Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Terrifying Message from Al Gore

This is fantastic! Did you know that his daughter, Kristin was a writer on Futurama? Sigh...I really miss that show.

Read on, MacDuff!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Kicked out of Paradise

Anybody want to know why we're not hearing more details about the three men who died at JTF Guantanamo, last weekend? For the answer to that, you need look no further than journalists David Rose (The Observer) and Carol Williams (LA Times). Seriously, look no further! Nothing to see here! Everybody out of GTMO!

Rose and Williams are two of at least 5 reporters who were either blocked-en-route or kicked out of GTMO after news of the suicides broke. Why is it significant? According to David Rose [all emphasis mine]:
Closing Guantanamo to the media meant there were no reporters there as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service team went about its work; none when pathologists conducted post mortem examinations; and none last Friday when, after a Muslim ceremony conducted by a military chaplain, the first body - Ahmed's - was prepared to be flown home. It was also impossible to gauge the impact of the deaths on the 460 inmates.
Yet our bizarre experience raises a fundamental question: when it comes to Guantanamo,
can the world believe a single word that [Lt Cmdr Jeffrey] Gordon and his numerous cohorts say? There is, to say the least, an alternative explanation for the three Guantanamo deaths. Since early 2003, when the Red Cross issued the first of many reports stating that inmates were experiencing high levels of depression, there has been mounting evidence that detention there has wrought havoc on some prisoners' mental health. It is not so surprising: most prisoners get just two 30-minute periods out of their cells - the size of a double bed - each week, except when being interrogated. Some have endured this since 2002, and have no idea when, if ever, they may leave.
By the time of my own visit in October 2003, a fifth of them were on Prozac and there had been so many suicide attempts - 40 by August 2003 - that the Pentagon had reclassified hangings as 'manipulative self-injurious behaviours'. Cannily, perhaps, it has refused to give exact statistics on how many SIBs have occurred, claiming that since the reclassification there have been (until last week) only two genuine attempted suicides.
But wait, you ask: doesn't this indicate that reporting from GTMO is frustrating and highly-censored at the best of times? What's this "only two genuine attempted suicides"? Clearly that's B.S. So why bother going at all if you're just gonna get cock-blocked (er...censored)? For the answer to that, we turn now to Carol J. Williams:
What little we learn often comes to light by accident, through casual slips-of-the-lips by military doctors, lawyers and jailers innocently oblivious of their superiors' preference for spin. A battery of questions to the prison hospital commander — who for security reasons can't be identified — elicited that prisoners are force-fed through a nasal-gastric tube if they refuse to eat for three days and that 1,000 pills a day are dispensed to treat detainee ailments, anxiety and depression.
Those details became relevant when two prisoners attempted suicide May 18 by consuming hoarded prescription medications. Likewise, we understood why a hunger strike early this month began with 89 prisoners but swiftly fell off to a few defiant handfuls with the onset of painful and undignified force-feeding. During an interview last month with the new detention center commander, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., we queried him on plans for handling detainee deaths — a theoretical exercise until two Saudis and a Yemeni hung themselves June 10.
I've been to Guantanamo six times. It was during my first visit in January 2005 that I learned how expressions of polite interest in minute details can elicit some of the most startling revelations. As Naval Hospital commander Capt. John Edmundson showed off the 48-bed prison annex, for instance, I asked, apropos of nothing, if the facility had ever been at or near capacity.
"Only during the mass-hanging incident," the Navy doctor replied, provoking audible gasps and horrified expressions among the public affairs minders and op-sec — operational security — watchdogs in the entourage, none of whom were particularly pleased with the disclosure that 23 prisoners had attempted simultaneously to hang themselves with torn bed sheets in late 2003.
What?! I didn't know that. Did you? Twenty-three attempted simultaneous hangings seems like, oh I dunno...NEWS to me. God knows what else a skilled reporter could elicit from these guys, with a little oblique prodding.

