Monday, September 26, 2005

The (Evangelical) Golden Rule

Via Brian Leiter, here are some statements made by Pat Robertson, the Evangelical Mullah of the U.S. Christian Right:

"The Antichrist is probably a Jew alive in Israel today."

"Communism was the brainchild of German-Jewish intellectuals"

"The Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew."

"How can there be peace when drunkards, drug dealers, communists, atheists, New Age worshipers of Satan, secular humanists, oppressive dictators, greedy moneychangers, revolutionary assassins, adulterers, and homosexuals are on top?"

Feminism is a "socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

Recently, he declared: "When you get through you say, 'If I could just get a nuclear device inside Foggy Bottom [where the State Department's building is located]. I think that's the answer. We've got to blow that thing up.'" This was his second nuclear terror threat on Washington, DC. "Maybe we need a very small nuke thrown off on Foggy Bottom to shake things up," he said in June.

(Via Brian Leiter, posted October 20, 2003)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Heart of Whiteness (With No Apologies to Joseph Conrad)

"If you want to see the true face of war, go to the amateur porn Web site For almost a year, American soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan have been taking photographs of dead bodies, many of them horribly mutilated or blown to pieces, and sending them to Web site administrator Chris Wilson. In return for letting him post these images, Wilson gives the soldiers free access to his site. American soldiers have been using the pictures of disfigured Iraqi corpses as currency to buy pornography.

At Wilson's Web site, you can see an Arab man's face sliced off and placed in a bowl filled with blood. Another man's head, his face crusted with dried blood and powder burns, lies on a bed of gravel. A man in a leather coat who apparently tried to run a military checkpoint lies slumped in the driver's seat of a car, his head obliterated by gunfire, the flaps of skin from his neck blooming open like rose petals. Six men in beige fatigues, identified as US Marines, laugh and smile for the camera while pointing at a burned, charcoal-black corpse lying at their feet.

The captions that accompany these images, which were apparently written by the soldiers who posted them, laugh and gloat over the bodies. The soldier who posted a picture of a corpse lying in a pool of his own brains and entrails wrote, "What every Iraqi should look like." The photograph of a corpse whose jaw has apparently rotted away, leaving a gaping set of upper teeth, bears the caption "bad day for this dude." One soldier posted three photographs of corpses lying in the street and titled his collection "DIE HAJI DIE." The soldiers take pride, even joy, in displaying the dead.

This could become a public-relations catastrophe. The Bush administration claims such sympathy for American war dead that officials have banned the media from photographing flag-draped coffins being carried off cargo planes. Government officials and American media officials have repeatedly denounced the al-Jazeera network for airing grisly footage of Iraqi war casualties and American prisoners of war. The legal fight over whether to release the remaining photographs of atrocities at Abu Ghraib has dragged on for months, with no less a figure than Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers arguing that the release of such images will inflame the Muslim world and drive untold numbers to join al-Qaeda. But none of these can compare to the prospect of American troops casually bartering pictures of suffering and death for porn.


But for Chris Wilson, it's all in a day's work. "It's an unedited look at the war from their point of view," he says of the soldiers who contribute the images. "There's always going to be a slant from the news media. ... And this is a photo that comes straight from their camera to the site. To me, it's just a more real look at what's going on."

Wilson, a 27-year-old Web entrepreneur living in Florida, created the Web site a year ago, asked fans to contribute pictures of their wives and girlfriends, and posted footage and photographs bearing titles such as "wife working cock" and "ass fucking my wife on the stairs." The site was a big hit with soldiers stationed overseas; about a third of his customers, or more than fifty thousand people, work in the military. Wilson says soldiers began e-mailing him, thanking him for keeping up their morale and "bringing a little piece of the States to them." But other soldiers complained that they had problems buying memberships to his service. "They wanted to join the site, the amateur wife and girlfriend site," he says. "But they couldn't, because the addresses associated with their credit cards were Quackistan or something; they were in such a high-risk country that the credit card companies wouldn't approve the purchase."

That was when Wilson hit upon the idea of offering free memberships to soldiers. All they had to do was send a picture of life in Iraq or Afghanistan, and they'd get all the free porn they wanted. All sorts of images began appearing over the transom, but he dedicated a special site to view the most "gory" pictures. Asked what he feels upon viewing a new batch, Wilson says: "Personally, I don't look at it one way or another. It's newsworthy, and people can form their own opinions."


Wilson's Web site has made the news before – but not for posting pictures of murdered people. Last October, the New York Post reported that the Pentagon was investigating him for posting naked pictures of female soldiers in Iraq. After a few months, the Post reported that the Pentagon had blocked soldiers in Iraq from accessing the Web site, which had posted five more pictures of nude female soldiers, some of whom had posed with machine guns and grenades. After the Post's stories, Wilson says, he was bombarded with requests for interviews from newspapers and radio stations. Even after he began posting photographs of corpses late last year, media inquiries focused exclusively on his nudie pics. It wasn't until reporters from the European press contacted him last week that anyone took notice of Wilson's snuff-for-porn arrangement with American troops.

"The soldiers thing, I think the Italians picked it up first," Wilson says. "I've done interviews with the Italians, the French, Amsterdam. ... They were very critical, saying the US wouldn't pick it up, because it's such a sore spot. ... It raises too many ethical questions. ... I started to laugh, because it's true."


