American Samizdat

Monday, February 28, 2005. *
If You Watch the Michael Jackson Trial, Then the Terrorists Have Won
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI just saw on my local affiliate that it's Day One of the Michael Jackson trial, and I had such a shudder of OJPTSD that I rushed to find a way to contact as many Big Media sources as possible to register my revulsion with their programming choices.

This is the site that gives you the contact info - including email addresses - for any media you'd like to talk to. You could even tell them that you think Michael Jackson is the biggest damned affront to the popular sensibilities since his sister's titty. Whatever. I don't care. Just make it stop.

Here's what I wrote:

Dear Sirs,

While our fighting men and women risk their lives daily, while great injustices are perpetrated by governments and economic entities, while ordinary citizens are doing extraordinary things every day - your news organization is devoting and preparing to devote an absurd amount of time and energy in covering the trial of a former pop star.

I urge you to offer news that will help us to grow as a nation. Act as if you were offering a public service. We'll watch. If you wallow in sleaze, you'll be ridiculed and less relevant in the serious debate about America's future.

Thanks for your attention,

Gordon Smith

Write one. It's fun. Then cut and paste a mess of email addresses, and voila! You've written letters to all your local/preferred media. Go get 'em.

{cross posted at Scrutiny Hooligans}
posted by Gordon Smith at 6:34 PM
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"Trophy in a bucket! Step right up and shoot yerself a trophy in a bucket!"
posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:48 AM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:47 AM
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The obvious: nothing will overturn the Bush "win," but it would be nice for all of those who value uh . . . what's it called . . . oh yea, the truth . . . to know more about how, exactly, the Bush people stole the election in Ohio, at least. How many years down the road, if at all, will we have to wait for the full story about these stolen elections to be told, and how much later until a majority of Americans are aware of this? About as much time as it took for a majority of Americans to know that American foreign policy has, in reality and in contradiction to a million speeches and official stances, brutally repressed actual democratic movements all over the world?

Barbara Walters: the pinnacle of mainstream ignorance. Last night when interviewing Will Ferrell, the subject of Bush came up and either before Will was about to say something or he did say something derogatory about Bush and they cut it out, she says, "Oh come on now, he just got re-elected." Like she's admonishing a dirty child.

Barbara, what the fuck do you know? In response to her question, "What superpower would you have?" here is my answer: "If I could have any superpower . . . if I could have any superpower, Barbara, I would choose the superpower to touch the ground of any country I was in and voila: from that moment on there would always be free and fair elections in that country. I would visit every country in the world with that power, but I would start here, in the United States of America."

And then somehow, I would use the line, "I'm just a girl from a trailer park with big dreams." Because that's a great line. It's a line that invokes Horatio Alger and makes Clint Eastwood cry. Huzza.
posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:20 AM
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Personally, I'd think this would take much longer than just one summer but, in the spirit of having fun with "civil disobedience"...

Starting in the liberal state of California, they hope to evade the attention of local police officers when they ride a bike in a swimming pool and curse on a crazy-golf course.

In the far more conservative - and landlocked - state of Utah, they will risk the penitentiary when they hire a boat and attempt to go whale-hunting.

If they manage to outwit state troopers in Utah, and perhaps federal agents on their trail, they will be able to take a deserved, but nevertheless illegal, rest when they have a nap in a cheese factory in South Dakota.

Article in the Guardian. Via BoingBoing
posted by ben at 6:09 AM
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Sunday, February 27, 2005. *
 Us.Yimg.Com P Rids 20050227 I R150988782

Apparently a major offensive is on the way to Ramadi:

Residents of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province some 100 km east of Baghdad, have started to flee the city following the latest offensive launched by US Marines and the Iraqi army.

The military have carried out raids in the province over the past few days in an attempt to crack down on insurgents, with the main focus of operations eing Ramadi, a rebel stronghold.

Worried that the offensive could proceed as it did in nearby Fallujah, where he majority of the city's population was forced to flee during a near hree-month long campaign, many Ramadi families are taking personal effects and food supplies and heading to relatives' houses in the capital, or to the same camps where residents from Fallujah fled.

More here and here .
posted by Richard Seymour at 11:04 AM
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I've written at some length before about Western complicity with the Khmer Rouge , and about the attempts by politicians like Sam Rainsy to exploit discontent in Cambodia about the increasingly authoritarian trends in the Hun Sen government.

Now, as there are attempts to prosecute those responsible for the Cambodian genocide, signed into law by the UN and the Royal Government of Cambodia on 6th June 2003, some are naturally very worried. For instance, in the same month, Colin Powell took a brief trip to Cambodia to persuade Prime Minister Hun Sen to sign an Article 98 agreement. An Article 98 agreement is one in which nations that are party to the International Criminal Court agree to exempt US personnel from prosecution. The agreement was signed and endorsed by the Cambodian government on 3rd October 2003. No one will stand trial for the criminal bombardment of Cambodia in the years 1969 to 1973, which killed hundreds of thousands of people; no one, Chinese, British, American or Australian, will stand trial for aiding and abetting the Khmer killers when they were attempting to retake the country during the 1980s; no British or American government figure from the time will stand trial for attempting to block NGO assistance to a struggling post-Pol Pot country. The trials will be temporally limited to the period of Democratic Kampuchea, 1975-9, in which between 1.5 and 2 million people died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge.

No reason to be purist about it: those who were involved in that grotesque regime deserve to be tried, even if it is only a partial victory, even if the other criminals are left out of it for reasons of geopolitics. However, the arduousness of this process, and the attempts to block it by governments who legitimise their actions with the language of human rights, should not be forgotten.

Pol Pot with Chinese ambassador Sun Hao at Phnom Penh airport.

Aiding and abetting.

China was initially the only regime to give the Khmer Rouge regime aid. In 1979, however, Jimmy Carter approved aid to the recently deposed regime, and gave the green light for continuing recognition of the KR at the UN. Although the Whitehouse and the CIA knew the locations of the KR in Thailand, although they knew of the whereabouts of Pol Pot and Ieng Sary, there was no interest in arresting them or trying them. (To this day, the KR member and delegate to the UN, lives at Mount Vernon, New York, untouched and untouchable, like so many of the US' former war criminal proteges). Indeed, Zbigniew Brzezinski later admitted that even when Carter's official policy was to disapprove of the Khmer Rouge regime, he was secretly backing the Chinese policy:

I encouraged the Chinese to support Pol Pot. I encouraged the Thai to help the DK [Democratic Kampuchea] ... Pol Pot was an abomination. We could never support him but China could.

Well, Carter emoted when Pol Pot finally kicked the bucket, before receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002.

Gregory Stanton took leave from his studies of International Law at Yale in 1980 to direct the CARE field office in Phnom Penh. He realised that Cambodia was state-party to the Genocide Convention, and the Khmer Rouge still officially held Cambodia's seat at the UN. This meant that there was a good case for taking Cambodia to the World Court for breach of the Genocide Convention. He himself had been present, along Ben Kiernan, at the exhumation of a mass grave where 7,000 people had recently been buried. So, he approached the Chairman of the American Association of the International Commission of Jurists. Nothing doing. The Chairman, a lawyer named William Butler, discussed the idea with the State Department and came back saying that he could not assist and that he did not know whether the killings even constituted genocide.

Similarly, when David Hawk, the chairman of the Cambodian Documentation Committee, tried to get Australian backing for such a case, he found a receptive ear in the Labour government's foreign minister Bill Hayden, but the government eventually declined the case. It transpired that the Australians had been in contact with the State Department, who remained opposed to any prosecution on the grounds that it would risk breaking up the coalition (composed mainly of Khmer Rouge and Norodum Sihanouk's 'non-communist resistance') it was supporting in Cambodia to oust the Vietnamese. The State Department had gone behind Hayden's back to warn Prime Minister Bob Hawke that such moves would put serious strains on US-Aussie relations.

When in 1987 the Cambodian Documentation Commission mounted a public and vociferous campaign, involving 200 survivors of the KR regime, there was much air-kissing and arse-kissing from the world's governments. A lowly figure from the Reagan administration called David Lamberton expressed sympathy, but said that invoking the Genocide Convention was fraught with political complexities, and could be precipitous. It could indeed, for the US had only ratified the convention in 1986 after 40 years of stalling, and its implementation was only to be approved by Senate in 1988, with a cluster of 'sovereignty' protections which reduced it to a symbolic gesture. Bob Hawke was 'deeply moved', but worried about the possible implications of trying Khmer Rouge members on the Genocide Convention (especially since his ally, the Indonesian junta, was barking similar pleas at the time). Those states that supported the KR politically and militarily were not about to challenge them legally; those states that did not pretended that they couldn't support a legal challenge, since that would de facto 'recognise' the KR as the natural government of Cambodia (red herring, since the Genocide Convention applies to states not specific governments). Under Article 8 of the Genocide Convention, the UN itself was allowed to take action: it, typically, ignored that suggestion, and shelved any reports referred to them on the matter.

