Saturday, June 25, 2005


Oy! No gay pride parade for Jerusalem?

In the forward march of religionists toward their goal of being able to dictate what their fellow men and women should see, think or do, wear or not wear, eat or not eat, associate with or avoid, the banning of this year's gay pride parade in Jerusalem is really among the smaller shocks I've enjoyed this year.

According to Eric Silver writing for the Independent, it's the ultra-Orthodox Jewish mayor of Jerusalem who's come up with the idea. The justification is one I see more and more these days: that the feelings of the majority are being protected—

Uri Lupolianski said he acted "out of concern that it would be provocative and hurt the feelings of the broader public living in and visiting the city ...

Then there's disorder

... and due to concerns about public disorder".

And don't forget provocativeness

Eitan Mayer, the town hall's director-general, said that the gay pride march had been provocative in the past.

I've always loved that word provocative. It's so ... well, provocative, and it covers so much. It implies that someone or something provoked an act or emotion in someone else—as in "When I see a float passing filled with half-naked men it provokes a strange feeling in me. I don't know how to describe it, but I damned sure want it to stop!"

And those who find the parade provocative are the best qualified to say. After gay pride events the emergency hotlines always get a lot of calls, and the counselors try to help them make the anger, hurt and panic go away. Unless, of course, they call certain religious hotlines, which may try to convince them that they should be angrier and help make the gay pride events go away.

The organizers of the parade are petitioning the court and will be heard on Sunday.

The police had already approved the route through the centre of the New City, ending with festivities in Liberty Bell Park, which has a replica of the bell which summoned the citizens of Philadelphia to hear the first public reading of the American Declaration of Independence in July 1776.

Don't you just love symbols? If the court grants permission, this will be the fourth gay pride parade. Actually it looks as if there'll be a gay pride parade whether the court gives permission or not.

Mrs Hoffman, who runs the Reform Jewish movement's Israel Religious Action Centre, said staff intended to join the march regardless. "Who's going to stop us?" she asked.

Hagai El-Ad, the director of the community center sponsoring the parade, defined the issue very well, I thought—

The mayor's personal beliefs cannot be a basis for trampling on the civil rights of one segment of the population. This sad process begins with the gay and lesbian community, but I don't want to imagine the nightmarish reality that would be created in Jerusalem if a process of this sort was allowed to begin.

Statistic of the Day

... the rate of malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since Saddam Hussein's ouster in April 2003. Today, at 7.7 percent, Iraq's child malnutrition rate is roughly equal to that of Burundi, an African nation ravaged by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than the rates in Uganda and Haiti, countries also devastated by unrelenting violence.
—Jean Ziegler of the U.N. Human Rights Commission as reported by Cesar Chelala

Friday, June 24, 2005


Her so-called life as a stripper

This is "old" news from April, but with identity theft hitting the news, as one corporation after another shares your darkest financial secrets with pretty much anybody, I thought you'd want to know what they've come up with in the great State of Ohio.

In Ohio it's the state that may steal your identity, and does!

According to the AP,

Supporters of Ohio's identity theft law are livid that state liquor control agents gave a college student the driver's license and Social Security number of another woman so she could pose as a stripper for a sting.

Nasal [the Miami County prosecutor] said the ploy was legal because a change in Ohio's law the previous year aimed at curbing identity theft. The law allows police to use a person's identity within the context of an investigation, he said.

And the tactics were justified because authorities managed to close the club, Nasal said.

"I don't apologize for the investigation and the conduct," he told The Columbus Dispatch for a story Sunday. "The result speaks for itself."


According to court records, Troy police paid Michelle Szuhay $100 per night over three months to strip at the club in Troy, a city of about 22,000 north of Dayton.

Szuhay, then a 22-year-old criminal justice major at the University of Dayton, worked as an intern with the U.S. Marshals Service and in a security post with the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. She had also stripped before, Nasal said.

Stripping and law enforcement seem to go hand in hand, or hand in something.

Each night Szuhay danced, the state agents drank beer and watched from seats inside the club, ostensibly looking for violations of liquor laws at the same time.

I have truly missed my calling.

