Saturday, January 15, 2005


A little getaway for dykes in Wales

Llanddewi Brefi. No, the cat didn't jump on my keyboard. That's the name of a Welsh village made famous by a British comedy show. The London Times reports
... while the remote Welsh village is now famous as the home of Little Britain’s fictional gay man Daffyd, it is a haven for gay women in real life.

Each year lesbians are said to dance naked on the surrounding hills and until recently there was a women-only commune three miles away whose inhabitants were rumoured to be armed.

But it is not just Llanddewi Brefi’s gay women that make it interesting. The largest LSD bust in British history took place a few miles away and more recently a pair of topless models from a tabloid newspaper were spotted frolicking on the village’s outskirts.

How the media like to blow matters out of all proportion! I once had a friend from Wales. He was a Druid, which is quite common there. I suspect this is nothing more than a simple religious festival.

Friday, January 14, 2005


Sharon quicker on the draw

Some prophecies take a long time to fulfill—like waiting for the Iraqis to welcome the invasion. Others materialize so quickly that people may suspect cheating. Today's news from Israel falls in the latter category.

The Lebanese Daily Star reports—

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Friday ordered all government officials to cut ties with the new Palestinian government until it curbs attacks, a day after militants killed six Israelis on the Gaza border. "The prime minister has instructed all members of the government to cease all contact with the Palestinian Authority until they take the necessary steps to curb and stop terrorism," a senior Israeli official in Sharon's office said. Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas spoke by phone this week in the highest level Israeli-Palestinian contact in years. They had been widely expected to meet soon to discuss security coordination in a run-up to Israel's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip later this year.
It was only this Tuesday that I was quoting Xymphora
Within hours of the confirmation of the election of Mahmoud Abbas to lead the Palestinians, Ariel Sharon urged Abbas to end terrorist attacks and to dismantle Islamic militant groups (Sharon may have even tried to limit the scope of a meeting with Abbas to discussions of security cooperation). Since Abbas has no more ability to restrain the militants than Arafat had, we can see how Abbas is being immediately set up in exactly the same way that Arafat was. There will be much talk of how the election of Abbas will finally give Israel that elusive 'negotiating partner', and that peace is just around the corner. Once a few 'terrorist' incidents occur, however, the Israelis will sadly conclude that Abbas is just another Arafat, and clearly not a 'negotiating partner' as his failure to restrain the militants indicates that he really doesn't want peace....
Xymphora thought it would take "a few" attacks to give Sharon his excuse. So did I. Perhaps with Bush's re-election Sharon now feels he has a "mandate."

Innoculating the public: The next spin on the Iraqi insurgency

You will recall that the Bush administration has repeatedly attributed the upsurge in violence in Iraq to the insurgents' fear of the January 30 elections.1 Here is the Big Man himself, speaking last September during Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi's visit to Washington—
Prime Minister Allawi and I believe terrorist violence may well escalate as the January elections draw near. The terrorists know that events in Iraq are reaching a decisive moment. If elections go forward, democracy in Iraq will put down permanent roots, and terrorists will suffer a dramatic defeat.

The implication is that if the American people will just "stay the course," January 30 will be the due date for victory, with terrorists suffering a "dramatic defeat."

As the date approaches, it is becoming increasingly evident that the administration will need some new excuse for insurgent violence come January 31. Never short on spin, the administration has sent out Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to lay the groundwork.

It is a lesson in media manipulation to watch how they do it. Powell appeared last night in the lead segment of the PBS NewsHour in a "Newsmaker" interview. Most of the interview focussed on the presumed-to-be-upcoming election. They had this exchange

JIM LEHRER: Do you share the concern of former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft and others that if the Sunni situation is not resolved, that this election could result, could slide toward a civil war, in other words, could cause more problems than it resolves?

SECRETARY POWELL: The one thing I'm sure of, and here is where I would agree with General Scowcroft, is that the insurgency is not going away as a result of this election. In fact, perhaps, the insurgents might become more emboldened if they see that they are not persuading the Iraqi people to participate in this new government.

Then comes Richard Armitage today on NPR's Morning Edition ["Armitage Details U.S. Dilemma in Iraq"]—

Clearly we don't see the election itself as a pivotal point. It's part of a process. In fact it's the beginning of a process....Most in government expect the violence to continue long after these elections. [my transcription]

Meanwhile, in case you read newspapers, the Washington Post showcased Robin Wright and Jim VandeHei's "U.S. Lowers Expectations On Iraq Vote" on Page 1—

With just over two weeks until the Iraqi elections, the United States is lowering its expectations for both the turnout and the results of the vote, increasingly emphasizing other steps over the next year as more important to Iraq's political transformation, according to U.S. officials.