Inviting the tiger into the tent.

One thing that would certainly have put a stop to any trial attempts would have been the inclusion of the KR in government. Yet, when the Hun Sen regime started serenading for peace negotiations, the one thing that was insisted upon by Western and Eastern governments was that the KR would have to be part of any future government. This was first articulated by the US ambassador in Bangkok in response to Thai initiatives to secure a peace between the warring factions that would have excluded Pol Pot's men. China also insisted that no government could be formed without the KR, and the majority of the UN Security Council, including France, the UK and America would, sided with them. They even went as far as to insist that in the negotiations (at the Paris Peace Conference, see passim), Hun Sen be seated next to the KR representative. When the talks broke down, the US Secretary of State James Baker accused the Hun Sen regime of being 'stubborn' because they insisted on the exclusion of Pol Pot's men.

The USSR agreed with Hun Sen - a four-party government that would legitimise 20,000 KR militants, leaving them free to roam Phnom Penh, would have dangerous implications. When, in October 1989, the last of the Vietnamese troops left Cambodia, Prince Sihanouk urged a general uprising, and the KR launched an initiative that eventually took Pailin. Meanwhile, back at the negotiating table, Sihanouk was still trying to blot out the word 'genocide' from discussions, while Khieu Samphan indignantly rejected such language on behalf of the KR. Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans regretted that the talks had broken down over 'atmospherics'. As the KR continued its offensive, ambushing several trains and killing the civilians in them, there were angry grumblings from the US Senate about cutting off support for the KR-dominated 'coalition'. James Baker announced in July 1990 that it was no longer the position of the US to support the CGDK's filling of Cambodia's seat at the UN.

The KR continued to be represented at talks, in particular by Khieu Samphan and the former interior minister responsible for the secret police Son Sen. Pol Pot was also present at the talks in Pattaya (a seaside resort in Thailand largely known to US navy men for furnishing unlimited sexual satisfaction at low prices), although his presence was a closely guarded secret until the journalist Nayan Chanda and the photographer Nhem Eng reported it. The proposed deal that emerged was one largely based on China's terms, fully backed by Washington. The USSR and Vietnam, though unhappy, urged the Cambodian government to accept. When the Japanese proposed a commission to investigate crimes by the KR in early 1991, US diplomat Richard Solomon shot it down, saying it would 'confuse' the international peace settlement. At the second Pattaya meeting in October 1991, it was agreed that Pol Pot and his men would enjoy the same rights as any other citizen. Although they themselves would not stand for election in any future poll, they would be allowed to campaign for their men. There was to be no sanction, no trial, no reference to genocide in the final text. Full and unequivocal legitimation of the KR was entailed.

Pol Pot with Ieng Sary, (left) and Son Sen (right).

Khieu Samphan and Son Sen returned to Phnom Penh, free men, legitimised by an international consensus supported by America, Britain, France, Australia and China. Angry protesters confronted the two men, and Khieu Samphan had to take refuge in a wardrobe until rescued by security forces, by then bleeding from his skull and ignominiously bandaged with a pair of Y-fronts.

KR-controlled Pailin and Anlong Ven continued to experience the brutality of Pol Pot's men, even as UN Human Rights Day was celebrated in Phnom Penh. The UN's press-release on the day made no reference, even euphemistically, to the genocide. UNTAC, which was to supervise the elections for a new government, could not enter KR controlled territories. Not one of the pledges made by the KR at Paris was adhered to, they refused to disarm and continued their campaign of terror in several parts of the country, killing many of ethnic Vietnamese origin. Even UNTAC sustained many casualties, with 20 of its personnel being killed in attacks. The Thai military did not bother adhering to its agreement to cease arming the KR, and the two parties did profitable business in rubies from Pailin. UN military observers and peacekeepers on the Thai border were shelled and kidnapped.

Through all of this, UNTAC never called the KR to account, and it was the KR in the end who decided to close down their legally sanctioned headquarters in Phnom Penh and escalated attacks on the UN, threatening to sabotage the forthcoming elections. Had they not done so, it is probable that some of Pol Pot's henchmen would have joined the new government, sanctioned and approved by the 'international community'.

Changing alliances, permanent interests

Campaigning groups like the Campaign to Oppose the Return of the Khmer Rouge (CORKR), which involved Cambodian activists as well as Gregory Stanton, David Munro, Ben Kiernan and John Pilger, could begin to claim some success by 1994, however. It had gained backing from over 100 NGOs and, pressing for a Cambodian Genocide Justice Act, several Senators. The Act was finally passed into law by Congress, and Bill Clinton signed it off in May 1994. Naturally, the Act's temporal applicability was limited to the period from 17th April 1975 to 7th January 1979. It did, however, lead to US government funding for the Cambodian Genocide Program headed by Ben Kiernan. It also saw the Office of Cambodian Genocide Investigations launched.

At the same time, the UN's outlook had dramatically changed. The International Criminal Tribunals set up in response to crimes in Yugoslavia and Rwanda had set legal precedent, however selectively applied. The new Special Representative of the Secretary General for Human Rights was Thomas Hammarberg, a former executive director of Amnesty International in London. On the geopolitical side, the policy of bleeding Vietnam white had been largely successful, and the Khmer Rouge were no longer essential allies of the West. Many tourists were kidnapped and executed by the KR, including a British de-miner called Christopher Howes in 1998. This brought Derek Fatchett of the Foreign Office into the situation, and he demanded that certain men, including the murderous Ta Mok, be brought to justice. This proved difficult, since those responsible were part-time residents in Thailand, with whom Britain enjoys a cosy relationship. No significant pressure was placed on the Thai authorities, and no one has been charged with Howes' murder.

Ta Mok.

At the same time, factions which had been involved in the CGDK movement in the 1980s began to have severe differences with Hun Sen and his Cambodian People's Party (CPP). The two sides fought it out on the streets, and the CPP side won, forcing Prince Ranarridh (son of then King Sihanouk) into exile. 70 civilians were killed, and several military officers from Sihanouk's Funcinpec movement were executed. Ranarridh and Sam Rainsy, both formerly in coalition with the KR, protested before the UN, and the Credentials Committee voted to keep Cambodia's seat vacant.

The Khmer Rouge was simultaneously disintegrating into inner schisms, and this was evidenced by Pol Pot ordering the assassination of his former ally, Son Sen, and the subsequent 'trial' in which Pot was 'convicted' of crimes of leadership, none of which had to do with the genocide against the Cambodian people. Pot kicked the bucket in 1998, just as the US finally reversed years of support for him and decided to support moves for an international criminal tribunal. Negotiations did begin between the UN and Cambodia, although it was clear throughout that China was adamantly opposed to any trial.

Sam Rainsy, a former CGDK spokesperson, reactionary anti-Semite, viciously anti-Vietnamese demagogue, and failed finance minister, did his best to exploit fears about any possible trial by telling the lower ranking KR members in Pailin and elsewhere that the only way to avoid trial was to vote for him in the 2003 elections. In those elections, he gained 22% of the vote. His party's candidate for governor in Pailin had been Ta Mok's neice, Ven Dara.

Nevertheless, and inter an awful lot of alia, the negotiations continued and finally produced an agreement between the UN and the Royal Government of Cambodia in 2003, which was then ratified by the UN General Assembly. A tribunal is now supported by Britain and America. Although most KR officials remain at large and are ageing (they are now mostly in their seventies, and the notorious torturer Kang Kek Iue has recently been admitted to hospital), negotiations are continuing as to the possible framework for trying them.

It would be ridiculous to oppose the trials, but no amount of sanctimony from our own governments, and no amount of belated attention to Khmer Rouge atrocities, should endear us to them. If there was to be a proper tribunal in Cambodia, many British, US and Chinese personnel would be among those standing in the docks.

(Some references: Tom Fawthrop and Helen Jarvis, Getting Away with Genocide? Elusive Justice and the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, 2005; John Pilger, Heroes, 1986; Pilger, Hidden Agendas, 1998; Pilger, The New Rulers of the World, 2000; ; ; ; Yale Cambodia Genocide Project ).
posted by Richard Seymour at 8:24 AM
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Maureen Dowd savages Bush's hyprocrisy to lecture Putin or anyone on democracy
The New York Times > Opinion > Op-Ed Columnist: W.'s Stiletto Democracy
posted by Douglas at 7:08 AM
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Saturday, February 26, 2005. *
Aldrich recounted the story matter-of-factly. Asked if the unintentional killing of innocent civilians bothered him, he replied:

'The one thing you learn over here is that there are no innocent civilians, except the kids. And even them - the ones that are all, `Hey mister, mister, chocolate?' - I'll be killing them someday.'
posted by platts42 at 4:27 PM
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Friday, February 25, 2005. *
Country music, surprise, surprise.
posted by Dr. Menlo at 7:48 PM
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The University of Colorado is reviewing administrative records of all employees to see if they signed loyalty oaths after a controversy was sparked by the school's inability to find the loyalty oath of professor Ward Churchill.

