Thursday, June 30, 2005

60 Years of Humiliation Ahead

Excerpt from the latest Ted Rall piece:

"Germany and Japan's remarkable comeback since 1945 holds an instructive lesson for the United States today. During the last six decades both countries recovered from total defeat, massive loss of life and infrastructure and the humiliation of occupation by concentrating first on economic revival, then building a political society designed to cause as little offense as possible to the international community and finally, since the end of the Cold War, asserting themselves militarily but only in peace-keeping missions which even their former enemies couldn't openly oppose. Now both are poised to resume the roles they played before they launched their empire-building military campaigns, no longer as expansionist aggressors but as powerful nations worthy of trust and respect.

Particularly in Germany, every postwar generation was taught about the evils of militarism and the horrors their parents and grandparents had carried out in the name of God and country. Pacifism is the norm; Nazism is reviled. Even in Japan, where official signs of contrition haven't been forthcoming, only a few nostalgic nutcases yearn for the glorious days of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. No one's afraid of the Axis anymore.

Now the U.S. is the sole, charter member of its own Axis of Evil: invading and threatening invasions, breaking arms treaties willy-nilly, kidnapping and murdering foreign citizens without cause, refusing to abide by the Geneva conventions. But that will change someday--whether we're forced to change, as were Germany and Japan, or whether we choose a different path on our own. What's daunting is how much time--and humility--it will take for the rest of the world to trust us as much as they trust Germany and Italy."


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I Think About Iraq

This week's official update on Iraq:

"The reality is that we are losing in Iraq."
--Senator Chuck Hagel (Rebublican, Nebraska)

"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, ten, twelve years."
--Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

"I think about Iraq."
--President George W. Bush

Small-Scale Competitors Beat Nuclear Power

Rocky Mountain Institute researchers today doused the hype about “nuclear revival” in an icy bath of real-world data. They documented that worldwide, the decentralized, low- or no-carbon sources of electricity—cogeneration and renewables, all claimed by nuclear advocates to be too small and too slow to help much with climate change—are already bigger than nuclear power and are quickly leaving it in the dust.

“Nuclear advocates are desperately trying to create an illusion that their failed option is being revived,” said RMI CEO and cofounder Amory Lovins, the lead author of the analysis, “so all its remaining costs and risks, which private investors have rejected, can be loaded onto taxpayers. This bailout, now being debated in Washington, is claimed to be vital because nuclear power is the only power source big and fast enough to combat climate change. But industry and official data reveal that claim to be false. While nuclear power dies of an incurable attack of market forces, its derided smaller-scale competitors are already a bigger global power source and are growing very rapidly, while nuclear power continues to fade away.”

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
continues at link above...

Monday, June 27, 2005

"Dear Red States" from Nuevo California

This is making the rounds:

Subject: Dear Red States

We're ticked off at the way you've treated California,
and we've decided we're leaving. We intend to form
our own country, and we're taking the other Blue
States with us.

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii,
Oregon, Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan,
Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split
will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to
the people of the new country of Neuvo California.

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the
slave states. We get stem cell research and the best
beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay.

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get OpryLand. We get
Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard.
You get Ole' Miss.

We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and
entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of
the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay
their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower
than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of
happy families. You get a bunch of single moms.

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be
pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all
our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need
people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids
they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for
no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show
pictures of their children's caskets coming home.

We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs
turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources
in Bush's Quagmire.

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm
control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water,
more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92
percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of
America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at
state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of
the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur
coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all
the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale,
Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT.

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have
to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and
their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all
U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes,
90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all
Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all
televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University,
Clemson and the University of Georgia.

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you.

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states
believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62
percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing
the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that
evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was
involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy bastards
believe you are people with higher morals than we

Author Unknown.
(Neuvo California)

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Warning to Students of All Ages

Excerpts from Vaneigem's '90s article on school reform:

"Has schooling lost the repulsive character that it had in the 19th and 20th centuries, when it broke spirits and bodies upon the hard realities of efficiency and servitude, making it glorious to educate by forced labor, authority and austerity, and never by pleasure or passion? Nothing is surer, and it can't be denied that, in all the apparent eagerness of modernity, a whole lot of archaic ideas continue to scandalize the lives of schoolchildren.

Hasn't the scholastic enterprise obeyed, up to this very day, one dominant preoccupation: improve the techniques of training so that the animal would become a profitable investment?"

. . . .Paradoxically, the educational system, which teaches youths, i.e., those who change the most, has been the institution that has changed the least of all."


  • A school in which life becomes boring teaches nothing but barbarism.
  • A school that hinders desires stimulates aggressiveness.
  • How can one get to know things when oppression exists?
  • Error is not culpability.
  • Only those who possess the keys to nature and dreams will open the school to an open society.
  • Whoever teaches with fear renders knowledge timid.
  • Liberate the desire to know from constraint.
  • Make school into a center for the creation of the living, not the antechamber for a parasitic commodity society
  • The end of forced labor will inaugurate the era of creativity.
  • Give favor to quality, not quantity.
  • Learn autonomy, not dependence.
  • An alliance with children is an alliance with nature.
  • etc... follow link to whole essay.

"In collectives of students and professors, the task of snatching the school from the glaciation of profit and changing it to a place of simple human generosity reappears. Sooner or later, the quality of life will attain the sovereignty denied to it by an economy reduced to selling and valorizing its own collapse.

