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December 31, 2005

I resolve...

Well, it's that time of year again, folks. Time to consider what new leaf you're going to turn over when you chuck out the old calendar. Time to get all good-intentiony and make meaningful changes in your lifestyle. Or at least make pledges to make them. Or...

Oh, who the hell am I kidding! Who seriously makes those damn New Year's resolutions? Nobody I know...nobody who'd cop to it, anyway. And certainly not me. What is there to resolve, anyway?

I can't resolve to quit smoking, as I've never been a smoker. (Tried it and never did see the point.) I don't drink enough to want or need to change my drinking habits, either. And I won't resolve to lose X number of pounds, because that entails eating cardboard with sawdust icing. And I'd get to wash all this diet dreck down--O Joy!--with Hoodia tea, which is supposed to cut your cravings down so you don't want so much of everything. So goes the theory, anyway, but I've found by sad experience that the only thing I don't want after a cup of Hoodia tea is, you guessed it, ANY MORE DAMN HOODIA TEA. That shit is fucking BITTER, and I suspect that after a couple of weeks of that, so would I be. I'd end up losing nothing but my personality (such as it is). And my mind, which, dammit, I NEED. So no, no weight-loss goals; they're unrealistic and the only thing they reliably diminish is your self-esteem. Everyone complains they can't get rid of those last five or ten, anyway, and there's probably a reason for that: in case of illness or sudden famine, you need something extra to fall back on. (In my case, literally: I've got a butt that was J-Lo before J-Lo was J-Lo. And there's no hope of getting rid of it, though Goddess knows I've tried; it's not only in my jeans, it's also in my genes. I come from a long line of broad-in-the-beam women.)

Oh, I suppose I COULD resolve to get in shape and lead a healthier lifestyle--except that I already DO that. I was in for tests a few months back, including a GI series and a stomach ultrasound because of some mysterious epigastric pain and acid reflux (which has since cleared up by itself). Guess what--all my innards are not merely normal, they are revoltingly healthy. Not surprising, considering I don't live on junk food (and in that I include diet fake-junk-foods--diet junk food is junk food just the same.) I cook balanced, wholesome meals. I drink green tea. I take vitamins. I exercise daily because I have rhematism (I've had it since I was 15, BTW, a probable side effect of having been hit by a car the year before) and need to keep my joints well oiled with gentle activity: walking, yoga, Tai Chi. I tried jogging but between the shin splints and the Agony of Da Feet, it was a bust. Once my heel-strike injuries finally healed, almost a year later, I swore off all running (except the I'm-being-chased-by-a-right-wing-pervert kind) with no regrets. Extra poundage and fitting-room cussing aside, what would be the point? I may weigh more than the glorified insurance charts say I should, but so what? Healthy guts and the same blood pressure I had as a skinny teenager (130/70!) put the lie to the notion that I need to do anything better, lifestyle-wise. Until a test result comes back a little iffy, I'm gonna stick to just what I'm doing right now.

I will, however, cop to planning one teensy change in my exercise habits: I'm going to steadily increase the number of danyu (Tai Chi squats) I do, until I'm up to a hundred a day. But then, I've already made that resolution. I'm up to 70 now, and next month, I'm upping the count to 80. So I don't count that as a New Year's thing, although technically it could be, since I'll hit the 100 count sometime in the new year, regardless. Once I'm up to a hundred of those babies, I might even consider working toward 50 snakes (that's 25 on either side.) We'll see how my knees, thighs, hips and lower back hold up. But again--not a resolution. More of an experiment, really. Just to see if a nonathletic, creaky-jointed geek like me CAN do a strenuous routine like that. And to see what difference, if any, it makes. (I have to admit I do like the strong, springy feeling of walking long distances on legs that can do 70 a day!)

Resolved, then, that I have no health resolutions to make. What else? My career? Uh, oh. In this precarious economy, what good is making an ambitious plan only to have someone else's agenda destroy it, along with all the hard work? I write what's in me to write; I found out the hard way that it's just as easy to beat yourself up over a daily word count (or a year-end novel completion) you can't hit as it is to clobber yourself over a weight-loss goal that you couldn't meet. And when that happens, you're blocked; you may as well backslide altogether. Some writers work well with set goals; alas, I'm not one of those. Ironically, I write most and best when I have no goals whatsoever; when I just sit there, stare into space, veg out and let come what words may. So let's just say I've resolved to make no resolutions on that front.

What about resolving to be a better person? Uh, didn't we just go over all that, or do you mean something else? I don't know. Anyhow, that's one of those things that don't happen while you're making resolutions, it's what happens while you're living life. Heaven knows that a drop in dress size, a hike in fitness or a hop up the career ladder alone won't do it. One could just defy the odds and do all that within the same year, and still be a total shit. So let's just drop such nebulous goals altogether and simply go on doing the best we can with what we have, wherever we are. (We ARE doing that--aren't we???)

Anyhow, all this New Year's Resolution self-improvement crap just feels more and more like a distraction every year. If you really want your life to change, you have to do it on an ongoing basis and a much broader level. A once-a-year overdose of motivational crap isn't going to cut it. We've got a whole society full of resolution-making self-improvers and motivational-crap-spouters. And where has it gotten us? At the rate things are going, it's no wonder fascism has just lately wiped its jackboots all over the US and gotten away with it; people there are too busy staring into their own navels (and despairing of the pudginess of them) to notice. I don't want myself or Canada to go the same way. Even at this super-silly time of year, I have bigger fish to fry.

Nope, nothing to resolve. So I resolve to make no resolutions, and that, my friends, is the one resolution I know I'm going to keep.

Happy New Year. And try not to beat yourself up if you can't make or keep any resolutions either, okay?

December 30, 2005

Consider the means...

A juxtaposition on the front page of the NewStandard news site jumped out at me today:

Chicago Turns Down Discounted Venezuelan Oil

Chicago's poor face transporation fare hikes while city snubs cheap fuel offer (12/28)

This Winter, Some Choose Between Warmth, Food, Health

Families suffer through cold months unable to afford the very basic necessities (12/27)

Well, kiddies? What's it going to be today: food, a warm house, or a trip to the doctor? Choose carefully, because you can't have them all. Which is hurting you most: your empty stomach, your frozen fingers, or that flu bug you so carelessly picked up at school? Only one of them counts today. The other two will just have to wait until the next cheque--pay or welfare--clears the bank.

Sound barbaric? It should. This is the kind of third-world life millions of Americans are leading right now. And it's all thanks to the poor-bashing policies of the right.

To the Personal Responsibility crowd, all of this is no concern of theirs. Their stomachs are full to overflowing, their houses are airtight and tropically heated (or breezily air-conditioned, as the case may be), their private health plans the best that their considerable money can buy. And they credit it all to their own umimpeachable virtue. It's proof to them that their hard work has not been for naught--and no do-nothing welfare queen is gonna get her filthy black mitts on the proceeds thereof! If Those People want the good stuff, well--they're just gonna have to work a helluva lot harder, aren't they? After all, WE did...

So goes the reasoning.

Of course, it bears mentioning that the biggest welfare queen in America isn't even a real person, let alone Ronald Reagan's imaginary Cadillac-driving black woman. It's Wal-Mart--surely the last place in America you'd expect to be welfare-dependent.

But WallyWorld's dirty secret is that it's as hooked on government money as a junkie on smack. It's profitable for them to be, just as it's profitable for them to use Chinese slave labor to manufacture all that cheap crap they sell, and profitable for them to drive entire small-town business sections out of business, only to abandon ship once the town is dead. And since they have the best lawyers money can buy, who can find and exploit every loophole in the legislative Swiss cheese, well--why not? It sure beats having to work for a living, like the harassed peons who work the cash registers or greet customers at the doors of the establishment...

By the way, those working stiffs, as hard as they work, aren't adequately covered by Wal-Mart's company insurance plan, which in any event costs too much for many of them to afford. Do you have any idea how many of them are using welfare just to make ends meet? If not, you've got some major homework to do.

But don't think they're not insured. Oh no--it's also profitable for Wal-Mart to take out insurance on them, in case one of them kicks the bucket at work. Or while employed by you-know-who. The kicker is, it's not the spouse and kids of the Dearly Departed who benefit from that insurance policy--it's Wal-Mart!

Frankly, if you work for WallyWorld, you're worth more to them dead than alive. So why should they not work you to death? Why not benefit from a dead peasant as only a slaver or a landlord can? (And believe you me, they can.)

While not all of this is strictly legal (the dead-peasant insurance policy sure isn't), it is definitely symptomatic of a society where the Golden Rule no longer applies; those who have the gold, should get to make the rules, runs the Personal Responsibility crowd's thinking. Money is a direct function of virtue, remember? If you're rich, no matter how you got that way, it must mean that God loves you. Prayer of Jabez, and all that other neo-rightard crap (actually just the latest trendy variation on a flyblown pile of paleo-rightard crap, which has been discredited but has yet to be discarded.)

It's all one fine rationalization for a buttload of behavior that would otherwise never pass the sniff test. Ethics, schmethics! It's only us liberal social democrats, poor saps that we are, who talk and think earnestly of ends and means, or who concern ourselves with the legality and morality of it all, and even, O Horror of Horrors, sometimes stand up on our hind legs and fight back. But who are we to have the temerity? We're not With The Program. We're not Virtuous, because we aren't pushing premarital abstinence, state-sponsored compulsory "Christian" churchgoing, or institutional racism, sexism and homophobia (for the right amount of moolah from a well-heeled faith-based right-wing think tank, natch). Therefore, we are Destined To Lose. Or so the rightards say.

But here's the rub: if the end justifies the means, then how to explain so many grand schemes that fall apart in the end? And if God favors the (self-)righteous so much, why do so many of them come to grief--sometimes through the very methods they claimed were God-guaranteed to make them succeed? And above all, why do so many people who don't fit the popular profile of the Righteous, or end up stinkingly wealthy because of it, still manage to move the levers of the world toward actual justice? Rosa Parks was just an ordinary black working woman, but she brought a white establishment to its knees. Gandhi was just a brown Hindu, but he kicked the British out of India without striking a blow. Hugo Chavez is just a mixed-race Venezuelan who grew up poor, but thanks to the Bolivarian Revolution he set in motion, his country, once only a banana republic, is becoming richer and more self-sufficient with every passing year. What the hell is their secret?

