American Samizdat Guernica
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Truth can leap out to us readily from art, the link I offer you combines mathematics and and a sense of the sublime essence driving our ongoing evolution as humans in our world, timeless wisdom meeting the information age to allow us to see all we are and can be as we navigate our "critterhood", -we need context. For our species and all others to survive a radical return to our earthly roots seems to be required. Our sense of the sacred needs to be reaquainted with our sense of being, of being-in-the-world. Then we have a more powerful, more stable place to act from. Our modern world relies too heavily on the abstract. Our lives as we live them are based on the Earth.

Peter Champoux has done some remarkable work uniting geomancy (gaiamancy) with fractal geometry. Take some time to explore the Geometry of Place. It is eye opening and thought provoking. Refining this work has occupied him for years, and I thank him his continuing efforts.

Enjoy...
edited
Today's Wild Kingdom

Animals getting it on...


"You can have the best sperm in the world, but if you are not interested in inseminating females, it is not going to get delivered," said Anne Perkins, who worked at the sheep station in the early 1990s. She found that 8 to 10 per cent of the rams would shun willing females and try to mount other males.

The gay rams aren't alone. "There is homosexual behaviour throughout the animal kingdom, documented all over the place," ranging from lesbian macaque monkeys in the forests of Japan to gay penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York, noted Prof. Perkins, who is now chairwoman of the psychology department at Carroll College in Montana.


...and getting high:


The bottom line: animals like to get high – hundreds of animal species, from the ant to the elephant, actively seek out hallucinogenic plants. Samorini is careful to distinguish between accidental intoxication – nature’s equivalent of being spiked – and the deliberate, methodical, at times even aggressive search for psychedelic satisfaction. This somewhat startling fact raises vital questions, not least that of animal consciousness.

If even an ant can tell the difference between being straight and high, in this instance by sucking secretions from the abdomen of a lomechusa beetle, what does this tell us about the consciousness of something like a mandrill, which munches the intensely potent iboga root, then waits up to two hours for the effects to kick in before engaging in territorial battle with another mandrill? Equally fascinating is the fact that many animals appear to use psychedelics recreationally – and that not all individuals of a particular species will indulge, just as some humans are more partial to tripping out than others. One in the eye for the stark behaviourists, it would seem.


"Sometimes a guy will go down, and I'll let him scream a bit to destroy the morale of his buddies," a Marine corporal said, "then I'll use a second shot." ("For Marine snipers, war is up close and personal", Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times, April 19, 2004)

In nearly two weeks of conflict in Falluja, the unnamed corporal has emerged as the top sniper, with 24 confirmed kills. By comparison, the top Marine Corps sniper in Vietnam killed 103 people in 16 months. "I couldn't have asked to be in a better place," the corporal said. "I just got lucky: to be here at the right time and with the right training."

"Crushing Falluja, Part 2" by David Edwards and MediaLens.
MediaLens is a web resource you should know about. Link reference gleaned at Dissident Voice.


"This is how Nicole Goodwin travels these days:
with her 1-year-old daughter pressed to her chest
in a Snugli, a heavy backpack strapped across her shoulders,
and a baby stroller crammed with as many bags of clothes
and diapers as it can hold. When you are a homeless
young mother, these are the things you carry.

"And tucked away somewhere are the documents
attesting to Ms. Goodwin's recent honorable discharge
from the United States Army, as well as
Baghdad memories that are still fresh."
"An initial review of the images featured on the Internet site www.thememoryhole.org shows that more than 18 rows of images from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are actually photographs of honors rendered to Columbia's seven astronauts."
Friday, April 23, 2004
"I firmly believe that if the politicians could figure out a way to make abortion illegal
for white women but not women of color, they'd be sending limos to take us to the clinics."
Vultures and the rotting corpse
that once was Iraq

As long as everything in Iraq is going to hell in a handbasket, it's nice to step back for a moment and see the ways in which the darlings of the Iraq hawks who paved the way for the war are helping to make a mockery of the ideals and goals we're supposedly fighting for in the country.
If you were a company looking to get on the Iraq-reconstruction gravy train, Salem [Chalabi] was probably a good place to start. Not only did he have the ear of his uncle Ahmed Chalabi, with his close ties to the Pentagon and his seat on the Interim Governing Council, but his business partner Marc Zell was pretty well-connected, too.

