Category Archives: Taliban

Hot Air

Peace

Huzzah for Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who took a bullet to the head for the unforgivable sin of wanting to go to school. Malala today was announced as this year’s Nobel Peace Prize co-winner.

Malala

She Is Malala

The local Taliban in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where Malala lives, sent a hitman out to find her one day when she was headed to school. She’d already gained prominence as an activist for allowing Muslim girls to attend school in the region. She had to be stopped, the Taliban decided. The gunman boarded her school bus, asked for her by name, and proceeded to fire three slugs from his Colt .45 at her.

She survived the attack somehow and then became known worldwide as she recovered. A German internet and satellite news channel called her “the most famous teenager in the world.” She wrote a bestselling book entitled I Am Malala.

The youngest Nobel Prize winner ever, Malala continues to press for educational access for Muslim women. The Taliban, I might remind you, exists at its present strength mainly because President George W. Bush and his neo-con cronies shifted American military might from Afghanistan and Pakistan to Iraq for the war they always lusted for.

It’s a safe bet Georgy-Boy will never win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Who Was That Guy?

Comes October and memories of the Cuban missile crisis. I was too young to remember much of it save for the ghastly, worried look on my mother’s face for the duration of the two-week affair.

I did say at one point, “I hate Castro.” She told me I shouldn’t hate anyone even if their actions are hateful.

I also recall seeing newspaper headlines referring to “Russ.”

Headline

I Hated Russ

I thought Russ was a guy. And a bad guy, to boot. I hated him as well, only I didn’t tell my mother about it.

How did headline writers come up with the idea of calling the Soviet Union “Russ”? Yeah, I know, it’s a diminutive of Russia, but still, why Russ? USSR is pretty much the same width as Russ so it can’t be a space thing.

Russ. Weird.

Boom!

Not too long before the Cuban missile crisis, the Mob blew up a restaurant across the street from my childhood home.

It was the middle of the night and I was sleeping in the same room with my sister Charlotte who was perhaps 19. The boom was deafening and then there was the sound of shattering glass all around the house. The tinkle of glass continue up the block, house by house, in quick succession as the blast wave travelled outward.

Every window in my fam.’s house was blown out. We’d had what would now be considered gorgeous, priceless, leaded stained glass windows in our bungalow. At the time, though, such old fashioned things were considered cheap and undesirable. My parents always talked about saving up enough money so they could get those windows replaced. The Mob took care of that for them.

1621 N. Natchez Ave.

The Bungalow I Grew Up In

Every figurine my mother had was blown off its sconce as well. We could hardly take a step without crunching a shard of glass or ceramic. We all dashed outside to watch the restaurant burn. As the neighbors gathered, all of them in their slippers and robes, one woman shrieked, “I thought it was the atom bomb! Thank god it wasn’t!”

Wow. How big must the atom bomb be, I thought, to be worse than this?

The next morning, an insurance agent from the restaurant sat at our dining room table and wrote out a check for all new windows. My father held the check in his hand and gazed at it lovingly after the insurance man left. “Here’s our new windows,” he said and he and my mother laughed.

The restaurant? It was quickly rebuilt and became a hangout for Outfit guys. None of the neighbors ever really mentioned the incident again. It was Mob business and it was never good policy to stick one’s nose too deeply into it.

Playing Our Parts

One of two Norman Rockwell paintings dealing with baseball was called “Tough Call” (1949). In it, the umpires study a threatening sky, trying to decide whether to call the game or not. Behind them, the managers of the Pirates and the Dodgers put on a show for each other: the Pirates manager, whose team is ahead, is shivering, about to catch his death of pneumonia, hoping to convince one and all the game should be halted; the Dodgers skipper is grinning in the lone ray of sunshine, his cap off. Look at this gorgeous, clearing day, he’s surely saying. Naturally, he wants to game to continue.