............ Roughly two hundred soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan document their experiences in online "milblogs," and digital cameras are ubiquitous. No one can stop soldiers from posting pictures of eviscerated corpses for all to see, and no one should ever again be able to feign ignorance of war's human cost. Or so you'd think. Yet in the days since the European press uncovered the gore-for-porn story, not a single US print newspaper other than the Express has touched it.

Representatives from Amnesty International and Human Rights First even refused to comment, although both organizations ostensibly exist to condemn just this kind of practice. Perhaps no one wants to give Chris Wilson more publicity, or daily editors are too sensitive about being viewed as unpatriotic. Or perhaps the story is just too ugly to contemplate.

Americans have thousands of media outlets to choose from. But they still have to visit a porn site to see what this war has done to the bodies of the dead and the souls of the living. One of the pictures on Wilson's site depicts a woman whose right leg has been torn off by a land mine, and a medical worker is holding the mangled stump up to the camera. The woman's vagina is visible under the hem of her skirt. The caption for this picture reads: "Nice puss -– bad foot."
(Chris Thompson, "War Pornography,", Sep. 21, 2005).

And some commentary from Karl Marx, The Civil War in France:

The civilization and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge. Each new crisis in the class struggle between the appropriator and the producer brings out this fact more glaringly. Even the atrocities of the bourgeois in June 1848 vanish before the infamy of 1871. The self-sacrificing heroism with which the population of Paris — men, women, and children — fought for eight days after the entrance of the Versaillese, reflects as much the grandeur of their cause, as the infernal deeds of the soldiery reflect the innate spirit of that civilization, indeed, the great problem of which is how to get rid of the heaps of corpses it made after the battle was over!

In all its bloody triumphs over the self-sacrificing champions of a new and better society, that nefarious civilization, based upon the enslavement of labor, drowns the moans of its victims in a hue-and-cry of calumny, reverberated by a world-wide echo. The serene working men's Paris of the Commune is suddenly changed into a pandemonium by the bloodhounds of "order."

Saturday, September 24, 2005

At the Court of the Bourbon Bushes.....

You have to give it to the American ruling class. When they outsource their pathologies, they hand it to the very best. Thank God this time around it was two Brits doing the dirty work. Excerpts from the Christopher Hitchens vs. George Galloway brawl:

CH: How can anyone who is a business partner of this regime show their face in a city like this? And not content with it, not content with it...... Not content with it, he turns up in Damascus. The man's search for a tyrannical fatherland never ends! The Soviet Union's let him down, Albania's gone, the red army's out of Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia. The hunt persists! Saddam has been overthrown, and his criminal connections with him have been exposed, but on to the next. On the 30th of July, in Damascus in Syria, appearing, I've given it all to you on a piece of paper. In front of Mr. Assad, whose death squads are cutting down the leaders of democracy in Lebanon, as this is going on, to tell the Syrian people they're fortunate to have such a leader. The slobbering dauphin who they got because he's the son of the slobbering tyrant who came before him. How anyone with a tincture of socialist principle can actually speak in this way is beyond me, and I hope ladies and gentleman, far beyond you and far beneath your contempt. Thank you.

Amy Goodman (moderator): George, George Galloway, your response.

GG: Well uh... Dear ladies and gentleman, slobbering was the note that Mr. Hitchens chose to end on, I'm not sure that was wise.


CH: Bring it on, bring it on.

GG: But I want to begin by praising Mr. Hitchens...

In Dundee, my home city, at the annual delegate meeting of the national union of journalists, 25 years ago. The same Mr. Hitchens made a speech in which he praised me and the city council for what he described as its brave act of twinning the city of Dundee with the Palestinian city of Nablus. He said...

CH: No, no, no. Must have been someone else.

GG: He said that it was uh... I didn't interrupt you so perhaps you'll not slobber over my remarks.


H: Someone else.

GG: You see, it was very important Mr. Hitchens, support for the Palestinian people, and it was not easy in 1980. Only a few years before, the Palestinian resistance had seized the Israeli Olympic Games team in Munich, and had committed what most people in the world described as an act of mass terrorism. Mr. Hitchens' courageous stand with groups like the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the hijackers of many an aircraft, the carrying out of many a military operation was very significant because it was very rare. Equally, I want to thank Mr. Hitchens for the brave stand he made against the war on Iraq in 1991.

I want to, I want to say and I've never had the chance to thank him for this. One of the magic moments of that great era was Christopher Hitchens on television with the gun-nut Charleston Heston. When Heston was fulminating, desperate to get in there, desperate to attack, Hitchens told him to keep his wig on, and then he asked him, magically, to name four countries with a border with the country he was so keen to invade. And Heston, of course, could name, none.

That was important because it was very difficult to oppose the war against Iraq in 1991, after all, it was ruled by somebody called Saddam Hussein. It was governed by the Baath party who continued to govern it thereafter. It was only three years since those chemicals weapons that Mr. Hitchens could still smell when he was last there, had been launched against the Kurdish people he will never leave alone. Only three years before Halabja had taken place. And of course, perhaps most significantly of all, it was difficult to oppose that attack on Iraq in 1991 because Iraq had invaded and abolished, to quote him a few minutes ago, a member state of the Arab League, of the United Nations, a Muslim Arab country.