From the instant that you form the project of a pedagogy founded on a natural pact with life, you will no longer have to beg money from those who exploit and scorn you by marketing you. You will demand that pact because you will know how and why you can seize the freedom that it implies.

One doesn't live as long as expected if one doesn't fully develop one's capacities."

Raoul Vaneigem's "A Warning to Students of All Ages

World Tribunal on Iraq : Home

The culminating session of the World Tribunal on Iraq is happening today and tomorrow in Istanbul. They have met in a dozen cities all over the world for the past year. This is a good example of alternative global thought in action.

World Tribunal on Iraq : Home

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Fox News Destroyed Reporters of Bovine Growth Hormone

Journalists, Not Activists
By Liane Casten
In These Times

If any more proof was needed that we live in an upside-down world, the saga of TV news reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre serves as the definitive case study.

Husband and wife, Wilson and Akre are exhausted emotionally and financially, but also relieved. Their eight-year struggle--known to many from the 2004 documentary, The Corporation--with WTVT, a Tampa, Fla. Fox affiliate, has come to an end. After two major court cases, and more angst than any two reporters should have to endure, Wilson and Akre settled their case by FedExing nearly $200,000 to the network giant in May. They lost their appeal, having unsuccessfully fought a large corporation with very deep pockets.

It began when Fox fired the reporters in 1997, after they tried to air a story about the bovine growth hormone, rBGH. The report exposed its widespread use by U.S. dairy farmers, despite studies linking rGBH consumption to prostate and breast cancer. Monsanto, the producer of rBGH, threatened a lawsuit and demanded the elimination of significant, verifiable information from the story. Eventually, WTVT caved, despite Wilson and Akre's efforts to rewrite the story more than 70 times to redress the complaints.

The couple sued Fox under Florida's Whistle Blower's Act. In a jury trial, Akre and Wilson were awarded $425,000. (The reporters knew not to spend it too soon.) In 2001, they were awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for their outstanding reporting.

In an appeal, however, Fox argued that the FCC policy against distortion of news did not qualify as "law," and that therefore Akre and Wilson were not protected under the Florida act, which only protects those reporting an employer's violation of a "law, rule or regulation." The court accepted this argument, ruling for WTVT.

More appalling than the reversal were the five major media outlets that filed briefs of amici curiae in support of Fox's position. . . .

{see rest of the story at link above}

Friday, June 24, 2005

Animal Behavior Changes due to Global Warming

A number of changes occurring among plants and animals point to climate change, many scientists say.

Land animals

Reindeer are expected to disappear from large portions of their current range by the end of the century.

Marmots are ending their hibernations about three weeks earlier than they did 30 years ago.

Canadian red squirrels are breeding about 18 days earlier.

Red foxes are spreading northward, encroaching on territory normally occupied by their artic cousins.

North American Fowler's toads are breeding six days later than they did a decade ago.

Polar bears today are thinner and less healthy than those of 20 years ago.


Coral reefs around the world are predicted to increase by up to a third in size.

Elephant seal pups are leaner because their prey is migrating to cooler waters.

Loggerhead sea turtles are laying their eggs about 10 days earlier than they did 15 years ago.

Rising temperatures are influencing the sex of Hawkbill turtle hatchlings, with more females than males being born.

Tidal organisms like rock barnacles, mollusks, and tidal snails commonly found in warm southern waters are moving northward.

Many fish species are moving northward in search of cooler waters.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

See link above for full article.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Frogs Disappearing

"Frogs and toads are becoming extinct all over the world. It's the same magnitude event as the extinction of the dinosaurs," said Luis Coloma, a herpetologist, or scientist dedicated to studying reptiles and amphibians. . . .
Nine amphibians, including eight frogs and a salamander, have become extinct in the Americas in the last 100 years, including five since 1980, according to the report. Scientists have also been unable to find representatives of another 117 species, which are also possibly extinct. . . .

Toads and frogs are dying out under pressure from the expansion of agriculture, forestry, pollution, disease and climate change, NatureServe said.

"Amphibians are disappearing before our eyes," the report said.

3 Lions Rescue Girl From Rapists

I try to avoid such dubious news, but when the wild beasts of Africa behave in a more humane manner than people, well it seems worthy of some note.

"A 12-year-old girl who was abducted and beaten by men [in Ethiopia] trying to force her into a marriage was found being guarded by three lions who apparently had chased off her captors, a policeman said Tuesday.

The girl, missing for a week, had been taken by seven men who wanted to force her to marry one of them, said Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo, speaking by telephone from the provincial capital of Bita Genet, about 350 miles southwest of Addis Ababa.

She was beaten repeatedly before she was found June 9 by police and relatives on the outskirts of Bita Genet, Wondimu said. She had been guarded by the lions for about half a day, he said.

"They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest," Wondimu said.

"If the lions had not come to her rescue, then it could have been much worse. Often these young girls are raped and severely beaten to force them to accept the marriage," he said. . . .

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Whales Win Again

Greenpeace Live: A message from the Virtual March

51,732 of you march onto Ulsan, South Korea

The world's first Virtual March for the whales started last night. [People emailed in photos of themselves holding anti-whaling signs in Korean.] Adele Major, one Greenpeace activist on the ground in South Korea describes the scene:

"It was the moment we'd all been waiting for. As the whale sounds echoed across the plaza and the projections began, no one could take their eyes off the screen. Apathetic shoppers and Pizza Hut diners couldn't help but stop and stare at the huge screen featuring projections of thousands of people from around the world holding anti-whaling banners. Many locals and tourists stared at the screen with real emotion crossing their faces, some with tears in their eyes. People even stopped their cars and gaped over their open car doors."

