That will work on mobile phones and be easier on the eyes.
A large number of my friends on Facebook currently sport profile pictures featuring the marriage equality symbol, in a gesture of support for the cause during the ongoing hearings in the US Supreme Court. I’m going to do the same, but with a little twist: I’ve modified the existing symbol to add a gun, and a tagline in support of gun rights.
I am not doing this as a protest against marriage equality, which I’ve been a supporter of for as long as I can remember it being an issue – and a hell of a lot longer than Barack Obama and other high-profile American politicians who have recently jumped on the single-sex marriage bandwagon.
Instead, it is, as the symbol says, a gesture of my support for both marriage equality and gun rights, and a protest against what I see as an increasingly frenzied – and increasingly ridiculous – ghettoizing of American politics in which people are told that because they believe X they must also believe Y, and that, in this case, sexual equality is a “left” issue while gun rights are a “right” issue.
Well, I say that’s a lot of bunk. The gay rights movement and gun rights movements are both that: Movements aimed at protecting and expanding individual rights.
Meanwhile, if you believe, like I do, that human societies and subcultures invariably create out groups to marginalize, one doesn’t have to look hard to see believers in gun rights being stigmatized – even dehumanized – in much the same way that the LGBT community historically has been. Boo all you like at this comparison; Some African-American civil rights figures have expressed similar outrage at attempts to link their struggle and that for SSM. But I think it holds.
But while the marriage equality movement is now about winning new rights – and in the US seems inevitably destined for complete success – the gun rights movement is about protecting long-established rights that may soon be history. Because of this, the struggle for gun rights in my opinion is perhaps more crucial.
Finally, just consider this: Has there ever been a group of people for whom the right to self-defense was more crucial than the LGBT community? As the gay gun rights group Pink Pistols puts it, “Armed gays don’t get bashed.” Especially if their spouses are carrying.
Yes, we can do both.
Exactly 40 years ago, give or take a few minutes, a 3.9 meter-wide metal cone holding three men crashed into Earth’s atmosphere at nearly 40,000 kilometers (25,000 miles) per hour. You may know that Apollo 17 was the last of the space missions that sent 24 men to the moon, half of whom walked on its surface. What you may not know is that this day in 1972 marked the last time humans have ventured beyond low Earth orbit. So if you are 40 or older, you have lived on the Earth as it was looked upon by men from a quarter-million miles away, and who saw it, like Apollo 17 scientist Jack Schmitt, as a tiny blue disc suspended in the void of space; if you are younger, the farthest any human has been from Earth during your lifetime is around 400 miles, or less than the distance from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It is true that the scientific benefits of human spaceflight are limited. Still, it would be an awful shame to wait another 40 years for a travel pic like this.
[Last week the current owners of the Budapest Business Journal - where I served as editor in 1999-2001 - celebrated the BBJ's 20th anniversary in print with an event at the Kempinski hotel here in Budapest. I was honored to go as the guest of founder Mike Stone, and gratified that the paper marked the occasion by publishing an interview about the "early days" with Stephen O'Connor, who spearheaded the expansion of the business journal concept to the Czech Republic and Poland, where the Warsaw Business Journal is still being published by another local successor to the "New World Publishing" group Steve founded. I was, however, disappointed that neither Mike nor Steve were able to give a proper keynote address at the Kempinski event, an honor that, in a telling tribute to today's Hungary, was instead reserved for… a deputy state secretary for taxation. So I will instead offer up my idea of what they might have said if they had spent the last 10 or so years living in Hungary and seeing what had become of the country they left the US two decades ago to do business in.]
Good evening everyone.
I’d like to thank Tamás Botka, my successor as publisher of the BBJ, for inviting me to say a few words at tonight’s celebration. I would also like to thank him in advance for his understanding if some of these words don’t sound so celebratory.
We are here tonight to celebrate the BBJ’s survival over two decades, and, largely as a result of its continued existence, the paper’s status as a cornerstone of the Hungarian business establishment.
