Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Join th' swashbuckle again' terror


Abroad, our Nation be committed t' an historic, long-term goal. We seek th' end o' tyranny in our world. Some dismiss that goal as misguided idealism. In reality, th' future security o' America depends on 't. On September 11th, 2001, we found that problems originatin' in a failed an' oppressive state se'en chestfull o' miles away could brin' murder an' destruction t' our country. Dictatorships shelter terrorists, feed resentment an' radicalism, an' seek weapons o' mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment wi' hope, respect th' starboards o' the'r citizens an' the'r neighbors, an' join th' swashbuckle again' terror. Ever' step toward freedom in th' world makes our country safer, an' so we will act boldly in freedom's cause...
The State of the Union (translated into the pirate tongue) via Tom Tomorrow. Really this is the only way to get through the damn speech. I wish he would actually talk like this too. It would at least add entertainment value to the ongoing horror. Arrgh.

The republican war on women

I am unabashedly pro-abortion. Not just pro-choice, pro-abortion.

Alito will be confirmed today with barely a fight. Only 25 senators voted to filibuster. Only 25. And many of them were half hearted about it. Off to the glue factory with the donkeys and be done with it. The democrats have become mere spectators and collaborators in the republican war on women.

Far too many on the so-called left have swallowed the propaganda of the right whole hog and are embarrassed to talk about abortion. Clinton, Bill this time, not Hillary bears much of the blame for this with his accursed triangulation. "Abortion should be legal but rare." Like there is something wrong with it.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing. The fetus is not a person. The confusion is rooted in an unstated acceptance of some version of the Vatican's assertion of instanteous ensoulment* upon conception. But there is no soul. Not for the fetus, and not for people either.

The soul is bit of superstitious baggage that we still carry over from the dark ages. What is real is personality, and personality is not simple, but complex. It is formed through experience. It evolves over time, and it can dissolve bit by bit. Anyone who has known a victim of alzheimer's or other forms of degenerative brain disease, has some direct experience of the complexity of personality. Some parts can survive others. It is not a unity and none of it survives death.

But unlike an alzheimer's victim, the fetus does not even have the biological equipment or experience to have a personality. Hence it is not a person in any morally relevant way. In no way is the fetus' life equivalent to that of the mother.

There are good reasons to prefer effective birth control to abortion. But these reasons all have to do with the health of the woman, not the non-existent soul of the fetus. The fetus has no right to be born. The right to an abortion is part of the fundamental right to autonomy for women. To subordinate this to the fetus is to detract from the woman's humanity.

And this after all is the real goal of the right wing fetishization of the fetus. A return to partiarchy. They are not even hiding it much any more. First abortion, then contraception, and even the acknowledgement of sexual harassment.

The assault on feminism, which is ultimately simply the demand that women be recognized as people, with their own autonomous lives and a full share of human rights, has been so successful that even a majority of women today are embarrassed to identify themselves as feminists. The only thing to be embarrassed about--and this goes for men every bit as much as for women--is not being a feminist.
________

*Incidentally, this doctrine can be traced back to the moral insight of the theologian Tertullian (c. 155-230). His reliability as a moral compass might be judged from this quote:
However there are other spectacles that last eternal day of judgment, ignored by nations, derided by them, when the accumulation of the years and all the many things which they produced will be burned in a single fire. What a broad spectacle then appears! How I will be lost in admiration! How I will laugh! How I will rejoice! I 'll be full of exaltation then as I see so many great kings who by public report were accepted into heaven groaning in the deepest darkness with Jove himself and alongside those very men who testified on their behalf! They will include governors of provinces who persecuted the name of our lord burning in flames more fierce that those with which they proudly raged against the Christians! And those wise philosophers who earlier convinced their disciples that god was irrelevant and who claimed either that there is no such thing as a soul or that our souls would not return to their original bodies will be ashamed as they burn in the conflagration with those very disciples.
The full quote can be found here.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Why is an ear pet?

The New York Times reports that Japanese scientists have identified the earwax gene.

Earwax comes in two types, wet and dry. The wet form predominates in Africa and Europe, where 97 percent or more of the people have it, and the dry form among East Asians, while populations of Southern and Central Asia are roughly half and half. By comparing the DNA of Japanese with each type, the researchers were able to identify the gene that controls which type a person has, they report in the Monday issue of Nature Genetics.

More that I really wanted to know. The real question is why were they looking for it?

Perhaps it explains this curious product though. The ear pet doubles as a unique cell phone strap accessory and a handy tool.

What killed the dinosaurs?

So it wasn't an asteroid after all (via Ooblog).
click on image to enlarge

UPDATE 2/1: Check out Greetings from Idiot America, which starts with a tour of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where the dinosaurs wear saddles and ride the Ark. The proprieter vows to take the dinosaurs back from the evolutionists. The article finds in this museum all the basic ingredients of the ongoing collapse of reason in America.
...the rise of Idiot America today represents -- for profit mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power -- the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good.

***
In the place of expertise, we have elevated the Gut...

The Gut is the basis for the Great Premises of Idiot America. We hold these truths to be self-evident:

  1. Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
  2. Anything can be true if somebody says it on television.
  3. Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

Bush Crimes Commission Report


The International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity by the Bush Administration is set to issue its report on Feb. 2 at the National Press Club in Washington DC. mp3s of the testimony and speeches are already available on line.

Among those giving testimony are former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, who helped expose vicious human rights abuses by the US funded regime of Islam Karimov, Janis Karpinski, the former head of Abu Ghraib prison, and former UN Weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The eloquent opening speech by Harry Belafonte and some remarks by Howard Zinn are also worth a listen.

In related news, last month Mother Jones published an interview with Jeremy Brecher, Jill Cutler, and Brendan Smith, the authors of In the Name of Democracy: American War Crimes in Iraq and Beyond. The book
collects damning official documents, leaked e-mails, testimonies, commentaries, and investigative articles. Together, these items make a strong case that Bush administration actions overseas violate international norms and treaties, and that those responsible are subject to legal repercussions.
znet has an excerpt from the book and the authors maintain a website War Crimes Watch, which continues to document ongoing war crimes.

Virus!

Diamanda Galas, Patron Saint of the Accursed

I caught this nasty virus from multiple sources. If you are reading this, you might want to check with your doctor.

