With all the dust that's been* riled up by Obama's nomination of Sonia Sotomayor (previously), everyone is suddenly taking an interest in Puerto Rico. A basic question that may come up is why we're there in the first place. Understanding that, we can see how the complicated relationship has played out between Puerto Rico, the US, and, most recently, the United Nations. Although the UN has urged the US to take steps towards establishing Puerto Rico's sovereignty, referendums held on the island have overwhelmingly preferred the status quo and the US has been indifferent at best. But independence activists, after a twenty-year decline, may be on the rise. The island's current governor, Luis Fortuño, is pro-statehood. But the whole issue has taken a back seat since plans have been made to fire 30,000 government workers, privatize some public services, and sell some the the government's US$3.2 billion debt. [more inside]
A Gay Soldier's Husband — In the backdrop of the conservative activist Supreme Court's recent decision against hearing a challenge to the US military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, one gay American relates the difficulties he faces having a partner on active duty in Iraq. In Iraq itself, death squads continue to murder gay and lesbian Iraqis, while American occupying forces look the other way.
Standard & Poor’s changed the UK's credit outlook from stable to negative a few days ago, and warned that there is a chance the UK could lose its AAA rating. Meanwhile, Moodys, another of the big 3 rating agencies, has warned that the US might also eventually lose its AAA rating. The UK announcement caused sterling to drop by 1% and the FTSE by 2%. However, many blame the same rating agencies for their part in triggering the subprime crisis. The irony of this is not lost on the Wall Street Journal, who note that "After all, those governments are jacking up spending, in part, to bail out the financial firms who gobbled up those 'AAA' asset backed securities duly blessed by the credit ratings firms." [more inside]
PDX History is a veritable treasure trove of information about (and pictures and postcards of) the history of Portland (Oregon). Department stores, streetcars, long-dead amusement parks (yes, Jantzen Beach was once much more than a dying mall surrounded by big-box stores) and more. The web design leaves a bit to be desired, but the site is wonderful nonetheless.
The Obama administration has repeatedly threatened to conceal future information of terrorist threats from the British government, unless the British government disobeys the High Court ruling requiring them to release information about the US government's acknowledged torture program. This may be a breach of the Convention Against Torture. Glenn Greenwald has new evidence. Previously.
Food is just part of the regional culture that's getting neutralized. The national highway system, chain restaurants, and frozen food may have decimated regional delicacies such as Kentucky burgoo, South Carolina perloo, and Wisconsin hoppel poppel but... [more inside]
[E]ven if you are unemployed you still receive a base amount of [vacation money] from the government, the reasoning being that if you can’t go on vacation, you’ll get depressed and despondent and you’ll never get a job.After a year and a half of living in the Netherlands, American writer Russell Shorto compares the Dutch "welfare state" to the tax, health care and social security systems of the United States.
But does the cartoon image of [the Dutch system] — encapsulated in the dread slur "socialism," which is being lobbed in American political circles like a bomb — match reality? Is there, maybe, a significant upside that is worth exploring? [...] I think it’s worth pondering how the best bits might fit.
Craig Murray (Previously: 1 2) Attends the Formal Evidence Session on UK Complicity in Torture on Tuesday 28 April 1.45pm UK time. You can (hopefully) watch it on Parliament TV. If you want to have a good look at UK / US complicity in torture, this might be a good place to start... Please note he has said "There is absolutely no way I am going to kill myself. Just thought it might be wise to get that out in public!". Hopefully statements like that won't be necessary.
Five US representatives arrested in act of civil disobedience in front of the Sudanese embassy, part of the Save Darfur Coalition's campaign to bring attention to genocide there. One of them, Rep. John Lewis, has seen jail before.
The new monetary standard: Copper.
In Our Own Backyard: Resisting Nazi Propaganda In Southern California 1933 - 1945, a digital exhibition from the Oviatt Library at Cal State Northridge. "The Nazi Propaganda period, 1933 to 1945, chronicles a crucial twelve years in American history. This exhibit's story about the local threat to American ideals demonstrates how European events reached across the ocean and affected people in Southern California -- in our own backyard." Magazines, pamphlets, newspapers, stickers and more. [more inside]
“There’s culture shock, and then there’s the culture shock of moving to a country that started a war in your home.”
