Sunday, February 11, 2007

Jesus hates horses

According to the final installment of the "Left Behind" franchise Glorious Appearing:
Men and women soldiers and horses seemed to explode where they stood...It was as if the very words of the Lord had superheated their blood, causing it to burst through their veins and skin...Even as they struggled, their own flesh dissolved, their eyes melted and their tongues disintegrated.
via Bartholomew's Notes on Religion.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Beware the scientists

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Jeane, Jeane the death squad queen

Some classic scenes from the romance that was ... Jeane Kirkpatrick.

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Slow Learner

Reality finally dawns even on the short bus.

Friday, December 08, 2006
GOP senator criticizes Iraq war in emotional speech

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday night, Sen Gordon Smith, a moderate Republican from Oregon who has been a supporter of the war in Iraq, said the U.S. military's "tactics have failed" and he "cannot support that anymore."

Smith said he is at, "the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up the same bombs, day after day.

"That is absurd," he said. "It may even be criminal."

Smith said he has tried to quietly support President Bush during the course of the war -- and doesn't believe the president intentionally lied to get the U.S. into the war -- but now recognizes, "we have paid a price in blood and treasure that is beyond calculation" for a war waged due to bad intelligence.

Moved this week by the findings of the Iraq Study Group, Smith said he needed to "speak from my heart.

"I, for one, am tired of paying the price of 10 or more of our troops dying a day. So let's cut and run or cut and walk, but let us fight the way on terror more intelligently that we have because we have fought this war in a very lamentable way," he said.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Zombie chickens

'Zombie chickens' hatch debate over older chickens' fate

PETALUMA (AP) - In this rich agricultural region of Northern California, ranchers have been turning chickens too old to lay eggs into compost at a rate of a half-million hens a year.

But some chickens not properly euthanized have been seen crawling out of the compost piles, earning them the name "zombie chickens'' -- and hatching a debate over what else might be done with them and other "spent hens.''

A food bank proposed making sausage to feed the poor. A reptile enthusiast suggested using them as food for large exotic pets like pythons and alligators. And an industry group said in the future they could be used as fuel for power plants.

But for now, according to egg farmers in Sonoma County, composting is the only affordable option. The last California rendering plant stopped taking the hens in May.

"If there was something that could be done, it would be done,'' said Petaluma egg farmer Arnie Reibli.

The egg-laying birds have only a pound of usable meat, compared to the 5-pound chickens typically raised for eating. Slaughtering the chickens, even to transport them unprocessed and frozen whole, would likely cost more than composting them, Reibli said.

"Unfortunately, it's less expensive to go out and buy the birds than process them,'' said David Goodman, executive director of the Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa, which had considered the sausage-making plan.

To kill the chickens, farmers suffocate them in sealed boxes filled with carbon dioxide, a practice that has drawn the ire of animal rights groups. Afterward, the hens are layered in mounds of sawdust.

A new European technology that turns dead cows into fuel to generate electricity -- and that could be the fate of spent hens someday, said Rich Matteis, head of the Pacific Egg and Poultry Association.

But "that's not something that's going to be available anytime soon,'' he said.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bush's man in Iraq

Bush's man in Iraq

'HE'S THE right guy for Iraq," President Bush said of Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after two hours of discussion with the Iraqi leader yesterday in Amman, Jordan. Notwithstanding this endorsement, the true import of the Amman encounter will become clear only in policies decided in Washington and unfolding facts on the ground in Iraq. And if Iraq's dire situation is not to be made even worse, a realistic acceptance of those facts will have to inform US policy decisions.

Events surrounding Bush's meeting with Maliki hardly inspire confidence that the president is ready to face nasty realities in Iraq. A leaked memo to Bush from National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley said, "Maliki is either ignorant of what is going on, misrepresenting his intentions, or . . . his capabilities are not yet sufficient to turn his good intentions into action."

Behind this questioning of Maliki's performance is an obtuse assumption that he should be willing or able to move decisively against the anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. Maliki was able to become prime minister only as a result of his political alliance with Sadr. If Sadr's followers in Parliament were to desert Maliki, his government would fall or he would have to form a coalition with the main Shi'ite rival to his own Dawa party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq . Dawa, the Supreme Council, and the Sadrists are all anti secular and supported by the theocratic regime in Iran.

This reality of Iraqi politics is crucial. Much as Bush has trumpeted his goal of democratizing Iraq and the rest of the region, his problem with Maliki is rooted in Iraqi power relations that were produced by parliamentary elections and the political horse-trading needed to form a coalition government.

