Saturday, June 17, 2006


"First" of the Day

Prompted by a Fort Lewis Army officer's decision to refuse to fight in Iraq, the First United Methodist Church of Tacoma has declared itself a sanctuary for servicemen and servicewomen who also don't want to go to Iraq. —Mike Barber writing in "Troops refusing Iraq duty get a haven"

The news accounts leave the nature of the sanctuary offer somewhat vague. The church may prefer it that way—

"Our initiative was because of Lieutenant Watada's gesture and a clear sense that we have, as a reconciling congregation, deeply involved in justice issues throughout the city, that any war, particularly this one, is inconsistent with Christian teachings," the Rev. Monty Smith said Wednesday night.

Smith said the church stands "in solidarity" with others who hold similar social-justice convictions. The church essentially is providing a protective space and resources to those contemplating whether to resist deployment to Iraq, he said.

Smith said the church so far has received no applications for sanctuary from members of the armed forces. It has protocols and precautions to ensure that anyone who seeks sanctuary is doing so for legal and religious reasons.

Lieut. Watada's stance is not a matter of conscientious objection to war—

Last week, Watada, a company-grade military officer with the Stryker Brigade about to deploy to Iraq this month, said off-post and after working hours that he does not conscientiously object to war. He would serve in Afghanistan but not in Iraq, which he considers an illegal war.

The antiwar movement is showing a lot of strength in Washington State—

While troop supporters continue their vigils at a bridge near the post's main gate, Tacoma and Olympia seem to have become a new epicenter for an invigorated anti-war movement usually seen in Seattle.

Two weeks ago, demonstrations in Olympia against the movement of military vehicles from Fort Lewis to Iraq via the Port of Olympia resulted in civil disobedience and arrests.

I'm calling this a "first" because I can find no other instances of a church offering sanctuary to servicepeople who refuse to fight in Iraq. I would be delighted if I'm wrong, so let me know.



Italian prince acting common again

One of the more reliable markers of a right-winger is the attitude toward prostitution and prostitutes. Wingers typically feel strongly that society must wage a War on Prostitutes and that the profession must remain illegal. This view is always promoted as the "moral" view, but one suspects the Invisible Hand is actually creating a market in which most of the profits go not to the workers but to the middlemen—otherwise known as "pimps."

That is likely the case with Crown Pimp Victor Emmanuel of Italy. Reuters reports that—

Prince Victor Emmanuel, 69-year-old son of Italy's last king, was arrested on Friday as part of an investigation into corruption and prostitution, a judicial source said.

Victor Emmanuel was among around 13 people arrested as part of a police operation focussing on the activities of a casino in northern Italy.

Among those detained was a top aide to the foreign minister in former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's government which lost power in a national election in April.

Reports said investigators suspected Victor Emmanuel of having contacts with the Mafia and of helping procure prostitutes for clients of a casino in Campione d'Italia, an Italian enclave on Lake Lugano near the Swiss border.

Male heirs of the Italian royal family were forbidden to enter Italy since shortly after World War II. In 2002 the government of Silvio Berlusconi changed the laws to let them back in. But how did they expect a prince to earn a living?

This little tale helps us see the close alliance between the Church, monarchism and fascism—all brothers in arms—

Victor Emmanuel ... was involved in ... "criminal association abetting prostitution".

A devout Roman Catholic, one of the first things Victor Emmanuel did when he returned to Italy was to attend a private mass with the late Pope John Paul at the Vatican.

ANSA [an Italian news agency] said Salvatore Sottile, top aide and spokesman for former Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini of the right-wing National Alliance party, had been put under house arrest as part of the same operation.

Pimping wasn't the prince's only source of income. According to Canadian Press,

ANSA said Victor Emmanuel was allegedly part of a ring trafficking gambling video games in Italy.

This isn't the first time the prince has had a run-in with laws that were never meant to apply to him—

The arrest is the latest legal woe for Victor Emmanuel, who returned to Italy with his family in 2002 after a half-century of exile imposed on the monarchy because of its support for fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.