"The war has uprooted 4.7 million people from their homes. So where are they?" With the election of Obama and the economic crisis, the topic of Iraq has fallen by the wayside. As hard as things may be right now, Iraqis have been going through far worse for years now. If you're curious about what they have to say, hear them tell it in their own words. Iraqi Refugee Stories. [more inside]
" ... the recession, particularly if it turns out to be as long and deep as many now fear, will accelerate the rise and fall of specific places within the U.S.—and reverse the fortunes of other cities and regions." From The Atlantic Online - How the Crash Will Reshape America
The FT's Davos blog offers a range of informed comment as our leaders gather in Switzerland to consider the economic mess we're in. But will the ongoing spat between the US and China over the renminbi exchange rate overshadow all else at the World Economic Forum?
Alcatraz's American history began as the first US fort on the West coast, where it served as "an icon of US military power". Before it held these guys, it held these guys. This guy thinks The Rock would be a good place for these guys.
How to blog, or counter-blog, for the US Air force, in handy flow chart form.
Former US Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) dead at 90. You may be familiar with Pell grants.
Can China Adjust to the US Adjustment? Prof. Michael Pettis of Beijing University on the macroeconomic parallels between the present crisis and that of the 1930s, with China playing the role today that the US played back then.
Team Lioness is the name given to a group of female soliders, (and the documentary about them) who were some of the first women in modern American warfare to engage in frontline combat — something that is officially forbidden by the military. "The female support soliders were assigned to the 1st Engineer Battalion and they were recruited to accompany Marine units during raids. Originally, the female soldiers were there to search and detain any women they came upon and to guard the unit's Arabic interpreter. Over time, however, as the situation in Ramadi deteriorated, the Marine units transitioned into a more offensive role, baiting insurgents into firefights in order to draw them out. Until officers higher up the chain got spooked over the possibility of a female soldier killed in combat and quietly disbanded the unit, members of Team Lioness were often right in the thick of things, including some of the fiercest urban firefights of the Iraq War."
"You can not come back to Canada until you have been criminally rehabilitated." Ann Wright, who had 29 years of military and govt service, resigned in protest on the eve of the Iraq War from her position as deputy ambassador to Mongolia. In this hour long talk, she discusses her story and the story of several others from various countries who resigned in protest. Her new book, Dissent: Voices of Conscience, details the story of 24 people who resigned in protest. [more inside]
Former US Secretary of State and retired General Colin Powell, a controversial, if reluctant supporter of the war on Iraq, offers his endorsement (Flash video) of Senator Barack Obama for the office of President of the United States. [more inside]
It's (semi) official: Washington and Baghdad have reached a final agreement after months of talks on a pact that would require U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq by 2011, U.S. and Iraqi officials said on Wednesday. Additionally, "Iraq said it had secured the right to prosecute U.S. soldiers for serious crimes under certain circumstances" "Inside their bases, they will be under American law. Iraqi judicial law will be implemented in case these forces commit a serious and deliberate felony outside their military bases and when off duty." [more inside]
NYT: A new generation of black elected officials are wooing white voters and winning local elections in predominantly white districts across the country.
Mock the Vote: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert interviewed.
"On the weekends, he favors two-hour bicycle rides at a Secret Service training facility outside Washington, where he sometimes asks companions and agents to ride behind him so that he can have the illusion of riding alone." With all the focus on the upcoming election, what of George W. Bush?
More than seventy civilians killed in a US attack in afghanistan. Including many women and children. Last month, the US forces put an end to a wedding, and killed 47 persons. Figures are disputed, but Hamid Karzai asks for the Nato strikes to stop. A few days ago, French soldiers suffered from the strikes that were supposed to help them. How is it covered in the US ? I just checked CNN, and there is a small article about this incident. Foxnews page for Afghanistan : I guess it's self-explanatory.
