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January 28, 2007

Sundance Documentary Humanizes Seattle-Area Man-Horse Sex Cult

UPDATED: The film "Zoo" was well received at the prestigious Sundance festival. It seems the story inspired by one Boeing engineer named Kenneth Pinyan, who was killed being anally penetrated by a horse, is partly about how we can cruelly consign our brethren to the margins. The Seattle Times reports that the movie is:

...about Seattle-area zoophiles, particularly one who died, and how his death and the ensuing media coverage precipitated the 'excommunication' of that community.

Perish the thought that grown men who chose to regularly gather south of Seattle in Enumclaw to be mounted by male steeds, and who, according to police, there filmed each other in extremis, should be "excommunicated," shunned or otherwise marginalized by normal society.

We must resist the temptation to pass judgement.

Instead, zoophilic equine afficionados should be granted the use of public library meeting rooms for support group gatherings.

They should have special non-discrimination legislation introduced on their behalf in the state capital.

Public schools, quite apart from helping "questioning" fifth graders figure out if they are gay or lesbian, should also help them understand whether or not they may instead wish to become the sexual objects of animals.

At the University of Washington, the post-Pinyan Washington state law making sex with animals illegal will be discussed in class by humanities faculty and students within the appropriate Foucaultian sphere; that of "socially-constructed" mores intended to regulate and suppress the dynamism of the human spirit, thus serving ruling class interests.

We'll have to leave class warfare and the shunning of man-horse sex for another day, though. For now, provoked by critical acclaim of the film "Zoo," it is our duty as fully sensate, compassionate moderns to ponder why men choose to relate to horses thusly.

Naturally, it's quite complex. Here's the Seattle Times, from the same review linked above, published this past Friday:

(Filmaker Robinson) Devor and (writer Charles) Mudede (a staffer at The Stranger) splinter the focus of their film to include a broader discussion of human behavior, marginalization, the Iraq war, changes wrought by the advent of the Internet, death, family, journalism and the city of Seattle.

Bad me. All this time I had it pegged simply to continuing innovation in the field of human perversity; and the speed and efficiency with which the Internet makes available everything, whether beneficial or ruinous. I should have figured Iraq was part of the backdrop.

It's been a growth opportunity.

I learned several weeks ago in another Times article about the film that Kenneth Pinyan is Everyman. The film's New York-based distributor Mark Urman tells the paper:

"It's not a specific story of freakish behavior but a universal look at what goes on behind the fa├žade of everyday, quotidian, normal American middle-class life. It is not salacious."....Urman sees it as his responsibility to "give people the right set of eyes" and "the proper preparation" before hearing about or seeing Devor's unavoidably controversial film. Rather than dwell on the perverse act, Urman centers his discussions about the movie on what he perceives is its universalism. While the protagonist "seems like an oddball at the outset of the movie," Devor seeks to "reveal untold amounts of information about the human capacity to do the most awful things, chart[ing] the journey of this unhappily married man who began to explore sexual alternatives, as so many do. Instead of turning back to the light, he went deeper and deeper until he got trapped in the darkness, and it had fatal ramifications."

How entirely universal. A man disillusioned with his marriage comes to feel that ameliorative succor must lie within the universe of interspecies sex.

Indeed: There but for the grace of God go we all.

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10:43 AM | Comments (2)


January 24, 2007

Jimi Hendrix Energy Drink? It Beats The Diaper Cover

Associated Press reports Seattle-based Authentic Hendrix has licensed Beverage Concepts, a new Calabasas, California company, to market a line of Jimi Hendrix energy drinks called "Liquid Experience."

Rock stalwart Flea, bassist and leader of the venerable Red Hot Chili Peppers, is aghast at this particular use of the rock guitar god's legacy. He tells AP:

"To see his image and the beautiful feelings it has created during my lifetime cheapened by base advertising ... is very disappointing to me."