To all the people who submitted your photos for the Virtual March, and countless others who've taken action these last weeks to support the Greenpeace activists at the Whale Embassy - thank you. We heard a few days ago that the city of Ulsan has apparently scrapped its plans to build a whale meat factory. Together, you've sent a clear message to the Korean government and also to the delegates who are meeting to decide the fate of the whales this week. . . .
~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Commission Bans Commercial Whaling

Associated Press
ULSAN, South Korea

Countries opposed to the resumption of commercial whaling claimed victory after the international body responsible for regulating whale hunts upheld a moratorium they call essential to protecting the mammals.

International Whaling Commission members chose at their annual meeting to maintain the almost-two-decade-old ban on killing whales for profit, dealing a blow to Japan and its allies committed to achieving a resumption of commercial culls. . . .

[the vote was close at 29 to 23]

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Agnotology of Climate Change: US Suppression of Knowledge

Documents obtained by The Observer represent an attempt by the Bush administration to undermine completely the science of climate change and show that the US position has hardened during the G8 negotiations. They also reveal that the White House has withdrawn from a crucial United Nations commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions.

    The documents show that Washington officials:
  • Removed all reference to the fact that climate change is a 'serious threat to human health and to ecosystems'
  • Deleted any suggestion that global warming has already started
  • Expunged any suggestion that human activity was to blame for climate change.

Among the sentences removed was the following:
'Unless urgent action is taken, there will be a growing risk of adverse effects on economic development, human health and the natural environment, and of irreversible long-term changes to our climate and oceans.'

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

This has been part 3 of my thread on "agnotology", as in for instance:

Monday, June 20, 2005

Guantanamo Torture of U.S. Soldier

Soldier Sues over Guantanamo Beating
By David Zucchino
The Los Angeles Times

Spc. Sean Baker, who was medically retired after a drill went awry, asks for $15 million.

A U.S. military policeman who was beaten by fellow MPs during a botched training drill at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for detainees has sued the Pentagon for $15 million, alleging that the incident violated his constitutional rights.

Spc. Sean D. Baker, 38, was assaulted in January 2003 after he volunteered to wear an orange jumpsuit and portray an uncooperative detainee. Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.

Baker, a Gulf War veteran who reenlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was medically retired in April 2004. He said the assault left him with seizures, blackouts, headaches, insomnia and psychological problems.

In the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Lexington, Ky., Baker asked the Army to reinstate him in a position that would accommodate his medical condition. He said the Army put him on medical retirement against his wishes. . ."

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Rather than halt torture due to numerous legal charges against their practice and policy of torture, the US military defended this beating of its own soldier, because as they said to the media, they want "our training be as realistic as possible".

Let that sink in for a moment. Beating your own soldiers to the point of permanent brain damage is "realistic". And telling the media this is considered to be a good idea. Doesn't this strongly suggest the truth of the many charges of torture, beatings, etc., inflicted on the actual prisoners, assumed guilty without trial?

The US military would have us believe that such charges are "absurd". Yet a few weeks later they then would have us believe that such practices must be "as realistic as possible". I hope the lawyers are reading this kind of revelation.

And how do we know whether or not Spc. Sean D. Baker actually has brain damage now? Because he wants to rejoin the same military that first beat him and then threw him out of the service. If that's not an indication of severe mental disability, I don't know what is.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
Post Script: We Are All Complicit - But What Can We Do About It?
By Robert Fisk

"Mind you, our American friends are already, it seems, dab hands at smearing prisoners with excrement and beating them and - given the evidence I've heard from a prisoner who was at Bagram in Afghanistan - sticking brooms up men's anuses, and, of course, just killing them. Thirty prisoners have now died in US custody. I don't believe in the few bad apples line. It's happened on far too great a scale. And how do we excuse all this filth? How do we excuse ourselves for this immorality? Why, we say Saddam was worse than us. . ."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Chairman Mao Rises on Evil Index

Celebrated author, June Chang, and her husband have published a new biography of Mao (毛主席).

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The result of more than 10 years of research, trawling archives all over the world and hundreds of interviews, she hopes that Mao: The Unknown Story will leave readers in no doubt that his 27-year rule was one of the most merciless in a cruel century. "Seventy million killed at the absolute minimum. We didn't even count people like my grandmother's death - which should really be on Mao's account. That figure only includes people who were murdered by Mao - and in peace time, which is completely unprecedented in the history of the world."

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Dalai Lamentation

"Peace, in the sense of absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in the floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free. True peace with oneself and with the world around us can only be achieved through the development of mental peace."
-- Dalai Lama. Lecture at Oslo University, 1989.

"The older generation has made a mess of the world, you have made a terrible mess of the world with your pujas, your gurus, with your gods, with your nationalities; because you are only concerned with earning a livelihood and cultivating part of your brain, the rest you neglect, you discard. Each human being is responsible for this disorder within himself and in the society in which he lives . . ."
-- J. Krishnamurti. Talk in Madras, 1968.

