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September 30, 2007

The Shock Doctrine

Actually, this dovetails rather nicely with The Secret Government, don't you think?

The Secret Government

A 1987 documentary by Bill Moyers, in two parts:

Part I explores the Cold War mentality and the beginnings of the CIA. It also examines the CIA's role in the toppling of the popular, elected Iranian leader, Mohammed Mossadegh (the Chavecito of his time and place) and his replacement with a brutal dictator-monarch, the Shah. Also looks at the CIA-engineered demise of Jacobo Arbenz, the popular president of Guatemala, because he wasn't tame enough to certain US corporate interests, namely the United Fruit Company. Democracy was replaced with dictatorship and death--all in the name of corporate profit.

Part II explores the role of death squads in Guatemala, and the failed Bay of Pigs invasion (an attempt to turn Cuba into another Guatemala with a second "Operation Success", no doubt.) Also shows that JFK was at first for, and later against, dirty trickery. Guess he learned his lesson--which made him a marked man, particularly when he began putting out feelers toward a peace process. Moyers doesn't explicitly endorse the popular belief that the CIA's kill-Castro plan became a kill-Kennedy plan, but he does acknowledge that its adherents have a point: the CIA is indeed a dirty-tricks machine, even now.

Moyers makes the point that the Cold War mentality was extremely dangerous--it made seductive an otherwise repulsive national condition, that of the police state. It is especially instructive now, as the US government is once more making noises about "regime change" in Iran, Venezuela and other places, and is pushing for "free trade" agreements that the citizens of the Central American countries don't want. The grave danger of CIA dirty tricks has not abated, but expanded; the CIA and other national security agencies are looking to drum up support and stifle dissent more broadly than ever before. And they are doing so in the name of--you guessed it--the new Cold War, the War on Terra.

A pretty boy with an ugly history

Awww, aren't boy crushes just so darn cute?

Just a pity that Steve Huntley's hagiography of the CIA's latest little plaster saint is all holus-bolus, unquestioning bullshit. Here's the real poop on Leopoldo Lopez, the not gutsy, but gusty (as in full of wind) mayor of Chacao. First, from George Ciccariello-Maher at Counterpunch:

In response to the Venezuelan governments non-renewal of RCTV's broadcasting license, a concession which expired on May 27th at midnight, a new student movement emerged that has since grabbed headlines domestically and internationally. Thousands took to the streets, some marching peacefully and some squaring off against the police with rocks and bullets, all in the name of "freedom of expression." But it's worth asking: who are "the students," and what do they represent? In recent days, it has become clear that these student mobilizations have been, in fact, largely directed and supported by sectors of the opposition, all in an effort to provoke, in Chávez's own words, a "soft coup" against the revolutionary government. The opposition's strategy vis-à-vis this student movement has consisted of two fundamental elements, both of which could only be executed mediatically. But now, after being revealed and discredited, that strategy is rapidly disintegrating.

Firstly, opposition parties made a clear decision to stay out of the spotlight, emphasizing the "independent" and "spontaneous" nature of the student protests. Beyond anything else, this gesture proves the degree to which the opposition has been discredited, garnering a reverse Midas touch through years of poor decisionmaking and supporting coups. From the beginning, the government was arguing that opposition politicians were behind the student mobilizations, and so when government-run channel 8 covered one of the early student demonstrations in Plaza Brion in Chacaito, the headline read "opposition demonstration disguised as a student demonstration."

This claim was perhaps justified by the appearance at the demonstration of Leopoldo López, mayor of opposition stronghold Chacao, formerly of far-right party Primero Justicia, which he more recently abandoned in favor of Manuel Rosales' nominally social democratic Un Nuevo Tiempo. Opposition news channel Globovisión countered with the thoroughly unconvincing claim that López, 36 years old and an established politician, was a "youth leader." López himself wouldn't help the situation when at a press conference he "accidentally" called for the students to employ "non-peaceful" tactics (he later claimed that he had meant to call for "non-violent" forms of protest).

Wow. 36 years old and STILL a student? How does he manage that on top of his busy mayoral schedule (which, according to Huntley's barf-inducing account, includes parading around with a bevy of bodyguards perpetually on the lookout for nasty-wasty Chavista assassins, who he says are out to kill him--a big fat lie, BTW)? And isn't it kind of a conflict of interest to be both a municipal leader AND a "student" leader? At the very least, doesn't it put the dirty lie to the claim that the students demonstrating against Chavez just did it all off their own bats, with no urging from any opposition leaders?

Oh...and how about that call for "non-peaceful" protests? Yes, he really said that:

"I've always called for NON-peaceful protests".

Paging Dr. Freud, your rich, dissociated patient's slip is showing! (Apologies for the poor quality of the sound, but at least they have it written down on screen. You can turn the sound off if you like. )

Now, for a truer picture of the man in action:

Leopoldo Lopez, fine upstanding mayor, violating public order with impunity

Who's that pretty boy with the ugly gasmask? Why, that's just li'l ol' fine, upstanding Leopoldo the Mayor. As you can see, he has no problem violating public order and participating in violent attempts to overthrow the president as he participates in a guarimba (that's Venezuelan for "treasonous fascist riot"). Oh, excuse me--that should read "protesting peacefully against an evil authoritarian tyrant". My mistake!

And if you still think someone so pretty couldn't possibly be sinister, read what Eva Golinger recently uncovered beneath Leo's freshly scrubbed, buffed and polished exterior:

The last public reports of USAID point out that in August 2007, they organised a conference with 50 mayors from all the country to cover the issue of "decentralisation" and the "popular networks". This issue seems very much like the project that Leopoldo Lopez, opposition mayor of Chacao, is currently promoting. The USAID program in Venezuela promises to continue in its efforts to "strengthen civil society and political parties", "promote decentralisation and municipal councils" and "train human rights defenders". The US Congress has already approved $3.6 million for this office in Venezuela for the year 2007-8, which indicated that this subversion will continue increasing and threatening the Bolivarian revolution.

That sounds sweet and innocent, but it isn't. Imagine if Venezuela did something similar in the US, actively financing and training "civil society" groups to overthrow George Bush. Wouldn't there be a huge outcry at this effort to undermine democracy? (Oh wait, bad analogy. Bush is unelected and unpopular. Unlike Chavez.)

