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February 28, 2006

Quotable: Albert Einstein on the military mentality

"General fear and anxiety create hatred and aggressiveness. The adaptation to warlike aims and activities has corrupted the mentality of man; as a result, intelligent, objective and humane thinking has hardly any effect and is even suspected and persecuted as unpatriotic."

--Albert Einstein, The Menace of Mass Destruction

February 27, 2006

The swiftboating of CITGO

Oil Wars and Juan Gonzalez have both got the goods on Joe Barton, the Texas Repug oil profiteer-cum-congresscritter squatting in the House of Representatives, who's coming down hard on CITGO for reasons that can only be described as blatantly political. Wikipedia, likewise, has some interesting poopy on him (pay special attention to his bat-squeeze views on global warming, which it's clear he doesn't understand--but hey, there must be "debate", lest people be distracted by the terrible, irrefutable facts that cause them to spend less money on the oil peddled by Joe's Texas pals. Just like there needs to be "debate" on the mere "theory" of evolution.)

But what disturbs me most is this post on Vheadline.com, in which Mary McElveen (a regular contributor) lays bare what's happened to that gutsy little news site as a result of what can only be called the Swiftboating of CITGO:

On December 20th, 2005, VHeadline.com was notified that a major US oil company would cut off all advertising to our site. No explanation was given although an agreement had been reached earlier that month for the long-term advertising to be continued through 2006.

In fact the payment had already been confirmed by a senior executive just before he went on Christmas vacation to Venezuela and arrangements had been made on the strength of it to send Christmas bonuses to a team of editorial and technical volunteers who make VHeadline possible.

It was an obvious setback to our unique efforts to combat the seawall of disinformation that has been spread about the good things that are happening in Venezuela but, very much to the editor's astonishment, just two days before Christmas he received another missive ordering VHeadline immediately to remove all pictorial representations of the company's logo from the website, including the company's logo on a leading Venezuelan racing driver's competition uniform...

The unexplained decision to kill VHeadline's advertising contract just hours before payment was to be made, and the additional cease and desist order smack very much of being the vindictive actions of a rogue element within the US oil company and could, of course, been seen as a mechanism by which to make VHeadline.com's continued publication an impracticality ... in other words, an effort to shut us up!

McElveen doesn't name the company (that's libel chill for you!), but anyone who's been reading Vheadline over the past year or so knows it's CITGO, PDVSA's wholly owned US subsidiary, whose cheap-oil-for-the-poor program is winning hearts and minds all over the US. Their ads were prominently featured on Vheadline until recently. The CITGO Racing ad in particular sticks in my mind...

McElveen then goes on to name a company contact, Raphael Gomez, in Houston, TX (you can find his phone number at the Vheadline link; whether you'll get through to him is another story. I suspect he's well on his way to being chronically "out of the office at the moment".) Apparently, Gomez is the spokesperson for what McElveen terms the "rogue element" in CITGO--which is currently being "investigated", frivolously, by Joe Barton--for no reason other than that they're spoiling the game for the rich profiteers of Texas.

McElveen wisely recommends that you take out your anger not on CITGO, but the "rogue element"--bombard them with phone calls expressing outrage at how they're knuckling under and working against the will of their own leaders. And since the main boycott of CITGO is by the Religious Right--the useful idiots who keep bad Texas oilmen in power--it seems advisable that you buycott CITGO, and boycott these Venezuela-hating US right-wing nuts instead.

BTW, here's where you can get in touch with Congresscritter Barton.

Oh, and get a load of his photo here--does it scream "Doofus!" or what?

And they call this the leader of the free world...

Unreal.

US President George W Bush was waving to police when he fell off his bike at the G8 summit in Scotland last July, newly published police papers reveal.

Mr Bush was shouting "Thanks, you guys, for coming" when he lost control and collided with an officer, the documents obtained by Scotland on Sunday show.

The smash left Mr Bush with scrapes on his hands and arms, and the policeman needing crutches for an ankle injury.

At the time, Mr Bush laughed off the crash as a sign "I should act my age".

The police report confirms that Mr Bush later telephoned the injured policeman to ask how he was and to apologise.

The cause of the officer's injury was officially recorded as being "hit by a moving/falling object".

Must be nice to be ruled by someone who literally can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Quotable: Anne Rivers Siddons on dreams and awakenings

"My first book, called Heartbreak Hotel, was an autobiographical book about coming of age at a Southern college campus in 1957 on the fringes of the Civil Rights movement. There was to be a climax where I felt it would be necessary for this young woman to confront a black person in a totally new environment, to make her really see the blacks around her as people instead of what they had been to her all her life, loved servants but diminished people. I couldn't think of a way to do that without being out of character with the Civil Rights movement because at that very early time we were not marching in the streets or firebombing. It was a very delicate 'one heart at a time' awakening. One night in a dream an old memory returned: I had been over to visit friends in Mississippi and while we were at the local jail, visiting the deputy sheriff, there was a jailbreak. Someone shoved me into a little room and said, 'Don't come out of this office.' But through the glass pane I saw the escaped prisoner run by the door. He looked in at me and I looked at him. It seemed as if we held that look forever.

"I had more or less buried that memory. And then one night I dreamed that that's how it would happen for my protagonist: she would see a man in the middle of a jailbreak and, by his eyes, know him totally. Know his fear and his terror and know that they were her own. The whole thing became alive and real to her then.

"I'd had that experience and I could've thought of it but I wasn't using it. It took the dream to call it out. If we let them, dreams will give great order to our lives."

--Anne Rivers Siddons, interviewed by Naomi Epel in Writers Dreaming

Vive le sans-culottes!

Ever wonder what they're really like underneath it all? Worth1000.com did, and some photoshoppers answered:

Kim Jong Mentally Ill

Who knew Kim Jong (Mentally) Il was so, er, American?

Toady Blair

Somehow, I always suspected Toady Blair was into this.

Auntie Condi

King Abdullah of Jordan is a perfect gentleman. He pretends not to notice that Auntie Condi forgot her skirt!

February 26, 2006

Isn't it ironic?

Pro-business types tend to vote for the conservative parties; conservative parties tend to align themselves with the pro-business types. But sometimes, actions have unintended consequences...such as this, for example, as reported in the UK Independent:

Lucrative opportunities taken away on a political whim; the danger of being locked up by an over-mighty government agency; the brick wall of protectionism - the business community expects to do battle with all these things in an emerging market.

Yet this suddenly seems to be a description of doing business in that most developed of all markets, the United States of America.

In the UK, in the cash-rich Gulf states and in fast-growing India, different incidents in the past week have made people ask the same question: is it worth doing business with the US?

Critics say the outcry over the £3.9bn acquisition of P&O by Dubai Ports World, which will transfer the running of five US ports to a state-controlled Middle Eastern company, has exposed the US Congress at its xenophobic worst. But it has also revealed more starkly than ever the protectionist tide that is waxing in America under the guise of national security.

The acquisition was due to close this Thursday, but DP World has had to delay completing the deal as it faces a protracted Congressional and legal fight to keep hold of the US contracts, which account for 6 per cent of the business it is buying.

The refrain is, why can't an American company run our ports? Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is among the senators proposing legislation to guarantee precisely that.

Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, says it has been a profoundly depressing episode, and one that could have lasting repercussions if it derails a planned free-trade deal between the United Arab Emirates and the US. "These are not societies given to a lot of rhetoric - they are not going to hold a press conference and call off negotiations," he explains. "But what would happen is that things would slow down - forms of co-operation would not happen any more."

So, now, let's see if we got this entirely straight: The Republicans, the most ardently pro-business party in the United States, have just hurt their country's international trade--that is to say, its business...right when the country could hardly be hurting more.

I find it funny that this is couched as a trade protectionism issue at all, instead of as what it should be--a red flag over the United Arab Emirates, an absolute monarchy which is one of only three countries in the entire world to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan--and the homeland of at least two 9-11 terrorists.

And even more ironic, it's a red-hot indictment of the folly of letting businesspeople run the world. Were the US ports owned and operated by the government--i.e. "We the People"--this whole inane wrangle would never be happening.

But then, Repugnicans have never seen a profit motive they didn't like...even if it comes at the expense of countless lives at risk and their country's security in jeopardy.

Oh, and by the way: Said jeopardy is even bigger than we thought.

Quotable: Carol Shields on constant reading

"Bookish people, who are often maladroit people, persist in thinking they can master any subtlety so long as it's been shaped into acceptable expository prose."

--Carol Shields (1935-2003), Unless

February 25, 2006

Boycott this 'toon, part 5

Who would Jesus bomb?

Jesus is the bomb!

Cartoon credit: Dirt Dawg

Compassionate conservative? My ass!

There's a reason why so many people are getting more and more reluctant to loosen the purse strings nowadays. Quite aside from the nose-holding aspect of so many charities claiming to be the answer to problems better addressed by good old-fashioned socialism, you get rather unfortunate stuff like this leaking out to the media:

Sen. Rick Santorum's charity donated about 40 percent of the $1.25 million it spent during a four-year period, well below Better Business Bureau standards — paying out the rest for overhead, including several hundred thousand dollars to campaign aides on the charity payroll.

The charity, Operation Good Neighbor, is described on its Web site as an organization promoting "compassionate conservatism" by providing grants to small nonprofit groups, many of them religious.

The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance says charitable organizations should spend at least 65 percent of their total expenses on program activities.

Operation Good Neighbor is based at the same address as Pennsylvania Sen. Santorum's campaign office in suburban Philadelphia, and some of the same people who have worked on his campaign are working for his charity and collecting money from it, records show.

Among them:

--Maria Diesel, who has been paid fundraising fees by the campaign, is listed as the charity's finance director. Filings show she has received $192,958 in professional fundraising fees from Operation Good Neighbor.

--Robert Bickhart, who has also been involved in raising campaign funds for Santorum, is listed as the charity's executive director. Filings show he has earned $75,000 in salary from the charity since 2001 and that his business, Capitol Resource Group, rents the office space to the charity. The charity has paid $20,437 in occupancy fees, filings show.

