Monday, July 31, 2006

Revenge Of The Pink Panther

Sooner or later Cindy Sheehan will be labelled "frigid."
Sooner or later (insert random name) will be labelled "anorexic."

But sooner or later everybody else will understand that such is life.
I never fasted for Lent, Good Friday or any of the other many Holy Days of obligation prescribed as one of the traditionally acceptable displays for those upholding sound morality, good Catholic boy that I was... could never help wondering (despite its proven political successes) : what's the point?

But in this month's Harper's, the Notebook article by Luke Mitchell is called "God Mode" and deals specifically with the topic of Guantanamo Bay prisoners being force-fed by U.S. soldiers when they go on hunger strikes to protest their conditions of detainment. Two sentences sum up the ethics at work :

After all, if a hunger strike is the final attempt by the powerless to assert their autonomy -- "a person's last, ultimate means of protesting" -- then force-feeding is the ultimate rejection of that autonomy. In that it reduces its subject to a state of total submission, powerless even within the bounds of his or her own flesh, force-feeding is no less violent an act than is rape.

Since these Code Pink ladies and gentlemen are fasting to end a war, maybe I'm all turned around on the subject. It's amazing how mettle will inspire ordinary people... which of course we all are.. . ...despite the protestations of the self-aggrandized.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

No To Fraud

"Lopez Obrador, hold on, the people are rising up," chanted protesters who filled the square (Photo – AFP)

If you think that an election has been (or might be) improperly awarded, do you take it to the courts or do you take it to the streets?

What's In A Name?

Everything apparently.

And WHAT is that in your Botox?

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Howdy Neighbour

Let's hope all those crazy Peaceniks don't hamper overseas war efforts by needlessly diverting soldiers to Crawford for a patriotic two or three-week lockdown.

What would the neighbours think?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Birth Control? Not... Fiscal Control? Never.

When people are easily talked into the cloistered life to revel in its isolation and self-deprivation, time is on your side. But when such is no longer the case, whatever the reason, you're in trouble. According to one consulting firm the Catholic Church is facing a deficit of more than "$20 billion by 2023" in the U.S., due mostly to the impending need to care for its "tens of thousands of nuns over age 70," in addition to the elderly brothers, priests, and their associated upkeep as well ($1 billion to settle sexual abuse cases since 1950, for example). But the news is worse than simple projections:

A June survey by the church's National Religious Retirement Office, not yet released to the public, puts spending for retiree care at $926 million last year alone. That compares with a total of $499 million received over the last 18 years from annual special parish collections to aid retirees.

Thankfully, there's people like Sister Andree Fries, the 64-year-old executive director of the U.S. retirement office:

"...the impact is more minimal than one might think" because members of orders "are very much about mission" and not worrying about their future needs. Also, orders are "spending their future retirement money for current bills" so they are not uncomfortable at the moment.

For the whole sordid story, click here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Coffee With That Danish?

Somehow you'd think that people with a record of inciting other people to burn down embassies by showing them fake blasphemous cartoons would feel right at home in Lebanon these days since, you know... there's all those burning buildings.

Guess again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Up To Here With Your "Rules"

Nuclear detonation test. (Courtesy: Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Nevada.)

More than 470 physicists, including seven Nobel laureates, have signed a petition to oppose a new U.S. Defense Department proposal that allows the United States to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states.

'Nuff said.


I hope Latvia has publicly funded health care, otherwise buddy's $2300 bet is starting to look a little crazy.

Some Clockwork With That Orange?

What's wrong with the real thing?
What a culture....

Coincidence? I Think Not

"Every time you receive what some call a coincidence or an answered prayer, it's a direct and personal message of reassurance from God to you," writes Squire Rushnell.

Would you like to try again, Squire?

[Update September 8: Original links dead. Squire Rushell was quoted in some Florida paper, the Orlando Sentinel I think. And for the second one, scroll down to "The alligator's skin that spells God," dated 08/22/06. I'm pretty sure that was the original story, from the same paper. Thanks for reading. jp]

Monday, July 24, 2006

BuzzFlash MD.

Let's just call it "Diagnosis...Democracy?"