State law requires that all teaching employees sign a pledge to uphold the state and U.S. constitutions, and school officials could not find Churchill's oath while looking through his personnel records.

Churchill has been at the center of controversy for statements likening some World Trade Center victims to a top Nazi, as well as other controversial statements.

Churchill signed another oath last week when school officials failed to find the one he should have signed when he was initially hired.

Administrators will ask other instructors whose oaths cannot be located to sign a new one, according to an e-mail memo.

I'm not quite sure what they mean by "Loyalty". You mean you can't criticize anything about this country? Everything here is perfect, and all it's citizens are without blemish?

"Little Eichmans." I heard Churchill's statement and his defense of it on Democracy Now and as a working stiff at a company that promotes products that may not be good for you, I can see his point about "Techncratic complicity". But making that comparison does not make him UnAmerican. It is Churchill's right as an American to speak out and say what is wrong with the system. It's his duty as a citizen to do so.

Now the University of Colorado, having someone sign a Loyalty Oath under duress or as a condition of employment should be taken to task for countering to the American Ideal of Freedom, unless, as I suspect, they are the vanguard of a wave of McCarthyism. And should that be the case, we as a country are for the worse off than ever before.
posted by platts42 at 5:52 AM
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Thursday, February 24, 2005. *
When Sean Hannity's starting up a dating service, you know the apocalypse can't be too far away.
posted by Bill at 9:09 PM
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I'd say this is the beginning of the end of our bodies, ourselves, but it's even further down the road to The Handmaid's Tale than that. The Kansas Attorney General is pressing health clinics for complete medical records on women who sought late term abortions as well as girls under the age of 16 who sought abortions. The AG, Phill Kline, purports to be looking for evidence of crimes as it is illegal in Kansas to have sex with girls that young. There are also laws limiting late term abortions.

According to the Associated Press, the clinics said the Attorney General demanded their complete, unedited medical records for women who sought abortions at least 22 weeks into their pregnancies in 2003, as well as those for girls 15 and younger who sought abortions. Court papers did not identify the clinics.

The records sought include the patient's name, medical history, details of her sex life, birth control practices and psychological profile.

The crime will be the public identity stripping of the 90 some women and girls involved. And who in Kansas will dare ask now for reproductive services of any kind, knowing that the AG can peer so pruriently into your private life, your private parts and cynically parade same in a public courtroom in the name of the public good.

VIA girlinthelockerroom

posted by RHerman at 5:54 PM
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Bush Judge renominations
This morning Senator Charles Schumer said that one of Bush's picks said...
"Slavery was God's gift to white people."
"The purpose of a woman is to be subservient subjugated to a man."


Mark me down for an Aye vote on the question "Is Bush a motherfucker?"

This statement occurs about 23-25 minutes into his 35 minute speech given today.

posted by JoshSN at 9:02 AM
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Well, it is a picture of Bush, and it is in the urinal . . .
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:20 AM
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Once again astounding the believers with infinite truth and wisdom, the Pope John Paul has decided that gay marriage was part of a new "ideology of evil," apparently suggesting some kind of weird conspiracy wherein homosexuals are part of an "insidious and hidden" plot to destroy family. Not that Christianity as a whole hasn't been known to have 'issues' with homosexuals, but the Pope's latest manuscript actually went out and connected homosexuality to "evil," which are what one might consider to be fightin' words. Until I read this, I had a much higher regard for the Pope, considering that he accepted evolution over Biblical literalism -- which is not a small thing; I guess I didn't realize that the Vatican was a red state.

According to the article at My Way News, the 84-year-old Pope based his latest tome on conversations that he had with philosopher friends in 1993 (and later ones with aides), which may explain why he includes a vicious attack on the third season of "Seinfeld."

[From Tales to Astonish!]
posted by The Retropolitan at 6:56 AM
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Wednesday, February 23, 2005. *
. . . via Robot Wisdom, now back.
posted by Dr. Menlo at 5:44 PM
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Hope this puts an end to some of the speculation:

Douglas Brinkley, a historian and author who has edited some of Thompson's work, said the founder of "gonzo" journalism shot himself Sunday night after weeks of pain from a host of physical problems that included a broken leg and a hip replacement.


Thompson, famous for "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and other works of New Journalism, spent an intimate weekend with his son, Juan, daughter-in-law, Jennifer, and young grandson, William, the spokesman said.

I hope they can work this out

The family is looking into whether Thompson's cremated remains can be blasted out of a cannon, a wish the gun-loving writer often expressed, Brinkley said.

Via Poppy Z. Brite, who says Thomspon seemed physically when she met him a month ago.
posted by Klintron at 4:56 PM
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Tuesday, February 22, 2005. *
Peace In Iran
{our condolences to the victims of today's earthquake}

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIf ever there was a man for whom a new phrase to descibe a pandering, gladhanding trip to Europe was needed, it's George W. Bush. To call his trip a charm offensive is akin to calling The Challenger disaster a funny firework.

George W. told us all to stop with the "ridiculous" ideas about a U.S. attack on Iran. "This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous.

Having said that, all options are on the table,"

So...George...Prez...let me make sure I understand you...the recon operations, unmanned drones, and construction of permanent military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan are incidental. Because any talk of getting ready to attack Iran is ridiculous. But...all options, including the imminent attack one, are on the table. So the broker peace option is on the same table as the attack Iran option. The attack Iran option is "ridiculous" while lying on the same table as the peace options...

Let's hope the whole table isn't ridiculous! Then where would we be? Why, we'd be in a world where war is as good as peace, where bombs are as good as words, where violence is as good as cooperation.


In an alternate universe, there are some pro-peace Iranian bloggers trying to get your attention:

From Iranians For Peace: "Seymour Hersh has told us that some GI’s are creeping around the deserts south of the Zahedan preparing for W’s next war. I do not subscribe to the New Yorker but I tend to listen when Mr. Hersh speaks; he seems to know what’s cooking way ahead of time. So I would like to make some suggestions to the GI’s in case they actually do make it to Tehran and decide (God forbid) to ‘obliterate’… oops. sorry. I mean, “liberate” us… Falluja style.

Tehran Traffic – if your Central Intelligence Agency has been telling you that Tehran has a functioning traffic system, well they have been somewhat mendacious again. Over there, not even a Daisy Cutter is going to help you. Just sit down in your Humvee, plug in that iPod 40G and pop in a Prozac… extra strength.

Café Naderi – please….please… please, pay a bit of attention when carpet bombing the city with your “precision’ bombs. We are already shocked and awed by your reelection of ‘W’ last November, so there is no further need to stun us. The only place that truly will be missed if leveled will be our beloved Café Naderi. The waiters are primordial, the food is so-so, and the Turkish coffee is dreadful, but it has a slightly dowdy fin-de-siecle feel to it and is much loved."

From No War On Iran!: "Many people have argued that in the current talks about U.S. policy towards Iran, Europe and the U.S. have been playing the “good cop/bad cop” game (you guess who the bad cop is!) This makes some sense, but the “game” is actually more complex than involving two big action heroes (the good old Europe and the rebellious cowboy) who police the evil villain (Iranian Mullahs). Of course, one can argue that not all decision-makers in Iran are “Mullahs,” and not all Iranian Islamic clergies think the same. A detailed attention to different factions and their political power in different levels of authority reveals that the state in Iran is not a coherent body of authority spatialized “vertically” above the “society,” even as it is often imagined as such. Despite what one thinks about the role of religion in the state, as Alireza has pointed out in his last post, flattening the Iranian state and the government as “theocracy” and opposing it to American “democracy” is too simplistic."

In case you haven't heard... Iranians aren't evil after all! Spread the Word.