Santorum, the No. 3 Senate Republican, is embroiled in a tough campaign against his leading Democratic opponent, State Treasurer Bob Casey.

Seems that Senator Fetus Fetish, the man who brought us man-on-dog sex, is more compassionate to himself and his re-election campaign (which I predict he's gonna lose)--and more conservative when it comes to so-called good causes.

And so's his pal, Cat-Killer Frist:

Late last year, Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was criticized after an Associated Press analysis found that his AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle.

Surprise, surprise.

Honestly, is it really THAT hard to pay higher taxes, when you're more likely to actually get something decent out of it...as we do up here in my home and native land?

Quotable: Juan Cole on the 'toon riots

"When you talk about violence, people tend not to see their own violence. How many Americans are even aware that there were race riots in Cincinnati not so long ago? We have lots of violence in this country, including mob violence. We don't think about it, because it's not marked for us. Other people's violence is marked as, you know, those people did it; if we do it, it's not noticed so much."

--Juan Cole, interviewed by Metro Times Detroit

February 24, 2006

Fascism: call it corporatism, because that's what it is

Giovanni Gentile, Mussolini's ghostwriter, was right--fascism really is the merger of corporation and state. Check out this little gem from the Beeb:

Former workers of an Argentine Ford factory are suing the firm over what they say were serious abuses during the military rule of the 1970s and 80s.

They say local managers conspired with the security forces to have union members taken to a detention centre on the premises, where they were tortured.

Ford has in the past denied torture took place on its property.

Several foreign firms have been probed by the Truth Commission, which said abductions of union members did occur.

The civil suit against Ford Motor Company and Ford Argentina also calls for four former company executives and a retired military officer to be questioned.

The former union activists allege that Ford managers plotted and executed a precise plan to violently get rid of union activities at the plant 40km (25 miles) north of Buenos Aires.

One of the plaintiffs, Pedro Troiani, alleges: "Some of us were kidnapped by the military inside the factory and taken to a clandestine, makeshift detention centre near the factory's sports centre.

"There we were hooded, beaten, forced to face mock firing squads and tortured. Some were given electric shocks."

Another says those kidnapped were transported in vehicles supplied by the company.

Of course, anyone even halfway familiar with Ford's own rather ardent flirtation with fascism won't be a bit surprised by this. It appears to be part of a larger pattern, does it not?

BTW, corporate fascism is a particularly large menace in South America; just ask any Colombian trade unionist. This horror is not limited to Argentina or the Ford Motor Co. by any means.

For sale: One U.S. president. Will dicker with anyone.

No, we haven't seen THAT in the classified ads yet. But we might as well. Dubya just slapped a major KICK ME sign on his country's back, and Sherrod Brown has the goods:

Recently, the Bush administration approved the takeover of six United States ports' security by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned company controlled by the United Arab Emirates.

The Bush administration has been outsourcing jobs for five years, and now they want to outsource our national security.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have joined together to strongly condemn the Bush administration for this risky deal.

Such an agreement with the UAE in particular should raise eyebrows:

The UAE was one only a few nations to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government.

Two of the 9/11 hijackers were from the UAE. It is also well documented that the UAE was used by terrorist operatives as a financial and travel hub.

The Congressional Research Service noted the UAE was named as a point of shipment for illegal nuclear components sold by Pakistan's nuclear scientist, Dr. [Abdul Qadeer] Khan. Two Dubai companies were apparently involved.

Bush's own State Department says Americans in UAE "should exercise a high level of security awareness."

This issue teaches us something many of us already know -- the Bush administration consistently chooses profits over people.

They cannot be counted on to notify Congress about secret dealings. They cannot be counted on to protect our ports or railways. They cannot be counted on to protect our people when negotiating trade agreements.

And as we all learned this week, they can't even be counted on to know what is going on within their own administration.

In a post 9/11 world, trade agreements are no longer just vehicles for economic development. They are an integral part of national security and efforts to combat terrorism.

Added links are mine, although I'm sure Rep. Brown wouldn't mind the liberties taken, as we're on the same page on this issue.

So, let's recap: BushCo would rather spy on innocent Americans, including Quaker pacifists, than take a closer look at foreign companies and countries it does business with. Even when just a cursory check would reveal strong ties to known terrorist networks.

It's hard not to speculate that BushCo is just paying the UAE back for helping them to a major trifecta.

Write drivel if (and only if) you are a conservative

Need a good laugh? Starved of irony lately? Not to worry...the Washington Post will provide:

To bemused conservatives, it looks like yet another example of analytic overkill by the intelligentsia -- a jobs program for the (mostly liberal) academic boys (and girls) in the social sciences, whose quantitative tools have been brought to bear to prove the obvious.

Oh, lordy. You just know you're off to a roaring start when you feel you must wax pompous right off the bat, instead of just starting in with the nut graf:

A survey by the Pew Research Center shows that conservatives are happier than liberals -- in all income groups. While 34 percent of all Americans call themselves "very happy," only 28 percent of liberal Democrats (and 31 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats) do, compared with 47 percent of conservative Republicans. This finding is niftily self-reinforcing: It depresses liberals.

Yeah, that's pretty nutty, all right. Because only a nut would think that way...and I'm not depressed in the least, reading it. On the contrary, I'm rather entertained. Especially in light of what follows:

Election results do not explain this happiness gap. Republicans have been happier than Democrats every year since the survey began in 1972. Married people and religious people are especially disposed to happiness, and both cohorts vote more conservatively than does the nation as a whole.

People in the Sun Belt -- almost entirely red states -- have sunnier dispositions than Northerners, which could have as much to do with sunshine as with conservatism. Unless sunshine makes people happy, which makes them conservative.

Such puzzles show why social science is not for amateurs. Still, one cannot -- yet -- be prosecuted for committing theory without a license, so consider a few explanations of the happiness gap.

"Happiness gap"? Trust a conservative to invent a problem where none exists. If you think that was comical, wait. It gets better:

Begin with a paradox: Conservatives are happier than liberals because they are more pessimistic. Conservatives think the Book of Job got it right ("Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward"), as did Adam Smith ("There is a great deal of ruin in a nation"). Conservatives understand that society in its complexity resembles a giant Calder mobile -- touch it here and things jiggle there, and there, and way over there. Hence conservatives acknowledge the Law of Unintended Consequences, which is: The unintended consequences of bold government undertakings are apt to be larger than, and contrary to, the intended ones.

Conservatives' pessimism is conducive to their happiness in three ways. First, they are rarely surprised -- they are right more often than not about the course of events. Second, when they are wrong, they are happy to be so. Third, because pessimistic conservatives put not their faith in princes -- government -- they accept that happiness is a function of fending for oneself. They believe that happiness is an activity -- it is inseparable from the pursuit of happiness.

The right to pursue happiness is the essential right that government exists to protect. Liberals, taking their bearings, whether they know it or not, from President Franklin Roosevelt's 1936 State of the Union address, think the attainment of happiness itself, understood in terms of security and material well-being, is an entitlement that government has created and can deliver.

Okay, now we're getting a fairly good idea why conservatism and social science do not mix. A conservative just can't do the math, because he goes in with a preconceived set of imaginary facts, from which he cannot be dissuaded, no matter how wrong all of them are. And the author of this hilarious article, Gentle Reader, is wrong on so many levels.

First of all, THIS lefty-liberal is Canadian. I don't take my bearings (consciously or not) from US politicians, past or present. I do, however, watch them closely--usually to shake my head at how consistently they get things wrong. And wish THEY would learn to take their bearings from US--because up here in the Great North, we are definitely happier than our neighbors to the south, unsunny weather notwithstanding.

Secondly, this theory of conservatives usually being right is just horseshit from back to front. If they were right, would they panic so much, seeing their cherished values constantly being threatened by more realistic ones? (Bear in mind that they've been losing ground FOREVER--even in ancient Greek times, the conservative old fogies were moaning about the "moral decline" of the young.)

Conservatives are wrong and always have been, but their capacity for smug denial knows no bounds. Were they right when they elected Dubya president, thinking he'd be a compassionate conservative, in favor of maximum liberty and minimal government? Surprise! Turns out he doesn't give a tinker's damn for the life, liberty and pursuit-of-happiness of anyone but his wealthiest donors. And he's expanding the government's reach into every American's most private life. (Yeah, tell me again how judges like Roberts and Alito are conducive to a woman's freedom and happiness if they don't even want to let her decide for herself what to do about an unwanted pregnancy.)

And then there's that "fending for oneself" thing. That sense of smug self-reliance only sticks around until the money mysteriously dries up and it suddenly becomes incredibly hard to get more. And when that happens, misery sets in--in earnest. It works the same for the rich as it does for those living paycheque-to-paycheque. Only the former have a longer period of denial--and less realism, consequently--than the latter. (Ever notice how many Great American Novels trace the downfalls of rich and happy conservatives? There's a reason for that.) When you've suddenly got no boots, being hectored to pull yourself up by the bootstraps is the ultimate in cruelty. And all your cherished values won't put new ones on your feet, either...

Tell me, conservatives--are you happy to be wrong about all that? If I were one of you, I'd be dead scared--and wondering what the hell I voted for, since it's all now going to pot. Believe me, thinking about the realities of your pathetic situation makes me glad NOT to be a conservative. Especially since I used to be much more of one when I was younger...and much less happy.

I think the author of our charming piece-of-drivel must have realized that himself, because look what he writes next:

On Jan. 3, 1936, FDR announced that in 34 months his administration had established a "new relationship between government and people." Amity Shlaes, a keen student of FDR's departure from prior political premises, says, "The New Deal had a purpose beyond curing the Depression. It was to make people look to Washington for help at all times." Henceforth the federal government would be permanently committed to serving a large number of constituencies: "Occasional gifts to farmers or tariffs for business weren't enough." So, liberals: Smile -- you've won.

See that? He's acknowledging that liberal policies were, ARE, effective--and VERY happiness-friendly. The New Deal no doubt came as a great relief to many who had endured the Great Depression (which was all the more depressing for having been engineered by conservatives.)