And why should Lopez be so concerned about Chavecito's communal councils that he'd accept US funding to help him undermine that initiative in radical, decentralized local democracy? Well, let Juan Forero of the Washington Post explain it:

Leopoldo López, the mayor of the affluent Chacao district of Caracas, said he and others are concerned that the councils are designed to usurp funding and political power from the municipalities, the few remaining entities on the political map where the opposition remains active. He notes that as part of a constitutional reform the president is planning, government specialists have sought to eliminate as many as 200 of the country's 335 municipalities. The focus on community councils could speed that process, he said.

"They want to ensure one government, where the central government controls local government," López said. "They want to eliminate the middle ground, the governorships, the mayors."

Gee, that would mean his own once-secure seat is in trouble. Never mind the hogjaw twaddle about how this decentralization is actually an attempt at greater centralization; that's just deflection of attention away from his own obvious shortcomings. After all, not everyone in affluent Chacao is terribly pleased with his performance; he is accountable for addressing the problem of crime and violence there, and he hasn't been doing his job all that well. How embarrassing is it when your own security cameras catch your own partisans vandalizing and rioting? Plus, he has a record of participating in a certain antidemocratic coup--perhaps you remember it?--in 2002. (Which kind of stands to reason; a mayor who actively participates in and encourages public disorder, can't very well be expected to uphold its opposite.)

Mind you, if you asked him about that little crime-and-violence problem, he'd probably point the finger at Chavecito. Most opposition politicos do. Very few of them point to the mayors who actually control the police, because that would mean pointing the finger back at their own, and reminding everyone why these clowns, even in coalition, can't get halfway close to winning a federal election.

And in the final analysis, that is the only place where they should attempt to take him on. Not in these riots thinly disguised as protests.

And certainly not using the gullible, infatuated flunkies of the US media as catspaws.

September 29, 2007

That's Evo, not evil

Too late for FLFB, but what the hell...heeeeeeeere's Evo, doin' the Daily Show:

I think the audience loves him too, if all the "woooooooo"-ing is anything to go by.

Don't tase the penguin, bro!

Don't taser the penguin!

Once again, I am in awe of Tom Tomorrow. He sure knows how to hit Alan "Ayn Rand's Little Disciple" Greenspan where it counts.

One question for you, Mr. G: Why did you not say it was all about oil back when something could still be done to stop this train wreck? Oh wait, I guess that would have something to do with the evils of regulating capitalism, which should just be free to run unfettered and roughshod all over fucking everything. I guess that ideology tied your First Amendment's tongue. In other words, a false and illusory freedom trumped a genuine one. Now it makes sense...

Actually, here's another, just for good measure: If you're so libertarian (and libertarians are, according to their own prattle, so individualistic), why did you sell your soul to the L. Ron Hubbard of political philosophy? Seems such a collectivist thing to do.

And, in light of the job you just left, rather dangerous to boot.

September 28, 2007

Hello, operator? I think I've been framed.

Could you please put me through to Dr. George Lakoff? I have a really bad case of brainwashing I'm trying to overcome.

New research confirms that repetition of "myths" and slogans helps lodge them in the minds of the public and that refuting them often leads only to the public remembering falsehoods better. Instead, they tell us that "education campaigns with an 'affirmative' message," even if it is a negative message, are far more effective in defeating an adversary's frame.

University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz has done experiments showing that people remember things they hear repeated often enough, regardless of its source, and even if it's from a single source.

"Hearing the same opinion from several sources is more influential than hearing it only once from one source. This is as it should be," he wrote in an email exchange with HarperIndex.ca. "But, as we showed in a recent paper, hearing it multiple times from the same source is nearly as influential. 'A repetitive voice sounds like a chorus.' So a single person or small group can create the impression of broad consensus through sheer repetition."

He has experimented with exposing research subjects to falsehoods repeatedly. The research points to the conclusion "that hearing the same Bush snippet multiple times on CNN and every other news show gives it a disproportionate weight. And when several members of the administration hit the talk shows with similar statements, it surely creates reality."

"Research on the difficulty of debunking myths has not been specifically tested on beliefs about Sept. 11 conspiracies or the Iraq war," wrote Washington Post science and human behavior correspondent Shankar Vedantam on September 4. "But because the experiments illuminate basic properties of the human mind, psychologists such as Schwarz say the same phenomenon is probably implicated in the spread and persistence of a variety of political and social myths."

Linkage added.

This all confirms what we already know: Right-wingers are brainwashed, and repetition is all it takes to do it. Come up with a snappy mantra, even if it's complete bullshit, and repeat it often enough, and people will believe it even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It's a disturbing example of how people's better senses can be shunted aside, and it explains a lot about how cults (religious and otherwise) exercise mind control.

Even more disturbing is how easy it is to do:

Schwarz showed volunteers two lists of common beliefs about health and disease that were prepared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One list was entirely true. The other was entirely false and identified as being untrue common beliefs or "myths." After half an hour, older people "misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual.

"Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC."


A little information is a dangerous thing, but a lot of repeated misinformation is even more so:

The theory may help explain "why large numbers of Americans incorrectly think that Saddam Hussein was directly involved in planning the Sept 11 attacks." They certainly explain the tight discipline of Stephen Harper's Conservatives or the Bush Republicans in repeating slogans, charges and epithets like "cut and run," "support our troops," or "Canada's new government," and repeated focus on symbolic issues like the threat of terrorism and Arctic sovereignty.

"Things that are repeated often become more accessible in memory, and one of the brain's subconscious rules of thumb is that easily recalled things are true," the Post reports. "In politics and elsewhere, this means that whoever makes the first assertion about something has a large advantage over everyone who denies it later."

Kimberlee Weaver at Virginia Polytechnic Institute did research showing that "the brain gets tricked into thinking it has heard a piece of information from multiple, independent sources, even when it has not."

This is why I don't listen to right-wing talk radio, and why I automatically tune out when I hear Dubya droning: I don't want to turn into one of the dumb, benighted Thirty-Percenters. I already know that their message is brainwash, so avoiding it as much as possible keeps the disinformation out.

I also look at all conservative and even "centrist" mainstream media sources with a jaundiced eye, and now you know why. They are the ultimate repeaters of crapaganda, because they tend to just reproduce it uncritically. This only reinforces the echo chamber effect.

