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Saturday, May 29, 2004
 
Clashing In The Aisles

Well, this is a refreshingly disturbing — and weird —
development. A small group of Catholic laypeople are preparing to
take it upon themselves to determine who has the right to take
Communion ... and this time it involves a dress code violation.


Tomorrow is Pentecost
Sunday
. Over the past several years, a gay-rights group calling
itself the Rainbow Sash
Movement
has brought attention to its cause by, well, having its
members wear a rainbow sash while attending Mass on Pentecost Sunday.


Near as I can tell, that's pretty much it. No shouting. No
chanting. No guerrilla showtune revues in the aisles or gaudy,
cross-dressing Mary Magdalenes throwing condoms from the balcony.


Nothing like that at all; instead, they'll doing pretty much what
many other observant Catholics will be up to this Pentecost ...
except that they'll be doing it while wearing a colorful piece of
cloth across their torsos.






Thou shalt not ... ummm ... wear loud colors in Church.









For some people, even that's just too
much to bear
:


This Sunday at the Cathedral
of St. Paul
, a 1960s liberal anti-war activist turned orthodox
church layman plans to stand — literally — in the way of
gay Catholics and their supporters to prevent them from taking Holy
Communion.


...


[David] Pence hopes 10 to 20 Twin
Cities men will join him in what he admits is an “extraordinary
measure” to “defend the Eucharist from being publicly
attacked.”


He and an informal group called
Ushers of the Eucharist plan to block the path of Rainbow Sash
members when they come forward for Communion at the noon Mass.
He
said he is committed to nonviolence, not “tackling anyone.”


At Catholic Charities,
anybody who is hungry gets fed,” said Pence, a radiation
oncologist from Mankato who works in Minneapolis. “But the
Eucharist isn't like that. The Eucharist is a restricted meal. The
Church has always said you don't come to Communion unless you believe
in Christianity the way the Catholic Church has transmitted the
tradition.”


The Archbishop begs to differ:


Archbishop Harry Flynn has said
Rainbow Sash members will not be denied Communion
, reserving such
an action for “extreme” circumstances.


Church teaching dictates
that the Blessed Sacrament should be received only by baptized
Catholics who are in the state of grace,” the archdiocese said
in a statement to the Pioneer Press on Wednesday. “However,
the determination of a person's spiritual readiness rests with the
individual conscience and honesty of individual worshipers.


God Bless ya, Harry
Flynn
— I've been keeping
my eye on you
for precisely this
kind of moment
. I knew if anybody
in the hierarchy
was going to finally stand up and say
something relatively sane
in the middle of all the
obscurantist lunacy
threatening to engulf your Mother Church, it
would be you
.


And ... hey! I know a guy who just might be there for the Big
Show! Uncle Mike, will you be taking in the Cathedral incense
tomorrow? If so, would you be so kind as to let us know what kind of
stink, if any, these clodhopping ruffian “ushers” make of
themselves at the affair? I wouldn't be surprised if it's a whole
lotta nothing ... but you never know.


Would that it were the same everywhere else. John Kinney, the
Bishop
of neighboring St. Cloud, agrees
with the Archbishop
wholeheartedly; but I'm afraid other parts of the country will not be
so
catholic in their generosity
:


Cardinal Francis George has told
priests in the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago to deny Communion
to gay members of the church who show up for services Sunday wearing
a rainbow sash
, the symbol of a protest organized by a group
pushing for the church to accept homosexuals.


In a letter sent to the
archdiocese's 375 priests last week, George writes that the protest
organized by the Rainbow Sash Movement (USA) signals “opposition
to church teaching” and that the sash is an overt statement
that the wearer is in conflict with Catholic teachings.


The Rainbow Sash Movement
wants its members to be fully accepted in the Church, not on the same
conditions as any Catholic, but precisely as a gay,” George
wrote. “With this comes the requirement that the Church change
her moral teaching, which is from the Lord and His Apostles.


I realize that many Christians have their problems with
homosexuality — but calling on Jesus himself to defend their
prejudices is just a little above the pale in my book. Where,
exactly, is the Big Guy ever quoted as saying that gays are unworthy of Him?


As far as the other guys, I know that Paul had a profound
aversion to the lavender set
... but then again, he didn't
think vegetarians
belonged in
the Church
either. Will the Archdiocese of Chicago also be
denying the Eucharist to anybody sporting “Meat is Murder”
t-shirts from now on?


Friday, May 28, 2004
 
Newsquake!

When one of the most important news organizations in the nation
screws up, the ripples are felt across an entire continent.


Editor & Publisher is reporting that 300 of the
nation's major newspapers have been put into quite a bind by the New
York Times'
recent admission of omission in its coverage of the
Iraqi war runup. The Old Grey Lady long has been considered so sacred
that the ink-stained
wretches
schlepping
hot lead out in the
provincial rags never felt any
need to check sources on a story issued from her mouth.


Many editors were also unimpressed with the Times' chosen
placement for its apology (see below), as well as the fact that it
was issued so late (and without any prior announcement) that many of
them had to decide at the last minute what to do about it. Wouldn't
you be annoyed if your reputation was about to be scorched, and the
ones responsible for it were the same ones bringing the hammer down
on you, without warning?


It's not like they could ignore
it
, after all:


Some editors appear miffed that
they ran the Times'
correction today in a prominent position while the Times
itself stuck it in the lower left hand corner of Page A10, without
even a front-page teaser.


We ran two of the (Iraq)
stories in question on Page One and we have run a lot of New York
Times
material,” said Doug Clifton, editor of The Plain
Dealer
in Cleveland. His paper ran today's editors' note on Page
2. “We didn't want to be accused of sweeping it under the rug,”
he explained.


Calls to the Times were not
returned Wednesday.


Clifton also criticized the
Times for not
alerting editors until 10 p.m. Tuesday about the note.
“A
correction ought not be one of those things you have to deal with as
breaking news,” Clifton said. "They knew about this for a
while. It is sort of bothersome that they did not put any advisories
out.” He also questioned the Times'
decision to run the note on A10 without a Page One reference.


Oh, you poor, deluded son of a-- History is made in the twin
heavens of our elysian coasts
, not down
low
in Gomer country
where sweaty, farting little humans like you live. They don't need to
tell you anything about anything when it happens, other than that it
happens.


Just be content with that, simple burghers. Let the Times
sweat the more sophisticated stuff.


 
Well, Actually ...

Colonel Joseph Nuñez, a professor at the US Army War
College, has some harsh words in the Financial Times for the
state of American democracy. Can you guess who
he's talking about
in the following statement?


... he has alienated many others
because he operates as an elected dictator. He has fomented class
warfare, politicised the country's institutions, ruined the economy,
violated human rights and sought to build ties with rogue states,
while accusing traditional allies of plotting against him.


