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Thursday, February 09, 2006

What's That Word? 


It's like Hubris or something. I can't remember. Some of the ancient empires -- those silly old coots -- had it, and I guess it didn't work out for them. Here in the US/A, however, we know we're the best and we know it for a reason: because we are. And we'd never let that get in our way.

French farmer Jose Bove, a prominent protester against genetically modified food and agricultural free trade, has been denied entry into the United States, officials of an event he was due to address said on Thursday.

Bove arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with a valid U.S. entry visa on Wednesday afternoon but was detained for several hours and later returned to Paris, according to William Kramer, a spokesman for the conference.

The Frenchman rose to fame in the late 1990s for denouncing globalization and junk food, and spent six weeks in jail in early 2003 for smashing up a McDonald’s restaurant.

Hubris borne out of a kind of parnopid xenophobia -- nay, a xenanoid paraxobia -- I don't know. The old empires were plagued by it but here, here we have Free Speech and all. I mean we took out Saddam Hussein and the Taliban to protect it. After all. I couldn't imagine an America where free speech is reXXX XXXXX XXX XX XXXXXX X XXX XXXXXXXX X XXXXX X XXXXX


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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Something I Don't Like 


Is the way talk of invading Iran has been ratcheted up in the last few days to coincide with the rioting in the Islamic world. I knwo the President is reading this, so let me be perfectly clear: I in no way support an invasion of that sovereign nation and urge you to put aside any plans to do so. And to retire.

Perhaps there is a stench in Denmark...


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Oily 


Just in case there's any doubt who really runs things.

he United States will always rely on foreign imports of oil to feed its energy needs and should stop trying to become energy independent, a top Exxon Mobil Corp. executive said on Tuesday.

The world's largest publicly traded oil company, however, says hoping to end foreign oil imports is not only a bad idea, but also impossible.

"Americans depend upon imports to fill the gap," McGill said. "No combination of conservation measures, alternative energy sources and technological advances could realistically and economically provide a way to completely replace those imports in the short or medium term."

Good boy.


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A Mecca For Controversy 


Salon has a fairly even article this morning, giving some perspective on the Danish newspaper and the state of things in Europe in general.

The paper wanted to instigate trouble, just not the kind of trouble it got. And in this mission it acted in concert with the Danish government. "We have gone to war against the multicultural ideology that says that everything is equally valid," boasted the minister of cultural affairs, Brian Mikkelsen, in a speech at his party's annual meeting the week before [the newspaper's cultural editor] Rose's cartoon editorial last fall. Mikkelsen is a 39-year-old political science graduate known for his hankering for the "culture war." He continued, "The Culture War has now been raging for some years. And I think we can conclude that the first round has been won." The next front, he said, is the war against the acceptance of Muslims norms and ways of thought.

Denmark is no paragon of free speech. Article 140 of the Criminal Code allows for a fine and up to four months of imprisonment for demeaning a "recognized religious community."

Mogens Glistrup, a tax protester turned xenophobe, was imprisoned for 20 days last year for a racist speech. He compared Turks to rabbits. Back in 1975, Jens Jorgen Thorsen, a multimedia artist belonging to the "situationist school," had a government grant provided to make a film about Jesus taken away. Five thousand young Christians had demonstrated in the street of Copenhagen against Thorsen and his movie and tumultuous scenes broke out.

This shed some light on things, (and the cartoons themselves, all twelve, are fairly lame, it turns out) at least from the perspective of the newspaper, so I don't have to be in almost total agreement with the slime of the Right Wing here in America. Still, I cannot support what the extremist Muslim element has done here, no matter if they were provoked or not. There is blame to go around all over the place here, though I try to take an absolutist approach when it comes to free speech versus religion as I believe the former to be an actual right, as close to divine as it gets, whilst the latter is nice, though completely made up. That sounds ridiculous. But it's something like what I believe.

Nonetheless, the integration or non-integration of Muslims into European society seems to be a difficult and important issue. We are all more comfortable and amicable to the moderate persuasion, but continuing tensions could snap it all. As the writer says at the end of this article:

[T]he cartoons apparently provided a grand opportunity to extremists: for radical elements in Islamic countries rife with internal dissent, and for right-wing extremists in Denmark and Europe, to mobilize supporters from the disaffected. Among the victims are the moderate Muslims in Europe and worldwide, who now find themselves increasingly wounded in the crossfire between xenophobes and Islamists.

The danger here, as always, is with the extreme elements of any society. Just as the Right Wing media here tries to divide, push buttons, enrage, and couquer, the Danish paper provoked dangerously. This does not mean we should give a pass to those who responded to the provocations: there will have to come a time in society when individuals and the groups they find themselves in take responsibility for who they are and what their lives become. Through all my liberal beliefs, I think we miss out too often on a message of empowerment, a message of personal responsibility. Not in the way BushCo and the fundies has coopted the term, but in the true sense.