A senior White House official said the administration's revised reflections on the Iraqi elections are not as much to lower expectations as to provide "education of the process going forward."

"Education of the process going forward"? The Post identifies the speaker as a "he," but this is the kind of nonsensical gabble that Condoleeza Rice normally utters. Perhaps Condi has been writing the talking points.

Bush, of course, is officially reflecting none of this—not yet. The LA Times was reporting on January 7 that—

President Bush today rejected a sharp warning that the election scheduled this month in Iraq could further inflame the conflict there and said it would be "such an incredibly hopeful experience for the Iraqi people."

It has been said that if the Iraqi people don't participate in the election, the insurgents will be emboldened by their success. On the other hand, if the Iraqi people turn out for the election, the insurgents may be emboldened by their failure to suppress the election. It's nice to have choices.

So stop whining that you weren't told what to expect. No matter what happens, the administration will declare that they've been "saying it all along" and that you—the public—should not in the least be surprised.

Related post
"Rethinking" tactics (updated) (1/8/05)


1 The reasons for the upsurge in violence are produced on an "as needed" basis. Just before our own election Borzou Daragahi was writing in the Washington Times

Leaders and supporters of the anti-U.S. insurgency say their attacks in recent weeks have a clear objective: The greater the violence, the greater the chances that President Bush will be defeated on Tuesday and the Americans will go home.

Thursday, January 13, 2005


A leap in solar technology

I first caught this story yesterday at al-Jazeera of all places, and since then only the Canadian Press and New Zealand's Stuff seem to have picked it up.

A team from the University of Toronto has announced the development of a sprayable material for solar cells that captures a broader range of the solar spectrum and is especially sensitive to infrared. While the media are focussing on such cute ideas as clothing that doubles as a power source, this is why we should all be excited—

Professor Peter Peumans of Stanford University, who has reviewed the U of T team’s research, also acknowledges the groundbreaking nature of the work. "Our calculations show that, with further improvements in efficiency, combining infrared and visible photovoltaics could allow up to 30 per cent of the sun’s radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to six per cent in today’s best plastic solar cells.”

A fivefold increase in the ability of flexible materials to capture solar energy is breathtaking. Thirty-percent efficiency is about the best that even the most outré solar technology can muster.

The fact that the cell is efficient in the infrared, which is just radiant heat, means that it can function wherever there is heat radiation. And what are our cities if not giant heat collectors that then radiate into the wee morning hours?

In fact, our own bodies are radiators, which made me the think of the movie "The Matrix." Donning our photovoltaic clothing could turn us into the batteries the movie envisioned.


Sermon of the Day

I have not been in tip-top shape lately, which is one of the reasons for the dearth of posts. It certainly does not mean that I consider the news any less appalling. In the short term, however, I may try to get away with more extensive quotes from other people who are saying what needs to be said.

One such is from—of all places!—a sermon: "Living under Fasciscm," the link to which was sent by a friend. Davidson Loehr is the pastor of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church of Austin, Texas.

The sermon reviews material with which many of my readers are probably familiar—the 14 identifying characteristics of fascism by Dr. Lawrence Britt, the op-ed piece on fascism by Vice-President Henry Wallace in 1944, and the work of Katherine Yurica on Dominionism.