Cross-posted at Scrutiny Hooligans and at P-bang.
posted by Gordon Smith at 9:22 PM
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Christopher Key knows exactly what he would be giving up if he left Bellingham, Washington.
"It's the sort of place Norman Rockwell would paint, where everyone watches out for everyone else and we have block parties every year," said Key, a 56-year-old Vietnam War veteran and former magazine editor who lists Francis Scott Key, who wrote "The Star-Spangled Banner," among his ancestors.
But leave it he intends to do, and as soon as he can. His house is on the market, and he is busily seeking work across the border in Canada. For him, the re-election of George W. Bush was the last straw. [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 12:21 PM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:52 AM
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posted by Youngfox at 6:41 AM
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Monday, February 21, 2005. *

Help! Mom! There Are Liberals Under My Bed! A Small Lesson in Conservatism is a wonderful way to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. In simple text, parents and children follow Tommy and Lou on their quest to earn money for a swing set their parents cannot afford. As their dream gets stuck in Liberaland, Tommy and Lou’s lemonade stand is hit with many obstacles. Liberals keep appearing from behind their lemon tree, taking half of their money in taxes, forbidding them to hang a picture of Jesus atop their stand, and making them give broccoli with each glass sold. Law after law instituted by the press-hungry liberals finally results in the liberals taking over Tommy and Lou’s stand and offering sour lemonade at astronomical prices to the customers.

No. This is not a joke. My personal favorite part is how the liberals want to legally require the use of profanity in all media. Sounds like a good $%!@ plan!
posted by Shannon at 10:36 PM
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from the desk of HST
posted by Dr. Menlo at 4:18 PM
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HST aside, I need to point out that Malcolm X was killed 40 years ago today.
malcolm x

Misunderstanding Malcolm X
Joby Waldman
BBC radio

The tragedy of Malcolm's death is that it was only in the last year of his life that he was able to open his mind and his heart enough to embrace all people regardless of skin colour. Unfortunately the image that many -- particularly in the media -- were left with, was of Malcolm as a vengeful militant, a symbol of hatred.

Looking back on his life, it's clear to see there were many Malcolms: Victim, player, prisoner, hater, anti-racist... As a result, Malcolm X is one of the most misunderstood leaders in history.

Take the phrase "By Any Means Necessary." After his death the slogan began to appear next to a photograph of Malcolm standing by a window holding a machine gun. The photo was originally taken as a warning against those Nation of Islam members who had threatened Malcolm's life. But placed next to the slogan "By Any Means Necessary," it appeared to be a call to arms for the Black population.

And still, 40 years on, people read Malcolm's teachings in a variety of different ways.

"Malcolm wasn't trying to be non-violent - he was like, 'You hit me and I'm gonna hit you back.' So from my understanding, as a teenager growing up, if someone slaps you, you slap them back and that's the reason Malcolm's words ring true," says MC Jonzi D.

But MC Rakin of Mecca 2 Medina interprets the message very differently.

"I think when he said 'by any means necessary' [he meant] you really have to get up and get moving. In the black community we tend to be laid back, and you need to be out there, you need to be pushing forward," MC Rakin says.

"In the Koran, God says he doesn't change a people till they change themselves, you need to be doing things for yourself. And so that is the kind of stance I believe he meant when he said, 'By any means necessary'."

"We have come a long way since 1965. In the States and in the UK we have got things like black history month and equal opportunities in the workplace. But it's important to remember the fullness of Malcolm's vision. He wasn't just fighting for a handful of policies -- what he wanted was the overhaul of a system that was institutionally racist on every level. The question that remains today is: how far have we gone to achieve his vision?"

malcolm x as a boy

"Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little on May 19, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska...

"Malcolm was a smart, focused student. He graduated from junior high at the top of his class. However, when a favorite teacher told Malcolm his dream of becoming a lawyer was 'no realistic goal for a nigger,' Malcolm lost interest in school. He dropped out, spent some time in Boston, Massachusetts working various odd jobs, and then traveled to Harlem, New York where he committed petty crimes. By 1942 Malcolm was coordinating various narcotics, prostitution and gambling rings.

"Eventually Malcolm and his buddy, Malcolm 'Shorty' Jarvis, moved back to Boston. In 1946, they were arrested and convicted on burglary charges, and Malcolm was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (He was paroled after serving seven years.) Recalling his days in school, he used the time to further his education. It was during this period of self-enlightenment that Malcolm's brother Reginald would visit and discuss his recent conversion to the Muslim religion. Reginald belonged to the religious organization, the Nation of Islam...

"After Malcolm resigned his position in the Nation of Islam and renounced Elijah Muhammad, relations between the two had become increasingly volatile. FBI informants working undercover in the NOI warned officials that Malcolm had been marked for assassination. (One undercover officer had even been ordered to help plant a bomb in Malcolm’s car).

"After repeated attempts on his life, Malcolm rarely traveled anywhere without bodyguards. On February 14, 1965, the home where Malcolm and his family lived in East Elmhurst, New York, was firebombed. Luckily, the family escaped physical injury.

"One week later, however, Malcolm’s enemies were successful in their ruthless attempt. At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage. They shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital.

"Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolm's funeral in Harlem on February 27, 1965, at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ (now Child's Memorial Temple Church of God in Christ). After the ceremony, friends took the shovels away from the waiting gravediggers and buried Malcolm themselves. Later that year, Betty gave birth to their twin daughters.

"Malcolm's assassins, Talmadge Hayer, Norman 3X Butler and Thomas 15X Johnson were convicted of first-degree murder in March 1966. The three men were all members of the Nation of Islam.

"Malcolm X is buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York."

See also:
BBC On This Day: February 21
posted by mr damon at 12:31 PM
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  • Scott "Right about most everything so far" Ritter, USMC, UNSCOM, reports that Bush has signed off on a June attack on Iran and rigged the elections in Iraq so the Shia came below 50%.  Obviously.

  • Marijuana Monkey. Tombstome of "Bush the Pot Smoker" story and Monkey ad.

posted by JoshSN at 8:24 AM
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The principal theme of Scott Ritter's talk was Americans’ duty to protect the U.S. Constitution by taking action to bring an end to the illegal war in Iraq. But in passing, the former UNSCOM weapons inspector stunned his listeners with two pronouncements. Ritter said plans for a June attack on Iran have been submitted to President George W. Bush, and that the president has approved them. He also asserted that knowledgeable sources say U.S. officials 'cooked' the results of the Jan. 30 elections in Iraq.

On Iran, Ritter said that President George W. Bush has received and signed off on orders for an aerial attack on Iran planned for June 2005. Its purported goal is the destruction of Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons, but Ritter said neoconservatives in the administration also expected that the attack would set in motion a chain of events leading to regime change in the oil-rich nation of 70 million -- a possibility Ritter regards with the greatest skepticism.
posted by platts42 at 8:22 AM
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Great piece on "Intelligent" Design in the NYTs.

But if we can't infer anything about the design from the designer, maybe we can go the other way. What can we tell about the designer from the design? While there is much that is marvelous in nature, there is also much that is flawed, sloppy and downright bizarre. Some nonfunctional oddities, like the peacock's tail or the human male's nipples, might be attributed to a sense of whimsy on the part of the designer. Others just seem grossly inefficient. In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety.

via BoingBoing
posted by ben at 4:45 AM
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Sunday, February 20, 2005. *

We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the whole world--a nation of bullies and bastards who would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not just Whores for power and oil, but killer whores with hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and that is how history will judge us . . . No redeeming social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or we'll kill you.

Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who among us can be happy and proud of having this innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine? These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and fooled by stupid rich kids like George Bush?

They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the American character. They are the racists and hate mongers among us--they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss down the throats of these Nazis.

And I am too old to worry about whether they like it or not. Fuck them.

-Hunter S. Thompson

posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:18 PM
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Hunter S. Thompson killed himself
I'm stunned, but somehow not surprised.
I had a flash of this in my mind within the last couple of days.

By CATHERINE TSAI, Associated Press Writer

DENVER - Hunter S. Thompson, the acerbic counterculture writer who popularized a new form of fictional journalism in books like "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," fatally shot himself Sunday night at his Aspen-area home, his son said. He was 67.

hunter stockton thompson

"Hunter prized his privacy and we ask that his friends and admirers respect that privacy as well as that of his family," Juan Thompson said in a statement released to the Aspen Daily News.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis, a personal friend of Thompson, confirmed the death to the News. Sheriff's officials did not return calls to The Associated Press late Sunday.

Juan Thompson found his father's body. Thompson's wife, Anita, was not home at the time.

Besides the 1972 drug-hazed classic about Thompson's visit to Las Vegas, he also wrote "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72." Thompson is credited with pioneering New Journalism — or, as he dubbed it, "gonzo journalism" — in which the writer made himself an essential component of the story. Much of his earliest work appeared in Rolling Stone magazine.

"Fiction is based on reality unless you're a fairy-tale artist," Thompson told the AP in 2003. "You have to get your knowledge of life from somewhere. You have to know the material you're writing about before you alter it."

An acute observer of the decadence and depravity in American life, Thompson also wrote such collections "Generation of Swine" and "Songs of the Doomed." His first ever novel, "The Rum Diary," written in 1959, was first published in 1998.