Like any person present at the founding of an enterprise like this, I am glad to see it still going, especially given the dire straits of the print media.
But I can’t help but think about what I would have said in 1992 if you told me what was going on in Hungary in 2012, and the role the BBJ had been reduced to playing in this future Hungary.
Twenty years ago, Hungary was the undisputed leader among the transitional economies of Central and Eastern Europe, capitalizing on its status as the richest, freest and most western-looking nation of the old East bloc. It was the first stop in the region for foreign investors, and for adventurous business-minded foreigners like me.
But no more.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Otto von Habsburg, who in 1916 (above) became the last Crown Prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
His full name was Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius von Habsburg and, as the pretender to the Habsburg throne following his father’s death in 1922, his complete title was “By the Grace of God Emperor of Austria; King of Hungary and Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia and Lodomeria; King of Jerusalem etc.; Archduke of Austria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Silesia, Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Guastalla, Auschwitz and Zator, Teschen, Friuli, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trent and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria; Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg etc.; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and the Windic March, Grand Voivod of the Voivodeship of Serbia etc. etc.”
Otto lived until last year, and I had a drink with him once. All of this is true.
Since today is likely to be a contentious and divisive day for America, I’m going to post something I hope will be a small reminder of the country’s great common history – a set of photos I took the Friday before last during a visit with my son and mother to the site of the P.O.W. camp my father was interned in during World War II.
The remains of the camp, known during the war as Stalag Luft III, sit on the outskirts of the town of Żagań in southwest Poland, which prior to 1945 was the German town of Sagan.
Stalag Luft III was reserved for Allied airmen, mostly officers who, like my father, survived being shot down during bombing runs over Nazi-controlled Europe. But it was part of a much larger complex of camps housing thousands of captured Polish and Soviet soldiers, as well as a smaller number of Jewish and other forced laborers, many of whom did not survive their incarceration.
In the small museum we saw a model of the North Compound, which held mostly British inmates and was made famous by the “Great Escape” in March, 1944.
I’d say a much more effective argument against taxpayer funding of PBS is the corporation’s long-established love of everything toff – what might be called the Blue State/blue blood axis. For your viewing and sharing pleasure, a larger-res version can be found here.
As you may or may not have heard, last month the US Department of Justice settled a big lawsuit with several traditional book publishers over an attempt by the latter to illegally fix the prices of e-books. The decision is expected to lead to a significant drop in prices for many e-books, as publishers are forced to allow retailers like Amazon to deeply discount whatever titles they want, rather than being held to a high list price demanded by the publisher.
As a producer of editorial content – i.e. a writer – I can understand why some publishers and authors are fighting hard to keep prices for e-books close to those of physical books. Yesterday I had lunch with the novelist Olen Steinhauer, who is an old Budapest chum, and he surprised me by saying that the printing and distribution of most books like his cost just a couple of dollars. Which in turn means that the prices of quality e-books probably can’t be brought down as much as a digital-oriented guy like me thinks, assuming you are talking about a book published by a traditional imprint with professional editors, marketing budgets and staff, investments in authors that don’t pan out and so on.
Still, the consumer in me is enraged by a situation in which I routinely go to look for a Kindle version of a book on Amazon only to find that it costs as much or more than a (discounted) copy of the same book in print. And when I say “routinely” I mean all the time. In fact, I would guess that on the majority of occasions I have looked for a book on Amazon’s website over the past year or so the price for the Kindle edition has been higher than for the lowest-cost paper option (I say “website” because if you search on the Kindle you only see the Kindle price).
Through a circuitous chain of clicks I ended up the other day on the website of Demos, a think-tank and advocacy group co-founded by a college friend/debate partner who was the first to clue me into the fact that one can prosper financially as a professional progressive. While on the site I happened on the page for the organizations’ recent “Transforming America Awards and Gala Celebration,” held in conjunction with its partner publication, The American Prospect.