If you made the obvious
guess
about whom Colonel Nuñez was venting his spleen over, then
you'd be wrong. But don't feel bad; in the current
socio-political climate
that we live in — and especially
among members
of the military brass
— there are always two answers to any
proffered question: the obvious one, and the actual one.


In this case, Colonel Nuñez is actually talking
about Hugo
Chávez
, the President of the “Bolivarian
Republic
” of Venezuela (and an ex-Colonel in his own
right). So, actually, Colonel Nuñez is concerned about
the decrepit state of South American democracy.


How torqued up is he? Pretty damned worried, I tell ya. Back
to the tape
:


Something must be done to
restore democratic governance in Venezuela
, and the OAS, with its
democratic charter, is in the best position to handle this. A
multilateral move strongly to encourage Mr Chávez to stop
interfering with the judicial and legislative branches of government
is needed.


Look. I'm no real fan of Hugo Chávez — frankly, I
think he's kind of a clown, with a history of anti-democratic
proclivities
that are not
at all assuring
. But Venezuela's politics are so consistently
cryptic and byzantine of late that it's nearly impossible for me to
make any fine judgments of the day-to-day political realities oozing
in and out of focus down there.


Maybe Chávez is an idiot.
Maybe he's brilliant.
Maybe he's a brilliant idiot; I just don't know.


I do know, however, that the last time Venezuela
held an election
, Chávez managed to garner
59.5% of the vote
. That was back in July of 2000, and the
Organization
of American States
seemed to think it was a fair election at the
time.


True, Chávez was thrown
out of office
a few years later, but that was at
the hands of a coup
. Even then, he was only in
the grips of the generals
for 48
hours
before popular
unrest forced his return
. Furthermore, that
coup
had some suspiciously
gringo-looking
fingerprints smeared
all over it
.


So now there's a referendum
coming up
to have Chávez removed from office once again.
He may lose it, or he may win. That's democracy ... more
or less
. Sure, there are some who have
their problems
with it, but at least it's a more democratic
process than the last time his opponents tried to get rid of him.


But don't insult my intelligence by calling it a return to
democracy. Not when you're talking about a guy who was elected
by a landslide
four
years ago
, and who was supposed to be allowed to serve for a
six-year
term
. And especially not coming from a soldier serving in
a country who's current leader
is in office despite the fact that less
people voted for him
than for his
opponent
.


And who had to rely on warping
the polity
of a politically
influential
region controlled
by his
brother
in order to do it.


As
well
as the
nattering collusion
of a tiny,
unelected panel
of plutocratic
reactionaries
.


So tell me again, Colonel Nuñez: It's Venezuela that
needs a return to democracy?


Thursday, May 27, 2004
 
The Weekly World Newsblog

Since the Weekly
World News
(see the previous post, below) is currently
reworking its website, most of its stories are not available for
linking. In the interest of proving
the sheer
brilliance
of the publication to any of you potential unbelievers
out there in Mundaneland, I am presenting a few of the choicest
paragraphs from stories in its current edition ...


On the Democratic Party's ruminations over war-veteran
Bat Boy's suitability as a running mate for fellow veteran John
Kerry:


Minuses under discussion include
his
[Bat Boy's]
well-known emotional volatility, habit of “accidentally”
getting tangled in the hems of women's skirts, and difficulty in
understanding such concepts as “that
car doesn't belong to you, Bat Boy. Don't hot-wire the ignition and
drive it.


And a description of Saddam's main WMD delivery system ... device
of truly mythic proportions:


The immense slingshot, officially
known as the C-187 Allah's Avenger, employs thick 600-foot bands made
of a super-strong rubber. The bands and projectile are pulled back
with the aid of trucks — then the “let it rip”
order is given, the bands are released and the projectile is sent
flying.


Or how a Korean War vet-turned mad scientist plans to save his old
unit from bloody doom at the hands of the Red Chinese:


Particles that are
accelerated beyond the speed of light travel backward in time,”
Leverworth explains. “By arranging these particles —
known as tachyons — into a pattern, it's possible to send a
picture into the past.


My machine will capture a
video image of myself frantically waving my arms and turn it into a
hologram that materializes on that path in 1950.”


And finally, the awful truth about Gay Dinosaurs:


A pair of the scary-looking
carnivores
[Tyrannosaurus
Rexes]
, found in a tar pit, locked in what was originally
described as “a death battle” are now housed in a British
museum.


Based on what we know now,
I'm afraid that we're going to have to revise that description,”
says Dr. Hargrove. “To put it delicately, what those two male
dinosaurs were doing when they sank into the tar pit was quite the
opposite of battle.”


Puny dinosaur brains ... it's hot
oil
, you mincing, 6-ton, Cretaceous Era fairies! Not
tar
!


Ah, well. I don't believe a word of any of it anyway (except the
Bat Boy for Veep thing ... that's totally plausible).


But the stories are good, sophomoric fun; and I'm only moderately
less inclined to believe 'em than the stuff I read in the New York
Times
or see on MSNBCNNFox every day.


And at $1.99 a pop, it's cheaper than a pack of smokes ... and a
bit more fun, too.


 
The Most Honest Liars In The World

We don't know whether the
stories are true, and we don't really care. When we inform people,
it's usually an accident.”


Eddie Clontz (1948-2004), Editor — Weekly World News


In some cases, there was no
follow-up at all.”


New York Times' Apology to its readers: May 26, 2004


I was being chided by a co-worker over my Weekly World News
addiction the other day (yes, I bought another one ... but it had an
alien space baby on the cover!), when it became increasingly apparent
that she actually thought I was a credulous dolt for reading it.


That's when I got fed up. The Weekly
World News
, one of the greatest, most acidic, most
mind-warpingly delicious publications of our age ... for idiots?!


How can anyone not see the subversive satire in a story
claiming that Saddam
Hussein's WMD's
have been found ... accompanied by a crudely
photoshopped picture of a 160-foot-tall slingshot standing upright in
the stark Mesopotamian desert? Who else would take a recent British
theory
about dinosaur extinction
and turn it into a darkly-comedic
parable of Fundo America's phobia over gay marriage? What other
publication would possess the genius to conjure up a bug-eyed,
bug-eating, gibbering, troglodytic dwarf
, and then spin
him
into an iconic Everyman
for our modern times?


Truthful?
Who cares?!
The Weekly World News makes no attempt to give a damn about
whether or not its stories are true; and in return, its readers don't
expect anything in the publication to have even a molecule of
veracity about it. That was the deal struck long ago, and all parties
involved have been happily abiding by it since then.


“Who's the fool,” I snapped back at my co-worker. “The
person who reads ludicrous, obviously made up stories that he knows
to be untrue ... or the person who absorbs lies presented to him as
truth by mainstream media outlets every day, and accepts them
unreservedly?”


Or something like that I'm going from memory here.


Then, on the very day that I delivered this street-corner rant to
my co-worker, the New York Times finally admitted
as much
to its readership:


Over the last year this newspaper
has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the
United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American
and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons
and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have
studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is
past time we turned the same light on ourselves.