It could be worse, Flea. Wait, it already is! Leaving aside the inevitable deployment of Jimi's music in car commercials, now years old, there's much more for Flea and like-minded purists to get cranky about. Authentic Hendrix has been peddling a whole bunch of stuff that gives Jimi energy elixers a real whiff of class, in comparison. Granted, the Jimi lava lamp can't help but strike a sympatico chord. The incandescent, swirling Jimi was kind of like a lava lamp come to life, when you think about it. But if Flea thinks a Hendrix beverage is cheap and base, how about a Jimi afghan patterned after his second album, "Axis: Bold As Love"? Or the official Jimi Hendrix "Do Your Own Thing" pillow, and Jimi Hendrix "Do Your Own Thing" coffee mug? Why not then too "Do Your Own Thing" flatware, doormats, lawnmowers, blenders, towels, sheets and pillowcases?

If you'd like your kid to advertise your own hipness, there's always the official line of Jimi Hendrix infantwear - including the Jimi Hendrix "Are You Experienced" diaper cover which comes in three sizes.

That's right. The Jimi Hendrix "Are You Experienced" diaper cover.

No s***.

So far, at least, Authentic Hendrix has had the good sense to hold off on Jimi Hendrix "Doing Your Own Thing" infantwear. But I wonder: how about an "Are You Experienced" adult diaper cover line for geriatric boomers?

Come to think of it.....when I last saw the Red Hot Chili Peppers live - in Chicago, mid-80s - they were sporting diapers, shoes and not much else for most of the show.

Hmmmn.

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11:44 AM | Comments (2)


January 23, 2007

Alternaparents: You're Not Really That Cool, Nor Is Your Kid

Globe and Mail columnist Leah McLaren nails it today: "Alternaparents" and their kids aren't nearly as cool as alternaparents think. What is an alternaparent, anyway? Basically a Gen X-er who finally settled down and reproduced, and thinks that's just so wild, dude, because, like, he used to do drugs and listen to Sonic Youth, youhearme? Adam Sternbergh described them as terminally hip "grups" in New York magazine. Breeders, please please please: don't go there. McLaren writes today:

Alternaparents think that they're the first generation who decided to maintain their identities after giving birth. They think getting their kids to rock out to the Hives is revolutionary. Except they're forgetting something. The generation before them did the same thing. Except it wasn't the Hives, it was the Beatles.

McLaren cites writer Neal Pollack's book "Alternadad" as an irksome indicator of the mindset, replete with banal monosyllabic exclamations of Pollack's young spawn. There are pages of it. McLaren says:

Seriously. Pages. Which makes it clear to me that all this talk of the importance of punk rock and downing tequila shots between play dates is nothing more than a flimsy excuse to do what self-absorbed parents have always done: Inundate everyone around them with stories about how special and cute their kids are....Even more tedious than the cute-kid stories...is the alternaparent stance of, "I'm a Dad now -- isn't that ironic?" No. It's not. I know you partied hard in your 20s. I know you made art your priority. I know you vowed to never sell out by owning a car or a house or any of that bourgeois crap. I can see how surprised you are by your own ability to do a 180 on this position and become the guy in the park with the baby jogger. But guess what? No one else is surprised. You are a mammal. Your job on this planet is to procreate. And no amount of rave-going or ecstasy-dropping was ever going to change that. Changing a diaper with a Jagermeister hangover is still just changing a diaper.

"You are a mammal. Your job on this planet is to procreate." Whew. You're very wise today to save that back-to-basics stuff for the men, Leah. Can't say that to women anymore. That'd be sexist - even from a woman, see - and judgemental and entirely paleolithic. Something tells me Leah McLaren and that troglodyte Mark Steyn must get along just fine.

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10:08 PM | Comments (0)


January 18, 2007

Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 31

Joel Connelly, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Sure It's Nice, But Sculpture Park Isn't All That"

David Larson, Seattle Times, "The Inconvenient Truth About School Board's Film Decision""

Matt Smith, San Francisco Weekly, "Drive-by Reporting: A Primer For Out-Of-Town Journalists Flocking to The Pelosi Power Story"

Andrew R. Quinio, San Francisco Chronicle, "Young Views On Diversity: Diversity's Free Pass"

San Diego Union Tribune, editorial, "Lam's Forced Exit: Deplorable Politics Claims U.S. Attorney"

