sábado, 31 de maio de 2008

Andrew Stephen of the New Statesman hits the nail on the head in his article "Hating Hillary"

Hating Hillary

by Andrew Stephen, the New Statesman, 22 May 2008

Gloating, unshackled sexism of the ugliest kind has been shamelessly peddled by the US media, which - sooner rather than later, I fear - will have to account for their sins

History, I suspect, will look back on the past six months as an example of America going through one of its collectively deranged episodes - rather like Prohibition from 1920-33, or McCarthyism some 30 years later. This time it is gloating, unshackled sexism of the ugliest kind. It has been shamelessly peddled by the US media, which - sooner rather than later, I fear - will have to account for their sins. The chief victim has been Senator Hillary Clinton, but the ramifications could be hugely harmful for America and the world.

I am no particular fan of Clinton. Nor, I think, would friends and colleagues accuse me of being racist. But it is quite inconceivable that any leading male presidential candidate would be treated with such hatred and scorn as Clinton has been. What other senator and serious White House contender would be likened by National Public Radio's political editor, Ken Rudin, to the demoniac, knife-wielding stalker played by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction? Or described as "a fucking whore" by Randi Rhodes, one of the foremost personalities of the supposedly liberal Air America? Would Carl Bernstein (of Woodward and Bernstein fame) ever publicly declare his disgust about a male candidate's "thick ankles"? Could anybody have envisaged that a website set up specifically to oppose any other candidate would be called Citizens United Not Timid? (We do not need an acronym for that.)

I will come to the reasons why I fear such unabashed misogyny in the US media could lead, ironically, to dreadful racial unrest. "All men are created equal," Thomas Jefferson famously proclaimed in 1776. That equality, though, was not extended to women, who did not even get the vote until 1920, two years after (some) British women. The US still has less gender equality in politics than Britain, too. Just 16 of America's 100 US senators are women and the ratio in the House (71 out of 435) is much the same. It is nonetheless pointless to argue whether sexism or racism is the greater evil: America has a peculiarly wicked record of racist subjugation, which has resulted in its racism being driven deep underground. It festers there, ready to explode again in some unpredictable way.

To compensate meantime, I suspect, sexism has been allowed to take its place as a form of discrimination that is now openly acceptable. "How do we beat the bitch?" a woman asked Senator John McCain, this year's Republican presidential nominee, at a Republican rally last November. To his shame, McCain did not rebuke the questioner but joined in the laughter. Had his supporter asked "How do we beat the nigger?" and McCain reacted in the same way, however, his presidential hopes would deservedly have gone up in smoke. "Iron my shirt," is considered amusing heckling of Clinton. "Shine my shoes," rightly, would be hideously unacceptable if yelled at Obama.

Evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, American men like to delude themselves that they are the most macho in the world. It is simply unthinkable, therefore, for most of them to face the prospect of having a woman as their leader. The massed ranks of male pundits gleefully pronounced that Clinton had lost the battle with Obama immediately after the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, despite past precedents that strong second-place candidates (like Ronald Reagan in his first, ultimately unsuccessful campaign in 1976; like Ted Kennedy, Gary Hart, Jesse Jackson and Jerry Brown) continue their campaigns until the end of the primary season and, in most cases, all the way to the party convention.

None of these male candidates had a premature political obituary written in the way that Hillary Clinton's has been, or was subjected to such righteous outrage over refusing to quiesce and withdraw obediently from what, in this case, has always been a knife-edge race. Nor was any of them anything like as close to his rivals as Clinton now is to Obama.

The media, of course, are just reflecting America's would-be macho culture. I cannot think of any television network or major newspaper that is not guilty of blatant sexism - the British media, naturally, reflexively follow their American counterparts - but probably the worst offender is the NBC/MSNBC network, which has what one prominent Clinton activist describes as "its nightly horror shows". Tim Russert, the network's chief political sage, was dancing on Clinton's political grave before the votes in North Carolina and Indiana had even been fully counted - let alone those of the six contests to come, the undeclared super-delegates, or the disputed states of Florida and Michigan.

The unashamed sexism of this giant network alone is stupendous. Its superstar commentator Chris Matthews referred to Clinton as a "she-devil". His colleague Tucker Carlson casually observed that Clinton "feels castrating, overbearing and scary . . . When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs." This and similar abuse, I need hardly point out, says far more about the men involved than their target.

Knives out

But never before have the US media taken it upon themselves to proclaim the victor before the primary contests are over or the choice of all the super-delegates is known, and the result was that the media's tidal wave of sexism became self-fulfilling: Americans like to back winners, and polls immediately showed dramatic surges of support for Obama. A few brave souls had foreseen the merciless media campaign: "The press will savage her no matter what," predicted the Washington Post's national political correspondent, Dana Milbank, last December. "They really have their knives out for her, there's no question about it."

Polling organisations such as Gallup told us months ago that Americans will more readily accept a black male president than a female one, and a more recent CNN/Essence magazine/ Opinion Research poll found last month that 76 per cent think America is ready for a black man as president, but only 63 per cent believe the same of a woman.

"The image of charismatic leadership at the top has been and continues to be a man," says Ruth Mandel of Rutgers University. "We don't have an image, we don't have a historical memory of a woman who has achieved that feat."

