American Samizdat

Wednesday, August 31, 2005. *
The new Pope faces his first controversy over the direction of the Catholic church after it was revealed that the Vatican has drawn up a religious instruction preventing gay men from being priests. The controversial document, produced by the Congregation for Catholic Education and Seminaries, the body overseeing the church's training of the priesthood, is being scrutinised by Benedict XVI.

It been suggested Rome would publish the instruction earlier this month, but it dropped the plan out of concern that such a move might tarnish his visit to his home city of Cologne last week. The document expresses the church's belief that gay men should no longer be allowed to enter seminaries to study for the priesthood. Currently, as all priests take a vow of celibacy, their sexual orientation has not been considered a pressing concern.

[Interesting - there is a right and wrong way to not do something. Kind of like saying you can't be a vegetarian if the reason you don't eat animals is because they are gross and smelly; you have to be a vegetarian because you love animals.]

Next month the Vatican will send investigators to the US to gauge the scale of the scandal. More than 100 bishops and seminary staff will visit 220 campuses. They will review documents provided by the schools and seminaries and may interview teachers, students and alumni, then report directly to the Vatican, which could choose to issue the instruction barring homosexuals from entering the priesthood as part of its response.

[So the problem is still anything but the official policy of the Vatican as approved by Pope Benedict. Just because the Roman Catholic Church has been hiding and relocating known child molesters since the 1960s doesn't mean that's wrong. Gay men not having sex, now that's wrong. Praise the Lord!]
posted by Trevor Blake at 6:08 PM
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With the president's poll numbers dropping and anti-Iraq war sentiment rising, the Heritage Foundation is sponsoring an event built around the premise that the anti-war movement is anti-American.
posted by Uncle $cam at 1:13 AM
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Stark reality of the American dream.
For those reality-based fin-de-siecle among us, a recent paper (pdf).
from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics compared social mobility in developed countries and found the US and UK at the bottom of the pile. If you are born poor/born rich in the US, you are more likely to remain poor/remain rich than in other developed countries. "International comparisons of intergenerational mobility show that Britain, like the United States, is at the lower end of international comparisons of mobility. Also intergenerational mobility has declined in Britain at a time of rising income inequality." The mobility deficit in the US appears to arise from both educational differences and race. In the UK, mainly education. "America and Britain have the highest intergenerational persistence (lowest mobility). Germany is around the middle of the estimates, while the Nordic countries and Canada all appear to be rather more mobile." Socialism = social mobility? Wasn't that supposed to be the best thing about unbridled capitalism? "However, the idea of the US as ‘the land of opportunity’ persists; and clearly seems misplaced." It is annoying when data gets in the way of a good fantasy.
posted by Uncle $cam at 1:04 AM
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Tuesday, August 30, 2005. *
Clean Concise Comprehensive
Peter Daou of the Daou Report states the obvious in a crisp clear manner: Why do a majority of us see the Iraq conflict in moral terms? Because our honor rests with our collective intelligence. Read and decide for yourself.

You, me? Regular folks... The moral majority, the thinking, caring masses. Never forget that.

Did I mention William Rivers Pitt's piece "Here's the Funny Part "? Digest, dicuss, disseminate.

We are many.
posted by m at 9:42 PM
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Bush Error 404 -- Bush Not Found In Crawford
I took a break from political poetry to do some Bush hunting, but all I found was this.
posted by Mad Kane at 9:29 PM
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Monday, August 29, 2005. *
Two Crackpot Pats and Bush Vacation Humor
I've mustered up a new batch of political poems: two limericks about a pair of our country's Crackpot Pats, Pat Robertson and Pat Boone; and a poem and haiku about Bush's extended vacation and his summer reading list. Here's my Pat Robertson limerick:

A Broadcasting Preacher Named Pat
By Madeleine Begun Kane

A broadcasting preacher named Pat,
Who quite frequently talks through his hat,
Seems to think it's God's will
That we Prez Chavez kill.
Then we'll take all his oil, and that's that.

You'll find all four of the poems here and my podcast version is here.
posted by Mad Kane at 3:56 PM
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CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday his government would take legal action against Pat Robertson and potentially seek his extradition after the U.S. evangelist called for Washington to assassinate the South American leader.

Robertson, who later apologized for the remark, said he was expressing his frustration with Chavez's constant accusations against the administration of President George W. Bush.

"I announce that my government is going to take legal action in the United States ... to call for the assassination of a head of state is an act of terrorism." Chavez said in a televised speech.

The fiery left-wing critic of Bush's foreign policy who frequently charges the U.S. government is plotting to kill him, called Robertson "crazy" and a "public menace."

He said Venezuela could seek Robertson's extradition under international treaties and take its claim to the United Nations if the Bush administration did not act.

If only Chavez offered us Jamaica's price for oil (they're paying Venezuela $40 a barrel under agreement) as a reward, I'm sure we could arrange for Robertson's head to be sent on a silver platter.
posted by Chris Joseph at 6:56 AM
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This makes how many journalists that have been killed in Iraq since the US invasion?

US journalists: next? Helen Thomas, watch your back.
posted by Dr. Menlo at 2:40 AM
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Sunday, August 28, 2005. *

(New Andy Warhol series of Chuck's posters)

They're having a poll of Chuck Penn vs. Bob Casey over at the Daily Kos, which right now Chuck is winning, which is impossible since he lost the vote at MoveOn, which hasn't released its tallies, which has probably got Chuck interested in ballot integrity. I presume most American Samizdat readers/writers are members of the Daily Kos. If so, please cast a vote for Chuck Penn. (Actually, you can vote once even if you aren't a member.) Remember: the party's annointed choice, Bob Casey, is a pro-lifer, pro Iraq war, and isn't even as progressive as Bill Frist on stem cell research. And, oh, he's open minded toward arctic drilling. He actually offers very little contrast to right wing nutjob Rick Santorum and will depress the democratic party base.

Update: Good catch from Comments From Left Field. It's a funny Daily Kos entry from Chuck Penn.

In contrast, other Casey supporters take him at his word when he publicly opposes a woman's right to choose. The 2004 Democratic Senate candidate, Joe Hoeffel, acknowledges Casey's core pro-life/anti-choice position. For months, in fact, Mr. Hoeffel has repeated this same statement about Bob Casey, Jr: "On all issues other than a woman's right to choose, Bob Casey is a progressive Democrat."

And for months I have kept my powder dry while our campaign documented Mr. Casey's truly conservative profile on critical issues such as stem cell research, the death penalty, the U.S. policy in Iraq, the assault weapons ban, separation of church and state, living wage legislation, universal health care, GLBT rights, preserving an independent judiciary (Terry Schiavo case), and drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. So, for Mr. Hoeffel to argue Mr. Casey is "progressive" on "all issues" other than choice is an extraordinary stretch. Such a stretch, in fact, that Mr. Hoeffel has mostly backed away from making such claims. In addition, Mr. Hoeffel should be credited for his honesty on Mr. Casey's opposition to a woman's right to choose and his determination to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Returning to Harrisburg and Lt. Gov. Knoll's "reverse spin" -- where she didn't challenge my claims to being the only progressive on all issues other than a woman's right to choose -- but literally heckled me ("No, that's not true, that's not true!") when I correctly said that I was the only candidate committed to upholding a woman's right to choose.

Read the whole thing as they say.

posted by Philip Shropshire at 8:00 PM
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Not much to say except, damn.

More here; some scary speculation here.
posted by Bill at 12:34 PM
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[Compare this ringing criticism of the use of tax dollars to breath new life into dead superstitions in the UK with the hands-off approach in the US media over the use of tax dollars to breath new life into dead superstitions.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 11:13 AM
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Saturday, August 27, 2005. *
Microsoft Money and Intelligent Design
It take a good deal of science to run a railroad. There are all sorts of challenges in mathematics, physics, geography, cartography, ecology, metallurgy, and on and on and on. You don't want just anybody building bridges over towns or blasting tunnels through mountains. You want men and women of science. It also takes a good deal of money to run a railroad. Materials to buy, rails and trains and stations to build, permits to file, oh goodness but it takes some money to run a railroad. So I'm sure the Cascadia Project was glad to get a USD $9.35 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Cascadia Project wants to build 'a long-term initiative to develop balanced, seamless, and expanded transportation systems among Washington, Oregon and British Columbia.' Sounds good to me! They've got the money, now let's look at the science. Hmmm... it looks like the Cascadia Project is an initiative of the Discovery Institute. They have that science channel on television, right? No, that's not right. The Discovery Institute is 'a non-profit, non-partisan, public policy think tank headquartered in Seattle and dealing with national and international affairs.' That sounds fine. What sort of thinking do they do in this think tank? Let's see... oh my, you mean to say that The Discovery Institute is the main agent behind 'intelligent design?' Is that the sort of science you want running the railroads? Bill and Melinda, what were you thinking?
posted by Trevor Blake at 9:25 PM
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Sayeth Eugenicists: Men are Smarter than Women
That was the word from a recent BBC article:
A study to be published later this year in the British Journal of Psychology says that men are on average five points ahead on IQ tests.