Thompson was a counterculture icon at the height of the Watergate era, and Richard Nixon once said he represented "that dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character."

Thompson also was the model for Gary Trudeau's balding "Uncle Duke" in the comic strip "Doonesbury" and was portrayed on screen by Johnny Depp in a film adaptation of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas."

Other books include "The Great Shark Hunt," "Hell's Angels" and "The Proud Highway." His most recent effort was "Hey Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness," [a collection of Thompson's columns for ESPN Magazine; ESPN's HST obit].

His compound in Woody Creek, not far from Aspen, was almost as legendary as Thompson. He prized peacocks and weapons; in 2000, he accidentally shot and slightly wounded his assistant, Deborah Fuller, trying to chase a bear off his property.
posted by mr damon at 9:33 PM
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Saturday, February 19, 2005. *

The billboard pictured above, which is on Interstate 4 in Florida, hails “George W. Bush, Our Leader.” At the bottom, it says: “A political public service message brought to you by Clear Channel Outdoor.” [more]

posted by Dr. Menlo at 9:56 PM
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For me, the actual issues are so simple when you get rid of all that blather that they speak. I think one of the problems is that the politicians just keep going on and on and on with the same things and, unfortunately, the press eventually gives up. And voices of protest are sort of one-off, while the politicians keep going on reiterating the same things. Just little things like the actual vocabulary they use. For example, in Iraq it’s always “the national security guard” being blown up by “insurgents.” Now, if we were in wartime France, we’d be talking about the “brave resistance fighters” blowing up the “collaborators.” It’s all in what you choose to call people, because the press accepts the nomenclature that the government imposes. [more]

posted by Dr. Menlo at 9:37 PM
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Friday, February 18, 2005. *
Dear Howard:

Congratulations. You've just become the leader of the most spineless, ineffective party in American History. Before I answer any of your numerous requests for donations, you're going to have to do something for me. You're going to have to prove to me that you can pull the party's collective head out of its considerable ass.

Chertoff passed the Senate 98-0. Apparently, there are no Democrats in the Senate. Silly me, I thought two of them just ran for President and VP. WTF? . . .

by Morgaine Swann on P!. [Read the rest . . .]
posted by total at 4:55 AM
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Thursday, February 17, 2005. *
During last year's senate race, Keyes referred to gays and lesbians as "hedonistic sinners" [specifically, the Vice President's daughter] and talked hypothetically about his own family. "If my own daughter were a homosexual, or a lesbian, I would love my daughter, but I would tell my daughter that she was in sin," Keyes said in August. [...] "Before I deny god, before I deny Christ, before I deny my faith, I would die. Surely, then you would understand that I consider the eternal salvation of my children to be the real aim of my parenting, not how they feel today," said Keyes. [...]

At a gay rights rally in Annapolis, Md., [daughter] Maya Keyes said she is coming out as a lesbian in response to escalating tensions with her parents, including her arch-conservative father, whom she worked for in last year's Illinois senate race. Keyes said she also wanted to highlight the struggle of gays in the closet, including a gay friend who died last week after months on the street. [...] Maya told the Washington Post Monday her parents kicked her out of the house and will not pay her college tuition.

[Photograph of Maya Keyes and a friend from Maya's blog:]
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:11 PM
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SCARBOROUGH:  So, anyway, let‘s talk about something that Gary Wills wrote.  And I think Maureen Dowd echoed with sentiment.

After the election when we found out that 22 percent of Americans, based on some exit polls, said morality was their top issue, Gary Wills said that any country with evangelicals that voted for George Bush who believe in the virgin birth more than they believe in evolution can‘t be an enlightened nation. 

And Gary Wills basically compared America to al Qaeda.  That‘s a little harsh, isn‘t it? 

MAHER:  That is too harsh. 

SCARBOROUGH:  People of faith can step forward, get involved in the process, believe in Jesus, and still vote for George Bush without being an ignorant peasant, can‘t they? 

MAHER:  Well, I think comparing them to al Qaeda is too harsh, but that‘s because al Qaeda is a terrorist organization.

But do we have more in common—and I am not the first one to say this.  I have read this many times.  We have more in common with the people, some of the nations who we are aligned against, when you look at beliefs in such things as, do you go to heaven, is there a devil, we have more in common with Turkey and Iran and Syria than we do with European nations and Canada and nations that, yes, I would consider more enlightened than us. 

Yes, we are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion.  I do believe that.  I think that religion stops people from thinking.  I think it justifies crazies.  I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative.  I think religion is a neurological disorder.  If you look at it logically, it‘s something that was drilled into your head when you were a small child.  It certainly was drilled into mine at that age.  And you really can‘t be responsible when you are a kid for what adults put into your head. 

But when you become an adult, you can then have it drilled out.  And you should. 

SCARBOROUGH:  So, you are saying that the millions and millions of Americans who go to church every week or go to synagogue...


MAHER:  Have a neurological disorder, yes.

Via Evolution Blog
posted by Shannon at 9:39 AM
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Wednesday, February 16, 2005. *
Qur'ans, at Forty Paces, at Dawn
Qur'ans, at Forty Paces, at Dawn
Koranic duels ease terror

James Brandon (who was kidnapped in Iraq
last year and managed to escape ), reports on the remarkable success of an innovative approach to combatting terrorism in Yemen, once a hotbed of terrorist activity and extremism. Judge Hamoud al-Hitar and other Islamic scholars took on al-Qaeda prisoners in a theological smackdown with a premise that Western experts considered "dangerously naive."

"If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle," Hitar told the militants. "But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence."

And guess what? It turns out that instead of incarcerating and beating and torturing and killing militants, treating them like human beings and engaging them spiritually and intellectually works a whole hell of a lot better. It turns out that

"Three hundred and sixty-four young men have been released after going through the dialogues and none of these have left Yemen to fight anywhere else."

It's not the only thing the government of Yemen is doing to fight terrorism; Brandon points out that the government is also shutting down extremist madrassahs and deporting foreign militants. But I am sure it's by far the most effective, since simply shutting things down and moving people around changes little in terms of the hearts and minds of people. People whose hearts and minds have been thoroughly changed, though, influence others, spread awareness and act differently in the world.

Talk about a field of honour. Talk about a way to win a war of ideas.

-Uncle $cam
The above wonderful post was found here
posted by Uncle $cam at 10:59 PM
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Tuesday, February 15, 2005. *
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhen President Bush was in Omaha last week pimping his failed Social Security privatization scheme / national deficit godzilla, he exhibited that famed compassion that makes him such a favorite of the soft-hearted republican party:

"While talking with audience participants, the president met Mary Mornin, a woman in her late fifties who told the president she was a divorced mother of three, including a 'mentally challenged' son.

The President comforted Mornin on the security of social security stating that 'the promises made will be kept by the government.'

But without prompting Mornin began to elaborate on her life circumstances.

Begin transcript:

MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)"

LOL! ROFLMAO! Woman in her late fifties [Cut future benefits] with three children [Cut Medicaid], one of whom is 'mentally challenged' [Cut Special Education], is working three jobs [Encourage outsourcing of high-paying manufacturing jobs] to make ends meet. Isn't that a stitch!

President Bush sees Ms. Mornin as an example of what's right with America. Bush's picture of success is what most of us see as a picture of what ails America.

Bush's solution to the future Social Security shortfall: Cut Benefits, Privatize a portion of the program, Put the federal deficit on steroids.

Bush's solution to terrorism: Create training grounds for future terrorists, Perpetrate wars tangential to the problem, Step up Nationalist Rhetoric, Allow torture, Extend troop deployments, Overextend the military, Ignore terrorist states like Saudi Arabia.

Bush's solution to the Health Care crisis: Prohibit the government from negotiating with drug companies, Cut Medicare and Medicaid, Focus like a laser beam on the smallest problem (tort reform).

Bush's solution to the Federal Budget Deficit: Spend more, Make Tax Cuts Permanent, Keep big expenditures off the books, Starve important social programs.

Bush's solution to the problems in Public Education: Cut funding, Increase Accountability, Demonize Unions.

Bush's solution to Global Warming: Deny it, empower polluters to pollute more, Increase dependence on coal, oil, and nuclear.

With solutions like these, who needs problems? Ms. Mornin ought to thank her lucky stars that those vile liberals aren't in power. They might actually create a national health care system that works, discourage job outsourcing, work towards a greener society, and balance the budget.
posted by Gordon Smith at 6:47 PM
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but can someone please tell me why Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller are going to jail instead of Robert Novak?
posted by Unknown at 3:11 PM
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"They can put me in prison as long as they like," she says. "I'm not afraid of going to prison. I'll come out and start buying it again.