Hadley's memo bemoans Maliki's failure to provide basic services to Sunni areas of Iraq and his intervention to "stop military action against Shi'a targets and to encourage them against Sunni ones." Hadley also castigates Maliki for fostering Shi'a dominance in the ministries. But the memo's most unrealistic demand is that Maliki dissolve his alliance with Sadr and "bring to justice any" Mahdi army "actors that do not eschew violence."

Only by refusing to face reality could Bush believe that in the midst of Iraq's vicious sectarian vendetta he could convince Maliki to abandon Sadr and build "an alternative political base" for "a nonsectarian national movement," as Hadley's memo proposes. There are no serious possibilities at present for a non-sectarian government in Iraq.

Iraqis need security above all. They may need cooperation from neighbors and some continued training and military support from the United States, but ultimately, they will have to end their sectarian warfare their own way. Americans must now decide how slowly or quickly to reduce the role of foreign forces in that conflict.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Kissing Bush's Ring

“We in the Middle East have followed the American policy in Iraq for a long time, and we are very much impressed and encouraged by the stability which the great operation of America in Iraq brought to the Middle East.”
--Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert 11/13/06

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quote of the day

Theme: Imagery

"The lean, ascetic, ideological purity of the Gingrich Republicans of 1994 had yielded to the corrupt, feather-your-own-nest psychology of the current Republican congressional leadership." Dick Morris "Off With Their Heads."

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Fair and balanced, now with an exclamation point

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quote of the day

Theme: Imagery
“I’m a mild-mannered guy,” Michael Mattison, a partner in a software venture development firm, said as he stabbed a piece of halibut in the sunlit dining room of a local bistro. “But we can no longer be subdued.”

It's not all about us

Danny Schechter provides a incisive commentary on the shallow nature of much of the anti-war sentiment in this country.


OK, class. No talking. Pencils up. All eyes on the exam. Here's the first multiple-choice question.

The Iraq War is Bad Because:

a. It is illegal, immoral, and criminal
b. It has ended up killing and maiming millions of Iraqis we promised to free
c. It has devastated a country and ignited world opinion against the United States and caused thousands of US casualties
d. It has debased our media and turned much of it into a propaganda organ
e. It was badly managed and poorly executed

If you survey world opinion, there would be a consensus on selecting A-D as a response. If you polled most Democratic politicians and mainstream journalists, you would find overwhelming support only for E "the we screwed it up" thesis as the correct answer.

What was once hailed as a heroic mission is now being dismissed as a fiasco, error and "mistake," and to some former war boosters, even a "noble mistake."

In fact, that's the view that seems to be framing what debate there has been on the war. It is still AAU All About Us. In this view, all that matters is our policy objectives but rarely our economic or geo-political agenda. Iraq as a nation, as a culture, and a people barely exists.

Read the whole thing.

And in much the same vein, Brian Leiter has the final word on the unprincipled but rather pompously titled "manifesto" We Answer to the Name of Liberals being circulated by Bruce Ackerman and the reliably insipid Todd Gitlin.

Why I Am Not a Liberal... (Leiter) least if this embarrassing moral waffling counts as liberalism. I am sorry that people I rather like, and some of whom I know would have written a far better statement, signed on to this feeble statement of "principles" [sic] by Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin. How they got past the first substantive paragraph, I really do not know:

We have all opposed the Iraq war as illegal, unwise, and destructive of America's moral standing. This war fueled, and continues to fuel, jihadis whose commitment to horrific, unjustifiable violence was amply demonstrated by the September 11 attacks as well as the massacres in Spain, Indonesia, Tunisia, Great Britain, and elsewhere. Rather than making us safer, the Iraq war has endangered the common security of Americans and our allies.

So this is liberalism: to oppose criminal wars of aggression against defenseless nations when they aren't in America's interests?

That's a principle?

How else, after all, to interpret Ackerman's and Gitlin's opposition to the war on the grounds that it is "unwise" and "destructive of America's moral standing" as anything other than saying it isn't in America's interests? (And must liberals really be committed to silliness about America having "moral standing"? Can't liberals be realistic enough to observe that America has pursued the strategic interests of ruling elites like every other nation in human history, with the more-or-less predictable consequences for peoples and countries that fell afoul of those interests?).
Read the whole thing.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Pynchon Watch

A new Pynchon novel out Nov. 21st.

Snoopy Guernica

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Snoopy Guernica by Ron English on display at the Pop Art Gallery.

