Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Obama-Curious George Shirts Cause Uproar in Georgia

May 14, 2008

Mulligan’s in Marietta

Originally uploaded by andisheh

SFGate (and everywhere else) reports on the outrage around a T-shirt being sold by Mulligan’s Food and Spirits in Marietta, Georgia, showing Curious George with the legend “Obama in 08.” The outrage comes not just from people who think that the image expresses a racist attitude toward Obama (ya think?) but also from the owners of the Curious George character. The bar owner’s comment that Obama and Curious George “Look so much alike” is particularly creepy.


“Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is upset with Mike Norman, owner of a Marietta, Ga., bar, for selling the shirts which show Curious George peeling a banana with ‘Obama in ’08’ printed beneath the image.

“‘Houghton Mifflin Harcourt did not nor would we ever authorize or approve this use of the Curious George character, which we find offensive and utterly out of keeping with the values Curious George represents,’ said Richard Blake, the company’s spokesman. ‘We are monitoring the situation and weighing all of our options.’

“Norman, who began selling the shirts in late April, has said they are not meant to be racist. He said he thinks the Illinois senator and the character ‘look so much alike.’

“Bill Nigut, southeast regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said Norman is being disingenuous.

“‘He can pretend he doesn’t understand what the message of that T-shirt is, but he knows full well that’s an offensive and demeaning stereotype used to insult African-Americans,’ Nigut said. He called on citizens not to buy the T-shirts, but stopped short of calling for a boycott of Norman’s business or denying him to speak out.”

The gentleman (“andisheh” on Flickr) who posted this image obviously has a strong opinion on this point. Or maybe he’s just lobbing a cheap joke which really isn’t very funny.

The thing that disturbs me is my own fear that these incidents will increase in the upcoming presidential contest. I have always had a deep sense of the slumbering racism of my country, and I fear that like a Lovecraftian beast this ancient evil is awakening because an African-American is running for President.

Then again, perhaps, as Obama expressed in his magnificent speech on race (transcript here) in the wake of the (first) Jeffrey Wright freakout, we as a nation are better than this.

Are we?

Vanished Republics

May 11, 2008


Leaders of the MRNC

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

From Wikipedia:

“The Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus (MRNC; also known as the Mountain Republic or the Republic of the Mountaineers) (1917–1920) was a shortlived state situated in the Northern Caucasus. It included most of the territory of the former Terek Oblast and Dagestan Oblast of the Russian Empire, which now form the republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia-Alania, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan and part of Stavropol Krai of the Russian Federation.”

Read more.

Tax Day 2008

April 17, 2008

tax day 2008

Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

Protesters outside the US Post Office in West Oakland, evening of April 15, 2008. Their site is http://www.actagainsttorture.org

Indonesia’s Suharto Dies

January 27, 2008

suharto.jpgSuharto, the former ruler of Indonesia who was forced from power by mass protest in 1998, passed away Sunday.

In the late 1960s, Suharto was the leader of the military, which feared the rise of the PKI, or the Communist Party of Indonesia. His predecessor, Sukarno, had helped Indonesia win independence from the Dutch and was trying to balance the right with the left in Indonesian politics. Sukarno, who had increasingly pissed off the United States, the United Kingdom and other western powers by nationlizing Indonesia’s resources, was walking a fine line between left and right. Though Sukarno enjoyed support among the communists, Suharto’s army was increasingly hostile to him.

In 1965 a reported coup attempt by the PKI resulted in a violent crackdown by forces loyal to Sukarno and later Suharto’s military. In the next couple of years, half a million indonesians were slaughtered by the military, police, and “pro-Suharto vigilantes.”

The coup attempt almost certainly never happened; speculation suggests that forces loyal to Sukarno staged the fake coup to provide an opportunity to scapegoat the PKI and slaughter them. This is mentioned as highly improbable by Wikipedia, which cites Sukarno’s widespread support in the PKI; as happened with the Nazis and the Reichstag fire in Berlin, 1933, of  it’s much more likely that Suharto’s forces faked the coup to provide an excuse to crack down and take power.

The start of the Indonesian massacre is portrayed with disturbing results in Peter Weir’s 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously.

Suharto took over the Presidency of Indonesia from Sukarno under threat of force in 1967. In addition to the 500,000 Indonesians who died in the unrest of 1965-67, somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000, possibly more, were slaughtered in East Timor, a predominantly Roman Catholic former Portugese colony that was invaded and annexed by Indonesia after the Portugese relinquished control in 1975.

