The venue was spacious and well-ventilated. The music was the usual Techno House, although not as harsh as some, and I tried to follow a friend’s advice of moving with the bass and ignoring the rest. I got into dancing in my usual rather self-conscious way, keeping an eye on what other people were doing and well aware that I was much older than everybody else. Then, imperceptibly, I gradually relaxed, melted into it, and knew I was part of it all. There was no need to be self conscious; I had no doubt I was accepted; there was nothing I might do that would jar because everyone else was simply being themselves, as though they were celebrating their freedom from the constraints and neuroses of society. Although everyone was separately celebrating in their own space, when I looked around I would easily make eye contact – no-one was hiding behind a mask. There was virtually no conversation or body contact except for the occasional short hug, but I experienced a feeling of belonging to the group, a kind of uplifting religious experience of unity that I have felt only once before, when I was part of a community (Christiania) that was threatened with closure. It was as though we belonged to an exclusive tribe bonded by some shared understanding, yet full ‘membership’ was mine for the #10 ticket and #15 tablet. Not everyone was included; a few looked awkward, trying to fit in or dancing with style but without spontaneity. I assumed that they had not taken Ecstasy.
That experience was a revelation. I felt as though I completely understood what raves are all about – including the music, which had always grated on me. Harmony that I had found lacking was irrelevant: the music constantly provided energy to lift one up without ever letting one down; it built up more and more without ever reaching a climax. I found myself not only dancing to the heavy beat, but breathing to it too, sometimes letting out sounds along with the music. There was subtlety hidden in the change of beat, a kind of tease that made me smile each time. And it felt so very healthy, as though I was moving in a way that was a true expression of myself, with every part of the body feeling free and flexible. I felt much younger, almost reborn.
The European Parliament (EP) just became more like normal legislatures. Starting next week, it will get the power to introduce legislative proposals, become involved in all legislative plans of the European Commission, be informed of EU treaties with third parties, have a monthly question hour with European Commissioners, and acquire an observant status at international conferences. See De Volkskrant.
A crazy attack ad, paid for by an M.D. running for the office of coroner:
The spot portraying Minyard as a Frankensteinian crazy was paid for by Dwight McKenna, M.D., a convicted tax evader who’s running against Minyard. It’s airing on local TV.
The video highlights a mini-scandal from the 1990s, when Minyard was sued for allegedly removing bone pieces and corneas from the deceased and passing them onto transplant centers without permission. “It’s contemptible,” McKenna said in an interview.
Of course, some people are going to find the ad contemptible, but McKenna defends it. “The ad is, we believe, factual,” he said. “It’s fair play. It’s done in a humorous way.”
Despite legislative deadlock on signature issues such as healthcare reform and cap and trade, and declining approval numbers, Obama is actually very succesful in terms of getting legislation through Congress.
[This] Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president — and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. The deep dysfunction of our politics may have produced public disdain, but it has also delivered record accomplishment.The productivity began with the stimulus package, which was far more than an injection of $787 billion in government spending to jump-start the ailing economy. More than one-third of it — $288 billion — came in the form of tax cuts, making it one of the largest tax cuts in history, with sizable credits for energy conservation and renewable-energy production as well as home-buying and college tuition. The stimulus also promised $19 billion for the critical policy arena of health-information technology, and more than $1 billion to advance research on the effectiveness of health-care treatments.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan has leveraged some of the stimulus money to encourage wide-ranging reform in school districts across the country. There were also massive investments in green technologies, clean water and a smart grid for electricity, while the $70 billion or more in energy and environmental programs was perhaps the most ambitious advancement in these areas in modern times. As a bonus, more than $7 billion was allotted to expand broadband and wireless Internet access, a step toward the goal of universal access.
The House, of course, did much more, including approving a historic cap-and-trade bill and sweeping financial regulatory changes. And both chambers passed their versions of a health-care overhaul. Financial regulation is working its way through the Senate, and even in this political environment it is on track for enactment in the first half of this year. It is likely that the package of job-creation programs the president showcased on Wednesday, most of which got through the House last year, will be signed into law early on as well.
Most of this has been accomplished without any support from Republicans in either the House or the Senate — an especially striking fact, since many of the initiatives of the New Deal and the Great Society, including Social Security and Medicare, attracted significant backing from the minority Republicans.
If there is one aspect of Obama and his presidency which is an almost complete disappointment (not to say: on which Obama has proven to be a liar), it is civil rights.
Once upon a time, Barack Obama was a candidate who said things like this:
They will be ready to show the world that we are not a country that ships prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries. That we are not a country that runs prisons which lock people away without ever telling them why they are there or what they are charged with.
At that time, I honestly believed that Obama was a different sort of candidate, and to me, his promise of restoring civil rights and the rule of law made up the largest part of his appeal.
