Tuesday, February 28, 2006

2005 The Year of the End of Iraq?

"If Iraq falls apart, historians may seek to identify years from now what was the decisive moment. The ratification of the constitution in October 2005, a sectarian document that both marginalised and alienated the Sunni Arab community? The flawed January 2005 elections that handed victory to a Shiite-Kurdish alliance, which drafted the constitution and established a government that countered outrages against Shiites with indiscriminate attacks against Sunnis? Establishment of the Interim Governing Council in July 2003, a body that in its composition prized communal identities over national-political platforms? Or, even earlier, in the nature of the ousted regime and its consistent and brutal suppression of political stirrings in the Shiite and Kurdish communities that it saw as threatening its survival? Most likely it is a combination of all four, as this report argues."

Read the entire article.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Werner Shot

I have been watching a lot of Werner Herzog lately and just happened on this story about some nut job shooting the Wunderkid. Bizzare.

And he saves movie stars in car crashes also!

Torture R' Us

ACLU project on torture and the US government.

The Lebanon Model

Before the Bush II invasion of Iraq one of the arguments against the war was the fear of what was to come as a result of the dissolution of the Iraqi state. From this corner and others the Lebanon scenario of the 1970's was proposed as a probable outcome. It seems this outcome has arrived.

The US as "honest broker" and their strategy in Iraq according to Empire Notes.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Torture R' Us

Bush's announcement in December that "we do not torture" was treated as no big deal in the US. Around the world, particularly in Latin America, many were shocked by the audacity of the statement and the location of the speech, in Panama site of the infamous School of the Americas. Here's a Naomi Klein article on the bogus speech.

Katrina, the Democrats and the Black Caucus

The Black Commentator on the crisis of black leadership in wake of Katrina.

Iranian Holocaust Denier Blames US For Bombing Of Iraqi Shia Shrine

Indirectly he is correct. If the US did not invade then the shrine probably would not have been blown up. But the idea that somehow the US has an interest in a civil war in Iraq and blew the shrine up to this end is absurd. I post this because after the Counterpunch article I have received email from lots of paranoids and cranks who are willing to believe any far flung story without a shred of evidence in their outrage over US misdeeds around the world. Many are also very convinced that US imperialism is motivated by religion, namely Christian fundamentalism and Judaism. The "Zionist entity" usually comes up with this crowd.

The Republican and Democratic parties are allies of Israel. They do it for strategic and domestic political reasons. Israel is seen as an asset by some of the strategic planner elite and a liability by others. The "Israel as an asset" crowd think the Israelis are reliable, do dirty work for the US-weapons and support to Guatemala or other unsavory regimes, intelligence gathering, voting in international organizations, etc... They also get support because Jewish voters live in strategic states, vote in high numbers (overwhelmingly for Democrats), and contribute to candidates at a high rate and have lots of lobby groups that are very well organized at many levels of US society. There is nothing sinister about any of this. It is out in the open and perfectly legitimate. If the Arab and Muslim community in the US would organize a little more, they have around the same population as Jewish-Americans, they would have more pull.

Right wing Christians, some of whom would like to see a theocratic state but most of whom want more Bible everywhere, are a major ally of the Republicans. They like the anti-abortion, anti-Darwin, anti-gay, anti-women (do you see a pattern here) stance of the Republican party domestically. They also tend to be strong nationalists. A small group want the apocalypes to occur in Israel so that they can be with Yahweh quicker but they are a nutty minority. Does this mean that religion is a cause of imperialism. No. Bush and the Republicans (and many Democrats) may talk about god a lot but the churches aren't the beneficiaries of invasions of Iraq, Bechtel, Haliburton and arms manufacturers are, so is the overall position of the US advanced, if they don't lose, if the US is well placed across the planet. The fundis may like the ass kickin but so do many other jingo's who are non-religious.

In a nutshell; the US invades plunders and keeps the war machine moving for strategic, domestic political, and military/industry reasons not religious ones.

Generation Jihad

An amazing story here on the use of technology and the resistance in Iraq. Frontline recently showed bits of these videos and they are extremely powerful and horrifying. Worth the listen.

