Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New book documents Bush administration's 269 war crimes

With a Foreword by former Nuremberg prosecutor Benjamin B. Ferencz, the book George W. Bush, War Criminal? The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes by Professor Michael Haas was released today by Greenwood Press. Further information is available at

Based on information supplied in autobiographical and press sources, the book matches events in Afghanistan, Guantánamo, Iraq , and various secret places of detention with provisions in the Geneva Conventions and other international agreements on war crimes. His compilation is the first to cite a comprehensive list of specific war crimes in four categories-illegality of the decision to go to war, misconduct during war, mistreatment of prisoners of war, and misgovernment in the American occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Haas accuses President Bush of conduct bordering on treason because he reenacted several complaints stated in the Declaration of Independence against England, ignored the Constitution and federal laws, trampled on the American tradition of developing international law to bring order to world politics, and in effect made a Faustian pact with Osama Bin Laden that the intelligence community blames for an increase in world terrorism. Osama Bin Laden remains alive, he reports, because Bush preferred to go after oil-rich Iraq rather than tracking down Al Qaeda leaders, whose uncaptured presence was useful to him in justifying a "war on terror" pursued on a military rather than a criminal basis without restraint from constitutional checks and balances.

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Indicting Bush

Soon heading out of office, Bush and his advisers should be tried as the war criminals they are, writes Ayman El-Amir*

18-24 Dec, 2008

As President George W Bush prepares to conclude eight years of controversial presidency and leave the White House, a host of political ghosts will follow him and his key lieutenants for the misdeeds they committed against the American people and other nations. It has now become clear that the invasion and destruction of Iraq was motivated by greed and political ambition; the war in Afghanistan turned from revenge to a military misadventure. President Bush and his top political aides have lied to the American people and the world, violated every precept of international law, wrecked two nations and cost the American people heavy losses in dollars and bodies. It is now the time of reckoning and they should be prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The question now is not if but by whom should they be taken to account.

In a recent interview with the ABC television network, President Bush professed that "the biggest regret" of his presidency had been "the intelligence failure in Iraq". But he declined to say whether he would have ordered the invasion of Iraq if he had known that there were no weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). However, a report by the US Senate Intelligence Committee in June concluded that both President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney misrepresented intelligence reports assessing Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction, of its pursuit of a nuclear weapons programme and of links with terrorist organisations, including Al-Qaeda. The report showed clearly that intelligence assessments did not support his serious claims about Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes. Nor did it support Cheney's claim on 29 August 2002 that, "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use them against our friends, our allies and against us." Those were the WMDs that were never found and that are now presumed destroyed years before the 2003 invasion.

The pegs on which Bush, Cheney and former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld hung their justification for the invasion were proved to be a premeditated tweaking of intelligence coming from discredited sources. A CNN report revealed that the principal source of information about Iraq's WMDs was a certain Rafid Ahmed Elwan Al-Janabi, codenamed "Curveball" by the CIA, an Iraqi refugee who had once worked for the Iraqi weapons industry but left in 1999 for Germany where he now lives undercover. He was the source President Bush cited in his 2003 State of the Union address as part of the build-up for the invasion. Al-Janabi, however, denied that he provided US intelligence with any information about Iraq's possession of WMDs, and suggested that the reports may have been transmitted by German intelligence. It would seem that instead of trying to verify intelligence reports, President Bush and his associates pushed doubtful information beyond the limits of credibility to force a case for war. Prior to the invasion, UN Observation and Verification Mission in Iraq (UNMOVIQ) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors failed to turn over any evidence of WMDs and informed the Security Council accordingly. And the council denied the Bush administration's warriors legitimacy to carry out the invasion. As a New York Times editorial noted at the time the summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report was released, "the report shows clearly that President Bush should have known that important claims he made about Iraq did not conform to intelligence reports. In other cases, he could have learned the truth if he had asked better questions or encouraged more honest answers."

President Bush and his war lieutenants who have directly or indirectly planned and executed the invasion of Iraq have intentionally misled the American people, committed men and money to an illegal war and unnecessarily put the lives of tens of thousands of Americans in harm's way, resulting in more than 4,000 deaths and 35,000 injuries. These and other offences fall within the purview of the American justice system and the judgement of the American public. In August 1974, former president Richard Nixon resigned under threat of impeachment by Congress because he was proven to have lied to the American people about the extent of his role in the Watergate scandal. In the case of President Bush, the analogy is rather incompatible because he is leaving office in one month's time anyway and, more importantly, because Congress was accomplice to the crime of the invasion of Iraq since it disingenuously approved the war. After all, George W Bush was exercising his presidential prerogative as commander-in- chief by launching a military operation to preempt a perceived threat to the nation with the support of a predominantly Republican Congress. On the other hand, civil suits against the Bush clique may take years of litigation and could go all the way to the US Supreme Court. But for a nation that has just surprised the world by electing its first black president, nothing is beyond the realm of possibility. It is unlikely that the incoming president, Barack Obama, could issue blanket immunity from prosecution covering all actions of President Bush during his tenure. Similar action by former president Gerald Ford in the case of former president Richard Nixon went down as a black mark on Ford's legacy.

From the international perspective, President Bush is no less indictable for war crimes or crimes against humanity than President Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan, if only International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo could muster enough nerve to launch an investigation. In the case of the Sudanese president, Moreno-Ocampo argued that he had the powers to initiate an indictment procedure on his own without any formal complaint by any signatory member of the ICC. When it comes to the case of President Bush and his administration officials, Moreno-Ocampo will find plenty of grounds for indictment, not least of which the destruction of a country and the death of an estimated 350,000- 1,200,000 of its population and the displacement of approximately five million more. The fabrication of evidence to justify the invasion of Iraq on the grounds of ridding it of WMDs was later adjusted to mean ridding Iraq of the rule of Saddam. US human rights' abuses in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo Bay detention camp, the employment of a mercenary army, Blackwater USA, the destruction and division of Iraq are only part of a long list of charges that Moreno-Ocampo could deem prosecutable war crimes and crimes against humanity, should he launch an investigation.