It damn sure isn't some silly prayer. Nor is it a lot of empty talk about Personal Responsibility. Though all these unlikely miracle-makers are spiritual (as opposed to merely religious, which any damned fool can be and a great many damned fools are), I don't think that alone is the answer. They all had a means, a process, that they stuck to consistently and made their spirituality work in the world: Parks was already an active member of the NAACP long before her famous bus ride; Gandhi found in meditative yoga the inner peace that fueled his nonviolent resistance; Chavez, an avid historian, intensively researched the lives of Simon Bolivar and his contemporaries, along with those of modern leaders he admired, then applied the lessons he learned to his own career--first as a soldier, then as a president. And not only that, but he held them up as examples for ALL Venezuelans to follow, which many now do. (Bolivarians outside Venezuela have also joined the movement and are following the teachings, working within their own communities to achieve justice, peace, prosperity and freedom in their own way.) None of them arrogantly claimed a one-size-fits-all approach, though there is certainly plenty about the varied approaches they took that can be universally applied (with modifications as needed, of course!)

But what all of them have in common, undoubtedly, is the sense of a PROCESS. The MEANS, not the end; a philosophy that is practical, not pretty talk. Not that they didn't have goals in their sights (oh, did they EVER!), but they all possessed a firm conviction (which reality has borne out) that if the means is right, the outcome will take care of itself. Quite the difference from the "he who has the gold makes the rules" crowd, eh?

This is why those who try to dictate things from the "purpose-driven" standpoint tend to fail, and fail spectacularly, while those who devote themselves to process can face setbacks but never really lose.

Consider the means, then, and let the end take care of itself. Because it will...and it is not unmindful of the means, either.

December 29, 2005

Global warming, nonexistent?

It's time to junk the junk science of the Right, and face facts: GLOBAL WARMING IS REAL.

And not only that: IT KILLS. From the December 18 issue of the UK Sunday Times:

Scientists have for the first time found evidence that polar bears are drowning because climate change is melting the Arctic ice shelf.

The researchers were startled to find bears having to swim up to 60 miles across open sea to find food. They are being forced into the long voyages because the ice floes from which they feed are melting, becoming smaller and drifting farther apart.

Although polar bears are strong swimmers, they are adapted for swimming close to the shore. Their sea journeys leave them them vulnerable to exhaustion, hypothermia or being swamped by waves.

According to the new research, four bear carcases were found floating in one month in a single patch of sea off the north coast of Alaska, where average summer temperatures have increased by 2-3C degrees since 1950s.

The scientists believe such drownings are becoming widespread across the Arctic, an inevitable consequence of the doubling in the past 20 years of the proportion of polar bears having to swim in open seas.

"Mortalities due to offshore swimming may be a relatively important and unaccounted source of natural mortality given the energetic demands placed on individual bears engaged in long-distance swimming," says the research led by Dr Charles Monnett, marine ecologist at the American government's Minerals Management Service. "Drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice continues."

Now, I can just hear the rightard naysayers already: "Oh. Well, maybe it is happening. But it's only polar bears. Who cares about them? I mean they're cute and all, but are they really necessary?"

Stupid people. Stupid questions.

Yes, polar bears are necessary. As necessary as canaries in a coalmine. As polar bears go, so goes the planet. And in the case of humankind, having to forage further afield for food could be even deadlier, seeing as it would contribute astronomically to the very type of pollution that's causing global warming in the first place.

But then, I guess the supply-side rightards wouldn't care if one more species did bite the dust in the high Arctic. I'll bet they'd only be sorry it wasn't the caribou--the only thing (besides common sense) apparently standing between them and wall-to-wall oil rigs in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Shameless thieves!

No shit, Sherlock Google!

Even on the Internet, it seems, men are from Mars and women from Venus. At least, this Reuters/CNN article would have us so believe:

Internet users share many common interests, but men are heavier consumers of news, stocks, sports and pornography, while more women look for health and religious guidance, a broad survey of U.S. Web usage has found.

The study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project to be released on Thursday finds men are slightly more intense users of the Web. Men log on more frequently and spend more time online. More men also have access to quick broadband connections than do women.

"Once you get past the commonalities, men tend to be attracted to online activities that are far more action-oriented, while women tend to value things involving relationships or human connections," said Deborah Fallows, a research fellow at Pew and author of the report.

A larger number of men surf the Internet for pleasure, with 70 percent acknowledging they go online to pass time, compared with 63 percent of women. Men are more likely than women to listen to music, view Webcams and pay for digital content.

Honestly...how much longer are we going to keep up the insane notion that women must struggle for parity and equality, and work twice as hard to earn just half as much as your average man? Why not just admit that women are superior, and pay THEM more? Why not have men earn 65 cents to a woman's dollar, for a change? Wouldn't it make more sense to compensate them less than their sisters, since they putz around more, waste more time and money, and just plain WANK more on the Web than we wimminfolk do?

Oh, who'm I kidding? That's only what would happen in a world of true meritocracy where, all other things being equal, people would be treated according to their own strength and weaknesses, not blanket assumptions and gross generalizations based on race, gender, religion and the like. In other words: Not the world we've got here.

But hey, things ARE slowly coming to some kind of a level, according to the article:

But women are catching up in several areas measured by the survey, and intensive use by younger women suggests some of the gaps will continue to narrow.

Already, women are heavier users of e-mail, often going beyond the matter-of-fact responses of male correspondents to use e-mail to share stories, solve issues and reach out to a wider network of friends and family.

Both genders look to the Web as a font of information and as an efficient communications tool, said Fallows in an interview.

Overall, the percentage of men and women who use the Web are nearly equal. Roughly 68 percent of men and 66 percent of women report making use of the Web, up from 20 percent of the U.S. population Pew found in 1995, when men made up 58 percent of the online audience.

All well and good, I suppose, but it still doesn't address the issues of putzing, squandering and wanking.

Women and cats rule, and men and dogs drool. (Generalistically speaking, of course.)

December 28, 2005

Pinochet: Going down at last?

Let's hope this is it. From the Beeb:

Chile's former ruler Augusto Pinochet has been fingerprinted and photographed by police, as part of his indictment over killings and disappearances.

The general's picture was taken from the front and the side at his mansion in the Chilean capital Santiago.

A lawyer for 90-year-old Gen Pinochet called it "an affront to a former president of the republic".

Affront? Seems to me His Esquireness needs some reminding of what a real affront is. More than 3,000 "disappeared" people can't lie. (But rich men's lawyers, as we've seen all too often, CAN.)

And what's this "former president" bullcrap? Pinochet was no legitimate president, seeing as he was never elected. He's a former dictator. As a military general, he never ran for any party, and never needed to--his "election" was a COUP. There's no way he could have won anyway, had he stood for election; no wonder he brutally suppressed the entire opposition. Remember who he ousted? (His few remaining fascist friends hope you don't.)

This all ties in rather neatly to my last entry. Will any of these high-level thugs be held accountable? Let's hope so...but don't hold your breath, lest you too become "disappeared"!

Being German is no fun

If anyone ever wonders what I've got against fascism, why I say it shames all Germans, or why I say it's not dead yet (unfortunately), and why I say fundamentalists have the same mentality as fascists, google this place sometime: Colonia Dignidad.

The name of this German-speaking commune (founded by a former Nazi turned fundie preacher) in Chile is a travesty, of course, for a more shameful, dignity-denying place is hard to imagine. Here's the latest chapter in the ongoing sorry saga, courtesy of the Beeb:

A German doctor is in custody after allegedly admitting she tortured a number of children at Colonia Dignidad, a secretive religious colony in Chile.

Gisela Seewald, 75, is said to have told a judge that she gave them electroshock treatment and sedatives.

She was ordered to do so by the group's ex-leader, Paul Schaefer, who said they were possessed, she reportedly said.

[...]

It is alleged that the treatments were applied to teenagers who disobeyed adults or showed interest in the opposite sex.

Those who opposed alleged sexual advances by Mr Schaefer were also interned in the commune's hospital for treatments that lasted between one and three months, Judge Jorge Zepeda is reported to have been told.

Isn't that just so lovely? Using superstition and accusations of "disobedience" as grounds for torture. What century are we in, again?

And hey, you'll never guess why our old Nazi came to Chile in the first place: to escape child-abuse charges. Quel surprise!

And here's another non-surprise: Colonia Dignidad also doubled as a torture chamber for the Pinochet reign of terror. Hey, nothing like an old fascist to help a new fascist out in the fight against the twin evils of socialism and democracy, right? Gotta love that far-right unity of purpose; it's rather touching.

All flippancy aside, however, this is seriously sick stuff, and further evidence, for those who really need it, that fascism and fundamentalism share a brutal, abusive streak that pervades the entire fabric of both. Central to this streak is the notion that children must be controlled extremely strictly, even to the point of abuse, from birth onwards. Alice Miller has written extensively on this hideous phenomenon:

Contrary to received opinion prevalent as recently as 15 years ago, the human brain at birth is not fully developed. The abilities a person's brain develops depend on experiences in the first three years of life. Studies on abandoned and severely mistreated Romanian children revealed striking lesions in certain areas of the brain and marked emotional and cognitive insufficiencies in later life. According to very recent neurobiological findings, repeated traumatization leads to an increased release of stress hormones that attack the sensitive tissue of the brain and destroy existing neurons. Other studies of mistreated children have revealed that the areas of the brain responsible for the management of emotion are 20 to 30 percent smaller than in normal persons.

The children systematically subjected to obedience drill around the turn of the century were not only exposed to corporal "correction" but also to severe emotional deprivation. The upbringing manuals of the day described physical demonstrations of affection such as stroking, cuddling and kissing as indications of a doting, mollycoddling attitude. Parents were warned of the disastrous effects of spoiling their children, a form of indulgence entirely incompatible with the prevalent ideal of rigor and severity. As a result, infants suffered from the absence of direct loving contact with the parents. The best they could hope for was to find some kind of substitute from the servants, who in numerous cases used and exploited them as objects of pleasure, thus frequently adding to the child's emotional confusion.

[...]

Present-day neurobiological research makes it easier for us to understand the way Nazis like Eichmann, Himmler, Höss and others functioned. The rigorous obedience training they underwent in earliest infancy stunted the development of such human capacities as compassion and pity for the sufferings of others. They were incapable of emotion in the face of misfortune - such feelings were alien to them. Their total emotional atrophy enabled the perpetrators of the most heinous crimes imaginable to function "normally" and to continue to impress their environment with their efficiency in the years after the war without the slightest remorse. Dr. Mengele could perform the most cruel experiments on Jewish children in Auschwitz and then live for 30 years like a "normal", well-adjusted man.

