Friday, January 28, 2005


Doomed if you do and doomed if you don't

Steven Komarow of USA Today reports on some "ominous campaign literature."

A Baghdad flier, presumed to be from the Sunni insurgents, reads—

God's curse on this comedy named elections, this dirty game that serves the occupier and his bastards.... Be away from them and save your life. Being part in the dirty elections is considered a crime against religion, Iraq and the Iraqi people. Don't participate in elections. All polls will be hit.

But another flier, this one presumed to be from the Shia, enjoins—

In order for you to avoid doomed death and the hell for a while, we have decided to give you the last chance for forgiveness for your children's sake... You must raise a white flag on the roof of your houses and must go on polling day to the polling center to vote for anybody.

But Iraqi security officials may have inadvertently provided a way out—they're setting up dummy polling stations! The solution for the distressed citizen is to go to a decoy station, appear to vote and satisfy the Shia, while in reality casting no ballot, thus satisfying the Sunnis.

The idea for decoy polling stations may have come out of the recent American elections. In that election there were polling stations in Ohio and elsewhere that represented more than one precinct. People voting on the wrong machine for their precinct simply had their votes discarded. It was inspiring.


Photo from Abu Ghraib?


Ah, to live free in Denver!

The Denver Police Department's spying on peaceful protestors has been well documented. The ACLU provides a chronology. It all came back to me as I read this AP story
Some people are angry when they see Shasta Bates' derogatory bumper sticker about President George W. Bush -- but she didn't think she'd be threatened with arrest because of it.

The Denver Police Department is investigating a sergeant who allegedly threatened to arrest the 26-year-old for displaying the bumper sticker.

Bates said she was told by the sergeant Tuesday that her bumper sticker was illegal because it was profane. She said he told her he'd arrest her if she didn't remove it.

But City Attorney Cole Finegan said he doesn't believe there's any city ordinance against displaying a profane bumper sticker.

Once an attitude toward protest is established within a police department, it is very difficult to eradicate. Political leaders and police officials have to be consistent in their determination to do so, and that is seldom the case, as we all know.

Denver CopWatch has another story up from Wednesday of police efforts to intimidate at a demonstration protesting two police shootings.

One of the officers involved in the shootings was wearing a tee-shirt at the time that read "Our bravery and courage are held in regard ‘cause our guns don’t shoot blanks and our nightsticks are hard." Sex and violence. Yummy.


Update on "Bush joins the Jacobins"

Thursday, January 27, 2005


Insurer pays Armenians—90 years later

As Vice President Cheney and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz try to clothe themselves in the garments of the liberators of Auschwitz (which was liberated by the Soviets, by the way), descendants of the Armenian genocide have something truly to celebrate.

The Armenian genocide is known as "the first genocide of the 20th century." Committed by Turkey between 1915 and 1919, the genocide resulted in a number of insurance claims that had gone unsettled.

According to Karen Matthews of Newsday,

Five New York-area Armenian charities received checks for $333,333 each on Wednesday as part of a settlement between an insurance company and descendants of Armenians killed 90 years ago in the Ottoman Empire.

The settlement approved last year by U.S. District Court Judge Christina A. Snyder in Los Angeles is believed to be the first ever in connection with the events of the era.

Under the settlement, $3 million was earmarked for charities and at least $11 million was set aside for the heirs of New York Life policy holders, with $2 million used for administrative costs and anything not spent on expenses going to additional charities.

The remainder of the $3 million will be handed out to four additional Armenian charities in a ceremony in Los Angeles.

Brian Kabateck, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit, said there were 2,300 policies issued to Armenians in Turkey before 1915 that were never paid. People who believe they may be descended from the policy holders have until March 16 to file claims.

The Turkish newspaper Zaman also briefly reports the settlement but reflects the Turkish position that the genocide didn't happen.

An American insurance company named New York Life Insurance has made its first payments to the beneficiaries of policyholders killed in the alleged Armenian Genocide.

The Company made the payments according to an agreement reached between the beneficiaries of policyholders that died in the alleged genocide and that bought life insurance policies before 1915. Payments of $333,333 were made to five Armenian foundations in the US yesterday.

Can the EU really contemplate admitting Turkey to its membership without Turkish acknowledgement of the genocide? I would think the Germans would be miffed.

