Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Intervention in Sudan?

From an article on the conflict in Sudan by Christopher Lord:

"'Fears are rising that if American evangelicals continue to focus exclusively on the religious dimensions of the Sudanese war, there could be a backlash from Islamic fundamentalists, thus intensifying the conflict,' wrote Matthias Muindi of Africa News in May 2001. 'Analysts, mainstream Church officials, and aid workers are worried that the stance taken by the Christian Right might jeopardize relief operations and precipitate a humanitarian crisis in Sudan.'

This is a pretty good description of what's happened over the last three years."

It's no big surprise that the evangelicals would make things worse by imposing their view of the world on another people. There is good reason to believe that their campaign to free slaves in Africa by buying their freedom has created whatever slave trade exists in Africa.

Lord goes on:

"The Janjaweed talk of jihad and racial superiority. This kind of talk has helped give rise to oversimplification number three among foreign observers: that it is all about a racial division.

Take a look at pictures of the Janjaweed, and you will see that in large part they are as black as the 'blacks' they're murdering. 'Arab' in Sudan is mainly a cultural identity, meaning 'Arabic-speaking.' With as many as 134 languages and 497 ethnic sub-groups catalogued in the country, there is a wide spectrum of ethnic identities available, including many Arabized groups that only recently switched from a traditional language to Arabic. In America, the idea that the population is neatly divided into two racial groups - blacks and Arabs - has taken root in people's minds. It's a useful and easy distinction - but it's not true."

Again, the problem is caused by Americans imposing an American view based on American experience to a different context. American evangelicals have successfully managed to have the U. S. government label the conflict as 'genocide', a very misleading term in the circumstances.

Here is the best part of Lord's excellent article:

"The root cause of the Darfur conflict is actually ecological, with prolonged droughts and rapid desertification driving poor pastoral 'Arabs' to take over the lands of even poorer settled 'black' farmers. With extensive damage to the ecology throughout the region, what we see as ethnic conflict is really resource conflict at root, with religion even further down the list of factors.

Khartoum has denounced the Janjaweed in public, with President Omer al-Bashir calling them 'thieves and gangsters.' A few unlucky recruits have been sentenced to amputations for theft and some have even been threatened with crucifixion, but this month Human Rights Watch published documents proving that it is Khartoum that has raised, armed and directed them all along.

It's a pattern seen elsewhere in Sudan in recent years. Rich merchants in Khartoum - often retired generals or civil servants - pay desperate nomads in the interior to do their dirty work. They pretend that the motives are Arab solidarity, religious fervor or vengeance for historical wrongs. Once the land has been cleared, the paid thugs are amazed to discover that the new owners are their military patrons - and that they are still poor."

Same old, same old. The rich stir up ethnic or religious passions to manipulate the poor to attack each other for the benefit of the rich. This is the same thing the Republicans have managed to do so well in the United States. For the connections between ecology and conflict generally, see the work of Thomas Homer-Dixon (see here and here), and for ecology and Sudan, see here.

So what is to be done? Some are gung-ho to send in the western calvary to rescue the poor victims of Sudan (see here and here and here and here). Other are afraid that foreign intervention is just another ruse for western colonialism. In particular, many see this as some kind of western oil grab, and possibly part of an oil fight between Chinese and Anglo-American interests.

Frankly, if westerners with even the worst thieving motives were able to save the lives of the people of Darfur, I'd be fully in favor of sending them in. But this won't be a force consisting of troops from Norway and New Zealand. No, it will be the Gruesome Twosome yet again, the Americans and the British. After the disasters of Kosovo, Afghanistan, Haiti and particularly Iraq, can anyone hold any hope that these monsters will make anyone's life any better? Lessons of recent history tell us that a few local rich opportunists will do very well, a lot of people will be killed, most of them innocent civilians, and everyone else will end up much worse off. There will be a few photo ops of smiling locals with American troops, but once the strategic assets are secured, the suffering masses will be abandoned to the same suffering. I have no theoretical problem with a proper international force intervening to stop acute cases of suffering or violence, but I think we can be certain that the kind of intervention that Sudan will actually get will make things much worse.

The pawn sacrifice

Some time ago I suggested that Japan, which had seized Bobby Fischer for the neocons, had essentially traded him for lenient treatment of American deserter Charles Jenkins, who is married to a Japanese woman who had been kidnapped by the North Koreans. Now we know what that lenient treatment looks like. Jenkins was released after serving his thirty day sentence, less five days for good behavior. How long will it be before Japan keeps its part of the bargain and serves up Fischer as sushi for the neocons? Richard Perle has dibs on the liver.