By the way the use of the word "Jihadi" is widely used in this report. Do you think it is an Islamophobic or racist term?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Divorce Soars In Japan As Husbands Retire

Company men come home and drive Japanese wifes to divorce.

Democrats Play Anti-Arab Card In Port Controversy

Leading Arabphobe Charles Schumer is making hay over a plan to sell port operations to a company from Dubai. With health care costs continuing to spiral out of control, a losing war in Iraq, an ever growing deficit and debt, the Constitution violated daily, oil company sweetheart deals, etc... this is all the Democrats can come up with? Pathetic.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Hopped Up Tea Gets OK From Supreme Court

US Supreme Court allows small religious sect to use hallucinogenic tea in ceremonies.

Supreme Court Takes Abortion Case

The US Supreme Court agrees to rule on "partial-birth" abortion case.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Joyce once wrote to his wife “the two parts of your body which do dirty things are the loveliest to me.” I like this band too.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Rummy Brazil

Scary shit from the Rumanator.


I am doing some research on gender and WWII. Check out this cartoon about Rosie.

A Clash of Civilizations?

Empire Notes thinks it's more about not knowing ourselves.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Taking Responsibility

The latest press frenzy in the US over Cheney shooting his hunting partner seems misplaced. Beyond some laughs, a mass murderer shooting a fellow plutocrat, is it really that big of a deal? Not that it shoudn't be reported just that the shooting itself was an accident, story over. What is important though is the impunity in which these characters operate. As a hunter and fisherman on a regular basis I am stopped by the DNR (Damn Near Russia) and asked for the proper license. Fines are substantial for not having them or poaching. Cheney bought his after he shot a guy. No big deal?

Cheney takes responsibilty. What exactly does this mean?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Chill Out

I have continued to receive email from the "Chill Out" post in CounterPunch. Here's one that I thought I would address in public.

You miss the real points of why people are pissed.
1 The hypocrisy of restricting "hate speech" regarding Israel and Jews, while encouraging dehumanizing caricatures of Muslims as mad bombers.

*I think hate speech laws are a bad idea. Why give the state the power to police what anyone thinks? Let people say what they will and confront the ideas if you want or ignore them if you want. If a government or powerful institution advocates racist or discriminatory policies then there is more of a priority for us to protest and confront these ideas or policies.

2 The social apartheid in these EU countries where the Muslims are considered "other"

*No doubt this is an issue but let's protest unemployment, racist laws, lousy housing, favoritism in hiring, police brutality not symbolic "blasphemy." Do you think that there are no allies for minorities in Scandanavia? I'm not an expert here but anecdotally I met lots of them when I was Sweden last year. I also read a lot in the left press about how these ploicies need to change.

3 The continuity of vilifying someoneÂ’s beliefs with vilifying them as a people

*I have not ever, at least consciously, said Muslim world or all Muslims do this... My comments were addressed to an extreme group of mad killers (they want to kill me by the way because of my beer drinking, naked women appreciating, Milwaukee living atheism) whom I flippantly called Jihadis.

As a Jew, I am reminded of the comedian in the movie Cabaret who steadily tells more and more racist jokes about Jews while the audience becomes ever more Nazi. And in our modern society, we watched the rise of Dennis Miller as he moved from being the witty bohemian to being the shitty anti-muslim racist.

*Do you really believe that we are in a pre-Nazi state here or in Denmark? Lots of people have made this point to me. I reject it out of hand. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and other "detention" centers are horrible places where torture is commonplace but they are not Auschwitz or Dachau. Bush and company are not at war with Muslims or for racial reasons and they don't employ racial or religious reasons to defend their policies, they want the resources, or control over them, where Muslims happen to live. Overt racism is roundly condemned in my community and in the US in general whenever it is uttered. Not to say that racism doesn't exist or that code words for race are not widely used but sensitivity to minority groups has NEVER been higher in Western society. Dare I say ever in human history? Have you traveled anywhere in the US and seen how this society actually works?

