There is nothing like NPR to induce fits of disgust and indignation. That and the week in review. Happy Nikolaustag.
On Sunday I listened to part of This American Life on the topic of “The Middle of Nowhere.” The first segment dealt with the tiny island nation of Nauru—the lead-in dealt with Nauru’s decision in the 90s to become a haven for offshore banks and the center of world-wide money laundering. The island’s only real natural resource was its stockpiles of phosphates, which were exploited even in colonial times. The fleecing of governments and wealthy individuals, while repugnant, was only of passing interest, but Nauru’s involvement in more recent global-political events is considerably more stomach-turning.
In 2001 Asylum seekers from Iraq and Afghanistan trying to find refuge in Australia were turned back by that country’s Bush-friendly government because the regime wanted to appear tough on immigration. Shamefully John Howard and the Australian government instead paid off Nauru and got them to “host” the refugees, who have become internees in concentration camps since that decision. It’s a wonderful “not in our backyard” situation—out of sight, out of mind.
More recently the U.S. involved Nauru as an intermediary in getting North Korean scientists to defect by staffing the Beijing Nauru embassy with Americans. In addition Nauru was to give up its offshore banking in exchange for monetary incentives. When the Americans failed to pay up, Nauru took them to court in Australia.
One would have to be extremely naive to be surprised by this behavior on the part of the United States—no one with half a brain cell believes the U.S. actually supports “freedom,” ”democracy,” and “human rights,” unless by these three words one really means “corporate welfare”—but there is no reason to base what we should do on how things are, for metaphysics and ethics are not the same thing. Of course, the reason why our goverment can get away with such amoral and often immoral behavior is because a majority of us support the status quo and are more interested in our SUV’s than making the world a better place.
Links of the day:
It was a nice quiet day ... so I said a week ago. And then Mike organized a suprise birthday party for me. In truth, he started organizing it months and months ago, and this is two such surprises in my family this year, for last spring my step-mother surprised my father with a trip to New Orleans. She told him they were going a special “award breakfast” at a local restaurant at around 6am—she had supposedly won a nursing award, and spouses were to attend the ceremony—, while in reality they were catching a flight.
My new desk chair is still sitting on the floor next to me, in its box and not yet put together. On my left sits my crock pot—I learned on Wednesday afternoon that “Crock-Pot” is a registered trademark for a special kind of slow cooker from Rival. My dad, step-mother, and I went to Burlington Coat Factory after I taught Wednesday, and I got a new black wool coat to replace my old purple ski jacket (there is/was supposedly a conspiracy to abduct my jacket, but I’ve hidden it away so as to maintain its safety). We stopped by Borders and I got a copy of The Slow Cooker Ready & Waiting Cookbook by Rick Rogers. I also found a few book-related books, specifically Keith A. Smith’s Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue. Ann Kullberg’s Colored Pencil Portraits Step by Step also looked good, but few interesting books on animation were available. On the way out I saw the History of Beauty (ed. by Umberto Eco) on a table—a pretty book, and one that I would love to have in my collection, though it looks perhaps a bit superficial.
That evening Jyoti and I met for dinner at Vientiane Palace (tasty Laotian and Thai food with matter-of-fact service), hit Espresso Royale for a drink, and settled down at the Orpheum for Red Lights, a satisfying, if not profound, “light-thriller” of sorts (more a husband-wife psycho-drama ... hell, it’s really just about the husband and the crisis of masculinity).
Heather subbed for me and I went on Thursday up to Green Bay with my dad and step-mother, where we visited Lambeau Field. After staring at the statues out front, shopping at the “Pro Shop,” and eating NFL-sized-portions at Curly’s Pub (I had a couple tasty brats accompanied by fries, as well as some of Judy’s garlic cheesebread) we took a tour of the the facilities with a couple from Arkansas, a few Wisconsinites, and their friend/relative from England. Afterward we headed downstairs to the Packers Hall of Fame, which proved to be more interesting than I expected.
Friday afternoon found us in Mt. Horeb, a village a short drive from Madison. It is dominated by all things Scandinavian, especially trolls. It is also home to the world’s largest mustard museum (complete with Poupon U [America’s Mustard College]), which we toured (it’s really just one room, along with a separate chamber for viewing a dated but entertaining and informative British video). Attached is a gift shop, which featured such wonderful items as “Bone Suckin’ Sauce.” By this time we had developed an appetite, so we headed to the Grumpy Troll for pub food, and we were not disappointed—after consuming cheese curds, burgers, soup (beer, cheese, and sausage), and beer we turned to dessert, in this case pumpkin pie. We had to walk off all the calories, so we stopped in a number of gift shops. At one I picked up three nice metal cookie cutters (a reindeer, a snowman, and a snowflake). So much kitsch, so little time.
On our way back to Madison I got to stop at Yue Wah for some more roasted wasabi green peas, Thai Tea packets, coconut cream covered peanuts, and so on. That evening I headed over to Corina’s, but not before Jen and Christoph called and we chatted for a long while.
The “goal” at Corina’s was three-fold: booze, cookies, and movies. I can say that all went well. As for the former: coffee liqueur (Kahlúa clone), Irish Cream (Bailey’s clone), and some Gluehwein (hot mulled wine). Corina made Lebkuchen (gingerbread-esque) and I mixed up some regular cookie dough. After all the alcohol was complete, the cookies baked, and omelettes were consumed, we got around to watching Clue (“I hated her so... much... it... it... the... it... the... flames... flames... flames... on the side of my face... breathing... breathless... heaving breaths...”).
So it is that my new chair remains in a box. Along the way I got to play with my new 200GB drive and enclosure. In addition I got to experience the joy of firewire (IEEE 1394) by plugging said enclosure into the departmental iMac and having everything work automatically ... and with great speed. And with equally great speed I’ll bring this passage of text to a suitable conclusion.
—December 6 2004