Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Upside to 9/11?

Vultures feeding (via Media Matters)

Over 1300 Killed in Iraq Violence
The Washington Post is reporting over 1300 people have been killed in less than a week of violence in Iraq. The death toll is at least four times higher than previously reported, and one of the biggest outside of major US operations since the war began. Violence has increased across the country following Wednesday's bombing of a holy Shiite shrine in Samarra. Earlier today, separate attacks in Baghdad killed at least 36 people and injured dozens more. In the biggest attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Baghdad gas station, killing over 20 people and injuring 50 others.
That's about the same number killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Prisoners without names, cells without number


Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. Bagram.


According to a series of recent reports, Guantanamo is passing the torch to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan as the flagship of the American gulag. And on Democracy Now! charges that Bagram is now a whole lot worse than Guantanamo. A chilling report even after all that has already been revealed.

The Secret Prisons

Nat Hentoff has an article on the CIA's global network of "black site" prisons, whose prisoners are never named and whose very existence is denied. All attempts to force the administration to give an account of these dungeons have been quashed.

Hentoff asks the very pertinent question--apparently a topic of hot debate within the CIA--what will they do with the bodies, with prisoners they do not admit exist, whom they have no legal right to hold and whom they have tortured and dehumanized for years? Will they simply be disappeared?

And then there is our own responsibility for letting it happen.
There is a rising focus around the country on this year's midterm elections. During the campaigning, will there be any mention of the screams in the CIA's underground prisons of darkness? And if there is, how many Americans will care enough to be repelled by their own silent, passive complicity in the growing moral darkness of this nation's leadership?
My guess is that it won't be an issue.

And now come the death squads

God of the day

Billikin, god, folk hero, sports mascot and toilet training aid

So you say you want to allow god back into the schools and the government. Well, in the interests of fairness and religious diversity, this is a god who should have a seat at the table.

A curious cross-cultural god, Billikin first appeared in a dream to Ms. Florence Pretz of Kansas City, Missouri. After a brief stint in America as a popular doll and sports mascot, he is today honored as a god of luck in Japan. He is also a popular flashing cellphone strap accessory.

Although George may talk to god, Billikin apparently favors another president

Monday, February 27, 2006

In the spirit of the Enlightenment

and just to be perfectly clear--
"a religion has never yet, directly or indirectly, either as dogma or as parable, contained a truth. For every religion was born out of fear and need, it has crept into existence along paths of the aberrations of reason." --Nietzsche Human all too Human 3.110

Atheists get noticed

There has always been a social stigma attached to being an atheist greater than that of belonging to even the wackiest of religions. Consider George Bush Sr.'s statement
"I don't know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God."
How are such statements possible?

It is not just ignorance, or bigotry or anti-intellectualism, although there is plenty of that and to spare at work here. It is a political calculation that atheists don't matter. And today there is some truth to that. There is not a single openly atheist politician in the US at a national, state, or even, as far as I know, a local level.

Although even in the bible-thumping USA the non-religious make up on some calculations up to 10% of the population, much more numerous than many major religious groups, they are largely invisible and tend to keep their views to themselves because discussing or even mentioning one's atheism in public is considered rude. It is an assault on the right of the superstitious to their beliefs. One superstition can tolerate another far better than it can the rejection of all superstitions.

A number of prominent atheists in the US and elsewhere such as Steven Weinberg, Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers have finally started to come all the way out of the closet and rehash the debates that were decisively won by reason in the 19th century. It is a shame that we have to waste so much time going back over these old arguments, but clearly the majority has been left behind and need to take the class again.

One major obstacle that we face is that many people who are in private non-believers, are in public hypocritical in order to get ahead or to get along. Against this tendency, PZ Myers has an excellent discussion of what's wrong with the argument that criticizing religion hurts the pro-evolution case. "While utility in the short term is nice, I'm not in favor of losing to superstition in the long run." This self-censorship of atheists has to stop. If we are to have any hope of reestablishing a reality-based world view, it is long past time to get out of the closet.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The sinking ship of state


As Iraq moves closer and closer to all out civil war, even some of the most die hard rats have begun to run. William Buckley and Francis Fukuyama have now both proclaimed the Iraq war a disaster. Buckley sees the immediate challenge as how to cope with the reality of that failure. "And the kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat." Neocon Fukuyama now asserts that not just the Iraq war but all of Bush's foreign policy is in shambles.

