Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Thursday, July 17, 2003

I ain't no
I used to let the mic
But now I slam it when I
But now I slam it when I
I am about to introduce an entirely new genre of intertextual rap, or rather dialogic rap: in this entirely new genre, I will begin with lyrics from The Smiths and/or Morrissey and will then start rappin'.

This is from Vauxhall and I:

I am
hated for loving
I am
hated for loving
Anonymous call, a poison pen

I've been poppin' enough fen-phen
For ten men
My pen friend
Livin' in a tenement
I covered you in sediments
I ain't got no sentiments
For your sentient robot
When it gets its titanium toe caught
In my vise,
I disrespect your MA from SAIS
I eat chicken soup with rice,
Like Sendak
I've been back
From 1986
When I got drafted, learned how to kill a man
At Fort Dix
Armed with chickenwire and toothpicks
You've been deep-sixed,
My submarine, not a sandwich
My niche is interplanetary,
Halfway Larry from Three's Company, plus a little Chuck Berry
In the belly
Deutsche Welle
Is hella wack, take it back
M-O-Z, chosen one
With the golden gun, set on stun
Why don't you steam your own bun?
That ain't a pun

A brick in the small of the back again
I still don't belong
To anyone
I am mine

The living embodiment of coalshafts and
the Transvaal, ya'll
Where's Jo'burg?
No, that wasn't me schemin' on yo' bird
Why don't you go join a PIRG
And eat some iceberg
Let us
Return to the subject at hand
I use picks and shovels, put diamonds in my hands
And gold, with which I make fillings
It ain't much, maybe, but I make a living
I'm so forgiving
Of your ribbing, cotton V-neck
This ain't Maplewood or Teaneck,
or Tenafly, so why try?
This is bankrupt:

Harvard is by no means the first university to merge African and African-American studies in one department, and to offer a major in African studies. But for the university to take such a step is a recognition that the African-American experience in the United States must be understood in relationship to Africa and the diaspora, several scholars said yesterday.

"This is where we're going these days in African-American studies," said John Thornton, an African historian who will join the African-American studies department at Boston University this fall. "It's been a trend intellectually. In the past 15 years, more and more people who are doing African-American history are increasingly interested in the African equation. On the other side, there are more Africanists who are recognizing that there is an American side to what they do."

Let's toss in a few African languages! Afro-American studies has, to my mind, a great deal of value, but to suggest that it is intimately related to "African" experience as suggested by this shift.

Consider this:

When we speak of colonization, we wish distinctly to be understood, as speaking of the "American Colonization Society," or that which is under its influence, commenced of Mr. Henry Clay of Ky., Judge Bushrod Washington of Virginia, and other southern slave holders, having for their express object, as their speeches and doings all justify us in asserting in good faith, the removal of the free colored people from the land of their birth, for the security of the slaves, as property to the slave propagandists.

This scheme had no sooner been propagated, than the old and leading colored men of Philadelphia, Pa. with Richard Allen, James Forten and others at their head, true to their trust and the cause of their brethren, summoned the colored people together, and then and there, in language and with voices pointed and loud, protested against the scheme as an outrage, having no other object in view than the benefit of the slave holding interests of the country, and that as freemen, they would never prove recreant to the cause of their brethren in bondage, by leaving them without hope of redemption from their chains. This determination of the colored patriots of Philadelphia was published in full, authentically, and circulated throughout the length and breadth of the country by the papers of the day. The colored people everywhere received the news, and at once endorsed with heart and soul, the doings of the Anti Colonization Meetings of colored freemen.

From that time forth, the colored people generally have had no sympathy with the colonization scheme, nor confidence in its leaders, looking upon them all, as arrant hypocrites, seeking opportunity to deceive them. In a word, the monster was crippled in its infancy, and has never as yet recovered from the stroke. It is true, that like its ancient sire, that was "more subtile than all the beasts of the field," it has inherited a large portion of his most prominent characteristic, an idiosyncrasy with the animal, that enables him to entwine into the greater part of the Church and other institutions of the country, which having once entered there, leaves his venom, which puts such a spell on the conductors of those institutions, that it is only on condition that a colored person consents to go to the neighborhood of his kindred brother monster the boa, that he may find an admission in the one or the other.