...


... we have found a number of
instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have
been.
In some cases, information that was controversial then, and
seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to
stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more
aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged —
or failed to emerge.


The Times kindly follows up on their apology with a page
linking to literally
dozens of stories
it had published on Iraq in recent years, so
that its credulous readers can engage in a little fact-checking for
themselves. How kind of the Times to come clean
damned
tardy
, but kind.


All successful lies are conspiracies. The liar, on one side of the
conspiracy, presents a coherent pseudo-truth that he knows could
be acceptable, given the proclivities of his audience. On the other
side are the willing believers, who choose to accept the lie because
it stands within the established boundaries of what they want to
believe anyway.


The media have been part of just such a conspiracy over Iraq, even as they
claim to have been as duped as the rest the country over it. To put
forth the notion that they have been so consistently and aggressively
fooled for such a long time defies reason, and certainly betrays
their alleged position as the steely threshers of the information
weedpatch.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004
 
The Next Best Thing

New York's Newsday has been doing a pretty solid job of
covering the Iraqi prisoner crisis, certainly better than their
downtown rivals at the Times.


Today, Newsday revisits an issue that was briefly touched
upon a couple of times last year — namely, the US Army's
jaw-droppingly inappropriate practice of holding
family members of “wanted” Iraqis hostage
as a way to
convince them to come in from the cold.


It goes without saying that the Abu Ghraib situation adds an extra
dimension of sick tragedy to this cycle
of thuggery
:


U.S. troops wanted Jeanan Moayad's
father. When they couldn't find him, they took her husband in his
place.


Dhafir Ibrahim has been in U.S.
custody for nearly four months.
Moayad insists that he is being
held as a bargaining chip, and military officials have told her that
he will be released when her father surrenders. Her father is a
scientist and former Baath party member who fled to Jordan soon after
the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime.


My husband is a hostage,”
said Moayad, 35, an architect who carries a small portrait of Ibrahim
in her purse. “He didn't commit any crime.”


In a little-noticed development
amid Iraq's prison abuse scandal, the U.S. military is holding dozens
of Iraqis as bargaining chips to put pressure on their wanted
relatives to surrender, according to human rights groups. These
detainees are not accused of any crimes, and experts say their
detention violates the Geneva Conventions and other
international laws. The practice also risks associating the United
States with the tactics of countries that it has long criticized for
arbitrary arrests.


Oh, ya think?


We're exhibiting behavior more fitting of Red
Army extras in a Jack Webb manifesto
than US citizen-soldiers out
on patrol, and it makes us look bad to the rest of the world? As
Newsday points out, these actions put our policies in sync
with such notable pillars of bag 'n tag democracy as Uzbekistan,
Pakistan, and Syria.


As I noted last fall, US media at the time didn't see any problem
with this activity. CNN practically crowed
from the rooftops last November
when it was reported that family
members of a particularly-wanted Iraqi had been taken into custody;
and the Washington Post seemed at worst nonchalant about the
practice when they informed
their readers
that such things were going on as of last July.


And now we find out that it's still going on. And as intelligence
assets, many (if not all) of these people must have been taken to Abu
Ghraib.


In fact, that's precisely where Mr. Ibrahim has been cooling his
heels since he was yanked out of his house last winter. No one's seen
him since then, although it's not for lack of trying. Back to the
Newsday story:


... Moayad [Dhafir Ibrahim's
wife] has made the 40-mile roundtrip journey from Baghdad to Abu
Ghraib 18 times. On most visits, she stood outside the gates with
other family members waiting in vain for information about their
relatives. One soldier who felt sorry for her looked up Ibrahim's
name on the prison's computer system and told her that he was marked
as a detainee with “intel value.”


Uh-ohhhh ... cue the spooky soap-opera organ music. We know what
having “intel
value
” means for Ibrahim, don't we?


Well sure, I'm reasonably certain that the guards at Abu Ghraib
aren't stupid enough to maintain their S&M lifestyles now, what
with all
the shame
and scandal
surrounding the prison.


But poor Mr. Ibrahim has been locked away in that joint since late
January; he may not have gotten the worst of what they've been
dishing out, but odds are he got some of it.


Tuesday, May 25, 2004
 
Black Budget Cinema

Talk about Noir filmmaking!


In digging a little deeper into the details behind the already
infamous “Fahrenheit 9/11,” we learn that Michael Moore's
latest black-humor documentary has an even darker angle to it than we previously imagined.


It turns out that Disney hasn't merely been dragging its feet on
the film's distribution ... it didn't want the film made at all.
Despite the obvious money-making
potential
of it, Disney never approved financing for the project.


What's an independent filmmaker to do when he really, really wants
to make his movie but he can't get approval for a budget? Why, pull
an Ed Wood
, of course; scrabble the money out from any source you
can.


Or, in the case of Disney-subsidiary Miramax; grab a sledgehammer,
stroll casually up to the big glass case marked “In Case of
Disney Dumbassery, Break Glass,” and give
it a good heave-to
:


Last week in New York Mr. [Michael]
Eisner
[Chairman of Disney —
duh]
told friends that Harvey Weinstein had made the
movie despite his objections a year ago and had hidden the $6 million
budget in loan financing documentation.


That was why, Mr. Eisner told
friends, that when Harvey Weinstein asked in recent weeks to see the
film to consider its distribution by Miramax, the Disney chairman
was angry to learn that the film had been made.


Poor Michael
Eisner
! It must come
as a shock to him
— as it
would
to any
executive
in that rarified
collective
of Ivory
Towers
that is the American movie industry — to learn
that such bean-counting
shenanigans
could be going on under his watch.


Book-cooking?
In Hollywood? Say it ain't
so, Joe!


Miramax is taking cover under a bridge
loan
it says Disney gave to Moore for making the film —
proof, it claims, that Disney was well-aware that the film was being
made. It is also clearly growing frustrated with Disney's hardball
stance on the release negotiations, characterizing the current
situation as “ridiculous.”


What is ridiculous is that the
United States, the one nation with the clearest and most direct
interest in understanding 9/11, is for the moment the only major
territory which has not been guaranteed a chance to see the film.
Only Hong Kong, Taiwan ... and North
America
... are without
distribution agreements
.


That means Canada
too. Not that I'm terribly worried; American Independence Day
(Moore's
preferred release date
) is still seven weeks away, and the longer
this film stays out of circulation in North America, the more power
it will wield.


At some point, releasing the film may
even turn out to be something of a letdown.


Friday, May 21, 2004
 
I Believe The Photons Are Our Future

Faced with the distopian reality of an all-encompassing
grid of electronic surveillance satellites
listening in on their
every conversation, reading all their e-mail, and just generally
being a trans-Atlantic Gladys Kravitz, the European Union is
preparing to take a drastic leap into the future as a means of
escape.


Yes, yes. We've known that the Euros have been freaked
out over ECHELON
for quite some time now. They've issued quite a
voluminous
report
on the subject, just in case no one got it the first few
billion times
they brought it up.


