News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: February 2006

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Xtian/Neocon Putsch and How Executive Power Realizes Its End

Part of the debate leading up to the ratification of the constitution was answering what role the landed gentry and moneyed classes played in controlling the inherent anarchy posed by the restless and unpredictable lower classes of farmers, petty bourgeoisie, and landless citizens. .

This changed after the Civil War with the rise of the robber Barons and industrialization. Then the concern became not simply embodying the ethic of an “enlightened” elite but the interests of capital and its accumulation within the hands of a few.

Plato and Aristotle thought that an elite group must controlling the anarchic elements within the polis. Plato talked about a class of philosopher kings, Aristotle about aristocrats who maintained control via education and adherence to traditional values. Those in power have the task of continually convincing those out of power that the (to borrow the terminology of Walter Lippmann) insiders represent the desires and interests of the outsiders.

After the decline of feudalism and the power of the Catholic Church in Western Europe, Renaissance thinkers resurrected this notion of an elite class that based its ideology on Plato’s and Aristotle’s ethical frameworks. Based on these assumptions, the Humanists developed an educational system that trained future generations in these ideas.

In modern times, the notion of an elite that has access to the basic principles that explain human needs and behavior came under attack first by the Cartesian-inspired sciences and then by the Hegelian-inspired variants, including Marx. Marx labored under the notion that a mass movement, embodied by the working classes, could well up from below and take over the reins of control.

Lenin’s realization that the working classes had neither the will, time, nor perhaps inclination to rebel against the ruling class led him to formulate the theory of an avant-garde elite whose purpose it was both to rouse the sleeping working class giant to its historical mission and to lead that revolution until the day when Marx’s dictatorship of the Proletariat would become historically viable. Hitler’s own thinking built on Lenin’s ideas. For Hitler and the fascists, however, the party would never give up the reins of control and the working class was replaced by the German race.

In a recent blog posting, Glenn Greenwald discusses aspects of President Bush’s notions of executive power. While I think that Glenn is right in his discussion, I don’t think he goes far enough in understanding the historical and social backdrop to Bush et al’s thinking. Bush is the tip of an iceberg whose unseen bulk includes, on one hand, Christian fundamentalists and, on the other hand, neoconservatives.

The neoconservatives take their ideological lead from Leo Strauss. Strauss’ political philosophy builds on Plato and Machiavelli, as well as Lenin. Recognizing the truth to Lenin’s thought but with quite different purposes at hand, Strauss believed that the main threat to western culture and civilization was democracy. As such, he thought that a well-disciplined cadre or avant-garde must take over the reins of control in the US and guide it to taking power—otherwise, the threat of democracy would overwhelm all that western civilization manifests.

The conservative Xtian fundamentalists have a similar concern. Viewed from the decline of what Soren Kierkegaard called Christendom, modern evangelicals in the US have reacted to the what they perceive as the decline of traditional values by establishing itself as a force in contemporary US politics. Seeing modern relativism and secular culture as threats to its hegemonic hold on the spiritual lives of Americans, evangelical leaders see themselves as the vanguard in an effort to establish the supremacy of Xtian culture and civilization.

What this rather protracted but cursory survey shows is the following: a highly motivated group of elites, believing in their own moral righteousness and predestination believe that they must stem what they perceive as mortal threats to western civilization. Whether inspired by religious or philosophical assumptions, they share the presumption that America is sliding down a slippery slope towards moral anarchy and political anomie.

Given this background, I suggest that President Bush’s belief that all political power is vested in the executive branch is simply an outgrowth of the idea that 1) the US has lost its moral bearings, 2) an elite group, enlightened to the true meaning of America’s mission and values must lead the degenerate masses, and 3) this elite must usurp power for itself since even the people’s representatives are disposed to curry favor with the electorate and give in to its whims.

Placing little trust and regard for either the people or their elected representatives, Bush and his cohorts want to institutionalize the idea that the multi-headed hydra of democracy must be brought to heel under the control and direction of a supreme, ethically righteous authority.

I do not believe that moral regeneration is vested in any one group. Following Socrates, I think that ethics begins within the individual and it is only after I gain self-knowledge. This knowledge is not the same as the scientific or other methodological knowledge. It transcends the vagaries of relative ends and means. Once someone attains this level of self-knowledge s/he can then begin to live out the truly ethical life. The difficulty of this task is borne out by the fact that Socrates was still working on it when he was compelled to commit suicide when he was well past 70 years old.

Until individuals begin to tear themselves from the social milieu and gain some distance from the environmental, biological, and psychological factors that determine their actions they cannot hope to live a life that is truly ethical. The lie of both the neoconservative and conservative Xtian ideology is that they preach that it’s through a culture that I can learn to be ethical.

Socrates’ effort shows that every culture and social construct will ultimately compromise on what is truly ethical. As Socrates’ dialog with those leaders and powerful Athenian gentlemen showed, virtue cannot be taught. It is only through some form of ethical revolution at the subjective level which brings about moral regeneration.

The Xtians, for their part, believe that the Xtian conversion experience is tantamount to this Socratic revolution. Once individuals have gained this experience they then group with others who have experienced this conversion and form the core at the heart of Xtian civilization.

The presuppositions here, again, are that it’s through a culture or social ethos that I gain access to that transcendent power that brings salvation. I assert that this presupposition is simply another form of religion acting as mask for political and cultural hegemony of those already in power.

The true Christian view, I suggest, is that salvation is a personal and individual event. It cannot be manufactured by any social or cultural system—whether it espouses so-called Judeo-Xtian doctrines or not. Indeed, as early Christians such as Tertullian and Origen wrote, the true Christian ethos is invariably antagonistic to every form of hegemonic civlizational construct.

A true cynic or Socratic response will always oppose every effort at establishing an American empire or a Xtian theocracy. This includes not only those groups who promote such ideas but also the figure-heads who knowingly or unknowingly support such efforts.

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Who's Responsible? What me?

I've dealt with the issue of moral responsibility in several postings at this blog (also see this). I've found these efforts somewhat unsatisfying, perhaps simply because I haven't plumbed the depths of the political and ethical assumptions that bolster the cravenness of those who mouth ethics while they bomb innocent men, women, and children in their campaign of world moral sanitation. ....

In his intrepid clarity, Glenn Greenwald has hit the bull's-eye on moral reponsibility. Homing in on one especially craven example of this ehtical turpitude, Greenwald locks, loads on William Kristol's recent rhetorical gambit to shift blame for the Iraq debacle onto those who opposed the invasion:

What we see now are the rats on the sinking ship scrambling around desperately to point fingers in order to ensure that the blame and the consequences are heaped on someone – anyone – other than them. For Bill Kristol to go on national television and blame the Bush Administration and our country’s military for the failure of his war is an act that is as despicable as it is revealing of the true magnitude of the desperation of the war proponents.

And then we have those self-defenders who will sink a level lower than even the level to which Kristol descended by seeking to blame war opponents for the war’s failure. At least Kristol had the intellectual honesty and decency to try to shove the blame onto those who actually influenced the prosecution of the war (the Defense Department and the military). These blame-war-opponent types are actually trying to blame their own failures on people who control nothing and influenced nothing.