We look upon the American Colonization Society as one of the most arrant enemies of the colored man, ever seeking to discomfit him, and envying him of every privilege that he may enjoy. We believe it to be anti Christian in its character, and misanthropic in its pretended sympathies. Because if this were not the case, men could not be found professing morality and Christianity as to our astonishment we have found them, who unhesitatingly say: "I know it is right," that is in itself, "to do" so and so, "and I am willing and ready to do it, but only on condition, that you go to Africa."

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

This is despicable:

Said Ait Mouhoub, leader of the North African Association of Noisy-le-Sec, a Paris suburb, says that for many years France ignored the plight of Muslim youths. Unemployment was high, religious and recreational activities were rare. The new intifada, he says, has given them a sense of purpose. "At first it was maybe just a game -- they threw rocks because they saw Palestinians throwing rocks on television," Mouhoub said. "And after it became more political. They wanted to take a stand."

Mouhoub says his officially sanctioned organization has worked hard to combat Islamic extremism and channel young energies into constructive ventures. But he confesses that it's an uphill battle. "For these kids, television is enormous," he says. "It conditions their minds. Before, they had respect for their parents and their roots. Now with this new generation, the respect is gone. The roots are cut."

Mouhoub is thus part of the solution and not part of the problem, I suppose, but how is it reasonable to characterize random violence against Jewish individuals as "an intifada"? One can (in theory, at least) separate random terror attacks against Israeli civilians and organized resistance against occupation forces. Targeting a vulnerable minority is hardly "resistance" of any kind.

Recently the Israeli government -- which encourages all Jews to move to Israel -- reported that 2,556 French Jews immigrated last year, the largest annual influx since the 1967 war, and double the figure for 2001. A recent poll by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency suggested that more than 25 percent of France's Jews have considered leaving.

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has told Jewish community leaders he won't accept such talk. Sarkozy, who has won popular support for his tough law-and-order stance, was recently awarded the 2003 Tolerance Prize of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for his work in combating anti-Semitism.

The United States should provide safe harbor for the French Jews. I also tend to think that we should have cherry-picked from those who've been fleeing Argentina over the past two or three years and that all Hong Kong residents circa 1997 should have been allowed to settle here, along with the Asians expelled from Uganda, etc. This is on entirely selfish grounds: vulnerable minorities tend to do very well in the United States and we're generally enriched by their presence. That being the case, this might not be the most reliable guide to policy.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Beware, regular people!
State Senator Sheila Kuehl, a Democrat, respects the optimism of the petition signers, but also fears for them. "The regular people signing their name on a petition do feel for the moment that they have seized democracy away from the evil forces," she said. "But I'm afraid it'll simply lead to more disappointment when they realize, if they ever do, that their thoughts about democracy have been manipulated by the moneyed interests. I'm afraid they'll end up even more jaded."

Incidentally, this is from the totally brilliant Jill Stewart:

Some legislators are indeed oblivious. On the far left, fiscal flakes abound in Sacramento, like the truly likable Santa Monica Democrat, Sen. Sheila Kuehl.

Kuehl just pushed through the Senate, by a 23-14 vote, a troubling "universal health care" bill to give the State of California---whose Medi-Cal program is arguably the most fraud-riddled and inefficient in the U.S.---the power to abolish all private health insurance and control the health care of every Californian. Naturally, the California media largely ignored the story.

Kuehl wants to spend the $2.4 billion---not just blow it paying off a silly deficit. She insisted to one newspaper she only wants to "spend money on frail seniors and children's health care." But, like the rest of the legislature, has made no attempt to get money by identifying and cutting bloated state bureaucracies.

"Abolish all private health insurance." The people of California would be wise to seize democracy away from the likes of Sheila Kuehl.

From her biography: "In her youth, she was known for her portrayal of the irrepressible Zelda Gilroy in the television series, 'The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.'" That's actually pretty awesome.

Judging by this description, this Dobie Gillis program was nothing less than brilliant:

Dobie Gillis was a "typical" American teenager, with three primary interests in life: Beautiful women, fancy cars, and money. Unfortunately he was the son of a grocer and not the most attractive of boys, which put a certain crimp in his aspirations. Dobie and his beatnik buddy Maynard, to who work was a dirty word, did their best to get by with a minimum of effort. Dobie had two real nemeses in life. The first was intelligent but unattractive Zelda Gilroy, who was constantly trying to get herself married to Dobie. The second, through most of the series, was millionaire Chatsworth Osborne, Jr., a spoiled young man who flaunted his social status, not to mention his money, to snare the attractive girls who eluded Dobie.

