Saturday, May 20, 2006


Major "outing" threatened in France

Wednesday May 17 was the second "International Day Against Homophobia," (IDAHO), a day to draw attention to the fight to end discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people. The date commemorates the removal of homosexuality from the list of mental disorders by the World Health Organization (WHO) on May 17, 1990.

It didn't receive much attention in the U.S. But in France the anonymous group "No reprod" used the occasion to announce that it would "out" 69 "personalities" if they did not speak out themselves. Here's the text—

Everywhere across the globe homophobia kills. In nine countries, homosexuality is subject to the death penalty. In 90 others, it is illegal. It is recognized in only 20 countries. In France, the political class as a whole still refuses equal rights to cross-gendered1 people. This inequality in the face of the law maintains a hierarchy among the sexualities. This hierarchization of sexuality has already pushed many transgendered people to suicide and risky behaviors.

That is why, for the occasion of the World Day Against Homophobia, we are announcing that if they do not do so themselves, we are going to reveal the sexual orientation of 69 personalities.

69 personalities, who by their silence, in spite of their privileged status in the bosom of French society, play into the hands of homophobic violence.

We charge them as accomplices in this homophobia.

They have until the Pride March of June 24 in Paris to do it, or we will be constrained to do it for them. [my translation]

In all likelihood the outings, if any should occur, will be roundly condemned by most gay organizations and possibly suppressed in the media, since France has much stricter laws for protecting "privacy" than the United States.

I don't know if this can be an effective action—at least at this point they don't have to fear making the situation worse. Regardless of that issue, the frustration and anguish behind this threat should be recognized and respected. From gays held in Cameroon under Guantanamo-like conditions to Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Sistani's fatwa approving the murder of gays "in the worst, most severe way possible,"2 the horrors continue.

Related post
"Our secrets keep us sick" (6/6/05)
Response to a homophobe (6/19/05)
Observation of the Day (5/6/06)


1Transpédégouine. Transpédégouine A recent coinage not exactly translatable. This appears to refer to a cross between a transgendered person and a drag queen with attitude. The poster-style image from perhaps says it best. [back]

2Happily the Grand Ayatollah has relented to a small but insufficient degree. But murders such as that of 14-year-old Ahmed Khalil have already been committed under the fatwa and more can be expected. [back]


In religion Left is Right

The Washington Post's front-pager declaring that "the religious left is back" appears to take a very broad view of "the Left"—

The recently formed Network of Spiritual Progressives is holding a four-day conference that began Wednesday at All Souls Church in Northwest Washington. A thousand participants from 39 states are discussing a new "Spiritual Covenant for America" and spent Thursday visiting their members of Congress.

The United States already has a covenant. It's called the Constitution.

Lerner, the California-based rabbi who founded the network, said the conference is partly aimed at countering an aversion to religion among secular liberals and "the liberal culture" of the Democratic Party.

I thought that was what the Right was trying to do. Silly me.

"I can guarantee you that every Democrat running for office in 2006 and 2008 will be quoting the Bible and talking about their most recent experience in church," he said.
That's something to look forward to. Also,
The Democratic Faith Working Group [plans] to "work with our fellow Democrats and get them comfortable with faith issues."

Faith issues? The Congress is turning into a damned seminary.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Homonym of the Day

I love homonyms—words with identical pronunciations but different spellings—to, two, and too, for instance—little traps sprinkled about the English language.

Last night the PBS NewHour offered an utterly disgusting pretense of "analyzing" soon-to-be CIA director Michael Hayden's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Jim Lehrer had David Ignatius of the Washington Post and Mark Lowenthal, formerly of the Senate Intelligence Committee, conduct the post-mortem.

This morning I checked the transcript to see if it was as bad as I'd thought or if a moment of sobriety had distorted my senses.

Nope. It really was boring, incoherent and a transparent whitewash.

But the transcriber captured a bit of truthiness with a homonym—

JIM LEHRER: Did you hear from Michael Hayden anything that made you believe that he knows what needs to be fixed at the CIA now?

MARK LOWENTHAL: I think he indicated some of the things....

And he also talked about you have to have room for descents.

When you've sunk as low as the CIA, there's not much room for descents. I hope there's a Plan B.