It is improbable that the Obama administration would cooperate with the ICC for the prosecution of George W Bush or his war lieutenants. The US has rejected the jurisdiction of the ICC as far its own officials and nationals are concerned. To ensure their impunity from prosecution for whatever offence they may commit on foreign soil, the Bush administration coerced 100 countries into signing so-called Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIA) by which the signatory country is enjoined from handing over US nationals to the ICC for whatever crime they may have committed anywhere in the world and were indicted by the ICC. Coercion included cutting off military aid and economic assistance programmes to more than 26 countries and the threat of doing the same to other countries that refused to sign BIAs. Of course the US could indict and try its own nationals for offences they could commit on foreign soil, but the US justice system, particularly military justice, has proved to be extremely lenient when dealing with crimes committed in Iraq, and disregardful to those committed in Afghanistan. So, the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld war triumvirate will never be hauled before the ICC, but investigation and indictment would go a long way towards confirming international condemnation of the first crime against humanity committed in the 21st century. The matter is then left to the US justice system and those who believe in it. As for the Bush legacy and his achievements in Iraq, the American public should read more deeply into the sentiment of the Iraqi public as demonstrated by the shoe that flew into Bush's face when he made his recent farewell call on Baghdad.

* The writer is former Al-Ahram correspondent in Washington, DC. He also served as director of United Nations Radio and Television in New York.

~ Al-Ahram Weekly ~

How should America act in it's own defense?

At the end of World War II, the United States executed Japanese soldiers who water boarded Americans, and we criminally prosecuted Americans who water boarded Japanese. War crimes are war crimes, torture does not work, and most intelligence officers know that. It is only the nincompoops who think it does.

We have about 800 overseas military facilities that cost us several hundred billions of dollars a year to maintain. The sun has set on the British Empire, and the only empire in existence now is the American empire. We need to stop making enemies around the world by continuing the American empire.

Osama Bin Laden was our ally in our proxy war against the Russians in Afghanistan in the 1980s. After we stationed hundreds of thousands of troops in Osama’s 'holy land' of Saudi Arabia, basically to protect the Corrupt House of Saud, bin Laden and his organization decided to come after us.

Even if our intentions were pure as driven snow, [which is questionable, the plain fact of the matter is we have bought and own a great deal of trouble we are now in, starting with the overthrow of democratically elected Iranian leader Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953.

You can scream and holler about me being one of the blame America crowd until your head explodes! It will not change the plain facts. And we cannot outspend Al Qaeda like we did to the Russians. There is another little fact that you may not be aware of. Rich and powerful individuals in Saudi Arabia financially support Al Qaeda. Now why did they that? Might one of the reasons be because they want to keep the United States preoccupied, engaged, and weakened?

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Bush, Cheney must be held accountable for torture crimes

Of all the acts of President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, none have bred such revulsion as theWhite House decision to blow off Geneva Conventions on humane treatment and approve torture of suspected terrorists as an acceptable American ethic.

Despite incoming President Barack Obama's inclination to "move on," tacit approval of torture as a war crime cannot be dismissed. Waiving off this horror and arguing against punishment would reduce U.S. moral standards to those of a barbaric Third World nation whose culture accepts government brutality as ho-hum practice.

It also would certify the delusional maxim of disgraced President Richard Nixon, who airily rationalized his crimes thus: "When the President does it, that means it is not illegal."

Since 9/11, journalists have documented U.S. mistreatment that emulated KGB Stalinist techniques—kidnapping, imprisonment in faraway jails, torture.

Now, a bipartisan U.S. Senate report pins torture squarely on the Bush-Cheney administration, saying torture "strengthened the hand of our enemies and compromised our moral authority."

The International Red Cross has declared that U.S. waterboarding is torture and could make Bush administration officials guilty of war crimes. The Red Cross said one U.S. prisoner was waterboarded as many as three times one day.

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Famed prosecutor/author vows President Bush will be brought to justice for mass murder

The former Los Angeles County district attorney who put Charles Manson and his followers behind bars for life is not finished with outgoing President George W. Bush. Indeed—rough though the road may be—Vincent Bugliosi sees the upcoming post-Bush period as an even better time to forge ahead to try Bush on murder allegations, on the basis of Bush getting America into the deadly Iraq war under false pretenses. 

ince American Free Press broke the story last summer that Bugliosi was to be the keynote speaker at an Andover,Mass. law conference on high-levelAmerican war crimes—as a prelude to attending the September conference to interview him—Bugliosi says he has been fighting the American media's resistance to his effort to alert a sizable portion of Americans about the case against Bush. His book, The Prosecution of GeorgeW. Bush for Murder, has sold well, having made the NewYork Times bestseller list. But nothing seems to stick.

“We're looking for a few good prosecutors,” Bugliosi said in a December interview, describing his quest to locate some local prosecutors, among 2,200 in the nation, with the fortitude to try the president. “I have to think that there is at least one out of 2,200.”

Since no one among the 50 attorneys general in the states seems particularly interested in this matter (yet), Bugliosi, quoted Mark Twain: “Why is physical courage so common but moral courage so rare?” All setbacks considered, Bugliosi was happy to report that an associate raised enough money to send 2,200 copies of his Bush book, along with a signed cover letter, to those 2,200 local prosecutors at the county level (or “parishes” in Louisiana). Any such prosecutor whose jurisdiction includes soldiers who died in Iraq has jurisdiction, as Bugliosi sees it.

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A look back on the 10th anniversary of Bill Clinton trial

Against the backdrop of the war in Iraq, terrorism and the credit crunch, the Clinton era can seem a golden era of peace and prosperity. But today, writes David Williamson, is the 10th anniversary of one of the most dramatic moments in the history of American Government when senators put the president on trial

TEN years ago today the impeachment trial of Bill Clinton began in the US Senate, with the leader of the world's most powerful country was accused of perjury and obstruction of justice.

The President's second term spiralled into crisis when lawmakers chose to pursue allegation that he had lied under oath about a sexual relationship with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

The trial took place against the backdrop of a booming economy and a dotcom bubble that had yet to burst. Al-Qaeda had not become a household name and the two towers of the World Trade Centre stood tall on the Manhattan skyline as symbols of American confidence and prosperity.

Republicans leading the attack failed to win the necessary support of two-thirds of senators and the impeachment effort failed. The acquitted president would complete his term of office with his reputation as one of the most popular world leaders in living memory intact.

Clinton was only the second president to face impeachment proceedings, sharing this place in the history books with Andrew Johnson who faced an attempt to oust him in 1868.

It is unclear whether efforts to impeach presidents will become a more common phenomenon in the years ahead.

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This alien legacy - The origins of "sodomy" laws in British colonialism

More than 80 countries around the world still criminalize consensual homosexual conduct between adult men, and often between adult women.

These laws invade privacy and create inequality. They relegate people to inferior status because of how they look or who they love.  They degrade people's dignity by declaring their most intimate feelings "unnatural" or illegal.  They can be used to discredit enemies and destroy careers and lives.  They promote violence and give it impunity.  They hand police and others the power to arrest, blackmail, and abuse.  They drive people underground to live in invisibility and fear.

More than half those countries have these laws because they once were British colonies.

