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The exercise of power is determined by thousands of interactions between the world of the powerful and that of the powerless, all the more so because these worlds are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of himself in both - Vaclav Havel
Sunday, April 29, 2007
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Bill-O on Poor People and Iraqis
Olbermann: O'Reilly's "real anger and real fear rests in the dread that someone is quoting him correctly" (do yourself a favour and watch the Olbermann video)
In the Fox News "Noise" investigation, Media Matters is some sort of major cog in an evil liberal spider web -- one of his guests describing it as part of "an incredibly well-oiled machine."
You want to see oily? Thanks to Media Matters, you can watch Mr. Orally confronted last Friday the 13th by his own words during an interview on Irish television.
[begin video clip]KENNY: Yeah. Some of the things that you've said and -- either on your radio show or on your TV show: "Advice to the poor, it's hard to do it, because you got to look people in the eye and tell them they're irresponsible and lazy. And who's going to do that?"
O'REILLY: Well, where did you get that, because I don't remember saying that?
KENNY: That's Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly; 11/06/2004.
O'REILLY: By whom? Who put that out?
KENNY: Well, we got it off the website.
O'REILLY: OK. The website you got it off is called Media Matters, which is an assassination website.
KENNY: But you do have views on, say, the Iraqi people. Did you say that thing about the Iraqi people -- that they're "prehistoric"?
O'REILLY: No, I don't remember saying that at all.
[end video clip]
OLBERMANN: I do. Being the mainstream media tools that we are, we scrolled around Media Matters and found the full quote about the poor from his radio show dated June 11, 2004. It is in full: "It's hard to do it, because you got to look people in the eye and tell them that they're irresponsible and lazy. And who's going to want to do that? Because that's what poverty is, ladies and gentlemen. In this country, you can succeed if you get educated and work hard. Period. Period."
Ah, but what about his calling the Iraqis "prehistoric"? Remember, Alberto Gonzales O'Reilly did not recall saying that. That's OK. Media Matters has a tape.O'REILLY [audio clip]: When 2 percent of the population feels that you're doing them a favor, just forget it. You're not going to win. You're not going to win.
And I don't have any respect, by and large, for the Iraqi people at all. I have no respect for them. I think that they're a prehistoric group that is -- yeah, there's excuses.
OLBERMANN: Did you say excuses? Yes, we have one of those, too.
When word got out about his embarrassing Irish TV interview, here's what the big giant head had to say about it in his April 19th column: "When I asked the man why he was quoting from an obviously biased source, he blinked nervously and put down the cards."
Friday, April 27, 2007
Over at FalseDichotomies Alex is taking what I'll call a military sabbatical. FD has been one of the most interesting blogs in the category (for want of a better term) progressive Zionists that I've come across and it stays firmly on my blogroll.
In Alex' own words:
But the argument is over. I’m really not sure there’s anything interesting to say anymore about Israel and Palestine. And I’m tired of arguing. I’ll continue to do it, of course – as long as people continue to peddle absurdities – but it’s deeply tiring. It’s easy to construct an argument. It’s easy to critique false dichotomies. But it’s not something that nourishes people. Only stories do that. The question now is: how do we create stories that can contribute to peace in the Middle East?
Is it stories that we need to contribute to peace in the Middle East? I'm not so sure. We certainly have no shortage of stories, as in distortions, exaggerations, chest-beating and plain old lies n' fabrications that don't contribute anything to peace and it all comes from both sides; it takes two to tango after all.
And so, I'll give Alex and Co. the benefit of the doubt. This could be interesting anyhow, considering Alex will shortly be joining the IDF, an institution of which he has been openly critical, vis-à-vis Israel's behaviour (I'm treading carefully here) in the occupied territories.
As the song goes, this is not the end, my friend:
Of course, we shall return to the blogosphere. I hope to return with a new blog by the end of the year. And we shall continue to write for Comment is Free [The Guardian, my edit]. And if you’re interested in hearing about life in the IDF, I shall be sending out an email about my experiences. Drop a line to email@example.com if you want to sign up. Finally, thanks for reading.
I've signed up and will, with permission, reprint some of these emails at this here soapbox. So long...
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Eugenics Rides a Time Machine
H.G. Wells' outline of genocide (article contains useful external links).
By David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart March 26, 2002
Eugenics -- the discredited "science" that justified customizing people to service the goals of the state by making them bigger, better, whiter, you name it -- is back. In fact, it's playing at a multiplex near you in the form of the latest version of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.
Wells' novel, first published in 1895, tells the story of a future Earth where humanity has evolved into two separate "races." Descendants of the working class have become subterranean, ape-like, night creatures who live by eating the decadent descendants of the old upper class. This evolutionary nightmare reflected Victorian ideas about race and hierarchy, and about the undesirable direction that evolution might take if the better sort of people didn't intervene. These concerns are in fact a notable and recurring aspect of Victorian literature. Charles Kingsley's 1862-63 children's novel, The Water-Babies, for example, features a race that is free to "DoAsYouLike"; it devolves into apes. Kingsley's tale merges Thomas Carlyle's Gospel of Obedience with a version of evolutionary biology of the day.
