Five young Ukrainian conspirators -- seemingly with a background in the "official communist" Komsomol and well able to pick up the vital factional nuances of left politics in the Anglo-Saxon world -- managed to pass themselves off as "sections" of anything up to 12 different organisations. A feat which might be explained by the claim that they first met each other in an "amateur acting troupe."...
[The Ukrainians] recreated in fictional microcosm the factional struggles and rivalries that plague the left in Britain and the US. Negotiations, polemics, splits and all. This doubtlessly pleased their "masters" in London and New York no end.
How was the fraud exposed?
The penny dropped for the [International Bolshevik Tendency] and Workers Power on August 14. A leading WP comrade was boastfully displaying a photograph of the organisation's recent world congress to an IBT member. Standing on either side of the said WPer were two Ukrainian comrades -- they were instantly recognisable. They were the IBT's key comrades in their own Ukrainian section. Photos and information were quickly exchanged between factional centres -- everyone had been conned.
The Communist Party of Great Britain, which was not among the defrauded, describes the affair as "The Sting meets Life of Brian."
[Via Ken MacLeod.]
Ever wondered why the Romans stripped Jesus specifically in order to humiliate him, but then pulled an Ashcroft and allowed a drapery to cover his private parts? You're not alone! Father John Dobson of Caloundra in Queensland, Australia tells the naked truth in his column for Sunshine Coast Sunday newspaper:
"Most certainly Jesus would have been crucified naked, as was the Roman practice," Fr Dobson wrote. "At some stage it was decided that Jesus' sexuality must be covered up, and so he was draped in a loincloth, which somehow would make him more presentable in polite Christian company!
Fr Dobson said the crucifix should never have become the symbol of Christianity because it was a means of execution.
Condemning Fr. Dobson as "weird," the editor of the conservative Catholic paper Lepanto has reported the priest/columnist to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
(What happened to newspaper columns written by priests, anyway? When I was a kid, one of my favorite items in the Atlantic City Press was the regular column by "Monsignor S.J. Adamo," which was entertainingly heavy with profiles of great two-fisted priests. A typical article would tell of some tough Salesian working in Camden who gets mugged outside the rectory; after beating his attacker like a Saracen, the priest would then reach into his pocket and fish out a sawbuck. The defeated mugger would always be amazed at this act of mercy—saving grace delivered with a mean right hook. Sadly, the column-writing man of the cloth, like the tough-but-true priest, seems to be a fading figure from days of yore. )
The less-than-burning question of the appropriateness of Soviet kitsch has been batted around more than once in these pages. Now a small Moscow company adds a new wrinkle. Kontakt-Kultura publishing house has achieved middling success selling USSR propaganda posters in Russia itself. Maybe you'd be interested in this timely flyer:
"A one-night stand may flash like lightning," warns one poster under a picture of a wilting pink rose, "but tomorrow, perhaps, there will be illness and hospital."
New at Reason: Once-rockribbed drug warrior Forest Tennant is on the verge of suing for peace. As Jacob Sullum explains, he's just one of many War On Drugs veterans who on the haunting flares have turned their backs.
Eloy Gutierrez-Menoyo helped overthrow Fulgencio Batista, then spent 22 years in prison for trying to do the same thing to Fidel Castro. Since then, from his base in Florida, he has been a thorn in the side of both the Communist regime and the right wing of the Cuban exile community. Earlier this month, Miami New Times reports, he shocked both when he "traveled from Miami to Havana for a vacation, then announced he was staying permanently and demanded permission from the Cuban government to open an office for his political group, Cambio Cubano."
The Battle of Shaker Heights debuts in eight cities this weekend. Best known for being the subject this year of Project Greenlight, HBO's watch-us-make-a-movie reality TV series, the picture also has the lesser-known distinction of being written by a libertarian who'd just been awarded a grant by the Institute for Humane Studies.
Authorities scramble to protect public health and safety at the Minnesota State Fair.
At 20 MTV is showing its age. Have Madonna, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera bring faux lesbo to basic cable? Yawn. Now if the trio had kicked off the network's Video Music Awards sporting Les Pauls and covering a Molly Hatchet or April Wine fret fest, we'd all still be agape. Hell, a few windmilled A-chords, something, anything different from this crew.
