Showing posts from 2012
I'm going off the journalism grid for a while to focus on my social enterprise Rainworks Omnimedia and to finish Liberty Landing, my big, spidery multicultural fictional web. The most memorable thing I read recently is singer, Fiona Apple's letter to her fans about her dying dog. gvh

I am Migrating to Blogger

Moving to a new country in blogosphere from old Serendipity platform to Blogger. Please ignore  large scale archivist dump of all my posts in seemingly illogical,  non-chronological order. GVH

President Obama's "Spock" Rationale On Iraq War Investigation Untenable - 5/30/2009

First published in Huffington Post In a recent interview with Newsweek, President Obama mentioned seeing the latest Star Trek movie and that everybody was saying he was Spock. In another interview a while ago, the First Lady said, "The President is a very rational man." This explains a lot. The President's refusal to investigate the Bush Administration's policies and actions relating to the Iraq War is the embodiment of Vulcan logic, free from messy human emotions and moral obligation. The President has said he wishes the country to move forward instead of looking back--a nice mantra for our collective denial. Let's nail that to the wall, next to Bush Labor secretary, Elaine Chao's call to Iraqi women after their lives had been reduced to rubble by 'Shock and Awe': "In a democracy, the most important factor is energy." Taxidriver husband in Abu Ghraib? Daughter raped in US custody? Teenage son sodomized with a truncheon? Never mind al

Hold Your Fire: Children and Civilians In Gaza - 1/7/2010

First published in Huffington Post In Regarding the Pain of Others, Susan Sontag's meditation on images depicting the atrocities of wartime, she cites Virginia Woolf's lacerating indictment of war, written in 1936 as the Spanish Civil War was unfolding. Woolf's polemic was a response to a lawyer who had engaged her on the issue of war. She opened her argument by declaring that the lawyer as a man and she as a woman could not possibly see war in the same way. Woolf proposed reconciling the disparity by looking at some images of war together. "Let's see whether when we look at the same photographs we feel the same things," she wrote, for she believed, according to Sontag, "that the shock of the images could not fail but unite people of good will". Many people around the world, looking at the same photographs together--of bloodied, broken, mangled bodies of civilians and children killed by Israeli forces in Gaza since December 27th--have felt the

Wars Made Real: Photography at Dover Air Force Base - 3/10/2010 The Obama administration's decision to reverse the 18-year Pentagon ban on photography of soldiers' caskets returning to Dover Air Force Base is an important one for the public. Leaving the decision to military families to accept, or reject, public recognition of the service of their deceased is a respectful, Solomon-esque decision by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Anyone who was not on Mars during Captain Sully's recent heroic aqua landing on the Hudson knows how exemplary acts of courage, altruism, and heroism touch us all. In 2005, I wrote an article for Intervention Magazine comparing the way Italy honored its returning war dead from Iraq to the way America treated its own fallen military. I cited the case of Nicola Calipari -- the Italian intelligence officer who rescued a kidnapped journalist from Iraqi captors, only to be gunned down by jittery American soldiers at a checkpoint

Paris on the Brain: Books for Spring Vacationers and Armchair Travelers - 5/10/2010 After a dark, cold, and rainy winter, warm weather has finally come to Paris, brightening its days and turning even the most crabby Parisian's mood sunny. Daffodils are in bloom and the caf├ęs, parks, and banks of the Seine fill with people, animating the city. But whatever the weather, the City of Lights has always inspired writers, and there is a wealth of literature on the subject. With the euro at a recent low, travel to France is now more affordable than it has been in recent months. But whether you're planning a visit or you're an enthusiastic virtual traveler, here's a list of some excellent Paris-related books, from food-related novels to cookbooks to psychological analysis of the cultural differences between Americans and the French. Of course, this is a highly idiosyncratic list, by no means exhaustive--and, fair warning to the wise, though the most obvious ones (

Language and Being American in the World The latest news that a US Government contractor in Afghanistan placed our soldiers at risk by passing off non-Afghan speakers from the US as Pashto translators, reiterates the importance of being versatile in a language other than our own in this interconnected world. I work as an English communicator for a German organization that must operate in English in the world outside its borders. I understand rudimentary German, am comfortable in Germany's corporate culture, am at ease with the technical language and jargon, but would like to be proficient. Most Germans speak their native tongue as well as English fluently, and often also speak French or Italian. As one walks by elementary schools in Germany, one hears kindergartners and first graders singing songs and reciting chants in languages not their own. This early learning must explain their ease in multiple languages. I envy Germans' lin