Studies here have repeatedly shown that women are seen as ambitious and capable, or likeable - but rarely both. "Gender stereotypes trump race stereotypes in every social science test," says Alice Eagley, a psychology professor at Northwestern University. A distinguished academic undertaking a major study of coverage of the 2008 election, Professor Marion Just of Wellesley College - one of the "seven sisters" colleges founded because women were barred from the Ivy Leagues and which, coincidentally, Hillary Clinton herself attended - tells me that what is most striking to her is that the most repeated description of Senator Clinton is "cool and calculating".

This, she says, would never be said of a male candidate - because any politician making a serious bid for the White House has, by definition, to be cool and calculating. Hillary Clinton, a successful senator for New York who was re-elected for a second term by a wide margin in 2006 - and who has been a political activist since she campaigned against the Vietnam War and served as a lawyer on the congressional staff seeking to impeach President Nixon - has been treated throughout the 2008 campaign as a mere appendage of her husband, never as a heavyweight politician whose career trajectory (as an accomplished lawyer and professional advocate for equality among children, for example) is markedly more impressive than those of the typical middle-aged male senator.

Rarely is she depicted as an intellectually formidable politician in her own right (is that what terrifies oafs like Matthews and Carlson?). Rather, she is the junior member of "Billary", the derisive nickname coined by the media for herself and her husband. Obama's opponent is thus not one of the two US senators for New York, but some amorphous creature called "the Clintons", an aphorism that stands for amorality and sleaze. Open season has been declared on Bill Clinton, who is now reviled by the media every bit as much as Nixon ever was.

Here we come to the crunch. Hillary Clinton (along with her husband) is being universally depicted as a loathsome racist and negative campaigner, not so much because of anything she has said or done, but because the overwhelmingly pro-Obama media - consciously or unconsciously - are following the agenda of Senator Barack Obama and his chief strategist, David Axelrod, to tear to pieces the first serious female US presidential candidate in history.

"What's particularly saddening," says Paul Krugman, professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton and a rare dissenting voice from the left as a columnist in the New York Times, "is the way many Obama supporters seem happy with the . . . way pundits and some news organisations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent." Despite widespread reporting to the contrary, Krugman believes that most of the "venom" in the campaign "is coming from supporters of Obama".

But Obama himself prepared the ground by making the first gratuitous personal attack of the campaign during the televised Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate in South Carolina on 21 January, although virtually every follower of the media coverage now assumes that it was Clinton who started the negative attacks. Following routine political sniping from her about supposedly admiring comments Obama had made about Ronald Reagan, Obama suddenly turned on Clinton and stared intimidatingly at her. "While I was working in the streets," he scolded her, ". . . you were a corporate lawyer sitting on the board of Wal-Mart." Then, cleverly linking her inextricably in the public consciousness with her husband, he added: "I can't tell who I'm running against sometimes."

One of his female staff then distributed a confidential memo to carefully selected journalists which alleged that a vaguely clumsy comment Hillary Clinton had made about Martin Luther King ("Dr King's dream began to be realised when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964") and a reference her husband had made in passing to Nelson Mandela ("I've been blessed in my life to know some of the greatest figures of the last hundred years . . . but if I had to pick one person whom I know would never blink, who would never turn back, who would make great decisions . . . I would pick Hillary") were deliberate racial taunts.

Another female staffer, Candice Tolliver - whose job it is to promote Obama to African Americans - then weighed in publicly, claiming that "a cross-section of voters are alarmed at the tenor of some of these statements" and saying: "Folks are beginning to wonder: Is this an isolated situation, or is there something bigger behind all of this?" That was game, set and match: the Clintons were racists, an impression sealed when Bill Clinton later compared Obama's victory in South Carolina to those of Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988 (even though Jackson himself, an Obama supporter, subsequently declared Clinton's remarks to be entirely inoffensive).

The pincer movement, in fact, could have come straight from a textbook on how to wreck a woman's presi dential election campaign: smear her whole persona first, and then link her with her angry, red-faced husband. The public Obama, characteristically, pronounced himself "unhappy" with the vilification carried out so methodically by his staff, but it worked like magic: Hillary Clinton's approval ratings among African Americans plummeted from above 80 per cent to barely 7 per cent in a matter of days, and have hovered there since.

I suspect that, as a result, she will never be able entirely to shake off the "racist" tag. "African-American super-delegates [who are supporting Clinton] are being targeted, harassed and threatened," says one of them, Representative Emanuel Cleaver. "This is the politics of the 1950s." Obama and Axelrod have achieved their objectives: to belittle Hillary Clinton and to manoeuvre the ever-pliant media into depicting every political criticism she makes against Obama as racist in intent.

The danger is that, in their headlong rush to stop the first major female candidate (aka "Hildebeast" and "Hitlery") from becoming president, the punditocracy may have landed the Democrats with perhaps the least qualified presidential nominee ever. But that creeping realisation has probably come too late, and many of the Democratic super-delegates now fear there would be widespread outrage and increased racial tension if they thwart the first biracial presidential hopeful in US history.

But will Obama live up to the hype? That, I fear, may not happen: he is a deeply flawed candidate. Rampant sexism may have triumphed only to make way for racism to rear its gruesome head in America yet again. By election day on 4 November, I suspect, the US media and their would-be-macho commentators may have a lot of soul-searching to do.

