Friday, September 28, 2007

Story of the Week -- Sept. 24-28

Choke Hold

Before this week, this is what I knew about Myanmar:

It used to be called Burma

It's near Thailand and Cambodia

On Seinfeld, Mr. Peterman went there.

I was idly talking about my job with some people over bagels and coffee last Saturday night, and one of our break fast guests said

"Do you know if they're looking for freelancers to cover the protests in Myanmar?"

--"there are protests in Myanmar?"

"For like a month now."

--"wow. Well, I'm sure we have someone there."

Silly me. I've learned a lot this week. First of all, we don't have someone in Myanmar. Nobody has anybody in Myanmar.

Here's what I know about Myanmar now: it's home to one of the most, if not the most, secretive, oppressive and brutal regimes in the world. There is no such thing as free speech, or free anything for that matter. There are no western journalists allowed. In 1988, a protest was crushed by the Military government, which has very little problem with killing its own citizens and at the same time calling itself the "people's army." The government is holding a Nobel Peace the daughter of a pro-democracy leader, and a leader and Nobel Peace Laureate in her own right under house arrest. It's rich in natural gas and other resources. It has a lot of Buddhist monks.

This week, those revered, nonviolent monks took to the streets to bolster an ongoing movement that began as a protest over rising fuel costs. The protest ballooned to an estimated 100,000 people and finally caught the attention of the global media, which of course can't get anyone into the country.

So they improvised, and in one of the most fascinating displays of journalistic determination I've ever seen, the media has pieced together diplomatic correspondence, undercover reports, and hidden forays across the Thai border to try to show the world just what's happening on the ground in Myanmar.

What the world is seeing isn't good. At least nine people are dead, but that's what the government of Myanmar is saying, and some reports say there could be many more. Essentially, the army has the guns, the protesters don't. And yet, the government is clearly operating in fear of the protesters. While the government has quieted rebellions before, it never has had to do so in the Internet age.

The government of Myanmar is terrified of the Internet, and somehow people inside Myanmar are getting photos and videos on to the Internet at an increasingly faster pace. One blogger is living in England and stays up all night receiving information and photos from friends and friends of friends in Myanmar and posts the latest on his blog. And even though the government shut down Internet access on Friday across the country, the news is still getting out, and the blogger is still posting.

The hands of governments around the world are tied. This week was U.N week in New York, and country after country issued proclamations of contempt and statements of concern. But that's as if you're getting beat up at school, and the principal yells at your assailant from across the room "Hey! You shouldn't do that!" The only way these protesters will win is if they can somehow find a way to keep going, knowing full well that their government has all the guns and all the power.

They've kept going, though, because what choice do they have? And their support isn't coming from foreign governments or international peacekeeping forces - it's coming from ordinary people who can't possibly fathom what it's like to live there. And they're all working to shine a light on one of the darkest corners of the world.

Thanks to them, I know a lot more about Myanmar. And they need our help.


Monday, September 17, 2007

A Post About Nothing

No, that's not a clever Seinfeld tie-in title, this really is a post about nothing. Why? I feel like it, deal with it. You know what they say...

It was a short week last week because of Rosh Hashana, so I missed the "time to write a story of the week" bus, and if you think about it you're probably grateful because the last one was a 1 minute fake commercial dialogue about a story that really doesn't impact your life unless you were one of those shmoes who bought an iPhone you know what?

I'm sick of the iPhone. No, see this is a post about nothing. Nothing at all. I was going to talk about how we don't use the word "kerfuffle" enough, but that's about as far as I got on that idea. Too much of a kerfuffle. A whole big stinkin' kerfuffle. The hebrew word for kerfuffle is "balagan." And that's about all I had for that post.

By now I should be calling this foofaraw, and if you've read my blog regularly (both of you) you know what that is and that this is probably it. Foofaraw, kerfuffle, jinkerteeslitz, whatever you want to call it. I made the third one up because you can't just have two, and hoopla is a stupid word. So is furthermore. "And furthermore..." he said, as the pole lodged in his buttocks shifted ever so slightly... makes people sound like douche bags.

speaking of which...

no. I won't go there. I don't have anything to go there with anyway.