Paul Irwing and Professor Richard Lynn claim the difference grows when the highest IQ levels are considered.

Their research was based on IQ tests given to 80,000 people and a further study of 20,000 students.

So who are these researchers, and what is their background? That turns out to be a question with an interesting answer, thanks to Media Girl who cites a summary from the organization, FAIR:
One of the researchers, Richard Lynn, was a source cited for the racist book "The Bell Curve".


Murray and Herrnstein describe Lynn as "a leading scholar of racial and ethnic differences." Here's a sample of Lynn's thinking on such differences: "What is called for here is not genocide, the killing off of the population of incompetent cultures. But we do need to think realistically in terms of the 'phasing out' of such peoples.... Evolutionary progress means the extinction of the less competent. To think otherwise is mere sentimentality." (cited in Newsday, 11/9/94)

Elsewhere Lynn makes clear which "incompetent cultures" need "phasing out": "Who can doubt that the Caucasoids and the Mongoloids are the only two races that have made any significant contributions to civilization?" (cited in New Republic, 10/31/94)

FAIR goes on in its description of where Lynn gets his funding - from an organization called the Pioneer Fund.

Read the rest at The Left End of the Dial.
posted by Don Durito at 2:53 PM
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Juan Cole sees failure of Iraqi constitution and more mistakes in Bush administration Iraq policy
On Thursday, the third deadline for finishing Iraq's new constitution passed without agreement, as Sunni leaders balked at Shiite and Kurdish demands for federalism and regional control of oil wealth. In response, Shiite leaders threatened -- yet again -- to bypass the Sunnis, use their majority to approve it in Parliament, and take it to the Iraqi people for a national referendum.

Whether the constitution is sent to the Iraqi people without Sunni approval or is once again returned to the election committee for negotiations is almost irrelevant. The divisions are so intractable that the Sunnis are going to be marginalized, and enraged, in any event. The upshot: America's political vision for Iraq lies in tatters, and the Bush administration has largely itself to blame.

On Tuesday, President George W. Bush issued what could be seen as a threat against Sunni Arab political leaders in Iraq who threatened to launch an uprising (intifada) against the new constitution. Bush said, "This talk about Sunnis rising up, I mean the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?" Mind you, the politicians who spoke of uprisings and streets aflame were the very ones who participated in the drafting of a new constitution, risking their lives to do so because the guerrillas see this participation as a form of collaboration with the occupiers. They had been frustrated by their marginalization on the drafting committee, and by the high-handed way that Shiites and Kurds have implemented their vision of an Iraq that looks more like the European Union than like a sovereign nation-state.

Bush's bluster is especially ironic since his administration's missteps contributed mightily to the crisis. The United States pursued the policy, now almost universally acknowledged to have been disastrous, of dissolving the Iraqi army and banning former Baath members from government jobs, a policy that hurt middle-class Sunni Arabs badly and helped push them into supporting the guerrilla movement. The United States signed off on the United Nations plan to have a proportional election system, which ended up working to exclude the Sunni Arabs. (In a district-based system, Sunni Arabs would have been represented even in case of a low turnout.) Bush's massive assault on Fallujah in November 2004, threw the entire Sunni Arab heartland into chaos -- even previously quiet cities such as Mosul -- and so embittered the Sunnis as to discourage their participation. In Bush's rush to ally with the victors of the Jan. 30 elections, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and the Dawa Party, both Shiite fundamentalist groups, he gave them the impression of strong backing from Washington and made them less willing to compromise. After the disaster of the Jan. 30 election results, which left the Sunni Arabs with little representation in the government, the Bush administration did, to its credit, finally step in to push for proper Sunni Arab representation on the constitution-drafting committee. But by then it may have been too late.

More than anything else, the Sunnis oppose the plans of the Kurdistan Provincial Confederation and the mooted Shiite Provincial Confederation ("Sumer") to keep substantial amounts of the petroleum profits in the regions rather than sharing them. The constitution even leaves open the possibility that regional confederations could claim 100 percent of the oil fields developed in the future. The Sunni Arabs have no petroleum resources in the region at the moment, and although geologists think there may be a big field near Fallujah, such speculation has often not panned out. In the short and medium term at least, the Sunni Arabs would get much less than their fair share of the nation's oil patrimony. The Sunni Arab street in Iraq feels that the moral economy of the oil state has been violated, and it will never accept such second-class citizenship -- contrary to the sunny views of David Brooks, whose New York Times column Thursday cited Peter Galbraith as saying that ordinary Sunnis would come to see that the constitution was good for them.

This is the background that allows us to understand how even the cooperative Sunni Arab figures are now threatening an intifada. In the balance hangs Iraq's new constitution, waiting for the approval of which has become rather like waiting for Godot. Even if it is approved by the National Assembly, the constitution faces an Oct. 15 national referendum. Iraqis in every one of the 18 provinces will be able to vote yes or no on the document, which allows substantial decentralization but requires that Parliament pass no civil legislation that contradicts Islamic law. Because the Kurds feared a tyranny of the Shiite majority, they inserted a clause into the interim constitution that allows any three provinces to reject the constitution by a margin of two-thirds. The Sunnis are gearing up to hoist the Kurds on their own petard, by using this clause to reject a constitution that the Kurds like but the Sunni Arabs dread.

The problem began with the Jan. 30 elections, which were held on a proportional basis. Because the Sunni Arabs of Iraq either boycotted the elections or could not vote because their areas were too violent and insecure, they ended up with only 17 seats in a Parliament of 275. Sunni Arabs are probably around 20 percent of the population, and they have been for centuries the elite and the decision makers. The main charge of the transitional Parliament was to write a constitution, but it looked as though Sunni Arabs would have little say in the new charter. Since many Sunnis were already engaged in a guerrilla war against the new order, the danger existed that if a constitution were put through that pleased the majority Shiites and the Kurds, but that Sunni Arabs rejected, it would prolong the guerrilla war and perhaps even contribute to the breakup of the country.

On March 28, Sunni Arabs held a convention in Baghdad to discuss whether and how they should join in helping to draft the permanent constitution. One can only imagine the sea of men with Saddam moustaches or white turbans, or perhaps a few ski masks, interspersed among a handful of smart, politically ambitious professionals in tailored suits. A notion of the kind of opposition faced by those seeking a belated entry into the parliamentary process may be gained from tribal chieftain Mazin Jabir Nima's insistence on shouting "Long live the resistance!" in the midst of the otherwise serious deliberations. Others worried that the Sunni Arabs faced a bleak future unless they got involved in the political process.

The religious Shiites and the Kurdish nationalists who had captured Parliament smashed any hope that they would prove generous in victory. They set up a 55-man parliamentary committee to draft the constitution in accordance with how many seats a party list had in the Legislature. Thus, the majority of members came from the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance coalition. The Sunni Arabs, with their measly 17 seats in Parliament, were given only two seats on the committee. Not noticing that it hadn't been invited to the party in the first place, the hard-line Sunni clerical group, the Association of Muslim Scholars, sniffed that it did not even want to be involved in writing the constitution unless the U.S. agreed to set a timetable for withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. This was rather as though you had been snubbed by the hostess of the best party of the season and then called her and said you refused to come unless she uninvited her best friend.

Hajim al-Hasani, the Sunni speaker of Parliament, was understandably alarmed, and he urged that the parliamentary drafting committee be opened to members from outside the Legislature. With the long delay in forming the government and then the drafting committee, the guerrilla movement took the initiative and launched a brutal and effective wave of bombings that shook Baghdad to the core. The Sunni Arabs may not have had many seats in Parliament, but they clearly could not be ignored.

On May 16, a frantic U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice flew to Baghdad and insisted that Sunni Arabs be included in the constitution-drafting committee. The Bush administration was terrified that if the Sunnis felt excluded from the drafting process or deeply disliked the resulting document, they might torpedo the new constitution in the national referendum scheduled for Oct. 15. She told the new government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari that despite its "de-Baathification" process, the Jaafari government must ''respect the fact that there now needs to be an inclusive Iraqi process and an inclusive Iraqi government.'' Behind the scenes, the United States pressed relentlessly for Sunni Arab inclusion.

The dominance of the drafting process by the religious Shiites was underlined on May 24 when Sheik Humam Hammoudi, a cleric, was appointed chairman of the committee. He is a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite religious party that admires the Iranian model of governance. With his white turban, austere face, graying beard and brown robes, he is a ringer for the mullahs who run Iran, against whom Iraqis fought a bitter eight-year war. Nevertheless, SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim voiced his support for greater Sunni Arab participation in the drafting of the document. A week later, with the issue still unresolved, the committee began its work.