This report describes the strange afterlife of a colonial legacy.  It will tell how one British law -- the version of Section 377 the colonizers introduced into the Indian Penal Code in 1860 -- spread across immense tracts of the British Empire.

Colonial legislators and jurists introduced such laws, with no debates or "cultural consultations," to support colonial control.  They believed laws could inculcate European morality into resistant masses.  They brought in the legislation, in fact, because they thought "native" cultures did not punish "perverse" sex enough.  The colonized needed compulsory re-education in sexual mores.  Imperial rulers held that, as long as they sweltered through the promiscuous proximities of settler societies, "native" viciousness and "white" virtue had to be segregated: the latter praised and protected, the former policed and kept subjected.

Section 377 was, and is, a model law in more ways than one.  It was a colonial attempt to set standards of behavior, both to reform the colonized and to protect the colonizers against moral lapses.  It was also the first colonial "sodomy law" integrated into a penal code -- and it became a model anti-sodomy law for countries far beyond India, Malaysia, and Uganda.  Its influence stretched across Asia, the Pacific islands, and Africa, almost everywhere the British imperial flag flew.

    In Asia and the Pacific, colonies and countries that inherited versions of that British law were: Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Kiribati, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Myanmar (Burma), Nauru, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Western Samoa.

    In Africa, countries that inherited versions were: Botswana, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Among these, only New Zealand (in 1986), Australia (state by state and territory by territory), Hong Kong (in 1990, before the colony was returned to China), and Fiji (by a 2005 high court decision) have put the legacy, and the sodomy law, behind them.

Other colonial powers had far less impact in spreading so-called sodomy laws.   France decriminalized consensual homosexual conduct in 1791.  (It did, however, impose sodomy laws on some French colonies as means of social control, and versions of these survive in countries such as Benin, Cameroon, and Senegal.)  Germany's notorious Paragraph 175 punished homosexual acts between men from Bismarck's time till after the Nazi period.  German colonies were few, however, and the legal traces of its presence evanescent.

This report does not pretend to be a comprehensive review of "sodomy" and European colonial law.  It concentrates on the British experience because of the breadth and endurance of its impact.  Nor does this report try to look at the career of "sodomy" and law in all the British colonies.  For clarity, it focuses on the descendants of India's Section 377.  (Britain's Caribbean possessions received the criminalization of "buggery" in British law, but by a different process relatively unaffected by the Indian example.  They are not discussed here.)

As Britain tottered toward the terminal days of its imperial power, an official recommendation by a set of legal experts -- the famous Wolfenden Report of 1957 -- urged that "homosexual behaviour between consenting adults in private should no longer be a criminal offence."   The report said:

    The law's function is to preserve public order and decency, to protect the citizen from what is offensive or injurious, and to provide sufficient safeguards against exploitation and corruption of others . . .  It is not, in our view, the function of the law to intervene in the private life of citizens, or to seek to enforce any particular pattern of behaviour.

England and Wales decriminalized most consensual homosexual conduct in 1967.  That came too late for most of Britain's colonies, though.  When they won independence in the 1950s and 1960s, they did so with the sodomy laws still in place.

Few of those independent states have undertaken repeal since then.  This flies in the face of a growing body of international human rights law and precedents demanding that they do so.  They disregard, too, the example of formerly colonized states like Ecuador, Fiji, and South Africa that have actually enshrined protections for equality based on sexual orientation in their constitutions.

Still more striking is how judges, public figures, and political leaders have, in recent decades, defended those laws as citadels of nationhood and cultural authenticity.  Homosexuality, they now claim, comes from the colonizing West.  They forget the West brought in the first laws enabling governments to forbid and repress it.

Addressing the sodomy law in 1983, India's Supreme Court proudly declared that "neither the notions of permissive society nor the fact that in some countries homosexuality has ceased to be an offence has influenced our thinking."  Courts there have deliberately distanced themselves from conclusions like those of the Wolfenden report, finding -- in the ultimate paradox -- that England now embodies the sexual decadence against which India must be defended.  "Various fundamental differences in both the societies [England and India] must be realised by all concerned, especially in the area of sexual offences," one judge held.

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Vivienne Westwood plans Sex and the City sequel

The 67-year-old has even written to the show's producers to ask them to use her plot for the sequel, it has been reported.

A source told the Independent newspaper: "She's been obsessed with the film ever since she was it. She has even put in calls to [the lead actress] Sarah Jessica Parker about it."

Dame Vivienne designed the wedding dress in which Jessica Parker appeared in the film and also wrote a note that was used in the marriage scene.

And when the film was released last year she publicly criticised stylist Patricia Field's clothes designs.

She said: "I thought Sex And The City was supposed to be about cutting-edge fashion and there was nothing remotely memorable or interesting about what I saw.

"I went to the premiere and left after ten minutes."

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Denmark: Afghan to sue for military's negligence

A court will decide whether the military violated the Geneva convention when it transferred Afghan prisoners to US forces

A man who claims to have been tortured by US forces in Afghanistan in 2002 is suing the Danish state for what he claims is the Danish military's negligence for handing him over, knowing there was a risk he would be tortured.

Questions about the transfer of 31 Afghan prisoners from Danish to US forces were raised in the 2006 documentary 'Den Hemmelig Krig' (The Secret War), broadcast by public broadcaster DR.

According to DR, Ghousoullah Tarin is seeking 50,000 kroner in compensation from the Danish state. But Tarin's Danish attorney, Tyge Trier, said the case will also deal with whether Danish forces violated the Geneva convention by handing over the troops.

Tarin, Trier said, believes the Danish forces violated the convention, as they were aware he risked 'indefensible' treatment at the hands of the US military.

A decision in the case is expected by the end of the year.

~ The Copenhagen Post ~

Apocalypse now -- could the Internet seize up altogether?

Life without the internet – American I.T. experts say it could happen within just six years.

While the internet has significantly eased lives of millions, the research by U.S. experts says the web is getting clogged up with traffic and the network might vanish in 2015.

"The world will become bigger again, the feeling that we share the same planet will disappear and the science will not be developing as quickly as it's developing now," said Dmitry Glukhovsky, a popular Internet writer on the prospective.

Although high-speed connections are now taken for granted and it's hard to imagine that people ever lived without Google or Skype, in reality it's only been a few years since people managed to struggle from one day to the next without ever logging on.

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Israel's looming catastrophe

For the past three decades, Israel has charted a course that invites its own destruction by relying on two risky propositions: first, that it could extend its security perimeter beyond the reach of a devastating missile attack, and second, that it could permanently control the political debate inside its crucial ally, the United States.

Israel's current assault on Gaza is only the latest manifestation of this dangerous strategy, but – whether or not Israel succeeds in its stated goal of stopping the launching of short-range Hamas rockets – the more troubling writing for Israel remains on the wall.