Who's Marc Zell, you ask? Allow me to explain.

Zell is the longtime law partner of Undersecretary of Defense Doug Feith, one of the Bush administration's prime architects of the drive for war with Iraq. Feith's Pentagon office, meanwhile, is the one charged with doling out Iraqi reconstruction contracts.

(Their law firm is called Feith & Zell -- though they've changed the name while Feith is in government. You can visit them too at www.fandz.com)

At this point, I'm going to assume you’ve heard enough that you’re either laughing or crying at the mix of insiderism, cronyism and ridiculousness that Chalabi and his crew are making of the lofty ideals we're supposedly fighting for in Iraq.

We may have banished dictatorship and gross human rights abuses from Iraq — at least for the moment, that is — but cronyism and clan dynasticism seem to have weathered the invasion quite nicely.


Paul Krugman:
What Went Wrong?
The mess in Iraq was created by officials who believed what they wanted to believe, and ignored awkward facts. It seems they have learned nothing.
Why was it predictable that Iraq would go wrong? The squandered victory in Afghanistan was an obvious precedent. But the character flaws in the Bush administration that led to the present crisis were fully visible in the months that followed 9/11.

It quickly became apparent that President Bush, while willing to spend vast sums on the military, wasn't willing to spend enough on security. And 9/11 didn't shake the administration's fanatical commitment to privatization and outsourcing, in which free-market ideology is inextricably mixed with eagerness to protect and reward corporate friends.

Sure enough, the administration was unprepared for predictable security problems in Iraq, but moved quickly — in violation of international law — to impose its economic vision. Last month Jay Garner, the first U.S. administrator of Iraq, told the BBC that he was sacked in part because he wanted to hold quick elections. His superiors wanted to privatize Iraqi industries first — as part of a plan that, according to Mr. Garner, was drawn up in late 2001.

Vultures. I see vultures. Bad enough they had to go in and kick the crap out of these people, but to then let their corporate cronies go in like vultures and tear the remaining flesh off of the rotting corpse that once was Iraq? These people are so devoid of morals that it is hard to even believe that they are human.
 
"History, we don't know. We'll all be dead."Chris Floyd:
Our brief history of conscious thought is replete with vivid scenarios of the end of life on earth. The brain-fevers we call religions have produced most of these ...
The corrosive nihilism at the heart of the enterprise ate through the gaudily-painted surface most tellingly in a single anecdote. Woodward asks George W. Bush how he thinks history will regard his adventure in Iraq. Bush, gazing out the window, shrugs and waves the question away. "History, we don't know," he says. "We'll all be dead." No fine, faith-filled talk here about God and Jesus and the immortal soul responsible for its actions throughout all eternity -- the kind of zealous patter Bush favors in public statements. This was just the cold, rotten, meaningless core of his grand vision -- "we'll all be dead." So who cares? Apres moi, le deluge.
What "world events" are they secretly dreaming of, these death-fetishists, these unconscious nihilists, mired in their group-mind fog? What voluptuous nightmares will require their "robust" attention? How many world-devouring warheads will be "sufficient" to at last quell their anxiety, their all-too-human craving for oblivion?
Our clients include federal law enforcement agencies, the Department of Defense, Department of State, and Department of Transportation, local and state entities from around the country, multi-national corporations, and friendly nations from all over the globe.

We customize and execute solutions for our clients to help keep them at the level of readiness required to meet today's law enforcement, homeland security, and defense challenges.-- Blackwater USA emphasis mine


I'm amazed and discomfitted by the fact that there are more highly paid mercenaries carrying guns for the coalition in Iraq (20,000) than British troops, the largest "nation owned" coalition force. How can the US pay up to 1800 dollars a day for privatized troops when our enlisted folks don't make that in a month? Will our people get so used to the concept that we might one day let these corporate "troops" walk the streets of America as if they were American soldiers?
Now, the Washington Post claims that private security firms, "unable to rely on U.S. and coalition troops for intelligence or help under duress...have begun to band together, organising what may be the largest private army in the world, with its own rescue teams and pooled, sensitive intelligence."