The Simpsons upcoming Halloween episode parodying the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, titled The Day the Earth was Stupid (slated to air Nov. 5, two days before the election) reminded me of the cartoon characters' earlier statement about war.

The future ain't what it used to be

Things Magazine has a great post on NASA-commissioned space colony art from the 70s. They comment:
I suppose at some point in the last 30 years these might have seemed remotely feasible, but today the emotions they stir are not of tomorrow's new frontiers, but of past engineering glories, nostalgia for unfettered enthusiasm and self-belief.
Jon Langford's Sputnik 57 explores a similar theme. If you haven't listened to it yet, you should.

On a related topic, the Republicans are apparently terribly disappointed that science fiction is no longer what they thought it was.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Frequent use of signing statements

Bush signings called effort to expand power

Report sees broad strategy

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's frequent use of signing statements to assert that he has the power to disobey newly enacted laws is ``an integral part" of his ``comprehensive strategy to strengthen and expand executive power" at the expense of the legislative branch, according to a report by the non partisan Congressional Research Service.

In a 27-page report written for lawmakers, the research service said the Bush administration is using signing statements as a means to slowly condition Congress into accepting the White House's broad conception of presidential power, which includes a presidential right to ignore laws he believes are unconstitutional.

The ``broad and persistent nature of the claims of executive authority forwarded by President Bush appear designed to inure Congress, as well as others, to the belief that the president in fact possesses expansive and exclusive powers upon which the other branches may not intrude," the report said.

Under most interpretations of the Constitution, the report said, some of the legal assertions in Bush's signing statements are dubious. For example, it said, the administration has suggested repeatedly that the president has exclusive authority over foreign affairs and has an absolute right to withhold information from Congress. Such assertions are ``generally unsupported by established legal principles," the report said.

Despite such criticism, the administration has continued to issue signing statements for new laws. Last week, for example, Bush signed the 2007 military budget bill, but then issued a statement challenging 16 of its provisions.

The bill bars the Pentagon from using any intelligence that was collected illegally, including information about Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable government surveillance.

In Bush's signing statement, he suggested that he alone could decide whether the Pentagon could use such information. His signing statement instructed the military to view the law in light of ``the president's constitutional authority as commander in chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch."

Bush also challenged three sections that require the Pentagon to notify Congress before diverting funds to new purposes, including top-secret activities or programs. Congress had already decided against funding. Bush said he was not bound to obey such statutes if he decided, as commander in chief, that withholding such information from Congress was necessary to protect security secrets.

Like all Congressional Research Service reports, the report, dated Sept. 20 and titled ``Presidential Signing Statements: Constitutional and Institutional Implications," was written for members of Congress and was not made available to the public. The Federation of American Scientists has posted a copy on its website.

The report marked the latest installment in a recent debate over the Bush administration's use of signing statements.

A signing statement is issued by the president as he signs a bill into law. It describes his interpretation of the bill, and it sometimes declares that one or more of the laws created by the bill are unconstitutional and thus need not be enforced or obeyed as written.

Signing statements date to the 19th century but were rare until the 1980s. The Bush-Cheney administration has taken the practice to unprecedented levels.

Bush has used signing statements to challenge more than 800 laws that place limits or requirements on the executive branch, saying they intrude on his constitutional powers. By contrast, all previous presidents challenged a combined total of about 600 laws.

This year, The Boston Globe published a detailed accounting of the laws Bush has claimed he has the power to disobey, including a torture ban and oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act. The report prompted widespread concerns, but critics have not been able to agree on precisely the nature of the problem.

For example, the American Bar Association concluded that the issue was the mechanism itself.

The American Bar Association called signing statements ``contrary to the rule of law and our constitutional separation of powers." It said presidents cannot sign bills and then declare parts of them unconstitutional because a president has only two choices -- to sign a bill and enforce it as written, or to veto it and give Congress a chance to override the veto.

This year Arlen Specter , a Pennsylvania Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, held a hearing on signing statements during which he accused the administration of unconstitutionally trying to ``cherry-pick" bills, keeping only the parts it likes.

At that hearing in June, Michelle Boardman , an administration lawyer, defended the legality of signing statements. She said statements are necessary because Congress often bundles many different laws into a single bill, making it impractical to veto the entire package because some parts are flawed.

``Signing statements serve a legitimate and important function, and are not an abuse of power," Boardman testified.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Is the U.S. still a democracy?