If Israel continues to engender hatred across the Muslim world – and thus feeds the growth of Islamic extremism – eventually some radical government or group will get hold of a missile or some other means of delivering a payload against Tel Aviv that would wreak mass devastation.

In that event, Israel would almost surely turn to its sophisticated nuclear arsenal and launch a massive retaliatory strike. But to what end? Whatever counter-devastation could be delivered, it would not solve the strategic dilemma facing Israel.

Indeed, retaliation would likely make matters worse by engendering even a stronger determination among Muslims to eliminate whatever would be left of Israel. The situation might even be beyond the military power of the United States to set right.

Yet, this Israeli conundrum is not discussed inside the United States, where – for the past three decades – American neocons have led a powerful propaganda apparatus that demonizes any public figure who dares question hard-line Israeli strategy.

Even Americans with strong affection for Israel are denounced as “anti-Semites” or “pro-terrorist” if they challenge the Israel-is-always-right conventional wisdom that dominates modern Washington, where Democrats and Republicans alike line up to pander to the annual American-Israel Public Affairs Committee conference.

Former President Jimmy Carter, for instance, has become almost a political pariah although he arguably did more than any U.S. official to advance Israel's security by negotiating the Camp David accords in 1978.

However, it was that event – the agreement between Israel and Egypt, returning the Sinai to Egypt in exchange for a lasting peace commitment – that marked the strategic turning point for both Israel and the United States.

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Church offers prayers for redundant workers -- and those who stay on

The Church of England today responded to the economic downturn and growing fears of job losses by issuing prayers for people made redundant and their colleagues remaining in the workplace.

The church said it wanted to provide comfort to people, with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development predicting that at least 600,000 workers could lose their jobs this year.

The prayer on being made redundant is an attempt to put into words "the anxieties of those who are losing – or who have already lost – their job in the wave of recent redundancies," the church said. The poem pleads: "As I look to the future, help me to look for fresh opportunities, for new directions."

For those remaining in the workplace, another prayer focuses on the guilt and increased workload associated with redundancy. "Who will be next? How will I cope with the increased pressure of work?" it asks.

The prayers feature in the matter of life and debt section of the Church of England's website, which includes advice for people with financial worries. Other prayers address the current financial situation, wise financial stewardship and people who are worried about debt.

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Deloitte survey shows we’re living in a "media democracy"

We're living in a media democracy, where no single form of media dominates the attention of Americans. It's also an age where everyone contributes to the media, not just traditional media companies. That's a conclusion of the third annual Deloitte survey on the state of media, which asked respondents how they spent time with media.

“A lot of media will coexist,” said Ed Moran, director of product innovation at Deloitte Services. “We won't see a massive extinction.”

The millennial generation — ages 14 to 25 — is leading this charge now as it accesses content on all sorts of new devices and distribution platforms using a variety of pricing schemes and advertising models. The millennials consume the most media and are more likely to get entertainment from multiple media sources and applications. That's in contrast to a few decades ago, when media was more expensive and so was consumed most often by older generations with more disposable income, said Moran.

Some of this comes as no surprise, as younger people tend to be early adopters. The millennials embrace gaming, music, the Internet, and user-generated content. They're less likely to read newspapers, watch TV, read formal news sites, or visit traditional shopping and product review sites. Their preferred way of absorbing content is watching video on the web and handheld devices or listening to music on mobile phones and MP3 music players.

The surprising thing about millennials is that they do read magazines, as do most of the other generations surveyed. Even when given the choice between a magazine's web site and the paper magazine, respondents preferred the paper versions.

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Letters of Apollinaire to his lover Lou published for first time in Spain

The letters sent by French poet Apollinaire to his lover Lou during World War I have been published for the first time in Spain in a volume which, according to translator Marta Pino, "is the truest reflection of the poet's personality."

In letters that Apollinaire never dreamed would be published as a book, the author "tells all with complete sincerity, to such a degree that when they were published in France they caused a huge scandal and had censorship problems," Pino told Efe.

In "Letters to Lou," Apollinaire "explores and experiments with new literary forms; the texts are pure avant-garde that he wrote from the front after volunteering" for the army.

Apollinaire met Lou (Genevieve Marguerite Marie-Louise de Pillot de Coligny) in September 1914, soon after joining the 38th Artillery Regiment, and their meeting sparked a passionate, fiery love affair.

The poems and letters in which they grew close reveal his developing relationship with Lou along with his literary explorations, including the first "calligrammes," in which words or letters create a shape usually representing the subject of the poem.

Pino said that his poetic experiments can be observed "from some of the more classical poems employing traditional meters, to examples of free verse without rhyme or rigid format, all contained in the letters."

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Gutai-shi - "concrete poetry"

Whatever the reading, what the viewer is presented with is an example of gutai-shi — "concrete poetry" — which first appeared in the 1950s and '60s. Concrete poetry was an offshoot of the "shaped poetry" of the early 20th century that sought to amplify the meaning of a text by using the layout of the words to add to the meaning, as in "Calligrammes," by Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918). This offshoot largely dispensed with standard grammar in favor of typography and composition, forcing the reader further into the interaction between the visual and the verbal.

From the 1930s, there were already exponents of avant-garde poetry in Japan, such as Katue Kitasono (1902-1978), who independently had arrived at some of the precepts of what would come to be known as concrete poetry. Wider attention came to the movement when Kitasono assisted the Brazilian composer and poet L.C. Vinholes in staging an exhibition of Brazilian concrete poetry at the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1960. In 1964 in Tokyo, Seiichi (1925-77) also became acquainted with Vinholes — and through him the international movement — but Seiichi's initial efforts in the genre predate the Japanese-Brazilian collaboration too.

An exhibition at The National Museum of Art, Osaka, "The Concrete Poetry of Niikuni Seiichi: Between Poetry and Art," follows the story of his work. The artist's first collection of "Poems for Watching" appeared in 1955, which was followed in 1963 with "Zero-on," long considered the best individual collection of concrete poetry by a Japanese poet. Seiichi founded the The Association for the Study of the Arts (ASA) the following year and set himself the task of developing a Japanese version of concrete poetry, the tenets of which were set down in a series of manifestos.

The "Tokyo Manifesto for Spatialism" (1968) was overwrought, shifting from humdrum statements such as, "a word has semantic and aesthetic information" to far out goals such as "to liberate the energy of words from the origin of language to a cosmic philosophy." The ASA Manifesto of 1973 was more measured. Seiichi argued for a supranational poetry and a way of communicating instantaneous understanding. More specifically, this meant that "a poem should have the nature of an ideograph or hieroglyph."