During the Vietnam war, Johnson famously remarked that if he had lost news anchor Walter Cronkite, he had lost Middle America. But Bush is not Johnson. With Jesus as his co-pilot, and reality nowhere on the horizon, he is most unlikely to acknowledge even the most obvious signs that his ship is sinking. It's just a shame that we are all passengers. And god's away on business.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Gutting alternative media

Our coffin salesman in chief
--from the now cancelled Bush Beat column in the Village Voice

The Village Voice has often been a good source of critical political reporting, especially since the coronation of George III. It has also been the home to some excellent cartoons with a political edge, such as Sutton Impact and Tom Tomorrow.

Matt Bors notes that the Voice, which was recently bought out by a media conglomerate, will likely be dropping all editorial cartoons as part of a more fundamental change: "switching gears and steering away from politics."

The conglomerate that bought the Voice, "the Clear Channel of alt. Weeklies," is New Times which now owns 17 weeklies from coast to coast. As a first step towards harmonization [gleichschaltung], the new management has already cancelled the critical and appropriately sarcastic column Bush Beat.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

You feel unclean all the time

Democracy Now! has an interesting interview with South African editor and reporter Allister Sparks who helped expose the death of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko at the hands of South Africa's security forces.

At one point in the interview Sparks describes how it felt to live day to day with the knowledge of what kind of regime he was living under and compares it to the current situation in the US.
I mean, I think this is still such a shock in the United States, that you, you know, I think you feel that it's all so new to you, the realization of it, but I guess we got used to it. I mean, it's a very unpleasant thing. You feel unclean all the time.
Exactly.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Corporations or survival


Exxon, which earlier this year posted the largest profits of any corporation in history, is funding still more "policy studies" which label the Kyoto treaty "economic suicide." Apparently, the propaganda novelistic journalistic efforts of oil industry rent boy Michael Crichton to paint global warming as fiction have not been quite enough to protect the bottom line. Meanwhile major papers continue to pretend George Bush is serious about alternative energy.

Halliburton Watch is keeping track of the ever expanding multiple ongoing scandals of Dick's corporate avatar, which is also raking in its largest profits ever. The rumors that the company is diversifying into the "adult" prison film market are apparently not true though.

The founder of Domino's Pizza is doing his part by building a bible-based community in Florida where most folks will conform to his extra-conservative style of Catholicism and where contraceptives will not be available at pharmacies.

And speaking of corporations, Unwelcome Guests has serialized the complete audio of the film The Corporation. The mp3s are available on their website--shows 240-242.

---
Earlier: The Pirates of Doom

Update from today's Democracy Now!:

Is Sci-Fi Writer Michael Crichton Advising Bush on Global Warming?

Questions are being raised in Washington if science fiction writer Michael Crichton may be advising President Bush on global warming. A new book reveals Bush met with Crichton in 2004 to discuss his best-selling novel “State of Fear” which suggests that global warming is an unproven theory and an overstated threat. The meeting is recalled in a new book by Weekly Standard editor and Fox News commentator Fred Barnes. According to Barnes, Bush is a ''a dissenter on the theory of global warming” and that he was in near total agreement with Crichton. Barnes added that Crichton’s visit, “was not made public for fear of outraging environmentalists.” While Crichton’s novel is a work of science fiction, he was recently awarded a journalism award – by the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.

More on the Jurassic President.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Presidents day: a pseudo-holiday in song

Steven Sondheim came out with an amusing musical a while back called Assassins, which celebrated the long American tradition of presidential assassins. The best song is a duet between Squeaky Fromme, the Charles Manson hanger on who tried to kill Gerald Ford, and John Hinckley, the man who shot Reagan in order to impress Jodie Foster. Tragically, Hinkley's love proved to be of an inadequate caliber.

Here is a bit from the Hinckley-Fromme duet, titled Unworthy of your Love

[HINCKLEY]
I am nothing,
You are wind and water and sky,
Jodie.
Tell me, Jodie,
How I can earn you love.
I would swim oceans,
I would move mountains,
I would do anything for you.
What do you want me to do?

