Saturday, September 30, 2006

BBC repeats major myths regarding free trade

Here are three excerpts from an interview with Phillipe Legrain, author of Open World. Typical of the BBC they start off with bullshit. They introduce the series saying the Third World is getting poor. Rubbish. There are two different third worlds. One has globalized and one has not. The one that has globalized is growing at double the rate of the rich countries and the nations which did not have contracted economically. The interview seems to repeat one myth after another as if they are gospel truth. He also attributes all problems in the third world to free trade ignoring completely that large sections of the world simply have not joined free trade and they are the ones suffering. The poorest countries of the world have the largest trade barriers not the smallest.

Part one is on top, part two is next and part three is third.

Republican congressman resigns in scandal

Republican congressman Mark Foley suddenly resigned office. He should have. But some of the publicity regarding his case is borderline hysteria and exaggerated. Other stories underplay what actually happened. Let’s try to balance it out while the mainstream media tries to use euphemisms to describe what actually happened only confusing readers.

Congressman Foley is one of the “family values” Republicans who is constantly looking for new laws to “protect our children”. Apparently all the old laws that were going to protect our children that they previously offered up as a panacea didn’t work. So they keep legislating. Foley was one of those kind of Republicans --- as if there are any other kind these days.

Foley’s problem was that he was engaging in explicit sexual e-mail exchanges (pdf document) with a Congressional page. Pages are high school students who work in Congress running errands for lazy politicians. The student in this case was 16-years-old and male. And in Republican circles it’s the male aspect of the case that has them wailing and gnashing their teeth.

On the blogsphere numerous commentators have been claiming this is a witch hunt and that Foley never crossed the line. I’m not sure where that line is but I can tell you what Foley was doing. It is clear if you read the exchanges.

He was not just speaking somewhat explicitly about sexual things. He was pushing the boy to strip down and masturbate with Foley via e-mail. The e-mails seem to imply he has not bedded the teen but they also give the impression he was hoping to do so at some point.

In one e-mail the boy tells Foley “slow things down a little im still under 18 don’t want to do anything not 18 till feb 23.” Foley responds, “i know.. nothing will happen.. just dreaming.”

The “just dreaming” implies he was biding his time. The comment also implies the boy was not adverse to doing something after his birtday. And people ready to lynch Foley need to remember that they will, of necessity, be dragging this teen into things.

In the e-mails Foley regularly asks the boy what he is wearing and urges him to strip down. In one e-mail the boy says he is wearing shorts and a tshirt. Foley says: “love to slip them off of you.”

In another when the boy said he had soccer practice and was in athletic shorts and a t shirt Foley responds, “ummm nice, jockstrap too”. The boy says not in soccer just underwear and Foley says “shows your package then.”

In another exchange Foley asks “did any girl give you a haand job this weekend”. The boy says no and that he broke up with his girlfriend. Foley replies: “good so your getting horny”. The boy says “a bit” and Foley asks “did you spank it this weekend yourself”. The boy deflects by saying he was too tired and busy. Foley says: “i am never to busy haha.”

The teen says he doesn’t “do it very often normally though” and Foley says “at your age seems like it would be daily.” Foley starts pushing for details about where the boy masturbates and how. When the boy says he does it face down pressing against the bed the Congressman says “cute butt bouncing in the air”. He calls this a “great visual” and says “I may try that.”

They speak of fetishes and the boys says he gets turned on by “people” in plaster casts. After discussing these turn ons the boy pushes the conversation up one notch: “ya but now im hard” and Foley replies “me 2, what you wearing”. The boy says tshirt and shorts and Foley says “um, so a big bulge.. love to slip them off of you” and grab “the one eyed snake.”

The boy replies “not tonight... don’t get excited.” Not tonight implies they might have gone further with other conversations previously. Foley pushes, “well your hard” and the boy says “that is true.” Foley keeps pushing sayhing “and a little horny” referring to the teen. The boy says this is also true and then Foley asks him to get a ruler a measure it. The boys “Ive already told you that” and Foley says “tell me again”. When the boy tells him Foley responds with “ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, beautiful, thats a great size” and asks “still stiff”. When the boy says he is Foley says “take it out”. The boy changes the subject saying his mother has called for him.

Note there is clear reference to other conversations of a similar nature not yet reported. The teen writes “ive already told you that” and “not tonight” both imply previous occassions where things were similar or went further. We also have the teen offering the information that he has an erection. This is a kid from the deep South, by all indications. He may be gay, he may be bisexual or he might just be a straight boy who is curious. He does come across rather ambivalent. He seems to push things up a notch but then also cools them down. He implies when he’s 18 he might be will to go further.

How do we determine the truth? Only by seeing all the e-mails that were exchanged between Foley and the youth. And Foley may be acting rather smarmy here but this can’t proceed without also hurting this teenager. Obviously his parents are aware of the situation already and apparently wanted this downplayed. And I can see why considering that the conversations were apparently consenting.

Surely neighbors and friends of the boy knew he was a page. They would also know that he worked for a Louisiana congressman. And the media has said which congressman it was. People will put two and two together and the boy’s identity will be known. Even if the media does not report his name I am convinced that people in his hometown will have figured it out. With a little effort anyone could find this out. We know his age. We know which Congressman he worked for. We know he went to a school where the girls wear “catholic uniforms” since that is mentioned. We know what years he worked in DC. With a little digging that is sufficient to find out who he is. And you can bet that when he went off to work in DC his whole town knew about it, it may have even made the papers. So the locals will have a particularly easy time of identifying him. Several journalists have tracked him down without much effort.

In the Christianist South this boy will have a miserably time of it. He was far too willing an accomplice for his peers and neighbours to see him as a victim but more like a willing accomplice --- after all he was the one who measured his penis and informed Foley of the size.

This boy, whether he gay, straight, bi, curious or just confused will have a hard time of it. The treatment he may receive from friends, family, peers and neighbors will be traumatic, embarrassing, possibly dangerous. He could easily be subjected to far worse things than the e-mails he exchanged. I would hope that people will give some consideration to how it is possible that his life will only be made worse by this investigation -- not better. And certainly if investigated by Congress, as apparently will happen, I would hope the results are kept quiet merely for the sake of this teenager. People may wish to punish Foley and the Republican leadership but the person who may end up taking the worst of the punishment is this kid.

The Republican leadership has known about this incident for some time and were doing nothing . They said the boy’s parents wanted the matter dropped. This could well be the case. The boy himself could be gay, even if he had a girlfriend, or bisexual. This matter would not sit will in the South where they are from. And we don’t know how far other conversations have gone.

To try and keep the matter in balance we need to remember several things. First, a 16 year old is not a child and is legally allowed to consent to sex in 32 states and the District of Columbia. The boy worked with Foley in the District. And e-mails are not the same thing as sex but Foley himself helped push through legislation that could be used to prosecute him for sending these e-mails. Which age of consent law applies in this case? The boy appears to be from Louisiana where the age of consent is 17, but Foley is from Florida where it is 18 (no other state has a higher age) but they both worked in DC where it is 16.

I suspect that any federal laws regarding the content of the messages would say 18. This is part of the maze that exists regarding such laws in the US. A sexually explicit e-mail to a 17 year old can be a federal crime even if both the sender and the recipient are above the age of consent where they live. Most US states allow sexual relations from the age of 16 but discussing the relations they are allowed to have, via e-mail, could be a crime. The federal government tends to define a child as anyone under 18 but most states define it as anyone under 16.

So I suspect that Foley may well have violated federal law. And certainly in Florida, where Foley lived, and Louisiana, where the boy lived, the age of consent is above 16. But in DC where they both worked the relationship would be legal.

Also this is not a case of pedophilia. Pedophilia is a sexual attraction to prepubescent children. It is a psychological condition not a legal status. The age of consent does not determine pedophilia. It is clear that this boy was well past puberty.

Let us cover what Foley did that was wrong. He was a US congressman. In essence he was the employer of this boy. He misused the authority of his position to seek sexual gratification for himself. The e-mails we have seen imply that he pushed these conversations not the boy but that boy did engage in them willingly, at least some of the time. If there are other conversations I have not seen them. While the teen was not a child Foley violated the very laws he promotes.

The Republican Party tried to cover this up. A year ago the Republican leadership was informed about Foley and his e-mails. He was spoken to about them . And now the House of Representatives voted to investigate the matter. It is reported: “At least four Republican House Members, one senior GOP aide and a former top officer of the House were aware of the allegations about Foley that prompted the initial reporting regarding his e-mail contacts with a 16-year-old House page. They include: Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) and Reps. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.), as well as a senior aide to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl.”