Monday, November 29, 2004

The violins of the Holocaust

After all the unbelievable horrors of the Israeli checkpoints - not just the violence against Palestinians by Israeli soldiers but the grinding, never-ending incidents of daily humiliation intended to wear down the Palestinians so (the rest of) their lands can be stolen - the Israelis find themselves disgusted at seeing a video of Israeli soldiers making fun of a Palestinian musician by forcing him to play his violin. Why does this disgust them? Because they think it makes light of the Holocaust by mirroring what the Nazis did to the Jews! One writer wrote a letter to a newspaper saying the soldiers responsible should be put on trial "not for abusing Arabs but for disgracing the Holocaust". Hey, Israelis! Not everything is about your damned Holocaust. Some evil is evil in its own right. Your moral obtuseness about this should be profoundly embarrassing to you. The only reason we hear about the Holocaust so much is that it is used as a weapon against the Palestinians in the continuing propaganda war for the kleptomaniac state of Israel to steal more lands from the Palestinians. I don't want to hear about the Holocaust again until the Israelis make some good faith efforts to allow the Palestinians to have their own state on 100 per cent of the Occupied Territories. With Arafat gone, you have no more excuses.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Falluja and Guernica

You can compare the attack on Falluja to the Nazi attack on the Warsaw ghetto, or you can compare it to Franco's attack on Guernica (or here). Some company the Americans are now keeping! When Powell went to lie to the UN - and whatever else you want to say about Powell, the lying is the only thing that will be remembered about him in history - they had to hide the tapestry of the picture. The source of the quote from retired Marine Corps general Bernard Trainor is here. Trainor, who is no peacenik (he likes napalm, which is interesting, as the Americans almost certainly used incendiaries against civilians in Falluja), also said:

"Fallujah became symbolic on both sides that things were out of control over there. In the bigger picture, we [Americans] are incidental over there in that this is a struggle between Iraqis over what Iraq will be when we leave. The solution is not going to be a military one, it has to be some kind of political deal that is uniquely Arab. But that deal also has to be backed up with power and force, and Fallujah being taken down now demonstrates to all concerned that Allawi will not shrink from that course of action."

In other words, they destroyed Falluja to make it easier for Allawi by terrifying any possible resistance. This is exactly the same policy the Americans attempted in Vietnam, and we know how successful that was. The attack on Falluja was just another Lansdale/Conein psych op to attempt to terrify the Iraqi people into stopping their resistance of the American occupation, with the added benefit that it created turmoil in Sunni-Shi'ite relations, leading to the Israeli/neocon goal of breaking Iraq up into small, unthreatening statelets.

Israel and Iranian nukes

Here is a very smart analysis of the real reason why Israel fears Iranian nuclear weapons, based on the fact that it makes not the slightest sense for the Iranians to use the nukes offensively. I note that the threat of using such nukes might also be useful in deterring the neocons from an attack on Iran. If Saddam had had the weapons which formed the lying basis for the American attack on Iraq, he'd probably still be in power. The neocons would never do anything to put at risk the only country to which they are loyal.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Women in Islam

I recently wrote about the woman who gave part of a sermon in a mosque in suburban Toronto. It seems the idea is everywhere, if not so out in the open. If the leaders of the Muslim world really want to engage in meaningful reform, they might begin by considering the role of women in Islam, and whether treating women as if they were chattel slaves of a thousand years ago is really the path to progress.

Fitzgerald's Plame game

All those partisan Democrats who were gung-ho to hang Judith Miller over her refusal to name her sources in the Plame affair should reflect on the fact that the efforts of much praised special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald were intended to pry facts out of the journalists to absolve Rove and whichever other White House staffers were involved in outing Plame. It all turns on a technicality on the timing of the release of Novak's column. The staffers can get off the hook if Novak's column had already been published when they outed Plame, as the 'publication' would mean that they were not revealing classified information. Fitzgerald has been threatening journalists to force them to admit that they knew of Plame from information disclosed in Novak's column which was circulating before it was officially published. In other words, he's not interested in the sources, he is interested in establishing a legal defense for the White House staffers. See what happens when you throw away your principles of freedom of the press for what you perceive as partisan political gain? The Republicans get to use information forced out of some of the journalists to squirm out of legal difficulties, and the White House can use the precedent set by the jailing of other journalists to stop all whistleblowing.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Cheap oil and American politics

From an analysis of the American election by Stirling Newberry (I've fixed a bit of the spelling):

"The campaign hinged on this - the Swift Boats and marriage attacks were not distractions, but encapsulations of two simple points. The first was a way of saying that Kerry would betray the military, and therefore he would cut the military to balance the budget. Simple terms: make the cost fall on someone else. The second was a way of saying that the social changes that come with a high production, high value added economy - namely a cosmopolitan society - would happen under Kerry.

That is Kerry was presented, accurately, as being a threat to the social and economic hierarchy to the land owning classes. Land, which holds its value through having cheap gasoline, demands a military machine to obtain the oil and to maintain the social inequality should it come to that. Kerry was, accurately, presented as someone who would not go to war for oil.

If one looks at the map - the division - between the large blocks of the country whose value is sunk into rent and the smaller city areas that generate value through capital - is clear.

This social structure - paralleling the ancien regime of France is based on two alliances. The oligarchic rich place their faith in Church and State, they ally with the landowning peasants that stock the army, against the tradesman and the very bottom day laborers. The hierarchical society tries to tax by forced savings the tradesmen, and keep the 'rabble' in line with force. The hierarchy is not a mere marriage of convenience - each knows that it needs the other. The reactionary side of the ledger is not cleavable between 'economic and social conservatives' - because the wealthy knows it needs a military, and the military knows it needs someone to batter the rising professional classes into line."


". . . land value is supported by cheap oil. One 'wins' the land rush by going farther out than other people, building on cheap land, and hoping enough people follow you to make prices spike through the roof. This means burning more oil.

But oil is in shorter and shorter supply - we are, therefore, burning oil to support land prices. There is an economic civil war, and the Saudis are selling both sides the ammunition. This means that the problem is that the relative land/oil price in the US is out of balance - people burn oil to pay less for land.