Link to article: http://www.newstatesman.com/north-america/2008/05/obama-clinton-vote-usa-media

terça-feira, 27 de maio de 2008

Jefferson Péres morre aos 76; and then there were four

Senador do PDT, cuja marca principal era a defesa da ética na política, teve um enfarte em casa, em Manaus

André Alves e Ana Paula Scinocca

Vítima de um enfarte fulminante, o senador Jefferson Péres (PDT-AM), reconhecido pela permanente briga no Congresso em defesa da ética, morreu ontem, por volta das 6 horas, em sua casa, no bairro Adrianópolis, em Manaus. Aos 76 anos, o parlamentar tinha atuação dura, relatou casos rumorosos - como a cassação do ex-senador Luiz Estevão e um processo contra o ex-presidente do Senado Renan Calheiros (PMDB-AL) - e era forte crítico do governo Lula, apesar de o seu partido integrar a base aliada. Sua morte foi lamentada no meio político, com manifestações das principais expressões nacionais.

A mulher do senador, a juíza aposentada Marlídice de Souza Carpinteiro Péres, de 60 anos, disse que o senador acordou no horário habitual, por volta das 5h30, tomou café e desceu as escadas de sua casa, de dois andares, para apagar as luzes do jardim. Não fez a costumeira caminhada ao redor da piscina, exercício que praticava todas as manhãs. Ao retornar para o quarto, sentou-se na cama e reclamou de forte dor no peito. “Estou passando mal”, disse.

Marlídice chamou o médico da família, César Cortez, mas não houve tempo para prestar socorro. “Ele era hipertenso arterial. Teve enfarte agudo fulminante, que causa parada cardíaca e respiratória”, explicou o médico. A mulher e dois filhos do senador, Ronald e Roger, estavam em casa. O terceiro filho, Rômulo, estava nos Estados Unidos, a passeio, e tentava ontem retornar a Manaus.

Líder do PSDB no Senado, Arthur Virgílio Neto (AM) acompanhou Péres em sua última viagem de Brasília para Manaus. “Ele aparentava estar muito bem”, contou o tucano. Durante o vôo, conversaram sobre política, filmes e literatura. Eles desembarcaram na capital amazonense às 13h30 de quinta-feira. Naquela tarde, Péres acessou sites de notícias, colocou em dia artigos que publicava em jornais e organizou a agenda. “Foi um nome que o Amazonas doou para o País. Uma referência de ética e de moralidade”, lamentou Virgílio, ao saber da morte.

O velório movimentou ontem o Centro Cultural Palácio Rio Negro, antiga sede do governo do Amazonas. O enterro será hoje, às 16 horas, no cemitério São João Batista, no bairro Adrianópolis, onde Péres morava. O governo estadual decretou luto por três dias. No Senado, a bandeira ficará a meio mastro por esse mesmo período.


Ultimamente, Péres defendia abertamente uma ampla investigação sobre as suspeitas envolvendo o deputado Paulinho Pereira da Silva (SP), o Paulinho da Força, filiado ao seu partido. Da mesma forma, criticava o governo Lula, embora seu partido componha a base aliada no Congresso.

A notícia de sua morte se espalhou e levou ao Congresso, em plena sexta-feira pós-feriado, todos os senadores que estavam em Brasília. O presidente do Congresso, Garibaldi Alves (PMDB-RN), foi imediatamente à Casa, abriu a sessão consternado e referiu-se ao pedetista como um “um senador franzino e pequenino que se agigantava” na defesa da democracia.

“Perdemos um grande senador, grande homem público, um homem dedicado à defesa da democracia, um dos sustentáculos da coluna vertebral do Senado”, discursou Garibaldi. “Foi-se um guerreiro de luta e coerência. É uma perda muito difícil”, disse a senadora petista Serys Slhessarenko (MT).

“Essa morte, de chofre, nos deixa a todos consternados. Péres foi um companheiro altivo, independente, que sempre mereceu o nosso respeito, até quando discordávamos dele. Era um homem íntegro, probo e um baixinho que provou que tamanho não é documento”, afirmou o senador Geraldo Mesquita (PMDB-AC).

Também senador pelo Amazonas, João Pedro (PT) era um dos mais emocionados. “Fui vereador com ele nos dois mandatos em Manaus e também fomos eleitos senadores juntos. O Amazonas perde muito pelo homem público que era o senador Jefferson Peres, referência nacional. Senador franco, duro, exigente, mas profundamente ético”, afirmou.

Médico, o senador Mão Santa (PMDB-PI) disse que o colega não tinha “perfil” para ser vítima de enfarte. Funcionários do gabinete de Péres receberam centenas de telefonemas de solidariedade. “A saúde estava em dia”, afirmou um assessor.


José Serra (PSDB),
Governador de São Paulo

Ele era um conselheiro. Pessoalmente, eu perco um amigo e alguém que sempre me incentivou na luta política. Jefferson foi dos nossos melhores senadores e melhores integrantes do Congresso. Era um homem firme, sereno, de convicções democráticas profundas, muito bem preparado.

José Múcio Monteiro, Ministro das Relações Institucionais

A democracia amanhece empobrecida. Jefferson Péres foi um homem que pautou a sua vida pelos princípios da ética e da moralidade.

Nelson Jobim, Ministro da Defesa

Era um homem importante, um grande amigo. Desempenhava um papel dentro do Senado que tinha uma funcionalidade muito forte. É uma grande perda.

Carlos Lupi, Ministro do Trabalho e ex-presidente do PDT

Travou batalhas inesquecíveis, colocando sempre em primeiro plano seu amor e sua ferrenha defesa aos princípios básicos da ética política.

Marco Aurélio Garcia, Assessor especial da Presidência

Em alguns momentos tivemos divergências sobre política externa, mas,mesmo que eu discordasse de alguns pontos de vista dele, obviamente que ele queria o melhor para o Brasil.