Democrats on the board which deal with issues around pages were kept in the dark about the accusation. The GOP apparently wanted to sweep this under the carpet. That mistake may cost them another seat in the House come the election. Foley was considered an easy win. Obviously he is not so now. His resignation means he is no longer the Republican candidate. But his name is already on the ballot for the November election. If he were to win the Republicans can appoint a replacement. But for that to happen voters would have to cast their ballot for Foley. And with this publicity it is far less likely to happen.

Had they pushed Foley a year ago he could have left quietly. Another Republican would be their candidate and the seat would probably stay Republican. By trying to cover up they ended up with a name on the ballot which is unlikely to win for them.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Iraqi journalists fear killers and the state

It isn't easy being a journalist in Iraq. Consider how it was under the control of Saddam Hussein. Absolutely no freedom of speech. But George Bush changed that! Sure he did. He went in and "liberated" the people so they found freedom. That's what he tells us. So why aren't the journalists happy about having those cherished freedoms guaranteed in the US Constitution? Maybe because they don't have it.

The Bush central planners helped install a new government in Iraq. It is one that sympathizes with the terrorists in ways that Saddam didn't. He saw them as a threat to himself so he kept them under control. Bush can't keep anything under control. He is inept and what is scary is he surrounds himself by inept bureaucrats like himself but ones who have no freedom to challenge the opinions he holds, which he seems to think come from God himself. So we got an Islamist theocratic regime installed in Iraq at the cost of billions of dollars and thousands of American lives. Thanks George. Another bang up job like that Katrina relief effort you led.

Iraq is now run by George Bush clones. Inept, small minded bureaucrats with a God complex. And they control the laws. So it is a crime in Iraq for any journalist to "publicly insult" any government official. What this means is that if you report on a corrupt act committed by a corrupt official that official can have you arrested for insulting him. George must salivate when he hears about this.

In the last year the American controlled regime has arrested a dozen journalists for daring to report what they see. Not only have journalists been arrested but news offices have been shut down by the state because of their reports. (Isn't this a plank in the platform of the Republican Party?)Even the US is doing its part to harass journalists. Bilal Hussein was a photographer for Associated Press. He photographed members of the insurgency in Anbar Province. That was enough for the dictators in DC. He was arrested and has been held for five months without any charges being pressed against him. No doubt he's a prime candidate for the new American virtue: waterboarding and other forms of torture. And to think we fought Hitler. Perhaps it was only to get hold of his manual on how to run a country?

The government is particularly hard any journalist who reports news that disputes the Bush claim that things are just going great in Iraq. If an attack takes place and people are killed journalists who try to cover the scene are attacked by the police. Cameras are smashed and digital memory cards destroyed. Seventy news organizations have caved in and signed a pledge to "disseminate news in a way that harmonizes with Iraq's interests." On government paid journalist from the state-owned Iraqi Media Network says: "It is the right of the Iraqi government, as it combats terrorism, to silence any voice that tries to harm the national unity." I think he took that out one of King George's speeches.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A hero imprisoned as a traitor has died.

Born Ikuko Toguri the woman, who came to be called Tokyo Rose, died in Chicago on the 26th of September. Toguri was the daughter of Japanese immigrants. She was born on the fourth of July in 1916 in Los Angeles and raised a Methodist. The name Tokyo Rose was given to any number of women who broadcast propaganda for the Japanese during World War II.

Toguri had sailed to Japan in July of 1941 to visit relatives. She used a Certficate of Identification instead of a passport to travel. The US State Department did this in lieu of a passport because they didn't have time to process the passport before her departure. They assured her it would get her to Japan and back to the United States. But when she tried to return it was rejected

In September of that year she applied for a passport so she could return. But bureaucratic delays slowed the process and no answer came. As she was waiting Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and a state of war existed.

While FDR was conducting mass arrests of Japanese Americans and putting them in concentration camps Toguri was declared an enemy alien by the Japanese. The Japanese government pressured her to renounce her US citizenship but she refused to do so. She requested that she be incarcerated with other Americans caught by the war in Japan. The Japanese refused because of her ethnic heritage.

Her pro-American views caused her problems in Japan as well. She found she lost her room at a boarding house after her room was searched by Japanese police. Again she requested to be imprisoned with other Americans and this was again refused. She eventually got a job to support herself at Radio Tokyo and while working here typed up a report on Japanese-Americans being placed in concetration camps. One report she had to read listed her parents names as being imprisoned at the Gila River Relocation Center in Arizona. She did not know that her mother died after she was arrested and that only her father was incarcerated for his ethnic background.

American POWs in Japan were forced to engage in propaganda broadcasts for the Japanese and they chose Toguri to host portions of the show. They would write scripts in ways to send messages contrary to what the Japanese actually wanted. But for this to work they need someone they could trust and Toguri was their woman. The show became popular with Americans stationed in the South Pacific. Instead of acting to demoralise them the show actually had the opposite effect, which was intended by the POWs forced to write it and in line with Toguri's own sentiments.

Though only paid a small sum for this work she used the funds to help feed American POWs. She married a Portugese citizen and again declined to surrender her American citizenship.

After the war journalists offered rewards to anyone who identified Tokyo Rose she was fingered by someone. She was arrested without a warrant and only released after a year in jail. US authorities said there was no evidence she had acted illegally or treasonously. The POWs who wrote the scripts she performed also said she had not acted against the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted thorough investigations of Toguri and also said there was no evidence of wrong doing on her part.

Held in jail in Japan by US authorities no charges were filed were against her. She was kept locked up and allowed to see her husband only for a few minutes per month. She was under constant surveillance. On one occassion 17 US Congressman had the pleasure of watching her as she bathed herself in her cell. When she was finally released from prison US military personnel gave her an honorary escort out of prison. She was also handed a bouquet of flowers.

All Toguri wanted to do was return to her beloved United States. She applied again for a passport. But crusading Left-wing journalist Walter Winchell conducted a smear campaign against her. She was arrested and forcibly separated from her husband. The smear campaign worked, as smear campaigns often do. She was repeatedly questioned without access to legal counsel.

The US spent $750,000 proscuting her. The most ever spent on a trial up until that time. Her father alone paid for her defense. Witnesses against her were paid by the day to testify. And the money being offered was a considerable sum in Japan at that time. It assured there was no shortage of witnesses. One Australian POW flew at his own expense to the US to testify on her behalf. Other prisoners who were forced to work at the radio station where Toguri was employed also said she was loyal American. She told the court how she intentionally used sentences with double meanings to have the opposite than intended effect.

She was convicted of one count of treason on the basis of very questionable testimony. The one "crime" she allegedly committed was mentioning the lose of American ships during the war. She was fined $10,000 and sentenced to ten years in prison. The judge who did this admitted he was biased against her. His instructions to the jury excluded her defense. The jury foreman said they were inclined to find her innocent but couldn't figure out how to do so given the instructions they were given by the judge.

During her time in prison she was considered a model prisoner. Her own prison records showed that once again she was held in nothing but high regard by those who worked with her. The only demerit she received was for helping another prisoner with a toothache without permission. She extracted the troublesome tooth when no dentist could be found. Each time she became eligible for parole the despicable Winchell launched another campaign her to keep her in prison. Parole would make him look bad.

The day she was released from prison she was handed a deportation notice but she fought it. She refused to leave the country and never saw her husband again. She feared that if she left she would never be allowed to return. And he was refused entry by the US government. They reluctantly divorced in 1980.

President Gerald Ford pardoned Toguri on his last day in office. Individuals who testified againt Toguri have admitted that they lied under oath under duress from the prosecutors.

By right Toguri deserved praise and awards not imprisonment. She stood loyally by the side of the United States throughout the war even after the US had arrested her parents for merely having been born in Japan. After her release from prison she worked diligently at her father's store in Chicago. She kept to herself afraid that the false accusations of the past would continue to cause her pain and suffering. But every year she threw a big party on the Fourth of July to celebrate her birth and the birth of the country she loved until the day she died.

Police handcuff kids, kill pet dog

In Schenectady the police attacked a home (they call it a raid for pot) and handcuffed young children and murdered the family dog, Precious. Police claimed an older son living in the home had sold $60 worth of pot over the previous two months.

