Friday, June 13, 2008

The Wisdom of Whores

Always wise to flip back through recent shows on Fresh Air!

I have been taken by the challenge the solving the HIV/AIDS epidemic and enjoyed the interview with the author of The Wisdom of Whores, Elizabeth Pisani. The book floats the idea that we might try "making fun things (sex, drugs) safe, instead of trying to make safe things (abstinence, monogamy) fun". The book Excerpt on the Fresh Air page has some great insight into the UN system.

Also related was a BBC Today debate about methadone (Harm Reduction) and whether it really got addicts off drugs. In grad school, I was very much interested in the concept of harm reduction, also praised in the interview with Pisani. What I thought was amazing is the need for societies to care for those people that are often most looked down upon, not only as an act of charity, but as an act of pragmatism and self-preservation. If Russians, want to stop HIV, it means rethinking the modern "gulag" and helping their drug addicts, who spread HIV; in India, it means caring for the commercial sex workers. I guess with methadone, it isn't a black and white decision, but it is so hard to tell as an outsider. I think, on a basic level, I believe it is better to get issues out in the open so they can be solved, rather than pretending that human can select absolutes (like the Bush administration's use of abstinence programs in trying to stop HIV). On the other hand, the gent criticizing methadone on the BBC had some good points about making sure methadone isn't used as a crutch.

By the way, have also discovered the BBC not uses tags and URL links, rather than just putting up entire shows! My, it is all getting easier!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Ugly still, but proud American

Yes, all of this Obama-mania is excessive and will inevitably be punctured should he win the presidency and start making tough calls or big mistakes. For now, though, what it reveals is how much many foreigners, after all the acrimony of the Bush years, still hunger for the "idea of America" — this open, optimistic, and, indeed, revolutionary, place so radically different from their own societies.
So said Mr. Friedman today. I had to lay off my own Obama-mania, but, you know, it really is exciting.

What I like about Friedman's column today, Obama on the Nile is that he captures what I have been seeing for awhile. In the Central African Republic, people I met were watching (with amazement!) as America has wrestled with and actually come to terms with nominating a person of color to potentiall be president. They are inspired not out os some naive hope, but that things can change. Here in the UK, it was total disbelief among the Euro trash that the same country that re-elected W. after a fear mongering campaign in 2004 could actually elect the son of a Kenyan. The disbelief echoed Roger Cohen's column, The Good American and Monsieur Obama, as he described the French reaction:
Out in the troubled suburbs, with their large African and Arab populations and broad mistrust of a political system that has produced one black parliamentarian among the 555 representing mainland France, Obama is an urban legend.
America needs this. Even if Obama is flawed (he is) and even if politics will be politics (it will), I can't let this moment pass without savoring a little social change.

I think Clinton's campaign also was great for the US this year. People got involved. But, I stick by my inital fears about a Clinton presidency - the "dynastification" mattered. And no matter how clever and skilled she was, her campaign was always going to have too much baggage. Not her fault, but it mattered a lot. I greatly appreciated her speech on Saturday and truly hope her supporters will take her words to heart.
I want to take all our energy and all our strength and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama as our next president of the United States.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Not "intentional or deliberate"

Does even matter if Bush et al were intentional or deliberate?

Scott McClellan seems to be everywhere selling his book. I guess one should appreciate the courage of a whistle blower, even it he certainly has some financial incentives that must be driving him. And since he won't be working in republican politics anytime soon, he better do well with book sales.

Jon Stewart, in my opinion, is doing an brilliant public service as a comedian who cuts through the political smokescreens we keep choking on. His interview (and part 2) of McClellan comes across as funny, obviously, but I see this kind of political interview like a joust with his guest. I was amazed he got the word "criminal" out of his mouth. Genius interviewer!

Terry Gross has some interesting questions about the effectiveness of these shows. Very interesting to hear McClellan's response. Yes, Terry, it would be great if we could talk and not just about talking points! Also, excellent interview.

Bob Herbert, who I have come to appreciate recently, hit a tone that most expresses my feelings about the book (which I won't read, by the way). Aside from US lives Herbert describes...
The war in Iraq, which has taken 100,000 or more Iraqi lives, and which will cost the U.S. upwards of $3 trillion, and which continues indefinitely, is a scandal and a crime. Scott McClellan is a little late to be blowing the whistle on this outrage.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Footprint Chronicles

Patagonia, in a what I think is a sign of things to come, now has something called The Footprint Chronicles, which allow you to see four indicators for a selection of products: distance traveled, CO2 emissions, waste generated and energy consumption.

Obviously, there is no way to compare with similar products or really look behind the calculations, but it seems like it will only be a matter of time.

They issue their own caveat:
These examinations are partial and preliminary. Each season we'll examine a few new products. As we learn more, our examinations will gain more focus, and we’ll work to change our harmful practices with all the speed we can muster.
Very exciting and hope to see how others develop this idea.