Thursday, December 28, 2006

Some things you need to know before your world ends :)

ZNet Commentary
The Anti-Empire Report 
Some things you need to know before the world ends
December 27, 2006
By Bill Blum

Designer monsters

 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a man seemingly custom-made for the White House in its endless quest for enemies with whom to scare Congress, the American people, and the world, in order to justify the unseemly behavior of the empire. The Iranian president has declared that he wants to "wipe Israel off the map". He's said that "the Holocaust is a myth". He recently held a conference in Iran for "Holocaust deniers". And his government passed a new law requiring Jews to wear a yellow insignia, à la the Nazis. On top of all that, he's aiming to build nuclear bombs, one of which would surely be aimed at Israel. What right-thinking person would not be scared by such a man?

 However, like with all such designer monsters made bigger than life during the Cold War and since by Washington, the truth about Ahmadinejad is a bit more complicated. According to people who know Farsi, the Iranian leader has never said anything about "wiping Israel off the map". In his October 29, 2005 speech, when he reportedly first made the remark, the word "map" does not even appear. According to the translation of Juan Cole, American professor of Modern Middle East and South Asian History, Ahmadinejad said that "the regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time." His remark, said Cole, "does not imply military action or killing anyone at all," which presumably is what would make the remark threatening.[1] Readers are advised that the next time they come across such an Ahmadinejad citation to note whether a complete sentence is being quoted, and not just "wipe Israel off the map".

 At the conference in Teheran ("Review of the Holocaust: Global Vision"), the Iranian president said: "The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon, the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom."[2] Obviously, the man is not calling for any kind of violent attack upon Israel, for the dissolution of the Soviet Union did not occur through force or violence.

 As for the Holocaust myth, I have yet to read or hear words from Ahmadinejad's mouth saying simply and clearly and unequivocally that he thinks that the Holocaust never happened. He has commented about the peculiarity of a Holocaust which took place in Europe resulting in a state for the Jews in the Middle East instead of in Europe. And he argues that Israel and the United States have exploited the memory of the Holocaust for their own imperialist purposes. He also wonders about the accuracy of the number of Jews -- six million -- killed in the Holocaust, as have many other people of all political stripes, including Holocaust survivors like author Primo Levi. (The much publicized World War One atrocities which turned out to be false made the public very skeptical of the Holocaust claims for a long time.)

 The conference gave a platform to various points of view, including six members of Jews United Against Zionism, at least two of whom were rabbis. One was Ahron Cohen, from London, who declared: "There is no doubt what so ever, that during World War 2 there developed a terrible and catastrophic policy and action of genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany against the Jewish People." He also said that "the Zionists make a great issue of the Holocaust in order to further their illegitimate philosophy and aims," indicating as well that the figure of six million Jewish victims is debatable. The other rabbi was Moshe David Weiss, who told the delegates: "We don't want to deny the killing of Jews in World War II, but Zionists have given much higher figures for how many people were killed. They have used the Holocaust as a device to justify their oppression." His group rejects the creation of Israel on the grounds that it violates Jewish religious law in that a Jewish state can't exist until the return of the Messiah .[3]

 Another speaker was Shiraz Dossa, professor of political science at St. Francis Xavier University in Canada. In an interview after the conference, he described himself as an anti-imperialist and an admirer of Noam Chomsky, and said that he "was invited because of my expertise as a scholar in the German-Jewish area, as well as my studies in the Holocaust. ... I have nothing to do with Holocaust denial, not at all." His talk was "about the war on terrorism, and how the Holocaust plays into it. Other people [at the conference] have their own points of view, but that [Holocaust denial] is not my point of view. ... There was no pressure at all to say anything, and people there had different views."[4]

 Clearly, the conference -- which the White House called "an affront to the entire civilized world"[5] -- was not set up to be simply a forum for people to deny that the Holocaust, to any significant degree, literally never took place at all.

 As to the yellow star story of this past May -- that was a complete fabrication by a prominent Iranian-American neo-conservative, Amir Taheri. There are as well other egregious examples of Ahmadinejad's policies and words being twisted out of shape in the Western media, making him look like a danger to all that's holy and decent. Political science professor Virginia Tilley has written a good account of this. "Why is Mr. Ahmadinejad being so systematically misquoted and demonized?" Tilley asks. "Need we ask? If the world believes that Iran is preparing to attack Israel, then the US or Israel can claim justification in attacking Iran first. On that agenda, the disinformation campaign about Mr. Ahmadinejad's statements has been bonded at the hip to a second set of lies: promoting Iran's (nonexistent) nuclear weapon programme."[6]

 Ahmadinejad, however, is partly to blame for this "disinformation". I heard him in an interview while he was at the UN in September being asked directly about "the map" and the reality of the Holocaust, and he refused to give explicit answers of "yes" or "no", which I interpret as his prideful refusal to accede to the wishes of what he regarded as a hostile Western interviewer asking hostile questions. In an interview with the German news magazine, Der Spiegel (May 31 2006), Ahmadinejad states: "We don't want to confirm or deny the Holocaust."  The Iranian president is also in the habit of prefacing certain remarks with "Even if the Holocaust happened ... ", a rhetorical device we all use in argument and discussion, but one which can not help but reinforce the doubts people have about his views.

 It may already be too late. The conventional wisdom about what Ahmadinejad has said and meant may already be set in marble. Ban I Moon, at a news conference on December 14, after being sworn in as the new secretary-general of the United Nations, was asked by an Israeli reporter whether the United Nations was going to address the issue of Holocaust deniers. Ban replied: "Denying historical facts, especially on such an important subject as the Holocaust is just not acceptable. Nor is it acceptable to call for the elimination of any state or people."[7]  Let's hope that this is not very indicative of the independence of mind that we can expect from the new secretary-general. Myths die so hard.

Time magazine has just foregone its usual selection of "Person of the Year" and instead chosen "You", the Internet user. Managing editor Richard Stengel said that if it came down to one individual it probably would have been Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but that "It just felt to me a little off selecting him."[8]   In previous years Time's "Person of the Year" has included Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler.

 No one ever thinks they're guilty of anything. They're all just good ol' patriots.