Rockwell

Bottom Of The Sixth

Rockwell’s always been fancied as America’s painter. We could do a lot worse. Rockwell’s scene construction and geometric blocking, featuring the classic triangle delineating his directional movement, have been compared to those of the great Renaissance artists. Plus, his subject matter was as soaring and mythical as any painted by Titian, Bellini, or Veronese.

The only difference was, their visions were directed upward, to the heavens, whereas Rockwell’s were anchored firmly on this holy land’s Main Street. In either case, the worlds they portrayed did not exist, and for that matter never existed, except in the artists’ minds.

Anyway, I bring up Norman Rockwell for the two managers he painted. They’re both looking at the exact same day, the same sky, the same clouds. The breeze on their skin is the same temperature. The rain drops plunk equally on each man’s cap bill.

Yet, to prove their opposing points, they act as if they’re on opposite sides of the Earth.

You couldn’t find a better representative of what passes for today’s political discourse. There are no more conversations, no more contemplations, no more compromises. There is only good and evil. I’m right, you’re wrong, and thus it will always be.

A report I heard on the radio this morning (sorry, I can’t find a link to it just yet) got me to thinking about this. It seems the rare earth elements that make up much of our hybrid cars’ batteries are, naturally, in super short supply.

As I recall, a metals expert says that China is the world’s biggest supplier of those elements right now. If the US wants to stabilize their prices as well as put in a strategic backup supply of the metals, it’ll have to mine for them. Yet, the expert says, those who howl the loudest for electric-powered cars are the same people who howl the loudest whenever someone wants to dig a mine. You can’t have it both ways, the expert says.

Rare Earth Metals

[Clockwise from top center]

Praseodymium, Cerium, Lanthanum, Neodymium, Samarium, & Gadolinium

Which makes sense.

We all pretty much agree that mining is a destructive activity. What we don’t agree on is the fact that we need to do it. We need iron. We need coal. We need uranium. We need Europium, Holmium, and Lutetium.

Mining in any form has become a dirty word to a certain subset of the citizenry, as dirty, say, as GMOs, nuclear power, and other current bugbears of the progressive set.

Mining company execs say stripping the topography of flora and topsoil is the greatest thing in the world. Ecologists say it’s the scourge of the planet. Like the two managers looking at the same sky, they see different things.

Chinese Lutetium Mine

A Lutetium Mine In China

Everything’s black and white. Muslims are sweethearts; Muslims are cutthroat terrorists. Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were angels; Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin were vicious thugs. The unemployed are victims of a stacked deck economy; the unemployed are lazy.

Everybody sees everybody else as the enemy.

We’re going to have to live with some mining while simultaneously curbing the abuses of mining companies. We’re going to have to eat GMO foods while making sure Monsanto doesn’t take over the world.    We (those of us who consider ourselves liberals or progressives) have got to accept that Republicans, fundamentalist Christians, free marketeers, gun lovers, anti-abortionists, anti-contraceptionists, creationists, people who hate paying taxes, those who want to privatize schools and roads and the police all live in this land. And, of course, those folks have to live with us.

This great divide, this abyss between the Right and the Left wherein each side thinks the other is out to destroy the United States of America can only last for so long before we start firing guns at each other. In fact, that may already have begun, here and there, in hot spots around the nation.

That Norman Rockwell, he really knew America.

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“But suppose god is black. What if we go to heaven and we, all our lives, have treated the Negro as an inferior, and god is there, and we look up and he is not white? What then is our response?” — Robert F. Kennedy

SUPPOSE THEY GAVE A WAR AND NOBODY WON

When all is said and done, the US hasn’t suffered a devastating loss of human life in the Afghan debacle.

Yes, 2000 of our soldiers have been killed. The loss of one life in war is a tragedy. But, jeez, we’ve been in that hell-hole for 11 years now, trying to convince the populace at gunpoint that the Culture of McDonald’s is preferable to that of We’ll-Stone-You-If-You’re-A-Woman-And-Even-Think-About-Sex.