I could recommend a number of books to read about this phenomenon, which is as pervasive in religion as in politics (and in religions that have specifically to do with far-right politics). Chris Edwards's Crazy For God takes on the overt brainwashing of the Moonies; Deborah Laake's Secret Ceremonies exposes the soft, squishy, deeply disturbing underbelly of the Mormons. I haven't yet read George Lakoff (yes, I know, I'm shamefully behind) but I'm sure none of what I'd see in Don't Think of An Elephant would surprise me, either.

Meanwhile, I've come away with some important gleanings:

Don't repeat the bullshit, even in refuting it;

Come up with a positive message to counter the crap;

Be succinct and concise--in other words, CATCHY.

And above all, cultivate your bullshit detector--and learn to use earplugs.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: If Sharif don't like it...

"Rock the Casbah".

(I figured that in light of all the recent hysteria in favor of bombing Iran, a little levity and perspective were called for.)

September 27, 2007

They just never stop.

They're not just out for Chavecito's blood, but for that of anyone who forges alliances with him. Aporrea reports that a coup was plotted for Ecuador, but one very high-level intended perpetrator wouldn't go through with it:

The former president of Ecuador, Abdala Bucaram, who received asylum in Panama, said that a millionaire offered him a large sum of money to topple the current president, Rafael Correa, according to declarations broadcast yesterday on TV channel Uno.

"Some politicians called Correa a traitor, and made me some big offers. There was a millionaire who offered me ten million dollars, not to eliminate him, but to oust him," declared the former head of state.

Bucaram said he feared for the life of Correa, and added that there was a plan made to remove him from power, with the intention of reinstating 57 opposition deputies who had been sanctioned by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

"If my sister Elsa (a judge on the tribunal) had decided to reinstate the 57 deputies to Congress, they would have given me amnesty; I would have returned to Ecuador and overthrown Correa," Bucaram said.

According to Bucaram, he is seen by Correa's enemies as an "opponent" to Correa, even though his wish is that the president "have a good presidency".

Translation mine.

As far-fetched as this may sound at first, I think there's more than a little truth to it. There are, indeed, powerful and wealthy interests plotting against this Bolivarian presidency.

Ecuador, under Correa, stands to make tremendous progress, especially in environmental matters. Since this country was so long exploited and polluted by oil companies, it stands to reason that this is the area where Correa wants to clean up the system, environmentally and politically. Indigenous tribes have been displaced by oil drilling, and sickened by its polluting byproducts; none have been adequately compensated for their losses. Correa promised in his electoral campaign to change all that, and it looks as if he's just about to make good.

But such promises don't sit well with the world's economic empires.

John Perkins, in his book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, tells of how he developed close and highly ambiguous ties to Ecuador over the course of his career as a private contractor for the State Dept. He was especially drawn to then-president Jaime Roldos, whom he was supposed to persuade into accepting massive "aid"--which would turn into massive, unpayable debt, which in turn would turn into economic enslavement for Ecuador in the form of odious "conditionalities" on an IMF or World Bank emergency loan. Roldos refused, and insisted on governing the country his own way--democratically and with an eye to its collective benefit. I suspect Perkins was not entirely sorry to have "failed" in his assignment because he liked Roldos tremendously and was secretly pulling for him, but the consequences of that failure were dire: the "jackals" moved in, and succeeded in eliminating Roldos by arranging a not-so-accidental plane crash.

Since Roldos's death, Ecuador has suffered a great deal of instability. Abdala Bucaram, quoted above, was one of the many subsequent presidents to leave power soon after he got into it--ignominiously and under a cloud of scandal, though he was lucky to get out alive. It undoubtedly helped Bucaram to have the gift of populist gab, and also that he was of the Roldosista party--yes, named for you-know-who.

Unfortunately, Bucaram is no Jaime Roldos. He lasted just six months before being ousted on grounds of "mental incompetence" and misspending of public funds. His nickname, El Loco, is certainly a dead giveaway as to his fitness for the job.

However, I don't think Abdala Bucaram is quite loco enough to just make shit like this up. Especially not in light of how both Jaime Roldos and another president whom EHM John Perkins futilely courted (and also secretly admired), Omar Torrijos of Panama, ended up. And certainly not in light of what is going on in Ecuador right now.

There are a lot of people, with a lot of rich and powerful international connections, who would be more than happy to see Rafael Correa brought low, one way or another. And who would be more than happy to pay handsomely for the privilege. The fact that one of them would make a hefty offer to a charismatic incompetent like Bucaram surprises me not in the least. It makes sense: in exchange for a triumphal return to office, Bucaram would be expected to rubber-stamp whatever deals those powerful interests had in mind, and whatever ghastly laws they wanted passed. He wouldn't have to use his head, he'd only have to nod it constantly. A cinchier presidency could scarcely be imagined.

Only El Loco, true to nothing except maybe his contrarian streak, wouldn't play along. Instead, he blew the plan wide open and blabbed it to the media. You have to admire him for that; he could have been set up for life. Instead, he said no to mucho dinero. I suspect he probably has enough to live comfortably on as it is, though. At least in Panama, where Torrijos's son, Martin, currently holds sway.

And at least until he opens his big mouth just a bit too far and actually names who made the offer.

Let's hope for his sake that he's not that loco.

September 26, 2007

Mad Mel on the Mosquito Coast

"Now I'm hiding in Honduras;

I'm a desperate man..."

--Warren Zevon, "Lawyers, Guns and Money"

Don't you just love this latest installment of Theocrats Gone Wild?

Hollywood star Mel Gibson has ignored safety warnings from the U.S. government and is going ahead with his move to an isolated part of Costa Rica.

The Mad Max actor, 51, plans to move his wife Robyn and seven children 300 miles away from their home in California to a $26 million ranch in a rural area that is known as "bandit territory."

Ignoring official U.S. government warnings, Gibson has put two properties in California and Connecticut on the market to finance his move to the densely wooded estate in the Guanacaste province on Costa Rica's northern Pacific coast.

A State Department briefing warns that all American visitors there are "potential targets for criminals and kidnappers" and should never travel alone.

It adds, "Local law enforcement agencies have limited capabilities and do not operate according to U.S. standards."

I'm guessing that Mad Mel finds the absence of US laws and authorities (or anything approaching them) to be the region's strongest selling point. He's hardly unique in this kind of adventure: the Mormons, Jim Jones and countless other cults have tried, unsuccessfully, to put themselves out of reach of the long arm of the law so that they could be fruitful and multiply, and...well, do whatever other wacky things they considered holy.