Gilmar Mendes, Presidente do STF

Era um homem extremamente correto, probo e dedicado às causas e interesses do País.

Aécio Neves (PSDB), Governador de Minas Gerais

Jefferson Péres entra para a história brasileira como um dos homens que honraram a atuação como parlamentar levando às últimas conseqüências a honrosa tarefa de representar com altivez seus conterrâneos.

Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB), Ex-governador de São Paulo

Ao longo de sua vida, Jefferson Péres não apenas defendeu os legítimos interesses da população do Amazonas, mas exerceu a política com ética e honra, tornando-se, assim, uma referência para o Senado, o Congresso e o Brasil.

Paulo Pereira da Silva (SP), Deputado e presidente nacional do PDT

Ele dedicou sua vida em prol do bem público, era um homem íntegro e referência ética no Congresso.

Garibaldi Alves, Presidente do Senado

Perdemos um grande senador, um grande homem público, um homem dedicado à defesa da democracia e que era um dos sustentáculos da coluna vertebral do Senado. Era um grande peregrino em defesa da ética.

Cristovam Buarque, Senador pelo PDT-DF

Com o falecimento do senador Jefferson Péres morre também a moral da política brasileira.

Serys Slhessarenko, Senadora pelo PT-MT

Foi-se um guerreiro de luta e coerência. Para nós, é uma perda muito grande, muito difícil.

Mozart Valadares Pires, Presidente da AMB

Símbolo da independência política, o senador lutou pela democracia durante toda a sua carreira com uma postura ética irrepreensível.

Link to article: http://www.estado.com.br/editorias/2008/05/24/pol-

segunda-feira, 26 de maio de 2008

Michelle Obama's sense of exclusion

This post is to provide links to Michelle Obama's paper written as part of her requirements for receiving a bachelor's degree from Princeton University.

Pay careful attention to her thoughts in the Introduction on pages 2 and 3.



(see last sentence of p. 48)



In my opinion, so long as prominent members of the black community believe that their's should be a separate and segregated culture, well apart from mainstream white culture in the U.S., a lack of understanding and cooperation will persist and further aggravate the divisions in our society.

No one says that black culture should disappear, but to continue to promote a tone of grievance only succeeds in focusing on the grievance and not on solutions to the problems that every one of us in American society faces.

Imagine if the Italians and Irish continued to feel aggrieved by how they were treated (as a lower form of life) when they began to emigrate to the United States. They were treated nearly as slaves.

When Michelle Obama becomes First Lady of the United States, I hope she will be a First Lady for all Americans and not just for one segment of the population.

quarta-feira, 21 de maio de 2008

Garrison Keillor on Nazis: Mutterings over soldiers' graves

by Garrison Keillor, International Herald Tribune, published May 21, 2008

The Current Occupant tossed Nazis into a speech last week, something he rarely does since it only reminds people of Dick Cheney. He likened those who would negotiate with terrorists to those who tried to appease the Nazis, an awkward comparison, since Nazis were self-defined and wore the swastika proudly, and terrorists are anybody we nominate to be terrorists, who may include terrorists, people who know terrorists, people named Terry, or people with wrists.

One reason Guantánamo is kept top-secret is so you and I won't know how many innocent people have been locked up there and how little the bureaucracy cares about innocence, which might remind people of the Nazis.

The Nazis have served us well as an embodiment of evil even after they're all dead and buried, thanks to wonderful movies with cruel men with bad skin and guttural voices - and the word itself, which has an ominous buzz to it, unlike the gentle "Communist," a cousin to "communion" and "community," though when it comes to outright hard-core evil, Communism outdid the Third Reich hands down. Stalin was the most murderous man in the history of the world, having had a larger victim pool to work with, and yet "Stalinist" is not the epithet it should be.

That's because Communism was exploited for short-term political advantage after World War II by Richard Nixon and other weasels of the right, much the way "terrorist" is today, to scare people into acceding to unprecedented secrecy and concentration of power and freedom of bureaucrats from any accountability whatsoever. Spooky old hammerhead politicians found anti-Communism to be wonderfully profitable and they rode that horse for years and cheapened the language.

The War on Terror, to most people, is a lame joke, and Republicans who've been embedded in Washington too long are now finding that the word "terrorism" has lost its tread. This multitrillion-dollar war is going to wind down, one way or another. The Occupant will hand it off to the next president, who can then negotiate with people who know people who know terrorists and work out a way to extricate Americans from the desert.

If a Democrat does it, it will be appeasement, and if a Republican does it, it will go down as a courageous act of statesmanship, but one way or another, it will be done.

I got a letter from a U.S. Marine in Fallujah ("trapped in this heat and smoke...running in circles that won't change anything") who, though a "right-wing social conservative," asks, "Where are the protests from my contemporaries in America's colleges? Why do I not detect an appropriate sense of urgency from our citizens and elected officials?"

It's only May. You will see more urgency from elected officials as November nears. Senator McCain is now talking about withdrawal except of course he wants to call it "victory," and Republicans up for re-election are learning to sound a little more thoughtful and even skeptical about the war. In Minnesota, a man is up for re-election who sat on a Senate committee with oversight responsibility for the rebuilding effort in Iraq and who showed no keen interest in the billions of dollars disappearing down rat holes. He is now starting to recover some memory.

Meanwhile it's almost Memorial Day and here is a vet on television talking hopefully about his dream of making a good life who has been horribly burned and grafted back together, his head looks like a candle stub with a mouth and blinking eyes. Your heart goes out to the brave young man. And what choice does he have other than to be brave? It's either that or the life of a potato. But who did this to him?