A movement to pardon Suharto has resulted in lively debate and protests from those who believe doing so would dishonor the dead murdered by his regime. But the Jakarta Post remembered him as a strong leader despite a ‘less than desirable’ human rights record.

Jeffrey Winters, Associate Professor of Political Economy at Northwestern University, told the Associated Press that Suharto had robbed Indonesia of its golden years. “When Indonesia does finally go back and redo history, (its people) will realize that Suharto is responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity in the 20th century.”

Suharto: A prince among men. In pace requiescat, motherfucker, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Portrait of Suharto from the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, via Wikipedia.

Information from Wikipedia and the Jakarta Post.

Indonesia’s Suharto Dies

January 27, 2008

suharto.jpgSuharto, the former ruler of Indonesia who was forced from power by mass protest in 1998, passed away Sunday.

In the late 1960s, Suharto was the leader of the military, which feared the rise of the PKI, or the Communist Party of Indonesia. His predecessor, Sukarno, had helped Indonesia win independence from the Dutch and was trying to balance the right with the left in Indonesian politics. Sukarno, who had increasingly pissed off the United States, the United Kingdom and other western powers by nationlizing Indonesia’s resources, was walking a fine line between left and right. Though Sukarno enjoyed support among the communists, Suharto’s army was increasingly hostile to him.

In 1965 a reported coup attempt by the PKI resulted in a violent crackdown by forces loyal to Sukarno and later Suharto’s military. In the next couple of years, half a million indonesians were slaughtered by the military, police, and “pro-Suharto vigilantes.”

The coup attempt almost certainly never happened; speculation suggests that forces loyal to Sukarno staged the fake coup to provide an opportunity to scapegoat the PKI and slaughter them. This is mentioned as highly improbable by Wikipedia, which cites Sukarno’s widespread support in the PKI; as happened with the Nazis and the Reichstag fire in Berlin, 1933, of  it’s much more likely that Suharto’s forces faked the coup to provide an excuse to crack down and take power.

The start of the Indonesian massacre is portrayed with disturbing results in Peter Weir’s 1982 film The Year of Living Dangerously.

Suharto took over the Presidency of Indonesia from Sukarno under threat of force in 1967. In addition to the 500,000 Indonesians who died in the unrest of 1965-67, somewhere between 150,000 and 300,000, possibly more, were slaughtered in East Timor, a predominantly Roman Catholic former Portugese colony that was invaded and annexed by Indonesia after the Portugese relinquished control in 1975.

A movement to pardon Suharto has resulted in lively debate and protests from those who believe doing so would dishonor the dead murdered by his regime. But the Jakarta Post remembered him as a strong leader despite a ‘less than desirable’ human rights record.

Jeffrey Winters, Associate Professor of Political Economy at Northwestern University, told the Associated Press that Suharto had robbed Indonesia of its golden years. “When Indonesia does finally go back and redo history, (its people) will realize that Suharto is responsible for some of the worst crimes against humanity in the 20th century.”

Suharto: A prince among men. In pace requiescat, motherfucker, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Portrait of Suharto from the Government of the Republic of Indonesia, via Wikipedia.

Information from Wikipedia and the Jakarta Post.

Poet Saw Wai Arrested in Myanmar

January 26, 2008

myanmar.gifYANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A Myanmar poet known for his odes to love was arrested after penning a Valentine’s Day poem that carried a hidden message criticizing the leader of the country’s military junta, Senior Gen. Than Shwe, colleagues said Thursday.The poet, Saw Wai, was arrested Tuesday, a day after his poem “February 14” was published in the popular weekly entertainment magazine “A Chit,” or “Love,” according to friends and colleagues who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals.

The eight-line poem in Burmese is about a man brokenhearted after falling for a fashion model, whom he thanks for having taught him the meaning of love.

But if read vertically, the first word of each line forms the phrase: “Power crazy Senior General Than Shwe.”

Than Shwe, 74, who has headed the junta since 1992, has little tolerance for criticism.

Image from CIA World Factbook.

Sean Penn Plays Harvey Milk — Be an Extra

January 26, 2008

milk.jpgSean Penn is playing San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk in the film Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant. And you can be an extra! From milkmarch.com:

BE IN A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE AND HELP RE-CREATE A PART OF SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY
On Monday night, February 4th and Friday night, February 8th, the feature film MILK…will be re-creating three 1970s marches through the Castro.