In early June, the Jaafari government launched Operation Lightning, a concerted sweep of Sunni Arab neighborhoods in Baghdad, aimed at increasing security in the bomb-scarred capital. The three major Sunni Arab political groupings strenuously denounced the random searches of homes and the arrest of hundreds, often on slim evidence. Despite the tensions generated by the operation, the negotiations continued. The Shiites at length offered to add 13 Sunni Arab members to the committee, bringing the total to 15. They were not prepared to give these 13 voting rights, since they were not members of Parliament, but promised that all decisions would be made by consensus. (It was an empty promise, as the Sunni Arabs had suspected all along.) The Sunnis, who still had not gotten the message that they weren't actually wanted, threatened to boycott the deliberations unless they were given at least 25 seats on the drafting committee. In the end, the Sunnis were finessed. On June 16, they were given 15 new seats, bringing their total to 17, but another 10 "counselors" were recognized who were no more than observers. The Shiites warned them that if they did not accept this deal, the constitution would just be written without them.

Choosing the Sunni Arab members of the committee was in turn no easy task. The Sunni Arabs had no umbrella organization, their leadership having been fragmented by the collapse of the Baath Party. Adnan Dulaimi, a religious hardliner who headed the Sunni Board of Pious Endowments, submitted his own list of 25, without consulting anyone else. (His organization oversees the country's Sunni mosques and other religious properties. He was later summarily fired by the Shiite prime minister.) Other Sunnis formed a new organization, the National Dialogue Council, to represent their interests and put forward nominees. The disdain in which the Sunni Arab leadership continued to be held, and the suspicions that attached to it of supporting the guerrilla war and terrorist actions, were underlined when U.S. troops arrested and briefly held Muhsin Abdul Hamid, a former president of the interim governing council and venerable head of the Iraqi Islamic Party, which had generally cooperated with the United States.

It was now mid-June, and the deadline for finishing the draft of the permanent constitution and having it adopted by Parliament was Aug. 15. Salih Mutlak, of the National Dialogue Council, told the New York Times on June 15 that the deadline would have to be extended, saying, ''I don't want to put my name on a constitution that will be written in two weeks."

The path to nominating the 15 new full members of the drafting committee was strewn with land mines. First there was a controversy over whether the list of 15, which a small group of political leaders had come up with, should be approved by a big Sunni Arab political congress. That suggestion was shot down by the Sunni elders, who complained that it would just complicate things and delay the process. Grass-roots democracy has not been a strong suit in Sunni Iraqi political culture in the past few decades. Then a further controversy erupted when it was alleged that two of the 15 had been members of the Baath Party. One of the two denied the charge; the other admitted it but said he had not been high ranking and anyway had never committed any crimes. Others were less apologetic. Mutlak opined to the New York Times on July 1, ''I still see the Baath Party as the best party we have seen. If you compare them, they are much better than the parties that are governing the country now.'' The new group of 15 Sunni Arabs was finally added to the committee officially on July 6, though Shiite parliamentarians hinted darkly that some of them were still under investigation for possible past Baath Party activities.

The deadline for finishing the permanent constitution was now only five weeks away. It is not clear that most local garden societies could draft by-laws in five weeks, much less a country the size of California with a similar population. Then disaster struck. Or rather, yet another, worse, disaster struck. On July 19, guerrillas killed two members of the 15-member Sunni Arab team. The remaining members could see the writing on the wall if they did not get better protection, since many in the Sunni guerrilla movement saw them as Benedict Arnolds working for the colonial power while pretending to be loyal patriots. They were all strolling around the capital with big red targets painted on them. They angrily staged a walkout and refused to go back to work without bodyguards. Adnan al-Janabi, a parliamentarian and member of the drafting committee, grandiosely announced that he held the Iraqi government and Parliament and the United Nations responsible. "Despite these parties' announcement they would back the process of writing the constitution, they did not provide security for Sunni members," al-Janabi told the wire services.

Mutlak and three other members of the committee from the National Dialogue Council demanded an international investigation. Mutlak told the Boston Globe, "We cannot be part of this." Shiite parliamentarian Saad Jawad Qandil (SCIRI), also a member of the drafting committee, pointed out that the Shiite parties could always just pass a constitution, but preferred to have Sunni support in hopes of reducing future strife. The Shiite refrain to the Sunni Arabs anytime the latter became obstreperous was always that the Shiites did not need them but wouldn't mind if they wanted to come along.

It was not until July 25 that the Sunni Arab members agreed to drop their boycott, in return for the Jaafari government (and presumably the United States) undertaking to provide them with security and to establish a commission with Sunni Arab membership to investigate the killings. Another week had been lost, and now only three weeks remained until the deadline.

On July 31, Sunni Arab parliamentarian Mishaan al-Juburi gave an interview with the London Arabic-language daily, al-Hayat, in which he warned of civil war if the three major Sunni Arab reservations about the constitution are ignored. The Shiites and Kurds on the drafting committee had made up a list of Iraqi minorities, and the Shiites wished to include Iranian-Iraqis, those of Persian ancestry, among the minorities. There certainly is an Iranian-Iraqi minority, which suffered persecution and deportation under Saddam. But Sunni Arabs fear that bestowing formal recognition on it will prove a back door whereby Iranians could flood into the country and gain citizenship. Al-Juburi said that Sunni Arabs also reject turning Iraq into a loose federal union, and reject the injection of Shiite religion into the constitution.

The drafting committee members by this time faced a momentous choice. The interim constitution drafted under American rule allowed them to notify Parliament on Aug. 1 that they would be unable to produce a final document by Aug. 15. In that case, they would be granted a six-month delay. The Sunni Arabs wanted such a delay. The Shiites and Kurds and their American patrons, in contrast, were deathly afraid that any such postponement would halt their political momentum and give encouragement to the largely Sunni Arab guerrilla movement. The guerrillas were launching more attacks every day in summer of 2005 than they had the previous summer, and they had more influence in the Sunni Arab heartland than they had had a year before. The Bush administration was convinced that only completing the constitution and holding new elections in which, this time, the Sunnis took part, would set Iraq on the path to stability and allow a drawdown of US troops. In fact, it would have been better for the constitution-writing process to take the extra six months, since attempting to draft a constitution in less than two months is clearly absurd, as the Sunni Arabs charged.

On Friday, Aug. 12, Sunni clerics preached in their mosques against the call of SCIRI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim for a Shiite confederation of nine provinces in the south, which would retain much of the region's oil wealth rather than sharing all of it with the rest of the country. Clergymen in Baghdad, Tikrit, and other Sunni areas urged Sunni Arabs to register to vote in the Oct. 15 referendum, so as to vote down the constitution if it recognized this form of federalism. Mutlak revealed that the Americans were urging Sunni Arabs to accept vague language about federalism for now, and to postpone specifics until a permanent Parliament was elected in December. Mutlak told the Associated Press, "We reject that."

Despite enormous American pressure, the committee failed to complete its work by the deadline of Aug. 15. The issue was not really drafting a constitution. It gradually became clear that the Shiites, the Kurds, even the Americans, had all developed drafts some time before. The difficulty was in reconciling these various proposed texts. The Shiites and the Kurds had many disagreements, but were generally willing to compromise with each other in the end. Even they had not reached complete agreement by Aug. 15. But the Sunni Arabs, with their stubborn rejection of federalism, proved a third wheel, impossible to placate given the aspirations of the other groups. By Sunday, Aug. 14, Shiites leaked a threat to the New York Times that they would just go ahead and pass a constitution without the Sunnis if the latter continued to be so uncooperative. The bluff did not work, and Parliament was constrained to amend the Transitional Administrative Law to allow a delay of a week, until Aug. 22, for passage of the constitution.

The profound political divisions among the Sunni Arabs were illuminated gruesomely once again on Aug. 18, when party workers from the Iraqi Islamic Party in Mosul were killed by guerrillas for urging Sunnis to register to vote. The IIP was registering them so that they could defeat the constitution in the Oct. 15 referendum, but even this degree of cooperation with the American-installed order was unacceptable to the rejectionist guerrilla movement. Increasingly, the politics that gripped the Sunni Arabs did not have to do with shaping the constitution. Rather, they were divided on how exactly to defeat it, whether by force of arms alone or by ensuring a three-province veto in the referendum. On Aug. 20, al-Qaida in Mesopotamia threatened to kill anyone with any link at all to the constitution (that is, even if the person just registered to vote so as to reject it). Since the requirement is that two-thirds of those who vote in the referendum reject the constitution in three provinces, however, the strategy of voting it down could succeed even with a light Sunni Arab turnout. Salih Mutlak, one of those under the death sentence, told the London Times that he thought the Aug. 22 deadline would be met, but "criticized the Americans and British for rushing the process."