 General Augusto Pinochet, who escaped earthly justice on December 10, was detained in London in 1999 awaiting a ruling by a British court on whether he would be extradited to Spain on a Spanish judge's warrant to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during his rule in Chile from 1973 to 1990. "I tell you how I feel," he told a London journalist at the time. "I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country, who served Chile throughout his entire life on this earth. And what he did was always done thinking about the welfare of Chile."[9]

 P.W. Botha, former president of South Africa died November 1. He was a man who had vigorously defended the apartheid system, which led to the jailing of tens of thousands of people. He never repented or apologized for his actions, and resisted attempts to make him appear before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At one point he declared: "I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for forgiveness. What I did, I did for my country."[10]

 As Pol Pot lay on his death bed in 1997, he was interviewed by a journalist, who later wrote: "Asked whether he wants to apologize for the suffering he caused, he looks genuinely confused, has the interpreter repeat the question, and answers 'No'. ... 'I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country'."[11]

"In these three decades I have been actuated solely by love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life." Adolf Hitler, "Last Will and Testament", written in his bunker in his final hours, April 29, 1945.

Fast Forward now to 2036 ... George W. Bush lies dying, Fox News Channel is in the room recording his last words ..  "I know that people think the whole thing ... that thing in Iraq ... was a bad thing, and they hold it against me ... I appreciate their view .. I can understand how they feel ... But y'know, I did it for America, and the American people, and their freedom ... The more you love freedom, the more likely it is you'll be attacked ... Saddam was a real threat ... I still think he had weapons of mass destruction ... and someday we'll find 'em ... someday we'll say mission accomplished! ... that will really be a turning point! .. So I'm prepared to meet my maker and whatever he has in mind for me ... in fact I say Bring it on!"

William Shirer, in his monumental work "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", comments that Hitler's Last Will and Testament "confirm that the man who had ruled over Germany with an iron hand for more than twelve years, and over most of Europe for four, had learned nothing from his experience."[12]

Shirer tells us of another happening concerning Hitler's bunker, on April 12. When news of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt reached Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, he phoned Hitler in the bunker. "My Fuehrer," Goebbels said. "I congratulate you! Roosevelt is dead! ... It is the turning point."[13]

 The United States of Punishment

 2.2 million imprisoned ... "We're Number One! USA! USA! USA!" ... 7 million -- one in every 32 American adults -- either behind bars, on probation, or on parole ... When it comes to sentencing, let me tell you, people, and pardon my language, the United States is one hell of a tough mother fucker ... beginning with mandatory minimum sentences ... there are tens of thousands of young men rotting their lives away in American prisons for simple possession of a drug, for their own use, for their own pleasure, to enjoy with a friend, no victims involved. Do you think a person should be in prison if he hasn't hurt anyone? Either physically, financially, or in some other real and serious manner? Jose Antonio Lopez, a legal permanent resident with a family and business in South Dakota, was deported back to Mexico a while ago because of a cocaine charge -- Sale? No. Use? No. Possession? No. ... He told someone where they could buy some.[14] Another man was sentenced to 55 years in prison for three marijuana deals because he was in possession of a gun each time, which he did not use or brandish. Possession of a firearm in a drug transaction requires a much stiffer prison sentence. Four former attorneys-general and 145 former prosecutors and judges wrote in support of a lighter sentence for this man. The presiding judge himself called the sentence "unjust, cruel and irrational", but said the law left him no choice.[15]

 On December 1, a court in the Netherlands convicted four Dutch Muslims of plotting terrorist attacks against political leaders and government buildings. The heaviest sentence for any of them was eight years.[16] On December 13, a priest was convicted of taking part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide by ordering militiamen to set fire to a church and then bulldoze it while 2,000 people seeking safety were huddled inside. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda sentenced him to 15 years in prison.[17] Considerably lighter sentences than in the United States are generally a common phenomenon in much of the world. In the US, the mere mention of the word "terrorist" in a courtroom will likely bring down 30, 40, 50 years, life in prison, on the defendant's head, even for only thinking and talking of an action, an Orwellian "thoughtcrime", with nothing concrete done to further the plan.

 Colombian drug traffickers, British Muslims, and others accused of "terrorist" offenses strenuously fight extradition to the United States for fear of Uncle Sam's merciless fist. They're the lucky ones amongst Washington's foreign targets; they're not kidnapped off the street and flown shackled and blindfolded to secret dungeons in shadowy corners of the world to be tortured.

 For those who think that no punishment is too severe, too cruel, in the War on Terrorism against the Bad Guys, it must be asked what they think of the case of the Cuban Five. These are five Cubans who were engaged in the United States in the 1990s trying to uncover information about anti-Castro terrorists based in Miami, some of whom shortly before had been carrying out a series of bombing attacks in Havana hotels and may have been plotting new attacks. The Five infiltrated Cuban-American organizations based in Miami to monitor their actions, and they informed the Cuban government of their findings. The Cuban government then passed on some of the information to the FBI. And what happened next? The FBI arrested the five Cubans.

 The Cubans were held in solitary confinement for 17 months; eventually they were tried, and in 2001 convicted on a variety of charges thrown together by the government for the occasion, including murder (sic!) and conspiracy to commit espionage (probably the first case in American judicial history of alleged espionage without a single page from a single secret document). They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 15 years to life. But the federal government's lust for punishment was still not satisfied. They have made it extremely difficult for their Cuban prisoners to receive family visits. Two of them have not seen their wives and children since their arrest in 1998; the other three have had only scarcely better luck.[18]   Yet another glorious chapter in the War on Terrorism.

 The making of official history

 It was just a passing remark in an Associated Press story about the recent overthrow of the Fiji government. "It was the nation's fourth coup in 19 years," the article noted, the first being the 1987 coup. "The takeover, like the previous three coups, has its roots in the ethnic divide between the descendants of ancient Melanesian warrior tribes and those of Indian laborers brought by former colonial power Britain to work in sugar plantations."[19] That's how "official history" is created and passed on, all the more effective because it's unconscious, unknowing, voluntary, and done by "objective" journalists.

 In 1987, Fiji Prime Minister Timoci Bavrada made Washington officials unhappy by identifying himself with the non-aligned movement (always a risk for a country during the Cold War), and even more so by taking office with a pledge to reinstate Fiji as a nuclear free zone, meaning that nuclear-powered or nuclear-weapons-carrying ships could not make port calls. When Bavrada's predecessor, R.S.K. Mara, instituted the same policy in 1982, he was put under intense American pressure to drop it. Said the US ambassador to Fiji that year, William Bodde, Jr., "a nuclear free zone would be unacceptable to the US, given our strategic needs ... the US must do everything possible to counter this movement." The following year, Mara dropped the policy.

 Two weeks after Bavrada took office, American UN Ambassador Vernon Walters visited the island. The former Deputy Director of the CIA had a long and infamous history of showing up shortly before, during, or shortly after CIA destabilization operations. Walters met with Bavrada, ostensibly to discuss UN matters. He also met with Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, third-in-command of the Army. Two weeks later, Rabuka led a military coup which ousted Bavrada.