This blurring of civilian and military forces does not bode well for what is supposed to be a democratic effort, a "coalition of the billing" unbeholden to "We the People", killing and dying not for the percieved justice of a cause but for big bucks
seems the antithesis of Patriotism, slurring in my mind the reason our volunteer troops are risking life and limb there.
Volunteer troops underpaid, undersupported and forced to buy their own body armor and other equipment, while mercenaries roll in taxpayer cash.
Many security guards are hired as "independent contractors" by companies that, in turn, are sub-contractors of larger security companies, which are themselves subcontractors of a prime contractor, which may have been hired by a United States agency.

In practical terms, these convoluted relationships often mean that the governmental authorities have no real oversight of security companies on the public payroll.


These guns-for-hire are not considered "lawful combatants" under the 3rd Geneva convention, nor technically can they be called "mercenaries" because to fit that title they would need to fight in a warzone in which their own country is not a participant. They are not subject to the same rules of engagement as our troops.
Government contracting officials and company executives concede that private guards have every right to abandon their posts if they deem the situation too unsafe. They are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, nor can they be prosecuted under civil laws or declared AWOL.


Neocon darling Ahmed Chalabi has what amounts to a private army paid for by US tax dollars. The company recieving an 80 million dollar contract protecting Iraqs oil infrastructure, Erinys Iraq, has no prior experience in the security field, having started up in May of last year. The company was started by Chalabi stalwarts- and Chalabi himself may have recieved a 2 million dollar "fee" for helping arrange the contract.
Asked how much influence Chalabi had in the decision to award the contract to Erinys Iraq, Sam Kubba, president of the American Iraqi chamber of commerce, a congressional candidate in Virginia and a businessman with extensive connections in Iraq, said, "100 percent ... and you can quote me on that."


Yup, that Chalabi, he of the useless intelligence that the Neocons used to get the US into Iraq, promulgating his BS through the news media to sway public opinion. He was paid 1 million dollars for his "intelligence".
On Wednesday Mr Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, shrugged off charges that he had deliberately misled US intelligence.

"We are heroes in error," he said in Baghdad. "As far as we're concerned we've been entirely successful.

"That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important."


That is about as good as Mr Bush's "What's the difference?"

Indeed.

"Mercenaries in Iraq" by Chris Laughlin (pdf) is very informative.

Some links gleaned at KathrynCramer.com
Dep. Under Secretary of War John Molino "denied the suggestion that restricting access to the photographs was an attempt at damage limitation by the Bush administration, which is under pressure over its policy of invading and occupying Iraq.

"'I don't see that as our motivation. To be very frank with you, we don't want the remains of our service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be the subject of any kind of attention that is unwarranted or undignified,' said Mr Molino."

Unwarranted? Documentation of the shipment of coffins that contain soldiers' remains is not unwarranted. Such an event is the inevitable and unfortunate result of warmaking. Someone died. His or her body was put into a box. This is what happens when humans are sent to fight and kill each other.

To prohibit documentation or publication of these events is to deny that there is a negative aspect to this kind of action. The line about "deferring to the bereaved" is a screen. Who will see photos like these and not empathize with or acknowledge the loss that some family will have to endure? That's being human. I think that it is because our humanity, our emotions and our contemplative selves are stirred by this evidence that the government wants to control it. Human concerns and compassion have a tendency not to square with policy. And when policy leads to an invasion that Paul Wolfowitz himself said "was probably illegal," then it becomes all the more important to hide its negative consequences.

When confronted by the evidence of death, people are reminded of their life. They are reminded that they feel and yearn, that they hope and hurt and fear and love... and they are reminded of how all of that is lost to the dead. Perhaps people will wonder if the person in the box was someone they knew. They might wonder if someone they know will end up in such a box.

Confronted by the evidence of death, people are reminded of their life and the fact that they have voices. Perhaps people will ask when the coffins will stop being shipped, when "victory" will be won. They might not so fervently wave those 99-cent flags if they continue to see flag-draped coffins flown home from countries whose inhabitants don't want to be beholden to our mandates and military force.

Of course, many people will see photos like these and harden their resolve. Their commitment to the cause and to the government will strengthen. They will want the soldiers who have died not to be forsaken, forgotten, or to have died in vain. It's relative. Each individual will see things differently.

However, I think that to deny individuals the opportunity to reflect on these events, to see and read about the effects of this war, is to corrupt the idea of democracy for which these soldiers supposedly died.