In fact, the parliamentary drafting committee appears no longer to have been meeting by that weekend. Rather, the negotiations were among major political and community leaders. Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, doubled as the representative of Kurdish interests. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the Shiite cleric who led the dominant party in Parliament, doubled as a representative of the interests of the religious Shiites. For the most part, the Sunni Arabs were not even invited to the meetings. The Shiites made a final push to have Islamic law recognized in the constitution, and this time the Americans relented. Loose federalism was a quid pro quo for the Kurds. Two of Mishaan al-Juburi's three deal-breakers were now in the text.

The Aug. 22 deadline was not met, either, though an almost-finished draft was presented to Parliament moments before midnight, for all the world like Cinderella hurrying disheveled from the ball. To the extent there was an agreement on it, it was the agreement of Kurds with Shiites. This time, the Shiite prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and other high officials did not even bother to amend the interim constitution again. They simply announced a three-day delay, during which they would attempt to get the agreement of all three major groups to the almost-finished draft. This move was clearly unconstitutional, it and signaled the impatience of the new political elite of Shiites and Kurds with Sunni Arab foot dragging (as they see it). Parliament did not even meet on the third day, and no later session was scheduled, throwing the process again into limbo.

The Sunni Arabs in the street were furious that their representatives had been virtually sidelined. Sunni Arab politicians speaking to the Arabic press warned that they would launch an intifada against the new constitution and said that the streets would be in flames. (They should have looked out the window; they might have found that the guerrillas had made such threats redundant.) We have already seen Bush's ominous response to the Sunnis: The Arab press correctly interpreted his bluster as a threat of more American Fallujah campaigns against the Sunni Arabs. But the Sunnis were not impressed. Even in Fallujah, which the Americans had bombed into submission, Sunni Arab families flocked to the voter registration sites to sign up to vote on Oct. 15, with the intention of defeating the constitution.

On Aug. 25, even as Parliament failed to meet its new deadline, the Sunni Arab members of the drafting committee had not altogether given in to despair. Mutlak suggested that compromise was still possible. After all, the Shiites had originally insisted that Islam be recognized as "the" source of Iraqi law, but had finally agreed, in the face of Kurdish opposition, that it would be "a fundamental" source. The Kurds had originally demanded an explicit right to secession, but ultimately gave up on its inclusion in the text. If religious Shiites and Kurds could find compromise language, President Talabani insisted, there was no reason in principle that the Sunni Arabs could not, as well.

The problem, however, is that the Kurds and Shiites could compromise in part because they both saw the benefits of regional confederations with claims on local resources, given that both have petroleum. The Sunni Arabs fear that such a system will leave them only with "the drifting sands of Anbar province." A system like Alaska's, in which oil profits are shared as royalties with all citizens equally, might have sidestepped some of the disputes over the prerogatives of provincial confederations, but the American Coalition Provisional Authority that ruled Iraq for a year did not institute that system when it had the chance. The Americans were still dreaming then of privatizing everything in Iraq for the sake of U.S. corporate profits (including the air Iraqis breathed, if possible.) Moreover, the long string of Bush administration mistakes in Iraq, along with the rejectionism of many in the Sunni leadership strata, had so alienated most Sunni Arabs that their negotiators -- unlike the populist Kurdish and Shiite leaders -- lacked much of a base of popular support, fatally weakening the Sunni bargaining position.

Parliament can clearly ram the draft constitution through at will, since the Shiites and the Kurds dominate it. In fact, the Kurdistan regional Parliament approved the federal constitution on Aug. 24, even before the federal Parliament had. But the real question now is whether the constitution can survive the referendum. The Sunni Arabs dominate Anbar and Salah al-Din provinces, and almost certainly can muster a two-thirds "no" vote on Oct. 15 in both. They may also be able to pull off a rejection in Ninevah province. In that case, Parliament would dissolve, new elections for Parliament would be held in December, and the entire process would begin all over again -- a nightmarish prospect. Meanwhile, the Sunni Arab guerrillas continue their macabre war against a new order that cannot seem to get its act together.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

posted by Douglas at 10:12 AM
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Friday, August 26, 2005. *
A Child's Primer of Intelligent Design
Susie Day

The Baby Jesus will grow up and become very wise and holy, and invent the steam engine. He will sponsor all sorts of crusades and slave trades and inquisitions and bake-sales, until one day He is tricked by a wicked anthropologist into visiting the Bronx Zoo, where He is stomped to death by a lesbian gorilla. Which just goes to show: it is very hard to get a proper education in today's America.

On, now, to our next chapter, in which the Baby Jesus comes back and gets revenge. Hurry, children -- we don't want any of you to be left behind.
posted by Uncle $cam at 9:09 PM
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Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools.

"What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not."

James Madison, “A Memorial and Remonstrance,” 1785

Theo-Fascists:, Have We Been Tolerant To A Fault?
Nice little rant from ratboy...
Oh, don't miss the following post: When Church and State Hold Hands
posted by Uncle $cam at 7:45 PM
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The Religion that Encourages Sucking Blood from an Infant's Mutilated Penis, Revisited
Long-time readers of American Samizdat should remember this post from February 2005, which included this quote from the New York Daily News: "New York City health officials are investigating whether a baby boy died after contracting herpes from the rabbi who circumcised him, the Daily News has learned. The probe was launched after city officials realized that three infants in the city who tested positive for herpes last year all were circumcised by Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer. The Rockland County-based Fischer is a prominent mohel - someone who performs religious circumcisions. Under Jewish law, a mohel is supposed to draw blood from the circumcision wound to remove impurities. While many mohels do it by hand, Fischer uses a practice little known outside ultra-Orthodox communities called metzizah bi peh, in which the mohel uses his mouth. On Oct. 16, 2004, Fischer performed a bris, or religious circumcision, on twins. Ten days later, one infant died of herpes, and the other tested positive for the virus, according to papers filed in Manhattan Supreme Court by city lawyers."

What has the above-mentioned investigation revealed? Thank goodness, the most important aspect of this story - the feelings of Jewish adult men who pass along fatal diseases to infants as they suck blood from their penis - has been respected. Some quotes from the New York Times: "A circumcision ritual practiced by some Orthodox Jews has alarmed city health officials, who say it may have led to three cases of herpes - one of them fatal - in infants. But after months of meetings with Orthodox leaders, city officials have been unable to persuade them to abandon the practice. The city's intervention has angered many Orthodox leaders, and the issue has left the city struggling to balance its mandate to protect public health with the constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. [...] Since February, the mohel, Rabbi Yitzchok Fischer, 57, has been under court order not to perform the ritual in New York City while the health department is investigating whether he spread the infection to the infants. Pressure from Orthodox leaders on the issue led Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and health officials to meet with them on Aug. 11. The mayor's comments on his radio program the next day seemed meant to soothe all parties and not upset a group that can be a formidable voting bloc: 'We're going to do a study, and make sure that everybody is safe and at the same time, it is not the government's business to tell people how to practice their religion.'" [...] The use of suction to stop bleeding dates back centuries and is mentioned in the Talmud. The safety of direct oral contact has been questioned since the 19th century, and many Orthodox and nearly all non-Orthodox Jews have abandoned it. Dr. Frieden said he hoped the rabbis would voluntarily switch to suctioning the blood through a tube, an alternative endorsed by the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest group of Orthodox rabbis. But the most traditionalist groups, including many Hasidic sects in New York, consider oral suction integral to God's covenant with the Jews requiring circumcision, and they have no intention of stopping. 'The Orthodox Jewish community will continue the practice that has been practiced for over 5,000 years,' said Rabbi David Niederman of the United Jewish Organization in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, after the meeting with the mayor. 'We do not change. And we will not change.' David Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel, an umbrella organization of Orthodox Jews, said that metzitzah b'peh is probably performed more than 2,000 times a year in New York City. [...] The inconsistent treatment of Rabbi Fischer himself indicates the confusion metzitzah b'peh has sown among health authorities, who typically regulate circumcisions by doctors but not religious practitioners. In Rockland County, where Rabbi Fischer lives in the Hasidic community of Monsey, he has been barred from performing oral suction. But the state health department retracted a request it had made to Rabbi Fischer to stop the practice. And in New Jersey, where Rabbi Fischer has done some of his 12,000 circumcisions, the health authorities have been silent."

And there you have it. As long as you blame an invisible monster that lives in the sky, it sure seems like you can get away with most anything. The state regulates circumcision, except when you are acting as the agent of an invisible monster that lives in the sky. There is cause for concern in the health of the public, but the feelings of those who are acting as the agent of an invisible monster that lives in the sky are more important. Three infected babies, one dead, all had blood sucked from their penis, but it was done in the name of an invisible monster that lives in the sky so it's okay. Suck blood from a baby's penis as pornography, go to prison for life. Suck blood from a baby's penis and blame an invisible monster that lives in the sky, write it off your taxes.