But then, not wanting to shoot his own lovely theory all to shit, he backslides to a wonderfully spinny finish:

Nevertheless, normal conservatives -- never mind the gladiators of talk radio; they are professionally angry -- are less angry than liberals. Liberals have made this the era of surly automobile bumpers, millions of them, still defiantly adorned with Kerry-Edwards and even Gore-Lieberman bumper stickers, faded and frayed like flags preserved as relics of failed crusades. To preserve these mementos of dashed dreams, many liberals may be forgoing the pleasures of buying new cars -- another delight sacrificed on the altar of liberalism.

But, then, conscientious liberals cannot enjoy automobiles because there is global warming to worry about, and the perils of corporate-driven consumerism, which is the handmaiden of bourgeoisie materialism. And high-powered cars (how many liberals drive Corvettes?) are metaphors (for America's reckless foreign policy, for machismo rampant, etc.). And then there is -- was -- all that rustic beauty paved over for highways. (And for those giant parking lots at exurban mega-churches. The less said about them the better.) And automobiles discourage the egalitarian enjoyment of mass transit. And automobiles, by facilitating suburban sprawl, deny sprawl's victims -- that word must make an appearance in liberal laments; and lament is what liberals do -- the uplifting communitarian experience of high-density living. And automobiles...

You see? Liberalism is a complicated and exacting, not to say grim and scolding, creed. And not one conducive to happiness.

Uh, way to twist things totally out of shape, buddy.

How is it "not conducive to happiness" to live modestly and peaceably, not constantly having to assert one's machismo and status with a new car (or house, or spouse) every damn year? To me, the very idea of going car-shopping is depressing--what a nuisance to have to compare the bells of this model to the whistles, sirens, klaxons and hooters of that! I don't give a fuck about the "metaphor" they represent--the immediate reality of those stinking roadhogs is quite enough for me. (Did I mention yet that I don't even drive--and that walking or biking, or--oh heaven!--taking the train is MY delight?)

And I don't even contemplate looking (in vain) for happiness in an "exurban mega-church"--just the sight of them gives me the shudders. (And no, not just because I'm a happy pagan who'd like to remain one, thank you very much. By the way, did you notice how even the conservative guy said "the less said about those, the better"? I guess he doesn't like them, either. Even though they cater primarily to his own kind--fellow conservatives!)

As for complicated and exacting--well, I'll concede that yes, we ARE exacting--in a good way. We insist on getting things right, we liberals--and working harder on the things that have gone awry. Conservatives? Bah, let the world go to hell--and let the peasants eat cake! As long as we're happy (and liberals are miserable), that's all that matters...

But are we liberals really complicated? Uh, pardon me, but how many back-to-the-landers do you know who say their lives are MORE complicated since they got off the grid and away from the suburban sprawl? (They are also, I note in passing, far more self-reliant than any conservative I've ever seen, though they do not shun communitarian values either.) Granted, that's the further end of the liberal spectrum...but you'd be surprised how many of them I've met, seeing as I live on the edge of a rather small town here in Southern Ontario...

And yes, those back-to-the-landers, those liberals, those leftists, those hippies--are the happiest people I know. Mainly because, unlike conservatives, they haven't built their whole lives around money, status, and the eternal, unsatisfying acquisition of more of the same. To them, and me, it looks too much like the life of a drug fiend. More, more, more--too much, never enough!

But, Gentle Reader, here comes the kicker...

You're probably wondering who wrote that article. It is George F. Will...professional conservative scold and perpetual sourpuss, hectorer extraordinaire. Take one good look at him, or one good reading of his vinegary venom, and you'll realize that here is a sad little man with his panties forever in a wad, right up his highly retentive anus. He secretly envies liberals, knowing that he'd never make it with the cool crowd--and so feels free only when projecting his own neuroses onto them.

Maybe his shorts are all bunchy up his bum because some wise-guy liberal gave him a wedgie in his nerdy youth, and he never quite forgot--or forgave. Well, George, you know you can get help for that. One of the great things about being a liberal is that, after the scales of smug denial drop from your sore eyes, you open up to change and understand that it's never too late--there are always others out there willing to embrace you when you've finally seen the light.

But you won't find them in any of those megachurches you have to drive to on an endless ugly highway, pretending to yourself that it's really fun to have to impress all the Joneses with a new car every year.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: He blinded me with science!

Hugo Chavez, lord of the laboratory!

Hugo Chavez opens a new Bolivarian mission: Misión Ciencia.

Where's Magnus Pyke when you need him?

February 23, 2006

Crank up the war machine!

Here comes yet another pretext for bombing Iran...

Iran has offered to help finance the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority governed by the Hamas militant group.

The offer was announced by senior security official Ali Larijani after a meeting with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, state radio reported.

The decision follows moves by the US and Israel to isolate a Hamas-led government with financial penalties.

Oh boy, I can hardly wait for the repercussions.

As it is, Auntie Condi has been none too subtle about beating the war drums on Dubya's behalf. I just wonder what dubious "opposition" faction they plan on financing. After all, we all know they can sure pick some winners...

Democracy returns to Haiti, over US objections

Some days you really don't know whether to laugh, cry, shit or go blind. Such is my reaction to the latest news out of Haiti:

Haiti's President-elect Rene Preval has said the constitution permits the return of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, now in exile in South Africa.

He was speaking after Mr Aristide said he intended to return to his country as soon as possible.

The ousted leader said his supporters had voted for his return by electing Mr Preval, his former ally.

But the US State Department said Mr Aristide's return would serve no useful purpose and could destabilise Haiti.

"Aristide is from the past. We're looking to the future," State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

Oh really, Adam? What kind of "future" do you have in mind for Haiti, pray tell? We already know what your past looks like. I'm just sorry that Canadian UN peacekeepers are part of this fiasco. And I'm still wondering about the highly suspicious death of that Brazilian general, too.

If democracy does return to Haiti, it will do so over the loud objections of certain parties in Washington. Just as it did before.

Looks like Douglas Bravo taught him something

El Chavecito is making the Yanks cranky again. Check out his latest bold move:

Venezuelan lawmakers are to begin debating proposals which would include compulsory service in the home guard.

Army spokesman Gen Alberto Mueller Rojas told the BBC that the country needed a civilian reserve big enough to deter any would-be aggressors.

Critics say the new emphasis on militia units is inspired by Cuba's defence system, where each neighbourhood has its own civilian command structure.

Caracas has already boosted the number of volunteers in its military to 2m.

[...]

Gen Mueller Rojas said Venezuela was moving to a strategy of guerrilla warfare in which militia units would play a key role if the country were invaded.

The plans will be discussed by experts and politicians before the parliamentary Defence and Security Commission.

Any changes to the military law require the backing of two-thirds of the of the members of the National Assembly.

But the BBC's Greg Morsbach in Caracas says this is not a big hurdle for Mr Chavez, as lawmakers loyal to him have a clear majority in congress.

N.B.: this situation is due to the opposition's wimping out at the last moment, the better to whine about Chavez being a "dictator" and claiming that the poor turnout at the last congressional election in Venezuela was proof that the majority are really on their side (and not suffering from a bit of voting fatigue, as is most likely the case.)

Anyhow, here's where Douglas Bravo comes in:

Sometime during the latter 1970s, while a young army officer, Hugo Chavez first met with the leftist revolutionary guerrilla leader and former communist, Douglas Bravo. The two men were introduced by Chavez's elder brother, Adan, then a university professor and leftist activist. They kept up a running dialogue over the next few years, talking and arguing over what shape the future Venezuelan revolution should take. The encounters were clandestine, because Chavez was at the time involved in anti-guerrilla activities and Bravo's name, somewhat understandably, was mud with Chavez's army buddies, not to mention his superiors.

According to Bravo, Chavez was planning to be a caudillo (military strongman); ironically and somewhat comically, Chavez has said the same--of Bravo! Apparently Bravo wanted the military to be merely the "armed wing of the revolution", while Chavez had something more integrated in mind (and was, as the failed coup attempt of 1992 made clear, ill prepared to get it off the ground in that form--the civilians invited to participate failed to show up for their weapons and fight, leaving Chavez and his military compadres high and dry.)

Whoever's right about the other's ambitions, though, one thing is clear: Chavez learned something very important from Bravo. Namely, the usefulness of occasional guerrilla tactics. Since he hasn't been able to complete a purchase of promised military hardware from Spain due to US interference, Chavez has had to make an end-run around all that. Now civilian militias and reserves are turning up for training all over Venezuela--to do battle against BushCo's army, when and if it shows up to bring "democracy" in by force against the caudillo who isn't. (See Iraq.)

Call Chavez what you will, but give him full marks for being one wily guy. And capable of making good use of whatever he learns--whoever he may have learned it from!

February 22, 2006

Laurel Hester, R.I.P.

I won't blog too much on her today, as I didn't know her personally. I will, however, point you to her obits at Salon.com, The Big Gay Picture, and the New York Times, as well as my previous entry on her plight, written around Yule.

I'm glad her story has a (somewhat) happy ending, though: Laurel has gone to her rest knowing that her partner, Stacie Andree, can legally inherit her pension benefits and her home, as Laurel wished.

The larger implications for same-sex couples should go without saying. But I can guarandamntee that some people won't get that message unless it gets said over, and over, and over again. Which is why Laurel's case sets a vital precedent.

Even in death, a person can still accomplish so much. There's a lesson there for the living, I'm sure.

Well thanks! Thanks a lot...

Your Blog is Shitty

No, nobody sent me this. I found it while surfing, couldn't stop laughing, and just thought I'd share!

February 20, 2006

Boycott this 'toon, part 4

The Prophet Bush

February 19, 2006

Spanking Toady Blair

File this under F, for Fan-bloody-tastic! Two Britons have a better understanding of the meaning of democracy than does their own Prime Minister. First, London mayor Ken Livingstone:

Writing in the Morning Star, a small British socialist newspaper, Livingstone accused the Bush administration in Washington of trying to undermine democracy in Venezuela.

"In reality, Venezuela today is one of the most democratic countries in the entire world," Livingstone said, recalling that eight national votes since 1998 have affirmed the legitimacy of Chavez's administration.

