The United Nations Economic and Social Council has elected Iran to serve a four-year term — beginning in 2011 — on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The U.N. calls the Commission “the principal global policy-making body” on women’s rights and claims it is “dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women”. Yet Iran was elected by acclamation. It was one of only two candidates for two slots allocated to the Asian regional bloc – in other words, a fixed slate and a done deal. This, to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged immodest.
Women in Iran lack the ability to choose their husbands, have no independent right to education after marriage, no right to divorce, no right to child custody, have no protection from violent treatment in public spaces, are restricted by quotas for women’s admission at universities, and are arrested, beaten, and imprisoned for peacefully seeking change of such laws.
“In the past year, Iran has arrested and jailed mothers of peaceful civil rights protesters,” wrote three prominent democracy and human rights activists in an op-ed published online by Foreign Policy Magazine. “It has charged women who were seeking equality in the social sphere — as wives, daughters and mothers — with threatening national security, subjecting many to hours of harrowing interrogation. Its prison guards have beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and raped female and male civil rights protesters.” More here.
This is the single, most important story in a post-2009-election Iran, but I have yet to see it covered in any major network/newspaper. The atrocities committed by this regime are not surprising, but the international community’s reaction is. Where is the outrage?! Since when is Iran a champion for women’s rights?
Please look at this again and think about the hypocrisy that is the UN.
Kottke: David Graeber has been researching the history of money and debt for a book he’s writing. This abbreviated version of his findings makes for really interesting reading.
However tawdry their origins, the creation of new media of exchange — coinage appeared almost simultaneously in Greece, India, and China — appears to have had profound intellectual effects. Some have even gone so far as to argue that Greek philosophy was itself made possible by conceptual innovations introduced by coinage. The most remarkable pattern, though, is the emergence, in almost the exact times and places where one also sees the early spread of coinage, of what were to become modern world religions: prophetic Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Confucianism, Taoism, and eventually, Islam. While the precise links are yet to be fully explored, in certain ways, these religions appear to have arisen in direct reaction to the logic of the market. To put the matter somewhat crudely: if one relegates a certain social space simply to the selfish acquisition of material things, it is almost inevitable that soon someone else will come to set aside another domain in which to preach that, from the perspective of ultimate values, material things are unimportant, and selfishness — or even the self — illusory.
Over the years, I had read too many essays by literary critics and even poets, which proclaimed confidently that poetry is universally despised and read by practically no one in United States. I recall my literature students rolling their eyes when I asked them if they liked poetry, or my old high school friends becoming genuinely alarmed upon learning that I still did. Patriotic, sentimental and greeting card verse has always been tolerated, but the kind of stuff modern poets write allegedly offends every one of those “real Americans” Sarah Palin kept praising in the last election.
During the time I served as the poet laureate, however, I found this not to be true. In a country in which schools seem to teach less literature every year, where fewer people read books and ignorance reigns supreme regarding most issues, poetry is read and written more than ever. Anyone who doesn’t believe me ought to take a peek at what’s available on the web. Who are these people who seem determined to copy almost every poem ever written in the language? Where do they find the time to do it? No wonder we have such a large divorce rate in this country. I won’t even describe the thousands of blogs, the on-line poetry magazines, both serious ones and the ones where anyone can post a poem their eight-year daughter wrote about the death of her goldfish. People who kept after me with their constant emails and letters were part of that world. They wanted me to announce what I propose to do to make poetry even more popular in United States. Unlike my predecessors who had a lot of clever ideas, like having a poetry anthology next to the Gideon Bible in every motel room in America (Joseph Brodsky), or urging daily newspapers to print poems (Robert Pinsky), I felt things were just fine. As far as I could see, there was more poetry being read and written than at any time in our history.
The obvious next question is how much of it is any good? More than one would ever imagine. America may be going to hell in every other way, but fine poems continue to be written now and then. Still, if poetry is being written and being read now more than ever, it must be because it fulfills a profound need. Where else but in poems would these Americans, who unlike their neighbors seem unwilling to seek salvation in church, convey their human predicament? Where else would they find a community of likeminded souls who care about something Emily Dickinson or Billy Collins has written? If I were asked to sum up my experience as the poet laureate, I would say, there’s nothing more interesting or more hopeful about America than its poetry.
When Mike Benziger and his family began growing grapes and making wine in 1970s-era Sonoma County, the prevailing agricultural style could be described as “scorched earth.” Agrichemical concoctions fed the vines, killed the pests, and flattened the weeds; plentiful well water provided easy irrigation. But such practices not only kill soil, they also deaden wine. Over time, the Benzigers began to rethink modern viticulture. One motivation was improving the product, making it stand out from the gusher of wine coming out of Sonoma. Another was the sinking water table on Sonoma Mountain, where the family keeps its vineyards. Faced with surging water costs, the family began searching for new farming methods that didn’t treat water as a cheap and easy resource. Thus started an odyssey that inspired the family to convert its Sonoma property to biodynamic growing practices in the mid-1990s — and that named Mike Benziger as a Water Stewardin NRDC’s second annual “Growing Green” awards.