It took them a while, but they
think they have the answer
:


The European Union is to invest €11
million (US $13 million) over the next four years to develop a secure
communication system based on quantum cryptography, using physical
laws governing the universe on the smallest scale to create and
distribute unbreakable encryption keys, project coordinators said
Monday.


If successful, the project will
produce the cryptographer's holy grail — absolutely unbreakable
code — and thwart the eavesdropping efforts of espionage
systems such as Echelon, which intercepts electronic messages on
behalf of the intelligence services of the U.S., Britain, Canada, New
Zealand and Australia.


Actually, quantum
cryptography
is the answer everybody
is seeking
, although for obvious reasons the Europeans would like
to get there sooner rather than later. Who cares if some googly-eyed
Big Brother gets his mitts on your communication, if the very act of
interception scrambles the message beyond all legibility?


And good luck with that project, chocolate makers; all our futures
may depend on it. It remains to be seen, however, as to whether or
not they can get it done before, say, President
Jeb Bush
starts making threatening noises about weapons
of mass destruction
in France:


[Sergio] Cova was more cautious:
“This is the equivalent of the first flight of the Wright
brothers, so it is too early to be talking already about supersonic
transatlantic travel.”


The technological challenges facing
the project include the creation of sensors capable of recording the
arrival of photons at high speed and photon generators that produce a
single photon at a time, Cova said. “If two or three photons
are released simultaneously they become vulnerable to interception,”
he said.


Lessee ... you wanna create a system that reliably produces
a single photon, and another one that transmits
that photon over hundreds
— even thousands — of miles, and then still another one
that records
the lonely photon's arrival ... and all for $13 million dollars.
Well, all
the pieces
are there ... but can they be made to play nicely with
one another?


Man, if that can be done, it'll be the bargain of the century.


 
Drink Yer Milk, Dammit!

Do you want your kid to get rickets? Of course you don't.


So hold the phone on that friggin' soy “milk
once in a while and get them a glass of cow. Or goat will do, if moo
juice gives them a tummy ache.


Both are a pretty good source of vitamin D; and vitamin D is,
well, necessary:


Pediatricians scattered around the
country have been surprised to see children suffering from rickets, a
bone disorder caused by vitamin D deficiency that had been largely
relegated to a bygone era. A few doctors have come across adults who
were disabled by severe muscle weakness and pain, sometimes for
years, until they were treated for undiagnosed vitamin D deficiency.
And recent studies suggest low vitamin D may be putting the elderly
at higher risk for the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis and
life-threatening falls and fractures.


...


In response, many scientists have
begun pushing to sharply boost the official recommendations for how
much vitamin D everyone should get daily, either by taking
supplements, by eating more food that contains the nutrient or from
the sun — a major source of vitamin D.


Ironically, most of the cases are occurring in the South
— where, presumably, you guys have more sun. Heck, if I can
keep my vitamin D levels up year round, and I live under a snowbank
half the time, then what's your excuse?


It's true that humans possess the capacity to magically
manufacture vitamin D out of UV rays. However, since so many of us
have devolved into such shy little hothouse flowers that even the
gentlest kiss from ol' Sol is liable to flip us into a sunblock
slathering frenzy, the most likely option is nutritional.


And since so
many of you
aren't drinking
milk anymore
, either ... well, lotsa luck with that evolutionary
cul-de-sac you've built for yourself, homo morbidus.


Now, about that sunlight; according to the Post article,
this Man of Science here says it doesn't take all that much of the
stuff to do the trick:


... In a controversial new book,
“The UV Advantage,”
[Michael
F.]
Holick recommends exposing the hands, face, arms and
legs to the sun for five to 15 minutes a day a few days a week
,
which he says would be enough to generate that amount without
increasing the risk for skin cancer.


To which other Men of Science shout back:


But dermatologists and skin cancer
experts argue that those recommendations are irresponsible and
have little firm scientific support
.


Dr. Holick says vitamin D is
a cure-all magic pill. If everyone took vitamin D, there would be no
more cancer. But there's no evidence that is true,” said James
Spencer, vice chairman of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of
Medicine in New York.


Ultraviolet light
contained in sunlight causes skin cancer and wrinkles. That's beyond
dispute
,” Spencer said. “We already have an epidemic
of skin cancer in this country.”


Uh, dude ... did you doze off during the meeting? We also have an
epidemic
of rickets
developing in this country. Rickets!


I don't really care how much of a monomaniac this Holick character
is about vitamin D — if Dr. Spencer thinks Holick's off his
rocker for recommending that you and I get between 5 to 15 minutes of
fresh air a couple of times a week, then I think he's got a nice
little monomania of his own developing there. I mean, most of us
could take care of that requirement during a couple of commercial
breaks.


What are we now, the Mole
People
?


Wednesday, May 19, 2004
 
The Abyss

How freakin' deep does this pit go? Presumably, the guys in this
article had their press credentials with them at the time of their
detainment by US forces; did nobody bother to verify them, or did
it just not matter
?


U.S. forces beat three Iraqis
working for Reuters and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts
and humiliation during their detention last January in a military
camp near Falluja, the three said Tuesday.


The three first told Reuters of
the ordeal after their release
but only decided to make it public
when the U.S. military said there was no evidence they had been
abused, and following the exposure of similar mistreatment of
detainees at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.


An Iraqi journalist working for
U.S. network NBC, who was arrested with the Reuters staff, also said
he had been beaten and mistreated, NBC said Tuesday.


So this went on in January, and both Reuters and NBC knew
about it. It also occurred near Falluja, making it highly unlikely
that anybody caught up in the Abu Ghraib abominations had anything to
do with it.


The next paragraph in the article is a bit graphic, and I feel
queasy about including it, but there's a necessity to it which
follows:


Two of the three Reuters staff said
they had been forced to insert a finger into their anus and then lick
it, and were forced to put shoes in their mouths, particularly
humiliating in Arab culture.


I see a modus operandi coming into focus here. What these
guys are describing is pretty damn close to what this
guy claimed happened to him
... in Afghanistan:


Every time, they were
laughing and putting their fingers in my anus and throwing different
colors of beams of light in my eyes, and they were putting their feet
on my neck,” he said. He
[Nabi
Siddiqui]
knelt and pressed his head to the floor to show
how the soldiers had put their boots on his neck.


...


The main detention center is at the
Bagram air base. It is not clear who was in charge of the detainees
at the remote bases when Mr. Siddiqui was in custody. The United
States infantry and Special Forces have used the Gardez firebase, but
General Barno said the officials responsible in Gardez at that
time could have been “other than military,” a term often
used here to refer to the C.I.A.


Mr. Siddiqui (a
former police officer
) was rounded up in July of last year, and
spent about a month in custody. According to the article, he told an
Afghan human rights group about his ordeal as soon as he was
released. They immediately tried to arrange a meeting with US-led
forces, but apparently
couldn't make any headway
until the Abu Ghraib story broke.