I am unworthy of your love,
Jodie, Jodie,
Let me prove worthy of you love.
Tell me how I can earn your love,
Set me free.
How can I turn your love
To me?

[FROMME]
I am nothing,
You are wind and devil and God,
Charlie,
Take my blood and my body
For your love.
Let me feel fire,
Let me drink poison,
Tell me to tear my heart in two,
If that's what you want me to do...

I am unworthy of you love,
Charlie darlin',
I have done nothing for your love.
Let me be worthy of your love,
Set me free...
And here are a few more recommended holiday tunes:
  1. Bullet --Misfits
  2. Lee Harvey --Asylum Street Spankers
  3. Shah Sleeps In Lee Harvey's Grave --Butthole Surfers
  4. John Wayne was a Nazi --MDC
  5. Henry Kissmyassinger --MDC
  6. Ballad Of Ronald Reagan --Austin Lounge Lizards
  7. Bonzo Goes To Bitburg --Ramones
  8. I Shot The Devil --Suicidal Tendencies
  9. Hinkley Had a Vision --Crucifucks
  10. Ronald Mcraygun --Dayglo Abortions
  11. Send George Bush A Pretzel --Darryl Cherney And The Chernobles

Saturday, February 18, 2006

My name is America, and I am a torturer

Have a look in the mirror

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Facing Leviathan


Glen Ford and Peter Gamble of Black Commentator have an excellent article on facing the problem of Wal-Mart, which now by itself accounts for 2% of the US GDP. It is the "lead horseman in an apocalyptic worldwide race to the bottom" and a paradigm of late capitalist exploitation strategies.

Also the Massachusetts Pharmacy Board ruled Tuesday that Wal-Mart must provide emergency contraception in its pharmacies. Wal-mart now provides emergency contraception only in the states where it is required to do so, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Update 2/17: The New York Times has a good exposé today of some of the nasty and mean spirited attitudes of Wal-Mart's upper management. In internal company e-mails, the CEO whines that providing health care to its employees would destroy its competitive edge, a claim which the article in Black Commentator above decisively refutes.

It would only require Wal-Mart to raise the price of every item by one penny to provide decent health care. Why not do it? It would undermine the company's business model of planned insecurity. "Retention of longtime employees is in diametric opposition to its core business plan," because long term workers make too many demands on a company.

There is more in the Times article too about the CEO bragging about having dinner with Tony Blair and his wife and having a meeting with Prince Charles to talk about sustainability. And he even has the gall to quote from Martin Luther King to tout Wal-Mart's few grudging and PR-motivated reforms.

Off with his head. But of course he, and even Wal-Mart are only the tip of the iceberg. "The truth is, there can never be an anti-Wal-Mart "movement" that is not at its core a Movement to defang corporations."

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Love and Faith

Looking for love in all the wrong places

How do religious leaders--other than Catholic priests--demonstrate their love? Godless Wonder provides a couple of inspiring examples: Love, Muslim Style and Love Hindu Style. While the Muslim activists seemed content with burning valentines, the Hindu groups were actually threatening couples caught celebrating Valentine's Day with instant marriage.

What the bible says about love.

For libertarians and conservatives it is also the season of love--and faith. How to treat your love? Well, like property of course.
An ex-girlfriend once told me, "You treat me like a piece of property." As an economics major, my first reaction was: How great that the center of my affection truly understands the way I feel! ... If I treated her as if she were my property, after all, it means that I would take care of her, protect her, and treat her well above all things not in my possession.
You just can't make this stuff up. Not a unique reaction either. When asked to give an example of the most conservative love story ever told, one National Review pundit actually came up with Milton Friedman's Free to Choose. The other answers weren't much more inspiring either.

I am kind of surprised that the faithful didn't come up with Ayn Rand in love. I guess that would be more divine love.
----

Update: Romancing the Dick? And more.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Toward a political metaphysics of stupidity

In his book What's the Matter with Kansas, Thomas Frank explains how Kansas was transformed from one of the most progressive states in the US into one of the most reactionary. Working class voters have switched their allegiance to the Republicans on "values" because the Democrats have offered no alternative in economics.

