The root of anti-gay violence in Africa

    We’ve talked here in the past about violence against homosexuals in Africa, but I don’t think I’ve ever shared video of those so-called Christians who are largely to blame. Here, with that in mind, is footage of a religious leader in Uganda, where the death penalty is currently being considered for gays. I’d like to think this is satire, but I’m told that it’s real… And, yeah, I know that it’s hilarious how he repeatedly says that gays “eat da poo poo,” but this really is a serious issue that demands international attention. People are being murdered.

    PS… I should point out that it’s not just Christians demonizing the gay in Africa. Muslim religious leaders are doing it as well. It appears that it’s one thing that both groups can agree on.

    Posted in Civil Liberties | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

    What in the hell is Israel thinking?

    The last time Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Washington, DC, it was widely reported that he was snubbed by President Obama. I can’t recall the specifics, but I think it had to do with the fact that Netanyahu had announced, right before heading into peace talks, that Israel would be greatly expanding its roundly despised settlement program in east Jerusalem. Given this, one wonders what’s in store for Netanyahu tomorrow, when he’s scheduled to visit Washington and meet with Obama. One would think, given the fact that Israeli forces last night killed at least nine peace activists in international waters, that his reception at the White House would be similarly chilly… Here, by way of background, is a clip from Glenn Greenwald:

    Late last night, Israel attacked a flotilla of ships in international waters carrying food, medicine and other aid to Gaza, killing at least 10 civilians on board and injuring at least 30 more (many reports now put the numbers at 19 dead and 60 injured). The Israeli Defense Forces is claiming that its soldiers were attacked with clubs, knives and “handguns” when they boarded the ship without permission, but none of the Israeli soldiers were killed while two are reported injured. Those on the ships emphatically state that the IDF came on board shooting… An IDF spokesman said: “Our initial findings show that at least 10 convoy participants were killed.”

    And here’s a clip from Foreign Policy magazine’s blog about the probable outcome of these actions:

    …(T)he international response has been swift. Turkey has recalled its ambassador and warned of “consequences,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for an investigation, European governments have expressed shock, and I imagine thousands of outside observers like me are wondering just what possessed the Israeli government to risk such an outcome when it sent naval commandoes to board the vessel.

    As Haaretz’s Amos Harel puts it, “The damage that Israel has caused itself internationally can hardly be exaggerated.” Harel warns that the rumored presence of an Israeli Arab activist among the victims could lead to riots and perhaps even “a third intifada”…

    As was alluded to above, there’s some discrepancy as to what happened when. And, both sides are releasing video. Israel Defense forces have released footage showing their commandos being beaten with what look like pipes upon being lowered to the ship by helicopter and otherwise roughed up by an unruly mob. The international aid workers and peace activists onboard the ship, however, claim that shots were fired before the commandos hit the deck. Given the fact that no members of the Israeli Defense Forces were killed, while at least nine peace activists were, however, seems to indicate to some that the actions of the IDF, even if they came in response to aggressive behavior on the part of peace activists, were disproportionate to the threat.

    I don’t know how much stock I put in it, as it sounds suspiciously like a hail Mary pass in the wake of overwhelming international blow-back, but Israeli spokespeople are now suggesting that they responded how they did due to evidence that al Qaeda was somehow involved.

    One more thing to chew on… What if this wasn’t a huge PR blunder at all, but something that was done very deliberately? That, according to U-M professor Juan Cole, is a distinct possibility. Here’s a clip:

    …There are two possible reasons for the violence. One is that the Israeli troops boarding the vessels met some sort of resistance and over-reacted. Aid volunteers are unlikely, however, to have posed much real challenge to trained special forces operatives.

    The other possible reason is that the far rightwing government of Binyamin Netanyahu and his foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman gave a green light to the commandos to respond with excessive force. That is, the deaths and woundings may have been a brutally frank warning to any future Gaza aid activists that they are taking their lives in their hands if they plan any more flotillas to help the Palestinians. The Israeli far right may have felt that there was otherwise a danger that in a few months there would be an even bigger flotilla and that eventually the blockade of Gaza would be broken.

    Although we outsiders would welcome this development because we are concerned about the health and well-being of Palestinian children under blockade, the Israeli Right views all Gazans as terrorists and sees besieging them as the only way to safeguard Israelis from attack. The Israeli Right is being paranoid and inhumane in this belief. There is no reason to think that denying Palestinians enough food or medical supplies or concrete will actually deter the small number directly involved in violence.