The three Japanese scripts — kanji and the simplified, phonetic hiragana and katakana — lent themselves well to the basic premises of concrete poetry as they are readable from right to left or in reverse, up and down or otherwise scattered over a page as in the chirashigaki calligraphic script popular since the 11th century. The scattered script style can be found in the constellationlike groupings of Seiichi's early work, such as "Onna (Woman)" (1963), which collates various kanji for the words "legs," "fire," "hips," "eyes," "ass" and others.

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Is socialism still relevant?

The riots that have rampaged across Greece may have many causes, but one that is rarely mentioned is the fracturing of the Greek left into George Papandreou's traditional socialist party, Pasok, and an increasingly radicalised faction that refuses all accommodation with either the European Union or modern economics. To varying degrees, this divide is paralysing socialist parties across Europe.

That the traditional left is so inert in the midst of today's economic crisis is more than strange. Instead of thriving on renewed doubts about capitalism, Europe's socialist parties have failed to make any serious political inroads. In countries where they hold power, such as Spain, they are now very unpopular.

Where they are in opposition, as in France and Italy, they are in disarray – as is Germany's Social Democratic party (SDP), despite their being part of the ruling grand coalition. Even Sweden's out-of-power Socialists, the country's dominant party for a century, have failed to capitalise on the crisis. The United Kingdom may be the exception, although the pro-market Labour party shaped by Tony Blair may not count as a party of the left anymore.

European socialists have failed to address the crisis cogently because of their internal divisions. Born anti-capitalist, these parties all (to greater and lesser degrees) came to accept the free market as the foundation of the economy. Moreover, since 1991 and the collapse of the Soviet system, the left has lacked a clear model with which to oppose capitalism.

But, despite paying lip service to the market, the European left remains torn by an inner contradiction between its anti-capitalist origins and its recent conversion to free-market economics. Is the present crisis a crisis of capitalism or just a phase of it? This controversy keeps left-wing intellectuals, pundits, and politicians busy on television talk shows and in café debates across Europe.

As a result, a struggle for power has erupted. In France and Germany, a new far left – composed of Trotskyites, communists, and anarchists – is rising from the ashes to become a political force again. These rejuvenated ghosts take the form of Oskar Lafontaine's Left party in Germany, as well as various revolutionary movements in France; one of them has just named itself the Anti-Capitalist party. Its leader, a onetime postman, says that in the present circumstances, he is part of a "resistance", a word resonant of the anti-fascist struggles of the Hitler era. The actual alternative to capitalism that this far left seeks is anyone's guess.

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Victory to the Greek revolution!

Risto Stefov
16 Dec, 2008

The uprising that is taking place in Greece should serve as a verdict on the corrupt and aggressive government of Costas Karamanlis and New Democracy. Rioting and violence are to be deplored, but they are symptoms of the deep malaise from which Greece is suffering. They should not be allowed to obscure the legitimacy of the Greek popular struggle that has broken out against poverty, corruption and police brutality.

While I condemn all acts of violence and vandalism, I should like to express my complete solidarity with the youth, workers and other citizens of Greece who are protesting and striking peacefully. Democracy means that the government and state can be held accountable for a country´s woes. And when the youth of Greece is rioting on such a scale, in a manner that transcends social classes, it is a sign that the government and state have gone very badly wrong. Mr. Karamanlis and his government should resign; Greek politics and the Greek state are in desperate need of a thorough rejuvenation.

For those of us who have been as bemused as much as horrified by the lunacy of Athens´s escalation of the ´name dispute´ with Macedonia this year, we now have an explanation: Greece´s bullying of Macedonia has been the behaviour of a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown, who lashes out at colleagues, neighbours and family members. But this has not come from nowhere. In a Balkan neighbourhood of unhealthy, dysfunctional states, Greece is one of the sickest. And it is not a new sickness. As Maria Margaronis writes, in one of the best articles on the crisis, the contemporary order in Greece was built on the defeat of the anti-fascist movement in World War II and the Greek Civil War in the 1940s. In one of the most shameful episodes of the Cold War, Britain and the US backed the Greek rightists, their hands stained with collaboration with the Nazis, in their murderous campaign against the anti-fascist left, laying the basis for a post-war Greece whose political classes have behaved with almost unparallelled brutality and irresponsibility, both toward their own people and toward their neighbours.

The right´s victory in the Greek Civil War set the seal on a post-war Greek state for which persecution of leftists and ethnic minorities would be intrinsic.

The victory involved the renewed crushing of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece, and ensured the continuation of the pre-war fascist regime´s policy of its forced assimilation, culminating in the campaign in the 1990s to force the newly independent Republic of Macedonia to change its name. Fear of a centre-left electoral victory in 1967 provoked a military coup and the establishment of the Colonels´ junta, which persecuted leftists and democrats, murderously suppressed a student uprising in November 1973 and provoked the Turkish invasion of Cyprus by its adventuristic attempt to annex the island.

Thus, the same brutal, corrupt and unreconstructed Greek state has trampled on Greece´s citizens, ethnic minorities and neighbours alike. The fall of the junta in 1974 did not lead to a thorough democratization of this state, which continues to this day to persecute its ethnic Macedonian (´Slavophone´) and its Turkish (´Muslim´) minorities. Regarding both minorities, Greece has been found guilty of violating their rights by the European Court of Human Rights. Whether in their support for Slobodan Milosevic´s Great Serbian imperialism, persecution of the Republic of Macedonia or obstruction of international recognition of Kosova´s independence, Greece´s political classes have long played a thoroughly regressive role in Balkan regional politics.

The mass mobilization of youth, spearheaded by anarchists and other radical elements, in response to the police shooting of the teenager Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Exarchia in Athens, is an indication of the extent to which the Greek state is viewed as an alien oppressor by some segments of the population; the police are hated by many Greeks as they are hated among some ethnic minorities in the US and other Western countries. Yet the corruption of the Greek political classes is not limited to the parties of the right; the socialist PASOK actually exceeded New Democracy in the extent of its anti-Macedonian chauvinism and support for Milosevic´s regime in the early 1990s. Nor does PASOK enjoy much greater public confidence than the ruling New Democracy: according to a recent poll, 55% of respondents said neither party appeared competent to handle the situation.

The Communist Party of Greece, for its part, is a Red-Brown party whose chauvinism and xenophobia exceed those of New Democracy and PASOK, as indicated, for example, by its championing of Milosevic and support for the anti-Macedonian campaign. Indeed, in Greece, perhaps more than in any other Balkan country, national chauvinism and anti-Western xenophobia seamlessly unite hardliner left-wing and right-wing currents.