Troy police watched, too, through an Internet account they set up using the identity of a dead man.

I can't imagine how you do that, but I'm willing to try.

"Watching her dance was quite different than the other girls," Troy Capt. Chuck Adams said. "She was doing some things I think she was ashamed of."

What on earth was she doing? She had worked as a stripper before.

The father of the woman whose identity has been overexposed had this to say—

I don't know much about law, but I would say that's just baloney, said Dawson, who lives part time in Columbus.

No, sir. It's not baloney, it's cheesecake.

Bruce Schneier, whose excellent blog on security and security technology brought this story to my attention, had this reaction—

I have to admit that I'm stunned. I naively assumed that the police would have a list of Social Security numbers that would never be given to real people, numbers that could be used for purposes such as this. Or at least that they would use identities of people from other parts of the country after asking for permission. (I'm sure people would volunteer to help out the police.) It never occurred to me that they would steal the identity of random citizens. What could they be thinking?

Well, respect for citizens is not exactly a law-enforcement priority these days, is it?

Related post
Memphis cops are clean! (8/25/04)


Senate fiddles while oil burns

Yesterday as oil futures reached a new high of $60/barrel the Union of Concerned Scientists issued this press release—
Like a bad summer rerun, the U.S. Senate has once again failed to act to improve vehicle fuel economy standards that would cut our nation's dependence on foreign oil and save consumers billions at the pump. The Senate had the opportunity to consider two amendments that would have saved up to three million barrels of oil per day in 2020 through modest increases in the fuel economy of cars and trucks. Yet, the Senate decided that these fuel economy amendments were not 'germane' to the Senate energy bill.

How saving millions of barrels of oil is not germane to the energy debate defies reason.

The Senate's shortsightedness comes as oil imports rose to 60 percent in the last month. The Unites States, meanwhile, now sends over $350,000 every minute to other countries just to fuel our petroleum habit. By rejecting fuel economy improvements for the third straight session of Congress, the House and Senate are repeating past mistakes instead of trusting the country's can-do spirit.

The Senate bill contains an unenforceable one million barrels per day oil savings target and a renewable fuels standard. If enacted, this will only slow oil consumption by 0.25 million barrels per day. Claims that the Senate energy bill will dramatically cut US oil dependence are clearly more fiction than fact.

Meanwhile Forbes is running a piece by AFX, the business news subsidiary of Agence France-Presse, with the headline "Japan govt worried as crude oil futures hit record 60 usd a barrel - report"

Why is the Japanese government worried?

Japan has been reducing its dependence on oil as an energy source, and also has one of the most energy-efficient economies in the industrialized world. So Japan's primary concern is high oil prices might cause growth to slow in other less energy-efficient countries like the United States, and thus depress demand for Japanese exports.

Thursday, June 23, 2005


MoveOn conducts a push poll on Iraq and cons its supporters

Before you read on, I hope you will save your limited funds to donate anywhere but to MoveOnPAC. Let George Soros pay for this one. Here's why—

In my Inbox was an email from Eli Pariser of MoveOn. The subject was "What should we do about Iraq?"

Dear MoveOn member,

Next week, President Bush is expected to give a speech in which, despite the chaos and car bombs and rising daily attacks by insurgents, he'll argue that everything is going well in Iraq and we should stay the course. It's clear that the president is out of touch with reality—as Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said, "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

We believe that it's time to stand up to him and demand that Congress begin bringing our troops home, while doing what we can to support a stable Iraq. We got into this war the wrong way, and it's time to get out the right way.

But we want to know where you stand. Should we work together in a major campaign to get Democrats and Republicans in Congress on board with a responsible exit plan? Or should we focus on other issues, either in Iraq or here at home?

We won't move forward without a mandate from you. Vote now at: [link]

Now I should have known that some skulduggery was afoot when I read the word "responsible." "Responsible" is a code word meaning "we're going to do pretty much the opposite of whatever it is you think we're saying." There was more, but I couldn't wait to go vote.

Here's what I found—

Should we work together to begin bringing the troops home, by supporting the Jones-Abercrombie resolution? (The resolution would require the president to put together a plan by the end of the year for bringing home all U.S. forces from Iraq with troop withdrawal beginning no later than October 1, 2006.)