This is also a reminder of how the survivors and descendants of these two Western genocides have been subsequently treated. The efforts of the Jews to recover property taken by the Nazis, Soviets, Americans and anybody else who could get their hand in the till, including the Israelis, speaks to the depths our civilization has attained.

Related posts
The magic word: Genocide (9/13/04)
Powell's follow-up on Sudanese genocide (9/15/04)


Driving on drink

The Scotsman reports that the French have such an excess of wine that they want to convert 66 million gallons into industrial alcohol that can be used, among other things, for fuel. They distilled 71 million gallons in 2002, but that was second-rate wine. This year four-fifths of the wine is of "appellation" quality.

Fill 'er up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Bush joins the Jacobins (updated)

Paul Craig Roberts is quickly becoming my favorite conservative. He begins his response to Bush's inaugural speech quite mildly—
After listening to his inaugural speech, anyone who thinks President Bush and his handlers are sane needs to visit a psychiatrist. The hubris-filled megalomaniac in the Oval Office has promised the world war without end.
But by the time he finishes considering the parallels between Bush and the Jacobins of the French Revolution, he is virtually frothing—
At home the casualties are the US Constitution and Bill of Rights. Republicans explode in anger when a liberal judge creates a constitutional right. But they sit in silence when the US Department of Justice (sic) creates the right for Bush to decide who has constitutional protections and who has not.

Like Robespierre, Bush justifies the state of terror that he has brought to Iraq by his noble aspirations. The effect is to destroy idealism with hypocrisy about violence. When the neoconservatives succeed in draining idealism of its power, will they then declare violence alone to be their goal?

Led by Bush, the Republican Party now stands for detainment without trial and war without end. It is a party destructive of all virtue and a great threat to life and liberty on earth.

I couldn't have said it better myself. According to wikipedia, members of the French Dept. of Homeland Security of 1793, known back then as "le Haut Comité de la santé publique" or "Committee of Public Safety," perceived that the Revolution was under seige and began what is known today as the Reign of Terror. As Robespierre so aptly put it,
La terreur n'est autre chose que la justice prompte, sévère, inflexible. ("Terror is nothing other than prompt, severe, inflexible justice.")
Robespierre was a member of what today we would call a moral-values coalition—
Robespierre, who had previously condemned the Cult of Reason, advocated the new state religion and recommended the Convention to acknowledge the existence of God. Next day, the worship of the deistic Supreme Being was inaugurated as an official part of the Revolution. Comparing with Hébert's popular festivals, this austere new religion of Virtue was received with signs of hostility by an amazed Parisian public.

The centralization of repression also brought thousands of victims before the Paris Revolutionary Tribunal, whose work was expedited by the draconian Law of 22 Prairial (June 10, 1794) which led to The Great Terror. As a result of Robespierre's insistence on associating Terror with Virtue, his efforts to make the republic a morally united patriotic community became equated with the endless bloodshed. [emphasis added]

What sort of historical figure will George Bush cut?


Paul Craig Roberts has published a follow-up on his take of the Bush inaugural speech—

Readers in numbers beyond my ability to reply individually have challenged me whether President Bush's inaugural speech is a statement of his intentions or merely a celebration of himself and American democracy. Surely Bush doesn't believe America has the power to remake the world in its own image other than by being an example for others to follow?

The answer is that it doesn't matter whether Bush believes, or even understands, what he said. The neoconservatives believe it, and they control the Bush administration.

On the heels of Bush's speech, neocon Robert Kagan used his column in the Washington Post to set Bush's inaugural speech in stone as U.S. foreign policy. Kagan wrote: "The goal of American foreign policy is now to spread democracy, for its own sake, for reasons that transcend specific threats. In short, Bush has unmoored his foreign policy from the war on terrorism."

The neoconservatives are Jacobins. The neocons are the greatest threat America has ever faced, and they have the reins of power. Americans need to wake up to this fact and stop indulging their macho "kick their Muslim butts" fantasies and their "end times" Rapture fantasies.

The Bush administration is not establishing any democracies. It is starting a war that will last a generation. That is the neocon plan. They have put their intentions in writing just as Hitler did. It is no protection that their plan is detached from reality. Robespierre was detached from reality, and that did not stop him. So were Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. People with power in their hands who are detached from reality are the most dangerous people of all. The delusional quality of their rantings disarms people from taking them seriously: "Oh, they couldn't mean that." But they do.