The oil burning classes voted for 'do what you have to do to take the oil' - which means cannibalizing the rest of society to keep the oil flowing."

So the rural land-owning class who need cheap oil to support the value of their isolated landholdings formed an alliance of convenience with the plutocrats who sell oil. 'Values' was a smokescreen for sheer economic self-interest. Both groups are nuts for violent militaristic colonialism to ensure there is enough oil to buy, and to sell. The whole analysis, which has a tinge of what you'd read in Wired magazine circa 1998, is nevertheless interesting. If true, there is no hope for the Democrats until the oil runs out, and the ensuing revolution destroys the Republican Party.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Poisoning and drowning

Is the assassination of Raful Eitan - an almost cartoon-like death, allegedly being swept away by a rogue wave - connected to the poisoning of Yasser Arafat (for Israel and poisoning, see also here)? Damn straight! The Israelis have spent the last twenty years in one of the most successful propaganda campaigns in history in the vilification of Yasser Arafat. In particular, they have constructed the myth that Arafat never wanted to negotiate with Israel, but just wanted to destroy Israel. Therefore, they have not had to enter into the negotiations which would have led to the creation of a Palestinian state and the end of the Zionist dream of building Greater Israel on stolen lands. The Israeli propaganda has become the standard picture of Arafat, and infected just about all the obituaries of him (here are more generous exceptions). Having so successfully made negotiations impossible based on the personal faults of Arafat, why would the Israelis want to kill him? The answer lies in the constantly worsening demographic problem which Israel faces. With each passing day, the number of Palestinians increases, and it is likely that the Jewish population of Israel falls, as people realize there is no future living in a state ruled by madmen. It is possible that the Arab population of the whole area already exceeds the Jewish population, but if not, it is only a matter of a few years before Arabs are in the majority. When the world insists on these people having a vote, Israel as a Jewish state will be over. The paradox is that the Israelis were so successful in stating that they had no negotiating partner, they found they had no one they could talk to when they desperately needed to negotiate while they still had the time to do so. Arafat had to go so they could install a puppet regime which would consent to the type of so-called 'generous offer' made by Barak, essentially the creation of a Palestinian 'state' consisting of separated concentration camps which could be gradually depopulated once the Palestinians realize the hopelessness of their plight. This is an absolutely crucial time for the Palestinians, when their dreams of nationhood, so close due to the steadfast stubbornness of Arafat to wait it out while the Palestinians won with each new baby, could be dashed if the Israelis manage to install a compliant stooge government corrupted by ties to Israeli intelligence (the poisoning must have been an inside job by a close crony of Arafat, with corruption being an ongoing thread in the history of the Palestinians). Of course, the converse side of the poisoning of Arafat is the necessity to convince extreme right-wingers like Eitan of the tactical necessity of appearing to negotiate with the Palestinians towards the creation of a Palestinian state. Those who can't be convinced of the tactics might have to take a swim. Eitan was out of politics but still influential, and his example will convince others like him of the wisdom of going along with the latest Zionist plan.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Iris Chang

American author Iris Chang, who wrote the book "The Rape of Nanking" about atrocities by the Japanese military on Chinese civilians, died of a gunshot wound in her car along a rural road in California. She was working on a book on Americans who fought in the U.S. tank battalions during World War II who were taken prisoner by the Japanese, and planned a documentary on the Japanese atrocities in Nanking. She had apparently been treated for depression, and the gunshot wound was determined by the police to be self-inflicted. One story tries to imply she left a suicide note, without actually calling it a suicide note. Does any of this make sense? The wound was caused by a handgun. Would a Chinese-American liberal woman from San Francisco with a two-year old son kill herself by shooting herself in the head with a (peculiar) handgun? Why did she even have a handgun? Presumably because she had been the subject of death threats from those people unhappy with her writings on the Rape of Nanking. These atrocities have been hidden from the Japanese people by the Japanese extreme right-wing, who remain unprepared to admit what the Japanese people were capable of doing (much as the American people have had the American atrocities in Iraq hidden from them by an extreme right-wing media and complicit experts and academics who aren't prepared to admit what America has become). Chang's writings resurrected an issue that had been dormant for years, and created the impetus for protests against Japan. She completely infuriated the extreme right in Japan, the uyoku dantai, who are connected to Japanese organized crime. They have a history of using violence against those who impugn what they consider to be the honor of Japan (also consider the 'suicide' of director Juzo Itami who directed the wonderful movie "Tampopo"). If someone under death threats and working on a book and a documentary which will further embarrass Japan dies in an isolated area in a way that is unlikely for her demographic group to kill themselves, wouldn't it make more sense to consider this a possible murder by a group known for its insanity and its violence, a group that has already threatened to kill her and would be motivated by stopping her future work?

Have Americans all gone insane?

From Juan Cole's (usually) excellent weblog, on the American assault on Falluja:

"But the basic idea of attacking the guerrillas holding up in that city is not in and of itself criminal or irresponsible. A significant proportion of the absolutely horrible car bombings that have killed hundreds and thousands of innocent Iraqis, especially Shiites, were planned and executed from Fallujah. There were serious and heavily armed forces in Fallujah planning out ways of killing hundreds to prevent elections from being held in January. These are mass murderers, serial murderers. If they were fighting only to defend Fallujah, that would be one thing; even the Marines would respect them for that. They aren't, or at least, a significant proportion of them aren't. They are killing civilians elsewhere in order to throw Iraq into chaos and avoid the enfranchisement of the Kurds and Shiites.