And in regard to dignity... no one making decisions in this matter
has the right to speak of it, when 10 Iraqis die for each American,
and so many have been civilians.

But then, how often do you see evidence of that?



Just to add a little background: The ban on showing the arrival of soldiers' coffins began in '91 after a live, split-screen broadcast in '89 that showed George I "acting the fool as the bodies of the men he had sent to war (in Panama) were borne from a military transport."
Thursday, April 22, 2004
Oh, my God!

Theocracy Watch:

President Jimmy Carter:
Carter's Crusade
Former President Jimmy Carter, America's first evangelical Christian president, in an interview with The American Prospect. Carter speaks about the success of the Republican Party in attracting the "religious values" vote and the rise of the fundamentalist vote to it's position of political prominence.

I'm very impressed with Carter here (as I often am) because while I am an Atheist and he is an evangelical, he's still hit the nail right on the head regarding the fundamentalists.



The campus is immaculate, everyone is clean-cut and cheerful. But just what are they teaching at Patrick Henry College? And why do so many students end up working for George Bush?
It is worth making clear from the outset that Patrick Henry College in rural Virginia is not your average American university. At Patrick Henry, the students - about 75 per cent of whom have been taught at home rather than in schools - are required to sign a statement of faith before they arrive, confirming (among other things) that they have a literal belief in the teachings of the Bible. At Patrick Henry, students must obey a curfew. They must wear their hair neatly and dress "modestly".

Students must also obey a rule stating that if they wish to hold hands with a member of the opposite sex, they must do so while walking: standing while holding hands is not permitted. And at Patrick Henry, students must sign an honour pledge that bans them from drinking alcohol unless under parental supervision.

Yet these things alone do not make the college special. ...

Be afraid. Be very afraid.


And two on Dubya's new "Father" . . .

Robert Scheer:
With God on his side
George W. Bush the believer marched the nation into madness in Iraq. Smarter policymakers like Colin Powell -- and Bush's own father -- should have stopped him.
So, it was a holy war, a new crusade. No wonder George W. Bush could lie to Congress and the American public with such impunity while keeping the key members of his Cabinet in the dark. He was serving a higher power, according to Bob Woodward, who interviewed the president for a new book on the months leading up to the Iraq invasion.

Of course, as a self-described "messenger" of God who was "praying for strength to do the Lord's will," Bush was not troubled about shredding a little secular document called the U.S. Constitution. ...


Calgary Sun:
Calamity George
Bush harbours no worries because God's on his side
George W. Bush says he's been praying for fewer casualties in Iraq.

How incredibly immense of the "bring it on" president. There's no substitute for resolute, concrete leadership, even if the praying comes between decisive bouts of hooking bass on the Crawford ranch back-40 while Americans and Iraqis are slaughtered in ever greater numbers.

No doubt Bush, on bended knee last year, also implored his lord to divinely hoodwink Americans with the weapons of mass destruction and Saddam's al-Qaida links catechism.

And lo and behold, God really is on Bush's side. ...

Three decades ago Winston Churchill's grandson asked Ariel Sharon how Israel should deal with the Palestinians. "We'll make a pastrami sandwich out of them," he replied. "We'll insert a strip of Jewish settlements in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlements right across the West Bank, so that in twenty-five years' time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart."

Mission accomplished.
The politics (and pharmacology) of mind control
This comes from the current week's interview at NewScientist.com.

"[In regard to Sell v. United States], we wanted the court to recognise that we have entered an age where freedom of thought will become meaningless if we don't recognise and protect the individual's right to privacy, autonomy and choice with respect to his or her own brain chemistry.

So who should have control?

It's clear that by manipulating the brain you can change thought, and because your thoughts are central to who you are, and because freedom of thought is necessary for all our other freedoms, it ought to be the case that the individual, as opposed to the government, has the ultimate control over matters of the mind. Without freedom of thought, what freedom remains?

Should the US government use what it calls "pharmacotherapy" in its drugs war?

We have a big report coming out soon on pharmacotherapy. The focus is on how the new breed of neuro-drugs are helping to shift the old rhetoric of the "war on drugs" away from drug users as "the enemy" to being "sick people" who need treatment. It will then become a war of "good" new drugs versus the "bad" drugs. The good drugs are drugs that keep the bad, illegal drugs from passing through the blood-brain barrier. So policing the drug war is going to move from the external world of cops and helicopters to the internal world of increasing pressure to use these "neurocops" to reduce or entirely block the effects of illegal drugs.

