American Culture

Nota Bene #30

Got hot links if you want ’em!

At Truthdig economic reporter Doug Henwood writes: “The Republican never has doubts about the rightness of a money-driven hierarchical society ultimately backed by violence. The Democrat, though, is troubled by doubts and anxieties in the back of his mind that get diluted by evasion and qualification by the time they work their way toward the front of the mind.”

In a Christian Science Monitor article, “The Alternative to an Israeli Attack on Iran,” Trita Parsi and Shlomo Ben-Ami write about “a central flaw in the outlook of both Jerusalem and Washington: the tendency to treat the risks and repercussions of military operations with extreme optimism, while treating the diplomacy challenges with extreme skepticism.”  [Emphasis added.]

In “Iran: War or Privatization: All Out War or ‘Economic Conquest’?” at Global Research, Michel Chossudovsky writes about Iran’s little-known program to privatize, or sell its industries to foreign investors: “At first sight it appears that Tehran is caving into Washington’s demands so as to avoid an all war. [But there] are indications that the Bush administration’s main objective is to stall the privatization program. Now why on earth would the Bush administration be opposed to the adoption of a. . . program, which would strip the Islamic Republic of some of its most profitable assets?” Visit Global Research to find out.

In “Tehran Puts on a Show of Strength” at Asia Times Online Sami Moubayed quotes a Syrian oil expert: “. . . if the strait is closed, alternate routes [if available] would have to be used, and this will result in a loss of more than 20 million barrels per day in the international market.” Oil prices could reach “no less than US$500 a barrel.” I don’t think we’ve heard that figure before.

In a Washington Post article, “Ex-Agent Says CIA Ignored Iran Facts,” Joby Warrick writes: “A former CIA operative. . . contends that his 22-year CIA career collapsed after he questioned CIA doctrine about the nuclear programs of Iraq and Iran. [He] had been assigned undercover work in the Persian Gulf region, where he successfully recruited an informant [who] provided secret evidence that Tehran had halted its research into designing and building a nuclear weapon. Yet, when the operative sought to file reports on the findings, his attempts were ‘thwarted by CIA employees.'”

In “On Iran, top military officer sounds like Obama” at MSNBC, Tom Curry writes: “It could turn out to be one of the most significant comments of the 2008 campaign. . . . Upon his return from a visit to Israel and Europe, the nation’s highest ranking military officer warned Wednesday that a military strike on Iran would be a very bad idea. ‘This is a very unstable part of the world, and I don’t need it to be more unstable,’ said the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen.” Nice to see him making it personal.

In “Memo to Obama: Moving to the Middle Is for Losers” at Huffington Post, Arianna Huffington writes: “When Obama kneecaps his own rhetoric and dilutes his positioning as a different kind of politician, he is also giving his opponent a huge opening to reassert the McCain as Maverick brand.”

Robert Dreyfuss provides a comprehensive overview of “Obama’s Evolving Foreign Policy” in the Nation: “It remains to be seen whether an Obama administration can articulate a coherent progressive purpose for American foreign policy in the post-Bush era. So far, at least, his team appears to be falling back on the liberal interventionist notions of the 1990s that led us into Iraq. . . but remarkably astute and empathetic, Obama is a work in progress on national security policy.”

In “Truth Is Out on CIA and Torture” at the Washington Independent, former CIA man Milt Bearden writes of the CIA: “In January, when real investigations by Congress and the Justice Dept. might begin, [there] will be accusations, counter-accusations and denials unseen in the six decades of the CIA’s existence. . . . Operationally, the torture story has already had a chilling effect in keeping CIA officers off the streets and out of the back alleys of a dangerous world. There is a deep and realistic concern that they could be captured and tortured themselves.”

In “Al Qaeda Goes Viral” also at the Washington Independent, Spencer Ackerman writes about Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, the theorist who’s behind decentralizing Al Qaeda: “Rather than reestablish a loose network of terrorist cells with the remnants of a command-and-control structure, al-Suri urged aspiring terrorists to simply murder people in the organization’s name.” He’s thought to be in a US “black site” now.

Christopher Hitchens finally makes himself useful. In a Vanity Fair piece, “Believe Me, It’s Torture,” he writes about his waterboarding experiment: “I apply the Abraham Lincoln test for moral casuistry: ‘If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.’ Well, then, if waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.”

In “Not Your Grandma’s Depression” at Clusterfuck Nation, James Kunstler is in even more cheerful a mood than usual: “[The future will be something at least twice as bad as the Great Depression of the 1930s: people with no money in a land with no resources. . . hardly any family farms left, cities that are basket-cases of bottomless need, comatose small towns. . . an aviation industry on the verge of death, and a railroad system that is the laughingstock of the world.”


In a Boston Globe article “This time, Manny being Manny is unacceptable,” Dan Shaughnessy writes about the Red Sox glossing over Manny Ramirez pushing the club’s 64-year-old traveling secretary to the ground. “Sorry, that just doesn’t cut it this time. . . . On the street, that gets you arrested. In most workplaces, it gets you a suspension at the very least. Not at Fenway Park. Not if you can hit .300 with 35 homers and 120 RBIs.”

At Edge of Sports, Dave Zirin “interviews Ralph Nader” who says that “sports pages in the newspaper should be called the spectator sports pages. Because they don’t cover participatory sports: amateur sports, amateur leagues, what’s going on at the local playgrounds.” Also, “in any tax-supported sports facility. . . . The stadium and ballpark should be called ‘Taxpayer Stadium,’ not some sold-off brand name, or some bank, or computer company.”

This Week in Vaginas

In a New York Times article, “A Spa for Those Women Concerned About ‘Pelvic Fitness’,” Natasha Singer writes: “Dr. Romanzi likes to call the vaginal workouts she prescribes ‘personal training.’ Clients could also use an in-office electrostimulation machine to improve pelvic muscle tone or buy a device for home use. Dr. Romanzi said that such treatments are intended to improve bladder control; she said pelvic training may also lead to more intense orgasms. . . . Welcome to the era of the gyno spa.”

In “Vagina Anxiety: The Rise of the Labialplasty” at AlterNet, Jennifer Armstrong writes of women’s version of penis envy: “The concerns that come up over and over are [basically] anything that is different between an adult woman’s vulva and a little girl’s vulva. . . . .Certain segments of the male population fetishizing teen girls doesn’t help matters.”

In a Times of London article, “The man who wants to reshape your private parts,” Jessica Brinton reports on gynecological plastic surgeon Dr. David Matlock: “Back in Matlock’s office, we’re poring over pictures of a Playboy model displaying what he calls ‘a beautiful structure’. Matlock’s hands-down bestseller is laser vaginal labioplasty, and it’s this kind of image, he claims, that inspires women. ‘Women bring in this pornographic information — I have drawers of it — and they say, That is what I wanna see.”

And on how the French government pays for women to have 10 sessions of pelvic-tightening physiotherapy after birth, Brinton writes: “Perhaps this is the real reason French women are so snooty: because they’re tighter than a gnat’s chuff, and don’t they just know it?”