Yes. I would support a campaign like that.

No. MoveOn should work on other priorities, or another approach to what's going on in Iraq.

This is an incredibly dishonest piece of shit! And it is a push-poll—with the ridiculous outcome that those who advocate immediate withdrawal from Iraq must vote "NO" along with those who would advocate "staying the course."

Of the 30,820 who had voted at the time I voted, not surprisingly the vote was going 83.2% Yes and 16.8% No.

Just so you'll know, the Jones-Abercrombie resolution does not require much of anything. Here's what Congressman Jones wrote to his constituents—

Dear Fellow Eastern North Carolinian,

In recent days there has been considerable press coverage on my position on America’s presence in Iraq. Despite what some media accounts have said, I want to make it crystal clear that I am NOT in favor of any immediate withdrawal nor do I support setting an end date at which time all troops must be out of Iraq.

What I do support is a public discussion of our goals and the future of our military involvement in that country. The non-binding resolution I am co-sponsoring will do no more than call on the President to set a plan and a date to begin reducing the number of troops we have in Iraq. It does not in any way, shape or form set a date certain for withdrawal. This approach should give the President the flexibility he needs to reduce our presence in a way that protects U.S. troops and allows Iraqis to pick up the fight. No one is talking about “cutting and running.”

This is thoroughly disgusting and appalling.


Quote of the Day

There's not a whole lot of jobs out there for people paid to kill.
—mother of Scott Helvenston—former Navy Seal instructor and one of the four Blackwater contractors killed in Fallujah—in an interview on Frontline

British as a foreign language

Last Friday I wrote a post on the PBS NewsHour debate over the meaning of the Downing Street memos held between former CIA analyst Ray McGovern and Reuel Gerecht, a former CIA operative trotted out by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). At the post's conclusion I listed a mix of tactics and arguments that Gerecht had used to deny the incriminating nature of the memos. (Since Gerecht was sent by AEI, the Neocon think tank, you can bet they will be used again.)

Let me repeat them—

I must confess that the first example I gave of the muddy-the-water ploy didn't actually come up during the PBS program, but I had already seen it elsewhere. For instance, in an article of June 8 in USA Today, Mark Memmott wrote (to ensure balance!) in his wrap-up—

Robin Niblett of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, says it would be easy for Americans to misunderstand the reference to intelligence being "fixed around" Iraq policy. "'Fixed around' in British English means 'bolted on' rather than altered to fit the policy," he says.

Yesterday Ray McGovern surveyed this sudden interest in linguistics by the Right, which has been dutifully repeated in the media. British English, according to them, has diverged so markedly from American English that the meaning of "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" has become all but unintelligible to Americans and requires translation.

My own suggestion is that Dearlove, the head of British intelligence, meant that "the intelligence and facts were being repaired around the policy."

Frankly I'm surprised that Bush and Blair were able to hold their recent meeting without language assistance. I did not know that Bush was bilingual. Were those men around them Secret Service agents or simultaneous translators?

Well, I'm going to have to cut this short so I can go watch an episode of Fawlty Towers. It's my favorite British comedy, but I wouldn't understand a word of it without the subtitles.

But Ray McGovern has it on good authority that—at least in the case of the Downing Street memos—"fixed" means ... "fixed."

Previous post
PBS NewsHour claims credit for Downinggate; may deserve some after last night (6/17/2005)

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Quote of the Day

Many of the Iraq War apologists are quick to point out how much better off Iraq is today with Saddam Hussein in prison. They cite the closing of Saddam's torture chambers as a central justification of the Iraq campaign. Well, there's a problem with that theory. The torture hasn't stopped. It continues to this day, under new management. —"This Soldier's Iraq Diary"

Joke of the Day

We're pleased that common sense has prevailed at the Air Force Academy in the matter of discrimination against religious cadets and staff. We fervently hope that this ridiculous bias of a few against the religion of the majority — Christianity — will now cease.
—Focus on the Family's reaction to Air Force Lt. Gen. Roger Brady's report on the religious climate at the Air Force Academy

Statistics of the Day

Percentage of Britons who say their neighborhood would disapprove if more Iraqi immigrants moved in: 64

Percentage who say this about black immigrants from Africa: 43
—Harper's Index, March 2005

Related posts
Refugees will be an inevitable consequence of this war (9/24/04)
An open secret: The Iraqi refugee crisis is growing (4/18/05)


Arriving thirty years late and ready to rumble...