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Spanish Omelette

Here's something new: the Pope thinks that asking nuns to pray for the conversion of terrorists offers an effective solution to our current troubles because " today’s world it hardly seems as if God exists. And where there is no God, there is violence and terrorism. " We should all be wary of such lazy solutions despite the fact that he speaks in such comforting platitudes: Christian faith and ethics are not meant to stifle love, but to make it healthier, stronger and more truly free.
[-Benedict in Valencia, Spain; July 8, 2006]

Thousands flocked to Virgin's Square in Valencia to hear Pope Benedict XVI speak during his first visit to Spain. (Photo-AFP)

I'm going to call "Bullshit" on this one. The love he spoke of in Spain paints quite the contrast to the Vatican's more familiar role in predominantly Catholic European (and South American, African, etc.) countries: exuberant (or tacit) support of fascist dictatorships. This article by Vincente Navarro on how the Franco regime took hold of Spain, How Spain's Church Still Pushes Fascist Agenda, ought to answer any questions curious or outraged humanity might have. Here's a very short excerpt:

The cruelty reached unheard-of dimensions, such as the killing of parents so that the assassins could adopt their young children.... “Long live death! Down with intelligence!...” became the slogan of a fascist regime that was responsible for genocide of overwhelming brutality.... And all this was done with the active involvement of the Catholic Church. In every village, town, and city, it was the Spanish Church hierarchy (which had called for a military coup during the Republican government) and the priests who prepared the lists of people to be executed. A primary target of the repression was teachers, considered major enemies by the Church. Its active opposition to the popular reforms by the Spanish republican governments, and its calling on the Army to rebel against the popularly elected government, explains the fury felt by large sectors of the working class, led by anarcho-syndicalists, toward the Church.

Now he's lecturing Spaniards that the family is "a unique institution in God's plan" and denouncing the Spanish government for introducing reforms like same-sex marriage. It would seem, however, that Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has read and understood his history.

Armageddon On Schedule

In his latest book, Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World, John Hagee interprets the Bible to predict that Russian and Arab armies will invade Israel and be destroyed by God. This will set up a confrontation over Israel between China and the West, led by the anti-Christ, who will be the head of the European Union, Pastor Hagee writes. That final battle between East and West - at Armageddon, an actual place in Israel - will precipitate the second coming of Christ, he concludes.

Is the latest violence in the mid-East set to become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Yet another reason why the exceptionally devout and literalists ought to be kept as far away as possible from things like educational curricula and foreign policy. On the up side, at least Hagee isn't crying out in the wilderness.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What, Me Worry?

There are some concerns which worry us.
-Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Could You Repeat That?

"...the notion that policies that finally confront extremism are actually causing extremism, I find grotesque."

That's Condi Rice trying to defend America's reputation in Iraq. But some renegade soldiers have a better idea for bringing peace to the Mesopotamian desert while also preserving their reputation abroad: smuggle the guns out of Iraq and into America. That's a reasonable compromise if ever I've heard one.

World War III

If you were wondering why militarism and bloodshed are all over the news of late, wonder no more. It's because you're living through World War Three. According to this July 15 article by David Postman of the Seattle Times:

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich said in the coming days he plans to speak out publicly, and to the Administration, about the need to recognize that America is in World War III. He lists wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, this week's bomb attacks in India, North Korean nuclear threats, terrorist arrests and investigations in Florida, Canada and Britain, and violence in Israel and Lebanon as evidence of World War III. He said Bush needs to deliver a speech to Congress and "connect all the dots" for Americans.

He said the reluctance to put those pieces together and see one global conflict is hurting America's interests. He said people, including some in the Bush Administration,who urge a restrained response from Israel are wrong "because they haven't crossed the bridge of realizing this is a war. This is World War III," Gingrich said. And once that's accepted, he said calls for restraint would fall away...

What's this -- a Republican disdaining obfuscation?

[Update July 19, 2006: See Armageddon On Schedule. Also, click here to read a response by Hizbollah's Iranian spokesman, Mojtaba Bigdeli. "If America wants to ignite World War Three ... we welcome it," he said.]

Saturday, July 15, 2006


A footbridge in honour of the French writer and leading feminist Simone de Beauvoir has been opened in Paris. This is the city's 37th bridge and the first to be named after a woman.

