Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Can't we just get along?

" O you who believe, do not take certain Jews and Christians as allies; these are allies of one another.."

(Surah 5:51)

US law bars firms from cooperating with attempts by Arab governments to boycott Israel.

Dubai Ports World is entirely owned by the Government of Dubai via a holding company called the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation (PCZC), which consists of the Dubai Port Authority, the Dubai Customs Department and the Jebel Ali Free Zone Area. Muhammad Rashid a-Din, a staff member of the Dubai Customs Department's Office for the Boycott of Israel, told the Jerusalem Post today :

"Yes, of course the boycott is still in place and is still enforced, if a product contained even some components that were made in Israel, and you wanted to import it to Dubai, it would be a problem "

I note that the FAQs section of the website for Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone Area, which is also part of the PCZC, advises importers that they will need to comply with the terms of the boycott.

There is however a possibility that the business of Dubai is business and that business may trump officially held positions. Asked in an interview last week with “CNN” reporter Wolf Blitzer whether Dubai Ports World was doing business with Israel while the UAE refused to recognize Israel, Ted Bilkey, CEO of DPW replied:

“One of our very sound customers is Zim line. It’s the largest shipping company. And the president of that company is very close to our company and supports us, because we have good relations with all of our clients. We handle their operations in a number of ports throughout the world because it’s good commercial business for us. They wouldn’t come to us unless we did a good job.”

Bilkey assured Blitzer that the Emir was aware of it. Indeed today’s issue of the Jerusalem Post claims that the entire boycott is reduced to just “lip service.”

One of the reasons given for Bush’s support of the deal was that it would help bring Dubai into the 21st century, make that country more cooperative with the West. In outward appearance, Dubai appears to be further into the century than the US or anyone else, but is it possible that there is an unstated bargain under which that country will begin to accept Israel as a legitimate entity?

Saudi Arabia joined the WTO last September with the proviso that it drop the boycott, something that appears not yet to have happened. Rob Portman, the U.S. trade representative, said in congressional testimony last week:

“We have raised it with the Saudis, and they tell us they will follow through on their WTO obligations.” Whether that obligation by a nation that has a far worse record than does Dubai regarding tolerance of other religions, will be carried out in full remains to be seen. It is a serious crime to proselytize in Saudi Arabia and Dubai, but money is a persuasive teacher and the meaning of “certain” is open to interpretation.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The planes boss - the planes!

When I wrote last Thursday that Bush was putting the oil business above National Security, I may have been wrong. It seems more likely that he’s putting the aircraft business above national security.

The answer to the question of why Bush seems to be so passionate about Dubai being allowed to operate our major seaports might just have something to do with Emirates Airlines, owned by the government of Dubai. The administration has been pushing foreign governments to buy from Boeing rather than its only significant competitor, Airbus. In the case of Emirates Airline, they were successful.

In November, According to the National Review, Dubai's government airline, agreed to purchase 42 Boeing 777s for $9.7 billion, with an option for 20 more planes. That is one of the largest purchases of commercial aircraft ever, and it may have been the most important foreign sale made by an American company last year.

Let’s set aside the rhetoric about using trade to spread freedom. It’s about money; it’s about quid pro quo. This sale would be important for our struggling export market and using the port management deal as a bargaining chip is nothing more than business as usual.

What’s less than usual is the way this administration railroads the country into accepting the administrations actions. I can find no fault with being a booster for American industry, but I do find fault with bypassing rules and regulations and security reviews, acting in secret and making up fake stories and ignoring security concerns such as have been raised by the US Coast Guard. It’s another instance of King George arrogating authority and snubbing the peasants; making a decision and then “fixing the facts” around it.

Friday, February 24, 2006

It takes a thief

In his recent book “It Takes a Family” Rick Santorum (Rep, PA) tells America that if they’d just look into their budgets, they’d see that women probably don’t need to work.

"In far too many families with young children, both parents are
working, when, if they really took an honest look at the budget, they
might find they don’t both need to."

Santorum’s kind of honesty is very penetrating indeed; so much so that he can apparently extract money from empty space. Whether it’s something like cold fusion or just slight of hand confusion, I don’t know, but Rick bought his house for $643,361 (now assessed at $757,000) on an income which consists mostly of his his Senate salary, now $162,100. That’s what he tells the IRS anyway. He gets deductions for having 6 kids of course, but while I had a lot of math and science in school, it didn’t include alchemy. I have to suspect an alternate source beyond the occasional check he gets from his retired civil servant parents. In fact, most of the women in his middle class neighborhood work for a living to support their lifestyles.

Not that I’m a cynic when it comes to the veracity of Republicans who claim that there would be no economic hardship if it weren’t for lazy people and Democrats, but an examination of his magic budget by The American Prospect shows that a Political Action Committee has something to do with it, paying his bills at Target, Wal-Mart, the supermarket, fast food joints and Starbucks. I recommend that all struggling families stop being lazy and take advantage of this opportunity.