Michael Carrigan, Rocky Mountain News, "Many Republican Woes Self-Inflicted"

Glenn Reynolds, New York Times, "A Rifle In Every Pot"

Cathy Young, Boston Globe, "The Evolution Of An Antifeminist"

Chicago Tribune, editorial, "As The Duke Case Implodes"

Jonah Goldberg, Chicago Tribune, "Senator Kerry, Once Was Enough"

Andrew Ferguson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Conservatives Are Not A Selfish Lot"

Debra J. Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, "Boxer's Hit On Personal Price"

David Reinhard, The Oregonian, "The Way We Fight"

Yitzhak Nakash, Los Angeles Times, "If U.S. Drops The Ball, Iraq Shatters"

Mackubin Thomas Owens, Christian Science Monitor, "Why Bush's War Plan Can Work"

Bashir Goth, Washington Post (PostGlobal blog), "Bush Is Right This Time"

Los Angeles Times, editorial, "Fidel Chavez? Like His Idol Castro, The Venezuelan President is Attacking Free Enterprise, Media and Political Foes"

Fadoua Benaich & Jesse Sage, Los Angeles Times, "Morocco's Serious Humor Gap"

George Will, Washington Post, "Boeing's Winning Hand"

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05:52 PM | Comments (0)


January 14, 2007

Economic Development, San Francisco Style

UPDATED: There's a 200,000-square foot, 1912-vintage, Moorish-accented armory in San Francisco's Mission District that's on the National Register of Historic Places. Long shuttered and in disrepair, developers have unsuccessfully tried to convert it to apartments, offices, and even an Internet switching hub. But now, in the city where a fondly-recalled era of gay leather fetishism spurs scholarly exegesis and cultural tourism events, the armory has met its highest and best use. As a dungeon to be used in pornographic films.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

Its windows are broken and boarded up, its walls covered with graffiti, and its dungeonlike basement is peeling, chipping, rotting and moldering. Nothing wrong with that, say the pornographers. A real, ready-made dungeon is just the thing for filming bondage movies. Filming could begin inside....as early as next month. To get ready for that happy day, (director James) Mogul wandered the crumbling corridors of the enormous dark and dank basement, scouting locations. "I see tied-up girls, right here,'' Mogul said, standing in what was the soldiers' gymnasium. "You suspend them from these arches. This will be very cool.''

In the boiler room, Mogul said, the possibilities are endless. "You could put a girl right inside the boiler,'' he said. "Why not? It's a nice little chamber. You wouldn't have to change anything. It's already formidable looking. You don't have to build a fake dungeon; this building is already a dungeon.'' The boiler room and an adjoining room with a giant industrial fan were arousing Mogul's artistic impulses. "I see erotic whipping,'' he said. "I see all kinds of kinky things going on in here. It's wonderful to put soft human flesh next to ugly, industrial machines. That's what we call juxtaposition. The possibilities are endless.''

The porn distributor has outgrown a filming facility elsewhere in the city; and has 70,000 subscribers paying at least $25 per month to view one of the company's nine Internet sites. Which like the whole online porn industry itself, tells us quite a bit about sadness, fear, placebos and alienation. Not that I'd make adult porn illegal. I wouldn't.

Although, if I could wave my magic wand (so to speak), I might require porn honchos to bone up (damn, there I go again) on American history.

....Peter Acworth, the fellow who bought the armory.....(said perceived vulgarity of porn is) all relative. The building's original purpose, he pointed out, was to train soldiers to kill people. "That's obscenity,'' he said. "What we plan to do is nothing compared with what this building was intended for.''

So let's see here. The armory, built in 1912, would likely have been used to train American soldiers for World War I, for fighting Nazis in World War II, and battling North Vietnamese Communists in the Vietnam War.

I think we're all - even including Peter Acworth - fairly clear on Nazi Germany's extermination of six million Jews, and about just exactly where that, and the U.S. defeat of the Nazis, each fall on the "obscenity" scale.