The Mormons tried it on then-unclaimed turf that in 1890 became the state of Utah (ironically, a condition of statehood was that they had to give up the most obvious of their authoritarian theocratic tendencies, the practice of polygamy); the Branch Davidians and the armageddonist gun nuts at Ruby Ridge holed up in their respective compounds, with disastrous results; the so-called Freemen attempted a bogus declaration of secession, or a state-within-a-state. A common thread was the "freedom of religion" defence (completely missing the irony, of course, that imprisoning one's own members in a compound, isolating them from the wider world, and fucking with their heads, can hardly be called freedom.)

The law caught up to all of them, more or less. (The fundie-Mormons are still trying to claim their polygamy under freedom of religion, although it's hard to see what's so free about a teenager forced to marry against her will by a theocratic cult leader.)

And of course, the saying "Don't drink the Kool-Aid" is directly attributable to what happened to Jim Jones and his followers in Guyana.

Perhaps Mad Mel should rent a certain Harrison Ford movie. Or better still, read the book on which the film was based. Or just learn from history. Not that admonition is likely to deter him any, but a truer sense of what he's in for, in his attempts to build his fool's paradise, can't hurt.

Sky falling, film at 11

Dubya really IS a uniter, not a divider...he's making it so that even stopped clocks are trying to tell the time somewhat consistently!

OMG, even the Donald is talking sense now. Notwithstanding the bizarre blur around his comb-over, this is an interview worth watching--it'll drop your jaw.

What? No Chavecito?

Aw, shit.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who last year called U.S. President George Bush the devil in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, has decided not to attend this year's meeting.

Chavez will send Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro in his place, according to a statement on the Venezuelan government's Web site. Chavez said he is canceling his UN appearance, originally scheduled for tomorrow, because of complications with his schedule.

Actually, that scheduling complication has a name: M-A-H-M-O-U-D A-H-M-A-D-I-N-E-J-A-D. He's slated to arrive in Venezuela tomorrow--er, later today, actually.

I bet the freepers are already cranking up the crapaganda machine about this. Probably claiming that these two are little Hitlers looking to take over the world, or some such rot. Never mind that Ahmadinejad is, notwithstanding all grandstanding, nothing but a figurehead (the mullahs still being the real power behind the throne in Iran), and Chavecito is about as un-Hitlerian as it gets.

It's getting harder and harder to try to play the fascist card on Chavecito when he's up to stuff like this or this, but I don't expect Freeperville to even pay attention to it, other than to try to blather it away--it just doesn't fit their agreed-on stereotype of an incipient dictator. And of course, anything that doesn't fit their cookie-cutter universe, gets twisted or discarded altogether.

Meanwhile, though, at least Daniel Ortega is putting on a good show of courage in Chavecito's stead. God love him. He's not isolated anymore the way he was in the 1980s when Ray-gun and Bush the Elder and the CIA went after his ass. It's great to see him regaining confidence. (Video here--scroll down.)

And Evo's also showing lots of pluck and solidarity, not to mention a wicked sense of fun. Looks like he wowed Jon Stewart. Gotta love that!

I wonder...are cojones contagious? Because Chavecito's got a major case of them, and it's spreading all over Latin America, at least on the left.

Uppity women in Arabia?

For one brief shining moment, it looked as if two young women were actually making a stand...

Head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Eastern province Dr. Mohamed bin Marshood al-Marshood, told Asharq Al Awsat that two of the Commission's employees were verbally insulted and attacked by two inappropriately-dressed females, in the old market in Prince Bandar street, an area usually crowded with shoppers during the month of Ramadan.

According to Dr. Al-Marshood, the two commission members approached the girls in order to "politely" advise and guide them regarding their inappropriate clothing.

Consequently, the two girls started verbally abusing the commission members, which then lead to one of the girls pepper-spraying them in the face as the other girl filmed the incident on her mobile phone, while continuing to hurl insults at them.

The Eastern Province's head of the commission also revealed that with the help of the police his two employees were able to control the situation.

The two females were then escorted to the police station where they apologized for the attack, were cautioned and then released.

Ah well, I guess it was fun while it lasted.

Now, the big question: What would happen to these theocratic busybodies if every woman in Arabia were to suddenly stand up for herself--armed with much more than pepper spray and a videophone?

September 25, 2007

Kevin Spacey: Another Chavista?

Sure looks that way!

According to Aporrea, the actor was in Venezuela yesterday to meet with President Chavez. Spacey is another strong critic of the Bush regime, and interested in the Bolivarian revolutionary process in Venezuela, like Sean Penn, who recently did some journalistic coverage of it. The two-time Oscar winner also expressed his support for Chavecito's mediation between the Colombian government and the FARC rebels. He's in good company--fellow actor Danny Glover and singer/songwriter Harry Belafonte are both also US Chavistas.

Viva el Spacey!

Just the facts, man, just the facts...

Keith Olbermann envisions what would happen to Larry Craig if his story were a "Dragnet" episode.

September 24, 2007

Awwww, da poor widdle rich...

This makes me feel almost sorry for them.

Not as sorry as the prospect of maybe having to eat them, though.

Prices for luxury goods rose twice as quickly as consumer prices this year, a study found, showing the jet set need even more to fund their lavish lifestyle.

That just makes your heart bleed, doesn't it? They need more money to finance an already obscenely priced lifestyle. Next thing you know, they're gonna have to squeeze you, the Little Consumer, even harder to get the blood out of that stone.

Forbes's Cost of Living Extremely Well Index (CLEWI) -- which measures the price of a basket of luxury goods -- rose by 6 percent in the year to August 2007, Forbes said, more than twice the U.S. consumer inflation rate.

And just what does that "basket of luxury goods" consist of, I wonder?

A Shanghai resident recently bought a Hermes crocodile-skin bag for 1.6 million yuan ($213,100), Hermes said in June, equivalent to 65 times the city's average annual wage.

And the Cap Gemini study this year noted the success of $150 million apiece wide-body private jets that are so comfortable they function as mobile mansions.

In the Forbes index several items showed double-digit price rises compared to a year ago.

A catered dinner serving 40 at Ridgewells, Bethesda, Maryland, rose by a third to $9,795, representing the index's heftiest price rise. A yearling race horse from championship lines is $710,247, up 14 percent.