In an early morning "raid" the police broke down the door to the apartment of the woman and and her children. No attempt apparently was made to knock on the door and serve a search warrant. The owner of the apartment said: "I heard a big boom. My first reaction was to jump out of bed. We were trying to find where our kids were and all of a sudden we had guns in our faces." Now if you have followed the Cory Maye case you will know it is stupid tactics like this that get cops killed. If you are asleep in your bed and with no warning armed thugs burst through your door you first first instinct is to protect yourself. Shoot first and ask questions later. In this case the family was not armed however.

But how many dead cops do they want? Obviously they want more.

The family pet was executed. This has become routine with drug raids. Trigger happy cops wanting to kill something figure the dog is an easy target. In every single case they whine the dog was "aggressive" and "we had no choice." Over and over the same thing happens. Over and over the home owners, including people who had no drugs at all, say it is a lie and that the dog is usually fleeing in terror.

The evidence in this case is that the cops lied. Surprised? The dog was in the kitchen when these licensed killers took a shot at it. The dog was so terrified it urinated on the floor and ran after the first shot was taken. It ran into the bathroom to hide and the police pursued it and executed it there. A dog that is fleeing in terror is not aggressing by defintion. The only aggressive dogs were in uniform.

Elijah, the 11-year-old son says he awoke to find armed men pushing a shotgun into his face. "I punched at him. I didn't know who he was." Again the police lied. They claim they had "good reason" to pull guns on children. They said the house had weapons. None were found. A typical lie to cover up the fact that the police in America are out of control.

Police Lt. Peter Frisoni said: "The moral of the story is: If you don't want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, don't let drug dealers stay with you and deal drugs out of your apartment." Hmm? I thought the moral of the story is the drug war is out of control and cops are using it as an excuse to engage in violence for kicks. A similar comment could have been made to some people who hid Jews during the Holocaust. "If you don't want officers barging into your house with their guns drawn, don't let Jews stay with you."

The moral of the story is that cops who conduct raids like this get shot and die. And you can't blame homeowners for defending themselves. Consider the typical tactic used by these armed officers. They attack the home while people are asleep. They crash through people's doors and flood the house with armed men shoving guns into the faces of sleeping children. If I had a gun and heard someone breaking down my door then I'd shoot, especially if I had children in the house. Cops who do this will get killed. They will kill innocent people. They will kill children. People will have their lives taken from them over $60 worth of marijuana.

I don't know when the police will get the brains to figure out that they are increasing the likelihood that their own officers will be killed. You'd almost think they want that to happen. Perhaps the only thing that will bring this insanity to an end is repeated and countless tragedies that are caused by violent cops and allowed to continue because the facts are covered up and fellow officers lie about what went down. It is frustrating to see this happening in a formerly free nation.

Marxist leader attacks gays.

One of the most prominent Left-wing radicals in the African National Congress has come out attacking gay people. Jacob Zuma, former Deputy President of South Africa called gay marriage "a disgrace to the nation and to God." Zuma was relieved of his position for corruption -- and in South Africa that doesn't happen often.

Zuma, a Marxist, is an odd one to attack same sex marriage since he himself had two wives at the same time. One wife ended up health minister and used almost the entire AIDS budget to put on a play that was seen by only a few hundred people. Recently a young woman who was friends of the Zuma family said he raped her when she was visiting the family. He claimed the sex was voluntary but she denied it. The woman was HIV positive and said Zuma didn't use a condom but Zuma claimed that it was okay because he took a shower afterwards. Remember his wife was in charge of AIDS education for the country so you now get some idea of the quality of health care there.

There is a false perception that the African National Congress pushed through a progressive constitution regarding equality for gay people. In fact the constitution was the result of negotiations of between the various political parties and all of them save the African Christian Democratic Party supported the clause on gay issues. Various measures to grant legal equality to gays were in fact fought by the ANC and most the measures that are in effect are the result of court cases not legislation.

The current government of South Africa is actually a coalition made up of the African National Congress, the Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions. The ANC government has been propping up the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe and sent observers to witness the last rigged election. Before the voting was over ANC officials were declaring the election fair in spite of wide spread government violence against the opposition. For the last several years South Africa has been readopting old apartheid authoritarian measures. It is sad to see what is being done to such a lovely country.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Animal rights activists kill thousands

So called animal rights activists sent 15,000 fish to their deaths. In a wanton act of vandalsim the activists attacked a fish farm destroying offices and equipment. They also released the fish into the wild where they were unable to fend for themselves. The fish started turning up on the beaches dead.

They starved to death. This was a knowable consequence of the actions these individuals under took. Thus they are responsible for the results. By their own code of morality they are genocidal maniacs who sent thousands of poor animals to their deaths. Many of the halibut released were eaten by gulls or otters.

Now I wonder if an otter eating a halibut is immoral to these thugs or if the only problem arises when you used silverware and a tablecloth? Is it only immoral for humans to eat fish or is it immoral when animals do it? Should animals which eat other animals be incarcerated in animal prisons? Do we have an animal death penalty?

Now what are these thugs doing to bring themselves to justice for their mass slaughter of the fish? Surely by their own ethics they ought to be punished for violating the rights of fish. And with thousands of them dead the trauma of their act must be hard to endure. Surely they need punishment just to be able to sleep at night.

I'm not one to fall for the line that fish have rights. Nor do I think these activists are driven by a love for animals at all. I think they suffer from an exaggerated hatred of humans.

Hypocritical peace activism

Christiaan Briggs is your stereotypical peace activist right down to the dreadlocks. He was one of those who went to Iraq to be a "human shield" to prevent the US invasion. He is also someone who beat up a 19 year old and sent him to hospital. Briggs got into an altercation with the man and his girlfriend on a bus. When the pair got off the bus Briggs pursued them punching the young man who fractured his skull on the pavement as a result of the blow. The victim had to have surgery to relieve pressure on the brain.

Now in the big picture of things Briggs is no one important. But he illustrates something which is common, particularly on the "pro peace" Left. Often the term "peace" is used falsely. It isn't that they are actually people committed to peace. They don't mind violence at all. Where they differ is that they are on the other side. During the war in Vietnam individuals who claimed they supported peace openly supported the Viet Cong communists. They weren’t for peace at all. They didn't want the war to end because they were against violence. They wanted the war to end so the communists could win. In the El Salvador conflict many of the peace activists were partisans to the Sandinistas. Again they weren't pro peace they just wanted one side to win over the other.

There is a long history of this sort of thing on the Left. Go back to the Second World War. The Communist Party and it's fellow travellers were strongly opposed to US intervention in the war. They campaigned openly and widely against the conflict. But that was when the Soviets and the Nazis had their secret treaty to divide Europe between themselves. When the two came to blows the peace movement of the Left, in the US, became war hawks literally over night.

I actually respect honest peace activists. I did not and do not support the war in Iraq. I was always against Vietnam and intervention in El Salvador. But I have no love for Saddam. I think the Viet Cong were evil. The Sandinistas deserved to lose the election and they did. The Contras were evil as well. My opposition comes from specific principles. The Left, however, tends to flow with the wind depending on what is good for the tyrants and dictators that they lust over.

At one point I knew a lot of people in the "peace" churches such as the Mennonites, Church of the Brethren and various Anabaptist sects. They tended to be against violence across the board not just when used by one side in the conflict. But they also tended to support massive state redistribution of wealth and state regulation. Apparently they thought that as long as they were only urging violence by others that they were not responsible. The wealth they wanted redistributed had to be taken by force or the threat of force. The regulations they supported were imposed by force of the threat of force. In each case they lobbied for such policies even though the only way government gets what it wants is to threaten people. And if people ignore the threats the state will send in men with guns.

It's not a hard concept to understand. Now I know some people are not pacifists opposed to violence in all cases. But these people were, or at least said they were. What were they promoting however? They wanted a specific end result in the economy. To achieve that result they asked a second party, the state, to force all other third parties in society to do what the activists wanted.

The violence these people advocated was one step removed. They didn't do it themselves. They just lobbied for it. In a sense they hired an "enforcer" to get what they couldn't get through peaceful means. They could have gone around soliciting donations which they redistribute to the poor or needy. They didn't do that. They chose a more indirect, but much more violent, method to achieve their goals. But just because you aren't looking when your enforcer puts the pressure on doesn't mean that violence is not being done at your request and on your behalf. It doesn't alleviate your responsibility.

