-One more time, because it never stops being funny: if you're a gay couple looking for a country to legally acknowledge and embrace your marriage, turn your eyes away from American shores, and take a gander at Argentina, formerly known as the number one sleepaway camp for Nazi war criminals.
-Islamic terrorists killed 76 people watching the World Cup in Uganda. It later came out that the people responsible are part of the same bunch of fuckers who use Somalia as a homebase for rape, murder and whatever other horrible things human beings are capable of doing to one another when they live somewhere that doesn't provide an exportable commodity that any of the rich countries want bad enough.
-Now that the news media has decided to include murder in Yemen on the feed, there's another body count to report--four security officers--courtesy of what was probably al-Qaeda.
-After years of dancing around it, the International Criminal Court formally added charges of genocide onto Omar al-Bashir, who was already facing previous charges of war crimes. If you're an al-Bashir fan, don't worry, he's still enjoying the fruits of violently stealing an election back in his built-on-evil palace. (Oh, and if you really are an al-Bashir fan, then you and me aren't ever going to share a banana split. I got me some dealbreakers on friendship, and that's one of 'em.)
-Israel is willing to feel bad about that thing on the flotilla, so why not forgive them for that rap video where they said they were totally happy about it? Dude, they FEEL bad.
-100 people dead after a bombing in Pakistan. Depending on where you've read about this story, you may or may not realize that this is a part of that war in Afghanistan which is actually still going on.
-Also in Afghan news, a member of the Afghan army killed three British soldiers.
-In ineffectual UN Security Council news, the United Nations managed to condemn the sinking of a South Korean ship (that's 46 dead sailors) without saying the name of the people who sunk it. That country would be North Korea, and the guys who strongarmed the UN (which isn't very hard, if we're being fair) would be China.
-In non-dead-people fights, Fiji and Australia can't stop yelling at each other in public when meetings get cancelled.
-Fidel Castro can still pull some ratings when he shows up on television! Man, that guy is going to outlive everybody. And yet communism still doesn't work! Weird.
-Brazil is going to build a high-speed rail between Sao Paulo and Rio, which is good news for those of you who like it when incredibly hot women with forward thinking ideas about physical intimacy are more easily reachable.
-Barack Obama dug Jacob Lew up and named him budget director. The last time Lew left the job, America had a $236 billion dollar surplus! (Then we went to war with two other countries and fucked our economy into getting that disease Val Kilmer had in Tombstone.)
-That New Orleans story. You know that one? Jesus Christ.
-The Economist doesn't seem very interested in the 12 Russian spies story, but then again, I've always been suspicious about their feelings towards espionage.
-Nicolas Sarkozy held a press conference to say he ain't no bribe-taker. Does anybody over the age of 12 still believe those kinds of statements?
-It's kind of interesting how France can be considered the epitomy of liberal thought by a huge portion of the American populace while "overwhelmingly" voting to make it illegal for its female citizens to wear Islamic veils. It's almost like believing and making blanket statements about what other people do might not always be backed up by easily findable factual evidence!
-I care as much about what happens to Roman Polanski as I do about any super-rich celebrity who escapes criminal charges by flying all over of the fucking world like he's the Catch Me If You Can guy.
-China let Google get up and running again. They came to an agreement, which probably means that Google figured out a way to let the Chinese government have access to everybody's email.
-I can't be the only person who feels creeped out everytime they hear news about the "Oneworld alliance" between airlines, can I? That's a conspiracy nut's migraine if I've ever seen one.
-As the census taking draws to a close, many other countries (as in, nearly all of them) are looking forward to shutting it down for good. Besides being ineffectual, it's also redundant, what with all those Orwellian computer records they have nowadays. (Hell, Google could probably whip up a better American census by tomorrow morning if there was any money in it.) Of course, "nearly all" leaves somebody out of the equation, and that somebody is, of course, the USA, who have it in the Constitution for some arcane reasons that boring people can tell you all about. (By the way, remember this percentage: 0.7 %. That's the amount of people in Britain who claim to be Jedi Knights.)
-God knows how many times the phrase "Diet of worms" has been used to describe problems in the Japanese parliament, but when something is gross, it really never loses its sting. And yes, there really is a new party called "Your Party" which managed to eke out some seats in the last election. That'll be a fun one to scream at rallies. If you're aching for another article where the Economist takes shots at the Japanese government for being old, then here you go.