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Bird Flu Gaining Footprint in Africa; Could Lead to Pandemic

The appearance of the most virulent form of Avian Bird Flu in Africa, H5N1, in Africa creates major concerns for epidemiologists and medical personnel attempting to stem the spread of the disease. Many African countries simply don't have the resources to combat the disease. Authorities also face the added dimension of ignorance and panic on the part of those most affected: chicken farmers. Faced with economic ruin, farmers are reluctant to alert authorities to the presence of the disease in their flocks.

In a region wracked by AIDS and HIV, when a person dies they are simply buried. There's no concern that some might be dying from another disease. This situation causes concern because the Flu must be diagnosed before counter-measures can be taken. ...

Should the Bird Flu become endemic to the Africa, the chances of its mutating into a form that human can transmit to human becomes great. With depressed immune systems and other health concerns in millions of people suffering from HIV and AIDS, the chance of the disease finding a biological mass in which it has time to mutate is much greater.

According to

Scientists worry avian flu is taking root in Africa, where it threatens to infect humans as it has in southern Asia and China. Once the virus takes hold in Africa, it risks mutating into a lethal form that may spread easily among people, creating a global health catastrophe.

``The first pandemic of the 21st century could come from Africa, rather than Southeast Asia,'' John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of London, said in a telephone interview. Oxford said Africa's poverty, densely populated urban and farm areas, intermingling of people and chickens, and poor health services create a fertile ground for the virus.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Amid Iraq Chaos, al-Qaeda's Protection Sought by Defenseless

If there's one thing that anarchy will do, it's to make some evils look less so. Some Sunni Iraqis see no help on the horizon from a predominantly Shiite government, which has been accused of backing ethnic cleansing and their own brand of militias. Therefore, some Sunnis are making choices they never thought they'd have to make: choosing al-Qaeda or dying. ...

According to The Sydney Morning herald:

Residents in Baghdad complained that the violence had eased only because of a curfew imposed after the desecration of the Samarra shrine and they fully expected opposing militias to re-emerge in greater numbers with the planned easing of the curfew yesterday. Some minority Sunnis claimed to have been opposed to the relentless violence perpetrated in their name since the US-led invasion, but said they now needed the protection of al-Qaeda's Iraq top man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Is this part of Bush's plan too--giving people little choice but to run into the arms of the terrorists? Read more!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bush "Optimistic" About Iraq

In his speech to veterans on Friday, President Bush said he was "optimistic" about Iraq's future. This speech was given a day after perhaps the most momentous explosion in Iraq to date leading to a situation that many view as bordering on civil war. Lots to be optimistic about, huh? ...

Today, Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) voiced the same rosy picture. Do you remember that Hussein spokesman who continued to say that US troops were being defeated, even as we watched on TV American tanks rumble into view behind him? I am beginning to see Bush and his acolytes in the same way as this pitiful Hussein toady.

In his speech to veterans in Washington, the President said:

We can expect the days -- coming days will be intense. Iraq remains a serious situation. But I'm optimistic, because the Iraqi people have spoken, and the Iraqi people made their intentions clear.
To maintain a rosy outlook is just what you'd expect from a former cheerleader. On the other hand, the battle at hand in Iraq has gone from bad to worse. While Bush has seemingly gotten some Iraq religious and political leaders to start talking to each other again, this might just be mere lip-service on these leaders' parts. What else are they gonna say when the leader of the power occupying your country calls?

Helena Cobban makes some astute observations about this situation. Noting that these leaders themselves may not have the backing of the Iraqis that Bush says they do, she asks whether the deal brokered by Bush is not simply window dressing. In another piece, Cobban echoes noted Mideast historian Juan Coles' report that Grand Ayatollah Sistani, the most powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq, is solidifying some form of tribal allegiances. Cole suggests that Sistani's effort could actually be an effort to bolster those Shiite death squads we've heard so much about. Both Cobban and Cole see the potential here for the Shiites exiting from the government that Bush touts so much.

In another indication that the Bushites and neoconservatives are detached from reality, neoconservative mouthpiece William Kristol said on a FoxNews program that the US has not really fought hard enough in Iraq. With perhaps 250,000 civilian men, women and children dead in this war, the Iraqi economy worse than under Hussein, and the infrastructure in shambles, one wonder how much destruction and death the death cultist Kristol would like to see in Iraq.

What in this developing hell-like scenario provides the glimmer of optimism that the President expresses? As I have argued before (here and here) the grand plan of the Bush administration has not been to bring democracy to the Mideast at all. Instead, it is to create as anarchic a place as possible.

This plan falls out in the following way: if the Shiites continue to fragment, they will move closer to Iran. Aligning Iraqi Shiites to Iran would provide the rationale that Bush and the neoconservatives need to launch a ground invasion of that country. Preparations for such an invasion are perahps underway.

The Financial Times reported that expeditionary Marine squads are contacting dissident elements within Iran. Following the pattern of attack developed in its invasion of Afghanistan, the US military will use these dissident elements to form the advance guard in an invasion.

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How-to Book on Hating Your Islamic Neighbor/Enemy

It seems that Bruce Bawer believes that Islam is the worm that eats at the heart of Europe's superior culture. ...

According to this review of Bawer's book, While-Europe-Slept:

Bawer asserts that the reality — confirmed for him by the resistance of European Muslims to assimilation, and the marked presence in their communities of honor killings, homophobia, polygamy, marital rape, forced marriage, and intolerance of democracy and pluralism — is that European Muslim leaders, with demographics on their side, still harbor the millennial hope of taking power in Europe, and see the European attitude as both weak and hostile. It is “political correctness,” Bawer writes, that has “gotten Europe into its current mess.”
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World Imams and Rabbis to Meet in Spain in March

Imams and Rabbis from around the world will meet to discuss ways to stem ignorance and violence between the two religions.

According to a Religion News Service news release:

The Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace will focus upon:

  • Promoting encounter and dialogue between Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in order to build trust and confidence for developing common projects in seeking common good.
  • Creating an opportunity for religious leaders to use their influence in conflict resolution in various regions of the world.
  • Helping religious leaders to challenge fanatics who are misusing religion.
  • Creating structures and initiatives to continue practical day-to-day work in the most needed areas
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Women and Islam

Perhaps it is not strange that the central issue in Islamic beliefs and practices comes down to its treatment of women. I believe it was Lincoln who said that you can tell how religious a man is by whether he goes home and kicks his dog. The treatment of women under the Taliban, by the Saudi extremists, and other examples shows that dealing with your ethical and spiritual problems starts at home, in your relationships with those you love or are supposed to love. ...

