Wednesday, May 28

"Shanghai and Beijing ... have become urban riots of aesthetic and technical flair, with skylines that are futuristic, inspiring, and sometimes sublime. [However]... The bulk of construction in China is not of the showcase variety, with the celebrity Western architects jet-classed in for consultations and photo ops. Instead, the vast majority of recent building has been non-descript, cheap and almost entirely ungoverned by safety standards or minimum building codes."

Friday, May 23

A good take-down of some so-called progressive hip-hop's politics.

And on the Che movie from Cannes... "In between the two periods covered in “Che,” Guevara was an important player in the Castro government, but his brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned. This, along with Benicio Del Toro’s soulful and charismatic performance, allows Mr. Soderbergh to preserve the romantic notion of Guevara as a martyr and an iconic figure, an idealistic champion of the poor and oppressed."

Artists and politics - why so often such a bad combination?

Thursday, May 22

"Homo sapiens is the species that invents symbols in which to invest passion and authority, then forgets that symbols are inventions." --Joyce Carol Oates.

Tuesday, May 20

Warren Buffett, in his press conference endorsing Obama: "They say in the stock market ... buy stock in a business that's so good that an idiot can run it because sooner or later one will. ... Well, the United States is a little like that. We can take a little mis-management from time to time." ... No doubt referring to the Shrub's presidential tenure.
"By refusing aid, the Burmese regime has effectively declared war on its own population and is committing crimes against humanity."

Friday, May 16

"We need to stand up to the special interests, bring Republicans and Democrats together, and pass the farm bill immediately," Barack Obama declared last November.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.): "Obviously, I have been very disappointed in the comments coming out of the White House. But we do have a strong vote in both the House and the Senate, and I think that shows you that in a complex piece of legislation like this, and it truly is because it touches so many different areas of so many different aspects of agriculture and food production, as well as nutrition and conservation and energy, that there is something in this bill for every member of the House and every member of the Senate."

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY): "I believe saying no to the farm bill is saying no to rural America."

A major moral victory:
Writing for the California high court, Chief Justice Ronald M. George first found that the exclusion of gays from marriage violated their fundamental right to marry, thereby drawing strict scrutiny from the court. This meant that the state would have to produce a compelling reason to bar gays from what the court deemed "the most socially productive and individually fulfilling relationship that one can enjoy in the course of a lifetime." In a crucial move, Chief Justice George rejected the state's argument that tradition was such a reason. Allowing tradition to thus entrench itself, he said, would have allowed for laws barring interracial couples. And, as he noted, the California Supreme Court struck down a ban on interracial marriage in 1948, almost two decades before the U.S. Supreme Court did in Loving v. Virginia.

Thursday, May 15

In case anyone is still wondering where Einstein stood on the 'god' issue:
The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.

Friday, May 9

When parties agree, the people pay...

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) supports the bill. Congressional leaders plan to bring it to the House and Senate floors next week for votes that could test the depth of support for it.

The package, the product of weeks of closed-door bargaining, is stuffed with plums for key constituencies. Dairy farmers will get as much as $410 million more over 10 years to cover higher feed costs, and negotiators tucked in an annual authorization of $15 million to help "geographically disadvantaged farmers" in Alaska, Hawaii, American Samoa and Puerto Rico.

The bill assures growers of basic crops such as wheat, cotton, corn and soybeans $5 billion a year in automatic payments, even if farm and food prices stay at record levels.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn.) acknowledged that the payments are "very hard to explain to our urban colleagues."

Wednesday, May 7

“They were just here doing their job,” he said. “It's a tough job to have to go to somebody's house and have to come through a window or break down a door. You never know what's in there. But I feel like, if I had time to think about throwing the gun down, they had time to think about whether or not to shoot me.”

Monday, May 5

Nature News is reporting that the Swiss government's ethics committee on non-human biotechnology has issued guidelines instructing researchers how to avoid offending the dignity of plants.
The committee does not consider that genetic engineering of plants automatically falls into this category, but its majority view holds that it would if the genetic modification caused plants to 'lose their independence' - for example by interfering with their capacity to reproduce.