On Memorial Day we'll hear about men who gave their lives for their country, but many lives were not given, they were taken, and taken stupidly and carelessly. And there has been great public piety about those men and their "sacrifice" on the part of politicians who blithely sacrificed them.

Back in 2001, McCain said that a person couldn't talk policy to the Current Occupant for more than 10 minutes and then his mind wandered and he was anxious to talk about baseball. His impatience with detail was apparently a factor in the disastrous move to disband the Iraqi Army. I hope he gets to spend some time in his presidential library in Dallas and catch up on what he missed out on.

Garrison Keillor is the host of the public-radio show "A Prairie Home Companion." Distributed by Tribune Media Services.

sábado, 17 de maio de 2008

Danuza Leão e o ponto de vista estreito dela


Num restaurante em Paris

21/07/2007 14:53

Era um bistrô daqueles simples. Na mesa à minha direita, duas senhoras; feias, com a roupa errada, o penteado errado, e muito felizes, com uma garrafa de vinho na frente. Além de comer muito, no final ainda dividiram uma torta de maçã com bastante creme. Eram mulheres sem marido, dava para ver. Elas usavam anéis de ouro - nada de mais - e cada uma tinha nos braços uma ou duas pulseirinhas também de ouro.

Uma pulseirinha de ouro não custa tão caro, mas não é uma coisa que se olha na vitrine e se compra, como se fosse um nada. Para quem não tem muito dinheiro, como devia ser o caso das duas, se olha, se pensa, e se paga em três vezes. Daí minha curiosidade: por que as mulheres gostam tanto de uma pulseirinha de ouro? Não dá para entender, e no fundo, quem tem razão é Rita Lee: as mulheres são todas loucas.

Na mesa em frente, um casal: ele grisalho, entre 50 e 60, em boa forma. Ela meio feia, entre 30 e 40. Durante o jantar, algumas vezes ele segurou a mão dela, e às vezes a olhou dentro dos olhos, como se estivesse - e estava - tentando seduzi-la para ir para a cama com ele. Ele era, visivelmente, casado (com outra, claro). Homens desta idade nunca fazem charme para suas próprias mulheres; jamais.

A noite foi passando; as duas mulheres e o casal não paravam de falar. Franceses falam muito, e em qualquer café, qualquer restaurante, estão sempre falando: discutem o último filme, o ministério de Sarkozy, filosofia, qualquer coisa. Eles têm sempre assunto.

As mulheres pediram mais uma garrafa de vinho, o casal um conhaque, e só quando o restaurante se esvaziou e já estava quase fechando todos pediram a conta - eu, inclusive - e fomos embora.

O casal entrou num carro; já as mulheres foram pegar o metrô, ficando de se rever breve. Eu me sentei no terraço de um café, e fiquei pensando na vida daquelas quatro pessoas.

Estava claro que a mulher não queria nada com aquele homem, mas ele continuaria fazendo todos os charmes da terra para subir no apartamento dela. E também estava claro que para as duas mulheres aquele jantar havia sido um grande acontecimento, que as livrou de ficar sozinhas, vendo a televisão. Ah, esqueci de dizer que era um sábado, e a noite de sábado é particularmente difícil para a maioria das pessoas, sobretudo as que trabalham duro a semana inteira, como devia ser o caso delas.

E fiquei pensando em como as pessoas fazem de tudo para não ficarem sós. Que seja com uma amiga, com um homem, de preferência com um grande amor, quase tudo que elas fazem na vida tem um único objetivo: encontrar alguém. Não para necessariamente transar, se apaixonar, ter um caso ou terminar casando: apenas para não ficarem sós. Por que são tão raras as pessoas que conseguem? Afinal, nascemos e morremos sós, e nossos pensamentos e nossa imaginação são suficientes para viver várias vidas, mas não: precisamos ter algum contato, seja ele qual for, seja com quem for, de medo da solidão.

Pensando na minha própria, resolvi entrar num cyber café e me ligar na internet para saber o que estava acontecendo no Brasil. Afinal, já estava há três semanas fora, muitas novidades deviam ter acontecido.

Acessei os jornais e à primeira notícia, tive a impressão que a internet estava com problemas: Renan Calheiros continuava agarrado na presidência do Senado, e afirmava que dali não sairia.

Fechei o computador, voltei para meu café, e pensei no quanto é bom ficar só.

Link to original article: http://www.opovo.com.br/opovo/colunas/danuzaleao/

Arnaldo Jabor: Cinema americano louva a cultura da certeza

Isso nos faz saudosos do presente como se ele fosse um passado.

Fui ver o Iron Man (O Homem de Ferro). Saí do cinema e caí num grande vazio; depois daquele show de efeitos especiais, a cidade estava irreal. O filme é fantástico e inverossímel – tudo que eu queria ver no cinema, pois está cada vez mais difícil se iludir ou se horrorizar, com esta situação mundial espantosa. O público sai de alma lavada. Por quê? Porque se sente “protegido”. Saímos do cinema com a frase na cabeça: “Que seria do mundo sem os americanos?” “Vocês estariam perdidos”, nos dizem eles, “voltem a confiar em nós”. O filme americano atual quer restaurar nossa fé no Ocidente.