I advocate the withering away of religion under the twin spotlights of reason and scorn. How about you?
posted by Trevor Blake at 10:14 AM
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Thursday, August 25, 2005. *
A long, sobering read from Jonathan Kozol in Harper's.
posted by Bill at 9:34 PM
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Grooming Politicians for Christ
Evangelical programs on Capitol Hill seek to mold a new generation of leaders who will answer not to voters, but to God.
posted by Uncle $cam at 1:43 AM
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005. *
For God so loved the world...

The article I linked at Common Dreams (click the picture) was my inspiration for creating this simple "God" sign parody, though I'm sure the irony is lost on those who need to understand it the most.
posted by Chris Joseph at 5:59 PM
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"I was a little taken aback,'' Robert McCaffrey said, describing his reaction when he first saw the operation name on Patrick's tombstone. "They certainly didn't ask my wife; they didn't ask me.'' He said Patrick's widow told him she had not been asked either.

"In one way, I feel it's taking advantage to a small degree,'' McCaffrey said. "Patrick did not want to be there, that is a definite fact.''

The owner of the company that has been making gravestones for Arlington and other national cemeteries for nearly two decades is uncomfortable, too.

"It just seems a little brazen that that's put on stones,'' said Jeff Martell, owner of Granite Industries of Vermont. "It seems like it might be connected to politics.'' [more]
posted by Dr. Menlo at 8:19 AM
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005. *
posted by Dr. Menlo at 5:46 PM
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The Catholic Church has shifted ownership of nine [Tennessee] Midstate properties, an action critics say was calculated to protect assets from the kinds of huge settlements that have been awarded to victims of priest abuse. Diocese of Nashville officials filed paperwork so that eight churches and one school would be owned by the parishes or school instead of the bishops who had owned the properties for decades. The diocese is being sued for $68 million by two victims of abuse. The parishes are not named as defendants. [...] Critics say the Nashville diocese's move to distance itself financially from individual parishes mirrors legal strategies employed in recent years by dioceses in Portland, Ore., and Spokane, Wash. All three dioceses are in legal battles with alleged victims who have argued that the parishes are part of the dioceses.
posted by Trevor Blake at 4:21 PM
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Monday, August 22, 2005. *
posted by Youngfox at 8:13 PM
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(Pic from Indy Media)

August 22nd

A propaganda model focuses on this inequality of wealth and power and its multilevel effects on mass-media interests and choices. It traces the routes by which money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public. The essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news "filters," fall under the following headings: (I) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and "experts" funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) "flak" as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) "anticommunism" as a national religion and control mechanism. These elements interact with and reinforce one another. The raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print. They fix the premises of discourse and interpretation, and the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and operations of what amount to propaganda campaigns.

--from Chomsky's and Herman's Manufacturing Consent. (For five I would switch out "anticommunism" and replace it with "terrorism".)

Item: I have to admit I thought this was the most important story of the weekend. I don't think it made the front pages of any of the dailies. I guess this is what we mean when we complain about the corporate press. Quick propaganda model quiz: advertisers prefer a.) weather stories/underclass crime/nothing stories or b.) stories about courageous radicals who face down vicious barking dogs or taser fire. Hint: Check Sunday and Monday front pages of our two dailies to get an answer.

The Post-Gazette, our mealy-mouthed DLC-like "liberal" paper, had a short piece. Funky is right about one problem with the PG: where are the links? You could, for example, link to the Pittsburgh Organizing Group's original statement about the events, or even link to these two compelling videos of a young girl screaming as she's shot with a taser and this incredibly placid protester who sits while a barking dog is only a few feet away. I mean, they're even edited. That's professional.

As you might predict, the coverage at our daily right wing Scaife rag was worse as Bill Zlatos inserted the cop position right into his lead. It seems to be a matter of dispute that the protesters "disrupted traffic", Bill. More fair and balanced reporting I see. Let me guess Bill: You couldn't link to arguments made by POG (Because you couldn't find them?), or their video evidence, or mention their claim that the cops knocked over a guy in a wheelchair...? Second propaganda model quiz: Bill's story represents how many of the five aforestated Propaganda Model Factors? Hint: 1, 3 and 5 are the strongest contenders.

More as this develops. Looks like I'll be "breaking" all kinds of news because I can independently link and think. Beware my power...Green Lantern's light and so forth...

posted by Philip Shropshire at 4:49 AM
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Sunday, August 21, 2005. *
The resurgence of superstition and magical thinking in an age of rapid scientific progress

Also see:(An excellent disscussion on belief and the meta-naratives of paradigms}

What Will We Tell the Children?

and finally, for even deeper reading/thinking Pluralism in schools.

From obsessive egalitarianism to pluralist universalism?

Options for twenty-first century education
Keynote speech, NERA conference, Oslo 10 March 2005
posted by Uncle $cam at 5:07 PM
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In America, as of 1999, 13% of all hospitals were religious (totaling 18% of all hospital beds); that's 604 out of 4,573 hospitals. Despite the presence of organized religion in America, the [Roman Catholic] Church has managed to scrape together only a few hospitals. Of these 604 hospitals many are a product of mergers with public, non-sectarian hospitals. Not all of these 604 hospitals are Catholic; many are Baptist, Methodist, Shriner (Masonic), Jewish, etc.

Despite the religious label, these so-called religious hospitals are more public than public hospitals. Religious hospitals get 36% of all their revenue from Medicare; public hospitals get only 27%. In addition to that 36% of public funding they get 12% of their funding from Medicaid. Of the remaining 44% of funding, 31% comes from county appropriations, 30% comes from investments, and only 5% comes from charitable contributions (not necessarily religious). The percentage of Church funding for Church-run hospitals comes to a grand total of 0.0015 percent.

The claim that the religious build hospitals gives the illusion that the religious are more charitable than the secular, non-religious. With hospitals, at least, that isn't the case. Every hospital writes off a certain percentage of medical revenue as charitable care. The religious hospitals aren't the least charitable of hospitals, but they're close to it. For-profit hospitals provided, on average, only 0.8% of their gross patient revenue as charity care; religious hospitals came in with 1.9%. On the other hand the secular non-profit hospitals had 2% and the godless secular public hospitals provided 5.1%.

[Tell me again, what public good was it that religions offered that justified their tax exemption?]
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:54 AM
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Saturday, August 20, 2005. *
Does Sanctimony Cause Obesity?
One fellow thinks it's as plausible as the other guesses. You decide. I know what I think.

posted by Deleted at 8:26 PM
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A constitutional order has three parts: mandate - what the government should do - and meaning - how the public views the role of its duties, rights and options in relationship to the government. These are tied together by mechanism - how the government functions. In American history, and to no small extent world history, the most important mechanism is money. Not in the sense of who gets money - but in the sense of how money works...

... the path to constitutional crisis runs through financial crisis...


Then comes the moment when the bottom falls out...

America is so fucked, can you say Feudalism ?
posted by Uncle $cam at 5:10 PM
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Freedom Walk Registration
According to Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Greg Hicks, the Freedom Walk registration form was originally designed with the intention of charging participants a fee to defray event costs. The Department of Defense, which has an annual budget well in excess of $400 billion, has since decided to make Freedom Walk a free event.

After repeated inquiries from The NewStandard about the purpose of collecting personal details, Hicks said DoD "will be removing the boxes [on the form] that ask for personal data."

As of press time, the registration website is still requiring participants to enter all information required by the original form. Hicks said he is not sure how many people have already signed up using the online form.


I have preserved the registration form for posterity. Some people may wish to print out copies and leave them, in lieu of flowers, at the 9/11 memorial bunker.

Contrary to the canards circulated, the registration form does not ask for your blood type or Social Security number. Nor does signing it oblige you to accept a courtesy enema, a body cavity search or an FBI background check. Freedom, it must be said, requires a submission to that which is worthy. Skeptical and prompt obedience, trust, and "just in time" manufacturing are its cornerstones, along with FIFA accounting, due process (when appropriate) and the opportunity to just say no to morally unhygeinic behavior. You are free to be good people and free, should you feel the need, to report people who are struggling to be good . . . but failing. Moreover, you are free to abandon the adolescent mistrust of authority. The DoD asks for your shirt size. How evil could their intent be? It is simply so they may prepare enough celebratory dignity shirts for registered freedom marchers. You would feel like a fool marching for freedom without your dignity shirt. I will prepare a line of dignity boots for the freedom marchers. Please leave your shoe size, a phone number for follow up contact and the address where you expect to take delivery in the comment section.
posted by Deleted at 2:52 PM
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Secret Police Make Us Safer?