 The day after the coup, a Pentagon source, while denying US involvement, declared: "We're kinda delighted ... All of a sudden our ships couldn't go to Fiji, and now all of a sudden they can."

 These happenings, and others concerning the 1987 Fiji coup which I recount elsewhere [20], are of the type that the mainstream media typically ignore or, if obliged to deal with them, would have us believe are no more than coincidences.

 The anonymous author of the Associated Press story can be forgiven for not knowing of the American fingerprints all over the Fiji coup. The story has probably not appeared in any media except those on the left; if by chance a mainstream editor came across such a story he would likely dismiss it as a "conspiracy theory". Well, you can call people like me "conspiracy theorists" if you call everyone else "coincidence theorists".

 There are of course implausible conspiracy theories, but that is an altogether different matter.

 Some things to look forward to in 2007

 January: Insurgents in Iraq explode a nuclear bomb, totally destroying all of Iraq and everyone in it. Bush declares: "There will be no change in our policy of bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq. We will not cut and run."

 March: To add to the ban of liquids and jells aboard aircraft, solids are now banned. But gasses are still allowed.

 June: Halliburton is awarded a 300 million dollar no-bid contract to investigate contractor fraud in Iraq.

 September: New York City policemen run down, then shoot, mace, stab, beat up, and hang a Muslim resident of Brooklyn after thinking that he might be a suspected terrorist who fit the Terrorist Profile, was alleged to be on the Master Terrorist Watch List, and appeared to be carrying what they imagined, or think they imagined, might be a concealed bomb, or something of that nature.

 November: George W. announces that he will ask Congress to give embryos the vote.

 December: Gasses are now banned aboard aircraft. The only permitted forms of matter are now ionized atoms, electrons, neutrinos, quarks, and dark matter. (The last being what Dick Cheney is completely composed of, he is allowed aboard any airplane.) 


[1] AlterNet, , May 5, 2006

[2] Associated Press, December 12, 2006

[3] (Cohen's talk);, article by Alex Spillius, December 13, 2006; Associated Press, December 12, 2006

[4] Globe and Mail (Toronto), December 13, 2006

[5] Associated Press, December 12, 2006


[7] Washington Post, December 15, 2006, p.27

[8] Associated Press, December 16, 2006

[9] Sunday Telegraph (London), July 18, 1999

[10] Democracy Now (Pacifica Network), November 1, 2006

[11] Nate Thayer, in Far Eastern Economic Review (Hong Kong), October 30, 1997, pages 15 and 20

[12] paperback edition, p.1459

[13] Ibid., p.1441

[14] Washington Post, December 6, 2006, p.3

[15] Bulletin News Network, Inc., The White House Bulletin, December 4, 2006

[16] Associated Press, December 1, 2006

[17] Associated Press, December 13, 2006

[18] For the details of the case see my essay, "Cuban political prisoners ... in the United States",

[19] Associated Press, December 6, 2006

[20] William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, pages 199-200

William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2 

Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower

West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir 

Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire       

No twisted and spun words, only very possiblities of a hint of truth.
Iran may need nuclear power: study
Tue Dec 26, 2006 10:49 AM ET
By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iran's claim to need nuclear power may be genuine, given that it could run out of oil to export as soon as eight years from now, according to an analysis published on Tuesday by the National Academy of Sciences.

The study's author, Roger Stern, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, said investment in Iranian oil production had been inadequate to offset oil field declines and the explosive growth in domestic demand.

"I'm not saying that Iran will have no oil in eight years," Stern said in a telephone interview. "I'm saying that they will be using all of it for themselves."

The analysis, published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the Iranian government could become "politically vulnerable" from declining exports.

Oil exports account for about 70 percent of Iranian government revenue, said Stern, of the university's department of geography and environmental engineering.

He projected that in five years, Iranian oil exports may be less than half their present level, and could drop to zero by 2015.

"It therefore seems possible that Iran's claim to need nuclear power might be genuine, an indicator of distress from anticipated export revenue shortfalls," he wrote. "If so, the Iranian regime may be more vulnerable than is presently understood."

Iran has vowed to boost its uranium enrichment drive despite new U.N. sanctions approved on Saturday aimed at rolling back a nuclear program that the West fears is a prelude to atomic weapons.

Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns called on Japan, Europe, Russia and China to stop "business as usual" with Iran "to drive up the cost to the Iranians of essentially doing what they're doing" with uranium enrichment.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.


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Monday, December 25, 2006

10 myths -- and 10 truths -- about atheism

Yesterday the gracious trashed us, spat lies about us on a national venue, on a concert we were voiceless. Gaged but not bound so small our chorus . . .

1) Atheists believe that life is meaningless.On the contrary, religious people often worry that life is meaningless and imagine that it can only be redeemed by the promise of eternal happiness beyond the grave. Atheists tend to be quite sure that life is precious. Life is imbued with meaning by being really and fully lived. Our relationships with those we love are meaningful now; they need not last forever to be made so. Atheists tend to find this fear of meaninglessness … well … meaningless.

2) Atheism is responsible for the greatest crimes in human history.People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

3) Atheism is dogmatic. Jews, Christians and Muslims claim that their scriptures are so prescient of humanity's needs that they could only have been written under the direction of an omniscient deity. An atheist is simply a person who has considered this claim, read the books and found the claim to be ridiculous. One doesn't have to take anything on faith, or be otherwise dogmatic, to reject unjustified religious beliefs. As the historian Stephen Henry Roberts (1901-71) once said: "I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."

4) Atheists think everything in the universe arose by chance.No one knows why the universe came into being. In fact, it is not entirely clear that we can coherently speak about the "beginning" or "creation" of the universe at all, as these ideas invoke the concept of time, and here we are talking about the origin of space-time itself. The notion that atheists believe that everything was created by chance is also regularly thrown up as a criticism of Darwinian evolution. As Richard Dawkins explains in his marvelous book, "The God Delusion," this represents an utter misunderstanding of evolutionary theory. Although we don't know precisely how the Earth's early chemistry begat biology, we know that the diversity and complexity we see in the living world is not a product of mere chance. Evolution is a combination of chance mutation and natural selection. Darwin arrived at the phrase "natural selection" by analogy to the "artificial selection" performed by breeders of livestock. In both cases,
selection exerts a highly non-random effect on the development of any species.

5) Atheism has no connection to science.Although it is possible to be a scientist and still believe in God — as some scientists seem to manage it — there is no question that an engagement with scientific thinking tends to erode, rather than support, religious faith. Taking the U.S. population as an example: Most polls show that about 90% of the general public believes in a personal God; yet 93% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences do not. This suggests that there are few modes of thinking less congenial to religious faith than science is.

