Monday, December 19, 2005

Worth A Look

Here's a roundup of some interesting stuff on the web today:

First of all, it looks like Evo Morales, leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) party has won the presidential election in Bolivia. Morales wasn't expected to get an outright victory - but it looks like he has. This could mean big things for Bolivia - there's some doubt about the strength of MAS's determination to turn its radical rhetoric into action, but my feeling is that the positive example of Chavez's Venezuela on the one hand and the disappointment of Lula's Brazil on the other should help guide Morales and his supporters in the right direction.

A very short article in Green Left Weekly sets out the immediate aims of the MAS.

There's an interesting essay on ZNet focusing on the media's treatment of Harold Pinter and John Le Carre. In Pinter's case the media consistently describes the playwright's political statements as 'rants' or evidence of 'adolescent' 'rage' or 'fury'. I suppose this isn't really very surprising - it must be very difficult for high-earning newspaper columnists to work out what on earth there is to get angry about in the world today.

Our earnest, but rather excitable little friend, the squealing boy-wonder, Johann Hari is taken as a case in point by the writers of this article. A few days ago Hari bashed out a rather lazy article about Pinter- no doubt he was in a rush to get back to his bedroom where he was gluing together some new Airfix model fighter-bomber aircraft. The writers quote him and add their own comments:

'Pinter does not deserve the Nobel Prize - The only response to his Nobel rant (and does anyone doubt it will be a rant?) will be a long, long pause.' (Hari, The Independent,December 6, 2005)

It is significant that Hari described Pinter's speech as a "rant" before it had even been delivered - the label exists independently of the work, indeed of the author, in question. To subject power to serious, rational challenge is by definition to "rant". Hari commented:

"Ever since Pinter was a teenager, he has been relentlessly contrarian, kicking out violently against anything that might trigger his rage that day."

This is the standard, Soviet-style assertion that critics of power are afflicted by psychological disorder, with the concocted 'sins' of power randomly selected as a focus for neurotic ire.

The article also includes a link to this rather interesting interview with Pinter in 1999.

Also on ZNet is an article which asks a very good question: remember the Anthrax scare in the US in 2001 - well, it's all gone a bit quiet hasn't it? Why is that?

"The anthrax attacks of 2001 are now so out of memory that it's hard to recall the panic and fear caused by the appearance of those first envelopes, spilling deadly powder and containing threatening letters. But according to a LexisNexis search, between Oct. 4 and Dec. 4, 2001, 389 stories appeared in the New York Times with "anthrax" in the headline. In that same period, 238 such stories appeared in the Washington Post. That's the news equivalent of an unending, high-pitched scream of horror."

And yet, as soon as it became clear that the bio-terrorists were probably not sinister, bearded Middle Easterners and, in fact, had procured their supplies of anthrax from US government facilities, the whole thing quickly dropped from view.

'If, as an editor of a major newspaper, you were to draw a single conclusion from this horrifying episode [the Anthrax attacks - the deaths, the injuries, the near-misses], it might be: Despite what we've heard, the greatest WMD danger to Americans comes not from impoverished Third World or rickety Middle Eastern rogue states, but from the arsenals and weapons labs of the two former Cold War superpowers. But nothing in the media coverage since then has indicated anything of the sort. While, prewar, reporters prowled Iraqi nuclear facilities, wrote major pieces on Iraq's "Dr. Germ," and brought down whole forests of trees in the service of WMD programs at Iraq's Tuwaitha or North Korea's Yongbyan, or on gassed dogs in Afghanistan and the Iranian bomb that also wasn't, the Soviet and American weapons labs, the Soviet and American Dr. Germs, the Ames anthrax strain, and the anthrax killer hardly took out a tree or two.'

Finally - when Santas attack!

'A group of 40 people dressed in Santa Claus outfits, many of them drunk, went on a rampage through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, robbing stores, assaulting security guards and urinating from highway overpasses'


Jim Jepps has produced a report on Morales' victory at the Socialist Unity Network site.

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