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Sunday readings: 23-November-2008

23 November 2008

Just say NO… and save the rainforest:

The Guardian (U.K.):

Four square metres of rainforest are destroyed for every gram of cocaine snorted in the UK, a conference of senior police officers as told yesterday.

Francisco Santos Calderón, the vice-president of Colombia, appealed to British users of the class A drug to consider the impact on the environment. He said that while the green agenda would not persuade addicts to give up, the middle-class social user who drove a hybrid car and was concerned about the environment might not take the drug if they knew its impact.

Santos said 300,000 hectares of rainforest were destroyed each year in Colombia to clear land for coca plant cultivation…

Of course, Santos blames FARC, and not his own government.  No word on the damage caused by the “war on (this) tropical plant.  Coca was never meant for intense cultivation, and does leach out the soil.  The problem with cocaine’s popularity is a lot of people go into the coca-growing business who don’t know anything about farming, or soil conservation.

Never say never, again…

Professor Juan Cole, an expert on Middle-Eastern affairs, takes a break and goes to the movies.

Marc Forster’s “Quantum of Solace” [is]… a new phenomenon in the James Bond films, a Bond at odds with the United States, who risks his career to save Evo Morales’s leftist regime in Bolivia from being overthrown by a General Medrano, who is helped by the CIA and a private mercenary organization called Quantum. In short, this Bond is more Michael Moore than Roger Moore…

In the new film, Dominic Greene is a secret member of Quantum, a mercenary coup-making consulting firm. That is, it is represented as a private contractor to which the CIA is willing to farm out coup-making instead of doing it directly. Greene’s cover is that of the head of a conservation organization that buys up land in poor countries to ensure it is preserved from despoilment. In fact, he despoils it. In a complicated and not very plausible plot twist, Greene appears to be buying up land under which he is convinced there is oil, but in fact is trying to corner the market on Bolivia’s aquifers so as to overcharge the country for its water after the military coup unseats Morales…

The world really has turned upside down, if James Bond is joining the Axis of Evo.  About time.

Say WHAT???

More proof that the average IQ in the Texas Legislature is somewhat equal to that of a parking garage.

Grits For Breakfast:

… the state rep from my hometown – Leo Berman, R-Tyler – filed an hysterically funny piece of legislation in HB 254, “relating to restricting illegal immigrants to certain geographic regions.”

The thrust of HB 254 made me laugh out loud: It defines the terms “illegal immigrant” and “sanctuary city” and then declares that “All illegal immigrants residing in this state shall reside in a sanctuary city.”

That should be simple to enforce, huh? If writing a law could dictate where immigrants live, would we even have this problem?

Avoiding all discussion of enforcement, HB 254 directs the Department of Public Safety to “adopt procedures to implement and administer this subsection.” That should be easy, don’t you think? Surely there’d be no fiscal note attached to so small a task. 😉

Even funnier is Berman’s definition of “illegal immigrant,” which “means an individual who is not a citizen or a national of the United States and who has entered the United States without inspection and authorization by an immigration officer.”

Watch what you say

Words matter. Jurgen Schuldt, at the (Spanish language) “Memorias de Gregoria Samsa” caught a troubling quote from Peruvian President Alan Garcia about the need to make citizens who disagree with a proposed development project “go away forever”. Otto, at Inca Kola News lays out what exactly was so offensive about the remark:

The idea of “losing someone” in the way Alan theorizes is not just a metaphor in Latin America, dear reader. The word “desaparecido” (disappeared) is feared and reviled from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego, and anyone with even a rough sense of regional modern history knows that it’s no laughing matter. Speak to the family of a disappeared and you’ll never laugh about it again, I assure you. No matter where, no matter if the regime were left, right, centre, revolutionary, military or (proclaiming to be) democratic. Chile, Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and all the et ceteras.

But Alan García, the man who dragged Peru into the depths of economic and social chaos in the 1980s, still dreams of “losing” anyone that opposes him. The man is a danger to society, make no mistake. Under all that neoliberal, investor-friendly image that sits so well with the industrialized nations there’s a really nasty piece of work….

Say it right!

When I was still putting together “Gods, Gachupines and Gringos” a couple of different professors asked for review copies, and my publisher put together  … not sure what to call them … “advanced” advance reading copies?  Pre-advance reading copies?  Cheapo, quickie-print manuscript copies?  I was less annoyed with the prof who wanted (er, demanded) that I revise one or two paragraphs to fit his class needs (which I didn’t do, though I agreed to change a word here and there where he had a reasonable, though overly picky argument about a metaphor) than with the guy who complained I wasn’t writing in academic style.

That’s the point. I welcome professors as readers — and hope they buy lots of copies of the book (the publisher gives a 40% discount for bulk academic purchases by the way) — but they don’t have a monopoly on learning.  The delays I’ve experienced working with a small Mexican publisher are making me crazy, but better that than a University press which would have edited the thing into a boring text, or dealing with the overly detailed contracts, and endless vetting by lawyers, I’d need to go through with a U.S. company.

So, when I read about people like ran across “Scarlett” — a dyslexic cook taking a history class — I know I’ve made the right decision.    “Grace Un-dressed” has absolutely nothing to do with Mexico, Latin America or immigration issues, but the former stripper (thus the title) writes elegantly and … ahem… grace-fully on the real world of the ambitions, hopes and challenges of being poor, but not stupid, in the United States:

“This makes no sense to me,” Scarlett says. She shoves the textbook across the table at me. “I mean, I’m reading it, but I’m not reading it.”

I scan the paragraph she’s pointing at. I can’t say it makes a lot of sense to me either. It’s written in this horrible textbook-ese, all these dry words not quite adding up to information about colonial assemblies in pre-revolutionary America. “I think it’s just saying that — fuck, I have no idea what it’s saying.”

Scarlett slumps down and rests her forehead on the table for a second. It’s not really that bad, though. Actually, she’s been happier lately than I’ve seen her in months. …

She got hooked up with a doozy of a job, managing a small commercial kitchen, which is work she knows how to do and likes to do. Her bosses are already talking about a promotion and a raise. And now this history class at community college. If she proves to them that she’s dyslexic she can take her classes self-paced, and maybe this time she can finish, but she has to get a certification of disability from a doctor on a list of doctors they gave her, and that could cost a few hundred dollars. There are other expenses, too — unpaid traffic tickets, old warrants, defaulted credit cards. When you’ve been poor a long time your poverty starts to have this life of it’s own, starts to grow and feed on itself. Getting out is not all at once. Getting out is tough.

Makes me wish I wasn’t working poor myself, and could afford to give away copies, but I am, and I can’t.

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