Monday, June 29, 2009

Tegucigalpa, Chicken Buses, and Revolution

Imagine President Obama sound asleep in his pajamas in the White House at 5:30 AM. Now imagine he is stirred by 200 armed military personnel and quickly whisked away on a military aircraft and dropped off without a word at the Ottawa international airport. Consider that this is the direct result of an order passed down from the supreme court requesting his forcible removal from power.

This scenario played out yesterday in Tegucigalpa, Honduras for president Manuel Zelaya. President Zelaya is a "leftist" and part of the Chavez, Ortega, Castro coalition of BolĂ­varian idealists that have been attempting to foster the rise of Latin cultural unity for decades. Now his comrades are defending him. Chavez, Ortega and leaders from Cuba connived in Managua, Nicaragua yesterday to coalesce their stance on the Honduran coup. That stance being hostile and aggressive.

This rapid revolution is quite an interesting case-study and opportunity to dissect the results of "leftist" policies in Latin America. As a leftist myself I consider the word in quotes when describing this collation because I take offense that they cloak their classicism, and aristocratically laced greed in the guise of "leftism." Traveling inside Nicaragua last summer I saw first hand whole villages where children play in open sewer streams and human refuse is carried down the streets of major cities because there simply is no civil engineering nor infrastructure. I saw countless vagrants walking the streets, eyeballs rolling to the backs of their sockets huffing a yellow glue from tiny jars. I heard the snake-like hiss of young men taunting women in the streets making them objects in a gallery.

These "leaders" call themselves leftists but it is truly a farce. They live like a priestly cast in luxurious settings on large ranches, mustaches filling out, eating well while the majority in these countries are kept in poverty. I do not know all the circumstances surrounding the revolt in Honduras but I do understand the desire for a government that - in practice - really does work for the people rather than corrupt idealists whose actions fall far from the scope of their words. Revolution is beginning to swell in Latin America and I have seen with my own eyes why.

I spent much of my childhood in Puerto Rico where I witnessed the long-term affects of good government policy transforming a people from a poor majority to a flourishing middle-class. I saw Rooselvelt's public works projects lasting effects on the psyches and pocketbooks of an island. This may seem idealistic in its own right but I feel that a cultural unity in Latin America should not separate itself from the world but rather integrate with a rising global culture to lift itself from the darkness of the "us versus them" mentality.

A person dear to my heart is at this instant traveling on a chicken bus from Managua through Honduras to El Salvador. I can not think of a more perilous day for her to be traveling through a country where people on the street carry fully automatic weapons in times of peace. I fear for her safety and the safety of all the people of Honduras as revolution is too often accompanied by discharged weapons. My hope is that the world would join me and the people of Honduras in discussing the merits and short comings of the current government to ensure democracy remains intact throughout this process.

As the Iranian revolution deserves our conscious attention so does this. May we combine our minds in contemplating a peaceful path out of these uncertain places and times.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


A post from the ghost has made it to the next round in the first ever "Top Quark" science blogging competition over at 3 Quarks Daily. Thank you to all who cast their vote for our humble submissions. Between now and June 11th the editors at 3QD will scrutinize those twenty posts and distill them to seven. These will then be submitted to Steven Pinker for final judgment. The other semifinalists are listed in ranked order from the public voting round here. May the most powerful post prevail!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Reborn after 200 years

Thomas Paine - the man of letters that built the foundation of ideas the American revolution sprung from - died 200 years ago today.
His rebellious spirit still stirs resentment amongst dyed in the wool crown-lovers to this day.

Listen to what one commenter had to say about the man 200 years after his death in response to this BBC Magazine article...
Thomas Paine was a traitor to his country. It doesn't matter if what he said was right or wrong or we look back on as profound, his meddling in colonial affairs were catastrophic. Supporting a French dictator and American rebels? His descendants should hang their heads in shame.
Lucian Whippe, Cambridge
This is why we revolted!

Viva Tom Paine's revolution!
And long live the power of the PEOPLE!

An amusing coincidence was pointed out today by a catholic magazine.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Auto-Tune the News

Rachael Maddow had the producers of "auto-tune the news" on her show a few weeks ago. The 4th installment on their unique reiteration of the news has recently debuted. Amazing to me that with just a handful viral You Tube videos this group has captured the attention of the main stream media. Says a whole lot for a dash of creativity. You can see what I'm going on about below.. Shor-tay

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Twenty years since Tiananmen

Phil put it well - "Honor, not amnesia, for the martyrs of Beijing 1989"

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cheating Death - Colbert on Fire!

Oprah is a prominent gate-keeper and her constant promotion of quackery opens up the topic of responsibility when using free speech from certain platforms. I surely can not, with good conscience, stand by while Oprah spearheads the charge to flay the hypothetical Hypatias of our time.

How do you think these matters of free speech vs. phony speech should be handled? Perhaps a network sponsored special running for several weeks consisting of a panel debate on each claim inviting experts from academia and clinics in for each issue - vaccines, the secret, Dr. Phil etc etc.