We are looking for volunteers to appear in the these marches in the film. THERE ARE NO AUDITIONS. IF YOU SIGN-UP …AND SHOW UP, YOU WILL BE USED. All ages, races and genders are welcome. But, you MUST be 18 or over to participate…. Filming will take place from 7pm – midnight on Monday night at Castro & Market and from 9pm – 3am on Friday night at Market & Franklin. Come either or both nights.

As a thank you for participating, we will host a screening for the marchers of the documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK on Monday, February 4th at the Castro Theater at 4:30pm, with introductions by the filmmaker, Rob Epstein, Cleve Jones, Gus Van Sant, and members of the cast. The filming will begin immediately after the screening.

Gay, straight or, you know, whatever, everyone should see The Times, a great documentary about an amazing time in San Francisco history. In case you don’t know (as I’ve discovered a lot of people outside San Francisco don’t), Milk was a Castro neighborhood camera store owner and the first openly gay municipal supervisor in American history. He was killed, with then-Mayor George Moscone, by fellow supervisor and former cop Dan White in a case that created the phrase “twinkie defense.” White committed suicide two years after his release from prison. Moscone’s death meant that the then-President of the Board of Supervisors, Diane Feinstein, took over the office of mayor.

Sean Penn Plays Harvey Milk — Be an Extra

January 26, 2008

milk.jpgSean Penn is playing San Francisco supervisor Harvey Milk in the film Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant. And you can be an extra! From milkmarch.com:

BE IN A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE AND HELP RE-CREATE A PART OF SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY
On Monday night, February 4th and Friday night, February 8th, the feature film MILK…will be re-creating three 1970s marches through the Castro.

We are looking for volunteers to appear in the these marches in the film. THERE ARE NO AUDITIONS. IF YOU SIGN-UP …AND SHOW UP, YOU WILL BE USED. All ages, races and genders are welcome. But, you MUST be 18 or over to participate…. Filming will take place from 7pm – midnight on Monday night at Castro & Market and from 9pm – 3am on Friday night at Market & Franklin. Come either or both nights.

As a thank you for participating, we will host a screening for the marchers of the documentary THE TIMES OF HARVEY MILK on Monday, February 4th at the Castro Theater at 4:30pm, with introductions by the filmmaker, Rob Epstein, Cleve Jones, Gus Van Sant, and members of the cast. The filming will begin immediately after the screening.

Gay, straight or, you know, whatever, everyone should see The Times, a great documentary about an amazing time in San Francisco history. In case you don’t know (as I’ve discovered a lot of people outside San Francisco don’t), Milk was a Castro neighborhood camera store owner and the first openly gay municipal supervisor in American history. He was killed, with then-Mayor George Moscone, by fellow supervisor and former cop Dan White in a case that created the phrase “twinkie defense.” White committed suicide two years after his release from prison. Moscone’s death meant that the then-President of the Board of Supervisors, Diane Feinstein, took over the office of mayor.

German Politician Withdraws Charges Against Wikipedia

December 9, 2007

8mai.jpg

According to an article on Reuters and elsewhere, a left-wing German politician filed charges with the Berlin Police against Wikipedia yesterday for promoting the use of Nazi symbols, then withdrew the charges today.

The deputy leader of the Left (Die Linke) party, Katina Schubert, objected to the use of Nazi symbols in a Wikipedia article on the Hitler Youth movement. Nazi symbols, most famously the swastika, are banned in Germany.

Read my commentary at Techyum.

Image: Neo-Nazi protesters in Munich, August 2006. The sign reads: “The 8th of May: Defeated and occupied, we do not celebrate.” The 8th of May is V-E Day — the day the Allies declared victory over Germany in 1945. Via Wikipedia Deutschland. 

Australians End Howard Era

November 24, 2007

kevinrudd.jpgKevin Rudd’s center-left coalition has defeated current “center-right” prime minster John Howard in Australian elections.

Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. John Howard, in addition to being a staunch supporter of the War in Iraq, has a number of other gold stars on his lapel. For example, he sought to ban porn and alcohol in Aboriginal communities in order to “combat widespread child abuse.”

With more than 11 years in office, John Howard is Australia’s second-longest-serving Prime Minister.

Photo of victorious Kevin Rudd from Wikipedia.