6) Atheists are arrogant.When scientists don't know something — like why the universe came into being or how the first self-replicating molecules formed — they admit it. Pretending to know things one doesn't know is a profound liability in science. And yet it is the life-blood of faith-based religion. One of the monumental ironies of religious discourse can be found in the frequency with which people of faith praise themselves for their humility, while claiming to know facts about cosmology, chemistry and biology that no scientist knows. When considering questions about the nature of the cosmos and our place within it, atheists tend to draw their opinions from science. This isn't arrogance; it is intellectual honesty.

7) Atheists are closed to spiritual experience.There is nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing love, ecstasy, rapture and awe; atheists can value these experiences and seek them regularly. What atheists don't tend to do is make unjustified (and unjustifiable) claims about the nature of reality on the basis of such experiences. There is no question that some Christians have transformed their lives for the better by reading the Bible and praying to Jesus. What does this prove? It proves that certain disciplines of attention and codes of conduct can have a profound effect upon the human mind. Do the positive experiences of Christians suggest that Jesus is the sole savior of humanity? Not even remotely — because Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and even atheists regularly have similar experiences. There is, in fact, not a Christian on this Earth who can be certain that Jesus even wore a beard, much less that he was born of a virgin or rose from the dead. These are just not the sort of claims that spiritual experience can authenticate.

8) Atheists believe that there is nothing beyond human life and human understanding. Atheists are free to admit the limits of human understanding in a way that religious people are not. It is obvious that we do not fully understand the universe; but it is even more obvious that neither the Bible nor the Koran reflects our best understanding of it. We do not know whether there is complex life elsewhere in the cosmos, but there might be. If there is, such beings could have developed an understanding of nature's laws that vastly exceeds our own. Atheists can freely entertain such possibilities. They also can admit that if brilliant extraterrestrials exist, the contents of the Bible and the Koran will be even less impressive to them than they are to human atheists.From the atheist point of view, the world's religions utterly trivialize the real beauty and immensity of the universe. One doesn't have to accept anything on insufficient evidence to make such an observation.

9) Atheists ignore the fact that religion is extremely beneficial to society.Those who emphasize the good effects of religion never seem to realize that such effects fail to demonstrate the truth of any religious doctrine. This is why we have terms such as "wishful thinking" and "self-deception." There is a profound distinction between a consoling delusion and the truth. In any case, the good effects of religion can surely be disputed. In most cases, it seems that religion gives people bad reasons to behave well, when good reasons are actually available. Ask yourself, which is more moral, helping the poor out of concern for their suffering, or doing so because you think the creator of the universe wants you to do it, will reward you for doing it or will punish you for not doing it?

10) Atheism provides no basis for morality.If a person doesn't already understand that cruelty is wrong, he won't discover this by reading the Bible or the Koran — as these books are bursting with celebrations of cruelty, both human and divine. We do not get our morality from religion. We decide what is good in our good books by recourse to moral intuitions that are (at some level) hard-wired in us and that have been refined by thousands of years of thinking about the causes and possibilities of human happiness.

We have made considerable moral progress over the years, and we didn't make
this progress by reading the Bible or the Koran more closely. Both books condone
the practice of slavery — and yet every civilized human being now recognizes
that slavery is an abomination. Whatever is good in scripture — like the golden
rule — can be valued for its ethical wisdom without our believing that it was
handed down to us by the creator of the universe.


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Saturday, December 23, 2006


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Friday, December 15, 2006

Bless All The Dear Children In Thy Tender Care

Published on Thursday, December 14, 2006 by
Bless All The Dear Children In Thy Tender Care
by Christopher Cooper

“You have already delivered,” my dear wife said to me several weeks past, "your first tirade of the year against Christmas." It would be disingenuous of me to deny that I had, or to argue against her perception that this has been a recurring event in our lives together, or to claim that most persons do not find such utterances appalling. (Perhaps I'd beg for a slightly less unrelievedly unpleasant description of my remarks than tirade if I were to quibble or object at all, which I shall not.)

What I will say is that I am aware of my propensity for blurting out the odd objection, for rendering finely-wrought sarcasms that good and decent persons going about their preparations for the birth of their blessed Holy Savior or camping on the sidewalk outside the Maine Mall Thanksgiving evening do surely find annoying. I know I say these things; I see the looks of horror and disgust I draw. I am not lately so bold, nor do I declaim so forcefully or as long as in my impetuous youth, but if I am now tempered, restrained, self-regulated to a degree, I am still nobody you'd want to have along for a day of shopping.

And one may understand one's faults but be unable or unwilling to change. But I do come before you here tonight to see if I can claw my way back some distance toward common ground, that we may in some measure agree that we have something worthy of celebration and decoration and maybe even a degree of blessed, blight-blotting drunkenness, that we might in our mutual inebriation hug and kiss and tell each other what grand fellows and lovely ladies we are and enjoy the pretty lights (those that don't blink) and the warm fire, and wish each other a harmless, generic “Happy Holidays.”

Not everyone faults the Christmas season the same. Some object to its secular excess; fewer, but some, (more Muslims and Jews and atheists than Christians in this camp, of course) think the religious aspects should be purged from any public appreciation of the day. I loathe it all: faith and folly alike creep me out. I consider the Christ-centered Christmas to be the greater humbug, but it is Santa Claus and all that follows from him that is the unavoidable, inescapable flood of Christmas as the free market has defined it in our time.

Jesus was born on December the twenty-fifth because early Christian myth-makers and spin-doctors needed to co-opt the solstice revelries of hard-partying pagans. It was necessary to get Jesus born (and born without the stain of his mom and dad having had any joy in his engendering—just a long donkey trip through the desert). He must be born so he could be flogged and nailed and tortured to death, by which effort each of us who would buy into the whole of the church doctrine might gain life everlasting. And if Jesus didn't suffer enough to get that job done, you can add to it the millions of hours of anguish loosed unto the heavens by those of us alive after 1958 who have been subjected to a hundred (all bad) renditions of the thoroughly execrable “Little Drummer Boy.”

But all that can be done privately. Mammon, however, lays his blanket of excess over all of North America from “Black Friday” after Thanksgiving until the frenzy of gift-returning burns out a few days after Christmas. Of course some pulsating displays of lawn decoration (often co-mingling Christ, camels, snowmen, Santa Claus and a great green Grinch without seeming favor or prejudice) do remain a drain on the power grid until almost the equinox.