Polish editor fined over Polish Pope jokes

According to the BBC (via the Jurist)
A court in Warsaw found Jerzy Urban guilty of insulting a head of state by writing a satirical article on the eve of the pontiff's 2002 visit to Poland.

Mr Urban, 71, said he was exercising the right to free expression.

Earlier, the press freedom group Reporters without Borders said a prosecution would set a "dangerous precedent" for an EU state.

In his article, titled Walking Sadomasochism, Mr Urban referred to the Pope's frailty, describing him as "the Brezhnev of the Vatican" and an "impotent old man".

Opponents of Mr Urban, who attended the trial, shouted "too little" when the fine was announced, the agency reports. Prosecutors had requested a 10-month suspended prison sentence.

The BBC's Adam Easton in Warsaw says the Pope's standing among Poles is so high that almost any public criticism of the Pope is taboo.

If it's a crime to insult a head of state in Poland, that may explain the odd fact that Poland is the only EU country whose people think the world is safer because of the re-election of George Bush. They haven't been keeping up with the news, since genuine reporting and "insulting a head of state" are indistinguishable when it comes to George Bush.

Torture-monger for Attorney General?

The Jurist reports that Human Rights Watch has broken with its tradition of not weighing in on Cabinet nominees by opposing the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez. Also opposing the nomination is a lawyers group Human Rights First, which has sent a letter signed by several Hispanic law professors to the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter.

It looks as if it's getting more and more difficult for Senators to go on record in support of Gonzalez. Of course, if his nomination fails, it will be through pure cowardice on the part of the Republican Senators, but cowardice definitely has a role to play in politics.

Calls to your Senators may be made through (202) 224-3121. Please advise them that you will be thinking of them when they vote on the Gonzalez nomination, since it just won't do to have him confirmed. They hate attention.


Murder on his mind

Xymphora has a few murders he'd like to mention.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


Arab candidates withdraw in Kirkuk

Al-Jazeera has reported that the Arab candidates of the Arab Unifying Front coalition have withdrawn their names from the local election in Kirkuk. They had already refused to participate in the national election.

At issue was the decision by the Iraq Independent Electional Commission to permit the Kurds who had been expelled by Saddam Hussein to vote in the Kirkuk election.

This is all a piece with the low-level civil war that is already in progress. Kirkuk is at the heart of the Iraqi oil region and is considered a prize by both the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds.

The effort to restore the Kurds to Kirkuk makes me wonder if the Bush administration is taking civil war as an inevitable outcome and hoping to install a U.S.-friendly regime at the heart of the oil fields before all hell breaks loose. After all, we know from the Palestinian experience that repatriation of displaced persons is not a priority for this government.


Things that money can't buy

CNN reports that the U.S. is considering doubling the bounty on Osama bin Laden from $25 to $50 million. The government is waiting on the installation of Condi Rice at the State Dept. to allow her to make the final decision.

What sort of person would perform an act for $50 million but not for $25 million? A fat capitalist, that's who. Since those are the kinds of people Condi hangs out with, I'm sure it will make perfect sense to her.


Feeling the heat: Rumsfeld cancels trip to Germany

According to Deutsche Presse Agentur,
United States Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has cancelled a planned visit to Munich.

Rumsfeld has informed the German government via the US embassy he will not take part at the Munich Security Conference in February, conference head Horst Teltschik said.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights filed a complaint in December with the Federal German Prosecutor's Office against Rumsfeld accusing him of war crimes and torture in connection with detainee abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.

Rumsfeld had made it known immediately after the complaint was filed that he would not attend the Munich conference unless Germany quashed the legal action.

In addition to Rumsfeld, the complaint specifies these familiar names— Notice that three of the accused are stationed in Germany. The translated 181-page complaint is available online in PDF format and offers an historical review of the events leading from 9/11 to the evolution of a policy of torture, rape and sadism.

The complaint notes—

In the post Nuremberg era “the torturer, like the pirate of old, has become hostis humanis generis, the enemy of all mankind.” Those were the words of the US federal appellate judge who in 1980 decided the Filartiga case brought by the human rights lawyer Peter Weiss and his colleagues from the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of a Paraguayan torture victim. This was the case which laid the foundation for the application of the Alien Tort Claims Act to civil suits brought in the United States by aliens for human rights violations, including those occurring in foreign countries. Since then this outstanding example of universal jurisdiction has been followed by US courts in dozens of other cases.

