Assembly of Errors

Rulers of Poor Nations Come for
U.N. Support, Stay for N.Y. Luxury

Most New Yorkers don’t mind the U.N’s annual General Assembly. Sure, security armies and traffic jams clog the city, and the east side’s all but lost for the count. But what’s that compared to what the organization stands for as symbol of dialog and peaceful resolution to conflicts?
So we may get annoyed with its sluggish politics, but we’re used to it. Now, shopping is a whole other story. And when rulers of some of the world’s most miserable countries are caught on a spree at the city’s most expensive retail joints, well, then forget all about ‘peaceful.’
Never mind the illegal parking. It’s nothing short of criminal to watch their entourages spending public money on luxury items for themselves and their hangers-on. And yet, year after year, such depressing spectacle plays on right under our jaded, despising noses.
The phenomenon is not new, or unique to New York, or even represents too much of a surprise. Two recent worldwide events have only asserted such glaring inequity: the near collapse of the world financial system in 2007, and the Arab Spring that swept north of Africa and Middle East countries less than a year ago.
When the banking structure failed and caused millions to lose their jobs, homes, lifetime savings and even their sanity, it also exposed the inconceivable amount of personal wealth those who caused the crisis had, and still have, access to. So far, no one of that rarefied income bracket has been held accountable for their crimes.
It was not much of a difference with the ouster of Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh: the personal wealth of these three dictators amounted to huge percentages of their countries’ GDP, which all have some of the lowest per-capita income, even among Islamic regimes.
As with the bankers that almost bankrupted the world, these deposed rulers still managed to keep large parts of their personal wealth in Continue reading

Phony Outrage

Serious Threat to Women’s Rights
Gets a Hilarious Twist on Twitter

There are several ways of framing what happened yesterday at the Michigan State House. During a heated debate over an extremely restrictive piece of legislation on women’s reproductive rights, Rep. Lisa Brown was summarily banned from the floor for uttering a medically-sanctioned word for the female anatomy: vagina.
It was a brutal, authoritarian attempt to silence free expression. It also embodied for a moment the extreme right’s concerted effort to turn back the clock on a major issue concerning women. But the incident ignited something else too: one of the fastest, busiest, and funniest strands of Twitter commentary. Within hours, #VaginaMovieLines had shot up to the top of the social network’s trends index.
Whether it also elevated the debate over reproductive rights to a new national level of stridency and radicalization remains to be seen. The implications of revisiting the landmark 1973 Roe vs. Wade by the current mostly partisan Supreme Court Justices are obviously scary, as one political party has embraced a flight back to the past, and the other seems unwilling to show spine.
It certainly will enhance Rep. Brown’s stature, though, even if only for her passionate and articulate defense of, ultimately, one of the basic Constitutional tenets this country’s been founded upon: the separation of church and state.
For make no mistake, behind the pro-life and religious freedom rallies of lately, sits the institution with the most to gain from a return to the faith-based medieval times, when it ruled unchallenged: the church. Continue reading

Useless Two Cents

The Man Who Mistook an Apple
for His Personal Gift to the World

Steve Jobs was so immense that his wake will be forever littered with happenstance and irony, and glittered with flashes of the genius he was generous enough to share during his life.
To begin with, his sense of timing was impeccable. After all, the biological son of a Syrian died in the year that will be known for its Arab Spring, an event widely documented by gadgets he devised.
In fact, much of Jobs’s legacy will last for generations solely on the underground footage that registered mass movements for freedom around the world, and probably helped to change it too.
Even the current mushrooming protest against Wall Street’s greed and lack of accountability has greatly benefited Continue reading