-How far you go with the Economist's argument about how the European banking authorities should handle their upcoming "stress tests" depends wholly on whether you agree with their perception of the way America handled their own versions of the same.
-Let's you and me talk about global monetary policy and inflation rates all night long, you sexy thing. I'll rub you with oils, you'll turn your head and mutter "America's recovery faces the headwind of expiring fiscal stimulus at a time when underlying inflation has already slipped to around 1%", and as you're saying that, a probing finger will catch tenderly along the taco of my ass, and I'll know, and you'll know, that we're meant for each other. I love you so much.
-The cover and initial leader on change-by-death Middle East stuff is just priming the pump reading, only interesting if you find it necessary to read the same thing three times, in various degrees of quality. The op/ed that serves as starter is pretty meager, although there's some solid sarcasm to be found regarding an old man who will die soon. ("Plenty more where he came from" is a phrase that always comes out of nowhere.)
-And here it is, the second article on the way the Saudi succession has operated and will probably operate in the future, when old Mumbling Joe finally meets the mortal reward we all face, i.e. a fresh dump in the pants and a ten penny nail full of formaldehyde in the jugular. Man, that's a weird sentence. He seems like an okay dude, maybe that's why American presidents always kiss him on his old man face. Shit, there's another one! Rusty, me.
-Most of the letters are from the heads of organizations that the Economist criticized in previous issues, but the real disappointment is to be found in the bold heading that says "The threat of the internet". You see a heading like that, and you get all excited--maybe this is it! Maybe this is the one where some elderly person is going to tell some really creepy story about how she used to build thoughts and facts out of the weavings her mule helped her imagine-ate, and that story will have parallels in a classic "computers are cruel mind puddles" conclusion!
But then you read it and it's just somebody in Switzerland saying something neutral (no joke!) and another guy who makes a Jerry Seinfeld style joke about Microsoft that was probably edited to remove the "Am I right? You know what I'm saying?" conclusion.
-Here's your requisite Democrat/Republicans fighting article, this one focusing on the OUTRAGE over Obama giving Donald Berwick the job of heading up the Centres for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Hey, wait a second! That's CENTERS for Medicare & Medicaid! Now, don't get it twisted: I'm aware that the British prefer their spelling, but when you're using the actual name of an organization, you have to use that organization's preferred spelling, even if it causes you to spill your tea and grab your monocle! (PS: this article is the same as these Republican/Democrat fight articles always are, meaning your current political beliefs will determine what you get out of it, so hey, why not skip it and think about kissing for a little bit? I think about kissing at least five minutes of everyday, and it always makes me feel warm inside.)
-Man, I just gotta quote this sentence from the first paragraph of this article about California's current attempt to legalize marijuana by way of taxation.
"Oaksterdam University in Oakland is today unique in the world as a sort of Aristotelian lyceum in the study of all aspects--horticultural, scientific, historical--of the weed."
If the hideous, unconscionable carnage that America's consumption of marijuana has wrought throughout Mexico weren't enough to make me feel pleasantly superior about not smoking weed anymore, that sentence (and the paragraph I ganked it from) would do the trick quite nicely. But then I remember the oil and electricity I waste, and I'm torn: who aren't I fucking over?
-Looks like the Economist can dick around and write about George Steinbrenner with the best of them. Here's a cute trick, I learned it from reading Gay Talese and Studs Terkel: you can write one of these "he represented New York better than you, fuckface" articles about absolutely anyone, including a part-time garbage man, it just depends on whether you're willing to go outside for a little while. Or you can just google shit and write about Steinbrenner. Your call!
-The Economist doesn't preen around and say "told ya", but if you remember their gay marraige issue, you can feel it behind the curtains of this article about how much quieter the fight over gay-rights has become on the "we must protect marriage" front. Worth remembering: sometimes you don't have to prove the other side wrong, you just have to distract them with something they care about more than they do other people's sex lives. Easiest way to do that? Take away their job and evict them from their house.
-This story about an Iranian who might be a genius conman, or might just be lying in an attempt to save his life, or might just be crazy? Yeah, it's got too many "might bes" in it, but that might be the point? Like, you could clean it up and argue a specific interpretation, one that works for a cable news program, but doing so would require you to ignore a bunch of shit. Like facts.