Decades ago, Victor Emmanuel spent several weeks in jail after the fatal shooting of a German teenager....

In the 1978 shooting, Victor Emmanuel was accused of firing a shotgun blast from his yacht that fatally wounded a 19-year-old German on a nearby yacht near the island Cavallo, off Corsica.

He claimed he fired in the air and always denied responsibility for the death. Legal proceedings eventually cleared him of the slaying.

Victor Emmanuel also has a big mouth—

The ban [on the male Savoys] was lifted after decades of efforts, that included lobbying the European and Italian parliaments and bringing their cause to the European Court of Human Rights.

But in 1997, those efforts suffered a serious setback when Victor Emmanuel said racial laws promulgated in Italy in 1939 - which expelled Jews from government and university jobs and the military and restricted their work, schooling and right to own property - "weren't so terrible."

Shortly before his return he issued a statement saying the laws represented "the memory of an indelible stain on the family's history."

The Savoy family has been back in Italy for just a little over three years, and it's refreshing to see how quickly they've become involved in national affairs.


Friday, June 16, 2006


U.S. leads the way on human rights

The U.S. State Department issues a country-by-country report on human rights to the Congress each year. The report for 2005 was released in March, and here is a list of deficiencies found for one country—

  • beatings and other abuses
  • arbitrary arrest
  • incommunicado detention
  • denial of fair public trials
  • exemption from the rule of law for some individuals and lack of judicial independence
  • political prisoners
  • infringement of privacy rights
  • significant restriction of civil liberties--freedoms of speech and press, assembly, association, and movement
  • widespread perception of corruption
  • lack of government transparency
  • legal and societal discrimination against women, religious and other minorities
  • strict limitations on worker rights.

By now you must be wondering if the State Department has begun to monitor the United States. No such luck. Those are charges against Saudi Arabia.

The only two charges that might not wholly apply to the U.S. are these—

  • no right to change the government
  • infliction of severe pain by judicially sanctioned corporal punishments

Americans have the nominal—if not actual—right to change the government. And corporal punishments in the United States are judicially sanctioned—it's just that the sanction always follows rather than precedes the punishment.

After studying the example of the United States, antidemocratic governments of the Middle East and Africa have realized how light a burden an official "human rights commission" really is. Such commissions are now becoming an essential part of each country's window dressing for its international storefront. Even Saudi Arabia has one.

According to William Fisher,

The new Saudi human rights body is one of many similar groups organised by Middle East governments in the past few years. Egypt, Jordan and Morocco are among the countries that operate such groups. In Libya, an "informal" human rights group has been organised by the son of the country's ruler, Mu'ammar Gadhafi.

This is as fine a group of human rights exponents as we may hope to see assembled.

The Saudi group got off to a slow start last October, since King Abdullah didn't get around to appointing any members until March. Women, of course, are forbidden to serve on the board.

Human Rights Watch is worried that—

the 15 Saudi detainees transferred from Guantanamo Bay to Saudi custody on May 18 "are unlikely to receive a fair trial and are at risk of torture."

As terrible as that possibility is, can you doubt they were glad to be getting out of Guantánamo and going home?



Life sentence for homophobic "decorator" and pal

Two men in Britain were given life sentences yesterday for the homophobic murder of Jody Dobrowski, a 24-year-old bar manager. Given the simply appalling state of Western civilization, it is as the BBC noted, "the tip of the iceberg." But there is a quirk to the story that I can't resolve.

Of the two killers—Scott Walker, 33, and Thomas Pickford, 25—Walker was easily the more vicious. (He was out on early release from prison for assaulting his own mother.) Yet he is universally described in news accounts as a "decorator." What kind of decorator was Mr. Walker? "Set decorator," "garden decorator," "interior decorator"?

I know this makes no difference to poor Mr. Dobrowski, but you would think the media, which gave this case extensive coverage, would bother to take a look at who these people were.