Ao contrário das obras comunas ou nazistas, que vendiam um “futuro”, um paraíso soviético ou um Reich de Mil Anos, os EUA vendem o “presente”. Americano não tem futuro. Só um enorme presente prático, feito de objetos e gadgets, serviços e sentimentos redentores. Por outro lado, nada é parte de um “complô” para nos “lavar o cérebro”, nada disso. Não é uma propaganda consciente. Não há Comitê Central nem CIA, por trás. Os americanos são um produto deles mesmos, acreditam no que dizem. A sinceridade é sua arma total. O verdadeiro cinema político é o filme americano.

Logo depois da Guerra Fria os filmes mostravam uma América em “frenética lua-de-mel” consigo mesma.

Com o fracasso do socialismo, que ainda lhes obrigava a alguma humildade, os americanos passaram a achar que “vida” e “América” eram a mesma coisa. “Ser” era ser americano. Nem o mais delirante filme de propaganda vendia a URSS com esta certeza.

A idéia de paraíso americano era a perfeição do funcionamento. Com o fim da Guerra Fria, os americanos ficaram meio desamparados, sem inimigos reais. Cultura paranóica não gosta disso. No mundo real, com a queda da URSS feito banana podre, com a globalização, veio impressão de que a história tinha acabado com final feliz americano. Os Estados Unidos eram o país da “cultura da certeza”.

Com o 11 de setembro, junto com as torres, caíram também a arrogância, o orgulho da eficiência. Deprimiram por uns anos, mas, depois da elaboração da derrota, retomaram a trajetória do mito americano e, assim como vão reconstruir as torres gêmeas, voltaram a fazer filmes para reconstruir o herói americano, tão humilhado nesta horrenda era Bush.

E os novos heróis não são políticos nem cowboys. Iron Man nos traz de volta o “homem-comum” que se transforma em herói (“você não nasce herói; você se constrói” – proclama o trailer).

O novo herói é um semideus com espantosa competência mecânica, praticante de um do-it-yourself épico, percorrendo “odisséias” tecnológicas.

Ele luta contra terroristas; não é a coletividade organizada. Quem vence é sempre o indivíduo sozinho e sua incrível competência para improvisar.

Antigamente, sofríamos durante a trama, esperando que os heróis ou amantes fossem felizes no final. Hoje, sabemos que tudo vai acabar bem, mas nos fascinam mais os infernos que eles terão de atravessar, para chegar a um desfecho fatalmente bom. A catarse chegará, mas antes temos amputações, temos bazucas estourando peitos, bombas, perigos e vemos que, mais importantes que as personagens, são as “coisas” em volta. Sim, as coisas. Personagem é só um pretexto para mostrar o décor. E o décor é um grande showroom dos produtos americanos, que são as verdadeiras personagens: maravilhosos aviões, os supercomputadores, a genialidade tecnológica.

Esses filmes são de uma eficácia assustadora, como seus heróis. Os roteiros são feitos em computador, de modo a não deixar respiros para o espectador. É preciso encher cada buraco, para que nada se infiltre na atenção absoluta. Os efeitos especiais são mais importantes que os conflitos psicológicos. Neste neo-cinema épico século 21, as personagens não fogem de um conflito; fogem dos produtos. Não importa o enredo; só o gozo da cena. O filme de ação busca na violência e nos desastres a mesma visibilidade total do filme pornô.

É uma nova dramaturgia de Hollywood: a estética do “videogame”, onde a personagem principal não é mais o “outro”, mas nós mesmos, com o “joystick” na mão e nenhuma idéia na cabeça.

Albert Camus escreveu que a América “odeia a idéia de morte, que tem de ser banida a qualquer custo”. Pois é; os filmes de violência e guerra, ao mostrar a morte nua em sua banalidade, sonham secretamente em exorcizá-la.

E pior: não adianta se refugiar na arte. O cinema de autor ficou mirrado diante de tanta homérica violência. A arte pressupõe uma imperfeição qualquer, uma fragilidade que evoca a natureza perdida; a arte inclui a morte ou o medo, mesmo no triunfo das estátuas perfeitas.

A destruição que vemos na vida, a sordidez mercantil, a estupidez no poder, o fanatismo do terror, o beco-sem-saída do fundamentalismo, a destruição ambiental, em suma, toda a tempestade de bosta que nos ronda está muito além de qualquer crítica. O mal é tão profundo que denunciá-lo ficou inútil.

Na arte atual, não há vestígios de esperança. Vivemos diante de um futuro que não chega e de um presente que nos foge sem parar. Isso nos faz saudosos do presente como se ele fosse um passado.

Uma espantosa nova linguagem surgiu e cresce como um “transformer”, como um “Megatron”, nas telas do mundo. E talvez só essa língua dará conta de nossa solidão, de nossa fome de ilusão. Não adianta buscar a bênção da arte. Só em filmes como Iron Man teremos o consolo do esquecimento.

Einstein Letter on God Sells for $404,000

Associated Press/Bloomsbury Auctions

A letter from Einstein that sold for $404,000.

Published: May 17, 2008

From the grave, Albert Einstein poured gasoline on the culture wars between science and religion this week.

A letter the physicist wrote in 1954 to the philosopher Eric Gutkind, in which he described the Bible as “pretty childish” and scoffed at the notion that the Jews could be a “chosen people,” sold for $404,000 at an auction in London. That was 25 times the presale estimate.

The Associated Press quoted Rupert Powell, the managing director of Bloomsbury Auctions, as describing the unidentified buyer as having “a passion for theoretical physics and all that that entails.” Among the unsuccessful bidders, according to The Guardian newspaper, was Oxford evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist.