Damn that Chatsworth!

Apart from the Zelda Gilroy business and the grocery, this sounds about right. Who among us doesn't have millionaire antagonists and beatnik buddies?
The Belgian left strikes again:

Together with 15 Belgian NGOs, Oxfam-Solidarity calls for boycotting Israeli goods produced in the Occupied Territories.
The main political goals of the campaign are to press for a negociated, rapid solution of the conflict, the termination of the occupation of Palestinian territories and the backing of the resolution of the European Parliament and the position of the European Commission which both ask to suspend the European Trade Agreement with Israel as long as its provisions concerning the respect for human rights and the origin of products exported by Israel are not respected.

Our call for boycott concerns only agricultural products grown by Israeli settlements in the occupied territories and exported by Israel to the European Union. Four brands are targeted - Carmel, Jaffa, Sabra and Tival - as they fulfill these criteria.

It's worth noting, however, that they are careful to disavow any intimation of a general anti-Zionist stance:

Our action is by no means aimed at the jewish communities, either in Belgium or in Israel. Our aim is to express our opposition to the policy of Israeli Government towards the Palestinians which upholds occupation of their territory and includes acts of grave violence, which we believe is the main cause for the continuing conflict.

We have consistently condemned and called for an end to Palestinian suicide bombings and other acts of terror which violate the 4th protocole of the Geneva Convention.

This is an improvement over the more hysterical fulminations of other anti-Israel campaigners, but the effort seems misplaced regardless. To my mind, Oxfam's Belgian branch would be better off focusing on the depredations in what had been the Belgian Congo, where King Leopold's ghost has a lot to answer for, and on the plight of the roughly one billion Muslims, many of them malnourished or worse, who don't have the eyes of the world focused on them because, tragically enough, they live under Muslim rulers. That said, I do have a bias: this is the broad swathe of the globe from which I've sprung.
Among individuals, Bill Gates is easily the most powerful force of good:

Bill Gates is no ordinary philanthropist. If immunizing pigs can end the spread of tapeworms, which cause virulent neurological disorders, he will pay to vaccinate them. If mosquitoes can be neutralized as malaria carriers by altering their genetic code, his money — and lots of it — will support the research.

"The basic science that can be applied to these problems has been advanced greatly," Mr. Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, said in a recent interview at the company's headquarters in Redmond, Wash. "So all you have to do is take a modest amount of the rich world's resources to have a huge impact on the poor world."

"Modest" is a relative term, particularly when the person using it is the world's richest man and is speaking of his plans to solve intractable health problems on a global scale.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has distributed $6.2 billion since its founding less than four years ago, has pledged more than half of that total, or $3.2 billion, to improving health in the developing world. The foundation's influence now rivals that of the World Health Organization and Unicef.

Here is one point of comparison: The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a partnership of 14 countries with private charities, foundations and industry, plans to spend roughly $1.5 billion to fight those diseases over the next two to three years, some $50 million or $60 million of which comes from the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation on its own has already spent more than $610 million on those diseases, and will spend at least another $478 million by the end of 2005.

The foundation's influence can already be seen in rising vaccination rates in some of the world's poorest countries, in clinical trials of drugs that are promising but have limited commercial potential and in new devices that make the delivery of health care easier and cheaper.

To the blithering idiots who say that he's trying to buy goodwill, I have but this to say: you're blithering idiots. As far as domestic consumption goes, this does relatively little. If he wants to buy goodwill, there are far more cost-effective ways of doing it and Bill Gates is not, as should be obvious by now, a stupid man. I wish that our government-financed aid programs were as smart, entrepreneurial, and effective as Gates' private effort.

Evil, anyone?

A few striking passages:

A funny thing happens when Elizabeth Nill, a sophomore at Northwestern University, goes shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch.

At no fewer than three Abercrombie stores, she says, managers have approached her and offered her a job as a clerk.

"Every time this happens, my little sister says, `Not again,' " said Ms. Nill, who is 5-foot-6 and has long blond hair. She looks striking. She looks hip. She looks, in fact, as if she belongs in an Abercrombie & Fitch catalog.

Hardly, but I digress.