Peace activists need to realise there are three positions regarding the use of force. One is the idea that you can use violence anytime you wish to achieve anything you wish. If people get in your way you are "justified" in forcing them to comply with your wishes. It is the morality of the Nazis and all tyrants.

The second position is that\ it is always wrong to use violence regardless of the purpose. I have trouble with this. It seems to say that the woman being raped, who kicks her assailant in strategic zones rendering his desire moot, is just as morally at fault as is her rapist. It basically says that you should sit there and take it. Gandhi pretty much took this position. And it is one that can work in some circumstances. But not in others. I don't see a problem with the use of force in self defence. It is a different matter when you use violence to violate the rights of others. Force in self-defense is not immoral.

In a nutshell the three main moral positions on violence are that you are permitted to use violence as you wish, it is never permitted to use violence or you may use violence only defensively.

I don't see the use of third parties as changing this. Just because I hire someone to attack people so I can achieve my goals doesn't change my moral responsibility for the act. So when it comes to government we have the same problem. We can lobby government to use violence for us to achieve specific outcomes we want. That is the first position. We can never use it, even in self defence, but only a pacifist anarchist would be taking that position. Or we can advocate the use of government only to protect rights and not to achieve specific ends in society.

Now some people who take the position that one permitted to use violence against peaceful third parties in order to achieve some "greater social good" would say that this mustn't be used for anything one desires. It should only be used for really important matters. Of course the problem with gangs of thugs is that once they are formed they tend to have agendas of their own. And when you create the structure for state violence you can't guarantee that your "loftier" goals will be the only ones pursued. You could lose control of the structure and find people not sharing your "noble vision" wielding the levers of power.
The third position is the traditional, classical liberal tradition. It says, with Jefferson, "that governments are instituted amongst men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed" and that the only purpose of said government is to "secure these rights". It is purely defensive and never offensive.

When I look back at most activists in the various peace movements over the years very, very few of them actually opposed violence. They usually held the position that violence is permitted provided it is used to shape society as they see fit. Almost none of them were actually pacifists in the sense of shunning violence across the board. In fact I've never met any such people myself though I am sure they exist. The position that I think makes the most sense is the one of liberalism: that no individual or collective of individuals may initiate force against the life, liberty or property of anyone else.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Knee deep in macaca.

I’m certainly no fan of Senator George Allen and I lament that he still holds a lead in the Senate race in Virginia. Allen is a good example of what is so very wrong with the Republican Party. He is a theocrat, a neocon, and an opportunist. I also think he is a liar. I’ll get to that in a moment.

First, to recap the situation. Allen referred to a dark skinned campaign worker for Democrat James Webb as a “macaca”. The term is one used in some ethnic circles to denigrate blacks. It refers to a species of monkeys and is meant to imply that black people are monkeys. Not a nice word in that context

Allen got caught. And with a history of having displayed the Confederate flag the term didn’t sit well with some people. Allen went into spin mode and lied. He made numerous claims including that the word is merely a name of a town in South Africa -- it isn’t --- and he said he just made the word up. Coincidentally the word he “made up” is one used for a species of monkeys and coincidentally he used the label against someone with dark skin and coincidentally it is used to insult people for their race in some places. Very coincidental indeed.

Now to me this is probably enough to say that Mr. Allen is a bigot. But his critics go further back. And here is where I think it gets absurd. Allen was asked if he has ever used the word “nigger”. Now I happen to think that a very ugly word. But Allen claimed that he has never used this word in his life. That is where I suspect he is lying.

Consider two people who love each other deeply. They live together. They do things for each other. They would lay down their life for the other if necessary. And now and then they have fights. People do that for lots of reasons. And sometimes they say something to the other that is meant to hurt. In a moment of rage they inflict emotional pain which they then deeply regret later on. What they wanted to do in their anger was inflict pain. It’s a destructive way of dealing with conflict but it is typically human. Yet these people deeply love each other but still use ugly words to inflict pain at moments of stress, anger or pain.

Now anyone who grew up in the US has heard lots of ugly words throughout their lifetime. Words like nigger, faggot, kike, and spic. What is precisely wrong with these words ought to be obvious. It is said that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” That’s wrong. Words often do hurt. And they don’t even need to be ugly words.

These words have a meaning behind them. They are not only meant to be insulting they are intended to be hurtful. The reason it is wrong to use these words is because the words exist to inflict pain on others. From a classical liberal perspective you aren’t violating another person’s rights using them. But the use of them tells us a lot about the person saying them.

I have no argument to justify the idea of animal rights. But I know why a thug who tortures dogs is someone I find utterly abhorrent. People who torture and inflict intentional pain are nasty at best and possibly dangerous.

So using these words is hurtful and it is meant to be hurtful. But I have give some leeway. Just as I know that a couple saying hurtful things to one another in anger may not actually mean what they say I know some people use these ugly words to say things they don’t actually mean. Under certain circumstances I suspect that such ugly words have been universally used. But how they are used and under what circumstances is the issue.

If someone says something ugly during a moment of anger I assume it has different meaning than if they say it calmly and intentionally. Now what is disturbing about Allen is that he has supposedly used “nigger” in circumstances which were calm and intentional which implies he used them with full meaning.

Now there is a mitigating circumstance. Some of the claims are about words he supposedly used a few decades ago. Now there ought to be statute of limitations on words and thoughts. People change. The 45 year old is not the 18 year old. Some people are so different from what they used to be like that they are almost entirely different people.

I’ve meet people who were communists or Nazis when they were teens. Twenty years later they are pretty decent, sane people. I’m not going to hold someone accountable for views they held decades before. What I care about is who they are now. Also the memories of people are very flimsy at best. People often have motives to lie about what they remember. And memory is easily tainted. Read some of the work of Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and you will see how easy it is to corrupt memory.

Allen’s problem however is not merely what he said twenty years ago. His problem started with the macaca term he used only weeks ago. That is an entirely different matter.

I wouldn’t want to associate with someone who enjoyed torturing kittens. I wouldn’t want to associate with someone who enjoys using words that are intended to inflict pain on others. I think there is something severely wrong with such people. I don’t understand bigotry at all. I don’t like it. I don’t like anyone intentionally causing pain to other people. I’m not saying they should be arrested for saying nasty things. I don’t believe that. There should be no legal penalty for being nasty just for violating rights.

But there ought to be a social penalty that people pay for their bigotry. I’ve seen enough bigotry perpetrated on others, and been the victim of it enough times myself, to have drawn a line in the sand. I won’t stand silent when I see it. It ought to be challenged. There ought to be a social penalty. For Mr. Allen the penalty ought to come at the ballot box.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Dagny Taggart role cast for film version of Rand's novel.

It’s official: Angelina Jolie has been cast for the role of Dagny Taggart in the upcoming film version of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

No word on Galt but the rumour mill says Brad Pitt, Angelina’s husband, is keen on the role. Howard and Karen Baldwin, the producers of Ray hold the rights for the film. For months now the press was reporting that Jolie and Pitt were working hard to get the roles. My guess is that we’ll see an announcement that Pitt is coming on board shortly. A smart publicist would only release such information in bits to keep the buzz about the film going. And I suspect that if Jolie is in that Pitt is in as well. Both actors are big name draws that want the film and surely that makes it easier for the studio, Lions Gate, to negotiate.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Is God fixing the election?

Radical fundmentalists preaching jihad. Of course this wasn't Iraq, Iran or Saudi Arabia. It was a collection of the American taliban at the "Values Voter Summit". All the Grand Poobahs of theocracy were there from Rev. Jerry Falwell to James Dobson of Focus on Some Families. He pretends they focus on the family but only families they approve of, the rest he thinks can go to hell, literally.

Grand Wizard Falwell acknowledged the polls show the Republican Party is in trouble. But he assured everyone that God was ready to step in and fix the results. He said: "I think we're going to keep the House and the Senate. I think the Lord will take care of that."

Now who is the "we" in "we're going to keep the House and Senate"? Obviosly it can only mean the Republican Party. So Falwell is openly equating the Republican Party with fundamentalist Christianity. Of course everyone else knows this is the case so why do I mention it?

For one reason: All Saints Episcopal Church of Pasadena, California. All Saints, as we already blogged, is being subjected to an inquisition by the Internal Revenue Service. Their sin was to preach that Jesus wouldn't approve of the war in Iraq. I don't pretend to know what Jesus would or wouldn't want and automatically distrust anyone who does. But All Saints merely preached about an issue. It didn't endorse a candidate or a party. The minister at All Saints never referred to the Democratic Party saying: "I think we're going to take control of the House and Senate, the Lord will see to that."