Your desire to treat equally (and you are not unique in this childlike effort) societies at different stages of economic and social development and power is of identical flavor to those, who during the Vietnam era, said "all nationalism is reactionary," as a basis for not supporting the Vietnamese people.
You and your civil liberty sophists fail to address the driving forces for religious identification within advanced capitalist societies by both Christians, Muslims and Newage-ists: alienation with a system that strips people of a sense of community, a sense of a guiding morality, a sense of trust that one's fellow man is not trying to screw you at every turn.

*A long discussion is due here but I'd say that I think that the elimination of secularists and the left, with US help, has given an opening to fundamentalists in the region which has created a classic blowback. But so what, should we then support reactionaries who oppose corrupt Western backed movements just because they oppose imperialism?

The Scando countries that you are sympathizing with took in ‘those people’ not out of compassion but to leverage their cheap labor in keeping an aging society functioning.

*Agreed. They also have the most progressive societies ever created by humans.

The world as a whole has this dynamic hiding underneath the gated communities of national citizenship. Whether this struggle happens within the gates or is waged across them, the tension will continue to grow and explode.
All efforts toward world democracy will have to address these sensibilities.

*Agreed and we should continue to try to understand why certain retrograde movements have and will develop as a result of the current regime. But should we ally with and pander to the most reactionary elements in this struggle or work with those who are working towards an egalitarian, democratic and secular end?

Blair Wants Thought Crimes Prosecuted

The current British government wants to arrest anyone who "glorifies terrorism." Let's hope Nelson Mandela, George Bush, Gerry Adams, Ariel Sharon, Alexander Cockburn, Daniel Ortega, Fidel Castro, Naomi Klein,.......................... don't take any holidays in the Britain any time soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

History Has Not Ended

I debated posting this article because I disagree with much of what Fukuyama has written in the past and some of what he wrote in this article. In particular, I think his call for spying on and deporting minorities is reprehensible. I also feel he, of course, leaves out any analysis of the failure of social democracy and capitalism when it comes to employment so we are left with an incomplete picture. This being said I still think his anaylsis is particularly insightful when he describes the lack of connection Islamic youth have with Islamic society and how this creates radicalism.

A side note: the film My Son the Fanatic deals with these issues extremely well. See the link in the right margin. One of Om Puri's great performances.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The "Story" of Snow in the Northeast has Gone International

Once again we in the fly over zone have to hear about snow in the Northeast. For non-regular viewers here at the Red and Black there has been an ongoing discussion of the non-story of SNOW IN NEW YORK. It is the position here that this really is not that big of a deal and we are tired of hearing about it. Just because some yuppie in NJ is going to be late for work doesn't mean that the rest of us have to hear about it. AND NOW THE BBC IS IN ON IT!


On this day in 1961 Patrice Lumumba was declared dead. US and Belgian intelligence agents were involved in the assasination. The murder of Lumumba and the overthrow of the democratically elected government set into motion decades of rule, backed by the US with military, economic and diplomatic aid, that helped create one of the 20th (and 21st) centuries greatest human tragedies.

Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, the Dominican Rebuplic in 1965, Nicaragua in the 1980's, Venezuela in the present decade? All of these interventions (and a lot more) have had a profound effect on the people of those countries and beyond. The "Long War" has not just begun. It's been going on for at least 100 years. If we don't stop it there will be many, many more 9/11's. And not because "they" hate freedom.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Silvio "Jesus Christ" Berlusconi To Remain Celibate Until April 9!

Not sure how I missed this one? But lagging in the polls Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has promised to withhold "favors" until the election. Now was he talking about with his wife or his mistress? Also last week the tanned and tucked wonder compared himself to the crucified one!

Rahul Mahajan on the Cartoons

Check out the February 9 post in particular.

Nepal's Pragmatic Maoist Leader Gives Interview

Interview with Prachanda, Nepal's revolutionary leader.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Friday, February 10, 2006

New York in the Late Seventies and Early 1980's

Check out

this site on the New York Art Scene from 1974-84.