Eugenics as a science has dared not speak its name since the Holocaust, and contemporary readers and viewers may not recognize a eugenics tract when they see one. But the purpose of The Time Machine was clear in its time, which was also the heyday of eugenics. Here, for example, is Irving Fisher, the great economist, giving his 1912 presidential address to the Eugenics Research Association: "The Nordic race will... vanish or lose its dominance if, in fact, the whole human race does not sink so low as to become the prey, as H. G. Wells images, of some less degenerate animal!"
Wells plays a particularly interesting role in the eugenics movement. In 1904 he discussed a survey paper by Francis Galton, co-founder of eugenics. Galton had concerned himself mainly with "positive eugenics," proposing for instance that the marriage of college professors, supposedly the best of the race, be subsidized. But this was feeble stuff for Wells, who urged the adoption of a negative breeding policy. "I believe," he wrote, "that now and always the conscious selection of the best for reproduction will be impossible; that to propose it is to display a fundamental misunderstanding of what individuality implies. The way of nature has always been to slay the hindmost, and there is still no other way, unless we can prevent those who would become the hindmost being born. It is in the sterilization of failure, and not in the selection of successes for breeding, that the possibility of an improvement of the human stock lies."
Wells' crude notions of racial hierarchy were overt. Here is what he had to say about the black/white intermarriage: "The mating of two quite healthy persons may result in disease. I am told it does so in the case of interbreeding of healthy white men and healthy black women about the Tanganyka region; the half-breed children are ugly, sickly, and rarely live." It is a signature of the deepest racism of this period that blacks and whites were considered to be a species apart so that their marriage was no more productive than that of a horse and donkey.
Wells was nothing if not energetic. Late in his life, his discussion with Joseph Stalin (scroll down) about the good society was published with comments by G. B. Shaw, J. M. Keynes and others. Unlike Stalin, who trusted that the Party would bring progress, Wells believed in the Scientific Elite. "Now," he told Stalin in 1934, "there is a superabundance of technical intellectuals, and their mentality has changed very sharply. The skilled man, who would formerly never listen to revolutionary talk, is now greatly interested in it. Recently I was dining with the Royal Society, our great English scientific society. The President's speech was a speech for social planning and scientific control. To-day, the man at the head of the Royal Society holds revolutionary views, and insists on the scientific reorganisation of human society."
The new movie version of The Time Machine may be an improvement on Wells. The novel's main character, simply called the Time Traveler, goes from Victorian London to a distant future. He was a member of the technological elite who pursued knowledge for its own sake. In the new movie, the character is much better realized, with a name and a history. In the novel, the generating mechanism for the bifurcation of the human race is unrestrained industrialization; in the new film, it is an eco-disaster generated when greedy capitalists blow up the moon. Most interesting of all, the separate evolution into predators and prey in the new version is the result of the decision of a de facto eugenics committee.
In fact, the movie does something that seems rather truer to the eugenics message than the book. In the book, the Traveler eventually decides to return to the present. Since the two new "races" of the future are both subhuman, what is to keep him? And, since the apish night people are sufficiently slow to be terrified of fire, his return is accomplished with relatively few deaths. In the movie, the Traveler wishes to stay and he employs his superior technology to exterminate the night people. Because the night people are parasites, their extermination is justified.
As economist Deirdre McCloskey has conjectured, the experience of "negative eugenics" in the Holocaust (exterminating those who do not serve the state's goals) has proven to be no firewall against an evil idea. Here, for example, is an extraordinary defense of the idea, one that appeared in London's Telegraph on March 10. "Eugenics," wrote A.N. Wilson, "was simply the notion that the useful and intelligent classes should be allowed, indeed encouraged, to breed, and the murderous morons, who are never going to contribute anything except misery to themselves and others should be discouraged."
Victorian critics of markets had a wide range of parasites -- the Jewish vampire, Irish and Jamaican cannibals, and the cant-spouting evangelical economist among them. The Telegraph is concerned with "hooligans." The Nazis were concerned with Jews. The contemporary critics of globalism who defend the acts of 9/11 carry on this tradition with a vocabulary of their own. If it is justifiable to exterminate parasites, is it a far step to justify the extermination of someone labeled "parasite"?
The Onion on the Middle East...
Middle East Conflict Intensifies As Blah Blah Blah, Etc. Etc.
Sponsored by MIDDLE EAST—With the Iraq war in its fifth year, the war in Afghanistan in its sixth, and conflict between Israel and the rest of the region continuing unabated for more than half a century, intelligence sources are warning that a new wave of violence in the Middle East may soon blah blah blah, etc. etc., you know the rest.
Yet another act of violence in response to something else terrible that occurred in, oh, let's say Basra.