The organized use of sexual humiliation on a detainee is a cruel —
but not
particularly unusual
— form of punishment. In fact, it's
one of the oldest forms of prisoner-breaking techniques that there
is.


More on that, later.


 
The One True Party

The following is an August 9, 2001 statement from the United
States Conference of Catholic Bishops
(USCCB), regarding the
then-recent “compromise” decision by President Bush on
the use of human
stem cells for research
:


President Bush has reaffirmed his
support for a ban on human cloning and other policies that deserve
support in their own right. However, the trade-off he has
announced is morally unacceptable
: The federal government,
for the first time in history, will support research that relies on
the destruction of some defenseless human beings for the possible
benefit to others. However such a decision is hedged about with
qualifications, it allows our nation's research enterprise to
cultivate a disrespect for human life.


Researchers who want to pursue
destructive embryo research and their allies in Congress have already
rejected such limits, saying that these limits will interfere with
efforts to turn embryonic stem cell research into possible medical
treatments. The President's policy may therefore prove to be as
unworkable as it is morally wrong
, ultimately serving only
those whose goal is unlimited embryo research.


We hope and pray that President
Bush will return to a principled stand against treating some human
lives as nothing more than objects to be manipulated and destroyed
for research purposes.
As we face a new century of powerful and
sometimes even frightening advances in biotechnology, we must help
ensure that our technical advances will serve rather than demean our
very humanity.


And now, let us return briefly to that pastoral
letter
by Colorado Springs Bishop Michael Sheridan:


... Any Catholics who vote for
candidates who stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research
or euthanasia suffer the same fateful consequences. It is for this
reason that these Catholics, whether candidates for office or those
who would vote for them, may not receive Holy Communion until they
have recanted their positions and been reconciled with God and the
Church in the Sacrament of Penance.



Hmmm ... ain't this a brain-buster for a True Believer. A vote
for George W. Bush is now thoroughly problematic, and a vote for Kerry is
obviously
out of the question
. What's a Good Catholic to do? Vote Nader?


Well, he is Catholic
— although it's one of those funky
branches
that allow
their priests to be married
. I'm not sure the Bishops would want
to draw
attention to that
. And then there's Nader's position on abortion
...


Jeez, I'm just about stumped here. With the Big Three off limits,
it looks like Catholics are just gonna have to stay away from the
polls this year.


Voting? That's just so ... worldly.


But ... hey there ... waaaait a minute ... what's
this
?


The Constitution
Party
is the only party which is completely pro-life,
anti-homosexual rights, pro-American sovereignty,
anti-globalist, anti-free trade, anti-deindustrialization,
anti-unchecked immigration, pro-second amendment, and against the
constantly increasing expansion of unlawful police laws, in favor of
a strong national defense and opposed to unconstitutional
interventionism.


Pretty
good
so far; but what's
their stance
on stem-cell research?


... President Bush abdicated his
responsibility to defend the defenseless by announcing his decision
to federally fund embryonic stem cell research. His approval broke
a significant campaign promise and betrayed the pro-life cause.


BINGO!


Somebody get Bishop Sheridan on the horn, quick. He needs to know
who to tell
people to vote for
in time for the November elections.


Tuesday, May 18, 2004
 
Sweaty, Disheveled Paranoids For A Better Tomorrow

When Michael Moore first announced last year that his next movie
was going to be about September 11, I used to joke (albeit weakly)
that we'd get to see the movie only so long as Moore stayed alive to
finish it.


I mean, the guy flies around a lot ... and a body like that is
just crying out for a coronary ... and it's not like he's made any
friends in the gun industry ...


Well, he's still alive. What's more, his long-promised new movie, “Fahrenheit
9/11,” is basically
finished
; although he's prepared to add any new material that may
arise between now and its (as yet unscheduled) US release.


It is playing at Cannes, however; and it is the
darling of the festival
:


At its 4 p.m. screening In
Competition at the Palais, the movie occasioned an enthusiastic
standing ovation — onlookers placed it at 15-20 minutes --
punctuated by cries of “bravo!” The crowd included a
phalanx of Endeavor agents, led by Ari Emmanuel, along with Mick
Jagger, Daryl Hannah and a smattering of French stars and industry
insiders.


It was the longest
standing ovation I've seen in over 25 years,
” said Harvey
Weinstein, whose Miramax Films funded the project over the objections
of parent company Walt Disney Co. and who has an exec producer credit
on the film, along with Miramax's Agnes Mentre.


Oh, whoopie. He's
big in France
. That outta give Drudge, Limbaugh, and the rest of
the right-wing zeppelin armada a couple of days' worth of sophomoric
vignettes.


As for Moore, while he may
have overplayed
the “Disney
hates me
” angle in order to secure a pre-Cannes marketing
advantage (Disney's intransigence regarding the project has been
known for over a year), he is undoubtedly correct that the Mouse
Factory's obstructionism
is political in origin. If some guy
shows up with a dump truck full of money and offers to unload it on
your lawn, are you going to yell at him for leaving tread marks on
your grass?


Is Moore's film going to make money? Is there water
in Gitchee-Goomie?


Disney's not the only one trying to short-circuit the film's
impact. Moore's movie is probably months away from a US distribution,
but already the attacks
have begun
against it ... and him:


Moore — who poses as a heroic
truth-teller and who in a speech last year after winning an Oscar for
his documentary “Bowling for Columbine” bemoaned these
“fictitious times” — is a virtuoso of fictions
himself.


...


Moore justifies his fictions by
pleading comic license:


How can there be inaccuracy
in comedy?” he once asked Lou Dobbs.


When “Fahrenheit 9/11”
does finally open, you may be able to call it funny.


Just don't assume that it is true —
or, for that matter, a documentary.


Wow! Kay
Hymowitz
(the author of the above piece) hasn't even seen the
film yet, and already she knows that it's full of crap! Why? Because
Moore is a liar, of course!


Hymowitz knows Moore's a liar because he selectively
edits his films
to make his point; any decent documentarian would
toss in all his collected material and analyze every
possible point surrounding his issue — no matter how
disjointed, unwieldy, and jaw-grindingly dull a project that would
yield.


Me, I would hate a film like that. But then again, I can't stand
Proust,
either.


Anyway, here's a decidedly
tepid review
from someone who's actually seen the film:


In “Fahrenheit 9/11,”
Michael Moore drops any pretense that he is a documentarian to pull
together from many sources an angry polemic against the president,
the Bush family and the administration's foreign policy.


Where “Roger & Me”
and “Bowling for Columbine” were personal quests for
truth, looking at a subject from different angles and talking to
people polls apart in their points of view, Moore stays “on
message” here from first shot to last. There is no debate, no
analysis of facts or search for historical context. Moore simply
wants to blame one man and his family for the situation in Iraq the
United States now finds itself in.