Some would argue that this would be a bad idea because it gives equal footing to those making fraudulent health claims. But I say the truth should be able to defeat any imitations using the "disinfectant of sunlight" as justice Louis Brandeis might have put it.
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Cheating Death - Cheerios, Soda Paralysis & Oprah's Crazy Talk
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorKeyboard Cat

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Death of Paine

On June 8th, 2009 several events will be held all over the world celebrating the life and works of Thomas Paine. I received an e-mail today from Martha Spiegelman of Thomas Paine Friends detailing some significant gatherings in and around New York City. I encourage any TPG readers in the vicinity to check out these free events.

The official announcement from our friends reads as follows.

Thomas Paine Remembrances
Will Be Held in New York City and New Rochelle NY

Marking the 200th Anniversary of His Death
on June 8, 1809 in Greenwich Village, New York City

Sponsored by Thomas Paine Friends, Inc.

Events are free and the public is invited

SATURDAY, JUNE 6, 2 PM, lecture by historian and actor J. WARD REGAN,
at Jefferson Market Branch of New York Public Library, at Sixth Ave. & W. 10th St.
J. WARD REGAN is a lecturer on Paine with New York Council for the Humanities
and National Endowment for the Humanities "On the Road" program.
He lectures on history and philosophy at New York University.
His one-man show, "A Paranoid's Guide to History," had a recent off-Broadway run.


SATURDAY, JUNE 6, 3:30 PM, following the lecture, a short WALKING TOUR to Paine's
last two residences, 309 Bleecker St. and 59 Grove St., where he died. Both are close by
the Jefferson Market Branch Library. We will depart from the Library at 3:30 pm and
the first stop will be 293 Bleecker St. Highlight of the tour is a pair of rarely seen art works housed in
59 Grove St., the site now of Marie's Crisis Café. One piece is an etched glass of marching revolutionaries; the other is a large wood engraving of Danton, Robespierre, and Thomas Paine.
The guide will be MARIAM TOUBA, Reference Librarian at New-York Historical Society
and Curator of the memorable Thomas Paine Exhibit at N-YHS in 2005.

SUNDAY, JUNE 7, 1 PM, memorial observance at Thomas Paine Monument, New Rochelle NY, located on North Ave., near Paine Ave., close to the original gravesite.
Paine Monument, Paine Cottage and Paine Museum comprise the PAINE HISTORIC SITE
at the western edge of what was his farm, awarded to him in 1784
by a grateful New York state legislature for his eminent services in the struggle for independence.

[At 2 pm, the Huguenot & New Rochelle Historical Association holds a gala lawn party / fundraiser
at Paine Cottage grounds, $45 each ($50 at the door). Distinguished actress-writer-director, RUBY DEE,
will be a special guest speaker. Funds are for the Cottage restoration.
Contact executive director John Wright, 914-633-1776 or .]

MONDAY, JUNE 8, 11:30 AM - 1:30 PM, a commemoration at Thomas Paine Park,
at Foley Square, across from the courts in lower Manhattan;
the Park is bound by Centre, Worth, Lafayette Sts.

Dedication of a new Thomas Paine historical sign installed by New York City Parks Dept.


JOHN NICHOLS, prolific writer and journalist; Washington correspondent
with The Nation magazine; associate editor of The Capital Times [Madison WI];
author of The Genius of Impeachment, and books on media, political and social reform.

ERIC FONER, DeWitt Clinton professor of history, Columbia University; past-president of
the Organization of American Historians and president of the American Historical Association;
his many books include Tom Paine and Revolutionary America, and Paine: Collected Writings;

CRAIG NELSON, historian, eclectic writer and editor, author of
Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution and the Birth of Modern Nations,
which won the 2007 Henry Adams prize.

FRANCES CHIU, faculty in humanities and social sciences at the New School University,
where she teaches a course on Paine;
editor and scholar on 18th and 19th century literature for Valancourt Books.

MICHAEL MISCIONE, Historian of the Borough of Manhattan.

MICHAEL DE DORA, executive director of Center for Inquiry-New York City chapter,
which presents an annual Thomas Paine Memorial Lecture every January.

BARBARA AND GRAHAM DEAN will perform songs--guitar and vocal--from their collection,
Tom Paine's Blues: Common Sense Songs.

A number of organizations and individuals are expected to join in to offer a few words of homage
to Thomas Paine and to the late PAUL O'DWYER whose initiative and tireless work
when he was City Council President led to the naming of Thomas Paine Park.

Information at or 413-253-7934

Thomas Paine Friends, Inc.
185 Middle Street
Amherst MA 01002-3011


Survival of the Savvy

We at Tom Paine's Ghost are engaged in a science blogging competition hosted by a fellow free-thinking blog - 3 Quarks Daily. We have submitted three posts. If you like our site I kindly ask that you visit the voting page and vote for us. Our entries are about 2/3 down the page. Of course, vote for whoever you like but if you do decide to vote for us the post about Temple Grandin seems to be getting to most love so far.

Apologies to our regular readers for the slowing content lately. After some recent discussions with my colleagues I have been so excited about a certain batch of material that I decided to take some extra time and flesh out the upcoming posts to read more like book chapters. We are brewing several ideas to be on tap soon.