I spent an hour walking through a large toy store a few weeks ago. It was a saddening experience; it left me shaken. All was plastic; much required batteries; virtually every product had been manufactured in a country where waste is dumped in streams, workers are abused, and children younger than the likely recipients of these amusements work for pennies an hour so that we may have our humming light sabres, our motorized toddler Jeeps and Hummers, and mind-deadening video games. Yes, my friends, it is precisely the complaint of the paragraph you even now struggle toward a desperately-hoped-for end to that Mrs. Cooper has had to endure, many times over each season, for over thirty years.

Great SUVs choke the parking lots, not a few with lighted wreaths over their radiator grilles. Have you ever been poor at Christmas time? Have you ever spent a cold December day swapping batteries or mending hoses or desperately trouble-shooting a fuel or electrical system, or hitch-hiking to a junk yard for a starter solenoid?

You've heard the story of how President Bush asked James Webb, the recently elected Senator from Virginia, “How's your boy?” Mr. Webb replied, “I'd like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President.” Bush rejoined, “That's not what I asked you; how's your boy?” “That,” said Webb, “is between me and my boy.”

And there's as revealing a vignette of a modern American appreciation of the “Spirit of Christmas” as you'll find. Thousands of our boys and girls, men and women, sons and daughters are standing under the gun in the made-up nation of Iraq, each one at great risk of getting shot, burned, dismembered, killed between now and some vague future moment when President Bush shall have picked “a way forward” from among various suggestions filtering in to his small consciousness from Bush family fixer James Baker and his cohorts, from the Pentagon and its new “I'm Not Rumsfeld”
Secretary of Defense, from whatever crew of neocon theorists has the upper hand just now at the State Department, from Dick Cheney and the American oil companies, surely phoning in daily from his Undisclosed Location.

Maybe sometime in 2008 the survivors of them may come home. Then what little is left of the fictitious nation of Iraq will be allowed to disintegrate and we will have "finished the task”, “achieved victory”, certainly not “cut and run” prematurely. What do you think, Dick? Does it feel like “Peace With Honor” as you look down on us from Heaven?

If you don't believe every one of the almost three thousand Americans killed so far in Iraq in pursuit of invisible weapons, elusive Democracy, vengeance or vainglory has died for no good purpose, you surely must see that every mother's son still quick above the sand but doomed to be bagged or boxed and flown home (what of him they can find) tomorrow or next week or when the lilacs bloom again or as another year turns toward Christmas, or yet another, will have been wasted while politicians pandered, pundits pondered, and several pathetic “ways forward” were parsed as Americans slept and shopped and sipped eggnog or iced tea as the season suggested.

See how we love our brave soldiers. We put their video Christmas cards on the local news shows. They say hello and we love you to their fiancees and families, to their unborn babies, to their mothers and fathers. Fade to commercial. Send them cards. Send them candy. Donate money to buy them body armor. Ship Don Rumsfeld over to give 'em a speech about getting the job done.

“We're so proud of our soldiers, and they're in our hearts so far away at this special time” say the pretty plastic ladies paid to look sad about trailer fires in Buxton and giggle over the sparkle of the lighted spruce in Monument Square. And now, here's a message from Discount Bob about his unbelievable leather sectional sofa deal.

Of course, they're in our hearts, you stupid corporate caricature of a human being. They should be in our homes! Two Maine sons were slaughtered pointlessly last week. Watch their funerals at six o'clock and eleven. “It's especially hard to lose someone at this special season.” Bullshit. Sorrow knows no season. Death and loss and grief are always and ever, unrelenting and unyielding. From the moment you learn your child is dead, he or she dies again every morning you wake, every evening you
lie in bed bereft, every instant of every day a memory surfaces. When you blow up a twenty-two year old you kill the baby, the toddler, the youth, the man, the memory, and you blight every day his mother or father may yet live.

We will continue to play out this pointless, violent video game for months, for years. Bush is in disgrace. Baker says we can't “win”, but he wants to prop up some fiction for the benefit of the oil business. The Democrats are playing it close and cautious. Hillary Clinton is raising money and Barack Obama is speaking modulated platitudes. Nancy Pelosi says impeachment of our war criminal president is “off the table.” America shops.

This might be the worst Christmas yet, and it's my fifty-seventh. I've been interrogating myself and my former and alternative selves, looking into my own heart and soul and intentions, answering an array of questions designed to tell if I am fit to adopt my just-turned-two grandson, Karter. On balance, I think it'll come out ok. I only gave the adoption caseworker a few essays where I think I could pass for reasonable, and I don't think she has a source to supply the more revealing ones. So he and I will find our own “way forward” (God, I hope that fades the way of “down the road” and “at the end of the day” soon!).

But what will I get him for Christmas? I think a cardboard box, which will have more play value, a longer life and a smaller price tag than any toy I've seen. And a promise. A promise that, however much my audience recoils from its repetition, I shall subvert the space I am allowed before my small public to say as often as I can, as forcefully as I must, that so very much has gone wrong in our country that it will require everything each of us can give to bring us back to decency, to humanity, to rationality.

I am more sorry than she may believe that I hammered my Mrs. Every year with my dark holiday invective. I do decry the excess, but I am not unmoved by bright colored lights and small kindnesses and allusions to peace and love.

I'm not sorry for displaying my distaste and disgust on this page because that is my job and my duty.

I hope my grandson, my friend, my future, Karter Austin Shaw, two years and six days old, smart and funny and the joy of my aging days, grows up strong and brave and skeptical. I hope he seeks and speaks truth. If he does not succumb to religion,
if he does not bow down to the state, if he understands that ideas, not things, engage the open mind and fill the hungry heart, our time together will have come to good end. How's the boy, Mr. President? The boy is all right! And I mean to keep him that way.

Good night. Good luck. Peace on Earth to men of goodwill. To all men. All women. Of all religious persuasions, not one having more to recommend itself than another, and none worth destroying a single life for. Don't buy so much. Kiss your babies, and keep them safe from the recruiting officers.

Christopher Cooper, as he subtly reveals above, has had his fill of excess, including but not limited to overdone holidays and vicious wars of imperial hegemony. But, this being Christmas and all, he does find himself softening toward his readers, who may extend their holiday greetings to him without fear of further bad reaction at

Another wonderfully written article from Christopher Cooper I found this a.m. in my morning reads, another is posted here in the archives. And it brings to mind my own childs joy in a simple empty box to which to play in and about. The facination with simplicity isn't the limits of it's purpose but the boundless possiblities of it's purpose, giving the child not a limit on his actions but infinity to the childs own purpose in play with such a 'simple empty box'. We do indeed limit our childrens imaginations when we give them items of mass produced predefined purpose, like video games and cheap dangerous 'someone else's imagination manufactured plastic product in a box'. Of life, young and old seems the decor and rush of the season of lies mask our eyes from that of death, onward.....