Animals are integral to biodynamic farming. What kind of animals are on your farm?
In biodynamic farming, you try to eliminate the use of inputs by enabling natural systems, through use of plants and animals. We use plants as habitat areas to bring in good insects that eat the bad bugs, which eliminate the need for pesticides, and we bring in the caretakers of soil biology and that eliminates the need for fertilizer. So we have cows, which provide the manures for our compost, and sheep, which are out in the vineyards every day during the fall, winter, and the early part of spring. With every step, sheep do three things: they eat, they shit, and they till. They’re pretty cool animals and they really invigorate the soil biology by keeping the grasses down low, that way we don’t have to bring our machinery in early when compaction is a problem. They also provide the ability to turn their manures into grasses under, so that they break down and they keep the soil biology humming. They also put little dents, not too many, but little dents in the soil that act to hold water and help to recharge the soil aquifer faster. The other thing they do, which is really important, is they take care of disease protection by turning under with their paws all the litter that’s left over from last year that usually has mildew and other bacteria in it; they turn it under and the soil bacteria take care of it right away. Virtually all farms had animals for 10,000 years. They’ve been pushed off most farms over the last hundred years because we decided that monocrops are more efficient. But we really didn’t look hard enough to see the real reasons why our ancestors were using animals.
“The problem with the tea party movement, besides their almost universal rejection of dentistry, is that they want money for nothing and chicks for free. They want a deregulated free market and their jobs to stay here in the US; they want guaranteed health coverage regardless of preexisting conditions without a big government mandate; they want to call themselves teabaggers and people to keep a straight face, and of course, they want big tax cuts along with deficit reduction. I can’t even think of a suitable analogy for that disconnect—it’s like thinking getting a handjob will clean your garage.”— Bill Maher
This week, the House Agriculture Committee held the first hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill, the main piece of legislation that every five years establishes our nations food and agriculture policy. The Farm Bill affects farm payments, supplemental nutrition assistance programs (SNAP, formally called food stamps), international trade, conservation programs, the opportunities in rural communities, agriculture research, food safety, and more. Currently 70% of farm payments go to the wealthiest 10% of producers of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton and rice. These kinds of oversights are the result of a Farm Bill that has been largely cobbled together over time. Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), who last year called those who spend money on organic produce“dumb,” may become the unlikely champion of this Farm Bill. He said in an interview following the hearing that subsidy programs could phase out over the next 20 years as crop insurance programs strengthen and become less focused on commodities. He has also expressed concern that direct payments could be affecting land values and rents, asking “is that making it more difficult for young farmers to get started?” One of the ideas that the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) hopes will be a part of the discussion is an expanded “green payments” program, which would reward farmers for environmental stewardship instead of placing the incentives on overproduction.
Daniel Imhoff, author of the book, Food Fight: The Citizen’s Guide to a Food and Farm Bill, said long-term thinking on the Farm Bill should focus on “Getting Perennial by the Next Centennial.” The idea would be to “[use] the 5-year farm bills to push land use from monocropping of annual feed grains to broad acreages of deep rooted perennial plants that sequester carbon, filter water, protect the soil, provide habitat, and can support fewer numbers of healthier grazing animals.” Imhoff also said that this Farm Bill should take a stance of “No Subsidization without Social Obligation.” “We must put an end to commodity subsidy programs that simply encourage overproduction and insurance of cheap ingredients for industrial foods,” he said. “What we subsidize should contribute to an all around healthier food system.”
Aimee Witteman at NSAC has some advice: “Get to know your legislators and identify champions for your issues early on”. The House Agriculture Committee will hold four field meetings in the coming weeks in Des Moines, Iowa; Boise, Idaho; Fresno, California; and Cheyenne, Wyoming that are open to the public.
Fact: Van Morrison was twenty-two—or twenty-three—years old when he made this record; there are lifetimes behind it. What Astral Weeks deals in are not facts but truths. Astral Weeks, insofar as it can be pinned down, is a record about people stunned by life, completely overwhelmed, stalled in their skins, their ages and selves, paralyzed by the enormity of what in one moment of vision they can comprehend. It is a precious and terrible gift, born of a terrible truth, because what they see is both infinitely beautiful and terminally horrifying: the unlimited human ability to create or destroy, according to whim. It’s no Eastern mystic or psychedelic vision of the emerald beyond, nor is it some Baudelairean perception of the beauty of sleaze and grotesquerie. Maybe what it boils down to is one moment’s knowledge of the miracle of life, with its inevitable concomitant, a vertiginous glimpse of the capacity to be hurt, and the capacity to inflict that hurt.