But there was a major hole in his analysis: what was fueling such widespread adoption of the values trumpeted by the Christian right: anti-intellectualism, homophobia, racism, fetal fundamentalism and misogyny? Why did so many Americans vote for Bush despite, or perhaps even because of, his stubborn incompetence and stupidity?

David Graeber, an anarchist anthropologist, offers the beginnings of a convincing answer. He focuses on the evolution of the educational system into a system for building an increasingly caste-like society. He argues that, because of its sharply increasing costs, higher education "is no longer seen, at least by the white working class, as a plausible means of social mobility" and so "class resentments have been grafted onto educational attainment."

This reversal of the post-WWII trend toward constantly expanding access to higher education via the GI Bill etc., has made it increasingly difficult for people from working class backgrounds, even if they make it to university, to pursue the type of career one would choose for its values, i.e. for any other reason than making money.
If one chooses a career for any reason other than the money--if one wishes to become a part of the world of books, or charities, the art world, to be an idealist working for an NGO, an activist, an investigative reporter--for the first year or two, they won't pay you. This effectively seals off any such career for the vast majority of poor kids who actually do make it through college.
As a result social class is seen as tightly welded to education, and education of a type that is seen as simply inaccessible for large sections of the white working class. And so class resentment focuses more on the educated liberal elite (and their values) than on the corporate executives, who are the more proximate cause of exploitation of the working class.
Bush voters, I would suggest, tend to resent intellectuals as a class more than rich people, largely because they can imagine a scenario in which they might become rich, but cannot possibly imagine one in which they or any of their children would become a member of the liberal intelligencia.
The resentment at exclusion is exacerbated by the perception that intellectuals tend to see ordinary working people as "a bunch of knuckle dragging cavemen."

Resentment extends to other groups such as minorites in part because these minorities, in which genuine anti-intellectualism is virtually non-existent, continue to see higher education as a plausible means of advancement. Resentment of education may well also be one source of the misogyny and fanatical opposition to abortion given that women are making up an increasingly large part of the college population.

Religion, and fundamentalist religion in particular, gave working class whites a ready-made critique of the dominant forms of knowledge and values in society that affirmed their autonomy to decide what makes life worth living, to find self-affirming class values. Graeber goes on here to make the provocative claim that
what we are seeing here in many cases, is a battle over access to the right to behave altruistically. Selflessness is not the strategy, it's the prize...In value terms, the question becomes who has the right to translate their money into what sorts of meaning? Who controls the medium through which and the institutions through which our actions become meaningful to ourselves...
The argument here gets a bit more complex than I really want to summarize at this point but it is well worth thinking through.

----
Thanks to John over at Counago and Spaves for pointing to this very interesting article.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I know nothing, I see nothing

Last week the CIA's top counter-terrorism official was sacked for opposing torture. He apparently wasn't sufficiently enthusiastic about the "water boarding," secret prisons and extraordinary renditions, that the US government is most emphatically not involved in.

Swiss journalists face prison for leaking documents about the existence of secret CIA prisons in Europe, which do not exist and which furthermore European governments know nothing whatsoever about.

The US is not involved in building another secret interrogation and detention facility in Morocco.

And like America, Britain does not torture, despite what your lying eyes might tell you.

Links thanks to Fall of Humanity.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Capitalizing on loss


This cops and robbers board game allows players to recreate the theft of Munch's Scream and Madonna and the police hunt for the thieves. The museum that lost the works due to lax security briefly capitalized on their loss by selling this game in their museum shop. Despite its popularity, the game was withdrawn due to complaints about "bad taste."

The trial of the alleged thieves is about to begin but the paintings remain at large.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Blood for oil

A couple of panels from A Modest Proposal.

Matt Bors is a consistently great cartoonist I just discovered via PZ Myers.

Some highlights from his strip Idiot Box:
He also has a collaborative comic up CBN weather with Pat Robertson. Here is a panel from that one.


According to his blog he will be discussing the international cartoon crisis soon on the quite good Humanist Network News podcast. And check out this outrageous mash-up of the controversial Tom Toles cartoon about Rumsfeld and the troops with the Mohammed bomber cartoon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Republican Prodigies

One of the hallmarks of the Bush administration has been competence. Just not in a good way. Today heck of a job Brownie is threatening to leak more general tales of incompetence unless the higher ups get his back.

