Thursday, February 22, 2007


Wow, you just gotta love this. The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has a front-page story about the "Tearful Verdict Over Anna Nicole Smith's Body." I guess i shouldn't be surprised, but i guess i was holding onto the false hope that the MSM in other countries cared at least a little bit less about dead, drugged, washed-up gold-digging pseudo-celebrities.

Oh well. At least they're also covering the reports of widespread rapes in Baghdad.

Maps of War

It's a little crude, but the flash animations at 'Maps of War' kept me fascinated for at least, i don't know, 5 minutes or so. The 'history of religion map is particularly interesting, if you disregard the rather glaring caveat that the map conveniently ignores all non-monotheistic religions except Hinduism, the divisions within Christianity and Islam, and the fact that religions, well, overlap, it's a nice overview of how major monotheistic religions spread.

UPDATE: OK, now I'm not so sure how much i like them: The American Leadership and War map seems to be making the claim that democrats are more prone to causing American deaths in warfare by making a running comparison of who was president during all declared American conflicts. Nevermind that since WWI and WWII were both fought under Democrats, the comparison becomes rather tenuous at best. And, of course, they're counting Lincoln and the Civil War as 'Republican', which also doesn't really hold water, since Republicans and Democrats have switched ideologies since then...

But on the plus side, you can click on any war to see the casualties. And it does chronicle how many fucking 'undeclared actions' there there have been in the last 200 years. Anybody else heard of the 'First Barbary War against 'African Pirates?'

And that's just the ones we know about...

Riverbend's heartbreaking comparison

Riverbend at Baghdad Burning has two new posts up this weekend which play on the unfortunate juxtaposition of what's playing on Oprah and Al Jazeera:
As I write this, Oprah is on Channel 4 (one of the MBC channels we get on Nilesat), showing Americans how to get out of debt. Her guest speaker is telling a studio full of American women who seem to have over-shopped that they could probably do with fewer designer products. As they talk about increasing incomes and fortunes, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman, is on Al Jazeera telling how Iraqi security forces abducted her from her home and raped her. You can only see her eyes, her voice is hoarse and it keeps breaking as she speaks. In the end she tells the reporter that she can’t talk about it anymore and she covers her eyes with shame.

Here's an excerpt from the victim's testimony:
I told him, ‘I don’t have anything [I did not do anything].’ He said, 'You don’t have anything?’ One of them threw me on the ground and my head hit the tiles. He did what he did- I mean he raped me. The second one came and raped me. The third one also raped me. [Pause- sobbing] I begged them and cried, and one of them covered my mouth. [Unclear, crying] Another one of them came and said, 'Are you finished? We also want our turn.'

So how does the US-supported leader of Iraq respond to these allegations:
He denies them, rewards the accused for "having to endure fabricated charges", and accused"Sunni politicians...of inventing the claims in an attempt to undermine security forces during the Baghdad security operation." (links from here. As riverbend writes,
Al Maliki is claiming the rape allegations are all lies. Apparently, his people simply asked the officers if they raped Sabrine Al Janabi and they said no. I'm so glad that's been cleared up.

Now, it might make sense to al-Maliki, in his sheltered little world, that a 20-year old Iraqi woman would publicly lie on international television, and claim that she was raped, in order to "discredit" his pathetic little operation.


P.S. I know that Riverbend is widely linked by the dkos set-- but this post is just amazing. Please go to the original and read it in its entirety.


that's the number of countries with U.S. Bases and Troops, U.S. Troops, and no U.S. military presence, worldwide, according to a rather terrifying graphic posted at rose covered glasses.

And they say the U.S. is not an Empire....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Censoring Communal Strife in Gujarat- who's to blame?

In the New York Times today, there's an interesting article (warning: may require login)by Somini Sengupta about the film 'Parzania', which chronicles the 2002 Gujarat riots in which over 1,000 muslims were killed in the backlash surrounding a train bombing (attributed to muslim extremists by the rioters) which killed 59 Hindus.

The article goes on to note that although the film is showing in other parts of India, it's not showing in Gujarat, where the riots occurred. Yet strangely, Ms. Sengupta places the blame for this censorhsip on the theater owners in Gujarat:
In Gujarat, the director's home state, theater owners have said it is too controversial and have refused to show it.