Now, one can debate whether the U.S. should have gotten involved in Vietnam, but let's be also be clear about the Vietnamese Communists. Let's gauge how "obscene" what follows sounds, versus U.S. intervention intended to stop the Vietnamese Communists. As the landmark "Black Book of Communism" points out, in the first half of the 20th Century, they systematically exterminated landowners, political opponents, and Vietnamese women married to Frenchmen; then later carried out another 50,000 executions of Vietnamese in the countryside; imprisoned between 50,000 and 100,000 Vietnamese; compelled at least 600,000 Vietnamese Catholics to flee from the North to the South; and "re-educated" half a million to a million Vietnamese. Presently, despite a developing economy, freedom of speech and political expression remain badly constricted today in the former South Vietnam, at the behest of the ruling Communists. Not that anyone in the United States today cares, of course - except Vietnamese refugees.

What's really "obscene" is not pornography for sad losers who can't form and sustain real intimate relationships; but that Peter Acworth's glib moral relativity surely passes for informed social critique to most of San Francisco, and to the San Francisco Chronicle.

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11:48 AM | Comments (2)


January 11, 2007

Health Effects Of Pot Get Short Shrift: Bummer, Man

With misplaced pride, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board today notes that our metro area ranks second out of the 15 largest nationwide in illicit drug use, including marijuana. Absent from the P-I's encomium to being stoned in Seattle is any mention of the increasingly-recognized harmful mental and medical health effects of marijuana. Sure, an occasional spliff or few tokes is usually pretty harmless. Besides, how else could one stomach The Flaming Lips? Habitual use is another matter, according to a range of journal articles.

Pulmonary specialist D.P. Tashkin of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA reports:

...regular marijuana smoking produces a number of long-term pulmonary consequences, including chronic cough and sputum, histopathologic evidence of widespread airway inflammation and injury and immunohistochemical evidence of dysregulated growth of respiratory epithelial cells, that may be precursors to lung cancer. The THC in marijuana could contribute to some of these injurious changes through its ability to augment oxidative stress, cause mitochondrial dysfunction, and inhibit apoptosis....Habitual use of marijuana is also associated with abnormalities in the structure and function of alveolar macrophages, including impairment in microbial phagocytosis and killing that is associated with defective production of immunostimulatory cytokines and nitric oxide, thereby potentially predisposing to pulmonary infection. In view of the growing interest in medicinal marijuana, further epidemiologic studies are needed to clarify the true risks of regular marijuana smoking on respiratory health.

Pass the bong, dude. Because along with all that chronic cough, sputum, airway inflammation and lung cancer risk, well, hell.....it's cool to go crazy, too.

Scottish researchers reporting in The Journal Of Psychopharmacology confirmed worrisome links between regular, early use of pot and psychosis. Surveying 11 carefully-selected studies, they concluded:

Early use of cannabis did appear to increase the risk of psychosis. For psychotic symptoms, a dose-related effect of cannabis use was seen, with vulnerable groups including individuals who used cannabis during adolescence, those who had previously experienced psychotic symptoms, and those at high genetic risk of developing schizophrenia. In conclusion, the available evidence supports the hypothesis that cannabis is an independent risk factor, both for psychosis and the development of psychotic symptoms. Addressing cannabis use, particularly in vulnerable populations, is likely to have beneficial effects on psychiatric morbidity.

Considering the policy implications of the connection between regular cannabis use and development of psychoses, Australian researchers writing in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry sound the alarm.

The observational evidence and biological plausibility of the hypothesis that cannabis is a contributory cause of psychosis is at least as strong as evidence for causal relations between heavy alcohol and amphetamine use and psychosis. On public health grounds, there is a good case for discouraging cannabis use among adolescents and young adults. It remains uncertain how best to discourage use and at whom campaigns to reduce cannabis use should be targeted. We should discourage young adults seeking treatment in mental health services from using cannabis and inform them of the probable mental health risks of cannabis use, especially of early and frequent use. We must exercise caution in liberalizing cannabis laws in ways that may increase young individuals' access to cannabis, decrease their age of first use, or increase their frequency of cannabis use. We should consider the feasibility of reducing the availability of high-potency cannabis products.

Once pot-induced psychosis occurs, it often recurs.