Are there such drugs?

There is one under development by a French company called Sanofi-Synthelabo called SR141716 that blocks or reduces the effects of marijuana. It is in Food and Drug Administration clinical trials. The National Institute on Drug Abuse published findings in 2002 showing that this "anti-drug" reduces the effects of smoked marijuana by up to 75 per cent. The US government is serious about this effort to make not only the US but also the rest of the world drug-free, supposedly. It is now shifting this metaphor from "war" to "treatment". And in 2002, the Office of National Drug Control Policy even coined the term "compassionate coercion", saying that people who use illegal drugs are often in denial, so the government needs to act in this compassionately coercive way to get them the treatment that the government says they need.

The bottom line is that cognitive liberty is becoming one of the major civil rights issues of this century. Our goal is to rally the folks interested in fighting on the side of freedom of thought."

A military contractor has fired Tami Silicio, a Kuwait-based cargo worker whose photograph of flag-draped coffins of fallen U.S. soldiers was published in Sunday's edition of The Seattle Times.

Silicio was let go yesterday for violating U.S. government and company regulations, said William Silva, president of Maytag Aircraft, the contractor that employed Silicio at Kuwait International Airport.

"I feel like I was hit in the chest with a steel bar and got my wind knocked out. I have to admit I liked my job, and I liked what I did," Silicio said.

Her photograph, taken earlier this month, shows more than 20 flag-draped coffins in a cargo plane about to depart from Kuwait. Since 1991, the Pentagon has banned the media from taking pictures of caskets being returned to the United States.

That policy has been a lightning rod for debate, and Silicio's photograph was quickly posted on numerous Internet sites and became the subject of many Web conversations. Times Executive Editor Michael R. Fancher yesterday appeared on ABC's "Good Morning America" news show with U.S. Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., who supported the Pentagon policy prohibiting such pictures.

As a result of the broader coverage, The Times received numerous e-mails and phone calls from across the country — most of which supported the newspaper's decision.

Pentagon officials yesterday said the government's policy defers to the sensitivities of bereaved families. "We've made sure that all of the installations who are involved with the transfer of remains were aware that we do not allow any media coverage of any of the stops until (the casket) reaches its final destination," said Cynthia Colin, a Pentagon spokeswoman. [more]

When the Pentagon says that their policy "defers to the senstivities of bereaved families"--they are, of course, completely full of shit. And while the policy was made back in the early nineties, it wasn't enforced until the Bush administration. Why? Because the Bush administration doesn't want you to see how many Americans are dying because of their lies, of course.

Once again then, let's show that pic:


(Hm, this pic doesn't seem to enlarge on the Seattle Times site when you click on it . . . Also, is this from the same series which Benedict gave us here which he got from the great Bartcop?)

At any rate, in honor of the woman and her husband who lost their job--it behooves you all to show this photo and share this story far and wide.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004
What if al Qaeda were a bureaucracy—you know, like the U.S. government? What would its inter-cave memoranda say about the state of the U.S. war on terrorism from a jihadist perspective? Here is a guess...
What are we doing to ourselves?

Why are we so focused on infecting others with our fears?

Why are we so intent on spreading them to our children?

What are we doing to ourselves?

The Ministry of Truth, excuse me, the Department of Defense omitted statements made by Donald Rumsfeld to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, in a transcript published on the DOD website, in which he told the Prince that he could "take that to the bank" that the invasion of Iraq would happen (this conversation was held in January 2003). The Pentagon deleted a total of eight questions and answers from the transcript, described by Rumsfeld as "some banter". More proof that the Bush administration was dead set on a war, reason or not.

George W. Bush is probably not bright enough to be president.
For years, we have been told most Americans are conservative -- and that is probably true. Nobody calling himself a "liberal" has been elected president in 40 years. The situation now is so desperate that anyone who loves this country and cares about the world has to do everything in their power to see that the conservative candidate wins the presidential election in November.

That would be John F. Kerry, of course.

No, that's not a trick answer. ...