Well, now ... substitute the word “company” for
“family,” and “Flint” for the locale, and you
pretty much have the entire premise of “Roger
& Me.
” So why is that movie a “personal
quest for truth,” while “Fahrenheit 9/11” is an
“angry polemic?”


I don't doubt that “Fahrenheit 9/11” is full of shrill
moments; Michael Moore is shrill. But how out
there
is it, really, for Moore to be assigning the blame for Iraq
on the Bush family's gilded shoulders? Weren't both
wars fought
on their watch?


As I recall, one of the operating media narratives of 2002 and '03
was that Dubya was an unstoppable voter magnet, precisely because his
war
was such a done
deal
. Now it's a year later, the whole
thing
is unraveling,
and suddenly only sweaty, disheveled paranoids are allowed to call it
a Bush Family Production.


At least Moore has been consistent. As far as he's concerned, Iraq's always been a Bush war, no matter which way the worm has been turning on it.


Monday, May 17, 2004
 
A Christian Pakistan (Part II)

Conservative Christian leaders everywhere are still deeply
horrified by the image of somebody, somewhere having
sex in a non-missionary-style position
. Unfortunately for them,
We the People don't seem to be nearly as torqued up over it as
they are
:


Just four months after an alliance
of conservative Christians was threatening a churchgoer revolt unless
President Bush championed an amendment banning same-sex marriage,
members say they have been surprised and disappointed by what they
call a tepid response from the pews.


Most of the groups supporting the
proposed federal constitutional amendment concede that it appears all
but dead in Congress for this election year.


As Massachusetts prepares to become
the first state in the nation to allow same-sex marriage on Monday,
several high-profile conservatives say they are now pinning their
hopes mainly on reaction to events there, betting that scenes of gay
weddings in Provincetown may set off a public outcry.


I hate to bust your bubble, fellas, but if you're expecting
massive outbreaks of glam-glitter, show tunes, and hothothot
girl-on-girl action on the steps of Massachusetts court houses any
time soon, you're going to be very disappointed. All the gay couples
I know are as dull as a Sunday morning bluehair brunch, and
they're not going to crank up the ol'
flame-o-tron
just to give you sexually-repressed nutjobs more
filler material for your megachurch media presentations.


But, yeah, if you think America's going to be all creeped out by
the sight of two average-looking people in rented formal wear making
googly-eyes at each other and kissing blissfully, then film away. The
more people realize that homos are as dipshit-ordinary as breeders
like you and me, the better.


But of course the real problem isn't the apathy of the people.
Everything would be fine, if it weren't fore those those damned
hippie activist judges
up there in liberal-yankee country:


The thing that we keep
focusing on is, there is no place that people have voted for same-sex
marriage,” said Gary Bauer, a social conservative who
unsuccessfully sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000.
Mr. Bauer, the founder of the organization American Values, noted
that it was a court that ordered Massachusetts to recognize same-sex
marriage.


Court-ordered social engineering projects? You
picked the wrong week
to bring that up, Gary:


We conclude that, in the field of
public education, the doctrine of “separate but equal”
has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated
for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the
segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the
laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This disposition makes
unnecessary any discussion whether such segregation also violates the
Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


From the famous Brown
v. Board of Education of Topeka
ruling ... issued on this
very day, fifty years ago. It was just as reviled in its day as the
Massachusetts marriage ruling is in this one, perhaps even more so.


Damn you activist judges, and your do-gooder lackeys, too. You'll
get yours, Thurgood
Marshall
... you'll
get yours
...


 
A Christian Pakistan

So when religion and democracy collide, which side gets bent? As
Americans, we used to carry the answer to that question intrinsically
in our DNA, but not anymore. We seem to have developed some unhealthy
mutations in that genome.


From the great, yawning black hole of Christian recidivism —
Colorado Springs — yet another Catholic Bishop has decided it's
time to bring the hammer down on this unholy
abomination known as Free Thought
:


Under Colorado Springs Bishop
Michael Sheridan's interpretation of church doctrine, Littleton
Catholic Rosemary Wicks will be denied the holy sacrament of
communion.


...


In a May 5 pastoral letter to his
125,000 parishioners, Sheridan targeted moral issues he describes as
“intrinsically evil:” same-sex marriage, abortion,
euthanasia, and “illicit” stem-cell research, which
relies on tissue from aborted fetuses.


The
letter is available in PDF format here
. Excerpts (in HTML format)
are available
here
. I don't mind telling you that it's a disturbing and
un-American document; if I were a Catholic, this thing would make me
Pope-smacking mad. I'm not, and it still makes me angry.


Try these two paragraphs on for size:


There must be no confusion in these
matters. Any Catholic politicians who advocate for abortion, for
illicit stem cell research or for any form of euthanasi ipso facto
place themselves outside full communion with the Church and so
jeopardize their salvation. Any Catholics who vote for candidates who
stand for abortion, illicit stem cell research or euthanasia suffer
the same fateful consequences. It is for this reason that these
Catholics, whether candidates for office or those who would vote for
them, may not receive Holy Communion until they have recanted their
positions and been reconciled with God and the Church in the
Sacrament of Penance.


...


The Church never directs
citizens to vote for any specific candidate.
The Church does,
however, have the right and the obligation to teach clearly and fully
the objective truth about the dignity and rights of the human person.
These teachings, in turn, must inform the consciences of voters. “By
its intervention in this area, the Church’s Magisterium does
not wish to exercise political power or eliminate the freedom of
opinion of Catholics regarding contingent questions. Instead, it
intends — as is its proper function — to instruct and
illuminate the consciences of the faithful, particularly those in
political life, so that their actions may always serve the integral
promotion of the human person and the common good.”


I'm sorry, but his position is just so messed up that I feel an
urgent, uncontrollable need to resort to crude language. Here goes
... what the fuck is going on inside that pointy little mitre
of his?!


In one paragraph he warns Catholics that if they vote a certain
way, they can't get communion; and then in the other, he farts out
some twaddle about the Church never telling Catholics how to vote.


What the fuck is that all about?! Wasn't there something in
the old high school civics books about people coming to this country
to avoid bullshit like this?


According to the Rocky Mountain News article, Bishop
Sheridan's position has the moral support of the Archdiocese of
Denver (although the Archbishop won't be writing a letter of his own
... yet). And then there's this
little gem
, burrowed deep in the lower paragraphs of the same
article:


A task force of bishops is
examining the issue of how to implement the ban against Catholic
abortion-rights supporters receiving communion, but its findings
won't be released until after the November election.


I'm ... speechless. And it looks like I won't be the only one
before too long.


If I'm reading this right, the Catholic Church is preparing to
implement protocols for drastically punishing all Americans of
the Faith who speak out unfavorably on controversial topics. Shaddap,
parishioner, or you
won't get your Jesus cookie
.