    It is worth noting on Memorial Day that the Israeli attack deeply complicates the task of the US military in the region. It is a propaganda boon for Sunni extremists and Shiite activists such as Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, and for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It undermines the authority of the Egyptian and Jordanian governments, which have US-brokered peace treaties with Israel, treaties that are deeply unpopular with ordinary people in both countries. That some demonstrations are being held in front of US consulates and not just Israeli ones tells us who will get the blame for Netanyahu’s machismo…

    I know Israel has a huge and powerful lobby in this country, and I’m truly sympathetic to their safety concerns, but, at some point, if they keep behaving in this manner, I’d have to think that we as a nation would be forced to recognize that our interests and theirs do not necessarily coincide. Fortunately, I know that there are still good people in Israel who are interested in negotiating a two-state solution in good faith. And, my hope is that someday soon they’re given the opportunity to do so. I haven’t seen any Israeli polling data to confirm this, but my sense is that these most recent actions by the Netanyahu government may not just be upsetting the rest of the world, but people within Israel as well. At least that’s what I hope.

    update: Netanyahu has apparently backed out of tomorrow’s scheduled meeting with Obama.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

      BP illustrates the need for a corporate death penalty

      It’s now coming out that, when Obama was visiting the Louisiana coast a few days ago, surveying the extent of the damage wrought by the BP oil leak, many of the individuals that he, and the rest of us watching at home, thought were BP workers, were in fact temps hired by Tony Haward and the execs at BP in order to convey the illusion that the company was seriously addressing the problem. When Obama left, however, so too did those bussed-in cleanup workers. Yesterday, on that same shore, a dead, oil-covered dolphin washed up. It’s also worth noting that numerous cleanup workers have been hospitalized after coming into contact with BP’s dispersants – you know, those untested and potentially lethal chemicals outlawed in other countries that BP has been dumping into the Gulf. (I’ve read that over 8 million gallons have now been used.)

      Oh, yeah, and BP knew about safety issues at their Deepwater Horizon rig well in advance of this disaster. They, however, chose not to address them. Here’s a clip from today’s New York Times:

      Internal documents from BP show that there were serious problems and safety concerns with the Deepwater Horizon rig far earlier than those the company described to Congress last week.

      The problems involved the well casing and the blowout preventer, which are considered critical pieces in the chain of events that led to the disaster on the rig.

      The documents show that in March, after several weeks of problems on the rig, BP was struggling with a loss of “well control.” And as far back as 11 months ago, it was concerned about the well casing and the blowout preventer…

      bpSo, the next time you start to leave a comment on this site about the power of the free market to solve all of our problems, and extolling the virtues of deregulation, I want you to think about this. I want you to think about BP, and how they haven’t funded any meaningful safety-related innovation in their industry in over 30 years despite their record profits, how they lied in front of Congress as to warning signs, how they hired temps to pose as cleanup workers in front of the press, how they used chemicals that they knew were potentially hazardous, and then think about the families of hard-working Americans who have been devastated by this preventable environmental cluster fuck, and, once you’ve done all that, then go and look at that dead dolphin that I linked to above. Then, if you still want to hit send, do so with the knowledge that I will likely think that you’re a fool*, and say so.

      How anyone in their right mind could suggest that we need to hand over more control to industry, in the wake of what we’re seeing play out on Wall Street and in the Gulf, is absolutely beyond me. If I personally did any one of the things outlined above, I’d be in prison, but BP is allowed not only to continue operations, but to sidestep liability (thanks to the Republicans), and continue raking in obscene profits all the while.

      And, speaking of the people who think that what’s needed is further deregulation, I hear there’s a movement afoot to fill the gushing well hole with the collected works of Libertarian hero Ayn Rand. This, I should add, is a much better idea than mine – which is to use the woman formerly known as Baby Jessica to block the pipe. I kind of feel like she might even welcome the opportunity to embrace her destiny, be relevant again, and pay the country back for all the love it once showed her. And what would it really hurt to ask.

      Oh, and I should have probably mentioned it earlier but BP’s latest attempt to stop the flow of oil into the Gulf – a maneuver referred to as “top kill,” has failed.

      Speaking of dolphins, as I was earlier, I found this amusing… The Republicans, at a loss for what to campaign on, instead of against, have set up a website called America Speaking Out, on which Republicans can leave their thoughts as to where the Grand Old Party should focus its attention. If you get a chance, you should check it out. It’s hilarious stuff. I’ve gone a few times, and read submissions on how child labor laws should be repealed, and how we should identify and remove the reptilian humanoids presently serving in the U.S. government. What makes it fun is that there’s absolutely no way of telling, given the tea partyfication of the Republican party, what’s real and what’s satire. Anyway, back to dolphins, here’s a clip from an article on American Speaking Out in the Washington Post:

      …”A ‘teacher’ told my child in class that dolphins were mammals and not fish!” a third complains. “And the same thing about whales! We need TRADITIONAL VALUES in all areas of education. If it swims in the water, it is a FISH. Period! End of Story”…

      One last thing, for all of my fellow Michiganders…. BP doesn’t just pollute on the east coast. They dump toxic waste into Lake Michigan too.