The price makes the Gutkind letter one of the best sellers among Einstein manuscripts. That $404,000 is only a little less than the $442,500 paid for the entire collection of 53 love letters between Einstein and his first wife, Mileva Maric, at an auction at Christie’s in New York in 1996. At that same auction a paper by Einstein and his best friend, Michele Besso, attempting a calculation that would later be a pivotal piece of his crowning achievement, the General Theory of Relativity, went for $398,500.

Diana L. Kormos-Buchwald, a historian at the California Institute of Technology and head of the Einstein Papers project, said she was not surprised that the Gutkind letter, which was known to Einstein scholars, fetched such a high price.

“It is an important expression of Einstein’s thoughts and views on religion, on Judaism, on his views about God and religious texts,” she wrote in an e-mail message. She said the letter, which was not written for publication, was “concise and unvarnished” and more straightforward than the metaphors he usually turned to in public.

Gerald Holton, a historian of science at Harvard and a longtime Einstein expert, also was not surprised. He said Einstein’s marketability had been improved by the last few years of hoopla about the 100th anniversary of relativity, which included his selection as Time magazine’s Man of the Century in 2000, and several new biographies. Dr. Holton described the letter as “a feat of eloquent Credo in short form.”

Einstein, as he says in his autobiographical notes, lost his religion at the age of 12, concluding that it was all a lie, and he never looked back. But he never lost his religious feeling about the apparent order of the universe or his intuitive connection with its mystery, which he savored. “The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is its comprehensibility,” he once said.

“If something is in me that can be called religious,” he wrote in another letter, in 1954, “then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as science can reveal it.”

Einstein consistently characterized the idea of a personal God who answers prayers as naive, and life after death as wishful thinking. But his continual references to God — as a metaphor for physical law; in his famous rebuke to quantum mechanics, “God doesn’t play dice”; and in lines like the endlessly repeated, “ Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind” — has led some wishful thinkers to try to put him in the camp of some kind of believer or even, not long ago, to paint him as an advocate of intelligent design.

Trying to distinguish between a personal God and a more cosmic force, Einstein described himself as an “agnostic” and “not an atheist,” which he associated with the same intolerance as religious fanatics. “They are creatures who — in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium for the people’ — cannot bear the music of the spheres.”

The problem of God, he said, “is too vast for our limited minds.”

Einstein’s latest words offer scant comfort to the traditionally faithful.

In the letter, according to the A.P. account, he wrote that “the word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish.”

As for his fellow Jews, he said that Judaism, like all other religions, was “an incarnation of the most childish superstitions.”

He claimed a deep affinity with the Jewish people, he said, but “as far as my experience goes they are also no better than other human groups, although they are protected from the worst cancers by a lack of power. Otherwise I cannot see anything ‘chosen’ about them.”

segunda-feira, 5 de maio de 2008

The All-White Elephant in the Room (by Frank Rich)

by Frank Rich, New York Times, published May 4, 2008
Photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times.

Drawing by Barry Blitt.

BORED by those endless replays of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright? If so, go directly to YouTube, search for “John Hagee Roman Church Hitler,” and be recharged by a fresh jolt of clerical jive.

What you’ll find is a white televangelist, the Rev. John Hagee, lecturing in front of an enormous diorama. Wielding a pointer, he pokes at the image of a woman with Pamela Anderson-sized breasts, her hand raising a golden chalice. The woman is “the Great Whore,” Mr. Hagee explains, and she is drinking “the blood of the Jewish people.” That’s because the Great Whore represents “the Roman Church,” which, in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.

Mr. Hagee is not a fringe kook but the pastor of a Texas megachurch. On Feb. 27, he stood with John McCain and endorsed him over the religious conservatives’ favorite, Mike Huckabee, who was then still in the race.

Are we really to believe that neither Mr. McCain nor his camp knew anything then about Mr. Hagee’s views? This particular YouTube video — far from the only one — was posted on Jan. 1, nearly two months before the Hagee-McCain press conference. Mr. Hagee appears on multiple religious networks, including twice daily on the largest, Trinity Broadcasting, which reaches 75 million homes. Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops.

Since then, Mr. McCain has been shocked to learn that his clerical ally has made many other outrageous statements. Mr. Hagee, it’s true, did not blame the American government for concocting AIDS. But he did say that God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins, particularly a scheduled “homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came.”

Mr. Hagee didn’t make that claim in obscure circumstances, either. He broadcast it on one of America’s most widely heard radio programs, “Fresh Air” on NPR, back in September 2006. He reaffirmed it in a radio interview less than two weeks ago. Only after a reporter asked Mr. McCain about this Katrina homily on April 24 did the candidate brand it as “nonsense” and the preacher retract it.

Mr. McCain says he does not endorse any of Mr. Hagee’s calumnies, any more than Barack Obama endorses Mr. Wright’s. But those who try to give Mr. McCain a pass for his embrace of a problematic preacher have a thin case. It boils down to this: Mr. McCain was not a parishioner for 20 years at Mr. Hagee’s church.

That defense implies, incorrectly, that Mr. McCain was a passive recipient of this bigot’s endorsement. In fact, by his own account, Mr. McCain sought out Mr. Hagee, who is perhaps best known for trying to drum up a pre-emptiveholy war” with Iran. (This preacher’s rantings may tell us more about Mr. McCain’s policy views than Mr. Wright’s tell us about Mr. Obama’s.) Even after Mr. Hagee’s Catholic bashing bubbled up in the mainstream media, Mr. McCain still did not reject and denounce him, as Mr. Obama did an unsolicited endorser, Louis Farrakhan, at the urging of Tim Russert and Hillary Clinton. Mr. McCain instead told George Stephanopoulos two Sundays ago that while he condemns any “anti-anything” remarks by Mr. Hagee, he is still “glad to have his endorsement.”