Upclose and personal on the man, Nouriel Roubini, who predicted the subprime crisis. Apparently we're in for a long long haul out of this mess. Oh, and it may be the end of America (reg req'd) as we know it. [more inside]
Rhetorical Questions. "Who will win the presidential debates? What does each candidate’s use of words say about how he would govern as president? Can Obama’s rhetorical skills lift him to the heights of Lincoln, FDR, and Reagan—or will his speechmaking do him in? After watching all 47 (!) of the primary season’s debates, our correspondent has the answers—and some harsh criticism for the moderators."
It was a mass protest held outside the halls of Washington. Led, or at least it was supposed to be, by Martin Luther King Jr. (before he was assassinated) it was going to show the world the glaring divide that existed between the Rich and the Poor of America. Black, White, Red, Yellow--they all gathered from all over the US, to stay together for six weeks, outside the Capitol, and inform the public about what life in America could sometimes mean, if you were not considered economically, socially or racially acceptable. Unfortunately, the problem still persists, even today.
Some books you might want to read about the US and recent political developments in the world. [more inside]
Humorist and candidate for the US Senate for Minnesota Al Franken draws a map of the United States from memory.
A three-and-a-half minute video explaining the American electoral process. As a Canadian, I've also found the American electoral system a little baffling. Electoral colleges? Maine and Nebraska do it differently? I thought this video by the smart folks at Common Craft did an excellent job of explaining how somebody gets to the White House.
The black backs by and on which the fortunes of the New South were built:
On March 30, 1908, Green Cottenham was arrested by the sheriff of Shelby County, Alabama, and charged with “vagrancy.”... Cottenham’s offense was blackness.... [After a brief trial] Cottenham... was sold. Under a standing arrangement between the county and a vast subsidiary of the industrial titan of the North — U.S. Steel Corporation — the sheriff turned the young man over to the company for the duration of his sentence.... he was chained inside a long wooden barrack at night and required to spend nearly every waking hour digging and loading coal. His required daily “task” was to remove eight tons of coal from the mine. Cottenham was subject to the whip for failure to dig the requisite amount, at risk of physical torture for disobedience, and vulnerable to the sexual predations of other miners.... Forty-five years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation freeing American slaves, Green Cottenham and more than a thousand other black men toiled under the lash at Slope 12.— from the Introduction to Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black People in America from the Civil War to World War II. The book's website includes reviews of the book, an excerpt of the Introduction, and an extensive photo gallery that includes disturbing images of enslaved and tortured prisoners. [more inside]
"Happy Birthday to You" is the best-known and most frequently sung song in the world. Many - including Justice Breyer in his dissent in Eldred v. Ashcroft - have portrayed it as an unoriginal work that is hardly worthy of copyright protection, but nonetheless remains under copyright. Yet close historical scrutiny reveals both of those assumptions to be false. [Full pdf here.] [via] [more inside]
U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals Chief Justice Alex Kozinski [wiki] is currently adjudicating a remarkably hardcore obscenity case. He is currently facing his own obscenity case as well, having allowed public access to NSFW or illegal-for-minor-viewing material posted on his own vanity website, as reported in the LA Times. Although he maintains that the material's posting was just innocent fun, he clearly knows his way around the internets. Kozinski is a prolific and well-regarded essayist, and is occasionally mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee.
While Gerorge Soros and Jim Rodgers predict one of the worst recessions for the US, Americans seem to look for exit options in form of a second citizenship. [more inside]
Is Barack Obama the Messiah? After all, it may explain the logo. Maybe he's just a light-worker, "who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet." This could just be all hootenany from the press, like Chris Matthews, who called BO the "New Testament." But, as always, there are unbelievers.
The U.S. Climate Change Science Program has just released "Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.3: The Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture, Land Resources, Water Resources, and Biodiversity in the United States." It makes for pretty interesting reading. [more inside]
Robert Rauschenberg (previously), painter, sculptor, perfomance artist, printmaker, photographer, theater designer, technologist, dead at 82. [more inside]
The Rise of the Rest. Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek article about a "post-American" world.
Pax Corleone Americana? "Can any of the candidates vying to become the next president of the United States match Michael’s cool, dispassionate courage in the face of epochal change? Will they avoid living in the comforting embrace of the past, from which both Tom and Sonny ultimately could not escape? Or will they emulate Michael’s flexibility—to preserve America’s position in a dangerous world?" The Godfather as metaphor.