      [*By "fool" I mean "asshole." I couldn't say that at the time, though, as someone was looking over my shoulder.]

      Posted in Alternative Energy, Corporate Crime, energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

      Sir Ken Robinson on the state of education

      My friend Ruth just turned me onto a guy named Sir Ken Robinson, and, right now, I’m watching his recent TED presentation. It’s pretty good… I particularly like the part where he says, “human resources are like natural resources… they’re burried deep.”

      We owe it to our kids to do a better job of educating them, and helping them to discover where their true talents lie.

      Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

      Star parties elicit moral panic, Sex in the City 2 elicits desire to perform self-surgery

      Do you remember the rainbow party hysteria of a few years ago? I can’t remember where it all started, but people from coast-to-coast became convinced that a tidal wave of children’s oral sex orgies was washing over America. Oprah, I believe, had a story about it. And someone wrote a young adult novel about the trend. Of course, as you might have guessed, it’s now considered doubtful that even one so-called Rainbow Party ever took place. When the smoke of moral outrage dissipated, not a single, little rainbow colored wiener could be found. And there was no evidence that girls anywhere had lined their mouths up, like stations along a conveyor belt, each outlined is a different color of lipstick, from red to violet. I suspect that the story grew out of the nation’s obsession with Clinton’s tryst with Monica Lewinsky, but it doesn’t matter. What matters, is that another wave is building. This time, it’s something called “star” parties, and the epicenter is Poland. Here’s a clip:

      Students, aged 14-15, played a game called “the sun” or “a star”. “Girls lay on the floor in a circle with their heads together and eyes closed and boys copulate with them, taking turns. The winner was the boy who managed to finish the intercourse last,” one of the students revealed.

      The game resulted in several pregnancies. “This year five girls got pregnant, two of them have already given birth,” said Anna Czarnocka, the school’s headmaster…

      I suspect it’s untrue, but I thought that it would make a great intro to this equally outrageous clip, which is from Vivian Salama’s review of the new film Sex in the City 2, which, we’re led to believe, takes place primarily in the United Arab Emirates.

      We’ve been thinking it for two long years. All of us. Gnawing our cheeks at night, clutching at sweaty sheets, our faces hollow and gray, our once-bright eyes dimmed by the pain of too many questions. Sometimes we cry out, en masse, to a faceless god and a cold, indifferent universe that holds its secrets close. “What”… rasps the death rattle of our collective sanity. “What is the lubrication level of Samantha Jones’s 52-year-old vagina? Has the change of life dulled its sparkle? Do its aged and withered depths finally chafe from the endless pounding, pounding, pounding—cruel phallic penance demanded by the emotionally barren sexual compulsive from which it hangs? If I do not receive an update on the deep, gray caverns of Jones, I shall surely die!”

      Please don’t die. The answer is… fine. Samantha’s vagina is doing fine. She rubs yams on it, okay? She takes 48 vagina vitamins a day. It accepts unlimited male penises with the greatest of ease. Now let us never speak of it again.

      Sex and the City 2 makes Phyllis Schlafly look like Andrea Dworkin. Or that super-masculine version of Cynthia Nixon that Cynthia Nixon dates. Or, like, Ralph Nader (wait, bad example—Schlafly totally does look like Ralph Nader in a granny wig). SATC2 takes everything that I hold dear as a woman and as a human—working hard, contributing to society, not being an entitled cunt like it’s my job—and rapes it to death with a stiletto that costs more than my car. It is 146 minutes long, which means that I entered the theater in the bloom of youth and emerged with a family of field mice living in my long, white mustache. This is an entirely inappropriate length for what is essentially a home video of gay men playing with giant Barbie dolls. But I digress. Let us start with the “plot”…

      At sexism’s funeral (which takes place in a mysterious, incense-shrouded chamber of international sisterhood), the women of Abu Dhabi remove their black robes and veils to reveal—this is not a joke—the same hideous, disposable, criminally expensive shreds of cloth and feathers that hang from Carrie et al.’s emaciated goblin shoulders. Muslim women: Under those craaaaaaay-zy robes, they’re just as vapid and obsessed with physical beauty and meaningless material concerns as us! Feminism! Fuck yeah!

      If this is what modern womanhood means, then just fucking veil me and sew up all my holes. Good night.

      Good night.

      Posted in Art and Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

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