To this he has added his own predictions and concerns—

  • The theft of all social security funds, to be transferred to those who control money, and the increasing destitution of all those dependent on social security and social welfare programs.
  • Rising numbers of uninsured people in this country that already has the highest percentage of citizens without health insurance in the developed world.
  • Increased loss of funding for public education combined with increased support for vouchers, urging Americans to entrust their children’s education to Christian schools.
  • More restrictions on civil liberties as America is turned into the police state necessary for fascism to work
  • Withdrawal of virtually all funding for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. At their best, these media sometimes encourage critical questioning, so they are correctly seen as enemies of the state’s official stories.
  • The reinstatement of a draft, from which the children of privileged parents will again be mostly exempt, leaving our poorest children to fight and die in wars of imperialism and greed that could never benefit them anyway. (That was my one-sentence Veterans’ Day sermon for this year.)
  • More imperialistic invasions: of Iran and others, and the construction of a huge permanent embassy in Iraq.
  • More restrictions on speech, under the flag of national security.
  • Control of the internet to remove or cripple it as an instrument of free communication that is exempt from government control. This will be presented as a necessary anti-terrorist measure.
  • Efforts to remove the tax-exempt status of churches like this one, and to characterize them as anti-American.
  • Tighter control of the editorial bias of almost all media, and demonization of the few media they are unable to control – the New York Times, for instance.
  • Continued outsourcing of jobs, including more white-collar jobs, to produce greater profits for those who control the money and direct the society, while simultaneously reducing America’s workers to a more desperate and powerless status.
  • Moves in the banking industry to make it impossible for an increasing number of Americans to own their homes. As they did in the 1930s, those who control the money know that it is to their advantage and profit to keep others renting rather than owning.
  • Criminalization of those who protest, as un-American, with arrests, detentions and harassment increasing. We already have a higher percentage of our citizens in prison than any other country in the world. That percentage will increase.
  • In the near future, it will be illegal or at least dangerous to say the things I have said here this morning. In the fascist story, these things are un-American. In the real history of a democratic America, they were seen as profoundly patriotic, as the kind of critical questions that kept the American spirit alive — the kind of questions, incidentally, that our media were supposed to be pressing.

And he also offers this advice from Michael C. Ruppert—

  • First, he says you should get out of debt.
  • Second is to spend your money and time on things that give you energy and provide you with useful information.
  • Third is to stop spending a penny with major banks, news media and corporations that feed you lies and leave you angry and exhausted.
  • And fourth is to learn how money works and use it like a (political) weapon — as he predicts the rest of the world will be doing against us.
[emphasis added]

Read it, O brothers and sisters, and be saved!


Quote of the Day

When a corporation is convicted of repeated felonies that harm or endanger the lives of human beings or destroy our environment, the corporation should be put to death, its corporate existence ended, and its assets taken and sold at public auction.
—Eliot Spitzer, during his campaign to be Attorney General of New York State

Statistic of the Day

The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.
—Maureen Dowd, in "Men Just Want Mommy"

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


And they said the Democrats would ban the Bible...

The AP reports,
In a December 17 directive to the National Park Service, the Secret Service mandated that signs and placards along the inaugural parade route down Pennsylvania Avenue be made out of cardboard, poster board or cloth. They may be no more than three feet wide or 20 feet long.

The directive also prohibited folding chairs, bicycles and other structures, and displays "such as puppets, papier mache objects, coffins, crates, crosses, theaters, cages and statues."

"The way it's written, it's an unequivocal ban on crosses," said the Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition. The group is seeking to have the prohibition overturned in federal court if the Secret Service fails to retract it.

Well, isn't this a fine kettle of fish! Is it a Moonie conspiracy to "tear down the Cross"? Or was the decision taken in order to permit the presumed Satanists in the Bush administration to pass along Pennsylvania Avenue unimpeded before heading out in the evening to the Kid Rock concert? Christians were quick to note that Stars of David and Crescent Moons will be welcome.

Actually, the Secret Service has come a cropper because it's trying to ban all the artifacts of free speech—specifically, those of protest.

Consider the list of forbidden "displays"—puppets, papier mache objects, coffins, crates, crosses, theaters, cages and statues. One item in the list tells all: theaters. Theaters? Since it's hardly conceivable that they're worried about anyone transporting a theater to the parade route, I would imagine they had something more in mind like street theater—which is where all those other items come into play.

When you combine crosses with crates and coffins, what do you get but a powerful statement about the cost of the Iraq war in terms of human life? Puppets may be used for parody. Papier-mâché objects when shaped into effigies are excellent for burning. Cages recall Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib. Hooded statues with electrical cords attached convey the idea of torture quite handily.

Now about those signs and placards that are to be permitted: Try carrying one that says "Free Speech"! We'll try to bail you out if we can find a record of your arrest.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


It's Blogger template time

I told you last week that the template for this blog had disappeared and that I couldn't update the "Recent posts" column. I finally received an email from Blogger Help—
I'm afraid you've fallen victim to a bug in our system which occasionally loses template data. Your posts are still safe, but unfortunately we were not able to recover your template for you.
So I'm going to have to "mess with" the blog template. If something strange appears on your screen, it's just me trying to figure out what I'm doing.