Some of my readers still want good guys and bad guys, white hats and black hats. That's not the way the world is. It is often grey, and very bleak."

Actually, this issue is completely black and white. Falluja is the United States' Warsaw Ghetto, with the exception that the Nazis captured the inhabitants of the Warsaw Ghetto to work them to death, while the Americans, in a different economic situation, simply shoot the inhabitants of Falluja. The hard-core militants who may or may not be involved in the car bombings left Falluja long before the American attack - an attack which was telegraphed for weeks while Bush waited for the election to be over - and all that were left to die were the civilian inhabitants of Falluja defending their families against the new Nazis, and a very tiny group of Islamic fighters hoping to become martyrs. It is surreal that Cole appears to be suggesting that it is acceptable to flatten a city of 300,000 people and kill probably thousands of civilians - we'll never know how many as the Americans have effectively hidden that information - in order to achieve the possible end of removing a few easily replaceable car bombers. What end could possibly justify that means? Any sanction of the United Nations is completely irrelevant, as the United Nations didn't sanction the Americans to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. You can see the horrible effects of the building of empire when it becomes impossible to distinguish the writing of someone like Cole from the writings of someone like Michael Ledeen or Richard Perle. Have Americans all gone insane?

Sunday, November 21, 2004

The name of Macedonia

Sometimes you have to give the devil his due. The Americans have announced the policy decision to start calling the country of Macedonia, 'the Republic of Macedonia', rather than the clumsy name insisted upon by Greece, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Greece is furious - and Bush has backed off a bit - and is now threatening to block eventual Macedonian membership in the EU (ironic, as Greece has recently admitted it lied about its finances when it gained admission to the EU). The Americans made the right decision. The stated reason for it was that it would lead to a favorable result in a scheduled referendum in Macedonia that could have overturned reforms that gave minority rights to ethnic Albanians. In fact, the reforms were not overturned, but it seems unlikely that the American naming decision had much, if anything, to do with it. No doubt the decision was motivated by typical Bush Administration bad motives, probably punishment to Greece for its independent and fair-minded policies towards the Middle East. It is also true that the Greeks have a legitimate fear that the Macedonians will attempt to claim parts of northern Greece as their own, in an attempt to create a 'Greater Macedonia'. Nevertheless, the Macedonians should be able to call their country whatever the hell they want, and it is none of Greece's business. With Alexander the Great back in the news, we're going to be seeing a lot of this typical Balkan crap, with both sides making an anachronistic claim for him (Greece has enough heroes and should probably be generous and let the Macedonians claim him, even if Alexander wouldn't have the slightest concept of belonging to either of them).

Nuke the South?

Here is a funny rant by Mark Ames on the Southern and Midwestern haters who voted for Bush, and what the Democrats should do about it:

"Nothing has been learned because no one on the Left is being honest. Their reactions range from bitching about the elections allegedly being stolen - well duh! what'd you idiots expect from the Republicans?! - to grotesque, clumsy soul-searching in the form of how Democrats need to get spiritual, get in touch with Middle American 'values,' or how the Democratic party either needs to move to the center, or the flip-side to this idiocy, move farther to the Left . . . that coastalites need start going to church more often in order to learn the ways of the savages, to be less secular-humanist, to shop less, to connect with Middle America, to understand Middle America, to allow Middle America to be Middle America, to suck Middle America's hemorrhoid-bejeweled ass and tickle Middle America's balls . . . What they don't have the guts to admit, once and for all, is that THE PROBLEM IS MIDDLE AMERICA. Stop blaming the victim, folks. The problem with the idiocy and lunacy are the idiots and lunatics, not their mugging victims."

His solution is to nuke them all, which, while no doubt improving the gene pool, isn't very practical, particularly since the haters now control all the nukes. While I accept that the haters are really, really bad people and depressingly well analyzed by Ames, and that it is ridiculous and fruitless to try to pander to them, it is also clear that the election was stolen, and many of these Southerners and Midwesterners voted for Kerry and are no worse than the normal, decent human beings living anywhere else. While the Democrats have a huge problem demonstrated by the fact that with an incumbent President as obviously awful and incompetent as Bush they should have won in a landslide, the fact remains that they still won the real election. They won it with their policies such as they were and their leader such as he was. They won it with the votes of many of these Southerners and Midwesterners who are not the cretins that they now appear to be. One of the most important things for the Democrats is not to change those parts of their policies that the majority of Americans, including a large number of Southerners and Midwesterners, support. Changing to what are misleadingly called 'values' policies would be a terrible mistake, and would be political suicide. Since the Democrats have apparently given up on what are the traditional class-based elements of progressive politics, their respect for human rights is about all they have left. I need to return to this issue.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Vote again