FBI's "National Security Letters" Threaten Online Speech and Privacy

"New York - The Electronic Frontier Foundation, joined by several civil liberties organizations and online service providers, filed a friend-of-the-court brief yesterday in the case of Doe v. Gonzales arguing that National Security Letters ( NSLs ) are unconstitutional. NSLs are secret subpoenas for communications logs, issued directly by the FBI without any judicial oversight. These secret subpoenas allow the FBI to demand that online service providers produce records of where their customers go on the Web, as well as what they read and with whom they exchange email. The FBI can even issue NSLs for information about people who haven't committed any crimes.

A federal district court has already found NSLs unconstitutional, and the gov

ernment is now appealing the case. In its brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, EFF argues that these secret subpoenas imperil free speech by allowing the FBI to track people's online activities. In addition, NSLs violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of the service providers who receive the secret government demands. EFF and its cosigners argue that NSLs for Internet logs should be subject to the same strict judicial scrutiny applied to other subpoenas that may reveal information about the identities of anonymous speakers - or their private reading habits and personal associations.

Yet NSLs are practically immune to judicial review. They are accompanied by gag orders that allow no exception for talking to lawyers and provide no effective opportunity for the recipients to challenge them in court. This secret subpoena authority, which was expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act, could be applied to nearly any online service provider for practically any type of record, without a court ever knowing."
posted by Uncle $cam at 2:42 PM
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As Religious As He Wants To Be
His Holiness, Christ's Vicar on Earth, Pope Benedict XVI, has had ties to the Bush crime family since 1999, he tipped the Catholic vote to Bush in Bush's most recent show-election, and he ordered Bishop Robert Vasa to deny Communion to Senator John Kerry.

I'm sure that won't matter a jot or a tittle when it comes time for the Bush administration to consider Pope Benedict's request for diplomatic immunity as a head of state in the ongoing Catholic man-boy rape trials. The policy of the Roman Catholic Church since 1962 has been to hush-up reports of child molestation and move the offending priest to another parish, and Pope Benedict confirmed this was the policy of the Roman Catholic Church as recently as 2001. Pope Benedict is pulling rank as a head of state in Vatican City... but hey-presto! somehow this government is not a government when it comes time to belly up to the slop bucket of benefits for being a religion (exemption from taxes and civil rights laws in employment, for example). Pope Benedict is going to be a political leader when it suits him and a religious leader when it suits him, and you can be sure that his workers (priest, nuns, etc.) won't be treated as foreign government workers just because they work for a foreign government.

In the face of all those living humans who really are starving, isn't it time to stop feeding the imaginary corpse of Christ? Please refrain from supporting the religion of your choice today.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:57 AM
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I always liked John Rawls myself, ...just saying.
posted by Uncle $cam at 12:21 AM
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Friday, August 19, 2005. *
Members of [St. James Church in Newport Beach, All Saints' Church in Long Beach and St. David's Church in North Hollywood] voted last summer to disassociate from the Episcopalian Church USA after the ordination of a gay bishop in the Diocese of New Hampshire. They announced they were placing themselves under the jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in Uganda. The diocese then sued to retain the church's parish property and building. [...] A judge has ruled that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles can't confiscate the property of a parish that disassociated itself from the denomination over a gay bishop's ordination.

[Wouldn't it be something if more local religious groups followed this precedent... seize the property of others, say you had to because the invisible monster that lives in the sky told you to, and you're golden. Religion is great!]
posted by Trevor Blake at 9:07 AM
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Thursday, August 18, 2005. *
Also posted to Lenin's Tomb

With "disengagement" finally under way amid the predictable fanfare from western media and equally predictable demonstrations of just how "painful" this "concession" is , this is a consideration of what kind of Palestine Ariel Sharon is offering to the Palestinians.

The Gaza Strip comprises 360 square kilometres of land with a population of about 1.4 million Palestinians and 7,500 Jewish settlers. It is mostly desert and much of the arable land is reserved, at present, for Jewish use only. 75% of its Arab population live below the poverty line and 13% suffer from malnutrition. It has no natural freshwater resources and no control over its telecommunications. It was occupied, together with the West Bank, by Israel during the six days war of June 1967 and has been occupied ever since. It is no stranger to Palestinian resistance or Israeli war crimes. During the ethnic cleansing campaign (1947-1949) that brought Israel into existence with its Jewish majority, Gaza [with an influx of Palestinian refugees] became the most densely populated place on earth; a distinction it still holds. Israel emerged from that war controlling 78% of what was Palestine.

Gaza and Ariel Sharon have been well acquainted since the 1950s when Ariel Sharon led "reprisal" raids against Palestinian villages that brought shame even to Israeli leaders. Foreign Minister Moshe Sharrett referred to one of Sharon’s atrocities as a "stain [that] would stick to us and not be washed away for many years". Clearly he underestimated the strength of Zionist propaganda in the mass media.

During one of Ariel Sharon’s visits to the White House, President George W. Bush described him as a "man of peace". Leaving aside the fact that Bush often can’t tell one world leader from another, it is possible that he was responding to Ariel Sharon’s stated willingness to make "painful concessions" on the "roadmap" to peace with the Palestinians. To those familiar with Sharon’s history, the description "man of peace" wasn’t one that sprang to mind. Apart from the bloody and disproportionate "reprisals" mentioned above, he was the architect of the Lebanon war that began in 1982 with the slaughter of perhaps 20,000 Palestinianand Lebanese civilians in a matter of weeks. The Israeli Supreme Court declared Sharon "unfit for office" because of his culpability in some particularly gruesome atrocities by Israel’s Lebanese allies in the refugee camps of Shatila and Sabra. Whenever there have been peaceful overtures by Arab states or the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Sharon’s response has always been, at best, dismissive and usually downright hostile. He has had more Palestinians killed, for example, since the PLO accepted Israel’s right to exist on 78% of Palestine than when their demand was for a "democratic secular state" or the "destruction of Israel" as the Zionists prefer to call it. In 1981, the Rabat plan, whereby the Arab states agreed to normalise relations with Israel in return for Israel withdrawing to its pre-1967 boundaries, was described by Sharon as "a declaration of war". And the recent Saudi peace plan, much the same as Rabat, is now gathering dust.

In addition to the war crimes Sharon has always had a reputation for being dishonest with his political masters. His first patron, David Ben Gurion, recorded in his diary (29/1/1960) that "if he could wean himself from the habit of lying he could be an exemplary military leader." Later, in 1982 he lied to Menachem Begin about his aims in the Lebanon war. He lied to the Kahane Commission (Supreme Court), he lost a libel action against the Israeli liberal daily Ha’aretz and now he tells of painful concessions for peace.

So what does the proposed Gaza withdrawal consist of? We have seen what Gaza itself consists of. It has almost nothing and what it does have has been commandeered by illegal colonial settlers or is provided by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The settlers will, if the plan goes ahead, be withdrawn. Settlers have been known to kill civilians (as recently as yesterday) so this could bring some comfort to the Gazan population. However, if the withdrawal goes ahead, might Israel press for UNRWA to be withdrawn? UNRWA provides housing, healthcare, education, but above all, jobs. This isn’t mere speculation. Last year, Sharon accused an UNRWA ambulance team of loading a Qassam (home made) missile on to an ambulance. He was too hasty in his accusation. Israeli intelligence didn’t have time to doctor their photographic "evidence" and the accusation was exposed as another lie when the "missile" turned out to be a stretcher. But looking at American websites and other media, many commentators have happily run with the Qassam story. This does not simply expose Palestinian ambulances to Israeli attacks. Israel has attacked medical facilities without "pretext" before. It is to undermine the authority and credibility of the Agency in order to hinder all of its work. Taken with the mass campaign of political assassinations, Sharon is creating a Gaza with no viable economy or polity.

Sharon has said that his withdrawal plan is a part of Bush’s much vaunted "road map" to peace and Palestinian statehood. This is curious since his most trusted adviser, Dov Weisglass, is on record as saying that "the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process, and when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda". So the idea of following the road map is yet another lie by Sharon, though Weisglass was forced to withdraw his prepared statement.

But how painful is this particular concession? In a way, it represents a step back by Sharon. True, the Jewish population of Gaza is hardly a significant factor as a proportion of Israel’s population as a whole, and indeed of the settler population itself, and Sharon has always said that "Zionism is not about what Israel can do for Jews but what Jews can do for Israel." But his party, the Likud, still sings the anthem Shtei Gadot with its expansionist lyric "one side of the Jordan is ours and so is the other". So relinquishing land, any land, is always painful. The outcry from the far-right, including comparisons of Sharon with Hitler (this on account of his treatment of Jews rather than Palestinians) isn’t just choreography, though that is part of it. But the Israel-free Gaza will be so enfeebled and dependent many Palestinians will have to leave as they have done for decades now. The ethnic cleansing that Israel has failed to fully achieve by war, they have tried to make up for by economic stealth and this will surely continue in an "independent" Gaza. If large sections of the population leave, it is likely that only the most militant would remain. If this happens it wouldn’t take much for Sharon or a successor to manufacture a pretext for reoccupation.