Families should also look into getting special mortgage treatment from private banks whose officers contribute to their campaigns. We all have campaigns, don’t we? So call up the Philadelphia Trust Company, who holds Rick’s $500,000 mortgage and who claims to lend only to affluent people whose portfolios they manage and ask for the Santorum package. Don’t have half a million in their bank? Well, if you live in the State of Pennsylvania which has managed half a Billion in State funds maybe they will give you a break too.

There is so much more to the story than I can print here, but Santorum is living off the fat of the land: special favors from institutions that do business with the state and the proceeds of malpractice suits far in excess of the cap he tells us he’d like to put on such things. Remember him when you put pencil to paper and pen to checkbook next month. Remember the party that wants to make him an “Ethics Czar.”

Of all the gin joints in all the towns. . .

“Things are never so bad they can’t be made worse”

-Humphrey Bogart-

What do the State of Kuwait, the Bandar bin Sultan family, the Sultanate of Oman, King Hassan II of Morocco, the amir of Qatar, Enron Corp. founder Kenneth Lay, the former Korean prime minister, the government of China, Sheik Zayed Bin Sultan al Nahyan and the people of the United Arab Emirates have in common? They all gave a lot of money to the Bush Library Foundation. The UAE alone gave an unspecified amount exceeding a million dollars.

Of all the Port Operations companies in all the world we had to choose Dubai Ports World. Of course and without a doubt, it is only because in all the world, they are the best choice for America.

According to Channel 2 News in Houston, TX, Roman Popaduik, chairman of the Bush Library Foundation that collects donations, said he could not discuss details of the gifts and of course our administration is not going to discuss anything, thank you very much, sit down and shut up.

To me, discussions of security are secondary to discussions of impropriety; of the innumerable quid pro quo relationships with monied interests that make up the mosaic of the Bush Presidency.

It’s not so much a question of whether they can do the job, but of why, of all the companies in all the world, do we have to have this country managing the bulk of our international trade?

I think we can figure it out.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The business of security is business

"We're very concerned about the level of rhetoric and the way that there seems to be the assumption that because a company is Arab it can't be trusted with our security," said Katherine Abbadi, executive director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee of New York to an AP reporter.

I have no doubt that there is a lot of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim prejudice, but is that the issue here? Is this a case of discrimination against Arab Americans or against foreign control over our security and resources? Bush told us to worry about Saddam, he was wrong. Bush now tells us not to worry – he knows what he’s doing.

I think all of us would be more comfortable having more accountability and transparency and control over the management of our seaports, no matter how much Dubai would like the job. Kuwait may have a great police department, but I would just as soon we didn’t give them the contract to police Miami. It’s not xenophobia, it’s not prejudice when we require a policeman to live in his jurisdiction and I would ask those who think otherwise, if he would like to outsource the administration to India and the armed forces to Russia.

Sure, P&O used to be owned by the British, but the British haven’t attacked us in almost 200 years, aren’t out in the streets calling for our destruction and are in fact allied with us in our Iraqi occupation. The record of Dubai is less clear, their accountability more tenuous and it would be so if they were Buddhists or of any other background. The bottom line is that they are not us and nobody will ever care about our security and our fortunes as much as we do.

James Glassman writes today in TCS Daily that we should trust Dubai to guard the fort because “Richard Reid, the attempted "shoe bomber," was a British citizen, and Jose Padilla, among others, is an American citizen (as was Timothy McVeigh). The UAE has been a staunch ally in the war on terror. . .” Thank you very much, but that’s a stinking crock of non-sequitur.

If all we need is someone who seems to want to profit from us to protect us, why then not appoint some Emir as Vice president? (As though we hadn’t done that.) Republican opinion shouters who a few years ago screamed themselves hoarse about US forces being led by UN commanders seem now not to care who is watching the door – and don’t we have to ask why? If we can’t trust the French because they told us Saddam had no nukes, why can we trust the UAE with our lives?

“Don't we want places like Dubai to fight terror and to grow, to invest, to buy, to trade, to adopt Western commercial practices, to expose themselves to the rest of the world and thus become tolerant and moderate?" oozes the Neocon Glassman, as though our governments responsibility was to OPEC first and America second; as though exposure to the Western world weren’t the root of the problem. I would prefer and the nation would prefer that we didn’t risk a nuclear attack so that Dubai could “Grow.”

Bush isn’t worried. Despite the criticisms of the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General and the Coast Guard, both of whom claim we are doing nothing to correct a severe vulnerability, the Bush administration has spent approximately 20 times more on airport security and it now wants to trust those vulnerable ports to foreign businessmen. This isn’t about racism or religious bigotry; it’s about putting business – the oil business – above national security.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Twilight of the Neocons

Theological historian Karen Armstrong wrote a book called The Battle for God that if I may oversimplify it, attributed the rise in Fundamentalism of all flavors to a reaction against encroaching modernity on the part of antique, faith-based societies. Movements against modernity began in Europe in the late 19th century along with a surge in anti-Semitism in response to the explosion of Science and technology and began in the Middle East later in the 20th century when Westerners with Western values arrived on the sacred sands looking for oil.