There was no political equation made where the Democrats were God's party. They didn't go nearly as far as the Grand Wizard of fundamentalist intolerance. So why are they being investigated and not Falwell, Dobson, James Kennedy, and the others from this theocratic klavern? Is the administration using selective enforcement of the law to harass opponents while ignoring outright violations of tax codes by their friends? It sure looks that way.

And is it a coincidence that the fist of the IRS came down on All Saints only weeks before the election? Is this a warning to other churches who might oppose the Bush agenda? Of course the cackling poobahs of hate at their conference were swamped with big government Republicans wanting to saddle up with the theocrats. That partisan politics and tax exempt religion are so intertwined doesn't bother the IRS except when the politics opposes Bush. Take note that the following Republicans were at this conference: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romey, Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Senators George Allen of Virginia and Sam Brownback of Kansas. And the real hoot here is that some conservatives, who pretend to be libertarian, are paid by Allen to promote his campaign. These fake "neo-libertarians" are trying to make the Bushite big government Allen into some sort of libertarian. But Allen's real agenda comes out when he hangs out with the Grand Wizards of intolerance.

When the PM got ugly the voters got moving

New Zealand's corrupt socialist Prime Minister Helen Clark had a problem. She was caught red-handed illegally using up to $800,000 in taxpayer funds to finance her desparate election campaign. She had a comfortable lead in the polls until the opposition National Party elected political newcomer Don Brash as leader. And then it was tight from that moment on. Clark made all the deals with the devil that she needed to bringing a religious-right party and a anti-immigrant, anti-gay party into her coalition to secure another term --- just barely. She ignored open corruption among her own ranks because if she didn't she'd lose her ability to govern. Anything for power.

When Brash started making noise about the illegal $800,000 in campaign spending the PM went into full dishonesty mode. She claimed she didn't know it was illegal even though she was warned by the official who overlooks such issues that it was. She tried to retroactively change the law legalising her crime after the fact. And she told everyone that the auditor of such matters endorsed her move. He announced he never said any such thing. The heat in parliament got turned up.

So Clark and her Labour minions started trying to smear Don Brash by spreading stories about his marriage. They whispered to the press but got nowhere. They shouted out innuendos in the house while Clark sat there smirking and laughing about them. And they forced Brash to take several days off to spend with his wife to save his marriage from the rumours. And when it started to backlash on Labour Clark denounced her Ministers for spreading the story claiming, falsely, that she never approved of it. She laughed and smiled when it happened and she is a dictatorial type who lets nothing be done without her orders.

And then showing real chutzpah she attacked Brash for supposedly "smearing" her. She tried to claim she was the victim because it was said she was corrupt for the illegal use of the $800,000. In fact New Zealand law says that the use of the funds in the way she used them is a "corrupt practice". And while whining on television that she was the victim of a smear and that personal attacks are not right she launched one of the most vitriolic personal attacks ever seen in Kiwi history. All in the hopes of diverting attention from the $800,000 which she says she will never pay back.

And what did it get her? Before the attacks Labour had support from 43% of the voters and National had the support of 45%. After her smear campaign support for Labour dropped to 38% and support for National rose to 49%. The percentage of the public who approved of the government dropped by six points while disapproval rose by 8 points.

The anything for power problem is so deep she even forged her campaign photos. Not only were they retouched but she had someone else's teeth inserted. The real Helen is on the far left and the fake one is to the right.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Largest protest yet in Budapest

Demonstrations against the admittedly dishonest regime of the Socialist prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany continue. A short while ago the crowd demanding his resignation had grown to 50,000 strong. Support for the demonstrations grows as Gyurcsany sees support for his Socialist government falling rapidly. He won election in May with 40 percent of the vote but is now down to 25 percent support. Gyurscany started the demonstrations when a tape of him admitting he lied to the public in order to get elected was leaked and made public. Making it worse are that local elections are only days away. A landslide to the opposition would be a blow for the lying PM to stay in office. Hungary has not seen such public demonstrations since the 1956 uprising against the Communist dictatorship. Gyurscany says he will hold on to power no matter what the people want. Typical socialist.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The sad news.

Adam Starchild passed away earlier today. His name is not one familiar to many libertarians. What he did was more behind the scenes than in the limelight. But if you google his name you will find countless books he authored on maximizing individual financial freedom. He was a key figure in the "perpetual travel" movement. And he wrote extensively on living in foreign countries and investing abroad.

His death came just day after his 60th birthday. He had several medical problems that seemed to hit him all at once. He went through several surgeries and was also in the process of moving to Spain. In June he underwent experimental surgery for a tumor in Japan. He wrote me: "The story of my tumor and its treatment became a cause of Japanese national television, who filmed everything, and the operating room was full of TV crews as well as surgeons. All of this got me a fantastically high level of care, and help." He was flying home to Panama when he became ill. He finally got home to Panama. Only after arrival did he learn his partner's permit to move to Spain had come through and he and his partner made the decision to move immediately. He felt his medical care would also be better there.

He was supposed to go back to Japan for more surgery but stayed in Madrid because he was not well enough to travel. But emergency surgery seemed to do the trick for him and he wrote the operation was success but it would be slow recovery. But more surgery followed and he got worse. His partner, Javier, wrote that "Part of his dream was to get to Europe and we accomplished that. He fought till the very end but the last week was just too painful for him." Javier wrote: "I hope to have some words to spread out there so that we can keep him close and so that people cn remember that his life meant something, that he was a great man."

Adam was a lifelong libertarian and a Life Advisory Member of the Libertarian Futurist Society. He was a life member of the International Society for Individual Liberty, Mensa, the World Future Society and others. He was a former chairman of the Confederation of American Indians. He leaves behind his partner Javier, many friends, many books and enough ideas to fill a lifetime.

DDT in America?

Someone I respect posted the following comment after our recent blog entry regarding the World Health Organization approving the use of DDT to control malaria. “ The DDT ban still makes sense here in the States where the nonexistent threat of malaria does not outweight the predator-death externality.”

I have to disagree with this sentiment. First the idea that malaria is a nonexistent threat simply is not true. Yes, to a large degree it has be erradicated and it should be noted that was in no small measure due to the use of DDT. I well remember the “fogger” trucks that drove through our neighbourhood spraying a white fog laced with DDT during the summer months. It was a mosquito abatement program. We kids used to run through the fog. The smell wasn’t entirely unpleasant and we knew once we got it on our skin nd clothes it kept the mosquitoes away. And it was fun. And to this day I don’t worry one iota about it because I’ve seen the studies and DDT is safe to humans. It isn’t safe to mosquitoes but I confess I don’t really care much for them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control “Between 1957 and 2003, in the United States, 63 outbreaks of locally transmitted mosquito-borne malaria have occurred...” i wouldn’t call 63 oubreaks “nonexistant”.

In additon they remind us that the two species of Anopheles mosquitoes that have spread malaria in the past in the US “are still widely prevalent; thus there is a constant risk that malaria could be reintroduced in the United States.’”

Then there is denque hemorrhagic fever. Not a particularly pleasant illness. The mosquioe that carries it prevalentin the American south. Now the United States is just barely north of infested areas. The CDC says there is a “small risk of dengue outbreaks in the continental United States” because “two competent mosquito vectors... each [of which] could transmit dengue viruses” are found in the US.They also report that “this type of transmission has been detected six times in the last 25 years in south Texas”. Denque is on the rise and the chance of an outbreak in the US increases yearly.

There is also West Nile virus. Sounds exotic and unAmerican but quite common in the US and also spread by mosquitoe. Look at the map above to get some idea of how widespread it is.

These are just some mosquitoe-borne illnesses in the United States. So I’m not so sure your case is as strong as you thought.

Inaccuracy in Media

There is a conservative group which mislabels itself Accuracy in Media. There major justification for existing is to correct the "liberal bias" of the media. By "liberal" they don't mean liberal at all, but socialist. For them unbiased means conservative lies in lieu of socialist lies.

They recently ran an article, very late in the game apparently, reviewing the film V for Vendetta. And their description of it is inaccurate and sometimes funny, albeit unintentionally so.