Did Walker merely declare himself to be a decorator as some sort of sick joke? (He redecorated Mr. Dobrowski's face to the point that it was unrecognizable to his family.) Did he ever work in some capacity as a decorator? Or is this a case of "scratch a faggot-hater, find a decorator"?

If anyone knows more than I do, please leave a comment.



A little break for Dems in Ohio

Ohio Democrats may have gotten a little boost from an Ohio judge. The judge postponed the start of the trial of "Coingate" entrepreneur Tom Noe from August 29 to October 10. If jury selection goes smoothly, details from Noe's trial should be filling the front pages of Ohio newspapers just in time for the November elections.

Ken Blackwell, Republican candidate for governor and the secretary of state who helped most in throwing the 2004 election to Bush, was among the recipients of Noe's generous campaign donations and has other close ties to the crook.

Related posts
Fun in Ohio (8/22/05)
Ohio just keeps getting hotter (8/26/05)


Thursday, June 15, 2006


Lynching of the Day

London's police chief, Sir Ian Blair, is being dragged into the street by a mob of journalists and politicians, blood-stained but still twitching. He is taunted, spat at, kicked and beaten. The editor of the Sun is looking for a gibbet, and of the Mail for a rope. Politicians are queuing to thwack the horse from under the gallows. While a few brave souls have stepped forward to defend Sir Ian, his boss, Reid, is under a table in the bar, muttering that the lord chief justice is a wimp and wouldn't that make a good story. —Simon Jenkins in "Only Livingstone emerges from all this with any credit"

After British police murdered Arab-appearing Jean Charles de Menezes and now have shot a Muslim postal worker in Forest Gate, there is a growing demand for blood of a different cast.

Since the policies under which these injustices occurred are ultimately traceable to Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Home Secretary John Reid, someone from the lower orders must be found to bear the blame. The police chief has been selected.

Though he's not likely to be innocent of that irresponsible machismo "that seems to require politicians and commentators to find them a reasonable application of 'better safe than sorry'," it is Blair who is most in need of a hanging.

Related post
If you're dark or Muslim, you can be shot in the UK (6/5/06)


Wednesday, June 14, 2006


I've been under the weather ...

Alberto, that is.

Monday, June 12, 2006


Poem of the Day


The mother does her knitting
Her son's in the war
She feels that's quite natural, the mother
And the father? What does the father do?
He's in business
His wife does her knitting
His son's in the war
Him, his business
He feels that's quite natural, the father
And the son? And the son?
What does he feel, the son?
He feels nothing, absolutely nothing, the son
The son—his mother does her knitting, his father his business, him the war
When he's done with the war
He'll go into business with his father
The war goes on; the mother goes on, she knits
The father goes on; he's in business
The son is killed; he doesn't go on any longer
The father and the mother go to the cemetery
They feel that's natural, the father and the mother
Life goes on—life with knitting war business
Business war knitting war
Business business and business
Life with the cemetery.

—Jacques Prévert (1900-1977)

"Domestic Life" is a Simply Appalling translation of this—


La mère fait du tricot
Le fils fait la guerre
Elle trouve ça tout naturel la mère
Et le père qu'est-ce qu'il fait le père?
Il fait des affaires
Sa femme fait du tricot
Son fils la guerre
Lui des affaires
Il trouve ça tout naturel le père
Et le fils et le fils
Qu'est-ce qu'il trouve le fils?
Il ne trouve rien absolument rien le fils
Le fils sa mère fait du tricot son père des affaires lui la guerre
Quand il aura fini la guerre
Il fera des affaires avec son père
La guerre continue la mère continue elle tricote
Le père continue il fait des affaires
Le fils est tué il ne continue plus
Le père et la mère vont au cimetière
Ils trouvent ça naturel le père et la mère
La vie continue la vie avec le tricot la guerre les affaires
Les affaires la guerre le tricot la guerre
Les affaires les affaires et les affaires
La vie avec le cimetière.

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Sunday, June 11, 2006


Quote of the Day

We all know the Holy Wars to them were largely a matter of loot. —Sidney Greenstreet as "Casper Gutman" in The Maltese Falcon (1941)


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