Neoconservatism and its quasi-Marxist notion of a historical mandate to create a better world by spreading Western Democracy by force has of course had a great influence on our current Administration, but one of its founders, Francis Fukuyama, who in 1989 published the best-selling book The End of History and was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's pile of discredited ideologies.

Mr. Fukuyama, according to a report in The Scotsman, will, in his soon to be released book America at the Crossroads, declare that the doctrine "is now in shambles" and that its failure has demonstrated "the danger of good intentions carried to extremes."

The administration’s hawks, says Fukuyama, "believed that history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will. Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States".

What the Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld Neocon crowd failed to foresee was just what history has taught: that the harder you challenge a traditional society to enter the modern world; the faster you push them into abandoning Sharia for secularism, the more rigid and rabid fanaticism you will generate. Our experience in Iraq is teaching this lesson to those who will learn.

Whether this about-face by a forefather of Neoconservatism will have any effect on our administration; whether indeed any of them will read it or anything like it, remains to be seen. Perhaps like Cheney the hunter, their eyes will be so glued to the neocon dream that they will not see who is in the line of fire.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Freedom of Information Act?

What information? What Freedom?

One is tempted to see it as the stuff of comic opera: demented latter day Mikados on the D'Oyly Carte stage classifying a 30 year old laundry list, vacation postcards and a 1956 phone book found in the office supply closet.

I keep reminding myself that most “Slippery Slope” arguments depend on a hidden non-sequitur and just because we approach some point beyond which it may be difficult to recover the balanced and functional democracy held hostage by its current caretakers, it’s still not inevitable.

The paranoid Poobah's in charge are doing all they can to rewrite logic, history, science and the Law, but they are so aware of their own ineptitude, or perhaps so consumed by Stalinesque paranoia that they have gone to extremes. Perhaps they simply don’t care that some of us catch on, perhaps they have come to believe that we are all well trained or just stupid, but a more subtle cover up might have been more successful.

According to today’s New York Times, intelligence agencies have been combing the National Archives, removing from public access more than 55,000 pages of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians. Is this dangerous information that the public should have? What about a 1948 memorandum on a C.I.A. scheme to float balloons over countries behind the Iron Curtain and drop propaganda leaflets? Public knowledge for a decade, It’s been erased from history.

Historian, William Burr, found a dozen documents he had copied years ago whose reclassification he considers "silly," including a 1962 telegram from George F. Kennan, then ambassador to Yugoslavia, containing an English translation of a Belgrade newspaper article on China's nuclear weapons program. Another document gives the C.I.A.'s assessment on Oct. 12, 1950, that Chinese intervention in the Korean War was "not probable in 1950." Just two weeks later, on Oct. 27, some 300,000 Chinese troops crossed into Korea.

The National Archives are not allowed to tell us who is doing this or why, but apparently more than a million bucks have been spent reviewing documents that have been available for 25 years or more and scholars who have file cabinets full of public information are afraid they may suddenly find themselves accused of espionage.

Where are Gilbert and Sullivan when you need them?

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Planet of the Apes

Who knows what opinion polls mean, but this one at least was the product of presidential historians. According to CNN a panel of scholars organized by the University of Louisville's McConnell Center released a list of the top 10 American presidential blunders during a President's Day weekend conference called "Presidential Moments."

It’s astonishing to me that incidents like the Teapot Dome scandal didn’t make the list at all, but Clinton’s escapade did. Grover Cleveland’s illegitimate child did not, but Monica did.

Warren G. Harding and the Teapot Dome scandal are not to be found, but Bill Clinton’s transgression made number ten on the list which begins with James Buchanan’s failure to prevent the Civil war and includes Lyndon Johnson’s letting the Viet Nam war escalate. Clinton’s affair was far more important than these other failures, according to the McConnell panel.

If you wonder why I consider the human race itself to be such a colossal blunder, the very least worthy of survival of all the apes, the answer is to be found above. Of all the items in the list, Clinton’s tawdry episode caused no tragedy for anyone. To include it on the same page as events that caused 600,000 deaths in the civil war, or Woodrow Wilson's refusal to compromise on the Treaty of Versailles after World War I which may have contributed to tens of millions of deaths is so much more than astonishing that I have no word to describe it.

Of course these are experts, who make a living being experts and not necessarily by being objective, yet a CNN poll attached to the article shows that while 28% of respondents chose Buchanan’s failure to avert the Civil War as the more egregious, 24% chose – you guessed it – Bill Clinton and Monica.

I’m not at all proud to be human.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Why do fools fall in love?

I spend too much time pondering the imponderable. Why do people fall in love with totally unsuitable people and refuse to leave abusive spouses? Why do people in the military continue to support leaders who betray them, use them and abuse them and keep them on a pay scale all out of proportion to the importance of their role and the risk involved in performing it?

George “Mission Accomplished” Bush, who in 2003 tried to cut $75 a month in "imminent danger pay" and $150 a month in "family separation allowances" for the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq under the pretense that the hard part was over, has proposed a pathetic 2.2 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees and members of the armed forces yesterday, marking the first time in his presidency that he has called for equivalent raises for both groups rather than a higher rate for the military. This may be the smallest increase since 1994 and it seems like the only ones asking for a few more bucks for military pay are the Democrats.