"Tensions in the region are extremely high," said U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, who added the same old same old while answering reporters' questions. "We're disappointed by the events of the last few months, but we're confident that we're about to [yakety yakety yak]."
The U.N. has issued a strongly worded whatever denouncing someone or something presumably having to do with the vicious explosive things that raged across this, or shattered the predawn calm of that, or ripped suddenly through the other, killing umpteen innocent civilians in a Jerusalem bus or Beirut discotheque or Fallujah mosque or whatever it was this time.
Either a car bomb killed people or a car hit a roadside bomb, killing people.
In the aftermath of a whole series of incidents, there have also been troubling reports of just fill in the blanks. Middle East experts say the still somehow worsening situation has inflamed age-old sectarian tensions between the Sunnis, Shiites, Semites, Kurds, Turks, Saudis, Persians, Wahhabis, radicals, extremists, Baathists, mullahs, clerics, et al, which is likely to lead to more gurgle-gurgle over the coming weeks and months.
A certain number of U.S. troops were also killed somewhere in some tragic fashion, while a much greater number were wounded. Meanwhile, impoverished or oppressed supporters of whichever faction carried out the attack or ambush probably celebrated, angering an angry U.S. public that is already angry. Locals are calling for an investigation into excessive force or outright corruption by military or political officials on one of the 15 sides of the various conflicts, although the implicated party has categorically denied wrongdoing, just like they always do, without fail, every time this happens, which is daily, it seems.
And in Afghanistan, the Taliban.
In Israel, Palestinians and Israelis escalated tensions and so on and so on ad infinitum, ad eternum, and some say, ad absurdum, and although Hamas released a statement condemning Israeli forces for the resulting civilian deaths, Israeli officials say the teens were armed with rocket launchers, though it doesn't really matter.
Also, Ahmadinejad, Iran's nuclear program, bin Laden at large, Moqtada al-Sadr, Moqtada al-Sadr's militia, Fallujah, renegade mullahs, embedded and/or beheaded journalists, oil revenues, stockpiles of former Soviet armaments, freedom, racism, Halliburton, women's role in Islamic society, the Quran, withdrawing troops, economic disparities, Sikhs, Pakistanis, oil, rebuilding, stories of hope, the Saudi royal family, the Holy Land, insurgents, and the tragedy of Sept. 11th.
In an attempt to increase public support of whatever the fuck it is he thinks he's doing, President Bush trotted out the same old whoop-de-do you've heard over and over at a solemn-yet-resolute speech attended by soldiers, or religious leaders, or firemen, or some mix of ethnic-looking people from one of those countries.
"We have to give this plan time to wop bop a loo bop, a wop bam boom, ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang," President Bush may as well have said. "May God [help/bless/save] the United States of America."
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Earth-like exoplanet discovered...
A story that undoubtedly requires much corroboration but caught my fancy as an amateur astronomer. No time to wave to ET's yet though:
New 'super-Earth' found in space (images and video link included)
The new planet is not much bigger than the Earth
Astronomers have found the most Earth-like planet outside our Solar System to date, a world which could have water running on its surface.
The planet orbits the faint star Gliese 581, which is 20.5 light-years away in the constellation Libra.
Scientists made the discovery using the Eso 3.6m Telescope in Chile.
They say the benign temperatures on the planet mean any water there could exist in liquid form, and this raises the chances it could also harbour life.
"We have estimated that the mean temperature of this 'super-Earth' lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid," explained Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory, lead author of the scientific paper reporting the result.
"Moreover, its radius should be only 1.5 times the Earth's radius, and models predict that the planet should be either rocky - like our Earth - or covered with oceans." Full story
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
JudeophobeWatch.blogspot.com: a new resource against anti-Semitism
From Bacon Eating Atheist Jew, who also owns, well... baconeatingatheistjew, comes a new initiative, JudeophobeWatch.
In Bacon's own words, here's the new blog's mission statement:
This site gives normal human beings a chance to debunk, refute, chastise, and debate anti-semitic postings from various Judeophobic web sites, like Crescent and Cross, for example. The cowards who spew their anti-Semitic bull do not normally allow normal human beings to comment on their drivel.
When a blog search is made for those on the lunatic fringe like David Duke and Mark Glenn, I want my new site to be one of the search results. And hopefully the posts will have some intelligent comments on them, so that people doing searches can see that the premises of Joooo haters are seriously flawed, as is most the revisionist history and unsubstantiated rhetoric that goes hand in hand with the anti-Semite's spewings.
For JudeophobeWatch to show up in relevant search engine listings, the site needs to be linked to in a relevant way. So all yee who care to see anti-Semitism banished to the trashcan of history where it belongs, or at least believe that it needs to be contained and combated, link to this new resource in the fight against these moronic anti-Semites. For maximum effect, use anchor text that contains the relevant key phrases: anti-Semitism and its synonyms and related terms.
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Never the twain shall meet
Hebron used to be a meeting point between Israelis and Palestinians, but today that sort of interaction has largely gone.