Published on Thursday, December 14, 2006 by the Associated Press
Execution of Florida Inmate Takes 34 Minutes
by Ron Word

STARKE, Florida - Death penalty opponents criticized the execution of a convicted murderer who took more than half an hour to die and needed a rare second dose of lethal chemicals.

Angel Nieves Diaz, 55, convicted of murdering a Miami topless bar manager 27 years ago, appeared to grimace before dying 34 minutes after receiving a double lethal chemical dose Wednesday.

Department of Corrections spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said she doesn't believe Diaz felt any pain. She said Diaz started snoring and became unconscious after the first three drugs were administered and never regained consciousness.

Plessinger said Diaz had liver disease, which required the second dose of lethal chemicals. But Diaz's cousin Maria Otero said the family had no knowledge that he suffered from liver disease and said the execution was political.

"Who came down to Earth and gave you the right to kill somebody?" Otero said, referring to Gov. Jeb Bush. "Why a stupid second dose?"

Bush said in a statement that the Department of Corrections followed all protocols: "A preexisting medical condition of the inmate was the reason tonight's procedure took longer than recent procedures carried out this year," the statement said.

Diaz was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m., despite his protests of innocence and requests for clemency made by the governor of his native Puerto Rico.

A spokesman for Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, called Diaz's death a botched execution.

"They had to execute him twice," Mark Elliot said. "If Floridians could witness the pain and the agony of the executed man's family, they would end the death penalty."

In most Florida executions, the prisoner loses consciousness almost immediately and stops moving within three-to-five minutes. Two doctors watching a heart monitor then wait for it to show a flat line. They then inspect the body and pronounce death. The whole process happens within 15 minutes.

Diaz's final appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court challenged the chemicals used in the state's procedure, saying it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. His appeals were rejected about an hour before his execution began.

Attorneys for him and other condemned inmates have been unsuccessfully challenging Florida's three-chemical method, saying it results in extreme pain that an inmate cannot express because one of the drugs is a paralyzing agent.

Puerto Rican officials, including Gov. Acevedo Vila and Senate President Kenneth D. McClintock, wrote Bush asking him to stop Diaz's execution, but he declined. Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, abolished capital punishment in 1929.

Moments before his execution, Diaz again denied killing Joseph Nagy during a robbery at the Velvet Swing Lounge. There were no eyewitnesses to Nagy's Dec. 29, 1979, murder. Most of the club's employees and patrons were locked in a restroom, but Diaz's girlfriend later told police he was involved.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press

Wonder this season

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Western Winds

Published on Friday, December 8, 2006

by The Nation 9/11: The Roots of Paranoia

by Christopher Hayes

According to a July poll conducted by Scripps News Service, one-third of Americans think the government either carried out the 9/11 attacks or intentionally allowed them to happen in order to provide a pretext for war in the Middle East. This is at once alarming and unsurprising. Alarming, because if tens of millions of Americans really believe their government was complicit in the murder of 3,000 of their fellow citizens, they seem remarkably sanguine about this fact. By and large, life continues as before, even though tens of millions of people apparently believe they are being governed by mass murderers. Unsurprising, because the government these Americans suspect of complicity in 9/11 has acquired a justified reputation for deception: weapons of mass destruction, secret prisons, illegal wiretapping. What else are they hiding?

This pattern of deception has not only fed diffuse public cynicism but has provided an opening for alternate theories of 9/11 to flourish. As these theories--propounded by the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement--seep toward the edges of the mainstream, they have raised the specter of the return (if it ever left) of what Richard Hofstadter famously described as "the paranoid style in American politics." But the real danger posed by the Truth Movement isn't paranoia. Rather, the danger is that it will discredit and deform the salutary skepticism Americans increasingly show toward their leaders.

The Truth Movement's recent growth can be largely attributed to the Internet-distributed documentary Loose Change. A low-budget film produced by two 20-somethings that purports to debunk the official story of 9/11, it's been viewed over the Internet millions of times. Complementing Loose Change are the more highbrow offerings of a handful of writers and scholars, many of whom are associated with Scholars for 9/11 Truth. Two of these academics, retired theologian David Ray Griffin and retired Brigham Young University physics professor Steven Jones, have written books and articles that serve as the movement's canon. Videos of their lectures circulate among the burgeoning portions of the Internet devoted to the cause of the "truthers." A variety of groups have chapters across the country and organize conferences that draw hundreds. In the last election cycle, the website even produced a questionnaire with pointed inquiries for candidates, just like the US Chamber of Commerce or the Sierra Club. The Truth Movement's relationship to the truth may be tenuous, but that it is a movement is no longer in doubt.

Truth activists often maintain they are simply "raising questions," and as such tend to focus with dogged persistence on physical minutiae: the lampposts near the Pentagon that should have been knocked down by Flight 77, the altitude in Pennsylvania at which cellphones on Flight 93 should have stopped working, the temperature at which jet fuel burns and at which steel melts. They then use these perceived inconsistencies to argue that the central events of 9/11--the plane hitting the Pentagon, the towers collapsing--were not what they appeared to be. So: The eyewitness accounts of those who heard explosions in the World Trade Center, combined with the facts that jet fuel burns at 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and steel melts at 2,500, shows that the towers were brought down by controlled explosions from inside the buildings, not by the planes crashing into them.

If the official story is wrong, then what did happen? As you might expect, there's quite a bit of dissension on this point. Like any movement, the Truth Movement is beset by internecine fights between different factions: those who subscribe to what are termed LIHOP theories (that the government "let it happen on purpose") and the more radical MIHOP ("made it happen on purpose") contingent. Even within these groups, there are divisions: Some believe the WTC was detonated with explosives after the planes hit and some don't even think there were any planes.

To the extent that there is a unified theory of the nature of the conspiracy, it is based, in part, on the precedent of the Reichstag fire in Germany in the 1930s. The idea is that just as the Nazis staged a fire in the Reichstag in order to frighten the populace and consolidate power, the Bush Administration, military contractors, oil barons and the CIA staged 9/11 so as to provide cause and latitude to pursue its imperial ambitions unfettered by dissent and criticism. But the example of the Reichstag fire itself is instructive. While during and after the war many observers, including officials of the US government, suspected the fire was a Nazi plot, the consensus among historians is that it was, in fact, the product of a lone zealous anarchist. That fact changes little about the Nazi regime, or its use of the fire for its own ends. It's true the Nazis were the chief beneficiaries of the fire, but that doesn't mean they started it, and the same goes for the Bush Administration and 9/11.