Pamela Taylor, co-chair of the Progressive Muslim Union, and director of the Islamic Writers Alliance, gives a glimmer of hope:

It's not often that one is asked to lead a grand mufti in prayer. Especially if one is a woman. Indeed, until Sunday (Feb. 19), no Muslim woman had ever been asked to lead a grand mufti in prayer. My anxiety was only heightened by the import of what I was about to do. For a woman to lead a mufti, even a mufti known for his liberal views, was not just groundbreaking; it was the linchpin in the effort to legitimize women imams. That Sohaib BenCheikh decided to go beyond simply issuing a ruling, and chose to participate in a women-led prayer himself, sends an unequivocal message, a message that cannot be ignored by his fellow al-Azhar alumnae, who are among the most respected scholars in the Islamic world. It's a message that I dearly hope will help assuage the doubts of those who are sitting on the fence, undecided as to whether Islam bars women from religious leadership or not.
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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Indonesia Bird Flu Strain Worries Experts

Indonesia has experienced the most cases of humans suffering from Avian Bird Flu this year. Governmental inefficiencies and social variables may be the cause for this. The longer that Indonesia cannot control the spread of the disease, the greater the potential for Bird Flu mutating into a form that humans can transmit to other humans.

This is the greatest concern for doctors and governments around the world. If this happens, a pandemic would sweep the world, causing up to 200 million deaths worldwide. ...

According to The Sydney Morning Herald:

Andrew Jeremijenko says there is data to show the H5N1 virus, which has been killing humans in Indonesia, is different from the one that is killing birds. [my empahsis]

"So far the investigations have been unable to match the viruses," he told the ABC yesterday. "They don't seem to be able to match the viruses from the human case to the animal case. And that is putting the world at threat.

"Every human case is another potential mutation that could turn this virus into a pandemic virus."
Of course, if you're really worried about the Bird Flu in America, you can always read the booklet put out by the state of New York.

For a sobering report on what one US business leaders learned from world-renowned virologist, John Oesterhaus, in Minneapolis, listen to NPR's report. Also, check out the end of my posting that links to a Miami Herald article that quotes Florida governor Jeb Bush telling people not to rely on state officials during a pandemic.

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Hang Conservative Godfather, William F. Buckley, for Treason?

William F. Buckley, whom many consider to be the founder of the modern American conservative movement, recently wrote that the American adventure in Iraq is a failure. He's called for troops to be withdrawn from the country. Glenn Greenwald discusses the reasons for and against hanging Buckley for treason. ...

According to Greenwald:

This is a real question: by the standards which have become commonplace among Bush followers, isn’t Bill Buckley clearly a traitor? We are (of course) in the middle of a war. That war (in Iraq) is the central front in another war we're fighting (the War on Terror, a/k/a the War of Civilizations, World War III, World War IV, the Long War). To surrender in Iraq is -- to use the White House's formulation -- to "surrender to the terrorists." Bill Buckley is clearly on the other side - the side of terrorists. And what a coward he is.
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Friday, February 24, 2006

Xtian Violence Against Muslims in Nigeria

You wonder how those Xtian apologists who say that Islam is intrinsically violent will mealy-mouth the news that Nigerian Xtians killed Muslims and then burned their bodies to hide the evidence.

There's always the fall-back of "an eye for an eye,"... Oh, I forgot, what about "love your enemy" and "turn the other cheek"? The white extremists will no doubt secretly note that these were, after all, "Africans." ...

According to The Washington Post:

Christian mobs stopped their killing and looting in this Nigerian city Thursday and turned to disposing of the evidence in the crudest of ways. Men burned the remains of their Muslim victims in smoldering bonfires on downtown streets, leaving behind charred legs, skulls and shoulders that minibus taxi drivers swerved to avoid.

As thousands of Muslims struggled to find a way to reach the northern part of the country or huddled for protection at police stations, Christian residents in this southeastern city expressed little remorse for their role in five days of religious violence sparked by anger over the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.
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1 in 5 Americans Holy?

A recent survey shows that 1 in 5 Americans consider themselves "holy." What this means remains vague. Whether it's an Emersonian sense of inner genius or some form of Xtian pneumatology, you have to wonder whether this means that many Americans really think they should be revered by the rest of the world. Sarcasm aside, do sentiments such as this feed the idea that America has a special destiny in the world? ...

According to Nathan Herpich at Religion News Service:

The study also asked Americans to define holy. The largest category of respondents (21 percent) admitted they didn't know how to. The highest number that had an idea said "being Christ-like'' (19 percent), while 18 percent said "making faith your top priority.'' [my emphasis]

The survey's director, Christian researcher George Barna, said that "the results portray a body of Christians who attend church but do not understand the concept or significance of holiness. ... The challenge to the nation's Christian ministries is to foster a genuine hunger for holiness among the masses who claim they love God but who are ignorant about biblical teachings regarding holiness.''
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Thursday, February 23, 2006

US Marines Seeking Regime Change in Iran?

In an unsurprising development, an investigative report by Financial Times suggests that the US military is seeking ways either to lay the groundwork for invading Iran or perhaps working with Iranian dissident groups to foment uprisings. ...

The FT report concludes:

A former intelligence officer said the Marines’ probe reflected the “contingency planning” mindset of the US military. Nonetheless, he said, it was important to note that the ultimate purpose of the intelligence wing was “to support effective ground military operations by the Marine Corps”.

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Greenwald on Free Speech

Perhaps the best political commentary and legal analysis of the NSA scandal is Glenn Greenwald. Today, he takes on the Bush admin. and its media cohorts on the issue of free speech and a free press. Greenwald points out the hypocrisy of these cohorts who speak free speech when it comes to bashing Moslems but two-facedly denounce stories that call into question the US "war on terrorism." ...

In his most recent posting, Greenwald writes:

What is going on here could not be clearer. A free press is one of the few remaining checks on our government. People like Bennett want to compel the press to publish ideas which they like by disguising their demands under a banner of a principled belief in a free press – a belief which immediately disappears when the press publishes ideas that they dislike or which is politically damaging to the President, in which case the press should be attacked as subversive and treasonous and even be criminally prosecuted by the Bush Administration.

While Bennett decries the unwillingness of the media to stand up to Muslim mobs, the press has been deafeningly silent about the Justice Department's threats of criminal prosecution against the NYT and their legal maneuverings to enable further criminal attacks on investigative journalism. Any genuine advocates of a free press would be highly alarmed, and outraged, not only by the self-censorship of newspapers with regard to these cartoons, but also by the concerted efforts within our country, from our government, to intimidate and suppress anti-government journalism.

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Bush Feels Their Pain

There's a bitter irony in the notion that George Bush, the man most responsible for creating the social and political situation in which sectarian hatred and violence could flare to life, now offers his "help" to rebuild the most sacred mosque for Shiite Muslims. ...

According to CNSNEWS.COM:

President Bush, speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting, thanked the Iraqi leaders who have tried to calm the violence spawned by the mosque bombing. He said "voices of reason" understand that the bombing is a political act intended to create civil strife.

President Bush called it an "evil act," and he assured the Iraqi people that the U.S. government is serious in its commitment to help rebuild the "beautiful dome."

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Islamic Author Calls for Christian-Muslim Dialog

In days when apocalyptic confrontation is in the air, it's always important to remember the peace-makers. ...