In the Mailbox:
 
It seems that a Mr. Murphy doesn't much like John Kerry. In fact, he doesn't see much difference between Kerry and George Bush, fearing perhaps that Kerry might even be worse. No way, says Murphy, could he ever think of voting for John Kerry.

Of course, I had to straighten him out:

Dear Mr. Murphy,

A few brief points to clear up before I address your vote (or lack thereof):

  • Skull & Bones is a college fraternity. They have skulls and bones and robes and death rituals and vows of silence and wild howling parties at 3 A.M. ... just like my fraternity did. Just like all fraternities do. Shall we then forever ban anyone who ever joined a fraternity from public office? This is a non-issue.

  • Feeling a sense of patriotic duty common during the Vietnam days, John Kerry went to Vietnam where he quite likely did some very nasty things ... just like the more than one million other young men who served in Vietnam. Shall we then forever ban anyone who ever served in Vietnam from public office? This is a non-issue.

  • Your desire to cut the Pentagon budget by 15% is admirable (though I would wish to cut far more). The trouble is that it just isn't going to happen, at least not anytime in the near future. If you wish to work towards this goal, you would do well to lay out perhaps a 20 year gameplan during which you plan to radically alter the American sentiment. If you are even successful, it will certainly take that long.
Regarding your deep dislike of John Kerry, I understand that. I don't much care for him myself. There is indeed little that Mr. Kerry offers to any serious liberal. Your suggestion that Mr. Kerry might perhaps be worse than Mr. Bush however clearly shows that you do not understand Mr. Bush.

Presidents are not solo actors. They are merely the most prominent face in a large organization that they bring into office with them. In the case of John Kerry, one would feel fairly confident that he would also be the strong hand that steered his organization. In the case of Mr. Bush however, we already know that he does not exert this same type of strong hand leadership over his organization. This of course serves to elevate the powers of the individual actors within his organization, and this is where the problem with Mr. Bush comes in.

You have suggested that both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush share the same backers. To some extent this is true. Certainly they share the military-industrial complex and the globalizationists (together, the Corporatists). Mr. Bush however brings in two additional backers that Kerry does not: the Neocons and the Christian Fundamentalists. To suggest then that Kerry = Bush then is to ignore this second set of backers of Mr. Bush.

The Corporatists of course are about making money. While making money is certainly necessary, you likely are of a mind that they focus to completely on this, sacrificing as they do social concerns, and I would agree with you on this. But Corporatists do have one very necessary trait; they operate on facts. They might not emphasize the same facts that you or I would, but they do operate on facts. As such, they are rational (and reasonably predictable) actors. The same cannot however be said regarding the Neocons and the Christian Fundamentalists.

These last two groups come with pre-formed sets of ideologies that are not fact-based. In other words, they simply believe something regardless of whether or not real world experiences bear out those beliefs, and in fact will not change those beliefs when facts directly refute them.They are penultimate ideologues.

Now I do not intend to get into a detailed discussion of the beliefs of either of these groups (this could take books) but to say that their beliefs are very dangerous and their end goals share a common element: absolute power. Both of these groups, given the opportunity provided by a second Bush term, would institute extremely harsh penalties for any and all forms of dissent, and both would remove your right to vote. This is the difference between Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush. With Mr. Kerry, you will actually get to vote again in 2008. With Mr. Bush, you will not. And that is a very big difference.

You are correct, Mr. Murphy. You are not going to get much of what you (and I) desire if you vote for Kerry and he is elected. But you are also not going to lose much, and you will have another chance at it in four years. It is indeed a pity that this is our choice in this election, but it is foolish to ignore the fact that it is.

With regards,
Benedict@Large
Kirwan is back!
War Has Answered!
The sought after has finally arrived. It's been well over a year, closer to two, since the formal Council of Conspirators began to plot the arrival of this day. Finally WAR has arrived in all its blood and ruin-all it's chaos and oblivion. ...
Winner gets 3 nights accommodations in New York City during the Republican National Convention later this year . . . sponsored by High Times magazine, who will also throw in VIP access to all High Times events.

I believe that New Yorkers are going to show the Republicans quite a protest during that convention, and if the cop-work down in Miami for the FTAA meetings recently was training for anything, it was certainly this . . . the result is not going to be harmonious, to say the least.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
US Christian fundamentalists are driving Bush's Middle East policy
To understand what is happening in the Middle East, you must first understand what is happening in Texas. To understand what is happening there, you should read the resolutions passed at the state's Republican party conventions last month. Take a look, for example, at the decisions made in Harris County, which covers much of Houston.

