Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bush Beds Down with Iran

Two Iranian gay teenagers, one 18 the other 16 or 17, were hanged a few months ago in the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran, for engaging in homosexual acts. They had a choice, of course. The compassionate and merciful Iranian law gives gay offenders the choice of “being hanged, stoned, halved by a sword, or dropped from the highest perch.” The equally compassionate and merciful law, incidentally, spares gays of the death penalty for engaging in penis-rubbing between the thighs. Death is reserved for non-Muslim offenders. So it was to be expected that Iran would introduce a measure at the United Nations denying two gay rights groups the right, like 3,000 other non-governmental agencies, to have their voice heard at the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council. Cuba, Sudan, Senegal, Pakistan, China and Zimbabwe, where gay-bashing is also sport, supported Iran. No surprise there, either. A bit more surprising (but only a little bit so) was the United States bedding with Iran and that murderers’ row of medievally slouching nations, and rubbing its pandering tumescence between the thighs of the religious right. A few years ago it would have been an outrage: The United States, siding with a tyrannous régime in support of a regressive act that crushes the human rights of others. But it is now routine. The Bush Administration can no more stand for human rights than the regimes of Central Asian republics, where merely uttering the words inspires official suspicion. Still, it’s one thing not to be surprised by the administration’s neo-barbarism anymore. We get examples of it virtually every day. It’s quite another to react to it with barely a shrug, or its media equivalent: a ten-second mention on the news, a 330-word brief in just one of the national newspapers. Has the American conscience been corroded that deeply by the Bush years? The question answers itself for needing to be asked. The Bush Administration is being its consistently contemptible self. But America, so easily acceding to the contemptible? This is new, and worrisome, and contemptible.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Hamas Rules: The Mideast's Latest Bush-Pulled Election

One of the silliest of many silly theories produced by the stand-up foreign policy comedy of Thomas Friedman was that no two nations with McDonald’s franchises would ever go to war. Friedman thought of his so-called Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention in terms of globalism as a club that “permanently restricts” a country’s “capacity for troublemaking and promotes gradual democratization and widening peace.” He had the good sense to qualify his thesis with a tongue in one check and crossed fingers in a quote by Francis Fukuyama, who correctly predicted to him that he would not be “surprised if in the next 10 years several of these McDonald’s countries go to war with each other.” Those little wars in the Balkans did the trick. With them died the notion that globalism could ever be the day trader’s Gandhiism. Then President Bush came along with a Golden Arches Theory of Conflict Prevention of his own: Any country that reaches the point of free and fair elections will join the community of peace-loving, democratic nations. It was one of those cluster-cream puffs Bush fed the world in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks as an analgesic for his neo-imperial shock and awe. The first flaw in the theory was its author, a man of many little pieces, but not of peace. The second was its assumption that elections are automatically democratic, virtuous or beneficial. The GOP’s wins by Supreme Court in 2000 and by demagoguery in 2004 should have been hint one that those assumptions needn’t apply. Iran’s recurring elections, and now Iraq’s, should have been further hints that oligarchs and kooks can play and win the democratic game. What Bush hadn’t figured on is the chicken coming home to roost in the heart of his chickenhawk designs: Terrorists have won the Palestinian election, fair and square. It’s nothing to celebrate. But Hamas’s win is part of the same Mideastern streak of fair and fearsome elections feeding on popular resentment. And they all have Bush’s radicalizing crusade for “democracy” to thank.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Veni Vidi Filchy: Iraq Reconstruction by Bush Sopranos