A new progressive Christian organization, the Christian Alliance for Progress, has announced itself. From their press release—
After 30 years of sustained effort by leaders like Rev. Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and Dr. James Dobson to merge evangelical Christianity with a conservative political agenda, a new grassroots progressive organization on the political left will announce its creation on Thursday in Jacksonville. The Christian Alliance for Progress is a national movement of Christians seeking to reclaim Christianity and transform American politics.

This new hard-hitting grassroots national Christian organization will be launched during an outdoor press conference at 10:00 am on Thursday, June 23 in Jacksonville, Florida across from the auditorium of the First Baptist Church of downtown Jacksonville at Beaver and Hogan Streets.

Unlike the Democrats, they actually have a platform—

The Christian Alliance for Progress will speak out when conservative Christians misrepresent the gospel to support their misguided political positions. The Christian Alliance for Progress, founded firmly on the teachings of the gospel, will stand for pursuing economic justice; responsible environmental stewardship; equality for gays and lesbians; honoring the sanctity of childbearing decisions through effective prevention, not criminalization of abortion; seeking peace, not war; and achieving health care for all Americans.

Best wishes. I hope they're prepared for the lions.

Related post
Christo-Republican cadres (6/22/05)


Christo-Republican cadres

It used to be said that Democrats were so much better at governing because they believed in it and had created a class of professional politicians. Young Democrats would go off to the Peace Corps to gain experience or become active in local or national movements for whatever social cause attracted them.

That certainly cannot be said today. It's the Christo-Republicans who prepare themselves to rule, and they start earlier and stay later. Where do they start? In home school. According to Hanna Rosin in the New Yorker, "about a million and a half children, as many as two-thirds of whom are thought to be evangelicals, are taught at home."

From there it's on to Bob Jones University or Patrick Henry College, which "In the last days before the 2004 Presidential election, ... excused all its students from classes, because so many of them were working on campaigns or wanted to go to the swing states to get out the vote for George W. Bush."

These people arrive in the workplace very disciplined and fully indoctrinated—

... when students enroll at Patrick Henry, they sign a ten-part statement of faith, agreeing that, among other things, Hell is a place where “all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity.” The curriculum for the first two years follows a “Christian Classical” model—basically, Western Civ from a Biblical perspective. Students read Plato, Aristotle, Virgil, Locke, Shakespeare, Milton, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Beckett. They also study Euclidean geometry and biology; the school uses a standard science textbook, but the professor, Jennifer Gruenke, who also has a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia, tells students that the earth was created in a week. For the last two years, they switch to a “vocational” model, and receive credit for internships and research projects. Elisa Muench, for example, took a class on how to analyze polls, and is preparing a senior project on political realignments. Most of the students major in government; the few literature majors tend to be girls.

Graduates easily find positions in the White House or in congressional offices. Or they may be assisted into media roles, as was done for the late bloomer Guckert/Gannon. A network of right-wing organizations and thinktanks, privately funded for the most part (so far), stand ready to find the optimal placement for this new talent.

I've had a number of conversations lately with people who consider themselves to be liberal or progressive but who are not in any way activists. For most of them their point of view seems to be that the politics of the United States has gone through a number of swings from liberal to conservative, and that the present era is no exception. While in religious matters they may be agnostic, they have an untutored faith in the great Pendulum in the Sky, which they think is about to reach its zenith, only to usher in a more liberal age.

I hope for all our sakes that they are right, but I do not believe so. The Christo-Republican cadres are here to found the new Reich, and they have the training, skills and discipline to do it.