Friday, June 17, 2005

China Urged to Stop Harassing AIDS Workers

Facing Massive Epidemic, China Urged to Stop Harassing AIDS Workers

"- Chinese authorities should stop harassing AIDS activists and squelching discussion of the killer pandemic or its efforts to stop the disease will fail, a leading human rights watchdog said Wednesday.

Human Rights Watch, in a new report, urged the government in Beijing to lift restrictions on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to raise awareness, prevention, and treatment of AIDS and the virus, HIV, that causes the disease.

''Grassroots organizations have direct experience that could greatly strengthen the country's fight against AIDS,'' Sara Davis, China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. ''But in a number of regions, they face harassment, censorship and even beatings because the Chinese government is suspicious of any activity outside its direct control.''

China faces what could be one of the largest HIV/AIDS epidemics in the world, with Chinese and international experts predicting that more than 10 million Chinese may be infected with the human immune deficiency virus by 2010, the report said, citing U.N. projections. . . ."

[more at link above]

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"State" University

Below is an actual job ad. Welcome to the post-911 university as ideological state apparatus:

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Teaching Position

Homeland Security Assistant Extension Professor
The College of Continuing Studies at the University of Connecticut is searching for an Assistant Extension Professor with expertise in Homeland Security. The candidate must have a terminal degree in a related field. The successful candidate should be able to develop and deliver online graduate level courses in Homeland Security related topics for our new MPS in Homeland Security Leadership specialization. The candidate should have professional experience in law enforcement or security management, and have a demonstrated educational track record working on issues related to the homeland security field. Experience in the development and delivery of advanced level instruction at a recognized law enforcement or security-related training academy is desired.

Candidates should have sound working knowledge of homeland security current affairs, including applicable Presidential Directives, the National Response Plan, NIMS, National Planning Scenarios, Target Capabilities, Universal Task Lists, training, exercise, and assessment requirements promulgated by DHS’s Office of Domestic Preparedness, and other pertinent documents related to Homeland Security strategy and policy. Teaching experience with returning adult college students is required and knowledge of online programming is preferred. The ability to develop and deliver security related courses for the private sector (business asset protection, business continuity planning) is essential. . . .

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

As I was saying last month, I get too little help from the curriculum.

Taiwanese Intelligentsia

This week I had random encounters with two Taiwanese members of the intelligentsia. Sociologically speaking, these two individuals could be from the same social layer, although as individuals they are strikingly different. They remain anonymous here for obvious reasons:

1. An author of 5 books on the current technologies and strategies of China's military, the P.L.A. He's concerned about the safety of Taiwan under threat of attack from China's army, which he has studied in overwhelming detail for 20 years as an independent scholar, publishing books that are massively documented. This week he will lobby a legislator as a specialist on weapons purchases. He's against purchasing a controversial weapons package from the U.S. since it is far too expensive and ultimately ineffective. He advises alternative weapons packages.
I asked him if he believes that China would ever actually attack or invade Taiwan. "Yes!" he replied immediately. The Taiwanese are mistakenly complacent in their faith that China will bark but not bite. As soon as China obtains the technical and tactical capacity to successfully invade Taiwan while doing the minimum damage to civilians and the infrastructure, they most certainly will do so, according to this man. Moreover, neither America nor Japan are technically able to protect Taiwan in time during such an invasion, which will have been over before their ships set sail. Meanwhile, the best protection is a specific kind of arms race that will effectively keep China at bay. My impression is that this man is humble, rational, and driven by his genuine discoveries of factors that have international significance. He works as a primary school teacher.

2. Second, an academic professor of literature, with a PhD from an American university, now teaching at the best university in Taiwan. He's ready to quit and do something else because the students are "too rebellious". He opines that the Chinese (as a "race"?) are unable to manage a democracy, because they lack individual responsibility. This latter characteristic is what made American democracy stronger, stemming from the Puritans' sense of individual responsibility, he says.
In contrast, Taiwan is in political chaos and under the domination of an unfairly elected president. He believes that the assassination attempt was a conspiracy wherein President Chen Shui-bian arranged to have himself shot at and wounded in a moving vehicle in order to gain sympathy votes on the eve of the election. The "people" are unable to resist this tyranny. The conspiracy was never investigated. Such a thing could never happen in America. [all of these statements are factually incorrect]
I opine that American democracy has always been messy, and that Bush was elected under very dubious and suspicious circumstances which have never been adequately investigated by the legal system. [In the 2000 election which Gore won by the popular vote, the recount in Florida was cancelled by Bush's camp. In Taiwan, there was a real recount of the paper ballots, independently verified.] I tell him that in America now, Puritan theocracy is back in a big struggle against democracy. "Well, that would be a long discussion" he smugly replies right before ending the discussion. [The Puritans were never democratic in their entire history, much less today.] It is no surprise that this individual's students are rebellious, since they are under his ridiculous authority.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Zoos & Beastly Savages

"In Augsburg, Germany, zoo officials were being criticized for a planned attraction that will show elephants and rhinos in their 'natural environment' by surrounding them with black men in grass skirts." -- Harper's Weekly

The more things change the more they remain the same. It seems that the modern zoo originated not far from Augsburg back in the 19th century. Here's a relevant blurb on a study of zoos, Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo:

. . . historian Rothfels tells the story of Carl Hagenbeck, who initiated the idea of modern zoos, with their naturalistic enclosures rather than cages, outside Hamburg, Germany in the middle 19th century. By the 1870s, his business had spread to the worldwide trade in exotic animals and indigenous peoples.