Bushies Exploit Cartoon Row

Condi Rice says Iran and Syria incited Muslims over their anger about the Danish cartoons. They certainly did but she failed to mention that the Egyptian, Turkish and Pakistani governments (and the Saudis who helped organize the boycotts) also tried to fan the flames for their own reasons. Hmmm, I wonder why she forget to mention them?

Jose Bove Stopped At Border

French anti-globalization activist Jose Bove is stopped by US Customs and not allowed to enter the US.

Yahoo Hands Over Search Info To Chinese Governemnt

Reporters Without Borders reports on how Yahoo helped jail a Chinese dissident. I'm sure he said horribly offensive things about the Chinese bureaucrats. We wouldn't want to offend them now.

Grizzly People

Where does Werner Herzog find these folks? I finally saw Grizzly Man last night after a number of people recommended it. Amazing. Megalomaniac guy with a death wish goes to Alaska every summer ("alone") to act like a grizzly bear and then he and his invisible girlfriend get eaten by a bear. Classic Werner. There is something compelling about the guy but at the same time he is so obviously delusional and troubled that you can't but feel for him. Incredible wild life photography as well as a study into the mind of someone that wanted out.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Socialism, Equality and Secularism

Counterpunch picked up the "chill out" post yesterday and I have received lots of email in response most positive but critics have brought up a few issues that I would like to clarify.

1) A few emails were from anti-semites and anti-immigrant racists who, I guess, can't deal with a mildly complex argument. To be clear, this site encourages a world without borders and capitalism that is controlled democratically. This assumes an equality of human beings. This site also recognizes that race, class and gender are intersecting forces that are used to oppress. In the last 400 years or so capitalism and industrialization have arisen from Europe which has put them on top. Europeans have taken advantage of this happenstance of history to dominate the planet using whatever methods they find at their disposal including diplomatic, religious, economic and military means. This has created a division of labor in the world that keeps primarily Northern "white" folks in charge of the levers of power. This unequal division of power and wealth needs to change.

2) Another set of emails ask the question, "what good can come of the cartoons?" None. But in a way this misses the point. Just because there is no socially redeeming quality to speech does not mean it should be banned. Racist and offensive speech needs to be protected. It should be protected because if the principle of free expression is respected across the board then true debate can exist. If we do not protect unpopular speech that we don't agree with, then who will protect unpopular ideas that we do agree with? We also can never get to the turth of the matter if certain taboo subjects are not allowed.

3) Lots of people tried to explain to me why Muslims would be offended by the cartoons. This also misses the point. A cartoon is speech. It will not hurt you. It is not claiming that the building you are in is on fire when it isn't. It was a cartoon that stereotyped Muslims and their most revered Prophet. Are people that easily offended? Do I get all upset when religious people say I am going to burn in hell forever? No, because I don't believe in hell. Agnosticism is something I think about everyday and is at the core of my being but if you make fun of me for it I don't care. For many atheists and agnostics religion is not only an illusionary way of thinking but a dangerous set of movements that have historically enslaved and oppressed people both literally and ideologically. For us the separation of church and state was an opening that not only stopped all kinds of sectarian violence but also gave rational thinking people the space to argue and yes lampoon mystical ideas.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The Nanny Press

"The nanny media, even more prudish since 9/11, covers our millions of eyes to protect us from our own icky deeds. In Afghanistan in 2001, while covering a war that had officially killed 12 civilians, I watched a colleague from a major television network collate footage of a B-52 bombing indiscriminately obliterating a civilian neighborhood. "If people saw what bombing looks like here on the ground, " he observed as body parts and burning houses and screaming children filled the screen, "they would demand an end to it. Which is why this will never air on American television." But other countries don't have our nanny media. Europeans and Arabs see the horror wreaked in our name on their airwaves, assume that we see the same imagery and hate us for not giving a damn. America's self-censors make anti-Americanism worse."

Good column on the real threat, self-censorship.

The "Left" and I Part Company On This One

Robert Fisk, Socialist Worker, random letters to the editor everywhere and many other "leftists" have all taken the position that the cartoons published in the Danish paper and elsewhere are primarily a representation of Western racism and should be condemned. Nonsense.