And the recently fired 24 year old Bush administration hack who almost had a BA in journalism from Texas A&M before he got job as official NASA censor, is defending his performance by calling into question the objectivity of actual NASA scientists (see the discussion of chutzpah in my previous post).

And finally here (via Artios) is a tale from earlier in the Iraq war about another bright eyed 24 year old Bush appointee.
One young political appointee (a 24-year-old Ivy League graduate) argued that Iraq should not enshrine judicial review in its constitution because it might lead to the legalization of abortion. A much more senior Iraqi interlocutor (a widely experienced Iraqi-American lawyer) became so exasperated with the young man's audacity that he finally challenged him:

"You must have thoroughly studied the history of the British occupation of Iraq.''

"Yes, I did,'' the young American replied proudly.

"I thought so,'' said the Iraqi, "because you seem determined to repeat every one of their mistakes.''

Only the best and the brightest.

Grave Insult


Israel is literally planning to build a "museum of tolerance" on Muslim graves in Jerusalem.
Skeletons are being removed from the site of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem to make way for a $150m "museum of tolerance" being built for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
They do know what tolerance means, don't they? Hint: it is not a synonym for chutzpah. And the story gets even stranger. The Terminator, er I mean Tolerator is involved.

The project, which a spokesman said had been conceived in partnership with the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli government, was launched at a ceremony in 2004 by a cast of dignitaries ranging from Ehud Olmert, who is currently the acting Prime Minister, to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now what exactly is he tolerating here? And as for the museum's excuse.
...it was common in Jerusalem to build on cemeteries... "Israel is more crowded with ancient artifacts than any other country in the world. If we didn't build on former cemeteries, we would never build."
Odd that they couldn't find a Jewish cemetery to disinter.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Snapshot of death

31 days in Iraq. 800+ deaths. Click on the picture to enlarge.

The actual number of deaths is likely to be much higher. The map is based on data from the American, British and Iraqi governments and news reports. The number killed by US strikes in particular seems low.

Death cults and batcasts

So many religious nuts, so few comets.
Hale-Bopp's approach is the "marker" we've been waiting for
--
the time for the arrival of the spacecraft from the Level Above Human
to take us home to "Their World" --
in the literal Heavens.

Jello Biafra's label Alternative Tentacles has a quite entertaining podcast--er batcast--now. Three shows are up so far featuring various music from the label with commentary and music news. The 1/18 show includes Turn me on Dead Man with The Hale Bopp (mp3). [CNN archive video of Heaven's Gate here.] I just love songs about crazy religious death cults. A really great one is Guyana Punch by the Judys, which is alas pretty hard to find now. There is a cover of the song by Tullycraft, not a very good version unfortunately, but a lot more accessible.

Jello has a relatively recent album out with the Melvins Sieg Howdy! which includes an updated version of Kalifornia Ueber Alles as sung by the Gropenfuehrer himself [lyrics]. There are some free vintage Jello mp3s here.

And, speaking of songs, here is an appropriate Bad Religion video to watch California burn by (via Pime Forest Collective).

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

How offensive


The controversy over the Danish cartoons satirizing Islam has brought out a wide array of revealing responses. The American right has put on a particularly fine display of smug self righteousness. The frankly insane reactions by some Muslims are effortlessly translated into the reaction of all Muslims, with the inference of defective religion effortlessly sliding into definitive statements about inferior culture and character. So the controversy becomes an opportunity to prattle on about the white man's burden, in appropriately coded form of course.

There has been more than a fair share of hypocrisy as well. The blithely contradictory responses of right wing nut job Michelle Malkin to the cartoons satirizing Mohammed (free speech!) and those satirizing Rumsfeld's indifference to military casualties (horrors) are nicely captured by the Defeatists.

It is also funny that in her list of inappropriate responses to an offensive cartoon, she provides the following list: "you do not burn flags, take up guns and raid buildings, chant death to your opponents, or threaten suicide bombings." How did flag burning make that list? Unlike the others there is no harm involved. But that is what she is really offended by. And it is a good litmus test for American hypocrisy on free speech.

Polls repeatedly show that a majority of Americans favor a Constitutional ban on flag burning. I think they are offended by it to nearly the same degree as many Muslims are offended by these cartoons. Threats of violence in response to flag burning are ubiquitous and are not generally considered particularly remarkable or outrageous. Even Hillary wants to put people in jail for burning flags.