In the absence of positive factors, affection and helping witnesses, the only course open to the mistreated individual is the disavowal of personal suffering and the idealization of cruelty with all its devastating after-effects. Undergoing an exceedingly humiliating and cruel upbringing at the preverbal stage, usually without helping witnesses, may instill into the victim admiration of this cruelty if there is no one in the immediate vicinity of the child to query those methods and stand up for humane values. People subjected to mistreatment in childhood may go on insisting all their lives that beatings are harmless and corporal punishment is salutary although there is overwhelming, indeed conclusive evidence to the contrary. Vice versa, a child protected, loved and cherished from the outset will thrive on that experience for a lifetime.

Now, I'm fortunate that I was raised (a) in Canada, and (b) by loving, affectionate parents who were, themselves, NOT abused in the turn-of-the-century mechanistic fashion so glorified by the Nazis (who, all of them, clearly WERE so raised, and with detrimental effects manifest for the whole world to see.) I turned out sane and humane. Here's Miller again, to confirm my hypothesis that being raised with love and tolerance makes all the difference:

Perhaps our grandchildren will be able to say; "What good fortune that we weren't beaten like our grandparents and now are able to see things much more clearly than they did." If being beaten in childhood had been harmless, they wouldn't have been blind to Hitler's contempt for human beings; they would have seen through it immediately and rejected it, as our children do when confronted with acts of cruelty. Children who are permitted to defend themselves don't become destructive. It Is evident that destructiveness is not the inevitable fate of humankind, for the loving treatment of children could banish it from the world. The "destructive drive" slumbers in children who were once mistreated and who later don't want to know what happened to them in their past. We ourselves have no need to strike our defenseless children; we can't even imagine doing that, even when we're tired and have no patience for their questions. After all, there are so many other ways to treat children that are truly productive, respectful, and not destructive.

I do see things more clearly than my grandparents did; they were all of them born between 1905 and 1915, and therefore more or less subject to the "traditional" strictness then in vogue. My parents, born in 1933 and 1938 respectively, suffered the same to a much lesser degree, despite the fact that Nazism had just begun its march when my father was born, and was in full stride by the time my mother came into the world. My dad suffered to a greater degree than my mom. His grandmother, in particular, was a bad-tempered woman who lost her husband to a mine cave-in and had to raise six children alone. She once killed a cat with a fire poker just for snatching a morsel of meat. You can imagine what living under such a tyrant did to my grandfather. (He turned out to be a real piece of work himself, although he hated Hitler and never killed any of my cats.) How my parents turned out as sane as they did I can only guess, but maybe both made conscious decisions to do better by us than their parents did by them, and so on.

This much I do know, though: unless the cycle of brainwashing and brutality is broken, with consciousness and love, it will perpetuate itself and mutate and morph into further sick and degenerate forms. Such as, you guessed it, Colonia Dignidad. Every time I run across another horror story from there, I end up shaking my head...but I'm not a bit surprised, either, because that sort of thing is only to be expected under the circumstances. Anyone, anyplace, with an unexposed and unexamined history of fascism, will turn out very much like that--unless some great good luck, some force of compassion, intervenes at a crucial moment to change things.

Because I'm of German parentage, I choose to make it my life's mission to oppose and expose fascism and fundamentalism, and every other form of brutal brainwashing, and provide what I can by way of antidotes. Call it the art of living an examined life; call it rebellion; call it what you will, but call it also HEALTHY, and above all, NECESSARY. I was handed the tools to do it by growing up in a multicultural, social-democratic country where kindness is the common value among people who otherwise might not be seen to have anything in common at all. Call that the force of compassion that intervened...and, as a society, must go on intervening. I devoutly hope that as Chile swings more and more to the left, they too will stage such interventions on Colonia Dignidad. Because damn me, that nest of crazy Krauts has got one hell of an intervention coming...

Being German is no fun. But fortunately, as I'm also a first-generation Canadian, I can handle it.

December 26, 2005

The Strange Case of Mrs. Anthrax and Dr. Germ

Er...does it sound like I'm channeling Robert Louis Stevenson tonight? So sorry. I'm afraid this tale is much too bizarre to be fiction.

In a way, though, this IS a Jekyll-and-Hyde story, involving scientific research, mysterious powders, monsters and strange transformations, as well as no small amount of violence and human two-facedness. But I do think it only fair to warn you that this is a tale of which the last chapter has not yet been written, nor are the heroes and villains of it quite who you would expect, for no one in it is quite as they seem. So, with that said, get comfortable in your chair (or wherever you happen to find yourself), pour yourself a generous tankard of your libation of choice, and read on...

This is a tale of two Iraqi scientists, Drs. Rihab Taha and Huda Ammash. Both are women; both are western-educated. And both have been accused of developing bioweapons for the now-toppled regime of Saddam Hussein. Both were in US custody for more than two years. And both were recently released after it was determined that neither had any information that was of use to the Coalition of the Killing. There is also the likelihood that both will be re-arrested by Iraqi security forces unless they flee the country. Some also say that their release occurred in the hopes that it would trigger another release in turn, that of several hostages from the Christian Peacemaker Team that is currently delivering humanitarian aid to war victims in Iraq. The coalition leaders deny this. What cannot be denied is that in a war waged over allegations of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist (and which were known not to exist!), these two scientists, high-level prisoners that they were, have become an acute embarrassment to the coalition's leadership.

But there end the parallels. The paths of Dr. Rihab Taha ("Dr. Germ" to her US captors) and Dr. Huda Ammash ("Mrs. Anthrax") are otherwise divergent, though they have been bundled together in one news story after another. Dr. Taha is plain and dour; Dr. Ammash is beautiful and flamboyant. Dr. Taha was indeed a WMD developer, albeit an only halfway successful one; Dr. Ammash, on the other hand, was...well, we'll get to that in a moment.

Let's start with Dr. Taha, a.k.a. "Dr. Germ". Her claim to infamy resides in the Dodgy Dossier of 2003, which British prime minister Tony Blair used as his rationale for becoming George W. Bush's poodle. She has admitted to being the head of Saddam's bioweapons program (to defend Iraq, she claimed, from Israel's encroachment), and there is ample photographic evidence to support this claim. But to date there is no evidence that this program succeeded in weaponizing the quantities of toxic materials that it produced, or, for that matter, that it ever would have. It is telling that any evidence to the contrary came from Iraqi groups opposed to Saddam's regime; such people would have a vested interest in whipping up a war over it, in order that they might eventually step in and fill the power vacuum that resulted. It would be only a small stretch for such individuals to claim that the team did succeed in weaponizing all the nasty bugs it grew and tested on animals. (Alas, so far no definitive evidence that they did so on humans--which is another of the charges levelled as an excuse for declaring war!)

Now comes the really embarrassing part: Dr. Taha's nefarious weapons program got its materials from...drumroll please...THE UNITED STATES! Yes, that's right, folks...the same damn Yanks that sold evil baddie Saddam all that nasty-wasty stuff in the first place, then turned around in true give-with-one-hand, take-with-the-other fashion, and bombed the living shit out of Iraq.

But wait! That's not all. It should be abundantly obvious that the US knew exactly where all those nasty-wasties were going:

The CDC, meanwhile, sent shipments of germs to the Iraqi Atomic Energy Commission and other agencies involved in Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.

It sent samples in 1986 of botulinum toxin and botulinum toxoid - used to make vaccines against botulinum toxin - directly to the Iraqi chemical and biological weapons complex at al-Muthanna, the records show.

Botulinum toxin is the paralyzing poison that causes botulism. Having a vaccine to the toxin would be useful for anyone working with it, such as biological weapons researchers or soldiers who might be exposed to the deadly poison, Tucker said.

The CDC also sent samples of a strain of West Nile virus to an Iraqi microbiologist at a university in the southern city of Basra in 1985, the records show.

Oooooo, how embarrassing!

Let's face it: if the United States were really serious about making sure no rogue regime got its hands on biological weapons, they'd have to start at home. Not only because they have the largest known stores of such icky-poo materials, but also because they have a long history of disastrous international meddling. When it comes to imperialism, they're bidding fair to outstrip England and Spain. Therefore, it is hypocritical of them to condemn Saddam Hussein's scientists for doing, on a much smaller scale, what their own have already done.

Now, let's turn to Dr. Ammash. While Dr. Taha is the one with a greater claim to infamy of the two, Dr. Ammash seems to have reaped the lioness's share of the accusations and bad-mouthing. Her face, heavily made-up and framed by a loosely wrapped headscarf, even appears as the Five of Hearts in the super-silly deck of Iraq's Most Wanted, issued to US service members to help them recognize and apprehend any of these "high-level" rotters if they were found. Her nickname, "Mrs. Anthrax", sounds calculated to arouse suspicion and fear--presumably of the bioweapons she is said to be instrumental in developing. But who and what is she, really?

Well, she is certainly an expert on weapons of mass destruction. But not in the sense that she has been portrayed by the propagandists of the coalition:

Ammash, the only woman of the 55 Baath bureaucrats on the White House most-wanted list. Boston's South End Press, publishers of the 2002 book Iraq Under Siege, which included Dr. Ammash's essay "Toxic Pollution, the Gulf War, and Sanctions," says there may be political imperatives behind her detention. Hiro Ueki, spokesperson for the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), confirmed to South End Press that "UNMOVIC did not single Dr. Ammash out for interviews because UNMOVIC did not have clear evidence to link Dr. Ammash to BW [biological weapons] programs" when visiting Baghdad University in January 2003.

Dr. Ammash, an environmental biologist and professor at Baghdad University, received her PhD. from the University of Missouri, and has documented of the rise in cancer among Iraqi children and war veterans since the 1991 Gulf War. In Iraq Under Siege, she writes: "Iraqi death rates have increased significantly, with cancer representing a significant cause of mortality, especially in the south and among children." Dr. Ammash's other publications include: "Impact of Gulf War Pollution in the Spread of Infectious Diseases in Iraq" (Soli Al-Mondo, Rome, 1999), and "Electromagnetic, Chemical, and Microbial Pollution Resulting from War and Embargo, and Its Impact on the Environment and Health" (Journal of the [Iraqi] Academy of Science, 1997). (South End Press press release, May 7, 2003)

Did you get that? Dr. Ammash knows where the bodies of Gulf War I are buried, so to speak. And she knows what got them dead, too. Evil wicked Saddam, beating on his own people again? Um, not quite. Try depleted uranium munitions, splatted all over Iraq courtesy of the army of George H.W. Bush, father of the current US preznit. I think it's safe to say that Dr. Ammash's membership in Saddam's "inner circle" is not the real issue; that would be the fact that an actual rogue nation used weapons of mass destruction on another country. Nuclear weapons, no less. For there is really nothing "depleted" about depleted uranium; all isotopes of uranium are both radioactive and toxic, and therefore all can cause horrendous illnesses.