Not withstanding all of these things, Mr. Hitchens bravely, fanatically you may say, stood against the idea of president George Bush invading Iraq in 1991. What you are... What you have witnessed since, is something unique in natural history. The first ever metamorphosis from a butterfly back into a slug.


I mention, I mention slug purposely, because the one thing a slug does leave behind it, is a trail of slime. Now, I was brought up by my father on the principle never to wrestle with a chimney sweep, because whatever you do, you can't come out clean. But you, Mr. Hitchens, are no chimney sweep. That's not coal dust in which you are covered. You are covered in the stuff you like to smear on to others. Not just me, with your Goebbelian leaflets, full of selective quotation, half-truth, mis-truth, and downright untruth, and the comments you made in your last two minutes of this speech. But people much more gentle than me, people like Cindy Sheehan. Whom you described...


Whom you described, whom you described as a sob-sister, as a flake, as a La Rouchie, a woman who gave the life of her son for the war you have come here to glory in. People like Mr. Hitchens are ready to fight to the last drop of other people's blood, and it's utterly contemptible, utterly and completely contemptible. Now uh...



That's why that cheap, cheap demagoguery by Hitchens at the beginning of this debate got the risible response that it did from this audience, because he wants you to have, he wants you to make a minute silence for the 145 today, but he can't bring himself to mention the massacre in Tal Afar over the last 4 days in Iraq. He doesn't want to know about the massacre in Fallujah when the American forces, brick by brick, destroyed a city and massacred thousands of people.

Now this debate, as Amy Goodman said, is taking place at a very important time on a very important subject. This war, in which he glories, although I wish, how I wish he would put on tin hat and pick up a gun, and go and fight himself. How I wish, how I wish to see that sight. This war in which he glories has cost the lives, according to those well known Saddamist fronts, the Lancet and Johns Hopkins University, well in excess of 100,000 peoples lives. And hundreds of thousands more have been maimed and wounded. And it was all for a pack of lies, there were no weapons of mass destruction. There was no link between Iraq and al-Qaeda, there was no link between Iraq and the atrocities on the 9th of September, on the 9-11 here in the United States. There was no welcome for the foreign armies that invaded Iraq. Hitchens said they would be greeted by flowers, but there are 2,000 young Americans boys lying in the ground now, testimony to the fact that they were welcomed by something else. And thousands, and thousands more, wounded, maimed, many of them in wheelchairs for the rest of their lives, testament to the folly of Hitchens, and Bush, and Cheney, and the rest of the neo-con gang that dragged your country into this disaster.

CH: To hear him speak, you would think, would you not, that he was a pacifist, that he defines himself as anti-war. Now how can this be said, in good conscience, by someone who has just, standing by the side of the dictator of Syria, on the 30th of July, referred to the 154 heroic operations conducted in Iraq by the so-called resistance, or the resistance that is run as we know by a senior bin Ladenist and by many of the former secret police of the Baathist regime? How can someone say, and say they're anti-war and they care about casualties that they praise the 154 operations a day?

Now among the people killed by these heroic operations, in Iraq, some of them run from Syria and paid for by the human toothbrush and slobbering dauphin Assad, Mr. Galloway's new pal. Among the victims of these, of these operations was specialist Casey Sheehan, who was trying to clean up the festering slum of what had once been called Saddam City, and was now known to us as Sadr City where the water-supply is coming back on, it's taking a while, because people keep blowing it up, but it's coming back on. Now I will put a simple moral proposition to you and see if I've phrased it alright. Is it not rather revolting to appear in Damascus by the side of Assad and to praise the people who killed Casey Sheehan, and then to come to America and appeal to the emotions of his mother?


I, I say, I say sincerely I didn't think it could get as low as that, and yes I did criticize the luckless Mrs. Sheehan because she had made a very unfortunate political statement, suggesting that she agreed with Mr. bin Laden that George Bush was the murderer of her son, which is not, the son, the son...


You exculpate the murderer, you exculpate the killers right there. They didn't kill him. Shame on him, shame on you for saying that.


There are probably some people among you here who fancy yourself as having leftist revolutionary credentials, as far as I can tell that you do from the zoo-noises that you make... And the scars that you can demonstrate from your long, underground, twilight struggle against Dick Cheney. But while you're masturbating in that manner, the Iraqi secular left, the socialist and communist movements, the workers' movement, the trade unions, are fighting for their lives against the most vicious and indiscriminant form of fascist violence that any country in the region has seen for a very long time.


And the full intent of that, the full intent of that was, and I'll say it to it, yes, yes in Fallujah was to establish a Taliban-regime and a safe-house for al-Qaeda recruiting. That's what we were facing. You think you can fight that without casualties? You're irresponsible, you're ahistorical. We take, on this side of the house, without conditions, we take our side with the struggle of the Iraqi democratic and secular left against fascism, we make no apology. Those who have betrayed their own party, Mr. Galloway had to be expelled from the great labor movement of which I was, I myself still a member, because of advocating the shooting, publicly advocating jihad against British troops, now turns on the Iraqi left and wishes them well. As they, as wishes and argues and hopes for their defeat by an onslaught which would make Afghanistan seem like a civilized country. What two positions can one take about this, I invite you to consider, ladies and gentleman, and consider carefully, and thank you.


G: I mean how far, I mean how far, how far, how far has this neo-con rot seeped into your souls? How far?