Seth Freedman in CiF
One of the abiding memories of my pre-aliyah trips to Israel is the first time I went to the Cave of Machpela in Hebron. Buried there are the three patriarchs and four matriarchs of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths, and as such the site is of enormous spiritual importance. I travelled there during the relative lull between the first and second intifadas, and the journey from Jerusalem was a far simpler exercise than the average tourist would face today.
As I prayed at one of the tombs with my father I glanced through a metal grille over to the other side of the chamber, where Palestinian worshippers were praying with equal fervour. So near, yet so far - a shared ancient history, indeed, yet a recent past that had divided the two sides almost irreconcilably, to the point that they could not even pray together in peace.
And what a difference an intifada makes. The infamous security wall, the equally notorious maze of checkpoints, the tortuous inquisitions as you try to get from A to B, have all but destroyed the once-burgeoning tourism industry in the West Bank, as well as slammed the brakes on any interaction between the natives on either side of the divide. Hebron, as the more moderate Israelis and Palestinians love to reminisce, used to be one of several meeting points between the two peoples. Israelis on weekend trips would throng the bustling markets over the Green Line, buying up Palestinian goods and interacting with their neighbours in a way that seems almost incomprehensible to today's battle-hardened generation.
Kipling's famous phrase - "Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet" - sounds apt for a region oft described as the fault line between the Arab world and the west, yet it doesn't quite tell the whole story. Full story here.
Friday, April 20, 2007
Mark Glenn and David Duke get cosy...
Mark Glenn, Stefania Glenn's father, and David Duke have a good old knees up at the expense of the Joooos, regarding one of the oldest Jewish canards of recent US history, the accidental bombing of the USS Liberty which many anti-Semites to this day roll out as evidence of Jewish perfidity.
Not really worth rebutting one more time: what happened is well established. But the conspiracy nutjob's mind is grotty, stubborn and above all, self-serving.
Mark Glenn is of course, to put it in Bacon Eating Atheist Jew's words, a certifiably insane coward and I don't easily (cough!) resort to such language.
From that email "exchange" (link above), Mark writes: "However, after writing that piece the other night with your comments in, it got about 15,000 hits on my website and am selling books ˜out the wazoo as they say."
Mark, I don't believe a word you say. If anybody's buying your books they must live in a place where bogroll is in desperately short supply.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Ismail AX - Latest Conspiracy Theory: Islam responsible for VA Tech Massacre!
You couldn't make this up if you wanted too: another conspiracy nut job case. Mainly from Fox originates a story linking the words Ismail AX to the Korean gun nut responsible for the VA Tech murders:
Sources told the Tribune that the words "ISMAIL AX" were also found written in red ink on the inside of one of Cho's arms.
The cyber-sentinels of IslamicThreat turned it into this:
Just heard it on Fox News. Cho Seung-Hui left a suicide note and signed it as Ismael-AX (or Ismail-AX as the media published just now).
and quickly embroidered on it some more here:
Liviu Librescu, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, lost his life trying to save the life of students. How ironic! Ishmael strikes again! A man using the name of the father of the Muslims kills a descendant of Isaac."
Another story has it that Ismail-AX was his gaming nickname but didn't attribute any religious connotations to it. More conspiracy nuggets here... (Google blog results) Extra! Extra! Read all about it...
Let's blame Islam for this one too. The fundienutz are lapping it all up eagerly...
Despite the fact that evidence for the Cho-Islam connection seems to be entirely lacking and that all evidence points to the thesis of a deranged lone gunman, the "Ismail AX" croc, in good conspiracy theory tradition, has taken root in the less smart part of the blagghing networks. There aren't that many that don't look at the Islamic connection with deep scepticism, but those that buy into it are also out there and almost invariably of the fundamentalist Judeo-Christian variety.
It would be all too easy to dismiss these people as a small minority, not really worthy of time and attention but the fact of the matter is that this ratcheting up the rhetoric of "t'wos Muslim vermin wot did it" without evidence, substance or proof is frankly speaking nudging us one more small step forward toward the "clash of civilisations", even though, bloggosphere-wise at least, for the time being it appears more like a clash of the nincompoops.
Here's one blogger who's bought the whole croc hook, line and sinker, convinced of course that the MSM are simply covering up the connection. As if the absence of the story in the MSM actually proves his position, which of course it doesn't in any way, shape or form.
Rather tellingly, Mad Zionist's stance has already attracted the attention of one French Muslim commenter, who's vowed to take it out on some of Mad Zionist's French brethren. To Mad Zionist this will of course be further proof of the utter perfidity of Islam and Muslims and the fact that (in his own words) "Islam is a terror organisation that needs to be eradicated". To the Muslim radical, it will simply confirm the stereotype of Muslim hating Westerners. No good can come of either position.
Whilst most of the world's conflict are essentially not religious in nature but are really about land, resources and power, religion continues time and time again to be hijacked by leaders and their acolytes to rally the troops around the common cause. And slogans from a dim and distant past, based on often meaningless phrases and derived from ancient scrolls that have lost much of their significance vis-à-vis the modern world continue to provide the rhetoric and battle-cries of wars, past, present and future...