So what happened last week? Why were reporters shut out of GTMO in the aftermath of the three suicides? According to Rose, his clearance was revoked at the last minute by the Pentagon itself. Then, in a hamfisted attempt to muddy the issue, the banning of the British reporters was used as a reason to ban the American reporters (including Williams, although Rose doesn't mention her by name):
Meanwhile, three US reporters at the base were ordered to leave. According to a Pentagon spokesman quoted by the US media, the reason was that two barred British reporters - us - had threatened to sue if the Americans were allowed to stay. This was, of course, untrue.
Judging from Williams' account, it appears as though her expulsion from GTMO was rather abrupt and included a hastily arranged flight back to Miami on--of all things--the plane's TOILET seat:
I ended up on that plane, on that seat, because of a baffling move by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's office, in which the only three newspaper reporters who managed to surmount Pentagon obstacles to covering the first deaths at Guantanamo were ordered off the base Wednesday. Rumsfeld's office said the decision was made "to be fair and impartial" to the rest of the media, which the government had refused to let in.
Meanwhile, The Miami Herald has posted a copy of the email sent to journalists on base Tuesday night. Other than that, I have been unable to find a detailed account from this paper regarding their journalist's (Carol Rosenberg) experience at the base last week. Rosenberg filed a report about the ambiguous plans to repatriate the three bodies to Saudi and Yemen, but made only passing allusions to her own "repatriation" to mainland-USA:
The Pentagon earlier this week emptied the base of independent journalists and attorneys.
'There has been no 'ban' imposed on habeas counsel visits,'' said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon at the Pentagon. "During the past week, several previously scheduled meetings between detainees and their . . . counsel had to be canceled due to . . operational support of the investigation related to the detainee suicides.''
Media tours and lawyer client visits are expected to resume next week.
And the forced feedings, restraint chairs, mass hangings...when will they resume? What say you, torture apologists?

Dick Cheney: "They got a brand new facility down at Guantánamo. We spent a lot of money to build it. They're very well treated there. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibility want...There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people." 4 Stars!

Republican senator Jeff Sessions: [GTMO] "would make a magnificent resort" 4 Diamonds!

Republican congressman, Duncan Hunter: "The inmates have never eaten better ... they've never been treated better, and they've never been more comfortable in their lives." 4 Golden Truffles!

Well fuck me...I guess I didn't get that brochure.

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Heart of Darkness: Sing-Along Edition

Jeebus, this is gross..."U.S. Marine being probed over song on killing Iraqis" [Reuters]
The U.S. Marine Corps is investigating whether a Marine did anything wrong by singing an obscenity laced song to a laughing and cheering crowd of fellow U.S. troops in Iraq making light of killing Iraqis.
A four-minute video of the performance, posted on the Internet, showed Cpl. Joshua Belile, who returned home from Iraq in March, singing lyrics about encountering an Iraqi woman and her family.
He sings, "I grabbed her little sister and put her in front of me. As the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and then I laughed maniacally." In the background, laughing, clapping and cheers can be heard.
Clips of the video are posted on the BBC website. Cpl. Belile has apologized.

Footnote: some of the lyrics were taken directly from a song in Team America: World Police.

Read on, MacDuff!


Boys, I have good news & bad news: first, the good news is that we have Gravol on board; the bad news? It's a suppository.

Hey, Freedom isn't Free :)

AP caption: White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, left, and White House Counselor Dan Barlett, [sic] ride in a military helicopter wearing helmets and flak jackets for a trip from Baghdad International Airport to U.S. Embassy in the Greenzone

Hat tip to Dan Froomkin!

Read on, MacDuff!

Friday, June 09, 2006

The trouble with Manji et al.