One year into his presidency, however, a different picture emerges. It has been proven over and over again (for example in a very well documented manner here) that Obama is not pursuing a different policy in this respect then Bush and Cheney did. Rather, he is blessing their policies with the mark of “bipartisanship”. In a way, this makes Obama even worse than Bush and Cheney, as they at least were considered “radical”.
One of the last bloggers who seems to care about this is Glenn Greenwald. In his latest, must-read article, he documents not only how Obama actively embraces Bush-Cheney policies with respect to civil rights, but also how this policy differs from how, for example, the previously most right-wing administration ever, that of Reagan, dealt with terrorism.
As has been voluminously documented here, one of the most notable aspects of the first year of the Obama presidency has been how many previously controversial Bush/Cheney policies in the terrorism and civil liberties realms have been embraced. Even Obama’s most loyal defenders often acknowledge that, as Michael Tomasky recently put it, “the civil liberties area has been [Obama's] worst. This is the one area in which the president’s actions don’t remotely match the candidate’s promises.” From indefinite detention and renditions to denial of habeas rights, from military commissions and secrecy obsessions to state secrets abuses, many of the defining Bush/Cheney policies continue unabated under its successor administration.
What is more, in those few areas in which Obama does try to make a difference, he is being pressured by Democrats and Republicans alike to again ignore the rule of law and continue civil rights abuses. The decision to hold a criminal trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for example, is being reversed, and most likely civilian trials will be held off all together in favor of military trials – if terrorism suspects will not just be held indefinitely.
If you compare the response of the American government under Bush and Obama to terrorism with, for example, the response of the Reagan administration or the response of contemporary nation states such as the United Kingdom, Spain or India, you’ll notice the radicalism of the former. In the UK, where terrorists blew up metros and buses, killed more than fifty people and woundred hundreds, perpetrators were put on trial. Same goes for India, which is in a less safe geopolitical situation than the U.S.
Countries which have been victimized by horrific terrorist attacks over the last several years — Britain, Spain, India, Indonesia — have tried and convicted the perpetrators as criminals in their civilian court system, right in their normal courthouses, in the heart of the cities that were the target of the attacks.
If you propose something like that in the U.S., however, you are being branded as a fringe Leftist or civil libertarian, even though Reagan himself advocated pursuing terrorists in criminal courts and signed the Convention Against Torture.
The express policies of the right-wing Ronald Reagan — “applying the rule of law to terrorists”; delegitimizing Terrorists by treating them as “criminals”; and compelling the criminal prosecution of those who authorize torture — are now considered on the Leftist fringe. Merely advocating what Reagan explicitly adopted as his policy — “to use democracy’s most potent tool, the rule of law against” Terrorists — is now the exclusive province of civil liberties extremists.
In the Netherlands, the naive idea still persists that Obama is “better” than his predecessor in terms of civil rights. He is not. Under Obama, the rhetorical construct of the “War on Terror” is still the dominant framework of counterterrorism policy. This means that rather than as criminals, terrorists are categorized as war combatants, to which a specially created parallel judicial system applies. Terrorism suspects can be held indefinitely without a trial, they can be tried by military commissions instead of civilian courts if so desired, and ”state secrets” can be invoked to get cases thrown out of court. A great deal of the American political establishment, moreover, seems to agree. But just compare it to what was normal a few years go, and is still normal in the rest of the civilized world, and you’ll see the difference.
Charles Darwin, Marcel Proust, Andy Warhol: a bunch of neurotic, sickly hypochondriacs. At Salon, a book review of The Hypochondriacs: Nine Tormented Livesby the Irish journalist Brian Dillon. Genius apparently comes with “health anxieties”, most of the time imagined: in addition to these three, Charlotte Brönte, James Boswell, Florence Nightingale, Alice James, Daniel Paul Schreber and Glenn Gould all displayed peculiar and eccentric behaviour when it came to their mental and physical health.
On Proust, for example:
Dillon begins each chapter with a vivid scene — say, the morning that Celeste Albaret, who would become Proust’s devoted attendant for the final nine years of his life, first performed the fraught task of bringing the novelist his second croissant of the day. Proust, who was asthmatic, had the habit of burning “medicinal powders” in the cork-lined bedroom he seldom left, and he kept his heavy curtains drawn against the daylight, so Albaret tiptoed through a dim room filled with thick fog to a bed that seemed to be “floating in space.”
Boswell, moreover, had problems with the city of Utrecht:
For Boswell, hypochondria was a sort of mood disorder that kept him from adhering to the rigorous schedule of work he set for himself; among other things, it took the form of a morbid dread of the Dutch city of Utrecht, where he was supposed to be studying law.
And then there is the nineteenth-century Mother Theresa, Florence Nightingale:
She was perpetually trembling on the threshold of death, which lent great urgency to all her projects and permitted her to browbeat her allies — some of whom actually were sick, and got little sympathy from Nightingale.