Buried within the article is the real real reason for the censorship: fear of retribution by right-wing Hindu (read: Shiv Sena/BJP) militia. The theater owners aren't declining to show the film because of their personal beliefs; they're doing it out of fear for their own safety.

The article's title is In India, Showing Sectarian Pain to Eyes That Are Closed. (my emphasis). Fair enough-- but i would argue that the eyes are being kept closed by an active and dangerous Hindu right, not an ill-defined cabal of 'theater owners.'

Just sayin'.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Die Leiden des alten, dreimalgeheiratet Republikaner...

This can only be bad news for republicans. Kos just frontpaged a Gallup poll of republicans. Click through for full results- but hre's an excerpt:

If your party nominated a well-qualified Candidate For WH '08 who was _, would you vote for that person?

Yes No
Mormon 72 24
Married for third time 67 30
72 years old 57 42

Comfort- With Would
able Reserv- Not
ations Vote
Black 84% 9% 5%
A woman 78 10 11
Mormon 58 14 24
72 years old 43 15 42
Married for
third time 54 13 30

Why does this matter? Well,

McCain will be 72 years old in 2008.

Mitt Romney is Mormon.

Rudy Giuliani is married for a third time.

Newt Gingrich is married for a third time

Goodbye, Cruel World- the history

Nonpartisan has a fantastic look at political and military leaders' farewell speeches. It's also on the rec list in Orange, but give a little love to ProgressiveHistorians. They deserve it.

military budget out of control

Rose Covered Glasses has an amazing pie chart of the U.S budget.

In case anyone's counting, that's more than half of the U.S. budget and more than the rest of the world combined.

Gee, george, who else d'ya think we should invade?

oh, yeah, welcome, and stuff...

Hello. Welcome to the Damned Villain. No one's here yet, but welcome anyway. I'm mrbubs, and I'm here to rant and rave about politics, human rights, and social justice, with the end goal of condemning all of the damned, smiling villains in the U.S. Government and elsewhere to imprisonment or obscurity.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the name of this blog comes from Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3 ( i believe), when Hamlet sees the ghost of his father and learns what Claudius has done. He says, "O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! ... That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!"

I think that pretty much sums up the Chimp for me.


How to avoid preaching to the choir- my reply to a leftist colleague

Recently, I read a passionate but inflammatory article by a good friend and colleague describing the ignorance, callousness, and hatred exhibited by some of her military students in a Social Justice class at Loyola University in Chicago. It’s a harsh, jaded piece, condemning the US military and the global military-industrial complex and, implicitly, including most individual servicemen as complicit in the “rape, plunder, and profit” motives of the U.S. Military.

On the one hand, it’s a hardnosed invective against the American Empire and all it stands for, filled with strong denunciations and a little too much tongue-in-cheek hatred. At the same time, the article is full of valuable insight into the convoluted and violently self-interested outlook that this horrible and immoral war has imposed on our soldiers’ psychologies (see below fold for a quote).

Below the fold, I’ll post my letter to my friend, along with my thoughts on how to present radical views in a way that engages, rather than alienates, the Democratic and moderate masses.


To give you some context on the article, here's a quote i found particularly disturbing:

One student proudly said that he is willing to kill for money, a better standard of living and an education. Another student, who had done two tours of duty to the Empire in Iraq, justified killing and torture, citing the importance of staying on top as the world’s number one super power so that his family could have the highest standard of living and unlimited access to the world’s oil supplies.

Once the post circulated in the blogosphere, it was linked by Sean Hannity’s site and was (unsurprisingly) inundated with comments full of rightwing vitriol and horrible, vicious attacks full of right-wing talking points.

Without further ado, here’s my (slightly redacted) letter to my friend.
I've blockquoted the entire letter- i hope that doesn't make it too difficult to read.
Hi June,

Like the others on our newsgroup, I'm appalled to read the comments on your article. As you know, I agree with most of the sentiment in your piece- the blind 'support the troops, no matter what they do' meme is disastrous and horrific; American military action in the last century has by and large served only the corporate and military-industrial interests of the global elite; American soldiers have indeed perpetrated horrible crimes against native peoples on every continent.

