It's one hell of an experience: it's like a narcotic, but doesn't inolve going to rehab.

Check out this site to download more MP3s from the concert.

[via rock & roll daily]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Return Of The Wachowskis

Here’s the movie trailer for Speed Racer, the new movie by the Wachowski brothers.

I don’t really care about Speed Racer, or the Japanese anime it's based on, but I’m interested in the Wachowski brothers, who, in my mind, are geniuses. I know the word ‘genius’ is handed out like candy these days, but I really do mean it. Their movies are visual masterpieces (another overused word!). Unlike many directors, the Wachowskis know movies are a visual medium. I consider them more as painters then filmmakers. Another director in the same vein, whom I equally admire, is Ridley Scott.

What’s interesting about Speed Racer is that fact it’s the first movie by the Wachowskis since the Matrix trilogy. I read an article in Rolling Stone magazine a while back that the Wachowskis were through with the film business, and were focusing their energies on the brave new world of game development.

It’s nice to see them back doing films. I hope they do more. In the meantime, I eagerly await the release of Speed Racer.

Embargo Against Cuba Is Stupid

I agree with Matthew Cooper that the Cuban embargo is not only outdated but totally asinine; and time has come for it to go. He gives two good reasons why:
It's time to end the embargo—unilaterally and completely. The policy has been useless as a tool for cudgeling Castro, and it is hindering opportunities for American industries from travel to banking to agriculture, which is why there's no shortage of U.S. business groups lobbying to ease it. Far from hurting the deplorable Communist regime, the embargo has only given Castro an excuse to rail against Uncle Sam, both to his own people and to the world. Every year, Cuba asks the United Nations for a vote lifting the embargo. What happens? We usually end up with a couple of superpowers like Palau and the Marshall Islands standing with us. Last year, the vote was 183 to 4. The embargo makes us look like an arrogant bully.
Then there's the sheer intellectual dishonesty of the embargo. We trade with the tyrants of Beijing and Damascus, so why not Havana? This question has lingered at least since 1964, when then-secretary of state Dean Rusk was asked why we were selling to the Soviets and not to the Cubans: The Soviet Union was permanent, Rusk said, while Cuba was "temporary." Oops.
If the United States is willing to trade with human right reprobates like China and Syria, why not Cuba? The animus towards Cuba is purely personal, driven by a vocal Cuban minority in southern Florida with strong political connections. In turn, Cuba has turned the embargo into a political weapon, using it not only to bludgeon the United State in world arenas like the United Nations, who see the embargo as a Cold War anachronism, but to consolidate the power of Fidel Castro, the self-appointed messiah of the Cuban people.

The only befitting way to neuter Fidel Castros is to lift the embargo. Take way the only weapon he has; it will prove one thing: the emperor has no cloths. Fidel has always identified himself vis-à-vis the United States—the yanqui imperialists who wants to invade and conquer Cuba. How will Cuba villify the United States now?

Naturally, there are short-term trade-offs. Human rights will take a backseat, of course, but human rights always takes a backseat when trade is concerned. China jails dissidents all the time, but the United States continues to trade with him, hoping, wishfully, that trade will bring democracy, and democracy will bring human rights (the jury is still out on this line of thought). So why not with Cuba?

The embargo is what it is: a monumental failure and should done away it. Yes, Cuba will declare victory, of sorts, but I say let them, it will be short-lived. People will soon see that Cuba is far from being a worker’s paradise—no matter how good their education and healthcare systems may be—but in, in fact, an economic basketbase, reliant on hand-outs by the likes of Hugo Chavez. Finally, human rights will garner more media attention now that the bogeyman—the United States—has become a trading partner..

Monday, December 10, 2007

Reading Update: What I've Done, Couldn't Finish, And Plan To Do

The end of the year approaches—too quickly, I’m afraid—and time to offer my accomplishments, my failures, and my plans for the upcoming year in the what I like to call my reading life.

I have read 34 books so far, and am currently reading four more (with plans to finish them by the end of the year), for a total of 38 when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.

This is well below my goal of fifty books a year I set for myself every year, but almost always fail to achieve it. I know now why: first, fifty books years is a wee bit on the ambitious side to begin; I was setting up myself for failure at the start. Second, in the past year, I have read books that are just too long to finish in a week.

So my goals for 2008 are as following: I will read fifty books, but this time I’ll make sure whatever book I read will be 300-pages or less. I have plenty of those. I will skew toward more fiction, which are often quicker reads then, say, non-fiction. Looks like a lot of hard-boiled, noirish detective novels in my future—Furst, Chandler, Ambler, Hammett, etc.

I was planning to read Foucault's Pendulum and Khruschev's Cold War, but they will have to wait since they are both 600-plus pages each.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Bush's Attack On Liberties, A Timeline

An interesting link-filled post detailing the Bush Administration's assault on the Bill of Rights. A lot of people assume that the Bush Administration began curtailing civil liberties soon after 9/11, as a some sort of a knee-jerk response to the attacks. On the contrary, it started well before that, right after President Bush was sworn in, in fact.

(via hit & run)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Why Sudan Sucks

The whole teddy bear fiasco, for me, puts into focus why Sudan should be a charter member of the ‘Axis of Evil’. This country, and the Islamic regime that rules it, is a blot on humanity, decency, and just plain common sense.

Its crimes are numerous: slavery, war against Christians in the South, the pillaging and rape of Darfur and the resulting refugee crisis, and, finally—the cherry on top, so to speak—the arrest and jailing of a poor British schoolteacher, whose only crime is letting her elementary school-aged children to call a class teddy bear ‘Muhammad.’

These charges of blasphemy are used in the most capricious ways. In Pakistan, for example, blasphemy laws are often applied to settle scores, or appropriate property from non-Muslims. In the case of Sudan, it’s used to make an example out of a non-Muslim (and a Westerner), as a warning that Islamic law applies to them too—that all non-Muslims are, in essence, dhimmis.

Chavez Loses Key Referendum

Though the vote was close, and the results may still be disputed, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez lost an important referendum that would’ve given him sweeping powers to transform Venezuela into the Bolivarian socialist republic he desperately wants, including infinite terms as President.

So far, Chavez has been magnanimous by conceding defeat and accepting the results. Since his term doesn’t expire until 2012, and all levers of power are firmly in his hand, anything can happen until then. There could well be another referendum, changes forced through parliament, or an outright coup. Chavez, like all megalomaniacs, is reluctant to cede power that he thinks is divinely his. He will find a way to stick around, even after he’s worn out his welcome. I’ll be wary of Chavez till then.

On the upside, most Venezuelans, including many Chavez supporters, have decided that the concentration of power in the hands of one man is a sure path to tyranny.