“Getting our troops the pay raise they deserve is the very least we can do to show how much we value everything they do for us. I’m going to fight for a fair military pay raise until it becomes a reality, and I thank my colleagues who have joined me in doing so,” said Senator John Kerry, who is leading a ten Senator effort to increase pay to at least keep up with projected inflation rates.

Once again, it’s more important for the War President to support the fellows who drive $150,000 cars with “support the troops” stickers on them than to actually support the troops. It’s more important for him to use them as a background for his pep rallies than to allow them to feed their families. Is it that we can't afford to pay them or is it that we can't afford George Bush, the Corporate Santa Claus?

Talk is cheap, the Republicans are cheaper. They love to tell you that freedom isn’t free when they leave you with the check.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

To buy or not Dubai

Yep, we’re in big danger from them Terrists and we have to tap your phone, read your e-mail and your snail mail and make sure you don’t read anything strange at the library.

Of course we’re not going to do anything to actually offend the lords of oil and we’re not actually going to do anything to reduce the risk of a major attack – that costs money that could best be spent by individuals and corporations whom God has blessed by making them wealthy.

So you wouldn’t expect the Bush administration to worry over potential security risks of a $6.8 billion sale that gives a company in the United Arab Emirates control over significant operations at six major American ports. Everyone knows Terrists only use airplanes anyway.

Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co., the world's fourth-largest ports company, runs commercial operations at shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. The purchase by Dubai Ports World has been approved by the White House and Homeland Security, but none the less has set off alarms on both sides of the Congressional aisle. According to Associated Press, four senators and three House members asked the administration Thursday to reconsider its approval. The lawmakers contended the UAE is not consistent in its support of U.S. terrorism-fighting efforts. U.S. lawmakers said the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan. They also said the UAE was one of only three countries to recognize the now-toppled Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

"The potential threat to our country is not imagined, it is real," said Rep. Mark Foley, (R-Florida), taking time off from his efforts to close nudist colonies. For once I agree with him, but the question is not about the reality of the threat; the question is whether it’s far too late to take back control of our own fate. Can we even afford it?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Will she or won't she?

Florida has two lotteries. One is the kind where you buy tickets at the 7-11 and the other one is the Justice system.

I’m curious to see whether Ann Coulter, one of Florida’s foulest females, has picked a winner this time. No, I’m not referring to her almost daily slander and libel, incitement to commit murder and assault on government officials; the horrible harpy of ad hominem managed to get caught committing voting fraud when she voted in last week’s City Council election.

According to today’s Palm Beach Post, the Satan-worshipping queen of witches cast her ballot in a precinct 4 miles north of the precinct where her Palm Beach home is located. Florida statutes make it a third-degree felony to vote knowingly in the wrong precinct. Information given on a voter registration application is considered sworn testimony and lying or giving false information on a voter's registration can cost up to $5,000 and five years behind bars.

What do you want to bet that this State, which has banned tens of thousands of minority voters from the polls because of a false felon’s list, won’t do anything to that slathering psychotic? What do you want to bet that she will declare herself a victim and will shriek about stupid liberals while her head spins around and around spewing green slime?

Will she or won’t she go to jail? Fogg reports, you decide.

Please tell me again who the good guys are?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Holy cosmology!

NASA is neglecting a technology that could allow us to reach the stars with ease and without all that smoke.  All they have to do is build a tower high enough to touch the “firmament.” We could attach our space stations and satellites there with ordinary hardware.

No, I mean it; the insanity is almost to that point.  We’ve read in the last few weeks that the weather service isn’t allowed to mention the already massively established fact that global temperatures have risen substantially or to mention ozone holes, but now NASA is being told that science itself is too offensive to be given credit by scientists who get government support.  God help us if we offend religious cranks, perverts, liars, charlatans or morons – here or abroad.

The planet doesn’t revolve about the sun, it revolves about their fatuous falsehoods, and they will punish you if you don’t play along.  

The Bush administration continues to sabotage education, research and the dissemination of scientific findings. Recently, George C. Deutsch, a Bush appointee with no scientific education told a designer working on a NASA Web project that the Big Bang was "not proven fact; it is opinion," and thus the word "theory" should be used with every mention of Big Bang.  It was not NASA's place to make a declaration about the origin of the universe "that discounts intelligent design by a creator."

Last week, we read in the New York Times, NASA was told to omit references to stellar evolution and degeneration on the JPL web site, or at least not to tell people that our own star will eventually fail. An e-mail message from Erica Hupp at NASA headquarters to the authors of the original release at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, said, "NASA is not in the habit of frightening the public with doom and gloom scenarios."   Not even if the problem is a billion or more years in the future.

Of course we can tell you with certainty that the end times are upon us and God, like Godzilla, will stomp everything flat as the earth and dump the Jews and heretics into a lake of fire. Nothing gloomy about that and of course it’s proven fact because. . . well just because.