The most absurd line in the whole piece is this: "I detest an expanding federal government as much as the next conservative or libertarian." First, please don't say libertarian in the same breath as conservative. Libertarians are not another brand of conservative as much in common with Kincaid and his ilk as they do with Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. Libertarianism is neither Left nor Right, but a repudiation of both. Second, if Kincaid detests an "expanding federal government as much as the next conservative" that means he doesn't detest at all. The biggest expansion of the federal government, the most vicious assault on the Bill of Rights in decades, is the work of the current conservative regime.

In fact, Kincaid's little piece on the film is really an attack on "liberal Hollywood" and a justification for expanding the federal government. He whines that "it is only the federal government that can protect us against foreign threats. That is the one thing that the federal government is supposed to do—provide for a national defense." See, Bush is just "defending America," in spite of the fact that the lion's share of government expansion was outside the military budget and in social welfare. The Republicans, the conservatives, embraced big government with a fury not seen since FDR. And Kincaid is inaccurate to imply that it has anything to do with defense, when most the spending has been on social programs.

Let's look at some of Kincaid's other little lies. In the film television host Gordan Deitrich takes in the character Evey, who is on the run from the authorities. He has a copy of the Qu'ran in a class case in his basement. Not any copy you should know, but an ancient, illustrated edition that is a collector's piece. First, how Kincaid distorts the scene. " The Koran, the victim says, is a beautiful book filled with poetry. " Did he call the Qu'ran a "beautiful book" as Kincaid said "filled with poetry." Nope. Kincaid distorted the film intentionally. I say intentionally because he does it throughout his little diatribe. One can watch the film or read the novel (not the illustrated original but the one based on the film) which was written based on the film script. I recently read the novel and saw the film for the second time, so I know they are pretty much in sync with one another.

The Qu'ran in the film is from the 14th Century. And what Deitrich says is that he isn't a Muslim but "I don't have to be a Muslim to find the images beautiful or its poetry moving."
Notice he did not say the book itself was beautiful as Kincaid makes up. He says the images in this ancient illustrated edition are beautiful. The images, not the book. Nor did he say it was "filled with poetry." In fact he made no quantifiable statement at all about how much of it is poetic. He said that he found "its poetry moving" without once saying how much of it was poetry. For a group that calls itself Accuracy in Media, they aren't very accurate when it comes to the media. But the purpose of this is to bash Hollywood, and if need be, that may require distorting the facts.

I don't think Accuracy in Media exists to be accurate. They exist to tell conservatives what they want to hear and raise funds by doing that. Say what your donors want to hear and the money keeps rolling in.

Kincaid argues that the film "is worth watching only because it sheds some light on the mindset of Hollywood elites who fear Bush more than radical Islam. And it highlights the role of the media in brainwashing the population... If impressionable young people come away from this film thinking that Islamic terrorism is not a threat, then Hollywood will have accomplished its sinister objective." See it's a sinister plot to brainwash kids to hate Jesus W. Bush.

Fact is that the story, which he thinks is about Bush, was written and published as an illustrated novel between 1982 and 1985: long before the big government conservatives anointed Dubya their new messiah. Kincaid says the film is about "a conservative administration." If by conservative you mean fascist then he is correct. Of course, these days I can understand why he gets the two confused. The fascists in the film took over the government and V is fighting them. In fact, the original illustrated version of it was far more left-anarchistic and the film script toned that down considerably much to the displeasure of left anarchists.

I find it just wacko, conspiracist nonsense to say the film’s “sinister objective” was to get “young people” thinking “that Islamic terrorism is not a threat.” It is nonsense because the film is not about this world and current events. It is set in an alternative world to our own when history went in a different direction. It doesn’t deal with Islamic terrorism in the plot and, considering it is based on a story written 24 years ago, that is no surprise. But nutty conservatives love finding “sinister” plots and scapegoating people. So, the film had the “sinister objective” of whitewashing Islamic terrorists. What nonsense. But it is indicative of the mind set of Accuracy (sic) in Media.

At the end of the story people come out to protest the government, and as Kincaid describes it, “Government forces, confused about how to respond, do not fire their weapons.” A minor point perhaps but there is a good reason they are confused here. The government they live under is a dictatorship, which Kincaid equates with being a “conservative" administration—perhaps a Freudian slip. The dictator has died in a coup manipulated by V, but carried out by the head of the secret police. And the head of the secret police is killed by V. In a dictatorship the moment the head is severed the body doesn’t know how to react, until the power vacuum is filled. The soldiers surrounding parliament are waiting for orders. No one acts without orders, it's too dangerous. It’s a dictatorship. In dictatorships, if you want to survive, you follow orders and don't take the initiative. And, when no orders come, they do nothing. That is how dictatorships work.

Kincaid is obsessed with his fantasy that the film is really a defense of fundamentalist terrorism: “Its sounds like a fairy tale, and it is. It is a world in which the American people—and the populations of other Western democracies—have nothing to fear from the Muslims or anybody else. The only thing we have to fear, the film says, is our own government.” His obsession is borderline idiotic since it’s not about that at all.

No, Islamic terrorists are not part of this film. They aren’t part of Star Wars, The Browning Version, Gone with the Wind or thousands and thousands of other films. It’s not a conspiracy run by liberals, Jews, Masons, the Illuminati, homosexuals or anyone else. It’s a film with a plot, set in a future world with a history different from our own. The basic plot never mentions Islamic terrorism as the story was written long before that was an issue.

Now, many libertarians, liberals (classical and modern), and even some conservatives are concerned about the rise of authoritarianism under George Bush. The utter disregard for Constitutional freedoms, the centralisation of power in the Imperial presidency, the lies told to the American public regularly, all are very ominous signs about the state of freedom—something conservatives once said they were concerned about. But Kincaid says: “The real issue is not that the government has gone too far, but that it hasn’t gone far enough.”

Now, that fits into the comic book. Yes, that is precisely the sort of mentality that V for Vendetta was talking about, even though it was not about Islamic terrorism. It was about how fascism arises in a nation with a history of freedom. And, the way fascism replaces freedom is when individuals stand up and say that a government which has spit on the Constitution, has open contempt for the Bill of Rights, and which despises federalism or limited government, “hasn’t gone far enough.”

But, for nutty Kincaid and his fascist fantasies the film is “a justification for Islamic Jihad.” Right.

V for Vendetta does warn us about how people can be terrified into surrendering freedom. And today, it is not Islamic terrorists who control America. Nor are they even likely to do so. The threat to American freedom, the real and potent threat to liberty, can not come from without but only from within. America is too powerful to be conquered, but no nation, no matter how strong, is immune from a cancer that rots it from within.

Bin Laden and the lunatic fundamentalists in Islam might periodically commit some atrocity. But they can’t destroy freedom. They might kill the body, but they can’t kill the libertarian spirit of the American Revolution. That sort of spiritual murder is always self-induced. The American system can’t be murdered, but it can commit suicide. And people like Cliff Kincaid are standing on the sidelines cheering on that suicide in the name of their “war on terror”.

Our illustration is from the original 1982 edition of V for Vendetta.

UPDATE: Given the mental hysteria rampant in the American conservative movement, I should have known that a piece as inaccurate as the Kincaid one would be spread around. Already two other websites for the brain-dead Right have reprinted it. Ann Coulter is all the evidence you need that the more dishonest and shrill a writer is, the more support they get from what passes itself off as modern conservatism. Poor Barry Goldwater is spinning in his grave.

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IRS pit bulls go after church

A church is under attack by the Bush administration for preaching an antiwar sermon. Internal Revenue is investigating and the church could lose it’s tax-exempt status. So far only one church has lost tax-exempt status as the result of such an investigation and they really had stepped over the line by taking out full page ads attacking the candidate of Bill Clinton.

Under tax exempt laws churches are allowed to speak about issues but not endorse candidates or parties. No one, however, disputes that the fundamentalists of America are practically an arm of the Republican Party. And they frequently go much further in their political stands than All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California.

What got this church in trouble? A sermon was preached “If Jesus Debated Senator Kerry and President Bush.” Rev. George Regas preached that Jesus would not support the Iraq war or Bush’s doctrine bo pre-emptive war but he didn’t endorse any candidate.

Now considering how fundamentalist extremists continually preach about the need to deny gay couples of equal rights before the law one has to wonder if this selective enforcement in order to punish people for opposing King George.

The feds demanded church documents but the vestry of the church voted unanimously to refuse to comply. They said this is an infringement of rights and wish to take the matter to court. Bush’s pit bulls, the IRS, refuse to comment.