If you have had an absolute-earful of "Muslims should speak out more against extremism" or--Side B--"we're in Afghanistan to help the women," then you must check out Laila Lalami's trenchant critique of Irshad Manji et al. (, "The Missionary Position"):
These days, being a Muslim woman means being saddled with what can only be referred to as the "burden of pity." The feelings of compassion that we Muslim women seem to inspire emanate from very distinct and radically opposed currents: religious extremists of our own faith, and evangelical and secular supporters of empire in the West.
...and about Manji, in particular? Well, our Canadian Manji takes a back-seat to another prominent "reformer," the recently self-exiled Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hirsi Ali told stories of woe and hardship as a Muslim woman and fed the Dutch nationalists everything they wanted to hear to crack-down on Muslim immigration. Funny story...turns out that the crux of her personal story was untrue and even the right-wingers asked her to step down. No matter. Hirsi Ali is safely en route to a cushy position at the American Enterprise Institute.

What's so interesting about Lalami's essay is the comparison between Hirsi Ali & Manji [emphasis mine]:
They were both born, only a year apart, in East Africa--Hirsi Ali in 1969, and Manji in 1968. Both were forced by politically repressive regimes into exile from their homelands at an early age. Both can trace their "emancipation" to a single, significant, life-changing event. Both credit the West for giving them not just freedom of speech but the very ability to think for themselves. Hirsi Ali states that she is "the living proof" that Western culture enabled her to come fully into her own, while Manji declares, "I owe the West my willingness to help reform Islam." Both women express an unabashed disdain for multiculturalism, which they accuse of fostering a climate of political correctness that prevents dialogue and useful criticism. Both supported the American invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the "war on terror." Finally, both women have recently published books in the United States.
[...] As with Hirsi Ali, Manji's expertise on her subject is incomplete. Take the following statement: "The Koran appears to be organized by size of verse--from longer to shorter--and not by chronology of revelation. How can anyone isolate the "earlier" passages, let alone read into them the "authentic" message of the Koran? We have to own up to the fact that the Koran's message is all over the bloody map." This is simply not true. Each sura of the Koran is identified by whether it is "Meccan" or "Medinan," depending on whether it was revealed early in the Prophet's spiritual life or later on, during his hegira in Medina. Some verses are addressed to specific communities of believers. Others refer to specific historical events. All of these details help establish temporal contextualization. The study of the Koran's chronology is a whole field unto itself. In addition, and despite having written a book called The Trouble With Islam Today,
Manji has not taken the trouble of learning to speak, read and write Arabic fluently, nor of visiting any Muslim country. She left Uganda at the age of 4 and has absolutely no experience of what it is like to live in a Muslim country. Would a scholar who has written a book about China without bothering to speak Chinese or visit the country be taken seriously?
Lalami also adds her voice in support of some fellow Manji-detractors:
[A] In her first edition of "The Trouble with Islam," Manji wrote about "Muslim complicity in the Holocaust" but, as fellow Canadian Tarek Fateh pointed out in 2003:
According to Irshad Manji’s rationale, because one Muslim Mufti accepted the hospitality of Hitler, after being expelled from Palestine by the British colonial authorities, all us 1.2 billion Muslims, a quarter of humanity, deserve to be accused of complicity in the Holocaust.
And what about other prominent Palestinians, such as Hazim Khalidi, a London School of Economics grad who volunteered to serve in the Indian army's "Palestine Battalion” and later assigned to the “Palestine Regiment” that included Muslims, Jews, and Christians? Perhaps Irshad Manji may like to visit the cemetery in Mississauga where Sgt. Hannah Hazineh lies buried, unable to come to his defence. This decorated Palestinian veteran of the Second World War was wounded in the El-Alamein battle while fighting the Nazis. Ah! But why let facts get in the way of a good story.
[B] Manji's views on the Israeli occupation you say? A leeeeeeetle bit bought and paid for. e.g. her trip to the occupied territories was organized and sponsored by the Canada-Israel Committee, led by Paul Michaels (the guy who keeps accusing CBC of anti-semitism for its coverage of the region). This raised no end of anger and mistrust and was probably among the dumbest Manji-moves. Furthermore, both Lalani and others have drawn attention to Manji's sourcing for her two "Trouble" books:
[Manji] selectively cit[es] events and anecdotes that fit one paradigm only: Muslim savagery, which of course is contrasted with Western enlightenment. Several of Manji's claims about the Arab world are based on articles translated by the nonprofit organization Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), which was founded by Col. Yigal Carmon, a twenty-two-year veteran of military intelligence in Israel with the goal of exploring the Middle East "through the region's media."[Lalani]
In fact, her blind "compassionate occupation" stance has drawn uproars on many campuses. In 2003, Manji took her "Defending Israel is Defending Diversity" schtick on the road.

