Just Wanna Know

Revolutionary Propaganda Organ

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Enough with the Citgo Already!

I know, but Citgo's in the news again, especially as the winter comes on strong. (NE Ohio's December temps are the coldest for the past five years.) I'm referring to the program of the wholly owned subsidiary of the Venezuelan state oil company that provides heating fuel to poor communities in the United States.

So even though a USA Today editorial notes that Chavez might be tweaking the tail of President Bush with his full-page ads,

"what's really embarrassing is how little help Americans will receive this winter from their own government. The federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program has helped the poor and elderly pay their heating bills since 1982. That first year, the program was funded with $1.9 billion and served more than 7 million households.

"This year, the program's final allocation was $1.9 billion in block grants and $298 million for the emergency funds. In other words, the program's block grant is almost the same today as it was 23 years ago. And because of inflation, that 1982 funding level would equal more than $3 billion in today's dollars."

In other words, although the Venezuelan government might be motivated by politics, the needs are real among poor communities, and Citgo's program to provide heating fuel for these communities has real potential tohelp them.

To find a Citgo station near you, click here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

A Strange and Dangerous Life

I'm writing a review of The Orientalist: Solving the Mystery of a Strange and Dangerous Life, in which Tom Reiss documents the life of Lev Nussimbaum. Under the names Kurban Said and Essad Bey, Lev published 35 articles, 14 nonfiction books, and two novels between the ages of 21 and 33. The first novel, Ali and Nino, I've already written about. I'm currently reading his second, The Girl from the Golden Horn. If it's possible, this book is even better than Ali and Nino.

His most productive period came between 1929 and 1933 (24-28 years old), when he published 22 articles and nine books. Wow!

Here's the first paragraph so far:

Lev Nussimbaum’s life was pure Hollywood. It should be made into a film that traces the birth of the frail, sheltered dreamer in Baku, Azerbaijan, in 1905; the Bolshevik mother’s early death; the father’s loss of his oil fortune after the October Revolution; the flight to Berlin via Iran and Istanbul; the son’s café rebirth as Essad Bey, author of 14 nonfiction books of history, biography, and political economy between the ages of 24 and 33; the marriage to an heir of a New York industrialist; the Bohemian lifestyle in Vienna; the ugly tabloid divorce; the looming Nazi advance driving Lev to Mussolini’s Italy; the contraction of a mysterious aging and wasting disease; the intervention of Ezra Pound and other fascist-leaning literati on his behalf; the publication of two masterfully written novels under the name Kurban Said; the miserable endgame on the Amalfi coast, tended by a shadowy Libyan double agent and arms smuggler; and finally Lev Nussimbaum’s death at the age of 35. Missing is a compelling screenplay, but Tom Reiss’s book has all the facts.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Jedi Colonial?

Alex Golub (blog listed in my links section) has written a novel called Andrew Huff and the Pool of Lost Souls. You may purchase it, or read it online (I think) here.

"It is 1879 and the colonial empires of Britain and Russia battle for control of the vast expanse of Central Asia. But darker forces are at work as well, threatening to corrupt Mennonite communities around the globe and plunge the world into restrictive copyright regimes from which it will never recover. It’s a tall order for two time-travelling Jedi to fill, but if anyone can do it it’s the teenage Maori padwan Anne Kawharu and her quizzical teacher Rex Masterson, adjunct field Jedi extraordinaire. As they draw closer and closer to the enigmatic Pool of Lost Souls, Anne and Rex pursue their goal with the help of Lawrence Lessig, Sammy Davis Junior, a super-intelligent Beluga whale, and the Baal Shem Tov. But no one can help them as their fate becomes bound up with immortal book dealer Andrew Huff’s quest to track down the his one true love —the deadliest woman in the world."

Sounds like a fun romp.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Don't Lose Hope!

The "Brazil of Africa," Ghana have drawn a hard, hard group in the World Cup next summer. They will fight it out with Italy, USA, and the Czech Republic in the "Group of Death," Group E.

Some might think Group B (England, Paraguay, Trinidad/Tobago, Sweden) or Group C (Argentina, Cote D'Ivoire, Serbia/Montenegro, Netherlands) are harder. In my opinion, this is a lie. Look at it! Italy, USA, the Czechs... All are Top-12 teams: CR is No. 2, USA is No. 8, and Italy is No. 12 in the world. People are going to see Ghana and think the Black Stars are going to swallowed alive by these teams.

OK, if the USA were replaced by Brazil, then it would be harder. In any case, it's a very tough draw, but I'm sure the Ghanaian team is up to the challenge. In fact, Asamoah Gyan (pictured) has been playing in the Serie B in Italy and will return next season to Udinese in the Serie A, which already has the great Ghanaian striker Sulley Ali Muntari. So the Italians are well known to the Ghanaians. As for the US and Czech Republic, we'll just have to see what happens.

At least I get to see the US go down to Ghana... Here are the groups:

Group A:
Germany, Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador
Group B:
England, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Sweden
Group C: Argentina, Cote d'Ivoire, Serbia and Montenegro, Netherlands
Group D: Mexico, Iran, Angola, Portugal
Group E:
Italy, Ghana, USA, Czech Republic
Group F:
Brazil, Croatia, Australia, Japan
Group G:
France, Switzerland, Korea Republic, Togo
Group H: Spain, Ukraine, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Paris Riots Not About Islam

I spent a bit of time last weekend with two scholars from France, and the topic of the riots came up.

In the US media, the riots have been marked with a "Muslim" label. The Nov. 14 Newsweek edition even asked "Will the riots swell the ranks of the jihadists in Europe?"

Now, laicist (secular) France has had its beef with French Muslims before, most notably with regard to the famous headscarf affair.

Nevertheless, according to these two Frenchmen, the recent riots really had nothing to do with Islam. Yes, the government trotted out various Muslim leaders to tell the kids that burning cars is forbidden by Islam (duh!). But no European analyst or journalist ever seriously considered the riots to be related to Muslim concerns over the "War on Terror[ism]."

Why, then, the US media misunderstanding/lie? It might have something to do with the fact that large segments of the US media have been drafted into the US military.

Penn Jilette, Atheist

I treasure the bracing freshness of a skeptic. Here's Penn Jillette on NPR's This I Believe:

"I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy -- you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do. You can't prove that there isn't an elephant inside the trunk of my car. You sure? How about now? Maybe he was just hiding before. Check again. Did I mention that my personal heartfelt definition of the word 'elephant' includes mystery, order, goodness, love and a spare tire?

"So, anyone with a love for truth outside of herself has to start with no belief in God and then look for evidence of God. She needs to search for some objective evidence of a supernatural power. All the people I write e-mails to often are still stuck at this searching stage. The atheism part is easy.

"But, this 'This I Believe' thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life's big picture, some rules to live by. So, I'm saying, 'This I believe: I believe there is no God.'

"Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.
Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

"Believing there's no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, 'I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.' That's just a long-winded religious way to say, 'shut up,' or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, 'How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.' So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that's always fun. It means I'm learning something.

"Believing there is no God means the suffering I've seen in my family, and indeed all the suffering in the world, isn't caused by an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent force that isn't bothered to help or is just testing us, but rather something we all may be able to help others with in the future. No God means the possibility of less suffering in the future.

"Believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best life I will ever have."