Some commentators are perplexed over the support that Sharon is now garnering from the Zionist "left" for his plan. This is because they fail to see that Zionism doesn’t really have a left. Traditionally, the Likud wanted Jewish rule over Palestine and the Palestinians if needs be. Ethnic cleansing was never an essential part of their policy. They were happy to go the "way of (apartheid) South Africa". This never suited the left. The call for "transfer" (the expulsion of all of the Arabs from all of Palestine) was always a Labourite demand. The strict segregation engendered by the barrier is also a Labourite idea. The fact is that Sharon has a Labour Zionist background and he has made no significant departures from that throughout his career.

So with massive military strength, a reduction in Palestinian attacks, a Palestinian leadership either dead or brought to its knees, the uncritical support of an American President (and Congress and any credible Presidential hopeful) and no viable alternative government of Israel, why is Sharon withdrawing from Gaza? When the disengagement plan was first discussed, Sharon’s extreme right critics argued that he was rewarding the Palestinians. His words in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel’s most popular daily newspaper) are informative. Of unilateral disengagement from Gaza he said that "this should be seen as a punishment and not a reward for the Palestinians".

For once, he might just have been telling the truth.

This article is a slight update of one first published in October 2004 by Ireland's Sunday Business Post.
posted by levi9909 at 1:27 PM
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posted by Dr. Menlo at 1:12 PM
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When Ronald and Jill Losoya sent their 11-year-old son to Michigan's Camp Michawana, they expected the boy's summer stay would be a "positive, Christian-based experience." In fact, the camp itself notes that "Christ is first" and that it operates as "an arm of the local church in which a Bible-centered programŠis used to develop camper spirituality." However, according to the below federal lawsuit, things didn't work out that way for young Ezekiel Losoya. Instead, the boy's parents allege in their August 8 complaint, he was subjected to an assortment of "inhumane, degrading, and criminal conduct" during a one-week stay in the summer of 2003. Among 19 separate indignities cited in the Losoyas's complaint, Ezekiel had to endure wedgies, was "kicked in the privates," had his camera smashed, got dunked headfirst in a toilet, and was tied to a tether ball pole. The lawsuit, which does not specify monetary damages beyond $75,000, contends that Ezekiel was tormented by fellow campers and Michawana counselors. As a result of the camp's negligence, the Losoyas charge, Ezekiel has suffered hurt feelings, mental anguish, and "disruption of his faith in Christ and loss of his camera."
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:32 AM
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A [Waverly, Ohio] 65-year-old wheelchair-bound woman with congestive heart failure was kicked out of her church because she was not paying her tithe, NBC 4 reported. Loretta Davis told NBC 4's Mike Bowersock she was shocked when she received a letter saying she was no longer considered a member of her church, The Living Word Tabernacle.

Davis made an agreement with the church that she would give 10 percent of her income. Then she became ill and stopped making payments, so the church revoked her membership.

"Since Jan. 5, I've been in the hospital 15 times," Davis said. "I've suffered with cellulites since I've had the open heart (surgery)."

Davis is no longer paying the church $60 per month from her $592 per month Social Security check, Bowersock reported.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:18 AM
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Wednesday, August 17, 2005. *

"Welcome to a world where statistical probability and normal arithmetic no longer apply!(36) The Democrats, rather than vigorously pursuing these patently obvious signs of election fraud in 2004, have nearly all decided that being gracious losers is better than being winners,(37) probably because – and this may be the most important reason for the Democrat’s relative silence - a full-scale uncovering of the fraud runs the risk of mobilizing and unleashing popular forces that the Democrats find just as threatening as the GOP does.

The delicious irony for the GOP is that the Help America Vote Act, precipitated by their theft of the Florida 2000 presidential vote, made GOP theft of elections as in the preceding examples easy and unverifiable except through recourse to indirect analysis such as pre-election polls and exit polls.(38) This is the political equivalent of having your cake and eating it too. Or, more precisely: stealing elections, running the country, and aggressively, arrogantly and falsely claiming that “the people” support it.

Flavor Flav of the rap group Public Enemy used to wear a big clock around his neck in order to remind us all that we’d better understand what time it is. Or, as Bob Dylan once said: “Let us not speak falsely now, the hour’s getting late.” To all of those who said before the 2004 elections that this was the most important election in our lifetimes; to all of those who plunged into that election hoping and believing that we could throw the villains out via the electoral booth; to all of those who held their noses and voted for Democrats thinking that at least they were slightly better than the theocratic fascists running this country now, this must be said: VOTING REALLY DOESN’T MATTER. If we weren’t convinced of that before these last elections, then now is the time to wake up to that fact. Even beyond the fraudulent elections of 2000 and 2004, public policies are not now, nor have they ever been, settled through elections. "

--From No Paper Trail Left Behind: The Theft of the 2004 Presidential Election,By Dennis Loo, Ph.D. Cal Poly Pomona

Item: A long time back I predicted this year's vote fraud story would make it to this year's list of Project Censored stories. And I was right. Check out this article. And here are the top ten things you need to believe in order to think that the 2004 election wasn't fraudulent. It's written by another one of those PH D wackos.

In order to believe that George Bush won the November 2, 2004 presidential election, you must also believe all of the following extremely improbable or outright impossible things.(1)

1) A big turnout and a highly energized and motivated electorate favored the GOP instead of the Democrats for the first time in history.(2)

2) Even though first-time voters, lapsed voters (those who didn’t vote in 2000), and undecideds went for John Kerry by big margins, and Bush lost people who voted for him in the cliffhanger 2000 election, Bush still received a 3.5 million vote surplus nationally.(3)

3) The fact that Bush far exceeded the 85% of registered Florida Republicans’ votes that he got in 2000, receiving in 2004 more than 100% of the registered Republican votes in 47 out of 67 Florida counties, 200% of registered Republicans in 15 counties, and over 300% of registered Republicans in 4 counties, merely shows Floridians’ enthusiasm for Bush. He managed to do this despite the fact that his share of the crossover votes by registered Democrats in Florida did not increase over 2000 and he lost ground among registered Independents, dropping 15 points.(4)

4) Florida’s reporting of more presidential votes (7.59 million) than actual number of people who voted (7.35 million), a surplus of 237,522 votes, does not indicate fraud.

5) The fact that Bush got more votes than registered voters, and the fact that by stark contrast participation rates in many Democratic strongholds in Ohio and Florida fell to as low as 8%, do not indicate a rigged election.(5)

6) Bush won re-election despite approval ratings below 50% - the first time in history this has happened. Truman has been cited as having also done this, but Truman’s polling numbers were trailing so much behind his challenger, Thomas Dewey, pollsters stopped surveying two months before the 1948 elections, thus missing the late surge of support for Truman. Unlike Truman, Bush’s support was clearly eroding on the eve of the election.(6)

7) Harris' last-minute polling indicating a Kerry victory was wrong (even though Harris was exactly on the mark in their 2000 election final poll).(7)

8) The “challenger rule” - an incumbent’s final results won’t be better than his final polling - was wrong;(8)

9) On election day the early-day voters picked up by early exit polls (showing Kerry with a wide lead) were heavily Democratic instead of the traditional pattern of early voters being mainly Republican.

10) The fact that Bush “won” Ohio by 51-48%, but this was not matched by the court-supervised hand count of the 147,400 absentee and provisional ballots in which Kerry received 54.46% of the vote doesn’t cast any suspicion upon the official tally.(9)

posted by Philip Shropshire at 8:42 PM
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A prominent group of Iraqi women who backed the US-British invasion recently met the American ambassador in an effort to pressure the politicians drawing up Iraq's constitution not to limit women's rights. Western feminist groups and some Iraqi women activists fear that Islamic law, if enshrined as a main source of legislation, will be used to restrict their rights, particularly in relation to marriage, divorce and inheritance. The US claims to share this concern. Iraqi women generally do not.

To understand why, perhaps we need to remember that this constitution is being written in a war zone, in a country on the verge of a civil war. This process is designed not to represent the Iraqi people's need for a constitution but to comply with an imposed timetable aimed at legitimising the occupation. The drafting process has increasingly proved a dividing, rather than a unifying, process. Under Saddam Hussein, we had a constitution described as "progressive and secular". It did not stop him violating human rights, women's included. The same is happening now. The militias of the parties heading the interim government are involved in daily violations of Iraqis' human rights, women's in particular, with the US-led occupation's blessing. Will the new constitution put an end to this violence?