That’s about 182 deaths per year. 182 too many. But we’re not talking about a generation being decimated.

In case this little detail escaped your attention, I might point out that some 20,000 Afghan civilians have been blown to bits or otherwise killed in the war.

This Means War

Details, details. Here’s another one: The bad guys we went into Afghanistan to pound the crap out of in November, 2001, are still hanging in there. Yup, you remember the Taliban, don’t you? Those fellows who frown on music and dancing and cheering at soccer matches and women in general? Oh, and the guys who let Osama bin Laden camp out in their backyard while he and his boys planned their terror attacks?

Yeah, that Taliban. They’re in negotiations as we speak to be allowed back into everyday political life in Afghanistan.

Some war.

LESSON NUMBER ONE: TELL THE TRUTH

Writer Kristin Rawls at the progressive advocacy site AlterNet debunks the five main misconceptions or outright lies that the benighted portion of the populace of this holy land believe about teachers and public education.

I’ll let Rawls do the arguing. Here, though, are the five lies:

  1. Unions are undermining the quality of education in America
  2. Your student’s teacher has an easy and over-compensated job
  3. If your child doesn’t get picked in a charter school lottery, he or she is doomed
  4. Your child will automatically be better off if your school district adopts a “school choice” assignment plan
  5. Your student’s teacher sees your constructive involvement in your child’s education as an annoyance

Eek!

I never cared much for school but the tens of thousands of dollars I’ve spent on hundreds of hours of shrinks have narrowed the possible reasons for my distaste for the childhood classroom down to a manageable few dozen.

Still, I’ve always believed public education is perhaps the single most admirable contribution to human society that this nation has ever made.

THESE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Think back to 50 years ago today.

A young man named James Meredith had decided he wanted to enroll at the University of Mississippi. He’d already attended another university and had compiled a good academic record.

Meredith Then

Many people, though, were aligned against his acceptance to the institution. The forces lined up against him included Gov. Ross Barnett. The governor ruled that Meredith would not be accepted to Ole Miss.

Meredith, of course, was black. Mississippi, of course, was Mississippi.

Barnett was pressured by the federal government to allow Meredith to enroll. The governor didn’t have a leg to stand on; the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation at public supported schools was unconstitutional seven years earlier.

So, Barnett grudgingly allowed Meredith to go to school in the state’s university. The immediate result? A bloody campus riot by white students and Ku Klux Klan ringers.

Here’s a list of forces called out to quell the rioting and ensure Meredith’s safety as he attended classes:

  • 500 US Marshals
  • The 70th Army Engineer Combat battalion
  • Units from the 503rd Military Police Battalion
  • The federalized Mississippi Army National Guard
  • Officers from the US Border Patrol

This fighting force was in place even before Meredith attended his first day of classes at the University of Mississippi. Still, Meredith was harassed and shunned.

By college students, I might remind you.

US Marshals Escort Meredith To Class

The experience was so traumatic that Meredith felt compelled to leave Ole Miss. He eventually received his undergraduate degree from the University of Ibadan.

Which is in Nigeria. Which, in case you haven’t made the connection, is not the United States of America.

As time went by, Meredith earned a law degree from Columbia University in New York City.

He remained active in the civil rights fight after attending college. In fact, he led a voter registration march back in Mississippi in 1966. A white man shotgunned him in the back for his efforts. Meredith, fortunately, survived the murder attempt.

Meredith, Moments After Being Shotgunned

James Meredith attended his first class at the University of Mississippi 50 years ago today.

Sometimes it’s good to look at the glass as half full. October 1st, 1962 was a long, long time ago.

There’s even a statue of Meredith on the Ole Miss campus.

He’s pushing 80 now and lives with his wife in Jackson, Mississippi. He’s got a new book coming out, “A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America.”

Meredith Now

The only events listings you need in Bloomington.