Hesham A. Hassaballa writes:

Amid the global Muslim uproar over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, a Vatican official has called for talks with Islam on the Crusades and the Muslim conquests of Europe. I wholeheartedly support the idea. The row over the cartoons has unearthed a centuries-old tension between the Western and Muslim worlds, a tension which continues to fester to this day. The Crusades were a series of military campaigns launched by successive popes to reclaim the Holy Land from the Muslims. Centuries later, Muslims themselves pushed into Europe, even threatening the city of Vienna. Only through dialogue -- which must include scholars of both Western and Islamic history -- can the historical confrontation between the West and Islam be examined in an environment free of the charged and empty rhetoric of confrontation, hatred, and mutual distrust.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Threat of terrorism and attacks on Americans just went way up"

The destruction of the holiest Shiite Islam site has huge repercussions. America is being held directly responsible for this act, since it is under their watch that this has occurred. ...

According to mideast scholar and historian Juan Cole:

Shiites came out in the thousands all over the Shiite south on Wednesday to protest the bombing of the Askariiyah shrine in Samarra. A Sunni mosque was set afire. and a Sunni clergyman was assassinated.

The hardline Shiite Mahdi Army has come out of Sadr City and is all over Baghdad. They are clashing with Sunnis in Basra.

Sunni leader Tariq al- Hashimi threatened reprisals for reprisal killings.

Abdul Aziz al-Hakim blamed the US for holding back the Badr Corps.

Grand Ayatollah Sistani called for nonviolent street protests that he must know won't be nonviolent.

Iran is blaming Bush.

The threat of terrorism and attacks on Americans just went way up.
Great... Before, we only had a fourth of Iraq pissed at us. With the Shiites pissed, we now have all of it pissed... with Iran to boot, as though they needed anything else to be upset about. Hell, even Saddam kept the sacred sites secure.

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If You Get Plague, Don't Call Us, Israel Tells Hamas

In what might seem to be a position that miltates against their own self-interest, the Israeli government has warned Hamas that it will stop cooperating with Palestinians over anti-Bird Flu measures when Hamas comes to power. Over 600 dead birds cases of dead birds have been found in Gaza. Presently, Israel is working with the Palestinian Authority to determine whether these birds died from the fearful Avian Bird Flu. However, once Hamas takes the reins of government, Israel has said they will not coninue to perform this humanitarian function. ...

According to the Jerusalem Post:

"It is in Israel's interest to ensure that agricultural standards in Gaza are maintained," Uri Madar, head of the agricultural division at the Erez District Coordinating Office told The Jerusalem Post, as he prepared to transport the samples and dead fowl to Israel's veterinary service laboratories in Beit Dagan.

Security officials warned that once Hamas establishes the new Palestinian government, the possibility of maintaining such close coordination and contacts with Palestinians on such issues are doubtful. "If Israel's policy is to refrain from speaking with Hamas, then once the new Palestinian government is instated and new ministers take their posts, all contacts will be stopped," a security official said. [my emphasis]
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Bombing of Sacred Dome Could Set Off Apoacalyptic War

Islam has its own brand of apocalyptic, the belief that the world will end in acts of God that cleanse the earth of evil and save the righteous. In Shi'a Islam, the Mahdi is expected at the end times, as Jesus is for Christians. Like Pres. Bush, Iran's president, Ahmahdinajad, is an avid apocalypticist.

For Shiite Islam, the burial place of two great imams is the most sacred site. They rest in a golden dome in Iraq. Sunni insurgents, who do not believe that these imams are legitimate heirs to Mohammed, blew up this sacred site today. For many Shiites, this is an event with apocalyptic dimensions. ...

According to Juan Cole, historian and professor specializing in the mideast, this act could indeed ignite massive sectarian violence in Iraq and in the mideast in general:

The Twelfh Imam or Mahdi is believed by Shiites to have disappeared into a supernatural realm (just as Christians believe in the ascension of Christ) from which he will someday return.

Some Shiites think his second coming is imminent. Muqtada all-Sadr and his followers are among them. They are livid about this attack on the shrine of the Mahdi's father.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is also a firm believer in the imminent coming of the Mahdi. I worry that Iranian anger will boil over as a result of this bombing of a Shiite millenarian symbol.

Both Sunnis and Americans will be blamed. Very bad.

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Idols of War

With all the bluster and bloated bloviation from the religious right and their penchant for apocalypse, you'd think most Xtians would back the US war on terrorism. ...

According to Chris Herlinger at Religion News:

U.S. church leaders attending a World Council of Churches Assembly have issued a written lament for not preventing a U.S war in Iraq that has brought “terror” to the vulnerable while enlisting God in a way that is “nothing short of idolatrous.”
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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

"Hamas Wants Your Countries": Netanyahu

Binyamin Netanyahu must be cracking under election pressure. Or perhaps he's finally blissed out on his own brand of apocalypticism. Several months ago, he addressed the evangelicals, pushing them to support Israel and its draconian rule of Palestinians. Now, he's telling everyone who'll listen that the "worldwide Islamic" conspiracy is out to take over the world. Perhaps he's been reading the anti-Islamic version of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. ...

According to the Jereulsalem Post:

"Hamas is not a local organization," Netanyahu said. "It's part of a worldwide Islamic movement that is trying to liberate the State of Israel and fight a mad, historic battle with the West. Because of this, the assumption that Hamas is a leopard that can change its spots is false. Power did not domesticate the Taliban or the ayatollahs in Iran, and it won't domesticate Hamas."

Netanyahu pointed at the crowd of journalists from around the world and said, "They are not really after us. They are after you. For them, Israel is the little Satan, America is the big Satan and Europe is the middle Satan." Comparing Hamas to Iran, he said that Israel must prevent a second Iran from emerging in the West Bank, one that could threaten Jordan and create a huge Islamist kingdom that could stretch from Iraq to the suburbs of Tel Aviv.
Fortunately, the rather skeptical tone taken in this news report shows how much "Bibi" Netanyahu's views are seen as a version of Jewish extremism.

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TV, the Moral Imagination, and the Loss of Reality

What does it say when artists and writers are the only ones in your country with an ethical sensibility? The power of art is that it can embody and manifest possibilities. It can bring to life the hidden realities that are there to see but which the facade of custom, routine and habit hides.

Strangely, the war in Iraq hasn’t generated much popular art. Amid the barrage of infidelity and so-called "reality" shows, little TV has appeared to take on the ethical questions generated by the so-called “war on terrorism.” ...

One of the problems faced by information consumers is imaging the ethical. While this might be a problem for every age, our own age seems especially incapable of imaging the raw reality behind the images and stories that people our daily dose of "news." Indicative of this is the appetite among TV consumers for "reality" shows. Purporting to give an insight into the private lives, thoughts, and acts of people, these neatly scripted and edited shows play on that need.

TV is uniquely capable of presenting a real eye on the world. As the truism goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Yet, as has become apparent, interpretations of what we see can vary enormously, depending on the filters we bring to the pictures. The age of information disembodies the consumer from his or her body and its reality, creating an imaginary world where real things disappear in a vague cloud of possibilities that contradict each other.

The ethical issues facing us are, therefore, formidable. We have lost the coordinates by which to attach real-time emotions, thoughts and beliefs to the reality of things in the world. Artists are uniquely positioned to recapture the ethical for the modern consumer lost in the haze of ambiguity. By embodying situations inside a plot and psychological characterizations, the viewer can gauge the meaning and import of events they otherwise can't measure.