Quote of the Day

The good Lord didn't see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected regimes friendly to the United States. Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all things considered, one would not normally choose to go. But, we go where the business is. —Halliburton CEO and future Vice President Richard Cheney in 1998,as quoted by Ken Silverstein

Cheney opposed the Clinton administration's efforts to impose sanctions on Iran. In those days, according to Cheney, the business of Business was oil, not war. Of course nowadays the business of many American businesses is war.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


Miss Spelling for the Millions

The internet is changing the English language, at least the spelling of it. You would think that with the ubiquity of spell-checkers, spelling would actually become more consistent. But alas, there are people like me who do not use them.

The folks who maintain the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language (OED) do so with the help of the Oxford English Corpus, "a collection of texts of written (or spoken) language." They make the claim that—

The Oxford English Corpus gives us the fullest, most accurate picture of the language today. It represents all types of English, from literary novels and specialist journals to everyday newspapers and magazines and from Hansard to the language of chatrooms, emails, and weblogs. And, as English is a global language, used by an estimated one third of the world's population, the Oxford English Corpus contains language from all parts of the world - not only from the UK and the United States but also from Australia, the Caribbean, Canada, India, Singapore, and South Africa. It is the largest English corpus of its type: the most representative slice of the English language available.

And they're celebrating their billionth entry.

According to Patrick Barkham,

Ancient English cliches and expressions are being mangled by the culture of cut and paste and the spread of unchecked writing on the internet....

[D]ozens of traditional phrases are now more commonly misspelled than rendered correctly in written English.

Here are some they've identified—

Standard Common
strait-laced straight-laced
just deserts just desserts
fount of wisdom font of wisdom
free rein free reign
sleight of hand slight of hand
fazed by phased by
buck naked butt naked
vocal cords vocal chords
shoo-in shoe-in

The lexicographers also note that only men "hijack, crouch, kidnap, rob, grin, shoot, dig, stagger, leap, invent or brandish." But women "consent, faint, sob, cohabit, undress, clutch, scorn or gossip." Simply appalling, really.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Today's links

I do so much reading. I save the articles and vow I'm going to write about them; then the next day's batch of reading starts and I haven't written a word. So to ease my guilt I'm going to start a daily post—well really, a somewhat-daily post—putting up the links I know I'm not going to get around to. If I do this right, most of the links will be different from those you'll find on sites such as Buzzflash that specialize in providing links.

2:14 pm

Judith Miller's back. She did such a fine job of propagandizing the public on Iraqi WMD for the NY Times that the Wall Street Journal has her writing about WMD in Libya, North Korea and ... you guessed it! ... Iran.

Cartoonist Keith Robinson wanted to run a little ad featuring a cartoon of Mohammad in the Reuben Journal, published each year for the National Cartoonists Society (NCS) meeting. The editor said "Hell no!" Robinson is running this instead.

No more photos of women to be allowed in Saudi publications. "They could make young men go astray." If this keeps up Saudi men are going to be holding more than hands. This is not a new issue for the Saudis. (See my post "Encouraging wassatiya in the schools" from June 2004. It was one of my first posts, and it's been downhill ever since.)

"The main difference is that in the States sexual activity is considered a risk. Here we consider it a pleasure." The Swiss really are very strange, aren't they. A pleasure? Imagine that! Don't the women there realize they're pre-pregnant?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Solution of the Day

... he [George Bush] lied when he said: "Massive deportation of the people here is unrealistic – it's just not going to work."

Not only will it work, but one can easily estimate how long it would take. If it took the Germans less than four years to rid themselves of 6 million Jews, many of whom spoke German and were fully integrated into German society, it couldn't possibly take more than eight years to deport 12 million illegal aliens, many of whom don't speak English and are not integrated into American society.

—Vox Day, "novelist and Christian libertarian" in his column at WorldNetDaily

But will it be a final solution? The Germans made sure they couldn't come back.


Conservative Idea of the Day

There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall —Richard Viguerie, "a conservative direct-mail pioneer," as quoted by David D. Kirkpatrick in "Conservative Christians Criticize Republicans"

This is a fabulous idea. They're smarter than they look.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Politicoeconomic Insight of the Day

When top Republicans go around claiming that tax cuts pay for themselves, which economic authorities are they relying on? None, is the answer. These people's approach to government is to make economics up. —Sebastian Mallaby in "The Return Of Voodoo Economics"

Actually these people's approach to government is to make everything up. It's such a comfort when someone else notices.