The delegates began by nodding through a few uncontroversial matters: homosexuality is contrary to the truths ordained by God; "any mechanism to process, license, record, register or monitor the ownership of guns" should be repealed; income tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax should be abolished; and immigrants should be deterred by electric fences. Thus fortified, they turned to the real issue: the affairs of a small state 7,000 miles away. It was then, according to a participant, that the "screaming and near fist fights" began.

I don't know what the original motion said, but apparently it was "watered down significantly" as a result of the shouting match. The motion they adopted stated that Israel has an undivided claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank, that Arab states should be "pressured" to absorb refugees from Palestine, and that Israel should do whatever it wishes in seeking to eliminate terrorism. Good to see that the extremists didn't prevail then.

But why should all this be of such pressing interest to the people of a state which is seldom celebrated for its fascination with foreign affairs? The explanation is slowly becoming familiar to us, but we still have some difficulty in taking it seriously.

In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion ...

Welcome to Texas, the "Rapture" state.
What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (ie those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.

The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about ...

Go read.
"We can laugh at these people, but we should not dismiss them."
Robert Fisk, in an interview on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's show Lateline:

The only people who are talking about civil war at the moment in Iraq are the Americans and the British and the Western journalists who suck up their lines and push it back out as their own analysis.

I haven't actually met an Iraqi who wants a civil war or who's talked about a civil war.

There's never been a civil war in Iraq.

I rather suspect that this danger of civil war -- and I'm guilty before the war quite rightly predicting there might be -- is being pushed out by the Americans and the British in order to frighten the Iraqis into obedience.

"If you don't put your guns down, look what might happen, you'll have civil war."

I think the reason why they're wrong and why I was wrong is that they never appreciated that the Iraqi tribal system covers both communities - many Shiite tribes also are Sunnis, they're in the same tribes.

I went out the other day - and this is an interesting example, to go to the funeral of a doctor, of a Sunni, who had been murdered almost certainly by a Shiite gang of gunmen.

When I said, "What does this make you feel about your neighbours?", they said, "Nothing.

"They're our friends and our comrades and our neighbours."

"Because," he said "our tribes include the Shiites."

The brother of the doctor said, "Look, my wife is a Shiite.

"Want do you want me to do?

"Go and kill her?

"Because my brother was killed by a Shiite?

"No, we will not have a civil war."

So I think possibly there will not [be] a civil war and I think it is becoming highly provocative of the occupying power to constantly talk about it in this way as if they almost want a civil war.

If we journalists started talking it about after the occupation we would have called irresponsible by the occupying power.

So why are they suddenly talking about civil war now?
Good question. You can also watch the interview here.
Reuters  is reporting that "Italy Seizes 8,000 Kalashnikovs Headed to U.S." More:

The arms, worth about six million euros, were discovered aboard a ship arriving from Romania that pulled into the southern Italian port of Gioia Tauro on its way to the United States, Italy's customs said in a statement.

According to travel documents, the arms are the property of a large U.S. company headquartered in the U.S. state of Georgia.
I haven't found a report that says which company. Oh, yeah, and "The customs office said the weapons had been described as "common guns" instead of assault rifles and longer-range combat arms in the travel documentation."

If anyone knows which major corporation in Georgia is smuggling assault rifles into the country. . . DON'T CALL ASHCROFT!


. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Be at peace
Monday, April 19, 2004
...after much ballyhoo concerning largely american mercenaries, bush and co. are looking to create foreign legions of darkies to do their dirty work for them.

those bush advisors were evidently deadly serious about the benefits of outsourcing after all.

perhaps after consultation with sharon last week, bush has decided that the only army in the world - IDF apart - worth having would be rwandan....

and if the americans do succeed in creating and deploying hutu legions, i cannot imagine their european allies smiling on the project. even the germans and japanese will have to rearm seriously at that point.

the republican americans will probably have more luck with the robot soldiers that they are preparing for the next decades of the project of the new american century.

what a great incentive for peace...war with no body bags.

and brigades of overweight american teenagers to man the battle stations by remote. life and death and war become just one great LAN party....