Most Iraqi women try to cope sensitively with the predicament of dealing with the occupation and the rise of reactionary practices affecting their rights and way of life. This applies across the political and class spectrum, to the secular left as much as to moderate Islamists and nationalists. Most also feel that the constitution is not their priority, and that those writing such a crucial document should be able to think clearly, to think of tomorrow. To do that one must be free of today's fears and able to enjoy basic human rights, such as walking safely in the streets. Iraqi women cannot.
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:47 AM
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Tuesday, August 16, 2005. *
I almost bought it today, but got distracted talking to a friend at the bookstore until they closed. Anyway, below are a few links I thought somebunal might be interested in.

"Not one of you reflects, that you ought
know your Gods before you worship them."

An Apology For Atheism:
Addressed To Religious Investigators Of Every Denomination By One Of Its Apostles.
Charles Southwell, 1846
project gutenberg

It would be absurd to doubt that religion has an important bearing on all the relations and conditions of life. The connexion between religions faith and political practice is, in truth, far closer than is generally thought. Public opinion has not ripened into a knowledge that religious error is the intangible but real substratum of all political injustice. Though the 'schoolmaster' has done much, there still remain and hold some away among us, many honest and energetic assertors of 'the rights of man,' who have to learn that a people in the fetters of superstition, can never achieve political freedom. Many of these reformers admit the vast, the incalculable influence of Mahommedanism on the politics of Constantinople, and yet persist in acting as if Christianity had little or nothing to do with the politics of England.... (more)


President Bush used to be content to revel in his own ignorance. Now he wants to share it with America's schoolchildren.
- Jacob Weisberg, Evolution vs. Religion


Seventh Day Agnostics Arise:

You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Stereotype
Sam Smith
Progressive Review

So completely is this belief system excluded from our national consciousness that we do not even have a name for it. So let's give it one, at least for this article: shafarism - standing for secularism, humanism, atheism, free thought, agnosticism, and rationalism.

Shafars are 850 million people around the globe and at least 20 million at home who are ignored, insulted, or commonly considered less worthy than those who adhere to faiths based on mythology and folklore rather than on logic, empiricism, verifiable history, and science.

This might be considered just another of the world's many injustices were it not for the fact that the globe is currently exceptionally endangered by a madness driven by false prophets of major traditional mythologies such as bin Laden, Bush and Sharon. Seldom has organized religion been so ubiquitously harmful. Even in our own country the dismantling of our republic and its constitution is being led by a extremist Christian cabal that not only is a political travesty but a mockery of its own professed faith.

In short, this is not a wise time for those of alternative beliefs to be banned from the airwaves and the public prints, especially since they have contributed so little to the current troubles.... (more)

posted by Uncle $cam at 11:26 PM
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Who Moved My Ability to Reason?


Avoid Victimism and Anyone Who Indulges in It. People who fail at being positive -- and dwell morbidly on their last demotion or downsizing, for example -- easily fall into what ''The 8th Habit'' diagnoses as ''the mind-set of victimism and culture of blame.'' Avoid them, even though ''it's very easy to hang out and share suffering with people who are committed to lose.'' Poor people, we discover in ''Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,'' are that way because they ''choose to play the role of the victim.'' Avoid them too.

Masters of the Universe
. Being positive and upbeat not only improves your health and popularity, it actually changes the world. Yes, your thoughts can alter the physical universe, which, according to ''Secrets of the Millionaire Mind,'' ''is akin to a big mail-order department,'' in which you '' 'order' what you get by sending energetic messages out to the universe.'' The author ascribes this wisdom to the ''Law of Attraction,'' which was explained scientifically in the 2001 book ''The Ultimate Secret to Getting Absolutely Everything You Want.'' Thoughts exert a gravitational-type force on the world, so that ''whenever you think something, the thought immediately attracts its physical equivalent.'' If you think money -- in a totally urgent, focused and positive way, of course -- it will come flying into your pockets.

Ehrenreich is appropriately scathing in her recounting of these sorry additions to the cretinization crusade.
posted by Deleted at 10:05 PM
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Expropriators Demand Back Rent
In June 2004, NLDC sent the seven affected residents a letter indicating that after the completion of the case, the city would expect to receive retroactive "use and occupancy" payments (also known as "rent") from the residents.

In the letter, lawyers argued that because the takeover took place in 2000, the residents had been living on city property for nearly five years, and would therefore owe rent for the duration of their stay at the close of the trial. Any money made from tenantssome residents' only form of incomewould also have to be paid to the city.

With language seemingly lifted straight from The Goonies , NLDC's lawyers wrote, "We know your clients did not expect to live in city-owned property for free, or rent out that property and pocket the profits, if they ultimately lost the case." They warned that "this problem will only get worse with the passage of time," and that the city was prepared to sue for the money if need be.

A lawyer for the residents, Scott Bullock, responded to the letter on July 8, 2004, asserting that the NLDC had agreed to forgo rents as part of a pretrial agreement in which the residents in turn agreed to a hastened trial schedule. Bullock called the NLDC's effort at obtaining back rent "a new low."

"It seems like it is simply a desperate attempt by a nearly broke organization to try to come up with more funds to perpetuate its own existence," Bullock wrote. He vowed to respond to any lawsuit with another.

With the case nearly closed, the NLDC may soon make good on its promise to sue. Jeremy Paul, an associate UConn law dean who teaches property law, says it's not clear who might prevail in a legal battle over rent. "From a political standpoint, the city might be better off trying to reach some settlement with the homeowners," he says.

An NLDC estimate assessed Dery for $6,100 per month since the takeover, a debt of more than $300K. One of his neighbors, case namesake Susette Kelo, who owns a single-family house with her husband, learned she would owe in the ballpark of 57 grand. "I'd leave here broke," says Kelo. "I wouldn't have a home or any money to get one. I could probably get a large-size refrigerator box and live under the bridge."

Via Hit and Run

I wonder how the people who supported the decision, or in this case equivocated, feel about it now. If the NLDC screws this up, as they're almost certain to do, the people will have lost their homes, still have to fight off the rent demands and the neighborhood will worse off than ever before.
posted by Deleted at 3:56 PM
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If Senator Bill Frist and the [Department of Defense] are defending "values" and "character" by supporting unconstitutional government sponsorship and funding of theist-only Boy Scout programs, by misrepresenting the nature and extent of that support, and by trying to overrule a federal court's constitutional interpretation because they disagree with the court's resulting ruling - all with the backing of the Senate and the Department of Justice - then can it even be said that our country knows what values and character are?
posted by Trevor Blake at 1:49 PM
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posted by Bill at 10:53 AM
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WASHINGTON - The Washington Post is withdrawing its offer of free advertising for an organized event by the Defense Department to memorialize the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the newspaper announced.

The Post backed out of the agreement after critics said the event, scheduled to take place four years after the attacks that hit New York and Washington and resulted in the crash of a commercial airliner over western Pennsylvania, would have a pro-war slant and that support of the event by the newspaper would compromise the Post's journalistic integrity.

I won't say the U.S. set it up, but here is more evidence that 9/11 serves as the Reichstag Fire for our Eternal War against Terrorism. But this is copy from the DoD's 'Freedom Walk' website:

The America Supports You FREEDOM WALK is an event on September 11 that allows citizens the opportunity to remember the victims of September 11, honor our American servicemen and women past and present, and commemorate our freedom.

The America Supports You FREEDOM WALK is a walk of remembrance and support. Remembrance of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and the Twin Towers, and support of the many American men and women in uniform past and present who protect the freedom the walk is commemorating.

If I'd had a loved one who died on 9/11, I would be even more livid than I am right now. The event is well on it's way to being made Holy anyway: "It's a sacred piece of steel. It's something that doesn't deserve to be in a scrap yard somewhere.", but fuck, we need to remember it's all Propaganda made to feed the Machine.
posted by platts42 at 10:34 AM
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Near the end of his life, Isaiah Berlin wrote these words to a correspondent who had asked the great imponderable:

"As for the meaning of life, I do not believe that it has any. I do not at all ask what it is, but I suspect that it has none and this is a source of great comfort to me. We make of it what we can and that is all there is about it. Those who seek for some cosmic all-embracing libretto or God are, believe me, pathetically mistaken."

It's time that we acknowledged honestly what most people believe, that religion is at bottom nonsense. I do not deny the good work of religious people, nor the cultural effects of religion, nor its deep penetration into our consciousness, but what I think we should acknowledge is that religion contains a massive falsehood, namely that there is a God who determines our actions and responds to our plight. As AJ Ayer said, if God has constituted the world in such a way that he cannot resolve the phenomenon of evil, logically it makes no difference whether we are believers or unbelievers. The hypocritical respect now being accorded to Muslim "scholars", people who believe that the Qur'an was dictated word for word by God, is just one example of the mess we have got ourselves into by pretending to take religion seriously. Disagreements about society can only be resolved in the here and now on liberal principles of discussion and compromise. You cannot have a sensible discussion with fundamentalists, be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim, because they start from a different point.
posted by Trevor Blake at 9:01 AM
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