In China, a zoo went bankrupt this year because the local people couldn't afford to attend it. The zoo couldn't even afford to feed the animals. Out of some 800 animals, most starved to death. But the zoo was recently down to the last 1% of animals, the survivors consisting of major predators such as lions. Apparently they were being fed the other animals.

If you want support about how & why to check your local zoo for such atrocious practices, visit Zoo Check online. They have years of experience and some successes.

If you want to know how this relates to literature and cultural studies, read Reading Zoos by Randy Malamud.

If you don't care at all about anything, please give me a call. I can refer you to professional help.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Unbelievable Biblical Madness

Counter-jeremiad radio:

At a time when House Majority Leader Tom Delay calls for enacting a "Biblical worldview" in government, when Christians are asserting their ideals in the selection of judges, in public school science classes and elsewhere, This American Life spends an hour trying to remember why anyone liked the separation of church and state in the first place. Julia Sweeney, among others, gives a full-throated defense of godlessness. Julia's faith began to crack after reading Biblical passages like the one pictured here, of Abraham about to cut the throat of his beloved son, Isaac.

The problem is that many Americans today say they are quite willing to kill their children if the voice of "God" tells them to do so. After all, it's in the Bible. God sometimes asks strange and disgusting things of us. But as Gershwin wrote in those immortal lyrics:

. . .
Oh Jonah he lived in de whale
For he made his home in dat fish's abdomen
Oh Jonah he lived in de whale
. . .
It ain't necessarily so
De things dat yo' liable to read in de Bible
It ain't necessarily so

C.B. tells me that he was glued to the seat of his car by this "wonderful monologue about the craziness of The Bible and Julia Sweeney's 'de-conversion.' Her spiel was so right on and funny at the same time that after I found a spot to leave my car I was compelled to sit there and listen for the remaining twenty minutes for her to finish. It was well worth it: the funniest, most profound iconoclastic bit I’ve ever heard on radio."

You can listen to it online here:

Monday, June 13, 2005

Racist Murders: "Atonement Trials"

In a new article on the trial of Killen for killing three college students during the Summer of Freedom in 1964, The New York Times groups this trial with several similar revisitations of justice:

~~~ ~~~ ~~~
The trial will be one of the biggest of what some have called the South's "atonement trials" revisiting the most notorious atrocities of the civil rights era. One after another, new prosecutors have returned to these old crimes, spurred by news media investigations, relatives of the victims, the success of other prosecutors and even their own youthful memories.

  • In 1994, Byron de la Beckwith was convicted in the assassination of Medgar Evers, a leader in the Mississippi National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Mr. Beckwith died in prison in 2001.

  • Three years ago, Bobby Frank Cherry was convicted in Alabama for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four black girls. He died of cancer in prison last year.

  • In Chicago this month, prosecutors exhumed the body of Emmett Till, a black 14-year-old who was kidnapped and killed in Mississippi in 1955. Two men were acquitted of his killing by an all-white jury but later admitted they were responsible. The men have died, but prosecutors believe others were involved and are seeking DNA evidence.

The literal, and figurative, exhumations of the past are the result of increasing black political power and younger, more enlightened whites, said Susan M. Glisson, the director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi. "It represents a maturing South," she said....

~~~ ~~~ ~~~

A maturing South is a very good thing, devoutly to be wished for. Who knows, perhaps it will prompt a maturing North?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A Million Children Work in Mines

More Than a Million Children Work in Mines

"To mark World Day against Child Labour on Sunday, the United Nations labour agency is spotlighting the problems of over a million children around the world who help to support their families by working as miners, often for small unregulated enterprises in dangerous conditions. . . ."

ExxonMobil oil told Bush to reject Kyoto treaty

George Bush's decision not to sign the United States up to the Kyoto global warming treaty was partly a result of pressure from ExxonMobil -- the world's most powerful oil company -- and other industries, according to US State Department papers seen by The Guardian.
See the usual sad tale of corporate influence over puppet politicians in the name of short term profit and long term misery:

Interesting Relationships:
" A former White House official and one-time oil industry lobbyist whose editing of government reports on climate change prompted criticism from environmentalists will join Exxon Mobil Corp., the oil company said Tuesday.

The White House announced over the weekend that Philip Cooney, chief of staff of its Council on Environmental Quality, had resigned, calling it a long-planned departure. He had been head of the climate program at the American Petroleum Institute, the trade group for large oil companies...."

See more at:

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Calculate Your Personal Carbon Emissions

I used this website to calculate the amount of CO2 pollution I contribute by taking a trans-pacific airline flight. Next I clicked a button that allowed me to "offset" this pollution by donating to projects that cut back other sources and/or help to absorb such pollution. Interesting idea -- to assuage one's guilt and do something effective to reduce the problem.

You might play with this site to calculate how much pollution you contribute at home, driving a car, etc. It's interesting to find out how much money they believe you owe to compensate for your pollution.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Ocean altered by disappearance of cod

Marine ecosystem altered by disappearance of cod in the north Atlantic ocean

"An entire marine ecosystem is being restructured because of the collapse of East Coast fish stocks more than a decade ago and could make their recovery nearly impossible, according to a unique study to be published Friday.

Researchers who looked at data over a 40-year period found that the food chain in the North Atlantic has been significantly altered with the disappearance of large species, like cod, a finding never seen before.