It makes me be proud to be an agnostic/atheist no end.
Anti-Semitism by a 14-year old: like father like daughter
H/T Bacon Eating Atheist Jew.
Whilst the charge of anti-Semitism is sometimes incorrectly used and inappropriate use unfortunately diminishes the true meaning of the term, virulent and rabid anti-Semitism is regrettably still very much alive. Like other forms of racism or xenophobia, it takes on the form of a meme that, like a gene, is passed on from generation to generation. Like real genes, memes can disappear from the gene-pool but they tend to have rather a long half-life. And new "justifications" for these old hatreds are being concocted daily.
Here's what one anti-Semitic father (Mark Glenn) has managed to instil in his 14-year old daughter, Stefania. Remember, she's 14 YEARS OF AGE. Perhaps as shocking at least as Stefania's hate piece, is the chorus of approval it gets from a ritz of commenters. Hardly a single voice of dissent, apart from Bacon's. It's clear: Jooooos control the Medjuh because when this nincompoopy daughter-like-father spills her sick guts, a bunch of yes-sayers enthusiastically cheers her along on her "fine writing".
I'm not going to reprint or rebut this kind of filth here, Bacon Eating Atheist Jew's has already dirtied his hands in my place, by doing just that.
Whilst Jewish vigilance of anti-Semitism has lead occasionally to over-reactions (this is also true of those guarding against other forms of xenophobia), with people like little Stefania and her audience about, it's clear we have to stay on guard, lest this oldest of hatreds flares up again and infects the world on the scale we've seen in the past... Racism, in some respects, is clearly on the march again.
And Bacon, you know I disapprove of your ridiculous "let's nuke Iran" stance but other than that, I'm with you on this one all the way...
Gun control: the US view
Via Guardian newsblog - article contains many useful links
By Matthew Weaver / USA 09:48am
After the deadliest mass shooting in American history you might think that Virginia Tech killings would prompt a rethink about gun control in the US. But No. If anything American's stance of the right to bear arms is hardening, judging by what the bloggers have to say.
Trish and Halli, two harmless looking old ladies who post "great recipe" suggestions from Idaho, argue that some of the 32 deaths could have been prevented if guns had been more freely available.
Halli posts: "If some students and faculty had been carrying their legally permitted guns today, it is likely that a few deaths would have occurred. However, in at least two instances the murderer chained classroom doors closed and proceeded to fire at students. In all likelihood an armed student would have stopped him before 32 people had been executed."
Similarly Frank Staheli argues that if more students carried gun there would be fewer spree killings.
The National Rifle Association is reluctant to be drawn on the issue. But Gun Owners of America demands a end to gun-free zones in schools and campuses. It says: "It is irresponsibly dangerous to tell citizens that they may not have guns at schools. The Virginia Tech shooting shows that killers have no concern about a gun ban when murder is in their hearts."
So what about the politicians? The leading Democratic presidential contenders all steer clear of advocating gun control. Instead Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards all turn to prayer.
According to Robin Toner on the New York Times political blogging site the Caucus says that Democrat hopefuls don't want to harm their chances of election by calling for gun control as Al Gore did in 2000.
John Nichols in the Nation argues that US has failed to learn the lesson of Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine.
While Raised in Chaos calls for a deeper examination of the malaise in American society.
She says: "The issue is not guns, and while I personally believe there should be no need for them in a "civilized" society, and that fucking ANYONE shouldn't be able to pick up a rifle and a pack of Cheetos at your local Wal-Mart, this is not the context in which to have this debate. Instead, when a man with a gun (and do we know yet if he was a student or not?) strolls into a college dormitory at 7 a.m. and starts shooting people at random, we really need to take a critical look at the kind of society we live in."
Friday, April 13, 2007
Racism: a History
In the framework of the commemoration of the abolition of slavery, the BBC has been commissioning a number of films documenting racism and its origins. One of the most interesting is called Racism: a History, which traces the record of racism from its 16th century origins to present day racism in Britain and elsewhere.
It covers ideas on race from antiquity on, the genocide committed by the conquistadores, the emergence of the slave trade, the genocide committed by King Leopold II in the Congo Free State which cost an estimated 10 million Congolese lives, the Namibian genocide, racial segregation under the Jim Crow laws in 20th century America, the apartheid regime of South Africa, the origins of the Black and White Minstrel Show, recent race riots in Britain and more beside that. In essence, the documentary shows with tremendous clarity that white-on-black racism in particular, historically speaking is driven by profit.
Although it's a must-see, this is not for the faint of heart: a number of horrific and in today's world unimaginable crimes carried out by whites on blacks in pre and post-WW II America are shown too, a part of history that has largely been airbrushed out of the history books of that country.
Parts 2 to 6 can be found here.
Related post on the commemoration of the abolition of slavery
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Helium 3: Black Gold on the Moon?