Castle Owners of the Fourth Estate Flog Usurper, Julien Assange - 30/10/2010 Soon after leaving print reporting and before settling into education and science communications, when people asked me what I did I'd say I was a "recovering" journalist. I'd usually get a laugh out of that line before the enquirer invariably launched into a broadside on biased journalism, sensational reporting, the media's moral bankruptcy, its role as a propagandist and apologist for those in power, and corporate influence on the news. It is all true of course; reporters and media somewhere in America are guilty of one or the other of these sins sometime. I recall a particularly egregious story from the beginning of the Iraq War. CNN reporter, Kyra Phillips was at a hospital in Kuwait City interviewing doctors who were caring for a 12-year-old boy -- the lone survivor of a US aerial attack on his neighborhood. The boy, Ali Abbas, had lost his father, mother, bothers, sisters

Money Catches up With Meaning in Social Enterprise - 17/11/2010 I recently attended social enterprise and impact investing summits on both coasts, where social entrepreneurs, impact investors, changemakers and change-agents gathered to discuss new developments in the field. In addition to conventional development initiatives addressing a range of social problems including the building of civil society, there were smart solutions impressive for their specificity. In parts of rural India, where people must frequently wait at home all day for trucks to bring clean water, a social enterprise created by students at Stanford and UC Berkeley, sends SMS water alerts to neighborhood residents in advance of the trucks, based on computational models and predictions. Other interesting initiatives included the provision of portable housing for slum dwellers in Kenya, the recycling of jeepneys into classrooms in the Philippines, and the use of pets as

America The Literal: Spectacle and Higher Education - 3/6/2011

America The Literal: Spectacle and Higher Education The death of literacy and the victory of spectacle occurred a few feet from my house, last week, while I was still reeling from Chris Hedges' Empire of Illusion - The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. It happened at Northwestern University -- a not for profit, privately held institution that occupies the most valuable lakefront and prime real estate in the City of Evanston, IL, charges more than $40,000 a year in tuition, has a $5.9 billion endowment, and pays no property taxes. The spectacle in question was a live sex demonstration by two exhibitionists who, "disappointed" by a video presentation of female orgasm which they deemed "unrealistic," decided to show the room of a hundred SAT and ACT score-busting collegians what female orgasm is really like. Enter a willing female, a male partner with a Home Depot fetish, and a "reciprocating" saw attached to a sex toy. Also in the roo

As Iraq War Memory Fades, The Art Endures - 3/6/2011

First published in Huffington Post The Guardian ran a story two weeks ago, in which Iraqi chemical engineering dilettante, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi -- codenamed "Curveball" by somebody in espionage with an obvious sense of humor -- admitted that everything he told German interrogators about WMD in Iraq was a fabrication, a whopper, a stinking lie. The confabulist from Baghdad, a modern-day Scheherazade, delivered his technicolor version of One Thousand and One Nights to agents of the BND in Germany. Convinced that the unemployed chemical engineer was their own "Deep Throat," the spooks from Berlin plied him with money, asylum and eventual citizenship, and the epitome of fine German engineering -- a late model Mercedez Benz. In his bedtime stories to the BND, Curveball included accounts of a fleet of bioweapons labs on wheels that could release biotoxins into the air. That was all it took apparently for Secretary of State Colin Powell, to stand before the

Sunday, Understanding Debt Ceiling Politicians Through "12 Angry Men" - 7/17/2011

First published in Huffington Post Director Sidney Lumet's 1957 classic, 12 Angry Men, a mainstay in law and business school curriculum, that shows the influence of preconceived notions, assumptions and prejudice, and deconstructs coalition building, the art of persuasion, reciprocity, and dealmaking, is a useful film for understanding politicians involved in the debt ceiling talks. Starring Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb and a host of familiar faces from grainy black and white television shows, the film is both an examination of the American judicial system (the 12 angry men are jurors who must weigh in on a murder case) and touches on some of the issues and "isms" that America was grappling with in the late 50s -- communism, fascism, racism, McCarthyism. In the current talks, politicians on both sides of the aisle hold on to their positions with white-knuckled ferocity and refuse to deal with the hot mess that is the debt ceiling, while the rest of us have been rende