Ok. Enough of my Manji-madness. I realize this post can sound a bit playa-hating. Time to find some constructive discussion. For that, I'll leave you in Lalani's capable hands:
Where does this leave feminists of all stripes who genuinely care about the civil rights of their Muslim sisters? A good first step would be to stop treating Muslim women as a silent, helpless mass of undifferentiated beings who think alike and face identical problems, and instead to recognize that each country and each society has its own unique issues. A second would be to question and critically assess the well-intentioned but factually inaccurate books that often serve as the very basis for discussion. We need more dialogue and less polemic. A third would be to acknowledge that women--and men--in Muslim societies face problems of underdevelopment (chief among them illiteracy and poverty) and that tackling them would go a long way toward reducing inequities. As the colonial experience of the past century has proved, aligning with an agenda of war and domination will not result in the advancement of women's rights. On the contrary, such a top-down approach is bound to create a nationalist counterreaction that, as we have witnessed with Islamist parties, can be downright catastrophic. Rather, a bottom-up approach, where the many local, homegrown women's organizations are fully empowered stands a better chance in the long run. After all, isn't this how Western feminists made their own gains toward equality?

Read on, MacDuff!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lewis Black takes your questions!

If you're a fan--or not--you gotta check out Lewis Black. Submit your questions to WaPo here. He'll be live online Wednesday at 11AM (EST). I read his book, "Nothing Sacred," last year and loved it. I think I foisted it upon everyone I know. That reminds me--who'd I last lend it to?! :)

Read on, MacDuff!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

"Curing" Gayness

Oh. Your. God. This must be seen to be believed...

Let's hope this doesn't dribble it's way over the 49th!

Read on, MacDuff!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Gettin' a grip

I honestly don't have much to add to the discussion re: 17 men arrested on suspicion of terrorist "activity" this weekend so I'll just take a moment to bloggolate my evolving reaction...

Saturday A.M.:
Huh? Are these the "homegrown" terrorists? What up?
[ up...more coffee...reading more news online...] Oh shite, "we" made the news in the States. Great. Here we go...

Saturday P.M.:
At least these are police arrests and not whisking-away-in-the-night affairs? Could this be a good example of how terrorism should be handled by law-enforcement and not hamfisted military tactics? Oh wait...depending on who you talk to, we may/may not be at war.
Haven't we seen this movie before? What about those poor guys arrested 'cuz of "Project Thread"? That was all BS! Could this be BS?!

Sunday A.M.:
Thomas Walkom makes me feel better: he doesn't come right out and call BS but rather for patience and reminds us all that we really don't know much of anything yet.
Later in the A.M.:
[...H&O makes mistake of watching Wolf "can we call this a crisis" Blitzer interview Condi Rice...]
*retch* Condi thinks Canada is "on the job" and deserves praise. Why does that make me so suspicious?!

Sunday P.M.:
Oy. It begins: vandalism of an Etobicoke mosque & harassment of children in a Mississauga mosque during Sunday school. This is ugly stuff...and it too makes international news.

Sunday P.M. 20 min ago:
I notice that Cathie from Canada has made a discovery...the fertilizer used in the RCMP press-conny was not the same stuff seized by the police. What are they doing? Prop comedy?!

As I said, I dunno what to feel yet. Let's hope that all of this gets plenty of sunshine and that the facts find the light of day. Oh, and to all you racist fucks harassing & vandalizing mosques: get a bloody grip!

Read on, MacDuff!