The Reichstag example also holds a lesson for those who would dismiss the very notion of a conspiracy as necessarily absurd. It was perfectly reasonable to suspect the Nazis of setting the fire, so long as the evidence suggested that might have been the case. The problem isn't with conspiracy theories as such; the problem is continuing to assert the existence of a conspiracy even after the evidence shows it to be virtually impossible.

In March 2005 Popular Mechanics assembled a team of engineers, physicists, flight experts and the like to critically examine some of the Truth Movement's most common claims. They found them almost entirely without merit. To pick just one example, steel might not melt at 1,500 degrees, the temperature at which jet fuel burns, but it does begin to lose a lot of its strength, enough to cause the support beams to fail.

And yet no amount of debunking seems to work. The Internet empowers people with esoteric interests to spend all kinds of time pursuing their hobbies, and if the Truth Movement was the political equivalent of Lord of the Rings fan fiction or furries, there wouldn't be much reason to pay attention. But the public opinion trend lines are moving in the truthers' direction, even after the official 9/11 Commission report was supposed to settle the matter once and for all.

Of course, the commission report was something of a whitewash--Bush would only be interviewed in the presence of Dick Cheney, the commission was denied access to other key witnesses and just this year we learned of a meeting convened by George Tenet the summer before the attacks to warn Condoleezza Rice about Al Qaeda's plotting, a meeting that was nowhere mentioned in the report.

So it's hard to blame people for thinking we're not getting the whole story. For six years, the government has prevaricated and the press has largely failed to point out this simple truth. Critics like The New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann might lament the resurgence of the "paranoid style," but the seeds of paranoia have taken root partly because of the complete lack of appropriate skepticism by the establishment press, a complementary impulse to the paranoid style that might be called the credulous style. In the credulous style all political actors are acting with good intentions and in good faith. Mistakes are made, but never because of ulterior motives or undue influence from the various locii of corporate power. When people in power advocate strenuously for a position it is because they believe in it. When their advocacy leads to policies that create misery, it is due not to any evil intentions or greed or corruption, but rather simple human error. Ahmad Chalabi summed up this worldview perfectly. Faced with the utter absence of the WMD he and his cohorts had long touted in Iraq, he replied, "We are heroes in error."

For a long time the credulous style has dominated the establishment, but its hold intensified after 9/11. When the government speaks, particularly about the Enemy, it must be presumed to be telling the truth. From the reporting about Iraq's alleged WMD to the current spate of stories about how "dangerous" Iran is, time and again the press has reacted to official pronouncements about threats with a near total absence of skepticism. Each time the government announces the indictment of domestic terrorists allegedly plotting our demise, the press devotes itself to the story with obsessive relish, only to later note, on page A22 or in a casual aside, that the whole thing was bunk. In August 2003, to cite just one example, the New York dailies breathlessly reported what one US official called an "incredible triumph in the war against terrorism," the arrest of Hemant Lakhani, a supposed terrorist mastermind caught red-handed attempting to acquire a surface-to-air missile. Only later did the government admit that the "plot" consisted of an FBI informant begging Lakhani to find him a missile, while a Russian intelligence officer called up Lakhani and offered to sell him one.

Yet after nearly a dozen such instances, the establishment media continue to earnestly report each new alleged threat or indictment, secure in the belief that their proximity to policy-makers gets it closer to the truth. But proximity can obscure more than clarify. It's hard to imagine that the guy sitting next to you at the White House correspondents' dinner is plotting to, say, send the country into a disastrous and illegal war, or is spying on Americans in blatant defiance of federal statutes. Bob Woodward, the journalist with the most access to the Bush Administration, was just about the last one to realize that the White House is disingenuous and cynical, that it has manipulated the machinery of state for its narrow political ends.

Meanwhile, those who realized this was the White House's MO from the beginning have been labeled conspiracy theorists. During the 2004 campaign Howard Dean made the charge that the White House was manipulating the terror threat level and recycling old intelligence. The Bush campaign responded by dismissing Dean as a "bizarre conspiracy theorist." A year later, after Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge retired, he admitted that Dean's charge was, indeed, the truth. The same accusation of conspiracy-mongering was routinely leveled at anyone who suggested that the war in Iraq was and is motivated by a desire for the United States to control the world's second-largest oil reserves.

For the Administration, "conspiracy" is a tremendously useful term, and can be applied even in the most seemingly bizarre conditions to declare an inquiry or criticism out of bounds. Responding to a question from NBC's Brian Williams as to whether he ever discusses official business with his father, Bush said such a suggestion was a "kind of conspiracy theory at its most rampant." The credulous style can brook no acknowledgment of unarticulated motives to our political actors, or consultations to which the public is not privy.

The public has been presented with two worldviews, one credulous, one paranoid, and both unsatisfactory. The more the former breaks apart, the greater the appeal of the latter. Conspiracy theories that claim to explain 9/11 are wrongheaded and a terrible waste of time, but the skeptical instinct is, on balance, salutary. It is right to suspect that the operations of government, the power elite and the military-industrial complex are often not what they seem; and proper to raise questions when the answers provided have been unconvincing. Given the untruths to which American citizens have been subjected these past six years, is it any surprise that a majority of them think the government's lying about what happened before and on 9/11?

Still, the persistent appeal of paranoid theories reflects a cynicism that the credulous media have failed to address, because they posit a world of good intentions and face-value pronouncements, one in which the suggestion that a government would mislead or abuse its citizens for its own gains or the gains of its benefactors is on its face absurd. The danger is that the more this government's cynicism and deception are laid bare, the more people--on the left in particular and among the public in general--will be drawn down the rabbit hole of delusion of the 9/11 Truth Movement.

To avoid such a fate, the public must come to trust that the gatekeepers of public discourse share their skepticism about the agenda its government is pursuing. The antidote, ultimately, to the Truth Movement is a press that refuses to allow the government to continue to lie.

© 2006 The Nation

Tom Hayden The Baker Agenda: Troops Out, Oil Companies in?