Yesterday the BBC's popular science program Horizon was a bit of an eye-opener. Apart from featuring a guy who's become a millionaire selling lunar real estate to (Hollywood) stars (how, pray tell?), it also sported an ex-Apollo astronaut (Harrison Schmidt) who's founded a company that plans to mine Helium 3 (He3) on the moon, as well as a leading Russian rocketeer who plans to do the same.
So what's the story? He3 is supposed to be the beesknees in terms of fuel for fusion reactors. These reactors fuse Helium 3 and Deuterium together in a manner that's very similar to the reactions that take place in the core of our sun (and most other stars) and which yield similar, ginormous amounts of energy.
Simply put, He3-D fusion reactors are the Holy grail of commercial energy production and offer the prospect of limitless production of pollution-free energy (and no carbon dioxide either!) Compared to other fusion reactions currently being developed, He3-D produces far less fast neutrons, the latter being a nuisance factor, apparently. There's only one snag: He3 on Earth is exceedingly rare and apparently only occurs in decommissioned nuclear weapons (huh?)
Enter the Moon as a giant He3 open mine. How? He3 is part of the charged particles the sun flares off in large amounts, known also as the Solar Wind. The Earths magnetic field and atmosphere deflects these particles but on the bare Moon they simply hit the surface and some become absorbed in the powdery soil. Over billions of years, this has turned the Moon's surface into a potential El Dorado for lunar He3 diggers. About 25 tonnes of the stuff would be enough to provide all energy requirements of the US for one year.
Alternatively, one could see the Moon as the new Middle East (but without Arabs) and with massive land-grabs looming over the lunar horizon...
Related articles here and here.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
The Spectre of the 1953 Iran Coup
Many British and American citizens remain ignorant about the causes of the animosity between their countries and that most famous member of "the axis of evil", Iran. A process of mutual demonisation by means of fiery rhetoric and propaganda would have us all believe that this enmity has arisen out of a vacuum, as if Satan himself stirred the pot. Nothing could be further removed from the truth. The reality is that in the same way that other conflicts always have historical roots, this one too is firmly rooted in the past. A past that in the British case goes back to 1953 and beyond.
As Jonathan Freedman put it:
The Iranians have revealed just as much of themselves these past two weeks. First, they have offered a glimpse of the Anglophobia which - as the Guardian's Robert Tait reported in G2 - is deeply entrenched in Iranian culture, but which may come as a surprise to Britons, who tend to be more forgetful of our imperial past than those who lived at its sharp end. "They're obsessed by it," says Iranian specialist Dr Ali Ansari, noting that the resentment goes back not only to the British role in the 1953 coup which removed Iran's elected prime minister, but to the 19th century, when Britain used Iran as a protective buffer alongside India. While neighbouring Russia deployed hard military might, Britain has always relied on the blacker arts of power politics. Accordingly, says Ansari, "It's an easy sell in Iran to cast the English as the arch-manipulators."
A good summary of the 1953 coup and its ramifications can be found here:
A new book about the coup, All the Shah's Men, which is based on recently released CIA documents, describes how the CIA - with British assistance - undermined Mossadegh's government by bribing influential figures, planting false reports in newspapers and provoking street violence. Led by an agent named Kermit Roosevelt, the grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, the CIA leaned on a young, insecure Shah to issue a decree dismissing Mossadegh as prime minister. By the end of Operation Ajax, some 300 people had died in firefights in the streets of Tehran.
The crushing of Iran's first democratic government ushered in more than two decades of dictatorship under the Shah, who relied heavily on US aid and arms. The anti-American backlash that toppled the Shah in 1979 shook the whole region and helped spread Islamic militancy, with Iran's new hardline theocracy declaring undying hostility to the US.
The author of All the Shah's Men, New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, argues that the coup planted the seeds of resentment against the US in the Middle East, ultimately leading to the events of September 11.
We also hear a lot about these Iranian bloggers and their plight but rarely give them a voice. Here's one Iranian blogger about Ahmedinejad and the prospect of American military force against Iran:
We need to tell the 40 percent of people who favor military force:
-That Ahmadinejad for all of his rhetoric only represents one of many circles of power in Iran - he does not have the same power as an American president and is not the one who makes the final decisions.
-That the Iranian leadership is not insane. It is made up of fat, rich, comfortable akhunds who don't have a messianic death wish. They want to retain their power at any cost, not bring bombs down on their heads. They may not want to be America's friends, but that doesn't mean they won't curb their more radical tendencies as long as any reasonable offers take into account their own desire for self-preservation and regional influence. (This might also require the U.S. to curb its own radical tendencies).
-That Iran is not the bleak, repressive society of Saddam's Iraq, Khadafi's Libya or Kim Jong-il's North Korea. There is more political freedom in Iran than there is in Saudia Arabia, Egypt and other American allies in the Middle East. It is far from a perfect society but it is dynamic and changing.
More English language Iranian blogs here.