The overwhelming evidence from Ohio and Florida confirms that there was systematic vote fraud and voter suppression on a massive scale. Recounts won't help. You can't recount the votes cast on computer voting machines with no paper trail, and you sure can't recount the votes from those voters who never had a chance to vote. The only possible fair solution is to have another voting day in each state, closely supervised by a huge team of international observers and completely videotaped. Anyone who says that a re-vote is legally and practically impossible has to be prepared to admit that there is absolutely no reason to believe that the results of the Florida and Ohio votes reflect the will of the electorate, and thus to admit that the current President cannot even claim to be duly elected, let alone have a 'mandate'. One might even question whether taxes should be remitted to an illegitimate central government. Americans, led by the disgusting American media, are trying to whistle past the graveyard, pretending that the problems are minor and would not affect the result. This is clearly nonsense. Not only is the result of this particular election in grave doubt, but the entire status of the United States as a democracy will be in a shambles unless drastic action is taken to clean up this mess.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Margaret Hassan

Robert Fisk - whose last name seems to cause enormous spelling problems for editors everywhere - suggests conspiracy theory in the death of Margaret Hassan (see also here and here). A middle-aged woman, a convert to Islam, a fluent Arabic speaker, an obvious friend to the Iraqi people, a humanitarian aid worker thus protected by Islamic law, someone whose begging-for-life videotape wasn't laden with the usual invocations of militant Islam, and someone whose release was expressly demanded by demonstrators in Baghdad, the resistance groups of Falluja, and the mythological al-Zarqawi. Violently killed. Cui bono? Anyone who was trying to destroy the basis of civilized Iraqi society. Or anyone who was trying to set up a propaganda background for the vicious and completely illegal slaughter of civilians in Falluja.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Falluja and Amerika

The German people have been justly criticized for their failing to do anything to stop the Holocaust, with Jews disappearing off the streets of Nazi Germany to be killed while the Germans pretended not to notice. It has been one of the mysteries of history how the most civilized people on earth could have allowed the Holocaust to happen with nary a voice of opposition or complaint.

How does this differ from the remarkable lack of opposition in the United States to the war crimes being committed by American troops in Falluja and elsewhere (scroll down at this site to find most of the links of eyewitness reports of the horrors)? Actually, there is quite a bit of difference. Nazi Germany was a police state, and any opposition or even a hint of opposition would have been met with instant dire consequences. Despite the best efforts of John Ashcroft, the United States is still not a full-fledged police state (but they are working on it). Nazi Germany had a completely controlled media, and any information embarrassing to Hitler's regime was simply not published. Despite the fact that the American media is disgustingly useless, Americans still have full awareness of what is going on in Falluja, largely because the Bush regime is quite proud of it. I once was impolite enough to ask some Germans in Germany who had lived through the Nazi period what they knew at the time about what was going on. They said they were very sorry about what had happened, but, although they had strong hints, they really didn't know. Unless one is certain, what can an individual do in a police state when faced with hints of wrongdoing? Americans have no such excuse. The hypocrisy of Americans complaining about what is going on in Sudan while American troops are doing much worse in Iraq is amazing.

Some people think that Americans actually like killing Muslims. I have resisted this notion, but, given the complete lack of opposition to massive war crimes being committed against a largely civilian population for a crime which amounts to being insufficiently deferential to an illegal occupying army, I am changing my mind. The only possible reason which explains the attack on Falluja and the attitude of Americans towards it is that Americans like to see dead Muslims. I think the American people owe the German people an apology. Unimaginable evil can happen anywhere, and with remarkable ease.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Women and the Eid sermon

From the Toronto Star:

"Up at the front of the United Muslim Association mosque yesterday, a confident Maryam Mirza delivered part of the Eid al-Fitr sermon. In doing so, she marked the end of Ramadan (the month of fasting) and what many called a new beginning for Muslim women as she took on a role traditionally left to men."


"News of Mirza's delivery of the sermon also attracted guests from other mosques, who showed up to support and congratulate the association's move.

'This is history for me. It is a great way to start the Eid celebration,' said Faizal Kayum, who attended yesterday's service with his son Azeem. 'The religion has been dominated by males. It's about time for women to step up to the plate.'

Imam Ally said he hopes the congregation, whose members mostly come from Guyana and the Caribbean, can start a wave of positive change for women within the Muslim community."

This may not sound like much, but a woman giving part of the Eid sermon is something like the Pope deciding to get married. It will be interesting to see the conservative reaction to this. Is Islam capable of progressive change, or not?

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Theocracy Watch

Theocracy Watch, a site which will become more and more important as the conspiracy to turn the United States into the land of fruitcakes continues over the next four years and beyond (see also here - from here - and here). The recent crooked election with its nut-controlled computer voting machine companies is just a small part of the conspiracy. When you see seemingly independent actions across the United States to promote creationism, remove the separation of church and state, applaud the genocidal policies of the State of Israel, and attack human rights, including reproductive rights and rights for homosexuals, you have to realize that much of this is centrally organized and funded by a not-so-vast, but very committed and very well funded, extreme right-wing conspiracy. This particular conspiracy is probably the most important and most dangerous one in the United States, and, due to the fact that it is violently colonialist and militaristic in its pursuit of a Christian empire, the world. Americans now face the very real danger of having the country turned into a religious-fascist dictatorship right under their noses.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Nicaragua elections

The Sandinistas won an overwhelming number of the municipal elections recently held in Nicaragua. This marks yet another in the series of elections all over the world where the electorate decided that democracy could actually improve their lives and voted for sanity. If you spend your time reading about politics in backward places like Australia and the United States, you lose sight of the fact that progressive politics is actually in the best shape it has ever been.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The stolen election and the apocalypse