Meanwhile, the ACLU is accusing the Defense Dept. of ignoring further allegations of torture, and Human Rights Watch alleges that the torture is continuing under the auspices of the Iraqi government.


Quote of the Day

History will eventually depict as legitimate the efforts of the Iraqi resistance to destabilise and defeat the American occupation forces and their imposed Iraqi collaborationist government.

And history will condemn the immorality of the American occupation, which has debased the values and ideals of the American people by legitimising torture, rape and murder as a means of furthering an illegal war of aggression.
—Scott Ritter, former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, writing on "the Salvador Option"

Monday, January 24, 2005


Attack of the Killer Bees

According to the AP, Oklahoma state representative Don Ames has found another reason to give an agency of the state new powers—killer bees.
Representative Don Ames has filed a bill that would give the Agriculture, Food and Forestry Department new powers to react to protect people from Africanized honeybee attacks.

The bill would allow the state agency to quarantine locations where the bees are discovered.

What would a killer bee quarantine look like? No residents in or out of the quarantined area? Searches of the vehicles allowed out (only in cases of emergency) for stray queens? Will they use gas?


Judy Bachrach's view of the inauguration

The interview of Judy Bachrach of Vanity Fair by Brigitte Quinn of FoxNews is quite the rage. Oliver Willis first scoped it out and now Ifilms is hosting it. They say it has had almost 3 million views.

For those like me, who have to deal with dial-up or who just like to see things in print, here's a transcript of that interview provided by a friend of mine—

BQ: Judy, welcome to you. We were noticing all the snow in Washington,…I hope that doesn't put a crimp on anybody's plans.

JB: Well, I have a feeling that maybe it should put a crimp, or at least something should put a crimp in the plans of the White House, to have such a very lavish Inaugural at a time of war.

BQ: Really?

JB: Yes. What I've noticed is that the worse a war is going the more lavish the Inaugural festivities. When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was President, during a time of war...he had a very modest Inauguration and a very tiny party where he served chicken salad...and that was when we were winning.


JB: When it seems like...Sorry?

BQ:…I...look...I mean...The President has addressed this hasn't he? He's said that this is a...I believe the quote was that we're celebrating. We're celebrating democracy, we're celebrating a peaceful transfer of democracy...what's wrong with doing that?

JB: Have you noticed any peace or any transfer of democracy in Iraq? If you have, you're the first person to have seen it....?

BQ: I've noticed the elections coming up, and Judy, to be honest with you, I didn't really want to argue politics with you this morning...

JB: Oh really? I thought was allowed to talk about what I wanted to talk about.

BQ: Weh..You certainly...certainly have that right. Let me ask you this--what should they have cut back on?

JB: How about 40 million dollars.

BQ: Alright....well, how would you have planned it?

JB: May I say something...may I say something...may I say something?

BQ: Sure

JB: We have soldiers who are incapable of protecting themselves in their humvees in Iraq. They have to use bits of scrap metal in order to make their humvees secure. Their humvees are sitting ducks for bombs, and we have a President who is using 40 million dollars to have a party. That's a start.

BQ: Judy, what would suggest for the Inauguration--how would you do it?

JB: How about a modest party, just like FDR. I'm sure you will agree he was a pretty good President with a fine sense of what's appropriate, and what's not, and during a time of war, ten parties are not appropriate when your own soldiers are sitting ducks in very very bad vehicles.

BQ: Well, don't you think that the President has...has given his proper respect to our troops, I mean, yesterday as far as I can tell, the festivities opened with the military gala, they ended with a prayer service, there just seemed to have certainly been a tremendous effort over the past couple of days and more than that, to honor our troops?

JB: Well gee, that prayer service should sure keep them safe and warm in their flimsy vehicles in Iraq. I'd rather see that money going to them rather than to a guy who already is President for a second time...

BQ: Alright...Well, Judy Bachrach, I think we've given you more than your time to give us your point of view this morning.

JB: Well, thanks for having me on.

BQ: Alright.

Can we have more of this? Please....

Sunday, January 23, 2005


Quote of the Day

American liberals called the Brownshirts 'conservative,' because the Brownshirts were obviously not liberal. They were ignorant, violent, delusional, and they worshipped a man of no known distinction. Brownshirts' delusions were protected by an emotional force field. Adulation of power and force prevented Brownshirts from recognizing implications for their country of their reckless doctrines.
—Paul Craig Roberts, conservative, US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy 1981-82, Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review.

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