After Russia, Belarus and Turkey, Greece is the European country perhaps most in need of a democratic revolution to shake up its political classes and introduce a genuinely democratic culture that will respect the rights of its youth, workers, ethnic minorities and neighbours alike. In these circumstances, it would be a mistake to dismiss the Greek popular protests simply because of the destructive actions of the hooligans who have been smashing up shops, or because of the infantile politics of anarchists and other extreme left-wing elements. As Margaronis notes: ´Anarchist groups dreaming of revolution played a key part in the first waves of destruction, but this week´s protests were not orchestrated by the usual suspects, who relish a good bust-up and a whiff of teargas. There´s been no siege of the American embassy, no blaming Bush, very few party slogans.´

Indeed, as Takis Michas points out, the unwillingness of the government to halt the violence is itself further indication of its irresponsibility and bankruptcy: ´Anyone watching this absurd scene could be excused for concluding that a secret deal had been struck between the government and the rioters: We let you torch and plunder to your heart´s content, and you let us continue pretending that we are in charge.´ The political bankruptcy of the mainstream parties has allowed extremists to hijack popular discontent. Yet this does not mean that in Greece - where one in five lives below the poverty line and 70% of those aged 18-25 are unemployed - the people do not have genuine grievances. Only a thorough programme of both democratic and social reforms, an alleviation of social misery and a tackling of corruption, can rescue Greece from the hands of the extremists of both right and left and lay the basis for a functioning Greek democracy. It is to be hoped that the events of the past week will catalyze such a programme of change.

That is why I say: long live the youth, workers and citizens of Greece ! Victory to the Greek revolution !

Posted by Marko Attila Hoare


Monday, 15 December 2008

~ American Chronicle ~

Poe at 200

2009 marks the bicentennial of Edgar Allan Poe, arguably the most famed and influential writer in American history. Not only does his work entirely limn the culture, but he also created no fewer than two genres of popular fiction — mystery and modern horror — almost single-handedly. Virtually anyone in the U.S. can recite his poetry (a few lines here and there, at least). His personal life and ambitions inform the clichés of the starving writer in his garret and that of the mad genius. And it's nigh impossible for someone to graduate from an American high school without having read him.

Poe was also a player of hoaxes, a plagiarist, had a substance abuse problem, and couldn't keep a roof over his head. Poe was a proponent of slavery, the worst sort of would-be social climber, and married a 13-year-old girl in his cousin Virginia Clemm. None of this information is new, of course — these fun facts are probably the answers to a fill-in-the-blank quiz given each year in some sixth-grade classroom in Ohio. The problem is that Poe has been so completely taught that he is very rarely read with the eyes of a reader.

Unlike Hawthorne, with whom he is often paired in criticism and in those awful "language arts" classes, Poe had little interest in portraying a true-to-life America or plumbing our historical discontents. Many of his stories take place in a world either fancifully sketched out or left purposefully ambiguous.

[ ... ]

Poe was one of the first authors of modern horror in that he was not interested in resolving the social trespasses his work depicted with pat morally correct endings or appeals to cosmic justice. In this way, he was also one of the only modern purveyors of dark fiction. The bloodiest slasher flicks often betray a Puritanical ideology, with only the virginal characters allowed to survive. Gangsta rappers love their mamas and write songs about them. Noir writers made sure their sleuths had a code of ethical conduct, even if it only consisted of a single line they would not cross but that the baddies they hunted would. Stephen King's novels summon up dark miracles that threaten families, towns, and occasionally civilization itself, but these evils are put down more often than not thanks to the power of friendship. Poe's an acquired taste, more like Thomas Ligotti or Domenic Stansberry than Dean Koontz.

~ more... ~

‘We are still on the streets in Greece’

Protests and strikes are leading to a growing radicalisation and increasing the pressure on the Greek government, writes Matthew Cookson

Greece's right wing government is facing a hot new year. The mass movement that rocked the country after the police killing of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on 6 December is to take to the streets again on Friday of this week.

Alexandros's killing has become a focus for the general discontent in society and people are calling for the government to go.

In the days following his death, school students walked out to protest at police stations, university students occupied their faculties, workers struck and people held huge demonstrations.

A general strike of workers over the government's austerity budget shut down the country on Wednesday 10 December.

Panos Garganas is the editor of Workers Solidarity, Socialist Worker's sister paper in Greece.

He said, “The teachers' unions, university students and school students have called a demonstration against the government and police brutality in Athens, Greece's capital, for Friday of this week.

“The civil service workers' union has called a stoppage for the afternoon in support of the teachers and the students. This strike will affect hospitals, local authorities and the civil service.

“The unions striking and protesting this week are set to discuss a 24-hour strike at a meeting on Monday of next week. They are planning more action.

“This puts the pressure on the other unions to call strikes too.

“Saturday will see a demonstration, called by the Greek Stop the War Coalition and Palestinian groups, against Israel's assault on Gaza. The unions are backing this demonstration.

“Both protests are expected to be massive.

“The anger at the attack on Gaza has meant that people have stayed on the streets over the holidays. Greece conducted joint air exercises with Israel last year and people are demanding the government breaks the alliance.


“Over 10,000 people protested in Athens in solidarity with the Palestinians last Saturday. People threw a hail of stones at the Israeli embassy.

“The government remains under a lot of pressure. There is lots of talk that prime minister Costas Karamanlis is going to reshuffle his cabinet in an attempt to relieve the tension.

“But he is yet to do it, and will probably wait until after this Friday's demonstration to gauge the continuing strength of the movement.

“Karamanlis also faces major problems with the failing economy. A number of prominent politicians have said that the country's economic woes are so deep that it will have to go to the International Monetary Fund for help in repaying its debt.

“We expect that the main universities will be occupied again from next week. The occupation movement could then spread.”

The Thursday before Christmas saw strikes by hospital workers and teachers, who joined a mass protest of students in Athens.

Panos said, “Tens of thousands of people joined the demonstration.

“The bulk of it was made up of university and school students, but there was a large number of strikers at the head of the march.

“The hospital workers had called their strike over understaffing, wages and other issues, before the killing of Alexandros.

“The march was very successful and was peaceful until it arrived at parliament. That was when the police attacked it, and there were clashes until the evening.

“The Greek TUC also demonstrated against the government's budget plans, which give billions of euros to the bankers.”

Over 2,000 people protested in Athens on Saturday 20 December against the Greek state's attacks on migrants.

“The march connected the issue of anti-racism with the new movement that has broken out,” said Panos.


“Protesters held a picture of the latest victim of police attacks on migrants, who is still in hospital. Representatives from the Pakistani community followed, with the university and school students behind them.”