Danish researchers reporting their study in the British Journal of Psychiatry tracked for three years 535 patients treated for "cannabis-induced psychotic symptoms" and found 77.2% had "a new psychotic episode" and a subset of 44.5% specifically developed schizophrenia. They concluded "cannabis-induced psychotic disorders are of great clinical and prognostic importance."

And costly to taxpayers as well.

Reporting in Developmental Psychology on social outcomes of significant adolescent marijuana use among a sample of African-American males, Johns Hopkins researchers found:

Use of marijuana 20 times or more during adolescence was associated with being unemployed and unmarried in young adulthood and having children outside of marriage for both males and females. Dropping out of high school and more frequent adult marijuana use seem to be important parts of the pathway from adolescent marijuana use to negative life outcomes.

An organization called HomoHealth also warns of the effects of regular pot use.

As with cigarettes, smoking marijuana over time can cause heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema. Supporters of medical marijuana recommend that you eat it rather than smoke it. The Betty Crocker brownie route is much safer for your lungs.

UC-SF researchers report in the American Journal of Cardiology that them munchies are more than a punchline. Looking at 15 years of longitudinal data in the Coronary Artery Risk Development In Young Adults study, they concluded:

In conclusion, although marijuana use was not independently associated with cardiovascular risk factors, it was associated with other unhealthy behaviors, such as high caloric diet, tobacco smoking, and other illicit drug use, which all have long-term detrimental effects on health.

Finally, guys, here's....ah.....a very special reason to park that waterpipe in the garbage.

Adult dialog about the real costs of marijuana to individuals, families and society is not allowed in Seattle, and other "progressive" cities, despite important and worrisome findings. If that intellectual flacidity is to change, media will have help spur the dialog.

Certainly, there is no shortage of reporting and advocacy on the sexier marijuana legalization debate. In a 2003 ballot initiative Seattle voters by a 58% majority directed local police to make arrests for possession of small adult personal stashes a low priority. The electorate thus put their stamp of approval not only on admittedly less harmful occasional personal pot use; but also on marijuana addiction and the substantial medical and mental health and social costs detailed above by researchers. No real cost-benefit analysis has occured here, although it is necessary.

The sobering policy implications are clear. If we legalize pot and perhaps also other drugs such as meth, heroin, and cocaine (which all have their own gnarly medical literature) we should not only mandate printed warnings on packages, we should take the FULL libertarian route. Meaning people assume the risks on their own. No taxpayer-funded medical or mental health treatment for symptoms determined by impartial clinical analysis to have substantially resulted from drug abuse. Drug-testing for social service aid recipients would be smart, too.

"The Man" doesn't make anybody take drugs. It is an individual choice, based on an often-flawed understanding of the costs and benefits.

And - despite the inevitably contrary caterwauling of institutionalized shills for victimology - addiction is not a disease.

It is a failure of the will.

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11:30 AM | Comments (2)


January 07, 2007

Rosenblog Opinion Review, Vol. 30

Greg Craig, Washington Post, "Forgive The Cynicism, But This Is Change?"

Los Angeles Times, editorial, "Kill The Living Wage Extension"

Jim Ludwick, Oregon Catalyst, "Oregon Drivers Licenses And Illegal Aliens"

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today, "Where's The Outrage About Black-On-Black Killings?"

Dinah Lenney, Los Angeles Times, "Life Skills, LAUSD Style"

Mike Kostyal, Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Parents Need To Be More Involved In Education"

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune, "Oprah's 'Truth" Shouldn't Hurt"

Lawrence Downes, New York Times, "Middle School Girls Gone Wild"

Charlotte Allen, Los Angeles Times, "I Got An 'A' In 'Phallus 101'"

H. Gilbert Welch, Lisa Schwartz, Steven Woloshin; New York Times, "What's Making Us Sick Is An Epidemic Of Diagnoses"

Paul Theroux, New York Times, "America The Overfull"

Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, "Castro's True Legacy Is A Bloody Trail"

Ken E. Gause, San Francisco Chronicle, "Think Kim Jong Il's Bad? Just You Wait"

Jacob Weisberg, Dallas Morning News, "Where Did All The Flower Children Go?"