But I also think that this particular post is less subtle and reasoned than it could be. I have talked to you at length about these issues and I know the depth of your reasoning and the extent of your compassion and care for the oppressed peoples of the world. Your activism has inspired me and reminded me not to get so caught up in 'mainstream' Democratic politics that I forget the gross failures of the 'democratic' system. Yet I feel that your points are much more lucid when you dispense with just a little of the revolutionary bombast and cynical namecalling and back up your (radical, and on the whole quite correct) arguments a little more, well, calmly.

I guess I wanted to write you about this because to my horror I understand not the content, but at least the pretext for the wingnut rants in the comments to your article. As someone who is without a doubt a revolutionary, you have, unfortunately, a much higher burden of proof than pundits blindly parroting the administration line. And if we want to do anything more than talk to the already convinced, we've got to present a lucid enough argument that people without the background we have on the subject can follow your line of reasoning. If you give them something to bite on to that's not as well supported as it could be, that’s offensive without needing to be, people will harp on it and miss the baseline truths you address.

For instance, you write,
Yet another soldier-student said that there would always be wars and someone had to do it. The ”it” is killing, rape, and plunder for profit. Some of the soldier-students agreed that military terrorism was thrilling. Stopping and killing people at checkpoints in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in the USA was worth the risk of being killed or maimed.

How much of this came from their mouths, and how much of this is your editorializing? I have no doubt that the particular soldiers who visited your class exhibited ignorance and hatred. But what did they actually say? Did they say 'military terrorism is thrilling' or did they say they got an adrenaline rush when they were out on patrol? They clearly didn't mention 'rape and plunder,' although that's not clear from your phrasing. Nor did they say, 'it's worth it to kill people so my family can be comfortable,' did they?

When you write that
Their plan is to secure the oil, the diamonds, the gold, the water, the guns, the drugs, and the bling for their masters, who they hope will cut them in on the swag,
are you really talking about each and every member of the entire military? I agree with you that that's the goal for many of the political, military, and business elites who compete to control the world's resources. Certainly some, maybe many, in the military leadership are corrupt, greedy, and waiting for their cut of the swag. But it's not like the private cleaning the mess hall or working in the burger king on base is really in any position to take advantage of the plundering of the world's resources, even if they wanted to.

I guess I'm afraid that in some of this article you're falling prey to a sort of moral absolutism, that scourge of the radical left. No matter how much we detest the institution of the American military (and I do!), and what they have done in the world (especially recently,) it does not follow that every soldier and every cook at a military base, for instance, is interested in rape, plunder, and profit. Note that I am not dismissing the crimes committed in Haditha, in Abu Gharib, and at any checkpoint in Iraq where innocent people are interrogated, humiliated, or shot, victimization of detainees held without trial in CIA extraordinary rendition torture centers the world over. But some people do join the army out of economic necessity-- yes, it's 'for money,' but doing something to get wages, or to get money to go to college, does not automatically make you a criminal. And if you're a victim of the capitalist system working a dead-end minimum wage job, who wants to go to college, the military has become the escape route of choice. Yes, it's a bribe, I suppose, but it's also an attempt to escape from a predatory American capitalist system where CEOs make 400 times what the average worker does. And some people do enlist out of a distorted sense of 'patriotism' which is (as you say) intentionally instilled by a complex interaction of sociopolitical factors. But does that make the soldier who is subject to this propaganda automatically culpable for the crimes of his institution, before he or she participates in them? Blame the generals, sure; blame the political and military leadership; blame the moribund media, the asinine and violent entertainment; and of course, spare no effort to blame and punish any soldier who commits these crimes. And of course, teach them, as you do- teach them to examine their "motives, beliefs and actions in an evil, illegal, immoral and unjust invasion," as you so clearly put it. Ask them to resist, to question illegal orders, or to refuse deployment as Lt. Ehren Watada has done. Or make the argument on a personal level, appealing to their self-interest, that the short term monetary gain is not worth a lifetime of psychological and sometimes physical pain from participating in an unjust and morally bankrupt invasion.

But prejudging classes of people as evil by nature - which is what I am afraid it sounds like you're doing in this piece- is starting down a slippery slope to the sort of arbitrary groupthink that perpetrated mass persecutions in Communist countries (say, the Kulaks in the USSR in the 30's, for example). Now, obviously, I know exactly where you're coming from. I know the kind of abuse you've been subjected to for speaking truth to power for your entire adult life. I know that the soldiers and future soldiers in your classes were probably insufferable and rude and may have sounded incoherent and brainwashed. But I think your argument, and your article, would have a lot more power if you let the statements of these military men and women speak for themselves.