The entertainment industry has tried its hand at presenting the patriotic side of the war on terrorism. Over There somewhat valiantly depicted the gritty reality of the war and some of the personal and social, and moral problems faced by the soldiers “over there.” For my tastes, the show was a bit too gung-ho and one-sided, providing little balance in its depiction of everyday Iraqis. In the show, all Iraqis were potential combatants, even those cowering in terror as the soldiers kick down their doors at night and point guns in their faces.

For my money, the true exceptions to the Hollywood aversion to tackling the war on terror ethics are single episodes from The X-files and Law and Order’s Criminal Intent and Special Victims Unit. The last episode of The X-files brought to life the insidious dimensions of military tribunals, those special courts set up to try the non-humans currently “under detention” at Guantanamo Bay. In the show’s final episode, The Truth, its hero, Mulder, is tried before a military tribunal for killing an American soldier (who’s really an alien assassin!). We see the shocking brutality and injustice that these “non-humans” will face at Guantanamo when they are tried. The lack of legal procedure, human rights, and denial of access to the evidence forming the basis of the charges against the accused exhibit how insidious an actual military tribunal is.

Law and Order: Special Victims Unit depicted the effects of experimental drugs on US troops. After two soldiers return home from Afghanistan and take up their jobs as policemen again, they mysteriously go berserk and attack their families and commit suicide. The rest of the episode dramatizes the military’s attempts to cover up the disastrous effects.

Episodes, however, that depict most effectively the moral dimensions of the “war on terrorism,” however, include those from Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Stress Position (shown 9/8pm 2/13/05) explores the subject of “rendition,” that practice used by the CIA to secretly shuttle purported terrorists from prison to prison.

Not only are the prisoners tortured, but the show depicts the collusion among the prison guards to keep this practice secret, even killing one of their own who experiences attacks of conscience. We also see a man who is wrongly picked up and branded a terrorist, undergoes torture, and then is released. We watch him dodge the detectives’ questions as he fears retaliation should he recount his tale. The message here is that these things are not supposed to happen in America, where due process is a keystone of the US legal system.

In Scared Crazy (shown 9/8pm 12/04/05), we find the diabolic dimension of the psychological methods used to interrogate the Guantanamo internees. A psychologist who helped the military carry out these sessions at Guantanamo seeks redemption by using the same methods on a schizophrenic patient, hoping to cure him. This results in the patient murdering an innocent bystander.

The episode argues that these interrogation methods have no redeeming qualities and in fact produces unintended and violent side-effects. The plot reverberates with recent stories about former Guantanamo detainees who are psychologically scarred for life. It symbolically raises the question about whether we are creating terrorists out of ostensible non-terrorists.

At the same time, it raises ethical questions about the collusion of medical professionals in ethically ambiguous situations that give the appearance of torture. The powerful means available to modern psychologists for manipulating the mind are given full play here. The dramatic effect is very powerful. What this episode does is to belie the rather innocuous and sanguine characterizations of life at Guantanamo and the methods used there. In their emotional depiction, the psychological realism exposes the extent to which psychological methods can become torture.

Beyond registering a somewhat impotent sense of outrage over such practices, these shows don’t offer much by way of ethical discussion. No doubt, they are perhaps simply happy with the notion that they have been able to raise the questions within the format and time provided by television’s medium.

For those interested in seeing ethical reality, the imagination is implicitly called into play. These shows must be lauded for understanding the role that ethical imagination plays in our lives. Simple facts, government spin, and news reports reify the reality of events. It is a testament to the power of the television that it can evoke a sense of “being there” in real-time and engage the imagination to give us access to the evil of these practices. Depending on how much you’re willing to believe the plots, the more their imagined reality can seep into your bones and make your cringe with indignation and anxiety.

Soren Kierkegaard once wrote that the people in the present age face the danger of losing their ability to discern ethical principles. With this loss goes utter despair and lack of character that thrashes about for moral certitude. Kierkegaard saw this as a result of deeper spiritual and ethical disruptions inherent in the capitalist and scientistic regimes. As we lose ourselves and our proximity to life in images and disembodied phantasies, we lose our sense of how to discern what is evil or what is good.
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Monday, February 20, 2006

Dems (Finally) Back a (Murtha Look-alike) Plan of Iraq Withdrawal

Okay, so it takes twenty Demcorats to get their butts out of the hole in the ground. At least they've done something, right. To mix metaphors here, it looks like they might actually come up with a viable strategy to get US troops out of Iraq...

If it seems like deja vu all over again, it should. Rep. John Murtha proposed the same plan back in late November 2005. One intriguing aspect of this "new" plan the Democrats are supposedly going to publish is that it comes from the pen of a former Reagan Defense Secretary.

Why do the Democrats think they need to diss Murtha on this? Is it that Hilary Clinton might be working behind the scenes and trying to make sure that Murtha--who gained a lot of street creds in his standing up to the Prez on Iraq--doesn't get any big ideas and make a run against her?

Anyway, according to the Boston Globe:

Under Korb's outline, all reservists and National Guard members would come home this year. Most of the other troops would be redeployed to other key areas -- Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, and the Horn of Africa -- with large, quick-strike forces placed in Kuwait, where they could respond to crises in neighboring Iraq.

Korb said in an interview that setting dates for troop withdrawal would send a message to the Iraqi people that the United States does not intend to set up permanent military bases in Iraq. Starting the redeployment quickly will ensure that the Army does not wear out before the insurgents do, he said.

''The Iraqis want us to go," said Korb, who has opposed Bush's decision to invade Iraq from the start. ''If you're out by the end of 2007, we'll have been there almost five years. That's not cutting and running."
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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Indonesia Cluster Deaths Worry Bird Flu Virus Experts

While news of the increasing number of countries with H5N1 Avian Bird Flu has gained press, the worrisome aspects of the recent outbreak have not gained recognition. Perhaps this is the best, since the potential for hysteria and mass chaos are real. This is already occurring in India, where the head of the farmer's association accused the Indian government of spreading false news at the behest of Multnational Corporations (MNCs) to destroy the Indian poultry industry. ...

On the other hand, the recent spate of cluster deaths in Indonesia worries experts most. According to The National Business Review:

A New Zealand avian influenza expert says the growing trend of clusters of human bird flu infections in Indonesia is worrying.

Bird flu is spreading around the world, with India reporting its first suspected human death from the virus and confirmation in France of the first case of the H5N1 strain.

Professor Roger Morris, a professor of Animal health at Massey University, is part of a team working on plans in case of a possible outbreak in Britain.

He says Indonesia is the only country to report increasing human clusters of the virus, which is a development researchers will be watching closely.

Mr Morris says in the early stages of a pandemic there would be increased clusters of human infections, with less association between the human and bird infections.

Officials in India are testing dozens of people for bird flu.
The results of a worldwide pandemic would be economically and humany devastating according to recent reports. One report shows that up to 142 million people would die from such a plague. According to a recent meeting in Florida, offcialis told the audience that the government is not prepared for a pandemic and that they should not hope to rely on the government for help when a pandemic occurs.