-Lexington turns in one of those--oh, I should mention that this is new Lexington, by the way. He/she changed again, I'm guessing the last one didn't work out due to propensity for sucking? New kid seems strangely familiar, maybe its the return of the once and future? Maybe it's an algorithm. Anyway, this is one of those cutesy columns that reads like it follows the journalistic philosophy of the Nation, wherein you write an article proposing something that would make common sense, but you do so as if common sense mattered anymore, and you do this as obnoxiously as possible. It's a little naive and back-patty, but that's probably the point? It's about "greatness".
-Although Brazil has laws in place that prevent the country from giving financial aid to other governments, they're backflipping their way into becoming one of the key aid-giving countries in the world. Sometimes, they're doing it for their own benefit, with attempts to convince upcoming nations to eventually purchase ethanol, which Brazil is better than any other country at providing, but for the most part, it just seems like they love peoples and want to spread some smiles. (Too extreme? Probably.)
-Jamaica has the second highest murder rate in the world, while St. Kitts and Nevis have the third. At the risk of sounding callous, the first thing I thought when reading that they're bringing in the pros from dover (in the form of foreign police chiefs) was that I hope they show up on a military helicopter dressed like Arnold's team from Predator. Also: since when did I care about being callous?
-Hey, guess who is still doing illegal shit and pissing people off? Hugo Chavez is, that's who! (Technically, it's only illegal if you remember the laws that existed prior to him wiping them out of existence, whiteboard style.)
-Carlos Menem is a snake in the grass! Go catch him!
-Nobody talks that much about Julia Gillard, which is sort of depressing/awesome. She doesn't have kids, she doesn't give a shit about religion, is unmarried (with a four year boyfriend), and she's the prime minister of Australia. On one hand, it's awesome that this isn't a bigger sexist hype deal outside of Australia, and on the other hand, it's sort of depressing how her name never comes up when they do those "can woman, you know, do shit?" articles. Maybe her politics are all fucked up or something, like she thinks cat-eating gives you night vision.
-It would be a lot easier to get behind the UN's nasty tiff with Sri Lanka (over last year's brutal, and justly named, war crimes) if it wasn't coming down the same week when the UN bent over backwards to appease North Korea over murdering 46 sailors.
-Keith Colquhoun wrote books, wrote obituaries for the Economist, and wrote about Asia. He seems like the sort of man anybody would have broken their spine to work with, and he passed away.
-Although the current Banyan has now outlasted changes of the guard on some of the other columnists, he/she still reads like the new kid. Obsessively trying to play the neutral card with a take on the upcoming Chinese celebration of the invasion of Tibet, but failing consistently, this is one of those cases where you pine for some of that Lexington blow-hard-ily. Take a stand, Banyan. It is an op/ed, after all.
Middle East and Africa
-France isn't the only country carving out a line against the Muslim facial veil. Syria--yeah, Syria--is going after it as well. There's some pretty active feminist organizations that are a part of it, but the main proponent on the anti-veil side is the Baathist government, who are terming their quieter version of the fight as a battle against Muslim fundamentalism.
-Things are starting to quiet down in Lebanon, so why not get a bunch of people together and convince Thomas Friedman to move back there? He can wander around and irritate people, maybe even take the time to write another book about how much he loves the place so much that you keep expecting to turn the page and see the sentence "and so I married it."
-Jacob Zuma told his people they couldn't blame apartheid for their woes, some of them responded by saying that they weren't sure what that had to do with the country spending so much money building football stadiums they'll probably never use again.
-Charlemagne doesn't always work for me, but he did this week, boy howdy. (I've never used that phrase before, I'm trying it out.) His column focuses on explaining something that Americans probably don't fully grasp, which is that Europe's tendency towards limiting the work week and lowering the retirement age came not out of laziness or me-me-meism, but from a general belief that these were the goals of a civilized society when they had escaped the basics of food/shelter problems for a large enough group. Throw a hand to the unfortunate, and try to get to a place where most people didn't have to work crazy hours. Take longer vacations. Chill the fuck out. It's a solid piece of wistful writing, even when it smacks of a little bit of blind optimism.
-Italy arrested 320 criminals at once, basically. It's mafia stuff, but that's way too many arrests for a Rolling Stones music montage, so don't expect a movie out of this one.