Ken Frank, a scientist who co-authored the report in Science magazine, said the findings provided an unsettling picture of the marine ecology on the eastern Scotian Shelf and the future of once robust stocks that might never recover. . . ."

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The reporter uses the old term "food chain" throughout this piece, but it is more accurate to use the term "food web". See image below for why the network between creatures in an ecosystem is nonlinear, complex, and somewhat unpredictable as to the overall cascade of effects due to one species being taken out of the picture by over-fishing.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

5,000,000 peasants vs. seed monopoly

Here's the conclusion of Vandana Shiva's detailed article about the political struggle against global corporate patents on seeds and plants:

" . . .Millions of farmers have made a commitment through the Seed Satyagraha to not obey seed patent laws just as Gandhi refused to obey the British Salt laws. The Congress Government is currently reenacting Gandhi's 1930 Dandi March to break the Salt Laws. While the Government enacts a historical march for freedom while imposing Patent laws for seeds that are more far reaching than the Salt laws, we have been undertaking a real Satyagraha against the seed Patent laws. Five million peasants have taken a pledge to not obey laws for patent monopolies on seeds and plants.

On 2nd April we handed over to the Prime Minister pledges from Seed Satyagrahis across the country who have declared that seed saving and seed sharing is our duty. We will not allow patents on seeds to turn our duties into crimes of intellectual property. We will stay free, and we will continue to defend freedoms of farmers and the freedoms of all species and lifeforms."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Reverse Ponzi

A Ponzi scheme in reverse -- gallows satire by Ted Rall:

Monday, June 06, 2005

Students March Against Pollution

Christina MacFarquhar, front right, a volunteer of the Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association, shows her self-made ornaments made of discarded bottles and cans in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

To mark World Environment Day, a group of university and college students chanted "No pollution! We want to survive!" yesterday in Taipei to raise public awareness to environmental issues. . . .

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This item is from The Taipei Times at the link above.

15 Most Harmful Scholars

It's time for our Annual Harmful Scholar Awards!
This year's list is alphabetical rather than according to harmfulness:

1. Arnold Beichman
Research Fellow
Hoover Institution

2. Prof. Brad Birzer
Hillsdale College

3. Harry Crocker
Vice President & Executive Editor
Regnery Publishing, Inc.

4. Prof. Marshall DeRosa
Florida Atlantic University

5. Dr. Don Devine
Second Vice Chairman
American Conservative Union

6. Prof. Robert George
Princeton University

7. Prof. Paul Gottfried
Elizabethtown College

8. Prof. William Anthony Hay
Mississippi State University

9. Herb London
Hudson Institute

10. Prof. Mark Malvasi
Randolph-Macon College

11. Douglas Minson
Associate Rector
The Witherspoon Fellowships

12. Prof. Mark Molesky
Seton Hall University

13. Prof. Stephen Presser
Northwestern University

14. Phyllis Schlafly
Eagle Forum

15. Fred Smith
Competitive Enterprise Institute

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So you may ask, why these scholars rather than others who are arguably at least as harmful? Great question. The answer is that the most harmful scholars on this list were easier to identify since they chose themselves by creating a list of the top 15 most harmful books of the 20th century. To see why the scholars are harmful rather than the books, see their hysterical list at:

Always wary about the tremendous harm that scholars inflict upon the public, our bloggence recommends that these 15 scholars be invited to speak at your next gathering, where they can be if not enlightened, then properly ridiculed.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Tiananmen Rebellion

The Unknown Rebel
by Pico Iyer
With a single act of defiance, a lone Chinese hero revived the world's image of courage

Almost nobody knew his name. Nobody outside his immediate neighborhood had read his words or heard him speak. Nobody knows what happened to him even one hour after his moment in the world's living rooms. But the man who stood before a column of tanks near Tiananmen Square — June 5, 1989 — may have impressed his image on the global memory more vividly, more intimately than even Sun Yat-sen did. Almost certainly he was seen in his moment of self-transcendence by more people than ever laid eyes on Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein and James Joyce combined.

The meaning of his moment — it was no more than that — was instantly decipherable in any tongue, to any age: even the billions who cannot read and those who have never heard of Mao Zedong could follow what the "tank man" did. A small, unexceptional figure in slacks and white shirt, carrying what looks to be his shopping, posts himself before an approaching tank, with a line of 17 more tanks behind it. The tank swerves right; he, to block it, moves left. The tank swerves left; he moves right. Then this anonymous bystander clambers up onto the vehicle of war and says something to its driver, which comes down to us as: "Why are you here? My city is in chaos because of you."

One lone Everyman standing up to machinery, to force, to all the massed weight of the People's Republic — the largest nation in the world, comprising more than 1 billion people — while its all powerful leaders remain, as ever, in hiding somewhere within the bowels of the Great Hall of the People.

Occasionally, unexpectedly, history consents to disguise itself as allegory, and China, which traffics in grand impersonals, has often led the world in mass-producing symbols in block capitals. The man who defied the tank was standing, as it happens, on the Avenue of Eternal Peace, just a minute away from the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which leads into the Forbidden City. Nearby Tiananmen Square — the very heart of the Middle Kingdom, where students had demonstrated in 1919; where Mao had proclaimed a "People's Republic" in 1949 on behalf of the Chinese people who had "stood up"; and where leaders customarily inspect their People's Liberation Army troops — is a virtual monument to People Power in the abstract. Its western edge is taken up by the Great Hall of the People. Its eastern side is dominated by the Museum of Chinese Revolution. The Mao Zedong mausoleum swallows up its southern face.