Now, let's back up the truck again to the Dodgy Dossier. Recall that one of the allegations trumped up therein was that of Saddam possessing uranium in the form of yellowcake from Niger, or trying to. This was shown to be false by Ambassador Joe Wilson, whose wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA agent (a NOC, no less) as punishment for her husband's audacity by some as-yet unnamed but much-speculated-on sneak in the current Bush administration. Again, BushCo hypocrisy knows no bounds, for even as the scum that floated to the top was cooking up the lies about yellowcake, children were dying from exposure to pulverized uranium, particularly in Southern Iraq, where the DU shelling during Gulf War I was heaviest. The war criminals responsible for all that murder--which is still going on as I write--are going free and making out like bandits, while a woman ailing with breast cancer, possibly caused by her studies in the field, is being scapegoated in the most blatant manner. And don't we all just wonder why?

Meanwhile, it's said that both women are now in Jordan--hardly a safe haven, seeing as Jordan has recently suffered a terroristic spillover from the war, and is therefore likely to be rife with potential assassins, eager to pop anyone who seems to them remotely blameworthy for their country's current plight. Noplace on Earth is safe for either of the women, whether their native Iraq or any of its neighbors, or even the countries where they received their degrees. Both seem likely to meet with mysterious and violent demises. And that, I would wager, is just the kind of ending the Coalition of the Killing would want for the strange tale of Mrs. Anthrax and Dr. Germ.

December 23, 2005

A Whited Sepulchre Christmas

Right-wing religious hypocrisy truly knows no bounds this year. Check out parts one, two and three of Laurel Hester's painful (but all too typical) story, courtesy of The Big Gay Picture:

Laurel Hester has spent her whole life trying to make the world a better place. That is why the events that have followed her diagnosis with terminal lung cancer a year ago have seemed so strange to her. She assumed a lifetime spent making the world a better place for others would entitle her to a measure of fairness in her time of desperate need.

Laurel Hester was wrong.

Earlier this year, New Jersey State changed its laws to allow counties to give domestic partner benefits to same-sex couples. But Laurel's county--Ocean County--has chosen not to do so. Without those benefits, specifically her pension benefits, Laurel's partner, Stacie Andree, stands to lose their home after Laurel is gone. When the dying woman first asked the five elected "freeholders" who manage Ocean County to grant those benefits, they ignored her request for six months. Then they finally said no.

First, they said no because her same-sex relationship offended them.

Then they said no because it would cost the county too much, even though they had not a single fact to back up their claim.

The final time they didn't actually say no. Instead, during a meeting with Laurel and her supporters, they simply ran away from the wheelchair-bound woman.

Literally. Five grown men, all allegedly Christians, ran out of the meeting through a back door and left a dying woman sitting there.

Christmas is this week, and the freeholders, all Republicans, will be with their friends and family, secure in their knowledge that their loved ones are protected should they die.

Laurel, meanwhile, will spend her last Christmas--indeed, her last days--with fear over her partner's future gnawing away at her.

And their lame-ass reason for such coldness? They feared that granting Laurel's request meant "destroying the sanctity of marriage".

Hey! Whatever happened to that fabled Christian goodwill, fellas? Does it not extend to dying lesbians, too? Doesn't someone who served her community as bravely, faithfully and unselfishly as Laurel Hester has done, deserve more consideration than that? Have a little charity at least, even if you can't empathize. I'm just as straight as you are, but I have no problem with the idea of a lesbian inheriting her dying partner's assets. I don't consider that particularly charitable, though; to me it's just common sense. They've been living together as married for all intents and purposes, so why not deal with them as if they were married in fact, albeit common-law (since state law doesn't yet allow for anything else--although it does allow for domestic-partner benefits)?

But there...that must be the secular humanist in me coming out. Or the polytheistic pagan. For I have this notion of common sense which is apparently way too broad-minded for your right-wing so-called Christian. I think everyone has the right to be treated equally, regardless of color, creed or sexual orientation. And I think it's only common sense that the laws of the land reflect that basic right. And I can't for the life of me see how the sanctity of anyone else's marriage is violated by recognizing the love of two women as its equal!

Is this the evil secular humanism that the right-wing has declared war on--the same they claim is destroying Christmas? I guess it must be. But the more one looks at their deeds ("by their fruits shall ye know them"), the more I think it is they who are destroying that holiday, indeed that entire creed, and not folks like me. For you see, I don't use my religion as a shield for shitty behavior. I have only one commandment: "An it harm none, do what thou wilt"--and I do not see any harm in recognizing the inheritance rights of a lesbian couple. "Harm none" covers a vast turf, and at the same time, it strictly forbids hypocrisy for the harm it can do. Jesus called the Pharisees "whited sepulchres" for their ostentatious hypocrisy, and he was right. You can paint a tombstone any color you like, but the rotting corpse inside the coffin still stinks. Being a complete bastard to other people in the name of religion is a terrific way of giving your so-called religion a bad name.

If anything is going to save Christianity, it is secular humanism.

Feliz Navidad.

The (phony) War on Christmas

The louder a monkey screeches, the more you know he's flinging shit. Check out how Rob Boston of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State does his organization proud by owning a FUX Snooze host's ass, AND that of one of his fundie foes, all at once:

Boston: You guys are rich. This stuff was made up. I called school superintendents and said you know O'Reilly...said you can't have cookies at your school...

Gibson (interrupting): Rob-Rob-Rob, stop right there-Rob-ROB-STOP-RIGHT-THERE!

Boston: No you're wrong John, I'm not gonna stop...

Gibson: Yea you are, because the incidents in my book are not lies--if you're calling me a liar let's go one on one of it. --Hey Rob! Straighten up, you just called me a liar-Back up your charges--(Gary-pipe down)--Rob, you just called me a liar!--I did not say that!---(Gary, Stop!)

Gibson: If you're calling me a liar on that, you're going to get sued next.

Boston: Now you've changed your story.

Basically, the FUX host, John Gibson, just totally loses his shit when confronted with the evil, wicked facts. Facts which prove, incidentally, that there is no war on Christmas going on, except, of course, in the fever-addled brains of a few rabid wingnuts.

And if you think the transcript is a hoot, wait'll you see the video.

Folks, this is what FUX Snooze does instead of reporting actual news. They make shit up. Not only are they apologists for fascism, they're also propagandists trying to stir up the muddled masses yearning to breathe nitrous oxide for free. Any yearnings for actual liberty, though, must be stifled at any cost, even at the expense of looking utterly ridiculous--as poor, dimwitted, loudmouthed John Gibson does here.

Yes, heaven forfend we should give secular humanism any quarter. Or dollar, come to that--for the "Happy Holidays" greeting that rankles these rightards in the depths of their God-bothering gizzards is heard most often in the retail sector, where the money always says "In God We Trust", but doesn't specify in which God the trust reposes. For all we know, it could be a misprint; the word that came out as "God" may in fact be missing the penultimate letter, an L.

But if you think "Happy Holidays" is some kind of recent phenomenon, emblematic of a nefarious liberal War on Christmas, better go grab a box of Kleenex, because I'm about to make you weep tears of shame. Behold, I bring you tidings of great joy...or sadness, as the case may be, depending on how much the truth hurts you...

Bing Crosby, dead lo these many long and sad years, is not only the Man Who Crooned "White Christmas"; he's also the voice of this charming ditty (also a video), whose chorus goes:

Happy holidays, happy holidays

While the merry bells keep ringing

May your ev'ry wish come true

Happy holidays, happy holidays

May the calendar keep bringing

Happy holidays to you...

See that? He's deliberately using the nonspecific plural, "holidays"! O, the evil secular humanist! The devil take him!

BTW, did I mention Bing's been dead for a couple of decades already? My gosh, he's waging War on Christmas from beyond the grave! Surely this is the work of Satan.

And what's to be done, pray tell, about the secular humanism that's infiltrated the History Channel? THEY've jumped on the "holidays" (plural) bandwagon, too! Not only do they devote some airspace to Christmas, but to Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, too! At this rate, they'll lose their informal sobriquet, the Hitler Channel, and become just as godless and open-minded as everyplace else! Oh, the HORROR!!!

But surely the most appallingly secular of them all is Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. Singled out for religiously-inspired abuse by FUX's own Bill O'Reilly, Stewart actually dares to flaunt his secularism with an unambiguous challenge for Mr. Oh-Really to come and get him...if he dares. Dare he???

Come on, FUX Snoozers...don't disappoint us, now. Give us some hellfire. Give us brimstone! Give us a freakin' Nurnberg Rally, for Christ's sake! The fate of the Baby Jesus depends on you. Put the Christ back in Christmas, dammit...even if you have to ram that baby up Santa's jolly red ass!!!

And to the rest of the world...I bid a very happy Hanukkah. Cool Yule. Rockin' Ramadan. Delightful Diwali. Budda beneath the Bodhi Tree. Hail Isis, Osiris is with thee, blessed art thou among Goddesses.

And to all you Seinfeldians, merry Festivus to all, and to all a good night.

(UPDATE: Wil Wheaton has weighed in at Salon.com on how the right-wingers have ruined Christmas for him. They're sure doing their level best to destroy Peace on Earth this year.)

December 22, 2005

A war without a defined enemy is...what?

Why is everything always a war with right-wingers? Considering they are the people least inclined to actually go and fight, is their bellicosity ever justified?

Consider, for example, the War on Drugs. Or better yet, the War on Terra. That latter is the name I prefer, because it's a global war without an antagonist; it might as well be a war on Earth herself. It's ludicrous to declare a war on terror, or even terrorism. You can't declare war on an abstract concept, only on an actual enemy nation.

And who is the enemy, exactly? That much has never been clear.