A Russian sable fur coat from Maximilian at Bloomingdale's cost $225,000, up 18 percent, while a facelift at the American Academy of Facial Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery rose 17 percent to $17,000.

But the standard fee for 45 minutes with a psychiatrist in New York's Upper East Side is unchanged at $300 for 45 minutes, one bright spot for those in despair over rising prices.

What, no groceries in that basket? That's going to make eating these clowns rather hard. I don't fancy chowing down on a racehorse, a sable coat, or the scar tissue from a face lift.

But at least they won't have to pay extra to cry a river to someone who probably wonders what the hell anyone so stinkingly rich could possibly have to cry about.

PS: I think I just figured out why they're all so weepy--they're gonna have to give up caviar. Poor babies! Mother Earth is such a bitch for refusing to sustain your appetite for fish eggs. No wonder you need Dr. Siggy--you hate your mama!

No funding for fundie schools in Ontario!

What? Someone doesn't want funding for all religious schools in Ontario, and even wants the Catholic system removed from public funding???

The Ontario government should stop funding Catholic schools, according to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

Progressive* Conservative Leader John Tory has caused an uproar in the province with his plan to extend government funding to all faith-based schools that meet criteria.

It has become the most controversial issue in the election campaign.

In a paper being released today, the civil liberties association says that to resolve the unfairness of publicly funding only Catholic schools, Ontario should seek a constitutional amendment to stop funding the schools, attended by more than 600,000 students.

In 1985, Ontario extended full funding to Catholic schools. Quebec and Newfoundland, on the other hand, initiated constitutional amendments to disband publicly funded Catholic schools entirely.

Extending public funding to more faith-based schools — as Tory plans to do if elected Oct. 10 — will lead to a proliferation of such schools and ultimately leave Ontario a "much less tolerant place," the paper states.

"We're hoping to ensure that everyone holds the line now — and hereafter — on the funding of religious schools," Alan Borovoy, the association's chief counsel, said in an interview.

  • It should be noted that John Tory is JUST a Conservative, not a Progressive Conservative; the party dropped the Progressive pretence--er, prefix--a couple of years ago when it merged with the hard-right Reform party. Even more amusingly, the local Conservative candidate is advertising herself as "Your John Tory Candidate"--shades of "Your Mike Harris Candidate" back in the 1990s. They seem to be falling for the cult of personality in a way not seen since Stalin.

Tory's key issue will certainly backfire on him at the polls, because most Ontarians want to keep the public education system public, not private-with-public funding. And a number agree that the public funding of the Catholic separate school system must also stop. Religion belongs in the home and in the place of worship, not schools.

And if you doubt me, read this.

September 23, 2007

SupposiTory takes aim at Native people

It's not hard to guess who he's really targeting here, is it?

Anyone directing, participating in or financially supporting an illegal land occupation in Ontario would face harsher penalties under a Progressive Conservative government, leader John Tory said Sunday as he paid a visit to one of the province's current cauldrons of aboriginal unrest.

Tory took his election effort to this southern Ontario community, where Six Nations protesters have been occupying the site of a now-moribund housing development since February 2006, to denounce the way Premier Dalton McGuinty's government has handled the conflict.

John Tory: not racist. Honest, Injun!

Planet of the Arabs

A compilation of Hollywood's version of the Muslim world.

And now, a moment of silence...

...for Marcel Marceau, who said so much without uttering a peep.

Marcel Marceau, who revived the art of mime and brought poetry to silence, has died, his former assistant said Sunday. He was 84.

Marceau died Saturday in Paris, French media reported. Former assistant Emmanuel Vacca announced the death on France-Info radio, but gave no details about the cause.

Wearing white face paint, soft shoes and a battered hat topped with a red flower, Marceau, notably through his famed personnage Bip, played the entire range of human emotions onstage for more than 50 years, never uttering a word. Offstage, however, he was famously chatty. "Never get a mime talking. He won't stop," he once said.

A French Jew, Marceau survived the Holocaust -- and also worked with the French Resistance to protect Jewish children.

His biggest inspiration was Charlie Chaplin. Marceau, in turn, inspired countless young performers -- Michael Jackson borrowed his famous "moonwalk" from a Marceau sketch, "Walking Against the Wind."

Marceau performed tirelessly around the world until late in life, never losing his agility, never going out of style. In one of his most poignant and philosophical acts, "Youth, Maturity, Old Age, Death," he wordlessly showed the passing of an entire life in just minutes.

"Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?" he once said.

Adieu, Marcel.

Headline Howler: Too little, too late, too bad!

Mary Mapes's article in the Huffington Post is a riveting read--not only because it exposes the cowardice inherent in the corporate news world, and not only because it exposes the scum-suckers that populate Rightard Blogistan, but also because of a single sentence that made me want to beat my head against a wall.

Here it is:

In retrospect, I think the real problem with this story is that it ran three years too early.

"This story" refers to Dan Rather's revelation that George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States (and, hands down, the one least deserving of that high office), is indeed a craven, cowardly, crap-in-the-pantywaist chickenhawk. One whose rich, powerful daddy pulled strings to get him into a branch of the military guaranteed never to be sent to Vietnam, and from which he later went AWOL with impunity. The same story that was totally steamrolled by a seething, snarling rape-gang of freepers, who seized on the minutiae of typefaces as "evidence" that documents were faked (when, in fact, they were not fakes, but merely non-carbon copies of originals now presumed to be lost.)

My jaw would not drop, nor would my head be bouncing off the wall, if only that bothersome sentence had not been preceded by the following:

This is not a new fight. Journalism has always pissed people off. It is supposed to. It should be provocative. It should ask hard questions of everyone on every side. It shouldn't play favorites and it shouldn't fear honest criticism.

In a democracy, journalism cannot fear bullies or pull its punches because somebody powerful might get uncomfortable. That's when we all lose.

No fucking shit. Why was this all was not reported at least three decades ago? Never mind three measly years ago--Jesus, Mary (and Joseph!), don't feel you have to call out the corporate media for its recent state of cowardice now, when it's finally "safe" to do so. The fact is, they weren't even doing their jobs back when this all was still fresh.