Follow-up post
Word of the Day (7/13/05)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Quote of the Day

In Washington, people in government often communicate with one another and with the public in guarded, even coded statements. The mass media seldom detect, note or explain these messages.
—Richard A. Clarke in "War and Weakness"

"George Bush" and his impact on the Iranian election

The name George Bush should normally appear in quotes. Only in circumstances where there is incontrovertible evidence from at least two identified sources that the President personally made a statement or performed an action such as falling off his bicycle should the President be identified as George Bush without the quotes.

—The Simply Appalling Editor's Guide:

Reports of the condemnation of the Iranian election by "George Bush" offers a made-to-order example of the need for our new editorial policy.

Here's the opening to Brian Murphy's story in the AP—

Iran's spy chief used just two words to respond to White House ridicule of last week's presidential election: "Thank you." His sarcasm was barely hidden. The backfire on Washington was more evident.

The sharp barbs from President Bush were widely seen in Iran as damaging to pro-reform groups because the comments appeared to have boosted turnout among hard-liners in Friday's election with the result being that an ultraconservative now is in a two-way showdown for the presidency.

This latest "revelation" in the press has Bush-haters chortling. "Bush has done it again!" "Foot in mouth..." And so forth. I'm sorry, but they've triangulated themselves somewhere between naive and dumb—though they're hardly to blame.

I didn't read Murphy's opening carefully enough either. I wasted time trying to figure out which podium Bush had used to issue his denunciation—Was it in "his" radio address? In off-the-cuff remarks to reporters? In an interview? No. It was a White House press release. Bush didn't say it and there's damned little chance he even thought it.

If I had read more carefully I should have picked up the phrase "White House ridicule" in the lede sentence. But the second paragraph threw me off. After all, when you read a phrase such as "the sharp barbs from President Bush ...," you can't escape the impression that his mouth was moving.

Here's Robin Wright and Michael A. Fletcher's pre-election version in the Washington Post—

On the eve of Iran's presidential election, President Bush yesterday denounced Tehran's theocracy for manipulating the vote by eliminating candidates and ignoring the "basic requirements" of democracy. Whatever the election's outcome, power will continue to be held by "an unelected few" who are out of step with political changes sweeping the rest of the region, Bush said in a statement released by the White House.

The tough White House comment comes at a pivotal juncture in U.S.-Iranian relations and in Iran's political evolution....

Isn't that an interesting progression? First "President Bush ... denounced." Then "Bush said in a statement." And finally the nebulous "White House comment."

Ah, you object. This is simply a "convention" of the press to liven up the report. Everybody in Washington understands what's going on here.

I would reply that "everybody in Washington" is itself code for "Washington insiders"—those who understand how the great news-propaganda system works. Are these the people for whom the Associated Press and the Washington Post are writing the news? Unfortunately, yes.

But why does it need to be coded? Wouldn't it be better just to write "The White House issued a press release today under the name of President Bush denouncing the Iranian election"? Wouldn't that serve "Washington insiders" just as well?

Well, no. You see, there's the propaganda element (psy-ops) to be considered. First, even the careless reader might get the point that Bush quite probably had nothing to do with the statement. Second, it might make Bush appear to be the knot on the log that he is. And third, it might occur to at least some readers that this was at a minimum an attempt to manipulate public opinion on the Iranian election, which could lead to the question of who was doing this and why.

That really wouldn't do, now would it?

The Iranian election and the state of democracy in Iran

You may have been able to glean, despite the sneers and condemnations from the White House and State Department, that Iran has just held a presidential election. And if democracy in the United States be the measure, it was a genuine election.

It was not a thing of beauty. First, as in the U.S., the candidates were vetted to ensure their religious orthodoxy. Then there were instances of intimidation by religious hardliners of both the reformist candidates and their supporters. And finally there were allegations of vote fraud in the aftermath. A limited recount was held and the election declared valid. The turnout was 63% despite calls by some reformist leaders to boycott. Since no candidate received a majority of the vote, there will be a runoff.

Terrible, huh? Yet in today's Iran there is more genuine democracy than in the American allied governments of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. There is simply no question that the young people of Iran are interested in their political destiny and have the level of education necessary to participate in a democratic state. It's also clear that—absent outside interference—that movement is likely to continue. The one thing on which reformists and hardliners agree is that interference from the United States is unwelcome.