If BushCo were honest--and they're not--they'd tell us that their real enemy is the entire Muslim world. Or at least, the part of it that's sitting on top of the oil they want. Hell, it doesn't even have to be Muslim; it can be Christian, too, as long as it's brown and not tame to Washington, and is sitting on top of vast amounts of fossil fuel. (See Venezuela.)

No, Virginia, there is no such thing as a war on terror, or terrorism. War is by nature terroristic, and always has been. It doesn't matter what side you're on; terror tactics are part of the game. Indiscriminate killing is the hallmark of war and terrorism both. It all gets excused, however, as "collateral damage"--as offensive a euphemism as I've ever seen for cold-blooded, random MURDER. (It's instructive to see a terrorist who was also a war veteran--namely Tim McVeigh--draw that comparison quite explicitly. In fact, he learned his terror tactics as a soldier in Gulf War I!)

War is terrorism. The only real difference is that the one marches around in uniforms, and the other doesn't.

That, and the scale of the "collateral damage".

FOX News: Your friendly local racist station!

Sometimes, Google's cache coughs up the most marvellous little gems. Check out this one, for example, from a South Carolina FOX affiliate:

It's a web site with everything from dating advice and homemaking threads, to discussion boards that focus on news that white activists want to know. Stormfront.org is a web site founded on the belief that the white race is a dying race.

One member says, "we really are just white folks that deeply care about preserving a future for our progeny."

There are more than 65,000 members, and since Stormfront started in 1995 there have been more than 2,000,000 posts. Members live in all parts of the world, with close to 3,000 in and around South Carolina.

Bob Whitaker is a former Reagan administration cabinet member and an active member of Stormfront. He believes diversity and equal rights are at the center of a conspiracy against the white race. Whitaker says, "I'm worried about the disappearance of the white race." Whitaker says too much is being done to diversify America and not enough is being done to protect people like him. "I'm worried about 2 things. I'm worried about the disappearance of the white race and I'm worried about the fact that no one is allowed to talk about the disappearance of the white race, which is even worse."

Interesting, isn't it, how an old Reaganite turns out to be one of them? Not surprising, though...just look at the Reagan administration's track record when it comes to anyone who's got a bit of color to them. Hell, just look at where Ronald Reagan kicked off his first presidential campaign...

The article goes on in a remarkably sympathetic vein about the poor beleaguered white folks who get together here to, aw shucks, just love on each other in the name of white pride and other crypto-fascist bullshit. (Er, strike the crypto--they ARE fascist, no ifs, ands or buts. They can protest all they like, and methinks they protest WAY too much.)

Add to that, the recent flap over Prussian Blue (the Little Hitlerettes of dubious talent who try their brainwashed best to put a smiling young face on the very unsmiley subject of Nazism) and the old wound of the Confederate flag over the government buildings of, you guessed it, South Carolina, and you have a picture that says nothing terribly flattering about white folks.

I don't know about you, but sites like Stormfront have the opposite effect on me than they intend. They don't foster white pride OR alarm at my own potential extinction. They just make me ashamed to be the same color as such a bunch of nauseating inbreds. Fine "master race" THEY turned out to be!

Nice work, Stormfronters...keep it up! You're doing all my work for me. One day, you people will indeed be extinct--not because you're white (heaven knows, there is no threat of extinction for THAT), but because nobody wants to be seen with you.

Or, heaven forbid, pass those stupid genes on to future generations.

[Hat-tip to Raw Story for the link.]

How devout is Rick Santorum--REALLY?

Not very.

Early this year, Sen. Rick Santorum commended the Dover Area School District for "attempting to teach the controversy of evolution."

But one day after a federal judge ruled that the district's policy on intelligent design was unconstitutional, Santorum said he was troubled by court testimony that showed some board members were motivated by religion in adopting the policy.

And, he said in an interview, he disagreed with the board for mandating the teaching of intelligent design, rather than just the controversy surrounding evolution.

Santorum - who sits on the advisory board of the Thomas More Law Center, which defended the school board in court - said the case offered "a bad set of facts" to test the concept that theories other than evolution should be taught in science classrooms.

"I thought the Thomas More Law Center made a huge mistake in taking this case and in pushing this case to the extent they did," Santorum said.

He said he intends to withdraw his affiliation with the Michigan-based public-interest law firm that promotes Christian values.

Can you say FLIPFLOP, boys and girls?

Funny how these right-wing nutjobs are all for forced God-bothering...until court decisions and opinion polls prove their choices to be less popular with the electorate than they thought.

O, Santorum of little faith!

December 21, 2005

Oh yes, hit me again, Mr. Oh-Really!

Bill Oh-Really is a moron

For believing there's a war on.

For all of those who aren't so crazed,

Very happy holidays!

Let's beat on Canada...AGAIN!

Don't these right-wing assholes have anything better to do with their time?

Fox News host Neil Cavuto highlighted Martin's remark at a news conference that the United States is a ''reticent nation'' lacking a ''global conscience'' on climate change.

''So have the Canadians gotten a little too big for their britches?'' Cavuto asked.

''Could our neighbours to the north soon be our enemies?''

Douglas MacKinnon, a press secretary to former Republican senator Bob Dole, also recently accused Canada of harbouring terrorists.

''Can Canada really be considered our friend anymore?'' he asked in a recent commentary in the right-wing Washington Times newspaper.

''What other question can be asked when the Canadian government not only willingly allows Islamic terrorists into their country but does nothing to stop them from entering our nation?''

Um, guys...as I've recently stated, climate change affects YOU, too. You can't escape it, no matter how deep you stick your head up Dubya's ass. And while I'm sure you're finding it quite warm in there, the atmosphere can't be any too pleasant...

Seriously, though: that terrorism charge has gotten old. And it's not even accurate, seeing as Ahmed Ressam was caught at the border by one of your own, using good old-fashioned policing (no domestic spying or surveillance necessary). We didn't know him from Adam. Besides, all 19 of the 9-11 hijackers came through your own international airports on legitimate visas, not by sneaking across the border from Canada. We do not harbor terrorists, but a good argument can be made that you do. Plus, the very idea that we let him in just to terrorize you is absurd. We have nothing to gain by that. You have nothing that we want.

We, on the other hand, have plenty that you want. Oil, gold, diamonds, uranium, superior softwood lumber...shall I list them all? We're a resource-rich country, and we're also quite sovereign. We can refuse to sell to you at any time, you know, and in fact, we should...all we have to do is throw NAFTA down the shafta (and Latin America will cast CAFTA right afta.) Without those false "free" trade agreements, you'll be in the tapioca. And your army is overextended, so you can't very well fight us for it without the rest of the world coming to beat on you.

All this Canada-bashing is quite unseemly, considering you should be coming to us cap in hand, not the other way around. Linda McQuaig is right--we need leaders to stand up to you people. YOU are the ones who've gotten too big for YOUR britches.

If anyone wonders why I envy Venezuelans their Chavez, or Bolivians their Evo Morales...well, now you know. We just don't have that kind of cojones in charge up here, and I desperately wish we did.

What kind of God makes people so stupid?

Another cat amongst the pigeons

Another spanner in the scheme of things

I don't know why it shakes them up so much

They're so out of touch with me

It isn't easy finding something new

The bible bashers beat you black and blue

Fire and brimstone raining down on you

But you know it's true

And they know what they can do...

Monkey business

Mankind --

I got a theory that will blow your mind

Monkey business

You'll see

I got you swinging from tree to tree

I'm never sure about what they want

They put their collars on back to front

They've got their answers, and they don't like mine

But I'm only trying to help

They say I should be full of shame and dread

They point at Genesis and shake their head

They don't know what it is that makes them tick

But I've news for them, and it's not so romantic

Monkey business

Mankind--

I got a theory that will blow your mind

Monkey business

You'll see

I got you swinging from tree to tree

Monkey business

Mankind--

I got a theory that will blow your mind

Monkey business

You'll see

You got an ape in your family tree...

--Nik Kershaw

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Looks like the God-botherer brigade is just suffering one setback after another lately. Look what's new in Dover, Pennsylvania:

HARRISBURG, Pa. Dec 20, 2005 — In one of the biggest courtroom clashes between faith and evolution since the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a federal judge barred a Pennsylvania public school district Tuesday from teaching "intelligent design" in biology class, saying the concept is creationism in disguise.

U.S. District Judge John E. Jones delivered a stinging attack on the Dover Area School Board, saying its first-in-the-nation decision in October 2004 to insert intelligent design into the science curriculum violated the constitutional separation of church and state.

The ruling was a major setback to the intelligent design movement, which is also waging battles in Georgia and Kansas. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher force.

Jones decried the "breathtaking inanity" of the Dover policy and accused several board members of lying to conceal their true motive, which he said was to promote religion.

A six-week trial over the issue yielded "overwhelming evidence" establishing that intelligent design "is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory," said Jones, a Republican and a churchgoer appointed to the federal bench three years ago. [emphasis mine]

You know you've suffered a crushing defeat when a judge who, by all indications, should be favorable to your cause, isn't--and indeed, sees it as rife with "breathtaking inanity"!

Thank heaven for just judges, especially ones mindful of legal precedent:

In 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states cannot require public schools to balance evolution lessons by teaching creationism.

I'm gonna go waaaaaay out on a limb here (aping my honorable simian ancestors) and say that this ruling probably also extends to district school boards. In which case, the ID proponents who are currently pushing their fraudulent agenda in at least two other states, are shit out of luck. It also means that Dubya himself, who weighed in on the side of teaching ID, is in the wrong.

But the real indictment is against the religiosity of ID's proponents:

The judge also said: "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy."

Um, doesn't the 9th commandment say "Thou shalt not bear false witness"? I'd like these bible-thumpers to explain to me how they felt free to violate a tenet they claim to hold sacred, in order to push a mere, unproven (and unprovable) theory.

Isn't that kind of, um, ungodly?

Finally, there comes the question of what kind of God these people believe in. If this God made them, he's not much of a god, for he sure made them stupid:

Former school board member William Buckingham, who advanced the policy, said from his new home in Mount Airy, N.C., that he still feels the board did the right thing.

"I'm still waiting for a judge or anyone to show me anywhere in the Constitution where there's a separation of church and state," he said. "We didn't lose; we were robbed."

Well, Mr. Buckingham, ask and ye shall receive:

The First Amendment To The U.S. Constitution:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . ."