Imagine what a coup it would have been, particularly at the height of the Vietnam war, if some enterprising reporter had only revealed evidence that the sons of wealthy Republican congressmen, senators, etc., were all taking refuge from 'Nam in one cushy hotbed of nepotism or another. Or, for that matter, how about just reporting that one of those lucky duckies went AWOL from the champagne unit even after his daddy pulled all those strings? The fact that no one smelled a story there at the time, or at least, not one that wouldn't be spiked, tells me that this particular back-down is not a new development, or even an isolated incident. The only thing new about it was the uncivilized manner in which it was orchestrated, using the latest technology.

But even that is ultimately irrelevant. The corporate media have always been wimps in the crunch. Don't look to them to keep you well informed, folks; their job is to keep you in the dark while letting you feel as if you've just been enlightened.

And for fuck's sake, all you freepers, just shut up about them being "liberal". They are conservative as a goddamned motherfucker, even if they're not quite as fascist as you. A truly liberal media outlet wouldn't have ignored or buried this story back then, and it sure as hell would not have caved in the face of your collective insanity now. You should be kissing CBS's ass for being so easy on your precious widdle Bushie; they could have gotten the goods on him 30 years ago, but for some strange reason known only to corporate boot-lickers, they failed to do so.

And while you're at it, spare me the blather about the need to keep up the troops' morale during a war by censoring the news. If they don't get free access to an unfettered and brutally honest press, it means nothing at all to merely say that they are fighting for freedom. If being lied to and knowing it is not a suckerpunch to the morale, I don't know what is. It wasn't the "liberal" media that caused America's defeat in Vietnam; it was a combination of unjust cause, imperialism, and an underestimated enemy named Charlie!

It's not as if the troops had no idea that they were being sent to fight in the rich boys' stead, either. There was a draft, and it inevitably shipped the poorest to Vietnam. It was an open secret that rich boys had the luxury of opting out. Creedence Clearwater Revival even had a popular song about it. The idea that a country and its armed forces would ever have needed to be "protected" from that truth by any form of censorship is as ludicrous as it is insulting to the intelligence of all concerned. Again, what were they really fighting for--the right of the ruling class to keep its ass covered, under the false flag of "freedom"? Sure smells that way.

The worst part is, individual reporters are being sacrificed to bogus causes by their own employers. It's so bad that some of America's finest journalists are no longer working at home. Just ask Greg Palast, who got the goods on Dubya at least four years ahead of Dan Rather, and who didn't pull his punches. Palast has the documents--and says he can only surmise that they must be true, since no one in the Bush Crime Family has ever sued him for libel, even in the notorious British courts, where the onus is on the defendant, not the plaintiff, in libel cases.

Oh, and the BBC never gave Greg Palast any trouble about his unflattering reports on Bush, either. On the contrary, he still works for them. Death threats from Freeperville notwithstanding.

What a pity for Dan Rather that he wasn't working for a British public broadcaster instead of CBS.

September 21, 2007

Festive Left Friday Blogging: A tribute to Che

Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko reads two poems in Spanish at the Poetry Festival in Caracas: his passionate ode to Che Guevara, and a humorous selection called "More or Less".

Scary Thought #8: Manuel Noriega is WHAT?

According to the Beeb, he's too hot to handle, politically speaking.

God help me, but I had to post this.

And, God/dess help me for saying this, but Ol' Pineapple Face looks almost appealing here. That's even scarier.

September 20, 2007

Back again!

Sorry I've been incommunicado lately; my pute was in the shop as of September 11 (yes, THAT horrific day). I now have a new keyboard, one where the T and D keys don't repeat, and the apostrophe key hasn't come loose and had to be crazy-glued twice.

Now, back to the thick heap of e-mails crowding my inbox. I should be back to my full irritating self by tomorrow. Oh, joy!

September 9, 2007

So Brian Mulroney was on CTV tonight...

...and what a show THAT was.

Brian Mulroney, for my non-Canadian friends, was prime minister of our fair Dominion from 1984 to 1993. That works out to two terms. During that time, he presided over a mixed bag of goodies. We got sold down the river by the 1988 free trade agreement and its evil offspring, NAFTA, under the pretext that it would create jobs (it gave us a recession instead); we got dinged with a second-tier sales tax, the nationally loathed GST, which is sometimes credited with our current large, unused budgetary surplus; we got the magnificent failure of the Meech Lake Accord, which almost quashed Quebec separatism once and for all, only to be torpedoed by Clyde Wells (the premier of Newfoundland--over the James Bay power plant, of all things). We also got a prime minister who dared to stand up to his partisan equivalent in England over apartheid in South Africa, but not to his American counterpart (Mulroney disgraced us all by singing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" with Ronald Reagan, who was not a real president but played one on TV.) And for better or worse, we got Mila, the legendary and loyal (and surprisingly likeable) personal shopper to the PM. And we got their four kids, too--of whom one married American liberal media royalty, and another one of whom now has his chinny, chip-off-the-ol'-block mug all over the fluffiest of the entertainment talk shows. No idea what the youngest two are up to.

Maybe that's for the best; they might want to avoid the limelight for as long as they can. Besides, they have a big shadow to get out from under. Their dad may have left Parliament Hill, but alas, he hasn't left the building. I have a feeling that when he finally does, he'll be storming out in a petulant huff, as is his wont.

You see, Brian Mulroney is a great one for petulance. He's also an incredible back-stabber, incapable of putting personal glory in the backseat to the greater good.

I found out this evening that Pierre Trudeau, his prime-ministerial predecessor (and by far the better man, IMO), repeatedly helped Mulroney in his career. As far back as university, in fact, when Mulroney wrote a thesis on the issue of Quebec separatism--a phenomenon he hoped to nip in the bud. Trudeau had much in common with him on this point. He wrote Mulroney a very cordial letter, congratulating him on his efforts and offering much solid advice, including an essay of his own on the topic. Later, Trudeau would again reach out to a defeated Mulroney, who lost the Tory leadership race to Joe Clark in 1976--with an offer to come join the Liberals instead. Mulroney, partisan to a fault, refused. He was out for his own glory, and was not about to band together with Trudeau, who by then was prime minister (as of 1968).

So much for keeping a country together.

Mulroney, however, still insists he did more for national unity than Trudeau. This in the face of two failed constitutional accords (Meech Lake and Charlottetown) and the humiliating defection of one of Mulroney's most trusted lieutenants, Lucien Bouchard, to the newly formed separatist party, the Bloc Quebecois.