The growing radicalisation is having a beneficial effect on Greece's far left.

“The Anti-Capitalist Left and the Front of the Radical Left, who both stood in the last election, have called a mass meeting on 31 January.

“This is the first time there has been a joint meeting on this basis. The last time such a meeting would have taken place in Greece was in the 1970s.

“Every event is leading to more radicalisation.”

~ Socialist Worker ~

The Greek-Macedonian name issue as a moral dilemma

In a bad neighborhood, plagued by outbursts of violent crime, one of the neighbors is wealthy and middle aged. Let us call him Mr. Greece.

His property borders on the ramshackle dwelling of a young adult who is destitute and ill. His name is Mr. Macedonia.

Mr. Greece insists that Mr. Macedonia change his name. He gives many reasons for his unusual request, not the least of which is that "Macedonia" has been the name of some of his forefathers and is the epithet of the south wing of his sprawling property. It is, therefore, part of his identity and heritage.

Mr. Macedonia, having been subjected to a siege of his property by his neighbor, has agreed in the past to tweak his coat of arms, but refuses to alter his name. He claims that the name "Macedonia" has been in his family for generations. Mr. Greece asks that Mr. Macedonia add a qualifier to his name so as to make clear that he has no designs on his neighbor's prosperous property. Mr. Greece suggests: "Mr. down-the-road Macedonia" or "Mr. Macedonia (corner Alm Street)".

Until the issue is resolved, Mr. Greece won't allow Mr. Macedonia to join the city's various civic organizations and clubs, or to enjoy communal services. Should Mr. Macedonia's property be engulfed by flames or immersed in a flood, he is on his own, as he cannot expect the help of the fire brigade or the police (NATO). Mr. Macedonia can't find a job, transact business, or trade without being a member of said associations.

The question is:

Does Mr. Greece have a moral right to ask his neighbor to change his name? Is Mr. Greece right - not in the legalistic, but in the ethical sense - to impose sanctions on Mr. Macedonia?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as one might wish or intuit.

~ more... ~

The Fethullah Gulen movement

Tracing the range of interfaith activities of the Gulen movement is difficult, given its devolved nature and its coy approach to self-publicity. The movement has sponsored or contributed to a confusing diversity of often overlapping interfaith organizations that operate both at the global or transnational and at the local intrasocietal level. Unsurprisingly, the Gulen movement is seen by many non-Muslims as a particularly congenial Islamic dialogue partner. Amongst the numerous U.S.-based Gulen organizations are the Institute of InterFaith Dialog ( and the InterFaith Cultural Organization ( The movement takes the credit for organizing the Inter-Civilization Dialogue Conference in 1997, and in 1998, it initiated the annual Eurasian Meetings, focusing on Central Asia and Russia. It also claims to have provided the inspiration for the European Union Organization of Islamic Conference summit in Istanbul in 2002, in the wake of the September 11 attacks. In Turkey it has brought together leaders of the three Abrahamic religious communities, and initiated dialogues with Kurds and Alevis. Its activists and offices in Turkey have been subjected to threats and violent attacks in reaction to such endeavors. Another method adopted by the movement as a means of interfaith dialogue is the so-called Iftar, or fast-breaking, meals, which bring together peoples of different faiths and communities. These enable a more low-key and localized approach to interfaith and intercommunal understanding, not least to address the more local ramifications of global interfaith tension.

Since its formation in 2007, the Intercultural Dialogue Center (Kurturler Arasi Diyalog Merkezi, KADIM) ( has functioned as a kind of clearing house for much of the movement's dialogue activity. It brings together a range of other dialogue platforms, such as the Abant Platform of the Journalists and Writers Foundations, the Intercultural Dialogue Platform, and the Dialogue Eurasia Platform. In its various meetings, conferences, panels, publications, and other fora, these platforms seek to propagate Gulen's advocacy of tolerance and modernity, and bring together intellectuals, writers, activists, and others to discuss a wide range of current issues--some of them domestic. For example, early in 2007 Abant organized a panel in Turkey aimed at encouraging dialogue between the Sunni majority and the Alevi minority. The Platform's first meeting was held in Abant in Turkey in 1998, but in 2004 it held its first annual meeting abroad, in Washington D.C., followed by Brussels and Paris. It was not until February 2007 that it held its first international meeting in the Islamic world, in Egypt.

~ more... ~

Built by hand

What could unite countries as diverse as Burkina Faso, Greece, Austria, Mexico, Bhutan, Thailand, Peru and the United States?

Japanese photographer Yoshio Komatsu gives an intriguing answer with his pictures that highlight traditional architecture from around the world.

The photographs tell the story of a disappearing world of buildings that have been constructed by ordinary people. They show how diverse, yet similar, the buildings of different cultures from around the world are.

"Built by Hand" begins with the most basic ways that humans have sought shelter — beneath the trees and stars, under the protection of a rock cliff or cave. It then traces the transformation of raw materials, such as earth, stone, wood or grasses, into shelters suitable for people to live in.

These builders and homesteaders have given artistic, modest and sensible form to their daily needs. Sometimes accidental, often asymmetrical — and utilizing materials that are close at hand — these buildings convey a beauty that is both personal and human.

~ more... ~

CIA preparing to install military government in Greece

The increasingly violent riots in Greece could be the curtain raiser for a military coup d'etat and the installation of a new government more friendly to U.S. hegemony as a countermeasure to increasing Russian influence over the Balkan state.

It wouldn't be the first time the CIA has assisted in such a venture - they aided the 1967 installation of a U.S. friendly military junta known as the Regime of the Colonels ostensibly to prevent Greece from falling under Soviet control, a fascist cabal which was later overthrown in 1973.

The coup was achieved with the active support of such groups as the LOK Special Forces, which was part of Operation Gladio, NATO-controlled black-ops forces that carried out false flag attacks across Europe to eliminate left-wing political organizations.

Gladio tactics are again being employed with the current riots following the revelation that police masquerading as anarchists were committing acts of wanton violence to enflame tensions and provide a pretext for a brutal crackdown on legitimate demonstrators protesting against police brutality and the mishandling of the economic crisis.

The agenda is again likely to be related to fears over increasing Russian influence in the region.

In March 2007, Vladimir Putin struck a deal with Greece and Bulgaria to build a 280-kilometer Russian oil pipeline from Bulgaria's Black Sea port of Burgas to Alexandroupolis, in northern Greece. Construction is scheduled to begin in June.

As the Angirfan blog highlights, “The pipeline will be an alternative route for Russian oil bypassing the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.”

The Greek military has placed its forces at level 2 alert status and begun to position them to be used against civilians with an order that lethal force be authorized should soldiers feel “threatened”. Special Operations Units from Germany and Italy are also being readied to act as an occupying army upon declaration of full scale martial law.