Monday, February 13, 2006

China Syndrome

Nothing good and nothing free lasts forever. The internet has been a bastion of freedom in its tawdry and lawless way for too long according to those who want to restrict it and they want to restrict it not to protect your innocence, but to profit them.

According to news magazine The Nation, corporate media giants are working behind the scenes to convince a Republican controlled Congress to privatize the Internet. The telecom and cable giants want to fence off the Internet with one area for the haves--who will pay a premium to enjoy life in the fast lane--and the other for the have-nots. Jeff Chester writes:

"The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online."

Sound typical? So far the corporate puppets in Congress like Rick Santorum haven’t succeeded in making you pay for the weather information your taxes already pay for, but this issue has more going for it than a benefit to one or two companies. Corporate censorship benefits the Republicans as anyone who compares the type and number of stories available on the net versus what’s on the mainstream media.

An unlikely coalition of groups like Common Cause and Free Press, along with new media companies like Amazon.com, are calling for federal policies requiring "network neutrality" that would prohibit broadband providers from discriminating against any forms of digital content. Internet service providers would be regulated like telephone companies, and couldn't simply decide to block their customers' access to legal websites.

You can make your demand for Network Neutrality heard by your congressmen through the Common Cause website. Big Brother is already watching and listening, don’t let him tell you what you can read.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Veep who couldn't shoot straight

I wonder if the next time Dick Cheney offers to take a judge who is to hear a case against him duck hunting, the judge will think twice.

The first thing I thought of when I heard the news was – of all things – fractal geometry. Life in the large scale often resembles life in its details. According to the Wikipedia, fractals can be most simply defined as images that can be divided into parts, each of which is similar to the original object. Fractals are said to possess infinite detail, and some of them have a self-similar structure that occurs at different scales, or levels of magnification.

Dick Cheney is a man who doesn’t seem to look at the details before pulling the trigger, whether he’s shooting quail or hunting Osama bin Laden, you never know who is going to get hit. Did Cheney really think Saddam and Osama were the same bird? Did Harry Whittington’s face look like a quail? Or maybe Cheney is just a dangerous blowhard with bad eyesight and the need to look macho.

Anyway, it’s not hard to see the comparison between large scale Cheney and small scale Cheney. On every level, he’ll shoot first and make up a story later after it comes out in the papers. If you can’t trust him with that 28 gauge peashooter of his, why do we trust him at all?


It gets worse. The Veep who can’t shoot straight – either with a gun or with the truth – was protected from having to deal with the Law after he shot his friend in the face. CBS News reports that local law enforcement officials were prevented from interviewing Vice President Cheney .

Texas authorities are complaining that the Secret Service barred them from speaking to Cheney after the incident. Kenedy County Texas Sheriffs Lt. Juan Guzman said deputies first learned of the shooting when an ambulance was called.

Of course we get a different story from the House of Lords, or the White House as it used to be called. CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante reports that the Secret Service says that agents had informed the local sheriff of the shooting about an hour after it happened and that the vice president had been interviewed about the accident by local authorities on Sunday morning.

Did Cheney leave the scene of the accident under the protection of his private army and without speaking to law enforcement? The smoke screen is already smoking - read the transcript of Scott McClellan's three ring circus on Raw Story.

Whether this accident constitutes criminal negligence or criminal recklessness is an irrelevant matter to a group of would-be feudal Lords. They have already told us that laws, treaties and constitutional mandates are only binding upon them at their discretion. So what does it matter? All we can do is wait and hope these people go away before our country is turned into a private hunting preserve for the rich and powerful.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Prophet

Verily, we warn you of a chastisement close at hand: The day on which a man shall see the deeds which his hands have sent before him; and when the unbeliever shall say, "Oh! would I were dust!"
-surah 78:1-40 'Al Naba' -

“Everyone’s talking about Islam and Muslims” says the voice on the radio. WCEV, an “ethnic” station in Cicero, Illinois broadcasts Radio Islam on 1450 KHz. There are many names for Allah: Ar Rahim, the Merciful; Ar Rahman, the beneficent; Al Aziz, the Mighty and 96 others. There are many faces of Islam and some are not as beautiful as the names of Allah.

We’ve seen the face of outrage caused by a cartoon. We’ve seen the face of wisdom and the face of reason put on for us to see, but there are faces that turn our stomachs and break our hearts; there are faces that make us want to kill. None of them seem to disturb the Islamic public as much as some silly cartoon done by someone outside their world.

There is another face of Radio Islam: covered with running sores and putrescent pustules of hate, lies and demented rage. If the images and lies there offend Muslims, I’ve not seen the evidence. Doubtless there are Muslims who are different and who perhaps are not part of that many headed beast, but they are quiet and their dry protests are hard to hear and harder to find sincerity in.

“Who runs USA?” barks the headline – “The Jews” is the answer and all America’s Leaders are Jews and all the founding fathers of America knew it and hated them as much as we do. Image after image of grotesque, bearded Jews committing loathsome acts are apparently not offensive to the sensibilities that feel murderous outrage at something as silly as a cartoon of a bearded man with a bomb in his turban.