Simply put, that means the state cannot compel any citizen to hold a religious belief or church membership, or to not hold one. Since public schools are run by the state, religion has no place in them. It is therefore a private matter between individuals and their God, if they believe in one. Please note that freedom of religion does not mean that soi-disant Christians have any right to impose their religion on others, any more than atheists are permitted to impose atheism! It does, however, ensure that science is taught strictly as science, not as religion in disguise. In so doing, it makes certain that the issues remain unclouded. Individuals will simply have to grapple with the unmuddied issues in the privacy of their own minds, and either square their religious views with the immutable facts of science, or not.

Of course, the hard and solitary work that this entails frightens the ID proponents. They don't much like to think (it's dangerous!), and it seems they don't want anyone else's kids doing so, either. In so doing, they forfeit the "blessings of Liberty" as set out by the US constitution, for mental liberty is surely part and parcel of the Pursuit of Happiness.

What kind of God would make people so stupid?

(BTW, for those interested, excerpts from the worthy judge's decision can be read here.)

December 20, 2005

Pay up, or get out!

Man, oh man, I LOVE this man. On so many fronts, Hugo Chavez is just an ass-kicker. And he's not backing down, either:

Venezuela has given the world's biggest oil company, ExxonMobil, until the end of this year to enter a joint venture with the state.

Failure to do so will almost certainly result in Exxon losing its oil field concessions in the country.

Venezuela's socialist government has now signed new agreements with almost all foreign petroleum companies.

After months of pressure from left- wing leader Hugo Chavez most foreign oil firms working there have caved in.

They have agreed to hand over a controlling stake of their oil interests to the Venezuelan state.

This means that Venezuela, which has the world's largest petroleum reserves, now calls the shots in what the foreign guests can and cannot do.

In addition, the companies which have signed the new contracts - such as Chevron, BP, Shell and Total - will in future be presented with much higher tax bills by the government.

But Venezuela says it is only fair that the foreigners are made to pay up as they have got away lightly in the past.

Much of the oil revenue in Venezuela goes into social projects in shanty towns and poor rural areas.

But the US oil giant, ExxonMobil, is digging in its heels and is so far refusing to agree to the terms of the new deal.

Exxon risks losing Venezuelan operations if it fails to comply.

Can you beat that? Chavez, alone among Venezuelan leaders of the past 40 years or so, is putting his foot down on Big Oil. Somehow, he's flipped the situation so the corporations that used to have their boot on his country's neck, are now answerable...and are paying what they should have done all along for their right to sell his country's oil. There is NO compelling reason why they should not respect the laws of the land...after all, it's Venezuela's oil, not theirs. And it's not as if they can't afford the tax bills, either.

If Exxon keeps up as it is doing, it will only end up isolating itself, and that's going to be to its detriment. As it stands, the state-owned PDVSA has gained RAPIDLY on the Big Oil companies. Check out PDVSA's standing relative to Exxon right now:

In the most recent issue of the "Petroleum Intelligence Weekly" they have a ranking of world wide oil companies. Out of the 50 companies ranked PDVSA has now moved UP to 3rd place behind only Exxon-Mobil and Saudi Aramco.

At this rate, they'll only have Aramco left to contend against. I hope Aramco can stand the strain. It's not everyday that you hear about a state-run company that donates its profits to the state to improve the lives of the poor beating the fat cats at their own game...

Evo Morales has a hard act to follow, but he couldn't have picked a better friend as his example.

December 19, 2005

Washington Consensus, then and now...

Profiteering imperialist boneheads never learn, it seems. Check out their latest fuck-up in Iraq:

Violent demonstrations broke out across Iraq and the oil minister threatened to resign Monday after the government raised the prices of gasoline and cooking fuel by up to nine times.

The Cabinet raised the prices of gasoline, diesel, kerosene and cooking gas on Sunday to curb a growing black market, Oil Ministry spokesman Assem Jihad said.

The price of a liter of imported and super gasoline was raised to 17 cents, which is a fivefold increase from previous prices. There are about 3.8 liters in a gallon, meaning the new price is about 65 cents a gallon.

The price of locally produced gasoline was raised about sevenfold to about 12 cents per liter, or about 46 cents a gallon.

Not surprisingly, this has touched off rioting all over Iraq. Basically, this is all about profiteers trying to prevent ordinary Iraqis (who are facing a 70% unemployment rate, please note) from scratching up whatever meagre living they can. Yes, the rich are trying to get richer on the backs of the stone-sucking poor.

If this all sounds painfully familiar, perhaps you saw something like it in Venezuela, 1989. If you recall it only vaguely, don't worry...what you are suffering from is a completely routine case of media-induced amnesia. I've got your cure in the form of a tutorial right here.

The Venezuela parallel is not coincidental. The Caracazo basically catapulted Hugo Chavez into political activity. It mobilized not only him, but many of his fellow army officers, who had been in a radical ferment for years and were disgusted at how their government had ordered them to kill and repress their own people. In a conversation with Aleida Guevara, which was later published in book form, Chavez recounts:

After the Caracazo I was working in Miraflores Palace...I was taking a postgraduate course in political science. I was coming back with my books to the little room in the White Palace where I slept. A young officer approached me suddenly. I didn't know him very well. He said, "Major, I need to speak to you."

"Well, let's go to my office," I replied.

The young man said, "Major, they say you are involved in a movement. They're talking about a Bolivarian movement."

[...]

He told me his tragic story about how he had been ordered to patrol near the palace during the Caracazo. He detained a group of kids who were looting a shop and took them to a sports court close by...He held them there but with no bad feeling...."I'll release you soon, but you must stop looting," he warned. He told me he'd planned to release them later in the afternoon, but then an order arrived from some commission that he had to transfer them to the Tiuna Fort or to the DISIP headquarters. He obeyed the order and handed them over to DISIP, the state's secret police. They were loaded into a truck. There were about 12 or 15 kids....Half an hour later [he and his men] found all those kids in an alley. They had been murdered. He wept with rage when he saw them, and protested, but was told to keep quiet, told to keep his nose out of it. He finished his story, saying, "Listen, major, if you do have a movement, tell me, because if not, I'm getting out of here."

[...]

During the terrible days of the Caracazo, people took to the streets to protest against neoliberalism, against the "electro-shock therapy" of the IMF, against universal privatization, unemployment, and hunger. They sent us soldiers to fill those people with lead. The political leaders, so-called democrats, spoke of justice and democracy. What democracy? That was not democracy, it was pure dictatorship: an oligarchic government using the armed forces and the media to brainwash and confuse the people. There was no democracy here.

I can remember the first time I read that account, I was so sickened that I nearly vomited over the nearby bluff. I was reading it on a park bench, down by the lakeshore; it was a beautiful early-autumn day, but this story cast a cloud over it all. I felt as though the ground had literally shaken under my feet. Perhaps it had, for certainly my perceptions had suffered the equivalent of an earthquake. This was the same "democracy" under which I live that had just been accused of mass murder! No wonder I had an acute case of Sartrean nausea. (Which, incidentally, hasn't left me yet.)

That's why I'm sickened afresh at this series of events, which the Oil Wars blogger has perceptively termed the Iraqicazo. Yes, an Iraqicazo it most certainly is. The events of the Caracazo are being replicated quite precisely here, and I predict blowback from it several years down the line, such that the Washington Consensus will be broomed out of Iraq as it was in Venezuela ten years later, with Chavez at the helm.

Incidentally, if you don't mind looking past the doctrinaire Marxist language of it, Alan Woods has an excellent and lengthy analysis of current events. It's a useful backgrounder to the Venezuelan situation, and I predict Iraq will resonate similarly in due course.

Once again, Chavez is vindicated while Washington's sky falls

Well, well, well, well, well, well, WELL. Look who's been telling the truth all along:

SANTA MARTA, Colombia (AFP) - Venezuelan former soldiers plotted against President Hugo Chavez's government at a Colombian military building, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said.

Uribe made the stunning disclosure Saturday at this Caribbean resort town where he is meeting with Chavez, and after analyzing documents furnished by the Venezuelan leader.

"The Venezuelan soldiers who are in Bogota went to a building to meet with members of the Colombian military. President Chavez gave us these documents ... we analyzed them and this morning I said to President Chavez: 'I must tell you the truth: this is a building of Colombia's public forces,'" he said.

Uribe said that intelligence efforts against the Venezuelan government are conducted in the building, and took full responsibility for the affair.

Now, this is pretty unprecedented. A right-wing US ally, taking responsibility for his country's part in a US-backed plot against a Venezuelan leader? The sky must surely be falling over Washington.

So much evidence is now surfacing to show that Hugo Chavez, contrary to all BushCo's efforts (helped by the out-of-touch commercial press of the Venezuelan oligarchy) to paint him as a nutty, paranoid wannabe dictator in need of toppling, is in fact nothing of the sort. He was right all along: Washington has been very much behind the attempt on his life in 2002, and they're still trying to overthrow him now. Yes, it is a grave charge to level, but it's not so far-fetched when you consider that Dubya has been forced to admit to some truly vile domestic spying of his own. If even his own country is not safe from Bush-ordered espionage and attempts to quash dissent, then who's to say that Venezuela--one of the US's leading suppliers of oil--is any safer from his depredations?

The only thing keeping the US from declaring outright war on Venezuela right now is the demonstrable fact that Chavez is not a dictator; indeed, he's the most thoroughgoing democrat in all the Americas, and has enormous popular support at home and abroad. Thus he has deprived Bush of any chance of grouping him with Saddam and declaring a war for oil (disguised, of course, as "defending democracy".)

Meanwhile, Chavez has been moving from strength to strength. The Venezuelan national assembly, as of the December 4 election, consists of a solid two-thirds majority from Chavez's own party, with the balance of the seats occupied by pro-Chavez legislators from other parties. The anti-Chavez forces, however, shot themselves in the foot by withdrawing from the elections even after getting all the concessions they demanded of the electoral authority. (It now turns out that they pulled out because they were plotting another US-backed coup attempt; a terrorist scheme was foiled in time by the Venezuelan national guard. The anti-Chavez voting bloc abstained not out of protest against Chavez, as they claimed, but to keep their asses from getting blown sky-high by bombs that never did go off at the appointed polling stations.)