We have the tendency on the Left to write from the perspective of the already convinced (because we are). Since we have discovered that so much of the accepted historical narrative is a lie, we are wont to make grand statements that make a point, but don't stand up to a rational and thorough inquiry. And when we're preaching to the choir, this exaggeration to make a point is an effective argumentative style-- the cynical phrasing like 'will kill for booty', the conclusion-then-supporting-evidence approach, the tongue-in-cheek hatred for oppression and suppression of objective truth.

But if we're trying to speak truth to the masses, that approach will give fodder to those who hate us, and won't convince many that don't already understand where you're coming from.

< snip >

The beauty of blogging is that it's a community, an interactive enterprise. And when you post a radical revolutionary piece replete with harsh criticism of the American military and the military-industrical complex, you're going to get hammered by the right wing. So I guess I just want to make sure that we're ready for that hammering, and make sure we you haven’t made any claims that can’t be sufficiently backed up by the available evidence. You have enough to go on without reaching too hard.

Ok, so I guess there is some moral absolutism in my own Weltanschauung- I firmly believe that the Left is right, and the Right is wrong. I believe that theirs is a worldview constructed largely on lies and prejudices. But I've also talked to a lot of wingers and moderates who are curious and willing to listen, especially since the 2006 election and since Iraq became the disaster we all said it would. And if we want to change the world, we've got to speak to those who might be willing to listen.

Yours in Peace and Solidarity,


So-- What is the best way to engage moderates and wingers in rational debate without compromising our views? Is this kind of criticism of our military so hurtful to our cause that it should be disavowed by mainstream democrats?

UPDATE: I just received an email from Dr. Terpstra detailing a little more specifically some of the offensive statements her military students made. Here's an excerpt from her email:

As for facts......The facts are that one of the marine students stunned the classroom by saying that he killed 4 people at a checkpoint in Iraq, that he was arrested and exonerated for "following the rules." He said that the people he killed were collateral damage. He and another marine said they made it possible for me to teach. One even asked what I would teach if there were no injustice! The facts were that another marine said that he knew and that the other marines in the room had to agree with him that there was a thrill to the violence, it is a rush. Several said they absolutely joined for the sign on bonuses and education tuition coverage. One marine did say he wanted the US to get the oil and maintain power to ensure he and his grandchildren a higher standard of living.

I'd also like to mention one more thing from her email, partially in response to dennisl in the comments:
I did not share this article with my students. I did not put it on my website nor would I.

This article was on an international activist website, not a personal or academic blog.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

NYT: Fox to unveil 'business friendly' news channel

According to this morning's New York Times, the executives at Fox News are planning the release of a new business news channel with a more 'Business Friendly' take on the news.

See, because current news coverage is so exceedingly biased against big business, they have to do their 'fair-and-balanced' thing and counter the left-wing smear jobs.

Rupert Murdoch, head of the News Corp: the Fox Business channel will be
“more business friendly than CNBC,” which he said was quick to “leap on every scandal.”

Right, because reporting on business scandals would be a bad idea, because they’d -reveal their own complicity in the corruption- focus overmuch on a few bad apples instead of highlighting the good ones.

Hmm, does that rhetoric sound familiar?

And guess who’s going to be in charge of running the new station? Roger Ailes. That’s right, it’s this guy:
"we could take a month's worth of video from CNN International and do a documentary 'Why does CNN hate America?' ... CNN International, Al-Jazeera and BBC are the same in how they report-mostly that America is wrong and bad."

And in case it’s not exceedingly clear to you whose side he’s on, Ailes goes into some detail on the project:

”Many times I’ve seen things on CNBC where they aren’t as friendly to corporations and profits as they should be." (emphasis mine)

You know, I’m quite used to reading things that depress and disgust me. But does he really have to be that blatant about the purpose of the channel? Not to report on business news, but, quite literally, to be friendly to corporate profits.

It's almost like they're testing us, trying to see what they can get away with-- just like Bush was when he proposed fucking Henry Kissinger, internationally wanted war criminial, to head the 9/11 commission.

We don’t report. We misguide.