On Israel, America and AIPAC
George Soros on the need for renewed US debate on the Israeli/Palestinian question and the role of AIPAC in this lengthy but excellent article published in the The New York Review of Books.
Third, the professed respect for criticism is a sham when it is not permitted “to condemn Israeli actions and, at the same time, to forego any realistic historical and political frameworks that might account for such actions.” As presented by Rosenfeld, this formula implies that Israel’s actions have to be justified, right or wrong. The appeal to a “realistic framework” aims to rationalize the Israeli position. Criticism ought to be considered on its merits and not by any other yardstick. Suppressing criticism when it is deemed to be unpatriotic has been immensely harmful both in the case of Israel and the United States. It has allowed the Bush administration and the Sharon/Olmert government to pursue disastrous policies. Read on...
Pelosi Wears Hijab! The West Has Lost!
Some rightwing kneejerkers are getting their knickers in a twist over the latest liberal outrage: Pelosi in the Middle East (WOW! Scary stuff!). Here's a funny take on Nancy Pelosi's visit to Syria and why her wearing a headscarf isn't the End of Civilisation as We Know It. Follow the links for more fun...
And the prize for funniest over-reaction to Pelosi's trip goes to this 4th grade twit:
This is a very dangerous step that the dems are taking. They are rewriting the constitution of our country and undermining what the pres is doing. Wither or not you agree should be debated here not there and not by saying to the world I am the queen and will do what I want. We have military people around the world that will be in harms way because of what this idiot and her dem friends have done. America you voted these people into power and I can see that the America we knew and loved is going to be a totally different place after they get done rewriting the constitution to fit their own agenda and it will not be for the best interest of our people but for their personal gain. By what this new speaker is doing I think we should scratch the 2008 elections and just give total power or shared power to the speaker and her other half reed and just tell everyone that isn't a dem to go home and they will call when the bathrooms need to be cleaned, GOD HELP America AND IF YOU PEOPLE ELECT ANOTHER CLINTON TO THE WHITE HOUSE GOD WILL NOT BE ABLE TO HELP ANYMORE (Source)
Wow, did you write all that by yourself? Or did your nanny give you a hand?
Mujahedin-e-Khalq: Iran's Hope or Nightmare?
At appears I missed one of Newsweek's more informative editions, some time in January. Those who've followed l'affair Iranien closely may be familiar with the shadowy resistance group Mujahedin-e-Khalq on which some in the West had pinned their hopes to achieve regime change in Tehran.
Here's some insight into the group's history and warped worldview and how Iraq and the US yet have to deal with them.
Monday, April 02, 2007
God Hates America say Phelps Family
Watching Louis Theroux's BBC documentary on the Phelps family and their Westboro Baptist Church last night, gave another great insight into what indoctrination actually means.
Here's the trailer of the documentary
At first glance you get the impression that these "worshippers", mostly from one family and the offspring of "Gramps" Phelps, are simply nutcases and proverbially speaking at least this is of course true. But there is method in their madness, no matter how sickening their placards and pickets actually are.
And indeed it needs to be emphasised how disgusting the "message" of these people just is. In their latest attempt to save America (elsewhere they claim to have given up on that ideal all the same), they've now resorted to picketing the funerals of US service men and women who've lost their lives in Iraq. Rationale? The war in Iraq is God's answer to America for allowing homosexuality. In their own words:
You might think you can pass laws that stop us from preaching at the funerals of your Godless brats, but it isn't going to happen. The Messengers of God do not stop preaching the truth just because you pass laws. Here's a little secret. Kansas has had a funeral picketing law for years, and we still picket funerals in Kansas!!! Dying time is truth time! DEAL WITH IT!!!
Number of Americans who have entered hell as result of this bloody takeover of Babylon:
WBC Prays for it to be 3,169,000!!!
Source: their website
They're ever so slightly hung-up over "faggot America". And this is kind of what illustrates the power of indoctrination and how to start your own cult. At heart, as Louis Theroux noted, and no matter how paradoxical this might sound, these people aren't even really bad. Their community thrives on conformity, closedness and perhaps above all, being hated by just about everybody else. It's that hatred that not only makes them united but also, equally importantly, seems to prove to them that they are actually right. After all, they and they alone, tell it 'like it is' and feel they get hated for it, this hatred is therefore the proof that they and God are right.
Homosexuality is of course anathema in all three monotheisms and that prohibition is perhaps what drives most of the world's homophobia more than any other factor. And 'God hates fags' is WBC's most prominent theme, I guess Pastor Phelps believes in keeping it simple by concentrating on this particular "sin of the flesh" and thereby focusing the attention of his flock on a clear and well defined enemy.