And speaking of strength: How about that Evo Morales, eh? Defying the media's expectations (or should we say propaganda?), Morales won a solid majority of his own, meaning nothing stands between him and the presidency of Bolivia. Not bad for an indigenous former coca grower--the first brown man ever to rule his country since its founding some 200 years ago. It's high time, too: Bolivia has been chafing against Washington's political installations and the World Bank's economic policies for years. It's time the Bolivians had a leader who actually speaks for them. The rich, mostly white oligarchy sure doesn't. They'd sell the ground (and the vast natural gas reserves it contains) out from under the people's feet, if they had their way, and bugger off to Miami, where they can rub shoulders with Latin America's worst.

And if you're noticing some parallels there with Venezuela, pat yourself on the back. Chavez and Morales are good friends, and there is no small hope in Bolivia that he will take a leaf from Chavez's book and put natural-gas revenues to work for the good of the people, as Chavez has done with his country's oil. And like Chavez, Morales has bitter enemies in Washington and Miami. One can only hope that he'll take another leaf from Chavez's book, too: that of keeping himself surrounded by bodyguards wherever he goes. Chavez knows firsthand the dangers of assassination that lurk for any leftist democratically elected to make a difference in Latin America, and no doubt he's already on the horn giving Morales sound advice on how to keep his neck out of the noose.

And oh yeah, this just in...look who else has grown a spine all of a sudden:

BOGOTA (AP) — Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, one of Washington's best friends in South America, told the United States to stop "meddling" in his country's affairs after the U.S. ambassador urged him to take steps against corruption in regional elections.

U.S. Ambassador William Wood, in a speech in the capital Friday, said the 2003 elections for mayors and governors saw many unopposed candidates because potential opponents were bribed, scared off and, in some cases, murdered.

He said rightist paramilitary groups were often to blame for those abuses and warned the same could happen in elections scheduled for March elections.

The illegal paramilitaries recently signed a peace deal that makes fighters who disarm eligible for benefits such as reduced prison sentences, pardons, job training and stipends. Wood said fighters who seek to manipulate elections should be stripped of their benefits.

Uribe responded in a sharply worded statement late Friday.

"The Colombian government does not accept the meddling of foreign governments, even if it is the United States," he said, adding that it is already clear that paramilitary leaders lose benefits if they break the law.

Uribe said Washington should not try to use Plan Colombia, an anti-drug program funded mostly by a $4 billion aid package from Washington, "to put pressure on our country."

The U.S. Embassy said Wood meant no offense by his remarks.

"There was no intention to interfere in any way with Colombian elections, but rather to support the democratic, free, open and impartial process," the embassy said in a statement Saturday.

Yeah, I'll just bet it is. Those words might mean more if they weren't coming from the most brutally interfering Washington administration in living memory.

As I've said before, US elections are neither democratic, nor free, nor open, and certainly not impartial anymore. The last two federal ones were so god-awfully foul that long lines of people were holding their noses as they entered the polling booths. Once again, Washington is cordially reminded to get its own house in order before attempting to "support" any other country striving for democracy.

December 18, 2005

You can shun the climate talks, but...

...it doesn't mean that climate woes will just magically bypass you. No matter how much you try to delude yourself that they will.

Yes, USA, I'm talking to you. You've been comporting yourself with your usual shameful "la la la la, I'm not listening" flair. What have you got to say for yourself about THIS?

For its part the Bush administration, which rejects the emissions cutbacks of the current Kyoto Protocol, accepted only a watered-down proposal to enter an exploratory global "dialogue'' on future steps to combat climate change. That proposal specifically rules out "negotiations leading to new commitments.''

Translated into plain English, that means "We're not going to do anything about our pollution, and you can't talk us into it, so fuck you!"

150 countries came together and sat down for THAT? Sheesh. Why not just send a postcard of Bush flipping the bird? Because in essence, that's what this all boils down to.

It doesn't help, either, that the average American sheeple viewpoint is "informed" by the same facile, simplistic thinking that's behind this piece of twaddle by R. Emmett Tyrell:

And so the civilized inhabitants of the Republic have suffered another outburst of Red Alerts from that sour minority of Neo-Puritans who, from the discomfort of their health-food shops and earth shoes, admonish the rest of us against having a good time. Having appropriated an environmental bureaucracy from the busybodies at the United Nations, they are madly issuing reports that proclaim what all normal minds recognize as Good News is actually Bad News. Under the dubious banner of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change they report that the average temperature of the earth's surface has been steadily rising for at least fifty years and could rise as much as 10.4 degrees over the next century. To which those of us kissed by joie de vivre say, "Break out the suntan lotion. Let's golf." The future is going to hold lower heating costs for all, and a return of the mini-skirt.

That's what you think, Emmy-boy. In reality, the miniskirt and golf both will fall permanently out of fashion, and that's the only silver lining in the whole situation. Because the reality will look a lot more like this:

Over the past couple of decades such warnings have been drowned out by the great global warming debate and by consideration of how society might cope in future with a sweltering planet rather than an icebound one. Seemingly, the fact that we are still within an interglacial period, during which the ice has largely retreated to its polar fastnesses, has been forgotten - and replaced with the commonly-held view that one good thing you can say about global warming is that it will at least stave off the return of the glaciers.

Is this really true, or could the rapidly accelerating warming that we are experiencing actually hasten the onset of a new ice age? A growing body of evidence suggests that, at least for the UK and western Europe, there is a serious risk of this happening - and soon.

The problem lies with the ocean current known as the Gulf Stream, which bathes the UK and north-west Europe in warm water carried northwards from the Caribbean. It is the Gulf Stream, and associated currents, that allow strawberries to thrive along the Norwegian coast, while at comparable latitudes in Greenland glaciers wind their way right down to sea level. The same currents permit palms to flourish in Cornwall and the Hebrides, whereas across the ocean in Labrador, even temperate vegetation struggles to survive. Without the Gulf Stream, temperatures in the UK and north-west Europe would be five degrees centigrade or so cooler, with bitter winters at least as fierce as those of the so-called Little Ice Age in the 17th to 19th centuries. [emphasis mine]

Oh, I suppose I'm just being a doomsaying fusspot, harping on the bone-chilling dangers inherent in a derangement of the Gulf Stream like this. Maybe I should worry more about malarial mosquitoes making a comeback in my neck of the woods (southern Ontario.) Maybe I should even take Mr. Tyrell's advice and lobby for a return to the use of wonderful, bird-killing, cancer-causing DDT to combat the menace. Or just go shopping for miniskirts (and the gym membership, sawdust-based diet food, and endless bottles of self-tanner and sunscreen to go with them). I'm so confused!

Well, no...to be honest, I'm NOT confused. The answer to this whole dilemma is so clear, Mr. Tyrell and Co. can't even see it. The answer is to GET OVER YOUR GOD-DAMNED ADDICTION TO OIL! Get off the needle, you pinstriped junkies! Learn to make do with a smaller car (or better still, no car at all--bikes are better for your legs, and miniskirts be damned.) Stop whining about not having all the latest and fanciest of everything (do you have ANY idea how much pollution the production and transport of all that crap alone entails?) Scale back as far as you can, and make the best of it; consider it an exercise in the art of Pioneer Spirit. (Remember that, ye so-called conservatives? What, don't tell me you've forgotten already. I suppose you've also forgotten what it actually means to CONSERVE.) Teach your kids to walk or take the bus to all their extracurriculars, or else take up new hobbies, preferably ones that don't involve a parent playing chauffeur and lugging heavy, expensive equipment from one end of town to the other all the time. Eat less imported food and learn to grow your own...or get to know your local farmers. Preferably the organic kind.

And what about the OTHER global-warming (and, for that matter, pollution in general) skeptics? The ones who say they can't afford to be more environmentally conscious because it will somehow, mysteriously, result in job losses?

Well, the answer to THAT is clear, too. For starters, they offer no compelling proof; we're just supposed to accept such bunkum assertions as gospel. The biggest cause of job loss in Corporate America is not environmental consciousness, it's DOWNSIZING. You know, that thing CEOs of multinational empires do when they want to pad their profit margins (and pockets) by firing low-level workers and then working the remaining ones so hard that they all end up breaking down, physically and mentally? Yeah, THAT downsizing. Not to be mistaken for the kind that I mentioned above, which would be better called Simple Living. THAT kind can actually create jobs: agronomists, environmental technicians, engineers (to come up with more enviro-friendly just-about-everything), etc. Because you need people, not machines, to make more of a difference that way. You can't build a machine to actually THINK for you, after all.

Yeah, I know. That means a big hike in social spending. And what's so bad about that? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Education is non-negotiable. We all need it, or we'll be stuck back in slavery: illiterate, unable to do anything but the most menial grunt-work for the least pay--or, more frighteningly and realistically, NO pay. The CEOs might love that, but they forget the reason the American Civil War was fought. Today's empires are tomorrow's ashes, so the imperial mindset is the first thing that has to go. And good riddance! But the only way to do it is to invest in education and make it cool to be an environmentalist (yes, that IS a pun, hon.) Because, let's face it: the false, facile "joie de vivre" of R. Emmett Tyrell is a beast bound for extinction.

Whether Mr. Tyrell realizes it or not.

December 17, 2005

The rich kid nobody likes

Tucker Carlson's bowtie needs loosening; it's cutting off circulation to what little brain he has. Here's a droplet from his latest snot-blower:

Here's the problem with telling Canada to stop criticizing the United States: It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right? Canada spends all of its time thinking about the United States, obsessing over the United States. It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all...Canada is a sweet country. It's like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice, but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada.

Okay, maybe it's not nice to make fun of retarded people, but that doesn't mean I'm going to go easy on Bowtie Boy. He may be a mental defective, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know right from wrong, or that he doesn't know how to exploit his connections. Even if he does keep losing his job on account of...you guessed it...no one taking him seriously.

But I have to admit I find something disturbing about Bowtie Boy, for all that he IS entertaining in a bluntly stupid sort of way: his stalkerish tendency to single out Canada for abuse, which we can only assume is his own perversely twisted form of unrequited love. (We'll leave out Hillary Clinton for the time being; she's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.) Gawd, it reminds me of high school, when I found out that a class bully who made my life hell on an almost daily basis had told someone else that he had the hots for me--trusting that word wouldn't get back!

Well, word DID get back. And I was shocked. And creeped out, because this guy, by being such an asshole, had spoiled any chance he might have had with me. (Take a lesson from this, guys: If you like someone, you had better act appropriately. Be nice to her. Just ask her out, already. The worst she could say is no, and there's no way of making her like you back, but at least you won't make her hate your fucking guts. Is that so hard?)

