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He's got my cheeks

Thursday, March 23, 2006 by Jeff

This is my nephew, as yet to be named. He's the first baby in my immediate family since, well, since his mother, my younger sister, was born during the oil crisis. Needless to say, we're all giggly and argumentative about which one of us he looks most like. Joanna, the mother in this story, started a baby blog full of pregnancy photos, starting with the ultrasound. I hope she'll keep updating it now that the kid's on the outside. Welcome to the family, chiquito. Update: Benjamin Marinus Kakebeeke, congratulations you adorable thing you. And to you too, Marco and Joanna.

Looking for your beachfront condo?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006 by Jeff

You never saw it coming, but the next Cancun is going to be in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. That's about 4 hours southwest of Tucson on the eastern edge of the Sea of Cortés, and consequently it is crawling with Arizonans. Heather and I were there for the first weekend of Spring Break 2006. If you're looking for an "authentic" Mexican experience (it's only authentic if our stereotyped expectations are met, of course), you won't find it in Puerto Peñasco, aka "Rocky Point." It's well on its way to Cancun's sprawling resort-like complex of highrise condominiums and tacky poolside cabana bars. The students from my school love it. It turns out, Puerto Peñasco isn't the only place getting an overhaul in the name of American tourism. The marinas, ports, and resort towns around Baja California and western Mexico are slated for major development to draw you and me and our greenbacks into the Mexican economy (it needs all the help it can get). The project, La Escalera Nautica (Nautical Ladder), is named for its succession of nautical stops that climb the coastline (apparently renamed the Sea of Cortés Project more recently). With their eyes on the filthy rich Americans with big yachts just to the north, the project's designers seek to create a string of stopovers separated by about a day's sailing distance, and of course exploit as much of their natural environment as possible in the name of economic expansion. If you're looking to invest, I hear they're still a few hundred million short. Heather and I stayed in the top floor of this deluxe beachside condominium thanks to our dear friend Lisa and the speculative eye of her mother who owns a place there.

Look closely and you'll see Heather on the balcony up there.
There were six of us there for the weekend, including Heather's old pal Sande and her beau Museem (hey, how do you spell your name?). From this vantagepoint we could see the bathing beauties and some dolphins just off-shore. The beaches were dotted with gringos and a constant stream of local merchants hawking hats, sunglasses, kites, toys, and even pottery. Despite the Spring Break bikinis and bare skin, it was remarkably chilly and breezy. I left my bikini in the room. And here we have the future of Mexican tourism!!!
(Clockwise) Me, Heather, Lisa, Sandee, Museem, Heather Too
Thanks to the group for the good times. Spring Break 2007? Haiti!

I'm with Abdelwahab!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006 by Jeff

Drek's recent post about a couple of offensive video games raises interesting questions for me about the possibility of moral limits on the claims made by social movements. With respect to a game called Kaboom! The Suicide Bombing Game, Drek writes:

[D]o I think that we should protest it...? Absolutely...The thing is, while I think we should feel free to criticize these games, we shouldn't go any further than that.
Going farther, in this case, means censorship, and here we find an implicit but clear reference to the Great Cartoon Controversy of 2006. This, I take it, signals Drek's agreement with that portion of the globe that considers free speech a virtue. It also signals, I think, his agreement that organized protest the likes of which have rocked the Muslim world are in order. Social movements are the progeny of liberal democracy, a product of the very countries that forged this new form of politics (England, U.S., France). Movements are expressions of "the people," of popular sovereignty, and are a challenge to an elite-led politics of kings, presidents, and parties. They offer an entry point into national decision-making for anyone who can muster a group and a banner. This is democracy at work. But there is an interesting quandary for a democratic institution like the social movement. What do we do when protest calls for curbs on free speech, advocates exclusion, or denies other liberal democratic virtues? Indeed, our very own country (a bastion of free speech, right?) has a long history of anti-democratic social movements, from the nativist movements of the nineteenth century to the anti-immigration Minutemen of today. Should we support women's organizations that call for boycotts of offensive products and their producers? Should we support Muslim organizations that demand recognition and an apology from the Danish government?
But Jeff! Wait. They're not just asking for an apology. They've raised a social movement against our right of free speech! For democracy to survive - indeed, for social movements to survive - we must respect and preserve a few fundamental principles of democracy. Muslims may have a right to protest, but I'm not about to join their narrow-minded movement. We must defend the virtues of democracy!
We could, however, join the movement against a racist or Western ethnocentrism, no? In other words, this need not be a democracy-versus-Islamic fundamentalism debate. Consider the the following:
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Danish prime minister, who was quick to condemn the burning of Danish flags and urge Muslim leaders to do the same [did someone say free speech? -jeff]...refused to condemn the cartoons...[O]ne does not have to respect the beliefs of extremists...in order to defend their rights to express them. "We despise [these beliefs]. What we respect is [the] right to be despicable." Rasmussen could have said publicly that what the Jylland-Posten [the Danish newspaper] did was despicable, while defending its right to be despicable. He did not do that....
This comes from a recent column in Al Jazeera by Abdelwahab El-Affendi entitled, Democratic Solutions for Cartoons. Rather than taking a reactionary, defensive, indeed conservative posture, as so many Westerners are wont to do, he frames the controversy as "a question of respect for other people." In his mind, the Danish Prime Minister and the European governments that have enthusiastically thrown their support behind him, have side-stepped the offensiveness of the cartoons by defending, rather than castigating, the publisher. What?! Castigate the publisher, in a free society? Lest we slip into that false belief that our beloved representatives don't regularly chide the media:
The president criticized the media for reporting on the NSA surveillance as well as the officials who "improperly" provided the information. "As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk," he said. (Washington Post, 12/18/05)
Rather than restrictions on speech, El-Affendi is asking for what amounts to more nuanced diplomacy on the part of Western governments in a very hostile, very real, climate of anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiments. What signs do our governments give that they are aware of and concerned about this often racist climate? I see little. We can't very well censor the social movement that calls for censorship if we give a damn about democratic principles. But neither should we sit idly by while vigilantes along the Arizona border hijack the debate over immigration, or when the defenders of democracy turn a cold eye on their own xenophobia.

It is in the interest of Muslims not to make calls for restrictions on free speech as their main demand. Muslims should identify more with democratic principles and, in fact, call for even more free speech. Muslims, especially minorities living in Europe, are likely to be the first victims of new restrictions on freedom. They should, instead, make use of democracy to build coalitions which would isolate the hate mongers and extremists and cause them to be condemned by all. In calling for more, not less, freedom of expression, they should also try to reach a consensus on using that freedom in a more responsible and constructive manner. (Abdelwahab El-Affendi, 2/27/06)

And we should join them.


Saturday, March 04, 2006 by Jeff

Just having a little [temporary] fun with the titles of these posts. Who hasn't, in their more juvenile moments, added the words "in bed" to the end of a fortune from a fortune cookie? C'mon, now, it's just plain fun.


Jeff A. Larson
Sociologist, Arizona.


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