"The great majority of the people of Venezuela continue to live in very harsh conditions, but it is hugely encouraging to see, at the start of the 21st century, a government committed to the democratic and social transformation of one of the most important countries in Latin America and the Caribbean."

"They should be allowed to carry out the democratically expressed wishes of their people without further interference from George Bush's administration," added the mayor, a self-described socialist nicknamed "Red Ken".

Livingstone added: "London will certainly be extending the hand of friendship to Caracas, Venezuela's capital city, and we will make clear our support for their right to determine their own future."

Then there's MP Colin Burgon, who drew up the following early day motion on Valentine's Day, which 78 MPs so far have signed:

That this House recognises the progress that is being made by the democratically-elected government of Venezuela in expanding the provision of education, healthcare, housing, land, food and micro-credit facilities for those previously marginalised and excluded from economic and political opportunities in the country; notes that these important policy initiatives are an important step in reducing the searing inequalities that characterise Venezuelan society; further notes that the social policies of the Venezuelan government enhance the country's prospects of meeting its millennium development goals; and calls upon the UK Government to acknowledge the benefits of the Venezuelan social development model for other developing countries, to support the democratically-elected administration of President Hugo Chavez in the face of unconstitutional and illegal threats from both internal and external opponents and to work to strengthen the ties between the UK and Venezuela.

Burgon also has an excellent article out in the UK Guardian, explaining his actions (reprinted at Venezuelanalysis.com).

Why this flurry of pro-Venezuela sentiment? Well, for starters, British delegates recently returned from the very successful World Social Forum in Caracas. That's bound to have given many a more favorable impression than BushCo would like them to have.

Plus, of course, there's the Poodle's own lame attempt to stick his oar in where it wasn't wanted:

On Wednesday in the House of Commons, Mr Blair was asked by Colin Burgon, an MP from his Labour party, whether Britain should follow "a really right-wing US republican agenda" in relation to Venezuela.

"It is rather important that the government of Venezuela realise that if they want to be respected members of the international community they should abide by the rules of the international community," Mr Blair replied.

"I also have to say with the greatest respect to the president of Venezuela that when he forms an alliance with Cuba I would prefer to see Cuba a proper functioning democracy."

Mr Chavez, a close ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro, retorted: "You, Mr Blair, do not have the morality to call on anyone to respect the rules of the international community.

"You are precisely the one who has flouted international law the most... siding with Mr Danger [George Bush] to trample the people in Iraq."

As you can see, that went over like a load of bricks.

Good on Colin Burgon and Ken Livingstone for providing a democratic counterweight to an increasingly undemocratic Prime Minister!

PS: Check out Ken Livingstone's article at Venezuelanalysis, too.

February 18, 2006

Don't do OxyContin, or you'll go blind

Yes, it's true. That stuff can play hell with your eyesight. Just ask Rush Limbaugh.

The Pigman has made an ass of himself yet again, race-baiting Ohio Democratic Rep. Sherrod Brown in a totally ridiculous speculation as to why Brown's opponent, fellow Democrat and Gulf War II veteran Paul Hackett, dropped out of the Ohio primary:

LIMBAUGH: Somebody explain to me what the Democrats are thinking here. Why do they think running a military candidate is gonna be credible anyway, given the posture that they have had the last four or five years? It was a four-point loss. That's right -- 52 to 48, Jean Schmidt beat Hackett, and they claimed it was a win. They were out there, "Oh, yeah, a big -- oh, he got so close, this means it's over for Bush. This means in the '06 elections, that Bush is history." Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah.

But I -- with the attitudes that they have expressed about the military -- they have regularly done their best to impugn the U.S. military. They -- they've collaborated with the members of the media in their party to run stories about how military members are just a bunch a hayseed hicks who joined the military 'cause there's no economic opportunity in America, 'cause the country sucks. They have -- they have -- they say they support the troops, but they don't. And yet, they wanna bring out some -- some -- a bunch of guys in uniform to run.

Maybe somebody in the party has figured this out. And don't forget, Sherrod Brown is black. There's a racial component here, too. And now, the newspaper that I'm reading all this from is The New York Times, and they, of course, don't mention that. But -- you know, "Democratic leaders say that Representative Sherrod Brown, a seven-term incumbent from Avon, has a far better chance of toppling Senator DeWine than does the -- Hackett."

Yo, Rush...the reason the New York Times doesn't mention that is because that reason doesn't exist. Brown, his surname notwithstanding, is WHITE.

D'oh!

How embarrassing is it when the nation's most influential political commentator (with self-styled "talent on loan from God") fucks up on something so basic? When he can't even be bothered to take a look for a simple picture of the man he's talking about because he's in such a hurry to make shit up about him?

And by the way, Rusty...what's up with that "black" crack? Still smarting over Donovan McNabb, perhaps? I mean, we all know you love black people. Some of your best friends are, right? Well anyway, nice job of trying to spin it like your opponents are the racists, not you:

For those of you who continue to email me, even though I have made the correction -- let me make the correction again. I erred when I said that Sherrod Brown is black. I'm confusing him with somebody with a similar name in the Democratic Party somewhere. But we have -- we have corrected this, and I, you know, I'm not gonna apologize, 'cause I don't think it's an insult to be black. But -- but I did err. He is -- his is -- he is -- he is not black. He's one of these white European descendents in Ohio. He's the guy that -- that the Democrats have kicked Paul Hackett out of the race for the Senate seat in Ohio against Mike DeWine. And it really boils down to a matter of money, plus they don't like military guys in the, in the Democratic Party. But Sherrod -- Sherrod Brown has much more money than Hackett could ever hope to raise. So that's that.

Not that it's fooling anyone. We can tell you're just itching to call someone, anyone, a nigger--and you're mad as hell because we liberals and leftists have made that impossible for you to do anymore without serious career repercussions.

And yeah, you just love them soldiers, don't you, Rush. So much so that you couldn't wait to haul out that cyst on your anus to avoid becoming one yourself. Just like all your fellow chickenhawks, you "support the troops" only by cheering cluelessly for a war that by all lights should be contrary to everything you conservatives profess to believe in. When it comes to supporting the real ones, though, you invariably fall on your big ol' cyst-ridden ass. And then the Dems show you up by boasting the biggest list of military vets as candidates. What's up with that?

Maybe it's because your beliefs are, in fact, weak. Or maybe it's all that Oxy you've been popping. Whatever it is, Rush--it's time to get the bone out of your head before you go on the air.

I did not have fiscal relations with that man, Mr. Abramoff...

Jack Abramoff makes a deal with the Dubya

Oh really, George? Then whose hand is that you're shaking?

February 17, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging, Too: Tropicalia comes to "London, London"--again

Anyone know where I can get really, REALLY cheap airfare from Toronto to London so I can catch this?

Chacrinha poster from Tropicalia exhibit

Wacky TV variety-show host Chacrinha (José Abelardo Barbosa de Medeiros, 1916-1988), an inspiration to the Festive Left artistic movement, adorns a poster from the "Tropicalia" exhibit, coming to the Barbican in London, UK. The exhibit runs from February 13 to May 22, 2006.

(This'll teach me to jump the gun when it comes to FLFB! --Your Humble(d) Author.)

Dicking around with guns

Men who go by the name of Dick are such easy butts for puns.

Especially when those men named Dick start fuckin' 'round with guns.

But when those Dicks shoot dicky-birds, and hit their friends instead,

Why then, the question goes around: What's up with ol' Dick's head?

It now turns out Dick's had a beer, or maybe he's had two--

How many beers did ol' Dick have? A couple--or a few?

At least one mystery is solved: he had to sober up.

No one expects a VP to go pee-pee in a cup!

Festive Left Friday Blogging: The art of Marti

Passing a painting of Jose Marti

Raul Martinez's painting "Marti y la Estrella" during the first day open to public of the "Art of Cuba" exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil. (Photo credit: AFP/Mauricio Lima)

February 16, 2006

Boycott this 'toon, part 3

Please Riot Over This!

A blonde moment at the voting booth?

Oh, this is just too funny...

She may be smart enough to earn millions from her acidic political barbs, but when it comes to something as simple as voting in her tiny hometown, hard-core conservative pundit Ann Coulter is a tad confused.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections records show Coulter voted last week in Palm Beach's council election. Problem is: She cast her ballot in a precinct 4 miles north of the precinct where she owns a home — and that could be a big no-no.

Coulter, who owns a $1.8 million crib on Seabreeze Avenue, should have voted in Precinct 1198. It covers most homes on her street. Instead, records show, she voted in Precinct 1196, at the northern tip of the island.

A fave on the college speaking circuit and the occasional target of cream-pies-to-the-face, Coulter registered as a Republican (no kidding!) with the supervisor's office June 24. That's three months after she bought the home and moved to Palm Beach from Manhattan.

Here's the sticky part for The Right's Lady Macbeth: She wrote down an Indian Road address instead of Seabreeze on her voter's registration application. And she signed to certify the information as true.

"She never lived here," said Suzanne Frisbie, owner of the Indian Road home. "I'm Ann's Realtor, and she used this address to forward mail when she moved from New York."

Coulter didn't respond to requests for comment. But the blond GOP pit bull's former agent, Joani Evans, last year told Page Two Coulter left NYC to escape stalkers.

Is a desire to hold on to privacy the reason she gave the wrong address?

"I know but I'm not going to say," Frisbie replied.

Uh, I'll take that as a "yes". Although who'd WANT to stalk that rabid bag of bones, I don't know. Seems like she'd be the one doing the stalking, not the other way around.

And what's this "smart enough to earn millions" bullshit? Everyone knows her smack is not even all hers. The bitch isn't smart, she's fucking lazy, people. She never earned a thing in her life, except maybe all the nasty things anyone has ever said about her. (But hey, to be fair: at least she, unlike the Pigman, actually does bother to vote for those whom she shamelessly blows...)

Anyhow, the Coultergeist's lie is a third-degree felony. It could cost her $5,000 and five years behind bars, but I doubt very much she'll get anything beyond a slap on her alarmingly bony wrist and a lot of false martyrdom (delivered, of course, at the approximate volume and in the dulcet tones of a foghorn).