-German switched their terms of military conscription from nine months to six, leading many to argue that they're heading towards getting rid of it entirely. The article presents compelling arguments on both sides, saying that the costs (both financial and labor) of training new soldiers for such short periods of time is vastly counter-productive, while acknowledging that a lot of their best soldiers are people who wouldn't necessarily have chosen to be there in the first place. After the initial article, there's a short piece about what effect the 9-to-6 change will have on the conscription substitute (you can refuse enlistment and do charity work for the same length of time). This is pretty fascinating. Sorry it doesn't have any dead bodies in it.
-The Economist's review of the marching/riot season in Belfast is fine, assuming that it's accurate and truthful, but what's more interesting is seeing the Economist go so far in their not-so-subtle criticism of the manner in which the television arm of the news media distorts the facts on the ground for the purpose of entertaining viewing. (There's no excuse for phrasing like "was televisually irresistable", but those sorts of things are not exactly unexpected.) It's not unusual for this publication to criticize its sisters, but the manner in which they do here is--because the writer is clearly operating from a place where you've long accepted this view of television. It's certainly not a unique view--because it's also totally accurate--but the Economist usually plays these sorts of things a lot more professorial. No longer, it seems.
-It's hard enough to keep up with America's health care woes, but if you've got the brainspace and feel like putting it to work, here's a nice long breakdown on what the Brits are looking to do on their end of the doctor spectrum. In a choice slice of Not Selling Me On Taking The Time, they illustrated the article by showing an exhausted doctor rubbing his eye with the palm of his hand. I felt sorry for him, but then I realized he's wearing a super-expensive tie.
-Bagehot is usually a breath of over-the-top fresh air, but this time he's just built himself a pillow fort of things I can't even kind of agree with in theory and then made those things fight each other for sustenance. It's not offensive or stupid, it's just weird and impenetrable. Rule of thumb: if you can dump a quote from Sartre into every single one of your paragraphs and the entire thing still reads exactly the same, you need to try again, later. After you've pulled your head out of your ass and gotten off the internet.
-There's a lot of things that have been completely ruined by advancing technology (except sex, sex is still wicked fucking perfect), but the gains have easily outstripped the losses. Still, you can't help but read this article about how the espionage game is losing so much of its luster without tearing up a bit. Someday, you're going to give your son a copy of the Day of the Jackal, which is a perfect book, and he's going to get halfway through it and say "this is ridiculous, so unbelievable" and you won't be allowed to strangle him, because he'll be right.
-Mexico has spent the better part of the last two decades breaking hearts, especially if you can remember the not-that-long-ago time period when the murder rate wasn't approaching collapsed nation status, so finding out how well a new rental bikes for commuters program is going is pretty decent news. (This article is stuck in the hinterlands of the International section because three of the sentences mention other, non-Mexico places.) Unlike every other country where rental bike programs have started, only one bike has been stolen, out of 1200, after 200,000 separate trips. Compared to everywhere else in the world, that's fucking amazing.
-If you're planning on dying, you'll want to take a look at this chart and make sure you live in one of the countries where they handle the Big Sleep really well. If you're not planning on dying, well. You better get started, sister. turn around
-Oh, so there is a business besides newspapers that can't make being online a profitable enterprise: grocery shopping. This article doesn't mention Fresh Direct, focusing instead on UK based ventures, but the basic problems are all the same. (But by not acknowledging Fresh, it does leave you wondering if they're suffering the problems to the same degree as their UK brothers.)
-They roll out these articles about transitional problems in the television industry every couple of weeks. This time, they flavor it by focusing on remote controls and onscreen menus, but it's still the same as it ever was.
-The Economist is the last place one should go for iPhone related articles tied into current events--those stories move far too quickly for weekly installments--but just in case you didn't hear about the antenna screw-ups, here's a breakdown. Points removed for even including the "this is just like Toyota" comparisons some idiots have recently made. Since when does a journalist have to include a head nod to the crazy fringe? (No bones about it: if you're comparing death-causing incompetence to a rushed, shit job on antenna placement, then the guy you're standing next to is wearing a tin-foil hat.)
-Before reading it, I was pretty sure I didn't care about the financial suffering that French gambling casinos are going through, and after reading the article, I was happy to find out that I know myself, which is half of the battle. (I had to look that phrase up, and that made me sad.)
-I still haven't gotten used to Schumpeter, the unknown business columnist. Like Banyan, it seems like the branches were bare on the naming tree, and he/she is opening columns with Village People stories--this just doesn't feel right. (It's actually a pretty decent column on the places where charities do things better than business, but still: the Village People?)