So why, you may wonder, isn't the "Bush" administration cheering them on? Aren't we supposed to be bringing democracy to the Middle East? Well, as they like to say in The Hamptons, it's not our kind of democracy. Our kind of democracy recognizes first and foremost the needs of our plutocrats, and Iran has been failing them miserably.

Bush described the election as an exercise in futility because Iran's real power rests with the non-elected Islamic clerics, who can override the president and parliament. Many agree with that description of a regime that allowed just eight presidential candidates from more than 1,000 hopefuls.

... Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the election shows that the country is out of step with democratic reforms in the Middle East.

"I just don't see the Iranian elections as being a serious attempt to move Iran closer to a democratic future," she said in an interview on ABC's "This Week."

The true purposes of the "Bush" statement

When the administration issues a diplomatically sensitive statement, it is vetted (one hopes) at a minimum from three perspectives: its impact on the ruling class of the country in question, its impact on the people of that country, and its impact on the American public and the media. Such a declaration is optimal when it furthers U.S. plutocratic interests in all three respects. Let's see how "Bush" has fared this time.

Impact on the Iranian ruling class:

The "Bush" statement made the hardliners hopping mad. This was the desired outcome. Its purpose was not unlike the increase in bombings of Saddam's Iraq prior to the invasion. The administration hoped to goad Saddam into a counteraggression that would justifiy the U.S. invasion.

Remember what they wrote in the WaPo article?

The tough White House comment comes at a pivotal juncture in U.S.-Iranian relations and in Iran's political evolution.

There was the danger that accommodations might be reached in U.S.-Iranian relations, at least from the point of view of the Iranians. "Bush" averted that risk.

Rafsanjani, Iran's president in 1989-1997, has said he is open to greater dialogue with the United States.

But Ahmadinejad [the hardliner] offered no such opening after the vote was tallied Saturday, and he could take a harsher stance toward the United States and its concerns especially accusations that Iran is secretly seeking nuclear arms. Iran denies the charges and puts them down to U.S. anger with the clerical regime.

"You only have to look at the comments" by Bush to understand that he "seeks hostility" against Iran, Ahmadinejad said.

Another political commentator, Davoud Hermidas Bavand, believed the fallout from Bush's statements went beyond the election by destroying lingering hopes that Washington policy-makers finally would accept Iran's regime.

There was also the danger of Iran continuing its evolution toward democracy. By subverting the reformists, that became less likely—

The Bush comments are an example of "the kind of American intervention" that often boomerangs in the region, said Egyptian political analyst Salama Ahmed Salama.

"Bush meant to discourage the hard-liners," he said, "but instead he mobilized their supporters."

This was no accident.

Impact on the Iranian public

"Bush" offered the Iranians this gobbledygook: "As you stand for your own liberty, the people of America stand with you." The last thing anybody in the Middle East wants is Bush standing anywhere near them. And that goes for the Iranian public—

The president's words sounded too much like the pre-war rhetoric against Saddam, and many on-the-fence voters were shocked into action, said Abdollah Momeni, a political affairs expert at Tehran University."People faced a dilemma," Momeni said.

"In people's minds it became a choice between voting or giving Bush an excuse to attack [by observing the boycott]."

The declaration may even have caused some voters to switch their support from the reformists to the hardliners. (It happens in the U.S. all the time.)
The unexpectedly strong turnout ... produced a true surprise in the No. 2 finish of hard-line Tehran Mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Just as the Neocons had hoped.

Impact on the American public

Press accounts have almost universally portrayed the "Bush" statement as some sort of "mistake" or "misstep." Bush opponents will happily agree with that assessment, and Bush enthusiasts will be charmed by his "strong stance." But what about the Great Indifferent?

To the extent that anybody notices, "Bush" appears to be denouncing a harsh regime and supporting "the people" and "democracy." He also is insisting that Iran give up any development of nuclear weapons. What's so bad about that?

Overall impact

The press is insinuating that the "Bush" administration has made another foreign policy gaffe. But when you realize what our foreign policy toward Iran really is, nothing could be further from the truth.