Now... I'm going to have to deal with this hypocrite Hitchens. He talks about the death of soldiers in an occupation army at the hands of those resisting them. He supported the Algerian resistance in its bitter battle against French occupation which cost a million lives and he supported the FLN who conducted the most bitter, unremitting, unrelenting military struggle which would be today be described and was then by the French described as terrorist. And when Ahmed Ben Bella, the leader of the Algerian revolution, was asked why he was placing bombs in baby carriages and leaving them in the soot to explode amongst the French forces and their collaborators, he answered, "if the French will give us some of their helicopters, some of their aero planes, we will give them our baby carriages." Isn't that the same situation today that Mr. Hitchens' friends are the ones with all the Tomahawks, all the Apaches, isn't it odd that they should chose as the names of their weapons, the totems of the native American population that they mercilessly massacred in centuries gone by?

The Iraqi people have only themselves with which to fight this foreign occupation. This hypocrite crying tears for the American army in Iraq, supported the struggle of the Vietnamese people from the first to the last as they killed 58,000 American soldiers in Vietnam. He opposed the American war in Vietnam and supported those fighting against it. Today, he supports the American occupation of Iraq and seeks to slander those fighting against it. Now there are al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, who's fault is that? Who brought them there? Who brought them there? How did they end up in Iraq? There were no al-Qaeda in Iraq before Bush and Blair attacked it, and now every Islamist in the world...


And someone whom hasn't answered my question, my challenge. I said in round terms when I opened that this is not just a matter of which of us can be the rudest, because I already conceded that to Mr. Galloway. Or which of us could be the most cerebral, because he has already conceded that to me. But I said that there's a further grudge between us, which is this, I say that Mr. Galloway discussed the allocation of Oil For Food profits that stole directly from the Iraqi people, and that helped to corrupt the scheme and program of the United Nations. I say he discussed that personally with Mr. Tariq Aziz in Baghdad, at least once, and if he will put his name to an affidavit, that formally denies that, we can have done with this business. But if he does not, it's going to haunt him on every stop of this tour, and all the way back to England, and everywhere he goes to raise the flag of jihad in the Middle East. This I promise you, I promise you.


AG: George Galloway, five minutes.

GG: Bring me the affidavit, I'll sign it now.

CH: Very good.

GG: It's a complete lie. It's a lie like the others lies on your leaflets that you were handing out like and idiot on the street before this meeting.

It's a lie. Buy my book, if you don't want to buy it, go to the website of the and read it. I've already dealt with this, it's a lie. Nobody every discussed oil allocations with me, not Tariq Aziz, not anybody. I've already said it under oath, never mind an affidavit, under oath on pain of imprisonment in front of the US Senate. That smokescreen will not wash. You want me to run through the dictatorships you're supporting? Do you want me to run..?

CH: Yes, sure. Yeah.

GG: Yes?

CH: Why not?

GG: That is masochism. That really is masochism. You want me to run through the dictatorships?

CH: Yes, yes, yes.

GG: Saudi Arabia.

CH: Yes, get on with it. No.

GG: Do you want me to deal with the dictatorship...

CH: No.

GG: ...of Saudi Arabia, the prison state.

Do you want me to run through the family business more Corleone than Sainsbury's that runs Kuwait?

Do you want me to run through the dictatorship in Egypt? He has the gall to claim the election in Egypt as a fruit of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq. Husni Mubarak got more votes in the so-called free election last week than he got in the election he had admitted he rigged six years previously, and you want to call that democracy.

You talk about democracy in Lebanon? Your cedar revolution? It wasn't democracy they were demanding in the square of the cedar revolution. If there was democracy in Lebanon, sheik Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, would be the president of Lebanon. But he can't be.

CH: Very interesting.

GG: He can't be the president of Lebanon. No Muslim can be the president of Lebanon. You've got to be a Christian to be the president of Lebanon. Even though only 20% of the population of Lebanon are Christians. And how did that come about? Because the United States Marines waded ashore in Beirut in 1958 to impose that constitution on the people of Lebanon. You have the gall to talk about dictatorship and democracy, Mr. Hitchens.


You're, and you have the gall to talk about corruption in the Middle East. Your president and his father are complicit to the tune of millions and millions of pounds in the corruption of the Arabian Gulf in Saudi Arabia with the Carlyle Group, with secret Saudi investment in the failed business enterprises of George W. Bush. And you, a former Trotskyist, wrote in the newspapers that you were backing the re-election of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and the rest of this gang. You should be ashamed of yourself, but you're not.

CH: But I'm not.

GG: But you're not.

CH: But I'm not.


But, but you're not ashamed of yourself at all. It's true, I praised you. You were a butterfly. You're now a slug. You did write like an angel, but you're now working for the Devil, and damn you and all your works.



AG: And your response to Colin Powell saying that his UN speech was a stain on his record.

CH: I'm sorry?

AG: Your response to Colin Powell saying that his UN speech making the case of weapons of mass destruction was a stain on his record. Just a minute response.

CH: Mmm, I don't give a damn about what Colin Powell thinks about anything. I never have, and I never will. I think he's, I've noticed that he's, having being for a long time, the most overrated public figure in the United States. He's running for the nomination to most overrated man in the world. But I don't really care.


CH: And you can't make me.