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Neocon Heretic Rips Bush et al. a New One

Francis "The End of History" Fukuyama used to be the darling of the neoconservatives, that group of insiders who have so decisively hijacked US foreign policy. In the past two years, though, Fukuyama has attacked the neocons for the failed Iraq war and similar foreign debacles. In a recent article, Fukuyama unpeels the rancid neocon onion. ...

Writing in the NYTimes, Fukuyama observes:

There were other reasons as well why the world did not accept American benevolent hegemony. In the first place, it was premised on American exceptionalism, the idea that America could use its power in instances where others could not because it was more virtuous than other countries. The doctrine of pre-emption against terrorist threats contained in the 2002 National Security Strategy was one that could not safely be generalized through the international system; America would be the first country to object if Russia, China, India or France declared a similar right of unilateral action. The United States was seeking to pass judgment on others while being unwilling to have its own conduct questioned in places like the International Criminal Court.
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Racial Suicide, Church, Aretz, and God

Pat Robertson thinks that Europe is committing racial suicide. Following recent data on Europe's declining birth rate, Robertson and other Xtians see this as a threat to Christianity. Their theory works in the following way: if Europeans can't procreate then other ethnic groups will fill the vacuum left over by the Europeans. For Robertson and these other writers, this usually means Moslems. In this way, the thinking goes, as the race goes, so goes the culture. And as these Xtians think, along with the biomass go the culture and by extension the religion. ...

I don't know whether the data supports Robertson's view or not. I'm quite willing to believe that it does. My questions about their views concern the notion that as biological mass goes so goes a religion.

Robertson is echoing the views of others that run along the following lines: European civilization is the product of Christianity. This civilization has brought immense benefits and accomplishments to human kind: science, philosophy, democracy, and art. If we lose this civilization, we will lose the religion. Because it's Christianity that has given birth to the culture and that nurtures it, then we will also lose Christianity.

There are numerous assumptions here that might be questioned and countered. I think the major assumption is that Christianity has a biological component that if lost means that the religion itself is lost. This view is similar to the notion of election that Israel, Hinduism, or Islam advocate: our religion is us, our nation, the blood and generations that support us and guarantee our existence for the future.

This concept of religion recalls the Beast that Simone Weil wrote about. Weil identified the Beast not only with the Roman Empire but any nation, state or tribe that divinized itself through blood, doctrine, and land. During her own time, fascism was on the rise. To promote its evil ideology, fascism called into play the themes of blood, race, motherland, Germanic culture and the eternal destiny associated with these.

Hitler had not taken his theory of the Nazi mother-land just from the old Roman dream of world domination, according to Weil. There was a messianic and apocalyptic side to it that Weil recognizes as coming from the Jewish notion of being elected by God to bring enlightenment to the rest of the world.

Of course, everyone recognizes how closely Robertson and similar Xtian evangelicals align Christianity with the state of Israel. In this Xtian mythology, the founding of the state of Israel has set in motion the end times foretold by Jewish and Christian prophets, according to this view. (Of course, you could say that Robertson is hedging his bets here: if these are the end times, why do we need to care about race, culture or otherwise? I mean we'll be gone soon, right?)

The Jewish biblical and Talmud scholar, Jacob Neusner, has suggested an intriguing idea. Xtians must embrace Judaism, says Neusner, if they hold true to their church dogmatics. Noting similarities between various Xtian church dogmatics, not simply evangelical, Neusner writes:

If Christians take the Hebrew Scriptures to their height," he said, "they will find that Judaism embodies those imperatives, the commandments of the Old Testament, in a way Christianity does not. [In "Scholar of Judaism, Professional Provocateur," New York Times, Published April 13, 2005]
Robertson's theories about the relationship between the race, culture, and Xtianity, fit Neusner's comments perfectly. What is the difference between the two religions, anyway?

As long as we are winning wars in Xtendom's name, beating back the Moslem hordes, shoring up the foundations of the Xtian culture temple, what is it that we are missing? We just need to get people to procreate more so that we can have more Xtian soldiers and fill the baptismal registries so that we show that Xtianity is alive and kicking and growing.

The new Millennium means a new ad campaign to re-indoctrinate Europe so that the City of God on earth will once more reign. And we all know that Xtian culture means the survival of the race, so we need to fill the pews, procreate more babies, become priests/preachers/pastors/deacons/nuns, etc.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Avian Bird Flu Rages From Indonesia to India to the Doorsteps of England

In what can be described as a raging whirlwind trek from the Far East, Avian Bird Flu is presently expected to reach Britain early next week. Currently in over 10 countries, it swept into Europe late last week. Beginning in Greece, then Africa, Italy, Germany, Russia and France, the deadliest form of the disease has nations in emergency postures.

As a sign of the disease's ferocity, just a day after first announcing the presence of the flu in India, that country announced its first human fataility from the pestilence.

For timelines and graphics, as well as stories documenting the disease's rapid, week-long advance into Europe, see Dottore Pesta. ...

According to The Washington Post:

India reported its first case of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu Saturday after chickens were found to have died from the virus. A man in Indonesia also died from the disease, that country's 19th death, officials said.

Indian officials will immediately begin slaughtering hundreds of thousands of birds in a 1.5-mile radius around the poultry farms in the western town of Navapur, where the confirmed cases were detected, said Anees Ahmed, the Maharashtra state minister for animal husbandry.

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Pope Backs Muslim/Xtian Dialog on Crusades and Moslem Empire

In a move that perhaps reflects Pope Benedict 16's attempt to back off of Islamophobic elements within Catholicism, the Vatican announced plans to open dialog and discussions worldwide with Christian and Islamic scholars on the topic of the so-called Christian Crusades and Islamic expansionism in Medieval Europe. ...

According to Stacy Meichtry

In the midst of global anger over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, the Vatican's top mediator with Islam is pushing to heal long-festering historical wounds -- the Christian Crusades and the Muslim conquests of medieval Europe. “It is a question that needs to be addressed,” said Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, in an interview Thursday (Feb. 16) with Religion News Service. Fitzgerald, who is slated to soon become Pope Benedict XVI's ambassador to Egypt and the Arab League, also rejected a call from an Italian lawmaker for the Vatican to lead a showdown with Islam. Instead, Fitzgerald called for Vatican and Muslim scholars to examine the legacy of Christian-Muslim confict to build historical consensus. [my emphasis]
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US Sets Up Ahmadinajad as Patsy

The excellent Washington semi-insider blog, The Washington Note, provides a keen analysis of the way that the US and Israel are setting up fanatical Iranian President Ahamadinajad as nuclear patsy. As I have noted in numerous postings, Agmadinajad does not have the type of absolute power that an American president might have.

Indeed, there are indications that he is in dispute with the ruling mullahs. While his rhetoric is seemingly all-powerful, the ruling mullahs are the ones that can check and balnce his quite limited powers. These mullahs are much more pragmatic and level-headed than the Iranian president. They are also much more open to rapprochement with western nations--even the US. ...