"The prosecutor said that if Vanunu were released, the Americans would probably leave Iraq and go after Israel and Israel's nuclear weapons - which I found extremely ridiculous."


Mordechai Vanunu did a courageous thing, an paid for his act by serving 18 years in the Israeli prison system, 12 of those years in solitary confinement. In 1986 Vanuna outed Israel's advanced nuclear weapons program in a London newspaper in an article entitled "Revealed: The Secrets of Israel's Nuclear Arsenal." He offered the world photographs and testimony proving that Israel possessed nuclear bombs and warheads, even neutron bombs.
"I have sacrificed my freedom and risked my life in order to expose the danger of nuclear weapons which threatens this whole region. I acted on behalf of all citizens and all of humanity."

Over 1500 scientists and intellectuals have supported Vanunu in his efforts at release. Among them 23 Nobel Laureates.

This prisoner of conscience will finally be released on April 21- although he will be held in a prison without walls in a state of internal exile, unallowed to renounce his Israeli citizenship or even going near any port, border or foreign embassy.
He is subject to severe penalties should he break any of these restrictions or even have contact with foreigners. He will be treated as one without a passport and although he can choose which Israeli municipality he will live in he will have to clear traveling outside the municiple borders with police. He cannot talk about his work at the nuclear facility all those years ago or about his kidnapping by Mossad.

Vanunu left his nuclear weapons job and traveled before exposing Israel's nuclear weapons program, spending time in Australia where he converted to the Anglican faith and was disowned by his orthodox Jewish parents. After his act of conscience he was lured from London to Rome by an attractive American woman for an outing that would include visiting her sister.The Florida native was a Mossad agent, Mr Vanunu was drugged and kidnapped from Italy and brought to Israel.

The post sentence restrictions on his life will keep him from being able to see or communicate with his adoptive parents, who are citizens of the US.

I'm out of time...
A bit of a follow-up on "The Perfect Alibi", in which I mentioned the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay M. Khalilzad. The New York Times presents a fairly flattering profile of "Zal's" work there in the rebuilding effort.

A couple of notes on the article:

  • "As a State Department and Pentagon official and at the Rand Corporation, he advocated pre-emptive action against so-called rogue states like Iraq." - This is somewhat of an understatement. Khalilzad was a member of the PNAC.

  • Khalilzad "briefly defended the Taliban while working as a consultant for Unocal, the oil company that was then trying to build a pipeline through Afghanistan. He later became one of the Taliban's fiercest critics." - This is somewhat misleading on two points. First, Unocal wasn't trying to build a pipeline at this time. They were trying to negotiate a contract with the Taliban to build one, and Khalilzad was acting as a broker for Unocal in this effort. Obviously he defended the Taliban during these nogotiations and turned on them when the Unocal negotiation broke down.

    Second, not mentioned here is that UNOCAL did sign a pipeline contract with the new Afghanistan government, and is currently in a pre-construction phase of that project.

This last bullet suggests that this article is a bit of a puff piece, or at least more of a human interest story rather that a news story. Assuming the article's portrayal of Khalilzad to be reasonably accurate however, he does seem to be a far better choice for his position than Bremer was for Iraq.
 
And what a sickening spectacle ...Chris Floyd:
And what a sickening spectacle: Bush and Blair piously kneeling in prayer on Easter Sunday, ...
... pledging their fealty to Jesus Christ and His teachings of mercy and lovingkindness -- while ordering missile strikes on crowded cities, while filling hospitals with the mutilated bodies of young children, while shoveling fat war profits to their cronies and contributors. Only the most craven, bootlicking sycophant could fail to be revolted at the hypocrisy of these murderous cynics. They're a perfect match in moral idiocy for their crack-brained brother-in-arms, Osama bin Laden.
* * *
... the conquest of Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism or liberation or WMD or national security or Arab democracy or Bush family revenge. It has been planned for years by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and other Bush retainers, planned openly, and for one reason only: to give the United States direct military control of the Middle East in order to dominate global economic and political life for "the New American Century." This need was so great, said the group -- openly, in September 2000 -- that it "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."
It wouldn't have mattered if Saddam had found Jesus, or freed his people, or set himself on fire in Madison Square Garden: The Bushists were always going to invade and occupy Iraq -- always, no matter what.
Sunday, April 18, 2004

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