Jonathan Eggers-Gold, Seattle Times, "True To Self And Country"

Rami G. Khoury, Daily Star (of Lebanon) "The Arab States Drift Into Irrelevance"

Paul Sheehan, Sydney Morning Herald, "A Whitewash Of Criminal Realities"

Claudia Rosett, San Jose Mercury News, "Hanging Saddam Was An Act Of Justice"

Bridget Johnson, Los Angeles Daily News, "Where Was The Outcry During Saddam's Crimes?"

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06:28 PM | Comments (0)


January 03, 2007

Something Smells About The Chinese Corpses On Display In Seattle

The Seattle P-I reports today a kidney was stolen over the weekend from a Chinese cadaver at a Seattle science exhibit. But let's back up. Action-posed, "plastinated" Chinese corpses of vague provenance - with brightly-colored plastic polymers replacing residual fat and moisture - have drawn huge crowds to public exhibitions across North America, including in San Francisco and Tampa. In a like vein, "Bodies The Exhibition," staged by Atlanta-based Premier Exhibitions and hosted by Seattle Theatre Group, continues its Seattle run at 800 Pike until April 1. The anonymous Chinese corpses come from the plastination lab at Dalian Medical University in China, via the Chinese government, as you will see later here. Dismayingly, the same lab is operated by a former partner of plastination pioneer and anatomist Gunther von Hagens of "Body Worlds" fame. von Hagens, the son a former Nazi SS officer, himself has served as a visiting professor at Dalian Medical University, and for some of his international plastination exhibits received from China the corpses of apparently-executed prisoners. In the January 2007 issue of Commentary Michael J. Lewis writes:

...von Hagens...by 2001...had amassed enough funds to construct a plant in Dalian, China, which is now the principal center of his far-flung plastination enterprise....While, in North America, Body Worlds is now touring in three versions, in Europe it has disappeared, having gone unexhibited since 2004. For in that year, the German newsweekly Der Spiegel published a lengthy expose of von Hagens, the burden of which was that at least some of his subjects showed evidence of bullet holes in the back of the neck, the preferred Chinese method of executing prisoners.

Since the Chinese government is von Hagens' principal supplier of bodies, this certainly seemed plausible. For his part, von Hagens fought the charge furiously, obtaining a court order enjoining Der Spiegel from repeating its findings. But in the meantime he also destroyed any potential evidence, cremating remains before they could be examined.

As the New York Times reported, von Hagens subsequently requested Chinese corpse suppliers not send him any who had been "sentenced to death."

A P-I story sheds light on the Dalian, China roots of the corpses on display in Seattle, and the connection of Premier Exhibitions with a former partner of the ethically suspect von Hagens.

Premier Exhibitions has been up front that it uses bodies -- legally obtained -- that come from China. Partnered with the Dalian Medical University and the plastination lab operated there by Dr. Sui Hongjin (a former partner of von Hagens'), the company does not own the bodies used in the show, but instead has them on loan from the school. (Zaller said Premier has paid more than $25 million to lease the bodies for multiple exhibitions over a five-year period.)

"This Seattle exhibit is deeply flawed," Aaron Ginsburg, a pharmacist from Massachusetts, wrote in an e-mail to the P-I. "The bodies were not donated, and may well have belonged to political prisoners. China is not a nation of laws, and any assurances that the bodies were legally obtained is meaningless."...Dalian Medical University receives the bodies from the government....Premier has contracts with the university certifying that the bodies are not those of former prisoners or people from mental institutions. (Premier does not, however, show its contracts to the media.)

If one is merely offended by the aesthetics of such exhibits, it is easy enough to say, "then don't go." But the ethical issues are not so easily resolved. Signed consent forms from the deceased displayed next to each body on public view - not merely documentation from the Chinese university lab that prepared the bodies - would have gone a long way toward resolving such concerns. Lacking such documented and explicit personal approval from the subjects while still alive, it is unethical to display the bodies to the public at all, and especially for profit.