On the other hand, Pierre Trudeau patriated our constitution in 1982, despite the refusal of Quebec (then in the grip of the Parti Quebecois, the Bloc's predecessor) to sign on. A noteworthy constitutional attorney and scholar, Trudeau also crafted our Bill of Rights and thus paved the way for much of the social liberalism we've become renowned for (including, most significantly, our legal recognition of same-sex marriage, and our total lack of anti-abortion laws since the Supreme Court struck down the last one, on the grounds of sexism, in 1988.)

See what I mean by Trudeau being the better man?

Meanwhile, we get a bombshell: Brian Mulroney had a drinking problem. No, not while in office, but it sheds a further light on his character. Even if he stopped drinking and hasn't touched a drop since, he is, like Dubya, still not a recovered or a temperate man. Witness his most recent episode of pissing on the grave of Trudeau, gone these seven years. It is really unfair of him to conflate Trudeau's opposition to wartime conscription--a common and popular viewpoint in Quebec, where no one likes to be dragooned, even to this day--with appeasement of Hitler. It is also downright hypocritical of Mulroney, who was certainly old enough to serve in Vietnam himself, to not volunteer for that--but then have the gall to turn on Trudeau, who was barely of age at the time of World War II, and accuse him of lacking "moral leadership" simply because he did not go to war.

Shall we now accuse Brian Mulroney of being pro-communist? No, we shan't stoop to his level. We shall simply register our disgust, and move on, and tell him to bloody well do the same himself, for God's sake!

Irony escapes them

You can't make this up.

Police said Sunday they have broken up a cell of young Israeli neo-Nazis accused of a string of brutal racist and anti-Semitic attacks, videos of which were played on television to a stunned national audience.

The eight suspects, all immigrants from the former Soviet Union in their late teens or early 20s, are seen in the videos kicking victims on the ground to a bloody pulp, hitting a man over the head with an empty beer bottle and proclaiming their allegiance to Adolf Hitler with a Nazi salute.


While Israel has experienced isolated incidents of anti-Semitism in the past, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the arrests were the first time an organized cell has been discovered.

The eight youths, who immigrated to Israel as children, were arrested over the past two months in connection with at least 15 attacks against religious Jews, foreign workers from Asia, drug addicts, the homeless and gays. A ninth member has fled the country, he said.


All eight had loose connections to Jewish heritage. They did not identify themselves as Jews and their families had come to Israel to escape hardships in the former Soviet Union, police said.


Ironically, Israel doesn't specifically have a hate crimes law, and the case has also drawn calls for new legislation.

The arrests drew condemnations from the Anti-Defamation League, a U.S.-based group that fights anti-Semitism, and Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

"The tragic irony in this is that they would have been chosen for annihilation by the Nazis they strive to emulate," the ADL said.

Emphasis added--I've underlined the things I found most interesting and/or ironic.

One hopes this sort of thing can be chalked up to youthful stupidity, given the ages of the perps, but the underlying problems here are a lot older than they are.

September 8, 2007

Stupid Sex Tricks: From the Department of Unenforceable Laws

How do you expect they'll police this?

Married Colombians engaged in passionate extra-curricular activities may soon have to think twice about their philandering ways if a senator's proposed legislation punishing adultery gets the green light.

Sen. Edgar Espindola said he has proposed a law that would impose fines and enforced community service as punishment for adulterers in an effort to protect family values and shield children from broken homes.

"I believe a lot of my companions are going to support this initiative," Espindola said on Tuesday. "This project should motivate Colombians to reflect on the importance of the marriage, the home and the importance of family."

He said aggrieved parties could take complaints and evidence such as photographs to local family judges, who would decide to impose fines of up to 20 minimum monthly salaries -- around $4,000 -- and obligatory welfare service.

Spouses forgiven by partners would escape punishment.

Some local radio commentators joked the proposal would get short shrift in Colombia's Congress because lawmakers were likely to want to hide their own indiscretions in the mostly Roman Catholic country.

Uh, yeah. I can just see how that will pan out. As if finding out you've been cheated isn't humiliating and heartbreaking enough, you have to present material evidence in court? And if you forgive the cheater, what's the use of taking it to court in the first place?

Listen, if love alone isn't enough to convince someone of "the importance of the marriage, the home and the importance of family", NOTHING is.

September 7, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle has tessered

A splendid 88-year wrinkle in time has, alas, come to an end.

Author Madeleine L'Engle, whose novel "A Wrinkle in Time" has been enjoyed by generations of schoolchildren and adults since the 1960s, has died, her publicist said Friday. She was 88. L'Engle died Thursday at a nursing home in Litchfield of natural causes, according to Jennifer Doerr, publicity manager for publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

The Newbery Medal winner wrote more than 60 books, including fantasies, poetry and memoirs, often highlighting spiritual themes and her Christian faith.

Although L'Engle was often labeled a children's author, she disliked that classification. In a 1993 Associated Press interview, she said she did not write down to children.

"In my dreams, I never have an age," she said. "I never write for any age group in mind. When people do, they tend to be tolerant and condescending and they don't write as well as they can write.

"When you underestimate your audience, you're cutting yourself off from your best work."

I think L'Engle might have been gratified to know that I first read one of her books--A Wind in the Door--when I was 20, and found it to be ageless and unchildlike, despite the fact that its protagonists were mostly children. I loved that book so much that I eventually bought all the Murry-O'Keefe family books, as well as the Austins. And snapped up a used and very battered copy of A Circle of Quiet, L'Engle's nonfiction on spirituality and writing, as well. Through that last, I learned some startling things, including just how much thought goes into the writing of one slim book that then must struggle to find a publisher who has at least as much faith in it as its author has.

I find it both heartening and disheartening that A Wrinkle in Time was rejected many times before finally being accepted. Nowadays, she might well have had to self-publish it, since the industry seems to have become even more dumbed-down and pigeonholed than it was in 1962. We live in an increasingly rule-bound age. And of course, Wrinkle breaks so many rules--it doesn't talk down to even its youngest readers, it is scary as hell, it doesn't applaud conventionality (the enforced suburban conformity of Camazotz is--or should be--every thinking person's nightmare), and oh yeah, it begins with the words "It was a dark and stormy night"--a literary faux pas that there are entire annual contests dedicated to the ridiculing of.