Seven things I say:
  1. What part of fuck off don't you understand [to proselytizers].
  2. God told me to.
  3. Baby, let's play god.
  4. That's a pretty nice trick for a fucker on a stick.
  5. By the 27 holy testicles of Jesus and his disciples [It's a miracle!].
  6. Sweet screaming Jesus.
  7. Feck, drrink, girrls.
Seven books I like:
  1. The Coven by E. Howard Hunt [a novel of intrigue and witchcraft by the Watergate conspirator]
  2. Will by G. Gordon Liddy [the finest work of self-parody I have ever read]
  3. The Hellfire Club by Daniel P. Mannix
  4. How to Survive an Atomic Bomb by Richard Gerstell, Ph.D.
  5. Across the Border by Gary Provost
  6. The Shit of God by Diamanda Galas
  7. The God Pestilence by Johann Most
Seven movies I enjoy
  1. God told me to [piety]
  2. A Bucket of Blood [art]
  3. It's Alive [family values]
  4. Parents [dinnertable manners]
  5. The Devils [confession]
  6. Angel Heart [taking responsibility]
  7. Rosemary's Baby [motherhood]
Seven things I enjoy about cities
  1. public transit
  2. bikes
  3. pubs
  4. bookstores
  5. libraries
  6. gang tags
  7. urban blight
Seven things I can not do
  1. Pass on this meme
  2. Make contact with holy water
  3. Respect a politician
  4. Wave a flag
  5. Watch sports
  6. Support our troops
  7. Think of something interesting for #7
Seven things I would like to do before I die
  1. Eradicate organized religion
  2. Do unspeakable things in church
  3. See President Sharkey fulfill some of his campaign promises
  4. Ban automobiles
  5. End capitalism
  6. Avoid torture and execution
  7. Various other terrible things

End of curse.

Friday, January 27, 2006

King Dubya is Watching

From the new issue of Black Commentator which has good articles up about the GOPs black voter repression strategy, resegregation of the school system (Kozol), some recent activities of the magnificent Harry Belafonte, and the problem with Hillary.

They give a good recent quote from Belafonte:
"The most important wreckage to look at is the wreckage of the Democratic party. We must look through the ravages of the Democratic party to see if there is anything worth salvaging."
I don't think so, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt to look.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Manufacturing Reality

We don't need no constitution
We don't need no civil rights
No liberal lawyers asking questions
Traitors leave them spies alone
Hey traitor leave them spies alone
All in all it's just another step toward the throne
--From Songs to our Glorious Leader 3rd ed.
The Bush Administration's recent dog and pony show Why we Spy! doesn't aim to convince anyone of the validity of any of their pretexts for expanding executive power. That is apparent from the laughable amateurishness of the presentations they have made so far. It doesn't matter if they are incoherent, or contradict themselves or if they authoritatively assert that the Constitution does not use words that it in fact plainly does. They don't care because the whole show is not about logic, or valid interpretations or even 3rd grade reading proficiency.

The aim rather is to create the illusion of controversy. It is a key technique in the propagation of really big lies. And this strategy has served them well in the past in denying global warming and in attempts to legitimize creationism. A strategy pioneered long long ago by the tobacco lobby to cloud recognition of the link between smoking and cancer, as Chris Mooney has shown.

And hey, the technique works. The newspapers, out of a misplaced sense of fairness, give equal time to both sides, even though one has no legitimate leg to stand on. And in the case of the president there is an automatic presumption of legitimacy to everything he says and does. He couldn't possibly just be pulling this shit out of his ass, so they normalize it. He has a good heart. Whatever he does it must be to protect our interests. Just another boring technical legal controversy. Give the president the benefit of the doubt. Again.

Patriotsploitation #1

A billboard directly across from Powell's in Portland

A fine piece of patriotsplotation that I was prompted to post based on this discussion over at The Defeatists!

The Soviets may have been right: what we mean by freedom in America is just free enterprise (or perhaps just free checking).

By their trail ye shall know them

Democrats on the floor of the US Senate (Reuters)

Now even the New York Times editorial board is calling them spineless as they cower before the very suggestion that they filibuster Scalito. See Senators in need of a spine. How embarassing!

WWJS

What would Jesus Sing? (WWJS)

The BBC is planning to celebrate Easter with what at least in the US would be considered a festival of blasphemy, and John over at Counago and Spaves is collecting suggestions for the as yet unannounced final song that Jesus will sing from the top of Manchester's town hall.

Go make some suggestions!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Perspective and Beauty


This work, The Ambassadors by Hans Holbein dates to 1533 but it has an amazingly modern and surreal edge to it. Click on the picture to enlarge.

Some historical perspective and a call to action by Gore Vidal

"We retain the rhetoric of liberal democracy, but freedom of choice really means Wendy's vs. Burger King."--Morris Berman

Gore Vidal has an excellent piece in the Nation, much of which is devoted to a review of Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire, by Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.
For what we are now seeing are the obvious characteristics of the West after the fall of Rome: the triumph of religion over reason; the atrophy of education and critical thinking; the integration of religion, the state, and the apparatus of torture--a troika that was for Voltaire the central horror of the pre-Enlightenment world...
Berman does not limit his critique to the Bush regime; he examines the decay in American culture which made it possible and which makes the prospects for cultural and political recovery doubtful. He finds far too much evidence of a willingness to be slaves on the part of far too many of our citizens. Vidal finds his own analogy here:
When the admirable Tiberius (he has had an undeserved bad press), upon becoming emperor, received a message from the Senate in which the conscript fathers assured him that whatever legislation he wanted would be automatically passed by them, he sent back word that this was outrageous. "Suppose the emperor is ill or mad or incompetent?" He returned their message. They sent it again. His response: "How eager you are to be slaves."
The number of ways in which we can really recover some measure of our democracy is vanishingly few and the possible paths to further tyranny are multiplying day by day. The Democrats have demonstrated again and again that they lack the will to even try to stand up to oppose the war or the accelerating concentration of power in an executive beyond the reach of law. Still, I am not ready to give up.

Vidal suggests, as a starting point, participation in a call to action by a group called the World Can't Wait which, among other things, is planning a nationwide demonstration next Tuesday during Bush's State of the Union address to symbolically drown out Bush's lies and for a moment make the breadth of opposition to his policies visible and audible.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

This is not what democracy looks like


In an interview with Salon, the French writer Bernard-Henri Levy, widely hailed as a new Tocqueville,* lends support to the bizarre myth that the neocons are democratic idealists.
I far prefer the neoconservatives, like Kristol, to someone like Pat Buchanan, who is fascist. I far prefer the neoconservative idea of spreading democracy all over the world, to Buchanan, who says that people in the rest of the world don't deserve democracy... [Why do I like them?] Because they are democrats. Because they believe in democracy. They believe in a naive way. They believe sometimes in an absurd way. But I much prefer a neoconservative who believes in democracy to an isolationist who believes in America only.
He is not alone. Serious critics of the Bush administration have occasionally pushed this line as well. In otherwise superb and critical articles, Seymour Hersh has several times remarked that he thought Bush was an idealistic, albeit delusional, champion of democracy.
I'm one of those people who believes that Bush really did go to war to free the Middle East and turn these nations into democracies. I don't think he went to war for oil primarily or Israel. He went because he has this idee fixe that it was his mission, his crusade to change the Middle East to turn it into a democratic stronghold of good, well-meaning people who would buy American and support Israel against the Palestinians and keep the oil flowing.