"And then they can put me in prison again and I'll come out and start buying it again." [more]

posted by Dr. Menlo at 1:06 PM
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do it for emma

"It is essential that we realize once and for all that man is much more of a sex creature than a moral creature. The former is inherent, the other is grafted on."
--Emma Goldman

posted by Dr. Menlo at 12:21 PM
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Monday, February 14, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 10:31 PM
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(2004, photograph). "...The struggle for ad placement in public space in China is not unlike a battlefield strewn with casualties after a pitched battle for power. Today one brand wins. The next day, its competitor will replace it with better positioning on public spaces. Every day, new ads go up, and old ones fall down, scattered in pieces, and discarded on the ground under newly erected billboard advertisements. In my 'Posing Threats' work, I've constructed a huge wall, that stands about 14 meters high and 40 meters across, and I fixed over 600 pieces of paper (110x90cm each) on which I wrote in traditional Chinese ink brush style in some instances and in felt tip pen and magic marker in others, a random selection of slogans and phrases from the advertisements that bombard us here every day." From Wang Qing Song.
posted by Andrew at 3:18 AM
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Sunday, February 13, 2005. *
Dear Scotty -- Mad Kane Applies For White House Press Credentials
Now that "Jeff Gannon" has fled the White House press scene, I figured that Scotty McClellan & Co. could use some new media blood. And being totally unqualified for the gig, I decided to apply for White House press credentials. My "Dear Scotty" letter begins:

I've always fantasized about being a White House correspondent. But until now, I've never sought so lofty a position because -- silly me -- I assumed you had to be an actual journalist.

Now that I know otherwise, please consider this my application for White House press credentials. Of course, I know that being Bush's chief media guy and all, approving press applications doesn't fall into your job description. But I'd be mighty grateful if you'd pass this on to whoever screens these things.

The janitor, perhaps? Or maybe the White House chef? One of the Bush twins? Or is it the new Bush family dog that just got out of obedience school...

The rest of my White House press credentials application is here.
posted by Mad Kane at 8:02 PM
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Saturday, February 12, 2005. *
"There are many people in this city who think I'm going to be very unorthodox," Dean said Wednesday. "And I am."

[ . . .]

"We need to be proud to be Democrats," he said. "It was the Democrats who thought we should have a Homeland Security Department. If you want strong national security, you ought to support the Democratic Party."

His new job, he said, would be to sell the Democratic Party in local, state and national elections.

"We're not going to beat the Republicans by talking about how terrible they are," he said. " ... This is a party that's about the future. The Republican Party is about the past." [more]

. . . yes, and per Lakoff, we are progressives as opposed to them being regressives.

Three cheers for Dean!

This is a great step for our side . . . now if we can only do away with those paperless voting machines . . .

. . . does this mean that there is hope, finally? Can we get out from under our blankets yet and get back to work? Can we pause on the applications for political asylum to Canada and wait and see what Dean will do? Consider me buoyed.
posted by Dr. Menlo at 10:40 AM
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The lies we are hearing about Iraq are not accidental or incidental, but part of a carefully choreographed PR campaign. I'm hungover and grumpy, so I'll cut to the chase and list them ordinally before revealing the men behind the curtain.

1) Turnout was higher than expected. According to polls touted by occupation sources before the election, 80% of Iraqis were expected to turnout. Iraq's President stated in public that he expected the majority of eligible voters to turn out at the polls. The lowest estimate was 50-60% , which is now the highest reputable estimate of actual turnout. The much drooled over 72% figure offered by a lone election official before the voting was even complete has largely been abandoned. It is still being said that about 8 million Iraqis voted, which would be around 57% of registered (rather than elibible) voters. There is little to base this figure on other than a wink from the Electoral Commission about whom we know - about whom we are allowed to know - so little. The turnout in the Sunni heartland was negligible, of course - so much so that the Christian Science Monitor felt compelled to lard praise on the Fallujah turnout ( 8,000 of 300,000 residents voted). Further, as Iraqi blogger Raed points out, the total number of Iraqi eligible voters inside and outside the country is more than 16.75 million, and the number of people that actually voted is less than 8.25 million.

Less than 50% of all eligible voters actually voted.

Turnout expectations ranged from 50-80% before the election. They now range from below 50% to 57%. Not a miraculous turnout, then.

2) The vote legitimises the occupation. Most Iraqis want the troops out . Most Iraqis voted for parties demanding, at the very least, a timetable for withdrawal. Most Iraqis voted overwhelmingly for programmes totally opposed to the Bremer-imposed 'free market' chaos. Naomi Klein summarises :

Iraqis voted overwhelmingly to throw out the US-installed government of Iyad Allawi, who refused to ask the United States to leave. A decisive majority voted for the United Iraqi Alliance; the second plank in the UIA platform calls for "a timetable for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from Iraq."

There are more single-digit messages embedded in the winning coalition's platform. Some highlights: "Adopting a social security system under which the state guarantees a job for every fit Iraqi...and offers facilities to citizens to build homes." The UIA also pledges "to write off Iraq's debts, cancel reparations and use the oil wealth for economic development projects." In short, Iraqis voted to repudiate the radical free-market policies imposed by former chief US envoy Paul Bremer and locked in by a recent agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

So will the people who got all choked up watching Iraqis flock to the polls support these democratically chosen demands? Please. "You don't set timetables," George W. Bush said four days after Iraqis voted for exactly that. Likewise, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the elections "magnificent" but dismissed a firm timetable out of hand. The UIA's pledges to expand the public sector, keep the oil and drop the debt will likely suffer similar fates. At least if Adel Abd al-Mahdi gets his way--he's Iraq's finance minister and the man suddenly being touted as leader of Iraq's next government.

3) Iraqis were overjoyed with the elections. Some presumably were, but the imagery we associate with this election was tightly controlled by the occupiers. As Julian Manyon of ITN told CNN International:

[There is a] wide range of factors which are actually preventing journalists from covering this election properly, and one of those factors, for example, is the way in which the American handlers who are actually running the Ministry of Information's affairs here in real terms, have designed the whole thing. I would say that along with the violence, it is just as serious an impediment for journalists.

Why, for example, we've been limited to filming at only five polling stations, and we discovered when the list of the five polling stations was published that four of those five polling stations are actually in Shia areas, and therefore by definition will shed very little light on whether Sunnis vote or not.

The suspicion, entirely justified, is that the coalition carefully selected voting stations where they knew the turnout would be high, and where they expected that loyalty to Sistani would produce scenes of happy voters eager to raise the purple finger®. Jonathan Steele reported in yesterday's Guardian:

"I tore up my ballot paper," said a young woman who works for a US government-funded NGO in Basra. "But I wanted my finger inked, in case the religious parties check on people in the street."

Others abstained for different reasons. "Many of my friends will not be voting," Sayed Mudhaffer, a Basra official of the Writers' Union, told me. "Some don't know which list to vote for, because there hasn't been enough campaigning on what they stand for. Some think that because the United Nations isn't supervising, it won't be fair or honest."

His last point is well taken. As the old saying has it, what matters is not who votes, but who counts. Because of security fears there were even fewer international monitors in Iraq than in Afghanistan last year, and most stayed only a few minutes in the polling places they visited. They saw very little.

Why is it taking as much as two weeks to come up with a result in Iraq? In the polling station, where I watched the count, when the doors closed last week, they tabulated all 1,500 votes in just over three hours. Everything seemed above board and the results were given out "on background". But they had to be sent to Baghdad for "checking" before a public declaration.

Undoubtedly, many Iraqis were happy to be voting - but not for the reasons Washington might assume. Steele continues: "Most gave mundane reasons for their vote: patriotism, a sense of duty, concern over joblessness and power cuts, and the hope that the election might be a first step towards change. There was also a strong underlying feeling that having an elected government could hasten the restoration of sovereignty and an end to the occupation.

The stage-managing of the electoral process has produced imagery and associations that have little to do with how Iraqis actually felt about the elections, and which do not capture the fact that there were conflicting views on their legitimacy.

4) Iraq's elections were 'free and fair'. We already know about the allegations of ballot fixing , the 'irregularities' and the exclusion of thousands of voters .

However, we ought to have known before the voting even began that something was up. Juan Cole reported that the 'pockets' that Allawi said might not be able to vote contained about 3 million people . And follow the money: USAID allocated $30 million to a CIA front organisation, the National Endowment for Democracy (which was involved in assisting putschists in Venezuela), to allocate to parties regarded as 'moderate'. Ex-patriot parties had already developed a monumental material advantage by working with the occupiers, from whom they received $100 million before the invasions. Dahr Jamail reported that Iyad Allawi had so much he was giving it away - to journalists . The US taxpayer was tapped for $80 million (on top of everything else) to pay for the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) to use in manipulating the Iraqi elections. From MediaLens :

Professor William I. Robinson of the Global and International Studies Programme at the University of California calls NDI and IRI "extensions" of the US State Department:

"I suspect that [NDI and IRI] are trying to select individual leaders and organisations that are going to be very amenable to the US transnational project for Iraq."