Oh, if you're trying to figure out just what it is "they say" (paragraph 1), don't. They don't say anything. You know what they say....

You know what they say? Me neither.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Story of the Week -- Sept 3-7


Mac: hello I'm a Mac
PC: and I'm a PC. Whoa, Mac, what happened to you?
Mac: Had a little accident.
PC: really? I thought you had the anti trip plug. I thought you were indestructible. Is that a scratch on your screen?
Mac: please, don't touch it.
PC: an accident?
Mac: ok, fine. my owner threw me on the floor in protest. he tried to kill me.
PC: oh my goodness, why?
Mac: he found out that Apple cut the price of the iPhone. By $200. (coughs)
PC: that doesn't sound good.
Mac: i think my exhaust fan is broken. (cough)
PC: Isn't a price cut a good thing?
Mac: no. He already has an iPhone. He waited in the rain for two days to get it and he paid $600. so now he's a little upset with Apple.
PC: and he took it out on you
Mac: yeah
PC: wow. my owner has a Blackberry. He uses it for business.
Mac: don't rub it in.
PC: well, you're always all "hey I'm a mac, I'm great. I'm so cool, check it out..."
Mac: I don't sound like that. (coughs)
PC: come on. let's go call tech support.
Mac: Do I?
PC: It's all right, Microsoft cut the price of the Zune. I'm sure somebody took a hit for that.
Mac: What's a Zune?
PC: I don't know. I have an iPod.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Story of the Week -- Aug 27-31

You Know How I Know You're Gay?

You know how I know you're gay?

You're an ultra-conservative Senator from Idaho with a wife, kids, and grandkids and yet you still feel the urge to solicit strange men for sex in airport bathrooms.

That's pretty gay.

Actually, it's so gay that calling it gay is an insult to gay people. Because men who like that they're gay and know that they're gay go to gay bars and Celine Dion concerts to find other gay men and they go home and have sex with them like normal people.

But Senator Larry Craig doesn't like the fact that he's gay. He tried to hide it with a loving wife, a family, grandchildren. And still, he couldn't resist the occasional romp in an airport bathroom.(we can only guess) Listening to the tape and reading the police report, the evidence is pretty clear - Craig was caught red-handed and then made stuff up like and eight year old with a hand in the cookie jar and chocolate on his face.

Ooh, sorry. Bad imagery.

Anyway, a while back I wrote about Rev. Ted Haggard. A male prostitute in Colorado said he slept with the evangelical leader on a number of occasions. Haggard went to "gay rehab" and in 3 weeks was "cured of his gayness." I opined then, and I still believe, that maybe if Haggard had been allowed to be gay none of this would happen. Same goes for Craig. Who's to say the people of Idaho don't elect a gay congressman? Or at least, a single congressman they suspect to be gay?

Craig's fatal flaw is the hypocrisy. Not only does he have the beard family, he has the beard congressional record. He was one of the most conservative Senators. He voted in favor of a constitutional ban on gay marriage and spoke out against gay rights at every opportunity. This guy takes shame and self-loathing to the highest degree. Then he has the balls to say "I'm not gay. I've never been gay," after he literally gets caught with his pants down.

And he's supposedly a good guy, a good representative of the state of Idaho. He's served well and been re-elected twice. I don't like his politics, but other than that, I never remember having anything against him. In fact, I'd never heard of him. Now that he resigned, I feel a little bad for him. A little.

Why? Because, sadly, there are more Larry Craigs out there (nice to see you again, Mr. McGreevy, how's your wife? Ohhhh....). People like Craig are brought up being told that who they are is wrong and that they should be ashamed, so they cover it up, bury it deep down. Until it springs a leak elsewhere. Maybe, just maybe, if these people weren't ashamed of themselves, they could be the good politicians they're capable of being, and they could leave the sex scandals to their deviant, corrupt, perverted hetero colleagues.

What Craig did is gross, it's shameful, and it's not something I'd like to see happen in any airport bathroom I visit. But it never had to happen, if only the senator was allowed to be himself.