When Gengis Khan Khan’s grandson leveled Baghdad in 1258, in characteristically bloody Mongol fashion, the city was essentially ruined until the twentieth century. Only oil money, post-colonialism’s repressive efficiencies and Western-sponsored regimes, Saddam Hussein’s among them, helped revive the city that was once the center of the world. The American “reconstruction” of Iraq is turning into another Mongol experience for Iraq.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, a sort of internal investigative arm of America’s pro-consular affairs in Iraq, is required by law to submit quarterly “progress” reports to Congress on reconstruction. The reports, like last October’s 21 pages of lingo and acronyms and “please to report” qualifiers, usually point to corruption and shambles only behind velvety euphemisms and the promise, always the promise, of improvements. That’s the public face of American know-how: Identify the problem, identify a solution, implement the solution, then advertise it to the public (and make sure the APPLAUSE sign is flashing).
Except that the non-public version of the Inspector General’s report of reconstruction to date paints only a picture of incompetence, corruption, turf battles, cluelessness, staffing shortfalls: It is Iraqi reconstruction by The Sopranos (HBO miniseries to follow, one assumes). Iraqi oil production is below what it was before the war. So is electricity production. It’s easy and convenient to blame the insurgency, which is doing its share of destruction. But as always in these wars of convenience and quick-grasp profiteering, the bandits, in the justified eyes of Iraqis, are insurgents as much as the occupiers and their subcontracted minions a-la-Halliburton (remember, 80 percent of Iraqis mistrusted the occupation in a poll taken before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.) What did we expect from the Bush junta? Preparedness and accountability are the twin evils they equate with “lawyering things to death” (Bush’s phrase) and what they sneeringly call “business regulation,” thus revealing what this whole little adventure in saving the world from democracy is to them: a business. Dirty, but not little.
[From the Home site of Candide’s Notebooks,]

Super Bowl Economics: Chump Change

The Tuesday Column
Super Bowl Economics: Chump Change for Cities  

Triple-chinned Babbitts worry about binge drinking around sports events. They should worry more about the con of binge events, the Super Bowl first among them. Its once-a-year gift to a chosen city is an annual Promised Land of profit and PR. And once a year the myths fly thicker than locusts over Egypt: Wife-beating will spike, water pressure will plummet, the nation’s theme parks will whistle in the wind, Janet Jackson will pop out a third breast. But no myth tops the host city boosters’ predictions of riches and recognition for everyone. The more audacious the predictions, the thicker the wool woven over people’s eyes.
The dirty secret of mega sports events isn’t that they’re not lucrative. They are. But with extreme selectivity. Like the Olympics or the World Cup, the economic impacts of those mega-events ultimately make no difference to residents of the unlucky host cities, who must either flee or sustain the carnage of hype and hassle. The events are quick ways to concentrate wealth in a few fortunate (and usually migratory) pockets. The last thing they do is diffuse wealth in the locale where they take place. Read the full column…

Best of Blogs/From Every Time Zone

Best of Blogs: January 24, 2006

[From the home site of Candide’s Notebooks]

From the left, the right, the in-between: we include the political, the social, the cultural and the undefinable, and on the weekend, a few bloggers' fictional fancies, too.