As a leftist I thought that our goal was liberation through thorough and robust debate and confronting irrational ideas and superstition in particular? This means that if someone is offended because we say that the world is round then too bad. The truth hurts. If we are constantly weary of offending, then truth, yes I believe in such a thing, will never over come the backward state of affairs today that allows gays to be treated like second class citizens, intelligent design to be taught in schools and people in the US and Britain to believe that the war in Iraq is being prosecuted for humanitarian ends.

Much of the sentiment not to offend and to side with reactionaries at times comes from a sincere desire to defend oppressed people and expose the hypocrisy of Western imperialism that consistently speaks of democracy and tolerance and practices support for dictatorship and racist laws at home and abroad. In Europe and the United States it also comes from a desire to side with people of color who have traditionally not assimilated into our societies as well as people from other European countries. And this gets to the crux of the matter, assimilation. If a society is going to function a certain set of ideas must be widely accepted otherwise sectarian conflict will ensue. This is not to say that Vietnamese or Algerians that move to France should all have to become Christians or cook fancy entrees but they should accept that women's equality before the law or universal suffrage need to be accepted.

In the Western tradition, where today's Left traces its roots, the American and French revolutions put into practice universal values that have allowed us to create political systems that now allow universal suffrage and equal protection before the law. This is not the end of our program, nay it is just the beginning, but it is a start that puts us, those who embrace universal values, ahead of those who choose a chosen group or a sacred text as the basis for society. Anticipating the counter-argument, that the West at times uses these values to enforce intolerance and is just as exclusive as alternative systems, I would agree to a degree, but this does not negate the fact that the Rights of Man or the Bill of Rights allows ALL people to be accepted and treated as equals not just a specific ethnic group or a divinely anointed. We should then embrace liberal ideas when freedom will be advanced by such a defense. Not as Confederates did to defend slavery but as Northerners did to liberate.

The Left then should defend the oppressed, but not blindly. Multi-culturalists in particular have had a hard time with this idea seemingly supporting every movement from the Nation of Islam to the Tamil Tigers. Just because people are discriminated against doesn't mean that the movement that they found to over come this discrimination is worthy of support. If the movement that would come to power as a result of victory would be worse for the women or workers of said movement, then it is not worthy of unconditional support.

Another way of looking at the issue is through the lens of immigration. Let's say there is a small Scandinavian country with a functioning social democratic system and you want to do your internationalist duty and allow millions of people to come into your country from all over the world where people are fleeing economic and political despotism. If said immigrants bring with them backward ideas, like sexism, religious superstition, belief in inequality, etc... what will be the result for your good deed? It could transform the place into a backward place not because said immigrants are inferior human beings but because their cultural traditions have been respected. Should we thus sacrifice equality and social democracy on the alter of tolerance for oppressed groups?

To the cartoons. They may have been published by racists to inflame. So what? Chill out Jihadis; fly a kite, smoke a joint and jerk off to a Playboy if you are so uptight.

Nanny State in High Gear

The BBC, after many years of fierce right wing and government attacks, has now retreated to the safe-haven of the advocates of all that is good and wholesome-no cigarettes, blind nationalist cheerleading (multi-culturalism), celebration of the crown, murder news and celebrity star gazing. This story combines two of their favorites-celebs and we are watching out for you do-gooderism. It also is subliminally populist and nationalist, "can you believe how those American millionaire pop stars behave." Bullocks!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

No Naked Chicks

Indonesian dudes don't want playboy on the shelf. Yikes! Have these guys ever seen Playboy?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Not To Be Out Done Iran Cuts All Trade With Denmark

Trade ends between Iran and Denmark. By the way, in Shia Islam it is not considered blasphemy to show a picture of Mahammed. With this in mind it makes one think why exactly governments are taking a position, and drastic action-allowing embassies to be burned, recalling ambassadors, calling for boycotts, on such a seemingly obscure incident?

Reactionary regimes everywhere take note. If you want to rally the masses pick a symbolic issue with a small country that will not threaten your regime or economy and play it to the hilt. The external enemy card plays well and we all know they hate us because......