More than that, though, A Wrinkle in Time is a book of ideas. It transcends genre and age rules by forcing us to examine concepts that even a quantum physicist would find...well, a little intimidating. Namely, the idea of being able to move through time and space without any machinery. Madeleine L'Engle, you might say, invented the tesseract. As well as the unforgettable, unforgettably-named Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, all of whom are experts in the art of tessering.

And it is an art, for science has yet to find a way to do it. Authors and artists, being unconfined by the mental boxes of the sciences, have no such problem; they just invent as they go.

And Madeleine L'Engle invented so much. Not only the art of moving through time as if it were space (a fabric that could be traversed instantly by pleating it), but also the distinction between chronos (ordinary time) and kairos (true time, for lack of a better term; you might as well just read her books, as you'll never understand it otherwise!) Her books can't be called science fiction (even though science does play in) nor can they truly be called fantasy (they are not escapist). They are infused with Christianity, but they are emphatically not "Christian" fiction, which smacks of preachiness, bigotry and apocalypse. (I am a pagan, but her books don't condemn, and therefore never alienated me.) They are definitely beyond the league of Left Behind; they don't promote fundamentalism, and many of their most sympathetic characters are what the fundies would call sinners; in A House Like a Lotus, you'll find teen sex, lesbianism and--gasp--ecumenical spirituality, which includes all and rejects none.

In fact, the harder I try to put a finger on what they were, the more they elude me. (I'm sure that would have made her smile.) So I'll just sign off here by saying that Madeleine L'Engle has entered the Ring of Endless Light.

Blessed be her name.

Festive Left Friday Blogging: Viva Pachamama!

A video collage with a cool, catchy tune. Starring all my favorite revolutionaries. From Ecuador!

September 6, 2007

Addio, Luciano...

Today, we have lost a Caruso.

Nessun dorma.

Arrivederci, maestro. Mille grazie.

September 5, 2007

Do you feel safer knowing this?

I don't.

The US Air Force has launched an investigation after a B-52 bomber flew across the US last week mistakenly loaded with nuclear-armed missiles.

It follows reports in the Army Times that five missiles were unaccounted for during the three-hour flight from North Dakota to Louisiana.

The air force said the cruise missiles were safe at all times.

Army Times said the missiles were to be decommissioned but were mistakenly mounted on the bomber's wings.

The W80-1 warhead has a yield of five to 150 kilotons, the paper said.

The flight took place on 30 August, from the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to the Barksdale Air Force Base, near Bossier City, in Louisiana.

Just for comparison's sake, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts were 15 and 22 kilotons, respectively. That's the equivalent of 15,000 and 22,000 tons of dynamite.

These warheads could deliver ten times the punch that KOed Hiroshima...each.

Yep, I'm feeling safer already.

Especially knowing that Dubya is still in charge of the nuclear football.

PS: Larry Johnson writes at TPMCafe that this might just have been a "staging" for the coming war on Iran. Since Johnson is (or was) CIA and a colleague of Valerie Plame, this opinion deserves to be taken seriously. We all know that BushCo is planning to bomb Iran; it's only a question of when, and how. To nuke or not to nuke? Apparently, the former is the answer.

Schnitzel-eating surrendermenschen?

Was? Ihr habt das ohne Krieg gemacht? Und zwar nur mit Polizei? Was seid ihr, Angsthasen?

Three men have been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning a "massive" attack on US facilities in the country, officials have said.

Federal prosecutor Monika Harms said the three had trained at camps in Pakistan and procured some 700kg (1,500lbs) of chemicals for explosives.

She said the accused had sought to target facilities visited by Americans, such as nightclubs, pubs or airports.

Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung said the men had posed "an imminent threat".

Media reports said the men were planning attacks against a US military base in Ramstein and Frankfurt airport.

Verdammt noch mal. And not a single bunker buster or Whiskey Pete dropped on Iraq to accomplish the feat, either. Whatever happened to fighting Them over There so We don't have to do it Here?

And if that doesn't get you snickering over your Schnitzel, maybe this will:

The US praised the actions of the German government and said the incident showed everyone needed to be vigilant in finding "terrorists".

Vigilant, yes; bellicose, no. Policing, not war, was the key to this anti-terror bust. Just as I've always said, war is not the way to stop terrorism.

And speaking of "not the way": You may be wondering why Germany was a target this time. I'm not:

Germany, which has soldiers in Afghanistan but did not send troops to Iraq, has been largely spared terrorist attacks.

However, there have been growing concerns that Islamist militants are operating in the country.

Afghanistan, Iraq; no difference as far as Islamists are concerned. Either war is an attack on Islam in their eyes. Therefore, to continue in their line of logic, terrorism is seen as a counter-attack, or self-defence.

Or, thinking for myself (what a relief to be out of that headspace), I can see that the war is not fighting terrorism at all, but creating it...by being waged against Muslims. Not all of whom are terrorists now, but many more will be if this keeps up much longer. Which means the Germans should soon turn out in force to demand that their troops be pulled from Afghanistan. It stands to reason that if you really don't want more terrorism, you should see to it that you do not act like a terrorist yourself. Remember what Nietzsche said?

I guess Nietzsche was just a Schnitzel-eating surrendermensch.

September 3, 2007

MI5 = clueless gits

Really. It took them HOW long to figure out that George Orwell was not a (gasp) COMMUNIST?

MI5 did not believe George Orwell was a mainstream communist despite monitoring the socialist writer for more than two decades, records have revealed.

A Scotland Yard Special Branch report in January 1942 said the author of 1984 had "advanced communist views".

However, an MI5 officer responded that Orwell "does not hold with the Communist Party nor they with him."

Two fucking decades? They could have saved themselves the time, expense and all-around trouble of spying on him by simply reading either Animal Farm or, yes, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Might have taken them a week, tops...or maybe two, knowing how dense those spooks can be.

Seriously, any high-schooler could have told you he was criticizing communism, especially its Stalinist strain, just from reading either book. I certainly could have when I was sixteen. And I would not have had to rely on ludicrous details like this to render that judgment, either:

The Special Branch report said: "This man has advanced communist views and several of his Indian friends say that they have often seen him at communist meetings.

"He dresses in a bohemian fashion both at his office and in his leisure hours."

Um, that "bohemian fashion" looks like this:

Portrait of the Orwell as a middle-aged boho

...in other words, rather like standard genteel-but-not-rich English menswear.

I can just imagine what kind of smile he'd wear, though, if he knew that Big Brother really WAS watching him...and was such a clueless git.