According to Steve Clemons at The Washington Note:

But what is strange is that there are numerous forces inside Iran working overtime to impede Ahmadinejad from fulfilling his ambitions -- while America and Europe are doing much to empower him and give him exactly what he wants.

The question of checks-and-balances in Iran is important -- whether they are theocratic or democratic institutions. We need to understand how executive authority in Iran flows -- or Europe and the U.S. may, out of ignorance, empower Iran's president while undermining other players who keep the blustery rhetoric of Ahmadinejad just that.

This fiery, anti-Israel, nuclear-obsessed President in Iran failed to get his preferred Oil Minister past the Majles-e-Shura-ye-Eslami, or Islamic Consultative Assembly three times. Finally, he had to compromise with other power centers in Iran's government -- who wanted competent manager in that post rather than one of Ahmadinejad's retainers.
What seems clear is that the Bush administration is once again playing on Americans' ignorance about the rest of the world. Whether this ignorance mirrors Bush's own faulty education or not, the plan seems to be to portray Iran as the anti-semitic anti-christ, thereby scaring people into a fearful trance a la 911. Given the growing fear of outswiders in America, this strategy by the Bushites is easy to do since it plays on stereotypes and jitters associated with 911.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

Cartoon Democracy and Empire

What is ironic about the Bush rhetoric concerning pushing democracy to the rest of the world is that his administration never meant it anyway. As usual with these things, the reality behind the Oz facade is that the US hype to spread its brand of empire by hook or crook will not brook any real democracy arising. The Bush admin's recent decision not to deal with the democratically elected Palestinian political party Hamas only proves the point.

Like a cartoon hero, Bush came to whack and rive all the bad guys of the world. All the missteps and miscalculations remind you of a cartoon where the heroes bungle every plan, cause immense wrack and ruin, and end up with a hilarious nothing for all the mayhem. ...

Illinois Republican representative Henry Hyde puts the case as bluntly and honestly as possible for a politician:

A leading House Republican warned Thursday that President Bush’s promotion of democracy worldwide could backfire, producing chaos rather than stability.

“There is no evidence that we or anyone can guide from afar revolutions we have set in motion,” said Rep. Henry Hyde of Illinois, chairman of the House International Relations Committee.

Rather than a quick fix to America’s problems overseas, pushing democracy in places that have no history of it “may, in fact, constitute an uncontrollable experiment with an outcome akin to that faced by the Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Hyde said.

His remarks at a hearing with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reflected a growing unease on Capitol Hill over the direction of U.S. foreign policy after January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections, won by the radical Islamic group Hamas.
I wonder which apprentice it is that Hyde refers to: Disney or Goethe. The Disney version seems most a propos, given the cartoonish nature of US pretensions to world empire. Unfortunately, unlike a cartoon, the blood and violence in Iraq and around the world kills and maims creatures of flesh and blood.

A further irony presents itself. What the failure to live up to its deceitful rhetoric reveals is the true face of this empire. It is simply power politics. At least now, with the pretensions to supposed democratic motivations out of the way, we can begin to debate the real issue: to empire or not to empire.

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Judas Gospel at Press

Gnostic 'Gospel of Judas' to Be Published in April, By Stacy Meichtry

ROME -- The first translation of an ancient, self-proclaimed “Gospel of Judas” will be published in late April, bringing to light what some scholars believe are the writings of an early Christian sect suppressed for supporting Jesus Christ's infamous betrayer. If authentic, the manuscript could add to the understanding of Gnosticism, an unorthodox Christian theology denounced by the early church. The Roman Catholic Church is aware of the manuscript, which a Vatican historian calls “religious fantasy.” According to scholars who have seen photographs of the brittle manuscript, it argues that Judas Iscariot was carrying out God's will when he handed Christ over to his executioners. The manuscript could bring momentum to a broader academic movement that argues Judas has gotten a bum rap among both historians and theologians, as well as in popular culture.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Growing Anxiety in Africa Over Bird Flu: UN Blocked from Nigerian Chicken Farms

Only reacting to the incredibly quick advance of Bird Flu from China westward when European nations began reporting dead swans, the US media once again shows its bias against Africa and eastern nations. While Indonesia is the current hotspot when it comes to cases of humans afflicted with the disease and succumbing to it, the circumstances in Africa--where AIDS sufferers provide an ideal place for the Bird Flu virus to mutate--present a far more problematic scenario.

Cultural, governmental, and other social obstacles stand in the way of Africa's adequately addressing the threat. Epidemiologists speculat that once this disease gains a foothold in Africa, it will mutate into a virus that human can transmit to human. ...

According to The Standard:

Authorities in the northern Nigerian state of Kano, where deadly bird flu is decimating chickens and endangering people, have discouraged UN experts from visiting poultry farms.

Two experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization have arrived in the capital of the state, where the deadly H5N1 strain was confirmed on February 8 on two farms, and more than 30 other farms are reporting mass poultry deaths.

The Kano state authorities "said it was not feasible in terms of biosecurity," said Boubacar Seck, coordinator of the FAO West African Regional Project on Avian Influenza.

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"18" Ascending

Fascism seems to have a life of its own. Communism used to be thought to be deadly to universal peace and happiness. But what passed for communism was just really fascist. Whatever the case, with the communism's death in the Soviet Union and Europe, its evil twin fascism has made its comeback from the land of the dead. ...

According to

The man calls himself Tesak (machete) — “because I like knives” - and wears big black boots and a short, padded jacket.

“At the moment in Russia we’re not very organized, there is no single leader. We just have groups of five or 10 people who go out to kill Armenians, Chinese, Tajiks,” he said.

His group Format 18 — the numbers one and eight represent the initials of Adolf Hitler — posts videos of its attacks on its Web site. One clip shows a group of young, muscular men in their uniform of jeans and boots beating a Tajik trader in a market before it ends with the slogan of “White Power”.
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Afghanistan Circles the Drain 3

I have been tracking the slow decline of Afghanistan on this blog. As the press and the WH dance around hunting accidents, listening to people reading their newspapers in the bathroom, and executive branch tyranny, Afghanistan stands as one more example of the failed policies of this administration. ...

According to The Christian Monitor:

Grim phrases are on the lips of diplomats, government officials, and aid workers in Kabul when describing Afghanistan these days. Narco state, political disillusionment, military stalemate, donor fatigue, American military pullout.

Tie it all together, and it's a picture that suggests Afghanistan could be reverting back to a failed state. None of these issues is new, with the exception of the US decision to start drawing down its forces in Afghanistan and the expected arrival of NATO forces this summer. Yet four years after the government of President Hamid Karzai came to power, these various factors seem to be converging, with explosive results.

"This is what I keep explaining to the international community, these things feed each other, they are related," says Habibullah Qaderi, Afghanistan's minister for counternarcotics affairs. "There are two elements in terrorism. One is internal corruption, and the other is external interference. That is why we have problems. We have a corrupt administration, a corrupt government, and that is why people can't cooperate with us."

Related postings on Afghanistan: Read more!

Islam: A Culture Fighting Itself

Echoing some remarks I have made on this blog, Olivier Roy points out that the recent furor over cartoons lampooning Islam and the prophet Muhammad say more about Islamic dilemmas than it does about whether the religion is a fanatical Medieval religion of war. ...