As a result, Westboro Baptists Church worshippers (well, the Phelps family) believe hell to be a very, very crowded place and heaven to be reserved almost exclusively for them:
From their site:
Gerald Ford's long personal nightmare has just begun. Even now, "hell from beneath is moved to meet" him, and it "hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations" (Is. 14:9). All the past chief rulers of the earth rose up to mock him and curse him the moment he split hell wide open, and they will continue to do so for all eternity. He ignored God's Word, and did his part to set this nation on a downward spiral toward open rebellion against God and the promotion of the Sodomite agenda. He was given up to these vile affections and will suffer eternal torment for it (Romans 1). Read the evidence against him being in heaven here.
The Amish children from Pennsylvania are even now in hell. Stop spreading the lie that they were innocent. They were just as degenerate and deserving of hell as the pervert who killed them. You get what you deserve, America! You raised these murderous beasts and perverted their minds, and now you act surprised? As long as you people try to stop us, you will be punished, just as Pharaoh was punished when he would not let God's people go (Ex. 12:30). Gov. Ed Rendell brought this down on you, get mad at him, not us!
Coretta Scott King is in hell with her husband, and no amount of caterwauling or glorifying her whoredoms will change that fact. She kicked the righteous blacks off the Freedom Train to make room for her feces eating fag friends [...]
Your precious West Virginia coal miners are in hell, America! You wailed and cried crocodile tears to God while you thought there was some hope they would be recovered, and as soon as they were all dead, you said what you really thought -- there is no God! Guess what? GOD KILLED THE COAL MINERS!!! [...].
Pope John Paul II, the Great Pedophile Pope, is in hell. No burning candles, no indulgences, and no prayers to Mary will change that. [...]
Gramps Phelps latest picketing strategy is simply a device to up the ante: WBC is now more hated in America than ever before and hence they must be even more "righteous" and social cohesion within the group has just been cranked up a few notches.
Something all religious nutcase fringe groups have in common is an "end of days" obsession: Jim Kool-Aid Jones, David Koresh and many others shared it with WBC. It must be impossible to toil under such extremist whackjob belief systems without being convinced that the rewards will come soon...
This is an older bit of footage of the group:
Sunday, April 01, 2007
War on Terror - War of Terror
H/T to Fanonite
Zbigniew Brzezinksi, the former cold-war hawk, has been one of the most strident critics of the neocon foreign policy in recent years, and his analysis has been consistently on the mark. In “Terrorized by ‘War on Terror’: How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America“ he turns his attention towards the political cost of Bush’s imperial adventures at home.
The “war on terror” has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration’s elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America’s psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.
The damage these three words have done — a classic self-inflicted wound — is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare — political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.
But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a “war on terror” did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that “a nation at war” does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being “at war.”
To justify the “war on terror,” the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.
The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own — and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.
That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.
The Terrorism Industry
Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.
That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.
Just last week, here in Washington, on my way to visit a journalistic office, I had to pass through one of the absurd “security checks” that have proliferated in almost all the privately owned office buildings in this capital — and in New York City. A uniformed guard required me to fill out a form, show an I.D. and in this case explain in writing the purpose of my visit. Would a visiting terrorist indicate in writing that the purpose is “to blow up the building”? Would the guard be able to arrest such a self-confessing, would-be suicide bomber? To make matters more absurd, large department stores, with their crowds of shoppers, do not have any comparable procedures. Nor do concert halls or movie theaters. Yet such “security” procedures have become routine, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and further contributing to a siege mentality.
Fear and the Media
Government at every level has stimulated the paranoia. Consider, for example, the electronic billboards over interstate highways urging motorists to “Report Suspicious Activity” (drivers in turbans?). Some mass media have made their own contribution. The cable channels and some print media have found that horror scenarios attract audiences, while terror “experts” as “consultants” provide authenticity for the apocalyptic visions fed to the American public. Hence the proliferation of programs with bearded “terrorists” as the central villains. Their general effect is to reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that is said to increasingly threaten the lives of all Americans.
The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.
Muslims in the Crosshairs
The atmosphere generated by the “war on terror” has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them. A case in point is the reported harassment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its attempts to emulate, not very successfully, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Some House Republicans recently described CAIR members as “terrorist apologists” who should not be allowed to use a Capitol meeting room for a panel discussion.
Social discrimination, for example toward Muslim air travelers, has also been its unintended byproduct. Not surprisingly, animus toward the United States even among Muslims otherwise not particularly concerned with the Middle East has intensified, while America’s reputation as a leader in fostering constructive interracial and interreligious relations has suffered egregiously.
The record is even more troubling in the general area of civil rights. The culture of fear has bred intolerance, suspicion of foreigners and the adoption of legal procedures that undermine fundamental notions of justice. Innocent until proven guilty has been diluted if not undone, with some — even U.S. citizens — incarcerated for lengthy periods of time without effective and prompt access to due process. There is no known, hard evidence that such excess has prevented significant acts of terrorism, and convictions for would-be terrorists of any kind have been few and far between. Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.
In the meantime, the “war on terror” has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It’s not the “war on terror” that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it’s the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents’ assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with “the most negative influence on the world.” Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!
The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. “war on terror” against “Islamo-fascism.” Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.
Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, “Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia”? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.