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Candide’s Latest: Friday, September 1, 2006
Scream On
Cause and effect

Edvard Munch’s stolen masterpieces, The Scream and Madonna , have been recovered after a two-year oil-hunt, following their theft in Norway . As long as we’re in recovered-memory mode, here’s how the great E.H. Gombrich wrote about The Scream’s 1895 lithograph half a century ago in his History of Art. The description is worth the read, I think, as a universal description of the war on terror (but not, mind you, of the terror itself, which remains mostly, conveniently imaginary): The Scream, Gombrich wrote, “aims at expressing how a sudden excitement transforms all our sense impressions. All the lines seem to lead towards the one focus of the print—the shouting head. It looks as if all the scenery shared in the anguish and excitement of that scream. The face of the shouting person is indeed distorted like that of a caricature. The staring eyes and hollow cheeks recall a death’s head. Something terrible must have happened, and the print is all the more disquieting because we shall never know what the scream meant.” They should hang a copy of The Scream in the lobby of the Department of Homeland Security. Munch’s series of four screams remains as apt a summation of the Bush years as there is.

One Israeli worth 1,000 Arabs? “ An Israeli delegation is visiting Egypt to discuss a proposed deal for the release of Gilad Shalit, an Israel Defense Forces soldier abducted by Hamas on June 25, a Saudi Arabian newspaper reported Friday,” Haaretz writes. “The deal involves Hamas' release of Shalit in exchange for Israel 's release of about 1,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails, according to a senior Egyptian source quoted by the newspaper, Okaz. The paper said Egypt would help carry out the swap.”

Hope and Despair in Lebanon’s Bint Jbail: “As donor countries meeting in Stockholm on Thursday pledged more than $900-million (€703,7-million) for the immediate reconstruction of Lebanon, Bint Jbeil epitomises the enormity of the task,” South Africa’s Mail & Guardian reports. “The town was the main centre in south-eastern Lebanon. It had a population of 45 000 before the war that began on July 12 when Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a deadly cross-border raid. Now it looks as though the best thing to do would be to bulldoze what is left of Bint Jbeil, and start again.” David Orr of the UN’s World Food Program also reports on “Bittersweet Beirut” in his Guardian blog.

In Other Worlds

Another side of inequality: Not only are the rich getting richer in greenback wealth and presumptions, while the poor are merely getting poorer; the rich are also getting an ever larger share of the technological spoils, taking them away from the poor. That’s resulting in overwork for the technological class (but also in overpay), while the poor are left scrapping for work hours, which means scrapping for dollars: “ With the help of improved technology, employers have grown adept at coaxing the most from their workers by monitoring productivity, basing pay on performance, and keeping the BlackBerry crowd connected to the workplace around the clock,” the Christian Science Monitor’s Mark Trumbull writes, The forces of globalization and technology, however, have made it harder for many workers with less education to find good jobs.

California did it with stem cells. Now it’s doing it with global warming: If Washington is going to act the regressive reactionary, California is going to take the lead. In 2004, California voters agreed to tax themselves to the tune of $3 billion over ten years to fund stem-cell research, given President Bush poodling to the religious right and refusing to pledge more federal money for it. This week, California’s legislature brokered a deal with Gov. Arnold Shwartzenegger to outflank Washington on greenhouse gas emission limits as well: a 25 percent cut by 2020 that “sets California far apart from the Bush administration, which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol and questioned the very existence of global warming,” as the UK Independent reports.

Der Spiegel interviews Bolivia’s Evo Morales: “Capitalism has only hurt Latin America.” “Injustice, inequality and the poverty of the masses compel us to seek better living conditions. Bolivia's majority Indian population was always excluded, politically oppressed and culturally alienated. Our national wealth, our raw materials, was plundered. Indios were once treated like animals here. In the 1930s and 40s, they were sprayed with DDT to kill the vermin on their skin and in their hair whenever they came into the city. My mother wasn't even allowed to set foot in the capital of her native region, Oruro. Now we're in the government and in parliament. For me, being leftist means fighting against injustice and inequality but, most of all, we want to live well.”

U.S. Rep. Lincoln Díaz-Balart, terrorist sympathizer ? The double-standard of American definitions of terrorism: “Cuban born US Congressman Lincoln Diaz Balart told a Miami TV audience that he respects and is fond of two notorious anti-Cuba terrorists Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat, both arrested for arms trafficking. He admitted that he and two other congresspersons are involved in secret plans to obtain their release,” Cuba’s ahora writes. “The confession was analyzed by a group of journalists on the daily televised program, The Round Table. The TV footage shows Diaz Balart stating that he felt profound respect for such people as terrorists Santiago Alvarez and Osvaldo Mitat who were arrested in November for the illegal possession of a huge stash of weapons including automatic machineguns, ammunition, grenades, a grenade launcher, explosives and blasting caps. Diaz Balart defended his comments cynically saying, "They do not plant bombs in markets." The deadly loads planted in hotels and restaurants in Cuba back in the 1990s by terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles, Alvarez and Mitat, are seen with sympathy by this lawmaker from the state of Florida, who justifies the murder of innocent civilians in these cases.”


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