The theft of a kidney at the Seattle exhibit last weekend from the corpse of a Chinese citizen who did not grant permission for posthumous public display certainly underscores the callous nature of the entire endeavor.

Determining the handling of one's body after death is a basic human right. Others must not deign to intuit that the brash public exhibition of corpses for fun and profit is ethical without explicit consent in advance from the now-deceased on display. The glib contravening of this basic human right by Chinese authorities, and exhibitors and hosts in Seattle and elsewhere shows great disrespect to the dead.

UPDATE, 1/6/07: The exhibitors are offering a $10,000 reward for the stolen kidney. A par-for-the-course ameliorative move, considering the circumstances - which yet does nothing to address the underlying ethical issues. Speaking of which, Aaron Ginsburg, the Boston-area pharmacist quoted in the P-I story (cited above), has his own web site on the controversy, including a page on the current Seattle exhibit. And Seattle Post-Intelligencer metro columnist Robert Jamieson has a spot-on column today, prompted by the kidney theft, but delving deeper.

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06:11 PM | Comments (1)



Writer, Editors "Ran Into Trouble" Reporting New U.N. Chief's Saddam Remarks

UPDATED: By failing to condemn the hanging of Saddam Hussein, Ban Ki-Moon, the new Secretary General of the United Nations, "ran into trouble," according to an Associated Press article published in today's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The story's hed and sub-hed together describe that omission as a "miscue," while the story's lede says Ban "ran into trouble" for what he didn't say. Only problem: there's no indication whatsoever in the AP story - as currently posted on the P-I's web site - as to just who exactly it is that Ban "ran into trouble" with.

Here's what happened. Asked about Saddam's hanging by reporters, Ban emphasized Saddam's crimes against humanity and the suffering of his victims, with no mention of the U.N.'s symbolic stand against capital punishment. Ban stated:

"Saddam Hussein was responsible for committing heinous crimes and unspeakable atrocities against Iraqi people and we should never forget victims of his crime," Ban said in response to a reporter's question about Saddam's execution for crimes against humanity. "The issue of capital punishment is for each and every member state to decide."

Some refreshing common sense blowing in from Turtle Bay. Imagine. But apparently the real issue is Ban's failure to hew to U.N. PC-speak. According to AP reporter Edith M. Lederer's lede:

New U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ran into trouble on his first day of work Tuesday over Saddam Hussein's execution when he failed to state the United Nations' opposition to the death penalty and said capital punishment should be a decision of individual countries.

Again, there is absolutely no indication who Ban "ran into trouble" with. The story does note the the U.N. envoy to Iraq last weekend voiced opposition to Saddam's execution. But there is no connection made between the envoy's comments and Ban's, and no individual or institution cited as specifically objecting to Ban's framing of Saddam's death and Ban's dead-on comments regarding the rights of individual countries to allow or bar the death penalty.

So one is left to conclude, at least on the basis of what is in the the AP story as currently posted at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's web site, that it is people such as Edith M. Lederer, her A.P. editor, and a P-I headline writer with whom Ban "ran into trouble."

Due to numerous such prior instances of shoddy reportage, the Associated Press has run into trouble. With me.

Rather than troubling herself to find someone "troubled" by Ban's remarks on capital punishment and Saddam, Lederer not so obliquely cites her own violated sensibilities regarding how things are supposed to be done at the U.N.

His ambiguous answer put a question mark over the U.N.'s stance on the death penalty. It also gave the new chief an early taste of how tricky global issues are, and how every word can make a difference. Michele Montas, Ban's new spokeswoman, insisted there was no change in U.N. policy in what she described as "his own nuance" on the death penalty.

Every word especially makes a difference when editorializing beat reporters are unable to support their ledes with facts.

The real nuance here is not so nuanced. Ban simply exhibits no nervous institutional discomfort with justice meted to a brutal mass murderer, realizing (as Lederer herself does too) that the U.N.'s blanket policy against the death penalty is merely a wishful proclamation with no bearing upon how member nations conduct their legal affairs. How very un-U.N of him, I know.

Let's keep an eye on this Ban guy. Hopefully he'll run into trouble some more with AP.

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03:50 PM | Comments (1)