It's idealistic. It's utopian.

Is there anything more dangerous than an ideologue who doesn't know he's wrong?

I frankly find such generous interpretations utterly out of touch with reality. Bush is no Don Quixote, nor is any of his supporters.

Yes, of course they say that they are doing it for democracy, but then again democracy is the indispensable idiom of legitimation in the modern world, behind which may be concealed any and all agendas. Why take them at their word? Surely some evidence beyond mere rhetoric is required.

Writing back in 1978, British political philosopher John Dunn remarked

We are all democrats today. Mr Callaghan, and Madam Mao, Mr. Brezhnev and President Amin, Mr. Trudeau and even Mr Vorster...Democracy, then, may once have been the name of a particular form of regime...but now it is the name for the good intentions of states or perhaps for the good intentions which their rulers would like us to believe they possess.
So when we see the Bush regime embrace the vocabulary of democracy with a missionary fervor, it is only right to be a bit skeptical. And when the regime's most passionate advocates, neocons like Richard Perle or the loathsome Christopher Hitchens, champion its idealism and support of democracy, it is only right to ask--what do these words mean in their mouths?

After all this is a regime that openly advocates and practices torture, carries out extrajudicial rendition, maintains a global network of secret prisons, assassinates guilty and innocent alike, ignores domestic and international law, and holds virtually no one accountable for crimes committed in its name. This, plus a couple of demonstration elections. What the Bush regime is spreading across the globe is plain for all to see, and this is not what democracy looks like.

Still, the marriage of the language of democratic idealism to this most blatant practice of cruelty and domination should come as no surprise in a regime that openly confesses contempt for the reality based view of the world. But why on earth should anyone else take their flattering self-descriptions seriously?

Perhaps I am too cynical. Perhaps in their heart of hearts, Bush and his supporters sincerely believe that they are doing it all for democracy. And if a rapist professes to be motivated by love, is there any less reason to take him seriously?
_____

* There is a positive review of Levy's book here and in the Salon interview cited above. Marianne Wiggins, novelist and Salman Rushdie's ex, gives it a rather harsh review here. For some discussion see Pime Forest Collective.
_____

Update: Needlenose has a useful timeline on the rhetoric and reality of Bush's alleged "goal of promoting democracy" in Iraq.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The future's so bright...

(from the Village Voice -- click on picture to enlarge)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Cover up

Some decidedly non-random i-poddery.

  1. One More Cup Of Coffee--White Stripes
  2. Working Class Hero--Marianne Faithfull
  3. Hurdy Gurdy Man--Butthole Surfers
  4. Lust for Christ--El Vez
  5. Satisfaction--Devo
  6. Straight Out Of Compton--Nina Gordon (mp3)
  7. Paint It Black--Avengers
  8. God Save The Queen--Manic Hispanic
  9. Hells Bells--Hayseed Dixie
  10. Bad Moon Rising--Rasputina
  11. Nice Day For A Resurrection--Nekromantix
  12. American Merkin--Pocket Fishrmen
  13. Get Back--Laibach

Thou shalt not question my war!


Via The Black Commentator. Check out their excellent cartoon archive!

Abortion rights and the theology of the constitution

Today is the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, it is not an auspicious anniversary.

Alito is headed for confirmation. Roberts has already shown where he stands. And they clearly will not let law or precedent stand in their way as they impose their ideology on the whole country.

Constitutional law professor Rosa Brooks argues "in the United States today, constitutional interpretation is best understood as a form of theology rather than law." This is in line with Judge Richard Posner's earlier assessment that most constitutional questions today
"can be decided only on the basis of a political judgment, and a political judgment cannot be called right or wrong by reference to legal norms. It is rarely possible to say with a straight face of a Supreme Court constitutional decision that it was decided correctly or incorrectly."
So the law will mean exactly what they want it to mean, no more no less. The question is who is to be master, that is all.

Whether abortion rights merely continue to be incrementally stripped away or whether Roe is overturned in one fell swoop, the battle is increasingly turning to the individual states. The LA Times reports on the increasing number of state level challenges to abortion. In addition to diminishing overall quality of life, the goal is to set up laws openly in conflict with Roe in hopes of provoking a showdown in the newly reconfigured supreme court.
Taking direct aim at Roe vs. Wade, lawmakers from several states are proposing broad restrictions on abortion, with the goal of forcing the U.S. Supreme Court--once it has a second new justice--to revisit the landmark ruling issued 33 years ago today

...at least a dozen states have criminal laws banning abortion. They can't be enforced as long as Roe vs. Wade remains binding. In theory, though, they could take effect immediately upon a reversal, subjecting abortion providers to penalties ranging from 12 months' hard labor in Alabama to 20 years' imprisonment in Rhode Island.

"What the public doesn't realize is that the building blocks are already in place to re-criminalize abortion if Roe is overturned," said Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights in New York.
NARAL has a good state by state guide to the assault on reproductive choice.

While many are skeptical that the right would dare overturn Roe at a national level, I am not so sure. The fanatics clearly smell blood, and will not be stopped by arguments or reason. Are enough people still willing to fight for their rights?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The problem with the democrats


Molly Ivans does a superb job of shaming the Democratic party for lacking the courage to take principled stands that are backed by the majority of the US population. As Chomsky noted the other day, Bush would really be in trouble if there were an opposition party in the US. Now here's Molly:
I'd like to make it clear to the people who run the Democratic Party that I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.

Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone This is not a Dick Morris election. Sen. Clinton is apparently incapable of taking a clear stand on the war in Iraq, and that alone is enough to disqualify her. Her failure to speak out on Terri Schiavo, not to mention that gross pandering on flag-burning, are just contemptible little dodges.

***
What kind of courage does it take, for mercy's sake? The majority of the American people (55 percent) think the war in Iraq is a mistake and that we should get out. The majority (65 percent) of the American people want single-payer health care and are willing to pay more taxes to get it. The majority (86 percent) of the American people favor raising the minimum wage. The majority of the American people (60 percent) favor repealing Bush's tax cuts, or at least those that go only to the rich. The majority (66 percent) wants to reduce the deficit not by cutting domestic spending, but by reducing Pentagon spending or raising taxes.