Of course Bush is also handing over hundreds of millions of taxpayer funds to fundamentalist churches in the name of supporting “faith-based services”. This is a direct violation of separation of church and state.

All Saints is the largest Episcopal church in the American west.

When Rev. Ed Bacon stood in the pulpit last Sunday he said: “I want to begin this sermon by once again expressing my gratitude to the Internal Revenue Service. Those brothers and sisters really know how to shine a spotlight on a church and swell the number of worshippers.” He got a standing ovation for that. I suspect the church will see lots of people joining it’s ranks.

They said that the IRS demanded documentation for every single time any official or candidate was mentioned from the pulpit over the last year. The church says this is a lot of paperwork as they pray for Bush publicly ever service (it’s not working, pray harder).

In contrast take the Rev. Lou Sheldon, a fanatical extremists who is constantly pushing legislation and praising Republicans while damning Democrats. The good Reverend recently endorse Bush’s call to legalise torture and announced that his “Traditional Values Coalition asked members of Congress to support President Bush’s reform of prisoner treatment policies....” He says that the government is hampered by legislation forbidding torture. Damn right. They are also hampered by the Bill of Rights and the Constitution --- though they pretty much ignore them. A search on his web site for his group shows hundreds of articles in support of Bush. Anyone want to guess if the IRS is investigating them? He claims to represent over 43,000 churches. Any one think those churches are being investigated?


Jon Stewart's show is one of the funniest around. Here he tackles the issue of gays in the military. And they interview one of the funniest (albeing unintentionally) fundamentalists around: Paul Cameron.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Finally free for murder he didn't do.

I know a lot of conservatives, in particular, are obsessed with the death penalty. And they insist 1.) that no innocent person has been convicted of murder and executed and 2.) even if they were the collective good must come before individual rights. Ah, the “collective good” is responsible for more crimes against humanity than anything else in history.

Now here is another case of a young man sent to prison for life for a murder he did not commit. Jeffrey Deskovic was lucky in that the state where this happened, New York, doesn’t have the death penalty. But he sat in prison for 16 years. He was just a boy when arrested, a high school student. The victim was a classmate, Angela Correa.

Correa’s murder upset the young Deskovic. Killings like this often have that effect. But the police concluded he was “too distraught”. Apparently there is some mystical “distraught level” and anyone going over that level is a suspect. Deskovic had shared two classes at school with the victim. He went to the wake and over time became friends with the family. And being friendly and disturbed by the brutal killing of a young girl was considered abnormal by the police who started investigating Deskovic.

For two months they kept after him. As usual when the police think they are right (and they never think they are wrong) they ignore evidence to the contrary. Anything that disproved their theory is dismissed. After two months of regular police harassment the cops brought the boy in for an interrogation. The boy said he was coerced. But in the end the frightened boy confessed. He said, “being fearful for myself, I told them what they wanted to hear.” He was convinced when the trial came he would be exonerated. After all the police had DNA from the rape that had taken place and it wasn’t his.

But the prosecutors want convictions period. If that means innocent people go to jail, or get executed in some states, so what. The prosecutor had an “alibi” for the DNA. It was claimed that the victim must have had consensual sex with another person sometime shortly before Deskovic killed her. And don’t forget, the frightened boy confessed. Case close. The jury convicted the boy to life in prison since no other penalty was on the table -- like execution.

Deskovic says he lost his friends and everything else he held dear during his time in prison. He tried to get the case reopened. He tried to get the authorities to look at the DNA. One of those who refused to do so was Jeanine Pirro who had been the local district attorney. She refused to do so and is now running for state attorney general as a Republican. One of her planks is that she wants individuals convicted of murder (like Deskovic) to be executed. She even had the lack of sensitivity to try and hold a press conference in support of the death penalty to coincide with Deskovic’s release. She even planned to hold it at the site of 9/11 attacks -- apparently Republicans think 9/11 can be used to justify anything. But this is just gory, glory seeking. After all is she really calling for the execution of the suicide terrorists who died in the attack? The police union found it offensive and she cancelled at the last minute.

Deskovic wrote Pirro personally pleading her to test the DNA, begging her for help. He got back a terse reply telling him the judge and jury had spoken. Damn the evidence apparently.

Once again the Innocence Project came to the aid of another person convicted falsely for murder. Pirro’s successor in office, Janet DiFiore agreed to run the DNA through a data bank of known criminals. And they found a match. It matched a man currently in prison for murder. The murder for which he was convicted took place not far from where the Correa murder took place. Coincidence? Not likely. Faced with the DNA evidence the man admitted he, not Deskovic, had been the killer. He had raped and strangled the young girl. Deskovic’s only crime was to be “overly distraught” about the brutal slaying of a classmate. In fact, horrors, he even cried over it.

In prison Deskovic says he lived “from appeal to appeal”. He finished his high school degree and earned a college degree from behind bars.

The death penalty is barbaric and supported by barbarians. It relies upon an omniscient state but all you end up with is an omnipotent state and that is not the same thing. Governments make mistakes all the time. Bureaucracies fail. The incentives in government to get things right are all wrong. The likelihood of the state making errors, or ignoring the facts, is very, very high.

Consider what conservatives want. They want executions and they want them fast. They push to limit appeals and to speed up the process. If they got exactly what they want in New York Mr. Deskovic would be dead by now. That he wasn’t executed is due to the very things the conservatives hate: the removal of the death penalty and the appeal process.

Note: a follow up to this posting will be posted later. It deals with the case of a man executed in Texas for a crime he probably didn’t committ. He was murdered by the state of Texas in fact, not executed. You execute criminals, you murder innocent people.

GOP looking emaciated.

One has to wonder just how much bad news Republicans can take. The polls continue to look bad for them. Here is some of the more recent bad news.

In Connecticut the big government Democrat Joe Lieberman lost his primary because of "the kiss" -- not just the actual kiss George Bush planted on him but the political kiss where Lieberman as seen as being a Bushian war advocate. Joe had a fit over the rejection and decided to run as an independent against the official Democratic candidate Ned Lamont. Now Lieberman running as a big government Independent should have a chance in hell. After all the Republicans have their own big government candidate (no one in this race favours Constitution government).

But King George stabbed the Republican candidate in the back and the Republicans have been channeling funds to Lieberman. Joe claims he'll caucus with the Democrats but I wouldn't bet on it. I would suspect there is a decent chance he'll switch to the Republicans if he wins. So the Republican is out in the cold, no endorsements from his own party. Lieberman pretends to be a Democrat running as an independent candidates who just happens to have huge Republican support. He should keep a good number of his Democratic voters and gain the Republican vote too. It ought to be a cake walk under those circumstances. It isn't. The lastest polls show Lieberman holding a slim 2 point margin.

Then there is Ohio. The incumbent Senator up for election is Republican Mike DeWine. Come election day he may doing de whine. He is is trailing Democrat Sherrod Brown by 6 points. It was long ago that he enjoyed a 5 point lead. The trends are against him.

Next we can go to Rhode Island. The Republican incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee in severe trouble. And Chafee is an old moderate to Left Republican not a raving Bushite. He fought a bitter primary battle against a far right conservative from the theocratic wing of the GOP. The top brass in the GOP, fearful of losing the seat in November, poured money on Chafee to keep him as their candidate figuring he had the best chance of winning. His "best chance" isn't that good. He now trails the Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse by 8 points.

Support for Whitehouse among Democrats has increased substantially. Rasmussen polling thinks the cause may be "the inadvertent result of the national Republican establishment's visible support for Chafee." The administration is not popular in Rhode Island. Only 20% of the voters approve of Bush.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Frankenfood linked to E. coli deaths!

Not really. But imagine if the spinach believed to be behind the outbreak of deadly E. coli had been genetically modified spinach. Of course the “green” opponents of genetic engineering would have a field day with it. It would be trumpeted all over the world how GM food was “killing” people. But the spinach linked to this outbreak was organic and the “greens” love organic so they are deathly silent in this case.

Now I have nothing against organic though I won’t eat it myself. I find it too pricey and know that there are no additional health benefits from eating it. I won’t begrudge others the right to eat it if they wish provided they respect my right to eat frankenfoods if I wish.

The number infected in this outbreak is now up around 130. The rise should slow significantly and stop any hour now. And we are lucky that only one person died from this outbreak (that I know about). But one television station is reporting that the federal government has said this outbreak of E. coli is the 20th such since 1995 which is linked to lettuce or spinach. I hope that figure is wrong. And I feel sorry for the farmers here, especially the ones who had nothing to do with the spinach in question, who are hurting. Some, no doubt will go out of business.