Of all the possible reactions to the momentarily famous Oui interview, the last one I would have predicted is that Arnold would be accused, by activists and even newspaper columnists like the Los Angeles Times' Steve Lopez, of committing (in Lopez' words) "slurs against gays."
Huh? Here is where the alleged slurs occur:
OUI: Do you get freaked out by being in such close contact with men in the gym?
ARNOLD: Not at all. When I was playing soccer at the age of 14, the first thing we'd do before going out onto the field would be to climb up on one another's thighs and massage the legs; it was a regular thing. None of us had a thought of being gay, absolutely not, and it's the same with most bodybuilders. Men shouldn't feel like fags just because they want to have nice-looking bodies. Another thing: Recently I posed for a gay magazine, which caused much comment. But it doesn't bother me. Gay people are fighting the same kind of stereotyping that bodybuilders are: People have certain misconceptions about them just as they do about us. Well, I have absolutely no hang-ups about the fag business; though it may bother some bodybuilders, it doesn't bother me at all.
To sum up: He professes easy-going tolerance and comfort, argues that homosexuals are unfairly stereotyped, and risks ridicule by posing for a gay magazine. In 1977. But, since he uses the word "fag," and (maybe!) because he's not a Democrat, this apparently makes him a homophobe. From a San Francisco Chronicle story:
"I think he's got a problem, bordering on a fixation" about gays, said Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco.
Michael Andraychak, president of Los Angeles' Stonewall Democratic Club, which opposes the recall, called on the actor to apologize, saying gays react to "fag" much as African Americans react to "the n-- word."
The first billboard I saw in Lebanon yesterday had pictures of what looked like wax figures of Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush side-by-side, with the logo "The Past and the Future." It turns out they were wax figures. The text of the sign read, "Where is Saddam? He's at the Hall of Fame Wax Museum!"
At the St. Simon festival last night, I got buttonholed by a group of guys who live in the U.S. but are back on vacation. Said one, "Americans all think Lebanon is a haven for terrorists. They don't even know the president of Lebanon is a Christian. You have to tell them! I love America because it gave me what my country didn't—opportunity, money, and a job."
As a journalist (or at least a feuillitoniste), I had, my new friends claimed, a special duty to get the message out to Americans, so I'm passing it along. And also one complaint: Citing Darrell Issa's unrewarded role in the California recall and John Abizaid's getting stuck with the hangover in Iraq, they say Lebanese-Americans have to do all the country's dirty work. (And that's not to mention that it was Jamie Farr who had to wear the dress on M*A*S*H.)
Some funny observations about British speaking mannerisms, by an American singer/songwriter visiting his in-laws. An excerpt:
Fervent apologies and extravagant expressions of gratitude for trivia are just about the only occasions where British people seem comfortable and unembarrassed by overt demonstrations of emotion -- if "emotion" is the right word for what is really (I think) mostly a histrionic application of some mysterious standard of formal civility. I'm not sure if you'd use "emotion" for the heavy, gloomy, resigned "we're all doomed and there's no point" manner that most Brits seem to affect around 80% of the time: within every man, woman, child, banker, Queen, beggar, glamour girl, or bus conductor, there seems to lurk an inner Morrissey that doesn't have much trouble taking hold of the host organism in most circumstances. Other than that, though, the Brits have the unique ability to be embarrassed by just about everything.
Having secured his seat on the board of the US Institute of Peace, Daniel Pipes is now free to respond to the many detractors who tried to "bork" him over the past few months. His defense of a widely circulated 1991 comment—that Europeans "are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene"—was taken out of context, says Pipes; he was actually parodying stereotypical views of Europeans. This sounds a bit like the Ionesco character who wants you to know that he's obsessed with race because he's an anti-racist, not a racist. (I've also seen the "different standards of hygiene" cited elsewhere as "less than German standards of hygiene." Dunno whether this was other people rewriting Pipes or Pipes rewriting himself.) Still, it's good to hear him finally present his case:
[T]he accusations remain painful to me. I've spent two-thirds of my life studying the Middle East, learned the Arabic language, traveled the Muslim world, lived three years in Cairo, taught courses on the region at Harvard and specialized on it at the State and Defense departments.