For seven weeks, though, in the late spring of 1989 — the modern year of revolutions — the Chinese people took back the square, first a few workers and students and teachers and soldiers, then more and more, until more than 1 million had assembled there. They set up, in the heart of the ancient nation, their own world within the world, complete with a daily newspaper, a broadcasting tent, even a 30-ft. plaster-covered statue they called the "Goddess of Democracy." Their "conference hall" was a Kentucky Fried Chicken parlor on the southwest corner of the square, and their spokesmen were 3,000 hunger strikers who spilled all over the central Monument to the People's Heroes. The unofficials even took over, and reversed, the formal symbolism of the government's ritual pageantry: when Mikhail Gorbachev came to the Great Hall of the People for a grand state banquet during the demonstrations--the first visit by a Soviet leader in 30 years — he had to steal in by the back door.

Then, in the dark early hours of June 4, the government struck back, sending tanks from all directions toward Tiananmen Square and killing hundreds of workers and students and doctors and children, many later found shot in the back. In the unnatural quiet after the massacre, with the six-lane streets eerily empty and a burned-out bus along the road, it fell to the tank man to serve as the last great defender of the peace, an Unknown Soldier in the struggle for human rights. . . .

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Pico Iyer's tribute to the Tiananmen rebellion continues at:

French Fried Friedman

Thomas Friedman has garnered a lot of admiration for his articles and books promoting corporate globalization. Most recently, he's praised the idea of a "flat earth" which is much the same old WTO transnational capitalism that wishes to treat every country as equally open to exchange, despite vast differences in local economies. Friedman's pro-corporate argument omits the most important factors however -- things like human beings.

Vandana Shiva argues against Friedman in "The Polarised World Of Globalisation" here:

And today Greg Palast blasted Friedman's latest piece:
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French Fried Friedman
By Greg Palast

Vicente Fox got a well-deserved boot in the derriere for saying Mexicans come to America for taking jobs "not even Blacks want to do."

But Thomas Friedman earns plaudits and Pulitzers for his column which today announces that East Indians are taking jobs the French are too lazy to do ["A Race to the Top," New York Times, June 3]. His fit of racial profiling was motivated by his pique over France's rejection of the globalizers' charter for corporate dominance known as the European Constitution.

It's not the implicit racism of Friedman's statement which is most irksome, it's his ghastly glee that "a world of benefits they [Western Europeans] have known for 50 years is coming apart," because the French and other Europeans "are trying to preserve a 35 hour work week in a world where Indian engineers are ready to work a 35-hour day."

He forgot to add, "and where Indian families are ready to sell their children into sexual slavery to survive." Now, THERE'S a standard to reach for.

In his endless series of pukey peons to globalization, Friedman promises that free trade, an end of regulation, slashing government welfare and privatization of industry will lead to an economic nirvana.

Yet, all he and his globalization clique can point to as the free market's accomplishment is the murderous competition between workers across borders to cut their wages for the chance to work in the new digital sweatshops.

Friedman praises the New India, freed of the shackles of Old India's socialist welfare state. I've seen the New India: half a billion people in dirt huts supporting a tiny minority's right to shop in air-conditioned malls. It is a Fritz Lang film in Hindi. . . ."
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See rest of Palast's blast at:

Are People Born This Way?

"Incapacity of the masses." What a tool for all exploiters and dominators, past present and future, and especially for the modern aspiring enslavers, whatever their insignia -- Nazism, Bolshevism, Fascism, or Communism. "Incapacity of the masses." This is a point on which reactionaries of all colors are in perfect agreement; and this agreement is exceedingly significant.
-- Voline

The masses are incapable because their potential capabilities are bred out of them. The current system of dominance and submission, of consumerism and neoliberal corporate privilege, cannot cultivate universal capability; it knows only how to suppress and contain and distort. The irony of course is that the voice of this system looks over its own results and declares it to be a natural disaster due to the incapacity of the people.

If this fundamental insight needs relearning in every generation, it is because this lesson too is not on the curriculum. One remedial lesson is found in a forgotten book by Erich Fromm:

"If any single work could bring mankind to its senses, this book might qualify for that miracle. . . . This book is the product of one of the most penetrating, most mature minds of our time."
--Lewis Mumford

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Agamben on Guantánamo

Guantánamo as fascist concentration camp
--excerpt from an interview with Italian philosopher, Agamben.

Agamben: But I spoke rather of the prisoners in Guantánamo, and their situation is legally-speaking actually comparable with those in the Nazi camps. The detainees of Guantanamo do not have the status of Prisoners of War, they have absolutely no legal status.[5] They are subject now only to raw power; they have no legal existence. In the Nazi camps, the Jews had to be first fully “denationalised” and stripped of all the citizenship rights remaining after Nuremberg,[6] after which they were also erased as legal subjects.

What do you understand the connection to be to America’s security policy? Does Guantánamo belong to the transition you have previously described from governance through law to governance through the administration of the absence of order?