But I also remember the environmental extremists who made up the Alar scare with bogus science and lies to push their agenda. No one got sick from the use of alar which was a preservative, not a pesticide like some anti-science green groups claimed. Apple producers suffered because of an orchestrated media campaign that scared consumers with lies. No one had got sick. No one died. Unlike the E. coli outbreak we have just seen. People lost their jobs, businesses went under because of the alar fraud.

The problem exists because organic food requires manure. Some is applied directly and some through composting. Composting usually kills the E. coli bacteria. But it doesn’t always. And some new strains of E. coli are heat resistant so the composting process may not kill it especially as routinely applied.

So what should we do?

First, don’t apply the daft “precautionary principle” which says don’t act unless something is proven safe. Organic food will never been proven “safe” all the time. Nothing is. That is something the “greens” need to learn. Everything has risks. Organic has risks and so do regular foods.

Use a “cost/benefit” perspective instead. For the vast majority of people, over the majority of time the benefits from eating vegetables far outweigh the risks. This is true for conventionally grown crops and equally as true for organic crops. Neither has the benefit over the other except the cost advantage for conventional foods.

Don’t buy the bullshit that “natural” is good for you. Sometimes it is and sometimes it most certainly is not. E. coli is very natural. Using man-made fertiliser has some risks and so does using manure. Over all I think the risks are less with man-made. If you think otherwise fine for you -- buy the more expensive stuff. I don’t mind.

Remember that what is true about organic and convention crops is also true for genetically modified crops. There is no health risk from GM foods. If a food were genetically modified and grown with manure it would present exactly the same risks as that of organic foods grown in the same manner or for conventional produce using manure.

Remember that eating vegetables saves lives. For one poor woman her vegetable killed her due to unusual circumstances not routine circumstances. Even with 20 outbreaks of E. coli since 1995 we are talking about something that causes problems for a very small number of people nation-wide. And the lives saved by eating vegetables, especially due to their anti-carcinogenic properties, well outweigh their risks. When health experts say the crisis is over eat your veggies. It will be good for you and help get an industry back on it’s feet where it should be.

And in the future don’t pass judgement on the eating preferences of others. Don’t try to ban conventional, organic or GM products. Don’t assume that one is better than the other. If you are convinced one is better then go with it but leave others free to make their own choices as well. In this panic we need to keep perspective and use common sense. But that is the very opposite of what "greens" advocate when it comes to genetic modification.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Corporate America embraces equality

While governments are slow to act in regards to treating gay citizens equal before the law big business moves much faster. Every year the Human Rights Campaign surveys major corporations to see how what policies they have, regarding equal treatment of gay employees, have changed.

And this year’s suvey and rating has just been released showing a record number of 138 major corporations scoring 100 percent. Last year only 101 companies scored 100 percent and 2002 only 13 did.

Many corporations now routinely offer medical coverage and family leave to employees with same-sex partners. Darryl Herrschaft of HRC said: “More companies are not only implementing very comprehensive workplace policies that cover gay employees and their families but more companies are doing it faster and also seeking recognition for it.”

Companies that offer equal benefits to gay employees include GM, Ford, IBM, Raytheon, Bausch & Lomb, Corning, Eastman Kodak, Xerox, Clorox, Adobe, Aetna, American Express, Apple, Chevron, Chubb, Citigroup, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Sprint, DaimlerChrysler, Microsoft, Nike, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, Pepsi, Honeywell, Kraft, Wells Fargo and others. Many of the corporations issued press releases about their ratings when they were announced.

And no, playing show tunes in the elevator doesn't count.

Organic spinach behind e-coli outbreak

In recent days an outbreak of E. coli in the US has killed one and caused over 114 to become seriously ill. Sixteen people had kidney failure as result of the infection. People in 21 states have reportedly become ill.

Federal health authorities say they have found the source. It seems the spinach came from Natural Selection Foods which grows organic foods for the lucrative, but necessarily healthier, market. So far over 114 people have become sick. Officials say this form of E. coli is especially nasty causing severe vomitng and diarrhea. It is potentially deadly.

Interviews with victims of the virus traced it spinach and ultimately to the organic brand sold in most American grocery stores. In recent years outbreaks of illnesses from eating produce, as opposed to meat, has increased dramatically.

One reason could be the increased consumption of organic products. The Centre for Global Issues explained the link several years ago. A major source of E. coli bacteria is cow manure "and organic farmers use large amounts of cattle manure to provide the nitrogen fertilizer necessary for their crops to grow." As they rather prophetically explained this bacteria "can actually get inside the tissues of such food plants as lettuce and spinach where it can't be washed off." They explain that the manure is not put directly on the plants but used in composting. But for composting to kill the bacteria the heap must get hot enough, long enough, to kill the bacteria. And that doesn't always happen especially with this strain of E. coli which is very heat resistant.

Apparently officials studying the outbreak believe "contaminated fertlizer may have spread the bacteria to the spinach."

Dr. Dean Cliver is professor of food safety at the University of California/Davis and he said: "Personally, if I knew something was grown with conventional chemical fertilizers, I would feel it was extra safe." One obvious solution is food irradiation but the organic industry doesn't want that either. Dennis Avery, in a opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, claimed that "recent data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)" showed "people who eat organic and 'natural' foods are eight times as likely as the rest of the population to be attacked by a deadly new strain of E. coli bacteria."

In 1997 Vegetarian Times was upset about a "spate of news reports about E. coli contamination of apple cider and apple juice". They were upset, and rightly so, that some people thought "all organic produce carries the E. coli pathogen...." Of course not "all organic produce" is infected. That was never the issue. But the likelihood of infection is higher. But Vegetarian Times reports, "we are happy to report the experts believe organic produce is probably safer than conventionally grown fruits and vegetables."

Who were the experts they found? They quoted the executive director of the Organic Trade Association and a certification coordinator for the Organic Crop Improvement Association. Hardly unbaised "experts". One of the experts assures the readers not to worry because, "Seventy perent of all organic farmers use compost, not manure." So about one-third uses manure directly and the rest use it indirectly. Composting does kill a lot of bacteria but as we've already shown it is unreliable and the new strains of bacteria are resistant to heat which is what composting relies upon.

They also assured readers saying that pathogens like E. coli "can grow in almost any kind of environment and are no more likely to favor organics as a host than conventionally grown frutis and vegetables." True but irrelevent. Yes, if E. coli is introduce to spinach it will infect the conventional and the organic equally. What is not equal is the likelihood of the bacteria being introduced. Convention produce which uses man-made fertlizer is not likely to come in contact with E. coli the way organic produce is. That's the difference.

While numerous organic and vegetarian website have maintained that infection of organic produce from E. coli is unlikely the Los Angeles Times reports "eight previous outbreaks of E coli O157:H7 nationally since 1995, all linked to lettuce and spinach..." At least 217 people became ill in the previous infections and two died. It also reports that officials have said tht while boiling spinach might kill the bacteria there are no guidelines "on how long and at what temperature to cook them to ensure safety." Surely this would apply to the temperature and length of the composting process as well.

Figure this one out yourself.

Here are the facts first. Toni Scully owns a pear orchard. She needs the pears picked. Some individuals want to pick her crop for her in exchange for pay. But she is forbidden from hiring them. Who benefits? Anyone?

Toni Scully's crop is rotting she says because "we couldn't pick it". She estimates her region alone will lose 10,000 tons of fruit because of a lack of farm workers.

She's worse off. The consumers are worse off as they will have to pay higher prices for food. The farm labourers do want to work. They are eager to work, anxious even. But there is a problem. Government!

See Scully and her orchard are in the United States. The labourers who are keen to pick her pears are in Mexico. The labourers will see a big increase in their standard of living if they can work for her. She will earn higher profits if she can pick the fruit. Consumers will pay less for food if workers can be employed by Scully. It's win-win-win. And the immigrants aren't even "stealing" work from Americans. If there were Americans to do the work the crops wouldn't be rotting.

Scully says that US is refusing to allow temporary visas to farm workers and stricter border control has reduced the supply of "illegal" labour. Scully isn't the only one to have this problem. Other growers can't harvest either. Some have said they intend to close down permanently this year. In fact in her area half the pear orchards have already been lost.

So have you figured out who benefits? Neither have I.