The administration is continuing its preparations for the justification of regime change and destabilization of Israel's enemies as specified by the Neocons. Iran is in the administration's sights, and a victory for the reformist candidate in Iran—indeed the appearance of any democracy at all—is anathema to its goals.

Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, who earlier predicted an attack on Iran in July, writes that the attack on Iran has already begun, albeit covertly.

As with Iraq, the president has paved the way for the conditioning of the American public and an all-too-compliant media to accept at face value the merits of a regime change policy regarding Iran, linking the regime of the Mullah's to an "axis of evil" (together with the newly "liberated" Iraq and North Korea), and speaking of the absolute requirement for the spread of "democracy" to the Iranian people.

"Liberation" and the spread of "democracy" have become none-too-subtle code words within the neo-conservative cabal that formulates and executes American foreign policy today for militarism and war.

By the intensity of the "liberation/democracy" rhetoric alone, Americans should be put on notice that Iran is well-fixed in the cross-hairs as the next target for the illegal policy of regime change being implemented by the Bush administration.

I have some reservations as to Ritter's predictions of the timing and certainty of the next U.S. aggression. Iraq may be forcing some course adjustments upon the administration. But I'll save that for another post.

In the meantime I'll leave you to ponder these fine words of "George Bush"—

The Iranian people deserve a genuinely democratic system in which elections are honest - and in which their leaders answer to them instead of the other way around. The Iranian people deserve a truly free and democratic society with a vibrant free press that informs the public and ensures transparency. They deserve freedom of assembly, so Iranians can gather and press for reform and a peaceful, loyal opposition can keep the government in check. They deserve a free economy that delivers opportunity and prosperity and economic independence from the state. They deserve an independent judiciary that will guarantee the rule of law and ensure equal justice for all Iranians. And they deserve a system that guarantees religious freedom, so that they can build a society in which compassion and tolerance prevail.

Related post
Superfluous beliefs (6/10/05)



Joke of the Day

Power is in the hands of an unelected few who have retained power through an electoral process that ignores the basic requirements of democracy.
—"George Bush" in "Statement by the President on Iranian Elections"

12:28 pm

Edit: Quotes placed around George Bush, who never actually said it.

Monday, June 20, 2005


Update on "Fallujah pacified? Not quite"


Joke of the Day

The director of the CIA says he has an "excellent idea" where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but that the United States' respect for sovereign nations makes it more difficult to capture the al-Qaida chief.
—from a Time interview with Porter Goss as reported by the AP

Related post
The Loose Noose (2/26/05)


"Here comes the truth"

I'm working on several posts that are going to take a bit of time. In the meanwhile, if you haven't read David Podvin's latest, please do!
The current generation of Democrats has lost the last six congressional elections by finessing the truth, compromising the truth, triangulating the truth, and generally avoiding the truth as though it had leprosy. Truman’s truth was that Republicans are toxic for America. Six decades later nothing has changed except the Democratic willingness to make the case.

I couldn't agree more with Podvin about what the Democratic Party should be doing. But for Progressives to take over the Democratic Party from the Bidens, Liebermans and Clintons will be a long row to hoe.



Lie of the Day

... [B]y generating economic growth, CAFTA [Central American Free Trade Agreement] will do more for workers in Central America and the Dominican Republic than any law or regulation could achieve. That is because worker rights are more likely to be strengthened when demand for labor is strong, thereby giving workers bargaining power.
—"proponents of CAFTA" according to Krissah Williams and Paul Blustein on the front page of today's Washington Post

I won't debate whether CAFTA might generate economic growth for capitalists eager to come into the region. Let's assume that it would. And that it would likely increase the demand for labor. But would it produce a "strong" demand for labor? Most certainly not.

It is only under the condition of "strong" demand for labor—i.e., where the economy is approaching full employment—that the workers' position is strengthened. Long before that would be allowed to happen, the capitalists would move out of the region.

If you're unsure of this, think for a moment about the plight of the workers in the United States, whose capitalists have continued to be the sole beneficiaries of strong economic growth throughout the term of the Bush administration as the power of labor has steadily ebbed.