Agamben: This is the problem behind every security policy, ruling through management, through administration. In the1968 course at the Collège de France, Michel Foucault showed how security becomes in the 18th century a paradigm of government. For Quesnay, Targot and the other physiocratic politicians, security did not mean the prevention of famines and catastrophes, but meant allowing them to happen and then being able to orientate them in a profitable direction. Thus is Foucault able to oppose security, discipline and law as a model of government. Now I think to have to have discovered that both elements – law and the absence of law – and the corresponding forms of governance – governance through law and governance through management – are part of a double-structure or a system. I try to understand how this system operates. You see, there is a French word that Carl Schmitt often quotes and that means: Le Roi reigne mail il ne gouverne pas (the King reigns but he does not govern). That is the termini of the double-structure: to reign and to govern. Benjamin brought the conceptual pairing of schalten and walten (command and administer) to this categorization. In order to understand their historical dissociation one must then first grasp their structural interrelation.

Raulff: Again, is the time of law over? Do we live now in an era of rule by decree (Schaltung), of cybernetic regulation and of the pure administration of mankind?

Agamben: At first glance it really does seem that governance through administration, through management, is in the ascendancy, while rule by law appears to be in decline. We are experiencing the triumph of the management, the administration of the absence of order. . . .
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Read whole interview at link above to the German Law Review:

Friday, June 03, 2005

A.I. Strikes Back

U.S. leaders who are war criminals could be arrested on foreign territory and tried at the Hague like Milosevic, or returned home to stand trial like Pinochet -- at any time for the rest of their lives. There is no statute of limitations.

"If the US government continues to shirk its responsibility, Amnesty International calls on foreign governments to uphold their obligations under international law by investigating all senior US officials involved in the torture scandal."
-- William Schulz, Amnesty Intl USA

Amnesty Chief: Treat Rumsfeld Like Pinochet

"No statute of limitations" for Rumsfeld and Bush

Here's my summary of the argument so far:

  • Amnesty International says, "Guantanamo is a U.S. Gulag against the laws regarding torture, habeas corpus, extradition, human rights, and legal trials."
  • Bush Administration reacts, "That's absurd. We're gentle. Americans aren't violent criminals. Besides we make the laws, so we don't have to obey them."
  • Amnesty International strikes back, "So why not open Gitmo to inspections?"
  • Bush Administration: "Amnesty International isn't even American, how can you expect us to listen to you? And if you're not with us, then you're with the terrorists. As a terrorists organization, all members, contributors, and letter writers for Amnesty International will be able to inspect Guantanamo prison from the inside -- as prisoners."

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Catapulting the Propaganda

Bush supports "culture of life" -- not in Iraq, of course.
by Molly Ivins

As a longtime fan of both George Bushes' eccentric grasp of English, I naturally enjoyed this gem from W.:

"See, in my line of work, you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda."

(Bush in Greece, N.Y., May 24, once more explaining his Social Security plan to a town hall meeting of perfectly average citizens -- except they had all been pre-screened to allow only those who agree with him into the hall.)

"Catapulting the propaganda" would explain his performance at the press opportunity that same day at which he appeared surrounded by babies born from frozen embryos. He used the phrase "culture of life" at least 27 dozen times (I think I exaggerate, but maybe not). "The use of federal dollars to destroy life is something I simply do not support," he said to the press the following day.

Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, federal dollars are being used to destroy life at pretty good clip because Bush decided to wage an entirely elective war against a country that presented little or no threat to us. And according to the Downing Street memo, he damn well knew it, too. . . .

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See rest of Molly Ivins' piece at link above.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Ayatollah of Holy Rollers

The final part of a 5-part series about the American Christian nationalists is now available online.
This part is about Christian Reconstructionists, who work toward replacing the US constitution. Their leader has "succeeded in selling his far right politics and theocratic religious ideas to millions of unsuspecting evangelicals, who had once led America's fight to keep church and state forever separate."

Here's the beginning of the end:

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Death by stoning for atheists, adulterers, and practicing male homosexuals.

Stoning - or possibly burning at the stake - for atheists, heretics, religious apostates, followers of other religions who proselytize, unmarried females who are unchaste, incorrigible juvenile delinquents, and children who curse or strike their parents.

And, oh yes, death to witches, Satanists, and those who commit blasphemy.

Does this sound like a radical Islamist nightmare, a replay of Afghanistan under the Taliban?

Welcome to the United States of America as Christian Reconstructionists hope to run it. Not as a democracy, which they see as secular heresy. But as a reconstructed Christian nation, complete with biblically sanctioned flogging and slavery.

The Bible rules, OK? And, in its name, a small elect of true believers are now seeking capital-D Dominion over every aspects of our government, laws, education, and personal lives. . . .

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Protesters Fight for Soldiers' Freedom

. . . About that time, another soldier who had been
listening piped in and told me that he didn't mind us
protesting because they had fought for my freedoms. I
didn't ignore that comment this time; I told him I was
a Navy veteran who had spent time in the Persian Gulf
the first time around, and I did not need him to fight
for me. Furthermore, I informed him that my status as
a veteran is not what gives me the right to Free
Speech, and that everyone was entitled to that as an
inalienable right. He intensely listened to me as I
went on to explain that I felt those of us who were
demonstrating and protesting were actually the ones
who were securing his freedoms, and that if it were
not for people like me, then the soldiers who are
fighting in foreign countries would return home to
America to find that they had no rights or freedoms
left. . . .

Quoted from:
Recent Conversations With U.S. Soldiers
by Mitchell E. Potts
Thanks to C.B. for this!