It’s wrong to offend someone’s beliefs, says the Vatican, but to whom is it addressed?

Al Batin is a name of Allah. It means the hidden. Perhaps only the Prophet knows where Allah hides in that vast and boiling sea of murderous anger.

God doesn't read the funnies

"What if it's not a picture of Mohammed - what if it's a picture of a picture of Mohammed? "

Fafblog manages to see the humor in all human idiocy. I wish I could smoke whatever they're smoking - I'm sure I would live longer.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

And all the while Osama runs free

As the Curmudgeon says, you can’t make this stuff up. Homeland Security: that organization whose name just begs one to say Vaterland Security, has handed another gift to comedy writers and cynics by blocking a visit of a kindergarten class to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. Normally and traditionally NASA has sought to get the attention of younger generations and attract them to the sciences, but that was before the Keystone Cops took over national security, demanding, among other things that they keep quiet about science when it offends Bush’s fundamentalist base.

The Ohio Free TImes tells us that although some 400 school groups have already toured the facility, the kindergarten class at Lakewood Ohio Taft Elementary School is too dangerous to allow in the building. Two toddlers in the class are not US citizens and while to some extent, all 6 year olds are terrorists, very few are able to ferret out the kind of secrets from rocket scientists that might be useful to older terrorists, nor are they likely to build homemade cruise missiles after a brief tour of NASA. I feel safe in saying that the citizenship of a kindergarten kid really doesn’t matter here in terms of making us safer much less saner.

“It was just a policy that came down from the Homeland Security Department,” said Chief Community and Media Relations Officer Linda Dukes-Campbell, who disavows any connection with the writing staff at Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

“We are a federal reservation, and we have to work within those ramifications” says she apparently not having spent much time learning the English language herself.

Dukes-Campbell says that NASA is “looking at a policy revision” that might allow kindergarteners onto the federal reservation for field trips. She says they’re “hoping to have language” in order in a couple of weeks. No word on whether the language is English.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

pull the chain

I admit that I take a perverse pleasure in watching fundamentalists of all sorts shrieking in tongues with foam-flecked beards. Religious charlatans of the sort common in America often jerk the chains of their simian pets by imagining some threat to their belief system (or con if you prefer) and they have only to announce, for instance, a war on Christmas or a movie that cleaves too close to history or scholarship for the good of their mythology (or con if you prefer) to cause a riot or a crusade or a jihad. It makes a wonderful cover or diversion when needed.

I think the Saudi Government, having failed again to control the situation at the annual Hajj needed just such a smokescreen and found some Danish cartoons that otherwise would without their efforts have been, if not unremarked upon, at best a minor provocation. The orchestrated outrage has worked wonders for Islamic solidarity and weak-kneed western governments have been forced to assert that of course they’re not bigots and of course freedom of speech is limited by the need to coddle believers in their faith.

“In other words, we use their sense of "fair play", "multiculturalism", "democratic values", and of course their guilt feelings, against them, so that they restrict their own freedom of action, but are very lax when dealing with the Muslim, for fear of offense or violent reaction. This of course confuses and demoralizes the ordinary person-in-the-street, and weakens their resistance to the onward march of the Ummah.” Says a cynical piece in The Religious Policeman. It’s just too impossible to be too cynical about it when Western religious leaders have to swallow their certainties and state that it’s wrong to contradict anyone’s faith a practice which is essential to all the religions in conflict here.

The Hajj , the pilgrimage to Mecca that every Muslim is obliged to make at least once if at all possible, is a big deal. Somewhere around 200 pilgrims per year have died in various incidents and stampedes and the Saudis have long promised to do something about it. This year at least 360 people were killed. The Saudi’s collaboration with the West has long been a problem for them and of course it was the presence of Infidel troops on the Sacred Sands that is said to be the cause of Osama bin Laden’s outrage and the cornerstone of al Qaeda.

How convenient for them that some cartoons in a nowhere country can inflame the world.

Of course it doesn’t work nearly as well here, but it works. Whether it’s the attempt to get us riled up about Christmas or flag-burning or crime or political correctness or communism, our national monkey cage has been rattled to good effect by politicians for as long as I can remember.

Nothing can be done about it, of course. Not only do we and Chimps have a common ancestor, but we are as much an ape as any other and we are controlled by our ape genes and ape instincts. The more the fundies deny it, the more they prove it.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Gravy train

I’m on welfare – and I love it. Right, I knew it, you’ll say; pulling out the stereotype book and starting to build an image of a Liberal out of the little cardboard cutouts. But you’re more wrong than you imagined. I should love Bush, because he just keeps handing me the handouts.

This week, The Republicans voted 53 - 44 to defeat an effort to scale back the Capital Gains and Dividend tax breaks – they stopped those nasty liberals you love to hate right in their tracks. Imagine me not having those extra bucks to spend on my sports cars and boats! Hell, it’ll all trickle down anyway – last week I slipped one of my gardeners an extra five bucks and told him to spend it wisely.