Anyhow, Tucker Carlson reminds me of that guy. He doesn't look like him, but he has the same attitude that I hated so much in my high-school tormentor: arrogant, entitled, can't feel big unless he's tearing someone else down. Even the girl he secretly yearns for isn't exempt from that obnoxious snottiness. You know the type. Michael J. Fox played a guy just like that on Family Ties, back in the day, but with a difference: Fox's Alex P. Keaton always learned from his mistakes and came down a peg in the end. That was what made Alex likeable in spite of his obvious faults. Without that crucial dose of humility, he'd only be the rich kid nobody likes.

Unfortunately, Tucker's no Alex Keaton. Unlike Alex, Tucker never seems to have gotten past high school in terms of personality. And even this former show guest can't help him there! The growth factor that made Alex so wonderfully human is missing from him. It's clear that no one has ever told him no, you may not have that; no, the world doesn't work that way; no, sulking and pouting won't change anything. No one ever told Tucker no, and that is the problem. It would do him good to hear it for a change.

So, Tucker, let this nice Canadian lady be the first one to tell you NO. No, you may not divert water from our Great Lakes. You must learn to manage your own water better, and that's all there is to it. No, you may not take all our oil. It's OURS, not yours, and we'll do with it as we see fit. You will have to learn to make do with less oil, in a more sustainable manner. No, you may not push us around. We push back, and we push back HARD. Remember the War of 1812? Canada does, because we won that war.

We may be sweet, but we're not made of maple syrup. It would behoove you to remember that we burned the White House to the ground, and we're the only country in the world that ever did that. We're also the ones who won Britain's most crucial battles in both world wars, where we were in up to the eyeballs long before the Yanks got off their duffs.

No one has anything on us for being able to push back. But we won't push anyone who hasn't pushed us first. There's a reason Canada is so loved and respected around the world: WE EARNED IT. We are nobody's retarded cousin.

Oh, and we're not poor, either. Poor countries don't get into the G8.

Now Tucker, go blow your nose and learn some manners. Otherwise, you and your country will be left pining away for what might have been--with no water, no oil, and most painfully of all, NO FRIENDS.

And all your money won't buy you any new ones.

December 16, 2005

WWLGD--What Would Lesley Gore Do?

Ahem. In honor of Dubya's ignominious week-that-was, I offer the following. To the tune of Lesley Gore's "It's My Party":

Nobody knows where my country has gone;

The senators grew a big spine--

Why did they stand up to me?

The whole world's supposed to be mine!

It's my country and I'll spy if I want to,

Spy if I want to,

Spy if I want to--

You would spy too if it happened to you!

Dems and Republicans walked through the door,

Voted against my big plan--

How could they do this to me?

I thought that I was the Man!

It's my country and I'll lie if I want to,

Lie if I want to,

Lie if I want to--

You would lie too if it happened to you!

I'm gonna torture those punks in Iraq,

Steal all their oil for my friends--

I'm gonna strap their ass to the rack,

And I'm not making amends!

It's my country and you'll die if I want you,

Die if I want you,

Die if I want you!

You will die too, 'cause I told you to do!

December 15, 2005

Shouldn't they try this at home first?

From the "Do as we say, not as we do" files: The US calls for electoral reform in Venezuela.

Shouldn't they try that at home first? After all, they have a lot of electoral problems of their own. More, in fact, since they've twice gotten saddled with Dictator Bush.

Plus, I get stitches in my side just watching that Dominatrix-from-the-Matrix, "Auntie" Condi Rice, lecture other countries on their democratic deficiencies when her own is the biggest dictatorship in the world. Complete with torture. (Not to mention how it blatantly disenfranchised her entire race as voters, while she, true to training, said and did NOTHING. So, who said slavery is dead?)

What would Jesus do? Simple. He'd slap these Pharisees around some, and tell them to stop picking at the speck in Venezuela's eye when there's a huge fucking plank in their own.

Please don't hurt me, Mr. Oh-Really!

Jesus Christ. What is eating Bill O'Reilly? I think he's about to bust an aneurysm. Get a load of this excerpt from his latest trumped-up load o' shit:

I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. I will put their face and their name on television, and I will talk about them on the radio if they do it. There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me.

Okay, this is just stupid on so many levels.

First, who the hell is this fascist FUX Snooze Goebbels to call anyone else "oppressive, totalitarian", etc.? Particularly when you consider the regime his threatening crapaganda is propping up? Pot, kettle, black.

Second: He doesn't have THAT much power on radio and TV; his audience is shrinking, and silly tirades like this are only driving more of them away.

Third: How many people has he ACTUALLY slandered on radio and TV again? Not many, considering what a massive conspiracy he claims is against him and Xmas.

Fourth: Since when is US Xmas REALLY a holiday "devoted to generosity, peace, and love"? It's more like a holiday dedicated to consumerism, family dysfunction, and meaninglessness. And has been for quite some time.

Fifth: Did anyone besides me just about blow beer out their nose reading the warmongering, perverted, angry-at-Andrea (and her sex-harassment suit) Oh-Really pontificating piously about "generosity, peace, and love"?

Sixth, and last: "Anyone who tries to do it is gonna face me!" Is that a threat? What a generous, peaceful, loving sentiment. And so in keeping with the holiday season, too...

Oh, I'm so SCARED, Mr. Oh-Really! Please don't hurt me!

Grenada, the (fascist) comic book

You have GOT to read this. Unbefrigginglievable, in the most literal sense of the word.

And if that's not enough to sway you, it goes on for twelve excruciating, stilted pages...and that's not including the covers. Inside front AND back.

Honestly, who wrote this shit? Between hysterical laughter (brought on by the worst-written dialogue I've seen in a while) and severe nausea (the only logical response to such a case of acute unreality), it hurts to read it. Did they seriously expect anyone to believe a word of THAT?

Hell, yeah. Unbelievable as that may be, they honestly did expect the poor black folks they bombarded with this leaflet to be as dumb as only a rich, reality-impaired white guy (projecting his innermost self) can make them out to be. Anyone with an eye can see this is no legitimate comic book; hell, where are the ads for peace patches, kyara incense, itching powder and Sea Monkeys? I can just see a young Grenadian picking this up, leafing through it, and then tossing it aside again. Bah, nothing here but crap about Castro and Yanks with shit-eating grins. How fucking boring! Give me Betty and Veronica anyday.

But hey, a rather important little thing known as Credibility seems never to have been much of an issue to the Reaganites. No, as long as people were whipped up with anti-commie hysteria and, any old stupid thing was fine 'n' dandy, however little it passed the sniff test. Just get a load of one of their other black-ops campaigns of the age...

In its grim little way, it's hilarious. What's not so funny is that people died over this. And others were, in the crowning irony of it all, enslaved by imperialists. No, not communists. The totalitarians who did this were much worse, because they masqueraded so transparently as "liberators".

For the real story of Grenada, which differs wildly from Reagan's cartoonish one, see Democracy Now!, Zmag, and Global Policy.

A rare film review

There aren't many movies out there that I'd want to watch twice, but Donnie Darko is the happy exception. It's not only worthwhile; it's also necessary if you really want to get it. I'd recommend two viewings as a bare minimum. In fact, I'd even recommend buying the director's cut...

Donnie is a high schooler who's losing his mind. Or so everyone around him thinks--with the possible exception of two preternaturally understanding teachers. He's in therapy and on medication (which he refuses to take); he sleepwalks right out of the house and even rides his bike off into the mountains while in a trance, only to doze off in the middle of the road--or a golf green; and most frightening of all, he has an imaginary friend named Frank, who's a man-sized rabbit from hell. At Frank's behest, Donnie does seemingly unwarranted damage, like chopping through a water pipe so that his school will be flooded; later, he sets fire to a local celebrity's house, revealing the smarmy motivational speaker's skeleton-in-the-closet: a sizable cache of kiddie porn, hidden in a secret room.

As the story unfolds, we realize that Frank is no mere schizophrenic hallucination, ordering Donnie to destroy at random. His methods are bizarre, but precise. At their first meeting, Frank gives Donnie an exact rundown of how many days, hours, minutes and seconds will elapse before his world will end. This is just one of many strange foreshadowings, which are explained in startling fashion later on: Donnie is really a time traveler, whose purpose is to somehow unwind and set right all the dark, gone-wrong lives around him. Unfortunately, he must do it by seeming insane, although he is actually the healthiest mind in town. (Would it be spoiling the ending to say that it, too, is foreshadowed, practically at the very beginning?)

You'll want to watch Donnie Darko several times, too, for the simple reason that a single viewing is not enough. It's easy to miss all kinds of seemingly insignificant details, from the resonant mid-1980s pop soundtrack to objects in the background, that point to startling synchronicities (meaningful, Jungian coincidences--in other words, no real coincidences at all). At times, the dialogue and the action race ahead of themselves, making them seem just ever so slightly elided; the full significance takes too long to sink in before you flash on it. (This effect is lessened in the director's cut, where we get more explanation, but it's still extremely mysterious.)

Every song used in the film is also significant, if not in its immediate context, then certainly as a foreshadowing device. Especially effective is Echo and the Bunnymen's "The Killing Moon", which serves as the opening theme in the final version (the director's cut opens with INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart", which, though wonderfully stark, is considerably subtler and more oblique; "Killing Moon", however, does appear as a cheesy background song for a party scene near the end in that version). The band's name alone is fitting; what is Frank if not a bunnyman, and what is the storyline if not a jumbled series of bizarrely clanging echoes?

In the strangest synchronicity of all, Donnie Darko's fictional narrative overlaps frighteningly with our own reality. The film was originally slated for release in September 2001, but by coincidence, it features a jet engine falling on the Darkos' house. Obviously, 9-11 made that a touchier issue than it would ordinarily have been. It took a couple of years before the film was deemed safe to release; in the meantime, one more layer of ironic resonance has spread itself over it, albeit one the filmmaker could not have foreseen (or could he???)

With all this going for it, it's little wonder that Donnie Darko--largely unheralded and resisting easy classification--has carved a niche for itself as a true cult classic. It's not a blockbuster; it doesn't need to be. Instead, it's one of those rare, strange, bittersweet movies that sink into your subconscious and stay there, like an unforgettable dream or a wild hallucination, every so often giving off a glint that indelibly colors your own life.

BTW, I think I may have spoiled the ending for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

Or maybe I just foreshadowed it. But I won't tell you where.