CH: By all means. Let's see how this goes. Mr. Galloway claims that at a certain period during the 1980s he was supporting Iraqi democrats and protesting against Saddam Hussein, knowing what he was capable of, knowing what he had done, knowing the genocide for example committed in Kurdistan, and knowing of the aggressions of the chemical weaponry, that had been deployed in Iraq. He says he knows that. I've had the opportunity to check with the woman, Anne Clwyd, a very distinguished member of the Labor left in the British Parliament who was the chairman of the relevant organization that campaigned for the restoration of democratic rights in Iraq. She says she has no memory of Mr. Galloway's participation. But let's say that we take his word for it. It means that when he went, having said that he thought that Kuwait was part of the Iraqi motherland, to greet Saddam Hussein in 1994 in Iraq, and to salute him for his courage...

GG: That's another lie.

CH: ...his indefatigability...

GG: You're lying again, your nose is growing.

CH: ...he went, he went and to take his side again, it meant that he in foot on his own evidence, he went in full knowledge of the fact that he was dealing with a murderer, and a monster, and a dictator. So the pit of exculpation that you attempt to dig, Mr. Galloway, has just swallowed you up and the record will show it.


GG: ...I don't know what it was, whether it was Vanity Fair, or whether it was the lucrative contracts that you've landed since, but somehow you decided in 2003, maybe it was the whisky, maybe it was the whisky. Somehow you decided in 2003 to take a line that was the complete opposite of the line you used to take, now you want us to gloss over that point...

CH: Not at all.

GG: ...You say well... Yes you did. You said, I can't understand why so much of my time was devoted to this point. Were you lying then in 1991, or are you lying now? Were you wrong in '91, or are you wrong now? If you were wrong in '91, how should we believe you're right now in 2005. If you are capable of such drastic, dramatic, erratic swings, from being in favor of a devastating war, to being against a devastating war, to being in favor of the liberation struggle in Algeria and Vietnam and Ireland, but against the liberation struggle now in Palestine and Iraq. If you're capable...

CH: The liberation struggle?

GG: ...of such...

CH: Liberation struggle...

GG: ...dramatic, almost, if I can use the word that you used earlier, crazed shifts of opinion, how can anybody take you seriously?


CH: I think I can be as precise, but perhaps not as terse as Mr. Galloway on this point. Um, I should thank him by the way, for eliciting, or allowing, allowing me to elicit, or you perhaps ladies and gentleman to elicit from him, what I feared, but didn't hope, but in other words a full declaration of support for the campaign of sabotage, and murder, and beheading that has taken the lives of great journalists, that demolished...


... demolished the offices, demolished the offices, demolished the offices of the United Nations.

GG: Are there no depths to you which you will not sink?

CH: Demolished the offices of the United Nations and the Red Cross...

GG: Are there any depths to which you will not sink?

CH: Shot down, shot down senior clerics outside their places of worship and continues as a campaign of mayhem to this day.

GG: Are there no depths to which you will not sink? You've fallen out of the gutter into the sewer.

CH: It will be, you might all care to remember...

GG: You've fallen out of the gutter into the sewer.

CH: You might all care to remember that you are being televised, ladies and gentleman. I trust your mothers are not watching. You're shouting at me down so I can answer the question. You're unclear on the concept. Um, I will proceed if I'm allowed to. But I'm just reminding you, you're on telly, OK? Just hope your friends and relatives aren't watching.


GG: I'm so glad Mr. Hitchens gave that answer, you see, this is where it ends, isn't it? You start off being the liberal mouthpiece of one of the most reactionary governments this country has ever seen on the subject of war. You say you've got your own liberal reasons for doing so, and you end up an apologist and a mouthpiece for those miserable, malevolent incompetents who couldn't even pick up the bodies of their own citizens in New Orleans in the aftermath of a hurricane.


That's where it ends. That's where it ends. You end up, you end up a mouthpiece and an apologist for the Bush family whose matriarch, you want to talk about racism? What about Barbara Bush? What about Barbara Bush who took a look at the poor, huddled, masses in the Astrodome and told us they'd never had it so good? Who told us they were better off than they'd ever been. Underprivileged people, now in an Astrodome, the only problem with whom she said was that so many of them wanted to stay in Texas. You know, Hitchens, you're a court jester. You're a court jester.


Not a, not at Camelot, like other ridiculous other former liberals before you, but at the court of the Bourbon Bushes. Barbara Bush, the Marie Antoinette of modern-day American politics.


CH: Don't, I will advise you not to jeer these men and women while you're being televised, ladies and gentleman. I would advise you not to do it.

[Jeers/"Go home!"]


What I say doesn't require your endorsement and isn't drowned by your zoo-noises because I'm on C-SPAN now, and all they can hear is you baying. That can make me out alright, so just give it up, OK? Simmer down. Or let me put it like this, it takes a bit more than that, takes a bit more than that, tough guys and gals, to shut me up as well.

I'm not a member of the Bush entourage. I've never appeared on a public platform with a dictator, I never have and I never will. I couldn't face you if I had that on my record. It must be some sordid kind of displaced guilt that makes Mr. Galloway want to throw out accusations like this. I've never done that, and to come fresh from embracing these blood-stained bastards and to say to you that it's your fault that these people hate you. It's more than we should be expected to take.