De Beauvoir - the lifelong companion of existentialist philosopher Jean Paul-Sartre - made a name for herself with the 1949 book The Second Sex. The bridge stretches 304 m (1,000ft) across the Seine near the Francois Mitterrand national library. -BBC

It's rare to find Beauvoir's name without the mention of her lifelong relationship with fellow philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, and the BBC story is no exception. Beauvoir's work, however, stands up on its own merits. Although they remained intellectual partners, theirs was a life of independent sexual liasons. Socio-political efforts, however, were often joint efforts. She also spearheaded the "Manifesto 343" to help legalize abortions in France. Here's an interview with her from 1976 on the subject of the 25th anniversary of her seminal work, The Second Sex. It's about time Paris honoured the memory of this most prolific, profound and courageous daughter.

Why All The Fuss?

A pertinent question, since it seems to me that we spend too much time fussing over idiocy as it is.

But here's an interesting, intelligent break-down of our obsessive fussing when it comes to the North Korean "problem." And here's an interesting, intelligent review of another, not-so-intelligent break-down of the the same "problem."

Reminds you of the "camel in the tent" allegory doesn't it?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Focus! Focus! Focus!

Human Rights Watch has documented more than 200 attacks (Photo-AP)

A rise in attacks by the Taleban and other armed groups on Afghan teachers, students and schools is causing schools to shut down, Human Rights Watch says. In a report, it says advances since the Taleban defeat in 2001 are being threatened, with another generation of children being deprived of education. It says girls' schools have been hit particularly badly.

With all the fuss the Canadian media is and has been making over the return of dead soldiers like Cpl. Anthony Boneca you'd think that the Canadian government, or at the very least the Canadian public, would want to know a little more about the job we're doing over there in Afghanistan. Evidently, it isn't a very good one if we're trying to drag the country out of the Stone Age into a shiny happy Modern one. This goal, incidentally, isn't a State secret: "There is international support for building and staffing new schools to encourage education of both children and women. Access to education was severely curtailed under the Taliban regime." The debate surrounding the return of Capt. Nichola Goddard was especially nauseating. Hmmm...wasn't misogyny the theme of the last post?

Lessons In Being A Gentleman

Officials at the State Center Community College District, in Fresno, Calif., are remaining tight-lipped after as many as 10 men, some of whom are football players at district colleges, were questioned by police officers over the weekend in an alleged rape of an 11-year-old girl Saturday.

What the fuck is wrong with some people?

Rickshaw Anybody?

Railway staff worked overnight to clear the mangled wreckage from the Mumbai train lines and stations hit in the attacks. -BBC

On a commuter system that carries 6 million people a day, your odds of being one of the roughly 700 injured or 200 dead are still pretty slim. So with few options for getting to and from work, what else can the residents of Mumbai do but resign themselves to the reality of their new condition? The ability to get on with life is one significant contributing factor to the fact that Indian civilization is 2,500 years old (at the very least) and counting.

What's Wrong With This Picture (Or Report)?

Critics say that the effect produced by magic mushrooms isn't a true spiritual experience. (CBC)

In a recently published study, more than 60 per cent of research subjects who were given capsules of psilocybin derived from mushrooms described the experience as mystical and profound. But critics of the study say the manufactured spiritual feeling from magic mushrooms should not be confused with a true spiritual experience. "All this did was stimulate that part of the human personality that produced certain feeling states and altered states of consciousness," said theologian Dave Reed, a professor at the University of Toronto. "Those are no criteria for an authentic encounter with God."

I'm not sure the good professor knows exactly which philosophic Pandora's Box he may have opened up here. Years ago I heard the argument forwarded by some anthropologists that ingesting hallucinogens was precisely what convinced our pre-historic ancestors that they had in fact experienced "an authentic encounter with God" (or gods, if you prefer).

And what's this story doing in the Science section anyhow?
[REALLY ridiculous.]

Sunday, July 09, 2006


Zinedine Zidane, right, of France is shown a red card by referee Horacio Elizondo, left, in the final of the soccer World Cup between Italy and France in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, Sunday, July 9, 2006. (AP Photo/Jasper Juinen)

It's going to be a long time before France gets this close again.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Dumb And Dumber

President Bush meets Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the Oval Office of the White House Thursday, July 6, 2006, in Washington. (Photo AP)

Can't those people over at the Tie Rack expand the Imperator's Collection a little bit?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Just A Kick-Ass Photo

A bolt of lightning strikes the Oriental Pearl Tower in Shanghai, June 22, 2006. REUTERS/Stringer