Finance & Economics
-Aw shit, guess who showed up, long after everybody else including my know-nothing neighbor who orders sex the way David Brothers orders Amazon, to admit that banks made more money than they should have over the last few decades? Why, Buttonwood, that's who! This is why you don't get a full page, joker.
-Leave it to the Economist to open an article about Hong Kong by asking whether the institution of a minimum wage will eventually destroy its famed status as free-market wonderland. This is why so many libertarians get called crazy, by the way. Because when you take some of this shit too far, you end up in a place where you're saying "hell, why can't six year olds work in a garment factory? I don't want no gubber-ment telling me how to run my shop."
-Leave it to Matt Taibbi to blaze a trail that all will follow (which is a good thing, because I'd like the Economist to take acid and interview former scumbags while wearing a bear suit), with this article, which is where the Economist breaks down a little bit and starts talking shit about Goldman Sachs. As a reminder, you can never talk too much shit about Goldman Sachs. (Well, you should actually make sure that you talk the most shit about people like Mugabe and other serial killing dictator scumfucks, but Goldman Sachs can totally be your number two.)
Science & Technology
-Oh, if you're into the Terminator film series--which better be a yes, because otherwise you've handicapped your life's capacity for sweet, sweet pleasure--then you'll definitely want to learn more about the just released "Taranis", which is the first in a new line of drone fighters with the capability of fighting back against other drone fighters, and maybe even manned aircraft as well. There's more of these to come, so get ready to discover how little your political differences with others really matter. Fighting the machines: it will unite us all.
-Some scientists got together and did a study and they figured out that wearing five-inch heels causes pain! Does that mean that, up until now, scientists heard the complaints of women with a suspicious ear? After all, they didn't get their proof until a scant few weeks ago. Now, I'm no scientist, but I have spoken to women before, and I'm pretty sure this is a subject that a few of them have brought up. I just figured they were telling the truth! I didn't realize they were running their mouths with a bunch of shit that wasn't backed up by some hard science.
-There's a lot of information here about the changes going on in air conditioning technology, and while most of it will probably take years to trickle down to people like you or your next door neighbors, rest assured, you'll save some money on your electric bill sometime in the future, maybe, as long as you're alive and not fighting robots.
-The first part of this article about the possible evolutionary link between menopause and the rewards of a solid grandmother is interesting, but it's the bottom paragraphs on aphid communities that has what Tupac Shakur once called "the Juice". When you try to invade an aphid community--you need to imagine you're an insect invader for the "you" to work--you're swarmed by a bunch of old aphids, who keep you out and protect the nest. Those swarmers are all old female aphids incapable of having children. In the place where their baby-makers should be, they've got a gut-full of wax, and that's the weapon they use to teach you your fucking place. I dub this story MINDBENDER.
-The Economist really liked Inception, so much that they said it could be a "rousing Star Wars episode for smart people of all ages."
-It won't hit the US until August, but the Oxford Book of Parodies is already out in Britain. Sounds like a nice piece of charming surprises--I wasn't aware that the poems in Alice In Wonderland are mostly parodies of authors whose fame died with them--but it also sounds like a book whose pleasures are limited to the extremely well-read, especially those with a poetry background. That's too bad. I can't remember the last time I met a poet who had anything remotely approaching the popular definition of a sense of humor, and that's a requirement for enjoying parody.
-The problems with a surplus of choice are pretty well documented by theorists and anecdotal handymen, so it's probably going to be Renata Salecl's point of view that decides whether her book on the subject is worth reading. Too bad that the Economist so neatly fails to present a decent explanation of what that point of view is in the course of reviewing her book. After all, who wants to get suckered into another 224 pager that results in a conclusion that dictatorships and a government sponsored limitation of options are the best result for the beleaguered shopper, lost in the sea of confusion that comes with trying to pick out the hand soap that bests completes them?
Obituary: Beryl Bainbridge
-A writer, one whose work I don't know. She smoked Camel Lights, lots of them, and she always carried a bone-handled carving knife whenever she took a walk. Those are things I can respect, they're charming and interesting, as is the description of how she worked. "Her protagonists were now mostly men facing dreadful deaths"--that's a killer. The rest of this memorial is good: lost, poignant, perfect.
-Tucker Stone, 2010
Disclaimer: most of these links will not work, as the Economist keeps a lot of its work behind a pay wall after a certain length of time.