To revive an old topic, I have to ask why these people are about
to have their good standing in the Church put in jeopardy; and
someone like “Catholic
Traditionalist
” Mel Gibson, who spits
on Vatican II
, regards every
Pope since John XXIII
as illegitimate, builds his own
(unsanctioned)
churches where the destruction
of the “evil” mainstream Catholic Church is preached
,
and who thinks nearly everyone else (including his
own wife
) is going to Hell for apostasy ... that guy, the
Church issues not a discouraging word over.


Sunday, May 16, 2004
 
US Invades Los Angeles

No, really, they
did
:


There's no doubt that the E3
video-game show is the loudest, most garish trade show on Earth.


Need proof? To promote its video
game “America's Army,” the U.S. Army staged a mini
assault on the Los Angeles Convention Center. Real soldiers rappelled
down from a Black Hawk helicopter and rushed toward the entrance with
real assault rifles
, scaring the daylights out of attendees not
aware of the promotion.


There was no word on whether or not the soldiers then rounded up
the most suspicious-looking of the attendant geeks, herded them into
an isolated corner of the auditorium, and then humiliated
and degraded them
to within an inch of their lives.


Nope. Not a word on that. But then, Gaming Geeks would probably be
pretty cool with that, anyway. They're used to humiliation
in their day-to-day
(non-gaming) lives, and hours of FPS
gaming have instilled in them an instinctive understanding that all
moral judgments are to be outsourced to the guy with the biggest gun.


It'd be the fastest case of Stockholm
Syndrome
in history; probably before anybody even broke for
lunch.


Seriously, the “America's
Army
” franchise has been one freakin' brilliant
stroke of marketing genius for the US military. What could be better
propaganda than a well-made,
high-action,
free
video game showing off all the good parts of combat, while leaving
out all the terrifying,
disgusting,
or just plain boring parts that make up the majority of a soldiers
life?


Out of all American institutions, the US military is consistently
given the highest
levels of confidence
among those polled — it's nearest
competitors aren't even close. Combat video games have been cited as
a primary example of why
this is so
:


A marketing firm called i
to i research
recently completed a survey of American young
people, asking them to cite the source for their favorable impression
of the U.S. Military
[...] When i to i asked kids why they
admired the military, 40 percent cited recent combat operations in
Afghanistan and Iraq.


A full 30 percent of them,
however, named the computer game “America's Army.”


For their own sake, I hope that the 30 percent who cited the game
as their inspiration don't actually gather up enough energy to haul
their console-playin' asses off their couches and enlist. It's going
to come as quite a shock to them when, after that first mortar
round
takes 'em out, that they don't
automatically respawn
in a safe location a few seconds later.


 
The Company Way

While the Pentagon has gotten itself into trouble by splitting
hairs over the particulars
of this or that violation of the
Geneva Convention, the CIA has taken a decidedly more gordian
knot-ish approach to the problem: the Geneva Convention is for
chumps.


Or rather, taking its cues from the values of the old-guard
bluebloods
which make up so much of The
Company's
upper management, the CIA has implemented the novel
solution of subletting its Geneva Convention responsibilities out to
its off-shore chumps ... its third
world lackeys
, that is:


The C.I.A. has been operating its
Qaeda detention system under a series of secret legal opinions by the
agency's and Justice Department lawyers. Those rules have provided a
legal basis for the use of harsh interrogation techniques, including
the water-boarding tactic used against Mr. Mohammed.


One set of legal memorandums, the
officials said, advises government officials that if they are
contemplating procedures that may put them in violation of American
statutes that prohibit torture, degrading treatment or the Geneva
Conventions, they will not be responsible if it can be argued that
the detainees are formally in the custody of another country.


...


Regarding American anti-torture
laws, one administration figure involved in discussions about the
memorandums said: “The criminal statutes only apply to American
officials. The question is how involved are the American officials.”


The official said the legal
opinions say restrictions on procedures would not apply if the
detainee could be deemed to be in the custody of a different country,
even though American officials were getting the benefit of the
interrogation. “It would be the responsibility of the other
country,” the official said. “It depends on the level of
involvement.”


This immediately hearkens back to last years' infamous
deportation
of Syrian-born Canadian citizen Maher Arar. Arar, you
may recall, was bagged at a US airport and shipped off to his birth
country for a year of hard-core
“debriefing” at the hands of the Syrians.


In the Arar situation, however, it was only the Syrians who
apparently got to torture him. The Washington Post article
(above) makes it pretty clear that the CIA has gotten quite a bit
more hands-on in its off-shore S&M factories.


But having them is one thing ... after you're done with them, then
what? Even the CIA admits that nobody in the Bush Administration
seems to have thought
through
to this part:


So far, the Bush administration has
not said what it intends to do over the long term with any of the
high-level detainees, leaving them subject to being imprisoned
indefinitely without any access to lawyers, courts or any form of due
process.


Some officials have suggested that
some of the high-level detainees may be tried in military tribunals
or officially turned over to other countries, but counterterrorism
officials have complained about the Bush administration's failure to
have an “endgame” for these detainees. One official
said they could also be imprisoned indefinitely at a new long-term
prison being built at Guantánamo.


That suggestion has been made, or at least implied, a number of
times before. It's important to realize — no matter how
repellent the individuals who would be imprisoned in this tropical
limbo are — the naked and full truth of exactly what is being
suggested here.


Habeas corpus
is not some hippy-dippy notion recently imposed on us by a cabal of
long-haired, dope-smoking, activist judges; it's one
of the oldest
— and least optional — clauses
in our social contract as Americans. According to the above argument,
however, the best course for America to follow is to transform itself
into a nation that explicitly projects its power into all the corners
of the world, but holds its choicest values only for its own.


Jimmy Carter sees it this way too. In an OpEd in today's
Washington Post, Carter
cuts right through the crap
:


To ensure that additional human
rights embarrassments will not befall the United States, we must
examine well-known, high-level and broad-based U.S. policies that
have lowered our nation's commitment to basic human rights
.


...


... defenders of human rights were
the first to feel the consequences of these changes, and
international humanitarian organizations began expressing deep
concern to each other and to high-level U.S. military and government
officials about the adverse impact of the new American policies, and
to promulgate reports of actual abuses.


...


In the interests of security and
freedom, basic reforms are needed in the United States and
elsewhere
, including restrictions on governments' excessive
surveillance powers; reassertion of the public's right to
information; judicial and legislative review of detentions and other
executive functions; and strict compliance with international
standards of law and justice.


The United States must regain its
status as the champion of freedom and human rights.


I think what Jimmy's trying to tell us — in that polite, old
school, deep-southern way of his — is that we've lost it.


In the process of freaking out over That
Horrible Thing
that happened to us almost two years ago, we've
forsworn one of the few
things
which made us uniquely qualified to take on this enemy
thrust upon us in the first place; that is, our overt commitment to
universal human rights.


A republic that merely projects its power, and doesn't even
pretend to care about why it projects that power, is no longer
a republic, but an Imperium.