Xymphora on the Palestinian election

Within hours of the confirmation of the election of Mahmoud Abbas to lead the Palestinians, Ariel Sharon urged Abbas to end terrorist attacks and to dismantle Islamic militant groups (Sharon may have even tried to limit the scope of a meeting with Abbas to discussions of security cooperation). Since Abbas has no more ability to restrain the militants than Arafat had, we can see how Abbas is being immediately set up in exactly the same way that Arafat was. There will be much talk of how the election of Abbas will finally give Israel that elusive 'negotiating partner', and that peace is just around the corner. Once a few 'terrorist' incidents occur, however, the Israelis will sadly conclude that Abbas is just another Arafat, and clearly not a 'negotiating partner' as his failure to restrain the militants indicates that he really doesn't want peace....
The rest ...

Monday, January 10, 2005


Addicting students to fascism

Britain is "experimenting" again—with its students, its society and its rights. It does seem that wherever the U.S. goes, Britain is sure to follow.

AFP reports,

A state high school has become the first in Britain to test pupils for illegal substances.

In an experiment being closely watched by drug experts and government ministers alike, Abbey School, in Faversham, Kent, has tested its first 10 pupils in an initially voluntary scheme.

The school has the test results but has not released them.

The scheme will eventually see 20 names selected at random every week among the school's 960 pupils, aged 11 to 19.

Those picked will be taken to the school's sick room, where a swab of saliva is taken and sent to an external laboratory to check traces of cannabis, ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines and heroin.

It appears from the variety of tests that your average British middle-schooler and high-schooler is presented with a virtual cafeteria of drugs.

These "little" intrusions of the state into one's privacy always start off sounding so benign—

While Abbey School's regime sounds strict, both pupils and parents must give their consent, pupils on the day and parents in writing in advance. So far, families of 701 pupils have replied to a request, 85 per cent saying yes.

Additionally, those testing positive will not be expelled unless they are suspected of involvement in selling drugs, only cautioned or sent for counselling or treatment.

"They will be asked whether they agree to be tested or not. Nobody will be tested against their will," said head teacher Peter Walker.

Why, bless my soul, that sounds just like the calls for prayer in American public schools. "No one will have to participate" ... "completely voluntary" ... "I'd never dream of forcing any child to pray. But don't you think it's odd that little Judy Miller always leaves the room at prayer time? Do you know anything about her parents?"

"If a child says no to being tested, we will call the parents into the school and discuss it."

You-Know-Who has a hand in this—

With drugs and education among the hottest political topics in Britain, the trial is being monitored closely by the government, with Prime Minister Tony Blair giving the idea his blessing in a recent newspaper article.

Of course, Labour is taking the more moderate position. Here's the Conservative view—

Head teachers "should actually have the power to require their pupils to do it or to face disciplinary action if they refuse", Conservative education spokesman Tim Collins told BBC radio.

"If we are serious about excluding drugs from our schools ... we can't just operate on a laissez-faire and voluntary basis."

Indeed not! Look on it as an opportunity for building the fascist state.

Reuters ran an earlier story on the school's drug-testing program that came to a remarkable conclusion—

Figures on the Home Office Web site, the latest available, say that for the year ending March 2003, drug offences recorded by police rose 16 percent over the previous year to 141,116.

Officials attributed the rise to increased police activity.

That ironic line had to have been written by a Brit.

Related post
The drug test: A new weapon for the bureaucrat? (1/4/05)


Word of the Day

metric: (1) [adjective] relating to measurement, especially measurement based upon the meter ("metric system"); (2) [adjective] having an ordered arrangement of syllables, as in poetry; (3) [noun] measure (new usage as developed by Donald Rumsfeld and the military)

I haven't found a dictionary containing meaning #3, but it is becoming so common that it will doubtless be included if this pompous bunch of jackasses remain in power. It is currently fashionable among MBAs. It apparently appeared as a noun in computer jargon as "software metric" a decade or so ago, which perhaps came out of mathematics.

Usage: "We are not in the business of trying to float timetables," the [senior administration] official insisted. "The only metric we have is when we can turn more and more over to local forces."—NY Times (yesterday)

"Today we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas' the schools 'and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?... It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog.'"—Donald Rumsfeld memo of October 16, 2003

"you can't know in this battle of ideas how it's coming out unless you have some metric to judge that and there isn't such a metric."—Donald Rumsfeld, talking with Tim Russert

Can you now make an intelligent guess as to who the "senior administration official" of the first quote might be?

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