Foreign observers were first of all to be banned , but the tiny number that eventually made it could only descend on the polling booth for a nano-second before buzzing off. And this in a country in which fighting persists daily, the occupying troops carry out war crimes , the trainee Iraqi police forces torture prisoners and hundreds of thousands live in refugee camps In fact, there was so much wrong with the process that Julian Manyon remarked:

I mean, we've got a situation in Mosul, for example, where American troops, we now discover because the Iraqi employees of the election organization have deserted en masse, it's American soldiers who will be transporting the ballot boxes around when they are full of votes. This is really very far from ideal, and if it were happening in any other country -- I mean, one could mention Ukraine, for example -- there would be a wild chorus of international protest.

Jonathan Steele remarks that "TV images usually simplify, if not falsify, the story", having cited the images from Vietnam and El Salvador which did exactly that. Precisely the point, in fact. What we were treated to was a crude production, a PR exercise that fed a steady stream of disinformation, partial information and outright falsehood to domestic populations. The 'branding' involved was particularly stark. The 'purple finger' has all the hallmarks of a PR consultant gimmick, (just like, in fact, the 'Orange revolution' theme in Ukraine). It is such a gimmick that a new company has been founded in America to sell t-shirts and baseball caps on the theme:

A new company called launched a website that the founder, Israel Amadores, says "is a reminder of the success of the Iraqi elections and the further validation of the ongoing march of democracy." The company initially is selling tshirts, mugs. and, caps but plans to expand into other venues with the main design logo being a hand with outstretched index finger stained purple. It hasn't been without controvery however. Asked about the design that says "give a liberal the finger," Amadores says that "it is just a playful way of saying that the power of democracy should never be underestimated and is the rightful domain of all people.

Some on the left in this country have a negative or pessimistic view regarding the power of democracy, the tshirt just reminds them of the power of democracy in a lighthearted way."

Giving the purple finger is also said to be sexy . Hill & Knowlton ran the propaganda campaign for the US government in the first Gulf War. This time round, they set up the Iraq Public Diplomacy Group composed of elements of the CIA, the National Security Agency and others to target 'opinion leaders' with propaganda. The Whitehouse and Number Ten have embarked on a number of PR campaigns before, during and after the war. (Even Allawi got in on the act : he "hired the law firm of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds and the New York public relations firm of Brown Lloyd James" to push his bid to run Iraq). Guess who organised the Iraqi election campaign? Be upstanding "Tony Marsh and Lance Copsey, principals of the Republican media consulting firm Marsh Copsey & Scott" who now work for the International Republican Institute (IRI) :

Marsh Copsey & Scott recently signed a major contract with the International Republican Institute to develop an election media center. The media center will be a critical component to help Baghdad’s candidates and political parties in Iraq’s first ever free and fair election.

Marsh Copsey & Scott will design and construct the media center, install the equipment and provide guidance and training as needed to the Iraqi nationals who will use it.

And who are the IRI? Well, they claim to support the fostering of democracy, but they seem to whiff of scorched corpses from Haiti , Cuba and Cambodia . They were also involved in the CIA's attempt to hi-jack dissent in Ukraine . (For more on that, see here ).

The skillful production of emotionally potent over-simplifications thus has its sources in PR, and one expects that the Bush team makes direct use of one of the major international PR firms. The lies listed above may seem obvious or cack-handed, but remember that they don't have to stick. They are merely intended to dazzle, bewilder and divert, and thereby lower one's resistance to the carefully constructed narrative that much of the media is all too willing to convey. Just bear it in mind, that's all.
posted by Richard Seymour at 3:10 AM
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Friday, February 11, 2005. *
Security Schmecurity
As we continue to look into why James Guckert was able to have daily meetings with the White House Press Secretary while lacking credentials, let us not forget that he was also subpoenaed for leaking the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Let us also not forget that at one time the White House was so concerned with 'security' that they insisted on knowing the race of a reporter who was to photograph the Vice President. Guckert, they don't even care if he uses his real name, if he leaks confidential information, if he has nothing near the credentials otherwise required for working in the White House, etc. Perhaps it is because he was thought of as a 'company man.'

Mr. Guckert, if you are reading this, now is a good time to write a post about what it feels like when you sell yourself and then learn your buyer doesn't need you any more. It sure looks like there was a time when you were privy to all sorts of favors from the White House. How are they treating you now? Are they rushing to your defence? You should write such a post, Mr. Guckert, to let people know how the current administration treats people that it no longer considers an asset, lest they too sell themselves and get the surprise you got.
posted by Trevor Blake at 5:13 PM
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Mike Malloy
I don't agree with everything radio commentator Mike Malloy says, particularly about religion. He says that the murderous, insane, knuckle-dragging morons, apes and jackasses that call themselves the Religious Right are not really Christians, while I say that the murderous, insane, knuckle-dragging morons, apes and jackasses that call themselves the Religious Right really are Christians. But in general, Mike's right on the money and a pleasure to listen to. Starting Valentines Day (February 14th) and for the next few Mondays thereafter, Mike will be manning the mic for Randi Rhodes on Air America while she recovers from surgery. So listen to Mike LIVE Monday afternoons (whenever Randi is broadcast in your area) and enjoy a "Best of Malloy" Monday nights during Mike's usual time. In the mean time (and these are mean times), check out Mike's Home Page and download hours upon hours of commercial-free Malloy from Air America Place Dot Com.
posted by Trevor Blake at 12:09 PM
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More than 200 Fish and Wildlife researchers cite cases where conclusions were reversed to weaken protections and favor business, a survey finds.

via /.
posted by ben at 9:24 AM
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Thursday, February 10, 2005. *
I, for one, welcome our new Chinese economic overlords.
How ironic, that I was listening to folks songs on the Chinese zither as I read this...

"The U.S. trade deficit ballooned to an all-time high of $617.7 billion last year, pushed by soaring oil prices and [some] Americans' insatiable appetite for everything foreign, from cars to toys and food.

"The Commerce Department reported Thursday that the 2004 imbalance rose 24.4 percent from the previous year, and marked the third year in a row that the deficit had set a record. The imbalance with China swelled by 30.5 percent to $162 billion, the highest ever with any country.

"Democrats said the figures were evidence that President Bush's policy of seeking trade deals was not working. They said the 2.7 million manufacturing jobs the United States has lost over the past four years reflect, in large part, unfair trading practices by China and other countries.

"Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said the report was 'devastating news for the American economy.' House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California said the deficits were undermining the U.S. manufacturing base.

"Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said the imbalance with China showed the need for his legislation that would impose across-the-board tariffs of 27.5 percent on Chinese products unless Beijing stopped tightly linking its currency, the yuan, to the U.S. dollar.

"American manufacturers says this policy has undervalued the yuan by as much as 40 percent, giving Chinese companies a huge competitive advantage."

So let's go back to a story from last month:

"China has lost faith in the stability of the U.S. dollar and its first priority is to broaden the exchange rate for its currency from the dollar to a more flexible basket of currencies, a top Chinese economist said at the World Economic Forum.

"At a standing-room only session focusing on the world's fastest-growing economy, Fan Gang, director of the National Economic Research Institute at the China Reform Foundation, said the issue for China isn't whether to devalue the yuan but 'to limit it from the U.S. dollar.' But he stressed that the Chinese government is under no pressure to revalue its currency.

"China's exchange rate policies restrict the value of the yuan to a narrow band around 8.28 yuan, pegged to $1. Critics argue that the yuan is undervalued, making China's exports cheaper overseas and giving its manufacturers an unfair advantage. Beijing has been under pressure from its trading partners, especially the United States, to relax controls on its currency.

"'The U.S. dollar is no longer -- in our opinion, is no longer -- (seen) as a stable currency, and is devaluating all the time, and that's putting troubles all the time," Fan said, speaking in English.

The dollar hit a new low in December against the euro and has been falling against other major currencies on concerns about the ever-growing U.S. trade and budget deficits [go back to the top of this post]. The U.S. currency came under some pressure Wednesday, drifting lower versus most currencies including the Japanese yen and the euro, as dealers mulled the Chinese official's statements.

Fan said last year China lost a good opportunity to do revalue its currency, in July and October.

"High pressure, we don't do it. When the pressure's gone, we forgot," Fan said, to laughter from the audience. "But this time, I think Chinese authorities will not forget it. Now people understand the U.S. dollar will not stop devaluating."

