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SRB: Crimes Against Nature

SRB Picks of of the Week 4 August 2008
By Jeremy Rose for the Scoop Review of Books

In this week's SRB Picks': Ecuador proposes giving legal rights to Nature; Scott Ritter claims the US is already responsible for murderous attacks on Iran; Randy Newman - of Short People fame - on his new album; George Pelecanos on growing up Greek and homicides; an edgy new graphic novel, and; why is every progressive and his dog now calling for a New Deal?


The Eastern Bloc countries used to argue that the Western idea of human rights was too narrow. They claimed that countries that didn't guarantee their citizens the right to work and a roof over their head were in no position to preach to others. While having no sympathy for the regimes' treatment of dissidents and other human rights abuses, I did feel they had a point. Equally, indigenous groups have argued Western ideas of human rights favour the rights of the individual over the collective.

But one idea I had never seen or heard articulated until now is the thought that "nature" has rights. Article one of the proposed new Ecuadorian constitution reads:

Nature or Pachamama, where life is reproduced and exists, has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.

My gut response is that it sounds great, but I don't begin to claim to have any idea what the implications might be. Have a read and let us know what you think (Those reading this on the main Scoop page will need to go to the SRB to leave a comment.)

Almost a decade ago I interviewed the former United Nations arms inspector Scott Ritter in San Francisco. Back then he was calling for a US invasion of Iraq. He spoke of answering to a "higher authority" than the Security Council - at first I thought he meant God but it turned out he meant the US government. He was a strange mixture of hawk and dove. As the first journalist to ask him about the controversial sanctions regime I was surprised by his whole hearted endorsement of former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday's condemnation of the sanctions as a crime against humanity. (My Scott Ritter and Denis Halliday interviews can be read here and here.)

But Ritter has long since shed any of his gungho Marine-style hawkishness and is now a regular contributor to leftwing journals and websites. And with an insider's view of the defence and intelligence establishment's he's well placed to comment on the machinations of the US war machine. This backgrounder on the dirty war already under way against Iran makes for disturbing reading.


Toy Story, Cars, Monsters Inc - yes they're all successful animated Hollywood moves but that's not the only thing they've got in common: they all features songs by Randy Newman. I had assumed he had ditched his own recording career in favour of a behind the scenes Hollywood life but Newman it turns out is still penning his bitingly satirical songs and has a new album out. The Guardian caught up with him and heard his thoughts on Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Hollywood.

Also in the Guardian: "Stephen King has called him the 'greatest living American crime writer', but it wasn't until he co-scripted The Wire that he really made his mark. Here, novelist George Pelecanos talks to Amy Raphael about growing up Greek, real-life homicide cops and the day he shot his friend in the face."

The recent screening of Persipolis at film festivals around the country will have introduced a new audience to the idea of graphic novels. The animated feature is based on the graphic novels of the same name by Iranian artist/writer Marjane Satrapi. Those wanting to look at other examples of graphic novels could do worse than visiting the Forward Magazine site which is serialising Unterzakhn a particularly graphic, graphic novel set in pre-war New York.

Years ago I helped a friend in Boston research a grant application to travel to Moscow to track down the descendants of African Americans who had emigrated to the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Many of them were communists in search of a better life - in a country that in theory at least rejected the legalised racism of the USA. The project never eventuated but I was reminded of it by this review of a recent book on the experiences of the Americans who fled the depression in the USA for Stalin's Russia.

Stalin's propaganda methods get compared to those of today's corporations in this intriguing sounding book reviewed by the New York Times.

A few year's back it was popular to declare that Africa and Palestine needed a Marshall Plan - a reference to the large scale US-investment in rebuilding post-war Western Europe. Now it seems a New Deal is what's required. The New Economic Foundation says a Green New Deal is required to deal with the convergence of the credit crunch, climate change and booming food and fuel prices. Oxfam says a New Deal Needed to Stop 'Age of Scarcity' Plunging Millions into Poverty. And modern day prophet George Monbiot says we need a Green Industrial Revolution and a New Deal.
So it seems it's a new deal that's needed.

Recently Published on the Scoop Review of Books


Mates & Lovers Tops Unity’s Top 20
Unity Books is a Wellington institution. Year after year it’s named Wellington’s best bookshop by papers and magazines that like to run such lists. It’s the bookshop of choice for many of the capital’s most discerning readers and so it’s with great pleasure that the Scoop Review of Books brings you Unity’s Top 20 for July 08. And from now on we’ll publish The Unity Top 20 monthly. (To our shame we’ve only reviewed two of the books on this month’s list. Links to those are provided.) Read more »

The Great Land Heist
Buying the Land, Selling the Land by Richard Boast
Victoria University Press, $60. Review by RICHARD THOMSON
Between 1890 and 1920 the New Zealand government bought 4.2 million acres of Maori land, for which it paid around £3.5 million. In Buying the Land, Selling the Land, Richard Boast’s “study of Crown Maori land policy and practice”, he estimates that if the money had been divided equally, it would have provided each Maori with just £3 per year for each of those 30 years. In fact, he says, North Island Maori might as well have given their land to the Crown, for all the difference it would have made to their economic situation. Read more »

On the Morality of Zionism
A Just Zionism: On the Morality of the Jewish State by Chaim Gans
Oxford University Press. Reviewed by JEREMIAH HABER
I have in my hands — well, next to my computer — not only one of the most interesting books ever written about the morality of political Zionism (and the morality of Israel’s policies), but one of the most sensible and sensitive books ever written about Israel and Palestine. Although I don’t agree with many of the author’s arguments or conclusions — he still cuts political Zionism and Israel too much slack, in my opinion — I have no hesitation in giving him and his book a moral “heksher”/seal of approval. Read more »

Mates & Lovers Tops Unity’s Top 20
Unity Books is a Wellington institution. Year after year it’s named Wellington’s best bookshop by papers and magazines that like to run such lists. It’s the bookshop of choice for many of the capital’s most discerning readers and so it’s with great pleasure that the Scoop Review of Books brings you Unity’s Top 20 for July 08. And from now on we’ll publish The Unity Top 20 monthly. (To our shame we’ve only reviewed two of the books on this month’s list. Links to those are provided.) Read more »

Poem of the Week: PM Comes to School
From: Incognito by Jessica Le Bas Auckland University Press
Read more »


If you've received this as an email links to all the above can be found at http://books.scoop.co.nz

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