Monday, October 1st, 2012

Brought to you by The Electron Pencil: Bloomington Arts, Culture, Politics, and Hot Air. Daily.

FAIR ◗ Monroe County Fairgrounds, Commercial Building West29th Annual American Red Cross Book Fair, +100,000 used books, CDs, DVDs, games, maps, sheet music, etc.; 9am-7pm, through October 2nd

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Center, outside WFHB StudiosPublic participation in creating a ten-foot sculpture called “The Messenger,” Rain or shine; 9am-5pm

STUDIO TOUR ◗ Brown County, various locationsThe Backroads of Brown County Studio Tour, free, self-guided tour of 16 local artists’ & craftspersons’ studios; 10am-5pm, through October

BENEFIT ◗ Bloomington Convention CenterDinner & award ceremony for Stone Belt; 6-8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Muddy Boots Cafe, NashvilleDawn Hiatt; 6-8:30pm

VARIETY ◗ Cafe DjangoBloomington Short List, ten-minute acts, hosted by Marta Jasicki; 7pm

MUSIC & POETRY ◗ Boxcar BooksMeg Waldron; 7pm

CLASS ◗ Monroe County Public Library — “On the Brink of Destruction: The Cuban Missile Crisis 50 Years Out,” presented by IU Lifelong Learning; 7-8:30pm

MUSIC ◗ Max’s PlaceSocial Justice; 7:30pm

MUSIC ◗ IU Musical Arts CenterLatin Jazz Ensemble, the Aaron Bannerman Group, Tom Walsh & Michael Spiro, directors; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The Player’s PubSongwriter Showcase: Ryan Brewer, Chad Mills, Chris Wolf; 8pm

MUSIC ◗ The BluebirdKrewella; 9pm

ONGOING:

ART ◗ IU Art MuseumExhibits:

  • “New Acquisitions,” David Hockney; through October 21st
  • “Paragons of Filial Piety,” by Utagawa Kuniyoshi; through December 31st
  • “Intimate Models: Photographs of Husbands, Wives, and Lovers,” by Julia Margaret, Cameron, Edward Weston, & Harry Callahan; through December 31st
  • French Printmaking in the Seventeenth Century;” through December 31st
  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Pop-art by Joe Tilson; through December 31st
  • Workers of the World, Unite!” through December 31st

ART ◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibits:

  • What It Means to Be Human,” by Michele Heather Pollock; through September 29th
  • Land and Water,” by Ruth Kelly; through September 29th

ART ◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryExhibit:

  • “Samenwerken,” Interdisciplinary collaborative multi-media works; through October 11th

ART ◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibits opening September 28th:

  • A Place Aside: Artists and Their Partners;” through December 20th
  • Gender Expressions;” through December 20th

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibit:

  • “CUBAmistad” photos

ART ◗ IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits:

  • “¡Cuba Si! Posters from the Revolution: 1960s and 1970s”
  • “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”
  • “Thoughts, Things, and Theories… What Is Culture?”
  • “Picturing Archaeology”
  • “Personal Accents: Accessories from Around the World”
  • “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”
  • “The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey through Mid-century America”
  • “TOYing with Ideas”
  • “Living Heritage: Performing Arts of Southeast Asia”
  • “On a Wing and a Prayer”

BOOKS ◗ IU Lilly LibraryExhibit:

  • Outsiders and Others:Arkham House, Weird Fiction, and the Legacy of HP Lovecraft;” through November 1st
  • A World of Puzzles,” selections form the Slocum Puzzle Collection

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Soup’s OnExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Culture: “CUBAmistad photos; through October

ART ◗ Boxcar BooksExhibit:

  • Celebration of Cuban Art & Film: Papercuts by Ned Powell; through September

PHOTOGRAPHY ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • Bloomington: Then and Now,” presented by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

ARTIFACTS ◗ Monroe County History CenterExhibit:

  • “Doctors and Dentists: A Look into the Monroe County Medical professions

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