See also:

China Poised to Overtake U.S. in 2020s

"Americans must come to grips with the realization that the glitter of the greenback is long gone."
posted by mr damon at 3:56 PM
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True security and stability comes through investment in and care for every person in your community.
If you extend "community" to include everyone in the world, then it will be clear that we all need to care for each other in order to cultivate and enjoy prosperity, peace and harmony.

It also stands to reason that each government should work in the interests not only of its consituents, but also in the interests of cooperation and constructive action with other members of the world community.

Every person -- and animal, and nautral resource -- must be afforded the same importance and protection from abuse, misuse and exploitation.

Just something I'm riffing on after responding to a campaign to reject the latest federal budget plan.
posted by mr damon at 2:47 PM
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Our Nation, Our Choices, Our Responsibility
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI've just finished watching Ward Churchill speak to a packed auditorium. C-SPAN had their cameras there and did what they do best - recorded the reality sans spin.

Churchill is not the man I'd imagined him to be since the right wingers began their destruction campaign and the left wingers began their distancing (you know who you are). He's no Thomas Paine, but he's admirably focused on basic human rights and on the idea that violence begets violence. He's sharp, smart, passionate, and driven. We like that part. He's also angry, self-righteous, superior, and stentorian. That part... not so much liking involved. And it's hard to fault him for his pedantry since that's his gig and all.

The most important thing I heard this fiery intellectual whirlygig say was that the lives lost on 9/11 were no more important than the lives lost in Palestine, in Iraq, at Wounded Knee. Killing is killing, and killing is wrong. Maybe someone would care to nuance that statement?

Secondly, Churchill asks us each to hold ourselves responsible for the suffering we cause. Whether you're a Wall Street broker whose clients use slave labor or a schoolteacher who opts for the SUV, we are all responsible for our choices and their repercussions.

I wouldn't, as Churchill does, call corporate America 'little Eichmanns'. But I would say we all have the potential to turn our eyes away from the damage that we do. While we're busy with our talk of freedom and liberty it will be important to recognize that many of our choices invoke the opposite.

Peace in America and in the world will never come through tools of war. It just can't happen. Supporting a military society, pre-emptive war, dead innocents as collateral damage, economic domination, and world supremacy is not going to bring peace. Please, more nuance if you're up for it.

As an American citizen, I feel it's my responsibility to represent the core values of our nation, and those are founded in equality, life, and liberty. War fuels none of these.

We are also responsible for the joy we bring to the world. For every person helped and sacrifice made we are responsible and accountable. We all keep our internal balance sheets, struggling to adhere closely to our principles. I, like Ward Churchill, am not blameless when we consider the death and suffering in the world. But I endeavor to be able to look my grandchildren in the eye and tell them that I did what I could to engender passion, peace, freedom, and equality.

Ward Churchill should not be fired, nor should he be invited to any dinner parties. But his ideas are provocative and worth your attention.
posted by Gordon Smith at 1:14 PM
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UK airports are believed to be operational bases for two executive jets used by the CIA to carry out 'renditions' of terror suspects. [The Independent UK - that's the Independent newspaper in the UK; I'm not suggesting that the UK's independent]
posted by levi9909 at 12:50 PM
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eye on amsam 10 feb 05
Big thanks to new Harbingers! (in order of acceptance): The Retropolitan of Tales to Astonish !, Henry Baum of Ash Tree and Screwy Hoolie of Scrutiny Hooligans and P!

Thank you all!
posted by Dr. Menlo at 11:39 AM
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When VOA is quoting NY Times, you know its a bad sign.

Quoting the report, the New York Times concludes that prior to the attacks, aviation officials were "lulled into a false sense of security," despite intelligence pointing to a growing terrorist threat.

For a fuller list of pre-9/11 kamikaze-hijackings, try  But they don't list Die Hard II (where then-Senator Fred Thompson actually is the closeup reaction shot for the kamikaze scene) or other fictional accounts.

posted by JoshSN at 9:29 AM
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James Guckert, who reported from the White House for the Talon News Service under the name 'Jeff Gannon,' announced he was quitting the business 'in consideration of the welfare of me and my family'.

"Because of the attention being paid to me, I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News," he said in a statement posted Wednesday on his Web site.

I wonder how many reporters on the Government payroll are going to be flushed out before this is all over? the request of Josh I've added this link. I can't verify the truth of this allegation, so take it for what it's worth.

New York Daily News - Home - Bush press pal quits over gay prostie link
"He came under lefty scrutiny after revelations that the administration was paying conservative pundits to talk up Bush's proposals. By examining Internet records, online sleuths at figured out that his real name was Jim Guckert and he owned various Web sites, including, and"

posted by platts42 at 9:22 AM
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Shlonkom Bakazay?

Under the auspices of Men's Night Out at the Porter Memorial Baptist Church. The US Military was there in full cult recruitment mode. Very Creepy Stuff here.

... they had guys wearing the traditional US uniforms over time walk out in order while scenes from a Jesus movie I cant recall played. I was never aware of voodoo style witch doctors, or Indiana Jones being members of our military (far left and second from right respectively in the first pic). I think it’s kinda funny that unless I’m wrong that fellow on the far left of the second pic is wearing a confederate uniform. I know it’s ridiculously bad taste but yes, that really is Jesus on the cross in the first picture…in behind our troops. When the final modern troop stepped out too the front and center he thrust his rifle one handed into the air to shouts of approval, the Jesus footage was still playing, and at that particular point even my dad was uncomfortable.
posted by platts42 at 7:52 AM
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Wednesday, February 09, 2005. *
But Thou Shalt Surely Kill Him; Thine Hand Shall Be First Upon Him to Put Him to Death, and Afterwards the Hand of All the People
Freddy writes: "While I stopped believing in god et al once I got rid of the tooth fairy, I don't recall ever having read in the New Testament that believers were to slay unbelievers...could you point to specific passages?"

God lays down the law in Deuteronomy 13:6-10. Kill those of other religions and unbelievers. Jesus, in the New Testament, says to obey the law 'in every jot and tittle' in Matthew 5:18-19 and Luke 16:17. There's no escaping it: Old Testament law says kill all other theists, New Testament law says follow all Old Testament law. Understand that these are the beliefs of the superstition that has seized the reigns of power in the United States and the past few years make a whole lot more sense.
posted by Trevor Blake at 10:39 PM
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This is in Rep. James Sensenbrenner's Real ID Act, predicted to pass the House tomorrow. Its primary purpose is to introduce a national ID card; there are certainly good reasons to support that, but how can we reasonably debate it when the actual legislation indemnifies the Department of Homeland Security and its subcontractors from all laws (as the Congressional Research Service repeatedly emphasized (pdf) for anybody who wasn't paying attention)?
posted by A.Q. at 5:05 PM
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Listen little Eichmann (with apologies to Wilhelm Reich)
Events like the following remind me of the participants in the The Milgram Experiment
where the little Eichmann bursts out in uncontrollably
nervous laughter because of a melt down in his personal morals and values; A fleeting moment of lucidity and madness...However,then quickly recovers to continue his denial.

CNN exec: US has killed 12 reporters in Iraq

From the Davos, Switzerland World Economic Forum blog January 28, 2005 :

At what was an initially very mild discussion at the World Economic Forum titled "Will Democracy Survive the Media?"... Eason Jordan, Chief News Executive of CNN... asserted that he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted. He repeated the assertion a few times.

... David Gergen was also clearly disturbed and shocked by the allegation that the U.S. would target journalists, foreign or U.S.

... Statements were backed by other members of the audience (one in particular who represented a worldwide journalist group). The ensuing debate was (for lack of better words) a real "sh--storm". What intensified the problem was the fact that the session was a public forum being taped on camera, in front of an international crowd. The other looming shadow on what was going on was the presence of a U.S. Congressman and a U.S. Senator in the middle of some very serious accusations about the U.S. military.

-Uncle $cam
posted by Uncle $cam at 5:09 AM
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Tuesday, February 08, 2005. *
Norman Finkelstein has written a new book, Beyond Chuztpah, which is a play on the title of Alan Dershowitz's book, simply called Chutzpah. Chutzpah, for the one or two of you who don't know, means brazenness or gall. Finkelstein's book is subtitled: On the misuse of anti-semitism and the abuse of history, but could just as easily have said "on the abuse of language".

Bringing to bear the latest findings on the conflict and recasting the scholarly debate, Finkelstein points to a consensus among historians and human rights organizations on the factual record. Why, then, does so much controversy swirl around the conflict? Finkelstein's answer, copiously documented, is that apologists for Israel contrive controversy. Whenever Israel comes under international pressure, another media campaign alleging a global outbreak of anti-Semitism is mounted.

Excellent timing given that we seem to be in the throes of just such a media campaign right now.

The book will be in the shops some time in June 2005.
posted by levi9909 at 3:05 PM
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