Israeli Cyber Casino Tycoon Offers Palestinians $1 Billion for Peace
By Anadolu News Agency (AA), Jerusalem
Thursday, December 07, 2006

An Israeli businessman has offered $1 billion dollars to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniye if he reaches a peace agreement with his Israeli counterpart.

from pz

As the days slip by on this blog without post of my own words birthdays, holidays and just damn interesting real life events fill my world with the reality of life, here and now. Having joined more groups within my own interest and not of worldly concerns, helps me deal with some issues that seem more important to others than to me, so I seek a cure of sorts. You have no idea what I am talking about but it doesn't matter the fine points of my inner-self, or to most rough points that might let scars form. Of discrimination by people whom have some control over your life, from people with power and whom have ate and digested the facts to suite their own agenda's and how that effects, yes the victims. Actions I can only see as self hate in themselves, but thrown out to others maybe in an attempt to rid themselves of hate but it only fuels that hate they harbor. We all know it exist in Religions of the world, in the metaphysical as hate is an emotion, triggered sometimes by mear imagination, possibly delusions of grandeur. Here the most points are made, you can find it in plenty of other places if you do not see this in your real life, or live on the other side of life within that hate circle I call 'The Great White Way'. I feel empathy for mammals of all species, and animals and life in general. I root for the underdog. This hate sometimes infects even my closest friends, and that is so discouraging. I know for facts the 'righteous will stoop to very low places to serve to that hate, and lie to offer up 'proof' of their claim to right instead of wrong. An attempted death wakes a college and I suspect but do not know this hatefulness is at the root. Violence, and violent death is everyday for people around the world. Where we are such a world of minds and conscience that it makes no sense. It boils down to the value of a human is measured by his wealth. I ask why not measure the value of a person by their character and their own life's challenges. You will find hearts of gold with minds of sorrow that gleams with hope and purpose in the poorest peoples. In contrast if you follow their pain and struggles sometimes you get a glimpse of the cause and find a director as real people not tragic situations at all, but a war, a battle and competion to gain more value to be measured by, to be worthy of a place in society you have to have a 'them' that is not 'us'. Where there is no 'them' or 'us' in all the mix, there is 'WE'.

WE are getting rained on with utra strong solar flare today and possibly tomorrow. Do we care that the weather is causing our spring time flowers to bloom not only in the Alps but here in the Great Smokes and Southern Appalachians? Does anyone give a big rats ass if our celery, lettuce, green onions, and spinach is poisoned with ecoli from contaminated ground waters? And our methodology of feeding and manufacturing meat in this country is the cause. No we don't till it hits us in the purse. Just like most don't give a little poop about the fate of Arab peoples, African peoples and even the poor and other hated minorities in the free nations. Where these meekest of peoples suffers there shadows above the carnage a profit to booster someone of value.

These are the wonders of my world, and I too am concerned of the damage such hate does to those whom use it so skillfully.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Seeds for the Birds

Feed the rest beans.

A few AlterNet articles, for the curious cats while the birds dine.

Rethinking Terrorism: A Jewish American Crosses into Hezbollah Territory

By Nathaniel Hoffman, AlterNet. Posted December 5, 2006.

One journalist spends 10 days in Lebanon, sipping coffee and talking politics with
members of Hezbollah, the Islamic militant group Americans have branded as

Why So Many Black Women Are Behind Bars

By Earl Ofari Hutchinson, AlterNet. Posted December 5, 2006.

Black female inmates outnumber white female inmates three to one, and their punishments don't always fit their crimes.

A Roanoke Times article 'bout you know, what it's all about ....

Atheists are the new outcast minority

Robert F. Boyd

Boyd, of Daleville, was a professor and science writer at Marquette University before his retirement.

History reveals that, in whatever society we are talking about, minorities are frequently the scapegoats for whatever are the prevailing ills of the day.

Depending upon the society, the minority blame-game may be related to skin color, religious affiliation, ethnicity, sexual preferences, etc. Take your pick: Chinese, Irish, Germans, Hungarians, Asians, Catholics, Jews or Africans. All of them at one time or another were regarded as second-class citizens.

African-Americans continued to bear the brunt of the minority label until segregation gasped its last breaths in the 1960s.

Another minority, homosexuals, were for years regarded as the scum of
the Earth, as witnessed by the brutal ways in which they were routinely
harassed. Today, many homosexuals have come "out of the closet" even though they
have not yet been allowed to enter the rest of the house to enjoy their
so-called guaranteed civil liberties.

The most recent bogeyman is the atheist. You know who he is -- the secularist who wants a wall of separation between church and state, the elitist scientist who believes in evolution and not creationism, and the pagan who not only promotes pornography and abortion but also has created a social climate reprehensible to all Christian values.

And if you're a born-again atheist all those labels may apply to you.

Christians in this country believe that unless God is at the center of
national life we will be forever exposed to crime, poverty, warfare and disease.
Although science cannot prove the existence or absence of God, it has been able
to provide some interesting statistics that make one think twice about the
existence and importance of God in a society.

Countries regarded as secular or whose populations have by choice abandoned religion have been compared with those who are considered religious. Studies have demonstrated that when one measures life expectancy, literacy, income and education, nations whose populations are religious do poorly as compared to the more nonreligious ones. In addition, studies of non-African countries reveal that nations with the highest rate of homicide are religious.

If you read the newspapers and other communication outlets, evangelicals and fundamentalists are the hot topic, especially with regard to their welcoming of Armageddon. They are coming out of the woodwork like cockroaches and their pied-pipers are numerous.

This was to be expected since their pied-piper figurehead is President Bush.

You can't swing a dead cat without hitting one of them. Thanks to Bush,
with help from the religious right and its ilk, the United States for the past
six years has been ruled by a faith-based government.

Seizing upon their power in government, the Christian right is attempting to rewrite history as it relates to our Founding Fathers. They claim that America was founded as a Christian nation and that Thomas Jefferson was a decent Christian who really
didn't mean what he said about the separation of church and state. Of course
this attempt at revisionism is totally false.

Jefferson stated in 1802 in front of the Danbury Baptist Association: "The legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and state."

As regards Jefferson's Christianity, he clearly respected Christ as a
philosopher and moral leader but described Christianity as "our particular
superstition." Perhaps Tom DeLay, the evangelical hammer in his day,
inadvertently spoke the truth when Congress rebuffed one of his proposals. He
said, "They treat Christianity like a second-rate superstition."

Perhaps someday the atheist may be able to come out of the closet. Maybe, but if he is a male who is an atheist and a homosexual, don't hold your breath. And if she's a
woman, forget it.


December 07, 2006

Mary Cheney pregnant

Mary Cheney, the gay daughter of Vice President Dick Cheney and wife Lynne, is pregnant, according to a published report. Mary Cheney, 37, and her partner of 15 years, Heather Poe, 45, are ''ecstatic'' about the baby, due in late spring, The Washington Post reported in Wednesday's editions, quoting an unnamed source close to the couple.

whatever .... Wonder

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