Banana Republic of the Day: Britain

... [T]hrough all these very different problems a thread does seem to run. It is insidious: at a national level a gradual, modest but persistent corruption of the fabric of expectations: a chipping-away at confidence in the contract between citizen and State. Slowly, we are getting more like a banana republic where promises are cheap, nothing ever really happens and nobody expects it to. —Matthew Parris writing in "The Afghan fiasco: why a certain certainty is certainly being missed"


The appalling week in review - 2

This post is part of a continuing series reviewing the week's events that appalled. But by current standards it was a bit of fluff. If you put your faith in Google, Americans could barely muster an appalled letter to the editor, though there were some who were appalled by the distribution of beer mugs and champagne glasses to highschool-prom-goers in Arizona.

Britain on the other hand was rife with appalling incidents. But then Britain is home to the Royal Family, who might fall under an appalling category all their own. Indeed, the most appalling event in this week's news has been ongoing for 40 years and involves—at least nominally—the Queen and the United States. A British court found it both appalling and repugnant, a twofer.

The "Royal Prerogative" and the Chagos Islands

The Lancashire Evening Telegraph's Fred Shawcross has just declared Tony Blair's legacy to be "the appalling mess that Iraq has become." But Blair's legacy will extend beyond the borders of Iraq. I'll let Neil Tweedle of the right-wing Daily Telegraph describe it—

It was one of the most shameful episodes in British post-war history: the secret expulsion of an entire population of islanders, carried out in clear violation of international law, to make way for a giant American military base.

Yesterday, after more than 30 years in exile and endless court battles, the inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago won the right to return to their home,1 a group of 65 islands lost in the Indian Ocean and dominated by the US air and naval base on Diego Garcia.2

In a damning verdict, the High Court in London condemned as "repugnant" the decision at US insistence to remove the 1,500 islanders in a series of expulsions between 1967 and 1973. It overturned orders in council made by Tony Blair's administration in 2004 which reversed a previous court decision and banned anyone from living on the islands....The orders, made under the royal prerogative, allowed the Government to dispense with the inconvenience of parliamentary oversight.

The judges ... were scathing in their assessment of British policy, concluding: "The suggestion that a minister can, through the means of an order in council, exile a whole population from a British Overseas Territory and claim that he is doing so for the 'peace, order and good government' of the territory is to us repugnant."

There was a quid pro quo with the American government, which to this day demands the displacement of the islanders. With the natives gone, the American military now requires ... guest workers! Ring a bell?

The decision is a severe embarrassment to the Foreign Office which has been put under strong pressure by the Americans to keep the Chagos islands empty save for US military personnel and guest workers on Diego Garcia. The expulsions were demanded by the Americans in a secret agreement in 1966 that saw Britain receive a discount on the Polaris submarine-launched nuclear missile system in return for a 50-year lease on Diego Garcia.

The U.S. hastened to fill a "power vacuum" left by post-World War II Britain. Just because the British were there for imperial purposes doesn't mean the Americans were, does it?

American interest in the Indian Ocean grew in the 1960s as Britain's retreat from empire threatened to produce a power vacuum in waters adjacent to the Persian Gulf. US military surveyors considered Aldabra Island, another British possession nearer to Africa, but it was ruled out because of the presence of a rare species of turtle. People, however, were not considered a problem.

The court heard how senior officials in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office conspired to conceal the operation which involved the gassing of animals and the forcing of pregnant women into the hold of a merchant ship.3 Some miscarried after being dumped in the slums of Mauritius, where many islanders still remain.

In one file used in evidence, a diplomat wrote of his discomfort at the "whopping fibs" used to portray the islanders, who mostly earned their living as semi-indentured labour on copra plantations, as temporary workers with no right of abode. The contrast in their treatment and that of the Falkland islanders 10 years later was all too apparent.

My guess is that Americans—at least those who can point in the general direction of Britain—believe that the country is a democracy run by Parliament and that Queen Elizabeth "the Last" is a figurehead. They would be surprised to learn that Tony Blair blithely sent British troops to Iraq without the slightest democratic oversight. Making war, you see, is an exclusive prerogative of the Queen.

It is also the Queen's prerogative to have her Prime Minister meet in secret and do whatever he damn well pleases. The Court, however, ruled that since the Queen wasn't actually privy to the decision, the royal privilege could not escape judicial review. In fact, the use of the royal prerogative was sort of a scam, really—

The decision has constitutional implications, calling into question the use of the royal prerogative. The orders in council followed a High Court decision in November 2000 which overturned a 1971 immigration ordnance that banned the islanders from their homes. Robin Cook, the then Foreign Secretary, accepted the decision and set up a feasibility study into re-populating the islands. But after intense US pressure, the Government issued the orders in council. In a conciliatory gesture earlier this year, the Foreign Office chartered a ship to take 100 islanders back to their homes to tend the graves of relatives.