On the fifth anniversary of 9/11

torture, torture, incompetence, greed, more torture, toxic, boo!, corruption, more torture, warmongering, mass death, boom, boo!, posturing, arrogance, boom, boom, boom, more torture, boo! etc. ad infinitum.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Anatomy of a bogus headline

The original CBS headline posted on Saturday reads:

Sen. Rockefeller: Iraq Would Be Better With Saddam...

But that's not what Rockefeller says, and they've since changed it....

Nonetheless, as of 11:54 am Sunday, a Google search still finds

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and Drudge continues to carry the original bogus headline

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And Drudge doesn't give up. By 1:00 am Monday, the same bogus headline has moved to an even more prominent position front and center on his site.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Evolution--it's not for everyone

New Ron English Billboard Subversion
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The Guardian had a good article about his artwork last month.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Everything old is new again

via Pharyngula.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Vintage 2006

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Submitted to by Gary Indiana.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Liquid fish--a tale of revenge

A friend of my wrote up this account of her amusing encounter with an annoying church across the street.

Liquid Fish

In the late 80’s as a student I lived in South Austin just south of the river near the Continental Club and the Opry House when it was still a cheap place to live. Our house was across the street from the back of the South Congress Avenue Baptist Church, which was probably the second most evil church in Austin at the time. They were certainly the worst neighbors I’ve ever dealt with.

Churchgoers’ ugly 80’s sedans with Jesus fish plastered on the backs blocked driveways throughout the neighborhood when the vast expanse of asphalt that faced our house across the street filled up Sunday mornings. They regularly held rummage sales that started long before we wanted to be up, and my roommate was once threatened with a running circular saw by a parishioner for complaining that he was doing church repairs too early in the morning at 6 a.m. They had a basketball hoop that was used pretty much 24/7 that was positioned such that our bedroom window faced it. There is nothing quite like the “boink boink” of a basketball being dribbled when you’re trying to sleep in on a Saturday morning—like an annoyingly persistent drip of water except worse, because you lie there picturing the player dead from some kind of awful sporting accident involving an impalement that tragically never arrives.

"I specifically remember hearing a fishy version
of Kiss’ Lick It Up done as Lift Him Up."

They held Christian “rock concerts” on the asphalt some summer evenings with the giant speakers facing our house and the chairs set up all the way to the front of the stage since there was no dancing, you know--these were Southern Baptists. I specifically remember hearing a fishy version of Kiss’ Lick It Up done as Lift Him Up. The worst really was the free Vacation Bible School where every brat for miles around was dropped off to play loudly all day on the asphalt ocean in the Texas summer heat and learn about Jeebus.

We had a pretty longstanding and escalating war with them over the several years we lived there. We left fake love letters on the windshields of family men and ministers during Sunday services, and wrote “Jesus fucks dogs” on the dusty back window of the church’s 14-passenger van for the vacation bible school kids to discover…the youth minister didn’t just wipe that one off, he took the van for a carwash and probably prayed heartily for our souls. At one point during that summer that youth minister David Love (no, really, that was his name) came by to introduce himself in a futile attempt to make peace and get us to stop playing Too young to date or John Wayne was a Nazi or some other raunchy punk as loud as we could for the kiddos and “rock” concerts. He left in tears that day.

"David Love (no, really, that was his name) came by to
... get us to stop playing ... John Wayne was a Nazi
or some other raunchy punk..."

We were college students on a budget living in our own sprawling un-airconditioned hell, and would often buy big packages of fish or chicken because it was cheaper per serving that way. I’d separate the pieces of fish, or whatever, and freeze them in my mother’s old stained hand-me-down Tupperware containers with some kind of marinade to pull out and cook up when I had time or found the inspiration.

Now we weren’t really good housekeepers, and one day when mucking out that godawful kitchen because we were out of coffee cups or something, I came across a yellowed Tupperware container on the counter with an opaque yellow-white fluid in it. Now, if you’ve ever been a college student like I was a college student, you know better than to open such things after they’ve been sitting on the counter for days in the summer heat--and this was Texas, remember. A sudden distant memory was stirred…this was that fish I was going to cook the other day before I got so distracted by something else. A stomach-quivering “oh shit” flew through my mind. There appeared to be nothing solid left in the container at all. Oh please let the lid stay on tight.