GG: But if I still have the mic, uh, I would just like to say that this issue of whether the Iraq war was necessary and just or not, is one which is already being adjudicated upon by the people who are watching on C-SPAN, by the people who'll read these proceedings this evening, in their opinion polls, in their comments of all kinds. There are very, very few friends left of the argument Mr. Hitchens has put, of course on the far shores of the crazed right-wing neo-con circles in the United States, he's a new hero. But amongst the mainstream majority, and amongst those with whom Mr. Hitchens used to travel, this subject is already adjudged. You see the Elysian Fields that he seeks to conjure up in his depiction of Iraq. Today, simply don't bear any resemblance to the situation we all see on our television screens and read about in our newspapers every day.

The situation's not getting better in Iraq, it's getting worse. Religious fundamentalism, to which he is so opposed, has been put in power in Iraq by the invasion of Bush and Blair. The grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, of whom Mr. Hitchens, it's a very bizarre Trotskyist friend of the grand ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, that he speaks so approvingly of now, is the ruling power in Iraq and believe me he is an Islamic fundamentalist. Believe me, he wants to ensure that the people who live under his view follow every dot and comma of the Islamic fundamentalist, uh, agenda.


CH: And once Mr. Galloway may have enough in his memory as a socialist, the name that he has come to disgrace so gravely, so horribly, to remember that if you take a position of solidarity with your comrades, you take it win or lose, up or down. You don't say, "Well, I'm sorry comrades, brothers and sisters, I'm going to have to desert you now." Because they might say, "Well why's that?" And I might have say, have to tell them, "Well, because Michael Moore said so" or "Because Cindy says so" or because someone's offered me some Oil For Food money to do so, and I'm not going to do it.

[Transcript from SEIXON, posted Sep. 16, 2005).

Kleptocrat Nation

Mutuma Mathiu of The Sunday Nation (Kenya) does not think Kenyans are rational:

"Last week I proposed that very few electoral decisions in Kenya are rational. The majority of you were happy to disagree.

On Friday, Transparency International reported the findings of a survey which found that 62 per cent of Kenyans would take a bribe. And 79 per cent of the bribe-takers would actually vote for whomever corrupted them. The figure is higher for the urban centres; 87 per cent would line up behind the briber, even if it were a goat." (Mutuma Mathiu, "Is Democracy Worth the Pain?", Sunday Nation, 9/25/2005).

The American Dream

Liza Featherstone has a list up of the worst jobs in the U.S. Its a shocking list, not only because of the suffering that those who have to do these jobs go through, but because they speak to the horror that is the American ruling class' racism, sexism, and class exploitation.

A few below:

1. Poultry processor These folks quit their jobs five times as often as other workers, and it's not hard to see why. This job boasts an impressive "ick" factor -- you can imagine how gross these plants smell. The workers -- two-thirds of whom are black women -- are surrounded all day by gizzards and offal. The pay is lower than any other job in the manufacturing industry, except apparel. It would be tough to decide which was the worst task in a poultry plant -- would you rather be crapped on and scratched by live birds; slaughter and behead them; or pull their guts out? The work is repetitive, with relentless pressure for profit-maximizing efficiency. Bathroom breaks are discouraged and often punished. Because of the brutal pace and casual safety training (portrayed in a Pulitzer Prize-winning Wall Street Journal investigation of the industry) one in four poultry workers are injured or made ill by their jobs. Cuts from the equipment -- knives and scissors -- are common, as is carpal tunnel syndrome. Many poultry plant workers live in trailers on the premises, paying their rent through pay deductions. Alarmingly, this has been one of the fastest growing factory jobs in recent years.

2. Sewing machine operator There's no offal on the factory floor, but the upsides to this job end there. Garment workers' wages are even lower than those of poultry workers. They also face a constant threat of unemployment; because of unregulated overseas competition, apparel is expected to lose 245,000 jobs by 2012, probably more than any other industry. Sewing areas are the noisiest parts of the factory, and operators must sit for long periods leaning over machines and work under intense time pressure; repetitive stress injury is common. Their average wage is about $7.72 an hour; of course, in illegal "underground" shops, even lower -- or unpaid -- wages are common. Only 8 percent of U.S. garment workers are covered by a union contract; even those who are union members have found it almost impossible to bargain for better wages and conditions in recent years, because of global economic pressures. Most people doing this job are women, and in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, most are immigrants. There are about 140,000 sewing machine operators in the U.S. garment industry today.

3. Mississippi prison inmate/forced laborer Prison labor isn't always an atrocity; when it's voluntary, and paid, many inmates welcome it. They have, after all, little else to do, and may wish to get some job skills, work experience and save some money, either for their families or their release. Prisoners in the state of Mississippi, however, receive no wages or benefits. Their work conditions are hellish: they are often forced into outdoor agricultural labor in heat exceeding 100 degrees, and made to work far longer than a 40-hour week. Most people doing this job are black, and verbal abuse from white supervisors, including racial epithets, is common.

4. Nanny on a temporary visa Over the past decade, tens of thousands of women have come to the United States on temporary visas to work as live-in maids and nannies. Usually, they work for foreign diplomats, businesspeople or officials of international organizations. What these women endure sounds like something we expect to hear in accounts of human slavery in Saudi Arabia. Sometimes bosses lie to the women about the terms of their employment and imprison them in their homes, forbidding them to speak to anyone outside the family. These real-life Dickensian sickos could legally be prosecuted under federal human trafficking laws (and it sure would be nice to see them out in the Mississippi sun wearing stripes), but as Debbie Nathan recently reported in The Nation, enforcement agencies and many advocates are slow to act when the cases don't involve prostitution or other lurid sex allegations. Whether they are technically "trafficking" victims or not, workers on these visas are often reluctant to report abuse because if they leave their jobs, they can be deported. Human Rights Watch reports that these workers' wages average about $2.14 an hour, their workday lasts about 14 hours, and they are rarely allowed to leave the employer's home without permission.