"Kissing" Books Could Have Saved Borders - 7/24/2011

"Kissing" Books Could Have Saved Borders First published in Huffington Post In his essay, "Is Nothing Sacred?" novelist Salman Rushdie examines the importance of literature in society, laments the state of fiction (he penned it during the nuclear fallout from his own novel), and recalls his early relationship with books. "I grew up kissing books and bread," he begins. An enchanting sentence that guaranteed my attention. "In our house," Mr. Rushdie wrote, "whenever anyone dropped a book or let fall... a 'slice,' which was our word for a triangle of buttered leavened bread, the fallen object was required not only to be picked up but also kissed, by way of apology for the act of clumsy disrespect. I was as careless and butter-fingered as any child and, accordingly, during my childhood years, I kissed a large number of 'slices' and also my fair share of books. Devout households in India often contained, and still conta

A Time For Stories About Heroes - 7/28/2011

In the wake of the Oslo bombing and the massacre on Utoyo island, we have learned so much, too much, about the protagonist and villain of the whole tragedy. His name, his face, his life, his writings will live on. He can claim something close to victory, because the electronic archivist remembers him deeply--completely--and he is now known to us. But what of those who were at the scene of the explosion in Oslo, unharmed themselves but who helped those who were? They deserve to be remembered, they should be known to us, but by some unfortunate accident, they seem destined for the memory hole. In George Orwell's 1984 , the memory hole is an ugly contraption. It is a wall with several utilitarian slots for the erasure of truths, housed in a cubicle at the Ministry of Truth. "In the walls of the cubicle there were three orifices ... For some reason they were nicknamed memory holes. When one knew that any document was due for destruction, or even when one saw a scrap of waste pap

Engineers Rule - 18/11/2011

First published in Huffington Post By page 41 of Walter Isaacson's important biography of Steve Jobs, I wanted immediately to score some LSD to replicate Mr. Jobs experience, which he called, a profound experience and one of the most important things in his life. "It reinforced my sense of what was important -- creating great things instead of making money, putting things back into the stream of history and of human consciousness as much as I could," he said. Between Jobs' LSD and Proust's petite madeleines, one could surely achieve sartori and self-actualization, I felt. By page 526, after reading Jobs' intention in designing the iPad "I would love to help quality journalism... we need real reporting and editorial insight more than ever," I longed (as a former journalist who left print just before it keeled over and died) for an iPad 3. Who knew the iPad wasn't jus

Americans Still Lead The World In Self Regard, Latest Poll - 11/21/2011

First published in Huffington Post The Pew Research Center's latest Global Attitudes Project survey brings interesting news. Only half of all Americans believe our culture (which I understand to be an identifier of all the things that resonate with the majority populace) is superior to others. The earnest reporting to understand the meaning of it all followed, devoid of irony: "Is America exceptional among nations? Are we, as a country and a people and a culture, set apart and better than others? Are we, indeed, the "shining city upon a hill" that Ronald Reagan described? Are we "chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world" as George W. Bush said? This year, for the first time, most Americans did not say yes," wrote one. Let's deconstruct: Half of all Americans believe our culture (as mysterious a phenomena as that is) is superior t

From Chicago, Music In the Key of Life - 4/12/2011

First published in Huffington Post Gail Vida Hamburg In 2007, Chicagoan, Nicole Sotelo, a Harvard-trained theologian and author, read a searing account of Congolese rape victims. The women, young girls and grandmothers among them, had suffered extreme sexual violence at the hands of the Inerahanwe and Hutu men responsible for the genocide in neighboring Rwanda, the Congolese army, armed civilians, and occassionally, U.N peacekeepers. Sotelo remembers weeping when she read the experience of one woman identified only as "Nadine," talking to Eve Ensler, writing for Glamour. "She was fleeing her village after her family had been slaughtered and she had been raped, when she saw an infant girl lying on the ground next to her slain parents," Sotelo said. Ensler had written: "Nadine rescued the girl; now having a child to care for gives her reason to keep going. "I can't go back