Village In Bali Outraged By Mick Jagger Utterance of Word "Come" World Leaders Ask For Calm

Geriatric "singer" Mick Jagger is thankfully censored by ABC during Super Bowl XL. Another world crisis is averted.

The Iranian government was particularly relieved given that it is rumored that dead men (in particular gay one's that have been executed by the government) actually do come.

A Lecture on Tolerance!?

Here's the official position on cartoons in Denmark from the Sudanese government. A government, by the way, that has just finished a 20 year Jihad against the Christian south (which conveniently is ending as oil has been discovered there) and currently is prosecuting an ethnic clensing campaign against a minority in Darfur. A plea for tolerence? This is from the BBC.

Dr Lam Akol is the Sudanese foreign minister. Sudan called for a boycott of Danish goods and called off the visit of a Danish minister

"There is a problem in that you need to be mindful of what other people think and believe and feel. The world is becoming like a village, you can't suppress what is being published in the West from the Third World."

Is he calling for the suppression of speech here? Should we all worry now about what we write because some lunatic in Atlanta or Ho Chi Minh City might be offended by what I say?

"It is very important when people want to promote religious dialogue and co-existence to avoid such issues."

Again, dialogue for what reason? So that a veto on offensive speech can now reign from any corner of the planet?

"In the Third World they hardly separate between what is a journalist and what is the Danish government's point of view."

Not just the Third World buddy. Lot's of rich country's also have pliant and state controlled or influnced media. And so what? Even if it is the majority's opinion that the holocaust doesn't exist or angels exist should we stop thinking or saying things because you might be offended?

"Once a Danish paper has published something then it is concluded that this is the opinion of everybody in Denmark. So that is the kind of feeling that should have been understood from the beginning."

Because people are misinformed we all need to change our ideas of freedom and actions to make the ignorant few (many?) happy. Now that's a novel idea (or is it?).

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Intolerance Revisited

Some sober words about fundamentalism and the West. Freedom of the press and speech are truly only useful if they are defended when they count. The problem isn't that religion and other preposterous ideas are being ridiculed too much, the problem is that they are not parodied enough. I guess the Catholic church's official line on the Life of Brian is that it is blasphemy. Does any one really think that Catholicism has declined because of this film? What exactly are they so concerned about? In recent history have there been any significant pogroms against Catholics or Muslims in the West? I think not. Our current leadership loves to pander to fundamentalists of all flavors these days because they are part of their political coalitions and paradoxically this same group allows them to wage war against other fundamentalists. Dangerous times indeed.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Joint Chiefs Are Mad

At a cartoon! Maybe they should ask their buddies in Saudi Arabia how to deal with this trouble maker Toles.

Check Your Rights at the Door

Cindy Sheehan arrested for wearing a t-shirt!
"The officers made a good-faith, but mistaken, effort to enforce an old unwritten interpretation of the prohibitions about demonstrating in the Capitol," Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said in a statement.

Im other words wearing a shirt is protesting and we will arrest you thus helping the president and then drop the charge later hoping you won't bother.


A common refrain we hear here in the US is that our country is the most free EVER. Without going into a long historical discussion of the limitations of the US Constitution, the power of private capital, the formal system of Aparthied that existed until very recently, the limitations on the franchise, etc....I think we should ask ourselves, would ABC News or the LA Times print blasphemous material in solidarity with the Danish paper that printed a caricature of Muhammed as a terrorist? I will be surprised if they do.

The German paper Die Welt and the French France Soir have done this today. Now their motives nonwithstanding ($ or racism) in a free society we have the right to say whatever we want and if others don't like this too bad.

Should we go out of our way to antagonize minority groups by ridiculing their traditions and beliefs? No. But how else can we get through to the masses (sans m?) who believe that angels are looking out for them or that a few thousand years ago some all powerful spirit flooded this tiny planet amongst trillions and trillions of planets and had all the species of this planet put on a really big boat to save them all because he was going to kill all the rest of the humans except for one family. This type of flat earth thinking needs some ridicule otherwise people will continue to vote for simpletons like Reagan and Bush.