5. Street prostitute Sex work takes many forms, many of which can be safely and profitably negotiated by consenting adults. But streetwalkers have little control over their work conditions. They are frequently cheated out of pay, raped and sometimes even murdered on the job. (Most street prostitutes report having been assaulted by a client at least once, according to the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing.) They must also work under constant threat of arrest and police harassment; serving time in jail is an integral part of the job, while paying fines is an expected business expense. While the hourly pay isn't bad, it seems low considering all the indignities involved; a blow job is about $20-$50, intercourse $50-$100. Still, this profession has one advantage: demand remains constant."

[Liza Featherstone, "The Ten Worst Jobs in America," AlterNet, Posted on September 13, 2005, Printed on September 24, 2005].

The Political Economy of Moral Values

Mathew Yglesias does not think that the expose of the Republican leader Bill Frist's corrupt insider trading will hurt his poll numbers. He draws attention to a scene from the drama, The Contender, when Kermit Newman is hunting for a skeleton in the closet of Rep. Runyan. White House staff dig up an old SEC investigation and give it to Newman, but he retorts:

"You got stocks? I want something embarrassing. Something sexual! Little boys, midgets, that sort of thing. Cows -- I don't give a god damn!"

Yglesias goes on however to draw out a larger moral in Frist's moral values story:

"Anyways, when you consider that the basic Republican Party approach to health care policy is that the GOP passes laws designed to maximize insurance company profits and then the insurance companies make campaign contributions designed to maximize the number of Republicans winning elections, I doubt that any level of personal corruption in the GOP/AHIP nexis could make any substantive difference to the policy process. In one sense, Frist might as well just behave in a corrupt and illegal manner, it's no worse than the perfectly legal stuff his colleagues are doing."

[Mathew Yglesias, TPM Cafe, Sep. 24, 2005].

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Civilized Barbarians

Timothy Garton Ash is hideously wrong about the conclusions to be drawn from Hurricane Katrina, but he knows how to spin a yarn -- and a funny one too:

"Katrina's big lesson is that the crust of civilisation on which we tread is always wafer thin. One tremor, and you've fallen through, scratching and gouging for your life like a wild dog.

You think the looting, rape and armed terror that emerged within hours in New Orleans would never happen in nice, civilised Europe? Think again. It happened here, all over our continent only 60 years ago. Read the memoirs of Holocaust and gulag survivors, Norman Lewis's account of Naples in 1944, or the recently republished anonymous diary of a German woman in Berlin in 1945. It happened again in Bosnia just 10 years ago. And that wasn't even the force majeure of a natural disaster. Europe's were man-made hurricanes.

The basic point is the same: remove the elementary staples of organised, civilised life - food, shelter, drinkable water, minimal personal security - and we go back within hours to a Hobbesian state of nature, a war of all against all. Some people, some of the time, behave with heroic solidarity; most people, most of the time, engage in a ruthless fight for individual and genetic survival. A few become temporary angels, most revert to being apes.

The word civilisation, in one of its earliest senses, referred to the process of human animals being civilised - by which we mean, I suppose, achieving a mutual recognition of human dignity, or at least accepting in principle the desirability of such a recognition. (As the slave-owning Thomas Jefferson did, even if he failed to practise what he preached.) Reading Jack London the other day, I came across an unusual word: decivilisation. The opposite process, that is, the one by which people cease to be civilised and become barbaric. Katrina tells us about the ever-present possibility of decivilisation.

There are intimations of this even in normal, everyday life. Road rage is a good example. Or think what it's like waiting for a late-night flight which is delayed or cancelled. At first, those carefully guarded cocoons of personal space we carry around with us in airport waiting-areas break down into flickerings of solidarity. The glance of mutual sympathy over the newspaper or laptop screen. A few words of shared frustration or irony. Often this grows into a stronger manifestation of group solidarity, perhaps directed against the hapless check-in staff of BA, Air France or American Airlines. (To find a common enemy is the only sure way to human solidarity.)

But then a rumour creeps out that there are a few seats left on another flight at Gate 37. Instant collapse of solidarity. Angels become apes. The sick, infirm, elderly, women and children are left behind in the stampede. Dark-suited men, with degrees from Harvard or Oxford and impeccable table-manners, turn into gorillas charging through the jungle. When, having elbowed aside the competition, they get their boarding-card, they retreat into a corner, avoiding other people's gaze. The gorilla who got the banana. (Believe me, I know whereof I speak; I have been that ape.) All this just to avoid a night at the Holiday Inn in Des Moines." (Timothy Garton Ash, Guardian Unlimited, Thursday September 8, 2005).

The Last of the Compassionate Conservatives

Courtesy of a reader (who does not so much mind being identified, as he minds being identified ON A BLOG), an excerpt from Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room":

Wolf) BLITZER: What do you think, Bay, about the vice president now
stepping in and being appointed by the president effectively to take charge
and make sure the red tape, the bureaucracy is not there?

(Bay) BUCHANAN [Pat's sister]: A week late. I would like to have seen him
put the vice president in charge last week, to be quite honest.