Peter Coyote lists just some of the crazy series of things you have to believe in order to believe that George Bush actually won the election (see an earlier letter from Coyote here). I'm amazed at how easily the left has rolled up on this issue. It is not an exaggeration to say that this stolen election represents the United States slipping into fascism, a problem that is usually irreversible without a lot of really bad things happening to a lot of people. World war is the usual outcome, and the attack on Falluja, expressly couched as a religious Crusade (see here or here, and here), is clearly intended by the Christian Zionists to lead to that goal. If you make the connection between the people behind the computer voting machine companies, their insane religious desire to see the Apocalypse in the Middle East, and the grim future of the world evidenced by the completely unnecessary attack on Falluja, you have to come to the conclusion that there is no time to wait for another election. It is not morally acceptable for the American left to allow the Apocalypse to happen without even the slightest attempt at a fight. It is insane to save your energy for the next election, when the chances are there won't be one.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Moral value Democrats

I have yet to get around to giving my free advice on what the Democrats should be doing - which can't possibly be worse than the advise they have been taking - but in the meantime I recommend this article (or here) by John Nichols as being one of the few wise things I've read. Based on what the grand pooh-bahs in the Democratic Party have been saying, it appears they are headed to a real disaster by turning away from what the majority of Americans support to an attempt to win over the haters. Since they can never win over the haters, this is sheer lunacy, a kind of political suicide by attempting to out-crazy the Republicans and carve off their own political base. Voters will just see it as more opportunism, another goose hunt put on for show. I detect three elements to this new Democratic ideal of becoming the party of what Americans misleadingly call 'moral values':

  1. A tendency towards puritanism in orthodox socialism, best seen in the policies in some communist regimes, where a distaste for certain kinds of human behavior is hidden behind a supposed commitment to socialist purity.

  2. The continuing futile efforts by Democrats to win over those southerners lost when the Democrats did the right thing and embraced the civil rights movement. Ever since these voters were lost, the Democrats have been engaged in a hopeless quest to get them back. Why is it that the Republicans can consistently win Presidential elections with non-southerners - including the fake Texan George Bush, a yuppie New Englander who picked up his accent snorting cocaine in Houston bars and had a fake Potemkin ranch built just in time for his campaign to be the Republican candidate - but the Democrats are stuck on the idea that they must run a southerner?

  3. A desire by the Democrats to find an excuse to avoid their real problem, which is that voters are not fooled and see clearly that they have become the Republican party 'lite', just another political shill for the interests of big corporations. Had Paul Wellstone not been murdered by the Republicans and lived to retirement, you know that he would not have become a multi-millionaire corporate lobbyist. The problems of the Democrats are exemplified by the fact that Tom Daschle, forced into retirement by the voters, will become such a multi-millionaire fronting for large corporate interests. The elite Democrats would prefer not to give up this chance to make millions, so they prefer to pretend that their problem is a problem of these odd 'moral values' - which don't seem to encompass the fact that it is immoral to murder innocent civilians in Iraq - and not a problem with the fact that they are rightly perceived as a hypocritical version of the Republicans, representing greed while pretending to be virtuous.

The stupidest thing you can do in politics is to try to fix a problem you don't have, thus alienating your base, while ignoring the real problems you do have.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Auglaize County, Ohio

Auglaize County is a conservative place in the middle of western Ohio. It uses computer voting machines. From an article by Erin Miller in The Evening Leader of St. Mary's, Ohio:

"In a letter dated Oct. 21, Ken Nuss, former deputy director of the Auglaize County Board of Elections, claimed that Joe McGinnis, a former employee of Election Systems and Software (ES&S), the company that provides the voting system in Auglaize County, was on the main computer that is used to create the ballot and compile election results, which would go against election protocol. Nuss claimed in the letter that McGinnis was allowed to use the computer the weekend of Oct. 16."

By mid-October, Rove would have known just how many votes he needed to manufacture and where he needed to manufacture them. It would be worth investigating whether unusual unauthorized visits by computer voting machine company employees were a pattern in mid-October in Ohio and Florida. The Auglaize County results in 2000 and 2004 are striking. Kerry got essentially the same amount of votes as Gore did. Bush got 3000 more votes than he got in 2000. Are we to believe that Bush received almost 100% of the extra turnout?

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Christian Reconstructionism and the new American fascism

Given the increasing evidence of massive vote fraud centering around the use of computer voting machines, isn't it past time to do something serious about it? The whole history of computer voting companies in the United States - the fact that they all appear to be interconnected, both to each other, and to high-level Republican operatives, and the fact that the main owners are religious fruitcakes who advocate a truly nutty religious future for America (Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr. may now be the most powerful man in the country, and the nuttiness proposed by R.J. Rushdoony called Christian Reconstructionism is America's grim fate which people should be studying and watching for the Bush Administration to bring into effect), and the fact that the CEO of Diebold, 'Wally' O'Dell, famously stated that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President" - all lead to the inescapable conclusion that the American election debacle was a successful electronic conspiracy to deliver the United States into the hands of religious fascism. It is rather pathetic to watch the Democrats raise millions of dollars, pick a plausible leader and what they felt was a winning platform, fight through an exhausting campaign, battle the misrepresentations of the press, and carry on throughout the election as if they had a fighting chance to win, when all the while the whole election was determined by some back-room computer programming. It isn't as if this was some kind of secret. Blackboxvoting (and see also the Bev Harris site here, and the damning Diebold memos) has been all over this issue for months, and all the Democrats did in response was a few too-little-too-late legal challenges which had no chance of success. You would almost think they were trying to lose. Now that those Americans who are not part of the group I call the 'haters' have had their country stolen from them, isn't it time to vent anger in a creative way? Diebold can manufacture ATM's which process billions of dollars but never lose track of a penny, but seems to have the damnedest time getting computer voting machines to count Democratic votes. Isn't it time, as I suggested earlier, to boycott banks which use Diebold ATM's?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Premature concessulation