  1. UTI: The religious Right is Osama bin Laden Lite

  2. MyDD on states as laboratories for progressive policies

  3. The limits of the Pentagon’s torture convictions

  4. Cartoon network: Joe Sacco’s work on Iraq torture scandal

  5. The Poor Man Institute’s Shrill Awards for the week (1 st: Al Gore)

  6. Sadly, No! agonizes over why you can’t fight Islam with gay cowboys

  7. Her irony meter off, Debbie Schlussel trills over terrorist euphemisms

  8. Patrick Belton live from the Palestinian elections

  9. The Persistent Burrito lives up to his name: “Anyone for Tort Reform”?

  10. Are you listening Oprah? Fictional memoirist Frey lied to you

  11. Europhobia on that weird UK-USSR spying scandal resurfacing now

  12. Dilemma of a Virgin Slut on the dilemma of asymmetrical breasts

  13. UK Europhobe celebrates death by Dutch decree of the EU Constitution

  14. Like N. Korea, Iran, Cuba, China: Australia to jail flag-burners?

  15. Bi-lingualism and xenophobia in Austria

  16. The dreariness and diversions of India’s roads

  17. Advantages and disadvantages of being the only girl on a movie set

Featured Blog I: Jesus Christ
What's in a Name?
THE RAVING ATHEIST (image placeholder)/Jan. 23, 2006
With all the people in the world named "Jesus" at birth, you wouldn't think it would be such a big deal for someone later in life to seek to legally change his name to the full name of that alleged deity. After all, girls named "Mary" have pretty much accomplished that -- like Cher, Charro and Beyonce, the Mother of God doesn't have a last name. And in any event, the last name "Christ" isn't so uncommon. As I noted here, a New York recently did grant a man's petition to change his name to Jesus Christ. The law certainly doesn't care; unless you're trying to evade creditors, what you call yourself is your own business. Who would object? Blogger Tim Murphy, for one. He got quite upset when he read that a Mr. Peter Robert Phillips wanted to officially be known Jesus Christ. No matter that Mr. Phillips already owned property and had a US Passport, Social Security card, District of Columbia drivers license issued under that name, and just wanted his West Virginia drivers license to match. Murphy thought the guy should be legally barred from calling himself JC -- because ... Read the Raving Atheist's full post...

Featured Blogger II: West Virginia Redux
The Body of Miners
THE RUDE PUNDIT (image placeholder)/January 23, 2006

[West Virginia's mining disasters manage to sober even the Rude Pundit, the Notebooks' Rabelais-in-Chief and Terri Garr all in one.]

Sometimes being a leftist is exhausting. Essentially, these days especially, you're just reduced to a plaintive "Told you so" when the typically hideous, awful slide into corruption or calamity occurs. The stripping away of civil rights in the wake of 9/11? Told you so. The degradation of the environment to the point that it endangers the way in which humans exist? Told you so. And part of the frustration is saying, "Told you so" again and again on the same goddamn issues. It's not unlike watching your best friend constantly going home with men, getting fucked, declaring the hope of love for the fucker, and then getting dumped within six to nine months. And no matter how many times you tell him, "You know, maybe you shouldn't emotionally commit to everyone you fuck," he'll just keep goin' along, gettin' his heart broken almost as much as he gets his rocks off. But you're a good friend. You'll be over to help delete the photos from the hard drive, wash the semen stains from the sheets, get him ready for the hope that he's learned something this time, praying that he'll at least go into therapy. Take worker safety. No, let's get even more specific: let's say mine safety. No, let's get even more and more specific: let's say mine safety in the administration of George W. Bush. Back in September 2001, another of the great disasters of that time was the series of explosions at a coal mine in Brookwood, Alabama on September 23, killing 13 people. The mine's owner, Jim Walter Resources, had been cited more than 250 times in three years by the Mine Safety and Health Administration for "allowing combustible build up underground," according to the November 12, 2001 In These Times. The MSHA, in December 2002, said that the company was at fault for the explosions and deaths at Brookwood, because of a botched evacuation and rescue effort and for the aforementioned build-up. It was fined $435,000. Read the full post...

Latest Headlines from Every Time Zone updated Tuesday, January 24, 2006 3:11 PM EST
  1. Surprise: Florida's Nelson to vote against Alito (Miami Hrld)

  2. Canada's conservatives win minority government (TorG&M)

  3. Swiss investigator: Europe knew about CIA flights (BBC)

  4. Iraq rebuilding found to be badly hobbled (NYT)

  5. Doctors concealed Sharon's condition in Dec. (Haaretz)

  6. Turkey's charges against novelist Pamuk dropped (Indep.)

  7. How energy companies & govt. gouge consumers (NYT)

  8. Bolivia's Morales rejects US domination in inaugural (FT)

  9. British Parliament misled over CIA flights (Independent)

  10. Colin Powell on Iran: Let's not rush in (London Times)

  11. Australian teachers scorn singing national anthem (SMH)

  12. Monster fires across four states in Australia (The Age)

  13. One third of Britons say legalize prostitution (Guardian)

  14. America's only Democratic president signs off (NYT)

  15. German Wikipedia shuts down, limits access (The Register)

  16. Israel, Iran trade threats over nukes strike (Haaretz)

  17. London whale dies lonely death (Guardian)

  18. Bush administration takes sides in Palestine vote (WPost)

  19. Indonesia asked to explain killing of students (The Australian)

  20. Pakistan's semi-dictator makes democratic claims (PDT)

  21. Nigeria is lawless, says US government (Nigeria Guardian)

  22. Off welfare, but better off? (Richmond Times-Dispatch)