Pursuing their own agendas, the Vatican and the US government have each issued statements affirming that anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images and anti-Christian images. The real focus of course is on the last of these. They admire and would like to emulate much of the Muslim world in being able to stamp out the mocking of their own sacred cows.

And now it turns out that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons had refused three years ago to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ because they might be offensive to readers and were not funny.

For the record, a pox on all fanaticisms. No one has a right not to be offended. Getting all worked up over imaginary harm distracts from the very real harm that is happening all around us.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The art of emergency currency

The pied piper of Hameln leading away the mice

A nice example of German notgeld (emergency currency) issued by local municipalities and non-governmental organizations in the 1920s because of the total collapse of the German economy after WWI. The national currency became hyperinflated to the point of worthlessness and coins were being hoarded for their metal. Thousands of different designs illustrating aspects of local cultural and history proliferated, some amazingly nicely done. The currency shown here is from a series of 50 pfennig notes issued by the town of Hameln (sometimes Hamelin) in 1921 illustrating the whole pied piper tale. There are many more fine examples here.

And now leading away the children

Sunday, February 05, 2006

The rhetoric of democracy

"A fart has no nose." Bertolt Brecht

I was listening to some Leonard Cohen the other night and it occurred to me for the first time that he was far too much of an optimist. Democracy isn't what's coming to or from the USA.

Nonetheless, Bush's apparent advocacy of democracy, his constant use of the term to describe what his regime is promulgating across the globe, however insincere and at odds with reality that description might be, is likely to have one effect that is real enough. He might well be undermining the legitimacy of democracy as a political ideal, reversing a centuries long trend.

The constant association of the rhetoric of democracy with torture, preemptive war, secret prisons, and imperial expansion threatens to poison the word itself, just as the neo-conservative advocacy of "humanitarian" intervention in the interests of empire has rendered the term humanitarian itself suspicious.

Even the free market fundamentalists over at the Economist recognize this to some degree,
One reason people on the left object to Mr Bush's "freedom agenda" is that they see it as a veil for something else: an American policy of stomping about the world deposing unfriendly regimes at will.
And now the punchline.
If such a policy existed, it would be wrong.
But it is not just "the left" that sees it this way. This is no minority view. It is how the vast majority of the world's population sees Bush's agenda. And rightly so.

While it may be true that "in neither [Afghanistanan nor Iraq] was spreading democracy his principal motive, given or real," at least originally, it is how Bush and his minions now almost invariably describe what he is intent on accomplishing there. And names have consequences.

The final note of the Economist article just serves to highlight how little they are in touch with the problem.
But whatever else people think of Mr Bush, on this one thing, the universal potential and appeal of the democratic idea, he is on the side of history.
Of course the unnoticed irony here is that Bush has done nothing to enhance the appeal of the democratic ideal. Quite the opposite in fact.

Back to you, Mr. Brecht.

Lysenko Rising

This is posted on a number of blogs, but it is critical that as many people as possible know the unfuckingbelieveable degree to which science is being subjected to ideological and religious pressure by the Bush regime. The White House is pressuring NASA employees to always refer to the big bang as a theory, because the big bang is "not proven fact; it is opinion."

Go read Bad Astronomy's rant on this. There is more at Pharyngula here and here.

First they came for evolution...

Why the fuck are we taking Stalinist science as our national model.

UPDATE 2/8: The apparatchik at NASA responsible for this has been fired. Turns out he lied about having a college degree.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cthulego Rising!

Check out the whole series (via boing boing).

And for a pious alternative, here is today's verse from the Brick Testament. Blessed are the clean in spirit, illustrated--Leviticus 15:16-33. Click through for the whole story.

The joyful verses of Leviticus were also the inspiration for Diamanda Galas' chilling nightmare invocation in Masque of the Red Death, Deliver me from mine enemies.