That's how it works for those who relentlessly stand up for the top dogs, after all.

Why I don't trust men named Dolph

Besides the dangerous proximity to Adolf, of course, there's charming stuff like this:

A city teacher has been charged with groping three 10-year-old girls in their Brooklyn school, cops said yesterday.

Fifth-grade teacher Dolph Timmerman, 51, allegedly accosted two of the students in a hallway at Public School 123 and a third inside a classroom on Monday.

[...]

In the Timmerman case, the girls, all students in his fifth-grade class, alerted a guidance counselor to the alleged abuse. The school principal then called 911, police said. Timmerman, who began teaching at the Bushwick school in September, turned himself in yesterday. The Queens man was charged with first-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. A spokesman for the Brooklyn district attorney's office said Timmerman was awaiting arraignment last night.

It wasn't immediately clear whether the teacher was the same Dolph Timmerman who inspired a character on the animated series "The Simpsons."

A bullying classmate of Bart Simpson's was named after a Dolph Timmerman who went to Lincoln High School in Portland, Ore., with series creator Matt Groening. According to the high school's alumni Web site, a Dolph Timmerman who now lives in New York graduated from the high school in 1971.

Groening's publicist did not return calls for comment.

Doing a little digging, I found the following:

Dolph, a schoolyard bully who is among the local thugs who torture Bart, is named for Dolph Timmerman, a Lincoln classmate of Matt Groenings. Timmerman wasn't a bully at all, Groening said, but a really cool guy.

Well, now I'm confused: Is that really true, or was he just saying it in the hopes that Dolph wouldn't beat him up again...this time with a lawsuit? And is this the same Dolph Timmerman...just showing his true stripes all over again? Or is it someone else who unluckily shares that name?

Whatever the case may be, I still don't trust that Aryan idol Dolph Lundgren (true first name: Hans), either. Especially not after learning about him and Jack Abramoff.

So much for Monsanto's claims

...of saving the world with its Frankenfoods. From the Beeb:

Sustainable farming methods can help the poorest farmers in developing nations out of poverty, new research suggests.

Scientists found that techniques such as crop rotation and organic farming increased crop yields by an average of 79%, without risking future harvests.

The study, possibly the largest of its kind, looked at more than 280 projects in 57 of the world's poorest countries.

The findings appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

[...]

One of the report's co-authors, Professor Jules Pretty from the University of Essex, UK, said the findings challenged the dominate view that the West knew best when it came to agriculture.

"Most people think it is bad news from the south," Professor Pretty said, "but in many ways farmers in developing country are leading the way."

[...]

"People are using a variety of integrated pest management techniques; making the best of biodiversity like predators, parasites and multiple cropping," Professor Pretty told the BBC News website.

"In essence, it allows the ecosystem to deliver the pest management services."

No genetic modification required. Nature does the work herself, when people are intelligent enough to let her.

And on a related note:

Just four countries plant 99 percent of the world's genetically engineered (GE) crops, despite more than a decade of hype about the benefits of agricultural biotechnology.

The United States, home of the agricultural biotech giant Monsanto, represents 55 percent of the world's GE crops, while Argentina, Canada and Brazil account for the rest.

Long trumpeted as the solution to world hunger, some biotech supporters have scaled back their claims and now say the technology will make a substantial contribution to ending hunger. But just when or if that contribution will ever arrive is not clear.

According to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA), GE technology has increased the incomes of 7.7 million resource-poor farmers in developing countries.

Clive James, chairman and founder of ISAAA, says that "6.4 million of these are Chinese peasants growing Bt cotton on tiny farms. They use it because it cuts the number of insecticide sprayings from 30 times a season to half that."

"Our report shows that while they spend 70 dollars per hectare on the GM (GE) technology, the saving on insecticides and labour nets them 60 dollars per hectare," he said.

In the ISAAA's annual global status report issued on Jan. 12, it claimed that 90 million hectares of GE crops were planted in 21 countries in 2005. Although labeled an "anti-poverty group" by some media, the ISAAA is in fact a biotech industry-supported lobby organisation.

"No one has any idea where they are getting their numbers from," said David MacDonald of the Polaris Institute, a Canadian NGO. Where there is solid independent government data, such as in the United States, the ISAAA numbers are inflated by five to 10 percent, he charged.

MacDonald told IPS that the group's reports do not cite any sources or references, nor would most governments have this kind of information. "We and other NGOs have been trying to get independent confirmation of this data for years, without success," he said.

James responded that, "We spent 10 years getting key contacts in business, industry associations and governments to compile our data."

"We don't identify sources because our database is proprietary," he added.

Since no other global figures are available, the ISAAA numbers are widely quoted and referenced — the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation cites them. An international survey on the commercial cultivation of GE crops in the Jan. 13 issue of science journal Nature is based on ISAAA data.

However, Nature interprets the data rather differently. "Only a few countries have wholeheartedly embraced a transgenic future," writes Peter Aldhous, chief news and features editor.

Despite billions of dollars invested in research by governments and industry over more than 20 years, only three crops — cotton, maize and soy — account for 95 percent of GE acreage. These three crops are either herbicide-resistant or contain Bt insecticide.

I notice the much-hyped "golden" rice, supposedly the answer to the world's hunger problems (to hear the Frankenfoodies tell it), isn't even mentioned, either.

I'm sure there's a lesson in all this.

Against same-sex marriage? That's sick!

Yes, indeedy. And the Beeb would know:

Gay "marriage" could boost the mental and physical health of homosexuals, doctors believe.

Rates of depression, drug abuse and cancer are higher in the gay community than among heterosexual people.

The report said civil partnerships, which were introduced in England and Wales in December, were likely to reduce prejudice and social exclusion.

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health article was based on previous studies in other countries.

Denmark was the first country to introduce civil partnerships for same sex couples in 1989, since when several European Union countries, some US states, Australia and Canada have followed suit.

Professor Michael King, of University College London, who co-wrote the article, said: "Civil partnerships are likely to break down some of the prejudice and promote greater understanding, including among staff working in the health service.

"Legal civil partnerships could increase the stability of same sex relationships and minimise the social exclusion to which gay and lesbian people are often subjected."

Well, it's not as if I hadn't known this (or at least suspected it) for quite some time. My best friend is a gay man who's now legally (in Canada, anyway) married to his partner of the past 16-plus years. They are the healthiest and most stable couple I know. And the surest refutation of the bullshit assertion that being gay will automatically make you AIDS-ridden, mentally ill, etc. Turns out, it's not the being-gay, it's the REJECTION that society dishes out on your head.

Surprise, surprise!

February 15, 2006

Boycott this 'toon, too...

Fanaticism--the most dangerous drug

Heh...

The OTHER Mohammed pictures you're not supposed to see

No, they're not cartoons. They're PHOTOS:

An Australian TV channel has broadcast previously unpublished images showing apparent US abuse of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in 2003.

The images on SBS TV are thought to be from the same source as those that caused an outcry around the world and led to several US troops being jailed.

The new images show "homicide, torture and sexual humiliation", SBS said.

The US has said the images could only "incite unnecessary violence" and endanger US military personnel.

The broadcast of the images comes at a time of increased tension between Muslim nations and the West over cartoons satirising the Prophet Muhammad.

And of course, the damage they do is predictable, too:

The images were swiftly re-broadcast by Arab satellite television stations and several news organisations, including American ABC News television, showed them on their Web sites.

They stirred up more anger among Arabs, already incensed by the publication on Sunday of images of British soldiers apparently beating Iraqi youths and by cartoons satirising the Prophet Mohammad printed in European papers this month.

"This is truly American ugliness that no other country in the world can compete with," journalist Saleh al-Humaidi said in Yemen.

"The Americans ought to apologise to mankind for their government's lie to the world that it is fighting for freedom and that it came to Iraq to save it from Saddam Hussein's oppression," he said.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the abuses at Abu Ghraib had already been fully investigated.

"The department believes that the release of all of these images will further inflame and cause unnecessary violence in the world," Whitman said.

Note, again, the hypocrisy of the warmongers--images that make Mohammed look bad are okay in the name of "free speech", but images that show the US as equally brutal, if not even more so, are somehow unacceptable. Where are all those brave, Denmark-defending right-wing Voltaires now?

Oh, I know...they're probably hiding under their beds again. On the pretext of looking for turbaned marauders, no doubt.

Since they're too cowardly to share these lovely images of Mohammed with you, allow me:

Abuse at Abu Ghraib--posing the victims

Mohammed-porn is free speech, isn't it?

Charles Graner doing what he does best

Charles Graner doing what he does best: beating the crap out of a Mohammed or two.

Nice work, Chuck!

Nice work, Chuck! You sure showed that raghead. Yeah, you da man.

Bloodstains

Mohammed's blood?

Dead Iraqi

Mohammed???

February 14, 2006

Boycott this 'toon!

Tom Tomorrow rocks. Jyllands-Posten sucks. And this 'toon proves it.

It's more worth reproducing than any bomb-in-a-turban one. And I do it in the name of free speech, so nyaaaaaah.

Jyllands-Posten is now officially full of shit

Well, here goes yet another card from under the Jyllands-Posten's stupid cartoonish house. Writing for Slate, Reza Aslan lets slip an amazing fact: There is, in fact, NO Koranic prohibition against portraying Mohammed, only in worshipping graven images of any prophet or deity. Remember that distinction, Gentle Reader, because it is vital. Case in point:

Not long ago, as I was strolling through the sprawling bazaars of the holy city of Qom in Iran—a city often referred to as "the Vatican of Shiism"—I came across a cramped, catacomblike shop that sold religious trinkets to tourists. Hanging in the shop's window was a poster depicting what looked like a beautiful young girl with large, bright eyes and a cherubic face lit up by some unseen source of light. The girl wore a loose headdress, like a turban she had carelessly let unravel, from which peeked thick strands of lush, black hair. She looked skyward, her rosy lips parted in a shy smile.