Imagine the giving that money to provide medical care for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans instead! What nerve! I want every penny of that $70 billion to go to rich people and powerful corporations so they can afford to support the government that keeps my gravy train rolling. I can’t imagine anything more unpatriotic than giving even $18 billion of it to help veterans – that’s just plain socialism.

OK, enough cynicism, but from the way I’m hammered by military types and veterans when I criticize George Bush, you’d think he was sending them to Disneyland and paying them like Enron executives. Bush has been screwing them all along, trying to take away combat pay from troops he sent into harm’s way to boost his sinking ratings; troops who are getting shot at and blown up every day while their families struggle to make ends meet.

But such is the power of propaganda, of stereotypes, that the guy in the rented trailer thinks Bush is standing up for him against people that want to take his hard earned cash. Yep, Guys like me get a bigger break from this government than the single mother whose husband didn’t come back from Kabul. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

I am the Law

I am the Law and the Law is not mocked

-Javert, from Les Miserables-

Let’s face it; the domestic wiretap activity of the Bush administration is not going to go away just because we discovered it. It’s not some embarrassing little peccadillo that they are ashamed of; it’s the expression of the autocratic powers Bush feels are his prerogative as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Of course as civilians, we are not subject to such powers. We are supposed to have a chief executive not a commander, but with the de facto one party system coming into place, and the tendency toward de facto marshal law, we may have little other recourse but to click our heels and salute.

This Monday, Alberto Gonzales is planning to explain to the mislead public why The Chief Executive simply doesn’t have time to comply with the law, which is another way of saying that George W. Bush is the law. We have already seen, and most have ignored what would have been unthinkable not long ago: a President signing a bill with the provision that the law applies at his whim and pleasure. Perhaps freedom and Democracy are only pep-rally words used by cheerleaders: the game itself is called Power.

Time magazine, in a web exclusive article, says that “Gonzales contends in his 10-page opening statement for Monday's hearing that fighting al-Qaeda "is, in fundamental respects, a war of information," and that asking the FISA court for permission for each intercept "would necessarily introduce a significant factor of delay, and there would be critical holes in our early warning system." A common trick of con men is to push you into immediate action. When you’re told there’s no time to think or you’ll lose the deal, it’s time to walk. We can’t walk away from these con men.

Asked about FISA provisions for eavesdropping first and getting a warrant later, Gonzales says that they could not begin "without knowing that we meet FISA's normal requirements." The Constitution is just too damned much trouble for a warpresident and if you don’t trust him to tell us who’s naughty or nice, well then up against the wall, Liberal traitor.

The pattern is clear, the warpresident was in too much of a rush to find out the facts about Iraq and he is in too much of a rush to determine probable cause before listening in to what war critics are saying in private. What he’s saying is that Bush just doesn’t have time for the law - his will is the law.” The fact that he’s been spying on vegetarian groups and the Quakers and that so far, according to the FBI director Robert Mueller, no al Qaeda operatives have been located by this surveillance, suggests a darker motive – hell, it bleats out a darker motive in neon lights.

Apparently we have lost the passion for freedom this nation once had. Perhaps if Tom Paine and Paul Revere had had iPods, Fox News and the Super Bowl, we would be singing a different National Anthem tomorrow.

The following post

has been posted and deleted without my permission twice today. Perhaps I'm being hacked, but let's see if it remains in view this time.

"The right to freedom of thought and expression ... cannot entail the right to offend the religious sentiment of believers” Said the Vatican in its first response to the Danish cartoon debacle that’s got the Muslim world in an uproar.

“The hell it can’t” says Capt Fogg remembering the centuries of passion plays, blood libels and inquisitions during which that organization smeared mocked and slandered the Jews and went so far as to exterminate the pacifist Cathars for their beliefs. American Fundamentalists raise holy hell every year when anyone appears not to be bowing down to their retrograde beliefs and seem to be working hard towards an America where our freedom is limited by their faith.

In fact I don’t remember such a huge commotion in Gaza when Islamic radicals blew up the World Trade Center or at any of their other murders for that matter. I have a right to think about hypocrisy and a right, so long as we remain a secular nation, to express my disrespect for it.

Nearly everything one might do offends the “religious sentiment of believers” and what the Vatican is saying here and what the madmen in Gaza are acting out, is that belief conveys a superior right. No one seems to be defending my right to believe the results of scientific investigation or mathematics, so why then do I not have the right to “offend” when the offense simply means a different viewpoint? To many fundamentalists of many flavors, the very existence of another religion is offensive. In fact the “offense” given to the faithful by the presence of unbelievers in Saudi Arabia is the basis of al Qaeda.

If we let faith determine the limits of our freedom; whether it’s our faith or someone else’s, we have no freedom.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Invisible hand

Kind of breaks your heart, doesn'’t it? Could be your brother or son or father. No matter what you think about the legality, morality, necessity or worth of George Bush'’s war, real people are losing life and limb because of it. This is not the Super Bowl, it'’s not a game and every day, some of them get killed. No matter what they think of this endeavor, they don't get to say no, they don't get to hide or take time off to work for some politician and they don'’t get enough of what they need from the government that has plenty to give Halliburton and Exxon and the Drug industry. They are not responsible for the lies of Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld or Bush.