Quote of the Day

"Well, where is all this heading?" And no kidding, he said to me, "A 10-division Iraqi armed force." And I lost it at that point, the only time in the whole trip I just lost it. I said, "Ten divisions! The United States Army has 10 divisions!" And he said, "And two mechanized divisions." I said, "We have two mechanized divisions! You're going to create an Iraqi army as big as the American Army? Are you nuts?" And then the next PowerPoint chart comes up: "Well, we need a division here and we need a division here and we need a division"—it became very apparent to me that these 10 divisions were to fight some future war against Iran. It had nothing to do—nothing to do—with taking that country over from us and fighting the insurgents.
—Leslie H. Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in a speech recounting his 10 days in Iraq

Sunday, June 19, 2005


Men's shoulder bags emerging after long eclipse

Can this be true? (I've never been able to keep up with fashion.) David Colman of the NY Times tells us—
... they [straight men] are adopting looks - muscle shirts, fitted jeans, sandals and shoulder bags - that as recently as a year ago might have read as, well, gay.

With more and more people packing, a shell bag can be an essential part of your ensemble. Go for the leather; you'll look like you really mean it.


Response to a homophobe

This evening I stumbled upon The Blue Voice, a newborn group blog. Marcia Ellen has written a learnèd response to a gay-bashing letter that appeared in the Arizona Republic. Don't miss "Mr. Woolley's Rant."

Nun tortured to death in convent

Well, it's Sunday, so I always like to see what our religious brethren are up to. No good, I'm afraid.

Cases of extreme exorcism are breaking out in parts of Europe, this time in Romania near the Transylvanian border. Of course, you think I read this in some tabloid at the checkout line, but no. 'Twas in the Times of London. According to Roger Boyes,

A PRIEST and four nuns each face up to 20 years in jail after performing an extraordinary exorcism on a 23-year-old woman who was chained to a cross, gagged and starved in the cellar of a Romanian convent.

The woman died, apparently of suffocation, because a towel had been stuffed into her mouth to muzzle her screams.

Maricica Irina Cornici, who was brought up in an orphanage before becoming a nun, was crucified for three days while Father Daniel Petru Corogeanu, a Romanian Orthodox priest, recited prayers to banish evil spirits. According to the Mediafax news agency in Romania, she was a schizophrenic, given to rapid mood shifts, and this had persuaded nuns in the convent that she was possessed by the Devil.

I feel so sorry for this poor woman. It is easy to imagine her brutalized by the church for practically the entirety of her brief life.

The priest showed no remorse when he was arrested. “God has performed a miracle for her,” he said. “At last Irina has been delivered from evil.”

At least she's been delivered from that hell of a convent and demon of a priest.

But there's lots of community support for the church—

One parishoner said that the nun “had to be punished, she had an argument with the Father during a Sunday mass and insulted him in front of the congregation".

And get this—

The Orthodox Church, like Catholic priests, is bound by strict criteria before exorcism can be performed. The priest has to determine whether the supposedly possessed person has a record of mental illness; and has to gain the approval of a bishop. According to a 1999 ruling, signs of possession can include: “Ability to speak with some facility in a strange tongue, the faculty of divulging future events; display of powers which are beyond the subject’s age and natural condition.”

That oughtta keep 'em down on the farm.

Thunder claps from an approaching storm were the only sound as her coffin was brought into the church of the monastery at the weekend.

“This storm is proof that the will of God has been done,” Father Daniel said. “People must know that the devil exists. I find his work in the gestures and speech of possessed people, because man is often weak and lets himself be easily manipulated by the forces of evil.”

I'll say!

Boyes also offers a nice review of the standard forms of crucifixion, which has become rare, but alerts us that—

Non-lethal crucifixion is practised by some Roman Catholics as devotion but disliked by the Vatican.

It's sort of like hazing when done to others or autoerotic strangulation when performed on oneself. It's fun, but can so easily get out of hand.

Related post
Exorcism: "A growth industry for the pastoral care business" (2/18/2005)


Statistic of the Day

One in 10 women says she had an “overlapping” relationship in a 12-month period compared with one in 20 a decade ago.
—Jon Ungoed-Thomas and Holly Watt in "Women confess to new state of affairs"

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