The judges ruled that orders in council were not immune to judicial scrutiny because, although they derived from the residual powers vested in the monarch, they were in reality the creation of ministers.

They declared: "The decision was in reality that of the Foreign Secretary, not of Her Majesty, and is subject to challenge by way of judicial review in the ordinary way."

This recalls George Bush's delegation of his powers to Vice President Cheney, who then did—and does—in secret whatever he likes. Unfortunately, in America we have no court review.

Follow-up post
Yachting in the Chagos Islands (5/24/06)

Pfizer experiment on Nigerian children revealed

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer used the opportunity of a 1996 epidemic in Nigeria to do a little drug testing. A report from the Nigerian government has finally surfaced after being under wraps for 5 years. According to Joe Stephens of the Washington Post

A panel of Nigerian medical experts has concluded that Pfizer Inc. violated international law during a 1996 epidemic by testing an unapproved drug on children with brain infections at a field hospital.

.... At the time, Doctors Without Borders was dispensing approved antibiotics at the hospital.

Last week, Rep. Tom Lantos of California, the senior Democrat on the International Relations Committee, described the report's findings as "absolutely appalling" and called on Pfizer to open its records.

"I think it borders on the criminal that the large pharmaceutical companies, both here and in Europe, are using these poor, illiterate and uninformed people as guinea pigs," Lantos said.

Borders on the criminal? So much for Democratic oversight.


The Kansas City Star has discovered "Appalling treatment of the mentally ill."

Since July 1999 Missouri’s general-revenue spending for mental health was cut by $110 million. State hospitals are filled beyond capacity, and outpatient services have lost programs and staff.

As in most cities and states the jails are being used as hospitals—

Nancy Leazer, the jail superintendent, estimates half of the facility’s population of about 200 inmates has some form of mental illness.

The shameful reality is that the jail has become the second-largest inpatient mental-health facility in western Missouri. The largest is the Jackson County Jail.

Los Angeles

Maybe putting mental patients in jail wouldn't be so bad—if it weren't for the jails.

Federal Judge 'Appalled' By LA Jail Conditions

LOS ANGELES -- A federal judge says he's appalled with conditions at Los Angeles's overcrowded and violence-plagued Men's Central Jail and he is calling for quick reforms there.

U-S District Judge Dean-D-Pregerson says inmates are being housed in ways "not consistent with basic human values."

The judge toured the downtown jail on Wednesday. He says he was disturbed to find six prisoners packed into cells designed for three and kept there for days with no chance to exercise or stretch their legs.

Pregerson is presiding over a federal lawsuit challenging jail conditions. The ACLU asked him to intervene after a series of deadly riots earlier this year in several county jails.

There's plenty of appalling news at Simply Appalling.

Related post
Tsunami conspiracy? (1/7/05)
What appalled us this week (5/6/06)


1That's what the court said. But my guess is that the government will appeal—or simply ignore the order. After all, to do otherwise would displease the American government. The first court decision in favor of the Chagossians goes back to 1971.

After the hearing, Olivier Bancoult, the leader of the Chagossians, delivered a letter to No 10 calling on the Prime Minister to honour the decision of the court and allow his people to go home.

He said: "We have always believed that a human being has the right to live in the place of his birth. Everywhere, the British government paints itself as the champion of human rights - so what about the human rights of the Chagossian people?"

Richard Gifford, the solicitor for the islanders, said: "The responsibility of our present Government for victimising its own citizens, and its subservience to the demands of a foreign power, are all too obvious. This is the fourth time in five years that Her Majesty's judges have deplored the treatment inflicted upon this fragile community."


2Diego Garcia is reputed to be one of the locations in the CIA secret prison system. According to TalkLeft, American John Walker Lindh may have been taken there on his way home from Afghanistan.

The island also came up for discussion after the great tsunami. It's only 6-7 feet above sea level, but the Navy insisted there was no significant damage. Even though the island received advance warning, there was some skepticism concerning that claim. [back]

3This recalls the good old days when slave ships sailed the high seas, doesn't it? [back]

Sunday, May 14, 2006


Hope of the Day

All threads are being carefully woven, evidently by a re-emerging realist faction, into a tapestry that will likely spell impeachment, perhaps also of the vice president, the real power behind this presidency. —F. William Engdahl writing in "The US's geopolitical nightmare"

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