The majority (77 percent) thinks we should do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. The majority (87 percent) thinks big oil companies are gouging consumers and would support a windfall profits tax. That is the center, you fools. WHO ARE YOU AFRAID OF?
She goes on to quote a DLC apparatchik named Barry Casselman, on how the Democratic Party leadership views the situation. "There is an invisible civil war in the Democratic Party, and it is between those who are attempting to satisfy the defeatist and pacifist left base of the party and those who are attempting to prepare the party for successful elections in 2006 and 2008."

This is in a nutshell exactly what is wrong with the Democratic party. No principles. Pandering, not even to the public but to Fox News, and Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. And the rot extends far beyond the DLC into the allegedly progressive activist base over at Daily Kos.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The ecoterrorist under the bed

"Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions...have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory." Max Weber Politics as a Vocation 1918

"The trail of destruction left by these defendants across the western United States caused millions of dollars in damage to public and private facilities," he said. "Today's indictment proves that we will not tolerate any group that terrorizes the American people, no matter its intentions or objectives." Attorney General Alberto Gonzales 1/20/2006

"Terrorism is terrorism, no matter what the motive," FBI Director Robert Mueller 1/20/2006
The spectacle of the Bush administration calling anyone a terrorist is laughable, given the appalling trail of blood, murder and torture, it leaves behind wherever it goes. This irony is especially manifest when the groups being charged with terrorism have not actually harmed, let alone killed a single person. Nor did they intend to.

The old names for the crimes that they are being charged with are arson and vandalism, but the old labels will no longer do because this is a convenient way to demonize all environmental activism and because by controlling the description of the crime they can to an extent control the emotional response of the public. And the press plays along as the dictionary is rewritten yet again. The headlines are ominous: US Indicts 11 for Domestic Terrorism (NYT), 11 Indicted in Ecoterrorism Attacks (LA Times), 11 Indicted in Ecoterrorism Plot (Washington Post).

All this, for what mainly amounts to relatively minor property destruction at isolated facilities: some U.S. Forest Service ranger stations, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wild horse facilities, lumber companies, meat processing companies, a ski area and a power line.

It's curious in contrast how rarely real terrorists, the people who bombed abortion clinics and murdered doctors, and the movement that supported them, were ever labeled terrorists.

To use vocabulary more precisely, the real ecoterrorists are the Bush Administration and to a lesser extent the rest of the industrialized world, for refusing to face up to their responsibility for making the planet inhospitable to human survival and failing to do something about it while there still might be time. This will kill millions and destroy the quality of life of millions more. It has already caused the extermination of countless other species.

Sins of the flesh


One of the few genuine contributions religion has made to civilization is making sex dirty, enhancing the excitement of sex by adding the spice of the forbidden. This is especially true in Catholicism, where every thought of the flesh is forbidden, so everything is exciting.

The number of films dwelling on the forbidden allure of nuns is legion. One of my favorites is Almodovar's Dark Habits, aka Lesbian Nuns on Smack. And then there is the whole Catholic school girl thing, which Normal Bob and his Unholy Army of Catholic School Girls have got pretty much covered.

Read about their fun filled reunion where they "paint the town godless." I featured Normal's Jesus uniforms magnet earlier here. Now here is his unholy Catholic school girl dress up.

Not to be left out, this Lutheran congregation has come out with a prurient Bible calendar, featuring, I kid you not, young nude parishioners acting out sexy scenes from the bible. Apparently not the inspiring scenes with Lot's Daughters though.

Even the baby Jesus has been drafted to serve in god's erotic army. And Divine Interventions catalogues a number of other surprising forms in which the spirit of the lord can enter.

If you want to commit some songs of the flesh, the good Reverend is more than happy to oblige. Don't miss his cautionary tale of sex addiction, Sermon on the Jimbo, or his ode to the Biblical heroine Jezebel.


---
UPDATE: If nuns don't turn you on, you can turn on them at Nungunner!, a fun interactive game for the whole family (via the amazing Godless Wonder).

Thursday, January 19, 2006

The informational value of boiling people alive

Democracy Now! has a very important in-depth interview with former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray. Murray will be testifying at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration. He was fired from his job for leaking documents that prove the British government was regularly and knowingly using "intelligence" information gained through extreme torture.

This despite the fact that it is well known that Uzbekistan was "a state where people were being disappeared and tortured on an industrial basis" and where the signature method of torture is boiling people alive.
Karimov is one of the most vicious dictators in the world, a man who is responsible for the death of thousands of people. Prisoners are boiled to death in Uzbek jails...it was one of the first cases I came across, back in August or September of 2002. Two Muslim prisoners in Jaslyk gulag, which is an old Soviet gulag in the middle of the Karakum Desert, a sort of forced-labor camp, a terrible place where people are sent to die, effectively, two Islamic prisoners were boiled to death. They died of immersion in boiling water.
Presumably this would fit under even the Bush administration's disingenuously narrow definition of torture. Since the US government is quite willing to do a lot of its "torture" in-house, this gives a pretty graphic idea of what the administration's policy of extraordinary rendition might involve.

Although Murray's original focus was on the British complicity in Uzbek torture, he provides a lot of critical information about US relations to the regime and its use of information gleaned from torture. Bush's ties to the Uzbek regime go back to before he was president. Along with the interview, DN! has put up a copy of a letter from Ken Lay of Enron to then Texas Governor Bush setting up a meeting with the Uzbek ambassador to discuss oil and gas ventures.

A very informative interview, well worth reading or listening to in full.

Murray also has a website with lots of information and documentation.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's at stake in the White House

"Let me put it this way... When I become president, Bush will be charged, tried, and if convicted of murder, I will impale Bush at the White House and enjoy impaling him as much I will [enjoy impaling] bin Laden when we get a hold of him." --Jonathan Sharkey, current VWP candidate for Minnesota Governor and 2008 Presidential hopeful

Suicide and Power

The gullible democratic Senator from Oregon, Ron Wyden, who voted to confirm John Roberts as chief justice, did so in part based on assurances that Roberts was sympathetic to Oregon's assisted suicide law. Oops. It seems Roberts doesn't give a flying fuck about the "right to be left alone." Roberts doesn't at all believe in "a limited view of government power under the constitution." He just said what he had to to get confirmed. What a shock!

And the Bush administration isn't ready to give up on its power to control end of life decisions either. Hiding under the hollow slogan of "a culture of life" the Bush regime continues to defend its intrusion into every aspect of our lives. Pime Forest Collective provides the definitive refutation.

Update: Here is another sweet tale from "a culture of life."