At Newsweek, Roy writes:

The worst lesson to draw from last week's brouhaha has already become the most common—that it represents a deep "clash of civilizations." Not true. Instead of demonstrating the unity of the Muslim world, the protests underscore its division: a recidivist old guard determined to protect its power and hidden interests versus the growing community of modernist Muslims. They consider themselves first and foremost to be Europeans—and they quite simply do not want to be treated as immigrants, or insulted.

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My Postings on Islam Read more!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What Secrets Wreak

This is the story of a soldier who returned from Iraq with a story that no one wanted to believe. As I have noted before, the time when Americans could think that there were things their government would not do is over. ...

According to the LA Times:

In the beginning, Jeff supported the administration's policies in the region. But over time, that began to change. As we talked, Jeff brought out an album of photos from Afghanistan. He pointed to a series of photographs of a trailer and several huts behind a barbed-wire fence; these were taken, he said, outside a U.S. military camp not far from the Kandahar airport. He told me that young Afghans — some visible in blue jumpsuits in his photos — had been rounded up and brought to the site by a CIA special operations team. The CIA officers made no great secret of what they were doing, he said, but were dismissive of the Marines and pulled rank when challenged.

Jeff said he had been told by soldiers who had been present that the detainees were being interrogated and tortured, and that they were sometimes given psychotropic drugs. Some, he believed, had died in custody. What disturbed him most, he said, was that the detainees were not Taliban fighters or associates of Osama bin Laden. "By the time we got there," Jeff said, "the serious fighters were long gone."
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The Joy (and Profit) of Lobbyists

Interesting facts to learn from an interview on NPR's Marketplace with Washington Post reporter Jeff Birnbaum:

  • Return on investment: $100/every dollar spent
  • 27,000 lobbyists at any one time
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Monday, February 13, 2006

Coincidence on Iran?

At the risk of starting a conspiracy theory, I ask what the relationship is between the report that Valeries Plame was working on nuclear weapons issues on Iran and the recent charges against members of the Israeli lobbying group, AIPAC?

I posted these remarks at Steve Clemons' blog, The Washington Note. Clemons is well-known reporter with sources high up in the Washington insider pecking order. In the Comments section to his posting on the Plame/Iran meme, I posed my own somewhat tongue-in-cheek post hoc propter hoc fallacy. Stranegely enough, two people seemed to undertake to answer my comments... I am intrigued by the responses since they seem to confirm some of the implications of my own comments. They speak in intellegence-ese, which leads me to believe that the commenters are either very familiar with the intelligence community or are intelligence professionals themselves.

Here are their comments:

There's surprisingly little new information about Iran's nuclear program in this report. Iran has sought, and continues to seek, uranium from sources abroad since the Shah started the country's nuclear program. Significant indigenous uranium ore deposits were discovered in the late 1970s. Iran declared to to the IAEA in 2000 that it had embarked in an enrichment program. International excitement about that program was ramped up after an "exile" group announced in August 2002 -- about the same time the Niger yellowcake forgery was being stovepiped through OSP -- that Iran had a heavy water plant in Arak and a nuclear fuel "production" facility in Natanz. Last March, Iran opened those facilities to the international press, and precious little indicating a bulk production process was there to be seen.

If Valerie Plame and her office was working primarily on detecting Iran WMD issues at the time she was outed in July 2003, there doesn't seem to have been dramatic developments to study, as the Iranian program hadn't amounted to much, and was by all responsible accounts a decade away from any sort of building an actual bomb. Likely, that's exactly what she was reporting to her superiors -- which wasn't what the White House wanted to hear.

At the same time that the Niger yellowcake forgery was making its way to the Oval Office, Larry Franklin's contacts at the Israeli Embassy was making "suggestions" for changes to Pentagon documents about the Iranian WMD program. Some of this information made its way into reports that Franklin, the DoD Iran desk officer, prepared for his superiors. Franklin also travelled to Rome with an OSP coleague in December 2001, where he met with Manoucher Ghorbanifar and Mike Ledeen. This group has been linked to the network that introduced the Niger Yellowcake forgery into US files.

Franklin's primary contact at the Israeli Embassy "FO-3" in the indictment, was Naor Gilon, the Mossad Chief of Station, who fled DC when the FBI investigation was leaked. See, Lawrence Franklin Indictment, pp. 23-34, para. 6.

I would suggest that the the Niger yellowcake forgery was Track 1 of a disinformation program to justify U.S. military action against Iraq. Furthermore, much of allegations about Iranian WMDs, such as the August 2002 opposition group disclosures, are Track 2 of the same operation to draw the US into a widening general war in the Middle East. Same M.O. and group of perpetrators behind both deadly deception campaigns.
Posted by leveymg at February 13, 2006 05:26 PM

Cyrus, you're right about the Iran-Niger dealings being insignificant and irrelevant.

I would think that this piece by Raw Story is another attempt to turn up the tension levels on Iran in the run up to an attack. We have to consider the "source" of Raw Story's information which could be a propaganda ploy now that Porter Goss is DCI, and clearly a Bush cheerleader.

We've seen this ploy used before with the run up to the attack on Iraq, though now the lies concerning that have been laid bare. Need we be bamboozled once again with a similar tactic? Not if we look further at recent and little publicized events.

I might point out something which has been overlooked on here and that is the case of Asher Karni.

Karni was recently convicted of smuggling nuclear triggers from a Massachusetts company, first to South Africa, where he lived and worked for 30 years, and then to Pakistan by way of Oman.

Karni, an Israeli national and suspected Mossad operative, was working with South African military on related matters to their own nuclear development program for many years and presumably was also acting in collusion with the suspected Israeli collaboration with the South African government in this endeavor.

Once the nuclear triggers were gotten into Pakistan, connections had been arranged with former operatives of the A.Q. Khan network who had previous contacts with the Iranians.

However, Plame's counter-proliferation network was tracking Karni and had an operative in South Africa who reported on this activity. This operative seems to have been compromised after Plame was outed.

In any event, with the work of Plame's group the Pakistani ISI intercepted and recovered the entire shipment of triggers, which are really electronic modules used for nuclear detonations.

The outing of Plame more and more seems like the work of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) and it seems as though Plame's group was getting too close for comfort to the true perpetrators of this nuclear proliferation.

These facts seem to point to the nuclear trigger episode as a "hurry up" attempt to provide Iran with incriminating evidence as a means to justify the attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

This all points to the real sources of WMD proliferation and global terrorism. They are one and the same and we need look no further than the Bush Crime Family and their connections to the Saudis and also the Zionist criminal cabal whose intentions toward both Iraq and Iran have been clear for many years and pushed by the arch neocon, Michael Ledeen, just to name one.

Follow the money trail and it will lead to the truth. They are all interconnected by this one element.
Posted by jim at February 13, 2006 06:11 PM
Make of it what you will. I am still mulling the implications of these remarks. I imagine there are journalists following up on the story, given its astonishing ramifications for an understanding of what actually brought about the Plame outing. Read more!