Media din drowned out 2 major stories

Jimmy Breslin in Newsday on how the hub hub about the proposed marriage amendment and the controversy over the Mel Gibson film obscured notice of two remarkably important news stories — Alan Greenspan’s forecast of the demise of social security and the approval of the first cancer drug that works by inhibiting tumor angiogenesis. [thanks, adam]

French bride weds dead boyfriend

“Dressed in black, a 35-year-old Frenchwoman has married her boyfriend.

But Christel Demichel’s wedding needed special permission because her policeman boyfriend, Eric, was killed by a hit-and-run driver 18 months ago.

The bride said she knew some people might be shocked but Eric’s death had not dimmed her feelings for him.

The wedding at Nice city hall, attended by the couple’s close friends and family, took place on what would have been Mr Demichel’s 30th birthday.” [A rarely-invoked law allowing posthumous marriages was introduced by Charles de Gaulle.] —BBC [thanks, Pam]

Rescuing Art from ‘Visual Culture Studies’

“A disturbing though little publicized movement is afoot in American education to transform the study of art into what is termed Visual Culture Studies. It seeks to broaden the proper sphere of art education–the visual arts–to include every kind of visible artifact. To quote the prospectus of a recently established academic program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison:

Anything visible is a potential object of study for Visual Culture, and the worthiness of any visual object or practice, as an object of study depends not on its inherent qualities, as in the work of art, but on its place within the context of the whole of culture.

In other words, one can henceforth treat the Nike of Samothrace and Michelangelo’s David, say, on a par with Mattel Toys’ Barbie and Ken dolls.” —Aristos

‘Living with a terminal illness isn’t only a dark place of despair’

The first arts festival staged by people facing death will feature works from beyond the grave. “Ranging in age from 20 to 80, sufferers from cancer, HIV/Aids, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis and other incurable conditions will participate at London’s Riverside Studios, once home to BBC classics such as Dixon of Dock Green, Dr Who and Hancock’s Half Hour and now one of London’s flagship cultural centres.” —Guardian.UK

Laughter’s Perennial at the Doctor’s Seussentennial

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“Dr. Seuss is getting a United States postage stamp, a statue and, on March 11, a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. It’s all part of a bicoastal celebration of the centennial of Theodor Geisel, best known as Dr. Seuss, the man responsible for the Grinch, the Cat in the Hat and the Lorax, among other unforgettable creatures.” —New York Times. Please, though, don’t let the likes of Jim Carey and Michael Myers be the medium through which Dr. Seuss is filtered to the next generation!

Making Your Mark Against Bigotry

rosebaby says: “go make a tick mark – even though it’s just USA Today, i don’t want those people thinking that a constitutional amendment promoting discrimination is ok.

USA Today is conducting a poll on the proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting same sex marriage. These USA Today polls can influence public debate.

note: um, apparently you can vote as many times as you want.”

Addendum: Not exactly a scientific sample of public opinion, but FWIW voting in this poll is running 4:1 against a constitutional marriage amendment, as of when I am writing this.

Aristide says U.S. deposed him in ‘coup d’etat’

The US is issuing vociferous denials of deposed Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s claims that he was essentially kidnapped by armed US Marines and taken to the airport for his flight from Haiti. Aristide has insisted on this version of the story in phone conversations with members of the Congressional Black Caucus and an interview with CNN from the Central African Republic. I can see the importance of the US disputing his assertion that he was forced to leave against his will but his accusation seems to come down to the US persuading him that his departure could avoid a bloodbath and was in the best interests of the Haitian people. It is hard for me to understand why Colin Powell would have to deny this essentially humanitarian concern, and it would do no harm to agree that they took steps to protect him and his family by escorting him to the airport, so it is probably not true, although Colin Powell is certainly the dysadministration’s most artful liar-on-command. A spokesperson for the Central African Republic joins the US in insisting that Aristede himself asked for asylum there, while admitting that the US also intervened on his behalf to help find him a safe haven after another country refused to accept him. Colin Powell does admit that Aristede called the US ambassador to Haiti for advice and received support for resigning, and also says that after he decided to step down the US government “made arrangements for his departure”, which included bringing in a leased plane for his exit. Is it kidnapping if a group of armed men comes to your house unannounced and tells you you must accompany them away? How about if they tell you it is to protect you from almost certain death if you do not go along?

It also makes an odd kind of sense why Aristide would be enraged at the US and why that might turn into a clumsy ‘sour grapes’ accusation. There is a broader sense in which even if we did not have him physically kidnapped and spirited out of the country the US bears responsibility for what, of course, does amount to a coup. Haiti is essentially a ‘failed state’ that could not have existed without having been propped up largely by US foreign aid as well as prior military interventions. A veneer of quasi-democracy had been imposed upon a mixture of criminal thuggery, anarchy, class and even race war. The accident waiting to happen in Haiti whenever the US pulled the rug out from under it was a consequence of post-colonialism and misguided American noblesse oblige. It was only better than the alternatives for as long as the US would continue to support it. Whatever the merits and abuses of the Aristide regime, he knew he lived or died at the US State Department’s whim. Of course, the previous administrations that ‘enabled’ Aristide could not have foreseen that the Bush regime would only be invested in fostering ‘democracy’ in oil-laden Middle Eastern states laden with fundamentalist infidels and vital to our permanent WoT® footing.

But the consensus line —


Jean-Bertrand Aristide was… an undemocratic leader who

betrayed Haiti’s democratic hopes and thereby lost the support of his

erstwhile backers. He “stole” elections and intransigently refused to

address opposition concerns. As a result he had to leave office, which

he did at the insistence of the US and France.

— is subject to considerable doubt. Another version, exemplified by Jeffrey Sachs’ piece in the Financial Times, has it that the Bush administration’s sights have been set on toppling Aristide since they came to office, seeing him as a ‘Castro-like’ figure who could foment Western Hemisphere anti-Americanism from a populist base.

Such critics fulminated when President Bill

Clinton restored Mr Aristide to power in 1994, and they succeeded in

getting US troops withdrawn soon afterwards, well before the country

could be stabilised. In terms of help to rebuild Haiti, the US Marines

left behind about eight miles of paved roads and essentially nothing


The political opposition that was galvanized by undermining Aristide, and likely to be the benificiaries of his overthrow, is an ‘American construction’, the remnants of dictator ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier’s regime, cronies of the CIA in one of the puppet regimes it was so fond of in our Caribbean and Latin America backyards. This puts a very different spin on the claims that Aristide ignored opposition concerns and that his popular mandate was illegitimate because the opposition boycotted the process. Again, I am not saying that the neo-cons needed to send Marines in to put Aristide on a plane. But their take on Haiti shaped US policy decisions during the last three years that made his overthrow just as sure as if we had.

Alot of what is happening in Haiti can easily be lost in translation, hinging on semantic differences about what constitutes “voluntarily” yielding power and the nuances of the word ‘kidnapping’; but also what in the Haitian context constitutes ‘democracy’, ‘opposition’, ‘legitimacy’ or even ‘nation’. Aristede’s ‘kidnapping’ accusation should be seen as the kind of lyrical symbolism connoting deeper underlying truths that seems to come so much more readily from Francophones but which can only be treated as a concrete black-or-white issue in the more literal English of Washington.