Isn't it funny that the one thing Kerry expressly promised his supporters he wouldn't do - make an Al Gore-style premature concession speech - is exactly what he did? Had he waited as little as twenty-four hours, information would have been available that would make his decision to concede much more difficult. It is almost as if he was in a hurry to concede before such information came out.

The argument is made that they were trying not to appear as sore losers to preserve the chances of Edwards and Hillary in the next election, but the people who didn't vote for them are never going to vote for Hillary, the voters who didn't turn out aren't going to be inspired by this craven collapse, and their core supporters feel betrayed again. The Democrats keep conceding to save their chances for the next election, but of course the next election never comes. Had they made an issue out of this election, at the very least they could have inspired a debate on the major issues of vote suppression, intimidation, 'spoiled' ballots in minority neighborhoods, and receiptless computer voting. As it is, the Republicans just gain experience to do these things and more in the next election.

The most pathetic thing, perhaps, is the announcement by the Kerry campaign that they had an army of lawyers and millions of dollars ready to work on the recounts, and the recounts never came. They were all ready to counter Rove's strategy in the last election, and, as usual, he was a vote fraud step ahead of them, never intending to have to resort to a recount by stealing the election in such a way that the issue never came up. Even the much publicized Republican efforts at voter intimidation may have been a ruse to hide the real crimes which were taking place inside computer voting machines.

Is this premature concession by Kerry some kind of Skull and Bones thing, a 'gentleman's' agreement between the two Bonesman that they wouldn't engage in unseemly quibbling over who won, but just let the first guy to steal the election have it?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Two causes for the tragedy

The American election was a great tragedy, both for the American people and for the world. It will be the direct cause of untold suffering, death, and destruction. It is impossible to overstate how terrible an untrammeled Bush is going to be, and the full extent of the damage won't be known for years. The Democrats are already starting to turn themselves into knots over their loss. They had a perfectly presentable candidate who twisted most of his policy positions around to satisfy all but the most right-wing of right-wingers, and who was facing a blundering idiot with an unparalleled legacy of disastrous political decisions. How could Kerry possibly lose? Two reasons:

  1. People aren't entirely prepared to admit it, but there really is an underclass of very unhappy white people in the United States who are still fighting the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and the Civil War. The dissatisfaction in their lives is caused by the powerlessness they feel in the face of the fact that they fall further behind with each generation. The Republicans manage these people with great skill, and use the full force of the media to direct all their anger and hatred to liberalism. The fact that many of them are evangelical Christians is more a symptom of the same malaise that it is the cause of their hatreds. Nutty religion is their opium. While many of them are terribly misinformed and stupid, I don't think it is entirely fair to say that they misunderstand their class interests. They have come to the conclusion that they are going to be screwed regardless of which party is in power, and they prefer to be screwed by a group that doesn't appear to hold them in contempt. Indeed, you get the impression that their hatred is so great that they are taunting the liberal attempts at policy solutions to their problems, almost saying we hate your contempt for us so much we'll prove it by voting against our own interests.

  2. The computer voting machines were fixed. This will be proven when differences between the recorded votes for Bush and the exit poll results are found to be higher in a statistically significant way in areas where computer voting machines were used. This will have to be carefully studied, as the Republicans were very clever and not greedy. They only manipulated the results in the key states and only to the extent they needed to win. The Democrats have only themselves to blame for this mess, having had plenty of notice of the problem and failing to complain about it until it was too late.

Both of these factors were necessary to the Bush win, and neither would have been sufficient in itself. So you can simultaneously blame the hating underclass, and absolve the majority of the American people. To put it another way, were it not for crooked voting machines, Bush's posse of haters wouldn't have been enough to gain the victory. What should the Democrats do about it? There appear to be two conflicting proposals, neither of which seems right, and no doubt the subject of my next posting.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Good election results

Following the precedents set (almost) all around the world, the elections in Uruguay went well, with a moderate but clearly leftist government winning for the first time. We can add Uruguay to the list of Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay and Bolivia. It's good to know that there are still countries where the majority of the population aren't morons.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The American election

Americans have the opportunity to use this election to state that they do not approve of the politics of deception, lying, and manipulation. Forget about Kerry, whose inability to elucidate a plausible alternative to Bush just emphasizes the fact that the election is really a referendum on Bush and the Rovean politics of deceit. It is also an opportunity to get out from under the debilitating logic of the war on terror, where each fight in the war is just the cause of more terrorism (it's like a headbutting competition, where the 'winner' is the last guy to fall down). The Spanish people faced a similar choice in their last election, and threw the bastards out. There comes a point in politics when politicians obviously have so little respect for the electorate that the electorate has to reassert who is the master and who is the servant. It will be interesting to see whether the remarkable servility of American voters continues in the face of such a massive display of contempt for Americans and the values they purport to hold dear.