I think it's an excellent idea. We still hear stories that things are not
getting done as smoothly as they should. And if it takes someone as the
vice president of the United States who can say no, it's going to be done
this way. That's it. He's clearly a take-charge kind of guy, and can do it.
And I don't think it's too high of a person to personality to be in charge
of this terrible disaster.

(Paul) BEGALA: I have to say, the White House is usually much better as the
optics of setting these kinds of events. Contrast that with the footage you
showed a little while ago here in THE SITUATION ROOM of Laura Bush, our
first lady: warm, gracious, surrounded by kids.

There's Dick Cheney standing alone, and he is not a warm and fuzzy guy.

He looked like he was sort of looking around, anybody here got a pet they
need euthanized? You know, I'm ready to help. You know, he's just a
grouchy, old guy. Now, maybe that contributes to a sense of competence,
which is sorely lacking. " (CNN, "The Politics of Hurricane Katrina," Sep. 8, 2005).

Can You Pronounce Camus?

"Plague-Infected Mice Missing From N.J. Lab: Officials Concerned, but Say Public Health Risk Is Low

Sept. 15, 2005 — Authorities are investigating the disappearance from a New Jersey bioterror research lab of at least three mice carrying a deadly strain of plague.

Sources say FBI agents and bioterrorism experts have interviewed and polygraphed employees at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in Newark, N.J., the location of the lab run by the Public Health Research Institute, a leading center for research on infectious diseases.

The mice have been missing for approximately two weeks.

"The FBI responded to the matter, and we dedicated a great number of agents as well as a large number of resources to the investigation," said Special Agent Steve Siegel, a spokesman for the FBI's Newark field office.

"We're satisfied that there is no public safety risk, and there doesn't seem to be any nexus to criminal activity or terrorism," he added.

Lax Procedures?

Nevertheless, federal authorities, including the FBI, have criticized the lab for lax procedures that resulted in a potential public health menace.

"This is the black death," said Richard Ebright, a microbiologist at Rutgers University. "This is the disease that killed a quarter of Europe's population."

Officials discovered two weeks ago a failure to account for three of 24 mice that had been injected with a bacterium that causes various forms of the plague, including bubonic plague, inside the high-security facility located in the middle of the city of Newark.

The injections were part of a government funded bio-defense project to develop vaccines against biological weapons of mass destruction.

The Public Health Research Institute concedes the missing mice are a problem.

"Even though we process 10,000 animals and we can account for nearly all of them, the fact that we couldn't account for three are three too many," said Dr. David Perlin, a researcher at the institute.

The discovery that three of the mice were missing led to a full investigation by the FBI Joint Terror Task Force, and an ongoing investigation into the lab's safeguards by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, federal sources said." (ABC News, Sep. 15, 2005; Via Maud Newton's Blog).


"[T]he Italian composer Luciano Berio wrote a musical piece called Passagio, which he expected to cause a scandal. So before the first performance he instructed the chorus on how to respond to insults from the audience. Should someone shout "buffoni", they would join in, speed it up, lengthen the vowels, and improvise on it until it became part of the performance. That way the audience lost the chance to protest. European parliamentary democracy is like that (especially the Dutch system, which of course shaped my views); every alternative is immediately co-opted and made harmless." (David, commentator on the Long Sunday Blog, Sep. 19, 2005).

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

True Unbelievers

Deroy Murdock of Capitol Hill Blue does not want to hear talk of prayer in the wake of Katrina:

Forget Prayer: God Ain't Listening By DEROY MURDOCK Sep 2, 2005, 06:40

"God, in my opinion, is not living up to his advertising. In a year that has witnessed the aftermath of the south Asian tsunami (approximately 225,000 deaths), Katrina (118 confirmed dead and rising), and Wednesday's Baghdad bridge stampede (some 953 Shiite religious pilgrims dead), it has become impossible to reconcile current events with the notion of an omnipotent, omniscient, magnanimous deity. "The Almighty" appears to be either an unaware, powerless, and/or misanthropic absentee landlord -- or no one whatsoever.

A soaked teddy bear sat abandoned amid piles of crushed concrete and splintered lumber that constituted a Biloxi building until last Monday. A shark reportedly trolled the 20-foot-deep waters of New Orleans' streets.

"You can hear the dogs yelping, all of them stranded, all of them hoping someone will come," said CNN's Jeanne Meserve. She added that cameraman Mark Biello saw "dogs wrapped in electrical lines...that were being electrocuted."

The question "Why would God permit such anguish?" is nothing new, but the predictable reply of believers is as inadequate as ever. God gives us free will to choose between good and evil, they say.

So why not flatten fast and loose Las Vegas rather the Gulf Coast, essentially the Bible Belt with beach blankets? Why not chasten earthlings by giving Bernard Ebbers, Charles Manson, and Kim Jong Il simultaneous coronaries, rather than whacking a retired double amputee not seen since she and her wheelchair vanished as 140 mph winds lashed New Orleans?

And does such a "supreme being" even deserve devotion? One can fear and respect whatever force dislodged a 1,200-ton, 200-foot-tall oil platform and slammed it into the Mobile, Ala., Cochrane/Africatown Bridge. Those behind local protection rackets also elicit fear and respect, but rarely expect to be worshipped." (Deroy Murdock, "Forget Prayer: God Ain't Listening," Sep. 2, 2005).