Appalled by my discovery, I had to share with my housemate what I had unearthed in the kitchen. We sat in the living room sweating in the August heat and looking out the front windows, but too repulsed to return to the kitchen and actually face The Tupperware. The 120 degree asphalt hell across the street was empty that day…except for the church van. And golly, they seemed to have left the popout windows in the very rear of that church van open to vent the ghastly heat out, as if that actually helps in August when there are heat mirages on the blacktop 10 feet in front of you. Suddenly a horrendously wicked impulse overcame us.

"Suddenly a horrendously wicked impulse overcame us."

Retrieving the gruesome item from the kitchen counter, I crossed the street, popped the lid, and poured the vile viscous liquid through the back window of that van while breathing through my mouth (a skill learned in nursing school, BTW) and returned home cackling furiously. We watched as the regular folks and the Vacation Bible School kids showed up, hoping to see the reaction when someone opened the door of the van, but to our mixed disappointment and glee, the van sat and sat. For days in the 100+ degree heat, the van sat, and apparently no one needed it to pick up shut-ins for church or shuttle kiddos to gawd-know-where.

We were a bit disappointed but several days later, I biked home from summer school classes only to see David Love hosing down the inside of that van with all the upholstery disassembled in the parking lot. He glared at me and I smiled and waved, only to collapse in laughter inside. I’m still sorry I didn’t get to actually see his initial reaction, but my imagination provides me with plenty of visions of what it might have been. Wonder if that van was ever the same after that. Score another one for the obnoxious atheists across the street.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

W's 4 point plan for the Middle East

Terrible, shouldn't be allowed...

The Tiger Lillies "Terrible."

Sunday Bible Story

The Dr. Seuss Bible from Kids in the Hall.

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Neanderthal Genome Project

The Neanderthal Genome Project

A study with a lot of balls
Jul 27th 2006
From The Economist print edition

A brave attempt to sequence the Neanderthal genome

THE Human Genome Project is sooo yesterday. So what is a firm with a clever, new gene-sequencing technology to do in order to make a splash? Look yesterday squarely in the face, of course. And that is exactly what Jonathan Rothberg and Michael Egholm, of 454 Life Sciences, plan to do.

The particular yesterday they have in mind was about 40,000 years ago. It was the day when a man died in a cave in the Neander valley in what is now Germany. His skeleton is the type specimen of Homo neanderthalensis—Neanderthal man—and Dr Rothberg and Dr Egholm obtained permission to remove a few grams of the skeleton's right arm in order to extract the DNA therein. From it, they hope to work out a complete sequence of the chemical base pairs that constitute its genetic letters; in other words a Neanderthal genome.

Neanderthal man is a controversial creature. He inhabited Europe from 300,000 to 35,000 years ago, his disappearance coinciding with the arrival of Homo sapiens. Once, it was thought the one might be ancestral to the other. That is no longer believed. But the question of whether Neanderthals were deliberately exterminated by their more modern rivals, or merely outcompeted, is unresolved, as is that of whether the two species ever interbred. The Neanderthal Genome Project that Dr Rothberg and Dr Egholm have embarked on in collaboration with Svante Paabo, of the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, may answer the second of those questions. It may also, by providing a genome that can be compared with both modern humans and chimpanzees, shed light on what it means, genetically, to be human.

The gene-sequencing technology used by 454 relies on specially designed chips with 1m or more tiny wells in them. The DNA to be analysed is broken up into fragments about 100 base pairs long (one of the advantages, from 454's point of view, is that time has already performed the task of breaking the DNA up into fragments of the right length). It is then shaken up in a mixture of water, a special silicone-based oil, a large quantity of tiny plastic balls, and the reagents of the polymerase chain reaction (a way of duplicating DNA to make small samples bigger).

The aim is to get the smallest sample possible—a single type of DNA molecule—into each well on the chip. That is done by shaking the mixture to create an emulsion of tiny, watery droplets in the oil. Get the conditions right, and many of the droplets will have a single DNA molecule in them, while most of the rest have none. The droplets will also contain the PCR reagents, which are soluble in water but not oil, and the plastic balls.

The next stage is to let the polymerase chain reaction do its work of multiplying the DNA strands in the droplets. The nature of the plastic means that the strands tend to stick to it, and the upshot is hundreds of thousands of balls each covered with a single sort of DNA. These can, with a little persuasion, be encouraged to drop into the wells on the chip. The DNA molecules on the balls can then be analysed by a technique that uses fluorescence to read the sequences of the bases of which they are composed.

Once the sequences of the DNA fragments have been obtained, the overlaps between them can be used to stitch them together into a complete message, as has been done for many other species. Those species, though, have still been alive. This will be the first time the genome of an extinct animal has been read.