Banished to limbo

The Catholic church may abolish limbo, but the US government is determined to keep people in it forever anyway. Captured by bounty hunters, incarcerated in Guantanamo since 2002, ruled innocent by military and civilian courts, but never to be released. From today's Washington Post:
Lawyers for a group of Chinese nationals held in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with no hope of release are taking the rare step of asking the Supreme Court to intervene immediately, saying only the high court can resolve the constitutional crisis their case presents.

Attorneys for the detained Uighurs, Muslim natives of western China who oppose their country's Communist rule, are scheduled to petition the court as early as today. They seek a break in the impasse created when U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled last month that the Bush administration's "Kafka-esque" detention of the Uighurs was illegal but he simultaneously determined that the court lacked the power to overrule the president and free them.

"That ruling doesn't simply hit innocent men now in their fifth year of imprisonment," said Sabin Willett, one of the Uighurs' attorneys. "It goes to whether we have a judicial branch at all. This is that rare question so vital that the Supreme Court should immediately intervene to answer."
...

The government acknowledges that the Uighurs were imprisoned by mistake in 2002. Military officials determined in 2004 that they were not enemy combatants and should be released.

Robertson wrote in his Dec. 22 opinion that the Uighurs would probably be persecuted if they were returned to China. They are seeking refuge in the United States, where other Uighurs have been granted asylum, the judge said, but only the president has the authority to grant that and his administration has strenuously opposed the idea.

...

Lawyers working on behalf of the Uighurs argue that Robertson's decision effectively "proclaims an Executive with unchecked power . . . to seize and perpetually imprison persons from around the globe."

...

'The administration has argued in court that the president can continue to detain the Uighurs under the executive's "necessary power to wind up wartime detentions in an orderly fashion."

Keeping things tidy. That's the justification for leaving these people in eternal limbo?

What is so appalling about this case, beyond the ongoing horror experienced by these detainees, is the casual way the regime refuses even to consider taking responsibility for the harm it does to others, let alone finding a means of restitution. But to take responsibility would be to acknowledge fallibility, and that is something god just doesn't do.

Creeping tyranny

I am not sure if there is any way to get the general public to realize or perhaps even care about the radical nature of regime change that is going on today in America. Absent a single dramatic and disruptive event, like an old style military coup, there is a overwhelming presumption of normality, the assumption that things can't possibly have changed that much. It hasn't disrupted the rhythm and habits of daily life, so why bother about it.

Al Gore, of all people, actually tried to tell the American people. Just a hint of what is really going on, no scary words like fascism, dictatorship or tyranny, but still a noble effort all in all. By and large, even he was ignored. Ignored by the media, ignored even by his own party.

It is probably too late, but still we need to keep trying. William Rivers Pitt takes a 1995 Umberto Eco article delineating the core elements of ur-fascism as a starting point for examining how far we have traveled down that road.
  • "Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten, because it does not represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader."

  • "Doctrine outstrips reason, and science is always suspect."

  • "The national identity is provided by the nation's enemies."

  • "Argument is tantamount to treason."

  • "Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of 'the people' in the grand opera that is the state."
If the description fits, we can not acquit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

WUWJW?

What uniform would Jesus Wear?

'Cause everybody loves a man in uniform--especially priests. Speaking of priests, Manuel Stimulation has a post up about an excellent documentary about priests, which I highly recommend. Father Jack, in particular, is a worthy role model for us all. The documentary also contains lots of interesting facts. Did you know, for example, the proper placement for a class II holy relic [season 2, ep. 3]? And there is some good information about the uniforms priests like to wear when they are off duty [season 3, ep. 1].

Cut and run from reality

"...given the growing dangers in the world, the intelligent and effective exercise of America's benevolent global hegemony is as important as ever." --Robert Kagan
Given the increasingly obvious divergence between prediction and reality, neocon intellectuals have seemed a bit desperate lately in their efforts to sustain their Manichean world view.

Harvard professor Niall Ferguson has resorted to science fiction in an attempt to raise the levels of testosterone required for continued support of the eternal imperial war. A kind of neo-con Turner Diaries, his openly racist fantasies of a future war with Iran are fueled by fear of the formidable breeding capacity of the lesser races.
A second precondition of war was demographic. While European fertility had fallen below the natural replacement rate in the 1970s, the decline in the Islamic world had been much slower. By the late 1990s the fertility rate in the eight Muslim countries to the south and east of the European Union was two and half times higher than the European figure.
Remind anyone of the Yellow Peril? He literally has the Chinese threat waiting in the wings. All for a lack of will. Justin Raimondo has a good rundown of some historical parallels and lenin has more. And here is Ferguson's punchline:
Yet the historian is bound to ask whether or not the true significance of the 2007-2011 war was to vindicate the Bush administration's original principle of pre-emption. For, if that principle had been adhered to in 2006, Iran's nuclear bid might have been thwarted at minimal cost. And the Great Gulf War might never have happened.
For those more grounded in reality, a pre-emptive strike on Iran might look more like a trigger for world war than a way of avoiding it. But I'm rather afraid that Ferguson and some of his comrades in arms might like it that way.

Fellow neo-con Robert Kagan instead resorts to abstraction in his triumphalist depiction of the present in an editorial titled Still the Colossus (perhaps a homage to Ferguson's book Colossus and Empire). In his world, everything is apparently still going really well.
Yet, despite everything, the American position in the world has not deteriorated as much as people think. America still "stands alone as the world's indispensable nation," as Clinton so humbly put it in 1997. It can resume an effective leadership role in the world in fairly short order, even during the present administration and certainly after the 2008 election, regardless of which party wins. That is a good thing, because given the growing dangers in the world, the intelligent and effective exercise of America's benevolent global hegemony is as important as ever.
Funny. And the evidence for this bold prediction?
The truth is, America retains enormous advantages in the international arena. Its liberal, democratic ideology remains appealing in a world that is more democratic than ever. Its potent economy remains the driving wheel of the international economy. Compared with these powerful forces, the unpopularity of recent actions will prove ephemeral, just as it did after the nadir of American Cold War popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
How can he write this stuff with a straight face? Liberal democratic ideology perhaps. Reality and practice, not even in the US. The "unpopularity of recent actions" is as close as Kagan comes to acknowledging the reality of the past few years, no concrete references to torture, mass murder or the transparent lies used to justify them.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Theodicy of Cowardice

Dianne Feinstein, while ritually invoking her personal support of abortion rights, argued Sunday that filibustering Alito on such grounds was an unwarranted transgression of political decorum. Hiding behind the conceit that Alito's technical proficiency in the law was sufficient to justify his ascension to the high court, she provides unbelievably lame excuses for opposing a filibuster.
I was impressed with his ability to maintain a very even demeanor.