I wonder if Mr. McCain would have given the same answer had Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted him with the graphic video of the pastor in full “Great Whore” glory. But Mr. McCain didn’t have to fear so rude a transgression. Mr. Hagee’s videos have never had the same circulation on television as Mr. Wright’s. A sonorous white preacher spouting venom just doesn’t have the telegenic zing of a theatrical black man.

Perhaps that’s why virtually no one has rebroadcast the highly relevant prototype for Mr. Wright’s fiery claim that 9/11 was America’s chickens “coming home to roost.” That would be the Sept. 13, 2001, televised exchange between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who blamed the attacks on America’s abortionists, feminists, gays and A.C.L.U. lawyers. (Mr. Wright blamed the attacks on America’s foreign policy.) Had that video re-emerged in the frenzied cable-news rotation, Mr. McCain might have been asked to explain why he no longer calls these preachers “agents of intolerance” and chose to cozy up to Mr. Falwell by speaking at his Liberty University in 2006.

None of this is to say that two wacky white preachers make a Wright right. It is entirely fair for any voter to weigh Mr. Obama’s long relationship with his pastor in assessing his fitness for office. It is also fair to weigh Mr. Obama’s judgment in handling this personal and political crisis as it has repeatedly boiled over. But whatever that verdict, it is disingenuous to pretend that there isn’t a double standard operating here. If we’re to judge black candidates on their most controversial associates — and how quickly, sternly and completely they disown them — we must judge white politicians by the same yardstick.

When Rudy Giuliani, still a viable candidate, successfully courted Pat Robertson for an endorsement last year, few replayed Mr. Robertson’s greatest past insanities. Among them is his best-selling 1991 tome, “The New World Order,” which peddled some of the same old dark conspiracy theories about “European bankers” (who just happened to be named Warburg, Schiff and Rothschild) that Mr. Farrakhan has trafficked in. Nor was Mr. Giuliani ever seriously pressed to explain why his cronies on the payroll at Giuliani Partners included a priest barred from the ministry by his Long Island diocese in 2002 following allegations of sexual abuse. Much as Mr. Wright officiated at the Obamas’ wedding, so this priest officiated at (one of) Mr. Giuliani’s. Did you even hear about it?

There is not just a double standard for black and white politicians at play in too much of the news media and political establishment, but there is also a glaring double standard for our political parties. The Clintons and Mr. Obama are always held accountable for their racial stands, as they should be, but the elephant in the room of our politics is rarely acknowledged: In the 21st century, the so-called party of Lincoln does not have a single African-American among its collective 247 senators and representatives in Washington. Yes, there are appointees like Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice, but, as we learned during the Mark Foley scandal, even gay men may hold more G.O.P. positions of power than blacks.

A near half-century after the civil rights acts of the 1960s, this is quite an achievement. Yet the holier-than-thou politicians and pundits on the right passing shrill moral judgment over every Democratic racial skirmish are almost never asked to confront or even acknowledge the racial dysfunction in their own house. In our mainstream political culture, this de facto apartheid is simply accepted as an intractable given, unworthy of notice, and just too embarrassing to mention aloud in polite Beltway company. Those who dare are instantly accused of “political correctness” or “reverse racism.”

An all-white Congressional delegation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the legacy of race cards that have been dealt since the birth of the Southern strategy in the Nixon era. No one knows this better than Mr. McCain, whose own adopted daughter of color was the subject of a vicious smear in his party’s South Carolina primary of 2000.

This year Mr. McCain has called for a respectful (i.e., non-race-baiting) campaign and has gone so far as to criticize (ineffectually) North Carolina’s Republican Party for running a Wright-demonizing ad in that state’s current primary. Mr. McCain has been posing (awkwardly) with black people in his tour of “forgotten” America. Speaking of Katrina in New Orleans, he promised that “never again” would a federal recovery effort be botched on so grand a scale.

This is all surely sincere, and a big improvement over Mitt Romney’s dreams of his father marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Up to a point. Here, too, there’s a double standard. Mr. McCain is graded on a curve because the G.O.P. bar is set so low. But at a time when the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll shows that President Bush is an even greater drag on his popularity than Mr. Wright is on Mr. Obama’s, Mr. McCain’s New Orleans visit is more about the self-interested politics of distancing himself from Mr. Bush than the recalibration of policy.

Mr. McCain took his party’s stingier line on Katrina aid and twice opposed an independent commission to investigate the failed government response. Asked on his tour what should happen to the Ninth Ward now, he called for “a conversation” about whether anyone should “rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is.” Whatever, whenever, never mind.

For all this primary season’s obsession with the single (and declining) demographic of white working-class men in Rust Belt states, America is changing rapidly across all racial, generational and ethnic lines. The Census Bureau announced last week that half the country’s population growth since 2000 is due to Hispanics, another group understandably alienated from the G.O.P.

Anyone who does the math knows that America is on track to become a white-minority nation in three to four decades. Yet if there’s any coherent message to be gleaned from the hypocrisy whipped up by Hurricane Jeremiah, it’s that this nation’s perennially promised candid conversation on race has yet to begin.

Link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/04/opinion/04rich.html