I was thrilled, thinking I had found a poster of the Prophet Mohammed's beloved daughter, Fatima, whose veneration in Islam (particularly Shiite Islam) is matched by that of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism. Most stores in Qom carry prints depicting heroic Muslim figures like the prophet's son-in-law, Ali, or the prophet's grandson, Husayn. But a portrait of Fatima is exceedingly difficult to find.

I rushed into the store and breathlessly asked the shopkeeper how much he wanted for the poster of Fatima hanging in his window.

He clucked his tongue in disgust and shook his head.

"That is not Fatima!" he cried sternly. "That is the Prophet Mohammed!"

I was embarrassed, but not surprised. Since the publication of a series of cartoons depicting Mohammed in Denmark's largest daily, Jyllands-Posten, much has been written about Islam's prohibition against physical representations of the prophet of Islam. In fact, the Muslim world abounds with magnificent images of Mohammed. (In general, Shiites and Sufis tend to be more flexible on this point than Sunnis). In some, the prophet's face is obscured by a pillar of fire that rises from beneath his chin in a veil of flames. In others, he is unveiled and glorious, a golden nimbus hovering over his head. While some Muslims object to these well-known and widely distributed depictions, there has never been any large-scale furor over them for the simple reason that although they depict the prophet, they do so in a positive light.

(My own emphasis added.)

Aslan goes on to point out that the cartoons in Jyllands-Posten are specifically designed to provoke outrage, not portray the prophet in a good light. Anyone who has actually seen them can readily agree. He closes with a provocative point that we should all take to heart:

Of course, the sad irony is that the Muslims who have resorted to violence in response to this offense are merely reaffirming the stereotypes advanced by the cartoons. Likewise, the Europeans who point to the Muslim reaction as proof that, in the words of the popular Dutch blogger Mike Tidmus, "Islam probably has no place in Europe," have reaffirmed the stereotype of Europeans as aggressively anti-Islamic. It is this common attitude among Europeans that has led to the marginalization of Muslim communities there, which in turn has fed the isolationism and destructive behavior of European Muslims, which has then reinforced European prejudices against Islam. It is a Gordian knot that has become almost impossible to untangle.

And that is why as a Muslim American I am enraged by the publication of these cartoons. Not because they offend my prophet or my religion, but because they fly in the face of the tireless efforts of so many civic and religious leaders—both Muslim and non-Muslim—to promote unity and assimilation rather than hatred and discord; because they play into the hands of those who preach extremism; because they are fodder for the clash-of-civilizations mentality that pits East against West. For all of that I blame Jyllands-Posten. We in the West want Muslim leaders to condemn the racial and religious prejudices that are so widespread in the Muslim world. Let us lead by example.

Isn't that what this "war on terror" is supposed to be about? Western liberal democracy setting a shining example for the rest of the world, so extremism finally, painlessly ceases to exist? (Yes, I know, it's not really about that; it's about oil, and even more than that it's about empire, which is a species of extremism unto itself. Indulge me for a second here, folks--I'm hoisting the right-wing nuts on their own fuckin' petard.)

While you're bearing this in mind, here's a most interesting interview on Democracy Now, which also relates:

AMY GOODMAN: Just before the program we spoke to Jytte Klausen, an Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at Brandeis University. Her most recent book is "The Islamic Challenge: Politics and Religion in Western Europe." We reached her in Brussels and I asked her to talk about the Danish newspaper that published the cartoons.

JYTTE KLAUSEN: Yes, the paper is the country's largest newspaper which means it has a circulation of about 175,000 copies. It is a conservative paper. It has a long tradition for association with the party of Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the Prime Minister of Denmark today. It has always taken into consideration the religious sensitivities of its readers who are primarily provincial middle class and farmers.

AMY GOODMAN: And can you then talk about their decision to do this and what it meant in Denmark?

JYTTE KLAUSEN: Well, there are different stories. One story is, what they say, Flemming Rose, the editor of the paper who was responsible for the cartoons said that he was dissatisfied with the spreading of self censorship in Denmark on all matters related to Islam. And as examples he gave that there were two theatre performances which were critical and funny reviews, over the summertime that had stories about George Bush but none of them had any stories about Osama Bin Laden. You can ask how funny it is to make a story about Osama Bin Laden, but that was one of his examples of censorship.

Another was that a children's book author said that he couldn't find anybody to make illustrations for a book about the Prophet. However that book is now out and it does have an illustration of the Prophet on the front page of the Prophet sitting on a winged horse. The book is selling quite well and no Muslims have protested it because the drawing is quite mushy and nice. It is not a political caricature.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet, the cartoon of Christ was turned down because it would not be appealing, the editor said.

JYTTE KLAUSEN: Yes, and the cartoons about-- the paper published twelve cartoons. They were the result of what the editor called a competition. He said he wanted all Danish-- he invited all Danish cartoonists to think about how they would portray the Prophet Muhammad, and only twelve came back and he published those twelve.

Some of them are noxious and a few of them even can make you laugh. But some of them portray the Prophet with a big bulbous nose, and a blood-dripping sword, with a halo that's broken into little horns. They really stereotype Muslims as bloodthirsty sex maniacs.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you put the newspaper in the context of the politics of Denmark and also the politics of immigration, how immigrants are dealt with, particularly Muslim immigrants and Arab immigrants into Denmark right now?

JYTTE KLAUSEN: I think the best way of doing that is to describe what happened just a week before the cartoons were published. There was an annual meeting of one of the parties, it's a coalitional government, Denmark has many parties and no one party has enough votes to govern. So the government is a coalition of two parties, two right-wing parties, and they depend on the very xenophobic Danish People's Party for the majority.

At the annual meeting, one of the parties before the courtroom, Brian Mikkelsen said that in the past five years, he said, Denmark has been in a cultural war and the government has now won the first round and this is a time to start the second round to eliminate all signs of multiculturalist relativism in Denmark. It was a battle cry. The government has been deeply engaged in a project of Danish moral restoration. The definition of—shop definition of Danish values, which they say are Christian values. And the Danish People's Party, members of the Danish People's Party, two of them are in fact pastors in the Lutheran church, have repeatedly stood up in parliament and said that Muslims are a cancer on Danish society.

AMY GOODMAN: So how do you think this decision to run these cartoons fits into that?

JYTTE KLAUSEN: It's a political decision. They are political pals. They -- it was a short-sided decision. It was also an attempt to, you know, fill time when the news is slow. I think that Flemming Rose, the editor had no idea what would actually happen. He had a good idea that he would offend Muslims, but he thought this was just a matter of domestic politics and he didn't really understand why these cartoons were so offensive to Muslims. He certainly had no clue that they would lead to a cartoon war in Iran, which is what has happened now. By the way, he has offered a helping hand to Iran in drawing cartoons depicting the Holocaust.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, Iran put out in their national newspaper anyone who could come up with a cartoon of the Holocaust, they'd have a competition, and what is he doing in Denmark?

JYTTE KLAUSEN: Well, he publicly announced that the paper, the paper, the Danish paper, Jyllands-Posten will work together in assistance with the Iranians who want to draw the Holocaust and that the paper would publish and print the Holocaust cartoons. It is a stunning decision and one can only think that these people are completely out of their minds. But when I discussed — I teach at a Jewish university, and when I discuss the cartoons with my students, their immediate reaction was, if they can draw this kind of cartoon about Muslims, what is it to prevent them from doing it about Jews. And obviously my students were on to something.

And there's another unwanted consequence of bomb-throwing under the guise of "free speech". Can you just imagine how the screeching harpies of Widdle Gween Fascistan, who are rabidly pro-Zionist and still gloating over the murder of Rachel Corrie, would scream if the ugliness were turned on Jews--and Israeli Jews in particular? But then again, these are people who can't think beyond the ends of their own self-serving noses, so I suppose they won't get it. And neither will Michelle Malkin, who is just fine with fascism as long as "we" do it.

BTW, the "self-censorship" debate is hereby moot; the children's book that is alleged to have sparked the Jyllands-Posten's cartoon call is now out in print. And yes, the illustration of Mohammed on the winged horse al-Buraq is there, too. It is, as Jytte Klausen says, a tasteful and inoffensive portrayal which is quite in line with the positive-light tradition Reza Aslan describes. I don't foresee it drawing any death threats for its author or the illustrator, for the simple reason that it is a cross-cultural work designed to get Danish kids discussing and understanding Islam and the story of Mohammed. That is a positive light if ever there was one, and will do more for the intercultural dialogue than any amount of childish cartooning ever could.

And just to drive a couple more nails into the reactionary provocateurs' coffin, here's a quick rundown on Islamic art, and a gallery of Mohammed images throughout the ages.

All you rightards can stop beating your breasts in fake "solidarity" with the poor, beleaguered Danes now (of whom, I note in passing, NOT ONE has been killed over this--all the victims have, in fact, been protesters against the racism of the west, and at least four--in Afghanistan--were shot by police). The Danes don't need useless idiots like you "standing up" for them by reprinting racist trash which costs you nothing, doesn't risk your neck, and which, in any case, is a poor excuse for free speech. You want the real thing? You're lookin' at it right here. And it just jumped up to bite you.

February 13, 2006

Sir Ian comes out of the Casting Closet...

...and undresses some painful truths about the myth of Hollywood liberalism:

Sir Ian McKellen has said openly gay US actors are prevented from having successful Hollywood careers.

"It is very, very, very difficult for an American actor who wants a film career to be open about his sexuality," the gay British actor said.

"And even more difficult for a woman if she's lesbian. It's very distressing to me that that should be the case."

The Lord of the Rings star added: "The film industry is very old fashioned in California."

Suck on that, William Donohue.

February 12, 2006

Zut alors! She can cook, too...