I think there is an additional weight you must give to his background, his qualifications and his ability.

This might be a man I disagree with, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court.
Like theologians justifying a devastating earthquake, some of the Democratic Party's camp followers over at the Daily Kos are falling all over themselves trying to concoct scenarios in which this decision not to filibuster is the judicious, even the principled thing to do. Some samples:
I was thinking about that the other day, in wondering why there were no clear signs that the Democrats would sustain a filibuster of Alito's nomination. And then it hit me; is it possible that the Democrats have calculated that Alito doesn't represent a net change on the court?

***
It's not that abortion will be illegal. It's that overturning Roe would make it possible to make it illegal. The theory is that a large block of moderate, pro-choice voters (soccer moms, et al) have taken the legality of abortion for granted. The only incursions are things like parental notification, things that sound reasonable to your average suburbanite (that's not derogative; I live in the suburbs, too). Because abortion is off the table for them, they focus more on things like affirmative action (oppose) and taxes (oppose). However, if Roe is overturned, abortion becomes a real issue for them. Any attempt by Republicans to make it illegal will be met with a swift pull of the lever for Democrats by a large swing block.

***
I say screw it, this is for all the women who could not bother to get off their asses and take the half an hour it takes to vote once every freaking 4 years - don't mean to sound sexist but its less than the time a woman spends getting her hair done every month or two.
And, as Majikthise notes, "the demise of Roe and finding the novel silver lining is a cottage industry in American political journalism."

The obvious truth is that the Democrats, virtually without exception, view abortion rights as negotiable, something that can be traded away for political or personal advantage.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Context

Once upon a time, in some out of the way corner of that universe which is dispersed into numberless twinkling solar systems, there was a star upon which clever beasts invented knowledge. That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of "world history," but nevertheless, it was only a minute. After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star cooled and congealed, and the clever beasts had to die. One might invent such a fable, and yet he still would not have adequately illustrated how miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature. There were eternities during which it did not exist. And when it is all over with the human intellect, nothing will have happened.

--Nietzsche Truth and Lie in an Extra-moral Sense (1873)

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Illusion of Intelligent Design

"Your Highness, I have no need of that hypothesis."
--Pierre Simon de Laplace (1749-1827),
reply made to Napoleon when asked why his
celestial mechanics had no mention of God.
String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design by Leonard Susskind, the father of string theory, aims to show why the so called anthropic principle, the fact that the physical laws of the universe seem remarkably fine tuned to make life possible, is no evidence for intelligent design of the cosmos. The Village Voice has a nice article on the book.

"I started writing about it as a controversy strictly between physicists," says Susskind. "I started writing it as a physics book, and quite honestly, I didn't know that much about biology and chemistry, but as I started to write, I realized I was writing something broader."

While doing some online research, Susskind inadvertently came across dozens of religious blogs and websites invoking the anthropic principle. "I discovered this very large culture of people [who believe] that the anthropic principle means intelligent design," he says. "That was a bit of an education for me. This book is about the lack of need for supernatural explanations."... "As you know, there's something of a war against science going on," Susskind says.
There is also a more technical review available on Physics Web. And more reviews here and here.

The appearance of this book is another good sign that more top scientists are beginning to recognize the importance of raising the general level of understanding of science and engaging the public. Unless the reality based view of the world is vigorously defended, the social context in which doing science is possible may be terminally eroded.

Friday, January 13, 2006

A Taste of Portland

A display table of some wee beers at Hair of the Dog's annual sale.

The New York Times has a long article up today about Portland brew pubs, apparently promoting beer tourism here.
For people partial to fine craft brews and plenty of local color, Portland's rainy winter season is a great time to visit the city that is king of beers. Indeed, Portland has more breweries - 28 - than any other city in the nation if not the world, and it has arguably become one of the best destinations anywhere for beer-tasting...

Portland's reputation for producing quality craft beers developed in the 1980's, when Oregon repealed Prohibition-era laws banning brew pubs (restaurants with on-site breweries), helping to pave the way for the opening of several microbreweries...

About 11 percent of the beer consumed in Oregon comes from local craft brewers, representing the highest percentage of local craft beer consumption in the country, according to the Oregon Brewers Guild. The national average is only 3.4 percent.
The general picture is right, but unfortunately, the story is not a particularly informed guide when it comes to the details of microbrews or drinking in Portland. For a real guide to local beer and much else about Portland, it is much better to check out the excellent alt.portland.

And there is far more to Portland than just beer. Sadly, post 9/11 security concerns put an end to the tasteful Dial a Sailor Program, which for me was the cultural highlight of the annual Rose Festival. The 24 hour Church of Elvis is no longer with us. And all that is left of Hung Far Low Cock/ is the sign.


But we still have Wanker's Corner (a favorite of Sally Timms'), Powell's City of Books and a lot of insane bicyclists who don't seem to mind the rain.

Known for its hospitality to visiting dignitaries, Portland was dubbed little Beirut by Dubya's father after he had the poor judgment to visit here during the first Gulf War. And here is how we greeted little George's war without end.

More on the unhinged executive

Chris Floyd comes up with yet another good article, this time on doctors' illegal involvement in force feeding. He argues that the doctors in Guantanamo are cooperating in "torture lite":
News of the hunger strike has been trickling out -- in obscure dribs and drabs - from the ever-incurious U.S. media for months. Indeed, Pentagon warlord Donald Rumsfeld even joked about prisoners "going on a diet." But the full scope of the strike - and the unethical methods being used to quash it - only emerged this week in The Observer, which obtained legal affidavits from the Army doctors involved in this "torture lite." The strike, which began last August with a handful of captives, has now spread to 81 prisoners trying to starve themselves to death.

...So the strikers are being strapped down and force-fed by tubes shoved through their noses and crammed down into their stomachs. This daily process leaves them bleeding and retching, according to sworn testimony from the concentration camp's hospital chief, Captain John Edmondson.

The good doctor defended the practice as humane, noting that his medicos always grease the captives' nostrils with lubricant, and use only "soft and flexible" 3mm hoses - a benevolent amelioration of their previous technique: stuffing 4.8mm hard-rubber tubes down nose and gullet in order to pump gruel into a prisoner's belly more quickly. Yet despite the Christ-like tenderness of this treatment, Edmondson is now being sued in California, his native state, for unprofessional conduct. It seems that U.S. doctors are legally bound by the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration, which explicitly forbids force-feeding under any circumstances.
Floyd also provides yet another indication that the Bush regime's fascination with the torture of children has left the realm of theory:
In 2003, the CIA grabbed the sons - age 7 and 9 - of accused terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan and flew them to the U.S. for "interrogation," in a bid to force their father to talk, as the Daily Telegraph and New York Times reported. In this case, the interrogators claimed to have handled the children with "kid gloves" - although the choice of sartorial materials would hardly prevent a gloved hand from crushing someone's testicles...
Meanwhile, a prominent Straussian and Harvard professor of political theory offers a defense of the constitutionality of absolute presidential power and is promptly and thoroughly smacked down by a colleague at Georgetown (via Leiter Reports).