But I digress. Way too much.


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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Birthday Wish 


The Russians are famous for publishing madness (ever read Pravda? Eesh) and now one of their righties says the US will invade Iran for sure. And on my 28th birthday, to boot!

A senior Russian parliamentary official and leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Vladimir Zhirinovsky believes that a US attack on Iran is inevitable, he has told Ekho Moskvy radio station.

“Any country claiming a leading position in the world will need to wage wars. Otherwise it will simply not be able to retain its leading position. The date for the strike is already known — it is the election day in Israel (March 28). It is also known how much that war will cost,” Zhirinovsky said.

He went on to add that the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in the European press was a planned action by the U.S. whose aim is “to provoke a row between Europe and the Islamic world”. Russia should “choose a position of non-interference and express minimal solidarity with the Islamic world”, Zhirinovsky added.

The kill their own Muslims elsewhere which we quietly ignore, so I guess this makes sense. I would like to see a list of the dates that invasions of Syria, Lebanon or Iran have been predicted in the last two years. Just for old times' sake.


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Monday, February 06, 2006

Oy Vey! 


And now the Jerusalem Post is publishing the cartoons. Why are they doing this? Sigh.

A facsimile of the original page from the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten, in which all twelve cartoons were published, on September 30, is featured in today's edition of the paper.

t is also available on the Jerusalem Post digital edition, available to paying subscribers only, but not on the paper's free-access website.

The Jerusalem Post did not wish to comment on its decision to publish when it was contacted today by MediaGuardian.co.uk.

But in an editorial published today, entitled "The Prophet's Honor", the paper contrasts the outcry that the Danish cartoons are causing in the Muslim world, while "Arab cartoonists routinely demonise Jews as global conspirators, corrupters of society and blood-suckers".

"Arab political 'humour' knows no bounds," the Jerusalem Post editorial said. "A cartoon in Qatar's Al-Watan depicted prime minister Ariel Sharon drinking from a goblet of Palestinian children's blood. Another, in the Egyptian Al-Ahram al-Arabi, showed him jackbooted, bloody-handed and crushing peace."

They could have made the same point without reprinting these cartoons. Because they are right: the Arab press is viciously anti-semitic in a very crude way. Of course, the Israeli government is viciously anti-Arab, as well. The sad thing here is that we're going through all this at all.


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Ze Plot Thickens 


That Danish newspaper that published those Muslim cartoons? Apparently, the editor refused to print satirical drawings of Jesus Christ.

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper's Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: "I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them."

But the Jyllands-Posten editor in question, Mr Kaiser, told MediaGuardian.co.uk that the case was "ridiculous to bring forward now. It has nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons.

"In the Muhammad drawings case, we asked the illustrators to do it. I did not ask for these cartoons. That's the difference," he said.

"The illustrator thought his cartoons were funny. I did not think so. It would offend some readers, not much but some."

There is a distinction here, and, though it is small, it is still relevent. This has not to do, in my opinion, with racism or religious prejudice, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but with one group of religious fanatics turning violent over something that offends only them so deeply. Fear and violence and blind, suffocating faith.

I've written more than enough about the way we treat and see Arabs and Muslims and the crimes of the USA and Europe. This is something else. This is the point where the multiple prongs of extremism meet, and wherever it happens, I am opposed to it.

To make things even more interesting, it appears that Iran's largest daily is retaliating with a special contest.

"It will be an international cartoon contest about the Holocaust," Farid Mortazavi, the graphics editor for Hamshahri newspaper, which is published by Tehran's conservative-run municipality, said on Monday.

He said the plan was to turn the tables on the assertion that newspapers can print offensive material in the name of freedom of expression.

"The Western papers printed these sacrilegious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let's see if they mean what they say and also print these Holocaust cartoons," he asserted.

Though his point be well taken -- and I believe there is a dangerous oversensitivity to anything "anti-zionist/ anti-israel, anti-semitic," as the phrases have all come to mean -- I don't understand what, specifically, the millions of people who died in the Holocaust have to do with the Danish newspaper's drawings. Not to mention the fact that Iran already has a, well, questionable relationship to Israel and the Jewish faith in general.

Over at DU they are defending the rioting Muslims and drawing conspiracies that Israel got the paper to publish the cartoon to spark the riots in the first place. Why wasn't there outrage when they first ran months ago? It was only when they were republished in France that the poop hit the patisserie.

Anyway, it's a touchy subject, but one that should be treated fairly and not through the sole prism of the Iraq War, US foreign policy and the misery and mistreatment of Arabs and Muslims at large. This is a modern world we live in. I'm usually fairly intolerant of accusations that liberals get too lost in sensitivity and that they only hate Bush and everything is filtered as a reaction to that; but in this case, I think some of us are refusing to see.


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