Lapin a l'estragon (Tarragon Rabbit Stew)

1-2 kg rabbit, cut up

2 cups chicken broth

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 medium onions, sliced

3 medium carrots, sliced

2 stalks celery, sliced

2 cans mushrooms, drained (reserve liquid)

1 tablespoon dried tarragon

1-2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon corn starch

1/4 cup cold water

Olive oil

White wine or sherry (optional)

Salt and pepper to taste

In a heavy skillet, brown rabbit pieces in olive oil. Transfer to stew pot. Add chicken broth, liquid from mushrooms, sliced onion, carrot, celery, crushed garlic cloves, tarragon and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until rabbit is tender, about an hour. Stir cornstarch into cold water until dissolved. Remove rabbit pieces onto a platter; keep warm. Add cornstarch mixture and mushrooms to liquids in pot; bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until thickened. Add wine or sherry if desired, to taste. Season with salt and pepper as desired. Transfer rabbit back to pot, coating with sauce. Serve with noodles, rice or potatoes.

I recommend a not-too-tart white wine, preferably from the Mosel region of Germany, to complement the delicate flavors of rabbit and tarragon. Anything too dry will only overwhelm them.

Bon appetit!

February 10, 2006

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Where's Hugo?

Can you spot Huguito Chavecito on this banner?

In good company, of course. Marching through downtown Caracas, February 4. (Photo credit: Luigino Bracci)

Yes, folks, it's a new feature (hopefully to become a regular): Festive Left Fridays. In which I celebrate leftists I love, and the scenesters making new revolutions happen in creative and sometimes outlandish ways. Wherever possible, the picture will have been taken within the past week.

I got the idea for the name from Caetano Veloso, who in the 1960s was part of a Brazilian artistic/musical movement that shook up the establishment and pissed off both the right and the doctrinaire, mainstream left. Veloso and his musical collaborators pioneered a style known as tropicalism, which mixed an eclectic mass of influences (bossa nova, carnival samba, traditional Afro-Brazilian folk music, rock, pop, etc.) to create a chaotic new sound. It marked a departure from the sober politics-as-usual of the day. The larger movement became known as the Festive Left. It was merry, unorthodox, bewildering and seemingly random, because it was designed to get people thinking for themselves and to have fun doing so.

With any luck, this feature will get you doing the same, Gentle Reader. What say?

February 9, 2006

A cowflop by any other name

...still smells like bullshit. But hey, don't let that stop you from calling it "journalism". From the NY Times:

Journalists like to think of themselves as presenting as accurate a picture as they can of the real world.

The American Association of Petroleum Geologists takes a broader view. It is presenting its annual journalism award this year to Michael Crichton, the science fiction writer whose latest book, "State of Fear," dismisses global warming as a largely imaginary threat embraced by malignant scientists for their own ends.

"It is fiction," conceded Larry Nation, communications director for the association. "But it has the absolute ring of truth."

That is not the way leading climate scientists see it. When the book was published in 2004, climate experts condemned it as dangerously divorced from reality. Most of these scientists believe human activity, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels, is changing the atmosphere's chemistry in ways that threaten unpredictable, potentially damaging effects.

The book is "demonstrably garbage," Stephen H. Schneider, a Stanford climatologist, said in an interview yesterday. Petroleum geologists may like it, he said, but only because "they are ideologically connected to their product, which fills up the gas tanks of Hummers."

Daniel P. Schrag, a geochemist who directs the Harvard University Center for the Environment, called the award "a total embarrassment" that he said "reflects the politics of the oil industry and a lack of professionalism" on the association's part.

As for the book, he added, "I think it is unfortunate when somebody who has the audience that Crichton has shows such profound ignorance."

"The absolute ring of truth"? Oh, gimme a break. Michael Crichton may be "truthy", but he's not presenting actual truth, because he's extremely sloppy with the facts and more reliant on his own bombastic imagination than on scientific reality. Not to mention a totally brainwashed view of environmentalism which just happens to be fashionable in certain rightardly circles...

It's embarrassing that his books even sell, let alone as well as they do. He makes a lot of money peddling slipshod fiction. More than enough, if truth be told. Does he really have to take obscene amounts from the petroleum industry--for exploiting most people's very poor knowledge of climate science, no less?

And it's not the first time he's offended, either. His hackery and plagiarism are well-known. So, any claim to science he may have is now unequivocally tainted by the fact that he is just a good old-fashioned bullshit artist.

As for this piece of poop--it stinks of oil. Literally.

Maybe one day Mr. Crichton will start writing fiction that isn't junk science in clever disguise. Or at least, start writing better fiction. But until then, I'm not holding my breath--OR buying his shit.

(And on a related note, can we please get off this damned trend of passing off fiction as non-? I'm sick of it.)

Dawwwwg!

Mailed to me by a friend today. Originator unknown:

George W. Bush congratulating Stephen Harper on his minority government

Found: Voices of reason...

Unfortunately for the cartoon flap still raging in parts elsewhere, they live in Canada--where EVERYTHING is different. The Globe and Mail's Michael Valpy elaborates:

The difference is illustrated by events in France in 2004 and Canada in 2005, said Tarek Fatah, a leader of the Muslim Canadian Congress.

In France, few if any representative voices within the French Muslim community were heard in the news media speaking in favour of a law banning conspicuous religious symbols, such as the traditional Muslim head scarf, in public schools.

This was the case even though a significant percentage of French Muslims had no problem accepting the law within the cultural context of French secular society.

The powerful Muslim opposition that was heard, Mr. Fatah said, came from "the mosque structure" but "the mobilization of moderate Muslim voices never happened."

In contrast, in Canada in 2005, the news media pointedly reported that the most vociferous opposition to an Ontario law permitting Islamic religious tribunals to arbitrate family and marital disputes came from Muslim organizations themselves.

In Mr. Fatah's view, the mainstream Muslim community in Canada has recognized the need to take what he calls "ownership of the word Muslim." It has become actively involved in Canadian political life and not marginalized as is the case in many Western countries.

"It's a shift, for Canadian Muslims, that has not happened anywhere else."

Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, said violent demonstrations simply aren't a fit with the Canadian Muslim community -- which, because of Canada's immigration requirements, he said, is the most highly educated Muslim community in the world.

"They would find legal and peaceful means of protest far more productive," said the imam and professor at the University of Waterloo. "With demonstrations, you cannot have full control over who does what."

His organization, the largest Muslim umbrella group in Canada, has actively discouraged demonstrations over the cartoons and has spoken publicly against the violent protests -- as has the Muslim Canadian Congress.

Earle Waugh, a University of Alberta Islamic scholar, said most Muslim immigrants to Canada do not feel sidelined, a factor significantly fuelling the protests in European countries.

"There is no sympathy within the Canadian Muslim community for a radical approach," he said. "No sympathy for the fundamentalists."

Canada has had no legacy of Muslim colonies like that of the British and French, and no history of migrant Muslim guest workers like that of Germany.

In other words, Canada has no history of either antagonizing or oppressing Muslims. Its institutions are not structured that way. It does, however, have a strong secular-democratic tradition, as well as an immigration policy which has for years been favoring the educated professional over the unskilled worker, thus making it more likely that modern, moderate Muslims will become citizens. All of these factors play in.

Most significant for me, though, is our secular-democratic tradition, which Muslims here value so strongly that they prefer it over the Sharia laws that, if we are to believe the media hype, are supposedly the fastest-growing menace to secular democracy in the world. It grants them the freedom to practice their faith unmolested, and hate crimes against Muslims are treated as seriously as hate crimes against any other group. Muslims are, plainly and simply, equal citizens in Canada. As a result, they take their citizenship very seriously--and treat it as an honor.

And that sense of equality and good citizenship pays dividends: Muslims here generally don't feel threatened. Neither are they seeking to terrorize anyone else into adopting Islam as their religion. They are not ghettoized, for there are no ghettoes here. That's not to say that they have no communities, only that their communities are more integrated with others. They get along well with their non-Muslim neighbors. It is, in short, a very different situation from that which prevails in France!

(Ironically, there is one city in France that was not recently touched by rioting, and that's Marseille. Guess what: Muslims are more integrated there, too! Coincidence?)

Canada's multicultural society puts it at a distinct, if largely unheralded advantage. Straight Goods publisher Ish Theilheimer notes:

Canada has done an admirable job of resisting the charms of the fundamentalists. We have built a multi-cultural, diverse society that [...] does not interpret any creed's word in sacred texts as literal truth, does not zealously preach and advocate anyone's gospel and does not assert the position that its national culture and interests are superior to any other.

Fundamentalism is not inevitable here or anywhere else. To hold it in check requires ordinary people to see real benefit in an ecumenical (sic) view of the world. The majority of people need to be convinced they will benefit even as others benefit, and that the world is more than a zero-sum exercise.

I like to think we have succeeded at that!

It's a comforting thought that I live in a country that isn't being hit with a rising tide of anti-Islam sentiment. I hope that serenity prevails. And that the rest of the world sits up and takes notice without our having to brag too loudly.

In the meantime, the voices of reason up here keep right on talking.

February 8, 2006

I hold this 'toon to be self-evident

Lady Liberty is with Cindy Sheehan

February 7, 2006

Wanted: Inflammatory Hypocritical Bigots, Part Two

Wow. Looks like yesterday's entry title was more accurate than I initially intended. Get a load of this little snippet, courtesy of the World Socialist Website:

The events that have led up to the present confrontation make it clear that the publication of the cartoons was a political provocation. The Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, which first published twelve caricatures of Mohammad on September 30, supports the right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen--a government that includes in its coalition a rabidly anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim party.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Jyllands-Posten was infamous for its affinity for Italian fascism and the German Nazi dictatorship. In 1933, it argued for the introduction of a dictatorship in Denmark.

Last September, the newspaper asked forty cartoonists to draw images of the Prophet Muhammad, something that is proscribed by Islamic law as blasphemous. Spelling out the provocative and inflammatory aim of this exercise, the chief editor said its purpose was "to examine whether people would succumb to self-censorship, as we have seen in other cases when it comes to Muslim issues."

Well, well. A paper with pro-fascist leanings, both past and present, daring to pontificate and deliberately provoke outrage on "self-censorship when it comes to Muslim issues"? It's more than a little ironic when you consider that yesterday's entry dealt with their own self-censorship when it comes to, you guessed it, Christian issues. Selective inattention is a hypocrite's best friend.