Blood and Guts Friday


A vampyre candidate for governor in Minnesota backs public impaling of terrorists (via the Defeatists). He might find the forensic view of impaling from the Transylvanian Society of Dracula of some use in fulfilling his campaign promises.

The Donner party was not as hungry as previously thought.

PZ Myers offers snacks to welcome readers to his new site.

Apparently, it was Alito, not Ali Acga or the Butthole Surfers (mp3!), who shot the pope.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The elements of tyranny

There has been a lot of talk lately about the Bush regime's new theory of presidential power. The unitary executive, a conception advocated by torture aficionado John Yoo and Supreme Court nominee Alito, is not just a peculiar interpretation of the constitution, its adoption marks a transition in our form of government. Toward what exactly is not yet fully evident in all of its detail, but the X just over the horizon is simply not democracy in any meaningful sense of the word.

In a recent article in Writ, Jennifer Van Bergen details some of the ways in which this theory of executive power is incompatible with democracy.

The unitary executive doctrine arises out of a theory called "departmentalism," or "coordinate construction." ...According to this theory, the president may (and indeed, must) interpret laws, equally as much as the courts...

Bush's recent actions make it clear that he interprets the coordinate construction approach extremely aggressively. In his view, and the view of his Administration, that doctrine gives him license to overrule and bypass Congress or the courts, based on his own interpretations of the Constitution -- even where that violates long-established laws and treaties, counters recent legislation that he has himself signed, or (as shown by recent developments in the Padilla case) involves offering a federal court contradictory justifications for a detention...

If not democracy, then what? It is important to get the details right of course. Bush is not Hitler, and his followers are not Nazis in any literal sense. They are, as Chris Floyd wryly notes, "themselves and bad enough for all that." He goes on,
The particulars of any given political tyranny cannot be replicated in different historical and cultural situations; as Tolstoy says (in a vastly different context), each unhappy family is unhappy in its own special way. But the lineaments of tyranny - its mental framework, its DNA - are remarkably consistent over time and place and cultures, with the same rhetoric, the same justifications, the same tendency toward eliminationism (see Dave Neiwert for more on this), and many of the same policies - such as spying on domestic enemies, evading judicial review, inflicting torture, waging war, etc. - which are the logical, inevitable outgrowths of authoritarian rule.
Some comparisons especially to the early stages of Hitler's Germany therefore remain illuminating. Take for example Floyd's quote from Nazi jurist Dr. Werner Best, "As long as the [Gestapo] ... carries out the will of the leadership, it is acting legally." Substitute virtually any US government agency, any action, for the Gestapo in this quote and it accurately describes the current policy and practice of the Bush regime, under the constitutional disguise of the theory of the unitary executive.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Rumors of war and torture (updated)

Impending war with Iran?

Yesterday, the New York Times headline seemed innocuous enough: Iranians Reopen Nuclear Centers. No rumors of war there. And there were even specific denials for select audiences. Today the papers are talking about sanctions, not possible war. But highly reliable journalists like Seymour Hersch have been warning for some time now that plans for an attack on Iran have already been at least partially operationalized.

And in Nuclear War Against Iran, Michel Chossudovsky suggests that the current deadline for the attack is March 2006. He further suggests that the plan is to use mini-nukes to take out the Iranian "nuclear centers."

Torture more widespread than you think

Today Amnesty International says that allegations of "appalling conditions, mistreatment and torture" at Guantanamo are continuing to grow.


And Clive Smith, lawyer for some of the political prisoners at Guantanamo, argues that the focus on Guantanamo has obscured a far more expansive network of torture chambers across the globe. There has been some reporting on the American gulags before, but Smith gives a better sense of the possible scope and character of this Dantesque netherworld.
The Guantanamo Bay welcome sign trumpets the base motto: "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom." Outside the base, on a visit to see my clients held in the prison, I watched a soldier smartly salute his superior: "Honor Bound, sir!" The officer saluted his reply: "To Defend Freedom, soldier!" I laughed. I thought they were joking.

The joke is on us. Guantanamo has been a decoy, drawing attention from a far shadier world of US-sponsored interrogation chambers. For four years, the stratagem worked quite effectively. The Bush administration blustered in response to global anger at the 'secret' Guantanamo prison.

Only now is the world finally asking about the archipelago of US prisons around the world, and the fleet of CIA aircraft ferrying prisoners from one torture chamber to the next...

The US has publicly acknowledged rendering 150 prisoners from one country to another to secret prisons. With as many as 80,000 prisoners passing through US hands in the four years post-9/11, and with scores of desperate families searching for their lost ones, it seems likely that the total number of the 'disappeared' is much higher. The $64,000 question -- and we know we don't know the answer here -- is what, when they have been shuttled from one secret prison to the next for a few years, the US plans to do with these prisoners.
The Orwellian sign at the entrance to the camp inevitably conjures up images of an earlier camp sign, only that one was inscribed in German.

UPDATE: I meant to include this earlier but the horror of it must have blocked my memory. John Yoo, a key architect post-9/11 Bush Administration legal policy especially in the areas of presidential power and torture, publically argued in a debate that there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles. Here is the exchange:
Cassel: If the President deems that he’s got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person’s child, there is no law that can stop him?
Yoo: No treaty.
Cassel: Also no law by Congress. That is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo.
Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that.
The article also has an mp3 of this exchange. Thanks to The Fall of Humanity for the link.

This is not an entirely theoretical possiblity. There are a number of juveniles in detention in the American gulags as Clive Smith noted in the article cited above. And Seymour Hersh had earlier claimed that some of the videos from Abu Ghraib that have not been released to the public involve the rape and torture of children.

The fantasy lives of christians

If you repeat a fantasy often enough, it will come true. This seems to be a lynchpin of contemporary christian thought. Something to do with the rosary perhaps.

One of their favorite current fantasies is the idea that atheism is dying. Taking heart from the tragic recent psychological collapse of 81 year old philosopher Anthony Flew, and factoring in the political victories of theocratic forces in the US, they extrapolate to the notion that atheism everywhere is in intellectual retreat. Richard Dawkins is still giving them fits, but a suitable amount of name calling can take care of that problem.