Most of the Neanderthal genome is expected to resemble that of modern humans and (slightly less closely) modern chimpanzees, which are Neanderthals' two closest living relatives. The places of particular interest are those that the genome shares with neither species. Not only will these define what is uniquely Neanderthal, but they will also help to define what is unique to Homo sapiens, by showing which of its differences from chimpanzees are the result of common hominid heritage, and which the result of species-specific evolution.

Drs Rothberg, Egholm and Paabo hope to have their answer within two years. For Dr Paabo, the genome itself is the thing. It will be the culmination of a decade and a half of studying ancient DNA (and, along the way, providing the inspiration for “Jurassic Park”). Dr Rothberg and Dr Egholm, meanwhile, hope that this demonstration of their technology's power will lead to medical applications.

They aim to be able to sequence a human genome from scratch for $500,000. That is a lot of money, but peanuts compared with the billions spent on the Human Genome Project itself. And it is a small enough sum for it to be worthwhile looking at the entire genomes of people with diseases that have complex genetic causes, in order to see how they differ from healthy individuals.

Of course, technology gets cheaper all the time. One day, the firm hopes, its chip-and-ball technology will be cheap enough for clinical use. But if its collaboration with Dr Paabo bears fruit, it will surely be the cave-man connection that keeps it in the public eye.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Keeping up with the war

Some good recent stuff:

Stephen Frug does a good round up of response to Dershowitz & company who want to introduce gradations of humanity to justify war crimes.

The Angry Arab has a nice biting response to NYT pontificator Nicholas Kristof: "I have always believed that people who can finish a whole column by Kristof should receive a blender as a gift ... I really believe that American liberals are the true inheritors white supremacist colonialism."

In a lethal non sequiter, Paul Woodward of War in Context argues that the meme "Israel has the right to defend itself" is really a kind of Trojan horse; a truth that deftly transports a lie. The lie is that by killing hundreds of Lebanese civilians and destroying the country's infrastructure, Israel is engaged in nothing more than an act of self-defense.

Birthday Parties & the Ground War: Lebanon might be small but in two weeks, the Israelis have only -- at best, and by their accounts-- managed to take control of a border village or two. If they want to invade further into the country, with tanks and the whole shebang, they're going to be sorry for having taken out all the roads and bridges. Which reminds me of the clever fellows who set fire to the Danish Embassy in Beirut last February-- from the bottom up-- and then had to jump to their deaths from the fourth floor.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Idle bloodlust

I have never liked Bill Maher. The fact that he passes for a representative of the left in the U.S. is in itself an indictment of the shallowness of our political culture--of our culture. After this puff piece on the Huffington Post though, I refuse to believe that anyone serious can take him seriously.
I Love Being on the Side of My President
[Obligatory sexual innuendo deleted] ... I love it that a U.S. president doesn't pretend Arab-Israeli conflict is an even-steven proposition. Lots of ethnic peoples, probably most, have at one time or another lost some territory; nobody's ever completely happy with their borders; people move and get moved, which is why the 20th century saw the movement of tens if not hundreds of millions of refugees in countries around the world. There was no entity of Arabs called "Palestine" before Israel made the desert bloom. If those 600,000 original Palestinian refugees had been handled with maturity by their Arab brethren, who had nothing but space to put them, they could have moved on -- the way Germans, Czechs, Poles, Chinese and everybody else has, including, of course, the Jews.
Where to begin? With the overt racism? With the casual dismissal of the the blood being spilt? With the failure to even pretend to confront the specifics of the situation? With the depth of ignorance? With the trivializing of massacre? No Lebanon...just Arabs? No Palestine...just Palestinians. The same argument was used to justify the genocide against Native Americans. With the mindless repetition of propaganda? With the confusion of is and ought? Surely he can't be arguing that the deportation of the Jews is a good precedent. But that's what he says.

How about with the advocacy of a war crime? "Deportation or forcible transfer of population" is a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Article 7 Sec. d.

He is in this sense "a good American" in good company with torture aficionado Alan Dershowitz, who in the LA Times this weekend argues that all civilians deaths may seem equal but some are more equal than others, dutifully echoing the earlier statement of official U.S. policy by U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and the celebration of the bombing as the "birth pangs" of a new Middle East by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a celebration for which Billmon has found the perfect illustration.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Dance like a monkey

The New York Dolls come back from the grave to teach creationists how to "dance like a monkey."