The Iraq war is a moral black hole (but I guess we already knew that)

This article by Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone must be read to be believed. I mean that– please, please read it. It’s utterly horrifying. I had known about some of the aspects of the war profiteering story that he discusses, but to have the whole sordid tale laid out so baldly is stomach-churning. I don’t understand how it is that profit can warp so many human beings to the point that they build quite literal piles of shit for the soldiers and civilians they are supposed to be helping. How people can bilk billions upon billions of American taxpayer money on patently frivolous projects, and then proceed to refuse to insure one of their employees hurt on the job, despite the fact that the law requires them to do so. And then, of course, the morality of the Bush administration who defends these amoral assholes vociferously at every attempt to hold them to account for their war crimes. Just a sample:

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of the Iraq War in a nutshell. In the history of balls, the world has never seen anything like the private contractors George W. Bush summoned to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Collectively, they are the final, polished result of 231 years of natural selection in the crucible of American capitalism: a bureaucrat class capable of stealing the same dollar twice — once from the taxpayer and once from a veteran in a wheelchair.

Maybe I do believe in American exceptionalism, after all. You have to be pretty exceptional to lie and steal and murder with so little remorse, and such extreme entitlement.

Racism: Good for business

So, my friend and Village Voice food critic Robert Sietsema has a very interesting article in the Voice this week on the “gourmet” (read: yuppie) grocery delivery service Fresh Direct.

The most interesting of his objections (though they’re all worthy) is this:

It was clear, too, that Fresh Direct was redlining much of the city, refusing to service neighborhoods based on what seemed like race and class considerations. Go to the Fresh Direct website, and the first thing you’re asked for is your zip code. Punch in Cypress Hill, Brooklyn (11208), and the message instantly appears, “Home delivery is not available in your area.” Ditto for Sheepshead Bay (11235), East New York (11207), and Woodside, Queens (11317)—the latter a stone’s throw from Fresh Direct’s Long Island City headquarters. The entire Bronx is snubbed by Fresh Direct—with the exception of its northernmost island of wealth, Riverdale.

Yep, you read that right. The entire Bronx is apparently anathema to business except the part of it most inconveniently located…that also happens to be filthy rich (and free of brown people). Even worse is this:

Other zips are more ambiguous, with Fresh Direct only delivering to certain addresses. In Washington Heights, the computer said Fresh Direct would not deliver to 536 West 175th, a building in a Dominican neighborhood, but it would send a truck to a middle class co-op a few blocks west, 360 Cabrini Boulevard.

I actually went to visit this scorned-upon street in Washington Heights with Robert during the Dominican parade a few weeks ago. A block away, men were dressed in wild, feathered costumes that reminded me of mardi gras in New Orleans, and a local band was playing music right on the sidewalk. People were partner dancing in the streets. It was truly awesome. Now, chances are that most of these residents would disdain the use of some yuppie grocery delivery service as much as Robert does. But is there any reason to suppose that people in this not-quite-as-affluent neighborhood lead any less busy lives and are any less likely to relieve some stress by having their groceries delivered? What, are their dollars less green? This is rank, outrageous racism and it ought to be called out as such. It’s one thing to delimit your delivery area based on travel constraints or by neighborhoods. It’s laughably transparent to claim that you can deliver to an affluent (mostly white) high-rise, but can’t possibly set foot in the Dominican neighborhood three blocks east. How dare they? How is this any different from Dolce and Gabbana or Tiffany’s refusing to service a black or latino customer? That’s illegal. And this ought to be, also.

For all I know, it is. Any lawyers out there? This kind of discriminatory business practice shouldn’t be allowed to continue. I’m of a mind to try to organize some kind of activism about it.

Will the next John Lennon please stand up?

I just finished watching “The US vs. John Lennon.” I have a pretty predictable reaction whenever I watch video of John Lennon for more than five minutes: I start to get depressed, and I cry. In fact, I recall that the one and a half minute preview of this movie was enough to make me sniffly. After finishing this, I find myself wondering why a documentary about his life would affect me so strongly, and I think that above the obvious tragedy of his murder, there is a sense of loss about the promise of the era and strength his political activism represented. I see the period of the sixties and early seventies as one where so much progress came so close to happening…and then it slipped away. Reagan was elected president. Clinton—nominally of Lennon’s idealistic, progressive generation—was as deeply embedded in the imperialistic (“globalization”) project as any Republican. And I obviously don’t need to even get started with Bush (and if I do, please, understand that you have wandered onto the wrong blog).
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A few items of (possible) interest…

So, Racing the Dark is now at the printers. It turns out that although it has an October 26 official publication date, it will start appearing on bookstore shelves as early as mid-September. It all depends, basically, on how quickly they open their boxes. Just before we went to press, I was lucky enough to get a blurb from Cecilia Dart-Thornton:

“What an enthralling tale this is. It’s beautifully written and I recommend it to all readers of fantasy.”
~ Cecilia Dart-Thornton, The Bitterbynde Trilogy

Yay! That means that I have two whole quotes. I’m astonished. I’m supposed to go on a mini-tour of this book in New York, DC, LA and Chicago so I’ll post when I have more information about dates, etc. And now I guess I have to plan my book party (how strange!)

Also, for the curious, I have posted a sample of the first three chapters here. Enjoy, and if you like them, please post the link elsewhere. I’d like to get as many people reading it as possible.