Forecasting the death of atheism, beyond the odd scribbling on bathroom stalls, is best accomplished of course if you have no respect for reasoning or logic or history or even information. This is evident in their fantasies of the past, the present and the future.

Fantasies of the Past

Consider how a Catholic ultra views the past for example:
Atheism attained its grip on the West largely via the propagation and general acceptance of the Theory of Evolution, following the 1859 publication of Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species...In the 1860's, prominent churchmen such as John William Colenso, Anglican Bishop of Natal, South Africa, were inspired by The Origin of Species to reconsider the historicity of the Bible.
This completely reverses real historical development. The real growth of skepticism and atheism started in the eighteenth century, especially with Newton and new naturalistic ways of interpreting the world. It rapidly gained ground because of the reactionary and opressive practices of the church (to which many christians today apparently want to return). Atheism then gained increasing force in the nineteenth century through rigorous criticism of the authenticity and coherence of the Bible, which peaked in 1837, not in the 1860s, with Strauss' Life of Jesus Critically Examined. Darwin's theory was a high point in this movement which disenchanted the world, but not its origin.

Fantasies of the Present

Accounts of the current state of affairs have equally little contact with reality.
Today, only a minority in the developed world take the major religions seriously. Also, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the disillusionment that followed the radicalism of the 1960's, ideologies and utopian philosophies — religion's only competition in the provision of durable hope — have been discredited almost completely.

Millions now spend their days distracting themselves with material goods and other passing interests. In such soil, hope and love do not take root, leaving little motivation or justification for the selfless sacrifices upon which every society depends. It is already possible to predict many of the impacts that will eventually result from this mentality.
Such a broad brush picture of the present, failing to differentiate even between quite different situations in different countries, can have no truth value. In Britain, religion has indeed long been in retreat. But in the US, for example, religion is, tragically, clearly on the rise, the least coherent and most anti-intellectual versions gaining the most rapidly. Religion is on the rise all right, and with it anti-intellectualism and outright flight from all realities, historical, natural and scientific. Out too are notions of tolerance, as we shall see in the christian fantasies of the future.

But there is one other problem with the vision of the present that really needs to be pointed out. This is the idea that there is an either/or choice between the life of the consumer and the life of the religious faithful. In logic this is called a false dilemma. It reveals a truely christian poverty of imagination.

Fantasies of the Future

As for the future, the fantasies approach self-parody, but they are unintentionally revealing.
The attacks perpetrated since September 2001 by Muslim fanatics in the United States, Europe, and the Far East are a major catalyst for the Theistic Revolution. This is so, because these events have conclusively demonstrated that major assumptions of the modern mentality are specious — especially the belief that religious opinions "don't matter" and that all expressed points of view should be treated as equally valid.

Ultimately, the repulsive violence and intellectual poverty endemic to Islam will check its growth and help ensure Christianity's conquest of the developed world. This will occur despite the fact that many demographers predict that Islam will become the dominant religion in Europe before the end of the 21st century because of immigration and the currently low birthrate of native Europeans.

The prospect of domination by Islam will help motivate increasing numbers of Westerners to jettison everything associated with the hopelessly depressing atheistic philosophy that made such domination a real possibility. Atheism will yield its ground to primarily Christian theism, and Islam will recede into the shadows.
9/11 teaches us that religious opinions matter? In some positive way?

As for violence and intellectual poverty: pot, kettle, black. The details of this impending triumph over atheism and Islam seem a bit thin, but the root of the christian imagination stands out clearly enough here--a fantasy of domination.

Monday, January 09, 2006

America under Scalito

(click on image to enlarge)

PZ Myers has some pointed comments on a map of the states likely to restrict or outlaw abortion if Roe is overturned.

The theocrats dribbling oil on the hearing room seats sure seem to think that the confirmation will usher in the Handmaid's Tale scenario. For a more graphic account of what eliminating Roe might mean for women, listen to Kate Michaelman recount her experience of trying to get a abortion in 1969 on Democracy Now! The whole show today is about the Alito hearing and is well worth a listen.

I will be happily surprised if the supine democrats are willing to push through the filibuster Alito so thoroughly deserves. Some of their lackeys have already hoisted the white flag. And it is not just about abortion rights, although that should be more than sufficient grounds for a filibuster.

However, I do not think framing the issue in terms of credibility is the right way to go. Ted Kennedy raises a number of reasonable objections along this line but the word "credibility" still suggests that the confirmation should turn on politically neutral questions of competence.

Frankly, this is bullshit. The real issue is that Alito is a right wing ideologue who will use his position on the court to help usher in fundamental constitutional changes that will eliminate individual freedoms and permanently enthrone a radical view of almost unlimited executive prerogative. He will help usher in actual fascism.

UPDATE: For a lot more information about the Scalito hearings and the war on reproductive rights check out the new website put up by NARAL: Bush v. Choice.

Reciprocity

Saturday, January 07, 2006

"Extra Virgin"

"Is it the color of my monitor, or is the Blessed Virgin Mary wearing, instead of her traditional blue, a "hot pink" or "tart red" colored garment, under her "delicate veil of latex"? Anon. Comment on Catholic World News

The ad above was actually run in the Jesuit magazine America before the editors realized that the statuette of Mary was enveloped in a condom. The artist
Mr Rosenthal, who is based in London, said last night his work had been "orchestrated" for publication coinciding with World Aids Day on December 1.

"The primary aim of the work is to highlight the Vatican's continuance of non-advocation regarding the use of condoms," he said. "The description of the work was clear from both the text included and the image provided. America magazine happily accepted the insertion and billed me for $391. It has subsequently refused to accept payment."

...In a front-page article in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, Vittorio Messori, a literary collaborator of the late pope John Paul, expressed horror at the way the sperm cup at the end of the condom had been arranged so as to sit on top of the Virgin's head, "like a grotesque cap replacing the royal crown of tradition". The Jesuit weekly, America, which calls itself the US "national Catholic weekly", apologised in its latest issue. A spokesman told the Guardian: "We made a terrible mistake by publishing this. We only saw the ad in black and white, so we didn't see how serious it was."

And what would the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius Loyola, do (WWILD)? Well according to Catholic World News:
If Ignatius Loyola still governed the Jesuits, roughly 20 minutes after the advertisement (above) for the condom-covered Madonna had appeared in America Magazine, abject and unequivocal apologies would have been expressed to the faithful, to the Holy See, and to the Virgin herself, and in the place of America's editorial offices there'd be a large smoking crater on 56th Street.
So that's what it means to turn the other cheek.