Bin Laden's generous offer

Here is the full transcript (or here) of bin Laden's latest speech, without misleading translations or editing. It's a smart piece of work, whether written by bin Laden or a sane faction of the CIA. A few excerpts (my emphasis):

  • " . . . we fight because we are free men who don't sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation, just as you lay waste to our nation. So shall we lay waste to yours.

    No-one except a dumb thief plays with the security of others and then makes himself believe he will be secure. Whereas thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it happening again.

    But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11th, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real causes. And thus, the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred."

  • " . . . as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.

    And that day, it was confirmed to me that oppression and the intentional killing of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy. Destruction is freedom and democracy, while resistance is terrorism and intolerance.

    This means the oppressing and embargoing to death of millions as Bush Sr. did in Iraq in the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known, and it means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives at millions of children – also in Iraq – as Bush Jr. Did, in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq's oil and other outrages.

    So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great wrongs, should a man be blamed for defending his sanctuary?

    Is defending oneself and punishing the aggressor in kind, objectionable terrorism? If it is such, then it is unavoidable for us."

  • " . . . we have found it difficult to deal with the Bush administration in light of the resemblance it bears to the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half which are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents."

  • "All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration. All that we have to do is to send two Mujahideen to the furthest point East to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."

  • ". . . al-Qaida has gained, but on the other hand, it shows that the Bush administration has also gained, something of which anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Haliburton and its kind, will be convinced. And it all shows that the real loser is . . . you.

    It is the American people and their economy."

  • "And it's no secret to you that the thinkers and perceptive ones from among the Americans warned Bush before the war and told him, 'All that you want for securing America and removing the weapons of mass destruction – assuming they exist – is available to you, and the nations of the world are with you in the inspections, and it is in the interest of America that it not be thrust into an unjustified war with an unknown outcome.'

    But the darkness of the black gold blurred his vision and insight, and he gave priority to private interests over the public interests of America.

    So the war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threaten his future."

  • "In conclusion, I tell you in truth, that your security is not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaida.


    Your security is in your own hands. And every state that doesn't play with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security."

Some comments:

  1. Bin Laden, supposedly a madman, makes the completely sane offer to the American people that he will stop threatening America if America stops threatening the security of the people living in the Middle East. This is a deal, in some form or other, that Americans are eventually going to have to accept, and the sooner the acceptance the fewer the deaths of both Americans and others.

  2. Bin Laden has never been unclear about what makes him angry about the United States, and in this speech he emphasizes the importance of the completely one-sided American support for Israeli state terrorism against the Palestinian people (see also Juan Cole on this subject). If Americans really wanted to do something about terrorism other than strip-searching grandmothers in airports in places like Omaha, a reevaluation of the American support for Israel would be the best place to start.

  3. Predictably, and reflecting the fact that the war on terror is really a propaganda war, the reporting on bin Laden's speech completely missed the points he was carefully trying to make. MEMRI was caught red-handed misstating bin Laden's words (only read MEMRI to find out what Zionists want you to think, and never read it thinking you will find truth), and this misstatement was picked up by the usual suspects to use as fodder for the Bush election campaign. Overall, coverage completely ignored the deep and justified criticisms of American politics and foreign policy leveled by bin Laden.

Americans should think carefully about the common sense in bin Laden's speech. All Americans have to do to lose the fear and massive expense caused by terrorism is stop abusing the people which bin Laden claims to represent. Is that all that bad a deal?

Baker's billion

Naomi Klein has a follow-up article (or here) to her outstanding piece on prestigious, reputable, honest and integrity-stuffed James Baker, and his little Kuwaiti conflict involving Carlyle (I wrote about it here). When faced with the facts, Carlyle simply outright lied about it, and the disgusting American media, as usual, let them get away with it. In any event, Klein's work cost Carlyle and Baker a billion bucks, which is a pretty good bit of journalism. She should have told them that for one percent of the swag, she'd keep quiet.

Bush's electronic brain

It is clear now from an analysis of the photographic and video evidence that Bush indeed wears an electronic device on his back, almost certainly some form of radio communication system used to prompt him in unscripted situations. The whole Rovean neo-fascist playbook depends on extreme simplicity of message, which includes both the substance of the message and the way in which it is expressed. Bush's followers want, expect and need completely unnuanced politics - good versus evil, us versus them, decency versus liberalism. This politics is delivered to them in the form of carefully scripted sound bites in easily digested one-liners. The problem is that Bush's substance-abuse addled brain isn't up to the task of delivering these lines without mangling them, and mangling introduces exactly the kind of dissonance which his followers can't tolerate. It is therefore necessary in the very rare unscripted situations that Bush has to endure - like the debates - for someone to be in his ear reciting the exact wording of the official Republican talking points. When the prompter, probably frustrated by Bush's inability to get anything right, tries to prompt too much, he completely confuses Bush, and makes him appear even stupider than he actually is. This whole sorry incident proves:

  • Bush isn't even up to the task of communicating the simplistic political lines he supposedly believes in;

  • the Republicans will try anything to cover up for Bush's inadequacies, and will then lie about it when caught;

  • the disgusting American media, which has avoided this issue like the plague, is just a Republican propaganda machine;

  • it is very difficult to deliver messages consistently simplistic and stupid enough to satisfy a large proportion of the American electorate.