But then again, isn't this just like fascists. They want "freedom of speech" for themselves (and no one else, it seems), but they don't want to acknowledge the ugly consequences of just shooting off their mouths. And they sure as hell don't want to see the finger of blame pointing back at them--which it's bound to do threefold, as the old Buddhist parable holds, when they dare to point their own at someone else.

February 6, 2006

Wanted: Inflammatory hypocritical bigots. Must be able to cartoon. Apply to Jyllands-Posten...

A Ted Rall cartoon called Free Speech Maniacs

Just when you thought you knew everything about the Mohammed-cartoon flap, the most interesting developments of all start cropping up...

Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad that have caused a storm of protest throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it has emerged today.

The Danish daily turned down the cartoons of Christ three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive to readers and were not funny.

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

The illustrator told the Norwegian daily Dagbladet, which saw the email: "I see the cartoons as an innocent joke, of the type that my Christian grandfather would enjoy."

"I showed them to a few pastors and they thought they were funny."

He said that he felt Jyllands-Posten rated the feelings of its Christian readers higher than that of its Muslim readers.

[...]

The decision smacks of "double-standards", said Ahmed Akkari, spokesman for the Danish-based European Committee for Prophet Honouring, the umbrella group that represents 27 Muslim organisations that are campaigning for a full apology from Jyllands-Posten.

"How can Jyllands-Posten distinguish the two cases? Surely they must understand," Mr Akkari added.

Oh, rest assured they understand, Mr. Akkari. They understand who their target readership is...a bunch of right-wing "Christian" bigots who have no problem with mockery of other religions, but who are oh-so-touchy about anything touching their own.

So much for "free speech", eh?

February 4, 2006

Uh-oh, Canada...

...My home and native land;

True patriot love

May not protect thy sand!

We need a much bigger army

From sea to sea to sea,

Since Dubya, ever so smarmy,

Has vile designs on thee!

God keep our land

Out of BushCo's hands!

O Canada, who'll stand on guard for thee?

O Canada, who'll stand on guard for thee?

Creeping fascism doesn't get much creepier than this!

It's deja vu all over again...or in this case, seeing as it has to do with things heard rather than seen, deja entendu. If you think the current crop of fascists in the White House only bulldozed the remnants of the Clinton Weimar Republic recently, you need to read this:

Senate Judiciary Committee hearings begin Monday over [George W.] Bush's authority to approve such wiretaps by the ultra-secretive National Security Agency without a judge's approval. A focus of the hearings is to determine whether the Bush administration's eavesdropping program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law with origins during Ford's presidency.

"We strongly believe it is unwise for the president to concede any lack of constitutional power to authorize electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes," wrote Robert Ingersoll, then-deputy secretary of state, in a 1976 memorandum to President Ford about the proposed bill on electronic surveillance.

George H.W. Bush, then director of the CIA, wanted to ensure "no unnecessary diminution of collection of important foreign intelligence" under the proposal to require judges to approve terror wiretaps, according to a March 1976 memorandum he wrote to the Justice Department. Bush also complained that some major communications companies were unwilling to install government wiretaps without a judge's approval. Such a refusal "seriously affects the capabilities of the intelligence community," Bush wrote.

In another document, Jack Marsh, a White House adviser, outlined options for Ford over the wiretap legislation. Marsh alerted Ford to objections by Bush as CIA director and by Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft over the scope of a provision to require judicial oversight of wiretaps. At the time, Rumsfeld was defense secretary, Kissinger was secretary of state and Scowcroft was the White House national security adviser.

Some experts weren't surprised the cast of characters in this national debate remained largely unchanged over 30 years.

"People don't change their stripes," said Kenneth C. Bass a former senior Justice Department lawyer who oversaw such wiretap requests during the Carter administration.

Or their carefully concealed swastikas, as the case may be.

This putsch has been a long time coming, and it only attests further to the premeditated nature of BushCo's crimes against democracy. (Not that we hadn't already guessed as much.)

The question now is, how much longer will the American Sheeple put up with these wolves in the White House?

Wanted: Voices of reason. All creeds. Apply to Dept. of Free Speech.

A British Muslim cleric has come out in condemnation of two things that both richly deserve it: some offensive cartoonage, defaming the prophet Mohammed, and also those who have gone overboard over it...

A march in which protesters chanted violent anti-Western slogans such as "7/7 is on its way" should have been banned, a leading British Muslim said.

Asghar Bukhari said the demonstration in London on Friday should have been stopped by police because the group had been advocating violence.

The chairman of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee said the protesters "did not represent British Muslims".

More protests over cartoons of Muhammad on Saturday passed off peacefully.

Mr Bukhari told the BBC News website: "The placards and chants were disgraceful and disgusting, Muslims do not feel that way.

"I condemn them without reservation, these people are less representative of Muslims than the BNP are of the British people."

He said that Muslims were angry over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad published in European papers but it was "outrageous" for anyone to advocate extreme action or violence.

"We believe it [the protest] should have been banned and the march stopped.

"It's irrelevant whether it's Muslims causing hatred or anyone else - freedom of speech has to be responsible."

How right he is. And how soon we all forget that in our fervor to blindly condemn one another.

By the way, let's not forget that less noisy majority of Muslims who believe in responding in a measured manner, not with knee-jerk violence. They could teach us all a thing or two about the responsible use of free speech.

February 3, 2006

Remember, they don't want Iran getting nukes...

...but this is just hunky-dory:

Deluxe Penis Compensator, a.k.a. Gatling Gun

Lord only knows what they're doing to merit such a thing, but this is what it is:

Officials at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have added a new weapon to their armory: a high-powered machine gun that can fire more than 50 rounds per second.

The weapon, unveiled Thursday, is a six-barrel Gatling gun called the Dillon Aero M134D. An undisclosed number of the guns will be mounted on vehicles and elsewhere at the lab.

"What we want to do is equip our protective force with the capability that will leave no doubt about the outcome," said Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

Yuh-huh. But is it safe? Doubtful...

Lab critics questioned the wisdom of putting such powerful guns at the lab, which is across the street from suburban homes. They say the real problem is that the lab site, which is relatively small at 1 square mile, is not a good place for nuclear materials.

"If you don't have the firepower, that's one kind of security weakness, but if you do have the firepower, you potentially endanger nearby workers and community members because it's such a compact site," said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley CARES, a Livermore-based activist group.

And yet there are still Americans who trust their own government. Even when it basically pisses on the people...with what looks like the world's biggest, ugliest penis.

Astonishing.

Q. What do Hugo Chavez and Adolf Hitler have in common?

A. Not a damn thing, but try telling that to the American Sheeple.

Gentle readers, we really ARE through the Looking Glass now. Get a load of what Rummy had to say about the Our Man in Caracas lately:

In Washington, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described the election of a string of left-wing leaders in the region as worrying.

"[Chavez] is a person who was elected legally, just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally and then consolidated power," he said.

Does that crackbrained wingnut EVER stop projecting? Rummy, please, extract head from rectum and focus on the facts for a change. What leader actually lost a popular vote, but still got into power due to appointment--and consolidated his unlawful power by way of enabling laws? Hint: NOT Hugo Chavez. Chavez's power was consolidated the same way it was achieved: democratically. Venezuelans overwhelmingly support him...because, with the exception of some delusional spoiled brats, they like what he's done for the country. Amazing how that works! (They should try it in the US sometime...)

Rummy was wrong about something else, too: Hitler was not legally elected. The German people voted overwhelmingly against him. It was the right-wing members of the Reichstag who appointed him to power. Look it up, folks!

But hey. Who am I to spoil a such a lovely propaganda campaign by just citing fact? Let Jesus Nery Barrios hammer home a few more nails in that coffin, an it please ye. And when you're through with that, a journalist from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington would like to have a few words with you about that bogus Telesur "propaganda" charge, too.

And just for good measure, here's a bit of choice fact-checking from Eva Golinger, with insight into what's really behind all this.

Like I said: Herr Rumsfeld is projecting his own fascistic tendencies onto others. No wonder his German relatives disowned him.

PS: Also check out Pat Robertson's latest. He's not REALLY taking back his assassination call. He's making excuses for it and repeating it, instead. Ugly little murdermonger.

February 1, 2006

A study in contrasts

Ponder this:

Cindy Sheehan spends the hottest weeks of the summer of '05 in Crawford, Texas, where you could fry an egg on the ground in the shade, trying in vain to get a simple answer to a simple question. And seeing as she wanted to ask it of George W. Bush, you'd think it would be a snap, right? He's a simple kind of guy, or so he would have us believe (and certainly his stumblebummery would indicate.) One hour alone with him--that's all she wanted. And never got.

Well, last night at the State of the Union address, Cindy got--MAYBE--all of five minutes, but she still didn't get to ask her question, even if her t-shirt did: "2,245 Dead. How Many More?"

Simple, right?

Apparently, too simple for BushCo. Or rather, too plain and bald and--gasp!--honest. After all, the SOTU is not meant to be a showcase for true American values, such as those of free speech and the right to peaceably assemble; it is to be understood strictly as an exercise in Bushish mendacity these days. Only, out of politeness, we're supposed to exercise a little mendacity of our own and not admit as much. We're supposed to sit on our hands and watch in silence as blatant hypocrisy plays out before our very eyes. And of course, we don't even get a barf bag for our pains...

But quite aside from the contrast between the different treatments of Cindy Sheehan and Mrs. Bill Young, here's another contrast you might want to study: the different treatments of Cindy Sheehan and Cindy Sheehan. First, by her own president:

Security men arresting Cindy Sheehan

Then, by the president of Venezuela:

Hugo Chavez welcoming Cindy Sheehan with a kiss

You really have to wonder which country actually has the much-vaunted freedom and democracy of America.

And finally: Isn't it funny that the right-wingers keep yattering on about how Hugo Chavez is such an evil tyrant, even in the face of so much evidence to the contrary? Let's face it--those people must be vampires. They don't cast a shadow; they ARE the shadow. They don't cast a reflection because they ARE the reflection. And what a bad reflection on their country they are...

Totally through the Looking Glass, in other words.