True, some of these guys hate my guts and love George. Some love war;– any war. All are real people; most have real families and all are at risk. I've seen Americans act like heroes to save people from fires and mine collapses; people risk their lives pulling children from wells. That helicopter pilot pulling you from a roof isn't going to ask you about your politics first and you're not going to inquire about his.

It'’s not hard or expensive to do as much for a wounded soldier as most would do for a stray cat. You can make a small donation, send morale and comfort items to a hospital; you can send a letter. Wounded Warriors makes it easy. Isn'’t it as much your duty as opposing a corrupt government?

Home Economics

Laura: George, I don’t know what we’re going to do. The credit cards are maxed out, we’re in debt up to our eyeballs, the roof is leaking, the basement’s flooding, the furnace is out, our retirement fund went down with Enron and Junior needs an operation.

George: Laura, really. Have some confidence in me. I have a plan to cut our debt in half by the end of the year.

Laura: Oh George, you’re wonderful.

George: The first thing we do is to buy new appliances and furniture and borrow the money from the store – next we take out a third mortgage from Ditech.com for 150% of what our home is worth. I’ll find the highest bidder with the worst reputation for honesty to fix the house and with enough prayer; Junior’s appendix will clear up by itself.

Laura: But George. . .

George: Now at the end of the year, when the house is worth 50% more, I’ll borrow 150% of that and pay down the debt, pay off the furniture and the repairs and buy an SUV.

Laura: But George. . .

George: Now wait – here’s what makes it all work. I’m going to take a massive salary cut! With my employer's increased profits safely in a numbered offshore account where it will trickle down to me, we'll be rich! Now do you see?

Laura: Oh George! You’re a genius!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

What is truth?

What is truth? It’s an eternal question and eternally hard to answer, because in effect, truth is what you believe it is and what you believe is often a manufactured product.

Caught with its gray striped pants down in 2001, the Government needed some good men to come to the aid of their party and with the aid of the internet; cover stories began to cover the country. Although many stories were immediately debunked, the cyber world is not like the real world; the demolished lies reassemble themselves like pools of spilt mercury and rise again – and again. On Tuesday last, I got another copy that had been sent to a huge mailing list.

Efforts to pin the Destruction of New York’s Twin Towers on Bill Clinton, Al Gore and the “liberals” began before the dust cleared. One of the first bits of creative writing that appeared in my mailbox; enthusiastically forwarded by some passionate patriot, concerned a story that Oliver North during his 1987 trial for misappropriating government funds, cited the threat of Osama bin Laden as his reason for purchasing some very expensive security systems.

The man interrogating him “before God and country” was said to be Al Gore – that name appearing amidst pictures of the flaming buildings – and Al was said to have quashed any suggestion of going after and assassinating Osama. The Liberal Press was said to have edited out this story.

Amidst more maudlin exhortations never to forget and always to forward this e-mail, we are told that Mohammed Atta had been imprisoned by Israel for a terrorist act and that Clinton and Warren Christopher had agreed as part of the 1993 Oslo accord to release them, forcing Israel to let the man go.

Please don’t break the chain, it said, with animated graphics of bleeding hearts. Send this to everyone and expose the cover-up!

Of course the story is 100% fiction, Gore never said those things to North, North was in fact questioned by committee counsel John Nields, not a senator. North was talking about Abu Nidal (Osama bin Ladin was an ally in 1987, fighting the Commies in Afghanistan.) Mohammed Atta was not a prisoner in Israel; Clinton did not demand his release.

The only cover up here is this attempt to distract from the fact that Bush had been warned and did nothing; Clinton launched an attack on Osama and had been criticized for it by the Republicans who as this bucket of slime circulated on the web, were stonewalling an attempt to investigate what went wrong. To his credit, Oliver North long ago issued a lengthy denunciation of this box of lies, but it had been told too often and like some retrovirus, lying dormant somewhere, it’s re-emerged with greater passion, more colorful graphics and accusations.

Short attention span America is embracing it again and people like me will be slimed again for telling you the truth. The truth is that you can’t kill a lie and the truth is that there is neither lie so foul or false nor any act of corruption so putrid that the Republican lie machine will not plaster over it with another layer.

I have addressed some of the people who forward this, some of them claiming to remember the circumstances and to have had personal involvement with things that never happened, but the response is “close enough.” The real truth is that truth is meaningless. The truth is that you can always fool enough of the people all the time.

Bonus Blast

We're transforming our military. The things I look for are the following: morale, retention, and recruitment. And retention is high, recruitment is meeting goals, and people are feeling strong about the mission.

-- George W. Bush, in a Jan. 26 press conference

Of course recruitment isn't high at all and one wonders how high the President is when he makes such statements. Salon.com claims to have documents that show the military, which recently raised the enlistment age to 40 in an attempt to meet quotas, is accepting people with fairly serious criminal records, such as domestic abuse, drug dealing and drunken driving. That's got to be just great for morale, but perhaps Bush can depend on the fact that comfort addicted Americans don't read and don't trust those who do.