Here is a radio interview (mp3) with Diamanda Galas discussing her recent Defixiones, which deals with the long forgotten Armenian genocide. She starts by discussing how hearing an interview with Jack Kevorkian, himself an Armenian, inspired her in approaching this topic.
---------

Earlier: Christmas in R'lyeh

Friday, February 03, 2006

No whores for oil


The big joke of the week was Bush's announcement that we need to break our addiction to oil. It came the same week Exxon announced the highest profits of any corporation ever in world history ($1,146/sec). It came just a week after NASA's top climate scientist blew the whistle on White House efforts to censor his increasingly dire warnings about climate change.

There is no one in the world who is a bigger whore for oil than George Bush. Without oil, there never would have been a President Dubya. Oil has been very very good to him and he has been very very good to it. So when he chants no whores for oil, you have to wonder whether there are any mirrors in the White House. And of course, he has already made it crystal clear that he didn't really mean it.

Fiore has a short entertaining guide to what we have to look forward to in Flamey McGassy's Guide to Global Warming -- Just keep doing what you're doing!

And the truth that nobody wants to hear is that the oil addiction is not even the core problem, capitalism is. Robert Newman confronts us with
bizarre discrepancy between the extreme species threatening nature of the crisis and the utterly insipid character of virtually all the solutions proposed so far: It is either capitalism or a habitable planet, you can't have both (via Counago and Spaves). But in some sectors, the level of denial beggars belief.



UPDATE: Exxpose Exxon has a great flash animation to go along with a catchy little tune by the always hilarious Austin Lounge Lizards: Toast the Earth with Exxon Mobil.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Podcasting and mp3 sources

Point of Inquiry is high quality weekly podcast devoted to promoting science, reason, and freedom of inquiry in every field of human interest. It has an excellent list of shows available for free download including:
  • Chris Mooney on his book the Republican War on Science
  • Eugene Scott on the Dover Trial: Evolution vs Intelligent Design
  • Susan Jacoby on her book The History of American Secularism
  • Paul Kurtz on Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?
While I am at it, the following podcasts are well worth checking out
Another good source for news is the 2 hour weekly news broadcast Unwelcome Guests, which is available via the A-Infos Radio Project and is now also available as a podcast, although this is not so evident from their main site. Unwelcome Guests frequently kicks ass with interesting lectures and discussions by knowledgeable people. Highly recommended.

On a more literary note, there is the excellent LibriVox Project which is a collaborative effort to provide free audiobooks from works in the public domain. Recent offerings include:
  • Notes from Underground
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • Frankenstein
  • The Communist Manifesto
  • The US Constitution
Check out their impressive list of upcoming works as well.

And for some 50's futurism there is Spaceship Radio, which plays vintage short dramas from the golden age of radio, including works by big name early sci-fi writers such as Ray Bradbury.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Halliburton to build mass detention centers in the US


Halliburton was recently awarded a $385 million contract to build mass detention centers in the US. According to the company press release
The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S...The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster. In the event of a natural disaster, the contractor could be tasked with providing housing for ICE personnel performing law enforcement functions in support of relief efforts.
The reference to "a national emergency, such as a natural disaster" is a rather unpersuasive attempt to cast this prison project in a humanitarian light.

Another possibility for which there is well documented historical precedent is that these are detention camps for political "subversives"* in case of a national emergency. Bush has already announced his inclination to respond to "emergencies" by mobilizing the military. Two scenarios spelled out so far are in reponse to hurricanes like Katrina or, slightly more ominously, to enforce a quarantine in the case of an outbreak of avian flu. I am not sure what kind of immigration emergency the press release above is referring to, but I would guess mass round ups of Arabs or Muslims is part of that plan.

There was an important precendent for this type of mass detention project in the 1980s--Rex 84.
Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, was a plan by the United States federal government to test their ability to detain large numbers of American citizens in case of massive civil unrest or national emergency. Exercises similar to Rex 84 happen periodically. From 1967 to 1971 the FBI kept a list of persons to be rounded up as subversive, dubbed the "ADEX" list.
There is much more detail on the program here.

The general consensus at the time was that a main focus was on controlling dissent in case the US military directly intervened in one of the various highly unpopular proxy wars the Reagan administration was conducting in Central America.

Rex 84 also featured prominently in Thomas Pynchon's novel Vineland. A 1999 article by David Thoreen The President's emergency war powers and the erosion of civil liberties in Pynchon's Vineland has a renewed resonance today.
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* link thanks to The Fall of Humanity