From what I can tell, the event was your standard-issue New York non-profit fundraising banquet, with a list of honorary chairs including such well-fed lefty luminaries as Bill Moyers, Bob Herbert, and Frances Fox Piven, and honorees like United Steelworkers leader Leo Gerard (pictured above). But then I noticed something slightly odd in the roster of sponsors for the event.
Gawker is asking its readers today if this is the craziest mug shot ever. I can’t answer that, because I am too busy trying to work out if this is the biggest douche on Facebook. Before you ask, no, I don’t know how I ended up on the guy’s page, and yes, I know that “douche” in French only means “shower.” Like the long one I feel like I could use right about now. Eeeeeeh.
Two winners will each receive the following prize package: a pack of cigarettes; a roll of breath mints; and a 15-minute smoke break with President Obama on a date and in a well-secured and ventilated place to be determined by the President and his campaign staff (approximate retail value of all prizes: $6, or $12 if you live in a jurisdiction the president carried by more than 20 percentage points in the 2008 election). Promotion open only to U.S. citizens, or lawful permanent U.S. residents who are legal residents of 50 United States, District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and 18 or older (or of majority under applicable law). Eligible non-smokers are invited to instead participate in our Dinner With Barack promotion, and to just STFU and let the president and a couple of other stressed-out Americans spend a few minutes enjoying this once-widespread but now scorned personal vice. No cameras allowed.
I was interested to see that the Miami mansion that the late Gianni Versace lived in (and was killed at) is back on the market, for a pretty amazing $125 million. Seems like something that would be nice to have! Except look at these pictures. And I thought The Donald’s New York apartment was bad. Frankly, I’d rather live in a frigging trailer.
I’ve often wondered whether it’s really true that Google News is totally computer-driven. (A small notice on the bottom of the homepage says “The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program.”) But the selection of top stories it showed me at around 10:00 a.m. this morning seems to finally confirm that indeed, the selection and placement of stories is determined automatically by a computer program. It also suggests that the humans watching the computer program doing the selection should immediately unplug it – provided they are still alive.
I’ve always assumed that the intersection of money and politics is far dirtier here in Hungary than in New York City, where I spent most of my adult life before moving abroad in the late 1990s. Though as of yesterday I am not so sure.
Back when I was a suburban American teen first getting into Formula 1 racing, the whole thing was so exotically distant I was reduced to buying Italian-language motorsport magazines to look at up-to-date pictures of my favorite cars and drivers. Then I moved to a city an hour or so from a track where an F1 race takes place every summer. And now yesterday afternoon the guy I’m rooting for in this year’s F1 championship staged a series of high-speed runs right in front of my apartment building, leaving clouds of rubber smoke wafting into the flat, and my son cowering under the dining room table. Progress!
It seems that across America this week there was lots of cackling over reports that a 73-year-old county official in Murfreesboro, Tennessee by the name of “Bill Boner” was accused of sexually harassing two female employees whom he later fired:
In the complaints, [the two fired employees] accuse Boner of attempting to look down female employees’ shirts, making grunting sounds toward women, commenting about “sex with farm animals, and not needing a wife for sexual satisfaction.”
According to a story about the story on a media industry website, Boner’s exposure was a “gift to journalists.” Which is certainly true in my case, because it gives me an excuse to dredge up a similar item I discovered earlier this year when trolling the internet for news from my hometown of Plainfield, New Jersey, and which didn’t get half the rise out of the media that Boner’s did.
A nice summary of the mentality of the European and America’s cultural elite:
“Culture is a basic need,” said Andreas Stadler, director of the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York and president of the New York branch of the European Union National Institutes for Culture. “People should have the right to go to the opera.”
It’s hardly a secret that the quasi-government enterprise that is today’s Citibank is a black hole of inefficiency and bad service. Still, no harm in passing on a particularly ridiculous experienced I suffered at the hands of the beast last week.
How very charming:
Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.
Okay it’s not quite that bad. Still, you’d think the media company of the guy elected mayor of New York a month after 9/11 would be on the lookout for boo-boos like this.