Not that us North Americans would necessarily notice any
difference were such a
transformation
to happen (or indeed, if it already
has
) ... Imperial
Citizens
are always granted special ranks and privileges
differentiating
them
from the loser
plebes
out there in the hinterlands.


A true citizen of Ancient Rome, for instance, had many privileges
... it was forbidden
to torture
them
, for instance. In addition, if slated for execution, a Roman
could only be killed “by
the sword.

That is, by having his head chopped
off
.


Go
figure
.


Thursday, May 13, 2004
 
Suspicious Minds

C'mon, you've wondered about it ... I know I have. If conditions
at Abu Ghraib were as bad as they say, then what
in the name of Josef Mengele
must be going on down at Gitmo?


Numerous stories have been filed
of late
designed to
assure
the not-too-observant
American
public
that nothing on the scale of the Iraqi atrocities is being
committed at Gitmo. Earlier reports have contradicted this rosy
assessment, not that anyone outside of a
few concerned family members
of internees and their
lawyers
have taken the time to notice.


This article in the New York Times, however, hints at the
disturbing possibility that Gitmo may have actually been something
of a template
for the Abu Ghraib fiasco:


According to information from a
classified interview with the senior military intelligence officer at
Abu Ghraib prison,
[Major]
General
[Geoffrey]
Miller's recommendations prompted a shift in the interrogation and
detention procedures there. Military intelligence officers were
given greater authority in the prison, and military police guards
were asked to help gather information about the detainees.


Whether those changes contributed
to the abuse of prisoners that grew horrifically more serious last
fall is now at the center of the widening prison scandal.


General Miller's recommendations
were based in large part on his command of the detention camp in
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba
, where he won praise from the
Pentagon for improving the flow of intelligence from terrorist
suspects and prisoners of the Afghanistan war.


Of course, the Pentagon doesn't mention whether the “improved
flow” of information coming out of Guantanamo was useful data
or total crap. I don't think that it would
matter much to them
, anyway.


And, near as I understand it, one of the most ominous structural
defects exposed at Abu Ghraib was the overbearing
dominance of military intelligence
on the command structure
there. The abusive guards have all claimed that their actions were
sanctioned — even
encouraged
— by MI, and the prison's commander (Brigadier
General Janis Karpinski) has alleged that an entire wing of the
facility was declared
off-limits to her and her unit
by the spook brigade.


It was General Miller who got the ball rolling in that direction
... and all based on his Guantanamo success story. General Karpinski
has even gone so far as to say that General Miller effectively told
her to turn
her facility into Guantanamo
.


And that's not all. According to that Times
article
, General Miller was also the brass-addled
monkey most responsible
for ruining the career of Army Chaplain
James Yee:


His hard-charging attitude has also
raised questions that go beyond interrogation methods. He was the
official most responsible for pressing a case last year against a
Muslim chaplain at the base, Capt. James J. Yee, that was initially
billed as a major episode of espionage.
In March, the military
announced that it would drop all charges.


We still don't know what
it was about Guantanamo
that caused Captain Yee to risk (and
ultimately destroy) his career for it; and we likely won't for a very
long time, if the military has anything to say about it. All the
charges against Yee have
been dropped
, but not before the military managed to engineer
a gag order
on whatever it was he knew.


 
Saving The World, One Week At A Time

A couple of weeks ago I indulged in a weakness I hadn't afforded
myself in a long time ... I bought a copy of the Weekly
World News
.


I couldn't resist! It had a story about the Pope
anointing Mel Gibson as his successor
on the cover! This was news
too important to pass up!


Not since the sizzling,
pre-Christmas, Alien
invasion double-issue super edition
has news of this caliber hit
the tabloid-sphere!


At any rate, nestled in among such major revelations of the day as
the birth of siamese sextuplets, a weeping Elvis painting, and how to
tell if your cat is a CIA agent, I discovered that the WWN has
started running a comic strip ... one whose style, in fact, is
suspiciously reminiscent of the artistic renderings of underground
cartoonist Peter
Bagge
.


Yes, it's true — Bagge
has been talked into penning
a strip
for the greatest, yellowest, journal of our generation.
And I'm sure anyone who's ever picked
up the paper
can figure
out
who the
star of this opus is
:


The March 2nd issue of the WEEKLY
WORLD NEWS
features the first installment of “The
Adventures of Bat Boy,
” a new weekly strip written and
drawn by myself for that world renowned and highly respected
supermarket tabloid. Each installment will recount the latest TRUE
LIFE activities of everyone's favorite interspecies superhero, as he
disperses his own special brand of rabid justice to the world's worst
evildoers (when he's not busy grooming himself for fleas, that is)!



Ol' Bugeyes is back!


I'm pretty bummed that I missed out on last March's smashing,
double-episode, debut installment; the one time I take a sabbatical
from my filthy, embarrassing, tabloid-reading
habit
, and those ink-stained sumbitches have to go off and do something really, really
cool.


The WWN site
is down for retooling, too — so there's no way of playing
“catch up” with the plotline, either. All I know is that
somehow Bat Boy has found himself soaring high above Middle America, in the pilot seat of an airliner at the mercy of
a couple of very gastrically-challenged Islamic extremists.


I suppose I could wait for the inevitable compilation anthology to
find out how he got there; but how long is that gonna take?


Enquiring fanboys want to know.


 
... And Now A Word From Bizarro World

It's a twisted universe indeed when this
group
manages to beat out even the
Vatican
in issuing an official condemnation of the beheading of
Nicholas Berg:


Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group
condemned Wednesday the beheading of an American hostage by Iraqi
militants as an ugly crime that flouted the tenets of Islam.


Hizbollah condemns this
horrible act that has done very great harm to Islam and Muslims by
this group that claims affiliation to the religion of mercy,
compassion and humane principles,
” the Shi'ite Muslim group
said in a statement.


...


Hizbollah said Berg's killing had
diverted the world's gaze from an escalating furor over the abuse of
Iraqi prisoners by occupation soldiers.


The timing of this act that
overshadowed the scandal over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in
occupation forces prisons is suspect timing that aims to serve the
American administration and occupation forces in Iraq and present
excuses and pretexts for their inhumane practices against Iraqi
detainees.”


Well, all right then. Things aren't as bizarro as they first
seemed, what with that extra little dollop of crazy glopped on top
there at the end.


Accusing the US government of orchestrating the murder (the
“suspect timing” reference) isn't crazy because it
couldn't be true, but rather because anyone not skirting along
the fringes of clinical paranoia would at least consider the Occam's
Razor arguments
about a
set of circumstances
before running, all naked and raving, down
the crooked cobbles of Conspiracy Lane.


And I'm not at all sure where the notions of “mercy,
compassion
and humane
principles
” fit in Hizbollah's (terrorist, freedom fighter
... whatever) worldview, but it's nice to finally receive
confirmation that they recognize such things can exist ... even for
us poor blokes slumming it in the Kafir
section of Allah's playground.



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