Is this a coincidence? A fluke? No, says Antonio Serrano, a former assistant Abercrombie store manager in Scranton, Pa. It's policy.

"If someone came in with a pretty face, we were told to approach them and ask them if they wanted a job," Mr. Serrano said. "They thought if we had the best-looking college kids working in our store, everyone will want to shop there."

This is fair enough. Who can blame them? This is how you move units. I understand. And I'm a firm believer in freedom of contract. Evil this isn't, or at least not quite. Here is where we start grazing the knickers of evil:

"If you're hiring by looks, then you can run into problems of race discrimination, national origin discrimination, gender discrimination, age discrimination and even disability discrimination," said Olophius Perry, director of the Los Angeles office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which has accused several companies of practicing race and age discrimination by favoring good-looking young white people in their hiring.

Some chains, most notably the Gap and Benetton, pride themselves on hiring attractive people from many backgrounds and races. Abercrombie's "classic American" look, pervasive in its stores and catalogs and on its Web site, is blond, blue-eyed and preppy. Abercrombie finds such workers and models by concentrating its hiring on certain colleges, fraternities and sororities.

The company says it does not discriminate. But in a lawsuit filed last month in Federal District Court in San Francisco, some Hispanic, Asian and black job applicants maintained otherwise. Several plaintiffs said in interviews that when they applied for jobs, store managers steered them to the stockroom, not to the sales floor.

First of all, Abercrombie is for thick-necked imbeciles and their sturdy womenfolk. By now, its moment has passed, and so the willowy beauties they desperately want to clothe have already moved elsewhere. That's what offends. That plus the, uh, racism.

Again, I'm not hysterical about this sort of thing. In Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Sikh men were murdered on the streets. Heads were severed. It was nothing less than a pogrom, and the bloodletting lasted for weeks. This is just irritating. As I've said so many times before, "God bless the USA."

With Abercrombie and friends, we're dealing with a separate and distinct evil. The evil of pathetic people.

"Brand representatives are ambassadors to the brand," Mr. Lennox said. "We want to hire brand representatives that will represent the Abercrombie & Fitch brand with natural classic American style, look great while exhibiting individuality, project the brand and themselves with energy and enthusiasm, and make the store a warm, inviting place that provides a social experience for the customer."

Natural classic American style indeed. My deep and abiding love for America is just not in dispute, so I feel safe in saying the following: When a phrase like this is invoked, I imagine pasty plump throngs in thongs and pastel pedal-pushers rushing to the mall to spend money they don't really have on revealing tops. And in these uniforms, they drink and drink until red in the face. After soul-crushing boredom is staved off for yet another evening, these men and women then sleep with similarly vile, hideous, and unfailingly stupid people. It's a constituency found not only in North America but across the metropolitan West. Europe has them as well, rest assured, though the Mediterranean rim isn't quite as offensive, or at least I hope it isn't. This is Abercrombie.

I realize that this sounds contemptuous. Contemptuousness is itself contemptible. I blame this on the fact that I've been reading Houellebecq, who is, I fear, my kind of guy.

Moving right along, my advice to the good people at Abercrombie is to get a bloody clue. In fact, I think they're beyond being helped. To other retailers, I strongly suggest that you hire ethnic beauties, not because it is the right thing to do but because it is the savvy thing to do.

There is another retailer that seems to have a policy of hiring exceptionally good looking people of many hues. It's a smart move. I'm not going to name it for fear of embarrassment. I purchased an item there just today. I'd be lying if I told you that the lure, broadly conceived, of being among fetching, stylish, futuristic youths wasn't part of the appeal. I mean, not in any explicit way: "Yeah, I'll go to the ______ store so as to see shockingly pretty people." No. I mean, that definitely does happen, and I suppose it's semi-predictable, but I do sincerely go if, say, I would like some pants.

If I may be so bold, black and Latin and Asian and dark-haired Mosaic Americans have seriously upped our nation's sexiness quotient. That's just a fact, and the ambiguously ethnic almond-eyed types are incontrovertibly on the cutting edge.

Now I'll respond to an anticipated objection: "All you've done is argue that the screwed-up beauty standard at work is tacky and suburban and that a different screwed-up beauty standard should be put in its place. That's still evil, to the extent that evil is about arbitrarily privileging pretty people." This is an excellent point. I have no adequate response.