In short, my career has been exactly devoted to "bridging differences and bringing peace."
Mark Fiore's produced an advertisement for John Ashcroft's coming PATRIOT Act tour. Rock out. (Tip of the hat and tap of the wire to Amy Phillips.)
Internet alarmist Bill O'Reilly is at it again. Last night, after a not-unreasonable Talking Points memo on the Schwarzengangbanger story, O'Reilly brought historian Douglas Brinkley to discuss the real question: "[W]hy is this stuff in circulation?" The truthful answer -- Mickey Kaus is an incorrigible gossip, people have been known to hold onto their old soft-core porno mags, and the interview itself is pretty interesting -- apparently would not do.
O'REILLY: But the other thing is that the court system in this country does not protect anybody in the public arena. You -- look, with the rise of the Internet -- you see the vile stuff on the Internet? You could say anything you want about anybody.
And it just goes unchecked. Shouldn't there be a check and balance in this?
BRINKLEY: I think so, too, and I think the Internet -- you know, you mentioned the Clinton era, and, of course, that's when the Internet kind of blossomed into our lives, and, suddenly, you had a billion e-mails going around the world and -- on -- every day, and I think the Internet's so unregulated and that so many false things come up.
When I used to do a book, Bill, I would go to "The New York Times" index, which had a quality thing. Today, if I'm going to look up somebody, you look them up on the Internet. So what's on there, some people take as truth.
One of the hardest parts of being at a university is constantly telling students anything you read on the Internet is worthless, it's not factual.
To belabor the obvious, the Oui interview actually took place, and was published in an actual print magazine. No amount of government regulation, court protection, or lying to college students is going to prevent people from reading old magazines. But then, O'Reilly seems a bit on edge these days. From the same interview:
I wouldn't answer -- look, I've got to -- I've got to tell you, Doctor. They're after me. You know that. And even you've had some problems. Anybody who goes on television and speaks their mind, they're going to attack.
Has Viagra, the only fully recreational drug the Food and Drug Administration has signed off on since it brought back saccharine years ago, created a world of Bartlebys who "would prefer not to"?
That's one of the claims in this Independent story, which details how some men "have decided to stop taking Viagra because it has increased their partner's expectations of them between the sheets."
This is an interesting story if only for what it tells us about all drugs, legal/illegal, prescription/over the counter, etc: They never quite work the way you expect them to. (Indeed, the story notes how the uplifting quality of Viagra's active ingredient was discovered by accident.)
[Link via Arts and Letters Daily]
The project...started out, in the mind of the Ohio Highway Department, as a simple widening of the I-670 as it rolls through Columbus, Ohio. But the adjoining neighborhoods put up a fight....
The compromise proposed by some local genius was to make the new overpass (necessitated by the wider freeway) into a city street by lining it with shops to "link rather than divide." It is under construction now.
There are pre-automotive precedents for the plan, and there are some potential drawbacks as well. But it is, as Sucher says, a very interesting model for "reconnecting the city by discovering spaces." I hope it works out, and I'm curious to see whether it will.
Via BoingBoing, I've become aware that cult author and bizarro genius Robert Anton Wilson has joined the Cali gubernatorial circus, running on a "guns and dope" platform. His position papers are available here, and I'm pleased to note that for more in-depth information on his political philosophy, he links to Randy Barnett's Lysander Spooner page.
(See also Jesse's post on the 19th.)
New at Reason: If Hollywood's glamorization of smoking really does cause kids to smoke, how many kids out there are right now learning from the big screen how to overturn fruit carts, smash perfectly good large windows, escape from big explosions by jumping toward the camera? How many are learning the dangerous lesson that you can solve complex life problems, and learn something while you're at it, through such wacky mix-ups as bed tricks, impersonations, supernatural personality transfers or pretending to be gay? Exactly how many forms of bad behavior is Hollywood encouraging? Nick Gillespie gives an estimate.
At least 75 are killed outside a mosque in Najaf.