Details of the plans came to light after hundreds of Greek soldiers expressed their vociferous opposition to being used as “a force of terror and repression”.

Is the CIA again preparing to assist a military junta in a coup d'etat as a means of ousting a government friendly to Russian geopolitical objectives? The reaction of the lower ranks of the Greek military after they discovered they were being prepared to be used as a standing army against their own people at least offers hope that any such move will be resisted.

by Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet

~ Baltische Rundschau ~

Inventing air—and the American temperament

By the time he died in America in 1804, Priestly had managed to isolate and name 10 gases, become known as "the father of modern chemistry," and, perhaps most wonderfully, invented soda water. He had emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1794, after inspiring an English mob to burn down his laboratory due to his radical Unitarian views, which blended respect for Jesus' moral teachings and an insistence on his lack of divinity. (That may be Priestley's most amazing achievement: Stoking people to violence through Unitarianism!) He was a major influence on his friend Benjamin Franklin and other leading scientists of the day, and his political and pedagogical work left a huge impression on Founding Fathers such as Thomas Jefferson.

Johnson paints Priestley not as a man of the past but precisely the sort of figure the world needs more than ever: A searcher who shared his discoveries openly and willingly, crossed disciplinary boundaries with impunity and insight, who conceived of the world as a large laboratory. As important, Priestley exemplifies "the temperament that we expect to find at the birth of America— bountiful optimism, an untroubled sense that the world must inevitably see the light of reason."

~ more... ~

Farewell to Dubya, worst president ever

Sure, there had been idiots and thieves in the White House before -- the Kennedys' stealing of the presidency from Nixon in 1960 remains one of the great political heists -- but they'd avoided doing too much damage, although that priapic drug addict JFK nearly managed to immolate us all in the ultimate bang over Cuba. But Bush was the Destroyer-In-Chief, wrecking havoc wherever he went, casting death and destruction wherever he turned his incurious gaze.

At some point after 2004, however, Dubya went one weirder than that. As if Ed Wood had suddenly replaced David Lynch at the helm, the whole thing spiralled into a new level of so-bad-it's-genius catalogue of genuine freakiness the like of which we had never seen before and will only see again in the event Uwe Boll decides to have a dash at Dubya: The Crawford Years.

And like all the best films, it didn't stop at one impressive set-piece, but kept building up, adding to the weirdness, level upon layer upon lunacy. Most would have been happy with Iraq going sour in spectacular fashion -- perhaps with a climactic bullet-fest as Blackwater guards desperately machine-gun Iraqi hordes daring to go about their own business in their own country -- but then they threw in the Katrina debacle (more folk with the wrong skin colour done over) and had a breather before closing out with the ultimate left-field climax -- the trip in time back to 1930 for a plunge into Depression.

No one picked that twist. It seems nothing was going to stop Bush wresting the title of worst president from James Buchanan's cold, dead, and very probably skeletal hands.

[ ... ]

Not sure about the democracy and human rights bits, but yes, at least hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have found peace. It might be the peace of the dead, the quiet of a mass grave or the silence of a grief-stricken family, but you take what you can get from this mob.

Political satire, per Tom Lehrer, might have become obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize but this is the new gold standard of genuine, 11 herbs-and-spices lunacy. It's not black-is-white logic but the reasoning of the genuinely insane, the sort that makes you want to move slowly away from your interlocutor and check for any sharp objects, while quietly tapping 000 on your mobile.

~ more... ~

Terror experts warn next 9/11 could fall on different date

Satire from the Onion:

In an alarming development with wide-reaching implications for America's safety, Department of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff and CIA Director Michael Hayden issued a joint report Monday warning that the next 9/11 could in fact occur on a different date.

The report, based on intelligence gathered by field-agents, found that a future 9/11 might take place on an entirely new month and day, including 4/24, 6/13, or even 10/12. According to the report, the nation could realistically find itself in the midst of a 5/25 scenario, as well as a potential 3/14 situation in the months to come.

8/28, 6/19, and 11/7 were also cited as possible 9/11s.

~ more... ~

Gruevski's Macedonia, Greece, and Alexander the Great, history's forgotten madman

The government of Macedonia has recently changed the name of its puny airport to "Alexander the Great". This was only the latest symptom of a growing cult of personality. Modern-day Macedonians, desperately looking for their ancient roots in a region hostile to their nationhood, have latched onto their putative predecessor with a zeal that defies both historical research and the howls of protest from their neighbor, Greece.

In a typical Balkan tit-for-tat, Greece blocked Macedonia's long-sought entry into NATO, citing, among a litany of reasons, the "irredentist provocation" that was the renaming of the airport. Macedonia has designs on a part of Greece, Greek politicians claim with a straight face, and the denizens of this tiny polity have no right to the heritage of Greece of which Alexander the Great is an integral part.

Not to be outdone, Macedonian television is now awash with a lengthy ad depicting the precocious leader berating his pusillanimous and craven commanders ahead of a crucial battle. He speaks fluent Macedonian (the current day, Slav language) and ignores their wise counsel. This pathetic abuse of screen time is supposed to indoctrinate latter-day Macedonians to dare, be decisive, and to face challenges. Alexander the Great would have greatly disliked contemporary Macedonians: they are peace-loving, overly-cautious, consensual, and compromise-seeking. It seems that their own government finds these laudable qualities equally offensive.

It is beyond me why both Macedonia and Greece wish to make a deranged mass murderer their emblem and progenitor. There is little that is commendable in both Alexander's personality or his exploits. Having shed the blood of countless thousands to fulfill his grandiose fantasies of global conquest, he declared himself a god, suppressed other religions bloodily, massacred the bulk of his loyal staff, and betrayed his countrymen by hiring the former enemy, the Persians, to supplant his Macedonian infantry.

Alexander the Great was clearly insane, even by the cultural standards of his time. According to Diodorus, a month before he mercifully died (or, more likely, was assassinated) his own generals invited Babylonian priests to exorcise the demons that may have possessed him. Plutarch calls him "disturbed". He describes extreme mood swings that today would require medication to quell and control. The authoritative Encyclopedia Britannica attributes to him "megalomania and emotional instability". It says:

"He was swift in anger, and under the strain of his long campaigns this side of his character grew more pronounced. Ruthless and self-willed, he had increasing recourse to terror, showing no hesitation in eliminating men whom he had ceased to trust, either with or without the pretense of a fair trial. Years after his death, Cassander, son of Antipater, a regent of the Macedonian Empire under Alexander, could not pass his statue at Delphi without shuddering."

~ more... ~


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